Land Rover, new Range Rover in Brittany – an ownership history.
Having previously had a number of Landrover products including Series I, Series II, 90 defender, discovery and range rover. I had fallen in love with the design of the new LM model range rover at the launch. The exterior had the look of the old models, but in a modern and exiting, though restrained way – and the interior simply looked like nothing else on the road.
Living in Brittany, France as I do, I hadn’t really needed such a “competent” (the use of inverted commas here will explain itself shortly) and prestigious vehicle, but with a new job, one day in early 2005 I found myself outside Land Rover dealers Auto Oceane at Lorient in Brittany at lunch time, peering through their showroom window in silent admiration – little did I know then that this was to be the start of my love – hate relationship with the Land Rover LM Range Rover and Landrover “customer service” – I sincerely and sadly wish that I had walked away then.
Extraordinarily for France – the salesperson, Gerald, invited me in for a coffee even though it was lunch time and took me seriously, despite the fact that I had turned up in a battered Kangoo and in gardening clothes. After an informative discussion and a sit in the Range Rover, a test drive was also offered - and fifteen minutes of driving this Land Rover later, I wanted one.
One week later, after some haggling on the price with the dealers Auto Oceane and agonising over the colour choice, my order for the new Range Rover Vogue was with Land Rover – Giverny Green Metallic with Aspen (green) interior and Ivory piping – expected delivery in three months.
I waited with excitement and anticipation for the delivery of my new Range Rover – I was really looking forward to the Green interior – everything else on the road had grey or black or if they were really exciting, cream!
The delivery period for my Range Rover dragged by until I had a phone call from the Land Rover dealers Auto Oceane to say it had arrived, so in high spirits I drove the 50 km to the dealers at Lorient just to see it. On arrival I was led into the dusty storage shed – and there she was. Excitement turned to disappointment immediately as I realised that this wasn’t my landrover – the interior was cream and not the Aspen green I had ordered. I pointed this out to the Land Rover dealers and amid much shuffling of paperwork they tried to identify what had happened. No information was forthcoming and in disappointment I drove the 50km home to await a phone call.
The first call from the land rover dealers was to tell me that the reason the interior was cream was because land rover no longer did the Aspen Green. As I had specifically checked with land rover before ordering, as this was really the colour I wanted, I was extremely disappointed and so called land rover customer services. Alarm bells should have rung at this point and I should have rejected the vehicle. Land rover France customer services asked for my VIN number, I explained that I hadn’t yet taken delivery – they hung up on me – three times. Eventually I called a land rover dealers in the UK – they confirmed that the Aspen interior was still available. I called back to the land rover dealers in Lorient, Morbihan, Brittany and they asked me to go back down to see them. Another 50km later I was told by the land rover dealer that the manufacturing plant had made an error and so my vehicle had been built with the cream interior – I had a choice – accept this Range Rover as it was (no offer of a discount etc) or wait another three months for a new one to be built to my specification. A choice between a rock and a hard place!
After a couple of days reflection and after the land rover dealers Auto Oceane at Lorient eventually offering to valet the vehicle free of charge for as long as I owned it – I decided to accept delivery of this new Range Rover as I didn’t want to wait another three months. I had a planned holiday coming up with my family including a mentally and physically disabled friend in a wheelchair and the Range Rover with its huge boot was going to be ideal to take all the luggage and transport us in comfort.
On delivery I loved the vehicle; it really drove well and felt superb.
This “Honeymoon period” with the new Range Rover didn’t last long though – within the week all the warnings on the dashboard illuminated and the diagnostics told me I had a suspension fault and gearbox fault and should stop. I called the French Land Rover assistance from the hard shoulder and they told me to drive at low speed to the land rover dealership 90km away, in the opposite direction from where I was going. I arrived at the garage – they told me they couldn’t look at it that day as they were busy(!!!). After some insistence on my part they started the vehicle and guess what? All the lights had gone off now!! They reset the computer and told me there had been a sensor error but all was ok now – but they weren’t very gracious about it and I had to take the day off work as a holiday. Next day the car drove fine – but the day after the same thing happened again so I parked and called Land Rover assistance France. As the vehicle was still running, they asked me again to drive it to the Land Rover dealers, but on this occasion I had an important client appointment so I asked them if they could recover the vehicle and give me a replacement. They refused, said that the vehicle could still be driven and that it would have to be taken to the land rover dealers for the fault to be investigated. I returned home, parked up and had to ask a French colleague to come and pick me up in his Kangoo (which despite being 6 years old had never broken down, he told me cheerfully).
I was not very pleased. The following day I started the Range Rover to drive the 50km to the land rover dealership Auto Oceane at Lorient. No warning lights were apparent so I called Land Rover assistance, they said that the vehicle should be fine and had obviously self corrected the fault. Over the following week I used the vehicle cautiously and it had the same fault twice, but this cleared itself again.
