Alistair - Mechanics - Electronics - Special Tools - Spare Parts

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Alistair was a Defender 110 SW Td5 - 2004. Please take note that some of the sections below are specific to the Td5 engine or to other technical choices made by the manufacturer for the 2004 model we owned. We also share here some technical stories and hope they will be useful to fellow travelers. Here is one: early 2004, when buying our Defender, we had to place a special order to get the manual windows option, not only to reduce weight but mostly to avoid failure occurrences... We realized how wise we had been only years later when our next vehicle came equipped with electric windows. The driver's window got jammed and remained so for several months. Luckily, the window regulator broke while we were in the Yukon -- not a very hot place... but which can be wet sometimes. We figured out a work around with suction cups that managed to keep the window up until we could find a more permanent solution.
Click on pictures to enlarge them.

Alistair's ECU or Electronic Control Unit - Fuel economy

In 2004, we were lucky to hear about a garage where an experienced mechanic could reprogram an ECU to "Australian mode", that is with a de-activated anti-theft system. Since we did not want to take any risk of being grounded in the middle of nowhere, we happily paid for the service. Were we paranoid? Well, years after, friends of ours driving an American car in the Baja California desert experienced such a misadventure...
In 2007, we had the ECU reprogrammed to increase power and torque by about 25% (but still kept a spare original-programmed ECU at hand). Note that, in order to operate, a spare ECU has to be synchronized with the engine specific injection sequence. Thanks to our same LR expert Jacky, this was achieved in less than one hour.
The torque and power we thus gained was bound to have some impact on fuel economy so we tried to measure it. On 650 km driven on asphalt, with a steady speed of 85 to 90 km/h and a good quality diesel, we used less than 9,5 litres per 100 km.
On 300 km driven on sand tracks (Simpson desert, 1,250 sand dunes from east to west, the steepest slopes) with an average of 20 km/h we moved our 3,300 kg with about 18 litres per 100 km.

Hand brake

Before shipping to Australia, we thoroughly cleaned Alistair to pass the dreaded inspection conducted by AQIS, the Australian quarantine department: "No animal product alive or dead, no vegetal debris whatsoever and no minerals either", meaning no mud, no sand, no dirt, nor dust. Cars must be as clean as new. In other words, in the same state as when they "left the manufacturer's premises".
So, getting the chassis cleaned -- twice -- with hot water vapor seemed like a good idea. While it certainly helped pass the inspection, we had not thought of its downside... which we found out about some weeks later, when the hand brake cable started jamming up. The vapor heat had melted the grease out of its "sealed" cable sheath. And because it was "sealed", there was no way we could take the cable down and grease it. It seemed then that replacing the sheath with its cable would be a quick and easy fix... until we realized that this part was not standard. Ours did not have the same length as in the right hand drive models driven in Australia. We had to order the part specifically from Europe and had to plan a couple more weeks' delay for delivery.

Grease to Oil conversion

We were so lucky to meet with Roger and Fred, two experts in Defenders and prominent members of the Australian LR Owners' club. And also very generous people whom we will never thank enough for their warm welcome and precious help.
As experienced leaders and trainers for outback expeditions, they explained to us how to make our Defender safer, and particularly in regard to wheel ball bearings.
If we understood their explanations correctly, around the year 2000, Defenders models started coming with wheel ball bearings lubricated with grease, from the exterior side of the wheel hub. A protective plastic cap was also added on the hub. This was considered an "improvement"... meant for city people who do not want oil drops from their Defenders to stain their immaculate parking, garage floor or driveways...
Unfortunately, for those among us who will not be driving within cell-phone reach of a mechanic's shop within an hour-drive range at the most, this technical choice was quite scary. Think of vibration, dust, sea mist and the occurrence of a wheel ball bearing failure while driving long distances through deserted areas.
Before 2000, ball bearings were lubricated from the inside, and the oil retained inside the differential case. So, how did our experts achieve the conversion back to the tried and true old system?
In short, the method is to cut a hole in a rubber gasket in order to allow the oil from the differential case to reach the ball bearings. Of course, many technical details are to be taken into account as well as several parts to be replaced. Once done, we just had to top up oil in the diff cases, and voila! Be aware of planning needs though, as it took us -- three people, two experienced guys and me, the rooky -- one full day's work.

Parts for converting wheel bearing lubrication from grease to oil:
4 x RTC3511 Oil seal - Hub - F & R - Range Rover - 12mm (>6/1985)
8 x FRT8700 Stub axle / bearing nuts - OE on pre 1999 Landies
4 x FTC3179 Locking tab - Stub axle - Range Rover - F & R (late)
2 x Rubber end caps for hub driving member - for spares in case one gets knocked off in the bush."
In Australia, our reliable provider was
When taking down, remember to keep the 4 hub nuts, cut out the cylindrical part and discard but do keep the hexagonal part (52 mm if I remember well).

Rear half drive shafts

With already 70,000 km in a fully laden vehicle and the prospect of heading to central Australian deserts, we had to check these shafts which bring the engine torque to the rear wheels.
We took advantage of the wheel ball bearing lubrication conversion to replace the worn out shafts with "Maxidrive" strengthened "yellow" ones, 50% stronger than the original ones.

