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Land Rover Discovery ushered the Land Rover brand into a new era when it hit the markets in 1989. The second-gen models also known as Series II made their debut in 1998, and although heavily reworked, they still represented an evolution of the first-gen models and the original Land Rover from 1970. While more comfortable and almost equally off-road capable as the Defender, the Disco was never known for its reliability. This time we’re focusing on the Land Rover Discovery 2 common problems.
As is the case with pretty much any Land Rover model, the Disco 2 is a maintenance nightmare. A lot of things can go wrong in it, from the suspension, over the engine and transmission, to seemingly less expensive but still annoying problems such as fuel pump failure, corrosion, and electrical issues.
It’s irresponsible to advise the purchase of the Land Rover Discovery Series II due to its unreliable nature. However, the SUV has its redeeming qualities. If properly maintained, it can prove to be surprisingly reliable, but finding one that fits that description might be a tall order. If you’re in the market for Disco 2, it doesn’t hurt to be informed about its most common issues.
Most Common Problems of Land Rover Discovery Series II (1998-2004)
Here’s the long list of Land Rover Discovery Series II’s most common problems.
Rear air suspension failure
Land Rovers and Range Rovers have plenty of problems with their overengineered air suspensions, and the Disco is no exception. The rear self-leveling suspension was a major liability due to its fragileness, and after a few years of coming as a standard piece of equipment, Land Rover demoted it to the options list. Furthermore, most dealers typically have a suspension conversion kit in their inventory for people fed up with their air suspension breaking down every once in a while.
There are numerous issues with the self-leveling Discovery 2 suspension, but the most typical failure is when the air springs wear out. It’s easy to check the air springs for leaks by using some soapy water. Their replacement, however, isn’t as easy nor cheap. Leave them unattended for a while, and you’re looking at compressor failure as well. The latter simply won’t be able to bear the burden of extra strain put upon it by faulty air springs. The result is, as you can guess, another significant repair bill.
Breaking road springs
Rear self-leveling suspension isn’t the end of Land Rover Discovery 2 suspension woes. The front suspension can be problematic as well. More specifically, the road springs on the driver’s side. They tend to break more often than those on the passenger’s side, and replacement is mandatory. Although you can replace only the broken spring, replacing both is advisable as you simply won’t get the same level of handling from two springs in different states. While you’re at it, you might even think about a complete suspension overhaul or a suspension lift.
Active Cornering Enhancement system issues
The Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE) system isn’t a standard piece of equipment, but some Disco 2’s are fitted with one. It’s an electronically-controlled hydraulic anti-roll bar system that makes the Discovery 2 a charm to drive on winding roads. However, it also makes it that much more expensive to maintain and repair, should something go wrong. The ACE valve block can be found protruding under the chassis and is susceptible to damage on bumpy roads. Furthermore, the ACE pipes are prone to rust and can be expensive to replace. Finally, the ACE system has a filter of its own that needs to be replaced at least every 70,000 miles.
Oil contamination in the loom
Land Rover Discovery Series II models fitted with 2.5 L Td5 diesel engines are problematic due to an issue with oil contamination in the loom. The engine oil finds its way inside the loom and works its way towards the ECU connectors by capillary action. It typically fills the gap under the plug of the red (positive) ECU connector. All sorts of engine problems can arise from this issue, and all of them will be reflected in reduced engine performance. The solution might be simple on paper but isn’t as easy to perform in real life. The oil contamination needs to be neutralized, and the engine top loom needs to be replaced. However, even after cleaning the contamination, some oil might continue to find its way to the connectors, which is why a few tries might be necessary.
Failing plastic dowels and head gasket failure
Early Td5-powered models (1998-2002) came with plastic dowels instead of steel ones, which made them vulnerable to head gasket failure. The dowels would break and allow the cylinder head to move relative to the block. Aside from head gasket failure, this problem also leads to physical damage to the pistons. Luckily, the damage typically remains within the margins of the upper piston area and doesn’t require a complete engine rebuild. Replacement of plastic dowels with steel units is advisable as a precautionary measure, even if the original dowels are still intact.
Even the V8-powered Disco 2’s are problematic when it comes to head gaskets. Both the 4.0 L and 4.6 L V8 units are notoriously hot and tend to chew through head gaskets like there’s no tomorrow. The problem is so widespread that most owners consider head gasket replacement part of regular maintenance. The root cause of this common Land Rover Discovery 2 problem is the quest to achieve better emissions by allowing the thermostat to run the engine hotter.
Fuel pressure regulator leak
A fuel leak from the fuel pressure regulator block is another common diesel engine Disco 2 fault. Either the seals and/or the diaphragm within the regulator tend to deteriorate over time and let the fuel leak out of the block, down the engine exterior. The leak will be visible on the driver’s side of the engine, near the rear top of the engine. While the fuel might collect dirt along the way, changing its color, the unmistakable diesel smell is a sure sign that the fuel pressure regulator seals have failed. Replacing the entire fuel pressure regulator block isn’t too costly, but there’s an even cheaper remedy by replacing only the regulator itself and its gaskets.
Cracked V8 engine block
The Land Rover Discovery Series II has some of the worst engine blocks ever used in V8-powered JLR models. While the problem is present across all model years, 2003 and 2004 Disco 2’s are especially affected. The issue arises from poor tolerances in engine block casting, leading coolant passages to be inconsistently cast and closer than they should to one cylinder or the other. These casting discrepancies create weak spots when the coolant passage is particularly close to the cylinder. In an event of engine overheating, these weak spots will be put under immense strain, and the block will crack.
Common symptoms of a cracked engine block are similar to symptoms of blown head gaskets. You’ll experience engine misfire, poor performance, and loss of coolant, among other things. If you replace the head gasket and continue dealing with these issues, then the engine block has cracked. The easiest way to pinpoint whether the problem lies in the cracked block or head gasket is to identify the cylinder into which the coolant is leaking. The outer cylinders are close to coolant passages which typically means you’ve got a head gasket failure. If the coolant is leaking into one of the middle cylinders, however, chances are you’ve got a cracked engine block. Sadly, the only remedy for such a failure is a new engine.
Although they’re typically more reliable than other Land Rover models, the Discovery Series IIs don’t exactly boast stellar reliability scores. They’re riddled with issues all over, as Land Rover Discovery 2 common problems include suspension, fuel system, and even engine problems. Owning a Land Rover vehicle is always a risky proposition, but with the Discovery 2, at least you get an SUV that’s equally capable on and off-road, as well as a vehicle that could be brought into working order with a few expensive overhauls and parts replacements.
Is Land Rover Discovery 2 a reliable car?
The Land Rover Discovery Series II might be slightly more reliable than other models from Land Rover’s portfolio, but its overall reliability is still sub-par compared to its main competitors. In short, you might be lucky to get your hands on a well-maintained model, but some of its design defects are poised to surface at some point.
How Much Does the Land Rover Discovery 2 cost?
Used Land Rover Discovery 2 costs more than $15,000 on average. The cheapest and most problematic models can be found for under $5,000, although perhaps not in the current market. The most expensive units, on the other hand, sell for north of $45,000.
How much does it cost to maintain Land Rover Discovery 2?
The Disco 2 can be extremely expensive to maintain, much like all Land Rover models. Average monthly maintenance costs are $1,650. More importantly, the probability of used Disco 2 requiring a major repair within the first ten years is 50 percent. This figure rises to 96 percent in just two additional years of ownership.