Land Rover Experience. What does this mean? It means different things to different
people. For some it is an adventure to own a vehicle that offers much more than a
normal vehicle, while for others it is the start of endless headaches and frustration.
Here is my Land Rover experience.

I was fortunate to shrug off my sports car fantasies in my early twenties. Selling my
BMW 318is and buying a second hand Toyota RAV4 was the best thing that
happened to me. I went places I would have never gone to in my BMW. Camping
and visiting beautiful sites in Mpumalanga was at the order of the day.

When starting a new career in the fertilizer industry in January 2001, I was forced to
buy a new vehicle according to the company’s vehicle policy. With middle and top
management all driving 4X4’s (Mitsubishi Colt, Toyota Hilux, Honda CRV, Jeep
Cherokee, Isuzu Frontier), I decided that I can’t be left out. This was exiting times.
I decided to buy myself a real 4X4 that was easy to drive, not too big and with an
acceptable fuel consumption. Fuel consumption was important, as it was part of my
job to visit the four business units and two factories on a regular basis.

After fighting off everyone advising me not to buy a Land Rover, I went ahead and
bought a new Land Rover Freelander Td4 automatic three door. I received my new
Freelander on 29 May 2001. The best car I ever had. The potholes between the
office and the business units / factories were no contest for my “big wheels”. Traction
control handled loose dirt, mud and water puddles with ease - My Freelander does not
even feel them! You might wonder why I chose the automatic transmission. The
two-liter diesel engine delivers more than enough power to make it a pleasurable
drive. And Jo’burg traffic! While other drivers struggled through the gears, I was
just relaxing with my automatic.

That was the nice part. No vehicle comes without its problems. I soon discovered
that some vehicles come with lots and lots of problems. I soon realised that the lower
to the bottom of the range you buy the lower the level of satisfactory support you can
expect. If you can call a R 232 000 vehicle bottom of the range. I experienced a “So
what if we can’t fix your vehicle” attitude from Land Rover.

I would advice every new Land Rover owner is to note every date, problem and
person spoken to, while you have your Land Rover, as I have not done so since day
one. The sequence of the following events is therefore listed according to the best of
my recollection.

I collected my new Freelander with a gap on the front left hand side where the front
and the side bumper joins. The gap was probably four times as big as the respective
gap on the front right hand side. I showed this to the sales consultant the first time I
had the chance to go back to the Land Rover Menlyn dealership where I bought my
Freelander. The sales consultant immediately went to look for someone in the
workshop to do the modification. No success, the workshop was closed and the staff
had already gone home. He offered to adjust the bumper himself, as he was used to
doing these small adjustments in the past. I got my Freelander back the next morning.
A perfect fix. To this day, no further adjustments to the bumper were needed.

The one thing that the Land Rover team could never get right, was the wheel
alignment. My Freelander was drifting sharp left off the road whenever I let go of
the steering wheel. A clear indication that the vehicle wants to be taken off-road.
Supa Quick in Hatfield eventually got it right. Although it was a design or factory
fault, I paid for the work performed myself to have the luxury of driving a vehicle that
can run straight.

It did not take long before I had the pleasure of visiting my sales consultant again.
This time the air conditioner stopped working. Fortunately for me it was already
winter. Once again I was without transport for a day and could leave the office early
to collect my vehicle after repairs were done.

The last time I took my Freelander to the Menlyn dealership, was when I found a
strange bracket in the boot of my Freelander. Not being told what it was when I
collected my vehicle, I went back to the dealership on the weekend and inquire about
the purpose of the bracket. The technician told me that I must go to Steellite to have
the bracket fitted. Apparently, if you fit a non-Land Rover towbar, the towing hook is
taken off. The bracket apparently also has something to do with the exhaust. Nobody
could advise me what the consequences of not having this particular bracket could be,
so I left Land Rover Menlyn, not knowing if the exhaust will fall off.

Then there have always been the rattles. The speakers, door, sunroof and the ceiling
panels began to rattle. After several attempts to rectify the problem, I gave up. I can’t
spend my whole life at Land Rover Centurion. Every time I took my Freelander in I
arrive late for work and have to leave the office early to collect my vehicle.

Since I had my Freelander I have asked the service advisors at Land Rover Menlyn
and Centurion why my Freelander displays SPORT when I turn the ignition to start
the vehicle. It is suppose to start in P for Park. To this day, still a mystery.

