What My Land Rover Defender Did On Summer Vacation….

Summer, a time for outdoor play and fleeting romance. A time for ball games and trips to the pool. A time for long runs along the beach and weekends in the woods. 

Or a time to be up on jackstands.

IMG_0937It all started with my brakes acting wonky. Strange pulsing from the rear was the biggest sign. A glance under the truck revealed some leaking fluids where no fluids had leaked before, along the frame rail, just forward of the right rear tire. Further inspection revealed that my brake lines, which look like this, had finally given in to rust:

IMG_0641Truth be told, I knew this would eventually happen. The fuel lines have all been replaced with stainless, and it was only a matter of time until the brake lines needed similar service. However, I do not have one of these:








Or one of these for that matter


It was going to be a while until I got the truck back up and running. In the meantime I decided to finally install the “New Take Off” coil springs I bought some time ago. After having them for at least a year, I’m very skeptical of their origins, but their just big coils of metal, right? Here’s what the old ones looked like for reference:

IMG_0933Was it Neil Young who said ‘Rust Never Sleeps’?

Here are the new ones:IMG_0122 IMG_0123

And the old next to new for shock value (get it? Shock value):

IMG_0881So, needless to say, this was a rusty mess to remove and replace. I burned through 2 Harbor Freight chain vice-grip type wrenches, and spent a lot of time getting from this:

IMG_0233To this, on all four corners (the front ones sucked mightily). The secret I discovered to getting the coils in without using spring compressors is this: Once you have everything ready to go back in (and your brake lines disconnected) – put a scissor jack (like your daily driver came with) on the axle on that flat part just above where the coil sits in the picture above – and jack it up to the rubber bump-stop. Then keep cranking until you have enough room to wedge or slide the new coil (and shock if you’re doing the fronts) into position. This single tip was the greatest help in this entire project. Thanks to one of the UK Defender boards for this (I think it was LR4x4).  

IMG_0938out brake lines, right? So what’s that shiny bit you see just under the new coil in the above photo? Why yes! That is one of the new Classic Tube pre bent and flared brake lines/pipes. I experimented with off the shelf line – it turned out to be difficult to bend, and quite a few of the lines on the Defender are male fittings on one end, and female on the other. Off the shelf doesn’t work for that (but it’s cheap!).

Next, I looked into copper pipe, as they use in the UK on Defenders. However it was very high cost, and I was told that they could burst, and some US states do not allow copper brake lines. Some feedback from East Coast Rover via their Facebook page pointed me back to Classic Tube, who actually supplied my fuel lines a couple years back. The price was reasonable and it only took a couple weeks turnaround time.

So now I am installing the lines. I’m about 85% done, but have had a stall. One of the fittings in the booster under the brake fluid reservoir got cross-threaded. Tonight I hope, with some expert help, to rethread the fitting so I can finish installation and perhaps even get some miles this summer. Here’s a shot of the truck with no hood, it was remarkably easy to remove (once I took the front roll-cage bar off), and it’s given me the ability to better thread the new front brake lines into the engine compartment. All these lines have offered challenges when installing. Considering all the crap you need to navigate around to get the lines in the right spot, you need to think in 3-D spatial terms to twist and turn just right.

IMG_0940Man that’s a crappy picture, sorry.

Lots of sweat equity in the truck this month. Hopefully it’s all worth it!

Posted in Barn Find, Brake Lines, Defender 90, Land Rover, Rust, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shop Day

Land Rovers can be bitter, vengeful, beasts. Vocalize the belief that you may just make it home, and the truck is sure to find a way to leave you on the side of the road. Quip that your truck is bone dry, and a leak will spring up in short order. Claim you have a rust free chassis and bulkhead, and you’re bound to find the evil tinworm. And suggest that a project may only take a few hours and you are sure to find yourself logging 10+ hours to get a job done properly.

Count me in that last category. A couple weekends ago, schedules aligned and I was finally able to take Bill up on his offer to help replace my radiator. Of course no proper Land Rover project is complete without some scope creep, and this was no exception. By the time we arrived at the AutoCraft Center we had hopes of doing the following:

Replace Radiator
Fan Switch
Water Pump
Fan Clutch
And if we had some extra time, install a new set of Coil Springs

Bill kindly offered up his expertise, time, and access to the AutoCraft center purely out of the concept of the Birmabright Brotherhood. He is a guy who loves working on Landys and I had a Landy in need. Nowhere else in this crazy society will you find that kind of selflessness.

