Buyers Guide to:
Range Rover P38a
1994 to 2002
2500cc, 4000cc, 4600cc
The Range Rover Register
Paul Rutter Land Rover
Replacing the original and much-loved Range Rover was never going to be easy, but in September 1994 that task fell to the P38a. Not everyone admired the styling – some people rather unkindly compared it to the London taxi of the time – and it gained a reputation for unreliability, but it was certainly luxurious and very capable off-road. Available with 4.0- and 4.6-litre V8 petrol engines and a BMW-sourced 2.5-litre diesel, the new model was powerful if on the thirsty side. The name came from ‘Pegasus’ (the in-house design proposal) with 38a the internal codename for the model, and around 210,000 examples were sold before it was replaced by the BMW- developed L322 version in 2002.
- Rear wheel arches
- The aluminium panels for dents, and for signs of corrosion where they meet the steel chassis. A tatty example likely points to previous neglect, and isn’t worth the risk
- That the chassis hasn’t been damaged by clumsy off-roading. It could have caused corrosion to take hold, as well as damaging suspension or mechanical components
- The V8 engines very carefully. There’s the potential for problems with slipping cylinder liners and porous engine blocks, so make absolutely certain of the condition before buying. They are also prone to oil leaks, while signs that oil and water are mixing indicates expensive head gasket failure. Any signs of overheating should be treated with suspicion, as should a patchy service history
- For any warning lights on the dashboard. Faulty engine management sensors and failed catalytic converters aren’t uncommon, while the ECUs can be prone to water ingress if the car has been wading. A failing battery or one that’s an incorrect specification can also cause error messages to appear
- To see whether an LPG conversion has been carried out. If so, make sure you see the relevant safety certificates
- The manual gearbox for odd noises and oil leaks. The R380 five-speed unit is essentially strong but can suffer from worn synchromesh between second and third gears. Check for a slipping clutch, too
- That the ZF HP22 4-speed automatic isn’t slipping or suffering from jerky or hesitant shifts. Regular fluid changes will aid longevity so be wary if the fluid appears blackened or smells burnt
- For any problems with the transfer box. It’s a chain-driven Borg Warner unit and can suffer from oil leaks, while the electric motor used to select high or low range can fail. And check for noisy or leaking differentials, or judders from the drive train. Repairs to the four-wheel drive system can prove very costly, so be warned
- The operation of the air-suspension system, ensuring you can select all ride height settings. The air springs can perish, while a clogged filter can exacerbate wear in the air compressor. Some owner have ditched the system for conventional coil springs, so get it checked by a specialist
- That the power steering system isn’t leaking fluid, and look for warning lights indicating problems with the anti-lock brake and traction control systems. The hefty kerb weight takes its toll on the brakes, so check for wear or neglect
- That all of the luxury kit works. The cabin was packed with plenty of features, and with niggling electrical problems far from unusual it’s essential to try every switch and button. Items like heated seats, satellite navigation, and hi-fi systems can play up
- The operation of the climate control system as it can suffer faults with the control electronics and air-blending motors. Be sure to try it in all of the settings as it’s pricey to fix and may have been ignored by a previous owner
- The overall condition of the interior as refurbishing costs will soon mount. Check for damage to wood trim, and for scuffed leather seats which point to careless ownership in the past
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