Buying a Range Rover P38 - What to Look for

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So you want to buy a Range Rover......?

Well, if you want to buy a classic, you'll need to look elsewhere for information for now. Andy Hemper has some good information on his site.They are somewhat outside my experience. But if you want a state of the art luxury off road vehicle, then you can get 1995 models for significantly under £6k. But before you take the plunge, there are a few things to bear in mind.

First of all is fuel economy. The V8 will do between 12 and 18mpg unless your right boot is full of feathers. That translates to £100 of unleaded every 250-350 miles. On LPG, expect this to come down to 20-34p a mile depending on how hard you drive and the conversion setup.

Secondly, is that even though the car itself can be bought for a good price, it's still a fifty grand car, with the servicing bills to match. A 6000 mile service will be around £100, though this is basically an oil change and visual check. A 72,000 mile service will set you back around £800 if done by a main dealer. Replacing the water pump? £350. If you are unlucky enough to need a BeCM replacement, figure £700 plus labour at a main dealer or Autologic equipped independent.

But then there's the sheer pleasure of wafting along everywhere in air conditioned, leather and walnut luxury knowing that almost nothing will stop your progress....

Still want a Range Rover? Then check out the following points when looking at a vehicle.

  • Lack of servicing will lead to expensive repair bills. Make sure it has a full service history. The general opinion is that the V8 engine is bullet proof as long as you are scrupulous about servicing.
  • If you don't get both remote control keys, verify that the spare is non-functional (keys can be disabled in testbook, so while they will open the door they won't reset the alarm). If keypads on the remote are falling off, "it's going to cost me a hundred quid for a new key" is bargaining point. Especially if they don't know you can get the keypad for 61p.
  • Make sure all recall work has been done. There have been several recalls including ABS hoses on earlier models (4.0 SE's VIN SA300190 to SA313142) and heater hoses on pre-1998 models. Early models have known problems with the HeVAC ECUs as well... worth checking if they have been replaced at any time.
  • If it's an early 4.6 (pre 1997, IIRC), then there are issues with porous engine blocks. This will be really expensive to fix! Caveat emptor. On any V8 engine have a peer into the oil filler cap with a torch and see if it's getting overly gunged up.
  • Head gaskets commonly go around 60k miles. Signs include bubbles in the coolant return, the oil emulsifying, or, on a smaller scale, "mayo" forming inside the oil filler cap, or oil leaking from (usually the rear) of the block. Don't confuse with leaking rocket cover gaskets which are a significantly smaller problem.
  • Look under the "load space extension panel" (the plastic bit with "RANGE ROVER" embossed on it which covers the gap between the spare wheel cover and the tailgate when it's lowered). Check for signs of corrosion along the lower edge of the tailgate. A new one will be £500.
  • Under the vehicle, check the exhaust is in good condition. A complete new exhaust will be over £1,500.
  • Also check that the air springs are in good condition. While replacing them is not a huge job (especially for a workshop), the springs themselves aren't cheap. A little surface roughness is normal as they age, though.
  • Check that all the gadgetry does what it's supposed to. If you aren't familiar with it all, get someone who is. This includes air con (make sure it cools when switching on with the engine hot), screen heaters, and seat heaters if fitted (both front seats should get hot within 2-3 minutes) when switched on.
  • If it has an LPG conversion, find out who converted it, and get the COP11 certificate. And find out if it's a good conversion. Make sure sport mode works (for what it's worth) - I've heard of at least one installation where it was disabled as the only way to stop backfiring. On the test drive take it up to 4,000-4,500 revs holding the gear down manually, and then come off the gas and straight back on again 2-3 times. If there is any danger of it backfiring, this will provoke it.
  • Finally, look for rust or off-road damage appearing anywhere under the vehicle. There always seems to be some on the axle casings, but elsewhere it can be problematic.
  • If there is any sign of coolant escaping into the footwells, tell them to get it fixed before you'll look any further. Odds are that the o-rings have perished. 40p each. 2 days labour to fit. If it's just plain water should be a 2 minute fix - it's water from the aircon evaporator being trapped by a blocked drain tube. While on the subject, vehicles reaching around 5 years old seem to need a new A/C condensor. Check if yours has been done.
  • A larger number of P38A seem to be suffering from blend motor or distribution motor failure at 5-7 years old. Again, it's worth knowing if the vehicle you're looking at has been done, and getting the HeVAC checked for faults.
  • If possible, get it to a dealer and ask them to run a full set of diagnostics reports on TestBook. Expect to pay  £30-£40 for the privilege. If not, a simple OBD-2 code reader will give you engine and gearbox diagnostics.
  • Make sure it has an MOT and look closely at the emissions report that comes with it. When I had my MOT done recently the tester told me he'd failed a number of Mk II/P38A V8 rangies recently on emissions. This applies doubly so if an aftermarket exhaust has been fitted.
  • I'd strongly recommend having an independent AA or RAC inspection.
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