design - Land Rover section


Land Rover pretrip list


I can not over emphasize the importance of finding and correcting potential breakdowns before going out in the field.

People who bring poorly prepared cars off road or on expeditions are asking to be stranded with a breakdown. People who convoy with owners of poor condition cars quickly become less sympathetic and less apt to help rescue the broken down car.

If you are driving solo and have a breakdown that you can not fix with the tools and spares that you carry you may quickly find yourself in a life threatening situation for everyone in your car.

Please, play it safe and only bring a well maintained car that has been properly prepared for the expected conditions off roading.

Before going on long trips or offroading, I carefully inspect the car and check/fill all fluids. I do the inspection at least two weekends before the trip so I can have a weekend to do repairs or make replacements. I prefer to have my repair work done at least a week before a trip so any mistake or faulty parts I may have installed have a chance to break.

I restrict my Land Rover to the road or home if I think the car is not in very good mechanical shape. I check all the fluids just before leaving.


Here is a basic pre trip checklist that goes over the parts on a series car most likely to break under stress. This list assumes that the car has not been checked over in a long time and is in completely unknown condition. It includes things likely to break on a short off road trip and things unlikely to break but should be in good condition for a long expedition. Of course if you inspect the condition of your car frequently, you do not need to do every step every time. Just don't ignore parts too long. Especially if you are about to embark on a long tough expedition.



Check the steering system

The steering system consists of the steering column and box, the relay, assorted steering rods, tie rod ends, and swivel ball assemblies.

First check the tie rod ends for wear. Have someone wiggle the steering wheel back and fourth while you examine each one closely for any free play. The joints should feel tight and you should not see any free play. If free play is detected replace the end. If the tie rod ends are in good condition grease them prior to the trip. Lose tie rod ends frequently separate in the field and can leave you stranded with both front wheels facing different directions.

Jack up each front wheel and try to wiggle it. Free play can be caused by loose front wheel bearings, worn out swivel ball pin assemblies or too many shims for the wear in the swivel ball pin assemblies. Unless the free play is very bad it seldom causes breakdowns in the field during a weekend run. If you are preparing for an extended expedition, this should be taken car of before you leave otherwise you can put it on your maintenance to do list.

Check the swivel ball seals for leaks. A leaky seal indicates that you should frequently check the swivel oil reservoir for fluid while on the trip. It should not be the source of a breakdown as long as you add fluid to the reservoir as fast as it leaks out. Place the repair on your maintenance to do list.

Check the steering for free play between the steering wheel and the tyres. If you have any, inspect the system until you locate the source of the looseness. Having already checked the tie rod ends and the swivels for looseness, the problem will be in one of three areas: Slop inside the steering box, loose steering box fixings or a loose steering relay. Have someone wiggle the steering wheel back and fourth while you inspect the connection between the steering box and its mounting bracket. Tighten the fixings if necessary. Do the same with the steering relay. If everything seems tight adjust the steering box per the instructions in the factory manual.

Loose steering can cause the wheels to vibrate creating an unsafe condition. It can also cause the steering to wonder in directions other than where you are trying to go. While loose steering is not likely to cause a breakdown in the field it can cause you to have an accident.

Back to the checklist


Check the Prop (drive) shafts

Broken 'U' joints is a common off road failure. This results in one end of the prop shaft falling off the car and flopping around banging into everything. At highway speeds this can be very dangerous. At slow speeds on the trail this means that you are left with two wheel drive only.

Check the prop shaft's mounting bolts. Sometimes they come loose. This is most likely to happen soon after installing a prop shaft.

Grasp your drive shaft near the 'U' joint firmly and try to rotate it back and fourth. If you see any movement in the 'U' joint replace it. If it looks firm, grease it before leaving on your trip.

Next check the slip joints for wear. They generally will not fail in the field but since you are down there with dirty hands anyway you might as well check them. Grasp each side of the slip joint and try to rotate each half against the other. If you have more then a little movement you have badly worn slip joint grooves. This means the drive shaft ether should be replaced or resplined by an expert drive shaft specialty shop. The splines on your drive shaft are standard off the shelf Spicer parts. Grease the slip joints before leaving on your trip. 

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Check the brakes

You should be able to produce firm brake pressure on the first press of the brake pedal. Your emergency brake should be firmly set before you run out of travel. There should be no signs of leaking brake fluids on the inside of the wheels or at any of the hydraulic joints. If your car's brakes are not in proper operating condition, you should not be on the pavement or on the trail. Brake failure kills people.

Before going on the trail I visually examine the inside of the wheels for signs of brake fluid leaks. If I find some, I pull the drum and correct the problem. If the firm pedal is not at least half way to the top, I adjust the brakes before traveling.

If I have been doing a lot of driving I will pull a front brake drum to look for brake shoe wear. You do not want to go metal to metal in a place where you can not park the car and replace the shoes.