One Saturday, after driving my Freelander for a few months, I asked a technician at
Land Rover Centurion again why the vehicle start in SPORT mode. The technician
connected my Freelander to a testing station (laptop) and explained that my
Freelander was still configured for UK and not for South Africa. A worrying
thought, remembering that the vehicle has been for two services already. The starting
in SPORT mode was not fixed by reconfiguring the vehicle.

One day on my way from work I heard a strange noise when braking. I thought that it
could not be the brakes, as my Freelander was serviced only a week ago. I took the
vehicle in on a Saturday just to make sure that it wasn’t something serious. Needless
to say the brake pads were a shiny metal. The brake pads were replaced immediately
as I was advised not to drive another kilometer. Is the purpose of a service not to
check for these kinds of maintenance?

Since day one I have often heard a bumping sound at the back when going over speed
bumps. No matter at what speed I drove over a speed bump, the sound remained the
same. After I started to complain several times (and of cause after a few services) the
workshop tried turning the coil spring (or that is the story they told my wife). After I
took the vehicle back time and again, they realised that the left rear shock was
broken. Once again, is nothing checked during a service? A service I pay a lot of
money for, expecting to be notified of any required repairs or circumstances that
could be dangerous. Or is it just an example of the Land Rover commitment and
service to their customers? Bottom of the range vehicle gets bottom of the range

Collecting my Freelander after a service is usually a highlight in my life. I usually
can’t stand the excitement to discover what could be wrong next. I was not
disappointed when collecting my vehicle the one time. At first everything seemed
right. Parking my Freelander in my garage at home, I struggled to get the key out of
the ignition. At closer investigation (and hopefully no damage to the ignition) I
looked at the key. The key was bent. Going back to the dealership (again), they told
me that it was impossible that they could have been responsible for bending the key,
as the key is left in the vehicle for the duration of the service. I waited almost three
weeks for the dealership to replace the key.

A bent key is not the only damage that a dealership can cause to a vehicle. I collect
my Freelander after the following service (or repairs – I can’t remember). As usual,
something was wrong. What will I see as I climbed into my Freelander? A dent in
the doorstep on the driver side. Disappointed and frustrated I went back to the service
advisor to discuss the incident. The service manager was called in. The service
manager wanted to know from everybody how the dent could have gotten there, while
I just wanted to know what they were prepared to do to repair the damage. Eventually
the service manager (appearing very irritated with a Freelander driver) decided that
the dealership would repair the dent, although he does not believe that it was caused
during the service. I asked them to arrange for a courtesy car, as my colleagues were
getting irritated to pick me up from the dealership and be late for work. Someone
from the dealership would call me the next day to advice when a courtesy car would
be available. Three days later I phoned the service advisor to inquire on the status of
the matter. The service advisor told me that the service manager said that the cause of
the dent is “debatable”. This was the point were I have lost my last bit of patience
and respect for Land Rover customer service. Making me the liar. If only I knew that
a dent was nothing compared to what was coming.

In November 2002 my Freelander started behaving abnormally, after only 65 000
kilometers. Off to the dealership yet again. I mentioned to the service advisor that
the vehicle is losing power. They concluded that it is a faulty air flow meter. With
no available parts, the dealership is willing to give me a rental car until the parts are
received. I consulted them if I will damage anything if I drive with a faulty air flow
meter. Besides a lack of power, nothing will break. I phoned the service advisor
regular to inquire about the status of the ordered parts. The time to leave on holiday
came closer and still no news of new parts. I asked the service advisor to ask the
Land Rover dealership in George if they don’t have any parts, as I will be on holiday
close to George. I am still waiting for an answer.

I could feel the lack of power between Pretoria and Mosselbaai on 13 December
2002, but I got to my destination. During a visit to Stellenbosch, the vehicle was
performing as usual. I argued that is was the wonder of driving close to sea level.

My Christmas gift from Land Rover was a total loss of power. The best the vehicle
could perform on any uphill was between 20-40 km/h. The solution from Land Rover
Assist was to wait until 27 December and take the vehicle to the nearest dealership,
i.e. George. Driving to George was a true Land Rover Experience. Any speed you
can think of. From 120 km/h to 20 km/h in just ten seconds on any uphill.

