Coolant Confusion

This is a short version of the article on the website. To view the full version, please use a desktop or tablet computer:  https://graemecooper.com.au/articles/coolant_confusion.htm

A coolant additive is fundamentally designed to reduce the boil-point of the cooling medium in the radiator, hoses, engine and other related parts of the vehicle cooling system. It also contains some form of corrosion inhibitor and may deposit fine particles onto metal surfaces to repair minor damage.

Coolant is available from parts stores either as concentrate OR as a pre-mix. The former should be used as a mix with clean (preferably demineralised) water in proportions stated in your vehicle manual. (Usually between 25% and 50% coolant concentrate to water) Never use 100% coolant instead of a water/coolant mix.

Contrary to information on some websites/forums, do NOT mix red and green coolants because they can create sludge in the cooling system. Also the beneficial long-life properties of the higher-priced OAT orange coolant will be significantly reduced.

Green Coolant  contains phosphates and silicates as pH buffers for corrosion protection in an ethylene glycol base. The corrosion inhibitors have a fairly short life, so the coolant needs to be changed about every 50,000 Km.

OAT coolants are based on organic acids and do contain silicates to offer protection for aluminium engines.

Orange coolant is based on 2-ethylhexanoic-acid or 2-EHA and other organic acids. It does contain corrosion inhibitors that form a thin coating on metal components, These typically last up to 5 years or 200,000 Km. Orange coolant may NOT actually be orange. Some brands may be pink, red, blue, yellow or a very dark green so care must be taken because they are NOT generally compatible.

Hybrid coolants may comprise variants of any/all of the above but generally do NOT contain the phosphates that may cause unwanted deposits in modern engines.

Using isopropyl alcohol instead of proprietary antifreeze is definitely NOT recommended. Not only will it be more expensive, it lacks the essential inhibitors.

Graeme Cooper Automotive use PENRITE coolants exclusively. This brand includes ALL of the variants described above and the experts at GCA will know precisely which option best suits your vehicle.

New articles on the website

New articles covering various aspects of Land Rover maintenance are added regularly – but please remember that due to the amount of detail, these are only accessible on a desktop/tablet and NOT on a mobile phone.

Here are a few extracts – read the full articles at https://graemecooper.com.au/articles.htm (lots to choose from)

More is not Better

Topping-up your radiator – or the brake reservoir – or the engine or transmission oils?  Do not fooled into thinking that the more you add the better will be the result.

Sensors built into virtually every vehicle system are designed to measure fluid level relative to a specified range. Outside that range, whether too low or too high is likely to be read as a fault and depending on how critical it is to system performance, at best it may trigger warning lights, but at worst can shut down the system completely.

Emulsified Oil in Coolant

Either engine or transmission oil entering the cooling system is not good news and if not rectified promptly will block cooling passages, cause the engine to overheat, destroy the transmission and /or other things that may conceivably upset your day as well as your bank account.

Threads ain’t threads

Just like the old ad claiming “Oils Ain’t Oils” just try matching an existing bolt or stud with a suitable nut.  Anyone attempting to do this is in for an interesting time.

UNC, UNF, Metric, Whitworth. BSF are just the starting categories and there are variations even within each category. Also, we have not even started to think about the variations in the threads that apply to tubing and whether you need brass, steel or high-tensile. The choices will be daunting.

The moral of the story is (as usual) do your homework first by identifying the model, year and VIN of your vehicle before contacting a specialist Land Rover shop to obtain the correct part you need..

 

Hoses and clamps – don’t risk a big bill by overlooking the simple things

There is a separate article “Cooling System” on the website covering how to check most components.  This is a short version dealing just with the hoses and clamps

The motto here is:
Check regularly and fix small problems before they become major ones

A $2 hose clamp or any failed hose is perfectly capable of stopping your vehicle dead with potentially expensive consequences so beware  Also, a failure will inevitably occur a) out of any mobile service areas b) away from any mechanic c) in the dark and/or d) in the rain.  A multi-$$ tow truck bill can spoil your day – big time!

Although the best service shops will check such things at regular service time, it will never hurt to lift the hood yourself to look for oil or coolant in any place it should not be, namely running out of hose junctions and so on.  It is also smart NOT to clean up too much. Just do what is essential to get you home, because the removal of “tell-tales” or “witness-marks” may only make it harder for a mechanic to identify the source of the problem.

