The Discovery II was introduced as a 1999 model year vehicle as the Discovery I was being phased out. Although they look similar, the Discovery II (or D2) offered many modern updates over the outgoing Discovery I model. Even by today’s standards, the Discovery II is a well equipped SUV with impressive off-road capability. If you are considering the purchase of a used Discovery II, it is important to familiarize yourself with the common problems these vehicles have. While D2s are not inherently unreliable vehicles if maintained properly, buying one that has been abused and not subject to regular service will lead to a very costly ownership experience.
Unless you have deep pockets or you are specifically looking for a project D2 to work on yourself, the best single bit of advice to take is to buy the best car you can afford. There is no such thing as a “good, cheap” Discovery II. In the long run, you will save quite a bit of money if you spend a little extra up front on a well maintained D2 rather than buy a “fixer upper” and pay for all of the additional repairs. Even though many parts for these cars are affordable, some can be quite expensive. So, how do you tell if a D2 has been well maintained? The best way to determine this is to see maintenance/repair documents from the past several years. Given that these cars are now over 10+ years old, many parts with rubber components such as gaskets, seals, hoses, bushings, etc. will have undoubtedly worn out. Additionally, routine maintenance such as oil changes, brake jobs, and belt replacement should be up-to-date. If there is no evidence that most of these items have been addressed, then it’s probably best to move on to the next one. There are plenty of Discovery IIs out there, so you can afford to be picky. Once you’ve found a D2 that’s been well maintained, get a pre-purchase inspection done on any car you are serious about buying. Many people who buy Discovery IIs do so thinking that a rough idle or an illuminated Check Engine Light are minor issues that can be fixed with a tune up. While that may be true, these are also early symptoms of major issues that may cost thousands of dollars to fix. While no one likes to spend $100+ on a car that they don’t even own, consider it money well spent to ensure that you don’t buy someone else’s headache. Furthermore, a pre-purchase inspection can be a good bargaining tool when negotiating price, so you will oftentimes recoup the money spent when you buy the car.
Head gasket failures are probably the biggest problem that these vehicles are likely to have. Depending on where the gasket failed, this may show up as nothing more than an oil leak, or it may cause internal engine issues that result in overheating and potential engine failure. This is a common issue that arises on many of these vehicles once they get close to 100k miles, and the cost to replace the head gaskets can exceed $2,000. Outside of head gasket repairs, engines are pretty solid and are known to go 200k miles without other major work needed. Oil pumps are integrated into the timing cover and are expensive to replace, although this is far less common than the head gasket issues mentioned above. Certain model years had higher failure rates with oil pumps than others, so make sure you do your homework before buying. These engines are prone to oil leaks around the crankshaft seals, timing cover, and valve covers. Valve cover gasket repairs are more expensive to do on these vehicles than on many other cars due to the difficulty in replacing them without removing the intake manifold. Original factory driveshafts are also prone to high failure rates and can potentially (although rarely) lead to catastrophic damage when they do fail. Replacing the U-joints can potentially prolong the life of a driveshaft, but that usually ends up being a stop gap measure at best. Other major drivetrain components are generally pretty solid as long as they aren’t abused and are serviced regularly.
The braking systems on Discovery IIs are pretty reliable. Most issues can be fixed by replacing an ABS sensor or repairing part of the ABS modulator known as the shuttle valve—neither of which is very costly. The entire ABS modulator is the only very expensive component of the system, but it’s not a very high failure rate item.
Discovery 2 HVAC systems are generally pretty reliable. Just about the only expensive repair you need to look out for would be a faulty heater core. If you notice that the carpet is wet around the center console or if you turn on the heat and immediately notice a strong coolant odor, a leaking heater core is likely the culprit. The parts are not very costly themselves, but there is some extensive labor involved. The cooling system is prone to leaking in several places (i.e. water pumps, expansion tanks, throttle body heaters, etc), but none of these repairs is particularly expensive or difficult.
Power steering pumps are a very high failure rate component. Power steering hoses are prone to leaking, but they are not expensive items. Suspensions on D2s are pretty solid setups. Vehicles equipped with Active Cornering Enhancement rarely have any additional issues crop up as a result of the system, and the rear air spring setup gives far less trouble than the 4 wheel air ride system found on Range Rovers. If the air suspension system in the back does develop issues, replacement parts and conversion kits are readily available. Given the age/mileage of most of these vehicles, various suspension bushings and steering components are probably worn out unless they’ve already been addressed by a previous owner. Parts are cheap, but the labor can really add up.
Window regulators are prone to failure but aren’t terribly expensive to replace. Faulty door lock actuators (integrated into the door latches on these vehicles) can cause some headaches and may be difficult to diagnose by non-Rover mechanics in some cases. Interior trim and leather pieces may not seem like major repairs, but many of these components are exorbitantly priced through Land Rover. If interior cosmetics are important to you, you’ll save a lot of money in the long run if you find a vehicle with these items still in good condition. Make sure that the instrument cluster surround is in tact and secured properly. Front bumpers on these vehicles are notorious for cracking and breaking under very light contact. The plastic that they’re made of weakens over time and gets very brittle. Because of this, finding used front bumpers in good condition can be difficult and many people end up resigning themselves to buying a new bumper (cost as of this writing is well over $700).
Hopefully this has been informative to anyone looking to purchase a used Discovery 2. Once again, this is not an exhaustive list of common issues with these vehicles but rather a manageable list at some of the cost-prohibitive items that prospective buyers can look at and determine whether or not a particular Rover is worth purchasing. Please don’t get the wrong idea and think that every Disco 2 out there will need all of these items addressed sooner rather than later. Most D2 owners with over 100k on their vehicles only experience a few of the problems listed above and are quite pleased with their purchase.