What started as a couple hour job on a Saturday quickly morphed into a 2-day, 13 hour job which included leaving the truck at the shop, and bumming a ride from my dad to get back on Sunday. As a testament to the uniqueness of the situation, my wife spent much of the weekend wondering if I was dead, or at least kidnapped, or perhaps rolled for the truck she cares so little about. Even after it was all said and done, and I had returned with the truck, she peppered me with questions like “who was this guy?” and “Why was he helping you?”

I suppose there are just some things women will never understand.

After exchanging pleasantries and getting a cup of coffee, we proceeded to the CraftShop. A fairly nondescript building on a fairly non-descript military base. There were maybe 20 auto bays, some with lifts, lots of autos in various stages of disrepair, and a crew of Navy guys working the tool crib. the Navy guys were out of central casting, each fitting an expected stereotype. The short, stout barrel chested guy with the thickest ‘Bahstan’ accent I’ve ever heard. Another guy, rail thin, maybe 70 missing most of his teeth, his arms covered in primitive tattoos of naked women, spewing stories of adventures around the world, and supremely convinced that our Land Rovers were made out of Stainless Steel. And a motley crew of other workers, hangers on, and other part-time mechanics tuning their rigs or shooting the shit on a cold winter weekend.

After pulling into the bay, checking out a handful of tools and getting a bucket to drain the various fluids, we probably had the radiator out and drained in a half-hour. The Rover Gods frown upon this sort of progress.

A little history while we wait for the Rover Gods to react: This project started when a local, quite reputable shop quoted me almost $1400 to replace the radiator and do the thermostat and hoses. A data point which is quite relevant here is that I had forgotten to ask the shop to quote replacing the viscous fan/fan clutch or the water pump. Two jobs that Bill and I did. The viscous fan being a huge contributor (perhaps the main, in retrospect) to my overheating problems. So that $1400 quote was something Bill and I had ½ done in about ½ hour.

Our next task was to remove the nut on the fan clutch. The shop had a fan clutch removal tool but sadly the kit lacked the requisite 32mm fan clutch wrench. No fear, I had a bicycle tool, Park tool bottom bracket wrench from the family bike shop. Just as thin and the right size.

Five Hours Later….

By this point, Bill now hates my truck. And we all remember the lessons of the Land Rover Gods. Sensing no progress, we decided the only way to keep this project moving was to unbolt the water pump and remove the entire assembly: Water Pump, Pulleys, Fan Clutch, Fan. As one unit it might be easier to uncouple and remove the nut that had become the bane of our existence.

After fiddleing with 6” long bolts that refused to clear pulleys, we stripped off the power steering pulley, the power steering adjustment bolt, and the adjustment bracket for the alternator. We finally were able to wiggle the whole assembly out. We took a moment to congratulate ourselves before continuing to be confounded by the nut from hell.


We tried a vice, we tried a chop saw, we tried another vice. The nut was on so tight, that it stripped the shaft of the water pump from the pump blades. Finally I destroyed the fan to give us some access to the nut. It did not help. What we really needed was the alternator pulleys as we were replacing all the other stuff with new. On a whim, I bought a new fan the week prior (on sale at AB.) I can’t imagine what we would have done had we needed to preserve the fan.

Skinny old Navy guy tried and failed. Boston accent gave us his best advice, it failed. Bill wanted to use the acetylene torch and cut the fucker off, but the skinny old Navy guy shook his head. Finally, and so many times it ends up this way, Crazy got it done.

Crazy was a guy working on a truck he was rebuilding. It was a salvage pickup that was owned by the railroad. It had rear-ended a train, and he was rebuilding it from junkyard parts. He said “I’ll have that nut off in 5 minutes.” He clamped it in the vice, grabbed the acetylene torch the old guy forbid us from using, and proceeded to torch that nut off. Problem solved.


Unfortunately, it was also closing time at the AutoCraft center. Day 1 ended with Bill cursing my truck, and driving me 45 minutes home, only to have to drive 45 minutes back to the base to work and sleep.

Day 2 began with an ice storm in the forecast. I persuaded my 70 year old dad to drive me up there, saving Bill from making that round trip for a second time in 12 hours. Turns out it was a good decision. He enjoyed the company, had fun helping with the truck, and got us out of a couple sticky situations with the truck that our addled and sleep-deprived brains couldn’t work out.

