Monday, November 8, 2010
We are seeing a disturbing trend with many high end cars built in the 1980s and 1990s. Their auxiliary control modules are failing, and replacement parts are not available. You can still buy engine control modules for Jaguar, Land Rover, and Rolls Royce cars, but many of the other electronics have been discontinued.
We can fix some issues on these controllers, but one thing we can't fix is extensive corrosion damage from failure of the "permanent" backup batteries many of these modules carry inside.
If you have a collectible European car, and it's 12-15 years old, it's time to pull the modules apart and address this issue BEFORE you have irreparable damage. As much as it may cost to fix something that's not broke, it will cost way more once it is broke . . .
Sunday, September 12, 2010
A few weeks ago, I had a strange and curious experience with a Range Rover. It started with a simple warning light, and the usual request. “Can you reset my check engine light so I can get a sticker?”
Why do so many people think these lights come on just so they can be reset?
What possible purpose would that serve?
I explained that we’d have see what fault codes were stored, at which time we could decide what to do about them. In most cases, when you see a check engine light, you need a repair, not a reset. Codes mean many different things. Sometimes, they point to specific repairs. For example, a “replace Thelman wire” code is self-explanatory. You replace the Thelman wire. Other times, codes are more vague. “Fuel mixture out of range” can mean most anything, from air leaks to snoot problems.
This particular car had a code for inoperative cam adjusters, which was strange, because Supercharged Sports don’t have cam adjusters at all. We cleared it, and it came back right away. We looked closer at the engine, to make sure it had not grown cam adjusters on its own. It hadn’t.
Every now and then, mechanics run into situations like these . . . codes that don’t make any sense at all, yet will not go away. When that happens here, we look to see if a software update will fix the car. We use our test system to get the software version and we compare that to the latest version Land Rover lists for that particular vehicle. If there’s newer software, we install it. When we tried that, we found something even stranger.
The vehicle had software for a non-supercharged Sport installed, and the computer was telling us it had never been re-programmed. Either the car had been running around for four years with wrong software, or the computer was lying. Which was it?
After some interrogation of the motorist associated with this particular vehicle, we concluded that the software was probably original. How they made it through four years of operation, only complaining about a check engine lamp now, remained a mystery.
We downloaded new and correct software, and the problem vanished. The cam adjuster faults disappeared, and all tests were normal. We felt great pride in a job well done, and handed the vehicle back to its owner. Unfortunately, this particular Sport did not stay fixed.
“My car was in the passing lane, doing 70, when it lost all power and the check engine light came on. I coasted to a stop, shut it off, and started it again, and it was normal. That’s happened every time I drive to New Haven, and I’m getting scared to take my truck on the highway. What’s up?”
Did the car have an aversion to New Haven? I’ve seen such things before. “Bring it in,” I said, and we’ll see what the codes tell us. A check revealed a P2601 code, which points to a failure of the pump that moves water through the supercharger when you get on the throttle. His seemed to be failing. But why now?
A check of Land Rover service bulletins held the answer:
Land Rover Technical Service Bulletin #LTB00041, Rev 2
Reduced Power Under Load
Possible DTC P0096 and/or P2601 Stored
AFFECTED VEHICLE RANGE:
Range Rover (LM) Supercharged 6A198058 to 7A261419
Range Rover Sport (LS) Supercharged 6A901924 to 7A109767
REDUCED POWER OR MISFIRE AT HIGH ENGINE LOADS
Situation: The customer may complain of reduced power and or a misfire at high engine loads and road speeds, with the possibility of Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) P0096 and/or P2601 stored. The electrical harness power supply and ground for the auxiliary coolant pump may be cross connected in connector C3006. The pump will run backwards causing the Engine Control Module (ECM) to reduce power to prevent damage because the pump flow is low. The auxiliary coolant pump will be degraded under these conditions.
Action: Should a customer express concern, modify the wiring at connector C3006 to the correct positions and install a new supercharger coolant pump as part of the repair if either the fault codes or the incorrect wiring is discovered following the Repair Procedure outlined below.
We checked, and this fellow’s car did indeed have the reversed wiring. A swap of the wires and a new pump, and he was on his way.
How does this situation come to pass? I spoke to Tony Gill, who heads Land Rover tech support at Autologic in the UK. He suggested a few possible answers.
