I bought a 1996 Land Rover Discovery in 2010. Mostly because the MX2 was back in the shop for an extensive rebuild and modifications. Since then I had mostly done small fixes that were needed. Though that manifested into me spending some time doing a simple build for short trips.

How the Disco looked once most of my modifications were made.

How the Disco looked when I bought it. Next to the MX2 with no motor or front suspension.

I’ve had the Disco for a month now and very happy with it so far. Had it on a couple trips with small street tires, which surprisingly did well. While on a trip through the Bradshaw Mountains to Sedona with Lance and Remmie we got talking about what I should do in modifications. They convinced me to do a budget build, something anyone could do, which comes in handy since the Ranger has broken the bank. So with this build I hope to show that all you really need to get out and explore is some wheels and the proper attitude. During the build I’ll outline parts, materials and prices so everyone can see how much of a budget one can be on. Nothing too fancy here either. This will be kept simple so the average Joe can build something similar in a modestly outfitted garage.

When I met with the seller I knew there were a few problems. The check engine light was on, it needs a new passenger headlight and power steering leaks. Interior was good and looks to be recently replaced. I did a carfax report after the first meeting and found out the vehicle had a good record. The one thing that did stand out is it failed emissions for couple of years. The next day I went back to see the Disco again. Crawling underneath I could see new catalytic converters, new exhaust and new o2 sensors. Under the hood everything looked clean, though appeared to be recently washed. Checking a few key parts I see this and past owners couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t pass emissions. Talking with the seller he tells me Autozone tested the vehicle and came up with o2 being the problem. Seeing they were new I know that isn’t the problem. He handed me the diagnostic receipt from Autozone. Sure enough it lists o2’s as the problem code, but on a bmw. My thought is the actual code being looked up isn’t the problem. Or he’s BSing me, though his mechanical knowledge didn’t appear to very good.

With recently spending $1000 on a rental car for a month and the Disco in decent running condition I decided to take the gamble. The price was $2100. My thought is if I couldn’t get the Disco fixed I should be able to get at least a few months out of it. If that be the case it would be cheaper than a rental, but I would end up with an asset to part out if need be. We exchanged the title and money and off to the shop I went.

The day after I brought it home I had to do some work. It wounded itself. Would crank but didn’t run. Maybe this was a bad gamble, especially since nothing this year has gone right. “Crap” I said. Running through my mind was the words from a previous Land Rover owner I met on a tail run. “You know what they call a Land Rover owner? A mechanic.”

I began with checking the fuel system. Fuel filter, yep its new. Fuel pump, its pumping. Borrowed a fuel pressure gauge, bad 5 lbs. I pulled the fuel pump assembly thinking I would have to replace the pump. After inspection I noticed the plastic fuel line was cracked, so fuel was just circulating in the tank. I replaced with some new lines, reinstalled and presto. $5 bucks.

Turning my attention now to the check engine light I use a ODBII code reader. I then began to search the internet for Land Rover codes. Turns out I have a bad mass air flow sensor or a bad vss. The vss was only a few dollars to replace, while the mass air flow sensor was much more expensive. I’m sure if it was a vss it would have been replaced already in the emissions scramble previous owners had taken. Calling around no parts place had a MAF sensor, all which were $600 a piece. Digging around some more online I found a junk yard in Oregon with a working unit for $80 shipped. Considering the alternative I took my chances.

In the mean time I took a trip, with check engine light on and temporary tags, along the Senator Hwy and over to Sedona with Lance, Remmie and Wayman. Before I set out though I needed some new tires. The ones I had were dry rotted badly. I called around and finally went the super cheap route. Used tires. I found a place near Gateway Airport that had 4 matching tires installed for $100 bucks. Sold, even thought they were 235/60r16’s. A super small (27″ tall) highway terrain tire. Just temporary I thought.


We took mostly easy trails. On one occasion we had a rocky decent and hill climb. Going down was like pie. Up was fairly easy but a few places were challenging. The small size tires meant I couldn’t air down in fear of hitting the differentials. Highway tread patterns mean I had no grip either. Slowly but surely stacking rocks we got the Disco up the hill.




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