Land Rover Discovery Series 2

Blown Gaskets, Cracked Head, Maybe an Engine Swap.

So I have a bit of a dilemma. It all started a few weeks ago. Beth and I had to travel to the other side of the city to get to a particular store that we need to visit. We had no problems at all on the trip there at all. No sign of the impending doom about to be placed upon us. After we finished at the store we walked back out to the disco, got in, and tried to start. It made a strange noise like the started was really struggling to operate correctly, then it started. It ran fine all the way home. I might add that the journey is a 45 kilometre trip each way, it’s not a five minute trip to the store.

The next morning at 5:30 am I walked out to the car to go to work. The started would not turn the engine. It was definitely engaging on the flywheel. Because I could hear it. It just seemed as if it suddenly lacked the required power to start the engine. I did a few of the normal checks, the lights were working fine, as were the brake lights, telling me that there was plenty of charge in the battery.

Opening the bonnet to investigate further, I had Beth try to start the Disco while I looked for anything stupidly simple that had gone wrong. So I could see nothing, but I noticed that the starter motor seemed to be engaging with the flywheel, however there was not even the slightest movement of the engine, the cooling fan didn’t budge a single millimetre. Check the oil level, all good there, even looks a reasonable colour. Check coolant level, that’s strange that looks like oil in the coolant, no wait, its fuel. This is not a good sign at all.

To cut a long story a little shorter, the boss picked me up and drove me to the depot so I could get in a truck and do some work. I’ve been driving the truck and using it as a grocery car for several weeks now. So, the diagnosis is a stuffed head gasket and a cracked head. I’m not going to go into a long rant about how hopeless Land Rover is at designing anything to function correctly. I’ll just leave it at the fact that the workmanship and quality of design leaves a lot to be desired.

This leaves me with several choices available. Option One is to source a replacement head and fit it with all new gaskets and head bolts. This will cost about $1500 – $2000. That’s not at all cheap no matter how fast it gets said. The small fact that has got me concerned is that the exact same thing could happen to the replacement head, due to the fact that they were badly designed in the first place. Plus I will be fitting a NEW head to an engine that has done almost 320,000 kilometres (198,838 Miles). That’s a lot of money to invest into what is essentially an old engine.

Option Two is to replace the complete engine. Now this is going to be done in my shed, open to the weather at two sides. It is more of an open carport with a wall on one side. The replacement engine complete will come in at about $5,500 – $5,800. This is starting to get bloody expensive. The really big sticking point with this particular choice is that after paying all the cash, I finish with a running version of exactly what I have now, a Land Rover TD5 engine with all of that engines inherent design flaws.

Option Three is a variation of option two, but using an engine from a different manufacturer. I’ve done a lot of searching around various different forums and discovered that almost anything is possible, depending on the size of your bank account. I’ve looked at engines from Toyota, Cummins, Nissan, and Isuzu. Yeah, I did get out there with a tape measure in my engine bay. I’ve learned that the beaut little 2.8 Litre turbo diesel from Isuzu designated the 4JB1T will actually fit. More importantly I discovered a YouTube video from a man that actually succeeded in the very same conversion. This could have potential.

More research was done. The Isuzu engine can be sourced for about $3000. Ok, that’s a lot better than the $5,500 for the Land Rover engine, and being Isuzu it’ll be a lot more reliable. Wait, I’m going to need an adaptor to fit the engine to the Land Rover transmission, Oh, and I’ll also need to fabricate custom engine mounts. The Land Rover Engine runs a front mounted intercooler, while the Isuzu utilises a top mounted intercooler. That will need to be adapted to fit. All of the Japanese manufactures utilise a different ECU compared to Land Rover, so I will need to get someone that knows what they are doing to reprogram the ECU to talk to the engine and the control systems on the car.

So the costings for all of the adaptor plates, mountings, wiring looms, computer programming comes to about $2,000. This is getting very expensive again, but at least it’s going to be more reliable than the Land Rover engine. Then comes the really bad news. To get it registered and insured it will need to have an Engineers certificate stating that the conversion has been carried out to the correct required standard. Cost of that certificate is approximately $1000. Taking the grand total to approximately $6000 – $6,500. So more expensive than the bolt it straight in Land Rover engine.

My thoughts so far. Option One is starting to look good again. Put a new head on it, drive gentle for a couple of years until the finance is paid out. Then sell the bastard thing to someone else and let it be their problem. Option Two doesn’t look attractive unless wanting to keep for many years. Quite frankly the idea of keeping this vehicle any longer than desperately required fills me with terror. I would be constantly expecting something else in the car to disintegrate. There is nothing on a Land Rover that is either cheap or easy. Option Three is similar to Two in that it is only really worth considering if contemplating the idea of keeping the vehicle for an extended period of time. The difference between the Isuzu option and the Land Rover engine option, is that the Isuzu would always be thought of as Great engine, shame that it is surrounded by a Land Rover. Unfortunately, there is a lot of Land Rover around it, so many many things remain to fall apart and/or self-destruct.

My final thoughts at this stage are that we are going to be saving the required coin to purchase a new head and head gasket kit. We will carefully fit these and then treat the disco very very carefully indeed for a couple of years. This will allow us to pay out the finance owing, then we can sell it and trade into a real vehicle that will be more reliable. Preferably something with a Toyota badge on it, possibly in conjunction with a Hilux badge.

Will I ever purchase another Land Rover product again? Not while I’m capable of standing in an upright position. I know for a fact that if I were to look at another, Beth would be bashing me, then apply for divorce saying that I was insane and that was grounds for divorce. I love her too much for that. I think that my nose is telling me that Beth has something cooking, it’s going to be good, it always is. I’m off now to go and put some great food in my belly.