[originally published Summer 2004]

Getting Your Rover Ready for Summer

Well, we’re back once more with the summer edition of the BSROA newsletter, and I have some tips to help get your Rover through another long, hot summer. The weather is certainly better than it was for my last column. I hope you have been able to get out in the warm weather and take your Rover through some trails and swamps this spring. Look for the red Robison Service Discovery on trails throughout New England this summer — maybe I'll see you out there!

Are you and your Rover ready for summer?

In this summer issue I have some tips for summer driving. I’ll tell you about some recalls that may affect you, and I’ve got some tips on taking care of your cooling system and air conditioner in the hot weather. Before taking your Rover on the highway this summer I suggest you check these things:

Are your tires in good shape, and free of nails, cuts, or sidewall damage? A blowout on any sport utility is a serious matter, and the summer heat is hard on tires. Tire failure can be especially serious on trucks that have been lifted or fitted with off-road tires. A blowout of a front tire at highway speed on such a truck usually results in a rollover. Are your tires inflated properly? Tires that don’t have enough air in them will overheat, and in the summer they will blow without warning. Remember that most Land Rovers need 8 to 10PSI more air in their rear tires for optimum stability on the highway. Check your vehicle to be sure.

Are all your fluids full? The stress of driving in summer is hard on lubricants. I recommend synthetics because of the extra margin of safety they provide if things go wrong. Don’t believe synthetics are safer? Check this out: A customer of ours was in Newport, Rhode Island for the weekend. He had an oil cooler line blow out and lost all his oil. The light came on and the engine started rapping but it was a Sunday so he drove it home. After driving 200 miles he drove the vehicle to us Monday. After fixing the leak and filling it with oil the customer kept this vehicle two more years. The engine never failed, despite running 200 miles without oil. Why? Because we had filled it with synthetic oil all its life.

At Robison Service we use Mobil 1 synthetic lubricants. Synthetics from Amsoil, Castrol, Quaker State, Valvoline and other makers are also good. We use Mobil 1 because it is the most widely available.

Is your cooling system working properly? Does the temperature gauge sit solidly in place no matter what or does it creep up in traffic? If it creeps up on a 100,000-mile vehicle that’s a sign your radiator is getting clogged. A clogged radiator puts great strain on other systems — replace it before you have a failure. A hot engine is considerably less reliable overall. Trucks with marginal cooling systems are a lot more likely to have failures of alternators, water pumps, and other ancillary components because the heat roasts them.

Also make sure your electric fan is working, and make sure the engine driven fan works properly. Be sure your cooling system is full of the proper coolant - most Rovers take the traditional green coolant. Newer trucks use the orange Dex-Cool. Make sure you use the right coolant for your Rover.

Are your belts in good shape? Look for cracks and tears on the inside, and replace the belts if you see problems. The serpentine belts used on newer vehicles are more reliable but they still require replacement at 30-50,000 mile intervals. Watch for noise from the idler rollers on all Rovers — the rollers on 1999 and newer vehicles are particularly prone to get noisy. A noisy roller will turn into a failed roller one day with no further warning, and at that point you will be walking — so don’t neglect them. 1999 and newer Rover engines were built with plastic tension rollers. The metal replacement ( part #PQR500060 ) is much more rugged.

Check the condition of your water pump. Land Rover water pumps tend to get a little loose in the shaft before failure. If you feel any play in your change it now. If you are near 100,000 miles and the pump is original I would replace it now regardless of play. If the viscous clutch — also referred to as the fan clutch (in front of the pump) is bound up or has play, replace it. A bad fan clutch can ruin a good water pump in less than 1,000 miles.

Finally, how’s your battery looking? If you see corrosion or furry growth around the terminals that’s a sign that your battery is releasing gases, either because it is failing or because your vehicle has a charging system problem. Batteries in modern cars tend to fail without warning. Therefore, I suggest replacement of a 3-year-old battery as a preventative measure. Land Rover recommends Interstate batteries for many of their applications. Interstate stamps the production date into the battery case near the top. The year is the middle figure. For example, a battery with A2T stamped in the plastic case was made in 2002.

Tips for the “new” 1995-2002 P38 Range Rover:

We have an increasing number of P38 Range Rover owners in the club. The P38 is the “new” Range Rover model that was built from 1995 through 2002. The 1995 to mid-1999 trucks used the earlier engine management system, called GEMS. The newer trucks used Bosch engine management along with numerous other Bosch components elsewhere in the vehicle. The Bosch trucks are generally perceived as better and more desirable.

All P38 Rovers were fitted with electronic air suspension (EAS). By 100,000 miles most EAS systems are getting troublesome, and owners need to make a decision to stick with the system through what will eventually be several thousand dollars in component replacement or convert to coil springs.

