The Land Rover Discovery 3 and 4 shares the same platform with the first generation Range Rover Sport, so they share the electronics, some of the engines, the suspension layout, most of the used materials and also most of the common issues. However there are also some differences between these two technically similar cars.
You see, the Discovery is a car to be used, this is a practical car, it’s not car which you would polish every weekend. It has a bit softer suspension than the Range Rover Sport, it has a split tailgate, a more practical interior with bigger headroom + it can be also equipped with additional 3rd row seats. And of course there is absolutely no doubt that the Discovery is a very capable vehicle off the road, so finding a similar car which would tick all the boxes is not very easy.
At this point most of you are thinking, yeah it’s all great and awesome, but what about the infamous Land Rover reliability? Well, yes, it’s not always fun and games. And actually because of the bad reliability – or the well known unreliability, Land Rover decided to change the name of the model for North American and Middle Eastern markets, so in these places it was sold under the LR3 or later the LR4 names.
But this whole reliability thing is really funny because there are two types of people:
- One one side there are the happy owners – you know they do the regular maintenance and the cars are working without major problems.
- But on the other side there are those unfortunate souls who had to sell their favorite pet, their favorite couch, their fridge, and their house to afford all the repairs. But even though they sold everything, at the end they had to sell their Land Rover as well-because of the high maintenance costs.
If you ask me then I can tell you this and finally end the intro: As in life, even in this case the truth is somewhere in the middle. Although I have to add that it’s leaning a little more to the unreliability and to the shit engineering side, lol.
The interior is spacious and practical. You have plenty of storage areas and because of the interesting narrow boxy shape of the body there is a huge amount of headroom. + Even the space in the optional 3rd row seats is not bad at all-mainly because of that generous headroom.
As expected, the visibility from the interior is great and the seating position is higher, so if you need these characteristics in a car then you will be definitely satisfied. + Having a proper cooler box under the front armrest is definitely an advantage, not many cars have that!
On the other side, in the older Discovery 3 models there is simply too much cheap plastic everywhere you look, and the overall build quality is also not the best (things like the creaking inner door handles can definitely fulfill your life every time you are closing the door). This would not be a huge problem since this is not a luxury oriented Range Rover, but still its not very nice to have various creaks and rattles. Although at least – most of the plastic buttons and surfaces are not worn even in high mileage examples.
However, the cracked plastic dashboard, the strangely deformed steering wheel airbag cover and the sagging headliner are pretty common and pretty bad looking signs of the age and not properly used materials in these cars. The owners also complain about the navigation system which is harder to use + in this day and age it is obviously outdated and slower.
But luckily, if you want a better interior with a bit better build quality, with less plastic, with more high quality materials and with updated multimedia system, then buy the Discovery 4 models made from 2009 since they have a completely updated interior. (on the lower picture) Although even in these newer models the touchscreen multimedia system response is pretty slow, and the various creaks and rattles are not uncommon either.
Body, paintjob, rust protection
This Land Rover is not famous for big rust issues even though most of the body panels are made from steel, except both of the rear tailgate doors which are made from aluminum, so they won’t rust.
However, cars used on winter salty roads will have some rust on the frame. This is still not the end of the world, but in the future the rust is gonna spread further which can cause issues. So if you want to keep the car for a longer time then it’s good to remove the rust, and there are many different ways how to additionaly protect the frame – here you can find some additional info about underside rust proofing. + It’s also worth checking the area under the plastic sill covers.
On the other side you should definitely check mainly the rear brake pipes which can rust through. And this on the other hand can be dangerous!
Those various rumors about the constant catastrophic electronic gremlins are not like completely/entirely true. Although if you have low battery voltage, if you have water leaks in the interior, or if the alternator is on it’s last legs then of course the electronics can provide an impressive free shit show, so:
1.Battery & Alternator
-It’s really important to have the battery in a good condition and be prepared that the alternator can fail more often (usually at around 160 000-180 000 km) + there are of course cases of battery draining. The random electronic warning massages can be also resolved with a software update or with keeping the interior dry.
