Isuzu Dmax problems; where does it fall short?
I’ve been a Toyota fan for a long time. They make great vehicles, and I’d happily own most of their range.
That said, our replacement 4WD from the 80 Series Land Cruiser was an Isuzu Dmax; a step in a very different direction. If you want to know how much the total build cost, you can read about it here – Dmax build cost.
I’ve had the Dmax for nearly 6 years now, and clocked up about 95, 000km in it. They are a great vehicle, with a solid foundation, great engine and reputable gearbox (if you get the auto) and good quality gear used overall. If you want the full review, check this out – Isuzu Dmax review after 4 years.
However, I’m not brand biased, or so attached to it that I fail to mention its shortcomings, and every single 4WD out there has at least a couple. Sometimes their owners will acknowledge it, but more often than not they don’t!
If you are looking for Isuzu D’max problems, then you’ve come to the right place. Please note most of what is raised here are also Isuzu MUX problems, which are basically a wagon version of the Dmax.
Please note this post is my opinion only, and its up to you to do your own, independent research. I’m more than happy to share my opinion, but don’t base your decisions off them without doing extensive research elsewhere.
Frills and fancy bits
There’s no doubt that the D-max lacks in the fancy bits department. If you want a Ute that has all the bells and whistles, a Dmax is not it. They are a bit agricultural, truck like if you will, and that’s exactly what a select portion of the market wants.
I couldn’t care less about chrome bits, fancy dash boards, leather seats, lights that come on when you unlock the car and the long list of other things that some people find important. I wanted a solid vehicle, with vinyl floors that could be taken away with minimal fuss and relative comfort.
Being the SX version (base model) our Dmax has a similar interior to that of a 15 year old vehicle, and that’s OK with me. It might not be for you.
I will mention that the new shape (2020 onwards) Dmax and MUX have had a major upgrade in the frills and fancy department, which is great to see.
At 130kw at the engine, and 380NM of torque, the Dmax is not leading the market here either. It’s got enough power to be reasonable, and a lot if you are used to some of the older diesel 4WD’s, but its got nothing on other Utes like the Ford Ranger, Ford Raptor or V6 Volkswagen Amarok.
If you are towing anything heavier than 2.5 tonne (which you probably shouldn’t be with a Dmax anyway) you are going to feel it, substantially. You will not be able to sit on 100km/h when there are hills at all around; it just won’t happen.
Our Dmax has bigger tyres, a big ute canopy and a fair bit of weight, and you feel it towing a camper trailer around the 1.5 tonne mark. We’ve just recently gone and bought a Lifestyle Reconn R2 Hypercamper which is about 2.3 tonnes loaded and you really notice it!
It will sit on 100 most of the time, but it has to work hard to do so. Of course, there are lots of options when it comes to improving power and the 4JJ1 motor is extremely popular for getting huge power figures from with reliability remaining largely unchanged.
The 4JJ engine is widely regarded as one of the best on the market today, and is used in a wide range of applications from light trucks through to the Dmax and BT50, boat motors and you can even get conversion kits to put them into Patrols now.
There are limited 4JJ1 engine problems, and they tend to be reasonably cheap to repair as needed.
Independent front suspension vehicles are notorious for breaking CV’s, especially when a lift is fitted. Dmax lift kit problems are always going to be accentuated because of this, and you need to be careful going too high.
The Dmax CV’s seem to be at a disadvantage from the factory though, with the differential sitting slightly further back than it other vehicles, and this puts more stress on them to start off with.
Some people have broken CV’s with factory tyres and no lift. Touch wood, I’ve had no issues with bigger tyres and a 30mm lift kit, but I drive it as carefully as possible and have installed a diff drop kit.
The thing to remember is that if your wheel comes off the ground and lands hard when the tyre is spinning your chances of breaking a CV increase hugely. I know a number of people who’ve hammered their vehicles and not broken anything, so maybe its part luck/driver ability too.
That, and don’t hop the vehicle; as soon as it starts to bounce, stop and re-think what you are doing. Keep bouncing the front end and you’ll end up in broken CV territory very quickly.
Weak tie rods
If you see a broken Dmax on the side of a 4WD track, there’s a pretty high chance the two front wheels are pointing inwards towards each other. This is because the tie rods on the steering rack are not very strong, and have a habit of bending/breaking.
