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Land Rover Discovery 1 Buyer’s Guide

The Land Rover Discovery is a legendary vehicle. It has conquered the harshest environments the world has to offer while remaining comfortable and dependable.

Dependable? A Land Rover cannot be dependable you might think. Well, the old ones used to be and that’s because they were simple work machines built to last. 

Out of all the generations, the most capable off-roaders were the Discovery 1 and 2 and in today’s Land Rover Discovery 1 buyer’s guide, we will be going over everything you must look out for before buying a 1st generation Discovery. 

What Type of Discovery Do You Want? 

Line of Land Rovers

If you are in the market for a Discovery you will have two options. A factory example that has been looked after or a modified vehicle that can be used for camping and off-roading. 

The modified vehicle will come with modifications and the price will be similar to that of a stock vehicle; however, modified cars tend to be tired and abused. The original example will require some money to make it capable enough for off-roading. 

Land Rover Discovery 1 Buyer’s Guide: Check for Rust

Land Rover Discovery 1 in a river

The biggest killer of these Land Rovers is rust. Ask if the vehicle was undersealed and if it has been, check the underside thoroughly as underseal can hide some nasty surprises. 

The lower and outer seals also need to be checked as do the trunk floor and wheel arches. 

Get underneath the vehicle and inspect every area around the body mounts as well as the frame rails. Any damage from rust in these areas can be expensive to repair. 

Check that the sunroofs aren’t leaking as that can cause the carpets to get wet which will rot the floors. 

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How’s the Bodywork?

Land Rover Discovery 1

One of the most important tips in this Land Rover Discovery 1 buyer’s guide is to check the bodywork.

The bodywork on the Discovery 1 is unique as it combines steel and aluminum. Because of this, paint flaking may be apparent in the areas where the two different metals meet. The most common spots are around the rear lights and on top of the doors. 

The rear door also carries the weight of the spare wheel; therefore, lift it up and down to check for any play in the hinges. 

Land Rover Discovery 1 Buyer’s Guide: The Suspension Should Be Solid

Land Rover Discovery 1 as a boat

The suspension on these vehicles is very durable as it is based on a solid axle design. Check for wear on all bushings, ball joints and inspect the coil springs for any cracks – especially if you live in a wet environment. 

Engine and Drivetrain of the Discovery

Land Rover Discovery 1 in the desert

The diesel 200 TDI and 300 TDI engines are both brilliant workhorses that have proven to be rugged and reliable. I would avoid any of the V8s as those burn too much fuel and have a reputation for being unreliable. 

For the diesels, ensure that the cambelts have been changed as they need to be done every 60000 miles or 5 years. Furthermore, have a quick look at the water level especially on the 300 TDI as they are prone to head gasket failure if overheated. 

This Land Rover Discovery 1 buyer’s guide wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of the transmission…

The transmission and transfer box are very durable both in automatic and manual forms. Engage low range and check that the light on the dash is working and that the diff lock engages and disengages normally.

While under the hood inspect the front wheel arches from the top side and the battery tray as these areas are also prone to rust. 

The Discovery 1 is a cheap vehicle that can make an extremely capable off-roader or overlander. The solid axle suspension provides durability and capability while the diesel engines are economical and easy to repair. 

If you need a budget vehicle to tackle hard trails or go adventuring, the Discovery 1 is a perfect choice.

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