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David Morley
Reviewed & driven by
CarsGuide

16 Oct 2020

What do we love about the GU Y61 Patrol?

The GU Patrol is a proper alternative to the all-conquering Toyota LandCruiser dynasty. The Nissan is sensational off-road and reliable, provided you buy the right version.

The Nissan is sensational off-road and reliable, provided you buy the right version. The Nissan is sensational off-road and reliable, provided you buy the right version.

What do we dislike?

Mainly that the thing is a bit of a dinosaur with a thirst on the bitumen. Some engine options were also a bit below par.

How much does a used GU Patrol cost?

Because the GU Patrol stretched over such a long sales period and also because it was available in a huge range of trim, body, and mechanical layouts, there’s an equally huge range of prices. Fundamentally, there’s a GU Patrol for every budget from about $5000 all the way to $45,000.

What are the best features that come with the GU Patrol?

There’s nothing out of the box when it comes to the standard fitments on a GU. In fact, earlier versions are very sparsely equipped with cloth seats and an AM-FM radio about the extent of things. Dealers had some good stuff like a bull bar specifically for the model, but the best feature was the vehicle’s inbuilt ability to tackle the roughest bush tracks. By that, we mean hardware like the long-travel coil suspension and live axles at each end.

What features can you upgrade?

It all depends on what you’re looking for from the vehicle. These days, vehicles like the GU Patrol are increasingly used for camping and recreational activities, so upgrading the suspension and tyres is an obvious one. But making the car more suitable for being self-sufficient is a popular move, too, so things like a quality fridge, an awning and drawers in the rear compartment all make sense. Of course, if you have the wallet to cope, the sky’s the limit when it comes to mechanical modifications.

The GU Patrol is increasingly used for camping and recreational activities. The GU Patrol is increasingly used for camping and recreational activities.

What cab options are available for the Patrol?

The most common Patrol variant is the station-wagon with its long wheelbase and seats for five or seven. There was also a single-cab ute aimed at tradies and farmers, but if you want a dual-cab ute, you need to look at a Nissan Navara, as the GU Patrol never featured this layout.

Is the Patrol 4X4 and can you use it off road?

Absolutely! In fact, it’s off-road use for which the vehicle was really designed in the first place. The GU uses a traditional 4 wheel drive system with proper, low-ratio gears for crawling over rocks and a rugged, long-travel suspension for grip in the rough stuff. If you’re not planning to use your Patrol in the scrub, you’re buying the wrong vehicle.

The Nissan Patrol was designed for off-road use. The Nissan Patrol was designed for off-road use.

What are the key stats and specs of the Patrol GU’s engines?

For most owners, the diesel options made the most sense. Those started with a 4.2-litre non-turbo diesel in the commercial range making 91kW of power and 272NM of torque. That same engine was also available with a turbocharger in wagon and ute variants for 114kW and 330Nm while there was a smaller, light-duty turbo-diesel of 2.8 litres and 95kW/252Nm. For towing, the petrol six cylinder was a good choice with 4.5 litres and 145kW/350Nm.

As the GU Patrol range was updated, a new engine joined the team; a three-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder with 116kW and 354Nm. Gradually, the other diesel options were dropped. Meantime, the petrol six was enlarged to 4.8 litres and eventually produced a monster 185kW and 420Nm.

How much storage space does the Patrol have?

Despite being a physically large vehicle, even the station-wagon version of the Patrol isn’t exactly huge inside. That’s partly because of the packaging considerations imposed by the four-wheel-drive driveline, but also that the Patrol is a very old-school design these days. And, like a lot of seven-seats, when you have all those seats occupied, there’s not a lot of room left for luggage.

A roof rack adds extra storage space to the Patrol (pictured: Legend Edition). A roof rack adds extra storage space to the Patrol (pictured: Legend Edition).

Many owners fitted a roof rack to add extra storage space and you’ll also see a lot of Patrols at holiday time towing a trailer loaded with the kids’ bikes and camping gear.

What colours is the Patrol available in?

Like many Japanese companies, Nissan chose a fairly sedate colour palette for the Patrol. Popular colours were burgundy, green, metallic golds and silvers and white. Black was available but it’s a poor choice for use in the outback where it makes the interior hotter and shows up scratches like crazy.

Are there any must-have accessories?

