Buying a Freelander - Pre 2004 Model Year

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My best advice is examine the vehicle very carefully in person! They are not low maintenance vehicles and are prone to many known and well documented issues. I will add to this guide as time permits - but the main areas to look at first are:
1) If it is a 1.8L K series petrol engine does it use water or have any oily residue in the expansion tank - if it does or has then there may be head gasket problems or liner movement.
2) Make sure you reverse it on full lock through a full 90 degree turn - does it seem like the handbrake is on? If it does then this may well be a sign that the viscous unit on the propshaft is on its way out.
3) Have the tyres (especially the rear ones) been changed recently? Again could be because of a viscous unit problem which causes the rear tyres to scrub out and wear badly.
4) Has it been maintained by a Land Rover specialist? Even an independent is much better than a normal garage because the chances are that they will have looked at important things like the oil in the IRD unit (equivalent of a transfer box on the Freelander). Very expensive when it goes - £825 plus - and only available as a Land Rover item.
5) Does it have what appears to be a wheel bearing noise? Check the rear tyres and see comment about viscous unit!

There are many other problem areas that I will list shortly - but in the meanwhile if you read this and do want any assistance please e-mail me and I will do my best to point you in the right direction. A genuine seller will be willing to let you take it to a local specialist for a check over. Most will probably charge you about an hours labour (possibly around £40 to £50) for an inspection - but trust me that is a mere drop in the bucket to save yourself from buying a vehicle that will need a viscous unit (around £425), a rear diff (around £395) and an IRD unit (yes, add £825 on top of those two) - and then the labour to fit it all. A £1200 vehicle can end up costing you £2100 just to keep it on the road!

On a positive note the early 2.0L L Series diesel engines are excellent - providing the cam belt (and injector pump belt) have been changed at the correct intervals. The Td4 engine is also good but can be prone to the odd injector or fuelling problem. If you are looking at a Td4 that does not start well all the time then the best answer is get it plugged in to a diagnostic machine - there are quite a few related issues on the fuel system that cannot be accurately checked without one. If the fuel pump is not working perfectly it can hide an injector problem (diesel pressure "bleeds" off into the return pipe when an injector is on the way out). There are also some known wiring harness issues with the injectors and pressure regulator - although much less common.

Other "cosmetic" (or more minor) issues to look for include:
1) The clock / radio display not working properly - can be a problem trying to enter the radio code when you can't see the display! It is possible to enter it "blind" but be very careful buying a second hand one - good ones are hard to find and can be around the £35 mark.
2) A good amount of water in the rear loadspace floor cubby box - excellent for carrying your pet goldfish on holiday but no so great for the permanent damp smell in the vehicle. This can be a time consuming and costly problem to fix - especially if it involves the rear tailgate seal leaking. The ideal soution is to strip out the rear trim to find out the exact cause of the water ingress - but a quick fix is simply to drill a hole in the bottom of the cubby! You might need to gently "dent" the floor of the cubby so that your hole is in the lowest point and all the water can drain out. Clearly an area to look at when buying a vehicle - because someone might have already done this and not solved the problem of the water getting in!
3) Any warning light staying on when the vehicle is running - can be a simple thing or can be expensive. Do some research first to make yourself familiar with the vehicle is the best way forward. This includes making the ABS system work when you test drive it - and also making sure that the Hill Descent Control is working.

I have seen lots of customers (and this is not just a Freelander issue) who are not familiar with what the vehicle can or should be able to do. For example a customer in a Discovery used to hang her handbag on the "handy" High/Low transfer lever - until one day when the weight of the handbag moved the lever into the Neutral position. The vehicle obviously lost all drive because the transfer box was in neutral. A very easy thing to solve and not really a problem with the vehicle - just pull the lever back into the High position and off you go again. Just as knowing that the Freelander is really a two wheel drive car at heart is important. Just to clarify the Freelander does have four wheel drive and IS a permanent four wheel drive - but you can remove the rear propshaft completely and drive it as a two wheel drive without causing any problems (although you should notify your insurance company if you are removing it permenantly because it is classed as a modification and your towing capability will be reduced - in fact I would recommend that you don't tow anything if you have removed the rear propshaft).

Just ending on a more positive note again - headlights for the early models (pre-facelift) are cheap and easy to find second hand! I have seen a pair going for £6 at a Land Rover show - mainly because they very rarely get broken.
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