This car seemed to have the wrong software put in at the factory, As a result, it may have never tried to use the auxiliary pump because the engine controller didn’t know it was there. Non-supercharged Rovers don’t have this pump. Of course, that does not explain how this truck went four years looking for cam adjusters that were never there . . .
It’s also possible that the pump was strong enough to push coolant through the supercharger backwards, against the flow of the regular water pump. It may have done that for all this time, and finally decided to fail.
We may never know the full answer, but it does appear to be fixed.
The moral of this story . . . check your software. Even in new vehicles, mistakes happen. And some of them take a long time to find. It’s shocking to me that there are four-year-old vehicles out there with wiring that was backwards from Day One, but it’s indisputably true.
That is the wonder and magic of British Motorcars.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
Meet Dave Tassinari, my neighbor here on Page Boulevard.
Seven years ago we sold Dave a tired old 928. "I'm going to take it apart and build a race car," he said. This is the result . ..
As you can see, he's put a huge amount of work into this project, and the results speak for themselves.
This weekend Dave is off to his first track event. Good luck out there!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I have written several articles over the years, describing the liner problems in Land Rover V8 engines. No matter what I write, the damn engines continue to fail. And we’re seeing more and more of a pattern. These engines are, as best I can tell, failing more frequently than before, especially in the last of the Discovery II rigs. Where earlier motors tended to fail on end cylinders, these motors are blowing out the middle cylinders. That led us to wonder . . . is there a new problem in these late engines?
Last week we decided to find out.
We just got a new CO2 laser up here, and our machinist Steve Dutcher was looking for some action on a lazy Friday afternoon. Some people would go fishing, or even weasel hunting, but Steve had other ideas. He cut a Land Rover engine block in half, just because it was there.
When he did, we finally got some hard answers to what’s going wrong in these motors.
Let’s begin by looking at a brand new Land Rover short block. You might call this the “pre-failure” picture:
In this shot you see the aluminum block, with steel liners, and aluminum pistons. As you can see, the steel liners are tapered at the top, sort of like you’d bore a countersink hole if the engine block were a piece of wood. . . .
Now lets jump to the late model block Steve cut in half. He removed the liners before cutting this block right through the middle of the third cylinder bank. Check it out:
This block had a middle cylinder failure. There was no visible problem with the liner but it failed a pressure test on the middle cylinder. When we took the liner out, we found the crack you see circled here. Take note of what a subtle defect this is . . . you can barely even see the crack, but it’s enough to kill the motor. Here’s a closeup of the 1/4 inch crack that cooked this block.
The block cracked from the liner wall into the coolant jacket from the stress of the head bolt. Here’s a shot of the deck that shows that relationship. In fact, if you look close, you can see how the depth of the crack corresponds to the depth the head bolt is threaded into.
Here's a closer view, with my finger for perspective. The blue circled crack is visible to the left of my fingernail
Here’s another interesting shot. In this image you can see the step that prevents the liner from sliding down into the crankcase on these newer motors. In this design, the liner can’t actually move more than a few thousandths of an inch unless they failed to seat it against the step at the factory. What does that mean? It means the stories of "slipped liners" in these newer engines are probably incorrect. The issue is not movement of the liner (which can't happen in this example) but a failure of the block wall behind the liner.
This shot shows that post-2000 model year liners can’t move very much at all but the engines fail anyway. What gives? A little bit of thought gave us some answers.
The liner is tapered at the top where it meets the head and head gasket. For that reason there is no gas or pressure tight seal between the liner and the block. Therefore, when the cylinder fires, some combustion gas gets behind the liner. If there’s a crack back there, out it goes and you know what happens next.
Your coolant gets displaced by superhot combustion gases, the engine temperature skyrockets, and in the blink of an eye, your Rover is assuming the British Position on the back of a tow truck. And you are facing a ten thousand dollar repair bill.
How do these failures happen? It sure looks like the stress from the head bolts is causing the blocks to crack. I don’t know why this is happening now; the aluminum may be more brittle, or the head bolts may be stiffer. Perhaps longer or shorter bolts would help.
Now that we know what’s happening, it’s clear that top hat liners will fix this problem once and for all, even in an engine with cracks in the aluminum. The flanges on top of the liner will seal tight against the head gasket, preventing any combustion gas from getting between the liner and the block and blowing things up.
This picture shows the difference. The left cylinder has the original liner. The right cylinder has a top hat liner, which cannot move in the block. In addition, the head gasket now seals against the liner for a firmer and more positive combustion seal.