There are a number of components in this system that wear out. In order of failure, they are the air bags ($120-350 ea.), the height sensors (about $150 ea.), the compressor (about $400), and the valve body and driver unit (over $1,000). If you keep your truck to a high mileage it’s wise to face the reality that every one of the parts on my list is going to wear out.

Owners can replace most of these parts if they are careful and the system has not failed and gone flat. A failed system will generally need to be reset with one of the specialist test systems — the Autologic, the Rovacomm, or the T4.

Coil spring conversions are available from a number of vendors for a bit less than $1,000. In my experience two good vendors are Atlantic British (800-533-2210) and Rovers North (802-879-0032.) A resourceful owner can install these kits in a driveway.

Another common problem area on these trucks is the electronic climate control. In the paragraphs below I’ve described some common issues:

If your air conditioner comes on, but then gets warm after a little while check your compressor. If the clutch is not engaged but the system is on tap the end of the clutch (the part that isn’t spinning) with a ball peen hammer. If it snaps into engagement, shut the vehicle off and check the gap between the two clutch plates on the compressor. This gap can increase with age to the point where the compressor will stop engaging reliably. You can usually fix this by removing a shim from shaft after removing the outer clutch plate.

This is a very common problem. In my experience every older P38 is going to experience this, as it gets older.

If your fans do not blow at high speed open the fuse box behind the battery and pull out the yellow relays one by one. Inspect them for brown discoloration and replace any damaged ones. These relays are a common cause of blower trouble.

One cause of burned blower relays is clogged cabin filters. These filters (LR part BTR8037) are located behind covers to either side of the windshield wipers. If they get plugged the blower will have to strain to bring air into the vehicle and the relays may then overheat. Depending upon local conditions — dust and pollen — you may need to change these filters at anywhere from a 15,000 to a 50,000 mile interval.

If your system is adjustable on one side but not the other — meaning one side is stuck on hot, cold, or somewhere between you probably have a bad servo motor set. Land Rover sells these servos in sets of three (left, right, and center blend). A VERY resourceful owner could replace these items at home but most people will do better to find a specialist. This repair takes most of a day to complete. If you have this problem the notebook symbol will be visible in the control panel.

Another issue that I am often asked about are keys. The P38 vehicles use a "switchblade" type electronic key. People offer these keys on Ebay with the suggestion that you can simply buy a new blade and program the key for your car. Don’t waste your money!! The electronic box part of the key must be coded for your car by Land Rover North America — not a dealer. As far as I know there is nobody recoding these keys, so a key for your truck will talk to your truck and no other. You cannot buy a key for someone else’s P38 and program it for your truck.

As an aside, it is possible to recode the remotes used on Rover Classic, Discovery I, and Discovery II. Those can be moved from one vehicle to another.

Range Rover keys are numbered key 1, key 2, key 3, and key 4. When you order electronic keys for a Range Rover you will have to specify which number you want. The numbering is on a white tag when the key is new, but it often wears off. Keys 1 and 2 will select seat memory positions 1 and 2 when the truck is unlocked. Keys 3 and 4 won’t. You can only have one of each type — that is, if have two key 2 keys only one can be programmed for pushbutton unlocking. If you lose one of your keys and do not know if the remaining key is 1 or 2 I suggest you order a 3 or 4 so both will work.

If the buttons on your key stop working you should first install new batteries. If it still does not work you can try to synchronize it as follows: Insert the key in the lock and turn to lock while pressing the lock button. Hold for 5 seconds, then turn to unlock while pressing unlock and hold for 5 seconds again. If the key does not begin working after that it is likely damaged.

Next I’d like to tell you about some recalls that may apply to your Land Rover:

Land Rover has discovered that the plastic fuel tanks fitted to Range Rover Classic and Discovery models from April 1993 to November 1996 are prone to develop cracks and leaks. Land Rover believes that somewhat fewer than 10% of the vehicles in the time range mentioned will develop this problem. We have had several vehicles with this problem at our shop recently, so I know there are vehicles in New England affected by this condition.

Cracks can develop at the plastic weld joints such as the filler pipe stub, the vent hose fitting, or the ring on the top where the pump is fitted. Land Rover believes the problems are aggravated by heat and humidity, so users in cooler drier areas may not notice these problems.

Your Rover may have a tank problem if your notice a fuel odor, particularly after filling up, or if you notice fuel leakage in the tank area.

As of this writing (June 2004) Land Rover is working to build a supply of new fuel tanks to support the recall. Land Rover anticipates that notification of owners and replacement of tanks will begin later this year. Rover owners who believe they may have a fuel tank problem can obtain more current information by calling Land Rover customer assistance at 800 637 6837.

In addition to the upcoming recall above Land Rover had a recall on the metal gas tanks fitted to 1987-1989 Range Rovers sold in North America. The bottom seam on those tanks rusted and they began dripping fuel. Most older Range Rovers have already had fuel tank replacements under this recall.