-Then I would highly recommend to check for fault codes with an OBD scanner before buying and of course test all the electronic features as well. Be mentally prepared that the central locking failures-related to wiring, the door locks, the window regulators and also the parking sensors can fail more often
3.Electronic parking brake
-There is also the infamous electronic parking brake which can seize up. This is mostly caused by the badly adjusted parking brake shoes or because of the seized mechanism of the shoes which will result in seized parking brake actuator/module and in seized car. So before buying test the electronic parking brake and listen for strange louder screeching or grinding sounds from it-which can be the sign of the incorrectly adjusted parking brake or partly seized mechanism which will sooner or later seize completely. Here is a good video about the pain of fixing the parking brake+ some more information about how to unjam the parking brake.
4.Tailgate release cable & actuator
-After this there is the tailgate release cable which can break or it can become loose and you won’t be able to open the tailgate regularly like a human. This means that you will have to climb into the trunk, remove the tailgate trim and release the cable manually. Besides this, the actuator itself or the microswitch in the upper tailgate can fail as well. But a faulty microswitch is not the end of the world since in this case it’s enough to press both of the lock and unlock buttons in the interior-at the same time, or press the tailgate open button on the key fob, and this way you can release the tailgate lock actuator and you will be able to open the tailgate. Video about the tailgate opening issue, + some more info about the tailgate.
-Problems with the incorrect reading of the fuel gauge can occur too (on the LR3 models) which is most of the time caused by the faulty sender unit connectors. In this case you have to remove the fuel tank and replace these connectors, but sometimes the fuel level potentiometers/sensors will be faulty.
-And if you are buying a car which is equipped with the 3 part sunroof which actually consists of 2 parts, and which helps to achieve a nice bright interior, then check the rear sunroof panel for cracks and make sure that the front sunroof opens and closes without any issues. The cracks on the rear sunroof are not really like a common problem, but they can be caused by the previous owner who was for example loading some heavy shit onto the roof and some of that heavy shit has fallen onto the sunroof which can result in cracks, obviously.
Water leaks into the interior
As usual it’s definitely worth mentioning the possible water leaks into the interior since there are a couple of them:
-First, a very common water leak is caused by the sunroof drains of the front sunroof. There are 4 of them in total, but mainly the front drains can be either clogged or there can be an issue with the ending of these drain hoses (exactly like in the Range Rover Sport).
If those focking drains are clogged then you just need to clean them with some focking thin edge trimmer line or fish tape for example or with some other similar shit. (By the way, if you desperately want to know how the rear sunroof drains looks like then you can check them out here.)
But in a lot of cases the rubber ending of these drain hoses can disintegrate and let the water into the interior. To access the right front drain hose ending you have to remove the plastic air intake and a foam insulation which is behind the intake. After this you get access to the drain ending, so there is no need for complaining because this is pretty focking easy, although you can complain because of the shit drain engineering. How to remove the side air intake grill for the sunroof drain ending.
However on the left side only the newer Discovery 4 has the identical plastic trim, which means that there is no air intake on the Discovery 3 models. It seems like in Land Rover they tried to save some money because while the air intake is missing, the drain ending is still on the same place even on this side – it’s just completely hidden behind the fender. Now, according to the great technical bulletin, you have to only partially release the left hand front fender molding, and partially release the wheel arch lining to gain access to this drain ending. However most of the owners said: fock this shit, and they simply removed the complete fender to access this drain-and this way it is actually easier, more comfortable and you will be able to actually see the focking ending properly!
Since the rubber ending will disintegrate over time then the rubber hose slides inside, and all the water from the sunroof will end up inside the car – specifically the main wiring loom will sit in water-very nice!
To fix this, you either try to somehow fish out this hose thru the hole inside of the side vent, or: you remove the interior A pillar cover → then you pull out the old hose → cut some part from of it → somehow attach a new hose to the old one → put it back down and pull it out/fish it out thru the exterior side vent hole.
You can buy a new genuine drain hose with the rubber ending, but if you want to save some money then just use some generic hose which is approx. the same size as the old one.
