This article discusses a few of the most common technical and mechanical problems that plague a high mileage Land Rover Discovery 3 and what you should look out for before purchasing a used one.
The reliability of the Land Rover Discovery 3 has been unfairly tarnished by critics and naysayers, yet many believe it to be one of, if not the best luxury off-road SUVs of its time. A few of the common Discovery LR3 problems include the following:
- Front lower control arm issues & tie rods
- Thermostat (V8)
- Ball joints and toe links
- Tailgate lock mechanism failure
- Air compressor failure
- Elctronic Hand Brake Failure
- Electrical gremlins caused by faulty or low charged batteries.
I owned a virtually problem-free 2007 Land Rover Discovery 3 a few years back and up until today I still fondly reminisce about that vehicle. It was my favorite off-road SUV by far and was as reliable as they come! Opinions about LR3’s is a mixed bag though, and other LR3 owners were not as fortunate as me. Many were plagued with mechanical and electronic problems with expenses running deep into the tens of thousands.
This article is not to bash or slate the Land Rover brand, but to make prospective buyers aware of the risks and inform them of what to look out for before purchasing a Discovery LR3. If you do your homework well, you can go into it with your eyes wide open.
So why did I get rid of what many deemed the perfect family SUV? I spooked myself! That right, from constantly trolling internet forums and reading up on Land Rovers, Range Rovers, and other makes of 4WD, that I started noticing a common theme with the Discovery LR3. There seemed to be a few recurring mechanical problems that plague the Discovery 3, tarnishing its reputation somewhat. Many of these mechanical issues seem to crop up only after 80k-150K miles. The problem is exaggerated somewhat when everyone online knows someone, who knew someone, whose Discovery broke down, and that suddenly makes them an authority on the vehicle, yet never even put a foot in one.
This article is not to offer solutions to each issue but to make you aware of the common problems you could face when owning a Discovery LR3.
Let’s first have a look at some real-world experiences from LR3 owners regarding reliability, maintenance, and other issues.
LR3 High-Mileage Problems
Let’s first look at a few examples of LR3 V8 owners and what their maintenance and repair history typically looked like:
I have a 2006 LR3 V8 HSE. I have been quite pleased to get to this mileage with only the normal lr3 issues.
Mileage = 150K miles (241km)
Front lower controls arms have been changed
Right Front wheel bearing changed
Front tie rods replaced
Rear ball joints and toe links changed
Brakes replaced 3 times
Liftgate external release handle/button changed
Tailgate power latch replaced
Recently replaced the air compressor
The truck now needs rear upper and lower control arms and the engine thermostat housing assembly.
Now that I have listed it all, maybe I’m not quite as happy with it
I stand to be corrected, but many land rover discovery 3 owners would be content with that level of reliability. That level of reliability from such a high-specced, technologically advanced SUV is decent in my opinion. Bear in mind, this is the V8 and not the 2.7 TDV6 Diesel version, so there are no turbo, timing belts, and the dreaded crank seizing or snapping issue to give you sleepless nights. The above-mentioned Discovery is an 8-cylinder Normally Aspirated (NA) Gas (Petrol).
Lets have a look at few more examples:
146k on mine.
All wishbones changed, 4 arbs, drop links, steering inner arms and track rod ends, rear prop shaft, compressor, starter motor, AC condenser, 2 CV joints due to split rubbers and the suspension compressor.
Had the rear brake pipes changed as they corrode in our horrible climate, both back calipers have been changed and so has a front. I used that excuse to upgrade.
It will need the gearbox rebuilt as the torque converter is dying and the gear change is slurred. I’ll get new injectors at a similar time. Later in the year, I’ll be changing the air struts for new ones.
A lot is wear and tear of a life of hard use, it doesn’t get an easy life and with the terrible roads and the road salt we spray down for months of the year it really takes its toll on the car.
It’s only failed to get me home once due to a failed cv joint that I didn’t want to drive on. I could have but I played it safe.
It seems this particular Discovery 3 had a hard life and yet it keeps going. You’ll notice many have replaced lower control arms and tie-rods and other related suspension components. This is mainly due to the sheer size and weight of this beast. Remember it has a ladder frame chassis as well as a Monocoque integrated which increases its mass somewhat. It weighs in at around 2.7 tons in factory standard form.
Phew! that is one heavy vehicle, which means components like brakes, tires, and suspension joints are under a lot of weight and are usually one of the first to go. Knocking sounds when driving over uneven surfaces and metal clunking sounds are tell-tale signs you have suspension components to replace. Excessive body roll around corners is a dead giveaway your suspension components like tie-rods, ball joints, etc. need attention asap.