As I was due to leave on holiday at the end of the following week I took it back to the land rover dealership to see if they could find the fault. As the vehicle was not showing a fault when I arrived, they sent me away again saying there was nothing they could do and land rover customer service and assistance both said the same.
With some trepidation the following Saturday I set off to go away and at half distance stopped near Blois, in the centre of France, for the night with plans to drive the following night down to the south of France. A couple of errands on the Sunday and the car was fully loaded with wheelchair and bags when at around 8 pm I started the engine and slowly turned round in the courtyard of the house – the engine coughed and died. Turning the ignition brought up a set of warnings on this new Range Rover – gearbox failure – suspension failure – sensor failure. I called Land rover assistance in France and at the second attempt got through. As the vehicle was immobilised they arranged to get a transporter to pick up the vehicle and so I asked if they had an idea when it might be repaired so that we could plan what to do about the holiday. They said they had no idea, but that a replacement vehicle would be made available – a Renault scenic. “but I cant possibly get us all and our baggage into a scenic” I said, at which point I had a long conversation and explanation from land rover assistance France which boiled down to “Tough”. They could give me no idea of a likely timescale and no hope of a replacement vehicle to the same size let alone specification of the Range Rover. We decided, with floods of tears from our poor friend, to delay the holiday a week and I left to go back to Brittany and work – 473km – away.
Monday morning I called to find out how my new Range Rover was doing at the land rover dealers in Blois – thay told me that they didn’t have it and had refused to accept delivery as they didn’t have the time or personnel to deal with it! I called Land Rover assistance who confirmed that the vehicle was en route for the Land Rover dealers in Tours in the Loire valley, so I called them. They told me that they had rejected the vehicle too as they didn’t have anyone with the experience or time to deal with it! What a fiasco. I called Land Rover customer services to complain and they said they would call me back – several hours later without a call, I rang again. My new range rover was completing its 210km tour of central France on a breakdown truck by being shipped back the other direction to the land rover dealers in Orleans – so it was now 500km from me and still broken!
By this time, it was gone the end of the business day so I had to wait until Tuesday to call Orleans. The land rover dealers at Orleans confirmed that they had it, but the workshop told me they didn’t know if they were going to touch it as land rover assistance had “duped them” into accepting it, saying it had “a loss of power” and not total breakdown – they said that they didn’t have the time or personnel to be pushing my broken but new range rover around the garage and didn’t know how to start to repair it. I called both land rover customer service France and land rover assistance France to ask what was going on and when I could hope to have my vehicle back. Numerous phone calls over the next couple of days and I still didn’t have an answer. Finally land rover assistance told me (when I called them yet again) that it would be ready on Friday. Not reassured by being fobbed off by land rover all week, I called the land rover dealers direct in Orleans – thankfully – as they told me the vehicle was not ready and that they were waiting for parts to be delivered that were not in stock, so they couldn’t give me any indication when my range rover might be repaired. I could have had a 1000km round trip for nothing had I not made this one call! I arranged again to delay my holidays by cancelling them for a week. Thankfully my employers were able to accommodate this request.
Floods of tears again over the phone from our disabled friend, Nathalie Labbé, in the special centre she spends 50 weeks a year in – hard for her to understand why we couldn’t leave for the annual holiday as planned, or indeed rearranged. I was starting to feel her frustration at knowing what needed to be done but not being able to carry simple actions out!
Monday I received a call from Isabelle Ouali at land rover assistance – they could call out after all!!
My new range rover was fixed so could I collect it on Tuesday – erm “no” I replied – “I am now at work until Friday the 21st” – the vehicle was, after all, 500km away. After many phone calls land rover assistance and land rover customer service finally agreed that I could pick it up on Friday and very generously they would “exceptionally” extend the hire car period until then. They were very ungracious about having to take the car back to the rental company because, obviously, my car was 100km away from where they had collected it, but said they would ask the land rover dealers in Orleans to look after it.
On Friday I left work a couple of hours early (thanks to my boss) and drove the 500km through heavy traffic to the land rover dealers in Orleans. I was in touch with them by phone as it had been arranged I could pick it up from the showroom which was open until - thankfully they were pleasant and helpful and waited for me, as it was about 7.40 when I eventually arrived. They did a tour of the hire car with me, signed a slip to say it had no visible damage and I left the keys with them – they said that they would clear it with Land Rover assistance to get it back to the hirers who were about 1km away.