Tools

As a minimum:

  • A couple of cross-blade screwdrivers may be needed to access the heads of clamps. (Why Philips/Posidrive heads are not used exclusively is beyond my simple mind).
  • A small adjustable wrench to suit 6 and 7 mm nuts on the clamp-heads may make for easier access in difficult places
  • Assorted ring/open-ended spanners.
  • A sharp cutting knife
  • Some cable ties of various lengths to hold your temporary patches in place

Spares

As noted in other articles on the website, what you carry will inevitably not be the item you need. However, some basic items might just get you out of trouble, namely:

  • A few hose clamps of various sizes
  • A roll of self amalgamating “rescue” tape might bind a leaking hose sufficiently to get you home.
  • Container of water
  • Engine oil

Electrical gremlins – make your mechanic’s job easier and save money

A significant component of the cost of fixing faults is the diagnosis of the problem, namely which of many possible components is the culprit. A trained mechanic will invariably find the cause fairly quickly because he/she will have encountered something similar beforehand but some preliminary work by the owner will achieve several things:

  • It helps to make the driver aware of possible similar problems in the future, many of which may be very simple in origin
  • It allows the owner to describe more precisely what is wrong, so saving the mechanic’s time.
  • In many cases, the fault may be rectified by the owner, eliminating the inconvenience of having the vehicle out of action.

Start with the simple stuff

Most of the time, a broken fuse is likely to be the cause of a simple electrical failure. Of course, there will be a reason why that fuse blew but it may be as simple as vibration or water ingress in or near the failed component.

Look in the vehicle’ owner’s manual (yes it should be kept permanently in a side pocket of a door or in the glove box). The index will refer to the pages where all of the fuse numbers and their functions will be listed.  Remove the cover and locate the relevant fuse, Remove and examine it. If the internal wire is broken, just replace the fuse and test the item that had failed to work. Most of the time, it will now work correctly.

If the fuse blows again

It will be necessary to investigate what caused the fuse to blow. Again, check the simple things first, starting at the electrical item that has failed to work.

  • If this is a lamp, check the bulb (LEDs will rarely fail but incandescent or halogen bulbs are prone to failure). Remove any covers or clips to get at the bulb, look at its colour – if it is cloudy or black, that pretty much identifies a failure. If it looks OK, remove it carefully (use a tissue or latex glove – not bare fingers that will deposit acid onto the surface)
  • First use the multimeter switched to ohms to check if there is a a circuit between the fitting and any earth point (any metal part of the body should do). If you cannot get a zero reading, you have a bad earth – generally requiring nothing more than abrading the surface of the contacts. Check again to see if the lamp is working.
  • LOOK carefully at all of the wiring between the failed item and any relay or the battery. If there is a burnt or frayed wire, you have found the source of your problem and can probably fix it temporarily with nothing more complicated than some electrical tape. However, do NOT assume this is a permanent solution – the defective wire MUST be replaced properly
  • If that has not eliminated the problem, fit a new fuse if necessary and turn on the relevant switch. With your test probe (see below) check to see if there is power to the bulb. If so, you have identified the bulb as the culprit. If not, you will have to work your way up the wiring until you get a live power supply. The problem will then almost certainly be a worn or broken wire.
  • Remember that many circuits only become active when the ignition is ON (the horn may be an exception). For this reason, put the ignition into the “accessory” position before making this test and/or start the vehicle and turn the headlights on. It may be necessary to check with the lights both on “high” and “low” depending on how the failed lamp becomes active.
  • WARNINGS – Do not probe any wires connected to the air bag or the ECU to avoid creating further damage. Also do not touch any wire with your fingers OR “short” any two components. All you want to do is determine if there is power. This is the advantage of the test probe over the multimeter because it requires only a single point of contact for the test. With a meter, you need to put one probe onto the “hot” wire and the other onto ground (an earth point)

Please remember. Reading this article will NOT turn you into a professional auto electrician. Stick with simple stuff to make jury repairs to get you home. Then take the vehicle to an expert as soon as possible.

The complete version of this article, with suggestions on what tools are suggested, also more on relays and wiring is available on the main desktop version of the website – note that a mobile phone version of the site does NOT have links to articles or other high-content material

Getting advice on forums

It would be fair to say that the vast majority of contributors on specialist forums are very knowledgeable and well-intentioned.  Based on their own experiences they post answers to questions from other forum members in a sincere attempt to help solve problems. The person asking the question is generally looking for practical advice on an unusual issue, or perhaps concern about being ripped off by an unscrupulous repairer.

