Car Stories: I’ve Had A ‘Headache Of An Experience’ With The New Land Rover Defender — What Should I Do?

New Land Rover Defender
(Photo: Enrico N., sent to TFLcar)

Having issues with your new Land Rover Defender? You aren’t the only one.

By now, many of you out there in the TFL community are well aware of our experience with the new Land Rover Defender. If you’re not, you can catch up on our current status in this update video.

This time the story isn’t about our Defender, though. A reader reached out to us over the weekend to describe their own experience that ‘mirrored’ what we encountered.

Here’s their account:

“My name’s Enrico and I split my time between houses in California and a state over from you guys in Utah. Love the channel and after seeing your Defender series I wanted to share my headache of an experience with the new Land Rover Defender I just bought last month that mirrored yours. I purchased the rig in LA on Nov. 18th and my girlfriend and I planned to drive it back to Salt Lake that weekend, but oh how life showed us how wrong we were…

About 150 miles outside LA the check engine light came on and a low coolant level warning flashed on the LED instrument cluster. I bought a loaded SE version at an MSRP just over $70,000…($78,000 out the door with CA tax, ouch) with the MHEV straight-6. This was my 9th Land Rover so the “idiosyncrasies” of the brand in the realm of reliability was a reality I was all too familiar with. But, a multi-system failure in less than 200 miles was a new one. I called the LA dealer and since we were in the middle of the Mojave desert they told me to pull over and check the fluid level and fill if necessary.

So we waited in the moonlight wilderness of a California gas station with a bottle of coolant and a bag of turkey jerky at the ready feeling our lives ebb toward perdition ever more slowly as the engine cooled down. Popped the hood looked at the coolant level of a cold engine block and it was right at the max line…perfect. So I started the car, told the dealer and they advised me to bring the 110 Def to Land Rover Las Vegas for a service diagnostic. 

New Land Rover Defender
(Image: Land Rover)

We dropped off the Pangea Green Defender the next morning to the service department, and spent an unplanned day in Vegas. Not my favorite city, but I digress. The next morning we were told that two fault codes had returned for the check engine warning. Fault codes P0446 and P144B stored in the PCM, a drive train malfunction and an evaporative purge malfunction. They said all systems were performing within parameters however, cleared the codes and sent us  on our way to Salt Lake claiming the issue was most likely software related and instructing us to deliver it to Salt Lake City Land Rover Service immediately after arriving.

‘I haven’t seen it since’

We climbed into the Defender and made a swift getaway from LV and almost like clockwork, upon crossing the Utah border another check engine light flashed on the instrument panel. That was Nov. 23. We drove straight to Land Rover Salt Lake City that day, handed the Defender’s key to service, and I haven’t seen it since.

In the past 3 weeks, they’ve referenced the same fault code P144B. However, their diagnostics were unable to confirm the underlying issues because they identified a severance of communication between the computer governing the vehicle’s evaporative purge system and the vehicle’s computer system. The following week after delivery to LR SLC, a JLR tech overseas had to be called in to write a software patch specific to the car to hopefully address the disconnect between computer systems. The service computer systems in Utah were unable to read the patch and apply it to the Defender’s CPU. The following week, the decision was made to replace the entire purge valve system and address the system fault from a hardware change and override.

This is where we are in this 3-week odyssey. What would you do? I’ve been given some advice by JLR techs and staff that I’ve dealt with in the past to Lemon Law it, but I was really excited about the 110. My family is from Italy and I have such fond memories of seeing these trucks on the farms around our village in Tuscany or tearing up cool dirt roads and seeing them parked in forests for truffle hunts. But maybe I should just get a Land Cruiser or RAV4 Prime.”

What should Enrico do with his new Land Rover Defender?

First off, Enrico, I’m sorry you’ve had to endure these issues with your new Defender. It’s frustrating to encounter these issues in just the first few hundred miles, no doubt. That’s especially true when it’s something you’ve been excited to get for a long time (and paid a healthy amount of money to have).

Insofar as Lemon Laws are concerned, every state is a little bit different at least when it comes to parameters, so it may be worth seeking more formal legal advice than we here at TFL can give on how to proceed. Ultimately, the decision comes down to what you’re able and want to do, balancing your desire to have the new Defender with the more practical matters of repairing it so early in its life.

If you all out there in the community want to put your two cents in, leave a comment below.

Despite the issues, we are still excited to test out our Land Rover Defender in the coming months.