(By the way, if you decided to buy a complete new genuine drain hose then you can remove the drain hose completely from the sunroof and replace it as a whole – but in this case you have to remove the front part of the headliner if you want to replace the hose completely)
10 min video explaining the sunroof water drains
–The next water leak can be caused by the windshield plastic cowl. The upper part can be warped up, interestingly, right above the cabin air inlet-good engineering right? In this case it will obviously let the water to leak directly into the cabin air inlet and into the interior. Replacing this plastic panel is not hard and you can do it even yourself + some of the owners have also put some sealant under the edge of this cowl.
How to remove the windshield plastic cowl.
-Lastly there are the plastic exterior A-pillar covers which are attached to the body by plastic clips and these clips can, again as you guessed, let the water inside thru the holes which are in the A pillar.
This Land Rover Discovery is built on the same platform as the Range Rover Sport so it has that integrated body frame solution, which means that it has a separate ladder frame which can be separated from the body. And it actually has to be separated if you want to replace certain parts. This solution makes the body overall much stronger than in a regular Mercedes M class, Audi Q7 or BMW X5.
Of course the Land Rover does have somewhat bigger body roll in corners, but on the other side it has the best off road capability from these cars and it’s also very comfortable-mainly if it’s equipped with the air suspension.
So moving onto the suspension, this Discovery can be equipped with the:
- standard coilover suspension
- self-leveling height adjustable air suspension
As usual there is nothing interesting about the standard shock absorbers, so let’s discuss the air suspension which has its own share of issues:
-First of all, keep in mind that the air compressor can often fail. So if you can’t raise the car, and if you can’t hear the compressor working, then it’s most probably time to buy a new compressor. But in this case it’s good to first check the compressor fuse.
-The next are the air struts which will sooner or later leak as they are getting older. In this case if your car is parked on flat surface and one corner of the car is lower than the other after sitting overnight, then you most probably have a leak in that particular air strut on that lower side. In this case you have to buy a new genuine or an aftermarket strut, or there are also coilover conversion kits available. By the way it seems like you can fix the leak with a regular tire sealant, although who knows for how long it will last – air suspension temporary fix with tire sealant video.
-The last issue is related to the height sensors. In this case again one side of the car can be noticeably higher or lower, or you won’t be able to adjust the height of the suspension. You can even check the 4×4 info wheel animation on the on board monitor-if the car is equipped with it. If the car is standing on a level ground then all the wheels on this screen have to be in level. If one wheel is constantly moving or is higher or lower than the others than you have a faulty height sensor on that side, or a faulty wiring to that particular height sensor. (faulty front right height sensor on picture below)
Other suspension components
-Next you should pay attention to all those whining, growling and humming noises from the front and rear of the car which can indicate worn internal parts of the front or rear differentials. This can be an issue mainly on the early cars from the first 2 or 3 years of production, but it’s of course good to listen for these noises in the newer cars as well.
The price for a new front differential starts at approx. 1 400 € / $1 570.
The price for a new rear differential starts at approx. 1 300 € / $1 455.
-On the other side, a rumbling or a deep humming sound which gets louder as you go faster often indicates worn wheel bearings which can be often worn before 100 000 mi / 160 000 km. Replacing the bearing with hub will cost you approx. 400 € / $447 including labour and good quality parts (1 wheel).
-Then it’s definitely good to check the transfer box as well: put the gearbox into neutral and push the LO button to engage the low range mode. It has to engage and disengage without any issues.
