01 November 2022
Servicing a Discovery 3 or Range Rover Sport is relatively simple for a garage with the necessary equipment. Alisdair Cusick shows what’s involved
Need to know
Time: 4 hours.
Difficulty: 2 out of 5 stars
Models: 2.7 TDV6 Discovery 3 and Range Rover Sport 1.
Tools needed: Socket set, spanners, oil filter grips, screwdriver, seal pick, brake fluid tester, coolant tester, rags, torch, water pump pliers, pry bar, brush and anti-seize paste, lubricant, oil catch tray.
Parts needed: Service Kit (DA6035COM) £51.82.
• Wear eye protection when working under a vehicle.
• Always support the vehicle on suitably-rated equipment in serviceable condition, never rely on a jack.
• Keep hands and fingers clear of potentially moving parts – air suspension components might move even after the ignition is switched off.
• Use the right tool for the right job.
Thanks to: Britpart and Steve Grant for their help with this feature.
Regular and competent servicing plays a huge role in the correct performance and reliability of Land Rovers. For years, DIY owners were always broadly familiar with the processes needed to service their beam-axled Defender, Range Rover or Discovery. The design and mechanicals were common across the range, so differences evolved relatively slowly. That all changed with the advent of the Discovery 3 and sister car, the Range Rover Sport. A step change for enthusiasts familiar with traditional Solihull products, the cars were heavier, relied more on electronics, and were perceived as more complicated and less DIY-friendly.
That change isn’t entirely bad news. Those models are more complicated for repair work, but from a servicing perspective, basic jobs still rely on traditional principles of drain plugs, filters and fluids. Indeed, for anyone familiar with servicing older Land Rovers, which centre around 6000 to 24,000-mile fluid service intervals, a TDV6 model might almost appear low maintenance, as some fluids aren’t drained for 75,000 and 150,000 miles. However, there are some servicing tasks we would ask a specialist to perform, such as the camshaft and fuel pump timing belts and tensioners. But even on a basic service the complications of vehicle weight and air suspension mean underside jobs such as oil changes and fuel filter replacements and general underside checks should be entrusted to a garage with a vehicle lift, unless you are able to competently and safely raise and support the vehicle.
At LRM Technical, we suggest servicing isn’t just a job to get out of the way. Rather, it allows opportunity for close inspection of the Land Rover to confirm all is well, or to spot the little problems that can crop up on these cars. Familiarity with the vehicle means signs of issues are spotted before they become a concern which, in the long run, maximises reliability.
With the help of Britpart’s Steve Grant and LRM’s Ed Evans, we’ll walk you through the tasks that go into servicing a 2.7-litre TDV6 Discovery 3 or Range Rover Sport and, crucially, what else to keep an eye on, now that the vehicles are ageing. But first, a mention of the basics. A model-specific workshop manual should always be used for reference when servicing any Land Rover. It’s important to understand not just the processes, but also the reasons for doing a task.
That said, the first job is to drive the car 10 miles or so, up to full operating temperature. Does it brake, steer, run and drive as you would expect? Are there any strange vibrations, noises, suspension knocks or so on? Drive it in low range, too, noting anything of concern for investigation later. Whether you’re doing the work, or a garage on your behalf, spotting and being able to pinpoint the problem is an important step. It’s best to write a clear and concise list of any concerns that you’d like the garage to check.
We start under the bonnet where there are a number of filters to change, along with the engine oil, which is usually drained first (the engine should be warm to help drain the oil). Whilst that is left to drain into a suitably sized container, there’s time to attend to the other tasks. It’s important to adhere to a specific servicing routine and sequence so that nothing is missed.
Fluids have different service intervals on a 2.7-litre TDV6 compared with traditional Solihull vehicles: engine oil and oil filter is every 15,000 miles, gearbox fluids 150,000 miles, axles are 75,000 miles, transfer box is 80,000 miles and coolant is a 10-year interval.
We’re using vehicle lifts to obtain good and safe access under the vehicles and, given the weight and the fact that both vehicle types have air suspension (some early D3s had coils), we recommend this as the best approach. If it is necessary to raise and support the vehicle by other means, correctly-rated jacking equipment should be used and the vehicle subsequently supported on suitably rated stands placed under the chassis. Never work under a vehicle wholly or partly supported by a jack. In addition to suitable chassis stands, we recommend placing secondary supports under the vehicle in case it is accidentally dislodged. Be aware that the air suspension can move even after the ignition is switched off, changing the orientation of components and reducing the clearance between tyre and wheelarch without warning.
