Your questions answered: Air suspension, fuel cradle, and steering play


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Steering play should be no more than 9.5mm : credit: © Ed Evans
Our team of experts answer your Landy queries

Battery flat,
suspension flat

My 1993 Range Rover recently had a flat battery. The engine turned over and almost fired up. On the second try there was just a click when I turned the key. After fitting a new battery the engine fired up straight away, but now the three EAS lights are on and the car is on the bump-stops. The airbags look fine, I’ve changed the relays and checked the big fuse, but my local garage doesn’t have the software to read any codes. Should I just junk the unreliable air system and fit a coil conversion, or is there an easy and cheap way to sort this out?

Matt Storr


Alisdair Cusick advises: The Electronic Air Suspension (EAS) fitted to your Range Rover (and also to the P38A, for that matter) is actually a relatively simple system. The compressor, air springs, height sensors and valve block are all easy to work on at home, and software is now available for DIY owners to read fault codes, diagnose issues and calibrate height sensors.

Your problem most likely stems from the drop in voltage from your non-start episode. The EAS system takes a feed from the alternator to detect engine speed – just as the tachometer does. With the ignition on, there is enough power to operate the electrical systems, but not enough to start the car, so the EAS ECU will realise it doesn’t have a signal to say the engine is turning, so it triggers a fault.

Recharging or replacing the battery will start the car, but the fault code in the EAS ECU remains and needs to be cleared. For that, try the EAS unlock software and an old PC laptop. You need to make a cable up to connect to the EAS diagnostic socket under the front seat, but they are occasionally available online. Clearing the fault is as simple as connecting the computer, opening the software, initialising it, then reading and clearing it. That should, in your case, mean your car starts and rises as it should once more. Or, of course, ask a garage with the correct equipment to clear the codes for you.

After it was launched in 1993, the EAS did gain a reputation for being troublesome. The reality is that all elements of the system are DIY-friendly and there is no reason for stripping it out and replacing it with coil springs. The secret to trouble-free air suspension is in ensuring the air springs are kept in good health. For example, forcing it to limp along with leaking springs causes the air compressor to run for longer to keep up with the air demand, wearing out the piston seal. Eventually, given enough time, the compressor fails.

Replacement height sensors are another easy fix on electronic air suspension cars. Suspension airbags (right of picture) are long-lasting

Coil spring conversions have a place, perhaps for serious off-roading where reliability is vital. But don’t forget that EAS spec cars are not fitted with the self-levelling strut of coil-sprung models, because it’s not needed. If you hook up a trailer, or fill the rear of the car with a heavy load, the EAS system will automatically keep the car level – and the headlights aligned to the road at night (this is why the EAS rises at the rear first when changing height). So if you convert an EAS to coils there’s no way to level the car, meaning your headlights are pointing skywards when a heavy load is in the back.

A Range Rover on air suspension, with healthy bushes and nice, soft dampers, gives the ‘magic carpet’ ride they are famous for. Clearing the fault code should return yours to that once more.


Check your fuel cradle

I’ve just had my Discovery 3 in the garage for a full service. When I got the invoice it stated that the fuel tank cradle is severely rusted and wants replacing urgently. I have questioned this with the garage on the basis that the car passed its MoT only three months ago and that this is just a protective shield to protect the fuel tank from off-roading damage. But they disagree and say it’s dangerous. They can provide the new part for £360 plus labour. Are they having me on and, if not, should I be asking the MoT station for a contribution for not picking it up during the test?

Andrew Talbot



Ed Evans replies: This part is sometimes described as a fuel tank shield, and sometimes as a support cradle. As with some earlier models, it does give off-road protection to the tank, but it’s also a vital means of support for the tank and, if it’s badly rusted then the vehicle is potentially in a dangerous condition and it needs to be replaced. You might find the cost of the part is cheaper if you buy direct from Land Rover and have it shipped to the garage that’s going to fit it. I expect your garage will be able to replace it without removing the tank but, to make this more practical, you need to run the fuel as low as possible to reduce the weight before the work is done.

