Journal: Fix it or ditch it?

Fix it or ditch it?

Avatar By Benjamin Shahrabani
May 29, 2015
45 comments

How does one tell when it is time to give up on a car? The car in question is a 2004 Land Rover Discovery II (Pictured above and below)…that is primarily driven by my mom. Purchased new, and with a mere 120,000 miles, it has like most Land Rovers led a somewhat pampered existence.

And while I can’t quite say my mom has adhered to the adventurous Land Rover slogan “above and beyond”, I can’t say it wasn’t used exclusively for runs to Main street, the mall or supermarket, either.

It more than occasionally brought garbage to the town dump, went off road, hauled stuff from the Home Depot, and—perhaps most importantly—tackled snow-packed east coast roads with ease.

It might have been, in Land Rover’s words, “The Best 4x4xFar”, but today it’s causing my parents a lot of grief—which means I hear about it as the resident car expert in the family. My parents need something they can depend on, but sadly, the Land Rover isn’t cooperating. And it might be banished from the family fleet.

Worse, to some degree, my mom’s automotive identity is inextricably linked to green Land Rover Discoveries. For the last twenty-years, she has driven one green Discovery or another. What would she replace it with? And should my parents give up on it?

To be sure, it has never left my parents stranded. The body, lustrous paintwork, and interior are in great shape, evidence that this car was cared for. It’s everything else that is starting to fail systematically, one at a time, much like organs shutting down in a person’s body towards their end of their life. You fix one thing, and another problem rears its head.

The car experienced almost no problems during the warranty period, but a little while after, the first to go was the heater matrix, filling the passenger side footwell with water. Next, brakes and wheel bearings. Then it overheated (cured with a new radiator, and expansion tank).

In addition: the radio’s reception went fuzzy, the heated seats stopped working, the airbag light came on, the oil pressure sensor needed replacing, and brakes, bearings, and rotors needed replacing again. The check engine light went on, only remedied after replacing all four Oxygen sensors. Twice. In time, other things will go wrong.

Finally, the engine has developed a knock. My parents recently took it to a dealer where they pronounced the patient…errr…car has a “death knock”. The old Land Rover has a bad ticker, and it could go at any moment. We can have the engine rebuilt, or get a remanufactured unit, but the old Land Rover’s blue book value isn’t very high to begin with and its dealer-appraised value is even less.

Now, I’m not the sort of person to give up on a car, but there is a point when costs trump memories and emotions?

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SkidPilotcjcKevinMathiasBruce Gieger Recent comment authors
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SkidPilot
SkidPilot

For a car with that mileage I always figured if the cost of repair was more than the monthly payment on a new one it was time to start looking for a replacement. Of course, this is trumped by emotional attachment; I replaced the engine on my 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer at 120K and drove it for another 110k miles. Primarily due to the fact it was out of production by that time and we had a lot of memories tied up in it.

cjc
cjc

Don`t waste your money on any euro. crap japanese is the only way to go in this class of vehicle

Kevin Reynolds

It always kills me when the decision to fix a car or not is based on what the “value” of it is. Who cares! The value should be based on what it means to you not what it could sell for. I believe in keeping as many older cars on the road as possible and it’s sad to me that many people give up on a vehicle that has given them lots of miles and many memorable moments. I have a ’91 Honda that currently has 384k on it and when the motor goes out I plan on spending the… Read more »

Mathias
Mathias

I can understand the feeling of nostalgia for a car, but it seems like the car won’t be making a recovery. If you want to stay true East Coast and ride in style, I would recommend waiting for the new 2018 Volvo XC60.

Bruce Gieger

Ironic… My wife and I had the brilliant idea of starting a company DiscoTech for these wonderful vehicles. We bought one 2000 SE7 with 125k on it that was beautiful but “volá” blown head gasket. I was ready for a little challenge so I drove it in the shop and tore it down. I read all of the articles and tragic stories about Discoveries hitting that “magic mileage” and blowing head gaskets. I did some research about performance modified 4.0 & 4.6 engines and decided to have a go at it. I had the heads checked and decked ( in… Read more »

Avinda D. Perera
Avinda D. Perera

Do they still have the Lexus GX in the US? It’s either that or a 4runner.

David Allison
David Allison

The first new vehicle my wife and I bought when we finished our residencies was a 2003 Land Rover Discovery. I had never had a new car and we were so proud! It had some minor issues under warranty such as the driver’s side electric window that failed twice. Only just when the warranty was up did we really get our asses handed to us. Many things went wrong culminating with a very ominous engine knock. We decided not to throw good money after bad and sold it at CarMax. We took a beating, but went directly to Mercedes and… Read more »

Mohammad Akbarpour
Mohammad Akbarpour

I somehow have the same problem with my 1986 Chevy Nova. While I spend a lot on the beast, another part woill start to playing up !! Even after fixing them for three times…
Bad mechanics is d main reason for sure !!!
I think about giving up on d car too.. But who’s d next victim after me?