The next examples seem like the owner had a few more electronic gremlins than mechanical suspension issues. It has been noted that many of the electronic fault warnings that crop up on the dash with engine lights flashing and other cryptic messages are, in fact, related to a faulty or undercharged battery. These vehicles have so many sensors and electronic circuitry which makes them very power-hungry.
Always make sure your Discovery’s battery is 100% healthy, so have it tested regularly and especially before long trips. To handle the load better, consider upgrading to a slightly larger battery if possible.
This particular owner seemed to be quite happy with his Discovery 3 apart from the high maintenance costs.
I had 120k on mine when I sold it.
Bought it at 48k. Sold it for a few reasons. Main was the maintenance.
All around 99-110 miles.
AC compressor New battery
4 new shocks and air compressor
New elect locker motor.
Other issues never fixed
Nav DVD player was broken
LCD screen was going bad
Strange elect gremlins were showing up.
And it used about a quart of oil a month.
Mine was a late 2005 LR3.
Got fed up with the Maint.
Would I buy another one?? Not sure, Why? Great off-road and on if you can get past the high maintenance cost, that is my only issue with purchasing another. Most work was done by me or an “indi” shop.
Parts are coming down in price. AC compressor was the worst, 1500 installed. Just did my 07 F150 this summer and it cost me $300
The suspension was not bad and picked up a rebuilt air compressor cheap.
Seems like everything was ok up until 100K miles mark. The highest expense reported in this instance was the air compressor and 4 shocks.
One more V8 example before we look at the Diesel variants:
I bought mine at 98k, with the idea of long term ownership.
It needed front lower’s when I bought it. Known wear point and hardly a deal breaker when the rest of the car was good.
It had an alternator and front wheel bearings done for me by the previous owner. Wheel bearings again are known and can be bought cheap/easy to change.
They are power hungry so a good alternator and battery are needed or it starts to throw up error messages on startup etc.
I have since replaced the 4 arb bushes, front track rod ends and steering inner arms ( arms were £22 for the pair ) the rear uppers and rear lowers and 4 rear hub bushes as i wanted a clean slate for the future mods. I did that at 117k.
The front lowers needed to be redone as the pattern parts haven’t lasted at all. Going genuine this time.
I’ve refreshed the brakes and upgraded the front’s to Brembo’s off a RRS as i wanted better braking feel and the tdv6 ones can be improved on.
It’s now at 133k and needs a torque converter and suspension compressor but that’s hardly the end of the world.
It’s never let me down, never failed to start, even with a duff battery, and has always got me home regardless of weather conditions. It’s the most practical car I’ve owned and the only replacement for me would be a MY12 D4 HSE LUXURY but they are high 30s to low 40s and my 3 was only £12k so they are way out my price range.
Plenty of guides and online support for them now, they are pretty easy to work on.
Discovery 3’s are fantastic vehicles, however, you need to be 100% sure you do regular maintenance on your vehicle and get technically clued-up before you venture deep into the unknown. Many of the above-mentioned suspensions and electrical issues are common to LR3’s irrespective of it being Petrol or Diesel version. Suspension components are common across both variants.
Ensure you have a good quality toolset and the correct diagnostic tools with a few how-to guides to follow if anything goes pair-shaped in an isolated environment and you need to troubleshoot. LR3’s have many computers and are very power-hungry so ensure your battery is perfect otherwise you can expect all sorts of cryptic messages to crop up, which will spook you unnecessarily. When Land Rover Discovery’s are well maintained and in the correct hands they are amazing on-road and off-road vehicles.
Let’s now look at more specific Diesel related faults.
“D3 TDV6 was bought at 90 miles (146000km). At that time, CAT and EGR were still in place. Now at 132 miles (214’000km)
Cambelt was done at 89 miles (144’000km).
Modifications done just after purchase:
Poly-TFE treatment done at 146’000 and 200’000km
New turbo at 151’000km due to overheated turbo – Blue shaft (CAT!!!!!)
Two major electrical gremlins which were expertly traced and fixed
EPB (Electronic Park Brake) Mod
Lower control arm bushes
New Steering rack ends
Auto box oil leak fixed and double flush at the same time
New discs front and 2 sets of front pads
New front wheel bearings
New brake booster”
The next example is a bit more extreme since the owner was required to replace quite a few big-ticket items. He did not mention if it happened within his warranty period and if he could claim for the repairs. I surely hope it was. Turbo and gearbox failures are a huge expense. He is, however, correct in stating that bottom ends are becoming a known issue with the diesel versions.
