We hurried home after rugby training today so I could make a quick, post-lunch start on replacing the rear springs and shock absorbers on our Land Rover Defender TD5.
For the past few days, assorted “experts” have assured me changing the springs is a “15-minute job”, “nothing more than half an hour” and a “total breeze”. I disagreed, saying that straightforward jobs on Land Rovers inevitably turn into major jobs when the unexpected materialises and, from past experience with previous Land Rovers, that includes “minor” suspension jobs.
Having knocked back a bacon and egg sandwich, I went out to start the job of changing the left-hand suspension as that was the side with the broken spring.
To compress the spring without the aid of spring compressors, I use the two-jack approach: I use the Land Rover’s own jack to lift the back end and a trolley jack to raise/lower the axle.
I started down the route again today and had the rear left-hand wheel just rising off the ground when disaster struck. The rear cross member crumpled and folded around the jacking point.
Despite liberal applications of Waxoyl, the steel had corroded heavily on the inside and was unable to take the weight of the truck when it was jacked up. I lowed the Defender back on to its wheels, worked out a different method for jacking the truck up (moving the trolley jack around the truck and inserting my collection of axle stands before using the jack on the axle) and changed the left-hand suspension.
The old spring and shock absorber came off easily enough. The spring had cracked right through where it seated on its top mount, helped by a healthy dose of rust and friction that had eaten away about 10% of the spring’s thickness. The shock absorber’s piston was slightly bent, too.
Even a Land Rover Defender’s suspension doesn’t take too well to hitting a 12-inch deep bottom hole at 55-60mph.
The new spring went on easily, but the lower fixing for the new shock absorber proved extremely challenging. It took the better part of half an hour to “finesse” it into place, compress the new bushes and get the nut on. So much for it being a 15-minute job—it took just under four hours.
By then, it was getting dark so I’d run out of time to do the right-hand side but a quick test drive over our very rough back roads showed that all was well with the left-hand side. I’ll do the right side after rugby tomorrow. And again, I’ll be expecting another problem to show up—although hopefully not on the scale of the crumpled rear cross member, which is going to cost a fair bit to get cut off and replaced.
Fix one problem and another comes along to replace it. Still, it gives me something to do.