I drove back to Blois, relieved and happy but a little peeved that up to now the new range rover (all 80 thousand euros worth) had been off the road for so long, had disrupted my holidays, had cost me three lost days and 1500km of fuel. Getting near to Blois, I stopped at the services and on getting back in the vehicle the warning lights for suspension and gearbox problems were back on. I couldn’t get through to land rover assistance; I was on hold and was then cut off several times, so I limped at reduced speed down to Soings en Sologne. Saturday morning I limped back to the land rover dealers in Blois (39km) – hoping that they could diagnose the vehicle and solve the fault. “sorry, the workshop is closed Saturday” was all they could say. In disgust, I parked the vehicle and called Land Rover assistance then land rover customer service; to try and get them to hire another vehicle with enough capacity for the wheelchair and all the baggage looking after a disabled adult takes, so we could leave on our holidays. “No” was the reply, “and” they said “if you are going away for two weeks, we would need the hire vehicle back as soon as yours is repaired!”
Sarcasm was lost on the French assistant, Isabelle Ouali, at Land Rover assistance as I apologised for inconveniencing them again . . . . . They suggested taking the vehicle back to Land Rover at Blois, but when I called the dealer first to check what time they closed, they said they had no authority to take the vehicle from me as although it was displaying a fault, it wasn’t technically broken down. “Land rover assistance” they patiently explained “Is for if you are stranded at the roadside”
Hmmmn – If we were going to get away I had to take action, so at a cost of 730 euros I rented a Renault espace from a rental firm in Blois for the two weeks and parked up my new range rover – I GAVE UP - ridiculous don’t you think, to get to this stage of affairs?
After two weeks trouble free motoring in a Renault and a restful though physically tiring holiday with Nathalie Labbé, I returned to Blois. My new range rover started at the first turn of the key and with no error messages! I drove back to Brittany tentatively, and although there were no error messages I noticed two things – the fuel consumption was definitely worse than before the sensors had been changed at the land rover dealers at Orleans, and my new range rover was making a strange mechanical chattering noise from the transmission at a constant speed on the cruise control at 130km on the auto route.
As the first service was nearly due, I decided to wait until then to ask about these two faults. The 18/08 I took my new range rover into the land rover dealers Auto Oceane at Lorient in Brittany. They noted these faults and to do the service, to change a faulty wiper blade and the faulty rear parcel shelf (the trim was coming unstuck), and to reset the rear bumper which had a very uneven gap around it and the bottom of the front wings which were rubbing on the doors.
When I went to collect my new range rover, they had apparently done the service – but had found no faults apart from those recorded in the computer – which had mysteriously stopped of its own accord, apparently (more later)! The rear parcel shelf had been forgotten – the windscreen wiper too and the rear bumper remained offset to the left. The mechanical noise they said they couldn’t test or remedy as the speed limit in Brittany is 110km per hour . . . . . . .
Once again I left the land rover garage disappointed – you get to the point where you give up. Is that what the manufacturers hope for?
By the end of November the mechanical noise was still there and on another trip to Blois it made a definite clunk and the steering wheel vibrated in my hands on low speed turns. Once again a 40km trip to the land rover garage. Their mechanic gave it a quick and cursory look over and said the immortal words (though in French of course) “ahh, you have a bad one, this fault is well known and the front differential will probably need to be replaced” This news was bad enough – but the worst was to follow.
When I asked when they could do it, he said that they couldn’t because Land rover assistance or customer services had to authorise it first. He also said that they didn’t like doing the repair as they had had them go wrong again. So after several attempts I got through to land rover assistance and they refused on two points. Firstly the vehicle hadn’t (yet) broken down and so secondly they couldn’t authorise a hire car either. Obviously as I was 500km from home and I relied on the vehicle during the week I needed it repaired. “No” was the answer, in fact Isabelle Ouali at land rover customer service said I was being “alarmist” and that this front differential failure on the new land rover range rover was restricted to earlier models. The mechanic at Blois suggested that I drive slowly back to Brittany and go to my supplying dealer, Auto Oceane at Lorient – they could put some pressure on Landrover to get the repair authorised.
Once back at the vineyard, I decided to do some research on the internet to see if other owners had had the same problem – I found http://www.rangerovers.net/repairdetails/drivetrain/frontdiff.html after a search on www.google.com
I have reproduced the information here – with sections I find very relevant marked in red:
A front differential would normally be expected to last the life of the vehicle, but on the new Range Rover introduced in 2002 it is a major failure item. At the time of writing (May 2006) there is still no safety recall or redesign of the components involved, although more than one service bulletin has been produced on the subject, and I am getting reports from owners of 2005 models with the same problem. (If you have experienced this failure, please report it to the NHTSA so start the process leading to a redesign and safety recall).
The problem lies in the design of the front driveshaft, which has a no flexible coupling at the front end, so any minor misalignment puts severe stress on the front diff input splines, leading to failure and immobilization of the vehicle. This page is an effort to assemble the known information on this problem and how to solve it. If you can shed additional light on the problem or solutions, please email me.
