The Land Rover Defender is an iconic off-road vehicle no matter who you talk to. These vehicles are purpose-built and are as versatile as off-road and Overlanding vehicles get. With that being said, they have their fair share of issues, which is what we will discuss in great detail in this article. We will look at the more commonly reported engine, gearbox, and differential issues on both the 2.4 and newer 2.2 Defender Puma engines.
So what are some common problems found on the 2.4 engines? Problems include the following:
- Differential issues (2011+)
- Premature clutch failures
- Heating issues on the 2.4
- Engine failures
- Blown off intercooler pipes on the 2.2
As mentioned above, we have a few issues to discuss related to these Defender Pumas. The next part of this article will discuss each issue in more detail and give a possible solution to each. There have been recalls on some of the above-mentioned problems, which we will highlight as we go.
Let’s next look at the 2.4 Engine and specifically the injector issues.
Defender Puma 2.4 TDCi engine problems
So we’ve highlighted the known issues or more commonly reported issues, now let us break them down in more detail.
Land Rover Defender Puma Differential Problems
The whining diff noises usually come from the rear diff of the 90 Defender and from the front diff of the 110. These are commonly reported on these vehicles on internet forums and online groups. The pre-2011 defenders like the 300 Tdi and Td5’s were fitted with Salisbury diffs which were completely over-engineered and much more robust than the soft P38 diffs found on the newer Pumas. They are quite a bit heavier though.
The symptoms to look out for are whining noises on and off the throttle as well as pinion leaks. If it is really bad you could have broken some crown wheel teeth. Eek! The problem is the thickness of these crown wheels, or rather the lack of thickness that causes them to fail under heavy load resulting in pinion bearing and tooth failures.
I distinctly remember looking underneath my 300 Tdi Defender when I took ownership and thinking, OMG these diffs look like massive pumpkins! When I eventually sold the Defender, the new owner called me two days later to complain about a packed-up diff. I immediately responded, NO WAYS you broke that diff, and I was right, he snapped the rear side shafts which I think are made of dry twigs anyway.
Your first thought would probably be to assume there is water collected in the diff or the oil levels are low? This usually gives off a whining noise. Perhaps it is wise to inspect oil levels since it might simply need an oil change or just a top-up. However, many Defender owners have stripped and drained the diffs, with no signs of water or metal filings in the oil.
Soft p38 Diffs
These P38 Diffs are softer than the older Salisbury versions found on the older 300Tdi and some were also fitted to the late model TD5s. Some of these diffs have reported packing up after only 8 kilometers. Some need replacement every 50 000 (fifty thousand) kilometers. That’s just not cool if you ask me and enough to drive you bonkers.
So if you’re driving a Puma Defender with a p38 Diff and it is making weird noises, you might want to consider sourcing a second-hand Salisbury diff and doing that upgrade. It actually works out cheaper than repairing the P38 diff which will pack up a few times before you eventually give up. It’s a fairly straight bolt-on job, as long as you have the tail-shaft to match as well. It is important to note that the 110 defenders, with ABS, will require you to source the diff with an ABS compatible Salisbury version which is 1999 to 2002.
Defender Puma 2.2 and 2.4 TDCi injector problems
If you suspect your Puma is having injector problems there are a few symptoms to look out for. You might also want to take your defender to a reputable workshop with sophisticated diagnostic software that can switch off each cylinder individually to narrow the problem to the faulty injector(s). Narrowing the fault down to injectors can be slightly tricky since you might not always notice a decrease in performance or an increase in consumption.
Possible causes for injectors failing could be contaminated fuel or simply old age. Before we deduce that, make sure your mechanic inspects your fuel filters and air sensors to ensure they’re all ok. As a cheap fix, you might want to try is to run your tank through some injector cleaner as a start.
The below list of symptoms is clear tell-tale signs one or all of your injectors might be on their way out.
Symptoms to look out for are any or all of the following,
- Rough idle at startup as well as when at operating temperature
- Cutting out
- Surging and dropping of RPM’s
- faint whitish smoke from the exhaust
- bad-smelling odor
IMPORTANT: Failed Suction Control Valve (SCV)
A failed SVC (Suction Control Valve), VCV (Volume Control Valve), PCV (Pressure Control Valve) are all the same component and could give us similar symptoms to a failed injector(s), so it is always good to check this component first before forking out your hard-earned cash on expensive injectors. It’s not exactly a cheap component but a fraction of the price of a set of new injectors.
