Isuzu aircon and mechanical work woes

‘Dad, why do you keep taking our Dmax back to Isuzu if they always do a bad job?’. The words spoken by my 7 year old son whilst we’re driving along are innocent and full of curiosity, but I can’t deny that he actually has a very solid point.

Our aircon has just died for the 4th time in 120,000km and both Sarah and I are chatting in the front seat whilst we get covered in waves of dust that comes in through the open windows in Brindabella National Park, because its too hot to keep them closed.

Oliver is eavesdropping in the back, and chimes in with his words of wisdom, and I’m not really sure what to say back to him. We’ve certainly had a less than desirable run from Isuzu over the last 6 months, and its really starting to annoy me. Being on the road full time heightens this pain considerably, as we literally live out of our 4WD, and anything that goes wrong with it literally stops, or majorly disrupts our travels. I say our, because its not just me; its my wife, and our two young boys that cop the result of any car problems as well, and its not much fun.

Filling the radiator back up
Car problems on the road are a whole new level of frustration

If you want to read about the Isuzu Dmax problems we’ve experienced, we’re documenting them all.

We’ve also got a post covering the Dmax warranty claims.

What’s happened?

I suppose the major item that kicked our bad run off was the inner guards failing in a big way when we were just north of Rockhampton. That took out our air conditioner (for the second time), and we limped down to Brisbane, where it took 7 weeks (without the Dmax for 3) for the inner guards to be replaced. Isuzu were exceptional with this, and asides from the major disruption I can’t complain at all.

Inner guard replacements on a Dmax
Brand new panels for both inner guards and the radiator support, done over 3 weeks

We then had rats break our 4WD, which had nothing to do with Isuzu, but was a pain to rectify.

Next up, I had a normal log book service done by Camden Valley Isuzu, and found our hand brake over tightened, and they stripped the captive nuts welded to the chassis that hold 4 bash plates in place. They re-adjusted the handbrake, but didn’t fix the stripped nuts, and I only found out a few days later when one bolt fell out and I got under there myself to look at it in more detail.

Bash plate bolts in our Dmax
Thanks Camden Valley Isuzu for stripping my nuts

I put it all back onto their service manager, who arranged for another Isuzu dealer to look at it in the next town (as we were long gone by the time this had happened). These guys tapped it out to M14, which is probably the only decent fix without cutting and welding new nuts in, and now we run two non standard bolts in our Dmax. Certainly not ideal, but at least it was fixed without cutting and welding.

About 6000km after our inner guard replacements, I noticed that two body mounts looked absolutely terrible, and the other two that were replaced as part of the inner guard work looked pretty bad too. I rang and scheduled for all of the body mounts to be replaced at Gippsland Isuzu, and paid in advance so they’d be there with no delay on parts. I arrived early in the morning and dropped it off, only to be told that not all of the body mounts had come in (despite confirming they all had 2 days prior).

In the end, they replaced all of the body mounts except the two front most ones, and they weren’t going to put a warranty claim in until I firmly requested it be done. Isuzu Ute Australia ended up covering the parts, but not the labour, leaving us about $600 out of pocket, and having spent the day in our camper trailer on a very busy road, waiting for the work to be done whilst we entertained two very bored kids.

Gippsland Isuzu were actually really decent overall, and the freight issue wasn’t their fault (apparently), but when you organise things carefully on the road and they fall through it’s a pain in the backside and its hard not to feel let down.

Cracked body mounts on our Dmax
The passenger side body mount, that was totally knackered

Next up, our Dmax aircon failed again (for the third time) at the top of Blue Range Rag track, and we had to pick somewhere that we’d be nearly a month in advance to get a spot locked in. We chose Moss Vale Isuzu as they had much better reviews than the ones in Canberra, and detoured a couple of hours to get there, and then sat in the showground without a car for 3 days whilst the aircon repair took place.

Stopped at Trig Point on Blue Rag
There’s nothing like conquering Blue Rag Range Track and then having your aircon die

The kicker though, was when I dropped the vehicle off I was told ‘we won’t be able to do the evaporator replacement this week’. I said ‘what?!’ We detoured up here, explained the problem well in advance, explained what we wanted to have done, arranged for several days for you to work on it and you’re telling me it can’t be done now? With some back and forth they got it done, but when I collected the vehicle I noticed that the aircon line (which attaches to the evaporator that failed) was very close to the air intake on the engine, and took it back.

The technician leant in and bent it out the way, but in the wrong direction. My understanding is any weight on this puts strain on the evaporator (which is hours old at this point), and you have the same problem, and I was very unimpressed.

I went back to the dealer the next day to speak to the service manager and to see what he thinks. He re-iterated that its unlikely to have done damage to the evaporator, but agreed to replace the solid line in the engine bay after Easter, and I lock a date in. I make a point of saying that the pipe has sprung back quite a bit, and is likely to contact the engine, and he reassures me and says it will be OK.

Evaporator pipe too close
I explained the pipe is too close, but was told it’d be fine
The failed Dmax evaporator
The failed evaporator from our Dmax

Whilst the Dmax was here, I got them to replace the front brake pads (with brake pads I picked up from Camden Isuzu, after they ran out of time to do them), and I got them to do the viscous hub, that was not performing properly after just 120,000km. I don’t reckon that’s a fair lifespan from such a product, but it is what it is.

