Q. I am about to a buy a 2002 Freelander 1.8. What mechanical problems should I look out for? Harry Stirrat, Essex
A. The main concern is the engine and its cooling system. While the engine is cold, check coolant level and examine the engine and hoses for signs of coolant leaks. Go for a long drive – long enough to see the temp gauge rise to the normal position, and then at least another five miles to confirm it stays steady.
Check the heater works: this helps confirm the health of the cooling system (check the aircon, too). Ensure the car accelerates without hesitation, flat spots or exhaust smoke. Check it at medium speeds, at 70mph and starting from rest.
While driving, confirm the steering and handling are okay. It should drive like an ordinary front-wheel-drive car with a neutral feel to the steering. If the steering is unresponsive, or there is understeer (not quite responding to bends), there may be a problem with the viscous coupling. If so, you may see odd tyre wear.
Check tyres are wearing at a similar rate/pattern; if only one rear is scrubbed, suspension alignment may be out. Is there a thud from the rear when starting off hard? That’s a broken diff mount, cheap to fix.
You don’t want to experience noises or baulky gearchanges, and the ride should be taut. Excessive body roll may mean worn dampers. Underside knocks on undulating roads suggest worn bushes.
After the test drive, switch off and check the coolant level by looking through the bottle (don’t release the cap when hot). Check the engine for signs of coolant leaks and pull the dipstick out. The oil should be fresh-oil colour or black-ish. If it’s grey or streaky, suggesting water in the oil, there may be a head gasket leak.
If all is well, go back next day or when the engine has cooled, and check the coolant level is the same as when you first checked it. If lower, walk away.
The ’02 car has the better transfer box and cooling system, and is a good vehicle all round. If well maintained and used, this engine is very reliable.