• defender110
  • defender130


Land Rovers. There is a lot to say about them. Based on world wide sales, always very popular. Much loved. Much hated. Very reliable. Very unreliable. Always controversial and always the epicentre of jokes and banter from non owners. There is no doubt about it. Die Hard Land Rover Lovers are a different breed.

In terms of 4x4 ability, few if any stock standard competitors can match any stock standard Land Rover. They really are good because the fundamental engineering was done properly.

There is a lot of controversy about the reliability of Land Rovers but lets consider why. Land Rovers are mechanically very well engineered and they have spared no expense up to the last bolt and nut to use only the highest quality parts. As a result, replacing those parts are generally, very expensive. Since improper maintenance will damage even the best parts over time, and the fact that many owners are not prepared to invest what they should in maintenance, buying a tired used Landy can be a nightmare – especially if you bargain on having the work done by a workshop.

In my opinion, few if any car dealerships really do the services as punctual as described by the mother company. Land Rover is no exception and as said before, because of high quality parts that gets damaged as a result, repair bills can be horrific.

Apart from the Defender, used Land Rovers have poor resale value. One can buy even the good ones, for very little. There is not a single other 4x4 on the market that can offer as great value for money in all aspect, than a Land Rover. And there are few other 4x4's that can offer as bad value for money as a tired one.

As someone who tried my hand selling used Land Rover spares, all I can say is that it is tough business. Like all cars, there are some parts that fly out the moment the car hits the shop but there are many parts for which one don't get a single query in a year – like side shafts for example. Where the rumour comes from, I don't know but I never sold one single side shaft or differential on a Land Rover.

If you need a vehicle to travel across Africa, look no further. Most of the major components like the axles, gearboxes and motors are shares between the Defender, Discovery 1 and Discovery 2. If you travel in convoy, it can drastically reduce the number of spares to be taken with and if you get trouble in the middle of nowhere, you will have a better chance than with many other vehicles to find spares.

To own a Land Rover, you need passion for the brand, and accept that major repairs will be more expensive than locally produced double cabs.

If you are of the type who prefer to do aircraft style maintenance by replacing selected components before they case expensive damage, you will be rewarded with low running costs and a vehicle that can take on whatever challenge you have in mind for it.


Defender 110

The Defender is, apart from motor and gearbox upgrades, fundamentally the same vehicle today as it was at the time of launch. It still looks the same and it still looks good. That said, try and find a model 1994 or later, and make sure it has the R380 gearbox, which is still easily available.

Apart from potent off road ability and build to last, Defenders offers cavernous packing space and they can tolerate heavy loads on a roof rack.

Ergonomics wise, it is probably as bad as a any vehicle can be. Standard rear seat comfort is bad is many ways and this is an item that many Defender owners tried to improve. If you can live with that, a Defender is among the best if you want to go around the world on wheels.

Since these vehicles are almost the same for so long, one can virtually take any model that you can pick up. However, do know that a tired V8 will cost about R 40 000 to rebuilt properly and when given the choice between the 200 Tdi, 300 Tdi and TD5 diesel motors, the 300 TDi is the pick of the bunch. Powerful enough, more economical than the TD5 and simple to work on. There are no electronics that can make you stop.

The 200 Tdi was as good a motor, but parts are by now a bit harder to find than on the 300 Tdi.

While the TD5 is silky smooth, powerful and very reliable, it is a motor that can be extremely hard to fault find if things go wrong. Take care, if you want to use the TD5 to drive alone through the Amazon, make sure that you are very very well acquainted with every aspect of it.


Defender 130

The Defender 130 is a double cab vehicle with a long load bin and it can legally take a load that no other double cab can match.

Mechanically, it is the same as the Defender 110 but it has even more packing space and for an overlanding passenger carrier, an awesome choice. Although hard to imagine how it can be possible, the rear seat comfort is even worse than in a Defender 110.

With a 127” wheel base, it is just about 500mm longer than a Defender 110 and with a turning circle of a mile wide 15.2m, it is probably easier to parallel park an aircraft carrier in the city centre.

While it is quite a hand full in confined conditions, for overlanding there is nothing on 4 wheels which can be driven with a normal car license that will offer as much space and capabilities.

They are rare finds, has limited appeal but for the right owner nothing can be better.

Land Rover Defender – 1989 to 1998

Strong Points

  1. Very reliable if looked after.

  2. Excellent off road ability.

  3. Little rust due to mostly Aluminium body panels.

  4. Simple to work on, but working space under the bonnet is limited.

  5. Cavernous packing space. Can tolerate heavy roof rack.

  6. Plenty of under belly space for accessories like long range tanks.

  7. Very rugged and an excellent choice for difficult conditions.

  8. Excellent vehicle for custom modifications.

Weak Points

  1. Pathetic ergonomics. Owners needs to accept vehicle for what it is.

  2. Pathetic airconditioning.

  3. Poor rear seat comfort for passengers. Owners made many different modifications to address this problem.

Suggested buying price for prestine late models

Not more than R 85 000

Typical Issues: General

  1. Sagging roof lining. This can be repaired neatly by removing the cloth and painting with PVA paint. Easy DIY project.

  2. Models 1994 to 1996 had a weak main shaft in the gearbox that was replaced under factory recall. Check the VIN number for this repair at the nearest dealer.

Typical issues: 3.5 V8

  1. SU Carburettors gets worn out, but can be rebuilt.

  2. Vacuum advance of distributor fails. Distributor needs to be rebuilt.

  3. At 200 000 km, it is wise to replace the cams, sprockets and lifters.

Typical issues: 3.9 V8i

  1. Faulty stepper motor on the throttle body. This results in erratic or idling. Item difficult to find.

  2. Faulty Mass Airflow Sensor. Results in poor power delivery and heavy fuel consumption. Item very difficult to find and expensive at dealers. This may require conversion to a third party engine management system.

  3. Vacuum advance of distributor fails. Distributor needs to be rebuilt.

  4. At 200 000 km, it is wise to replace the cams, sprockets and lifters.

Typical Issues: 200 TDi

  1. Leaking vacuum pump. This is not critical, but results in irritating oil leak. New pumps does not guarantee the problem to be solved.

  2. Oil seal behind timing belt cover leaks. The timing belt then perish, fail and the pistons will hit the valves. Advisable to pull timing belt cover for inspection.

  3. Engine pulley becomes worn.

  4. Beware of vehicles where the turbo wastegate was disconnected and fuel supply altered.

Typical Issues: 300 TDi

  1. Leaking vacuum pump. This is not critical, but results in irritating oil leak. New pumps does not guarantee the problem to be solved.

  2. Oil seal behind timing belt cover leaks. The timing belt then perish, fail and the pistons will hit the valves. Advisable to pull timing belt cover for inspection.

  3. Engine pulley becomes worn.

  4. Beware of vehicles where the turbo wastegate was disconnected and fuel supply altered.