Door and special tool for diesel fuel pump

During the initial preparation of our vehicle, we had cut a "door" on the car floor to allow an access to the fuel pump which would be easier than having to remove the fuel tank. Just in case...
Old timers told us that old Defenders had this feature. Giving it up has probably saved the manufacturer a couple of euros... but irritated many customers...
Here are Fred's Defender door dimensions and ours in Alistair.


~from left rear mudguard => to rear left door corner = 220 mm.
~from end of floor => to rear left door corner = 310 mm.
~side of cover 260 x 260 mm
First, an opening was cut out which was much smaller than the final dimensions of the cover. This was to ensure that would be left enough cross-member length for the future cover to sit on. The final cut to exact dimensions was made very carefully so as not to damage the cross-members sections that were kept.
Was it worth the trouble? Here is an anecdote. In a service (gas) station in Europe, the diesel gun is yellow. In Australia, yellow is for lead free petrol (gasoline). And as usual, trouble happens at the end of a long day of driving. It did. I goofed.
Luckily we realized our mistake before restarting the engine. We pushed the car on the parking lot and started siphoning as much gasoline out of the tank that we could. By the time the night came, we decided to camp by the gas station. Unexpectedly, we slept quite well since we knew we would NOT have to take down the tank the following morning!
At dawn, we removed the diesel pump to siphon what remained in the tank.
How did we remove the pump? And put it back? Luckily, before leaving, our LR "angels" showed us an ad-hoc tool they had made. And they kindly had one made for us!

Suspension springs

We replaced the original 110 Defender springs.
In the front we mounted 130 springs. Note: the right and left ones are different: one goes on the driver side, the other on the passenger's. Whether it is a left or right handed car must of course be taken into account.
In the rear, a spring smaller in diameter is slid inside the original ones. Don't forget to order the locking plates.

Diesel filter

Here is another anecdote. Symptom: sudden diesel leak at the fuel filter. Hint: the leak stops when engine is turned off. Cause: the plastic drain cap located at the bottom of the filter case had split (still wondering whether this was due to Dubai summer heat or to a mechanic over enthusiastic tightening after a fuel filter change).
Solution: a stainless steel metric bolt, diameter 10 mm x 25 mm. The threaded 25 mm part was split with a hack saw over 15 mm to let water drain out when this bolt is loosened.
The small rubber seal that comes with a fuel filter fits very well on a 10 mm bolt. This is quite useful to know, since the piece of tire tube we had originally used as a seal had deteriorated very badly due to its contact with diesel.

Air flap seal got loose

Neoprene contact glue was useless. We used with success a common silicon seal. Prior to applying silicon, it is key to clean carefully the old seal and flap with alcohol, or acetone. If using acetone, keep exposure time to a minimum so as not to damage the fragile rubber seal.

Spare parts - Specific tools

- the three main hoses for Td5 (in their package, on the picture)
- a belt (we kept the 60,000 km old one as a spare)
- a prop shaft unijoint, 4 extra nuts and their 9/16 inch eye wrench and a forked wrench. I had checked and grounded the outside of the wrench eye for easier handling in such a limited space.
- a wheel ball bearing and a 52 mm (or is it 65?) socket to fit the wheel hub
- a fork wrench 30/32 mm grounded into
30/36 mm. I also grounded the 36 mm side down to 9 mm thick so it could be used also to take down the radiator fan nut.
- the special tool to undo the diesel pump
- two steering knuckles, one right, one left. Probably not critical to have them but they don't take much space...
- one engine oil spare plug (nut)
- two spare wheel nuts
- one clutch master cylinder. Actually we found an identical one (and cheaper too, less than 15 euros) used on trailer brakes, in Australia. Keep the original small stainless steel rod from the old cylinder and use it on the new one. Note: with vibrations caused by corrugations and heat
(40° C+) we experienced clutch worries on the Gibb River road but once cooled down and air bled, it went fine again.
- a brake hose clamp to pinch the hose upstream the connector located on the rear axle case... in case you face what happened to us: a flying stone or maybe a metal piece buried in the sand broke the thin metallic brake pipe. This tool can also be very useful when bogged, to lock a spinning wheel: depress the brake pedal, lock it with a stick, crawl under the car and put the clamp on. Don't forget to take it off afterwards!
- a diesel filter
- centrifugal fuel filter. To be changed at every oil change. We carried two filters with us during long trips far away from any LR garage.
- one air filter (or two if on a long trip, as above)
- a funnel. Some handy models include a water/diesel separator mesh. Jerry cans, 2 meters hose for siphoning
- all light bulbs, fuses
- fluids. They were stored in leak-proof heavy plastic or metal chests. We layered the bottom and sides of our chests with anti-skid material to reduce friction and prevent holes induced by driving on corrugations. A similar anti-skid material was also placed between the fluid containers for the same reason.
- a grease gun and grease cartridge(s). We greased prop shafts and unijoints every
5,000 km, sometimes more often when driving on bad tracks.
- "gooee" seal paste, radiator repair paste, Loctite blue
- usual tools including ratchet wrenches (3 sizes), sockets, wrenches, a good chisel, etc. A cordless drill and quality drill bits were very handy.
More experienced LR owners and web forums were very valuable resources to help us figure out what tools and parts to carry with us, since all these must relate to the car model, age, mileage, but also to the specifics of each country or region, such as type of tracks, distance between mechanic shops.