GUIDE

Nissan D40 Navara

WORDS BY DAVE MORLEY, IMAGES BY ARNOLD ARCHIVE

Buying Used

Remember when you were tripping over D40 Navaras on the way to the mailbox? Seems like everybody (or their neighbour) owned a D40. But where are they all in 2019?

Well, it seems like a good percentage of them disappeared all at once. Okay, so a lot of makes and models seem to go the same way, but you can’t help but think that the D40 was a vehicle with a finite lifespan. And once that lifespan was used up, they weren’t worth enough to have proper money poured into them to resurrect them. That’s not necessarily the case, though.

Here’s the reality of a pre-loved D40 Navara and what you need to do if you’ve got just bought one.

The D40 Navara was comfortable and capable but it was also very fragile…here’s how to buy and build a track-conquering D40 Navara.

Image credit: ARB 4X4 Accessories

What was in the range?
Things kicked off in 2005 with the all-new Navara available initially only as a dual-cab. A king-cab (with reverse opening rear doors and a small rear perch) arrived in 2008. The D40 Navara was built in both Spain and Thailand and locally we got vehicles from both factories – knowing which you’ve got will impact some aftermarket items, like bull-bars.

Nissan fiddled with trim levels over the years, so make sure you know precisely what you’re looking at in the dealer’s yard or the seller’s driveway, but basically, the range started with the RX, moved through ST, then top the range-topping ST-X (above).

The most common engine you’ll find in a D40 is the 2.5-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder which was good for a healthy (at the time) 128kW of power and 403Nm of torque (another good figure in the day). If you weren’t a diesel kind of guy or gal, there was also a 4.0-litre petrol V6 with 198kW of power and 385Nm. Both those engines could be had with a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual.

Things got real in 2010 when Nissan unleashed the 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel on the D40 platform. Now you had 170kW and a monster 550Nm of torque from the engine that went on to power the top-shelf Pathfinder soon after. A seven-speed auto was the only option with the V6 diesel.

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How safe is it?
It seems kind of strange now that people took to using the early D40 as a family car, since the base-model RX prior to 2009 had precisely zero in the way of safety gear. The ST and ST-X had dual front air-bags, ABS brakes and brake-assist, but up to then, the RX didn’t have so much as a single air-bag.

Things improved out of sight in 2009 when the RX picked up all that gear, while the upgrade in June 2012 brought with it side air-bags and full-length curtain air-bags for the dual-cab ST-X version. Typically, safety equipment became more and more common as the vehicle aged and the further you went up the trim ladder, so a later Navara is usually a safer Navara.

But even with the air-bags fitted, an early Navara dual-cab scored just one star for crash safety in independent testing. However, that also says a lot about the challenges in making a body-on-chassis vehicle crash well, and the Nissan is hardly alone in that boat.

What was it like off-road?
While the Navara was offered as a two-wheel-drive ute for tradies, the ones we’re interested in here are the four-wheel-drive versions which were much more popular anyway and are the ones still around. The four-wheel-drive system is the familiar part-time set-up with a rotary dial switching between 2H (rear-drive only) through 4H (50:50 torque split) and 4L where the 2.625:1 transfer-case was engaged.

There were enough Navaras slogging around the scrub in the day to suggest that they were up to the job and, driven sensibly, they’d go near enough to anywhere a driver pointed them. The diesel engines obviously gave much better range and the big V6 turbo-diesel had the grunt to tow a van or camper pretty easily.

It’s worth noting that, in Australia, we got both the Spanish and Thai-built D40s and knowing which one you’ve got is vital because some aftermarket parts are market-make specific, like the bulbar mounts. In addition, the fragility of the D40 Navara was revealed when pushed hard off-road, with the soft, on-road oriented IFS set-up destroying CV joints when taken into the bush; there are things you can do, and we’ll get to them in due course.

