Home » Here’s What It’s Like Owning A Land Rover Discovery That’s Older Than I Am

Here’s What It’s Like Owning A Land Rover Discovery That’s Older Than I Am

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“Why didn’t you buy a Wrangler like a normal teenager?” asked Joe, my local tow guy, as he unstrapped my Land Rover Discovery from his flatbed. I chuckled and replied, “Because then you’d have no business!” Joe shrugged his shoulders and muttered something along the lines of “kids these days” or some other cliché. 

[Editor’s Note: Everybody, say hello to Rob! He’s a car-loving 20 year-old living in Long Island. He makes bad car choices, is studying to be a teacher, and will be hanging out around here on weekends. It’s my goal to get him to buy a Jeep to go along with his 4Runner and Discovery. -DT]. 

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I Couldn’t Resist The Lure Of The Mighty Disco

This past July, I whimsically purchased a 2001 Land Rover Discovery. The Facebook Marketplace advertisement pictured it in a beautiful grassy meadow—if the meadow was Shrek’s swamp. It was surrounded by crooked trees, all presumably afraid of the potential of leaking oil and coolant entering their roots. It had under 100,000 miles. No scary check engine lights. No air suspension to collapse it into a mush pile. No rear chassis frame rot. 

I had to have it.

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Sparing you from my relatively unexciting purchase experience, I reached out to the seller and was driving it home less than 24 hours later. As I cruised down the Long Island Expressway, I felt the spirits of Queen Elizabeth, Doug DeMuro, and all the other Rover cult members take over my perception of what defines automotive reliability. 

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The first week was smooth sailing—if the boat in this metaphor was the Titanic. I drove it to the Subaru dealership, where I work, for a New York State inspection, and laughed with my coworkers about Subaru head gaskets. Then I turned around and looked at my Disco. I went home after that. 

The Three Amigos

Then I got paid a visit by three old friends— the “three amigos.” Well, imaginary friends. Actually, they’re not friendly, but rather a group of frightening, intimidating, enemies who suddenly appear when you’re thriving along the road.

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For those unfamiliar with these rigs, the “three amigos” are a trio consisting of the ABS warning light, Traction Control, and Hill Descent Assist. They’re about as unpopular in the Rover community as cops are with Hellcat drivers. And here, they can be triggered by a bad bearing or a speck of brake dust. So normal driving. I had my shuttle valve rewired and that fortunately kicked them out. For now. 

August rolled in and my Disco enjoyed light driving, which consisted of me mostly running it during the day on roads with a shoulder large enough to fit a AAA tow truck. I also went on a family vacation to California and rented a Ford Explorer from Hertz that smelled like feet. So the Disco sat some more. I had a nice time admiring the rust-free California Rovers of San Francisco. 

As August ended and September started to creep up, I decided to take my Disco on errands to prepare for the start of a new semester at school. After loading up on snacks, a few spiral notebooks, and an M&M McFlurry from McDonald’s, my Disco and I began to head home. Or so I thought.

The Dreaded Land Rover Problem: Overheating

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Cruising down a street in my neighborhood, I glanced down at my speed and did a double take when I noticed my engine temperature needle rising as I watched it hit the red mark. Then what I like to call “Rudolph’s Nose” appeared: the red warning light telling the driver to stop the truck immediately.


It had overheated. I pulled over to the side and put on my hazard lights and shut off the truck. I stepped out and opened the hood to a cloud of smoke. I then heard something dripping and looked under my truck to find the Niagara Falls of coolant pouring out of the truck. I watched in horror as my coolant reservoir emptied itself all over the street. Less than a minute later, a local police officer rolled up and checked on me and noticed the coolant. He laughed at me. He then told me to clean up the coolant since it was in front of a school.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I had broken down in front of where I attended elementary school… the day before starting classes at a new university. I was also in the middle of my small neighborhood, so as I sat on the curb next to the now-drying puddle of coolant, I was frequented by friends and neighbors concerned about my “Jeep.”

Eventually, AAA came and Joe the tow truck driver hauled my Disco to my mechanic (shoutout to Bart at Independent MotorCar of Smithtown NY) where they replaced my thermostat, water pump, engine timing and front gasket.