Other recalls you should know about

There was a recall a few years ago for coolant hoses on the P38 Range Rovers. We still see a few arriving at our shop without having this recall done. The heater hoses on the right side of the motor can come loose and spray hot antifreeze onto the exhaust manifold. Many people are surprised to hear that coolant is flammable, but I assure you it is! Since this recall is associated with a fire hazard I urge you to call your dealer and see if your truck has been done.

Land Rover has identified three problems that could affect 1999 through 2004 Discovery II models. If you own one of these vehicles you should be receiving notice of the recalls below. If you purchased your vehicle used and do not receive a letter I urge you to contact your nearest dealer to have the issues addressed. You can locate the nearest dealer by calling 800 637 6837.

Certain screws holding together the ABS modulator valve cover can crack from stress. If this happens your vehicle could be considerably harder to stop. All Discovery II models are subject to this recall. It is referred to by dealers as B148.

Land Rover has found that some vehicles experience throttle sticking as a result of a machining error in producing the throttle housing. If your throttle sticks remember that the brakes can still stop the truck, but it will be harder to control. All 1999 and newer Discovery models should be inspected for this. This campaign is referred to as B150, and it replaces an earlier recall, D117.

Finally, vehicles with cornering enhancement ( ACE ) may develop a problem with fluid leakage at the pump. This leak could result in a fire. This recall is B149.

Finally, remember that you can call any Land Rover dealer and give them your VIN (the number at the driver base of the windshield) and ask them to check for open recalls for your particular truck.

Some thoughts on air conditioning:

Is your air conditioner working right? In particular, make sure the electric fan under the hood is running whenever the AC is on. If the electric fan does not come on your engine can overheat in traffic. Also make sure the condensate drains under the car are working. On a humid day look under the car between the front seats. You should see a steady drip of clear water. If not, slide under the car with a piece of wire and clear the drains. Watch out for a gush of lukewarm water when you poke the wire up the drain tubes!

This is the time of year when Rovers with weak or non-existent air conditioners start appearing at our shop. I’d like to tell you about a few things you can do to check and service your system.

Air conditioning works by transferring heat from one place to another. Refrigerant is pumped in a loop by a compressor. The refrigerant “transports” heat from one area of the system to another. Specifically, the heat inside the car flows into the evaporator unit in your dash, and it is released under the hood by the condensor. The compressor moves the refrigerant around, and the expansion valve regulates its flow. A final component — the receiver drier — removes moisture from the system and filters the refrigerant.

Vehicles built before 1995 used R12 refrigerant. R12 is no longer produced because it damages the atmospheric ozone layer. The current replacement is called R134. If you have an older Rover that still uses R12 you can have it converted fairly easily to R134. In most parts of the country conversion costs less than $250.

Most problems with air conditioners stem from one of two causes - leaks or electronic control troubles. Here are some tips that may help if your Rover has AC trouble this season.

Your AC condensor is a radiator-like unit located in front of the coolant radiator, behind the grille. There are three problems you should know about that relate to the condensor.

First, condensers are prone to develop leaks. If you remove the grille and fans you can often see condensor leaks by the traces of refrigerant oil that surrounds the leak. Condensors develop leaks where the inlet and outlet pipes connect, and they also develop leaks if they are hit by small stones coming through the grille or if the paint gets chipped and they corrode from winter salt. This is a particular problem in New England.

Second, condensers are prone to get clogged with leaves, bugs, and debris. A clogged condensor will not work well, and may cause your truck to overheat because air flow to the radiator is blocked.

Third, the condensor cannot shed heat from inside the vehicle if the under hood area is too hot. This can happen if the electric cooling fans fail, or if the radiator is clogged, or if the vehicle runs hot for any other reason.

Checking the electronic climate control in Discovery models:
Land Rover air conditioning systems are either manually controlled or electronic, depending upon model. All Discovery II models sold in America use electronic systems. The Discovery II system signals a problem by sounding “beep beep beep” when started, and the AUTO display flashes for 20 seconds. Discovery II fault codes can be read by an owner, but specialist tools may still be needed to fix the problem. Here is how to read codes in a Discovery II:

  1. Switch the ignition OFF
  2. Press and hold AUTO and AIR DISTRIBUTION
  3. While holding these buttons switch the ignition ON
  4. The fault codes will flash in the left hand window of the climate control panel.
Here are the possible codes:
00 - No fault
11 - in car temp sensor fault
12 - ambient temp sensor fault
13 - thermistor fault
14 - heater coolant temp sensor fault
21 - sunlight sensor left side fault
22 - sunlight sensor right side fault
31 - left hand temp control servo fault
32 - right hand temp control servo fault
33 - air distribution servo motor fault

Well, that’s it for now. I hope the tips in my article are helpful to you this summer, and I wish you a great summer of Rovering. I hope to see many of you at an upcoming fall event here in Western Massachusetts. Finally — I am always glad to hear from members regarding suggestions for future articles or comments on existing ones. See you in the fall.