Again, this happens when you are 4WDing and giving it a bit too much. I’ve seen a few cases of this, but again know plenty of people who give them a lot of work and have never had a problem (and neither have I). A bit of mechanical sympathy goes a long way.
I’ve just recently seen much heavier duty options which sleeve the thread to prevent this, and will be keeping an eye out on it, and driving with care.
Early differential failures
I have read of a surprising number of Dmax’s with rear differentials that have failed before 80,000km. Apparently there was a batch of ring and pinion gears that were made with poor hardening properties, and the gears essentially chop out and become a pile of metal shavings in the bottom of your differential.
Mine will be getting checked shortly with a camera through the oil fill hole, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see damage. (EDIT – all good so far!), but we have replaced the whole lot with a Harrop Elocker.
Not good enough Isuzu; absolutely no leg to stand on in your defence. I don’t know how many of these have been covered by warranty, but often by the time you reach those sort of kilometres the warranty is long gone.
Cracked inner guards
Update – I’ve just heard that Bannister Law is investigating the Dmax and MUX cracked inner guards.
EDIT – We’ve just noticed some cracking on our battery mount, that is attached to the inner guards (and not a removable part). You can read more about it in the link above.
This point is possibly the most major concern with the Dmax and MUX. A number of Dmax’s and MUX’s (I’ve seen about 200 online) end up with the inner guard cracking, above the front wheels. This seems to stem from vehicles that spend a lot of time on rough roads, have heavy bull bars and winches mounted and that stick out a long way.
That said, I’ve also seen it on Dmax’s and MUX’s that have no bull bar, or even the factory aluminium or steel bull bar, and those that have done limited, or no off road work.
The repair is not pleasant; it requires the engine to be removed, and the cracks welded up or inner panels replaced, but there’s no guarantee it won’t happen again.
I did read from an Isuzu technician that it is caused by soft body mounts that wear out and are not replaced often enough, and have seen a number of them cracking at the front, so keep an eye on it. Apparently this is something all dealerships are required to check and rectify on a regular basis now.
Also, I’m told that there was a mishap in the manufacturing facility where high tensile steel was stamped incorrectly for the guard panels, and used anyway. Obviously this is more susceptible to fatigue and is more likely to crack.
We’ve gone with the lightest full size steel bull bar I could find, opted not to install a second battery under the bonnet (which I reckon is a daft place to put one anyway!) and will keep an eye on the body mounts regularly.
EDIT – we had our Dmax body mounts replaced under warranty at 60,000km after the front two were showing signs of cracking and sagging badly.
I’ve also seen a lot of people installing Colorado body mounts, which are apparently more solid, but as to whether this makes the actual issue any better or not, I couldn’t say. If the steel is incorrect, its not going to fix that, and Isuzu would certainly have a greater leg to stand on if you did end up with cracking.
Leaking rear main seals
Early on, there were a number of Dmax’s that had rear main seals replaced under warranty. I was told that the robot applying the sealant to the seal was missing a small portion of the seal for a huge number of vehicles. I’ve not had mine leak so far, and hope it stays that way!
Open rear diff
The Isuzu Dmax is one of the few 4WD’s on the market that doesn’t come with a diff lock, or an LSD as a factory fitted install. Instead, it comes with traction control only (which most vehicles also come with). It works OK, but isn’t as good as some other variants on the market.
A rear diff lock makes a big difference in these, and I suspect we will end up with one down the track.
The hands free sucks
If there is one thing that is a total and utter flop on my model Dmax (2012 – 2016) its the hands free. It is absolutely useless. You can adjust the settings, but its just terrible.
Who ever has the bad luck of trying to talk to you on the other end of the call will have major issues hearing what you say. Of course, you can rip the dash out and replace the head unit, which is what we will be doing soon.
For me, this is not the biggest issue in the world (and I knew about it when I bought the car) as I don’t use it too often to make or receive calls, but if you were using it for business purposes it’d be the first thing you would rip out and replace.
Turbo failures on DPF Dmax’s
I specifically bought the older version Dmax. I could have paid the same price for a brand new one, but opted for the last of the pre DPF models.
