You hear a lot of horror stories about the Freelander 1: repeated cylinder head gasket failures; complete powertrains destroyed; blown up engines … – are they really THAT bad?
The first thing to keep in mind is that not all Freelander 1s are the same. Within the Freelander 1 range there are four different engines:
– Freelander DI diesel (produced from 1997 to 2000 with a 2.0-liter Rover L-Series engine);
– the Freelander 1.8 petrol (produced from 1997 to 2006 with a 1.8-liter Rover K-Series engine);
– the Freelander TD4 diesel (produced from 2001 to 2006 with a 2.0-liter BMW M47 engine);
– the Freelander V6 petrol (produced between 2001 and 2006 with a 2.5 liter Rover KV6 engine).
The drivetrain for all Freelander 1s is based on an IRD unit up front (the equivalent of a transfer case); a viscous coupling unit in the center of the propeller shaft and a rear differential, clearly at the rear. Aside from a few minor differences, particularly with the V6 Freelander, this drivetrain is the same across the entire Freelander 1 range.
So what is it that causes so much trouble with the Freelander 1? What does everyone seem to be complaining about?
Common failures with the Freelander 1 can be divided into three categories:
– Problems with the powertrain;
– Problems with the engine;
– Electric problems.
The Freelander 1 is a brilliant 4×4, extremely capable off-roader (it will give any Defender a run for their money) with the great advantage of being an incredibly comfortable vehicle; Don’t bounce up and down hitting your head against the ceiling in these! However, some owners experience a massive drivetrain failure, followed by an equally massive hit to the bank account to correct it. Complete destruction of the IRD and / or rear differential. Why? Is this the fault of the Freelander 1? No. There is absolutely no problem with the Freelander 1’s drivetrain design; there is also no weakness in the system that causes it to fail. All of these drivetrain problems are caused by a communication failure. Yes, you read correctly, a communication failure.
There are two common causes of drivetrain problems, sadly all too common. The first is the viscous coupling unit (VCU). This innocent looking unit actually has a useful life, in our experience it is about 70,000 miles. Because it is a sealed unit, it is very difficult to test whether the VCU should be changed and the most reliable way to protect your drivetrain is to bite into the bullet and change it every 70,000 miles, just like you would with a timing belt. The communication problem is that it has never been included in a service program like the timing belt is, and therefore many owners are unaware that it needs to be changed. The result? It squeezes, puts pressure on the drive train and destroys, usually the IRD unit. If this change were in a service program, Freelander himself would not be criticized for the resulting failures.
The second problem with the drivetrain is caused by mismatched tires. There is only a 5mm tolerance on the rolling radius of the tires and driving mismatched tires can destroy the rear differential in as little as 5 miles. Although the Freelander manual specifies that all four tires should always be replaced together, unfortunately many tire fitters are happy to replace only two at a time, even just one if you insist! Again, it’s not the Freelander’s fault, we need those to help us understand the catastrophic effect of creating a mismatch by replacing just one or two tires.
So far our Freelander is innocent. Drivetrain problems are due to lack of communication.
So now we come to the engine problems. There are four different engines, so here you have to judge each Freelander individually.
The Diesel Freelander DI, with its old-style diesel engine and minimal sensors, is an absolute workhorse. If this were the only engine in the Freelander range, we would be out of business! There are no common faults here. This Freelander is definitely innocent of all charges thus far.
Now we come to the Freelander 1.8 gasoline. Unfortunately, we believe this is the Freelander that caused all Freelanders to be accused of being “SO” bad. But is it really the Freelander’s fault? The Rover 1.8 K-series engine is a magnificent piece of engineering, widely used in racing for its incredible lightness. However, it had an initial design flaw. The head gasket was too flimsy for the Freelander and the use of plastic cleats didn’t help. This has caused almost all 1.8 Freelanders to blow the head gasket, typically 70,000 miles. But soon a solution was found in the form of a modified multilayer steel cylinder head gasket with steel dowels; with this installed correctly, all problems disappear. So why do some owners experience multiple head gasket failures? One reason is that some garages have installed another SINGLE layer head gasket when they made the replacement, it’s sure to blow again! The other reason is that once a head gasket has melted, there are many parts of the system that can be affected, even more so if sealing fluids have been added to the coolant (Freelanders hate these sealing fluids); And if all of these affected areas are not addressed and rectified, more problems with the cooling system can occur, which can ultimately lead to another cylinder head gasket failure. Simply putting in a new head gasket is not a total solution once a head gasket has failed. Also, using blue or green coolant, rather than red, can erode the head gasket and lead to head gasket failure. The 1.8 Freelander is guilty of the charges as it has an inherent problem in manufacturing; however, repeated failures are not the Freelander’s fault.
The Freelander TD4 diesel is probably the most popular in the range. This is a much more complex engine than the L-series diesel and therefore, as with any modern vehicle, it tends to have a few more problems, many of which are caused by sensors! The low pressure fuel pump has a shorter life than would be ideal, however we would generally say that there is only one major problem these engines have, which is above what you would expect to see in any other engine, this is the problem. that the engine suffocates and is finally completely destroyed. What Causes This? This is because the crankcase breather filter was not replaced when the Freelander was serviced. Now this vent filter is on the service schedule, so this time we can’t blame the communication. We usually only see this problem when the Freelander has been repaired by a general repair shop. It is evident that some general workshops do not realize that this filter exists (it is hidden in the back of the engine) and they do not change it. Once again, the TD4 Freelander is innocent of all charges thus far.
The last Freelander in charge is the gasoline Freelander V6. This is the one with the power. An engine beast that really needs a specialist and specialized tools to fix it. This one will make you smile as you drive down the highway, but will it get you where you want to go? As the name implies, the V6 Freelander has a six-cylinder V engine. The main problem with these engines is that the thermostat is in the center of the V, where all the heat is, and it is encased in a plastic housing. This means that it can be prone to leaks. In and of itself changing a thermostat is not a big deal, however if the owner does not notice the loss of coolant this can lead to cylinder head gasket failure, which on this engine is a great job. So is the Freelander V6 guilty of the charges? If you check your coolant level regularly, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but we admit there is an inherent problem there.
Moving on to the final category of common faults, electrical ones. In this category are the sunroof, power windows and central locking doors.
The sunroof causes a problem on the Freelander, as many owners find closing it, blowing out the fuse, and pretending they never had one is much less stressful. The problem, however, is caused by our winters and some services. If the sunroof is not greased in the toilets and does not open and close regularly, the result is that it rusts and seizes. Our dear Freelander is innocent.
Sorry Freelander, we love you so much, but when it comes to windows and doors, you are GUILTY. Be prepared for the wires to get caught in the window mechanisms, hopefully leaving the window up instead of down. Be prepared for one or more doors to refuse to unlock / lock when you press the central locking buttons and if you’ve never had any of these issues, it’s a blessing.
Before you make your judgment on the Freelander, remember that all vehicles have their weaknesses; You are never fully aware of them until you research or own one. Also, if you read all the forums, remember that people usually go to a forum because they have a problem, you will not find many owners without problems to post there. There are forums for every vehicle, all filled with troubled owners.