History of an expedition vehicle

During my time in Belize, I kept a detailed log of all works and problems that occured whilst supporting the jungle expeditions. Below is the history of one of the vehicles over the first 6 years of its life. I'm sharing this because it was an expedition work horse, spending about half of its life off road, did 120,000km in 3 years and was well maintained.

The vehicle was a 2002 Defender 110 Hardtop 300Tdi ROW - 4 and a half years old by the time it came under my care - which had been owned from new and had a comprehensive service history. Being the newest vehicle in the fleet, it did a lot of miles, in a very short period.

Personally, I think it makes interesting reading of what can, and does, happen to an expedition Land Rover Defender, constantly working in arduous conditions. Most notably it had a history of overheating, which had caused a serious reduction in power, managing a maximum of 100km/h, chuffed a lot of black smoke and was off the road for 6 months in one particular year. The fun starts at 132,000km...


Mileage (kms) Event Work Done Notes/work pending
2,789 Repairs to front Bush Guard
7,844 30 Point Inspection
16,753 6 month service Full service, valve clearance adjusted. Various other 'checked', all filters replaced.
24,769 6 month service Repair radio, replace rear door handle, replace front shocks
27,092 Repair Clutch sticking
35,753 Shock support broken, bolt replaced. Rear brake pad replaced, rotor resurfaced.
38,256 6 month service Air/oil filter, full inspection
39,934 Repair shocks support completed
57,576 Oil Change/filter, Top Link Bush, Windscreen washer jet, LHS sidelamp.
58,637 Front and Rear Brake Pads Changed
65,246 6 month service Oil, Oil Filter, Air Filter, Fluids
68,900 2 yearly Service + Full Inspection Lower link straightened. All oils (except engine) renewed. Swivel Pin Bearings - load adjusted. Brake lights. Hydraulic cistern flush. Grease points greased. Fuel Filter replaced. Coolant flush and change. Handbrake system stripped and adjusted. Top link ball joint. Top link bushes, Repair to front bush guard. Full wheel and hub strip down - all bearings re-packed with new grease, new seals.
71,680 6 month service Oil Change + filter / Air filter / Fluids level check
83,888 3 month service Oil, Oil Filter, Air Filter, Fluids. Replaced Left/Front Brake Pad (one side only).  Clutch Pedal freeplay adjusted. Left H/Lamp replaced (needed).  Tested Steering for lock – nothing found
86,300 Windscreen replaced (used glass with crack).
86,681 Tyres replaced x 4, Wheel alignment carried out -wheels lean slightly inwards not a problem for safe driving + truck maintenance.
91,005 6 month service Oil, Oil Filter, Fluids, brake lights dashboard light repaired. NOTE: requires bolt at front RHS (body to chassis)
- Oil Filter replaced and level topped up.  Front Brake pad check - both fine: observe squeak.
101,564 3 month service
  • All fluid levels checked,
  • Oil and Air Filter changed.
  • Fuel filter checked.
  • T Box topped up.
  • Horn fixed due to shorting connections.
  • Re attached washer jet: needs yet to be made good.
  • Catch on passenger door re-aligned.
Welding, painting of Bull Bar. Seats need welding/brackets. New Reverse light assembly needed. Rear Shocks: need new bushes. Sediment bowl needs 2 x new seals. Replace Timing belt. Reassemble VHF Base Station.
107,520 6 month service Engine Oil and filter change. Oil levels checked, Tbox topped up with 1 litre. Underbody greased.  Changed timing belt for new. Sediment bowl seal changed. Rear shock absorbers changed L/H/R - used, R/H/R - new.
- Turbo outlet hose replaced (old hose had split).  Valve clearances adjusted.
- Vehicle temperature gauge behaving erratically.  Garage checked sensor and thermostat, both fine.  Suggested gauge may need replacing - keep an eye on it.  2 x valve clearances adjusted.