Plastic fantastic: It might look different, but the TDV6 engine has similar basic service needs to a traditional Land Rover. The components are just neatly hidden under plastic covers.
Filter up top: The engine cover pulls off and Steve removes the oil filter housing (32mm socket). He works slowly – the oil filter has a locating dowel, which can snap off.
Special tool: The oil filter is held inside the housing and is extracted here using a T-shaped removal tool which locates inside the filter centre, allowing it to be pulled.
In the groove: A new seal is fitted on the oil filter housing, ensuring it seats correctly. The seal is given a dab of clean oil to prevent tearing when the housing is refitted.
Dowel location: Land Rover way: the new filter goes in the housing, which screws onto the engine. Some people report issues locating the filter dowel when doing it this way.
Another way: Alternatively, some people put the filter on the engine to help locate the vital dowel first, then screw on the housing. Either way, the housing is torqued to 25Nm.
Dirty work: With the car on a vehicle lift, Steve removes the engine undertray. The fixings may well be corroded. Copper grease helps for next time around.
Out with the old: The sump plug is removed and oil is drained into a suitably-sized container. It is given a good while to fully drain. Time for a cup of tea.
Not to be overlooked: The sump plug is carefully refitted with a new washer (or new plug and washer) after the sump has drained. The engine undertray is now refitted.
Safe to fill up: With drain plug fitted, in goes 5.7 litres of fully-synthetic 5w30. The engine is run briefly, the oil allowed to settle, then topped up to maximum on the dipstick.
Interval reset: The service interval indicator needs resetting. This is one task that will require a diagnostic tool to perform – it’s a handy tool to own with this type of vehicle.
Stopping power: Next we check the brake fluid using a tester. Being hydroscopic, it absorbs water with age, so checking this is important. The fluid service interval is 36 months.
Coolant maintenance: Steve checks the coolant concentration, vital for both corrosion and frost protection. We top up using concentrate, not water. Service interval for coolant is 10 years.
Clear breathing: Ed undoes the air filter top cover screws, then replaces the air filter. The service interval is 45,000 miles, but many owners replace this with every oil service.
Matrix check: We check the drive belts for splits, and heat exchangers for signs of leaks or damage. Ed removes the grille here (it only takes seconds) to improve access.
Overlooked, but crucial: One job often missed is lubricating the bonnet hinges, catches and mechanisms. We use oil, not white grease, which does nothing. Door hinges and locks are lubricated, too.
Safe systems: All lighting functions are confirmed, including numberplate bulbs, interior lights and dash warning lights. Wiper and washer systems are checked for condition and functionality.
Cabin: The cabin pollen filter behind the passenger glovebox is replaced. These often get ignored, but greatly affect ventilation performance. Note the airflow direction is marked on the filter.
Clean job: While our hands are still clean we inspect the seat belts fully for any signs of fraying, and confirm correct buckle function, including the Discovery’s rearmost seats, where fitted.
Fuel filter types
The fuel filter sedimentor needs draining every 15,000 miles, but the fuel filter itself is replaced every 30,000 miles. Note there are two types of fuel filter across the 2.7 TDV6 models. The early filter type is located by the right-hand side of the gearbox up to VIN 7A000000. The later, smaller fuel filter is fitted to VIN 7A onward, mounted slightly further back, above a crossmember on the right-hand chassis rail. Here’s how to change both types of TDV6 fuel filter.
Drain first: Ed’s Sport has the early type. Drain the sedimentor as best practice, then undo the fixing bolt holding the filter clamp. We’d dab copper grease on the bolt, too.
Knowledge is power: The new filter feeds are marked for flow direction, which we keep in mind. We’d label the pipes on the car if needed, or simply take a photograph.
Disconnecting: The fuel pipes are undone by squeezing each side of the pipe clip. It needs firm force, but isn’t difficult. We avoid mixing the pipe feeds around.
Reconnection: The old filter is removed and the new one fitted, tightening the clamp fixing. The fuel pipe feeds are pushed back on, matching the flow directions on the feeds.
Location: Vehicles from VIN 7A000000 have their fuel filter mounted on the right-hand side, further back. The heat shield is removed (note the corrosion at the fixing holes).
Sensor here: This later fuel filter incorporates a water sensor on the bottom. The sensor’s wiring connector clip is disconnected, pulling at the connector, never the wiring itself.
Removal: The fuel filter should just twist off, and release by hand; they’re sometimes stubborn, needing encouragement with filter grips. We keep it level, as it contains fuel.
