Aaarrggghh!!! Bloody Land Rovers!

OK, clearly not a happy update!  In a nutshell, the 109 seems to be trying to commit suicide at the moment.  

Last week was the fuel pump solenoid failure that saw me get towed to work, just in time to run from the staff car park to my aircraft and fly to Marrakesh and back, finishing at half past midnight before arranging to be recovered with the car back home.

This week has had more surprises in store.  Within just a couple of hundred yards of where the fuel solenoid burnt out, the battery discharge light (the red one on the dash that tells you the alternator isn’t working) came on.  I was able to continue the drive and to get home later that day, and then spent an hour fiddling around trying to find the cause of the problem.  It eventually became apparent that the wiring and the split charger that is connected to the alternator side of the light was working correctly and that the fault must lie with the alternator itself.

So, with one more day’s work before my days off, I did the commute in the 109, seeing a curious aspect of the alternator that it started providing charge once a high rpm was reached.  This suggested the coils in the unit weren’t being excited by the battery and the alternator was only kicking in once enough motion was achieve to self-excite.  That is all controlled by the wire that feeds the warning light, so that part of the alternator was clearly dead.  Worse was to come.  On starting the drive home, the exhaust produced plumes of thick blue smoke, clearing suddenly after about a mile.  The amount of smoke was directly proportional to how hard I pushed the accelerator, rather than rpm related.

Great, so I now had that to investigate.  Further symptoms included a progressive, mild loss of performance and economy over the last month or so, and a lack of black smoke under load, suggesting the injection system had stopped responding to the turbo, but now I had real worries about it.  I wasn’t sure whether the blue smoke was a fuel issue, because of its response to the throttle, or whether it was oil ingestion.  There was no contamination of oil in the water or vice versa, and I hadn’t lost any of either on the 28 mile drive home, so I really wasn’t sure where to look.

I started today with the alternator, deciding to replace that before checking timing and fuel settings, oil levels for overfilling and so on.  So, imagine my surprise when, after removing all the air pipes and filter from the left side of the engine bay, I found the wire to the D terminal on the alternator had broken where it enters its ring terminal.  A quick fix and the alternator is working properly again.  Imagine my disappointment, then when I checked the exposed turbo charger’s intake and found that the compressor rotor had nearly 3mm of lateral play in every direction.  So, the turbo is knackered.

I took it off and found the rear bearing is even worse than the front – I didn’t remove the rear cover, and so didn’t see the turbine, but I could see the horrendous movement of the shaft through the oil drain hole in the belly of the core.  I took it to Turbo Technics, and when I showed him that, he said that you shouldn’t even be able to see the shaft!  It looks like the rear bearing has broken up so completely that it has dropped out into the engine sump!

So, that’ll be yet another delay on the PAS purchase and mod.  In the mean time, I hope to get the turbo back early next week, and will have to commute by public transport, which is not great at 4am on the way in or midnight on the way home…

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Sorry to hear that Nick. Bad luck 🙁

    How many miles had the turbo done? I thought you’d had it rebuilt when you did the engine transplant but I may be mistaken. These are normally very reliable turbos aren’t they? My jap trucks has done 240K miles now. If you were a bit closer you would have been welcome to borrow Ciggys turbo to keep you running until yours is repaired.

  2. PS. If it is any consolation the head gasket has gone on my wifes 109″ and in the last two weeks my Mazda has also blown a head gasket, broken a rear spring, had the handbrake spring snap and has a leaking sump and I still haven’t got Ciggy finished so all three of my vehicles are sick too 🙁

    I’m now using a bike for local transport…..

  3. Thanks, Ian.

    That turbo has a little canned history of its own. The core was new looking and attached to the Discovery engine when I bought it. A friend brought over the dead Defender 200 turbo he had spare and we transferred the core of this one to the Defender unit’s compressor and turbine casings. As we did so, I found hard-packed and baked powdered aluminium between the turbine rotor and the rear bearing heat shield, which I duly removed.

    When the engine showed its tendency to burn oil, especially at idle, I suspected the turbo’s rear oil seal may have been damaged. The head had been refurbished just before I bought it, and I had removed it to inspect it because that made me suspicious. The head was good but I found the number one piston had seized, which was the likely source of the powdered aluminium in the turbine. The engine was rebored and new pistons and rings fitted before I rebuilt it, so the engine itself should not be the cause. SO, four years and 30,000 miles ago, the turbo was sent off for reconditioning, like you remembered.

    It would appear that I was done. Turbo Technics called this afternoon to run through the condition of the unit. Heavy wear to the casings and rotors where the rotors have rubbed, heavy scoring of the spool shaft, very heavy scoring of the bearings and cracking of the material between the turbine outlet and waste gate, which had been there before the last rebuild and has no signs of repair. The level of carbon scoring and contamination is apparently very inconsistent with a unit of 30,000 miles with oil replacement every 5,000. So, I have no direct proof, but the evidence suggests the last reconditioner merely cleaned up the outside and did nothing to the innards. I asked if the aluminium could have damaged the rear seal and lead to the oil burning at low throttle and exhaust and carbon getting into the bearings at high power, and thus be responsible for the contamination and overall condition, and was told that it is plausible, though there is no remaining evidence of the aluminium and the damage too severe to determine the sequence of events.

    The good news is that despite the extensive damage, the unit can be rebuilt for the standard price of £55 (+VAT), which is better than the £530+VAT prices that they and others give for new units (in a Garrett box, not LR, which comes in at £1400+VAT for the same unit!). It should be ready by the end of the week, which means I have to do the next few days on public transport. That’s no fun at 0100.

  4. Nick, thanks for the update, I’ve been so busy with work and family that this is the first time I’ve had long enough to sit down and read your response. I would expect a damn sight longer than 30K miles from a rebuilt turbo, especially as like you, I do high annual mileage of 30K a year. I’m glad you got it sorted. I set off for work at about 4am so I know how you feel about reliable personal transport. It is no fun to be trying to use public transport or even experiencing breakdown in your own vehicle at such times.


    PS. I’m following your Range Rover refurb with interest as I am considering one for my next project instead of another Series as it would make more sensible and comfortable family transport.

Speak Your Mind


By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.