Range Rover P38 Problems: 8 Common Issues (Explained)

Land Rover’s Range Rover LP, more commonly known as MkII or P38, is the second generation of the Range Rover lineup of SUVs and the first one to be a full-size one.

Though it improved considerably over its predecessor, Range Rover P38’s problems are not negligible.

With the existing fleet of the P38s getting older and older, along with the current mechanical and electrical problems, more and more age-related ones are sneaking up on their owners.

After all, this SUV was produced between 1994 and 2001.

There are four main areas where the most common problems on Land Rover P38 will show up. Those are diesel engine-related, air suspension, problems with brake, and central locking.

This is not a complete list of all potential issues, but let’s get to it in the details.

“1998 Range Rover P38 4.6 HSE” by TheCarSpy is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.

Diesel Common Problems

The Range Rover P38, or LP as it is also known, has debuted with several engine options. One of them was a 2.5-liter inline-6 BMW M51 diesel engine.

A unit producing the least amount of power within the range, “just” 136 horsepowers. But it also came with its set of problems.

Idler Pulley

The poor material quality of the idler pulley was a problem since the introduction of P38, and this could cause it to break apart.

As this pulley starts to fail, the serpentine belt can start producing a rattling sound.

After this, either the belt or the pulley will break off, resulting in all ancillary systems stopping, power steering, engine water pump, and so on.

Very quickly, this will lead to the engine overheating, which could cause further damage to the engine if it is left to run.

But fixing this is very simple by changing the idler pulley to a newer and improved design and also the serpentine belt if it was damaged.

Hot Start Problems

The most common problem with the BMW’s M51 engine is that it is hard to start when the engine is hot. When the engine was running for a while and then shut down, restarting it could be a problem.

There are two potential causes of this. The first is a design flaw of glow plugs and the other stretched-out timing chain, thus the fuel injection timing being off.

A quick fix for this issue is to install a so-called “hot-start fix,” an electronic device that forces glow plugs to activate no matter what is the temperature of the engine.

But to fix the root cause, the fuel injection pump needs to be retimed.

Cold Engine

Another very common problem is that the temperature gauge constantly shows an extremely low-temperature reading.

This happens due to a faulty thermostat which can be either stuck open or not reading the temperature at all.

The only way to fix it is a replacement.

Viscous Fan Coupling

With the age and miles, many parts of the engine and its cooling system can start failing.

Among the first ones to do so is the viscous fan coupling, which serves to engage and disengage the cooling fan. When it happens, the engine can overheat if not moving.

This problem can be recognized by two symptoms; the first is the whistling sound that can be heard above the engine noise.

The second way to recognize it is because when the engine is cold and turned off, the fan can be turned around with slight or no resistance. In either case, it needs to be replaced.

Air Suspension Problems

When the Range Rover P38 debuted, it was highly praised for both off and on-road capabilities and comfort.

This was due to a very sophisticated, for its time, electronically controlled air suspension system, EAS.

But from the get-go, it had some very peculiar problems and undesirable behaviors due to faulty components.

A Sudden Change of Ride Height

Practically since the day that the sale of P38 started, owners have started experiencing a sudden change in the ride height of their vehicle.

For some owners, it would be both suspensions on either from or rear axle, or all four, but for some, just one of the corners would go all the way up or down. But most commonly, it happened while driving.

This change in the ride height is dangerous, destabilizing the vehicle. Because of this reason, the vehicle would display a warning not to exceed the speed of 35mph.

The faulty component almost always in such situations is the EAS Driver Pack. This part converts the low current computer logic signal into the high current signal needed to operate the EAS valves.

Various internal problems with EAS Driver Pack can lead to it randomly activating one, pair, or all of the valves. Unfortunately, it is not a repairable part and has to be replaced.


As the vehicle ages, but with the accumulation of miles driven off-road, the air suspension will develop leaks.

The symptom that there is some leak in the system is the constant activation of the compressor while driving, but also the overnight change of the ride height.

Depending on how severe the leak is, your vehicle can drop just a fraction of an inch.

But, if the leak is substantial, it will drop all the way down to the access level. Such a big drop can be noticed visually.

But another way to figure out that the suspension has dropped is that it takes at least several seconds to raise back to “normal” ride height.

The most common cause of this problem is worn or old air springs, which then would need to be replaced or repaired if the components are available.

Particularly susceptible are for the leaks are the tops of the air springs. The high-pressure lines are also a potential location of leaks, especially where they connect to valve blocks.

The least common cause of the leaks is valve blocks themselves due to potential failures of the internal components.

While a decent and experienced Land Rover mechanic can rebuild them, the only way to certainly fix this problem is by replacing the faulty part.

Brake Problems

The brakes on Range Rover P38 are hydraulically assisted type, and when you push the brake pedal, the “ABS” pump releases the pressure from the accumulator.

When the pressure drops below a threshold, the ABS pump is activated by the pressure switch to replenish the pressure in the accumulator.

When any of these three components fails, there will be problems with braking.

The most common is a sudden appearance of a spongy feel of the brakes and the flashing of all three brake lights on the dashboard while braking.

While the accumulator can fail and should be changed every 5 years or 80 thousand miles, and the ABS pump is not built to last forever, the most common cause is the faulty pressure switch.

The only way to fix this problem is by replacing all or any defective components.

Central Locking Problems

The central locking system on the Range Rover P38 is known to have several potential problems with the microcontrollers and connectors in the door latches or the BeCM system that controls its function.

The first symptom is that the keyfobs stop working, and you can unlock the doors only with a key.

When you unlock the driver’s car, all others will unlock, too, as expected.

But, as the problem progresses, eventually, you will be able only to unlock one of the front doors while the engine immobilizer stays engaged when you open the door.

The most common cause is the corrosion of latch connectors, but a failure of microcontrollers is also a potential cause.

Very rarely, the problem is BeCM, which then would have to be replaced. But most commonly replacing the faulty latch.

Final Thoughts

When it was launched, the second generation of Range Rover was touted as an SUV that has managed to achieve excellent performance both off and on-road.

But various Range Rover P38 problems caused by poor design and poor maintenance started to rear their ugly heads.

Above are just some most common ones you should be aware of if planning to buy this classic SUV.