Three days later (after we drive back down to Canberra), at under 300km, and whilst driving down a very basic 4WD track in the Brindabellas, and we hear a loud hiss, almost like static on the radio. It continues, and changes with engine revs, and then we smell the same smell as before, when our aircon has failed in the past. It takes a good 10 minutes for this to stop, and we leave the car windows open fully to let any gas escape.

Sure enough, and we have no aircon about 30 minutes later, and a car that’s probably been full of nasty refrigerant gas (now for the third time, with my family inside each time!). To say I’m angry would be an understatement, and I email the service manager, to let them know. I also look under the engine bay, and confirm that the hose has indeed been touching the engine, and feel its either this, or the bending of the pipe that’s caused the failure so early on.

Evaporator pipe rubbing
Sure enough, you can see its been contacting

I ring the dealer the moment they open after Easter and speak to the service manager, who’s very helpful at this point, and says we’ll look at it as soon as you get it to us. We’re let back into the Moss Vale Showgrounds by a very thoughtful caretaker, and I drop the vehicle off the next morning, expecting it to be at least a couple of days.

I get a phone call 7 hours later to say its all done, with a new hose in the engine bay, and new evaporator. I was quite surprised at the turn around, but head in to collect the vehicle. There’s no charge (and I’d expect nothing!), but I notice the engine cover is missing when I pop the bonnet. They apologise, drop the cover on and we head out again with a working aircon. Hopefully it lasts a lot longer than 3 days now!

I’m grateful they took the vehicle back on short notice and remedied the problem, as it could have been a much bigger fight, and problem for us otherwise. I’m also very aware of the fact that it should never have happened in the first place either, and feel conflicted.

A brand new pipe and evaporator
We’ve got a new flexible and solid pipe in the engine bay, and evaporator

The dealership network has been decent, until lately

I guess what makes this most frustrating is that we’ve had our vehicle serviced all over Australia, with several warranty items taken care of, and for the most part Isuzu has done a good job. Even the inner guard failure, which was major and a total pain in the backside was handled with the utmost professionalism that you’d want, and so to have it all come crumbling down like this is a pretty major change in pace.

I have a background in maintenance planning and know that things happen, and whenever people are involved mistakes can, and do happen, but I can’t help but feel that Isuzu dropped the ball on a number of occasions, leaving us to deal with the mess.

Our dashboard has now been removed 3 or 4 times, and there’s some vibrations and rattles that are new, along with evidence of plastic not being quite square, or cables hanging down where they shouldn’t be, and potentially other things. Is this work going to create more issues for us down the line? Maybe, and I’d really rather not have my car pulled apart at all, let alone so many times in such a short period.

Our Dmax at Eagle Farm Isuzu
We’ve dealt with a heap of Isuzu dealers all around the country and for the most part they’ve been decent

Will we keep using Isuzu?

This is an interesting question, and exactly what my son asked me. I’ve been using them because they’ve done a decent job, and I didn’t want any issues with warranty work (which seems to have been a smart decision). However, given the fact that their evaporators seem to be pretty average quality, and that their service has been hit and miss lately, maybe we should just ditch them all together and start using independent mechanics?

What’s your thoughts? Let us know below!

Isuzu Dmax on the Crooked River Track
Do we keep using Isuzu, or move to independent mechanics?

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  1. Thanks Joanna,

    I’m surprised more people haven’t let the ACCC know

    All the best with your vehicle

  2. Hey Aaron
    I have sent you an email. I feel your frustration with Isuzu. We will not be buying again. The best Ute we ever had was the Ranger! It just went everywhere. Check your email for the feedback from ACCC for everyone!

  3. Hey mate,

    Yep, I know the bash plate captive nuts (or threads in general) are a pain; I’ve had my own fair share of experiences. They can actually do a normal 10k service without removing them anyway, as there is holes for the sump drain plug. Regardless, I was annoyed for two reasons; they replaced the bolts with longer ones (thinking they were doing the right thing), and they bottomed out on the other end of the chassis, and then stripped the thread. More annoying though, was the fact that it wasn’t mentioned, or repaired; just hand it back with bash plates ready to fall off!

    I like your suggestion of removing the bash plates, but that’s a fair bit of work, and a pain on the road like you say.

    I agree with point two as well; always worth retorquing nuts!

    All the best, and hope your trip is going well!

  4. Sharkcaver says:

    Stripped bash plate captive nuts are a common issue and not solely an Isuzu affliction. I have had 2 go on my d-max so far and solved with nutserts. Just keep your fasteners lubed and there should be no more issues.
    2 golden rules I live by:
    #1. If my vehicles have to go in and will need bash plates removed, the car goes in without them fitted. Not as easy while living on the road, but still do able.

    #2. If a wheel comes off (tyre repair or mechanical work) the first thing I do is remove said wheel and retorque those nuts.

    Sorry to hear of your ongoing dramas, let’s hope that’s the last of them.

  5. Hey Barry,

    Cheers for your thoughts. Yep, there’s no perfect solution, as you’ve eluded to!

    All the best with your 2015 model!

  6. Barry Giles says:

    You are probably between a rock and a hard place Aaron,travelling all the time to find a good independent mechanic, and good dealerships are few and far between,personally I have never been near a dealer for the last three isuzus I’ve bought have thru a broker serviced them myself from day dot,voided warranty of course, any issues that I couldn’t handle myself, went to a independent mechanic,not all plain sailing there either. Still in my 15 dmax and won’t be updating, just getting to learn this one after 200,000k.