John Emrich
John Emrich

Dump it! I was in the same situation a few years ago-2000 disco w 120k miles, 8 years of ownership, $12k in repairs. Love hate relationship. It needed $3000 of work when I sold it for $2000. Freed at last I did the sensible thing and bought a 2004 Tahoe. It ain’t slick or refined but I have a smile on my face knowing I have more cash in the bank. Sometimes our egos keep us from making the right decision sooner. Your Mom should consider a Lexus.

Bob Kellerman
Bob Kellerman

WHAT AN INSANE ASSUMPTION — “ONLY 120,000 MOM MILES” — as if that were low mileage If Mom was making 11 years of short trips around town, that is like 160,000 road miles or more. If Mom in financially set, tell her to trade it on a new one with better safety, much nicer interior, much nicer climate control, etc. and take the worry off her. Her car is from “before the big fix on reliability”. Does she not deserve a modern ride in her golden years? Would you not feel horrid if Mom were injured in the old car,… Read more »

Tanner Bond
Tanner Bond

I was in your place 8 years ago. I had just bought a 2000 Disco with 98,000 on the clock that looked great, drove well and seemed to be a good choice for a long term do-everything-car. Within a month, the heater dumped water all over the passenger footwell. Easy enough fix with a new hose, clamps and a shop vac. (Turns out that is was just a clogged drain hose and the other hose was the point of failure). Six months after purchase, she overheated on me. I performed a head gasket job in my parents garage and as… Read more »

Riccardo
Riccardo

Benjamin, like you I am also the main “car person” in the house and closely follow my parents’ car tribulations. In your case I think that the choice depends on two factors: how attached your parents are to this particular car (is it them or you?) and will they still have faith in it if they spend $$$s to get the engine fixed. Undoubtedly buying an equivalent new Discovery would cost many times over the cost of any repairs, current and future, due on this one. You can’t really take into consideration KBB values when making such as decision as… Read more »

M Webb
M Webb

I think there are way too many options out there to stick with the Land Rover brand. British cars are nice second cars but never leave home without your AAA card in your pocket.

W Grochowski
W Grochowski

I will second JE Robison in Springfield MA. While John is a world wide known Bentley authority first and foremost, he has had quite a few Land Rover products in his care. As a young man I drove by his shop weekly to look at the various cars in his care. There was always a great selection of British and Italian automobiles and motorcycles…worst you will do by visiting is leave with a great story and photos about a quality shop (mechanic in a white lab coat with a pipe protruding from under a John Bull mustache is not to… Read more »

J Lipton
J Lipton

Honestly I think you are lucky to get 120k miles out of a Land Rover. My friends that have had these cars started having trouble almost immediately and they were all sold by 50k, having been deemed not worth the pain in the tail. Used trucks are relatively expensive, and the value of that one tells you something. If I were you, and if your mom still wants a truck/SUV, have her buy a Chevy or Ford. They last *far* longer and will little trouble.

Randy B
Randy B

They make Ford 5.0 conversions w/ T-5 swap adapters. Low cost, and cheaper to maintain. The body looks good, I’d try that route if it was me.

Douglas Anderson
Douglas Anderson

Boy does this subject hit home for us. Last year i needed to replace the Cat converter on my 2001 Volvo S60 , the car was in great shape and had less that 150k miles , without replacing the cat it would not pass NC emissions inspection. The part alone was quoted from two dealers as costing over $1600.00 , If I replaced it at my age I would need to drive the car until i was 140 years old to recoup the investment , so I decided to whole sale it and bought a used Ford Ranger. ( I… Read more »

Douglas Anderson
Douglas Anderson

Thanks for the kind words Benjamin; Most of the cars/trucks i have owned have been modified to some extent over the years. At first it was for speed , then handling , and after too many close moments braking became important 🙂 As a Detroit born boy with a Highland Park born wife we are partial to American iron in our later years. ( I have owned three Porches, a Jaguar, multiple models of VW’s ,two Japanese cars over the last 40 years or so , plus numerous domestic stuff) My heart is always torn between sport’s cars and lead… Read more »

Zinhead
Zinhead

I have a similar Disco in Epson Green, and it is a long term keeper. Your parents engine was probably terminally damaged when it overheated. Slipped liners are the frequent result from warped aluminum block and heads, and lead to the noise you describe. To get more information on the various issues with this engine and the potential solutions, google JE Robison service, and look for an October 29, 2013 post called “Should You Rebuild or Replace Your Land Rover V8?” JE Robison has worked on these engines for years, and there is plenty of information in the above link… Read more »

Jeremy DeConcini
Jeremy DeConcini

What about using this as an opportunity to do something crazy like a TDI engine conversion?
I imported an old Defender with a TDI and that engine was great, sipped gas, had plenty of power and if I wanted to drive myself mad with hunger I ran it on biodiesel and smelled French fries all day long….

