WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A USED ML OR MN MITSUBISHI TRITON 4X4
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Mitsubishi took the 4X4 ute market by storm when it introduced the ML Triton in 2006.
In a market dominated by the Toyota HiLux and other blandly styled utes with cramped interiors, the ML Triton was a breath of fresh air. In fact you could argue it was a little too fresh, as its unique styling met with a fair degree of mirth from a market place used to masculine ‘box-like’ trucks. As with most vehicles that push the styling envelope, it took a while to adjust to the Triton’s lines, and today a stock ML or MN Triton would rarely get a second look.
The big advantage the swoopy styling afforded was more interior space and importantly room to build a decent angle into the back of the rear seat in the dual-cabs, a fact that instantly propelled the Triton to class leader in the rear seat passenger stakes. It was the first of the dual-cabs that could seriously be considered a properly comfortable family car.
The ML sold extremely well for Mitsubishi. It was as good as, if not better than the HiLux in most ways that counted and it was significantly cheaper. The ML was one of the first dual-cab utes to have it’s on-road handling referred to as ‘car-like’ but it was off-road where it really impressed.
You can bolt a set of 32” off-road tyres to a Triton, leave the suspension stock and go pretty much anywhere you want off-road. Larger 33” tyres would fit with a 50mm suspension lift and some mild trimming of the inner-guards. Few if any of its 4X4 ute competitors could offer the same ease of fitment when moving to larger tyres.
An optional factory rear air-locker was available, but the standard rear LSD in the ML was more than up to the task off-road and many compare it favourably to the legendary LSD in the Nissan Patrol. Either way an ML Triton with a 50mm lift, 32” tyres and a half decent driver will easily keep up with the Patrols and LandCruisers.
The Achilles Heel for the ML was it’s small (compared to the standard for the class) tub with it’s shaped sides. From a styling perspective it was well balanced but it was a compromise for tradies and travellers.
The MN Triton debuted in 2010 and introduced a larger tub, a smaller diesel engine, along with stability and traction control in the higher spec models.
Tritons don’t have a sterling reputation for retained values and that means that as a second hand 4X4 ute they are one of the best value buys out there and one of the most capable off-roaders available for the money.
ML Triton – 4M41 diesel engine (2006 – 2009)
Engine Code: 4M41
Fuel system: Common-rail direct-injection turbo-diesel
If it’s a diesel Triton that you want, then finding a good ML should be at the top of your list.
The 4M41 turbo-diesel is a bit gruff by modern standards, but it’s about as tough as they come.
There are only a couple of known consistent issues with the 4M41, including carbon build up in the inlet manifold and failing Suction Control Valves (SCV), both of which cause the vehicle to surge, something particularly noticeable on a light throttle at a constant speed.
Carbon build up is an issue experienced by most emission compliant turbo-diesel engines. It’s caused by the mixing of exhaust gases from the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system, with oil mist pulled from the crankcase via the Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) system. The result is carbon sludge that builds up in the inlet manifold that restricts and eventually blocks flow.
The issue can be fixed very simply and very illegally, with the alternative being cleaning out the inlet manifold from time to time. If you aren’t the DIY type, this can be quite an expensive proposition.
SCVs fitted by Mitsubishi seem to be variable in quality and even the better ones will eventually fail to work as intended. There are better aftermarket options available.
As with all turbo-diesels, they must be serviced per the book and that isn’t always cheap. Exercise caution if you are looking at a diesel Triton with an undocumented service history.
Aside from the above common problems, the 4M41 is a rock solid lump that will work hard and clock up big kilometres with few issues.
ML Triton – 6G74 petrol engine (2006 – 2009)
Cylinders: six-cylinder (V6)
Fuel system: Port fuel injection
Right now, on the second-hand market, the V6s are the cheapest way to get behind the wheel of a Triton and it’s all because Australians are a bit nuts about diesels.
But you should consider a petrol Triton, and here’s why.
A good petrol engine is always going to cost less to operate than any diesel engine. While the petrol might use more fuel, it is far simpler and cheaper to service and maintain, particularly if it is a naturally aspirated V6 like the one found in 4X4 ML Tritons.
Petrol engines aren’t affected by their emissions systems like diesels are. No illegal work-around is needed and no regular maintenance is needed in this regard.
