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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ok so, I've been having this issue the last two summers of the truck running hot in certain situations. I have tried a few things, and have a few ideas, but I wanted to get the opinions of the masses before I start doing some serious things, or throwing money at it. Here are the details:

2012 P4x w 72K miles.

When it runs hot:
When I'm pulling my boat with the A/C on, hot days (90º+) with the A/C on and under load or acceleration. Stop and go it doesn't get too hot, but if I've been sitting for a while, and then accelerate moderately (get into it), I can watch the temps climb on my BullyDog. Once I get to a decent cruise speed it cools back off (so maybe just when the trans is in lower gears?).

I have a friend who seems to think that my front bumper is blocking too much air (see pic below) but I'm not sold on the idea, since there are a lot of other trucks that have front bumpers that block a lot of air and they aren't reporting overheating issues. I plan to take it off and drive around for a few days when the temps are up in the 90s to see if that helps, and to rule out that as a possibility.

I had the dealership drain and fill the coolant recently, and I even topped it off again and burped the air out, but it still does it.

I have checked the clutch fan, and it seems to behave the way it should (spins but with a bit of resistance) I've even tried pressing a piece of cardboard into the fan to see if I can get it to stop when it's running, and it wouldn't. So it seems like it normal behavior (I think?)

The OEM electric fan on the back of the radiator is functioning (although really loud when it does) so I don't think it's that. I've even installed an efan on the trans cooler, and that doesn't seem to help much. Trans temps usually run 175-185º or so.

I have sprayed out the radiator numerous times, and even removed the trans cooler so I could clean out behind that.

I checked the trans fluid in the fall, and it looked good.

I'm running out of ideas of what else to try without just throwing money at it.
Anybody have any ideas of what might be causing this? I don't think it's the tstat because if it was I think it would be overheating all the time.

Here's the bumper that DRB thinks has something to do with it. I guess I'll find out when I take it off this weekend.





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I have checked the clutch fan, and it seems to behave the way it should (spins but with a bit of resistance) I've even tried pressing a piece of cardboard into the fan to see if I can get it to stop when it's running, and it wouldn't.
If the clutch is fully locked up, you should be feeling a LOT of resistance (i.e., can rotate it by hand, but can't spin it at all).

If it's locked up, you should also be hearing some major fan roar at just about any engine speed above idle.

The "cardboard test" is kind of iffy. If you try it on a cold engine (just a few seconds after start-up, when the clutch should be fully disengaged), you might discover that cardboard doesn't stop the fan from spinning even then.

VERY sharp-looking truck, BTW.
 

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How hot is hot? Is it still in the normal range?
 

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First off, your bumper is blocking the lower half of the radiator in comparison to the OEM bumper, so, it may have some affect on low speed cooling.

And just to clarify, you are talking when sitting at a stop for a while, traffic moves and you are then able to accelerate up to speed is when the temp climbs for a bit? What kind of temps are we talking?

Fan clutch aside, I'm thinking what you are seeing is the fact that the truck itself is building up a mass of heat while sitting still. No large flow of air through the radiator and under the truck. Now add the stress of the boat when you are accelerating.

Can I assume this is a non issue without the boat attached? How heavy is the boat?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
If the clutch is fully locked up, you should be feeling a LOT of resistance (i.e., can rotate it by hand, but can't spin it at all).

If it's locked up, you should also be hearing some major fan roar at just about any engine speed above idle.

The "cardboard test" is kind of iffy. If you try it on a cold engine (just a few seconds after start-up, when the clutch should be fully disengaged), you might discover that cardboard doesn't stop the fan from spinning even then.

VERY sharp-looking truck, BTW.
It spins about a half to three quarters of a rotation when I try and spin it. I do hear a lot of roar, but not all the time. It does it when I first start it up, and then it stops, but then it starts up again once it gets up to temp. And thanks!

How hot is hot? Is it still in the normal range?
Normally it climbs to the low 220's, but if I push it a little harder I can hit the 230's, with the boat it's even hotter.