When the Haynes book says “replacement is opposite of removal” they are mostly telling the truth, but they tend to haze over many of the details. No matter, we had no Haynes book with which to mislead us.

Replacing the water pump bolts proved to be a challenge, as we failed to mark the location of where the bolts went when we removed them. This begs the question why Land Rover designed a water pump that takes 17 different size bolts. Could there have been just a bit of standardization in the design?


The thermostat and electric fan switch were easy replacements, and getting the whole thing back together wasn’t too terribly difficult. Our bigger problem at this point was that we were exhausted. The adjustment nut for the power steering pump was designed by Stalin, and even getting the alternator back into position along with the odd extra wheel and jockey wheels off the bottom of the water pump were not very user friendly.

That said, we got the whole thing back together and buttoned up and ready for new antifreeze when Bill saw the brand and type of antifreeze I purchased. Not to call anyone out, but I bought a brand/type that someone on the board swears by. Bill swore at it. Off to Autozone, in the ice storm to get green anti-freeze. A half-hour later and things were again progressing.

We started it up, we tightened and retightened, and adjusted, and adjusted again. And then something amazing happened. I turned on the heat, and it was blowing hot. In the nearly 3 years of owning this truck, cold weather meant cold truck (much in the way hot weather means hot truck) but never the right temperature for the right climate. Yet here I was, cold weather, hot air and a temperature gauge that was pegged in the middle, and not creeping up as the truck sat idling.  The fan clutch was doing it’s job, the new radiator with the extra core was doing its job, the thermostat was doing its job. Save for a little belt squeal that I’ll take care of in the next few weeks as the Chicago weather gets a little nicer, the job ended up pretty well.

Bill, as done with this project as I was crossed a couple t’s, dotted a couple I’s and pronounced the patient cured. We paid the bill at the AutoCraft center…..$75. This princely sum included all the tools we could ask for, disposal of fluids, use of a bay for 13 hours and $5 to leave the truck overnight. Anything I give Bill by way of thanks pales in comparison to the help he provided and the facility he allowed us to use.

In the end we didn’t get all the heater hoses replaced, which is not a big deal at all. We didn’t get the new coil springs installed, which I’m a little disappointed about, but there was no way that was going to happen after the weekend we had.

I kept my original radiator. Consensus around the shop was that it was not nearly in as bad of condition as I had anticipated. If the replacement continues to work, it will be for sale on the board. The water pump, with 60,000 miles on it, looked as new as the one I replaced it with, and the purchase of a new fan had been a saving grace. Clearly the viscous fan clutch was a failure, as was the thermostat. Replacing these seems to have made a gigantic difference in the truck.


The shop had quoted me $1400 to basically do what Bill and I would have had done in less than 2 hours had we not spend almost an entire day trying to remove the nut on the fan clutch. Again, I had forgotten to ask for that job as part of the estimate, so I could just imagine the dollar signs cranking upwards as they worked on my fan clutch and water pump. These are real dollars saved through sweat equity, generosity, and a small bit of crazy.

I’m optimistic (a scary proposition in Roverland) about having a truck that stays cool next summer. Only time will tell, but I think we found and fixed the root causes. I may even get my A/C recharged this spring in anticipation! Overall the truck is running well, I’m no worse for wear and I made a friend in the local Land Rover community in the process.

I hope my truck appreciates this!


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Less Junk in the Trunk

One of the first sizeable projects I did to the truck was having all the rear metal parts blasted and powder coated. This included the spare tire arm and brackets, and the 3rd brake light.

If you recall, and I’m too lazy to go find the link, but It wasn’t a spectacular job (aside: are there any decent vendors, anywhere? If you are a decent vendor, please contact me through this blog. Extra points if you are in Chicago) Anyway, the bars were still pretty pitted up from the rust, and the 3rd brake light bar still looked like shit, just powercoat painted shit.

I found a spare tire bar on eBay last year. Advertised as galvanized (the magic coating for all things Land Rover) and painted. It has been sitting in the back of my garage since then, waiting for a day like Sunday to  do the simple replacement of my shitty, yet powder coated (and now oxidized) swing arm for this new one.