There is also a strong argument for claiming that the average petrol engine, is more reliable and has less issues needing attention, than the average diesel engine. In the case of the Triton this is very true.
The 6G74 petrol V6 is a non-Mivec (variable valve timing), straight-forward, smooth running and sweet revving V6. Owner’s have little to report in the way of issues, besides a batch suffering from excessive piston slap, most of which would have been fixed under warranty, if the owners noticed the issue.
Other common issues? Well there aren’t really any.
There were a few minor changes to the V6 while it was available, most notably the move from a cable throttle to a ‘fly-by-wire’ throttle, as well as changes to the coil packs and the inlet manifold. Earlier V6s were compatible with specific LPG systems and the last of the V6s weren’t compatible with LPG at all.
A V6 auto Triton is possibly the ultimate combination for anyone that does a lot of sand driving. The smoother power delivery and wider rev band work in tandem with the smooth shifting auto to keep the Triton moving.
On the road, the petrol is quieter and some would argue nicer to drive.
Mitsubishi chose to discontinue the V6 when they updated to the MN and moved to a diesel only 4X4 range.
ML Triton (2006 – 2009) – Known Issues And What To Look For
The all new ML Triton debuted in 2006 and was initially available with four specification levels for the 4X4, the GL, GLX, GLX-R and the relatively rare GLS luxury model. A mid-spec VR was added to the range with the MY08 update.
The ML launched with Mitsubishi’s Easy Select four-wheel-drive system which, like many other 4X4s gives you the option of high-range rear-wheel-drive for on-road driving and high and low-range four-wheel-drive (locked centre diff) for driving on loose surfaces.
In August 2008, as part of the MY09 upgrade, the GLX-R and GLS Tritons were fitted with Mitsubishi’s Super Select system which added an all-wheel-drive option for on-road driving.
The move to the Super Select for the higher spec Tritons was the biggest news in the development history of the ML. If you are looking for the best of the ML Tritons then it’s the MY09 GLX-R and GLS that you’ll be shopping for.
The MY09 upgrade also saw the alloy wheels for the GLX-R and GLS increase from 16″ to 17″ diameter.
Finding out how the Triton you are looking at, has been used, is important.
More extreme off-road use will weaken and eventually cause the front constant velocity (CV) joints on the drive shafts to fail. Failing CVs will make a clicking sound, most noticeable when turning. Aftermarket driveshafts are available at reasonable prices and replacing them is a reasonably straight forward DIY job.
If you are looking at a dual-cab then check the back corners of the cab for dents. The Triton’s chassis is well known for its flexibility and the tub will hit the cab in certain situations off-road. This is quite common and a clue as to how the Triton you are looking at has been used.
Underneath the Triton, if it’s still stock, will be a pathetic attempt at a sump and radiator bash plate. The stock plates last about 3 minutes off-road and any owner looking to use their Triton off-road will have replaced these.
The suspension is the same. If it’s stock it will have sagged and the original shocks are barely suitable for use as bonnet struts. Anyone looking to go off-road will have replaced the suspension and probably added a 50mm lift when doing so.
Stock rear leaf springs would regularly develop squeaks, something that the Mitsubishi ‘fix’ never really fixed. Better quality aftermarket springs usually put an end to this issue, but not always.
The earlier MLs used a two-piece tailshaft, which didn’t always play well with lifted suspension, an issue that manifested itself as driveline vibration when moving off from a standstill. One fix was to rotate the centre bearing and if that didn’t work then an expensive one piece tailshaft was needed.
Mitsubishi moved to a one piece tailshaft with the MY09 update that went on sale in August 2008, a move which eliminated this issue.
The rear diff is a 9.5″ unit in the ML and a 9″ one in the MN and they are generally considered to be bullet proof, although some were known to whine from new and weren’t real easy to fix. The front diffs are strong enough to cope with a locker, if used sensibly and the transfer cases have no commonly recurring issues.
The Triton, like the other 4X4 utes in this class, has a relatively large legal tow rating for what is essentially a light duty vehicle. While the Triton will happily tow a big van or trailer, regular towing will take its toll.
