Shoddy Land Rover Discovery

I bought my Series 2 Discovery "nearly new" from my local Land Rover dealer, County Garage in Barnstaple, in 2003. The vehicle had 700 miles on the clock and had been used since new by Land Rover staff.

We chose this, a fairly basic ES spec vehicle, over higher-spec, but older, vehicles because of its low mileage and the reassurance that it still had most of the 3-year warranty intact. As it turned out, this made no difference at all.

Before taking delivery of the vehicle we asked County Garage to sort out an irritating rattle emanating from the central console. Once everything was in order, we collected our shiny new Land Rover and drove away. On the way home the rattle returned.

The rattle was soon joined by some other rattles, plus a number of squeaks. The vehicle was still under warranty, so we decided that any little glitches - no matter how small - would be fixed under the warranty so that, when the warranty expired, all the teething problems would be sorted and we'd have a good solid dependable Land Rover.

Very soon, the mechanism which releases the rear fold-down seats, enabling you to stow them back again, jammed. County Garage did something clever with some WD40 and freed them up. Next time we deployed the seats they jammed again. 

This has continued, on and off, ever since: sometimes the mechanism jams; sometimes it doesn't. It has a life of its own and it is futile to interfere. 

Even before this happened, all the little plastic caps which cover the unsightly screw-heads securing the interior trim popped off. The screws had worked loose. I know how to use a screwdriver, so I tightened the screws and replaced the caps. They popped off again. I stuck them back with Blu-Tack. They popped off again. Then some of the screws fell out and the head-lining started to flop around.

>From the very outset, I had noticed that the rear window wiper only wiped a percentage of the window within its arc. At the top of its arc, it lost contact with the glass. County Garage replaced the blade. Then it replaced the wiper arm. Finally, it announced that this was in fact a common ailment and that Land Rover had issued a new type of wiper arm, an example of which County Garage duly fitted. It worked! A bit.

Pretty soon, the air suspension got fed up with staying inflated all the time and decided to deflate whenever the engine was turned off. We had it fixed and it behaved itself for a while before deciding to deflate again.

One of the reasons we bought a Disco and not a VW Sharan was that we live on a farm and access is via a farm track. We needed a vehicle that would be happy in these rural conditions; a rugged, robust 4WD. A Land Rover, in fact. But our Disco disliked the farm track. Even our old Renault Scenic coped more competently and after a couple of years the Disco's anti-roll bar bushes needed replacing. Followed by all four shock absorbers a year later. Anti-roll bar bushes are now a routine item on the annual service list.

By now, the Land Rover was out of warranty. In a way, that was good because it meant the vehicle spent less time down at County Garage amusing the mechanics. We couldn't afford to pay for each of these glitches to be repaired when they arose and learned to either live with them or save them up and have them fixed in one go.  

And they kept coming. We had already become accustomed to the Land Rover's poor interior finish. My daughter's school lunchbox is better built than the flimsy plastic storage box between the two front seats of the Disco. The sliders which permit you to adjust the front seatbelts don't slide any more.

So when the glove-box door latch gave up the ghost, I investigated the problem myself. The latch was a perforated steel plate through which several thin flanges of Airfix-style plastic protruded. These flanges were squashed down over the steel plate with a hot tool - and that is all that kept the door closed.

This nicely summed up the bodge-it attitude of the Land Rover design team. But, fed up with the door hanging open all the time, I finally fixed it with two self-tapping screws passed through the trim just under the door lip. Now that wasn't difficult, was it?

The prop-shaft was, however, beyond my capabilities. When the vibration which shook the vehicle every time I approached motorway speeds became too violent, I had each wheel balanced. When that didn't fix it, the vehicle went into the garage. It was the universal joint, which had worn out.

Once that was fixed, the vehicle seemed pretty good, considering. Not many rattles (or at least no new ones); no vibration and no interior trim falling off. You might, if you closed your eyes and didn't look at the tacky interior, even mistake it for something built in Germany or Japan. Or even the Czech Republic. Then the rear suspension exploded.

This happened at 2 a.m. as I waited outside my son's school for the coach bringing him back from a school trip to France. As I stood shivering with the other parents at the front of the school, a loud report from behind the school building shattered the silence and we all looked at each other in alarm. The school is surrounded by farmland and we all assumed that it was a farmer out 'lamping' foxes with a rifle.

Only I discovered the actual cause of the explosion. When we got back in the Land Rover it was again sitting on its haunches, one of the rubber rear suspension units having spontaneously exploded after I had switched off the engine. Back to the garage.