Why doesn’t Land Rover use flanged liners? My guess is, they cost a few dollars more and carmakers are notoriously cheap. It’s also possible that there’s an issue with the steel liner expanding at a different rate than the aluminum block and heads.
How about the engines that rap at idle? I’ve had several late model Discos at the shop with noise complaints. In two cases, dealers told the drivers they had noise from liners moving up and down, and they suggested the motor was about to fail as a result. One dealer actually got the motor hot and heard it rap, at which time he sprayed the side of the block with a hose and the rap went away. He told the customer that was evidence of liner movement.
Actually, it wasn’t. These photos make it pretty clear that late model liners have nowhere to move. The hose test simply showed that the noise went away when the engine block was cooled – in other words, the noise was triggered by thermal expansion.
Steve and I sorted that noise question out on another engine a few months back. On that motor – which had exactly the same hot rap – we found the piston skirts had collapsed in about ten thousandths of an inch. That was enough to make them rock when they got hot, and they rapped good and loud.
On that engine we expanded the piston skirts and refitted the pistons. No more rap. But did that repair need to be done? Loose piston skirts would not lead to a failure. I’ll bet that motor would have run 25,000 miles with that rap, maybe a lot longer. In any case, new pistons are the fix. Liners are not involved at all, unless the block were to crack when the head bolts were cinched down one more time . . .
While were talking noises . . we saw a few engines whose secondary air valves had failed, and they also rapped. If you didn't know better you'd swear that secondardy air rap was coming from within the motor. And we still see engines with rocker shaft issues and lifter issues where the raps will fade in and out as the parts rotate while the engine idles hot.
I’m glad we’ve finally got some positive answers about these latest failures. When we rebuild engines here, I’m thinking we need to do flanged liners in the middle cylinders, and maybe all eight cylinders. The only drawback to that is going to be cost – it’s going to make the cost of redoing an old block almost as much as the $5,000 cost of a new one. But if the flanged liners last and the factory ones fail, that’s still smart money.
Like everything else, time will tell . . .
And one more thing before I go. In October I wrote about some later blocks that failed from premature corrosion. Here's a view of the freeze plugs on this motor. As you can see, they are pretty rotted but the aluminum block itself is good. Check your freeze plugs if you do an overhaul. It would suck to lose it all for a two dollar metal disc.
Friday, April 9, 2010
It’s spring in New England. Now that the snow is gone, the Rolls Royces and Bentleys are coming out of the woodwork.
I’d like you to meet one of my old friends and his car:
This is Efrem Gordon, a local attorney and long time Bentley driver. One of my judge buddies describes Efrem as the elder statesman of the Western Massachusetts bar. He graduated Harvard Law School before I was born, and he’s practiced here in Springfield ever since.
For a quarter of a century, if I had bad trouble, I always knew I could turn to Efrem for help. For just as long, we’ve kept these cars of his running.
Here are a few views of the car . . .
This Bentley R Type is just about all original. It's got less than 50,000 miles on the odometer, and it still works like new.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
This week we are wrapping up some modifications to an ex-NATO Defender 90. If you’ve looked inside one of these Army truck you know they are pretty bare. We decided to fix this one up a bit.
If you’re looking for a truck for serious off-roading, the military Defenders have a number of advantages over their civilian counterparts. First of all, they are almost all diesel powered. Second, they have heavier frames and more rugged chassis components. Finally, they are more basic and there’s less to strip off or damage in rough country.
We’ve decided to make the particular truck a bit nicer to drive while still retaining its Army character. To start, we stripped out the basic Army seats and repaired some minor corrosion in the floor. After welding up the damage we treated everything with WaxOyl.
Army truck are all bare metal inside. We fitted the rubber seat box cover and floor mats from a civilian D90. Those rubber bits improve the appearance a lot, and they give a quieter ride too. We changed the rubber boots over the shift and brake levers at the same time.
Then came the big upgrade. We fitted a pair of leather/cloth Exmoor seats with lumbar supports and seat heaters. In between we installed a Tuffy box for lockable storage. The Tuffy box even has space for a cup holder in front – a useful feature the Army guys never thought of.
We wired the seat heaters to switches on the front of the box.
Next we added some tunes. We fitted the latest Alpine head unit, with an iPod control built in. For speakers we rigged a Jeep-style overhead console that also gave interior lights. Sweet.
The final touch was a pair of inner door panels from Rovers North. These panels include inside door pulls – a real treat.
