If you are thinking of buying a Land Rover Freelander there are a few things that it is worth  checking on any Freelander you are considering.

As with all cars there are certain issues that are common to each particular make, and the Freelander is no exception. To help you to make the right decision with your Freelander purchase we will point out what needs checking with the:

  • Freelander Engine;
  • Freelander Drive Train;
  • Freelander Body.

1. The Freelander Engine

a) Head Gasket

i)  In the Service History

One of the primary issues with the 1.8 petrol Freelander is the head gasket. Originally a single layer head gasket was fitted and these tended to blow by 70,000 miles, often quite a bit before this! The first thing you need to find out is if the head gasket has ever been replaced on the vehicle, and if so was a modified multi layer head gasket used. If it is not documented that a modified multi layer head gasket was used then there is a chance that you could face the same problem again within 70,000 miles of the change – don’t assume that if the head gasket was done at a Land Rover dealer then a modified multi layer head gasket will have been used, we have seen them with single layer gaskets after being repaired at a Land Rover dealership.

How much will it cost?

If the head gasket has not been changed, or you have no evidence that a modified multi layer head gasket has been used then you should be budgeting around £545 to have a routine change of the head gasket before it blows – if you wait until it blows you will be spending more than this!

ii) On the Freelander

To check if the head gasket on the Freelander has not already blown, check for oil residue in the water reservoir bottle (left hand side under the bonnet), and take the oil cap off and check if there appears to be any water mixing with the oil.

The other issue that can cause head gasket failure is the water pump or any leakage in the cooling system. Check that there are no signs of a water leak. Be aware that the correct coolant for a Freelander is red, so the water in the water reservoir bottle should look pink.

How much will it cost?

If the head gasket has failed you are looking at £945 for a thorough job to ensure every part that may have been affected by the overheating is dealt with.

b) Cam Belt

i)  In the Service History

The 1.8 litre petrol, L series 2.0 litre diesel and 2.5 litre V6 petrol Freelanders all have cam belts that should be replaced at the 72,000 mile service. If the Freelander you are considering buying is close to, or has past this mileage and there is no evidence that the cam belt has been changed then it is highly advisable that you have this done as soon as possible. A snapped cam belt can completely destroy your engine and you will be looking at a complete engine rebuild rather than a routine cam belt change.

How much will it cost?

A routine cam belt change with water pump will cost you £295 for a 1.8 litre petrol Freelander, £395 for an L series 2.0 litre diesel Freelander and £795 for the 2.5 litre V6 petrol Freelander.

ii) On the Freelander

Without taking the cam belt cover off it is difficult to tell if there is wear to the cam belt. If the cam belt has snapped you will certainly know – the car will not go!!

How much will it cost?

If the cam belt on the Freelander has snapped you are probably looking at an engine rebuild. Depending on the damage done you are looking at upwards of £1,495 for a 1.8 petrol Freelander; £1,695 for a 2.0 diesel Freelander; and £2,095 for the 2.5 V6 petrol Freelander – so make sure you change the cam belt in a timely manner!

c) Warning Lights

i)  On the Freelander

Warning lights are on the dash for a reason – something is wrong! The main warning lights on most Freelanders are the engine warning light, hill descent control (looks like a car going down hill), the ABS and the traction control light. Please note that the ABS light does not extinguish until you are moving forward (not in reverse) at a certain speed – so as you pull off slowly this light will remain on until you get some speed up.

There are a lot of sensors on a Freelander and often the warning lights are on because of a malfunction on one of the sensors. The only way to know what the problem is is to put the Freelander on a diagnostic machine, and even then it can take a lot of sorting out. Finding the root cause of a warning light being on can be very time consuming and costly.

How much will it cost?

Putting the Freelander on a diagnostic machine will cost around £42. Once you have a diagnosis, sorting the problem out could be a nice simple fix, but it could run into hundreds of pounds and a lot of time!

2. The Freelander Drive Train

a)  Viscous Coupling Unit (VCU)

i)  In the Service History

The viscous coupling unit (VCU) is a sealed unit on the prop shaft that supports the four wheel drive function of a Freelander. All Freelander 1 models have a viscous coupling unit (unless the prop shaft has been removed, rendering the Freelander a two wheel drive vehicle).

The viscous coupling unit is a sealed unit which contains a viscous fluid. As the viscous fluid becomes thicker it over time the viscous coupling will become stiffer to rotate and this will put a strain on the whole drive train of the Freelander. Hence the viscous coupling unit is an item which should be replaced regularly, at about 70,000 miles. If there is no record of having the viscous coupling replaced and the Freelander you are buying has done 70,000 miles or more then you should be considering replacing this immediately.

How much will it cost?

A reconditioned viscous coupling unit, which has had its viscous fluid replaced, is £270 (add an extra £65 if you replace the bearings at the same time, which is recommended), and fitting is £105.

ii) On the Freelander

Since the viscous coupling unit is a sealed unit it is difficult to know if the viscous fluid has become too thick – it is not like the oil where you can pull out the dipstick and see how it looks. If when you drive the Freelander it feels as if it is holding back or as if the brakes are binding, then this could be the viscous coupling showing excessive signs of wear. It will be especially noticeable when reversing on full lock.

Once the viscous coupling becomes stiff there is a lot of strain put on the whole drive train. If the Freelander is still driven as normal it will eventually damage the IRD unit (transfer box) and the rear differential – then things get really expensive. Generally if you can hear a clunking noise from the front of the vehicle as you go around corners then there is a good chance that there is damage to the IRD.

How much will it cost?

If you are lucky and the only damage that has occurred is to the viscous coupling unit then the cost will be the same as a routine replacement. If, however, it has caused damage to the IRD then you are looking at an extra £650 for a reconditioned IRD unit, plus fitting at £195 – and that is assuming no other damage has been done, so make sure you replace your viscous coupling unit in a timely manner!

b) Differential Centre Bush

i)  On the Freelander

Wear to the differential centre bush on the Freelander is something to look out for, although it is not a major item that should stop you purchasing a good vehicle. If you go underneath the Freelander and push the prop shaft at the back by the differential to see how much play it has. If there is a lot of play then it is advisable to get this changed as soon as possible.

How much will it cost?

The differential centre bush and fitting should cost about £80.

3. The Freelander Body

a)  Window, Doors and Sunroof

i)  On the Freelander

Unfortunately it is quite common on the Freelander to have problems with the windows, doors and sunroof – so check these things.

If the sunroof does not work quite often the best thing to do is to take out the fuse and leave it shut! This way you know you will not end up with a sunroof half open that you just can’t get closed again. If the sunroof on the Freelander does work then make sure you open and close it regularly to stop it ceasing up.

Check that all the doors open and lock on the fob. The first click of the fob will open just the drivers door, the second click should open all the doors including the tailgate one.

Check that all the electric windows work – in some models all windows are electric whereas in others the rear windows are manual. Remember that the tailgate window also goes down, there is a button in the centre front that controls the tailgate window. In addition to this if you press and hold the fob then instead of opening the doors it should bring the tailgate window down. To put the tailgate window back up you need to either put the key in the tailgate door lock, turn and hold it until the window comes up, or use the button inside the Freelander. Do note that the key does not open the tailgate door, this can only be done from the fob, the key is just for controlling the tailgate window.

How much will it cost?

If your windows are not working this will cost around £50 to £80 depending on which window has the problem. If you cannot hear the sound of the motor when you press the button it is worth checking the fuses before going to the expense of getting a garage to look at fixing it.

Fixing the doors of the Freelander will cost you around £50 if a new mechanism is not required. And as for the sunroof – I would just leave it closed!

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