See here the one I removed


Notice the lumpy parts. Here now is the one I planned on using to replace it:


Notice how much better this one looks. However, the paint and the galvanization (is that a word?) are not really best buddies, and it tends to chip easily. No worry, some paint made it all better. Then I realized that the holes, which these huge shoulder bolts go through, complete with brass bushings were, well, galvinized. Then I noticed that the one threaded hole, where the largest of the shoulder bolts screws in, was filled with…galvanization slag. I needed to tap that hole, along with performing a high colonic on all the other holes too. OK, that was a pain, and I didn’t get the hole tapped, but it appears somewhere in the galvanization process, the bar got a bit warped, so added force is needed to get the holes to line up. That was strike 3, and I was out. The swingarm won. So I decided I would just make do with the one that fit, and had all it’s holes clean. I just would put a new coat of pain to freshen it up.

Then I looked at the back of the truck, no spare tire, no huge swingarm contraption, and it looked like this:


And damn if I didn’t look at that and say “damn, that doesn’t look bad.”

(However this picture is another shoddy example of the poor quality pictures my iPhone 4 takes. The wheels look very disproportionate to the rest of the truck. Be sure in real life, it doesn’t look this distorted)

So I’m going retro, I think I might get all my capping galvinized, remove the roll cage and get some skinny off-road tires and steel wheels and give it a more vintage Land Rover look.

OK, I might not do that, but considering the weight of the spare tire/wheel, the swingarm, and all the associated hardware, I think I took 150lbs off the back of the truck. And call me crazy, but I think the truck drives better without all the junk in the trunk…

So, just a little food for thought, considering that my spare was a dry rotted crappy tire, I think I made a good decision (for now). Maybe I should have a spare mounted on the hood.

Oh well, hope you enjoyed the update, and may your holes not be filled with slag.

Posted in Barn Find, d-90.com, Defender 90, dis-assembly, Land Rover, Re-assembly, Rust, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dissecting Mechanics

Sorry, this one is long. Partially based on the fact that I live in a mechanic desert. With the vastness of the city and suburban area, you would think there would be plenty of specialty mechanics to work on the D90. Surprisingly, no. My complaint is non-specific to my current mechanic (although he could take some tips from the information below).

This post on mechanics comes down to 4 key points:

1. Abilities/Skills

2. Pricing

2. Location

3. Communication Skills

Let’s begin with the ability and skill of the mechanic. When you decide to dedicate your career to being a specialty mechanic, I assume that you know a lot about these vehicles. I might even add, you should have a passion for them close to the level of fandom of your customers. I also assume that you know more about my vehicle than I do, and more than the shade-tree mechanics at d-90.com (or whatever enthusiast portal you visit for your vehicle.) This is really the simple part, know your shit.

There is, however, a slippery slope to this point. It would be really nice if you, the mechanic, were not a complete douchebag about what you know about my vehicle. If I read something on the internet about a problem or solution for my truck, your first instinct should not be to delegitimize this information based solely on the source, and make me feel stupid for the suggestion. And if I do something to my truck on my own, shade-tree style, don’t look at me like I’m an idiot, and don’t react like I’ve taken money out of your pocket. It does not take a degree from medical school to work on cars, so please don’t treat it like that. If you want to change me more per-hour of work than my accountant, or my freelance graphic designer, I expect you to understand, be sympathetic and dare I say, helpful, when I try to do projects myself, with the help of others like me on the internet. 

Additionally, don’t give me back my truck without performing some of the work we discussed doing. Even worse, don’t give it back to me after telling me you did the work, only to have me figure out that you didn’t fix the problem (see the squeaky brake posts). This will not make customers happy, and in some cases will drive them to write blog posts about you.

Now for pricing. Like I said above, If, as a mechanic, your hourly rate exceeds my accountant, doctor, or freelance creative service friend, you really need to go above and beyond to earn my business. Unfortunately, I have no other options in my geographic area, and you probably know that. At the minimum, I want smiles when I walk in the door. I want free coffee while I wait (good stuff, not Folgers) and I want a nice itemized list of the work you INTEND to do and a ballpark estimate. If you can’t do more than grunt at me, or let the girl at the desk up front take my information, you need some reevaluation of why you’re in this business.

More importantly, I want to see you make the extra effort to help me (corporate types call that “added-value”.) Real story from very early in this blog: I needed new fuel lines. My mechanic made me wait months on the belief that suddenly Land Rover would begin making them again (they didn’t). It took my extra effort to get the lines aftermarket and have them shipped to the mechanic. If you won’t go outside normal channels for parts, that tells me you are old and set in your ways, and maybe not a good mechanic. I could have saved months of time without my truck. Not days, not weeks, months – had there been a bit of extra effort.

