Always get a pre-purchase check

When considering the purchase of a second-hand Land Rover (or any other vehicle for that matter) the value of a pre-purchase check cannot be overstated. Do NOT get this done by a mate, or the local friendly service station. Go to a Land Rover expert shop and pay the money. The cost might seem like a lot, but it is nothing compared to the potential cost if you buy something with problems you do not discover until afterwards.  However, be warned that even the best of specialists cannot diagnose every problem, even if potentially major.

Be sure to drive the vehicle in as wide a range of conditions as possible just to satisfy yourself that the vehicle is not obviously defective – things like serious steering shakes, suspension, brakes and water in the footwells. Check the bottom of the door frames and any other readily accessible areas to detect rust. That will be about as far as you can go yourself without applying tools. If the vehicle passes these simple tests, insist on taking it to a specialist for a more complete check. If the seller refuses, walk away.

The value of being suspicious

It is better to be difficult to please, than to be destitute. Assume the worst then whatever actually happens will be a pleasant surprise:

  • Serious RUST is the number one reason to reject a vehicle. The alloy bodies on Land Rovers are commonly fixed to steel frames and it the latter that rust – sometimes beyond easy repair. A vehicle that has been driven on sand can be an absolute rust bucket and will literally be un-roadworthy. Door frames, sills and the floor are most common areas of serious rust.
  • When test-driving the vehicle, consider that ANY and every noise, vibration or misfire is worth serious attention.
  • Vibration or wandering steering could be tyre damage, a bearing, worn bushes or a cracked universal joint.
  • Blowing smoke is not a good idea. If it is black, the injectors need work, or replacement. If blue, a new set of rings and bearings can cost thousands
  • Overheating can mean many things, from a viscous coupling on the fan, a blocked radiator, defective thermostat or a blown head gasket (plus several other causes). However, some overheating problems may not be detected until the vehicle is pushed hard, like steep uphill climbs –something a pre-purchase check may not reveal. This is especially true of early diesel engines that take a long time to get to normal operating temperature. Be sure to test it yourself under these conditions.
  • Heater hoses that are hardening, or coolant hoses softening should be considered minor but necessary repair jobs
  • Loss of coolant means trouble. It can only go two places – onto the ground via a busted hose, leaking radiator, worn water pump etc OR through the engine. The latter is by far the more expensive fix, usually involving head and/or valley gaskets.
  • Water on the floor of the car may be rainwater coming through a sunroof or window but more likely, a blown heater hose or heater core. The parts to fix these problems are cheap, but the labour time to fix them is frightening
  • Cutting out at traffic lights could mean several things, mostly expensive to fix. The modern vehicle is highly complex and repairs can be very costly.
  • If the vehicle has air suspension, don’t believe it is just a leaking air-spring. It could be, but it might also be the valve block, compressor and/or EAS computer.
  • Braking must be smooth and efficient. Pulling one way might be a worn pad, but it might also be a leaking hub seal or ball joint. If there are nasty noises, assume that the disks (rotators) need replacing or maybe a calliper is broken.
  • If the air conditioning doesn’t work, it is not as simple as topping up the gas. There has to be a reason. With luck it will be a loose junction or worn O-ring, but it could be the compressor and if it is an old system, it will need a complete overhaul and new parts..

Emotion versus science

Be suspicious of massive suspension lifts, ultra wide tyres, roof-bars with a zillion driving lights and so on.  These may just be urban-cowboy enhancements, but it might also mean a hard life. That is not a reason to reject the vehicle if it has been well maintained, but once again, assume the worst.

Of course, you will want to customise your new vehicle. However, be careful of spending money on upgrades until ALL of the essentials have been done. Never kid yourself that the purchase price will cover everything that is needed. If you get the vehicle at a reasonable price, it is prudent to spend a bit more money with a professional Land Rover specialist to ensure it is safe and totally roadworthy.

