We often joke around the workshop that a Land Rover Defender can be taken apart using a combination of 10mm and 13mm sockets and spanners. But that’s only partially true. You’ll also need a big hammer and some penetrating oil to encourage old bolts to break loose.
The simple truth is that working on a Land Rover Defender is a relatively straightforward process This is due to a variety of factors:
- Parts are inexpensive and easy to find
- The Defender is mechanically very simple
- There is a large community of enthusiastic supporters
- Most neighborhood mechanics will be able to perform 99% of the work
- We’re always here to help
A Word of Caution
Most of this guide will be geared towards people willing and interested in doing a little work on their Defender for themselves and have foundational grasp on the use basic shop tools. Even without that, we’ve found that many of our customers enjoy cutting their teeth on some of the more simple maintenance tasks. Start small and work your way up and before long you’ll be pulling the motor and swapping in a 460 horsepower LS3 eRod crate motor. Maybe, but hopefully not.
To clarify our statement that maintaining a vintage Land Rover Defender can be very easy: this should be prefaced with the statement that the base vehicle should be in good shape to start with. Far too many Defenders pop up online for sale that have been neglected over the years – creating a cascading effect of mechanical issues that will leave you frustrated and disappointed. With the Bishop+Rook Certified Defender program, we sort that all out for you, of course. Spending a little bit more on your base Defender will pay great dividends down the road. When working with your budget, we strongly encourage you to focus on the mechanical stability of your Defender over cosmetic enhancements. Those features are very easy to add later on.
Parts, Supplies, and Vendors
A quick google search for Land Rover Defender parts will yield you an extensive list of vendors selling not only basic service parts, but also a variety of aftermarket upgrades. The Land Rover Defender production spanned several decades, with many of the parts and components having multi-year runs – meaning that parts are readily available at very reasonable prices. We publish a page on some of our favorite Land Rover Defender Parts Vendors.
The Lack of Computers Simplifies Defender Maintenance
One of our customers recently asked us if the Defender was “EMP Proof.” After realizing what he was asking, it was a very simple answer: yes, the Defender will survive both an Electromagnetic Pulse Weapon and deadly solar flares. So, if your dream is to survive as a roaming warrior of the badlands, the Defender might be the vehicle for you. Most of the Defenders currently available on the market will have zero computer controls, with nearly all the critical components designed to be serviced in the field, if necessary. When you remove the complications of computer controlled injection you’re left with fewer components and areas to create problems.
Diesel also happens to be a natural lubricant, meaning that internal engine components generally last much longer than their petrol brothers and sisters. As with any moving component, some things will wear out over time. Your environment and how you drive the Defender will directly impact the service intervals and longevity of the vehicle. Like any other car, you’ll have to replace burnt out light bulbs, get the brakes serviced, change air/oil filters, and generally ensure the Defender is running as efficiently as possible.
How To Keep Your Defender on the Road
Our recent “Quick Guide: Land Rover Defender Mechanical Restoration Priorities” highlights some of the key areas we tend to focus on with our extensive mechanical refresh process. You can use this same checklist if you’re buying a Defender from someone else – missing maintenance records are generally a sign that the vehicle has traded hands far too many times, the work wasn’t performed, or the records were simply not kept. If you’re buying from an individual, they should be able to provide some form of vehicle history. If you’re buying from a dealer, they should be able to itemize the services they’ve performed to get the Defender ready for sale. As for those guys selling out of their garage and driveway with second-hand knowledge of recent repairs? We don’t like to judge.
The best way to keep your Defender on the road is to find the local Land Rover Community and make yourself known. If there’s one thing that Land Rover enthusiasts enjoy is welcoming someone into the group. They will be an invaluable resource as you search for parts and expertise. And it’s also pretty common for us Landy nuts to lend a hand to a fellow fanatic. The next thing to do is to find a local mechanic that either had experience working on older vehicles, or is old enough to tell you stories of cars you’ve never heard of. Don’t be fooled by fancy dealerships and showrooms – none of the technicians in the back will have any idea what to do on your Defender. If there’s not a computer to plug into, they’re generally not that effective.
The last thing you should do is start tinkering around, read message boards, and watch all of the Britanica Restoration’s video series on YouTube. Mike is an amazing source of knowledge and tips on how to keep these icons on the road. For those of you who don’t own a Defender yet, watching the Britanica videos can be entertaining by themselves. We keep them on in the workshop all day long and we’re always amazed at what we learn.
What Else Should We Ad?
We’re constantly updating the guide to include as much information as possible to help people transition to Defender ownership. Submit your questions below and we’ll address it right here.