120,209 3 month service Engine Oil and filter change. Oil levels checked, Tbox topped up, was low. Underbody greased.  Air filter replaced with new.  Sediment bowl cleaned. Clutch fluid topped up - was low due to leak from L/H/R. L/H/F AND R/H/R wheel bearings adjusted.  L/H/R break calliper piston changed.  Break disc serviced (min 13mm, now 12mm +/-).  Rear break pads replaced.  L/H/R Shock absorber exchanged.  Top link bush changed. R/H/F door handle secured. Rear break discs will need replacing at next service. L/H/R bottom link front bush, serpentine fan belt, R/H/R new bearings.  Pair of rear disc breaks.  Set of valve clearances Possible clutch leak?
Temp gauge reading high Temperature gauge once again up high but fluctuating erratically.  Fuel gauge also jumping between full and half full and when lights were on light behind fuel gauge fading in and out on dash. Need to get electrics checked for any possible shorting.
122,166 Tyre change All 4 tyres replaced with new Hankook tubeless mud-grip tyres.  All four wheels aligned and balanced. Tyres need to be rotated in 6 months.
128, 670 6 Monthly Service and Inspection Engine oil and filter changed.  Tbox topped up.  All levels checked and joints greased. Replaced for new:  Fan Belt.  Both rear wheel bearings, hub seals, drive flange, break discs and pads.  Rear shock abs x 2.  Lower link front bush, rear prop universal joint.  Radius arms exchanged containing new front and rear bushes. N.B. No need to clean and re-grease rear wheel bearings during 2 yearly service. Need new bracket in order to attach new rear mud shield. Order new sensor and gauge to try and eradicate prob with temp gauge. New RHR half shaft required for next service.
132,250 Engine overheated on Western Highway All coolant had leaked out of coolant reservoir due to a small hole in the heater maxim, causing the engine to overheat. Vehicle was towed back from Hatteville to Belize City. Overheating caused the engine block head to warp and this had to be skimmed by 16 thousandths of an inch to make it flat. Head gasket replaced with new, thicker gasket. Coolant hose disconnected from heater as we do not use it and diverted. Engine weakened by overheating.  Garage suggested that the truck may now be more sluggish and we may need to consider re-building engine or exchanging for new in due course.
133,150 Problem with rear swing on acceleration and deceleration Swing and loss of some steering control was being caused due to lower link front bushes being worn out (esp. LH bush). Both lower link front bushes replaced for new.
133,150 Underbody Wash Vehicle under carriage washed using pressure hose
133,700 Vehicle loosing power and whole body shaking Loss of power and vibration were caused due to a broken rocker arm.  Vehicle was tailored back from Belmopan as did not want to further damage the vehicle by driving it.  Rocker arm had sheared off on one side and therefore become detached from the piston.
  • Rocker replaced with new
135,245 Loss of power Another rocker arm had broken.  Upon further investigation it became apparent that since the cylinder head had been skimmed due to warpage it was now too shallow and the pistons were hitting the underside causing the rocker arms to break.
  • New cylinder head required.
Whole cylinder head to be replaced with new.
135,245 New cylinder head fitted and 3 Monthly Service and Inspection
  • New cylinder head fitted, one push rod replaced and one rocker replaced.
  • Engine oil and filter changed.
  • Tbox topped up.
  • All levels checked and joints greased.
  • Air filter replaced with new.
  • RHR Half shaft replaced with new.
  • Heater core replaced and previous coolant leak from heater pipe now solved.
Minor leak from one of the fuel returns on the engine – replace whole set (3) Observe small oil leak from T-box – keep an eye on this and possibly replace seals / gasket at next service.
136,530 Vehicle weaving
  • Lower link front bushes worn out, esp on RHS. Replaced with new
  • RHS Radius arm bushes also replaced for new
Both lower link front bushes replaced and RH radius arm bushes replaced with new.
142,400 Underbody Wash
  • Vehicle under carriage washed using pressure hose
142,459 2 yearly service
  • Engine oil and filter changed, new air cleaner fitted, fuel filter checked.