As usual pay attention to all those clunking, rattling or knocking noises from the suspension on bad quality roads. If you hear a knocking sound while going over road imperfections or when applying the brakes sharply from low speeds – then most probably the front lower control arm bushings are gone. They often wear out even after 60 000 mi, but if you want to replace them then be prepared that the rear bolt on these control arms can be like properly rusted and seized up which means that in some cases you will have to cut into the control arm and cut out the bolt as well. This means that while you can buy the front lower control arm bushings separately without the control arm itself, there is a very high chance that you won’t be able to replace the bushings only! how to replace front lower control arms video
Other than this:
- the sway bar links can be worn-making a light metallic rattle on bad roads
- the tie rods can wear out as well-in this case you will feel a wiggle, shake or bigger play in the steering
- there are more and more cases of worn rear suspension parts as well-especially the upper control arms and the drop/toe links which you can mostly detect by the uneven wear of the rear tires
There are not many issues with the petrol engines, but when it comes to reliability then the engines in the older Discovery 3 models are definitely better. So at the end it doesn’t matter if you choose the 4.4 l V8 or the smaller 4.0l V6–which is originally from Ford by the way. Just check these engines for leaks (be ready for coolant and oil leaks) and keep in mind that they have to run smoothly all the time. Keep in mind that except the regular faulty spark plugs, ignition coils or vacuum leaks, the misfires can be caused by the dirty injectors as well.
But all in all, I would personally highly recommend the 4.4 l V8 which is powerful enough and it is capable of doing high mileage without bigger issues. But obviously, the fuel consumption is not going to be eco-friendly at all.
The newer Discovery 4 models are equipped with either the smaller 3.0l supercharged V6 or with the 5.0 l V8.
Both of these engines are equipped with direct injection so generally speaking the faulty/leaking injectors or carbon build up should be shining in the common problem list of these engines. But actually, in this case the carbon build up on the intake valves is usually not major even in cars with 100 000 mi, and there are not many issues with the injectors either. So the situation is definitely not that bad as in the infamous VW direct injection engines.
However, there is a very real possible problem with the timing chain mechanism in the early 5.0l V8 engines made to 2012. Basically the timing chain guides can fail to be exact sometimes even after 50 000 mi. The timing chain tensioner will make a hole into the weak timing chain guide, which will cause that the chain is going to have reduced tension. In this case you can hear a rattle or a clicking sound on cold start and sometimes even constantly at idle from the front of the engine. The engine can throw some fault codes as well or it will go into limp mode, and in the worst case the chain can skip which can transform you engine into a nice coffee table. It seems like in Land Rover they realized the problem so they redesigned the tensioners and the guides during production which means that cars made from 2013 do have the updated guides.
If you want to preventively replace these parts, then you need to disassemble the front of the engine and change the guides with the tensioners. And actually, in this case it’s good to change the chain as well even if it’s usually not stretched.
Leaking water pumps can occur as well, but more often on the newer Discovery 4 models, so if you want a peace of mind then it’s good to change it after buying as a preventive maintenance.
The situation with the diesel engines is I would say: not that positive.
2.7 l TDV6
First of all there is the 2.7 l V6 in the Discovery 3 and early 4 models. This is a very interesting engine because it can withstand 300 000 km without major problems, but on the other hand it has 2 serious weak points which can kill the engine:
crankshaft / crank bearings failure
-The first issue can be with the seized crankshaft. Some say that the crankshaft itself is the problem, some say that the crankshaft bearings are causing this, some say that the low oil pressure, the long oil change intervals or the improper assembly. But long story short, this will destroy your engine. The only good thing is that this is not like very common, and it usually happens only at around 300 000 km or after this mileage point, but there are of course some rare cases of failures before this mileage point too.
If you already have one of these engines, then I would just change the oil after maximum 10 000 km and don’t abuse it, or you can sell it as well. This way you most probably won’t have these issues, but if you have more than 300 000 km on the car, then you should be prepared for everything.
oil pump casing failure
-In cars made from 2007 to 2008 which are equipped with this engine, the oil pump casing is not strong enough which means that the timing belt tensioner which is bolted onto the casing can simply break off with the part of the casing, causing the belt to jump off and destroying the engine basically. But there is no need to worry since Land Rover made a couple of revisions of this casing, so if you are replacing the timing belt then it’s good to replace the oil pump housing with the newest revision as well.
Then there is the turbocharger which can fail-usually just only in the abused cars. But it’s still good to check for blue smoke at start up or at acceleration, or for excessive whining sounds from the engine-again while acceleration, which indicates faulty turbocharger. But in a lot of cases only the turbocharger actuator arm will seize up, which is not expensive to fix. (seized actuator arm symptoms: limp mode, illuminated check engine light)
The EGR valve can clog or fail as well which will cause an illuminated check engine light, loss of power, higher fuel consumption or black smoke from the exhaust. By the way, there are 2 EGR valves in this engine. (replacing the EGR valve from approx. 430 € / $480 including labour.
