Fron­tier pickup makes for solid used-truck buy


Model: 2005 Nis­san Fron­tier Ve­hi­cle type: Pickup Truck His­tory/de­scrip­tion: Though it re­mains on sale to­day, the cur­rently-avail­able Nis­san Fron­tier has been around, largely un­changed, since it was launched ini­tially in 2005.

Bat­tling com­peti­tors form Toy­ota, Ford, Mazda, GM and oth­ers, Fron­tier was (and re­mains) one of sev­eral op­tions for shop­pers to con­sider if they’re af­ter pickup truck ca­pa­bil­ity in a more com­pact pack­age.

Se­lec­tion was abun­dant, via sev­eral body con­fig­u­ra­tions, pow­er­trains, up­grade bun­dles and spe­cial edi­tion vari­ants.

Look for two- or four-door mod­els, two- or four- wheel drive, four- or six-cylin­der power and fea­ture con­tent in­clud­ing: dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, an auto-dim­ming mir­ror, a cargo man­age­ment sys­tem, and more. Other fea­tures in­cluded leather seat­ing, Blue­tooth and nav­i­ga­tion.

Hill de­scent con­trol, an avail­able Dana 44 rear axle and an off-road traction man­age­ment sys­tem di­alled up ca­pa­bil­ity, and tow­ing ca­pac­ity was rated at 6,500 pounds.

A 2.5- litre, four-cylin­der en­gine with about 154 horse­power was the base of­fer­ing, though many driv­ers pre­fer the po­tent four- litre V6 with about 265. Trans­mis­sion choices were a fivespeed au­to­matic or man­ual, or a six-speed man­ual, depend­ing on the model.

What own­ers like: Own­ers ap­pre­ci­ated a dis­tinc­tive and flex- ible cabin, good build qual­ity, a solid and planted feel, power to spare from the big V6, and lots of off-road ca­pa­bil­ity when prop­erly equipped.

What own­ers dis­like: Com­mon com­plaints in­clude a very big turn­ing cir­cle, hefty fuel use on some mod­els, cramped rear seats on some mod­els, and a low­bud­get feel to some of the in­te­rior plas­tics and trim­mings.

The test drive: Fron­tier comes off as a proven and solid ma­chine, but long-term re­li­a­bil­ity has a lot to do with how well the ve­hi­cle was cared for and main­tained by past own­ers. Shop­pers should seek out full ser­vice records which prove the truck was con­sis­tently and con­tin­u­ally cared for through its life. Have the sus­pen­sion as­sessed pro­fes­sion­ally, and es­pe­cially if any un­wanted clunk­ing or slam­ming sounds are noted dur­ing the test drive.

A pro­fes­sional tech­ni­cian can ex­pertly de­tect any signs of worn out com­po­nents, in­clud­ing shocks, bush­ings and ball-joints that may re­quire at­ten­tion. This in­ex­pen­sive in­spec­tion could re­veal hun­dreds of dol­lars worth of re­pairs.

Check the fuel gauge. If it moves spo­rad­i­cally or be­comes in­op­er­a­tive, the likely cul­prit is a bad fuel send­ing unit. The so­lu­tion is re­place­ment of the unit. This is­sue seemed to af­fect 200508 mod­els.

Some own­ers of 2005-10 mod­els re­ported an is­sue with fluid cross con­tam­i­na­tion, which may see com­pro­mised plumb­ing al­low au­to­matic trans­mis­sion fluid and en­gine coolant to mix within the trans­mis­sion cooler. This can be dis­as­trous and cause ex­pen­sive dam­age.

Your best de­fence is a pro­fes­sional as­sess­ment of the trans­mis­sion and en­gine coolant con­di­tion and lev­els. A pro­fes­sional can quickly de­ter­mine, vis­ually, if the two flu­ids are mix­ing with one an­other. If that’s the case, move to an­other unit.

Other warn­ing signs in­clude en­gine over­heat­ing, fluc­tu­at­ing en­gine coolant tem­per­a­ture, or un­wanted harsh­ness from the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Note that the ma­jor­ity of Fron­tier own­ers do not re­port this is­sue, but it’s worth be­ing aware of.

Though fairly spo­radic, a man­u­fac­tur­ing de­fect in the tim­ing chains on ear­lier mod­els may be worth not­ing. The owner’s com­mu­nity sug­gests that this is­sue seems most com­mon on 2005-10 mod­els, par­tic­u­larly at higher mileage.

Lis­ten to the en­gine idling with the hood popped. If you de­tect a whin­ing noise, per­haps sim­i­lar to a band-saw, or a rat­tling, met­alon-metal sound com­ing from the front of the en­gine, you may want to move to an­other unit, or have a pro­fes­sional make a fur­ther as­sess­ment. Note that some own­ers have re­ported tim­ing chain is­sues re­sult­ing in ex­pen­sive re­pairs, but that many have not. For max­i­mum peace of mind, seek out a 2011 or newer unit, or a four-cylin­der Fron­tier if you’re look­ing at an older unit.

A few fi­nal checks and notes: First, seek out a vi­bra­tion that ap­pears con­sis­tently while driv­ing at a par­tic­u­lar speed range, which could in­di­cate an is­sue with a drive­shaft or bear­ing in the driv­e­line, which will re­quire at­ten­tion.

If you’re un­clear on the ser­vice his­tory of the model you’re con­sid­er­ing, have a full tune-up and fluid change per­formed, in­clud­ing brake, trans­mis­sion, dif­fer­en­tial and power steer­ing fluid, as well as en­gine coolant and oil, just to be safe.

Fi­nally, the av­er­age shop­per is best to avoid a model that’s been mod­i­fied with non-fac­tory parts, par­tic­u­larly re­lat­ing to en­gine man­age­ment, steer­ing or sus­pen­sion. Some mod­i­fi­ca­tions, in some sit­u­a­tions, can cause prob­lems down the line, es­pe­cially if the qual­ity of the non-fac­tory parts, or their in­stal­la­tion, is poor.

The ver­dict: Fron­tier looks like a solid and re­li­able pickup en­joyed by many happy own­ers, though some po­ten­tially-se­ri­ous is­sues have been re­ported, al­beit rarely. Your best bet for max­i­mum peace of mind is a 2011 or newer unit with sat­is­fac­tory re­sults from a pre-pur­chase in­spec­tion by a Nis­san tech­ni­cian. If you’re con­sid­er­ing an older or higher mileage unit, stick with the four- cylin­der en­gine and man­ual trans­mis­sion for max­i­mum con­fi­dence.


Nis­san Fron­tier own­ers ap­pre­ci­ated a dis­tinc­tive and flex­i­ble cabin, good build qual­ity, a solid and planted feel, power to spare from the big V6 and lots of of­froad ca­pa­bil­ity when prop­erly equipped.

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