  • Sediment bowl cleaned.
  • New valve cover gasket, valves checked.
  • New fuel return line fitted.
  • Front Axel stripped and diff bearings checked.
  • Swivel housing filled.
  • Oil drained and re-filled.
  • Wheel bearings checked - ok.
  • Clutch drive disc replaced (with use disc).
  • Gearbox drained and refilled
  • Front bearings shined (freeplay)
  • T-box replaced and filled (previous one leaking)
  • Rear differential drained and re-filled, differential bearings replaced.
Observations: Rear brake piping broke by master cylinder (mended with tubing but watch for loss of fluid). Pending work: Rear crank oil seal leaking L/H/S engine mount. Gearbox front seal. Clutch Master cylinder. Intake filter housing mounts x4.
Coolant leak All coolant had leaked out of coolant reservoir, causing the engine to overheat.  The leak was due to a small hole in the heater maxim, despite this having been recently replaced.
  • Coolant hose disconnected from heater as we do not use it and diverted.
147, 840 Vehicle broke down due to overheating Vehicle overheated and had to be towed back from close to Belize zoo to Belize City. Overheating had caused the engine block head to warp.
  • Blockhead was repaired in Spanish Lookout by having a thick metal plate welded to the bottom of it and then having 12 thousandths of an inch skimmed off to make it flat.
  • Radiator from NHT used in SW to replace damaged radiator from this vehicle and get it back on the road as quickly as possible.
147, 840 Cylinder head and radiator re-fitted
  • Damaged radiator was repaired by removing 2 sections of radiator core and soldering the ends to repair the holes left by the removal of the cores.
  • Radiator also flushed through.  Radiator is perfectly serviceable.
  • Cylinder head was refitted with new ‘no notch’ head gasket.
  • New 4 x Intake filter housing mount fitted
  • New clutch Master cylinder
  • New rear brake piping
NHT back on the road 25th Nov
N.B. Radiator in NHT is now the radiator previously fitted to the SW, a 2001 vehicle. Work still pending: Rear crank oil seal leaking L/H/S engine mount. Gearbox front seal.
147,500 Loss of Power Overtaking on the western highway, the engine had no power suddenly and a disturbing knocking. Towed. Yet another Rocker arm had broken.
  • The middle screws on the rocker cover were re-threaded to hold it down, because of some past ‘temporary’ fix. This one is now permanent (!)
148,500 6 month service
  • Oil and fuel filters changed
  • Front diff, rear diff, sump and T-box oil changed
  • Bearings checked
150,700 Extra work as stock received
  • Rear shock bushes replaced with new
The old bushes were split by the previous mechanic to squeeze them in. As such the shocks were putting pressure on a split bit of rubber, which did hardly anything and was a very temporary bodge.
LHS Gearbox mount due next service (not the engine mount)
153,500 Front prop sheared off The entire thing split off driving from GJ to Orange Walk. Remaining piece remove and driven in diff lock to garage where they replaced the front prop shaft with a used one. (new costs $900!)
154,700 Fan Belt Shredding Driving in Mountain Pine Ridge, the fan belt was shredding. It happened earlier on the Hummingbird Highway. A new fan belt was attached that then snapped. 2 fan blades had snapped off, so the fan wasn’t spinning in a true circle.
  • A Viscous Unit from another vehicle was fitted until the part arrives.
LHS Gearbox mount The new Viscous Unit to be installed when it arrives Fuel gauge stuck on full
156,000 Rear Shocks not working With a full load of people and bags, felt the rear suspension was different. On inspection, the rear shock bushes were loose and no pressure was being put at all on the rear shocks.
  • New rear shock lower bushes
  • Fuel tank level detector replaced
Rear shocks are at the end of their lifetime
158,100 L/H/R Shock Broken There had been some clanking lately, and on inspection of the undercarriage, the L/H/R shock had completely sheared through at the top neck.
