Since converting to 12v I haven’t had much use for the map reading light I bought from Sodbury a couple of years back.  Decided to use some cheap LED strips – the sort boy racers use as underlighters – and a length of platic round bar to convert the lamp to 12 volts and the 21st century.
The Lamp

Milled a slot in the pastic round bar and glued the LED strips in place

High-tech electrics.  Have looked at fitting a battery but can’t find a lead acid one of the right size

Finished product.  Slightly brighter than the original flourencent bulb and uses much less power.

Sould come in handy when we go to Wales in a few weeks.  Still need to think about sleeping and heating issues though…

Panic Overdrive!

Had a nasty fright on the way to work on Thursday.  Popping out of overdrive on the A33 there was a nasty graunching sound and it popped back in to neutral.  After that it wouldn’t stay engaged at all.  I managed to limp through the rest of the day in overdrive – hill starts were far from fun as I had to be very gentle with the clutch.
I assumed it was my DIY linkage, so popped the tunnel cover off and pulled the selector out with vice grips.  With the back wheels off the ground I started the engine, only to find that it still wouldn’t stay engaged.  There was much swearing at this point.  I have a spare gearbox, but am using The Duke daily these days and the idea of him being laid up for a couple of weeks was not appealing.  The £340 I spend on the overdrive and possibility that it might be worthless was also a minor bugbear.
In desperation I started to think of ways I could get the overdrive off without having to drop the gearbox or take the seat box out.  The battery tray between the seats seemed like a possibility, so I drilled out the bolts holding it on (only two of the six were actually there) and popped it off to find that it gives great access.
The overdrive has a cover on top – so it couldn’t hurt to have a look inside…  and it didn’t.  Turns out the selector fork is attached to the shaft in a very accessible place – so a quick fiddle was in order.  I guess somebody must have tinkered with it in the past because once slid 4mm forwards the overdrive selects and deselects perfectly.
Inside the depths of the overdrive

Once that was done (and I had finished some rejoicing) I spruced up the battery box with angle grinder and red oxide primer then refitted it with all six bolts.  Needs some green paint at some point but since it’s covered up, full of batteries and I’d fun out of paint brushes, I decided to delay that job.

Now for the shameful bit:  When I replaced the battery box I found that the main earth strap was pretty useless.  I needed to fit a proper fat cable to the starter and all I had was the old positive cable I got free with the 200Tdi engine.  So now I have a red negative and a black positive.  Not great – maybe I need to swap them over at some point!

It’s all in the timing

A bloke on the EMLRA forums had a rotor arm and set of points for the 24v distributor (found on the military 2.286 petrol engine) up for sale.  Seemed like a bargain so I snapped them up and this weekend (with a nasty cold) I fitted them to The Duke.

It was easier than I thought.  The components aren’t too fiddly and because it’s a military component everything is twelve times bigger and beefier than it needs to be.  The problem was that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information on the military distributor available online, so for most of the time I was flying blind!

The Duke’s ignition system on the bench 

The old rotor arm doesn’t look terrible but it’s clearly seen better days. 

Old and new points together.  I’ve already scrubbed the old ones to remove the loose rubbish and they’re pretty badly pitted. 

The mechanical advance mechanism – one of the things that makes the 24v distributor better than the civilian model, which has a vacuum advance. 

New rotor arm fitted
As I said, there isn’t much information available, so when setting the points gap I resorted to copying the settings for the civilian version – making the maximum gap about 0.4mm – a great excuse to use my feeler gauges for the first time!
Refitting to the engine was a doddle.  The timing needed to be advanced further than usual for smooth running, but things sounded good at idle and under revs.  I did the timing by ear, which is probably bad but has always worked better than using the strobe.  We haven’t been for a test drive yet because I felt like a badgers arse by the time all this was done, but hopefully there’ll be a slight improvement.

Start me up!

A while ago, you may remember, I had an embarrassing breakdown caused by dodgy connections on the starter motor cable. Same thing happened the other day when I got home from work. It had been a hot day and the temporary insulation I’d put on the positive terminal had melted away enough to allow this starter to short again. This in turn had welded the nut to the terminal.

In the process of getting the nut off – which meant using the nut splitter in the end – I sheared the terminals inside the motor itself. Joy!

Luckily had a spare starter I picked up at Sodbury last year. After much swearing and finger bashing I got the old starter off and the new one on. Turned the key… nothing. The replacement starter was not a goer!

So the only course of action left open was to attempt a repair on the old starter. I used the replacement one (pictured above) as a donor to fix the connections on the known-good, old motor.

This is what happens when you don’t use the right nuts and bolts to properly attach the contacts to the starter terminal!
Here’s where the tab goes. The bar inside links the two positive brushes to the positive contact.

Bits and bobs from the old (left) and replacement (right) motors. Note that the insulating bush is smashed to bits and the contact/tab is snapped.

Tab soldered onto the positive rail inside the motor. I decided to use solder to get the resistance down as low as possible. It took quite a bit of heating with my crappy little iron to get the solder to bind to the tab and bar!

Good as new!

