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Used car review Nissan Patrol GU 1997-2001

Graham ?Smithy? Smith reviews the used Nissan Patrol GU 1997-2001, its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when you?re buying it.

There are four-wheel drives and there are four-wheel drives. There are those that spend their time doing the rounds in town, while looking like they could go bush if need be, and there are those that are made to do their time deep in the mulga, but get bogged down in the ’burbs.

Two vehicles fit into the latter category, no argument, Toyota’s LandCruiser and Nissan’s Patrol. They’re the two heavyweights that slug it out for the bush bragging rights.

The LandCruiser had a head start. It was here first, won an enviable reputation on the Snowy Mountains project in the 1950s, built on it on mining and construction sites in the most remote parts of the country in the years since, but the Patrol has plenty of fans as well.

Both are serious four-wheel drive wagons, capable of plunging deep in the bush or towing a heavy load. They’re heavy-duty workhorses, at their best on the job.

MODEL WATCH

The GU Patrol replaced the popular GQ in 1997. Coming after the GQ, a rough and tough four-wheel drive wagon that had a big following, the GU had some big tyre tracks to follow.

The Patrol follows common practice in this class of off-roader with a wagon body perched atop a separate chassis, which is considered the best way of tackling the toughest of conditions a vehicle of this type might encounter.

That not only makes it tough, it also makes heavy. The heaviest model the in the range, the 4.2-litre turbo diesel, weighs in at a fraction over 2.4 tonnes, which has an affect on performance, fuel consumption, handling and braking.

A separate chassis also has the affect of raising the cabin quite high off the ground, which makes it a bit of a climb to get in to. It also cuts down on the interior space, and the Patrol is surprisingly tight inside given its overall size.

Nissan offered a choice of one petrol and three diesel engines. The petrol engine was a 4.5-litre single overhead camshaft fuel-injected six-cylinder unit that had a chain driven camshaft and put out 145 kW.

Performance with the petrol engine was good considering the massive hulk it was trying to move, and the fuel consumption was acceptable for the same reasons.

The diesel choices were a 2.8-litre single overhead camshaft turbo diesel six-cylinder engine producing 95 kW, a 4.2-litre overhead valve delivering 91 kW, and a 4.2-litre overhead valve turbo diesel pumping out 114 kW.

The 2.8-litre turbo diesel was replaced by a 116 kW 3.0-litre in 2000 in the GU II update, and with that came plenty of trouble.

Performance of the diesels wasn’t as punchy, but the low down grunt they delivered was welcome along with the fuel consumption savings.

There was also a choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed auto trans.

Drive was through all wheels, with a choice of two-wheel drive for the highway and dual-range four-wheel drive for off-road use. Front hubs were manual locking on the entry level DX model, but the others had auto hubs so you could switch from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive high range on the move.

Buyers could choose between three models. The DX five-seater kicked off the action with steel wheels, power steering, vinyl trim and floor mats, basic sound, limited-slip diff, manual hubs.

The popular seven-seater ST also had side steps, wheel arch flares, more civilised cloth trim, carpets, central locking, power windows and mirrors, cruise, console, better sound, CD player and map lamps.

Atop the range was the Ti, the burger with the lot, which added alloy wheels, auto air-con, remote central locking, ABS, superior sound, leather trim, power driver’s seat, and two-tone paint.

ON THE LOT

To go on Patrol with a DX you’ll need to put up $19,000 to $29,000 for an early example that will have up to 120,000 km on the odo. For a similar Series II you’ll have to add $1500.

For a GU ST wagon you’ll pay $19,500 to $33,000. Add $1500 for a GU II.

To enjoy all the fruit that comes with the Ti you’ll have to pay $27,000 for an early GU and up to $43,000 for a late example. Add $2000 to move up to a GU II.

IN THE SHOP

While the Patrol is generally a rough and rugged vehicle with few faults, there is a cloud hanging over the 3.0-litre turbo diesel. The problem generally manifests itself in the form of melted pistons, but the most likely explanation is that it’s caused by a piston oiling/cooling problem.

Not all engines are affected, those most likely to succumb to the problem seem to be those doing a lot of highway cruising.

Nissan have increased the oil fill, and played with alignment of the nozzles that spray oil on the pistons for cooling and lubrication purposes, but there seems to be no consistent fix for the problem.

It’s important to keep an eye on the oil level in all engines, but particularly so in the 3.0-litre turbo diesel.

Apart from the 3.0-litre turbo diesel engines woes the Patrol is generally a tough and rugged vehicle that gives good service over the long term.