  • Garage welded the two parts back together. A cheap fix that will probably break again (seeing as the original broke)
Rear shocks end of their lifetime
159,500 Top Link Bracket Broken off Vibrating Steering Power steering leak The bracket for the top link wishbone that holds the rear diff had sheared off two bolts and lost another. It affected sway on braking. Steering rod was also rubbing on the guard making vibration due to a worn damper bolt. Leak in the power steering system.
  • Bracket welded back on
  • Steering damper bolt replaced
Rear shocks end of their lifetime
159,900 Power steering leak Power steering leak started again after using the sealant. The tube into the pump had lost its ‘crimp’ and was leaking. No time now; to be fixed after JT Rear shocks end of their lifetime Power steering leak
Vehicle Inspection Full inspection done by garage with suggestions to bring the vehicle up to spec:
  • Rear number plate light
  • New Snorkel flex tube
  • All rear window glass channels
  • New L/H wing mirror
  • New Windscreen
  • New Sway bar ball joints
  • New Sway bar bushings
  • New rear axle flexible joints
  • New front prop rear UJ
  • Tighten headlights to improve focus
  • Repair broken brake lights
Also noted:
  • Bad connection on dashboard fuel gauge light
  • Needs new tires all round
  • Broken bonnet hinge
  • Interior light
  • Full Service needed
  • Rear shocks at end of their lifetime
  • Snorkel cover trashed
To be done during/after 07B2
160,000 Power steering leak fixed
  • New power steering pump lower hose
  • Brake light switch is broken, need a full day to repair.
Snorkel has been bashed around so much lately that the flexible bit has sheared, and the cover is rusting away.
See list 10th July
160,150 Rear Shock snapped Snorkel cover snapped R/H/R Shock absorber sheared off at the neck (like the left one did a few months ago). The cover for the snorkel snapped off by being bashed by trees. It’s lost.
  • Welded back together
See 10th July
160,200 6 Monthly Service and Tune-up A chance to get things back up to spec after years of battering.
  • New rear number plate light
  • L/H Headlight tightened
  • New Snorkel flex tube
  • New Sway bar ball joints
  • New Sway bar bushings
  • New rear axle flexible joints
  • New front prop rear UJ
  • Tighten headlights to improve focus
  • Repair broken brake lights
  • Dashboard secured
  • New Snorkel cover
  • New interior light bulb
  • New oil, air and fuel filters
  • Fluids changed, diff oil checked
  • Bearings checked and greased
  • Brake pads checked
  • New L/H wing mirror
New Windscreen All rear window glass channels (to fix the rattle) New brake light switch New rear shocks? Bonnet hinge New tires all round
160,950 Rear Shock destroyed The R/H/R shock split apart just from highway driving, and is irreparable. The damage last week must have been greater than expected.
  • Replaced with a usable shock from garage's Camel trophy disco!!!
  • L/H/R shock is not really worth replacing atm
See above.
161,750 Further Tune-up Works
  • Rear window channelling fixed. Rear-side window of each pair is now glued shut. Bit of a bodge.
  • Rear seats re-upholstered
  • Rear seats strengthened around base
  • New front windscreen
  • New brake light switch
New tires all round
- New Tires
  • New tires fitted. Hankook MTs replaced with Pirelli Scorpion Mud tires. Very good spec.
165,000 Broken Injector After lots of black smoke, misfiring and bad noises (thinking it was another broken rocker arm), it turned out to be a broken injector. The others are okay.
  • New injector in the engine
165,500 Steering Rod Snapped
  • Tried to remove steering rod to take back to be repaired, but didn’t have the right tools
  • Escorted BATSUB Royal Engineers to help us out remove the rod
165,500 Steering Rod replaced Bought a new steering rod from garage, drove out to truck and fitted it. Taken back to garage for intricate alignment.
  • New Steering rod
165,700 Broken Rocker Arm Same old story. Cloud of black smoke, no power and clanking in the engine. Splatter of oil on underside of bonnet. Limped back from Cristo Rey in low ratio as there was no power. The towed to garage.