Frequently, the advice provided by other members is excellent, practical, but also free. However, the problem is that over time, the most vocal individuals assume positions of dominance across various topics, regardless of whether they actually have the skills and experience relevant to the topic. So it pays to check other post by the same contributor to assess the relevance and quality of their advice.

The same applies to administrators/moderators who may excellent administrative abilities but it is equally important for them to possess the qualities of open-mindedness toward the experience of others and sufficient practical knowledge and/or technical backup to be able to differentiate between correct and incorrect advice. The point is that most advice provided on a forum or blog is valid especially when moderated by genuine experts, even if they are “only” other members who patently have the relevant experience.

It must be said that in the case of the Graeme Cooper forum/blog, all content is checked and approved by the technical experts before it is posted. There have been occasional arguments about what may or may not be posted but this is generally confined to situations where the writer has engineered his own solution that works, but is not an “approved” procedure. That is only fair as the workshop must not be considered responsible for non-standard “fixes.”

Emergency and dual battery systems for Land Rovers

Whether it is for a trip to the snow, where the extreme cold can kill a starting battery literally overnight OR for backup at any time, the latest type of emergency starter packs are virtually essential. These range from “cheap and cheerful” units to seriously professional models, but if getting out of trouble in some remote location is considered, the latter are truly worth the extra money. GCA do not supply these units but will recommend one that will suit your particular needs and vehicle.

The second battery option

Anyone adventurous enough to use an electric winch running from the starting battery OR plug a fridge or other high-current demanding appliance into an existing lighter socket and leave it running overnight can pretty well be assured that the vehicle will not start in the morning. A current draw of 5 amps for a 12V fridge is not uncommon. Even cycling at 50% in 12 hours this means 30 amps of battery power has been used.

Starting batteries are designed to deliver high current for a very short time so when subjected to demand over a long period, the battery life will be seriously and adversely affected. What is needed is a deep cycle battery, designed to deliver lesser current over a long period and be capable of effective recharging..

On older vehicles – like the Classic Range Rover and Discovery 1, fitting a charge-splitter was a reasonably straightforward job, requiring the addition of an isolator unit to separate the two batteries. The better units offered automatic monitoring of battery state to direct the charge to whichever one needed it. They combine diode protectors and solenoids, a large heat-sink and are relatively easy to install.

Vehicles after about 2000

NEVER attempt a DIY solution. Every vehicle model is different and wiring in the wrong equipment can mean disaster because the installation on these models is usually complex

Consideration must be made for the existing circuitry because even if the computer controlling the vehicle-charging is adjustable, a “one size fits all” arrangement is hardly ever appropriate. The wrong setup will mean at best, the second battery is never charged to its full capacity or in a worse-case scenario means an ineffective setup can kill the computer.

This is especially the case with 2010 and later models (both common rail diesel and petrol engines) fitted with variable voltage alternators that will output a voltage anywhere from 12.3V to 15V. For this reason it may not charge either the starting or the second battery effectively. It also may apply too high a voltage and shorten the life of the auxiliary battery.

Graeme Cooper Automotive will not only help you to select the appropriate system for your particular vehicle, but will install it professionally and safely.

Where to put the second battery

Up to and including the Discovery 3 and Classic Range Rover models, it is possible to fit a second battery in the engine bay, though this may mean selecting a small sized unit and invariably repositioning some components. In later vehicles, the only real option is to locate the second battery in the load space at the rear of the vehicle, though this means losing some effective storage space and running long cables. The second battery must be located in an accessible position and it must be firmly secured to prevent it from being thrown around or turned over.

In conclusion

The emergency starter pack is the best all round solution for most situations, but if serious long range trips involve running a 12V fridge OR if an electric winch is used frequently, the installation of a dual battery system may be a worthwhile investment.

Consulting GCA is strongly recommended

Common problems with Range Rover Sport we have rectified

An annoying “chirping” noise when engine at idle was fixed by changing the drive belt idler pulley to a later type

If the parking brake fails to release reject any attempt by a mechanic or tow truck operator to cut the cable because this will invariably cause failure of the control module. That is completely unnecessary because there is an emergency release under console near the hand brake switch.

A knocking sound from the front suspension at low speed, also when applying the foot brake proved to be worn lower suspension arm bushes. Rather than just replace the bushes  – a complicated procedure, GCA replace the complete arm assembly prior to a 4 wheel alignment to prevent uneven wear on tyres.

