Our Tow Vehicle – Land Rover Discovery 3

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10/05/2015  When Di and I decided in 2012 that we wanted to go caravanning, the search began for a suitable tow vehicle. Our requirements were that it must have good fuel economy, be comfortable on all road surfaces, be capable of towing 3,500kg, and have a good reputation as an off-road vehicle. After much research, we narrowed the choices to a Land Rover Discovery 3. A 2008 model was located that had led a very quiet life with only 40,000kms on the clock. After purchase, the next two years were spent choosing a caravan, and during that time the Disco was our daily driver.

In 2013, I went on a 6,500km three-week Boys Trip with our two sons from Brisbane to the tip of Cape York and back to test how the Disco would perform under rough conditions. To prepare for that trip and our forthcoming extended caravan travels around Australia, the Landy was modified with the following to turn it from a lazy urban shopping trolley into a serious expedition vehicle:

  • Opposite Lock bullbar
  • VRS 12,500lb electric winch
  • Safari snorkel
  • Sump guard
  • Front Runner roof rack with twin jerry can mount, shovel mount, axe mount, hi lift jack and mount
  • 2.5m x 2.1m rack-mounted side awning
  • Swingaway rear wheel carrier (for second spare wheel)
  • Goodyear Silent Armour 65/60R18 tyres x 6
  • Mitchell Bros tow hitch20130720_154143
  • Auxiliary battery system with extra 12V outlets and rear
  • Anderson plug
  • Auxiliary transmission cooler
  • ECU upgrade
  • Custom cargo drawers
  • 65 litre fridge/freezer on tilt slide

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Like any vehicle, the Disco has its pluses and minuses, but after three years the minuses have been very few. The greatest of these is that it is a complex machine that very few mechanics know much about. At one time in our travels, the Check Engine warning light came on with no apparent effect on performance. An auto mechanic in the nearby small town couldn’t do much as his diagnostic tool did not include Land Rover software. All he could offer was an apology and walked away from it. Sitting in the car outside the workshop, I ran the Torque Pro app that I’d previously loaded onto a Samsung Galaxy phone before starting our travels. It connected by bluetooth to the car’s various computer systems via an OBD2 device plugged into the diagnostic port below the dash. Torque Pro performed its scans and, lo and behold, showed an error code related to fuel pressure. I was then able to call and discuss a fix with the nearest Land Rover repairer. Best couple of dollars I’ve ever spent. So, while repairs may not at times be rapid, I’ve found you can get things done eventually.

Availability of spare parts, such as brake pads, can also be a hassle. From experience, I now expect and accept that parts won’t be readily available off the shelf when needed. If we are not near a major centre with a Land Rover dealer or parts supplier, I contact my regular service people back home and they will ship what I need anywhere in Australia. We’re in no real hurry on our travels and are happy to wait for deliveries to arrive.

The second row seats in the Disco are folded down to provide an extra storage area for such things as tool bags, larger camping chairs, spare parts and so forth, and the third row seats are also folded down to accommodate the cargo drawers and fridge/freezer. So, in our travels, the Landy is really just a two-seater. The gear behind us is safely contained in the cargo drawers or secured with straps, and a cargo net attached to the floor and ceiling behind our seats and a second one attached from the ceiling to the back of the cargo drawer unit prevent any loose missiles entering the front passenger area from the back.

To date, we’ve travelled nearly 20,000kms and the Disco has performed very well, with only minor mechanical work required. Given the gear carried in the vehicle and the large van attached behind, the overall average fuel consumption of 14.4 litres per 100km is excellent.

As it happened, though, while we were collecting the van recently, a “Suspension Fault” warning light appeared on the dash of the Discovery. I reset the error code and fortunately it didn’t reappear on the 3-hour trip back to Queensland from Ballina. However, a subsequent diagnostic scan by my Land Rover repairer back home resulted in the Disco being booked in for repairs to a leaking air suspension system. This will delay our departure by a couple of days, which is no real drama. Better to have a problem fixed now than for it to get worse in some remote location later on. My repairer was great to juggle things around and fit me in as they were fully booked out for the next two weeks.

“One life. Live it.” – Land Rover motto

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