By now, the Disco was a veritable Javanese Gamelan (look it up) of squeaks, rattles, knocks and twangs. But, you know what? I no longer cared. Oh, and the back-light illuminated the dashboard clock has never worked. You just live with it.

One day two or three years ago I met a boy-racer in a Vauxhall Corsa in the lane. All the lanes round here are very narrow. So I executed an emergency stop, an alarm bell chimed and the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. It appeared that every system on the vehicle - ABS, traction control, brakes, airbag, you name it - had failed. 

Surprisingly, it seemed to have little actual effect. The brakes still worked, though not the ABS nor the traction control. Luckily I don't know about the air-bag - but in any case, the airbag warning light had been coming on whenever it felt like it for several years and I'd stopped noticing it.

So back to the garage.

My mechanic (not County Garage, I regret - they were too expensive for such regular attention) plugged the vehicle into his laptop and ran the diagnostic. It was the ABS sensor on the front offside hub. So I had it replaced. Then another one went.

My Discovery is currently down in Barnstaple with my trusty mechanic Barry and his diagnostic tools. I didn't drive it down there; a breakdown lorry collected it. The suspension has again deflated and this time it's decided to stay put. 

Actually, Barry's been expecting it. I thought I'd wait until there were enough problems to make it worth his while. So this time, apart from the suspension, he's going to look at the windscreen wipers which no longer work properly on intermittent, stopping in mid-wipe before continuing their sporadic journey across the windscreen.

And Barry will be looking at the rear wiper too, which has stopped working altogether. 

When he opens the driver's door, he will probably replace the door restraint split-pin which recently shattered as if made of glass and nearly took my eye out.

He said it won't be too difficult to fix the rear wheel-arch linings which have rotted away, leaving the mud-flaps and rear wing panels flapping in the breeze. But he agrees with me that it's odd that, on a vehicle largely made with corrosion-resistant aluminium body panels, the two components most exposed to grit, salt water and mud are actually made from mild steel and have not simply rusted, but rusted away entirely.

Once he's done that, I've asked Barry if he wouldn't mind finding out why both reversing lights have stopped working and, while he's at it - and this is a real challenge - to find out why the front nearside headlight makes a chugging noise like a small petrol generator. Yes, that's right: it's a simple lamp, but it makes a noise like an engine.

I have tried, in this short correspondence, to give you a flavour of the non-stop roller-coaster catalogue of surprises that my Discovery has served up over the years. I know I haven't mentioned everything - I have a good memory, but not that good - but I think I've remembered most of them. Except the fact that the rear nearside door cannot be opened from within any more - I've just remembered that. And before you ask it's not the little lever by the latch either. It's something altogether more inexplicable.

So you might ask, well why didn't I just get rid of it?

Well, you try getting rid of a diesel 4x4 with a service history that reads like a Laurel & Hardy film-script when fuel is topping £1 per litre. I couldn't afford to replace it with anything large enough for my family of 5 plus sundry dogs.

Finally, you might also ask: do I have nothing good to say about my Disco?  Well, I could say that it's never failed to start, even on the coldest morning, but I shan't. Because to do so would be to tempt fate.

All I am prepared to say in its defence is that the windscreen wipers are very effective. But only when they're working. And at the moment they're not.

PS: I drafted this letter on 13 May and what good luck that I haven't yet posted it to Land Rover because - STOP PRESS! - I've had the vehicle back from the garage less than a week and the gearbox has started to eat itself. Pulling out of a T-junction yesterday afternoon, First Gear went bang, the car shuddered and that was it: no first gear any more. I am now trawling the internet looking for second hand gearboxes.


What, no problems with the engine? Quit while you're ahead - there is real expense on the way. Sold ours when it took off like a scalded cat - I was doing about 80 before it took off so genuinely terrifying. Cracked head leaking diesel to sump, blown back through turbo. I changed the oil and sold it to a dealer - mum's the word...


Daughter owns 03 disco laughed to the end just put new starter today bill this week is £1200.00 fuel pump coil springs mot etc!!!!!!! if you didnt laugh you would cry well written

Disco 2 faults

Couldn't agree more about County Garage Barnstaple, and thank God for Barry Hews - I assume that is the Barry to whom you refer. He is the only man to go to whatever the vehicle. Sorted out problems on my Mercedes C180 and then on replacement BMW 320D. A magic man, and I'm not forgetting the Disco 2 that my wife bought from County when new. Barry has sorted that monster as well.
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