Richard Tack
Richard Tack

Trade in is around 2000 to 3000; that’s ACV, Actual Cash Value, IOW, what the dealer books it into the company accounting for. That’s for one that’s running and driving properly. Remember, the car doesn’t know that you own it. The only [u]true[/u] love that vehicle is going to get is from the repair facility that hands you the credit card printout for you to sign.

Emanuel Costa
Emanuel Costa

To see a loved car failing is allways sad. And a Discovery (or any Land Rover), makes it worse. Well, it reminds us of something: you need a bit of luck in everything in life.

You can have a bad car, treat it like a baby treats his toys, keep it dirty and full of trash in the interior, and drive it for years and years without problemas. And you can have a great car, keep it clean and in the garage, drive it with care and service it well… and it goes silent without notice…

Brent
Brent

Are there any non-dealer specialists in your area? You may want to try AtlanticBritish [url=”http://www.roverparts.com/”]Your text to link…[/url] and see if they have or know of any specialists in your area that aren’t the dealer. The Dealer’s service department may be spot on with their diagnosis – but a 2nd opinion won’t hurt. In the end a cost/benefit analysis might be good to make sure you aren’t putting $7,500 of engine work into a $2,000 vehicle. But if the costs are closer to what it is worth . . . Atlantic British also have lots of tech articles on youtube… Read more »

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Thats the best bit of advice so far : slapping myself for not thinking of that first . Before making the decision look into independent Land/Range Rover specialists . If they’re honest and good they’ll come up with options I’ll bet none of us have considered . To find a good one I’d also inquire with the local Land/Range Rover Owners club . They’ll know who’s playing it straight and who to avoid .

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

… is in case you/she chose new : may I heartily recommend your mom checking out the Mercedes GLK . The wife and I in our late 50’s absolutely love ours [ 2011 GLK 350 4Matic w/AMG sports kit ] Why ? Because the footprint is smaller than a C-Class making it great in the city . Its luxurious enough to be smooth as silk on the interstates . Its a blast to drive in the twisty’s and mountains : out handling many so called sports and performance cars . 0-60 6.4 and 21 mpg average [ those are my… Read more »

Don Antonio Buffalo
Don Antonio Buffalo

Petrolicious just made my Monday,I’m going through this right now, :/ some time ago I bought a 95′ BMW 530i ( E34 5-speed) ; Engine just gave up and replacing it would cost me the same amount i paid for the car. I dont know what to do. Is it really worth it?

Nicolas Moss
Nicolas Moss

Once a car reaches this state, the only way to see it through is love and determination. We are talking about the emotional bond here. I agree with John, as long as the body and interior are solid, if the chemistry is right its a car worth loving. It sounds like maybe your parents aren’t there. In which case if they can afford a new car and have a generous nature, sell their current headaches low to a local enthusiast who can embrace the pain and make the bond. Then its off for a feel-good trip to the dealer for… Read more »

Raúl Cázares Domínguez
Raúl Cázares Domínguez

I’m currently in the same issue as you are. My SEAT Ibiza 6L has become part of my identity. I have it since I was 16 yo back in 2008, and some things started to fail, mostly the interiors. But I think in two solutions: 1. Make a cost comparison. Maybe will be cheaper to run the new car, and give you some advantages over the old one. 2. Maybe it’s something all petrolheads will pass. Ditching a car is maybe our worst nightmare, but well, we will be happy and fell in love with the new car again. Now… Read more »

John Stoj
John Stoj

Really, the mechanicals are the easiest part to repair (as is almost always the case), so if the interior & exterior are in good shape, I’d lean heavily toward fixing it – or selling it to someone who wants to do the engine swap, etc.

John Stoj
John Stoj

PS – I’d love to find a Disco like this to work on myself.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

The maths sounds like a comparison of repair costs on the Disco vs purchase/ lease / depreciation costs on a new car?

Maybe another option instead of a replacement Land Rover engine could be the usual US approach to an unreliable British engine – swap it for a Chevy V8? Chevy V8 conversions on Land Rover products are not unheard of in the UK (tuner Overfinch made a name for itself swapping Chevy SBCs into Range Rovers in the 1980s) so I can’t believe that someone in Socal hasn’t done something similar already?

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

I’ll tack my two cents onto Mr Lange’s comment since they’re somewhat related ; Your cost of repair vs purchase/lease cost is a good starting point . Second question and more importantly though should be : just how attached to the car is your mom ? If she loves it . Fix it . If she’s had enough of it . Its time to seriously consider replacing it . Also once the emotional issues are settled you need to factor in the cost of repair vs residual value before choosing either option . Remembering the Disco’s have never retained their… Read more »