Priming the Patrol for outback touring

Mike and Anita Pavey — 3 September 2012

NISSAN'S GU PATROL, with the ZD30 direct injection 3.0L turbo diesel engine, has a lot to offer as a long distance tourer - generous family proportions, rugged underpinnings, good performance and fuel economy. More importantly are the aftermarket goodies available for her.


Having an electronic injection system means the only way to increase performance is to fit an aftermarket chip. So I contacted Ray Miller from Turbo Engineering in Melbourne. With 38 years experience delivering vehicle performance gains he was just the man for the job.

We hoped to extract some more power for towing, enable monitoring of vital signs and address some known failure points. To kick proceedings off, Ray performed an initial dyno run, giving a base position and enabling comparison with manufacturer specifications.


The ZD30 engine has a reputation for boost spikes, particularly after bolt on performance modifications such as a free breathing exhaust and/or a performance chip. To fix this we fitted a manual boost control system, which sets the boost to a maximum level - providing a more linear boost curve, improving performance and managing exhaust and cylinder temperatures.

To monitor the vital signs, Ray added exhaust gas temperature (EGT) and boost gauges. EGT readings are critical with 550-600°C the maximum safe operating level for our motor. Scarily, heavily laden and unmodified Patrols can punch through this threshold without even knowing it.

With a performance chip (specific to the ZD30 engine) fitted to add more fuel, a TaipanXP exhaust with high flow catalytic converter helps the engine breathe without excessive noise at highway speeds. The system features a ceramic coated dump pipe that keeps super-heated exhaust gasses out of the engine bay, leading to better combustion and lowering EGTs.

Ray uses his laptop to remap the Dtronic performance chip to match our modifications. He performs load simulations, looking for the optimum performance gains, smoke emissions and fuel consumption. Before and after graphs demonstrate the improvements - power and torque have lifted right across the rev range, with the biggest gains down low.

But he's still not happy, explaining he normally gets a bigger lift, and blaming suspect injectors for the low flow rate. With new injectors fitted, a subsequent run on the dyno and tweaking with the laptop yields a further 8kW at the rear wheels and 91Nm of torque; worthy gains in any language. Low down power and torque are up by 80% and midrange up by 34%, ideal for towing duties.

We replaced the tiny Nissan air-to-air intercooler with a substantially larger Cross Country 4x4 unit to further aid low gear power. If you think the standard Patrol intercooler works just fine, be prepared for disappointment - the cooling fins are only crimped on and it's only a matter to time before they start to leak, reducing performance.

The Cross Country cooler uses high quality components with smooth tig welds inside and out. The unit is much bigger, with a claimed surface area gain of 80% and a flow area gain of 150%. A 10in fan draws cool air through the bonnet scoop and intercooler, reducing plenum temperatures. The intercooler works brilliantly with the performance chip tuning and TaipanXP pipe.

Another known Patrol failure point is the inadequate crankcase baffle, which vents oil mist to the intake manifold. This contaminates the manifold, air filter and air flow sensor - skewing air and fuel readings. A Provent 200 air-oil filter, mounted under the bonnet, filters the oil mist before it enters the intake manifold, solving the problem.

Out on the road, the overall performance improvements are immediately noticeable. Turbo lag is virtually eliminated, spooling up much quicker. Second gear sees a pleasing surge of power that keeps on coming as you row through the gears. Now the engine pulls well from around 1200rpm and is generally better in all situations, without any awkward gaps between gears when towing.


Still under the bonnet, a dual battery system takes care of the electricals. A Redarc DC-DC three stage charger maintains an Optima D27F battery at 100% charge, awesome for powering fridges and other camping accessories. The boys at Elizabeth Auto Electrics fitted the charger with some heat shielding checker plate. The circuit was modified with a momentary switch, facilitating jump start and winching assistance, using both batteries on the push of a button. An isolator protects an Orbital AGM battery from going flat, leaving juice for cranking the engine.


Running Gear
To improve braking to match the increased performance, a set of DBA 4x4 Survival slotted brake rotors mated with Nissan brake pads were fitted by ARB Dandenong. These rotors are designed specifically for towing while the softer pads improve performance and feel.

With all our upgrades adding weight it was off to ARB for a suspension upgrade. A pair of heavy duty 400kg constant-load coils was called into duty for the rear, with matching heavy duty coils for the front. Nitrocharger Sport shock absorbers were sent to all corners while a steering damper, castor correction kit and wheel alignment complete the fit-out. On the road, this suspension performs faultlessly laden or unladen, riding well on patchy bitumen, corrugations and unexpected large bumps.

ATOC Auto in Melbourne helped to reinforce the rear coil seats, a known weakness in GQ/GU series Patrols. Vehicles used for towing are particularly vulnerable, so the ATOC kit is an excellent preventative measure.