So, what goes wrong with the D40 Navara?
The fact you don’t see so many D40s around now is that there appears to be a line in the sand, beyond which they don’t seem to be economically viable. And along the way, there appears to be quite a few interesting and novel ways to break them, beyond the usual owner-abuse stuff.

Examples that have been used hard off-road can be spotted by the usual sorts of damage inflicted by this sort of treatment. The D40 wasn’t exactly jacked-up from the factory, so it was a bit prone to touching down in standard form. It was also a bit light on for factory bash plates, too, so check the floorpans and sills for signs of impact.

Perhaps the biggest problem in this regard was that the bottom tank of the radiator was the lowest hanging fruit (actually lower than the front chassis cross-member). Why Nissan did it this way is anybody’s guess, but it remains that the radiator is in just the right place to cop a smack when climbing out of a creek or crossing rocky ground.  The same goes for the driveshaft which was – for some reason – made from aluminium. So, it’s a fair chance to be flattened or bent if it gets caught between a rock and the rest of the Navara.

While we’re talking about the radiator…Nissan, in its infinite wisdom, decided to place all the important bits together. Meaning, the transmission cooler which was fairly weak and prone to breaking could spray fluid into the transmission. In and of itself that’s pretty bad. But the D40 had an ace up its sleeve to make matters worse, and that was the fact the electronic brain for the transmission was actually housed in the transmission, meaning if the transmission cooler blew it would flood the transmission, kill the computer and stuff the transmission.

The engine bay of the D40 was fairly tightly packed, too, and didn’t really have anywhere for a simple dual-battery installation. Yes, there are other places to mount a second battery, but opposite the start-battery in the engine bay is the preferred choice, not to mention the simplest in wiring terms.

The other hard-to-explain element of the D40 is that its wheel-stud pattern is an orphan. Not the end of the world, but unless you retro-fit the same stud pattern to your van or camper, you’re looking at carrying four spares for any serious outback touring.

While a lot of D40s were automatics, there were still plenty of manuals sold and these can have issues with clutch wear and total failure; the automatic is prone to losing Reverse gear because of a clip inside the transmission that wasn’t up to the job and can break way too often to be considered a one-off. The clutch itself is pretty small (relative to the job it’s asked to do) but the dual-mass flywheel can also be a problem if the internal springs fail. The dual-mass flywheel has also been blamed for early clutch wear. Make sure a manual D40 selects gears smoothly and cleanly when it’s cold and that there’s no shuddering on take-off.

The petrol V6 seems long-lived, but the four-cylinder turbo-diesel can start to become a bit of a worry at about the 160,000km mark. Be wary of a car that’s getting close to this mileage and has been traded-in. The first sign of wear is a rattle from the timing chain or the camshaft and, apparently, it’s all downhill from there. Check that the oil is clean and fresh and be very wary of a D40 without a full-service history.

Image credit: ARB 4X4 Accessories

Do you recall?
Like every other vehicle on the market, the D40 Navara has had its fair share of recalls issued. So, when buying a used example, it pays to make sure the vehicle you’re considering has had the recall work carried out. Here’s a summary of the sort of things that needed fixing.

Moments after it was launched, in February 2006 there was a recall for improper fitment of the lower steering shaft which could fail and result in, er, steering failure. In May 2006, it was recalled again because of rear wheel bearing issues that could see half-shaft assembly unit to detach. Then in October 2006, non-ABS-equipped D40s were recalled as the relay box had been set up with ABS specification which could cause brake performance issues.

It was quiet for a few years and then in May 2010 a recall was issued because off issues with the bonnet. Vibrations caused by outback travel could cause the bonnet latch to fail and the bonnet to flip up. In October 2010, a recall went out for 2005-2006 D40s because of engine issues; the ignition relay box could become filled with silicon dioxide and bugger the contacts causing the engine to stall and fail to restart.

In 2011, a recall was issue for the D40 ST-X because of the potential for the alloy wheels on dual-cab ST-X variants built between 2005 and 2008. If ignored, the wheel could potentially detach. In April 2013, a recall went out for vehicles from 2005 – 2010 the had been fitted with genuine accessory towbars; the towing point was pinned for placing excessive strain on the chassis rails and cause the ends to crack and the towbar attachment point to bend under heavy load. This is a properly important recall to make sure has been attended to.