About every six months I check the rubber brake hoses for wear and replace them if they are not in top condition. If your steel brake lines are old they should be checked frequently for rust pitting. A rust pinhole will keep your brake system from working. I once had to bail out of a car just before it went over a cliff because of a rust caused pinhole in the brake line. While it was a rush and makes for a good story around the camp fire, I do not recommend this experience.

If you plan to be wading the Land Rover for more than one or two quick shallow stream crossings you should consider replacing the red rubber grease behind the dust covers of each of your wheel cylinders. This is especially true if you have aftermarket ferric metal wheel cylinders. A packing of red rubber grease can inhibit water from flowing into the wheel cylinder and getting between the cylinder bore and piston.

Always use WAKEFIELD/GIRLING rubber grease No 3 (red) for packing rubber boots, dust covers and lubricating parts likely to contact any rubber components.

Prise off the rubber boots and clean behind them with alcohol only. Repack the space behind the rubber boot with red rubber grease. Don't go overboard because the piston needs room to expand. Then reinstall the boot. There is no need to disassemble the brakes of the wheel cylinder to perform this operation.

Bottom line. Make sure that your brakes are in good working condition before going on a trip. If you have any doubt go to a certified brake centre for a free brake inspection

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Check the suspension

Each corner of your car is held up by the 'U' bolts. Your Land Rover owner manual calls out retorquing these 'U' bolts to 60 pounds front, 70 pounds rear every 12,000 miles minimum to keep these bolts tight. I now retorque my 'U' bolts before going on an extended run or expect rough driving conditions. I've personally taken this to heart having had 'U' bolts come apart in the field twice.

If the 'U' bolts on your Land Rover have not been retorqued for a long while the nuts are probably rusted in place. You should probably replace them then maintain a retorquing schedule at least as frequently as the manual calls out.

Be advised that there are some soft aftermarket 'U' bolts out there that will not even stand up to one proper torquing. You will want to spend the extra money to purchase genuine LR factory 'U' bolts or have a set made up in a local suspension shop that caters to commercial truck work.

Be sure to use a grade 8 flat washer between the nut and bottom plate.

If there is ANY looseness between the spring and the axle the vertical pounding of off roading will force the 'U' bolt threads though the nut causing the 'U' bolt to come apart.

Visually inspect the shackles and the suspension bushings. Badly worn bushings should not cause a breakdown on a short weekend trip but should be renewed before you go on a long expedition. Any run through country that causes extreme frame flexing may cause the frame to break around the bushing tube. Probably best to stay away from serious rock crawling if your leaf spring bushings are not in good condition.

Visually inspect the springs for any broken leaves. One or more broken leaves can cause a suspension failure during rough off roading. Springs should be replaced in pairs.

Next check the shock absorber mountings. They should be tight and the bushings should not be overly worn. These bushings are cheap, quick and easy to replace.

Check straps limit the rear suspension travel so that shocks do not over extend and break and so that the drive shaft does not come in contact with the frame. They should be intact and able to hold the weight of the axle housing.

If you have not done it lately this would be a good time to check the axle breathers and clean them if necessary. The series style breathers are prone to sticking shut allowing internal pressure build up to relieve its self through the pinion seal. I much prefer the newer Defender type breathers.

Back to the checklist


Check engine and transmission mounts

Engine and transmission mounts deteriorate over time and use. Swollen, cracked rubber mounts are weak and can separate under moderate off road stress. Replace any mount that is separated, swollen or cracked.

To test your mounts, take a jack and apply some upward pressure under the engine then examine both front mounts for separation or cracks. Do the same for the transmission. If one or two look bad, order replacements. If one or more are broken, replace all of them. The others have had to take up the stress normally handled by the broken mount.

I prefer using the diesel engine mounts because they are stronger than the petrol mounts. There may be some welding flashing around the mounting stud. File any flashing off when you get the mounts so that the mount will fit flat against the bracket.

The engine mounts attach to a bracket that bolts to the engine block. Check these bolts to make sure that they are tight. (85 pounds torque) I had a pair work loose on my car that caused both front mounts to separate when I was alone up a side canyon in Death Valley.

New engine mounts and fixings are something you want to carry in your spares kit.

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Clean and inspect the air filter

A dirty air filter with dirty oil restricts air flow and does not clean the air as well as a clean filter. A crack in the hose between the air filter and carburetor allows unfiltered air into the engine. An engine gulping in dusty air can be destroyed within a day.

You should clean the oil filter in a good solvent and replace the oil before taking the car off road. When the filter is reassembled the top should be situated so that the two slits are perpendicular to the filter's hold down strap.

Check the rubber hose for cracks. If any are located replace the hose immediately. Check to make sure that all the clamps are tight.