Location: OK, you’ve got me. How do other people deal with dropping their car off at a mechanic? Walk? Bus? Taxi? Hansom Cab? It seems like one of life’s huge inconveniences. There should be a better way to drop off and pick up your car from a mechanic besides bumming rides off of friends and family members. This isn’t really the independent mechanic’s fault, but the Mercedes dealer always has a nice loaner for me when I need service.

If you’ve gotten this far, I applaud you. You are my kind of reader! The last thing on my Mechanics Manifesto is the one that is closest to my heart, communications. A rhetorical question: do specialty mechanics go to some school where they are trained to treat customers like crap? Trick question, sorry, but if you look at each element above: skill, price, and location, the issues around each one can be improved by being better communicators. Maybe I should conduct training classes with specialty mechanics about how to best communicate with customers, because this clearly is the biggest problem I see. Between my own experiences with the D90, and a Porsche I had some years back, and people on the D-90 board, it’s clear that some guys just don’t understand. Your abilities brought me in the door, but your communication is what is going to get me to come back (if I have a choice.) This is pretty simple:

Embrace email. Sorry if you don’t “get” this internet thing, it’s here to stay. People are so busy, and it’s easier to send you an email with 10 questions rather than ask you over the phone. In reality, we understand you are busy, and would rather send you an email that you can answer on your schedule rather than playing phone tag, or leaving messages that can get miscommunicated or never returned.

Cover all our requests. If I have a strange squeak that only happens under some circumstances, please don’t say something like “yeah, they do that. Nothing you can do” or “I couldn’t get it to do that, sorry” – because I guarantee I can post on the message board and have 5 different suggestions on how to troubleshoot or fix by the end of the day.

Keep me informed as to the status of my job. If I go more than a week without at least an email, you are not  keeping up your end of this relationship. You are my best buddy when I call you to do work, and you forget me once you have my vehicle. If you say it should take 3-4 days, I want a phone call or email at the end of that period either telling me that you’re done, or why it will take longer, and how much longer.

Finally, call or email me a couple days or a week after I get my truck back. Ask me how its running, see if I like the upgrades you did to my whatever, or if the hooting sound is gone from my undercarriage. The longer you’ve had our vehicle, the more important this communication is to do. You may have done 30 things to my truck, and maybe you missed one or two, or maybe something isn’t working as expected. As a customer who’s just paid you a ton of money, and probably been shuffled out the door with our vehicle, we are often too exhausted to even begin complaining about what’s still wrong with our trucks.

This wasn’t meant as a complete rant, more as information for the bored mechanic that might wander into my blog, or maybe a list you can take with you next time your vehicle needs to go under the wrench.

 I will concede that my mechanic does many of the above things, but some of the important things do get skipped. I still think he owes me at least $300 for brake work that was never really done right, never tested, and never communicated. I was just too exhausted from not having my truck to complain. 

Thanks for reading, and may your undercarriage stop hooting.

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May 2012 Update

I’ve recently been reminded that its been some time since my last update, so to keep my fans happy, here is a MEGA UPDATE. See how that’s written in all caps? That means this is super-sized, Costco level update. So let’s get to updates!

When we left off, sometime in the mildness of late winter, my brakes sounded like screaming banshees, or screaming mother-in-laws, or howling winds. You get the picture. I even paid my mechanic a fairly significant sum of money to not fix this problem when the truck was in for service late 2011 .

So that’s update no. 1: Squeaky Brakes

Update no. 2: New Cubby Box

Update no. 3: Well, as surprising as it may seem, there really is no update no. 3. All seems to be fairly well in the world of my D90. [frantically knocks on wood]

Squeaky Brakes: Nothing more annoying than squeaky brakes. Mine only squeaked when I was coming to a complete stop, under say 5mph. And it squeaked every time. I took off all the pads, put copper grease on the backs, reinstalled, no difference. The advice I heard most was to go with OEM pads, and that should solve the problem. So I did.

In doing so, I learned that modern brake pads have an angled cut, or “camber” to them. Some high-end pads have this on both ends, most just on one. The OEM Land Rover pads have just one. It took a lot of searching to find that the cambered end should face the rear of the vehicle.

So wasn’t I surprised to remove the squeaky pads from my truck to find that in all cases, one of the cambered edges was properly facing the rear, while another was facing the front. I can’t help but wonder if the conflicting directions of the pads was in some way contributing to the screeching. I also can’t help but wonder if my mechanic is mildy incompetent.