The reasoning was simple; a DPF (or DPD as Isuzu calls them) is just another thing to go wrong, and I know Isuzu have issues with them in their trucks (despite being one of the better DPF’s on the market today). If you have had DPF issues, Bannister Law is looking into it!
At the time of purchase, I’d heard of a couple of turbo’s going on the newer model with the DPF, and since then I have heard of a huge number. Every week there are a couple posted online about turbo’s that start to wail like a police or ambulance siren, or put the vehicle into limp mode.
These are being replaced under warranty, but it takes time and means you are without a car for a while, and some people are on their third or fourth turbo’s!
Isuzu Dmax DPF problems
In terms of engine reliability, an EGR and a DPF are not a great idea. Of course, they’ve come about in order to meet environmental emission regulations, so they are here to stay.
Isuzu have done an amazing job with their DPF’s in general (compared to many other brands), but I am still seeing some DPF (or DPD) problems on Dmax’s and MUX’s. A few people have had theirs replaced (and realistically they are a consumable) earlier than they should have.
If you are finding the DPF burns are happening much closer together, you may have a problem. One of the most important things to get right with a motor running a DPF is the right oil; if you run non DPF suitable oil it will block the DPF in no time, and you’ll have all sorts of issues.
Limit the number of short trips you do and the DPF will be much happier too.
As these get a bit older, I’m seeing more complaints about the DPF in Isuzu Dmax and MUX vehicles. Sometimes its the DPF itself, an other times its the sensor. Realistically, if you have a DPF you should consider it a consumable, which is a shame as they aren’t cheap.
The 2012 – 2020 Isuzu Dmax’s have a very bad habit of cracking the evaporator at the end of a rigid pipe that goes through your firewall, which releases the cooling gas, and results in you needing to have the entire dash removed, and the evaporator replaced. I’m told that the new evaporators being fitted are a different design, but there are a number of people who are onto their 4th evaporator, which is pretty poor.
I have seen people installing P clamps onto the firewall to stop the pipe from moving and cracking, and there seems to be a relationship with extensive off road use.
These are also damaged easily by anyone working in the engine bay with a number of people saying during battery changes, or even if someone just leans on it the pipe will crack and leak your gas out.
Our Dmax had the aircon fail just recently, and cost $1400 to be fixed (which I did get covered by warranty). Keen to know more? Check this out – Dmax Evaporator Failure.
What’s gone wrong with our Dmax?
So far, I’m reasonably pleased with my Dmax, but having only done around 80,000km its not really a huge form of evidence just yet. It’s certainly not been trouble free, and it would be interesting to compare this to a Hilux to see if they are actually any better.
The Dmax turbo was replaced when it was first delivered to me (faulty waste gate actuator), and I had the transfer case seal on the rear weep, which was replaced under warranty, and kept leaking (we are on seal #4 now, which seems to be holding).
I’m fairly confident the first 3 seals that were installed were not done properly (pushed too far in). You can read more about that here; Dmax leaking transfer case seal.
I’ve had the rear differential pinion seal replaced under warranty as it was leaking, and the 4 front body mounts that were cracking and deforming.
The next issue was a leak from the front differential, in the 4WD actuator assembly, and its booked to go in to be repaired. EDIT – this has stopped leaking, is still full and will be monitored. If its leaked, and is still full without being topped up it must have originally been over filled?!
Our next issue was the aircon failure, which resulted in the evaporator being replaced for about $1400, and we’ve since had the battery support crack, which Isuzu have been fairly helpful with so far (but its not repaired yet).
Beyond the above though, these are solid vehicles. I’ve been on various Facebook pages of different makes and models, and the Isuzu 4WD pages seems to have very, very little issues overall.
Those that are made a point of are not major (like Ford Ranger engine failures, for example, which are posted on the Facebook page just about every week!).
We’ve also fitted a transmission cooler to care for our Automatic Transmission, after the temperatures were getting a bit too hot for my happiness, but this is not uncommon for a lot of new 4WD’s that are working hard.
The Isuzu Dmax Automatic Transmission prior to 2017 seems to be bullet proof, with the 6 speed ones (prior to the new shape in 2021) having a few more issues, but still being reasonable overall.
If this post comes across as saying the Dmax’s are not a good vehicle, I apologise. This is not the case; they are good vehicles with a few little flaws (on the whole) that can be easily worked around. There’s no perfect vehicle out there, and plenty of other rigs have a lot more, worse issues.
