16 June 2023
Like other outriggers, rear spring hangers rust readily. Here’s how to replace this critical chassis part
Need to know
Time: One day
Difficulty: 4 out of 5
Models: Series II, IIA, III.
Tools needed: Socket and spanner sets, trolley jack, axle stands, angle grinder with grinding and cutting discs, breaker bar, MIG welder, chisels, hammer, tape measure, scribes.
Parts and costs: Series LWB spring hanger, DA2016, £42.79, LRDirect.com.
• Raise and support the vehicle securely on rated equipment.
• Disconnect the battery before carrying out any welding.
• Wear the correct PPE at all times.
• Suspension repairs are safety-critical, so if you aren’t 100 per cent confident in your welding, ask a professional to step in.
• Never run a grinder without a guard.
Thanks to: Dave Rule at Ruley’s Vehicle Restorations for the welding work.
The problem with buying any used Land Rover is having to deal with sub-standard repairs that the previous owner, or owners, may have inflicted on it. It stands to reason that the older the Land Rover, the more repairs it may have had, and by more different people.
One such area where it’s common to see bodges is the chassis – as the vehicles get older, rust takes hold in certain areas, MoT tests are failed and repairs are needed. Now, no one likes spending their hard-earned on repairs, so they get it done as cheaply and quickly as possible, with patches over patches and rust left untreated, which festers over time and becomes a much bigger job to sort properly.
The offside rear spring hanger outrigger on my 1975 Series III 109 is a perfect example. Years of poor repairs and tin worm lurking between layers of patches has caused the rot to eat into the chassis rail, which now must be put right properly. The process is made more complex here because the 109 has a Combat chassis, but it’s simpler on a civilian or non-Combat ex-MoD 109. The process is also similar on short-wheelbase models, but be sure to buy the correct outrigger for your vehicle.
How’s it hanging? The rear leaf springs are held in a fixed position by the hangers at the front, and a shackle at the back allows the spring to extend and contract as it moves throughout its travel. The spring locates the axle, so hangers should be solid and in VGC.
Poor patching: The hanger in question, seen here, has been badly repaired and patched over the years. It needs peeling back so that any chassis rail repairs can be made, then a new Britpart one will be welded on to replace this rusty – and potentially dangerous – mess.
Making the cut: With the chassis secured on stands and the tub strap and leaf spring unbolted from the hanger and axle, the position of the hanger is scribed on chassis rail as a guide. Old, corroded metal is then chopped back. Wear thick gloves and face protection when grinding. Fit grinder guard.
Growing scrap pile: You can see here the extent of the patching and poor welding that had been done to the original hanger over the years. Because this Series III has extended twin-height spring mounts, we’ll need to modify the new hanger to fit. Don’t throw anything away yet.
Further repairs needed: This is fairly typical of any outrigger repair; rot has taken hold of the chassis rail behind. All the corroded, thin metal needs to be replaced before the new hanger can go on, to make sure the repair is structurally sound and will last as long as possible.
Cut it out! Mark the edges of the affected steel, and cut the section out in the simplest shapes possible. Here, three repair sections will be needed – one big rectangle for the rail outer, a smaller one for underneath and a 90-degree bend for the inner. Make shallow cuts to avoid damaging the wiring.
Make new pieces: Make cardboard templates to match the holes cut in the chassis. You want the pieces to butt up to the existing rail tightly, but not overlap. When happy, transfer the dimensions to steel and cut the repair pieces out. Make bends using a vice and hammer, or a folder.
A perfect fit: This is what to aim for. The repair sections fit as snugly as possible in place, and sit flush with the existing steel. Hold them in place with magnets, and check for any overlaps or gaps, and adjust if necessary. The steel used here is 3mm thick – slight overkill, but it will last.
Weld them in: Tack the repair sections into place one at a time, tapping the edges flat with a hammer to ensure a smooth finish and good fit for the new outrigger. When happy, complete the welds all the way around the repairs. If unsure of your welding, have a professional step in.
Dress the welds: Once all the remedial work to the chassis rail is finished, the welds are ground back flush with the metal. Once painted, it’ll be hard to see the rail has even been repaired; a stark contrast to the mess that was there before.
Hanger hang-ups: Here’s the next job. The new outrigger (DA2016) is fine for a civilian-spec 109, but this Series III has a military Combat chassis which uses thicker spring hangers with two height settings. As an off-the-shelf replacement isn’t available, we need to modify this one.
Split the bracket: Carefully cut through the welds holding the spring hanger section to the new outrigger, then split the two parts with a hammer and wide chisel. Once separated, the mating surfaces of the old hanger and new outrigger are cleaned up.
Good and strong: The twin-position spring hanger is lined up onto the replacement outrigger and tacked, checked and fully welded in place. Note the two triangular braces that weld onto the underside of the chassis rail – these will be re-welded on when the outrigger is fitted.
Measure thrice… Use your scribed marks to get a rough position for the new outrigger, but take plenty of measurements from the other side to ensure the hanger is correctly positioned. If it’s too far forward or back, the axle won’t sit straight and the vehicle will ‘crab’ – take your time.
Re-check position: Use clamps to hold the outrigger in place, and ensure that the top and bottom edges line up with the top and bottom of the chassis rail. Re-check your measurements until you are completely happy with the position, then tack the outrigger to the chassis.
Final welds: Weld the outrigger and spring hanger assembly to the chassis rail, making sure the weld continues all the way around with no gaps. Take care when welding the top edge, as the tub makes access trickier. When done, dress the welds back for a neat finish.
Protect and rebuild: With the repair complete, spray or brush the area with primer and chassis paint, letting the coats dry between. Bolt the tub support tab on and refit the leaf spring to the hanger and axle, locating the dowel in the socket. Tighten the U-bolts; re-check after a few miles.
You can help keep rust at bay by pressure washing your chassis thoroughly and regularly. Wet mud sits in all the nooks and crannies, trapping road muck and corrosive salt against the steel and promoting rot, so blasting all the mud traps out regularly lets the chassis dry out properly. It’s also a good idea to keep the chassis coated inside and out with your preferred rust prevention product, and reapply paint to areas where it has scraped or flaked off.
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