So I installed new OEM Land Rover pads one mild early spring day, and since then [with a severe knock on wood] my squealing brakes are gone. Was it the direction of the pads? the OEM brake pads? Both? Who knows, all I can say is that driving the truck is much more enjoyable without the squeal.

New Cubby Box: Anyone who owns one of these trucks can attest to the fact that the center cubby box leaves something to be desired. In terms of construction, it’s wood. In terms of durability, the locks all break. In terms of other intangibles, yes it’s original, that’s about it. So thanks to a wonderful guy on the D-90.com board, I bought a rare cubby box that you really can’t find here in the US. Most guys go with a Tuffy brand box, but I liked the look of this one, and he gave me a great deal. Thanks Greg!

So here’s a couple pictures of the new box.


An interesting fact about Defender cubby boxes is that they sit on a wooden frame that’s attached to the seatbox with 4 ‘rivnuts’. I can’t figure out why a truck that’s so prone to moisture invasion would have anything made out of wood in it, but here you go.

I do like this box a lot more than the OEM box. It has a decent lock, and a steel cover for the radio that cleverly locks when you lock the box. It has a nice elbow pad and looks sharp. The cup holders to suck, and unless you want to put a can of red-bull in there, nothing really will fit. The cup holder portion is removable, leaving just an open area, this may be a better alternative. I have figured out that my Starbucks coffee mug will hang from its handle just perfectly inside the compartment, so not all is lost.

Update no. 3: So this is kind of the catch-all for upcoming projects. First, here’s a picture of the truck with my new Surrey top – thanks Mark!

The color the truck looks a little off, it’s just a combination of the bright sun, tree shade, and crappy photo capabilities of the iPhone 4. It still looks almost as good as the Before & After post from last summer.

Anyway, upcoming changes: I’m waiting on some new cage supports (an invisibile part of the roll cage that goes behind the front fender) as mine have sort of disintegrated. And a new 3rd brake light bar, as I’ve come to the realization that the powder coater did a crappy job on mine last year.

New vent seals are on the agenda as well. I’d love to get new bolts for my roll cage to replace the crusty ones, but at $5 each, I’m in no hurry. I would also like to find some new body capping to replace mine. I had a great opportunity to get the left side, at a good price and flaked out, mostly because I would have had to get it blasted and painted. The lazy dog doesn’t always get the bird.

Sure there’s some other stuff, but for now, it’s drive and enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by, and remember: Always keep your camber facing behind you.

Posted in Barn Find, d-90.com, Defender 90, Land Rover, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Squeal Like a Pig

Not really digging the truck right now. Not snowy enough to enjoy the 4×4 capability and not warm enough to consider using the soft top. This weather is just sort of blah and bone chilling, not ideal for a truck that emits very little heat.

I’m about to pull the trigger on some OEM brake pads. I cannot handle the squeal of my brakes, and the only solution, alternative, and suggestion has been to suck it up and pop for OEM pads. I don’t know what magic OEM pads hold, but if the squeal goes away, I guess it will be worth while. The squeal only happens under 5mph, and since all I do is drive around town, I’m constantly stopping at stop signs over, and over, and over again. So it is understandable that I am so sick of the squeal, that I have not really been driving the truck lately.

Also, since my daily driver has been in the shop for 3 weeks, i had a sweet loaner car – a 2012 Mercedes C300 to drive around, so I put a few miles on that over the weeks rather on the D90.

Let’s hope that throwing money at the brake problem makes it go away. I’ve already removed all the pads, applied copper grease and reinstalled, with no noticeable difference in the squeal. Sigh….

Stay loose.

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Shiny Stuff

Bonus Two-Post Day!

After getting some frustration about the mechanic off my chest, I want to explain what I had done to my truck over the 40+ days it was in the shop.

  1. Mystery rattle under tub
  2. Squealing brakes
  3. Strong raw fuel smell in driver’s seat
  4. Installation of galvanized under-tub support
  5. Inspection of front ball-joints/Tie Rod, etc…
Good News:

Sorry for the crappy pictures, hard to get under there and get a decent shot with my phone…What you see is a new drop arm setup from the Discovery – which is supposed to be superior to the Defender style – along with new tie rod and track bar and ball joints from Rovertym. All stainless steel, pretty badass looking for trips to Starbucks.

These pictures remind me how badly I’d love to have my axles sprayed down with waxoyl or something.

