Robison on Rovers – tech tips

HID headlamps in new Range Rovers

We are starting to see some failures of the high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlamp assemblies in the new Range Rover as the vehicles age. The symptom: when you turn the lights on you see the message “check low beam” and one of your HID lights is out.

There are two problems that can cause this. There is a ballast unit on the back of the headlamp that can fail. There is also a transformer inside the light housing that can break down and fail.

The only way to tell which component is bad is to exchange the ywc000500 ballast unit and see what happens. Most of the time, the new ballast will cure the problem. It’s easy to change and has a list price of $351. If the light is still out you’ll need a complete $1,050 headlamp assembly as the transformer is not serviced separately.

I have had some questions from customers about the warranty status of these lights because they’re so expensive. Provided there is no physical damage to the lights they should be covered by new car warranty. If your Rover is covered by Land Rover Assured extended warranty the light units will be covered provided there is no physical damage and proper claim reporting and diagnostic procedures are followed. Other extended warranty companies may have different policies.

Air suspension failures on 1995-2002 Range Rover 4.0SE and 4.6HSE As these P38 series Range Rovers get older the bags for the electronic air suspension age and become leaky. Symptoms are a Rover that sinks down when parked for a while, and continuous noise from the air suspension compressor under the hood.

The front air springs are the most troublesome because the heat and weight from the engine causes them to deteriorate before the rear springs.

Land Rover has introduced a new kit consisting of redesigned front air bags (REB00050), new mounts, and new front shocks (RSC500010). It’s important to install the shocks and all the kit pieces because the bags may be damaged if installed alone. You’ll be happy with the results of this $550 kit — your truck will ride better and it won’t go flat in front any more. Installation takes a few hours. Caution for home mechanics: the specialist Land Rover test system may be required to reset the EAS computer after installing this kit.

Fuel injector failures on older Rovers

If you have a persistent miss in your engine — a nagging roughness that you can’t seem to fix – don’t overlook the possibility of bad fuel injectors. Most parts of the Land Rover fuel system are corrosion proof plastic. But the fuel injectors and fuel rail are steel, and they can corrode if you inadvertently buy contaminated gas.

Corroded injectors can make you truck idle roughly and perform poorly without setting any fault codes, so they can be tough to diagnose. When you remove the fuel rail, look inside for evidence of rust of corrosion. If you see corrosion we suggest replace replacement of the rail and all injectors.

Check your coolant levels

Bosch engine Land Rovers (all Discovery II models and 1999-½ and newer Range Rovers) have cooling systems whose highest point is within the heater system. That means that the heat stops working when they get about a gallon low on coolant. So if your Rover’s heat stops working your first step should be to check the coolant level.

The newer Land Rovers no longer have a low coolant warning light so it’s important to check yours from time to time. It is possible to run low on coolant and damage the engine without knowing unless you check.

For those of you with head gaskets that leak coolant on the ground

It is common for older Land Rover V8s to drip coolant from the head gaskets, especially in cold weather. This kind of leakage is common on other European cars as well. This tech tips comes from a Mercedes owner but it works on Rovers, too… this tip has worked for me but is counter to Land Rover’s service training so use it at your own risk…

Rover engines use head bolts that are torqued to a certain setting and then rotated a certain number of degrees to achieve proper torque. We were always taught that you never touch the head bolts once they are installed. Mercedes are the same way. One day last year we had a Mercedes that was leaking coolant from the head, and I told the owner we needed to replace the gasket. And he said… why not tighten it??

Well, as it happened he’s a well known marine engineer, a fellow with 50 years experience in engine design. As he rightly pointed out, we had nothing to lose by tightening the head bolts 10-20 degrees. If that fixed it, we’d be in luck. If it didn’t fix it we’d be no worse off than we were that day. So we did what he suggested.

Well, John S was right… it worked and his is still dry a year later. Since then we have tightened a number of engines with a 50-70% success rate. It’s not good enough to promote as a cure, but if you do your own work what do you have to lose? It may save you a big job for a couple hours work. There’s no real downside for a DIY mechanic. Just don’t go more than 20 degrees or you may warp the metal.

The final word on Range Rover P38 key fobs

I am often asked if you can buy a used fob for another car (they are always for sale on eBay) and recode it to work in your 1995-2002 Range Rover. The answer is no. The fobs have a one-time memory that is burned at Land Rover with the serial number data of the car it was coded for. There is no way to change that coding in a used fob.

The only way to get a new fob is to give your dealer a copy of your license and registration and order one through Land Rover. Cautionary note: Occasionally we find Rovers whose locks have been changed so the key supplied from Land Rovers records does not work. For that reason I always suggest you order an inexpensive valet key and make sure it fits before ordering the $200 electronic part.

Range Rover key fobs are identified as key 1,2,3, or 4. You can only have one of each number on a given car. So if you have a key 1 and you order a second key 1, only one of them will work the pushbutton entry even though both will fit the locks. The original keys were 1 and 2 so when ordering replacements you should generally order a 3 or 4 unless you know the numbers of your fobs. The number is on a white tag on the new fob but it wears off quickly.

The presence of these “extra” key fobs on eBay raises an interesting question… why do people keep the keys when they get rid of the car? Sometimes people think the keys are like keeping an old girlfriend’s clothes in your drawer… maybe if you keep them around she’ll come back. Other people have gone further, thinking if they bury the keys maybe a new Land Rover will sprout with next spring’s flowers. Well, I’m here to tell ya… it ain’t gonna happen. Give the keys to the buyer when you sell the car. It saves them time and money.

Freelander timing belts

Those of us who have been around Land Rovers for a long time are accustomed to engines with timing chains. And as we know, timing chains don’t have to be changed periodically. But the Freelander has a timing belt, and it should be changed by 75,000 miles. It is vital to change this belt — the engine will be damaged if it breaks.

Changing the timing belt on a Freelander is something of a project, requiring some special pins to hold the camshafts in proper position. The job takes all day for an experienced technician so plan on 2 days if you’re doing it yourself. Be sure you have these pins before you take the vehicle apart because it will take 1-2 weeks of you order them through the dealer. Tools are not available on emergency overnight like repair parts.

When you change the timing belt I suggest changing the water pump because it’s behind it. If you have this service done at a shop, expect a $1,000+ bill — it’s an expensive service.

Don’t forget about the live data

I am regularly told about cars that have one running problem or another “but they don’t have any codes stored” so there was “nothing the repair shop could do.” Many people have the idea that a system with no stored fault codes can’t be broken or diagnosed or fixed. That’s not so.

Many fault conditions will make the vehicle run funny but the condition may not persist long enough to set a code. If the vehicle has a problem at one speed, for example, and it’s OK at other speeds it will often never set a code unless by chance you drive it a long time at that one speed. If you have a running problem but there are no stored fault codes you should look at the data stream.

The incoming data stream is a screen where we see the data being read by the engine control unit’s sensors. We can look at speeds, timing, temperatures, throttle opening, air flow, and outgoing exhaust readings. The computer will make all its decisions to run the engine based upon these parameters. If it does not run right the answer will almost always be contained in the incoming data.

The outgoing data stream shows the signals to the injectors, the O2 sensor heaters, and all the other outputs the computer uses to run the powertrain.

Very often the answer to a driveability problem lies in the data stream, not the stored codes.