Land Rover Freelander Buyers Guide
***Please note that this guide refers specifically to the 2002-2005 model year Freelanders with the 2.5L V6 engines imported for the US market. Much of the information contained herein does not apply to models sold outside of the United States. This does not apply to the second generation Freelanders, more commonly known as the LR2.
The original Freelander, first brought to the United States as a 2002 model year vehicle, was Land Rover’s first attempt to manufacture a compact SUV to compete with the likes of the Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4. It offered many of the luxury appointments found in larger Land Rovers built at the time with a smaller, more fuel efficient design. The model was discontinued in 2005.
Buying a used Freelander can be a very risky proposition for someone who isn’t familiar with the model. If you are interested in buying a Freelander, please thoroughly research the model and have the vehicle inspected by a Rover specialist prior to any purchase you make. Many uninformed consumers who end up buying used Freelanders unfortunately end up buying someone else’s problem. However, when properly maintained, Freelanders can provide years of relatively trouble-free driving for someone willing to take care of one. If you are interested in purchasing a used Freelander, here are some of the things to look out for.
The biggest Freelander issues are engine related. The 2.5L V6 engine used in the vehicles are very sensitive to overheating due to the fact that different types of metal were used in the engine block. Without getting too technical, different types of metal expand at different rates when exposed to excessive heat. Since the cylinder liners are made out of a different material than the rest of the block, they are prone to “slipping” and the only viable repair option at the time of this writing is to replace the motor. This wouldn’t be so bad if Freelanders didn’t have frequent overheating issues, but they do. Many of the cooling system components are plastic and are prone to failure. Combining a cooling system that frequently needs repair with an engine that catastrophically fails when overheated even for short periods of time is a recipe for big problems. Oftentimes, Freelander engine failure can be a long, drawn out process and won’t be immediately noticeable during a 15 minute test drive. This is why a pre-purchase inspection and a compression test are EXTREMELY important if you’re considering a used Freelander. Quite simply, if the seller mentions anything about the vehicle losing coolant, turn around and walk away.
On top of the issues mentioned above, Freelander engines are prone to have other major issues as well. The intake camshafts are brittle and have a tendency to sheer off near the pulleys, not only requiring replacement of the camshaft (which, as of this writing, is out of production from Land Rover), but also potentially causing damage to the valves and pistons. This issue is generally due to improper timing belt changes; any sort of over tightening of the hardware adds additional stress that leads to the camshaft sheering. Along the lines of timing belts, most cars have just one timing belt. Freelanders have three. Having a timing belt (or three) is not necessarily a bad thing on its own; many cars use belts rather than timing chains found on most other Land Rovers. Sure, having 3 belts means you have 3 potential points of failure rather than just one, but that’s not the main problem. The issue with the timing belts on Freelanders is that they are very expensive to service. Dealerships will likely charge $1700-$2000 to do a full timing belt service. Due to the specialized tools required to do the job without risking future engine damage, general mechanics should not attempt this. Because of the high cost involved in doing a full timing belt service, many people forego this and may only do a partial timing belt service. A partial timing belt service usually only includes one of the three belts (the front one and not the two rear ones) and potentially may not include important items such as the timing belt tensioner or guides. Given that these are interference engines, timing belt or tensioner failure can lead to major engine damage. When buying a used Freelander, make certain that the full timing belt service has been done or budget $2000 to have it done properly once you buy the car.
Other drivetrain components:
The only other common major expense related to the drivetrain involves the viscous coupling unit on the driveshaft. This component aids in transferring power from the front wheels to the rear wheels in the event that the front wheels lose traction. Over time, the fluid inside the unit will deteriorate to the point where the unit either seizes up, effectively putting you into four wheel drive mode full time and causing additional strain on other drivetrain components such as the IRD unit (IRD is a technical term for what is essentially a transfer case) or unlocks entirely and therefore stuck in 2WD. Neither of these is cheap to fix—Land Rover charges $1600 just for the coupling—so it’s important to make sure the viscous coupling is in good working order. Unfortunately, many people don’t notice or disregard the tell-tale signs (i.e. slight vibrations while driving/turning) of a failing viscous coupling. Make sure that both of these units are in good working order on any Freelander you’re considering or else budget a significant amount of money to have them repaired.
The upper intake manifold on Freelanders have two motors that control “flaps” inside the manifold that direct the flow of air into the motor based on engine load. While the motors are prone to failure, they are not particularly expensive to replace. However, the flaps inside of the manifold have a tendency to break and cannot be replaced by themselves. The entire upper intake manifold most be replaced; at the time of this writing, upper intake manifolds cost $1100 from Land Rover.
Window regulators are a high failure rate item, particularly ones that don’t get used very often (i.e. for the rear passenger doors and the tailgate). Make sure that all windows go up and down smoothly. Service records are very important for anyone considering the purchase of a Land Rover Freelander. Make sure that most major mechanical repairs were performed at a shop that specializes in Land Rover repair and be certain to have a prepurchase inspection done on any Freelander you’re considering. If you are interested in owning a used Freelander, please make certain that you are buying one without any major issues and that you are meticulous with its upkeep. Otherwise, it could be a very unenjoyable ownership experience for you.