Genuine vs aftermarket parts

“Genuine” parts are inevitably more costly than aftermarket ones, even if they appear to be identical. Legal liability is the absolute fundamental issue underscoring parts selection. In the event of a component failure, the results may vary from minor annoyance to life threatening peril.
Trivial versus non-trivial components
Only a professional workshop has the knowledge and experience to decide which components meet this fundamental criterion. They will also know when an after-market part is actually better than the original and is non-critical for safety and operational reasons. In some cases, the after-market part may be better designed and more robust than the OEM version. After all, technology improves and difficult-to-fit parts may be redesigned for easier installation Therefore, the legal liability aspects may not apply to some components, but it is the experience of the specialist that is critical. Sourcing your own parts then expecting the workshop to fit them is absurd. No professional shop is going to take the risk
It is also worth considering that every vehicle is built to a price and market niche. The engineers and accountants will inevitably have different views not only on the level of inclusions, but also on the cost of each and every component. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) may source parts for virtually anywhere but they have the responsibility of testing, ensuring compatibility with other vehicle components and above all, the effect on vehicle warranty.
Some examples
For critical systems, engine, drive train and brakes are just some of the vehicle components where OEM parts are essential, not the least for the warranty and legal liability issues described above. It does not matter where the OEM sourced the part, it complies with manufacturer specifications and warranty.
Conversely, suppliers like Maxidrive, Bilstein, Hella, IPF, Haltech and others provide components that are tried and tested, with years of satisfactory service. Their products often out-perform the OEM versions because they are engineered for performance, not just price.
Best advice
The law makes independent workshops accountable, but accepting substitute parts from any unqualified supplier is seriously bad policy. Specifically, the Graeme Cooper team includes qualified experts who know exactly what best suits the circumstances.

Tyre inner tubes

Virtually all tyres are now fitted without inner tubes but this does not mean they should be considered obsolete. Also, unless you have owned the vehicle for a considerable time, it is entirely possible that a previous owner had one or more tyres fitted with tubes to overcome the problem of a sightly damaged rim or a cracked tyre wall and so on.

In an extreme case where you are forced to effect a repair yourself, a tube might be your lifeline. This is not as silly as it might sound. It will not be the first time that TWO punctures occur on a bad stretch of country gravel road when you only have ONE spare. In country like that, it is wise to be prepared for the worst and just having repair plugs may not be enough.

Even if you are not that far from a town when a problem occurs, the local tyre dealer may not carry your brand or size of tyre, so unless the damage is beyond any repair, having an inner tube handy might save you having to purchase a different brand of tyre just to keep you mobile.  Constant 4WD vehicles must NOT have different sized tyres so you may be forced to change all four – an expensive fix when there may be a cheaper solution. A patch and an inner tube will probably get you home, or at least to a dealer who can match the other tyres already on the vehicle.

A final note about valves. It is now standard to use those round plastic covers over the valve stem and they do NOT have the tool requires to remove and replace a valve. Most auto-accessory shops sell valve tools or you may be able to buy or scrounge one from a friendly tyre dealer to carry in your tool kit. Like many tools, you may never need to use it, but if you do, virtually no other tool will do the job!

Classic and P38 wheel nut covers

If you have ever had to change a road wheel on a Classic or P38 with the chrome/stainless covers over the wheel nuts, you will appreciate what a nuisance they can be.  Removed more than a couple of time, they distort so that the socket no longer fits OR the covers will spin without turning the nut underneath.

It may not be the perfect answer but removing the covers and leaving the plain steel nuts bare.fixes the problem permanently

Although the covers distort they are tough so if they are still on the vehicle it will take a cold chisel and hammer to remove them without damaging the steel nut underneath. The job will be easier if the entire nut and cover can be removed, placed into a vice so the cover can be cut away with an ultra-thin angle grinder disk. The trick is to cut downwards along the line of each nut face to avoid damaging the nut itself. Then pull off the cover using pliers – NOT fingers.

The appearance of the plain nuts is obviously not as good as those with covers, but if this is a concern, prime and paint them. Good quality chrome-looking paint is available in aerosol cans from any auto store.

Unless you remove the covers on ALL wheel nuts, you will need to carry two different sockets – a lot better than not being able to change a wheel after a puncture.