Yesterday morning, the postie delivered a very large, very heavy parcel that prompted a lot of bouncing up and down, excited squeaks, and manic grins from the boys. Why all the fuss? Because “we” were going to rebuild the Land Rover. Well, not quite. Whenever I get a Land Rover, I like customise it for our needs while also going over the brakes, suspension and steering with a fine-tooth comb. Our recent acquisition is no exception and our box of goodies contained all the ingredients for a suspension makeover—intended to see the Defender through the next three to five years and funded by our remortgage (yes, finally).
While the Land Rover, a Defender TD5 Dual-Cab pick-up, had clearly had new bushes fitted a few years ago, the then owner had not bothered to change the shock absorbers. We knew they were wonky, as the rears in particular had play between the spigot and the axle mount that it passes through. Then, last week, the weld fell out of this shock absorber’s mounting ring and the joint began to open up. The bushes were also perished. So, new shocks were in order and we ordered a set of Bilstein heavy duty ones to cope with the heavy loads and hard work that our Land Rover copes with.
Blue Polybushes had been fitted in the past. They looked okay and, as they have a reputation for wearing well, it would have been tempting to leave them. However, I don’t like changing one part of the suspension and leaving the rest unless I’m very, very certain it’s in good shape. So, I ordered a full set of bushes for the Defender—and just as well. When I removed the rear radius arm (the long piece of metal extending to the right), I discovered this particular bush had worn badly on the inside, with the hole through its centre having gone from round to oval. I suspect the play in the shock absorbers led to the axle moving about more, and that in turn led to the radius arm having excessive movement.
The boys and I did the rear suspension today, with the Big Lad helping in the morning and the Wee ‘Un in the afternoon. And before someone comments, no he’d not wedged between the chassis rail and the wheel. The centre of the wheel is positioned under the chassis rail and he’s leaning on the tyre so he could be seen in the photo. The rest of the time he was lying on the ground clear of the vehicle.
The Big Lad did get a bit carried away at one point and decided to really put some welly into shifting a stuck nut and bolt. I was under the truck, without a clear view of his hands, when I heard a bang and a thump, then a howl, and then lots of muttering. A crestfallen Big Lad showed me a scrape along his thumb from where he’d hit the chassis rail “when my spanner flew off”. After a hug and a checkover, I sent him off with the OH for a plaster while I had a look at his bolt.
I quickly discovered the reason why his spanner had flown off—the Big Lad had managed to both bend and snap a 17mm bolt. He was quite pleased when he came back with his plaster and saw what he’d done!
Despite the broken bolt, we still managed to get the left-hand rear suspension done before lunch and the right-hand side done before dinner. I also managed to give the brakes a good inspection—good pads, good callipers, but uneven wear on the left-hand disc. I’ll budget to replace the discs at the next 10,000 mile service. From the condition of the pads, I suspect the problem predates their being fitted as the wear patterns don’t match. Yes, it was another irritating piece of skipped work.
I prefer to remove the radius arms with the shock absorbers in place. It’s a little fiddly removing the rear nut and bolt from the radius arms but the shocks keep the axle sitting high. I loosen the bolts with stands under the axles, then switch the stands to the chassis rails when it’s time to extract the bolt. I do it this way because I find different positions for the stands make the Land Rover more stable when tackling different jobs—especially when I’m having to apply a lot of force. I also owe the mechanics at HRN Tractors a favour—this Defender is all metric so when I found myself short a 24mm ring spanner this morning I popped down to the dealership to buy one. They didn’t have one so they lent me one for the day. (Most of my larger spanners are AF, to fit our old Defender.)
The old shock absorbers were in a terrible state, which was not surprising as one of them had an inspection sticker dated 2002. The metal spigots should have straight, parallel sides. The one on the left (actually from the right side) was badly pitted and a little worn, but the one on the right (from the left of the Defender) had clearly been moving a lot. It was shiny with wear and had a pronounced waist where it had been rubbing on the axle mount. On top of that, the bushes were perished and heavily compressed. Not a good combination if you value safe handling and a comfortable ride. I wonder what I’ll find when I do the front suspension tomorrow?