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My beloved Land Rover Discovery is sick

Who: Crazy dog lady that knows nothing about cars.

What: My 2004 Land Rover Discovery with 80K Miles

When/Why: The check engine light came on in my disco about 3 weeks ago after filling up a very empty tank with cheap gas (I have a terrible habit of almost running out of gas frequently). This was the first time I’d ever put anything but super in the car. I brought it to our LR guy who we trust and did a bunch of research to find. He said there was exhaust in the radiator fluid and the #6 cylinder has low compression. The leak down test was ok.

His diagnosis: Discos often have engine issues and cracked engine blocks are common. This may be a head gasket issue but a dropped sleeve or cracked engine block/head were likely. He thought by putting money in to fix a head gasket problem we would get into the job and find it was actually the engine. Ouch.

Additional data: I love my car but forget to take care of it sometimes. I went 20,000 miles without an oil change by accident. No damage seemed to be done and oil was still in the car. There has been only one other issue with the car ever, it has a funny smell after startup due to (we are told) coolant dripping on the catalytic converter (I don’t even know what that is). I have also noticed a film that builds up on the inside of the windshield and I’ve never noticed that in any other cars I’ve owned. This has happened for the last few years.

We had the mechanic shut off the check engine light and drove it 250 miles before the light came on again. (Again, I was almost out of gas - like below the red). The burning smell does seem to be a little worse.

Desired outcome: I’d like to find a way to fix my car without having to put a whole new engine in it. I’d like to keep it 4 more years at least. It’s looking like I need to buy a new engine or trade it in. We have started looking for a new car but, I really want to keep mine. It’s a perfect Newfy hauler and I love it, dog drool and all. Do I have other options or is there any way to tell more precisely what is the cause of the symptoms the car is exhibiting?

Stop by an auto parts store and get the codes read, Keep an eye on your coolant, fill up before empty, and perform all maintenance suggested in the manual.

Codes are P300 and P306, generic mis-fire and #6 mis-fire.

The next 4 years with an '04 LR Discovery are going to be very expensive, even if the engine is just fine. I’d advise to start looking for another car and trade this one in soon. The reliable years with the Discovery are behind you, what lies ahead is lots of significant repair bills. Get out now.

Keeping in mind that I’m not even an amateur Land Rover expert, I’ll only offer general advice.

The gasoline fillup had nothing to do with it. The current problem is coincidental.
From memory I seem to recall that some Rover engines had a tendency to drop a cylinder liner down at times. This can lead to a leaking head gasket, low compression, and so on. The film buildup on the windshield is likely hot engine coolant that not only is leaking from a head gasket on the converter (part of the exhaust system) but is also putting those vapors into the cabin through the fresh air intake.

This is not likely to end well and I’m in agreement with your mechanic that once you open the engine up that you will not like what is to be found.
I believe a reman engine may be of a different design and not prone to the liner problem but you will have to do some research on that and determine if it will even be cost effective to go that route. It will not be cheap.

Also, do not expect to get anything for this vehicle as it sits. A 7 year old Rover with a trashed engine has only a junk value or wholesale value at best.

I agree with those who advised you to get rid of your Rover.

While they are under warranty, they can be pleasant vehicles to own.
Once the warranty expires, they tend to be bottomless pits of expense for repairs and maintenance–to a greater extent than virtually any other make of vehicle.

While no 7 year old Land Rover could be expected to be reliable, one that went without oil changes for 20k miles–and currently has an engine problem that can only be fixed at great expense–is beyond any logical reason to retain it.

Thank you all for your advice. It seems new car shopping is in my future. I promise to take care of my next car better - even if my issues are unrelated, it seems I had Karma working against me.

I’m concerned about something you wrote. The film on the windshield is very likely coolant. It’s bad for your health to breathe vaporized coolant for long. I’d imagine that it’s also bad (possibly worse) for your dog. You need to fix this soon. If you sell the car without fixing it, you should disclose this to the buyer.

I don’t necessarily fault you for this Rover problem as a dropped liner is something that you have no control over.

History is littered with problematic cars that suffered major problems through no fault of car owner.
A few examples could be early Subaru cylinder liners and internally leaking auto transmission seals, Nissan transmission mainshaft nuts not properly tightened when the cars were built, failed GM intake manifold gaskets, and countless others.

The only way any of this would be your fault at all would be if the engine were overheating and you continued to operate it.

If you are forgetful enough to go 20k without changing the oil, you might want to look for a car that has a maintenance minder. Acura, for instance, uses one that tells you the %age of oil life left, and also dings and flashes yellow when it’s time to get it in for service. While I wouldn’t usually recommend relying on one (I like to change my oil more often than the car thinks I need to), it would help you avoid going so long between changes.

It takes a certain mentality to be a successful Land Rover owner and I hate to say it but accidentally forgetting your oil change for 20k ain’t that mentality. It really is ALL about staying on top of the maintenance schedule. With your Rover’s service history, 80k is about right for the head gaskets to be replaced. Possible good news is, if you haven’t overheated it and it wasn’t making any bad tapping noises, I’d be willing to bet your liners are okay. That said, if you do get the HG’s done, and everything is good, sell it ASAP and get something that requires a little less attention. And, if you are close to Texas and want to sell it as is, let me know.

On the plus side, although forgetting an oil change for 20K miles isn’t a good thing, it likely has nothing to do with your current problem.