A failed Suction Control Valve gives us similar symptoms to a failed injector(s) and costs a fraction of the price.
Cold mornings are when the hunting and rough idle will first present themselves. When the SVC component wears it affects the tolerances on the injectors and this is made apparent when cold-starting on a cold morning. The challenge we face in diagnosing this component is that it doesn’t generate a fault code for the diagnostics to pick up. This has become a common problem and after replacing all sorts of unnecessary components the VCV always seems to be the culprit.
Defender puma turbo problems
So the Puma turbo problem seems to be a common one. It’s not so much the actual turbo that blows but rather the boost pipes that causes the problem.
What seems to be the cause of the Defender engine light coming on and the sudden loss of power?
Before we answer that, let’s identify the symptoms owners have reported.
- Strange sucking noise from the engine
- Engine light comes on
- Sudden loss of power
- The engine goes into LIMP mode
- No smoke reported
So now that we know the symptoms and what to expect, let us identify what the cause is…
If you have experienced any or all of the above-mentioned effects on your Defender 2.2 or 2.4 then you might have a problem with the actual turbo pipe working its way loose or there might be a hole in the boost pipe which was caused by Chaffing. In most cases, it turns out to be the left-side turbo hose that is either torn or burst.
Loose Pipe Clamps
Also, the pip coming from the turbo works itself loose so make sure the clamp is tightened and not leaking any boost pressure. This causes a strange vacuum-like sucking noise. This is a common occurrence in the 2.2 Puma engines.
Many owners joke and say if your turbo pipe hasn’t come off, there’s probably something wrong with your Defender … lol
Defender Puma 2.2 Turbo Pipe Recall
Fortunately, there was a recall on the turbo pipe so when you take your 2.2 Puma in for its next service, ensure they have replaced the pipe with the updated version. Also, make sure the ancillaries are also replaced with the updated ones. If you want to identify what the updated pipe looks like, the updated pipe has a steel section and a bend, as well as new and improved clamps.
DIY Defender Turbo Fault Code FIX
If the above happens you need not stress too much or end your journey prematurely. If you have the tools to simply tighten the loose clamp or you have some sort of wonder tape to seal up the leak you can continue your trip without any risk. Yes, the engine light might stay on, and because the fault was logged it would probably stay on even though the issue has been resolved.
Can you DIY clear the fault code without any software?
You can attempt this by switching the ignition on and off 5x in quick succession. This will reset the software and clear any error codes. Apparently… I’ve never tried this, so don’t hold me to it but it is the general consensus.
DEFENDER IN LIMP MODE!!!
Now there is a passenger-side turbo pipe that could possibly cause the Defender 2.2 to go into limp mode. This pipe doesn’t work itself loose but rather chaffs a hole in the pipe. Unfortunately, there is no recall or replacement upgraded pipe as far as I know.
Are the expensive silicone turbo pipes any better than the OEM Land Rover ones?
Yes, they are a lot pricier, however, they are more robust and hold their shape better, and are probably the last pipe you’ll ever have to fit on your Defender. They are also more resilient to chafing than the standard Defender hoses. These pipes last longer and perform better simply because they are bent/formed better to shape the contours of the engine bay without making contact with any moving parts.
Defender 2.4 TDCi power loss
Who in their right mind drives a defender at 140km/h?
NO! One does not simply do this…
Well, there seem to be certain owners who are comfortable enough to brave this and as a result, have reported power losses soon afterward. Go figure! Might I remind you these are iconic vehicles but they’re built in the UK with a few sub-standard components? Let’s face it, the “Brits” are not very well known for producing the most reliable vehicles out there. No offense!
With that being said, firstly, these trucks were not built for speed. Their mere lego-like blocky shape should be a dead giveaway.
So what are the symptoms of the 2.4 TDCi Power loss? Let’s investigate
Well, one owner reported a problem directly after he pumped his defender up to 140KPH. AGAIN….WHY?
Anyways, it was straight after that, the power was down and the truck struggled to increase in speed from 120-130KPH with absolutely no guts.
So are there any DIY checks you can do before you throw more cash at your defender?