 

Land Rover LIghting Upgrade options

Around the mid 2000’s vehicle technology took a huge leap – not necessarily forwards but certainly into the realm of complexity, Things you could do to a vehicle built any time between the 70s and around 2005 are just no longer possible due to the electronics and computers in the latter. These issues are covered below.
Because every vehicle is essentially built to a price and market niche, only the top models are likely to have the best lighting available at the time of build and even that tended to favour cosmetic appearance over practicality.

Pre 2005 options
Tweaking the lighting on pre-2005 models is relatively straightforward but the starting point is an objective appraisal of what is needed for the intended driving conditions. Let’s face it, many of the available upgrades are essentially cosmetic and not everyone wants something that looks like a rally car that got lost in the city. Also, if most driving is done on main roads, expressways and major highways, the standard lighting is usually adequate..
If driving on “B” or bush roads, however, effective lighting takes on an entirely new meaning. Anyone who does this regularly will know the perils of having a fallen tree, a big ‘roo, a wombat, or even a cow in the road ahead and the sooner the danger is seen, the better chance of evasive action.
Wiring a pair of 150W lights into the existing loom is a recipe for burning out the wiring, killing the battery or both. Lights must be installed with separate fuses and relays to perform effectively and safely. Also, the switching must be arranged so the lights can be turned on only when the main beam is activated, so this involves locating a switched wire in the loom to power the relay. However tempting it may be to have the lights wired to work on low or high beam, this is illegal, as well as potentially dangerous. You do not want the spots to turn on when the vehicle is travelling in traffic. The location of the various wires will vary from vehicle to vehicle and guessing at a solution may cause more trouble than paying the cost of professional installation, Also, one light pointing into the trees while the other highlights the potholes is interesting, but not desirable.
Spots, pencils, floods, fogs and other toys
The availability of 12V LED lighting has completely changed the ability to get excellent, reliable daylight-quality lighting onto your vehicle. Many of these come as complete kits that include the relays, switch and wiring. Graeme Cooper Automotive supplies the THUNDER brand of LED lights
Pencil beams and spots are excellent for long-range vision but are not of much use for general illumination close up. Conversely, floods will provide good close-up illumination, but not much range. An effective compromise it to fit one of each, suitably aligned for maximum effectiveness OR a dual layer LED light bar will do both but these need to be mounted (legally) onto a bar
Driving with fog lights is illegal other than in appropriate conditions. They need completely separate wiring, in this case (only) with the ability to turn on with low beam. The fitted position should be as low as possible to minimise glare.

Other options
The simplest upgrade will be new bulbs, with a wide range of choices including LED, halogen or quartz-iodine bulbs to replace the existing bulbs. For some models, a replacement sealed-beam assembly could be an effective solution.

Seeking expert advice from specialists familiar with your model of vehicle is strongly recommended. The Graeme Cooper team includes experienced drivers who have tackled everything including the outback, mountains, beaches, snow, ice, mud and country roads.

Land Rover after about 2005
As noted above, vehicle technology changed dramatically with the “L” series and “Sport” Range Rovers and with the Discovery 2. The electronics in these vehicles are far more complex than earlier models and it would be foolish for any owner to attempt to add after-market lights or even to change the existing headlamps. Just finding the switched wires to activate the relays can be a major challenge, but far more critically, many of the vehicle’s functions are computer controlled, so it is all too easy to damage one of these systems.
Graeme Cooper Automotive personnel are not only expert in recommending and fitting lighting upgrades, but are personally experienced in extensive road and off-road trips that they can provide practical and cost-effective advice to meet each owner’s specific requirements.

Trip Preparation

Graeme Cooper Automotive experts are frequently asked what spares to take on an extended trip. While we certainly could compile a list and supply a kit of the most likely components, there are too many well-documented stories of trips being undertaken with loads of spare parts, only to have the one item for which no part is carried being the cause of a major problem. Additionally, consideration must be given to the tools needed and the mechanical (and increasingly the electronic) knowledge and skill of the driver or crew. The simple question is “where do you stop”?
There is no substitute for a professional pre-trip inspection. A really competent mechanic with extensive experience of the marque will have the specialist knowledge of what to look for on each vehicle type and model.
By identifying when components and systems have failed, or are nearing the end of their effective life, they can be replaced and/or spares provided, thus eliminating many potential problems that otherwise might occur.