Here at Robison Service we’re proud to be known for our custom work on Land Rover vehicles. Visit our main website here, or stop by to see us the next time you’re in Springfield, MA.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
I grew up thinking of oil changes as inexpensive, quick services. Yet the simplest of services on a late model Mercedes or BMW seems to cost $150 or $200. How come?
The first part of the explanation lies in the oil itself. In recent years the European carmakers have extracted more and more performance from less and less fuel using sophisticated technologies. Anyone who’s compared a 2008 BMW 5-series to a 533 from the mid 1980s can’t help but notice the difference.
The car designers have pushed the limits of engine technology to get today’s performance. That means engines run hotter, and there’s more stress on the internal parts. Engines now contain plastics and exotic metals, which need different kinds of protection. And finally the service intervals are far longer, so the oil in today’s BMW has to last several times as long as the oil we installed 25 years ago.
The result of that change is a much higher performing car that needs far higher performance lubricants than cars of yesterday. And the costs of getting it wrong are high . . . an engine that fails from sludge buildup or other lubrication failure can easily cost over $15,000 to replace.
Important as it is, engine oil or “motor oil” is totally misunderstood by most technicians and consumers. People glance in their owner’s books and see that their car takes 5-30 oil. They don’t even know what 5-30 refers to, so they assume any 5-30 oil will meet their needs. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
In fact, all non-synthetic and most synthetic SAE 5W-30 oil products available in North America fail to provide adequate protection for North American BMW and Mercedes cars that require a 5W-30 viscosity oil.
For example, both Castrol Syntec 5W-30 and Mobil 1 5W-30 both fail to meet BMW minimum requirements. Castrol and Mobil both make products that are suitable for BMW and Mercedes engines but they are not readily available in North America. Even respected brands like Amsoil and Redline fail to offer products that are approved by BMW. In the case of Amsoil and Redline, SOME of their products will serve well but are not technically approved and do have the potential to create problems under certain conditions.
Due to the widespread ignorance of oil service ratings in North America, BMW reduces the minimum requirements for cars sold on this continent. The Genuine BMW 5W-30 oil meets the reduced "LL-98" requirements. LL-98 is the long life oil standard that BMW established in 1998. That standard was superseded by a tougher one in 2001, BMW LL-01. Robison Service and other good BMW specialty shops use the higher grade "LL-01" approved oil for improved protection. These products will improve protection and improve the effectiveness of the BMW oil monitor system.
Mercedes has similar standards for its cars, and for that matter so do Porsche, Volvo, VW, Audi and most other high end carmakers. Ignoring the carmaker requirements is to court disaster. Having said that, I see that very thing happen all the time. People buy inexpensive oils in the mistaken belief that all oil is the same, and they feel good because they saved $50 on an oil service. But what happens when the engine fails and they face a $10,000 repair bill? That’s truly an expensive lesson.
Oil is not the only component of an “oil service.” There is also the filter. At Robison Service we use genuine filters and filters from Bosch and Mann, two of the principal suppliers to European carmakers. These filters cost a bit more, but once again they meet the carmakers requirements. A filter that clogs and causes an expensive failure isn’t much of a savings . . .
Finally, a proper service includes reading and resetting the maintenance system. All late model BMW and Mercedes cars have flexible service computers, where the car keeps track of what’s due and when. You may think the car just needs an oil change, but the maintenance system may be asking for a brake fluid change and new cabin filters too. Once again, there can be serious consequences if the recommended services are ignored.
Dealers and properly equipped independents will have the necessary electronic systems to talk to the car’s service computer. It’s very important to do this, and to scan for faults, because your car’s computer is all that stands between you and a breakdown in many cases. And if you ignore a stored fault (which may be invisible from the dashboard) you may not get any other warning before the car fails.
Finally, a proper service includes a careful visual inspection by a technician that’s familiar with the marquee. You can’t find that anywhere except at a dealer or specialist.
That’s why we don’t call these services oil changes anymore. We call them small services. BMW separates oil service from inspection service. Mercedes Benz A Service is their small service. We do that because they always include an oil change but they often include additional work as dictated by the car or our inspection.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Here is a "normal" intake with no clogging. Basically, it's a clear piece of cast pipe . . .
After 100,000 miles that pips can get pretty plugged up from carbon, a byproduct of diesel combustion . . .
Here's another view through the throttle body. You can see that half the pipe's capacity has been lost.