  • Rocker arm replaced
  • Injector had exploded, replaced
165,900 Scraping noise The constant scraping noise, and more so when turning right was a completely worn R/H/R brake pad, which scratched up the hub. Front pads changed as well for continuity. The rotor is now grooved and needs machining to prevent premature wear of the pads on that wheel
  • All brake pads replaced
R/H/R Rotor needs machining
166,300 UJ, steering shudder and Viscous unit replacement The clunk from gear changes is just a worn out rear UJ. The slight steering shudder was a worn bushing. A new whirring noise had started and garage inspected and found the entire viscous unit was bust, meaning the fan didn’t spin to cool the engine. Luckily caught early….!
  • New rear prop rear UJ
  • New steering damper bushing
  • New Viscous Unit
R/H/R Rotor needs machining Front prop front UJ starting to wear R/H/R hub oil leak
167,150 6 month service
  • R/H/R brake disc machined smooth Cannot be further machined. Further damage will require new rotor
  • New engine oil
  • New oil filter
  • Air & fuel filters serviceable
  • New R/H/R hub seal, oil seal and drive shaft gasket
  • Propshafts/UJs greased
Front prop front UJ starting to wear Both flexible joints wearing Drop arm ball joint
167,200 Injector lubrication + Motor vehicle inspection Reverse light not working at Motor vehicle inspection for tax. Poured 2 pints of ATF fluid into the fuel tank to help lubricate the injectors. Front prop front UJ starting to wear Both flexible joints wearing Drop arm ball joint
167,650 Scraping noise from rear Turning left there was a big scraping noise, which progressed to driving straight as well. The R/H/R wheel was wobbling. Dropped into garage and they had mistakenly missed out a piece when repairing the seal last week. They took it all out and re-machined the threads on the stub axle screws. No charge.
  • New R/H/R hub seals and gaskets
Front prop front UJ starting to wear Both flexible joints wearing Drop arm ball joint Driver’s door locking mechanism dodgy Reverse light pins rusted Brakes are a bit soft Smashed R/H side light
- Hissing noise from bonnet The noise was a burst intercooler pipe spraying out oil.
  • New intercooler rubber pipe bend.
Front prop front UJ starting to wear Both flexible joints wearing Drop arm ball joint Driver’s door locking mechanism dodgy Smashed R/H side light
- Clonking sound when changing gear
  • New RHR drive member
  • New RHR stub axle
  • New steering damper bush
Needs new drive shaft and drive member on rear drivers side
- Broke at Burrell Boom
  • Replaced rear flexible mounts
  • New LHR drive shaft & drive member
  • Replaced universal joint
  • Replaced drop arm kit (wobbly steering wheel)
  • New snorkel hose
  • New RHR brake pipe to fix soft brakes
- Vehicle rolled Vehicle stranded upside down on Mountain Pine Ridge.
- Vehicle received from garage + 5,000km service
  • Mechanically sound. Fluids serviced.
  • Roof rack bent out of shape and ditched.
  • Damage to both front wings,
  • RHR wing,
  • Smashed windscreen,
  • Smashed RHR window
  • Mud jammed in RHF Tire; needs reseating
  • Bonnet won’t open properly
  • Bonnet tire mounting warped so can’t be removed
  • Radiator loose
  • Passenger door doesn’t shut properly
  • Smashed L/H sidelight lens
New windscreen
173,600 Replaced windscreen
  • New windscreen
173,650 Wheel scraping noise and Works
  • RHR inner brake pad replaced (was worn completely in 4 months and scraping)
  • Removed sway bar (bushes worn, do we need it anyway?!?)
  • Rear shocks tightened
  • 1 pint of ATF fluid in fuel tank
  • Bent back bonnet tire mount
174,400 6 Month Tire Rotation
  • Rotated all tires
  • New bumper from BATSUB
175,600 Broken UJ
  • New front prop, rear UJ
175,900 Works
  • RHF new sidelight lens
176,400 Shock bushes
  • New rear shock bushes, except LH top bush
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