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The TDCi diesel engine is best described as brutal - there’s so much torque. Originally fitted to the Defender in 2.4-litre form, a 2.2-litre version of the same engine powers current models - having been redesigned to comply with emissions rules.
Sometimes EGR valves are problematic - Symptoms include loss of power and lots of black exhaust smoke. The engine management light may come on, but not always.
Injectors are sometimes faulty. Also on older vehicles catalytic converters could get blocked.
The 2.2-litre version introduced in 2012 includes a diesel particulate filter. The DPF requires a regeneration cycle to clean itself - which happens when the vehicle is driven at operating temperature for about 20 minutes in high range at speeds more than 40mph.
The air filter is fiddly to extract, the oil filter is a messy cartridge-type in a vulnerable plastic housing, and the fuel filter (located within a rear wheel arch, incredibly) can be difficult to deal with.
Clutches can sometimes go at relatively low mileages. Due to the enormous torque, some users just don’t bother with the low box. Check the gear change and clutch action, making sure changes are easy and smooth. Better still, don’t buy a Defender that’s been used for towing.
Early gearboxes had some problems, as they’d lose synchromesh, but there were recalls. Change gear and see if it selects smoothly. On early models, the front prop could touch the sump on full articulation. The sumps were replaced if the vehicles were main-dealer serviced, so check if the sump has a recess to clear the front propshaft.
The suspension is basically the same as on previous versions - although spring rates and dampers are re-specified. The suspension should be very firm and could even be described as hard.
Bushes are the main problem, but they’re not difficult or expensive to fix.
Brakes are well-designed and efficient. However, they often take a lot of punishment on farms or when towing.
On vehicles fitted with ABS, check the dashboard for warning lights (though the ABS light should remain on until 6mph). While you’re looking, check for traction control warning lights too. As always, check straight-line braking on a smooth and level road with the steering wheel held lightly, to feel if there is any pull to one side and that braking is smooth and progressive.
The rubber boots on steering ball joints (track-rod ends) can sometimes split, which happens almost routinely if the vehicle is used in rough undergrowth - Even a small split is now an MOT fail.
Check power steering by making sure the wheel goes cleanly from lock to lock - listening out for groaning noises.
The steering system is usually free from major problems, but don’t assume it is – still check carefully on the test-drive.
Switches aren’t very durable and hazard light switches burn out if they’ve had a lot of use.
Check the electric windows (if fitted) do actually wind all the way down and then come back without protests and funny noises.
Side and rear doors are now steel, but Defenders are still easy to break into - Some insurance companies won’t insure a Defender in certain postcodes so check before you buy one.
The spare wheel can cause rear-door stress fractures - Open the door and look for a crack in the middle at the door frame, immediately below the glass.
As for the chassis, some Defenders four or five years old are already beginning to corrode in places. Jetwash and underseal should be part of your buying budget.
Forward-facing seats were introduced, which fold up on the wheelarches.
There’s a redesigned dashboard – an improvement according to most users. TDCi models have only two front seats, and base-model seats are firm and can get sweaty.
Engine vibrations are transmitted to the steering wheel. At certain engine loadings, you’ll see the whole wheel bouncing up and down at high speed – it can be as much as five millimetres. This is normal, but could become very tiresome on long drives.