In the case of manual Tritons, third gear seems to be the first to suffer. If the Triton you are looking at has a noisy third gear, then towing is likely to be the issue. Fixing it involves reconditioning or replacing the gearbox.
The automatics are arguably better for towing but like all automatics they won’t last long if they are overheated. The torque converter in the autos is known for allowing too much slip at higher speeds, which increases heat and fuel-consumption. Some owners have chosen to fix this issue by fitting a switch that allows them to manually lock the torque converter when required. If you are looking at an auto that has done some towing, then take this into consideration and check it over well. Auto trans fluid that smells burnt is a sign to walk away.
When test driving a Triton listen for clonks from the steering column. It’s an issue that most Tritons both ML and MN have or will suffer from. Mitsubishi was replacing steering columns if the issue occurred within the warranty period. Out of warranty, a new steering column will cost in excess of $1,000 but there is actually a DIY fix available that only costs a few dollars (check the forum link at the end of this article).
On the inside the Triton can be a bit of a mixed bag. As a general rule they have reasonably durable interiors, but the GLX-R and GLS suffered from terrible wear of the sub-par leather coverings on their steering wheel and gear shifter. Even low mileage examples could be showing excessive wear of these items. Replacing them with genuine parts isn’t cheap and isn’t a real fix as they are as bad as the originals.
The front seats in the ML Tritons were considered by most to be flat and uncomfortable but a set of seat spacers to raise the front of the seat makes a dramatic improvement.
MN Triton – 4D56HP diesel engine (2009 – 2015)
Fuel system: Common-rail direct-injection turbo-diesel
Output (manual): 131kW/400Nm
Output (auto): 131kW/350Nm
For the MN Triton, Mitsubishi dropped the 4M41 diesel and the petrol V6 and introduced the 2.5-litre 4D56HP turbo-diesel, which became the only engine option for the 4X4 Triton range.
The 4D56HP was billed as being quieter, more powerful and more fuel efficient, which it was, but it has proven not to be a step up from the venerable 4M41.
The 4D56HP uses a timing belt, not a chain like the 4M41 and this needs to be replaced every 100,000kms. It (like the 4M41) requires a tappet adjustment every 30,000kms, which is a time consuming and thus expensive job at a dealer.
It suffers the same carbon buildup issue as the 4M41, albeit at a slower rate, meaning regular inlet manifold cleans or an illegal fix.
From a driveability perspective, while it had more power, it suffered terrible turbo-lag. Mitsubishi made running changes to try to improve the off-boost responsiveness, but the most effective solution was an aftermarket chip or tune.
As time went on it became apparent that the 4D56HP also had an overheating issue (potentially) and Mitsubishi has replaced numerous engines under warranty.
Here’s what Mitsubishi Motors Corporation had to say about the issue;
“MMC has advised that Triton and Challenger equipped with 4D56 High-Power engines may
exhibit a symptom of overheat caused by the loss of coolant.
- Engine overheat may occur due to excessive loss of coolant that may be caused by repetitive coolant evaporation.
- Localised coolant evaporation could also occur after high load driving such as towing heavy cargo.
- Also, if the sealing condition is not adequate at the upper surface of cylinder block (due to the surface roughness) engine coolant blow-by may occur promoting overheat.
As preventive action, the following corrective measures are implemented:
- Replacing the radiator cap with a high-valve-opening-pressure type (raising the boiling point)
- Replacing the coolant (To increase concentration from 30% to concentration 50%).
- Reprogram of ECU (for early detection of coolant loss to prevent damage to the engine.)
- Radiator cap valve opening pressure changed from 109kPa to 127kPa effective 21/02/2014
- Coolant concentration changed from 30% to 50% effective 22/11/2013
- ECU program changed to add coolant loss detection function (CEL-on and engine output
restriction in case of detecting coolant loss) effective 09/09/2013 CEL=“Check Engine Lamp”
- Improved smoothness of upper surface of cylinder block for engines built on and after
18/03/2014 (engine number 4D56 UCFA9504 onwards)”
In summary Mitsubishi believe that they fixed this issue with all Tritons built on and after the 18/03/14.
If you are looking at an MN Triton built before that date then you will want to find out if a ‘cooling system service campaign’ was carried out by a dealer (a clue that it has would be a 127kpa sticker on the radiator cap) and what the result was.
