Land Rover introduced the LR3 (also known as the Discovery 3 in some markets) in 2005 as a replacement for the outgoing Discovery 2 model. While the Discovery 2 was a very capable vehicle both on-road and off-road, the LR3 represents a technological leap forward that improved driving dynamics, comfort, and off road capability. If you are considering the purchase of a used LR3, then it is important that you familiarize yourself with some of the more common problems that these vehicles tend to have. By no means does this buyer’s guide attempt to cover every potential problem that an LR3 owner may experience over the course of his/her ownership. Furthermore, while the issues below are merely a list of common (and potentially expensive) problems that LR3 owners have experienced over the years, it’s very unlikely that one particular vehicle will have every problem outlined below over the course of one person’s ownership. Contrary to what some people may claim, the LR3 can be a very reliable vehicle as long as they are maintained properly. The LR3 does require more preventative maintenance than other vehicles out on the road today, and a lack of proper maintenance is the main reason why many of the issues listed below are so prevalent.
GENERAL LR3 BUYERS ADVICE
Because an LR3’s reliability is closely tied to how well it was maintained, you should limit your search to vehicles that come with extensive service documentation. There are plenty of LR3s out on the road today, so unless you’re in a big hurry to buy a used LR3, there’s no need to jump on the first one that you see. You can afford to be picky and find one that’s been well taken care of. You might pay a little more for a well maintained LR3 up front, but in the long run, you’ll be much happier with your purchase if you do. Buying a “cheap” LR3 rarely pays off in the end, as you’ll likely have to spend more money fixing problems that weren’t addressed by a previous owner. The best single piece of advice you can heed when buying a used LR3 is to buy the nicest, newest best maintained LR3 you can afford. Unless you enjoy working on cars and don’t mind the extra expenses involved, avoid “Fixer Uppers”. So, how do you tell if an LR3 has been well maintained? One of the best ways to determine this is to see maintenance/repair documents from the past several years. Given that these cars are now over 5 years old, routine maintenance such as oil changes, brake jobs, and belt replacement should be up-to-date. This will be covered in detail below, but fluid changes are very important with these vehicles; make sure all fluids (and not just engine oil) have recently been changed. Make sure that tires have decent tread on them and that they’re wearing evenly. Ask to see any recall or warranty documentation; it’s surprising, but many people will forego repairs that wouldn’t cost them a penny simply because it’s inconvenient for them to do so. If there’s very little evidence that recalls, warranty repairs or maintenance items have been addressed, then it’s probably best to move on to the next one. This next piece of advice often gets ignored, but it is very important to keep in mind. Get a pre-purchase inspection (also called a PPI) done on any LR3 that you are interested in buying. It’s understandable that you might be hesitant to spend $100-$150 on a vehicle that you don’t even own yet, but it’s often money well spent, particularly if you’re not very familiar with cars in general. A PPI might turn up a potentially expensive problem that you might have missed on a test drive, or it could provide you with piece of mind knowing that the LR3 that you want is in excellent mechanical condition. It can be a great tool that you can use when negotiating the final price of the car, and will often pay for itself several times over if the PPI turns up a few issues that the seller wasn’t aware of. Make sure you get one done. If a seller is unwilling to allow you to do so, then just walk away and quietly thank him/her for saving you the cost of a PPI on a car that likely has major issues.
As mentioned above, this is far from an exhaustive list of all LR3 problems that might come up from time to time. No used car is perfect and every car needs to be taken in for minor repairs from time to time. Instead, we want to cover all of the major potential problems that a used LR3 might have that could be potential dealbreakers when you’re looking to buy one.
Both the V6 and the V8 engines are pretty stout units and should provide years of troublefree use. They can be prone to internal damage due to overheating, so talk to the shop that’s doing the PPI for you about checking for that. The water pump and some hoses are more prone to failure than others, but they’re not a major problem on these cars. The main problems with the cooling system arise when the car starts to overheat and the driver doesn’t pull over immediately to shut the car down. If your LR3 ever starts to overheat, pull over ASAP to prevent major engine damage.
The suspension compressor and related controls are a common point of failure on these vehicles and can be expensive to replace. Additionally, suspension bushings (most notably, lower control arm and sway bar bushings) tend to wear out quickly due to the weight of these vehicles and can cause various noises, vibration while driving, and uneven/accelerated tire wear. Pay close attention to the tires when looking at a used LR3 for any odd wear patterns that could point to worn out suspension components.
While the braking system on these cars is generally pretty reliable, LR3s are big, heavy vehicles and tend to go through brake pads and rotors pretty quickly. Because of this, many people tend to “skimp” and go for the cheapest brake pads and rotors that they can find. If you feel any vibration or excessive noise while braking, it could be a sign of cheap aftermarket brake components.
As mentioned above, fluid changes are quite important when it comes to increasing the longevity of LR3 drivetrain components. With frequent fluid changes, the differentials, transfer case and transmission will likely go years without any major issues. You’re more likely to experience problems with drivetrain components if they haven’t been subject to recent service. Many enthusiasts recommend more frequent fluid changes than what Land Rover indicates for these vehicles to prolong the life of these expensive drivetrain components, particularly if you spend a lot of time in stop and go traffic or if you do much offroading. Furthermore, these components are somewhat sensitive to what types of fluids go in them, so be sure that each fluid change was done with the right fluid. If a seller cannot provide documentation indicating that all of this has been taken care of properly, then the vehicle will likely need expensive repairs in the near future.
The LR3 is a complex vehicle with several electronic modules that control various systems on the vehicles ranging from engine management to your power seats to monitoring your tire pressure. Most of these electronic modules are very reliable and will rarely fail. Unfortunately, some of them do go bad from time to time and need replacement, and there’s not a lot that you can really do to prevent such failures. There are a couple of reasons why we chose to mention this here: 1) First, with the increased complexity of these vehicles, it is of utmost importance that you have a PPI and any subsequent repairs done by a Rover specialist. 2) Regardless of what the seller tells you, there are rarely any “easy fixes” when it comes to the electronics on these cars. It’s unlikely that you’ll experience many problems with the electronic modules on these cars, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Here are a handful of other LR3 specific items to look for when buying a used LR3. These won’t necessarily impact the way the car drives, but they are important to keep in mind and can be expensive to rectify, so be sure to check them out prior to purchasing a specific vehicle. The LR3 roof glass is a large (and expensive) section of glass that is easily cracked by rocks and pebbles that get kicked up by other vehicles on the road. Clogged sunroof drain tubes can result in water stains on the front section of the headliner. The spare tire winch might sound like a negligible part, but you don’t want to find out that it’s bound up and won’t release when you’re on the side of the road with a flat tire. Speaking of flat tires, make sure that the car comes with it’s complete toolkit, including the jack, lug wrench, etc. Make sure that interior trim and buttons are intact. Many of these items are small and may seem inconsequential, but they’re brittle and often are only sold as part of a larger (and more expensive) component assembly. If you plan on doing any towing, make sure that the seller includes the correct hitch. Whether you’re an avid enthusiast or someone who’s buying their first Land Rover, we hope that you find this LR3 Buyers Guide useful. If you have any further questions about things to look for when buying an LR3, feel free to call or email us and we’ll be happy to help you out.