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Check the cooling system

You should not be losing coolant or overheating under normal conditions. If you are, find the cause of the problem and fix it before subjecting your engine to the work of offroading.

Check your fan belt for wear and cracks. Replace if problems or a lot of wear is found. Check your fan belt for proper tightness and adjust if necessary.

With the engine off, try to wobble your fan blades side to side. If you have any movement, the bearing in your water pump is badly worn and the pump should be expected to fail soon. Check for water dripping out of a little hole on the underside of the water pump shaft. If there is any water leaking the water pump seal is going out. In ether case, replace or rebuild the water pump before going on a trip.

Examine the radiator fins. Clean them if there are a lot of bugs and such blocking the passageways. Prise any bent fins away from each other to improve cooling.

Examine all the radiator, bypass and heater hoses. If hoses are soft, swollen and or cracked replace them with new hoses.

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Check the electrical system

Many times "Lucas" rears his head in the form of a poorly maintained electrical system.

Your battery should be firmly mounted to the tray. Verify that the battery mounts are tight. Also check the battery connections at both ends of each battery cable. You want the connections to be clean and tight.

Check the ground strap between the engine (usually starter motor mounting bolt) and frame.

Make a general inspection of the wiring harness in the engine compartment. Check connections for looseness. Deal with any cracks in the wiring insulation or looseness in connectors. Bullet connectors become oxidized and make poor connections. Check them and clean them if necessary.

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Tune up the engine

If it has been a while or if your engine is not running at it's best, it is a good idea to tune up the engine about a week prior to your trip. Pay particular attention to your fuel filter if you have one. A partially clogged fuel filter can seem like a burnt valve, bad fuel pump or bad electrical system.

Carbon core spark plug wires can easily become faulty and appear good in a visual inspection. Replace them if you have a miss that you can not locate or an engine that just doesn't seem to be creating enough power.

Make sure that the connectors to your coil and distributor are in good tight condition.

Check the vacume hose between the carb and the distributor and the hose to the brake vacume booster if fitted.

Verify that the distributor advance and brake booster diaphragms are not leaking air. A Mity-Vac is an excellent tool for this.

Check the connection between the exhaust manifold and the exhaust pipe for leaks. Check the tightness of the manifolds to the head and the carburetor to the intake manifold.


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General under car inspection

Crawl under the car look over the frame for cracks and severe rust. Crack detection is very important for cars that frequently do moderate to severe rock crawling. Cracks are generally not obvious until they are fairly large. Check carefully around the leaf spring mountings and the engine mounts. Rust inspection becomes very important to cars that live in places where they salt the roads during the winter or if a previous owner did not clean thrown up dirt off the frame after runs.

Repair as necessary. You would be in a world of hurt if your frame snaps on a trail in the middle of nowhere.

Also check your exhaust pipe hangers and replace any that are not in top shape.

While you are looking over the frame be sure to look at all the surrounding areas for obvious loose or missing parts.

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Checking the Axles

Rover axles crystallize over time and break. If you catch it at the right time you could see signs of twisting just before the axle breaks. Pull the rear axles and visually inspect them at the area just inside the splines for any sign of twisting. Some people have been known to scribe a straight line in this area as a visual reference to show any twisting.

If you break one axle replace them both. The other is almost sure to be crystallized and ready to break too. Purchase the best quality axle that you can.

Land Rover rear axles seem to work reliably for about 45,000 miles. Less if you do a lot of technical off roading. Having broken six rear axles before converting to a Salisbury, I recommend throwing axles away at 45,000 miles, broken or not and replacing them with new ones. This is easier than dealing with a bit of axle stuck in the diff out in the middle of nowhere. More so if a chunk of metal lodges between the ring and pinion gears and breaks a few teeth.

If you have Rover rear axles, always carry a set of spare axles and all the tools and parts you would need to replace them when in the field (which could include removing the differential).

If you have Salisbury rear axles, look at the driving hub at the outside of the axle for wear. They tend to wear over time and can be the source of a clunk in the drive line.

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Check the Tyres

Make a visual inspection of your tyres to make sure that they have plenty of tread and that they do not show hazard damage. If you are going on a long trip and your tyres have been mounted for a while it is a good idea to have them rebalanced. It can make a big difference in the ride and how quickly the tyres continue to wear. Make sure that they have the proper air pressure. This includes your spare tyre. If you are going on an extended expedition consider carrying two spares in good condition.

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Check all the oil reservoirs

One of the last things I do before leaving for a trip is check oil levels and grease all fittings. This includes the steering box and steering relay. I get peace of mind knowing that everything is topped up when I start out. You should check levels throughout your trip. The frequency depends upon how badly each reservoir leaks and how many miles you put on in a day. If you are on a long trip be sure to occasionally check the reservoirs that do not leak. They may start while on the trip.

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