Water sensor: Not all replacement filters have the sedimentor type that accepts the
sensor. We mark the orientation of the sedimentor on the new filter and swap it over.
Fitting the new: The new filter is twisted fully into the holder and sensor wire connected. Large washers are used over the heatshield’s corroded bolt holes when refitting the shield.
That is each type of fuel filter replaced, but the system will need bleeding. To do this, Steve cycles the ignition to position ‘II’ and holds it on for ten seconds, then ten seconds off, and repeats. The fuel pump now bleeds itself as the air cycles back to the tank. We check the system for any signs of leaks, then start the car.
Differentials and gearboxes
Service intervals for the remaining drivetrain are 75,000 miles for differentials, 80,000 for the transfer gearbox, and 150,000 for the main gearbox (auto or manual), but there’s also a 10-year time interval for main gearbox fluid. Our Range Rover Sport needs a transfer box fluid change, so we take this opportunity to demonstrate here the basic principle to stick to on these later Land Rovers. Namely: always undo the filler plug first. Previous Land Rovers used large, square-drive plugs and drains which rarely caused issues. These later models use Allen head plugs, which can round off if the wrong tool is used. If you remove the drain first and allow the fluid out, you are stuck if you then find the filler plug has been mangled. So with any component that uses two fluid plugs, get into the habit of always undoing a fill point before a drain. This tip might one day save you immense grief.
Vital LRM tech tip: Always undo the filler plug first. Use a well-fitting tool, and if a plug looks remotely dodgy, replace it. A mangled one might round-out when refitting.
What is full? We fill slowly, to keep a steady level thus preventing potential air locks or false levels. We stop when fluid flows steadily out from the filler hole.
Brake check: Road wheels are removed in turn to inspect brakes and hoses, checking discs for remaining thickness and lipping, and pads for thickness and even wear.
Split seals? We examine the condition of steering and driveshaft gaiters, and check fluid hoses and wiring for leaks, chafing or damage, particularly the park brake cable at the rear.
The tyre tells all: Tyre pressure and wear is assessed. Uneven wear suggests a suspension bush is worn or a full four-wheel alignment is needed. Accurate alignment is crucial.
Pry about: Using a pry bar, we test each suspension bush for play and correlate that to tyre wear, wheel-to-wheel, checking the tyres are wearing as we’d expect.
Riding on air: The air suspension is operated from fully raised to fully lowered, noting the car sits level and that airbags are in good order. We check height sensors, too.
That is the basic service performed. The original maintenance schedule was written with new vehicles in mind, though. Now that these vehicles are approaching two decades old, what else should we give our attention to?
Get in there: Using a torch, we look across the back body at the brake lines for corrosion. A light smear of grease can help, where the brake lines can be reached.
Suspension details: Suspension arms corrode, usually on the top faces of the leading arm, so we check these. We also examine the small roll-bar links Ed is pointing to.
Rust – on a D3? We remove the spare wheel (don’t forget how to) and inspect the inside face of the rear crossmember. We are seeing corrosion here on these models now.
Deeper still: Turning to look forward in that compartment, we inspect the brake line for signs of corrosion. Replacing them is tricky because access is very limited.
Cradle crust: The fuel tank support cradle can corrode badly. If severe corrosion is found, the cradle needs immediate replacement. Consider extra corrosion protection.
The park brake on a Discovery 3 or Range Rover Sport operates differently to the older Land Rovers we might be used to. Rather than work off a simple, manually-operated separate transmission brake, they use a pair of electronically-controlled shoes which operate on a drum face machined into the inside of the rear brake discs. In this shot, Steve has removed the brake disc, and we can see the pair of park brake shoes, surrounding the hub.
To remove the disc, we need diagnostic software to tell the park brake to go into mount mode. This permits removal of the disc after first removing the brake caliper. This isn’t a service task you would normally perform unless changing the brake pad or disc; we have done it for demonstration. That said, if a rear disc is removed, it’s worth taking time to clean the park brake shoes and local area. Issues with park brakes can arise from accumulated brake dust, which prevents effective operation over time.
Adjusting park brake: This geared cam is rotated using a tool through a hole in the brake disc with the brake in ‘mount’ mode until the correct clearance is obtained.
Keeping on top
The best way to preserve the reliability of your Discovery 3 or Range Rover Sport is to ensure timely and competent servicing is carried out. Keep those fluids fresh, keep an eye on tyre wear to catch suspension issues early, and these superb Land Rovers will have the best chance of staying reliable.
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