Keeping everything on course, a set of chunky Cooper STT tyres mated to 17in Nissan alloys on both the truck and camper provide excellent grip both on and off road. Three spares are on hand at any one time if needed, ready to be put to work on either the camper or the truck. The three ply sidewalls provide extra insurance when tackling inhospitable terrain and the extra tread depth reduces the chance of punctures. In the event we run out of spares, an R&R Beadbreaker and tyre refitting tool can be used for tyre repair..

On the exterior, a Kaymar rear bar and dual wheel carrier provides an integrated 3.5 tonne towbar, work light and LED tail lights. Lifting a full size spare on the roof was never an option, so the dual wheel carrier keeps the spares within reach, with the added bonus of rear protection and improved clearance.

Up front an ARB bullbar adorns the front and sides of the truck, providing armour like protection all around. A Warn 12,0000lb winch sits snug in the centre and is called into duty on the rare occasions the Maxtrax need assistance.

An ARB high flow air compressor activates the ARB front air locker, working with the more than capable Patrol limited slip diff, maintaining forward progress when wheel travel is exceeded. The compressor also takes care of tyre inflation duties, where it works extra fast.

Turning night into day, a pair of IPF900XS HID spread spotlights punch out light, making the upgraded 80+ globes on the Patrol look like mere candles. Rather than the usual spot/spread combo, a dual spread combo throws out more than enough forward vision while lighting both sides of the road, giving warning of wandering stock or other hazards.

Looking after rearward vision, Clearview mirrors replace the standard ones, they are much larger and provide an impressive view of what's happening behind, even over corrugated roads. The shafts extend for extra-long loads and fold parallel to the vehicle for tight clearance tracks.

A Long Ranger 145L main tank replaces the Patrol's 95L item and extends our driving range. With the 30L sub tank we can carry 175L, while a further 80L can also be carried on the trailer in jerry cans.

An ARB touring roof rack sits up top, sporting a Foxwing awning and an ARB Simpson III roof top tent. This unit allows us to take weekends away without the camper. A couple of sets of Maxtrax are secured here with the new keyhole mounting kit - making them easy to access, store and secure.

Getting Checked

The boys at ARB Dandenong performed a pre-trip inspection, including a winch service. They picked up a leak at the snorkel mount on the front guard which, if undetected, could have caused an expensive hydraulic lock at the first decent water crossing. We would probably have been miles from civilisation when this happened, requiring an equally as expensive recovery.

Thank you ARB Dandenong!


Maximising Comfort
The interior has been significantly reworked to deliver a comfortable touring package. All eight seats have been turfed so we could fit it out how we liked.

Replacing the front buckets is a pair of Stratos seats, draped in sheepskin covers. Anita's dodgy back has scored her a 3000 LT SS suspension seat, which massages out any vibrations and bumps transferred through the truck's ride. I ride in a 3000 LS Sports seat with body-hugging bolstering and seat base extension, providing extra lateral support for the longer touring legs.

Some people don't like the extra bolstering because of the difficulty in getting in and out of the vehicle. Personally, I like the way the bolstering holds you in the seat over rough ground. The extra legroom (the rails slide back much further than standard) is worth the money on its own for us tall fellas.

An Outback Storage System with floor extension and a front mounted barrier replaces the second and third row seats. A 78L ARB fridge/ freezer sits in the rear with some stackable boxes, restrained by cargo tie down points. The no tools design of the front mounted barrier is a winner, and is easily removed when we need to carry long items. Beneath the floor extension, we secure heavy recovery gear, maintaining a low centre of gravity, and we can store valuables out of sight.

Taking Control
An ECUtalk Consult LCD display is fitted on the centre console. This diagnostic and monitoring tool for Nissans gets info from the vehicle's ECU. A few of the 24 sensors include turbo boost, water temperature, battery voltage and air flow meter voltage.

Communications are managed through a GME TX4500 UHF radio, the latest DIN mount unit offering 80 channels, dual priority channels and other advanced features. Our GME unit earned high praise during our recent Simpson Desert trip with the Track Trailer forum, with many participants commenting on its clarity.

An Outback roof console features LED cabin lighting, map reading lights and a handy map locker. A GME mobile mast and high gain antenna grace the bull bar to extend the communication range, while an Iridium 9555 satphone, looks after emergency contact. While touring, a Spot Satellite Tracker monitors our every move, pinging the satellite every 10mins, so family and friends can keep up with our movements. Photos can be added to each trip leg at to provide a travel blog of each journey.

Looking after navigational duties, an in-dash VMS Touring 7506 keeps us on course with Oziexplorer, Mud Map and Moving Map applications. It has Ipod connectivity, integrated Bluetooth, an AM/FM radio, MP3 Player, USB support and a CD/DVD player, all controlled via a large touchscreen display. Dual VMS reversing cameras are hooked into a switching box at the rear of the truck, activating as required. It's an awesome system that has prevented a few arguments!


Picking a favourite accessory from the bunch is a near impossible exercise.

Each of the products have added value in some way, contributing to what we reckon is the ultimate tourer.

Source: Camper Trailer Australia #44


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