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My wallet was so sad that day. You’re also probably thinking this foolish kid probably could have prevented this and known it was going to happen. Well, you are wrong. This was nothing short of a surprise. Welcome to Land Rover ownership. 


Classes started and I elected to drive my 2010 Toyota 4Runner with double the Rover’s mileage to prevent any future incidents. I occasionally took my Disco to school where my friends admired it and laughed about the Honda Crossroad from the 1990s, which was just a Discovery 1 underneath. This made it the most unreliable Honda ever, even though it’s one of the more reliable Land Rovers. 

I also ordered vanity plates back in August that finally arrived in mid-October. When I first got my Disco, friends and family remarked on how squeaky it was. Sitting down in the seats emits a loud creaking noise like an old rocking chair. Every HVAC system button results in a creak. The harsh NY roads result in a symphony of rattles, creaks, squeaks, and mildly-concerning noises that I pretend not to hear. This prompted the vanity plate idea of “CREAKY.” I had wanted “LEAKY” or “NEED TOW” but I guess my fellow New Yorkers (probably Rover owners, honestly) beat me to it. The state rejected my application for “WANKAH.” I guess that was offensive. Sorry, British people.

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A few people on the road and at gas stations have chuckled and given thumbs up to the plates. I enjoy them. Better than the boring white “Excelsior” design of the new New York plates. 

The more my semester picked up, the more time my Disco spent parked. Parked on the street of course, as I don’t think my family would enjoy oil and coolant stains on the driveway stone. I enjoyed a trip out to the North Fork of Long Island, where I was living the “wealthy Upper West Side Manhattan-ite travels to weekend home on the eastern end of Long Island” fantasy as I cruised past vineyards in my Disco. 


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I also met up with a group of fellow Long Island Rover owners in the middle of November. Except I was the youngest one by probably at least 30 years. I was also the only Discovery in a sea of the ultra-exclusive “NAS Defenders.” I still had a great time. A lady in a relatively newer Wrangler pulled up and asked to join us. We shooed her away. I felt the Rover cult in me rise up a few notches. 

And then it must have been the 1980s, because the Disco died. Yet again.

‘You Land Rover Owners Keep Us In Business’

After picking up my younger sister from school, I felt a sudden loss of power and the lovely check engine light appeared and started flashing. Each flash was another laugh in my face. I pulled over and called up AAA and spoke to the same woman from a month ago, who said “you Land Rover owners keep us in business!” 

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Of course Joe the tow guy showed up and brought me and my truck home. My Disco sat for most of December as I was knocked out from contracting COVID and preparing for the holidays. I scanned the codes and received a cylinder six misfire. I replaced the plugs, wires, and coil pack. That eliminated the problem. I had never heard it run so well! But not for long.

I noticed a slight coolant leak from the throttle body heater plate. I ignored it, as I wasn’t losing a significant amount of coolant to care. But then it got worse. I hopped on to Atlantic British Rover Parts and ordered their “kit.”

I assume this is a common problem. The 100,000 YouTube views on the repair video also suggest this. Thankfully the repair was simple and shockingly cheap. I also cleaned out my throttle body and replaced the gasket. No leaky coolant for now. 

Things Are Actually Fine…For Now

That brings me to today. Within the last two-ish weeks, I can hopefully say that my Disco is mechanically sound. Yeah, it creaks, parts fall off in the car wash, the sunroof doesn’t open, and the headliner tickles my hair each time I drive it. It feels good though. Like a cheap hotel massage. I don’t know what that feels like. I’m just guessing. 


I knew exactly what I was getting myself into when I purchased this truck. That’s why I drive a Toyota. That Disco is a special truck, especially where I live in a sea of Chevrolet Traverses and Honda Pilots, it certainly sticks out. I am hoping to take it to the Vineyard Series on Martha’s Vineyard over the summer if it can make the five-hour drive from Long Island. It may have the aerodynamics of a high-heeled shoe and the performance of a garden hose with 15 leaks, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Unless that something was an NAS Defender. Then maybe we can talk. 


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Phil Ventura
Phil Ventura
1 year ago

you do know why newer landrovers are called 80,000 mile cars? that’s when the pieces start falling off…

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