Reaching George, we discovered quite a few Freelander owners complaining about
their vehicles. The Land Rover George dealership also diagnosed my vehicle with
having a faulty air flow meter and kindly replaced it with an air flow meter they had
in stock. During the test drive in town the vehicle was fine, but taking to the open
road, the total loss of power came back. The friendly technician decided to take
another look. After reloading the Freelander software restored the power and
performance until a few kilometers outside George. As I recall, it was probably the
third time that I (myself) have seen a technician reload the software on my vehicle.

The same day the vehicle started losing power again. Reaching for assistance, I
contacted Land Rover Assist a few times. Not the right choice. “No assistance unless
your vehicle has broken down next to the road and you are unsafe.” Contacting the
Centurion dealership had the same result. “Can help you transport your unreliable
vehicle from Mosselbaai to Pretoria, but it will take long to get the vehicle back to

On 2 January 2003 my holiday was over and I started my journey to Pretoria. The
longest prayer in history was recorded on 2 January 2003 from Mosselbaai to
Gauteng. Old unfaithful made it home.

Work started on Friday, 3 January 2003. I decided to deliver my Freelander to the
Centurion dealership to repair whatever was wrong. The first comment when phoning
up a colleague to pick me up at the dealership for work was “What do you do to your

The intermediate fuel pump and the booster modulators were replaced and I collected
my Freelander on Tuesday, 7 January 2003. On Saturday, 11 January 2003, I took
the vehicle was back to Land Rover Centurion. There was still something wrong with
the vehicle.

This time the injectors, brake booster vacuum hose and another hose, somewhere
between the gear lever and gearbox was replaced. Apparently an air conditioner hose
also came lose as the vehicle was taken for a test drive by the technician. I asked the
service advisor: “ what was next?”

I collected the vehicle on Wednesday, 22 January 2003. The service advisor was
confident that they have sorted out the problem and that he would see me at the next
service. He was confident, I was skeptic.

I was only about two kilometers from the dealership, when clouds of smoke appeared
from the back of my vehicle. When the smoke didn’t clear, I pulled to the side of the
road and called for help. A technician with a Land Rover Assist vehicle arrived half
an hour later. Luckily I was only three kilometers away from the dealership. How
long would it have taken if I was thirty kilometers away? Half an hour to assist an
already disgusted and frustrated Land Rover owner. He advised me to drive back to
the dealership, being Land Rover Centurion. Not far where we started from, smoke
still pouring out, I stopped immediately when the engine warning light came on
together with several other warning lights. I was towed the last stretch to the
dealership. The look on the service advisor’s face as I was towed into the dealership.

The cause for the smoke was a lose injector they replaced just the day before. My
next questions to the service team was a nervous:
- “What has been damaged now?”
- “What other faults have you not discovered yet?”
- “Wasn’t the vehicle tested by means of a test drive or on the computer after the
repairs were performed?”

My father spent half a day at the dealership on 23 January 2003. The vehicle was
tested and analysed several times on the computer, previous job cards were inspected
and many issues were discussed during my father’s visit. My father persuaded me to
collect the vehicle. I collected my Freelander on Saturday, 25 January 2003. Was it
not for his time and intervention, my vehicle would probably still be faulty.

After collecting my Freelander on 25 January 2003, I went to a tyre dealer to replace
the tyres. I found the toolbox open, where the lock nut is stored. Giving the lock nut
to the tyre dealer, he was quick to show me that the lock nut was broken. During the
70 000 kilometers traveled with my Freelander, I never changed the tyres, thus never
used the lock nut before. I went back to Land Rover Centurion where I was issued
with a new lock nut.

On Monday, 27 January 2003, I was back at Land Rover Centurion. The vehicle is
once again starting in SPORT mode. The service manager explained that it is not
harmful to the vehicle. Harmful? Perhaps not. But still not preferable or right.

On 28 or 29 January 2003, I called Land Rover Centurion to ask for advice or
assistance, since the vehicle lost power on the evening of 28 January 2003. The
service advisor was out to a doctor’s appointment and I was promised that he would
call me as soon as he returned. I am still waiting for his call.

I am of the opinion that Land Rover does not have any idea what could be wrong with
my vehicle, nor has Land Rover the correct tools and machinery to analyse what is
wrong with a BMW engine.

During this whole ordeal with my Freelander, I was not contacted nor was my calls
returned more than three times by someone employed by Land Rover.

The conclusion I came to during my Land Rover Experience is that there is no chance
of affording a Land Rover Freelander after the warranty has expired.