Project Freelander part 2: Safety and reliability


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Ed hopes to get his new purchase sound mechanically and financially : credit: © Ed Evans
Ed finds the engine is a tough nut, fits a new wiper switch, sorts an injector leak, gains a handbrake and hangs on to his differential

Need to know

Cost so far: £498.68.
Parts used this time: Lucas wiper switch, STC4016, £140, Britpart; injector seals pack of five, ERR4621, £9.90, Land Rover; differential front mounting, KHC500070, £9.28, Britpart; differential rear left mounting, KHC500090, £15, Britpart; differential rear right mounting, KHC500080, £15, Britpart.
Work safely:
When working under the vehicle, ensure it is safely supported on suitably rated stands with wheels chocked, gear engaged and supplementary supports placed underneath.
• Wear eye protection when working with the fuel injection system.
• Allow the cooling system to fully cool and depressurise before opening or working on any component.
• Switch the engine off before checking for fuel and coolant leaks.


The plan was to buy the cheapest Freelander 1 that I could find (see part 1 here), and turn it into a reliable long-distance vehicle, all for a total outlay of £1000 maximum. The project got off to a good start by buying a car for just £300. But cars at that price come with a few issues, some of which could be terminal including, in this case, the engine cooling system. That initial purchase price leaves me with £700 to splash out on parts, with all the work being done on a DIY basis.

Last month we introduced the Freelander with an appraisal of its condition and what might be needed. Right away, there were fuel leaks to sort on the injector spill pipes, a thorough cleansing inside and out, and concerns that it had previously been driven with little coolant in the engine. In this part 2, I hope to turn it into a useable truck.


Coolant concerns

My biggest worry when buying this Freelander was the lack of any coolant in the expansion tank, so I filled it up with a couple of litres of plain water and drove cautiously for a couple of miles to see what happened. Pleasingly, the temperature needle rose a tad to above halfway and stayed there. But shortly after the drive, the expansion tank was empty again. After letting it cool I poured another two litres in, which totalled just over half of the engine’s cooling capacity of 7.2 litres.

At this stage, alarm bells were ringing, especially since I couldn’t find a visible leak anywhere. It reminded me of the disappearing coolant problem with the V8 engines of the late 1990s. That was because of a crack in the cylinder block that allowed coolant to seep up the side of the cylinder liner into the combustion chamber where it was vapourised and subsequently blown through the exhaust system without trace. Of course, that wasn’t the case here; the Freelander L-series cast iron cylinder blocks don’t have cylinder liners, nor do they crack.

The system had obviously been so low as to introduce air locks when I’d first topped it up, so I opened the bleed valve on the heater hose and left the engine idling while the air bubbled out from the bleed valve as I trickled even more water into the expansion tank.

When the engine began to warm through, I switched off and fastened the expansion tank cap and bleed valve, then set off on a longer test drive with an emergency five-litre bottle of water in the boot. I stopped every couple of miles to check the expansion tank level, and this time it stayed high and the temperature gauge stayed steady. So I took the wagon up to 70mph on a dual carriageway, and powered it up the steepest hills I could find. Everything was perfect and next morning the expansion tank was still full to the level mark.

The car had obviously been driven by the previous owner with hardly any coolant in the engine, but these old L-Series diesels can withstand limited coolant shortage without suffering terminal overheating, in the same way that the Series-type petrol and diesel engines and the Tdi diesels are more temperature-tolerant than later mills (though I don’t recommend risking it). I still don’t understand how the engine survived with only three litres of coolant, but at least it gave me ammunition in bargaining the price down to £300.


Manual screen wipers

All that test driving could only be done on dry days because the wiper switch would only operate the wipers when it was manually held down against the spring in the one-wipe position. I had no time to attempt a repair, so a £140 Lucas switch, part number STC4016, was the only answer. Fitting a new wiper stalk is simple enough, but knowing a few facts before the event can save time.

Cowling off: With the screws removed from the column cowl, the top section is levered off, and the lower half comes away after dropping the column adjustment lever, seen here.

Simply secured: The switch is held in place mainly by these two cross-head screws. It’s necessary to turn the steering wheel to access them. Take care not to drop them.

Two plugs: The switch is carefully levered out sideways and the white connector detached. A second connector block is prised out of the back of the mounting plate, on top.

Ignition hole: The connectors are plugged into the new switch and parts reassembled in reverse order, ensuring the grommet in this lower cowl fits around the ignition switch.


Injector seal under suspicion

There had been a smell of diesel fuel when I bought the car, which I quickly traced to a couple of perished spill pipes that return unused fuel from the injectors. So I’d renewed all five spill pipes: one from each of the four injectors and one to the injection pump, but there was still a smell which I couldn’t decide was fuel, oil or combustion products, or a mixture of all three. Another close inspection revealed wetness on the lower area of the cylinder head just below number four fuel injector, so I washed and dried the area clean and took the car for a drive. On return, the area was wet again. I first checked the spill pipe banjo connection on the side of the injector, but decided it was the injector seal inside the head that had failed.

