29 November 2010

The Inevitable

I knew that it was likely to happen sooner or later - one of the Land Rovers broke down and needed recovery.

It was the Discovery that let me down yesterday. It had been a little poorly since using it to tow the bikes to Wales for the Cambrian Rally, when it developed a nasty vibration when under load - accelerating, going uphill etc. I thought it was a problem with the transfer box caused when I made a mess of changing from low range to high range, but it turned out to be a badly worn universal joint (UJ) on the front prop shaft. It's possible that my ham-handed gear change was the final straw for it, or it could be coincidence. That's a much easier repair than replacing the transfer box - which friends from Northants 4x4 has offered to help me with.

Setting off home with a nice smooth transmission, I didn't get far. Within a mile or so the engine stalled, the ignition lights came on briefly, and I rolled to a halt at the side of the road. Turning the key in the ignition had no effect - no ignition lights, the engine didn't turn over, nothing. The non-engine electrics worked fine: hazard lights, interior lights, clock etc. but they weren't going to get me home.

Turning again to my N44 friends, the cavalry soon arrived but they couldn't breathe life in to it either.

Time to call RAC - I've paid for their recovery service for times like this, so let's see what they can do! Not a lot is the answer. After fifteen minutes on hold I got through and was informed that it would be
four hours before they could attend. Yes, four hours... An hour and a half later I got another call saying it would be another three hours... At least I had a car to sit in, even if it was unheated, and I wasn't sat on the curb as I would have been on the bike.

Plan B: Tow the Discovery home behind another Land Rover... Which is what we did. I've towed a few times, but never been towed before and it was an interesting experience. There's something slightly eery about trundling along with no engine noise, just the roar of the Defender in front and a bit of wind noise - and by this time it was dark too.

It took a while, but we made it home. I was a bit surprised that the speedo still worked, although it's a mechanical one not electronic so perhaps not all that surprising! What didn't work so well were the brakes and steering. With no engine power there was no power steering and no brake servo to assist either. And when the windscreen mists up you don't have a blower to clear it, nor can you open the windows.

I think I preferred having a mechanical fault because at least the car was mobile whereas now it's not going anywhere. My suspicion is that the immobiliser has died so that's going to be first on the list of things to look at, and hopefully remove.

So as one fault is fixed, another one occurs - but I guess that's the charm of driving an older Land Rover...


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