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Old April 10th, 2009, 11:31 PM
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2007 LR3
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Aspen, CO, USA
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Exclamation Test Drive- Normal Driving Characteristics??

I test drove a 1995 D-90 today. Very high mileage, 2" OME suspension, 33" tires.

I know enough about Defender's to know where rust issues are most prevalent, etc. That said, my only previous D-90 driving experience was taking a brand new 1995 Defender for a test drive at the dealership when I was 16. Having so little experience actually driving Defender 90's I'm curious to know what is normal.

The LR I drove today appeared to be in very good condition- at least cosmetically. The initial visual inspection left me quite impressed considering the age and mileage. The test drive however proved very underwhelming.


The engine idle was loud and rough. At idle and under acceleration the engine ticked loudly and generally felt sluggish. It may well have been a function of the exhaust system, but it was quite noisy as well. When I came home my wife said I stunk like exhaust fumes. An inspection of the engine bay revealed oil splattered over nearly every component. My current daily driver is a soft top Wrangler with mud terrains and the LR was MUCH louder and rougher than my current Jeep.

Does this sound normal?


The clutch was unlike anything I have experienced. The first 6 inches of travel was completely free of resistance. Then suddenly, within an inch of the floor, the gear would suddenly engage with a loud clunk. I've driven everything from dump trucks to serious sports cars and never had so much trouble with a clutch. There was a minor grind shifting from 1st to 2nd- but that was the least of my worries. All three pedals, accelerator, brake and clutch felt practically disconnected and inconsistent. It was actually a little scary to drive.

Is this normal?


The Steering was extremely vague- worse than any truck I've driven. There was a tremendous amount of play in the wheel, and again a feeling of total detachment. It was as if the steering box was completely shot. I've driven/ owned jeeps in the past with similarly large diameter tires and never experienced this before.

Is this normal?

I realize this is a 1995 Defender and I certainly don't expect it to function and handle like my wife's LR3. But honestly, I was happy when the 10- minute test drive came to an end. At the worst I expected the driving characteristics to be similar a friend's 1972 Bronco. In reality it was much much worse.

I hope my experience is not representative of D-90's as a whole. Can the issues described above be corrected, and at a reasonable cost? To what extent should these issues affect the purchase price? If I can buy it cheap enough, maybe I could send it to Pendy for a Tdi.

In the mean time I am going to see if I can borrow an acquaintance's 1997 Defender for comparison. The 1997 of course won't give me any indication as to how a D90 clutch should feel.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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Old April 10th, 2009, 11:56 PM
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Charles Galpin
'94 D90 ST, '63 SeriesIIA
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Definitely drive at least one or more manual D90's to compare, but your description doesn't sound good at all. It's just a truck, and it sounds like you can tell the difference between good and bad, and this sounds bad. What's cheap?

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Old April 11th, 2009, 12:09 AM
Cred's Avatar
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1994 D90 #1057
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Location: Illinois
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Doesn't sound good at all. I would think there is a lot to be fixed on that truck.
If your really interested in it have a professional who knows defenders look it over. You could ask to see if someone on here (D-90.com)is near enough to take a look with you. Many of the guys on this forum are pros and very helpful when it comes to defenders.

Or move on to a more sound one.
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Old April 11th, 2009, 12:28 AM
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Birmabright Bread Box/Swagger Wagon
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
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After college I drove a Jeep TJ for 6 years as a daily driver then I sold it and bought a 1995 Defender 90 ST. My Defender 90 is smoother ride by far than the TJ. The D90's hydraulic clutch shifts better too.

The D90 you test drove has issues. I test drove a few before I found the right one. The first D90 I test drove was a 94 ...total turd burglar on the highway and grinded in every gear. The person selling it stated that's how all D90's are...B.S. I test drove a few others that proved him wrong.

I would be leery of a heavily modified Defender unless the work was done from a shop experienced with Defenders.

Test drive more D90's to get a better feel. Keep in mind these are going on 12+ years old and if not serviced properly, they will run like sh!t. Research this board on items to look for i.e. rust, running hot, LT77/R380 tranny...