Below is a list of components I would begin with:
- Check the plugs on the turbo are all seated properly
- Make sure your air filter is clean
- Check your MAF sensors
- Check inertia switch
- Inspect all intercooler hoses and have them pressure tested if possible
- Check the EGR and wastegate to ensure they are not clogged with carbon
- Check your VGT (variable Geometry Timing) mechanism is working properly i.e
- Check all linkages can still function as designed like the Turbo Modulator arm.
- Check your Turbo Intercooler hoses. These tend to chafe against a bolt and cause a leak in the pipe.
Most of the above-mentioned checks can be done by an enthusiast with some basic tools.
Do this first before sending your beloved Defender away and forking out your hard-earned cash, you might find it’s something small. In most cases, the EGR’s give in or get gunked up.
Land Rover Defender Losing Power While Driving
If you have experienced a sudden loss in power when driving under load or up a steep hill you might want to read this part.
Many owners reported this phenomenon on their defenders and after replacing numerous components like EGR valves, boost pipes, MAF sensors, etc. and still experience the same issue. The internet forums are rife with guys complaining about the same thing. It appears to go into LIMP mode bit simply switching the Defender off and on again erases the problem temporarily, only to resurface later when driving up another steep hill.
Now, this can be very frustrating for anyone, however, there are some good news gents!
Obviously assuming your vehicle is actually in tip-top shape with coolant levels good and no leaks in any boost pipes, there is actually a valid explanation for this behavior.
Now if you’ve experienced these effects when driving under load or up a steep hill, with no smoke or temperature rising, there is a reason for this effect. See the Defender weighs in at almost 3 tons and you most likely have a few extras bolted and pop-riveted on which adds to the laden weight. Throw in some gear and a few passengers and you have yourself quite a load.
That’s not the issue really, but rather the way the ECU manages the fuel when the turbo is over-boosting. See, in order to protect the engine, the ECU cuts back on fuel, and this results in what appears to be a lack of power or LIMP mode. This is simply a protective mechanism.
What you should rather be focusing on is making sure your revs are never below 1800 RPM when under load.
Remember, driving a diesel under load for extended periods in the incorrect gear, causes laboring on the engine which is bad news for any Diesel engine. EGT temperatures will quickly shoot through the roof and can cause major damage really quickly if you don’t correct matters like tapping off the loud peddle or dropping to a lower gear to ensure the RPM is well in boost and not below 1800RPM.
Now since there is no EGT gauge to warn you, and you only have that lame temperature gauge that warns you of any damage AFTER THE FACT, you might want to invest in a decent Ultraguage to keep an eye on those EGT (Exhaust Gas Temperatures).
Some friendly advice, DO NOT USE 6TH GEAR WHEN REVS ARE BELOW 1800RPM
Go out and test it, you can thank me later…
Land Rover Defender Puma Engine Warning Light
If the engine light comes on a 2.2 Defender without any other symptoms like smoke, LIMP Mode, engine noises (like sucking noises), then it’s most likely a faulty MAF sensor. Resetting the error code will simply bring it back after a short while.
What causes this?
The Clogged MAF sensor
The MAF sensors get clogged due to build-up and gunk and would appreciate a good clean now and then so they can read the flow rate as accurately as possible. I wouldn’t recommend driving like this for too long.
I currently drive a Toyota Hilux and experienced a similar incident when she dropped revs and suddenly cut out. I restarted and everything seemed normal only to happen a few days later on a really hot summer’s day in traffic.
Now because I owned a Hilux D4D before and had a similar problem I knew exactly where to turn. Cleaned out the MAF sensor filament with some dielectric spray cleaner and she runs beautifully again with stable revs. It literally took me all of 5 minutes to fix.
Unlike the Defender though, there were no engine warning lights appearing on the dash, but it was exactly the same issue. My sensor was black!!!
RESETTING THE ECU
You can attempt to reset the ECU by carrying out the following procedure on your Defender:
- Insert Key into the ignition
- Turn lights on (Do not Crank)
- Turn off
- Do this 6x and crank to start on the 7th
The Defender remains an icon until the end. No matter how many niggles you experience, these vehicles are just legendary. Take the time to look through a few of the above-mentioned components before an extended trip to ensure everything is functioning the way it should. This could save you a lot of hassle later down the line. Most of the issues described above are minor and are easily fixable by an enthusiast, which most Defender owners are anyway.
Familiarize yourself with the above and look well after your Defender and she will bring you back home safely every time.