If you plan on some remote-area touring (which is where the Patrol shines) a bull bar is a good idea. Some quality all-terrain tyres are another good option and don’t forget a UHF radio and recovery gear such as a set of traction boards, snatch-strap and rated shackles. Extra driving lights are a popular fitment, too, and a snorkel is essential for water crossings. Buying a Patrol with all these accessories already fitted will be cheaper than fitting them yourself.

What is the towing capacity of the Patrol?

Ultimately, the rating of whatever tow-bar is fitted will be part of the answer to this question. But assuming you have the appropriate heavy-duty tow-bar installed, the GU Patrol can legally tow a variety of braked-trailer loads depending on what engine is fitted and what body style is involved.

The cab-chassis and utility versions of the Patrol can legally tow up to 2500kg. But the station-wagon is more of a mixed bag. With the 4.5-litre petrol engine fitted, the limit is 3140kg, it’s 2800kg for the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel, 3500kg for the 4.2 turbo-diesel and the 4.8-litre petrol six and 3200kg for the three-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel.

 

Does the Patrol come in diesel?

It sure does. In fact, while there were just two petrol engines offered over the life of the GU, no less than four diesel engines have been available. Of those, three were turbocharged.

 

What is the Patrol’s fuel consumption?

Because the Patrol weighs roughly two-and-a-half tonnes, fuel economy is never going to be a pretty picture. And even with the variety of diesel engines on offer, none was spectacularly more economical than the others. That said, for the best fuel consumption diesel is the natural choice, but you’ll still use upwards of 12 litres per 100km on the highway (more if you fit a roof rack) and half as much again around town. The petrol engines, while powerful and smooth are guzzlers, and you can expect at least 15 litres per 100km on a highway cruise and an easy 20 litres-plus per 100km in town. In the bush and running in low range, those numbers will rocket up even further.

How does the Patrol’s interior look and feel?

This depends entirely on what grade and type of Patrol you buy. The cab-chassis models are work vehicles built to a price and the interior reflects that. There’s lot of plastic and although the gauges and big and clear, it never feels classy. Move up to the wagons, and particularly the Ti models, and suddenly you’re dealing with leather trim, electrically-adjustable driver’s seat (post-2000) lots more soft-touch surfaces and vastly better standard equipment. To be honest, though, a Patrol will only still be looking sharp inside if it’s been really well looked after. Family hacks and weekend warrior versions will probably be looking a bit shabby overall.

How many seats does the Patrol GU have?

The utility models had two seats, while the station-wagon Patrol were either five or seven seaters. The third row of seats on a seven-seater folded up and away from the floor to increase luggage space, and they’re really only for smaller kids. Many owners have removed the third-row seats permanently. Front seats were generally better than the rear seats mainly because of the weird backrest angle in the middle row. Upmarket versions of the patrol offered leather seats to make the experience even nicer.

How fast is the Patrol?

The turbo-diesel versions were never speed machines, and the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel has a reputation for being pretty slow with lots of turbo lag. That said, the non-turbo diesel is even slower. If getting form 0-100km in a hurry is your thing, then either of the two petrol versions will be the pick. The 4.8 is especially impressive and is the most relaxed version with a load on the tow-bar as well. Even then, the fastest Patrol won’t see which way a modern hatchback went. Horses for courses.

What canopy options are available for the Patrol?

Because Nissan sold a lot of Patrol cab-chassis vehicles over the years, the aftermarket rose to the challenge offering just about every type of canopy and service body imaginable. They range from simple canopies with a single tailgate and models with sliding side windows, right up to full-house camping bodies with lift-up sides, roof-top tents and ladder racks. Finding a canopy to suit your needs will not be a problem.

What is the Patrol’s fuel tank capacity?

While some owners saw a need to fit long-range additional fuel tanks, the basic tank set-up in the Patrol allows for 125 litres in the station-wagon version which is generally sufficient for outback touring. The cab-chassis models initially got 90 litre tanks, but this was upgraded to 125 litres as the vehicle was facelifted.

Does the Patrol have Apple CarPlay and Android?

The short answer is no. The Patrol’s basic electronic platform was designed long before those features were in fashion. Later versions of the station-wagon Patrol had iPod and MP3 connectivity via a cable, but that was about it.

How much does the Patrol cost to service?

