Replace a Freelander 2 MacPherson strut damper


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Freelander 2 has an unique damper system : credit: © Dave Barker
Replacing this type of shock absorber is far more involved than for a conventional unit, as Dave Barker explains

Need to know

Time: 2.5 hours.
Difficulty: 3 out of 5 
Models: Freelander 2.
Tools needed: General workshop tools including Torx T45 and T50, and spanner and socket sizes 13, 15, 21, 22 24 and 32mm. Unless using a vehicle lift then a suitable jack and axle stands are needed. Substantial coil spring compressors.
Parts & costs: Freelander 2 all models: Damper body (shock absorber) left-hand (LR039916), from £65 to £198 (right-hand LR039917).
Work safely:
• Before working under a vehicle supported by a vehicle lift or by axle stands, ensure that the equipment is correctly rated and is in serviceable condition.
• Ensure the vehicle is securely on the lift or axle stands.
• Wear protective gloves or barrier cream to protect the skin from oils and sharp edges of components.
• Extra care must be taken when using a coil spring compressor and the manufacturer’s user guide and safety notes adhered to.
• Only a purpose-made spring compressor should be used. Any other method risks severe injury because of the energy contained in the compressed spring.
• Before working on the rear brakes the electronic park brake should be put into ‘service mode’ to prevent its operation and the risk of trapping fingers.
Contact: Maddison 4x4, Water House Farm, Station Road, Topcliffe near Thirsk, YO7 3SG. Tel: 01845 587407,


The Freelander 2 has fully independent front and rear suspension using MacPherson struts. The rear struts are attached to the bodyshell at the top and to the hub knuckle assembly at the bottom. Two transverse link arms locate the hub knuckle to the subframe, and a single longitudinal link secures it forward to the Freelander’s body.

The MacPherson struts comprise a damper located inside a damper body with the shaft of the damper passing through the coil spring. As with other dampers, the units fitted in the Freelander do wear. When internal seals become damaged and allow oil to leak out, the damper is no longer able to fully control the spring movement, reducing the vehicle’s stability.

A leaking damper is also a MoT test failure, and that was the problem on this 2012 Freelander with 85,000 miles on the clock. Oil was leaking from the left side rear damper so we’ve shown the replacement on this side, though it’s always good practice to replace them in axle pairs to ensure both sides of the vehicle retain equalhandling characteristics.

Replacing a MacPherson strut damper section is more difficult than a traditional standalone damper. Because it’s located through the coil spring, the complete strut assembly needs to be removed from the vehicle and the coil spring then compressed before removing the leaking damper and fitting the replacement. To do this, a substantial coil spring compressor is needed. Even then, compressing a coil spring can be dangerous and all safety advice must be followed.

The most difficult part of this job on a Freelander 2 is undoing the three nuts that secure the top of the MacPherson strut to the inside of the body. The advice is to remove the whole inner rear trim. However, it can be done by releasing the rear of the trim to give just enough room to access the top securing nuts and undo them. This is a bit of a touchy-feely job, but is easier than removing all the rear trim. The rest of the job is a matter of unbolting, though knocking the driveshaft out of the hub can be difficult if the shaft is seized in. The workshop manual is frequently updated, so we work with the manual and adhere to the specified tightening torques.

The MacPherson strut basically comprises the coil spring (green) and the damper body (blue) which contains the damper with its shaft passing up through the spring.


Removing the MacPherson strut

Inspect the leak: Once secured off the ground, the Freelander wheel is removed and the whole Macpherson strut assembly with leaking shock absorber can be seen.

Releasing the handbrake: The electronic park brake must be put into ‘service mode’. We used a diagnostic tool, though it can also be done by a manual method (see panel).

Caliper bolts: The top and bottom caliper retaining bolts are loosened using an open-ended spanner to hold the guide pins while the retaining bolts are undone.

Tied aside: The caliper is removed from the carrier and secured with a cable tie clear of the hub assembly, taking care to avoid straining the hose and electrical lead.

Carrier bolts: The caliper carrier’s two retaining bolts are removed and the carrier is lifted off the hub assembly, collecting the brake pads which are kept in order for refitting.

Brake disc: This single Torx screw holds the disc to the hub. With that removed, the disc lifts off, though it may need a tap from a soft-faced hammer.

Undo hub nut: The hub assembly needs to be separated from the axle driveshaft, so the large hub nut must be first undone and removed from the driveshaft end.

ABS cable: Inner wheelarch panel is released. The ABS connector is then disconnected behind the panel (arrowed), and the cable withdrawn and released from the strut.

Remove brackets: The two brackets holding the cable to the MacPherson strut are now detached from their mountings on the strut assembly (securing screws arrowed).

Anti-roll link: The nut securing the anti-roll bar link ball joint to the MacPherson strut is undone and then the link is pulled out from its mounting on the strut.

