Defender Breakdowns While Travelling and Bush Repairs

The Importance of Spare Parts & Bush Repairs

When operating any 4×4 vehicle offroad for long periods in harsh conditions, it is inevitable that something will break. Despite spending 3 years preparing my Land Rover Defender and replacing many parts in preparation for my 10 month solo trip around Australia, I still encountered issues requiring repairs. Many of these repairs I completed myself in camp using my spare parts kit and tools to get me back on the road. For others I located a suitable mechanic. A couple times I had to order parts and ship them to the nearest post office.
Having the ability to complete simple bush repairs can mean the difference between an expensive recovery, being stuck in a remote area for a week until help arrives, or a few hours under the bonnet and getting back on the road to enjoy your adventure. Performing daily checks on the car is important to identify any issues and fix them asap before they result in a breakdown.

Below are all the issues I incurred during my solo trip and how I solved them.

Defender issues:

Problems due to installer error or rebuilt parts. Should not have occurred.

  • New turbocharger: My rebuilt turbo lasted only 30000km since rebuild. It had major bearing play. After disassembling old unit I suspect poor rebuild job by turbo shop. Rear bolt on shaft had sheared which would have thrown balance out and caused shaft to wobble wearing bearings out.
  • Gearbox and transfer case seals: Faulty front gearbox main oil seal despite full rebuild only 17000km before. Losing a lot of gearbox oil, plus minor weeping of transfer case seal. Replaced all seals on gearbox and transfer case again. This fixed the gearbox leak but the transfer case now leaks worse than it did before! Never going to win the war against oil leaks on a Land Rover.
  • 2 lower rear Koni Raid 90 shock bushes: Replaced with spares. Failed due to being fitted with wrong bushes by installer.


  • Ignition switch: Ordered replacement and fitted myself. Failed suddenly in caravan park. Was probably the original 22 year old unit.
  • Fuel stop solenoid: Replaced with spare. Failed suddenly at caravan park. Was only 12 months old.
  • Winch solenoid: Replaced with aftermarket unit. Failed after 6 months due to water corroding the solenoids.
  • Mouse chewed through some wire insulation: Bush repair with self-amalgamating tape.
  • Electrical short in windscreen wipers: Temporarily fixed by pulling wires around to dislodge short.
  • Broken wire on rear indicator: Bush repair with spares. Likely caused by stones flicking up at the rear connections.
  • Loose connection on rear brake light: Moved wire around till light working again.
  • Broken wire on windscreen washer pump: Bush repair with spares. Wire fatigued due to age.
  • Carling switches rattled off dash: Corrugations rattled switches off. Bush repair with Araldite glue from Spares kit.


  • Broken front muffler mount: Completed bush repair with fencing wire. Lasted all the way from the Googs track to Darwin, but caused the Turbo gasket to blow out.
  • Turbocharger gasket: Ordered replacement and fitted myself. Failed due to bush repairs I did wrapping fencing wire around the turbo to help hold up the muffler. Suspect vibration through the wire caused nuts to loosen off and blow out gasket.
  • Worn fan belt: Replaced with spare. My fault for not retightening belt after replacing it before trip departure.
  • Rear propshaft universal joint: Replaced with spare. Worn after only 17500km. Britpart.
  • Rear mudflap torn: Bush repair with zip ties. Torn despite being less than a year old.
  • Harmonic balancer and key: Key flogged out on crankshaft. Had new key made by local shop and ordered replacement harmonic balancer and fitted myself.
  • Stripped bolt thread on alternator housing: Replaced bolt with longer bolt and nut from spares kit.
  • Strong dash rattle: Dash had broken housing and screw could not hold down tightly. Bush repair with a bottle cap used as a washer to spread the load and clamp dash down.
  • Missing nut on water pump: Replaced with spare.
  • Loose nuts on gearbox mounts: Suspect Land Rover mechanics did not tighten correctly after reinstalling gearboxes. Tightened up.
  • Broken speedo cable: Broke while Land Rover mechanics replaced seals on my gearbox. They replaced it for me.
  • Loose bolt on exhaust manifold: Tightened up.
  • Slight coolant leak: Very small leak which I monitored daily. Topped up coolant a couple times per month.
  • Low engine oil after driving at high speeds for several hours: Topped up with spare oil.
  • Low Transfer case oil due to leaks: Topped up with spare oil.

Damage sustained:

  • Bumperette: Bent rear drivers side bumperette when I reversed into a tree in a caravan park. Was dusk, tired and trying to avoid tents and sprinklers. Tree right in blind spot.
  • Fuel tank: Added a good size dint to my rear 120L fuel tank when driving through a mud hole. Did not puncture.
  • Broken front disc rotor guard: Broke off on the Oodnadatta track due to metal fatigue. Removed and continued driving.
  • Oil pressure sender: Sender for oil gauge damaged after engine running with low oil. Served its purpose and alerted me to low oil on the one morning I didn’t bother to check my engine oil. I had little oil left after a long drive the day before at 100-110km/hr. Engine tends to burn through a lot of oil at “high speed”.

Random stats:

  • Hottest exhaust gas temperature: 760 degrees Celsius
  • Flat tyres: 0! Goodyear Duratracs. I changed tyre pressures as necessary to suit terrain.
  • Number of times recovered: 0! I completed all repairs myself or identified issues before they became serious and drove to a mechanic.

With my car being 22 years old there were several issues above occurring due to old age and wear and tear. This was particularly the case with the little electronic problems all of which I fixed myself. The other problems such as the gearbox seal, worn turbocharger and shock absorber bushes failing despite having them professionally rebuilt or installed really shouldn’t have happened. The remainder were loose things due to corrugations or new parts I had replaced which wore or failed prematurely. Still most of the repairs were a quick 10 minute fix before continuing my journey. A testament to the simplicity of pre-computerised Land Rover Defenders.

I would love to hear from other Defender owners of the issues you’ve encountered while travelling and how you fixed them. Please add a reply below.


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Brett is a film maker, hiker, adventurer and Defender owner. He loves the outdoors and feels most at home travelling remote outback places in Australia. The idea of waiting till retirement to begin exploring Australia is not the path Brett has chosen, instead choosing to live life now. Join him on his adventures.

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3 thoughts on “Defender Breakdowns While Travelling and Bush Repairs”

    1. yes a few little things here and there but all fixed either on the track or before they became a problem. Never hurts to learn a few more mechanical skills when owning an old Land Rover.

  1. On my way over to the Kimberly last year I pulled into camp for the night (1am) on the other side of Cobar, the truck was pumping white smoke, turbo was gone. I turned it off but the truck ran on it’s on fumes, revved high than stopped. Luckily, no engine damage.
    My good friend owns 4wd industries based in Maitland, a Land Rover specialist and always my go to, I rang him and send through my location, by the time I woke in the morning, he was there with a new turbo. I didn’t even lose a day!
    Luckily I wasn’t on the Tanami or it might have been a different story
    Your a legend mate

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