When the pipe clogs up you have to push the throttle farther to get the same amount of air into the engine. It becomes like a person with clogged arteries or asthma - a bad situation. It does not take sophisticated mechanical knowledge to understand what's going on here.
The cure is to remove the carbon. Sometimes you can do the job with a flexible wire brush and a shop vacuum. Other times it's necessary to remove all the intake plumbing and ship it off to be boiled in a chemical cleaner. It can be an expensive repair. Once it's done, your fuel mileage and power will rise back toward their previous levels.
At the same time, it's always a good idea to change your fuel filter. They clog too, but the clogging is inside where you can't see it. I suggest changing your diesel fuel filter every 30,000 miles.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Most high end cars have two parts to their keys. There is a mechanical key blade that physically unlocks a mechanism, and there is an invisible electronic component that talks to the security system in the car to authorize starting.
That’s why you can’t copy keys at a locksmith anymore . . . they can duplicate the mechanical part, but without the electronics the key is useless. Even worse, if the lock turns without the electronic authorization, the alarm may go off and the car may enter a locked-down state that necessitates a tow to the repair shop.
Programming or coding keys for Range Rover 4.0 and 4.6 - 1995-2001
The pushbutton keys are numbered Key 1 through Key 4. When ordering a key, you specify the number. You can only have one of each number. So for example, if you have a Key 2, and you order a second Key 2, only one of those keys will work the remote locking system.
The keys are identified by stickers which unfortunately wear off with time. The result: you kind of take your chance on key numbers when ordering new keys, unless you have the foresight to write your numbers in your owner’s book.
Synchronization of keys on these models is pretty easy. Put the key in the driver door. Turn it to lock while pressing the lock pushbutton. Hold for 5 seconds. Turn to unlock, press unlock and hold 5 seconds.
At that point, the vehicle should lock and unlock via pushbutton. If you cannot synchronize any keys the switches in the door latch may be bad, and I suggest you attend to that right away as the car will be stranded is security sync is lost.
Programming or coding keys for Range Rover – 2002 to 2005 and BMW 7 Series 1995 to 2001
This version of Range Rover was designed while BMW owned Rover, so the key programming is shared with the big Beemers . . .
1 Make sure the vehicle is unlocked and the doors are closed with windows down (so you can’t lock yourself out by mistake)
2 Put one of the keys in the ignition and turn it to the first click and then back off within five seconds to put the car into initialization mode. From this point, you must continue key programming within 30 seconds or the system times out . . .
3 Remove the key from the ignition
4 Press and hold unlock button for up to 15 seconds. While doing this, press the lock button three times within 10 seconds.
5 Release both buttons
6 If you did this right the car will answer you by locking and then unlocking the vehicle. If this does not happen, repeat from step 4
7 Repeat steps 4 and 5 with all the other keys for the vehicle (maximum of 4)
The pushbutton keys in Discovery II models can only be coded by a shop with the Autologic, T4, or IDS diagnostic systems.
Programming or coding keys for LR3, LR4, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport – 2005 and up
The pushbutton keys in these models can only be coded by a shop with the Autologic, T4, or IDS diagnostic systems.
(c) J E Robison Service
John Elder Robison is the founder of J E Robison Service, independent Land Rover specialists in Springfield, MA. John's shop has supported Land Rover owners since 1987. They are experienced at all aspects of service, repair, overhaul and restoration. Find Robison Service online at www.robisonservice.com or on the phone at 413-785-1665.
To reset the service reminder on Land Rover
This tip comes from Geoff Kelly in the UK . . .
1. Insert key in ignition.
2. Press AND HOLD the trip reset button.
3. While still pressing the trip reset button, turn on the ignition. DO NOT START THE ENGINE. Just turn the ignition on.
4. Keep pressed the trip reset button until word "Service" will flash on the instrument cluster. (about 5 seconds).
5. After a while (no more than 5 seconds) the word "Service" will remain on.
6. Release the reset button.
7. Now, by pressing the reset button, the words DIST, DATE and END are cycled on display.
8. If you want to reset the service distance, cycle until DIST is shown. If you want to reset the time-to-service, cycle until DATE is shown.
9. When the desired item is selected, press and KEEP pressed the reset button until the word RESET is shown.
Do this for both items or only for the one you desire. (I've did it only for time)
10. When you've done, cycle until END appears and then press and HOLD reset button until the display will now show the current (and newly reset) distance and time until next inspection.
11. Turn off the ignition.
12. All done!