Rear transverse link: The first of the three suspension links (or arms) holding the hub assembly to the vehicle is undone. Here, we’re removing the bolt from the rear transverse link.

Front transverse link: Next, the retaining bolt securing the front transverse link to the hub assembly is removed. Both links remain bolted to the subframe at their inboard ends.

Longitudinal link: The longitudinal link which secures the hub assembly to a forward bracket on the underside of the vehicle is unbolted, releasing it from the hub assembly.

Undo strut to hub bolt: A single pinch bolt is located at the back of the strut, and clamps the MacPherson strut into the hub casting. This bolt is completely removed.

Release from driveshaft: Using a drift on the end of the driveshaft to avoid thread damage, the shaft is knocked back, separating it from the hub, which moves outward.

Remove from hub: The hub assembly with strut is now manhandled outward and away from the driveshaft behind, holding the end of the shaft clear as the hub swings outward.

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Easing off: The hub casting is knocked downward off the strut using a soft-faced hammer. A small chisel gently tapped between the rear clamp lugs helps expand the grip.

Moving inside: The tailgate seal is pulled back and the interior trim screws removed, allowing the trim panel to be loosened to access the top of the strut mount.

Locate top nuts: Working in here from above, there is just enough space to locate and remove the upper nuts securing the strut to the body. Space too tight for a photograph.

Remove strut: Once the three top securing nuts were removed, and with the strut already released from the hub casting, the strut assembly was withdrawn.


Dismantling the strut assembly

Mark position of top: Before the damper is removed from the MacPherson strut, the position of the top mounting is marked, showing its alignment to the damper.

Removing spring: The coil spring of the MacPherson strut is squeezed in the spring compressor, allowing the damper shaft’s top retaining bolt to be unscrewed from the top mount.

Down and out: With the coil spring still compressed and securely held in the spring compressor, the damper section is free to be lowered and removed from the spring.


Rebuilding the strut

New part: This is the section we are replacing. The damper is an integral part inside the MacPherson strut damper body, supplied as a complete unit.

Spring isolator: The spring isolator gasket from the old damper is fitted to the new unit here. The isolator is located in the spring seat by a rubber lug.

Fit new damper: The new damper and body is lifted into the compressed coil spring, through the boot, into the top mount and the locknut fully tightened, before releasing the compressor.


Reinstalling the strut assembly

Securing the top: The reassembled MacPherson strut is fed up through the wheelarch, feeding three studs through the turret holes, and the nuts refitted and tightened.

Grease helps: Back underneath, the bottom of the damper body is greased, then the hub knuckle is pushed back up into position on the damper body of the strut.

Fit and tighten: The pinch bolt is refitted and tightened to the correct torque. We can now re-attach the ABS cable mounting brackets and the anti-roll bar link.

Reconnecting: Here, the ABS sensor multi-plug is reconnected and the cable refitted back into the various mounting clips. The inner wing is re-attached.

Hub to driveshaft: After aligning the splines, the hub assembly is pushed onto the driveshaft. As the hub nut is tightened, it pulls the hub fully onto the driveshaft.

Suspension links: The two transverse links and the longitudinal link are refitted to the hub knuckle with the securing bolts in place, though they are not yet fully tightened.

Tighten with weight on: With the brake assembly and road wheel refitted, the Freelander is lowered onto the ground, then the three links are tightened to the correct torque.


Electronic park brake (EPB)

The park brake must be put into ‘service mode’ for this and any other job that involves working on the rear braking system. In the absence of a diagnostic tool this can be achieved, and the system reactivated on completion, by the following procedures:

EPB into ‘service mode': With the Freelander on level ground, chock the front wheels to prevent the vehicle rolling. • With the vehicle in Park or Neutral and the park brake released, switch the ignition on, but the engine must stay OFF.
• Hold the park brake switch in the RELEASE position.
• After two seconds, still holding the EPB switch, press the accelerator pedal fully down.
• After a further two seconds, switch the ignition OFF, then immediately back on again.
• An audible warning will confirm the EPB is now in Service Mode. The accelerator pedal and EPB switch can now be released and the ignition switched off.
• The EPB switch is now inhibited, so the brake system cannot be accidentally operated – an essential safety feature while working on the brakes. Naturally, the car should not be driven until the EPB is taken out of service mode.

Cancelling service mode: Again, the vehicle should be on level ground with front wheels chocked, in Park or Neutral, ignition on, engine off.
• Hold the electronic park brake switch in the ON position.
• After two seconds, still holding the EPB switch, press the accelerator pedal fully down.
• After a further two seconds, switch the ignition OFF and immediately back ON.
• An audible warning will confirm the system is no longer in Service Mode and the accelerator pedal and EPB switch can now be released and the ignition switched off.
• The car can now be driven if all other work is complete.


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