Of the many owners who have reported front diff failure to me, few if any have had prior warning of the event. One dealer employee reports that an often-missed warning of imminent failure is a loud clunk when changing from drive to reverse and back again. In a notice filed by Land Rover with the NHTSA in March 2005, it is claimed that the premature wear results in "excessive noise". However I have not heard from any owners that have observed these warning signs. The first you usually know about it is when the front driveshaft generates a loud grinding noise caused by the splines being mangled. The vehicle will not accelerate -- putting your foot on the gas is accompanied by more loud grinding noises. There is a total disabling of the drivetrain. Some owners have reported the vehicle's computers have cut power to the engine. The message center tells you to put the transmission in neutral, and forces you to come to an abrupt stop. When it happens on the freeway, you are lucky if you make it to the side of the road to stop safely. You will have to use the parking brake to stabilize the vehicle once stopped -- shifting into "Park" will not hold it on a slope. I have heard of one case that happened at 80 mph and caused the front wheels to lock, resulting in a loss of control (see this thread on the Range Rover III Forum for this and a sample of other reports; additional ones are described in the front diff section of the RIII common symptoms and causes page).
Quite a few owners have experienced the failure two or three times -- it usually seems to happen at 20 or 30,000 mile intervals. On my 2004 RR, I decided to have the front diff checked at 30,000 miles to make sure it would not fail out in the deert far from help -- even though its May 2004 build date was well after the official fix (see below) was in. Sure enough, the splines were worn out and the diff had to de replaced.
Emergency Field Recovery
See the Diff Failure Emergency Recovery Page for ideas on how to prepare yourself for the possibility of diff failure in the field far from help.
The cause of the problem is stress on the front driveshaft and front diff input due to misalignment. To understand this, we need to elucidate the design of the Range Rover III front drive layout. The front differential is mounted on the left side of the engine crankcase, which was strengthened in the design process to accommodate this arrangement. The front diff receives its input from the front driveshaft which comes forward from the transfer case. Because the engine is bolted directly to the transmission, and the transmission to the transfer case, the designers (not unreasonably) must have assumed the whole structure would be perfectly rigid and the usual arrangement of CV joints, U-joints or flexible couplings used on the front driveshafts of lesser 4X4's would not be needed. Mysteriously, they did provide a flexible coupling at the rear end of the driveshaft, where it attaches to the transfer case, but not on the front end where it goes into the diff.
Accordingly, no problems have been reported at the transfer case end, but the connection to the front differential fails far more frequently than it should, often wrecking the entire diff with it. An obvious cure would be to provide some form of flexible coupling at the front end of the driveshaft, but to date (January 2006) I have not heard of any such cure being adopted by Land Rover.
One owner reported the internals of the diff rather than the splines being destroyed -- if you know more about this please email me.
Official Land Rover Efforts to Address the Problem
Rather than address the problem via redesign, Land Rover's approach to the problem seems to be just checking for correct alignment of the front differential. A series of technical bulletins were issued on the matter.
June 2003 Service Bulletin (H121)
In June 2003, shortly after the new vehicle was introduced to the market, a service bulletin (54/03/03) was issued entitled "Front Differential Alignment Process", stating that the required procedure for differential alignment during replacement is not thoroughly covered in the RAVE Workshop Manual. (Amusingly, this made it sound as if front differential replacement was a routine matter). This bulletin said that any damage to the differential drive tube splines requires replacement of the whole front diff as well as the prop shaft. It states "The differential assembly includes a collapsible spacer that determines the bearing preload. There is currently no acceptable procedure for renewing a drive tube in service. If an attempt is made to change the drive tube only, rapid failure of the differential bearings will occur. Damaged or worn splines in the drive tube will have affected the prop shaft, requiring replacement". The service bulletin included a procedure for aligning the new diff. An associated worldwide Land Rover Field Action campaign (ABD121) was evidently implemented to apply this procedure.
May 2004 Service Campaign (SB 121)
In May 2004, a campaign was initiated to check the alignment and wear of the front driveshafts and differential input when owners brought in their RRs for service. Affected vehicles were all "New Range Rover (LM)" vehicles from VIN 3A101029 to 4A144905 (ie all 2003 and early build 2004 models, with build dates from 18 April 2002 to 17 June 2003 and 02 July 2003 to 03 July 2003). At the time, parts availability was limited and each dealer was to be provided with only one differential and prop shaft set. Accordingly, some owners reported having to wait some time for their repairs. The parts used for repairs appear to be basically identical to the original parts, although one owner reports the dealer told him they were improved.
In 2005 a steady trickle of owners continued reporting the front diff failures, some for the second time. It was unclear whether the earlier service bulletins had resolved the issue. In November 2005 bulletin 121 was updated and re-issued. The changes were minor, such as incorporating provision for new pre-drilled propeller shafts if replacement is required. The affected vehicle range remained the same, so the official story seems to be that the problem is solved and does not exist on models built after July 3rd, 2003. However, failures continue to occur even on 2005 models.