This was one of the main reasons I eventually sold mine. There is hardly any way of telling if your LR3 is next to snap a crank and in many instances, it happened at low speed or start-up. So the risk was just a bit too high for me and I was spooked by the weekly occurrences recorded online.
Not long after 100K it needed two new turbos, EGR valves a bit later and then the gearbox munched itself. The engine was impressively smooth and quiet for a diesel but the fuel economy was barely any better than the petrol. At £7k you can’t just jib it off if you need to spend £2k on it either, so personally, I’d walk away. Tales of bottom end problems with the 2.7 due to the poor design of the bearings seem to be emerging too, with no parts available for a rebuild
Discovery LR3 Common Problems Summarized
We will now list the common Discovery LR3 issues and then isolate them by petrol and diesel. The common issues are what you can expect from any variant of the Discovery 3 may it be petrol or diesel, these are applicable across the board. Some could be categorized as wear and tear items but I’ll list them all anyway. These are items many owners listed they needed to replace and repair from 80K miles onward.
Common Discovery 3 Problems
- Suspension bushes need replacement after 100-150K Miles
- Front lower control arms
- Front wheel bearings
- Tie rod ends worn
- Ball joints and toe links worn
- Brake pads
- Coolant adaptor
- Air Suspension Leaks
- Air compressor failure (Hitachi)
- Electronic park brake failure
Known LR3 V8 Problems
- Plastic Thermostat Housing
- Cracked Plastic T-piece in water pipe
Apart from the usual suspension problems that affect all LR3’s the V8 petrol engine is pretty bulletproof and does not have many common or known issues. Their engines are super reliable, provided they are serviced regularly and on schedule. Fuel consumption is on the high side due to it being a V8 and the sheer size and mass do it no favors. If you are purchasing it as a toy or a second vehicle, I would say – go for it. In fact, watch this space…
Now let’s list the common problems that plague the TDV6 Discovery 3 models.
Common LR3 TDV6 Problems
- Crankshaft Failures
- Turbo (Some early models had issues, mainly age-related)
- Timing belt
- Injector failures
- EGR valve blocked
- Faulty Rear differential housing (early models)
There might be one or two other smaller issues, however, these are the main causes for concern on the Discovery 3’s.
The solution could be one of three things.
- Seized compressor (you can purchase a new Hitachi LR compressor here) alternatively, the updated AMK Compressor here
- Leaking Airbags (Purchase new air suspension spring bags here)
- Faulty front or rear valve block/cross-link valve (Purchase an LR3/LR4 OEM valve block here)
- A leak in the air hoses (Purchase LR3/4 Air Line Hose Repair Kit here)
- LR3/4/RR Reservoir valve block (Purchase a Reservoir Valve Block for LR3/4 or RR here)
- Suspension Struts (purchase front air struts here)
- Software update required
- Faulty Height Sensors (Purchase a set of 4 genuine part height sensors here)
As mentioned from the outset, this is not a Land Rover Discovery 3 bashing article, in fact, I am a huge fan. I’ve owned one and will strongly consider owning a V8 as a second vehicle. They check all the boxes for a luxury family SUV with go-anywhere off-road capabilities. They are, however, slightly prone to suspension faults sooner than other SUVs of a similar nature. This can be chalked down to the pure size and weight of the vehicle. If you ask me, I am definitely prepared to overlook that trade-off for what the complete package offers, especially in the V8 models, oh and the fuel bill…
Many do not feel comfortable taking the LR3 into remote parts and using them for overland trips anymore due to the many suspension issues that plague them. The fact remains if you are out in the sticks and the air suspension gives up the ghost, what then? Enter the coil spring conversion kit! Yes, you can convert your LR3 to a spring and strut setup. You will, unfortunately, lose the magic carpet ride as well as the superior flex and travel off-road. What you gain is a robust suspension that will not let you down easily in the bush with the added benefit of retaining your traction control (TC) as well as hill descent control features. So that is one less worry on your mind.
In South Africa many issues were reported around failed plastic thermostat housings, bearing failures (rotating), and broken cranks. All three incidents resulted in new sub-assemblies.
If I had to travel remotely with my LR3 I would take every precaution necessary. You need to prepare for the worst-case scenario. You would need to carry at least one of the following along for peace of mind:
- 1x front bag
- 1x rear bag
- 1 x compressor
- Spare height sensors
- Spare alternator (I am being paranoid now)
- IID2 Tool
I hope this article, if anything, saved you some time having to troll through pages of forum threads all over the internet. Once you are armed with the knowledge you can make an informed decision.
Happy 4 Wheeling and remember, safety first!!!