1998-2007 Land Rover Defender Td5 4×4 Review

Read our concise review of the Land Rover Defender Td5 4x4...

1998-2007 Land Rover Defender Td5 4x4 Review

by Calum Brown |
1998-2007 Land Rover Defender Td5 4x4 Review


Here are our top tips for buying a Defender Td5. Discuss prospective buys on our message boards, too.

For a full low-down on what the experts look for, take a look at our LRO Buying Guides. See below for details.


Compared to the previous 300Tdi you get another 11bhp and 26lb ft thanks to clever injection technology. There’s enough torque to make frequent gear-changing unnecessary.

Timing is by chain, not rubber belt. The diesel filter is under the rear wheelarch; it’s quite common for its bracket to break off. However, DIY repair is straightforward.

Cylinder heads crack around the injectors on vehicles with engine number prefix 10P. A symptom is diesel in the sump; the oil level rises and the dipstick smells dieselly. The engine might run-on after switching off, which can be very serious. Engines with a number starting 15P don’t have problems, and vehicles with ’52 registrations or newer will be ok. Check the paperwork to see if early vehicles have been rectified.

The heads were originally positioned with plastic dowels, which meant the casting could move fractionally. This could disturb the head gasket seal, resulting in coolant loss and overheating. Steel dowels were used from VIN 2A622424. Check the service paperwork to see if earlier engines have been fixed.

A bolt retaining the oil pump sprocket can come loose – sprocket comes off, no oil, goodbye engine. Bolts should have been fitted with a thread-locking compound but often weren’t. If the job hasn’t been done, do it as preventive maintenance.

Fuel pressure regulators are a typical Td5 issue, they leak – there’ll be a smell of diesel, and wetness down the back of the engine.

Crank position sensors sometimes go faulty, causing bad running, but they’re cheap to replace.

Look out for water leaks. Check where the pipes clamp, under the water pump, for wetness and colour from antifreeze stains. Some replacement radiators were suspect quality and developed joint leaks, so check the radiator.

Finally the old favourite: injector-harness, which goes right under the engine’s cam cover, connecting to electronic injectors. Oil is drawn through the bundle of wires by capillary action, works its way to the ECU plug, gets on the plug’s connectors and the electrical connection is spoiled. Symptoms include rough running and oil visible when you pull the ECU plug off.


The R380 gearbox and LT230 transfer box are old favourites and have been thoroughly debugged. Check the seal at the back of the transfer box, as oil gets on to the handbrake.

Clutch noise could be caused by the clutch spigot bush. You could change it but a lot of customers just put up with it if they can.

There have been cases of Td5 dual-mass flywheels cracking, or failure of the cushioning springs. Symptoms include vibration through the gearlever that’s not attributable to engine vibration, harsh or uneven clutch take-up. Always check the flywheel – if there’s a lot of movement on it, replace it.

Gears should select cleanly. The gearbox shouldn’t feel sloppy and should be generally quiet, though you may hear just a little transmission whine from the transfer-box. If you’re looking at a tow-vehicle, do the kangaroo test by going on and off the accelerator. That reveals transmission backlash.


Typically there’ll be wear, but it’s all fairly simple stuff apart from the A-frame balljoint. It’s mostly DIY, and can make big improvements.

The rubber bushes on the rear shock absorbers seem to go but they’re only pence, easy to change. Make sure the Land Rover handles precisely and goes where it’s pointed. Serious deterioration of bushes can result in a degree of rear steering as the axles get out of alignment.

If the vehicle has a raised suspension drive it for a while to see how you get on.


Look at the discs. There should only be rust at the outside edges.

If the ABS light won’t go out, that’s commonly a simple earth fault.

Very often owners don’t notice brake problems. Rear calipers can stick on, or get full of mud and seize.


It’s easy to see leaks – oil and grime under the steering box. Seal kits are a waste of time, instead fit a reconditioned box.

Vagueness in the steering will be the drop pin, the first thing after the steering box. They wear pretty quickly, which means a lot of play at the wheel. Front axle swivels don’t show leakage like earlier models because they’re filled with semi-fluid grease, but can still suffer from internal wear.

The pipe between the power-steering reservoir and pump can also chafe on the lip where the sump bolts to the engine, eventually wearing right through.


Despite the introduction of electronics, you’re unlikely to get any serious electrical issues, apart from oil ingress at the injector harness (mentioned above).

You need a good earth from the engine and gearbox to the chassis, or you might get all sorts of weird and wonderful problems – lights on the dash, battery light comes on dim, heater plug lights, all sorts.

The engine ECU in the right-hand seatbox is a concern when wading. It can be re-located on the inner bulkhead between the driver and passenger seats.


Rear crossmembers are the most common rust areas. Never take a Land Rover chassis for granted – inspect it carefully. Bulkheads aren’t so bad as Tdi examples, but they still need checking all over.

On the steel-and-aluminium doors, the steel frame rusts away at the bottom. Check the door frame nearest to the handle, as they crack here.

Station Wagons need to be genuine to command Station Wagon price – many 90s have been updated with windows, so check the V5C.

In certain postcodes, some insurance companies simply won’t insure Defenders due to the ease of theft. Even if you invest in thief-proofing, lowlifes will quite likely cause damage having a go.


Basic and functional. A re-trim is DIY-possible.

The usual front-cab configuration is two front seats and a cubby box, though it was possible to specify a middle front seat.

If there are electric windows, make sure they work.

Door seals often leak, so replace them with Genuine Parts seals.


1998-2007 Land Rover Defender Td5 4x4 Review

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