Interestingly, in March 2005 Land Rover filed a foreign field action report with the NHTSA to report its worldwide campaign back in June 2003 (see above). This was described as a "customer satisfaction" action rather than a defect or safety issue, and the wording made an effort to blame the customer for ignoring the "excessive noise" due to the spline wear that preceded the failures: "Premature wear of front differential splines has been identified on gas and diesel Rnage Rover. The wear is caused by a misalignment of the front differential to transfer gearbox output flange and results in excessive noise. If the customer does not seek service when symptoms of noise are noticed, or symptoms are ignored, and condition is not corrected, there is potential for failure of these splines that could result in loss of drive". Vehicles affected were still only up to VIN 4A146500 (ie e up to July 2003 build dates). Note use of the word "could" indicating this is a purely hypothetical problem!!
Sadly, the official fix seems to be no more than a temporary expedient to get the vehicles past the warranty period in the hope that owners will have to pay for subsequent repairs themselves. The only way around this appears to be to get an NHTSA investigation started by reporting these failures every time they happen. So, if you have had one in the past, please go to the above link and report it.
If you have any updated information, please email me so we can share it with other owners.
Checking for Misalignment and Wear
The procedure for checking the front drive shaft and differential are fairly simple, and for vehicles out of warranty might be worthwhile for the owner to do. The process described in the service bulletins basically involves removing the driveshaft, inspecting the splines, reinstalling its front end and wiggling the rear end around to see if its alignment is centered on the output shaft of the transfer case. During the procedure, it is recommended that a hole is drilled into the front end of the drive shaft. There is no explanation of why this is needed, but it may be to relieve any pressure buildup of the lubricants in the splines.
The main steps of the alignment checking procedure are as follows:
1. Jack up and safely support the front of the vehicle. Undo the 6 bolts securing the flexible coupling.
2. Slide the driveshaft forward and remove the coupling. Scribe reference marks on the diff and shaft to aid reassembly, and slide the shaft rearwards to disengage it from the diff. Remove the "O" ring from inside the diff drive tube.
3. Inspect the splines on the drive shaft and inside the differential drive tube for excessive wear.
4. If wear is excessive on the driveshaft, replace it. (30% is excessive).
5. If wear is excessive in the diff input splines, the whole diff has to be replaced. (Note that replacement is not needed if there is only limited wear, spline noise or red fretting corrosion. Alignment of the diff will resolve the noise and limited wear).
6. If re-using the old driveshaft, drill a 5 mm (13/64) hole in the front end of the driveshaft. A fairly long (2.5 inch) hole is needed before you reach the inside of the driveshaft tube, so be careful not to break the drill bit. A lathe is preferable for this operation, but a careful job with a hand drill is OK -- in either case do not let metal shavings remain on the splines afterwards. If replacing the driveshaft, the new part has a hole already drilled in it.
7. To reassemble, align the reference marks on the driveshaft and differential, and reinsert the shaft into the diff input sleeve.
8. Wiggle the rear end of the shaft up and down, measuring its deflection in either direction. If the center point of this slop is more than 1 mm from the center of the transfer case output shaft), the differential needs aligning (see "Aligning the Differential" below).
9. Remove the driveshaft again, lubricate a new "O" ring, insert it into the drive tube and grease the splines with the approved grease (LR part number TIA500010). Reassemble flexible coupling using new nuts, torqued to 81 lb ft (110 NM). Note -- the November 2005 update no longer requires the O ring renewal.
If the spline wear on the inside of the diff input drive tube is excessive, the official procedure is to replace the entire differential assembly. According to the June 2003 service bulletin, the assembly includes a collapsible spacer that determines the bearing preload, and renewal of the drive tube only can apparently result in rapid failure of the differential bearings. If the input tube and spacer can be obtained from somewhere as separate parts, it is quite likely that an experienced diff shop could dissassemble and reassemble the original diff satisfactorily. Please email me if you have tried this.
Photo courtesy of Atlantic British: Front differential unit with input drive at right side of picture.
If the diff does need replacing, the procedure for doing so is fully described in the workshop manual.
Aligning the Differential
If the diff needs realigning, it is a fairly simple matter of loosening the four bolts that mount it to the left side of the engine crankcase, and rotating the diff housing forward or back slightly until the alignment as described above is perfect. The rotation is performed by using the drive shaft as a lever and moving its rear end up or down until the desired alignment is achieved.
When alignment is satisfactory, re-tighten the diff mounting bolts to 81 lb-ft (110 Nm), and re-check the alignment.
Finally, remove the driveshaft, lubricate and reassemble as in step 9 above.
