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:
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!