1994 Nissan 4x4 pickup. What's the skinny?


Renaissance Redneck
Hi Nissan gurus. I have a '84 CJ7 that I've used as a toy for a year, but I want something a bit more driveable and utility oriented. I have an acreage and want a small truck that can haul fencing, firewood and maybe push a small plow in winter. I've been looking at F150s with the 300 ci inline 6 cyl, but came across a clean looking 94 Nissan 4x4 pickup with 4 cyl 5speed. Asking price is $1500 and it looks great in pics. I know a little about Patrols, but really nothing about the pickups. What should I be looking for when considering the mid 90s Nissans? I am very car saavy so I'm after more specific to that truck issues or common faults. I'm under the impression they are pretty solid little trucks, but everything seems to have its idiocincracies.

Thanks for any wisdom!
I drive a 94 D21, 4WD, SE, V6, 5spd, king cab. Great trucks overall.

The engines, whether I4 or V6 run forever. Mine has over 350k on it and still runs great. I'm sure it's not putting out the factory claimed hp and torque, but it still scoots when I need it to. The power difference between the 4 and 6 isn't really much, but the 6 gives better low end torque and pulls harder but the 4 isn't a slouch.

Change the oil in the diff, trans, and x-case. Make sure you use the oils that Nissan calls for. The wrong oil will eat up synchros and pooch the LSD if you have one. Royal Purple and Redline are both good choices. The manual transmissions on these things cannot be over filled. There are a couple of bearings that don't get oiled well when filled to the drain plug. A lot of guys will jack up the driver's side when filling the trans to add a little extra. I took the shifter out and dumped in an extra quart and a half or so (I'm estimating--it's was what was left in the jug). Nissan trannies aren't overfilled until they pump oil out the top. If your tranny whines in neutral and/or most gears it's probably a bearing on the secondary shaft. Very common problem. Mine's been whining for almost 200k miles. It's easier to get a low mileage junkyard trans and swap it than rebuild, so that's my plan this summer. Throwout bearings sometimes get noisy as well. It'll sound like someone flicked a moose's lovespuds with a towel when the clutch engages.

Carrier bearings on the rear drive shaft can be a problem. If your truck doesn't have one count yourself lucky. If the bearing itself fails you can pop the case apart and just replace the bearing. It's about $120 cheaper that way. The bushings go to pot on them sometimes as well. Get a one-piece shaft from a 99-04 Frontier (same x-case, rear end, and wheelbase). It will fit with no mods. That also eliminates a u-joint, so one less thing to maintain or fix.

The tension arms (trailing arms, radius arms, whatever) have major issues. The rubber bushings rot and the stamped cups that hold them in place rust out. The arm will rub on the frame bracket where it goes through, elongating the hole and wearing through the arm itself. Don't bother with factory replacement parts on this (except the arm itself if you really need it). For the same cost you can make it better. A bearing cup and washer welded in place and urethane bushings will fix it forever. I've done it on two D21s and three Pathfinders and every one of them handled better afterward and show no signs of having that problem again. There's a decent forum post about it with pics here: http://www.infamousnissan.com/forum/showthread.php?t=37835

Tie-rod ends and adjusters are a bit of a weak link. They can be upgraded with aftermarket parts but, frankly, it's not worth it for the price. Keep a few stock spares on hand if you hit tough trails. The centerlink, however, will get sloppy and can hit the frame under stress. Keep an eye on it. An idler arm brace is also a very good insurance policy. I built mine but they're only about $30 from http://www.4x4parts.com/. That's also a good source of other HB and Pathy parts.

If you crank the torsion bars get aftermarket upper control arms from 4x4parts.com. They're worth it to save upper ball joints and the price isn't bad. If you ever want more than 2.5" of lift you're better off going to a solid axle swap or get a Toyota. Nissans are every bit as tough and dependable as Toyota, but the 80s and 90s models don't have a lot of aftermarket support compared to Toys. Check forums such as roninwheelers.com, infamousnissan.com, and pirate4x4.com. A lot of Nissan guys have gotten pretty darn creative andcan do a lot with these trucks on the cheap.
That's a ton of info. Thank you!
No problem. I've been in and out of 80s and 90s Nissans for 20 something years. The only thing I haven't completely torn down on one is the the FS5R30A tranny. My collection of gear pullers still isn't big enough to tear one down, and, like I said, you can get one from a junk yard cheaper than it can be rebuilt.

I'd also suggest, if your truck doesn't already have them, replace the 3-leaf springs in the rear with the heavier 4-leaf packs if you'll be doing much towing or carrying much of a load for any length of time. It's not the cheapest upgrade, but well worth it. Going to a spring shop might work out about the same cost. And check the springs for cracks, especially above the axle. I've seen a lot of them crack when they've been heavily loaded, including my own. Actually, one of mine is cracked now on one side of the centering pin.

If your rear springs are sagging a bit there's a cheap add-a-leaf from Pro-Comp (https://www.summitracing.com/parts/exp-13120) that works really well in these trucks, as long as you're not carrying really heavy loads regularly. Under big loads it'll stress the springs at the ends of the add-a-leaf. It's a decent solution for sagging rears, though.

Good luck with your new ride.


Renaissance Redneck
I haven't bought it yet, just on a fact finding mission so I can go look at it with a bit of knowledge. I'm still looking at Toyotas too, but they are a lot more money for a similar condition truck.
Nissans are funny with pricing. I've seen beat up, worn out, poorly running Hardbodies and Pathys go for $3k, and really nice, well-maintained, low mileage trucks go for nearly nothing. But, for the most part, they're cheaper than a Toyota of the same year and, in my opinion, better in a few ways.
Old hardbody trucks are pretty hard to beat. I cant remember if that one has the Z24 or the KA engine. Either is ok. Timing chain in the KA was kinda bad about breaking the guides. You will know if it has a start up rattle. The Z24 had spark plugs on the intake and exhaust side of the head. 8 plugs on a 4 cyl. They were pretty rough on burning up the rotor button in the distributor. Super easy fix though. Check the frame for rust
I know this is an old thread but the Nissan D21 Hardbody pickups are great trucks. The 4cyl 4x4 is a gem if you can find one in decent condition. The problem is that the aftermarket is lacking and they are almost past the prime for JY finds.

One notable good thing are the matching 200mm ring gears between front and rear diffs (matching in size not exact specs) - they are often renowned as mountain goats, steadily traversing terrain. A nice improvement between the precursor 720 truck and the predecessor D21 is that the D21 has equal length front drive-shafts, so they are 'swap-able' - the older 720 had different length shafts, not swap-able.

Because of suspension geometry and drivetrain options: a stock D21 will not handle tires larger than 32" very well (yes it can be done). A 720 will not handle tires larger than 31" very well.
Don't put spacers or use offset wheels on these trucks that push the wheels out from the body/centerline.

The KA24E (D21) is a reliable motor if not OVERLY abused. Timing chain and tensioner and guides (and possibly sprockets) should last ~200k mi. Replace with Japanese or OE Nissan. Use Nissan oil-filters.
The Z24 (720) is also a reliable motor as bullet proof as the venerable 22r but needs attention to keep the head properly torqued to the engine block in regular intervals. Blown headgaskets often put these trucks out to pasture prematurely.