This section is purely speculative at this point, but it seems to me that those wanting to ensure a more long-lasting solution might look into getting a custom driveshaft made by one of the many suppliers who do this for modified Jeeps etc. Adding a flexible coupling, U joint or CV joint to the front end of the driveshaft would probably eliminate the problem permanently.
Another option for those beyond warranty coverage would be to check the front diff spline wear at every service interval. Judging by the typical 20-30,000 mile failure interval, checking it at 15,000 mile intervals might be a good idea. Although tedious, this might help in preventing a potential disaster.
If you have tried these or any other alternative solutions, please email me so we can share your experience with other owners.
Prevention Advice to Owners
In the absence of a redesigned front driveshaft, the most practical solution for owners wishing to avoid this problem is to have the front diff input splines inspected at regular intervals -- probably every 30,000 miles would be appropriate. You will probably have to pay the dealer for the labor to do this -- 1.1 hours is the specified time in Service Bulletin 121 to remove the driveshaft, check for wear, drill the shaft, pack with grease and reasemble. Just removing the shaft, checking the splines, and reassembling should be the work of half an hour. Or, if you are mechanically inclined you can do it yourself (see details of this procedure above). If excessive wear is found, the dealer will probably replace the front diff under warranty; since the problem is basically one of known defective design you can probably persuade them to replace it even if the vehicle is beyond its official warranty period.
Reporting Procedure for Front Diff Failures
Since failure of the front diff results in a complete loss of drive power and therefore can jeopardize safety, US owners who have experienced this problem (even if it was some time ago) should report it to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in order to get the process started that will lead to a redesign and recall campaign that is our only hope for a real and permanent solution. If anyone knows the equivalent reporting agencies in other countries, please email me.
Diff Emergency Field Recovery page: Ideas on how to recover from front diff failure when it happens in the field.
Front Diff Failure Section of RR III Common Symptoms and Fixes page
Alldata: Source of Range Rover Technical Service Bulletins (subscription required)
NHTSA page for filing a complaint about the front diff issue
Range Rover III Forum: Do a search for "diff" to read about owner experiences. (frightening)
So to summarise to this point:
1) Land Rover knew that the problem existed with the front differential of the new model range rover and criticised owners for NOT bringing them in sooner when they heard the clunking noise – I did just this and was dismissed as alarmist and they refused an inspection or repair.
2) Land Rover need to be customer service trained – their perception of a problem is irrelevant – the clients’ perception is the important one. See here for Microsofts view of customer service. Land rover should know all this - Graham Ede, the refreshingly frank managing director of the CCA award winning Ion Group, who have advised land rover for over 16 years on customer service says “The success of a company will be gauged by our clients’ perception of the service they receive - and not our perception of the service we deliver.” See here to read the article.
3) My perception at this point was that my unreliable new range rover was about to break down again and leave me stranded once more, possibly when with clients or my young daughter or even worse in a dangerous situation. I WANTED IT CHECKED, AND IF NECESSARY, FIXED. Their problem should not have become my problem.
4) As it would have taken half an hour to check and readjust it or verify it needed replacement – why didn’t Land Rover customer service just authorise this?
5) Land Rover do not seem interested in finding a permanent solution to the problem – to do so would acknowledge the design fault and result in a flood of owners demanding that their front differentials should be replaced. Land rover seem to just want to gloss over this problem until the new 2007 range rover model comes out at the end of 2006 which has apparently had a full redesign.
6) I was very fed up, disappointed and upset – but not yet angry – that was to come.
So, I drove back to my land rover dealers in Brittany very gingerly, another weekend ruined. To keep things as brief as possible, my dealer denied any knowledge of a problem, despite me giving them the service bulletin numbers. They then with my insistence contacted Land Rover customer service who again refused to authorise a repair or inspection.
I didn’t want to use my New model Range Rover as I didn’t want to risk it breaking down on me again – Land Rover wouldn’t even inspect it.
At work, as I now run the company, I decided to get a company vehicle – for the warranty and having seen excellent customer feedback I bought a new Hyundai Trajet, also from Auto Oceane. In fact in total I bought 8 Hyundai from them. You see Gerald is a good and conscientious salesperson – it is just very unfortunate that he has no service backup from Land Rover.
And while researching about this Hyundai vehicle I couldn’t help noticing that in 2006 Hyundai were very nearly top of the 2006 JD POWER customer satisfaction survey list, while land rover were bottom . . . . . . . .
While the 21k euro Hyundai steadily and reliably clocks up the kilometres, the 80k euro Range Rover ended up parked up in my garden for two months while I tried to decide what to do for the best.
When it works well it is superb – it shouldn’t really break, but I suppose that much technology can occasionally be allowed to have a glitch - but the inexcusable part is Land Rovers so called “customer service” when it has done so is atrocious.
As I heard that the new v8 diesel range rover would be coming out at the end of 2006 I decided that I would part exchange mine and order the new one. See, that is brand loyalty (or stupidity maybe) – even after all the problems and disappointment I still wanted one.
