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How hard is it to DYI with a Range Rover?

From: Andy Dingley (
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 1995 04:54:58 GMT
Subject: How Are RR's Like To Work On?

I'm toying with the idea of selling my Series IIA and getting a used Range Rover -- about 5 years old with about 80-100K mile, given my price range.

I'm tempted to say that you should get an _older_ Rangie, as it will be more reliable. I don't like modern Rangies. There are just too many fiddly little pieces involved. The original Rangie concept was a brilliant combination of road & off-road flexibility, but (IMHO) the modern vehicles are getting to be too complicated and unreliable for a long service life. I see 20 year old Rangies on an almost daily basis, whenever someone needs a big reliable tow-car that goes on forever. I don't expect to see post '89 models still running around in 15 years.... I have an '85 carb Rangie, because it's just about the last year made when you could still fix them with a rock (*). I've just rebuilt my entire brake system; from master cylinders seals right out to braided stainless flexies and new vented disks. There's no way I could afford to do this with a post '89 ABS rig. That thing has about a dozen solenoid valves in it ! What am I supposed to do if that goes wrong in the middle of Bratislava ? (**) On the plus side, the more recent Rangies do get some more sophisticated features, like ABS, a viscous centre diff and possibly air suspension. It's your choice. (*) I broke a rear brake disk a few weeks ago, cracked it clean off at the flange. Despite having it happen in the middle of a country market town's one-way street system, I found that there wasn't a Land-Rover dealer within 30 miles. My only option was to get home myself, which required me to saw the old disk off in two halves, then wedge the caliper pistons in place by jamming a small rock between them. I drove home 50 miles on it, and could hardly notice any loss of braking.

(**) Actually, Bratislava has one of the best Landie dealers that side of Berlin. Try breaking down in Albania though.

But I've never worked on a RR and have never owned one before, so I'd appreciate it if the RR owners on the list could tell me:
1. How are RR's to work on?

Pretty easy. If you've experience of a Landie, you'll find yourself right at home. About the only thing you'll miss is the ability to lift floor panels out in seconds.

With a Rangie you also get to play the game of "Guess which set of spanners I need". It can never make its mind up whether to use metric of UNF bolts. Rear wings are held on with metric at the front and UNF at the back...

Can you do most jobs as DYI without a shop's] worth of "special tools"?.

Yes. You need a 2' long ratchet or breaker bar, a hub-nut spanner and that's about it. You'll also need lifting gear that is up to the job in both capacity and height, but that shouldn't surprise any previous Landie owner.

You'll need a genuine service manual. Carb models are one volume and not too expensive, injection models and onwards are a whole library full.

] Is there room to reach in and work?

Engine access is about as much fun as any V engine is ever going to be. Carbs are a real pain to get to, but everything else is easy enough. Transmission work is a nightmare, as it's such a big heavy lump that it's a real headache to get in and out. Changing spark plugs and tensioning the power steering belt are horrid jobs. You need a 3/8" drive spark plug socket and a selection of wobble bars. For tensioning the belt I use a hand-forged crowbar - there's no other way to get decent leverage on it. NB - Get yourself some heavy and _padded_ wing covers. The aluminum wings are very easy to dent with a dropped spanner. Axles are dead easy, suspension is dead easy, hubs swivels are dead easy, brakes are dead easy. Diff juggling (a subject I'm getting far too much practice with lately) is easy, but needs a strong-armed assistant to lift them in. I've just rebuilt my entire front axle, from the propshaft out to the new vented disks and it only took a couple of days (would have been quicker, but it wouldn't stop raining)

Some repair work is awkward, because of the need to strip a bunch of trim out before reaching the work site. It's no worse than most road cars, but a lot different from a Landie.

] 3. What areas of the vehicles give problems the most?