First off, your bumper is blocking the lower half of the radiator in comparison to the OEM bumper, so, it may have some affect on low speed cooling.

And just to clarify, you are talking when sitting at a stop for a while, traffic moves and you are then able to accelerate up to speed is when the temp climbs for a bit? What kind of temps are we talking?

Yes, it does it then, but it can also do it when I just set at a red light for a moment, then take off with a little spirit.


Fan clutch aside, I'm thinking what you are seeing is the fact that the truck itself is building up a mass of heat while sitting still. No large flow of air through the radiator and under the truck. Now add the stress of the boat when you are accelerating.

Can I assume this is a non issue without the boat attached? How heavy is the boat?
It's more of an issue with the boat attached, but it still does it without it, just doesn't get as hot. It's a 20' pontoon that's about 3,500lbs with trailer. I think once I take the bumper off it will tell me if that is the issue. It's just a PITA to unhook the winch, lights and all. I plan on doing it this weekend though.


Thanks for the responses gents.
 

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Sticky thermostat. Swap it out.

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Why not replace with a good-quality new fan clutch?

In the Arizona heat, I figure about 6 years for a fan clutch.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Sticky thermostat. Swap it out.
But would it not overheat all the time and not in only specific circumstances if it were the tstat? I may still explore this option since it's a part bound to go out eventually anyway.

Why not replace with a good-quality new fan clutch?

In the Arizona heat, I figure about 6 years for a fan clutch.
Is there a good-quality brand you would recommend? Price ranges all over the place on Amazon.
 

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But would it not overheat all the time and not in only specific circumstances if it were the tstat? I may still explore this option since it's a part bound to go out eventually anyway.



Is there a good-quality brand you would recommend? Price ranges all over the place on Amazon.
If it's got a weird piece of crud or something stuck between the body and spring it could be intermittent. I've seen it before. Being a $10 part and so easily changed tho...I'd do that before yanking a bumper.

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
If it's got a weird piece of crud or something stuck between the body and spring it could be intermittent. I've seen it before. Being a $10 part and so easily changed tho...I'd do that before yanking a bumper.
Noted. I will try it and see. Probably do the clutch fan while I'm at it because why not.
 

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Sticky thermostat. Swap it out.

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The one time that happened to me (Honda years ago, not a frontier) was similar, though the temp would swing back to cool rapidly. It would creep up and as soon as you stepped on the gas the extra flow from the water pump would snap it open and the tem would drop like a rock.
 

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The one time that happened to me (Honda years ago, not a frontier) was similar, though the temp would swing back to cool rapidly. It would creep up and as soon as you stepped on the gas the extra flow from the water pump would snap it open and the tem would drop like a rock.
'98 Honda Civic. Had the same issue. That's why I suggested it.

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Is your transmission still plumbed through the in-tank ATF cooler in the radiator, as well as the external cooler?

I've seen members report overheating when towing with the in-tank cooler bypassed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I'm not sure if it is also ran through the radiator, but the trans cooler is the OEM kind that they started putting on these to help prevent the SMOD, so I didn't have to do any bypassing. I just put a fan on the trans cooler as a precautionary step. Going off of the trans temps reported on the BullyDog, I would say the trans isn't what seems to be overheating. I went an picked up a tstat during lunch, so I'll probably swap that out at some point over the weekend.
 

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I'm not sure if it is also ran through the radiator, but the trans cooler is the OEM kind that they started putting on these to help prevent the SMOD, so I didn't have to do any bypassing.
All 2nd generator Frontiers with automatic transmissions are factory-equipped with an in-the-radiator ATF cooler. The external cooler is just a supplement to the in-the-radiator one - It's not intended to replace it, or to prevent anything other than overheated ATF.
 

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It is my opinion, and it is hotly contested here, that the internal pass of the trans fluid through the radiator isn't so much to cool the trans fluid as it is to pre-warm it on startup.

