As pickup trucks keep getting larger, a smaller used truck may be the way to go. The Nissan Frontier is a midsized truck that has been popular since its debut in 1997 for its practical and stripped-down build. A smaller truck is easier to drive and park than a massive one, but how does Nissan Frontier reliability compare to today’s large pickups? Several Frontier model years have design issues, but other years are solid choices for the long haul.
What Is Nissan Frontier Reliability in a Nutshell?
The Nissan Frontier scores generally high reliability ratings across model years. The auto repair database RepairPal gives the Nissan Frontier an overall 4 out of 5 for reliability, placing it at the top of the rankings for midsize pickups.
However, there are several exceptions. Nissan Frontiers with automatic transmissions manufactured between 2005 and 2008 have a defective radiator design. The fluid lines for the truck’s transmission pass through the radiator. Any leaks or problems with the radiator can instantly destroy both the radiator and the transmission on these Frontier models.
Are Nissan Frontiers Reliable?
Unlike many vehicles, the earliest model years of the Nissan Frontier don’t have a lot of first-generation problems. Mid-2000s Frontiers have one very notable flaw in their radiator design, but this is the only major concern.
Nissan Frontiers manufactured after 2008 score consistently high on reliability ratings, barring a few rare and minor issues. Some model years have reported short circuits in electrical systems and the 2012 model year’s paint is prone to chipping.
Is a Nissan Frontier a Good Truck?
The Nissan Frontier’s simplicity sets it apart from other trucks in its category. The golden age of Nissan Frontier reliability is hard to beat. This includes the 2013 and 2014 model years as well as the 2019 model year.
Is the Newer Nissan Frontier Reliable?
Nissan redesigned the Frontier in 2022. This marked the manufacturer’s first changes to this truck in 16 years. Newer Nissan Frontiers have modern amenities such as a more advanced entertainment system and rearview camera. The powertrain also received a redesign for improved torque and acceleration.
Keeping in line with pickup truck consumer trends, the newer Nissan Frontier is larger than older models. It features a higher cab-to-truckbed ratio for more comfortable family driving.
The new Nissan Frontier redesign may not be as reliable as the older design, however. The 2022 Nissan Frontier has been on the market for less than two years and has already received six recalls. The recalls address a malfunctioning rear view camera, seat belt brackets that may break, and an increased risk of fire in a crash due to a suspension component hitting a fuel line.
These are not major mechanical failures, but they do present a safety risk and major design oversights. Some outlets predict that over the coming years, larger mechanical issues will affect new Nissan Frontier reliability.
What Are the Best Years for Nissan Frontier?
Several model years of the Nissan Frontier are renowned for being extremely reliable.
2013-2014 Nissan Frontier
After a few years with minor problems such as paint chipping and some rough steering, the 2013 and 2014 model years have almost no complaints on car repair forums and websites. The few Nissan Frontier reliability issues for these vehicles don’t center around any one system but are generalized outlier cases.
1998-1999 Nissan Frontier
The earliest Frontier models are some of the most reliable when maintained correctly. Some first-generation Frontiers have reached 400,000 miles without major failures.
2019 Nissan Frontier
Nissan Frontiers are generally simple and straightforward, but the 2019 model delivers both reliability and amenities. Unlike earlier models, it comes with heated seats and an infotainment system. This model year has a very low number of complaints online and only one recall.
What Are Nissan Frontier Years To Avoid?
Savvy used car buyers know to avoid a few model years of this truck. While the Nissan Frontier’s engine and most other systems are reliable, there is one catastrophic design problem.
2005-2007 Nissan Frontier
The radiator included with Nissan vehicles in the mid-2000s contains lines running fluid to the vehicle’s automatic transmission that go through the radiator. The seals on these lines may fail after a few years of wear, like any seal inside a vehicle. However, if coolant from the radiator combines with transmission fluid, it forms what mechanics refer to as SMOD, or the “strawberry milkshake of death.”
SMOD is a cute nickname for a severe mechanical failure. The combination of coolant and transmission fluid results in a pink, frothy liquid that can instantly break both the transmission and the radiator. A new radiator costs around $1,500 in parts and labor, while a new transmission can cost anywhere from $4,000-$6,000.
These leaks usually occur around 100,000 miles. Once the transmission shows signs of this Nissan Frontier reliability problem, the damage is already done.
Not every 2005-2007 Nissan Frontier is at risk for SMOD. Many owners rectified this mechanical problem by either re-routing the transmission fluid outside of the radiator or replacing the radiator for a post-2007 model. Before you buy a used Nissan Frontier built between 2005 and 2007, ask the owner if they addressed the radiator issue.
How Can You Protect Yourself From Common Issues?
While the Nissan Frontier is a relatively reliable truck, it is still vulnerable to electrical and mechanical breakdowns. A vehicle protection plan can save you the headache of an unexpected repair bill.
These plans won’t cover routine maintenance such as brake pad replacement or oil changes, but they will cover large electrical and mechanical failures. With a vehicle repair plan, you can get out of the repair shop and on with your life without paying thousands of dollars.
Vehicle Protection Plans To Help With Nissan Frontier Reliability
No one likes to be surprised with a large bill, and the sudden expense of a car problem can throw off months of budgeting. At autopom!, we give drivers peace of mind and protection from Nissan Frontier reliability problems. Contact us for a free vehicle protection plan quote.
By Mike Jones, President & CEO of autopom! Insurance Services, llc