+ of course the regular issues with the injectors can occur, and if the previous owner used this engine for short distances then the DPF can clog too-if the car is equipped with it.
But I’m not finished yet, because it’s also good to check the rubber intercooler hose on the left for cracks, and it’s actually good to replace it preventively. (the cracked intercooler hose will cause loss of power and black smoke from the exhaust)
Lastly, the glow plugs can be like properly seized so in some cases it will cost a lot to remove them since you have to remove the cylinder heads + the glow plugs can even break off into the combustion chamber.
3.0 l SDV6
Saying that the newer 3.0 l V6 in the Discovery 4 is much more reliable than the older 2.7 l is like saying that you can build a nuclear power plant out of lego. Now, I’m not saying that it’s completely unreliable, but interestingly even this newer engine can have issues with the already mentioned crankshaft failure.
crankshaft / crank bearings failure
You can get this failure occasionally before 100 000 km, but mostly from 100 000 km to 200 000 km so if you like playing lottery than this can be a whole new experience. On the other side not all of these engines are gonna have this issue, so they can reach even 300 000 km without this failure, but the risk is still there, what can I say. To at least minimize the crankshaft failure: use this engine mostly for long distances and change that damn oil in time (after max 10 000 km). +keep in mind that these newer engines are more complicated than the older 2.7 l and they have 2 turbochargers instead of one. (to replace the turbochargers you have to separate the frame from the body)
Timing chain / timing belt
Most of the engines are equipped with timing chain which is usually ok even in high mileage cars, except in the 5.0 l V8 engines of course, so check for the unusual rattling sounds at start up or at idle – on all engines.
The 2.7 l and the 3.0 l V6 diesel engines have timing belt and it’s good to replace it with the water pump, tensioner, pulleys and new screws a little earlier than the original interval. By the way, except the usual timing belt these engines also have a separate belt for the high pressure fuel pump only – which is in the back side of the engine, so it’s good to replace also this belt if you have a higher mileage car. + these diesel engines also have small chains and chain tensioners on the end of the camshafts. The tensioners of these chains can be worn so listen for a rattling noise at cold start which indicates worn chain tensioners !
This Land Rover can be equipped with 3 gearbox types:
- 6 speed manual
- older 6 speed automatic
- newer 8 speed automatic
-The manual gearbox is mated only to the 2.7 l V6. In this case the business is as usual so check the clutch properly before buying – It should operate smoothly without any kind of strange noises, vibrations or shuddering and keep extra money left for the Dual mass flywheel which can be worn, you never know what you gonna get.
-Then there is the older 6 speed automatic gearbox which doesn’t have major problems. However it can have worn torque converter usually after 100 000 mi, so check for vibrations/shuddering at acceleration, excessive slipping, hesitation, or fluctuating revs while travelling at constant speed up a light incline: these are the symptoms of a bad torque converter.
-The newer 8 speed transmission is more durable than the 6 speed so just check it properly before buying. + Of course change the oil in both of the automatic transmissions regularly every 60 000 km. And if you are towing heavy shit with the car then it’s good to change the oil in the gearbox even earlier-so every 40 000 km.
To summarize things up:
- the most reliable engine is the 4.4 l V8 or the 4.0l V6 in the Discovery 3, but I would recommend the V8 since it’s more powerful
- buy only a car with a proper maintenance history
- definitely find a good independent specialist-because if you can’t fix the things yourself then you are gonna need it
- change all the fluids in time
- keep at least 5 000 € for the possible repairs (But of course if you want to do the maintenance at the dealer then you should keep even more money!)
Either way I can just wish you good luck, although don’t worry if you choose a well maintained car then it won’t be that bad, but you know: sometimes it can be even worse.
As usual if you have personal experience with this car or more information about it, then you can write it into comments!