Common spares & back-up equipment

Of course, there will always be “common sense” items to carry – mostly those that could fail or be damaged regardless of how well the vehicle is prepared in advance. The following list is by no means complete, but covers most of the basics:

Spare battery: Any battery more than 12 months old is suspect and the workshop should change it before you depart. Either way, a spare is cheap insurance

Air filter: An essential item if you will be driving on dirt/gravel or sand

Oil filter: Depending upon the planned length of the trip, an oil change will be highly desirable and having the correct filter will make things much easier

Fuel filters: Blockages are not as uncommon as many believe, best to be prepared

Silicone “rescue” tape can be used successfully to repair radiator hoses and this will save having to carry all the various hoses that could potentially fail.  However, the workshop will inspect the hoses and change any that are defective.

Set of fan belts: Ditto

Spare rims & tyres. Anyone going far from home and/or your regular tyre service should seriously consider carrying TWO spare (full size) wheels. Never assume some rural tyre service will carry your size and brand

Tyre repair kit. Might be overkill if carrying two spare wheels but for serious off-road travel, having a repair kit (and knowing how to use it) can literally save lives.

Engine & gear oil: Take whatever grade your vehicle needs

Transmission & brake fluid: Ditto

Water: As much as you can carry safely

Radiator sealer

Fuses

Headlamp & other bulb replacements

Brake pads

SHOULD YOU SELL OR REFURBISH YOUR LAND ROVER?

So what do you have now?

Let’s face it – you have spent a fortune on the vehicle you currently drive but the time will come when some serious refurbishment is due OR this vehicle has to be replaced

Consider that the cost of a replacement vehicle, registration, transfer costs and, in particular financing the purchase may be significantly greater than the cost of refurbishment. It all comes down to what the vehicle is worth to you and what is the overall condition. While there is little point in spending thousands on something that will never hold its value, if the vehicle is a rare model and/or is in generally good condition a refurbishment can easily be justified. This is especially true if the work and cost can be spread over months or even years.

Some jobs are more cost-effective than others

Bodywork options are limitless, ranging from wet-sanding and buffing the existing finish through to a complete new paint job.
Plastic trims can be given a serious lift in appearance by applying water-transfer (hydrographic) printing. The process requires sanding, priming, applying a film of your choice, and clear-coating. The results are like magic (This author had all interior trims of a P38 re-finished in burl walnut adding thousands to the eventual sale price of the vehicle).
Headlining, carpets etc can be replaced, Seats can be changed or re-trimmed. Suspension and steering can be repaired or upgraded, sound systems upgraded and so on

Engine work is a more serious matter

Rebuilding an early diesel engine is going to cost far more than an old vehicle is worth but maybe (just maybe) it may be feasible to change the engine if something compatible is available as a donor unit
If the cost of running your petrol V8 exceeds that of a politician claiming entitlements, changing a 3.5 unit for a 3.9 or even a 4.6 may be worthwhile, but not cheap. A reputable specialist Land Rover shop (not a dealer) will occasionally get an known engine from a vehicle they have serviced for years. It is a classic case of the “devil you know” versus something you buy without any real knowledge of the history. Though an engine swap is not cheap, it will be worthwhile if the rest of the vehicle is a trusted item.

Aesthetics & technology

Probably the worst reason for changing vehicles is that yours is no longer “cool” compared to the later vehicles driven by your peers. It lacks the latest styling, ultra low profile tyres on wheels that would struggle getting into the Coles car park, let alone into the mountains. The other consideration is the ongoing march of technology into every vehicle. A 10-15 year old car is generally easier to fix than a later model.

Some simple upgrades
Leather electric seats
Two-tone paint
Long range fuel tank
New light lenses
Side-steps
Light Bar

Do this first

Take the emotion out of the decision as much as possible. Do your homework by checking prices being paid for vehicles like the one you already own. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much yours is worth if it is in top condition.
Then – and this is the most important advice of all, GET A “PRE-PURCHASE” INSPECTION on your current vehicle. A specialist workshop will give you an honest appraisal of its condition and the approximate cost of any repair work.
Then, if you are really going to replace the vehicle, ALSO get a pre-purchase check on the new one. See the separate article on the website www.graemecooper.com.au explaining how that works.

Conclusions

It certainly is a dilemma and ultimately, it will be a lifestyle decision as much as a financial one. Only you can decide what the vehicle is actually worth to you, regardless of the street value.