I took it back again to Auto Oceane the land rover dealers in Lorient. Booked it for a service and asked them specifically to check the front differential, and change the wiper blade, and adjust the bumper, and change the faulty rear parcel shelf – I also asked them to work me out a deal to change for the new model v8 diesel range rover.
It was only a few days later I received a court summons for the non payment of the hire car, from when my range rover broke down last year and it ended up in Orleans. I had the “good fortune” to fall upon Isabelle Ouali again at land rover customer service when I called them for an explanation. She looked up the file and explained that as I hadn’t returned the vehicle to where it came from, the hire company had billed me and not Land rover assistance. She insisted that it was my responsibility to return the Scenic to the rental company and when I started to be insistent about Land rover accepting their responsibility she hung up.
A few weeks later I contacted my land rover dealers Auto Oceane, to see if all was ready – they had done precisely nothing apart from valet it. Incredulously I went to pick it up as they said they couldn’t service it unless I paid up front!?
Pick it up I did, I just couldn’t be bothered arguing, as I had already decided to take it to another land rover dealership – had already agreed a deal and was due to take it into the land rover dealers at Rennes on the following Saturday. So it was just one week and 800 km later at on a thursday night 6/7, just next to the Golf Course at Rimaison near Pontivy, when there was an almighty bang, the front wheels momentarily locked up and I wrestled the vehicle to a halt by making an emergency stop. When I tried to get moving again there was the most horrendous mechanical grinding noise and now the brake light warning light was on too.
Front differential failure on my new range rover. Exactly as I told Land Rover it was about to nearly six months ago but only about 2000km earlier. Very strangely, there were no warning lights from the computer.
I called land rover assistance from the roadside. They told me that it was unlikely they could get a recovery vehicle to me for a couple of hours and that they were unlikely to get me a replacement vehicle either. “Forget it”, I replied. I called a friend with a six year old, 5000 euro Isuzu Trooper – he has had no faults with his vehicle in 18 months coincidentally, and he towed me back to the parking area at the golf club, I left my broken Range Rover and he took me home.
I took another day off work and waited for Land Rover assistance to collect my Range Rover. There was a buzz of discussion in the air of the club house, as the recovery vehicle eventually arrived (the delay due, I was told, because Auto Oceane at Lorient don’t have a break-down truck big enough for the range rover?!)
I followed down to the garage (another 100km round trip) later in the afternoon. My new Range Rover was just sat in a corner – nothing had been done. I asked why, and for an idea when it would be repaired. I was told that they had nobody available to look at it, that they couldn’t order the parts until they had identified the fault – as the computer was not displaying a fault code (the mechanic said the fault sensor on the gearbox had been disabled!) – and that if it was the differential, that they knew the parts were not available anyway, so my range rover was not a priority (to them).
I decided not to ask for a replacement vehicle as I didn’t want the complications of going to court again, when Land Rover assistance refused to pay for the hire car.
I won’t bore the reader with a record of the conversations over the next six weeks – Suffice to say, it took six weeks for the land rover garage to carry out a one hour procedure and repair my range rover after the front diff failure which could have been avoided.
I was away on the first day of my two week holiday, when they called to say it was finally ready. Thankfully then I hadn’t insisted on a hire car from land rover assistance, or in their eyes I would have had to collect my vehicle immediately and I was over 800km away. (Been there, done that, got the T shirt and have a court case pending on the 10th of October at 15.00hrs for non payment of the previous invoice for the hire car land rover assistance arranged.)
After my return, I went to the Land Rover dealers to collect my car (another 100km round trip and day off work). I arrived at 11.30, was told there was nobody available to let me have my Range rover back and could I come back after 14.30! I went and had lunch and returned. I stood around for over an hour, waiting for someone to extract my car from the back of the storage shed where it was stood filthy in a corner. Eventually the workshop foreman negotiated his way gingerly outside, and to his credit washed off the vehicle (a case though of too little too late IMHO).
I was then presented with invoices for over 1000 euros, for the service and for replacing all the brake pads and overhauling the brake system (“the discs were excessively corroded” was the explanation given – “could that have been caused by the vehicle not being used since Christmas?” I asked, a reply not being forthcoming).
I asked for a tour of the vehicle and a ride in it before considering paying, and after another wait off we went – the garage foreman drove and I looked at the vehicle and listened.
They still hadn’t replaced the windscreen wiper – a fault reported at delivery and both subsequent services, which has caused scratch damage to the windscreen.
They still hadn’t replaced the rear parcel shelf. – again requested numerous times.
The steering wheel was vibrating now and was out of alignment by about 1/8th of a turn.
On our return to the workshop I looked to see why the steering was vibrating, had they knocked a balance weight off perhaps?