This support cradle showed only surface rust when viewed from underneath. A few hammer taps shook off enough rust to leave it in two pieces.

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New cradle in position. At this stage it’s worth applying extra paint and/or wax to delay future rusting.

It’s difficult to suggest why this wasn’t picked up during the MoT test, or to lay any blame there. It’s possible that a jolt from a pothole or off-roading has dislodged a chunk of rusted metal and exposed the condition during the last three months – remember, the MoT test covers only what is visible to the examiner at the time. You won’t get any compensation because this is a repair that you would have needed to do in any case, but the MoT station would hopefully want to be told if they’ve missed something.


Steering backlash

Earlier this year I bought an early model Defender 110 with the pre-Tdi engine which is a dream to drive after my Series III. But since driving it I’ve noticed there’s far more play in the steering wheel – about 25mm – than on my Series III. I’m assuming this is why the steering doesn’t seem so accurate or responsive.

I was told there is an adjuster with a locknut on top of the steering box and I’ve located this. But, although the locknut turns, the adjuster screw in the middle just seems to turn with it. According to the manual, there should be a screwdriver slot in the adjuster, but mine has a blank end so I don’t see how it can be adjusted if the lock-nut moves with it. Is it possible to adjust this, or do I need to buy a new steering box if this is worn?

John Salmon


Ed Evans replies: This is the movement you feel when rocking the steering wheel back and forth. On your Series III and your Defender it should be set to a minimum, while ensuring the steering moves freely lock to lock. The procedure here applies to Ninety, One Ten and Defender models up to 1994 and should be set for minimum backlash, ensuring free movement, and with a 9.5mm maximum circumferential movement of the steering wheel. This figure applies only to standard diameter steering wheels, not to smaller sports steering wheels.

Remove the muck and paint, and clean the locknut and the head of the adjusting screw. The screw in this photograph needs a size 27 Torx key.

After releasing the locknut, it may be found seized to the adjuster. If so, jam a 19mm spanner against the engine to hold it firm while applying careful force to the adjuster.

If needed, run the locknut off the adjuster to clean the threads (the adjuster is threaded through the top cover). Inset: the locknut has an oil seal on its underside.

Before adjusting the backlash at the steering box, you need to check for play in all the steering joints and replace any that are worn. Adjusting the backlash is simple enough when the adjuster and locknut are free. But first support the front of the vehicle off the ground on axle stands with the rear wheels held by the handbrake or chocks, and the steering centralised. Your adjuster screw (which turns in a thread in the steering box top cover) will have a means of moving it independently of the locknut, and it will have a screwdriver slot, a hexagonal Allen key socket or a Torx socket in the protruding end. You say the end is blank, but it won’t be. The recess is often filled with grease or dirt and painted over. You’ll have to carefully pick at the end, tapping with a fine tool to dig in and reveal the means of adjustment. Clean it out very thoroughly, especially if it has a hexagon or Torx socket, to clear any rust or debris and then degrease it to prevent the tool from slipping and damaging the internal socket or deforming. Ease the locknut back and hold it with a 19mm spanner while using the correct, exactly-sized, unworn tool to turn the adjuster clockwise from above to reduce the backlash. When the backlash measured at the steering wheel is at a minimum (no more than 9.5mm), hold the adjuster while tightening the locknut. Then check again to confirm the backlash is acceptable and that the steering is free, lock to lock. Lower the vehicle and road test carefully until you’re sure it’s right. If in doubt, ask a garage to do the job.

Sometimes the locknut is seized on the adjuster, making it impossible to turn the adjuster inside the locknut. Go carefully in this situation because you’ll need some force to hold the locknut and turn the adjuster inside it, but you don’t want to damage the adjuster head by the tool slipping. Ensure the head of the adjuster is free of grease and oil before using the tool. Paint may need to be removed from the top of the locknut and the adjuster thread to allow easing oil down into the thread. Often, a sharp tap from a small hammer on each flat of the locknut will shock it free.

Check the effects by turning the steering wheel between the points where the tyre starts to move in each direction. Free movement should be less than 9.5mm.


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