Good luck on your search...

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Old April 11th, 2009, 12:15 PM
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Bill Lewis
1995 White SW 339/500
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: The Rock, CO
Posts: 219
I drove a 98 TJ from new until 2004 when I sold it and bought my 95 Defender.

My 90 now has 111k miles on it, my engine is louder (especially when the vents are open) but it doesn't tick loudly or anything. The engine compartment has some dirt and oil in it, but not a lot for a almost 15 year old truck.

The clutch is not one I would say is "tight", but there is certainly decent resistant for the entire swing.

As for the steering, mine was much more solid with the dealer street radials it came with than after I put the mud terrains on it. There are some times I feel like it is loose, but frankly I have driven much worse. I am due for a steering stabilizer, so maybe that might help that situation.

Overall I think my 90 SW is louder than my TJ soft top. With the vents open, it seems like the only thing I can hear is my engine compression. I did put the dynamat hood liner on and that seemed (to me) to help but others didn't see a difference so YMMV. I did however just replace the exhaust on it this week and now the 90 drives like a brand new truck. A lot of the noise that annoyed me is gone, so maybe the dealership i got if from had some low end muffler put on it. *shrug* On the other hand, the 90 feels way more solid than my TJ ever did. I don't feel like I am going to break the stock components because I haven't upgraded them to heavy duty ones.

Depending on how cheap "cheap" is, it might be worth it. But parts typically don't run cheap with the 90 so I guess think about that. It sounds like the stuff you are seeing, I don't have with mine for what that is worth. Hope your search goes well.

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Old April 11th, 2009, 02:15 PM
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Deaf Ember
Smart 4x4
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Location: La
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Your discrptors sound like a heavily used, off road, beat to hell vehicle. Sounds like many of the "wear" items are badly worn and in need of replacement. The vehicle was modified for a reason, I'd look around some more for something a little less tested & tired.

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Old April 11th, 2009, 05:44 PM
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1997 D90 ST #1444
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My guess would be that the truck was low on oil, the tie rod ends and pitman arm need to be replaced. The exhaust probably has a hole in it and clutch needs to be serviced.

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Old April 11th, 2009, 06:53 PM
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1995 SW #487/500
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Location: The Old North State
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Same, I imagine a tune up and a drop arm rebuild would do a lot for the truck. I know on my CLassic the drop arm rebuild made it drive like a different truck.
Poor gas mileage gets you to the best places on earth
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Old April 11th, 2009, 07:39 PM
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Gore Ranger
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1989 RRC
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Location: Denver, CO
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If you are serious about buying this truck, you should have it inspected by a mechanic. My initial estimate of 15K might have been high. IF the seller thinks he is going to break even or even make money on this truck he is out of his mind. Look at the original ad, Andrew was listing it at 22K, so it probably sold for even less. Considering that the current owner has probably done nothing to it besides oil changes (clearly he didnt fix the tranny problem) he is in position to take a pretty big hit since the next owner will have a fairly large bill (just in parts) to get her even up to reliability.

It could be a great deal if you get it really low and invest the money you saved into maintenance items.
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Old April 12th, 2009, 12:43 AM
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I have never seen a rover in person
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How cheap and how many miles? If it is cheap, undented and rust free with a clean title I would buy it even if it had a hole in the side of the block from a thrown rod and the gears in the transmission were seized. I much rather deal with motor and mechanical issues that rust.

If you are handy you can sort it out yourself for not a lot of money, but it will take a lot of time.

Whenever I buy a land rover (it happens more often that I care to admit) I plan to change the ball joints, panhard rod bushings, and drop arm rebuild. The parts are around $100 and fix the steering to almost precise. Also worth repacking the wheel bearings and checking swivel ball preload (which is basically free to do)

As far as the clutch and engine and trans, I would have to look at it or need more info. Rebuilt transmissions are expensive (although if you stalk ECR you might score a take out cheapish), everything else is pretty cheap used as it is the same as old RRCs and Discos.

*not legal advice*
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