Since its debut in 1998, the Nissan Frontier has kept trucking on and off U.S. roads with little need for a major makeover between generations. The latest model years have excellent handling and ride quality, while older Frontiers remain good investments with proper care and maintenance. The Frontier also enjoys good resale value, and the price tag of one in good condition will depreciate by 47% after 5 years, according to CarEdge.com.
Are Nissan Frontiers Reliable?
The Nissan Frontier did well on all major reliability ratings. RepairPal gave it a score of 4.0 out of 5.0, ranking it first out of seven midsize truck models. The latest Frontiers also offer more miles per gallon thanks to increasingly efficient engines and transmissions.
Like most trucks, the Nissan Frontier can easily reach 100,000 to 200,000 miles on its odometer. There’s even one 2007 Nissan Frontier owned by a Chicagoland delivery driver that went past a million miles. Its owner changed the oil every 10,000 miles and replaced parts before they broke down. While you’re not likely to push your truck to such extremes, you’ll be happy to know you can keep your Frontier running for a long time with regular maintenance and servicing.
Top Nissan Frontier Problems
Despite its above-average reliability ratings, the Frontier can develop various problems. Here are some of the most frequently encountered issues across its model years:
If you own or plan to get either a 2012 or 2016 Nissan Frontier, know that both model years may develop engine issues, especially as they get older and their parts wear out.
2012 Frontier drivers have reported that their trucks sometimes suddenly accelerate despite being in parking mode. Their vehicles also tend to accelerate uncontrollably until the engine is turned off. Other owners have complained that their Frontier’s engine would stall at random or produce severe vibrations while idling.
Some 2016 Nissan Frontier problems include poor acceleration or hesitation while speeding up. In other cases, the engine can hesitate when the driver steps on the gas pedal, increasing the risk of road accidents One way to eliminate engine hesitation is to update the electronic control system.
The Takata airbag recall affected numerous vehicles, including the 2016 Nissan Frontier. Car Complaints reported multiple complaints filed with the NHTSA where the airbags did not deploy during a collision.
One 2016 Frontier owner got into three separate accidents, but the faulty Takata airbag only deployed once. The driver said he hit the steering wheel very hard during one of the times the airbag didn’t activate.
In other affected Frontier pickups, the airbag warning light continued to flash even after the mechanics replaced the airbags. To make things even more confusing, the airbag warning light may temporarily turn off when someone occupies the passenger seat. In those cases, the light would eventually start blinking again.
While engine problems are far more serious, the 2012 Nissan Frontier is much more likely to give you headaches about its paint job. Numerous owners have complained about paint chipping on both new and used Frontier trucks.
The paint on some new 2012 Nissan Frontier units can start chipping off the hood and other body panels shortly after they were purchased. Meanwhile, many drivers have reported that the chipping issue would only appear once their truck hit the 4-year mark.
The 2012 Nissan Frontier is a great off-road vehicle that can handle exposure to harsh elements. However, some of its body panels can rust much quicker than normal and require expensive replacements.
Several 2012 Frontier have owners reported serious corrosion in the truck bed, rear passenger door, and bumper. Reportedly, the factory spray-on liner hides the signs of rust on the metal bed. By the time owners noticed bubbling in the liner, the rust had already eaten a hole in the truck bed.
The bumper was also not made of chrome or coated with a layer of corrosion-resistant material. It was just painted, which offered minimal protection against rust.
Car Problem Zoo reported that 2005-2008 model years have the most complaints. Similarly, Car Complaints identified Nissan Frontier transmission problems as the number one type of issue with the truck.
The radiators in the 2005-2008 Frontier tended to rupture before the truck reached 10,000 miles. When coolant from the faulty radiator leaked into the transmission, it contaminated the transmission fluid and caused the gearbox to break down. Once the transmission failed, the engine would often follow.
It’s best to replace the stock radiator with a more durable component for these model years. Nissan extended warranties may cover the cost of replacing the radiator.
Fuel Sending Unit Failure
Another common issue with the Nissan Frontier 2005 is a faulty sending unit. Many owners have reported that their gas gauge reads empty at all times despite having full tanks, making it difficult to gauge fuel levels. The check engine light may also illuminate. Some drivers have resorted to tracking their mileage to determine when to refuel.
In some cases, the low fuel light and the service light come on once the tank is filled. The gauge returns to normal after a few days, only to repeat the same process when the Frontier is refueled.
This issue also affected later models, and Nissan issued a recall for 2006-2008 models to address the problem. However, since the recall doesn’t cover 2005 Frontiers, most owners of this model year had to replace the faulty part on their own.
If you want to know if your Frontier is part of any recall, you may visit the NHTSA website. Keep your truck’s VIN in mind to simplify your search.
Whether you already own a Nissan Frontier or plan to get either a new or used truck, knowing the potential problems with specific model years is a good idea. It’ll let you know what to expect down the line and learn how to make your pickup last even longer.