That said the manual gearbox can have problems with fifth gear spline and hub.

It’s important to check for a service record, particularly if the vehicle has spent time off road.

It’s also important to check under the vehicle for damage sustained off road, like bashed suspension and chassis components, brackets, exhaust etc.

On the exterior look for scratches and scrapes from trackside bushes during of road excursions.

Consider carefully before buying a Patrol that’s clearly been off road as there are plenty that haven’t spent much time off the black top and they are a better choice.

IN A CRASH

It’s good to have mass on your side in a crash so the Patrol will provide protection if you hit a smaller vehicle when it will inflict considerable damage on the other car.

The separate chassis construction, however, doesn’t perform as well in a crash situation as does a mono-construction body, which crumples in a more controlled way and absorbs the crash energy better.

In a crash where the Patrol hits a larger, more solid object then occupants are likely to suffer greater injuries than if they were in a regular passenger car.

It’s also worth remembering that because of its mass the Patrol takes longer to react, to the steering or brakes, in an emergency situation.

All models except the DX had a driver’s airbag from the beginning, the DX joined the club in 2000 with the GU II update. The Ti had dual airbags.

OWNERS SAY

Ed Niemiec owns a 2000 GU II Patrol with the new 3.0-litre turbo diesel, and says it’s the best car he’s ever owned. He uses it in his work as a quantity surveyor with a need for high ground clearance and room to carry gear. It has now done 125,000 km, and apart from normal servicing, he has replaced the tyres and front disc pads. The fuel consumption has always been between 11 and 12 L/100 km. It has never missed a beat, he says, and sits on the highway like a dream. His only complaint is that he had to modify the suspension to handle the loads he has to carry.

Nissan replaced the pistons and rings in Rex Rickard’s Patrol at 28,500 km, after which it suffered intermittent power loss and poor fuel consumption. Nissan has since replaced the air flow sensor, the injector pump, injectors, and the computer, and now say they can do no more. A lack of response to his phone calls has added to his frustration with his dealer and with Nissan.

Colin Lockyer has a 2000 3.0-litre diesel Patrol, which he says is great, but he knows of five others that have melted piston number five at around 100,000 km and is concerned his, which has done 98,000 km, might suffer the same fate.

LOOK FOR

• Avoid the GU II 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine

• Reliable apart from 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine

• Serious offroader at its best in the bush

• Bulk makes it less responsive in an emergency situation

• Poor fuel consumption

• Small cabin for its overall size

RIVALS

• Toyota LandCruiser – 1998-2002 – $23,000-$42,000

• Ford Explorer – 1996-1999 – $14,000-$25,000

THE BOTTOM LINE

Tough truck best suited to serious offroad use or heavy towing, but really unsuitable for every day use around town. Don’t touch the 3.0-litre turbo diesel GU II.

RATING

70/100

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 14 comments

  • I have had a 2008 patrol wagon gu 3 litre since new , the only problem have had is the well known drama of bubbling dash. Nissan have just replaced this under warranty. There was also some accelerator recall which has been sorted. I also noticed the paint work on the plastic flares needs to be looked at by Nissan,the surface preparation of the clear coating is not up to scratch. Meaning the clear coating flakes off. Taking note of other patrols around this seems a common problem. My patrol has been serviced regularly every 5000 klms and I hope this prolongs engine life. Fuel consumption is great not much more than my previous x-trail. Has anyone had a late model 3 litre melt a piston, hopefully this problem was only in earlier models.

    Greg Strenzel of Toowoomba Posted on 09 November 2013 11:38am
  • Just melted my 4th cylinder towing our caravan from the Whitsunday's QLD to 30 klms from Perth very sad I was impressed with it's performance until then I put it on gumtree and it sold straight away with a blown motor. Now I am looking for another car had decided on a landcruiser but finding out that they are not what they used to be either love the look and strength of the Nissan (except for the motor) can you tell me if I'd be better off buying a 4.2 2006 model or a later model 3 litre

    lorraine alexandrou of perth Posted on 29 August 2013 1:24am
  • Agree with others re how to modify early 4cyl ZD30 engines so that the piston problem is avoided. I knew I was mostly using my patrol for city driving to work etc or hwy to visit the parents 100k away. That's why I wanted the fuel efficiency of a 4cyl. But also when I did go offorad wanted good performance from the car, hence bought a Patrol. The Mass Airflow Meter (MAF) causing overboosting is the problem. Got aftermarket boost gauge, aftermarket fuel chip and 3 inch Taipan XP exhaust. Been through 1 MAF replacement since I did this when I bought the car. (10 yrs ago). Had 60,000 on clock when bought, now has 200,000 and runs like a dream, using little fuel cf other large 4wd's. Awesome off road, but I don't tow really heavy items mind you so it suits my purpose. Regular servicing and watching boost gauge has averted all problems. If I towed heavy vans etc I'd get a 4.2 TDi version. I plan to change to a 4.2 when the big boat comes after kids grow a little! After-market mods on a good touring off road vehicle take lots of time to sort / install and lotsa $ (> $20.000!!) so easier and cheaper to change my engine!