I was appalled to see a large gouge out of the sidewall of the front tyre, and a matching one out of the rear, down to the canvas. Closer inspection showed that the front one had been clumsily stuck back down with glue, and there were still bits of paper wipe stuck to the tyre where the excess of glue had been wiped off. Both cuts had clear evidence of dusty, recent, rusty marks around them where the wheels had scraped something – and there in front of the doors of the storage shed at Auto Oceane Land Rover, is a large hole in the car park surrounded by rusty and sharp steel supports driven vertically into the ground - undoubtedly the culprit.
I didn’t even speak to the workshop foreman. I went direct to the Directors office and asked him to come to my vehicle. I pointed out all the above calmly and asked what he was prepared to do about it. He said it couldn’t possibly be anything to do with the garage, and it was probably the delivery company who had recovered the vehicle. When I pointed out the clumsy “repair” and the rust marks which corresponded with the hole in the ground he swore and walked off – I couldn’t subsequently find him.
I couldn’t, and still can’t believe that any garage would try to cover up such a serious incident and let a client drive off in such a potentially dangerous vehicle. Certainly not a main dealer.
I called Land Rover customer service and once again was put in contact with Isabelle Ouali. I explained the above, that I was furious and that I would have to consider reporting the incident to the Gendarmerie as endangering life in this manner would be considered criminal.
Her response was that she was about to go home, that she was already busy tomorrow (Friday) and that she would try and investigate the problem and get back to me by Wednesday the following week, as she wouldn’t have time to phone the dealership before then – despite that I was requesting her intervention on the part of Land Rover and was stood on the forecourt! I have an independent witness to this conversation. I was doubly furious by her smug refusal to pass me to a supervisor and the fact that she then hung up.
I had spent all afternoon in the garage. I did not wish to give them the opportunity to try to cover up the evidence and I insisted on taking the vehicle – I paid for the service but refused to pay for the work to the brakes after they refused to give me my keys until I had done so.
I have since driven slowly to the land rover dealers in Rennes and given them the vehicle. A full copy of the paperwork relating to the pending court case for the non payment of the hire car has been left with Mr Grosset at Land Rover Rennes. Full photographic and independent evidence of the condition of these two tyres is in my possession and their condition can be verified by Land Rover Rennes, as can the vibration, steering wheel misalignment, damaged windscreen, rear bumper misalignment and front lower wing misalignment.
My new Land Rover Range Rover is a superb vehicle, which unfortunately had a few faults, including one design fault. On a vehicle this complicated I was prepared to accept this, had the support been competent and my inconvenience and financial loss minimised. Land Rover had every opportunity to retain a loyal client and strengthen a bond that has existed for over 15 years.
However, due to the incompetence of the land rover garages, compounded by land rover customer service France and land rover assistance my whole ownership experience has been badly soured and possibly irreparably damaged.
My financial loss has been considerable, the vehicle is depreciating during all these months that I don’t even have use of my new Range Rover and it is in land rovers hands, broken. Am I unreasonable to say that this is unacceptable? Why should I be heavily financially penalised because of the dealerships incompetence?
Finally, I would have been left to take and drive the vehicle in a dangerous condition, which the garage undoubtedly knew about. Utterly unforgivable.
Again, in the words of Graham Ede, “The success of a company will be gauged by our clients’ perception of the service they receive - and not our perception of the service we deliver.” Who can be in any doubt of my perception of the “service” I have received?
What would I like?
While I appreciate fully that in these litigious times Land Rover will hesitate to make apologies or comment decisively on the events surrounding my ownership of their product I firstly wanted the senior management to be aware of what is actually happening to their customers; as any initial attempts I made to be referred to them were firmly rebuffed by the customer services departments. I prefer to believe that senior management at such a well respected company have perhaps been unaware of the depth of the problems in customer services at Land Rover France.
Patrick Fourdrain in France is aware of these events, but knows that Gaydon is now dealing with it, so is awaiting instructions.
I want to know if somebody at Land Rover Head Office cares.
If they do, I am providing an opportunity to prove it with positive action.
From a personal perspective, I would prefer not to find myself in a negotiating situation. In the light of all these events surely Land Rover can make a good offer?
I would sincerely love nothing better, than to be driving a new V8 diesel range rover vogue SE for Christmas. To once more be proud of this vehicle, of its heritage and pedigree, and to be telling everyone I know, and the whole world by the power of the internet all about it. I am prepared to forgive and forget, I prefer to do so, but this is now up to Land Rover to make me a reasonable offer to make amends. I would like to think that this whole negative incident could be turned into a positive series of improvements for Land Rover France, and that I and all the other French land rover owners will benefit from the resulting improvements in service.
I also request that Land Rover reach a swift solution to the impeding court case regarding non payment of the courtesy car hire, therefore preventing the necessity of me spending a day in court.