I feel that there’s a lot of people who don’t share the issues they have with their 4WD’s, and when its put together openly and honestly it probably looks a bit daunting, but there are many other vehicles with much worse runs than this!
Would I buy another one? Sure. Would I look at alternatives? Absolutely. The game is always changing, and there’s no perfect 4WD for everyone out there. Overall though, I’m pleased with the vehicle, and it is serving us well. We will have this for at least another 5 years, so lets see how it goes by the end of it. We’ve got some big plans which will see it used a lot more shortly too.
Have you got a Dmax? Have you had any issues with it? Let me know below!
Cheers for your honest feedback, and I know exactly how good the older Rodeo’s and Dmax’s were. We’re pretty happy with our Dmax overall. We’ve had several things go wrong, but nothing that was overly unexpected, or not related to a modification that we did.
Sorry to hear about your Ranger. There’s a lot of them on the road, but they’re also a mechanics bread and butter unfortunately.
Our most recent problem with the Dmax panel cracking has been dealt with really well by Isuzu, and although its not been repaired yet, I’m pretty impressed so far.
All the best
I’ve got a 2009 dmax just about to hit 400000k’s and had no real problems apart from the expected wear and tear, injectors a couple of thousand k’s ago took me from 9.2 litres/ 100 to just just under 8 litres/ 100.
Previous car was an 1997 rodeo, did 440000 hard, (sometimes overloaded)k’s.
Having had a 2013 ranger for a short time, with all the heart ache and money in repairs it cost me, I can only say, long live the dmax, cause in my experience they do.
Thanks for the great site.
Yeah, with the millions of parts being put together in a car manufacturing plant you will get problems. It’s up to the dealers to do the right thing and support their product and customers and we’ll keep coming back.
Don’t do what Ford did to me.
The post is still live, and has not disappeared (nor will it). I just haven’t gotten around to updating this list of problems. I’ll do it now, but you can read the post here – https://www.4wdingaustralia.com/4×4/dmax-inner-guard-cracking/
All the best
Not long ago you posted that inner guard cracking has just started near the battery mount. This post seems to have disappeared. Can you please let us know why. Thanks
315,000km is a fair old chunk of driving! I’ve heard of the compressors failing, but the alternator and crank battery says something isn’t right with your battery setup. Have you had a decent auto electrician look at it?
The wheel bearings also sounds strange; if they are done properly, you should have no issues for a lot longer than every couple of services.
All the best
I have a 2012 (start of the batch in the article) starting from new and with 315,000km on it now, doing a combination of on/off road. The stereo clapped out under warranty, and the diff seal was leaking from the factory. Other issues is that I seem to got through crank batteries and alternators, I am currently on my 6th alternator and 8th crank battery, but this may also be related to the dual battery system. The air con compressor packed up at about 200k. The front wheel bearings keep having problems and need re-packing every couple of services. Apart from that it has been quite good.
Cheers for the comment. Yep, we’re happy with Amaron. 4.5 years out of the first one, and we’ve gone for another identical one.
Sounds like you’ve had a good run with the Rodeo; they are a great vehicle too.
Interesting about the Alphatech piggyback; I’d heard of them before and might give our Dmax a tickle at some stage in the future
All the best
I noticed that you have an Amaron battery under the bonnet. Excellent choice.
Have a 2008 Rodeo space cab, manual, 270,000 klm’s. Replaced EGR under warranty, clutch at 200k, 2 transfer case actuators (water ingress),otherwise excellent.
You comments re the Bushman fridge are spot on.
Have recently had installed an Alphatech Superstorm piggyback computer to the ECU, including dyno tune. Has made the world of difference.
All the best, Don.
That is a shocking story, and one that you should be rightfully upset about. How did the chassis bend? I’ve never heard of the crank snapping unless its running serious power, but I assume its all standard.