    Franco Martinese of Gold Coast Posted on 13 June 2013 3:25pm
  • I have a GU 2 3.0 litre and has 289,000 on the clock and drives like new

    Ian MacDonald of Whyalla Posted on 12 May 2013 12:14am
  • To all owners of GU Nissan Patrols with the 3 litre diesel.....get rid of it while you can.......I have just blown up my second engine...same problem...number 4 piston meltdown!!!".............is there a class action in the wind??

    Quentin Jackson Posted on 04 February 2013 5:48pm
  • its an over boosting problem on the 3 lt, put an after market boost controller on, egt gauge, boost gauge and you will have a beauty. my year 2000 gu series 2 3.0 litre has 298000 on the clock and still doesnt miss a beat!

    isaac burridge of geelong Posted on 31 January 2013 5:02pm
  • At present our 2001 Gu 4.2 turbo is in Nissan's workshop for 1 week now trying to fix the NATS system (Looks like complete new modual/CPU required this time, expected costs of upto $3000 plus $200 tow). Yes it is a great truck but it has let us down twice now for the same stupid problem, 1st time was in the bush out past Mount Isa, $2000 tow job. The problem is the NATS security system which on the good old 4.2 turbo controls the fuel shut off valve. The really big problem is it is fitted with shear off bolts and the only way to remove is to remove the entire injector pump and drill out the bolts (not something you can do in the bush). So if your Key has a issue with the chip in it or tha antenna at the ignition plays up or the control modual dies, you are completely stuffed! It is my wife's truck and she loves it and it is a well used 4wd off road and towing a 3 ton boat when required. I can honestly say except for the NATS and having to replace the suspension 2 times it is a great truck with no problems , very simple and easy to work on. But due to the use of computer Moduals and this stupid NATS system I will not be trading my good old HZJ75 troopy in for a Nissan any time soon.

    David Graves of Brisbane Posted on 17 January 2013 4:09pm
  • ive just bought a great 2001 auto model for $12000, now im worried. the engine apparently been replaced and put on a new head, turbo and drive chain. I use it in the dandenong ranges to tow my ride on trailer. Any suggestions??

    Ricksta of Dandenong Ranges Vic Posted on 05 January 2013 8:57am
  • The 4.2 litre 6 cyclinder diesel is still the most robust engine with the best longetivity compared to the other diesels that power the Nissan Patrol. I am very happy to put up with less power than the 3 litre due to simplicity and reliability. having worked in Arnhem Land, my 4.2 diesel pounded over 350,000 km on the worst roads imaginable and been subject to bonnet deep water crossings on almost a weekly basis. A new alternator at 335000km is the only problem so far.

    Jim Collins of Port Lincoln Posted on 29 September 2012 11:06pm
  • The problem with the engine is caused by a faulty mass flow indicator on the turbo the puts too much boast in the engine causing the damage to the engine. You can get around this problem by replacing the mass flow indicator every 12 months for $280.

    Gary Lane of brisbane Posted on 19 November 2011 9:09am
  • The RD 28T introduced in late in the GQ model and carried over into the GU1 was a 6 cylinder diesel. It was also generally not known for longevity. The 3 litre is definitely a four cylinder. It seems that from 2004 onward, reliability of this engine was improved. Whilst no powerhouse, the 4.2 diesel, carried over from the GQ is extremely reliable.

    Jim Collins of Port Lincoln SA Posted on 04 November 2011 7:36am
  • The 3.0 litre is a 4 cylinder, not a 6.....

    mat Posted on 18 September 2011 9:51am
  • They are a 6cl!!!!

    dave of Earth Posted on 13 May 2011 2:54pm
  • "Colin Lockyer has a 2000 3.0-litre diesel Patrol, which he says is great, but he knows of five others that have melted piston number five at around 100,000 km and is concerned his, which has done 98,000 km, might suffer the same fate." How do you melt piston number five on a four cylinder engine???

    Jeremy Ngoh of Melbourne Posted on 28 March 2011 9:58am
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