02 December 2022
The P38 V8 is one of the simplest vehicles to service yourself, as Alisdair Cusick explains
Need to know
Time: 3 hours
Difficulty: 2 out of 5
Models: P38A Range Rover V8, and similar for Rover V8-engined Land Rovers from 1993-2002.
Tools needed: Socket set, spanners, filter grips, screwdriver, seal pick, brake fluid tester, coolant tester, rags, torch, pry bar, brush and anti-seize paste, lubricant, oil catch tray, grease gun.
Parts needed: Oil filter (ERR3340), £12.25; air filter (ESR4238), £1.80; spark plugs x 8 (ERR3799), £13.04; automatic gearbox filter service kit (DA4500), £5.59; sump washer (ALU1403L), 17p.
• Wear eye protection when working under a vehicle.
• Always support a vehicle on suitably-rated stands, never rely on a jack.
• Wear gloves to protect skin from oils.
• Use the right tool for the right job.
• If in doubt, employ a professional.
Thanks to: Britpart and Steve Grant for their help with this feature.
The second-generation Range Rover P38A is one of the most affordable entry points to Land Rover ownership. So if you own one, it’s likely you’ll be maintaining it yourself to some extent. Equally, if you’re considering ownership, you may be wondering how much you can tackle yourself. Thanks to their relatively proven engines and drivetrains, P38As are some of the simplest models to service at home.
The same doesn’t perhaps carry for diagnosing and repairs, thanks to the pioneering use of a Body Electronic Control Module (BeCM) which every electrical item routes though, from the engine to the door locks. Diagnosing an issue and pinpointing the cause can be a little tricky, as the BeCM itself can fail too, and is coded to the car. Don’t let us talk the car down though, because a P38A is a superb vehicle. It just needs a slightly different approach to diagnosing problems when they do arise. Servicing, however, is another matter entirely.
Here, we look at how to service the V8 P38A, which is something anyone could do comfortably in a morning with a minimum of tools. The Rover V8 may have been approaching the zenith of development in our year 2000 Vogue pictured here, but changing the fluids is, in principle, little different to a classic 1970 Range Rover. The rest of the vehicle is eminently manageable on a DIY basis. Even the much maligned air suspension is very simple to repair at home.
LRM Technical likes to use servicing time as an extra opportunity for close inspection. Whilst working on it, you can easily check for anything amiss on your P38A. Familiarity with your vehicle means you spot signs of issues before they become a problem which, in the long run, maximises reliability.
With the help of Britpart’s Steve Grant and LRM’s Ed Evans, we’ll walk you around what goes into servicing a V8 P38A, but also what else to keep an eye on, now that the vehicles are ageing.
Before we start: the basics. Always follow a model-specific workshop manual when servicing any Land Rover. More importantly, understand not just the processes, but the reasons for doing a task. Only by understanding what something does can you identify if it isn’t working as intended. Be confident in your abilities, and have the right tools to do the right job.
That said, the first job is to drive the car 10 miles or so and bring the engine up to full operating temperature. Does the car brake, steer, run and drive as you would expect? Are there any strange vibrations, noises, suspension knocks or so on? Drive it in low range, too. Check all lights, wipers and seatbelts. We’ll cover more in-depth P38A repairs in the future, but make a note of anything you think may be amiss. If you aren’t doing repair work yourself, your trusted specialist will appreciate you isolating the potential problem accurately.
We start under the bonnet where there are a number of filters to change, along with the engine oil which is usually drained first. Whilst that is left to drain there’s time to attend to the other tasks. Note, the engine should be warm to help drain the oil. LRM Technical’s top tip with servicing is to have a routine of what you do, and when – then stick to it. That way you don’t miss anything.
We’ve demonstrated how to change fluids in the automatic gearbox here, but the principle of fluid changes in the axles and transfer case is the same: a drain plug and a fill plug which also serves as a level gauge.
Air filter: Release the clips by hand around the housing, swap the filter over, and refit the cover. Write the date and mileage on the filter if you wish.
Spark plugs next: I like a methodical approach, so I swap each plug in turn. Note that it’s best to pull the ignition lead off by the plug boot, not the lead itself.
Mind the gap: Confirm correct gap – 1mm for this engine, but check your model. The manual states gaps should not be adjusted on PYB4 plugs from 99MY.
Careful, now: Refit the cleaned spark plugs, starting them by hand to avoid cross-threading. The tightening torque for spark plugs is 20Nm. Repeat for the others.
Antifreeze test: Use tester to check freeze protection. Antifreeze loses corrosion protection over time so renew it as specified. Check hoses for damage and leakage.
Brake fluid: Likewise, we check the brake fluid for moisture content. It absorbs moisture over time. Land Rover recommends changing it at 24 months – check your model’s spec.