My trans operating temp is 150 degrees + or - a few. My coolant operating temp is 180 (again, with fluctuations)

At operating temperature, in ideal conditions, the trans runs cooler than the engine. If anything the engine coolant is *heating* the trans fluid.

Now, the argument has been made that in extreme situations (towing, hauling, etc) the trans fluid will hit the 180° mark and beyond. At which point, theoretically, the coolant should bleed heat from the trans fluid.

I'll tell ya something, if my trans hits 200° + when towing (and I do, a lot, through CA mountains) then something is wrong with my setup or I'm pushing it too hard. I'm certainly not going to depend on a slow pass through a chamber that is only 20° cooler, It's just not practical.

/shadetree mechanic

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Reading shows sketchy quality on cheap fan clutches. I use Hayden on my Mazda truck, but admit to O'Reilly on my 1998 Frontier with 209K miles. I think 1/2 to 3/4 spin when hot is getting excessive, guess it depends how hard of a push one puts on the fan blade.

So my preferences would be Hayden or Nissan.
 

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Reading shows sketchy quality on cheap fan clutches.
Yep.

I had to return one I bought at Auto Zone. It didn't work much better than the old, dead one it replaced.

In the RV world, metal flex-blade fans are a pretty popular replacement for the original clutch and plastic fan. Typically, they're installed with a spacer kit that replaces the original fan clutch.

They're capable of moving a LOT of air, without having to worry about a fan clutch failing. However, they're noisy.

 

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It is my opinion, and it is hotly contested here, that the internal pass of the trans fluid through the radiator isn't so much to cool the trans fluid as it is to pre-warm it on startup.

My trans operating temp is 150 degrees + or - a few. My coolant operating temp is 180 (again, with fluctuations)

At operating temperature, in ideal conditions, the trans runs cooler than the engine. If anything the engine coolant is *heating* the trans fluid.

Now, the argument has been made that in extreme situations (towing, hauling, etc) the trans fluid will hit the 180° mark and beyond. At which point, theoretically, the coolant should bleed heat from the trans fluid.

I'll tell ya something, if my trans hits 200° + when towing (and I do, a lot, through CA mountains) then something is wrong with my setup or I'm pushing it too hard. I'm certainly not going to depend on a slow pass through a chamber that is only 20° cooler, It's just not practical.

/shadetree mechanic

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Perhaps "cooler" would be better if it were replaced with "fluid temperature maintainer?" It does both: it warms the fluid quicker to normal operating temperature and it offers cooling if the fluid gets too hot. Trans fluid's optimal operating temperature is 175-200 degrees F. in the pan and shouldn't drop below 150 degrees. Using only an air-to-liquid cooler could possibly over-cool the trans fluid, whereas a cooler inside a radiator tank will typically keep the fluid temperature in the proper range. Radiator integral coolers are practical because the are a liquid-to-liquid cooler and are far more efficient that air-to-liquid coolers and the reason they've been used in vehicles for over fifty years. Some GM trucks not only use them to cool the trans fluid, but also to cool the engine oil.
 
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Perhaps "cooler" would be better if it were replaced with "fluid temperature maintainer?" It does both: it warms the fluid quicker to normal operating temperature and it offers cooling if the fluid gets too hot. Trans fluid's optimal operating temperature is 175-200 degrees F. in the pan and shouldn't drop below 150 degrees. Using only an air-to-liquid cooler could possibly over-cool the trans fluid, whereas a cooler inside a radiator tank will typically keep the fluid temperature in the proper range. Radiator integral coolers are practical because the are a liquid-to-liquid cooler and are far more efficient that air-to-liquid coolers and the reason they've been used in vehicles for over fifty years. Some GM trucks not only use them to cool the trans fluid, but also to cool the engine oil.
Well, that's the best explanation I've heard yet. I still dont trust that 20° though. If you hit 200° + you need to learn how to tow more conservatively.

Just my opinion, and you know what they say...

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