You can ring Isuzu directly and speak to them; it might be worth doing that
All the best
we bought a D-Max in 2013. we have had nothing but problems. It is a manual first up gear box was replaced under warranty. then the clutch then rack and rack ends a bent chassis and now the crank has snapped and stuffed the block. it has done a total off 126,000 km. We purchased with intentions off travel due to work commitments we have not done much. Looks like we wont be until the vehicle is sorted. Would I buy another Isuzu or recommend possibly not. I have sent emails to Isuzu and have not heard a work back that is very disapointing to us. no aftersale service
Karen and Tony McAlister
Good to hear mate, and the story everyone wants to have with their vehicle. All things considered, the Dmax is a seriously solid vehicle, and is one of the better in its class.
My 2017 D -Max tray-back has done 177,000 km. Zero problems.
Steel bullbar, Aluminium canopy, rear battery, fridge, free wheeling hubs (my CV’s will last forever!).
Done Simpson Desert, Plenty Highway, Birdsville Track, Oodnadatta Track, Cape York, Savannah Way, Cape Tribulation Track, Fraser and Moreton Islands. I tow a boat and sometimes a caravan.
No problems with cracking guards, body mounts, turbo, diffs, gearbox (manual), transfer case, oil leaks, tie-rod ends, DPF…nothing!
However – YES – that hands-free microphone for the phone is absolutely hopeless!
Good to hear you’ve had a great run. They generally do really well. Interesting about the nolathane body mounts; have you had any issues with body cracking?
All the best
I have a manual 2014 SX space cab. 401 000kms. cab mounts were replaced every 40 000kms. set of nolathane cab mounts fixed this. uses no oil blow no smoke. nothing done to injectors or fuel pump. religious services of CASTROL full synthetic 5w30 to 300 000kms now using Nulon 10W40 diesel. awesome reliable vehicle.
That’s a fair chunk of kilometres, but if its got a full service history and has been well cared for it could be a good option. These motors are supposed to do 500,000km without any issues according to their sales spiel. There will be wear and tear on other items as well though, but if its done a lot of long distance driving and less 4WDing it might be limited.
In regards to the Bull Bar, I’m not entirely convinced that they have any bearing on the cracking, but it certainly won’t help. I would get the front weighed first though, as any heavy bull bar is likely to put you over the front axle weights, especially if you have bash plates or a winch as well. I’d suggest you get something light and strong if you can, and monitor the body mounts carefully, and look for any cracks appearing.
I guess it all comes down to what you want, and whether its a good deal. 4WD’s are incredible expensive now, but is a bit extra worth paying for something newer/less kilometres? Only you can answer that!
All the best
A 2018 Isuzu D-MAX SX TF MY17 has recently come up for sale, 1 owner and clocked up 277,000 km, looks in quite good condition from the video, it looks exactly like the ones in the pics above. I’m almost persuaded especially as it has the canopy already. Any big issue with that mileage? I also want to put on a heavy duty bull bar but I could be asking for trouble in terms of the cracking as mentioned above.
BTW Fantastic Blog, useful and entertaining!
It shouldn’t block that quickly. I’d take it to a diesel mechanic and see what they reckon
All the best
I have a 2010 Colorado 3l with around 140k, started running rough, mechanic thought was injectors, fitted new ones, didn’t fix, found inlet manifold clogged so acid bathed manifold. All good but smoke just visible, 12 months later manifold blocked again . Mechanic suggesting blanking egr. Doesn’t know why running rich, any idea’s please, john
You are right, it is quite the list of shortcomings. I haven’t experienced them all, but am completely honest about revealing anything that has gone wrong. A lot of people don’t do this.
Vehicle reliability is quite hard to compare; ours has seen a fair bit of off road work, but perhaps yours has too. Ironically, several of the problems we have had have been the result of aftermarket gear.
I can’t say I’m unhappy with the performance of our vehicle, but its not been perfect either. I just share my experiences so others can use them to make their own choices.
Hopefully your Hilux keeps going strong; they seem to be reasonable asides from the well known issues
All the best
I have always been interested in the dmax as I am not brand loyal either, so have seriously considered buying one. However thats a long list of shortcomings? We have a 2016 Hilux at the moment and can honestly say nothing has gone wrong with her to date except the dpf. At the 20,000k service we were told that their was a problem with the dpf and we were told the ECU would be reprogrammed by Toyota to maximise the dpfs life. The DPF was recently replaced at no cost to us and when the vehicle had done 140,000km. She does a mix of town and country driving and is our caravan tow vehicle. Hope we can get another 140,000 trouble free kms out of her!! Fingers crossed!!