Oil filter: With the car on the lift, the oil filter is removed using a compression strap. With a container nearby, unscrew it slowly, and be ready for some spillage.
Drain the engine oil: The sump plug is removed and oil is drained into a suitably-sized container. A warm engine helps it drain fully. Note the aluminium sump on this engine.
Fill. Wait. Top up: While the sump drains, fill the new filter with fresh oil. Pause for a moment after first filling, then you’ll get quite a lot more oil in.
Refit: Lubricate the filter seal with oil, then refit to the engine. Tighten the filter a half turn after feeling resistance. Don’t overtighten – it damages the seal.
Most important! When the oil is drained, replace the crush washer on the drain plug, and refit it to the sump. Having a set routine avoids you forgetting this.
Filling up: In goes fresh semi-synthetic 10W-40 oil. Do check what your vehicle requires. Top it up to the ‘full’ dipstick mark, and start the car. The level will drop.
Correct level: Having run the engine for a minute or so, switch off, wait ten minutes for the oil to settle, then top up accurately to the dipstick’s ‘full’ mark again.
Gearbox oil: We’re changing the gearbox oil and filter, too. Make a point of always undoing the filler plug first, so you know you can get the fresh oil in.
Drain the fluid: Check the colour of the oil and have a sniff. Black fluid and a burnt smell suggests gearbox issues. Translucent red, seen here, is what you want to find.
Drop the pan: There’s also a gearbox filter to replace, so undo the sump fixings and remove the pan. Expect steady drips from residual fluid clinging to the gearbox internals.
Mesh filter: The filter is held on with Torx fixings, and comes off easily. The plastic pick-up pipe is pulled off and fitted to the new filter. Don’t crack it.
An even better job: Cleanliness is important, so clean out the interior of the sump pan. Any signs of metal are bad news. If there’s any, it will be fine particles.
Debris catcher: Check and clean the small magnet. It is unusual to find anything, but it does happen. Again, clean it all, and stick it back inside the sump.
Filter seals: Fit the two new seals (supplied in the service kit) to the new filter. Refit the plastic pick-up pipe and it’s ready to go back on the car.
Good practice: Refit the sump plug with a new washer. Then refit the sump with a new seal, ensuring the sump doesn’t ride off the seal while tightening the fixings.
Filling the automatic ’box: Fill the sump with the correct ATF Dexron III fluid. The gearbox oil won’t have been totally drained earlier because the torque convertor remains full of fluid.
To fill correctly, the gearbox oil pump needs to suck the new fluid into the system. So run the engine briefly two or three times, topping up a little more fluid each time. Eventually, with the engine running and the transmission in neutral, fluid trickles steadily from the level plug. If desired, you could run the car for a day or so, and repeat the fluid change so as to replace a portion of the fluid left in the torque convertor the first time. Obviously, this is a diminishing return. In reality, if the fluid came out as clear as it did with this vehicle, we’d be satisfied that all is well with just one change.
What to look for: Here, we’ve reached the point where, with the engine running, and the transmission in neutral, fluid trickles steadily from the level plug. Refit the plug.
Checking and greasing
Grease gun: Re-grease the propshaft universal joints sufficiently to fill the bearings. Overfilling, so it pours out, can damage seals and lead to premature failure of the joints.
Stopping power: Remove each wheel to inspect the brakes. Check pad thickness, discs for lipping and corrosion. Check the ABS cables aren’t frayed. Our vehicle looks superb.
Top tip: It’s worth lubricating the wheel hub. Some favour aluminium grease, seen here, others prefer copper. Just a dab helps prevent the wheel seizing on the hub.
Hard wired: Check brake hoses, brake pipes, height sensors, dampers. Look for any signs of fluid leaks, and deformed or worn bushes. This beautiful P38A has been maintained superbly and it shows.
Steering system: Check CV boots, steering ball-joints and system. These ball-joints and steering joints have been recently replaced. Fluid leaks, or tears in rubber boots need attention.
Typical issue: Inspect the air suspension bladders. This cracking to the lower edge means this bag needs replacing. Seven or eight years is typical – rubber ages, exactly as with tyres.
Magic carpet? Check all suspension bushes for play or damage. We know our Range Rovers rely on bushes being in good order to give the legendary ride quality. Don’t put up with less.
You’ve probably noticed already that this vehicle has had the underside rubbed down and finished in quality rustproofing paint. There are two benefits to this: not only is the car refreshed and protected from corrosion, but it is also much cleaner to work on, and easier to spot any problems such as fluid leaks or corrosion. It takes just a day or two to protect the car like this, but if you intend to keep a vehicle, it is a task worth considering. It also pleases the MoT tester each year. A well-presented Land Rover chassis speaks volumes about an owner’s attitude to maintenance.
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