Navara was also caught up in the Takata airbag recall, with a recall issued back in March 2016 covering vehicles built between 2008 – 2014. In May 2016, a recall went out for Navaras fitted with Performance Suspension ball joints (2015-2016) because of the potential of the ball joint to separate and cause the suspension to fail.

Can you customise it?
Absolutely, you can. I mean, if your pockets are deep enough… But if you’re going to buy a D40 Navara as a project then you absolutely need to be aware of its many, many issues. Trawl the forums and those who love the D40 are few and very far between and even the fans know the thing is a bit of a time bomb. But it’s not all bad news. Once you’ve got your head around the potential issues, there are a few key things you can do to your D40 to make it stronger and more capable both on- and off-road. And there are plenty of kits available from the aftermarket.

If you need some inspiration, one of the best D40s on the tracks, is the SAS’d D40 we featured back in 2016. You can click here to read about Dylan’s tricked up Navara. To be fair, there’s more that’s been changed than left standard.

Build a HiLux-beating D40 Navara
UNDERBODY ARMOUR: As we mentioned, the factory ground clearance wasn’t amazing and there’s a lot of stuff that hangs down low on the Navara. There’s plenty of aftermarket underbody protection available for the D40.
SUSPENSION LIFT: Something like a two-inch lift will be enough to make life easier off-road without ruining the on-road composure;
SNORKEL: Unfortunately, the foam sealing around the factory airbox is rubbish. Fit an after-market snorkel to ensure your D40 doesn’t suck water when off-road.
EXHAUST: Replace the restrictive factory exhaust with an aftermarket unit.
HOTSIDE TURBO PIPING Fit an aftermarket hotside intercooler pipe as the flimsy factory pipes are prone to squeezing under pressure and premature perishing.

GUIDE

Nissan D40 Navara

WORDS BY DAVE MORLEY, IMAGES BY ARNOLD ARCHIVE

The D40 Navara was comfortable and capable but it was also very fragile…here’s how to buy and build a track-conquering D40 Navara.

Remember when you were tripping over D40 Navaras on the way to the mailbox? Seems like everybody (or their neighbour) owned a D40. But where are they all in 2019?

Well, it seems like a good percentage of them disappeared all at once. Okay, so a lot of makes and models seem to go the same way, but you can’t help but think that the D40 was a vehicle with a finite lifespan. And once that lifespan was used up, they weren’t worth enough to have proper money poured into them to resurrect them. That’s not necessarily the case, though.

Here’s the reality of a pre-loved D40 Navara and what you need to do if you’ve got just bought one.

Buying Used

Image credit: ARB 4X4 Accessories

What was in the range?
Things kicked off in 2005 with the all-new Navara available initially only as a dual-cab. A king-cab (with reverse opening rear doors and a small rear perch) arrived in 2008. The D40 Navara was built in both Spain and Thailand and locally we got vehicles from both factories – knowing which you’ve got will impact some aftermarket items, like bull-bars.

Nissan fiddled with trim levels over the years, so make sure you know precisely what you’re looking at in the dealer’s yard or the seller’s driveway, but basically, the range started with the RX, moved through ST, then top the range-topping ST-X (above).

The most common engine you’ll find in a D40 is the 2.5-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder which was good for a healthy (at the time) 128kW of power and 403Nm of torque (another good figure in the day). If you weren’t a diesel kind of guy or gal, there was also a 4.0-litre petrol V6 with 198kW of power and 385Nm. Both those engines could be had with a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual.

Things got real in 2010 when Nissan unleashed the 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel on the D40 platform. Now you had 170kW and a monster 550Nm of torque from the engine that went on to power the top-shelf Pathfinder soon after. A seven-speed auto was the only option with the V6 diesel.