Like all big, heavy off-roaders, the Patrol is not a low-maintenance vehicle nor one that is cheap to keep on the road. The engines need frequent oil changes (particularly the diesels) and if you use the vehicle as Nissan intended, you also need to regularly change things like the differential oil and have the front swivel joints lubricated. Don’t be surprised if a routine service at a specialist runs into many hundreds (if not more) dollars. Vehicles like this one are also hard on tyres, brake pads and suspension components, and none of those are cheap to replace relative to a hatchback.

The good news is that many workshops specialise in Nissan Patrols, so there’s a lot of knowledge on what goes wrong and what needs fettling when. That saves time, and time is money.

Are Nissan Patrols reliable?

Fundamentally, yes they are and the fact that they’ve been able to compete with the Toyota LandCruiser in this country is proof of that. The suspension is rugged, the bodies are pretty rust-resistant and the overall design is one that doesn’t make extensive use of electronics, so this model Patrol is not adversely affected by dust, moisture and vibration as some rivals can be.

The caveat to all of this is that a couple of the engines available in the GU Patrol have not really lived up to owners (or Nissan’s) expectations. The three-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel (the ZD30) has a history of breaking pistons due to poor engine management and boost spikes. The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel (the RD28) has also suffered its share of reliability issues, most notably fuel-injector pump failures and blown head gaskets.

These days, a Patrol’s potential for reliability will be largely down to how its been used and maintained. These days, a Patrol’s potential for reliability will be largely down to how its been used and maintained.

But these days, a Patrol’s potential for reliability will be largely down to how its been used and maintained until now. A neglected Patrol will possibly be an expensive can of worms, while a pampered example that has not been abused has the potential to offer many more years of reliable service. If you’re in any doubt, a pre-purchase inspection from a Patrol specialist has the makings of a very smart thing to do.

 

How to change the fuel filter on a Nissan Patrol.

Fiddling around with the fuel system on a diesel of fuel-injected petrol engine is not a job for somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing. The chances of creating a leak or allowing air into the system of a diesel engine is high, so you need to crimp off the feed line before the removing the fuel to and from the filter to avoid fuel running back into the tank and creating an air bubble. From there, it’s a matter of unplugging the wiring for the water-trap alarm and removing the filter element, either in situ or by removing the entire filter assembly. Retrace those steps with a new filter and you should be done.

The fuel filter on a petrol-engined Patrol is a bit simpler, but harder to access as the filter is under the vehicle, near the fuel tank. Unscrewing two jubilee clamps should allow you to remove the old filter and fit the new one. Make sure the clamps are done up tight and always check for leaks after starting the car. And if you don’t know what you’re up to, don’t try this stuff at home.

 

How to change coil springs on a Nissan Patrol.

This is another one of those `not for amateurs’ type of jobs. When a vehicle is sitting on its springs, there’s an incredible amount of potential energy contained within those springs; just waiting to be released, sending the spring flying across the workshop or into your forehead. Even with the vehicle jacked-up, there’s still enough stored energy in each spring to do serious damage.

If you’re unsure how to remove coil springs, please don’t start experimenting in the driveway. For most owners, the primary reason for removing the springs is to replace them or exchange them for longer springs that will give the vehicle more ground clearance. If that’s the case, the car will possibly need different bushes to correct the steering geometry as well as a wheel alignment afterwards. All that can be handled by a workshop safely, quickly and as part of the job. Fundamentally, it’s not a difficult job, but only if you’re been there before.

If you’re really determined to have a crack at what is a fairly complex job, the first thing you should buy I a quality workshop manual for the exact model Patrol you’re dealing with.

 

How to remove auto locking hubs on Nissan Patrol.

Vehicles like the Patrol with part-time four-wheel-drive often use automatic locking hubs as a convenient way to lock the front hubs in when four-wheel-drive is selected without forcing the driver (or passenger) to leave their seat to manually lock the hubs in. The idea is that when not needed, the front hubs can free-wheel and save fuel, while only engaging when needed. Some owners, however, prefer the old manually-locking type of hub as the standard auto hubs have the potential to disengage when, for instance, rocking back and forth to free a stuck vehicle.

In some cases, the front hub can be disassembled and the automatic locking ring discarded, but a better way is to fit a manual-hub kit that is switched from free-wheel to engaged by hand. A professional workshop will have no problem fitting such a kit and will inspect and lubricate the rest of the front axle assembly at the same time.

 

How to remove GU Patrol headlights.

If you only need to change a globe in the headlight, you can do that by removing the circular bulb holder at the rear of the headlight unit. You may need to remove items such as the windscreen washer bottle to access this, depending on whether it’s a right or left-hand globe.