Ideally you’d also want to know if the engine has suffered the issue and been replaced. If it hasn’t then it really is a case of buyer beware and if you are the type that likes to prepare for the worst, then budget for a new engine.
MN Triton (2009 – 2015) – Known Issues And What To Look For
The considerably updated MN Triton debuted in the second half of 2009 and was available as a 4X4 in GLX, GL-R Active, GLX-R and GLX-R Luxury Pack specification levels. A Club Cab version of the cab-chassis 4X4 was added to the line-up as part of the MY11 update.
The ML’s five-speed manual carried over to the MN range as did the four-speed auto, but only for the GLX. Automatic GL-R and GLX-Rs received the same Jatco five-speed automatic that was used in the Pajero.
As with the ML, only the higher spec GLX-R and GLX-R Luxury were fitted with the Super Select four-wheel-drive system, the GLX and GL-R making do with Easy Select.
Stability control (ASC) and Traction Control (TC) were standard. A limited slip rear diff was standard initially and in later years dropped in favour of an open diff on models equipped with TC. A locking rear diff remained an option but was arguably no longer needed as TC provided similar levels of off-road ability.
Inside there was a mildly revised dashboard and centre console layout, improved front seats, different trim styles and a new steering wheel with audio control and cruise control functions. The new steering wheel proved to be far more durable than the one found in the ML.
Wheels were a new look 17” alloys on the GLX-R and 16” alloys on the GL-R.
Aside from the new diesel engine, the big news was a considerably longer tub with straighter (not tapered as in the ML) sides. The new tub transformed the usability of the Triton but looked ungainly as Mitsubishi left the wheelbase unchanged.
The MN Triton suffered the same issues as the ML (detailed above), including rubbish stock suspension, terrible under-body protection, squeaking rear leaf packs and clonking steering columns. Unfortunately it added a notable new issue to the list.
That big new tub was far more useful, but all of the extra load capacity was added behind the rear axle. If a tow bar was added, it needed to be longer to clear the tub, which added further strain to the chassis when towing. The result, assisted greatly by overloading, driving to fast on bad (corrugated) roads while towing, or the fitment of rear helper air-bags, has been numerous chassis failures, that usually result in the vehicle being written-off.
This phenomenon isn’t new to the dual-cab ute sector, virtually all other brands will suffer chassis failures as the result of overloading, airbags and poor driving, but the MN appears to be more susceptible than most. In comparison, chassis failure in the ML is quite rare.
It is possible to buy strengthening kits for the Triton chassis, but realistically the solution involves understanding that they are not a truck. They are light duty 4X4 ute and when treated as such they will last for as long as you need them to.
Parts availability and modifying Tritons
Modifying a Triton is a straight forward proposition with plenty of after-market engine and suspension parts available. Most major manufacturers will have a full range of accessories available for both the ML and MN.
The sky is the limit and your future Triton build can range from mild to wild using off-the-shelf parts and kits.
Both types of diesel engines will happily accept power up modifications and are known for their strong construction. In Thailand there are plenty of 4M41s and 4D56s producing huge outputs on standard bottom ends. They are not easy engines to break.
Which Triton should you buy?
Don’t let the issues detailed above put you off buying a Triton. If you use this information to find the right Triton, you’ll be rewarded with a reliable, highly capable, fun to drive and extremely good value 4X4.
As mentioned, the Holy Grail of the ML and MN range, is the MY09 ML petrol or diesel GLX-R or GLS that first went on sale in August 2008. This is the Triton that would make the best starting point for a hardcore 4X4 build, or a seriously reliable around Australia tourer.
The MN range shouldn’t be overlooked. They have a far more usable tray and a more current feel to their interior. Just be aware of the engine and chassis issues and find the right one.
The MN Club Cab is worthy of consideration, if you want a solid slide on camper platform, or custom tray, without the dual-cab chassis issues. We know of one Club Cab that has been put through hell, survived and still puts a smile on the face of its owner.
Triton prices are going to trend down, it’s just what they do, so buying one won’t be an investment, but it will be a serious bang for your buck 4X4 purchase.
Want to find out even more about the Triton? The best place to go from here is NewTriton.net