The other “Good” repair was some decrepit fuel lines up front. This is troubling too, as I thought I replaced all the fuel lines last year. Turns out these are other fuel lines that we didn’t replace. Begs the question, why didn’t we replace them when we replaced the other crappy fuel lines?

The Bad News:

I’m pretty sure that’s really all the mechanic did. He did some brake work, added a hardware kit where it was missing, however I still have a low speed (<5 mph) squeal. I still have a mystery rattle under the tub, which he told me was just loose hardware – so why  didn’t he tighten the hardware? I think he would have had to move the fuel tank, which would have been more work.

And he didn’t install the galvanized under tub support as he would have to raise the tub to get it in there. I would think in 40+ days he could have diagnosed that and let me know what the damage would be to either the truck or my wallet. I was told he didn’t install it the day I picked it up at the shop. Sigh…

So my new strategy is to take the truck to a different local repair shop for non-Defender related work that I can’t perform myself. If there’s something that only a Land Rover Defender specialist can fix, maybe I’ll go back to him. But right now he’s not high on my mechanic list.

Hope you enjoy the new shiny bits on the front of the truck. It has made steering about 10,000x better. No more wobble, it tracks straight and feels less squirrelly when I drive it to Starbucks.

I also put the high-quality fiberglass top on for the first time since I removed it the week after I bought the truck. A bit of a tedious pain, and the fiberglass is clearly crap. If anyone wants to donate a Badger top to the cause, please contact me.

Now all I need is a couple feet of snow.

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The Wiley Land Rover Mechanic

Two updates for the price of one today! 

I’m starting to see a troubling pattern, follow along:
1. Truck exhibits a number of small problems that finally prompt me to schedule an appointment with my mechanic.

For all you DIY haters out there, the decision to take the truck to a shop comes after troubleshooting at home, some investigation and the realization that due to: weather, kids activities, my hectic schedule, the OWS movement, etc…I cannot perform these repairs myself*.

*Please remember my shade tree mechanic street-cred of the long summer of 2010, see early posts for confirmation.

2. I send list of problems to the mechanic. He’s quite prompt at the email, and quickly replies with a “no problem” and within a couple days, instructions to bring the truck into the shop.

3. I drop the truck off. For the sake of example, let’s just call it “September 22”

4. I don’t hear anything for days

5. I call or email to be told “Oh, yeah, your xxxxx is broken, no problem, take a couple days to get the parts, I’ll call you when it’s done.”

6. Weeks pass

7. I call or email to be told “Oh yeah, xxxxx is on backorder from Land Rover” [Note: everything for the NAS D90 is on permanent back order from LRNA] He then offers to make said part himself. Ostensibly this should save me money, it never does.

8. More weeks pass, finally I start sending more curt emails, “When can I pick it up?”

9. On let’s say, November 3rd I pick it up.

10. I think I need a new mechanic….

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Deja vu?

I feel like I’ve been here before. The last weeks of a beautiful fall and my truck at the mechanic. I took it in a couple weeks back after fruitless attempt to troubleshoot the following problems:

1. Mystery rattling coming from right rear
2. Strong smell of raw gasoline in driver seat
3. Brake squeal on both wheels on right side

I did what I could to find the cause of these problems to no avail, so the truck went to the shop. Turns out some front fuel lines we didn’t replace last year (not sure why not) are rotted out. Also some loose bolts from the rear seat were causing the rattle – because of the location above the fuel tank, I couldn’t get to, or even see them. Not sure about the squeaky brakes, he’s looking into that.

Finally, we talked about my sloppy steering. Turns out all the ball joints, drop arm and associated track arm and tie rod are shot. Land Rover OEM for these things is crap, so we’re replacing it all with stainless HD stuff from RoverTym. Should really improve the steering while making the truck more off-road capable ( like that matters to me!) HA!

Also, while it’s there I’m having the galvanized under tub cage piece I bought installed. I tried to do this at home but lacked the lift necessary to get separation between the tub and the frame. I would like to get it back soon so I can install the fiberglass hard top before winter. Like I said, deja vu…I had the same plan last year, and he had it all winter. Let’s hope not this time around.

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Before and After


Here’s my truck, the day I bought it and had it towed to my garage….


Here’s what it looks like today. Getting it ready for the British Car Show. I had high hopes last year of getting it there, but that never happened. Still a lot of work needs to be done to the truck, but sitting there looking like this gives me a minute to stop and admire.

Final Product

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