Land Rover Defender Problems: 5 Common Issues (Explained)

The classic Land Rover Defender is not without its problems, but they are definitely vehicles that were built to last.

You can still find many of the old machines running almost like the day they were made, but is the same true for the newly released 2021 and 2022 models?

Are there any common problems that owners are still finding with their Land Rover Defenders?

Though it is a reasonably reliable vehicle overall, Land Rover Defenders do have some recurring issues that owners have noticed. Many of these problems are centered around the windshield, the clutch, the gearbox and transfer box, and problems with starting. The newer models have even had recalls relating to areas like the child restraint system and the rear taillight assembly.

If you have any problems with the child restraint system, seat belts, or rear taillight assembly in your Defender, you should get in touch with your dealership and inquire about recalls.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about the common problems that Land Rover Defenders have been known to suffer from, including what you can do if you notice any of these issues yourself.

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Do Land Rover Defenders Have Clutch Problems?

Clutch issues were certainly a concern with the original Defender models, especially after years of consistent use, but the newer models have much fewer reported issues in this area.

It will take a few years before we can see how the newer clutch systems hold up over time.

Clutch problems that were common among older Defenders were usually a result of wear and tear.

After a few years, old Land Rover Defenders can have problems engaging the clutch and might not be able to get into gear at all when the engine is switched on.

Usually, these problems are a result of some wear on the slave cylinder, the master cylinder, or the hose. 


If there is no resistance at all from the clutch pedal, it likely means that hydraulic pressure has been lost.

If this is the case, you should look for leaks, particularly around the clutch hose.

You might be able to patch minor leaks for a quick fix, but ultimately a leaky connection or hose will need replacing.

Otherwise, wear to the slave or master cylinder may result in a lack of pressure on the release bearing, or some deformation to the pressure plate or bearings might be affecting how the clutch is able to engage.

Ultimately, the unit will likely need replacing if you are having problems engaging the clutch, particularly if either cylinder is damaged or deformed.

Do Land Rover Defenders Have Windshield/Wiper Problems?

Windshield problems are an issue that has been reported many times about the newer Defender models, and the older Defender models had a number of issues with the wipers themselves.

The most common problem that owners are finding with the newest model of Defender is sudden and unexplained cracks appearing on the windshield.

Some owners have experienced cracking while driving or cleaning the car, but others have noted cracks are suddenly appearing even when the vehicle is stationary.

With the older Defender models, a more common complaint is that the windshield wipers might become stiff, or the motor itself might fail.


If you have a crack appear in your windshield, you can take the vehicle to any number of garages or repair and replacement shops that will easily solve the problem for you.

It is a relatively common complaint, however, so you might want to get in touch with your Land Rover dealer, particularly if your Defender is a recent purchase.

If your wipers have become stiff, taking the wheel boxes apart and greasing the internal components may be enough to get them moving smoothly again.

If your windscreen wipers have failed entirely and you notice smoke coming from the dash, it is likely that the motor itself has burnt out.

The wiper motors for the old Land Rover Defenders are a specific make, and you will probably need to contact a Land Rover technician to get your hands on a new one.

Do Land Rover Defenders Have Transfer Box Problems?

The newer models of Land Rover Defender have not had many reported issues with their transfer boxes, though some problems have been noticed with the transfer boxes of the old models.

The Land Rover’s transfer box has long been regarded as one of the most reliable in the business, but that doesn’t mean that they never face any difficulties at all.

Often, issues with the transfer box in a Defender are minor, though the bearings have been known to fail, or the box itself can struggle to engage.


The most common issues with the transfer box in a Defender occur as a result of oil issues.

Usually, you are just running low on oil and need to top up, but sometimes the oil itself can overheat (particularly if you are using your vehicle for towing). 

If your oil is overheating, you may need to fit a high-capacity sump that will increase the oil capacity and aid cooling for the oil in the transfer box.

If your transfer box is struggling to engage or it is jamming, it may be to do with the length of the mounting bolts.

Some of the bolts should be shorter than others.

Otherwise, they can rub up against the main gear inside of the transfer box.

Do Land Rover Defenders Have Gearbox Problems?

Many owners of the new Defender model have reported receiving an error message that states there has been a “Gearbox Fault Detected,” which can cause the power to completely fail to the engine, steering, and braking.

Sometimes this message has been known to appear and then disappear, with no actual issues seeming to occur.

The older Defender models were also known to struggle with gearbox problems, mainly in the form of stiff gear changes and grinding noises when switching between gears.


If you notice a brief error message about a gearbox problem but don’t otherwise find any issues with the running of your vehicle, it may not be the cause for alarm.

If you have a significant failure of the gearbox, however, you might lose power entirely.

In this case, you will need to visit a Land Rover dealer to isolate the exact problem.

Noises coming from the gearbox are often the result of bearings being worn down or damage to the teeth of the gears themselves.

First, you should check the oil levels to make sure that the area is sufficiently lubricated.

Then you can inspect any potential damage or wear to the internal components.

If the noise is more noticeable in one particular gear, you may be able to determine the likely cause more easily.

For example, noise in the first gear is usually related to the input end of the transfer box, whereas noise in the second gear indicates a problem with the main shaft or the input end of the transfer box. 

If the noise reduces when you are in second or fourth gear, it might suggest a problem in the layshaft or input shaft bearings.

Do Land Rover Defenders Have Starting Problems?

Land Rover Defenders do have some reported issues with starting up.

There can be many different reasons why your Defender might not normally start, including issues with the key, the battery, the starter motor, a blown fuse, or an electrical fault.


The first thing to check is whether or not you have enough fuel in the tank and whether your key fob has a completely discharged battery.

These are common occurrences with quick fixes, but they can easily catch you out.

If the engine is failing to turn over, it may be a problem with the 12v battery.

You can test the battery with a multimeter to determine whether it needs to be replaced, and you can inspect the battery contacts for any signs of corrosion.


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If the engine doesn’t start at all, it may be a failure of the starter motor. Usually, these should last for over 100,000 miles, but when they do fail, they generally need to be replaced entirely.

Problems with the spark plugs, alternator, fuses, or fuel pump are much less common in Defenders, but they can still result in your engine not starting up the way that it is supposed to.

If you can’t determine why your engine isn’t starting up, you can always try connecting a diagnostic scanner to the onboard diagnostics port.

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Final Thoughts: Land Rover Defender Common Problems

In some ways, the more complicated electrical components of the modern Defender have created more room to fail than the older models had.

On the other hand, many of the wear and tear issues that have been noted in old Defenders over the years have been less prominent with the newer version.

The most common complaint with the new Defender is unexpected windshield cracking, but issues have been noted with other areas of the vehicle as well, including faults with the gearbox and recall on the child restraint system and the rear taillight assembly.

If you have any issues, it is best to seek out a Land Rover technician that will have the exact knowledge that you need and can help you to find the right fix.