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

How safe is it?
It seems kind of strange now that people took to using the early D40 as a family car, since the base-model RX prior to 2009 had precisely zero in the way of safety gear. The ST and ST-X had dual front air-bags, ABS brakes and brake-assist, but up to then, the RX didn’t have so much as a single air-bag.

Things improved out of sight in 2009 when the RX picked up all that gear, while the upgrade in June 2012 brought with it side air-bags and full-length curtain air-bags for the dual-cab ST-X version. Typically, safety equipment became more and more common as the vehicle aged and the further you went up the trim ladder, so a later Navara is usually a safer Navara.

But even with the air-bags fitted, an early Navara dual-cab scored just one star for crash safety in independent testing. However, that also says a lot about the challenges in making a body-on-chassis vehicle crash well, and the Nissan is hardly alone in that boat.

What was it like off-road?
While the Navara was offered as a two-wheel-drive ute for tradies, the ones we’re interested in here are the four-wheel-drive versions which were much more popular anyway and are the ones still around. The four-wheel-drive system is the familiar part-time set-up with a rotary dial switching between 2H (rear-drive only) through 4H (50:50 torque split) and 4L where the 2.625:1 transfer-case was engaged.

There were enough Navaras slogging around the scrub in the day to suggest that they were up to the job and, driven sensibly, they’d go near enough to anywhere a driver pointed them. The diesel engines obviously gave much better range and the big V6 turbo-diesel had the grunt to tow a van or camper pretty easily.

It’s worth noting that, in Australia, we got both the Spanish and Thai-built D40s and knowing which one you’ve got is vital because some aftermarket parts are market-make specific, like the bulbar mounts. In addition, the fragility of the D40 Navara was revealed when pushed hard off-road, with the soft, on-road oriented IFS set-up destroying CV joints when taken into the bush; there are things you can do, and we’ll get to them in due course.

So, what goes wrong with the D40 Navara?
The fact you don’t see so many D40s around now is that there appears to be a line in the sand, beyond which they don’t seem to be economically viable. And along the way, there appears to be quite a few interesting and novel ways to break them, beyond the usual owner-abuse stuff.

Examples that have been used hard off-road can be spotted by the usual sorts of damage inflicted by this sort of treatment. The D40 wasn’t exactly jacked-up from the factory, so it was a bit prone to touching down in standard form. It was also a bit light on for factory bash plates, too, so check the floorpans and sills for signs of impact.

Perhaps the biggest problem in this regard was that the bottom tank of the radiator was the lowest hanging fruit (actually lower than the front chassis cross-member). Why Nissan did it this way is anybody’s guess, but it remains that the radiator is in just the right place to cop a smack when climbing out of a creek or crossing rocky ground.  The same goes for the driveshaft which was – for some reason – made from aluminium. So, it’s a fair chance to be flattened or bent if it gets caught between a rock and the rest of the Navara.

While we’re talking about the radiator…Nissan, in its infinite wisdom, decided to place all the important bits together. Meaning, the transmission cooler which was fairly weak and prone to breaking could spray fluid into the transmission. In and of itself that’s pretty bad. But the D40 had an ace up its sleeve to make matters worse, and that was the fact the electronic brain for the transmission was actually housed in the transmission, meaning if the transmission cooler blew it would flood the transmission, kill the computer and stuff the transmission.

The engine bay of the D40 was fairly tightly packed, too, and didn’t really have anywhere for a simple dual-battery installation. Yes, there are other places to mount a second battery, but opposite the start-battery in the engine bay is the preferred choice, not to mention the simplest in wiring terms.

The other hard-to-explain element of the D40 is that its wheel-stud pattern is an orphan. Not the end of the world, but unless you retro-fit the same stud pattern to your van or camper, you’re looking at carrying four spares for any serious outback touring.