The electrics are horrible. The wire gauge used is far too small and the insulating material goes brittle with age. For Lucas to do this, and top it all off by running bare wires under the floorpan without any spiral binder or similar protection is ridiculous. After 5 years, you might start to see random and inexplicable faults in lengths of cable that are exposed to heat, oil or roadspray. I've never seen a useful wiring chart for a Rangie. Apart from the unidentifiable model changes and different national variations in wiring which make it difficult to identify which diagram you need, the official diagrams also ignore any connectors in the loom. This makes it very difficult to trace wires through the vehicle. Carb setup is awkward, unless you can find someone who knows their way around multiple Stromberg setups. Rust is a problem with Rangies. Most of them is steel, not aluminum, but many owners assume that they'll _never_ rust and don't look after them. A Rangie bodyshell is really three of them, inside each other. At the bottom is a steel ladder chassis. This shouldn't give trouble, so avoid any ex-coastguard or sea-fishing Rangies that have got corrosion problems here. On top of the chassis sits a steel monocoque body, which is usually rust free. Wrapped around the steel monocoque is an outer shell, made of mainly aluminum panels bolted, screwed and pop-riveted onto the steel. Most rust problems are around the steel portions of this outer wrapper:

  • Lower tailgate - these are terrible for failing along the bottom edge. When you open it and fold it down you can't see the edge as a rubber flap is in the way. Try standing on the tailgate and feeling if it bends - or look for rust flakes falling out. Upper tailgate - Catches fail, and frames fail in time. If the side catches don't work, try taking the lower trim off and adjusting the pull rods. New catches are ridiculously expensive (20 UK pounds / side) and adjustment will fix all but the most worn-out. Rear body crossmember - This is originally part of the tailgate frame (a square frame that goes right up to the roofline) and the inner monocoque, but you can replace the lower crossmember on its own by a lot of dismantling and a little simple welding. Sills - part of the inner monocoque and prone to road-salt corrosion. Easy enough to fix. B pillars. This is the steel pillar behind the front door. They're prone to cracking about half-way up after some years service, but they're an easy weld to fix. Inner front wings - these corrode along the top, just inside the bonnet. It's hidden from view, so even ugly welding will keep it together. Battery tray - acid spills cause holes.
  • Bonnet & rear corners - steel, but rarely cause problems.

Brake disks corrode and wear out in time, so keep on top of it. I've just switched my front disks for vented ones from B&H engineering. This is a DIY conversion kit for the calipers, and standard post '89 vented disks & pads. It's a dead easy job to fit, and I look forward to testing it on Bosnia's mountain roads with a full backseats-out load of food aid. Chrome balls and their seals seem to last better than on Landies, and the later rubber-lip seals are reckoned to be better than the original leather. Rubber suspension bushes go squidgy. Fit new ones, either rubber or polyurethane (better ride, more vibration) and see your handling transformed. Steering boxes fail at around 80K. An exchange one is about 150 UK pounds around here and not difficult to fit. Transmissions are built noisy. The gearbox should be quiet, easy to change gear and not prone to jumping out of gear. Transfer boxes are always noisy under load and it's only a whining noise on the over-run that indicates a problem. Gearboxes with 100K and above may start to jump out of first gear. No-one can ever agree what to lubricate the gearbox with. The manual seems to allow anything vaguely oily (engine, hypoid, or ATF), but I use ATF and EP90 for the transfer box. Engines are generally reliable. At around 100K the camshaft will be worn, the lifters will be dirty and (by repute) the inner side of the head gasket will be starting to blow-past. It keeps running, but loses some of the flush of youth. With appropriate rebuilding, the block, crank and heads go on for ever. Oil pumps wear at around 100K. They're still OK for cruising, but oil pressure falters when you're mud-plugging at low revs. You can either change the pump (it's an external pump, so it's dead easy to do with the engine in place), grind the end plate smooth again to get another 60K miles of life out it, or buy a new end-plate with a built in oil cooler take-off from Moquip (cheaper than a new pump, and you get the cooler fitting too). When changing oil, don't be tempted to mess with the pump or the relief valve. If the pump loses its contents it won't re prime itself, so you need to strip it and pack it with vaseline before starting. This also requires a new pump gasket - they're dirt cheap, but not available on a rainy Friday evening !

Take all the above information with a pinch of salt. It's only my personal experience and biases and I've far less experience with Landie products than many people around here.

Copyright Dixon Kenner, 1995-2011. Last modified March 15, 2005.
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