When working on the fuel systems, cleanliness is paramount to avoid dirt entering through disconnected pipes and the injector opening in the cylinder head. Replacing the injector seals is no big deal, except for the amount of piping and paraphernalia that needs to be removed. But I was lucky, because number 4 injector is easily accessible, and I certainly wasn’t going to disturb the other three and their fuel lines, if I could avoid it.

Easy injector: Number 4 injector here, nearest to the black plastic cover over the fuel pump drive belt, is the most accessible of the four. Plenum chamber at left.

Leak evidence: Here’s the black-stained liquid, leaked from under the injector clamp plate. I cleaned the area, but it returned after a short drive – must be a failed injector seal.

Leak off: The spill pipe banjo union is unbolted first, to give clearance for a socket spanner to reach the injector clamp plate below. Don’t drop the washers.

Keep safe: Banjo connection is detached from the spill pipe hose and put aside for safekeeping. Washers are obsolete, though standard copper washers can be found.

Safety net: The purple cloth prevents parts falling down and becoming lost in the engine tray. Injector pipe union is released (preferably holding pipe to prevent it turning).

Pipe aside: By releasing the clip holding the injector pipe to number 3’s pipe, and inserting a wedge, the pipe is held sufficiently clear to allow removal of the injector.

Clamp plate: The clamp plate is held by a single bolt into the cylinder head. A socket and extension reaches it, then the plate and bolt are carefully withdrawn.

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Injector release: Using a spanner on the flats of the injector body to rotate slightly back and forth while gripping the top thread with fingers, the injector is pulled out.

Inspection: Combustion deposits and unburnt fuel on the injector have been blowing from the cylinder, past the injector seal. The delicate tip is carboned up, too.

The culprit: Defective sealing washer is seen on the bottom, here. The injector is cleaned with solvent and a soft cloth. Never use a wire brush or anything abrasive.

Clean seat: The injector seat in the cylinder head is rinsed with solvent, applied with an artist’s brush, then wiped clean using the flat end of a pencil wrapped in a cloth.

Inspection: The seat face in the head is inspected for damage. This is good, otherwise it would need to be re-faced with a cutter, preferably by a good garage.

New seal: A pack of four Genuine seals (ERR4621) cost £9.90 from Land Rover. The same copper seals are also used on all models with the 200 and 300Tdi engines.

Into the head: The convex surface of the new seal faces upward. I push it gently onto a pencil point to lower it into the hole, to ensure it’s correctly positioned.

Injector in: The injector is pushed home firmly with slight rotation, ensuring the spill pipe connection is correctly orientated. Then the clamp plate and bolt are refitted.

Tightening sequence: With the injector rotated slightly clockwise against the clamp (to deter movement when the fuel pipe union is tightened), clamp bolt is torqued to 25Nm.

Double safe: The injector shouldn’t move when fitting the pipe union, but it’s best to play safe by holding the injector body with a second spanner while tightening the union.

Complete: Finally, the spill pipe banjo is refitted and the hose pushed on. So, this work has stopped the leakage, and the engine is running a tad smoother, too.


Staying power

In an attempt to make the Freelander stay in one place while parked, (the handbrake lever could be pulled up to the limit and still have no effect at the rear wheels) I was expecting to need new rear brake shoes. But after removing the centre console between the front seats to expose the cable adjuster, a fair bit of spannering on the adjusting nut soon had the handbrake working efficiently on a couple of clicks.

Clearing the way: The handbrake lever console is held by two screws under the rear ashtray, and two under a plastic panel at the front end. The wiring harness remains attached.

Easy adjustment: The slack cables were confirmed free, then turning this single nut tightens both wheel cables simultaneously. Adjust for the lever to hold after two or three clicks.


Banging propshaft

As as I pulled away on this car’s first test drive, there was loud bang from underneath at the rear end. It sounded hugely expensive but I knew the cause right away. The rear differential is held by three rubber mountings in cast metal frames bolted to the diff and to the rear subframe. When the front mounting rubber fails, it allows the diff to move suddenly upward when drive is applied, and it takes the propshaft with it, causing it to bang against the underbody. When the front mounting fails, the rear two take the load and fail soon afterwards. In this case, all three were trashed.

Three diff mountings: The front mounting is the first to fail, quickly followed by the two rears. Each rear mounting is supplied pre-fitted with its integral mass damper on top.

Shredded: The old front mounting. The central bolt tube has broken away from the mounting rubber, allowing the differential to move up and down, though still held in place.

Easy bolt-in: With the propshaft unbolted from the diff and tied aside, it’s an easy job to remove the damaged front support bush and bolt the new one into place.

So, the Freelander is now declared safe and reliable, for not much money. The camshaft drive belt was originally replaced at 61,000 miles (due every 48k miles), but that was 14 years ago. So I’m anxious to get a new belt fitted before it snaps and renders this whole project toast. The same applies to the fuel injection pump drive belt, though if this snaps the car just stops. So both belts will be renewed together, which is normal practice because the same crankshaft and camshaft timing settings are used. The job will be done in the Britpart workshop, so the 360-mile round trip will be a telling test for this machine.


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