If you need to remove the entire headlight assembly, start by removing the grille and the plastic fill panels under each headlight. You can then undo six screws (Philips head) located above, below and to the outside of the headlight, pop out the indicator-light unit and wriggle the headlight free. Don’t forget to disconnect the wiring before trying to remove the light completely.

 

How to replace brake pads on a Nissan Patrol.

This is neither easier nor more difficult than for any other vehicle with disc brakes. Once you’ve removed the caliper from its mount, the old pads can be removed and new ones fitted in their place. Don’t forget to replace the anti-rattle clips, grease the caliper slides and give the whole unit a once over to make sure there’s no damage. You may have to force the pistons back in the calipers to make room for the fatter (more material) new brake pads. Never let the caliper hang from its hydraulic line (make a wire hanger that leaves some slack in the line) and be aware that any work on a car’s brake system is not for amateurs, given the importance of its correct operation.

 

How good is the Patrol’s sound system and entertainment set-up?

Early base-model wagons and commercial versions of the Patrol got a pretty ordinary AM/FM stereo with two speakers and not much else. The speakers are tinny and the whole system will be pretty tired by now.  The first ST model built on that with a four-speaker system with a CD player while the Ti had a six-speaker stereo and a six-disc CD stacker in the cargo area. By 2001, even the ST had an in-dash CD player. The Ti of 2004 was even better off with a rear-seat DVD player with a screen in the roof and two sets of head-phones. By the time the Patrol was in its final guise, even the DX model had a six-stack CD player, so the general rule is that the later the model, the better the entertainment system. Many Patrols have had aftermarket stereo head units fitted to incorporated a reversing camera. It’s definitely worth considering from a safety point of view.

 

How safe is the Patrol?

This is an interesting question, because the body-on-chassis construction means there’s not the usual crumple-zones we associate with modern designs. Also, the high centre of gravity, large kerb mass and compromise tyres all mean the Patrol is not as dynamic as many other cars.

When launched, the ST model had just a single (driver’s) air-bag, and only the Ti model had a passenger’s air-bag and anti-lock brakes. The DX entry-level car had no airbags at all. That changed for the first facelift in 2000 when the DX model got a driver’s air-bag and, the next year, the Ti got side-front air-bags (inside the front seats) as well. It wasn’t until 2004 that the ST model got a passenger’s front air-bag and dual air-bags did not become standard on the entire Patrol range until 2007 at which point there was still no anti-lock braking on the base-model DX.

The Patrol wasn’t independently crash tested in Australia, but the accepted ratings system gives the second-hand Patrol a four-star (out of five) safety rating as a used-car. The GU Patrol was not fitted with ISOFIX child-restraint mounting points.

 

Does the Patrol have a timing belt or chain?

It breaks down like this: The RD28 engine had a timing belt, the ZD30 used a timing chain, the petrol sixes used a timing chain and the TD42 turbo-diesel used a novel, and interesting set of timing gears rather than either a belt or chain.

 

How good is the resale value of a Patrol?

Later Patrols have held up quite well in the retained value stakes, mainly because the vehicle that replaced the GU Patrol, The Y62, was petrol-powered only and, therefore, didn’t really appeal to Australian four-wheel-drive buyers. For that reason, many buyers looked to a new-ish second-hand Patrol, and that kept GU values buoyant for a while. Beyond that, older examples are worth more if they have a full service record and present in good condition. Many of them don’t. Carefully chosen, quality accessories can help with resale value, and buying a vehicle with the accessories you want already fitted is usually cheaper than buying them yourself after you’ve bought the vehicle.

Later Patrols have held up quite well in the retained value stakes (pictured: Legend Edition). Later Patrols have held up quite well in the retained value stakes (pictured: Legend Edition).

Is the Patrol GU Y61 a good car?

It can be if you buy the right one. We’d be very leery of any RD28 or ZD30-powered example, especially if it has covered a lot of kilometres (since many of them are likely to have been in the bush). The 4.2 diesel and six-cylinder petrol versions, though, seem to offer a better package, especially now that the earliest GU Patrols are nearing a quarter-of-a-century on the road. But even the best GU Patrol will not be able to match a modern SUV for comfort, driving dynamics, safety and fuel economy. But if you want to go properly off-road, then a GU Patrol trumps any SUV or Crossover any day.



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