While a lot of D40s were automatics, there were still plenty of manuals sold and these can have issues with clutch wear and total failure; the automatic is prone to losing Reverse gear because of a clip inside the transmission that wasn’t up to the job and can break way too often to be considered a one-off. The clutch itself is pretty small (relative to the job it’s asked to do) but the dual-mass flywheel can also be a problem if the internal springs fail. The dual-mass flywheel has also been blamed for early clutch wear. Make sure a manual D40 selects gears smoothly and cleanly when it’s cold and that there’s no shuddering on take-off.

The petrol V6 seems long-lived, but the four-cylinder turbo-diesel can start to become a bit of a worry at about the 160,000km mark. Be wary of a car that’s getting close to this mileage and has been traded-in. The first sign of wear is a rattle from the timing chain or the camshaft and, apparently, it’s all downhill from there. Check that the oil is clean and fresh and be very wary of a D40 without a full-service history.

Image credit: ARB 4X4 Accessories

Do you recall?
Like every other vehicle on the market, the D40 Navara has had its fair share of recalls issued. So, when buying a used example, it pays to make sure the vehicle you’re considering has had the recall work carried out. Here’s a summary of the sort of things that needed fixing.

Moments after it was launched, in February 2006 there was a recall for improper fitment of the lower steering shaft which could fail and result in, er, steering failure. In May 2006, it was recalled again because of rear wheel bearing issues that could see half-shaft assembly unit to detach. Then in October 2006, non-ABS-equipped D40s were recalled as the relay box had been set up with ABS specification which could cause brake performance issues.

It was quiet for a few years and then in May 2010 a recall was issued because off issues with the bonnet. Vibrations caused by outback travel could cause the bonnet latch to fail and the bonnet to flip up. In October 2010, a recall went out for 2005-2006 D40s because of engine issues; the ignition relay box could become filled with silicon dioxide and bugger the contacts causing the engine to stall and fail to restart.

In 2011, a recall was issue for the D40 ST-X because of the potential for the alloy wheels on dual-cab ST-X variants built between 2005 and 2008. If ignored, the wheel could potentially detach. In April 2013, a recall went out for vehicles from 2005 – 2010 the had been fitted with genuine accessory towbars; the towing point was pinned for placing excessive strain on the chassis rails and cause the ends to crack and the towbar attachment point to bend under heavy load. This is a properly important recall to make sure has been attended to.

Navara was also caught up in the Takata airbag recall, with a recall issued back in March 2016 covering vehicles built between 2008 – 2014. In May 2016, a recall went out for Navaras fitted with Performance Suspension ball joints (2015-2016) because of the potential of the ball joint to separate and cause the suspension to fail.

Can you customise it?
Absolutely, you can. I mean, if your pockets are deep enough… But if you’re going to buy a D40 Navara as a project then you absolutely need to be aware of its many, many issues. Trawl the forums and those who love the D40 are few and very far between and even the fans know the thing is a bit of a time bomb. But it’s not all bad news. Once you’ve got your head around the potential issues, there are a few key things you can do to your D40 to make it stronger and more capable both on- and off-road. And there are plenty of kits available from the aftermarket.

If you need some inspiration, one of the best D40s on the tracks, is the SAS’d D40 we featured back in 2016. You can click here to read about Dylan’s tricked up Navara. To be fair, there’s more that’s been changed than left standard.

Build a HiLux-beating D40 Navara
UNDERBODY ARMOUR: As we mentioned, the factory ground clearance wasn’t amazing and there’s a lot of stuff that hangs down low on the Navara. There’s plenty of aftermarket underbody protection available for the D40.
SUSPENSION LIFT: Something like a two-inch lift will be enough to make life easier off-road without ruining the on-road composure;
SNORKEL: Unfortunately, the foam sealing around the factory airbox is rubbish. Fit an after-market snorkel to ensure your D40 doesn’t suck water when off-road.
EXHAUST: Replace the restrictive factory exhaust with an aftermarket unit.
HOTSIDE TURBO PIPING Fit an aftermarket hotside intercooler pipe as the flimsy factory pipes are prone to squeezing under pressure and premature perishing.

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