Bolted the old starter into place and turned the key… nothing again! Some swearing and cursing took place. I unbolted the motor and turned the key again and it fired up fine. Back into place on the engine and everything worked. I can only assume that the gears had not lined up correctly the first time.
So, now The Duke is back on the road and I know what the inside of a starter motor looks like!

The Kindness of Strangers

The Duke and I had a little mishap on the way home today. Turns out I’d missed off the insulating washer when attaching the starter motor, so unknown to me, there was a nasty short on the starter contacts.

Got it started in the car park at work but worried there was something slightly wrong. Decided to get home and worry about it later. My plan failed when, at the traffic lights on the main road just round the corner from my house I put the choke in too early and The Duke stalled. Turned the key and absolutely nothing happened. Damn.

Hazards on, first at the lights, stationary. Very embarrassing. Managed to wave a couple of blokes over and got them to push me round the corner. Can’t have been an easy job, ‘cos they did a runner as soon as I was off the main drag. Only about three hundred yards from the drive, but there was no way I was going to get The Duke up the hill.

At that point, friendly stranger number three pulled up in his little Astra (I think) and offered me a tow! Only took 5 minutes to get home from there and after half an hour of battery charging and a few minutes with a spanner on the contacts The Duke fired up and reversed into the drive of his own accord. Phew!

Land Rovers really do bring out the best in people!

Shameless Plug

The new spark plugs I ordered from eBay arrived today and I couldn’t resist plugging them in to see if they made a difference. They did!

£30 including postage, which is just a little bit less than Paddocks are selling them for (£40 for four). They arrived in the original boxes which had been opened, but clearly the plugs themselves are as good as new. The picture gives a clue as to why the boxes were opened!

Anyway, after fitting the military distributor the engine was running much better – idling smoothly at about half the revs and happily responding to rapid accelerator pumps. There was an occasional miss though and after a while it ended up running on three cylinders. The spark plugs I got with the distributor (from Sodbury) were pretty knackered and it turns out that this was the cause. As proved by the new plugs!

So, with a bit of luck the engine will now have the power it needs to get me to and from the next MOT failure!

All aboard the Fail Duke

Well, I expected a fail and a fail’s what I got!

Have to say, before I say anything else, that Wingfield Engineering are a good first choice if you’re anywhere near Reading and need your Land Rover looking at. I knew they were going to be good when I pulled into their yard, drove past a collection of old tractors and parked next to a very smart looking Series 1! They were polite, speedy and down to earth; giving me some really helpful feedback, rather than the “your brakes are broken, it’ll cost £1000” you normally get at Kwik Fit. LRSeries were also excellent – going out of their way to ship my emergency order of replacements within two hours of me placing the order!

Anyway, let’s not get carried away just yet, there’s a long way to go before The Duke is back on the road.

We were running a bit late this morning, so it was well after 7:30 by the time I gingerly reversed The Duke out onto the street and headed off into the sunrise, Lorna following in Marvin the Mondeo. Took me a while to get used to the choke and the number of revs needed to change up but I guess that’s because I’ve been driving a modern diesel, not a badly tuned two ton petrol beast. Almost gave up and came home when I lost power at low revs on the A33 but I’m glad I soldiered on because in the end I just needed to “Man Up” and press harder on the money pedal.

Got the hang of it and started to tootle happily along Lower Earley way. Apparently I hit a top speed of somewhere between 45 and 50MPH at one point. Marvin’s speedo works, so Lorna was able to let me know the time. Little did they know that my foot was mashed through the floor in top gear and the vibrations were spine-breakingly severe. We hit traffic shortly after that, so I got to do a bit of first gear crawling. Apparently I pulled out in front of one of Lorna’s work mates, who later submitted a rather terrified account of what he saw. In the end — mostly because of the traffic — it took 45 minutes to drive the 9.5 miles from our house to Wingfield’s. Furthest The Duke has driven in a decade I think!

Got a call just before lunch with the bad news. Turns out it’s slightly more serious than I’d expected, but not as bad as it could have been…

  • The brake lights aren’t working – This could be because the switch has come loose again or because they turned the light switch onto “blackout”. Lorna claims that the brake lights were showing on the way there. Anyway, not a big fix, regardless.
  • The brakes look dodgy – He didn’t do a brake test because he wasn’t happy to go on the road with no brake lights, but he did say that the wheel cylinders and flexi pipes look ropey. I expected this and have ordered genuine Land Rover replacements to fit this weekend.
  • The fuel tank seals are cracked – True, the cork ones are a pain to fit and I think it was me that snapped them. New rubber replacements are in the post!
  • There are a couple of patches required on the chassis – Now this is the kicker. It’s grotty weather and Johnson’s using his welder this weekend. Not sure where the holes are, but I suspect at least one is on the underside of the chassis, so it’s going to be fun and games sorting that out.

I actually asked Wingfield to do the welding, but they didn’t fancy it, so I have to do it myself. If I win the lottery I’m getting a huge garage and a car lift, that’s all I’m saying!

So, we’ve failed our first MOT and there’s a huge amount of work to do in the next couple of weeks – including welding and the dreaded brake light switch. Despite this (or maybe because of this) I am actually feeling very jolly. I drove a Land Rover today for the first time and I also have a stack of practical and interesting jobs to keep me occupied. Bliss!