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

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.

Always get a pre-purchase check

When considering the purchase of a second-hand Land Rover (or any other vehicle for that matter) the value of a pre-purchase check cannot be overstated. Do NOT get this done by a mate, or the local friendly service station. Go to a Land Rover expert shop and pay the money. The cost might seem like a lot, but it is nothing compared to the potential cost if you buy something with problems you do not discover until afterwards.  However, be warned that even the best of specialists cannot diagnose every problem, even if potentially major.

Be sure to drive the vehicle in as wide a range of conditions as possible just to satisfy yourself that the vehicle is not obviously defective – things like serious steering shakes, suspension, brakes and water in the footwells. Check the bottom of the door frames and any other readily accessible areas to detect rust. That will be about as far as you can go yourself without applying tools. If the vehicle passes these simple tests, insist on taking it to a specialist for a more complete check. If the seller refuses, walk away.

The value of being suspicious

It is better to be difficult to please, than to be destitute. Assume the worst then whatever actually happens will be a pleasant surprise:

  • Serious RUST is the number one reason to reject a vehicle. The alloy bodies on Land Rovers are commonly fixed to steel frames and it the latter that rust – sometimes beyond easy repair. A vehicle that has been driven on sand can be an absolute rust bucket and will literally be un-roadworthy. Door frames, sills and the floor are most common areas of serious rust.
  • When test-driving the vehicle, consider that ANY and every noise, vibration or misfire is worth serious attention.
  • Vibration or wandering steering could be tyre damage, a bearing, worn bushes or a cracked universal joint.
  • Blowing smoke is not a good idea. If it is black, the injectors need work, or replacement. If blue, a new set of rings and bearings can cost thousands
  • Overheating can mean many things, from a viscous coupling on the fan, a blocked radiator, defective thermostat or a blown head gasket (plus several other causes). However, some overheating problems may not be detected until the vehicle is pushed hard, like steep uphill climbs –something a pre-purchase check may not reveal. This is especially true of early diesel engines that take a long time to get to normal operating temperature. Be sure to test it yourself under these conditions.
  • Heater hoses that are hardening, or coolant hoses softening should be considered minor but necessary repair jobs
  • Loss of coolant means trouble. It can only go two places – onto the ground via a busted hose, leaking radiator, worn water pump etc OR through the engine. The latter is by far the more expensive fix, usually involving head and/or valley gaskets.
  • Water on the floor of the car may be rainwater coming through a sunroof or window but more likely, a blown heater hose or heater core. The parts to fix these problems are cheap, but the labour time to fix them is frightening
  • Cutting out at traffic lights could mean several things, mostly expensive to fix. The modern vehicle is highly complex and repairs can be very costly.
  • If the vehicle has air suspension, don’t believe it is just a leaking air-spring. It could be, but it might also be the valve block, compressor and/or EAS computer.
  • Braking must be smooth and efficient. Pulling one way might be a worn pad, but it might also be a leaking hub seal or ball joint. If there are nasty noises, assume that the disks (rotators) need replacing or maybe a calliper is broken.
  • If the air conditioning doesn’t work, it is not as simple as topping up the gas. There has to be a reason. With luck it will be a loose junction or worn O-ring, but it could be the compressor and if it is an old system, it will need a complete overhaul and new parts..

Emotion versus science

Be suspicious of massive suspension lifts, ultra wide tyres, roof-bars with a zillion driving lights and so on.  These may just be urban-cowboy enhancements, but it might also mean a hard life. That is not a reason to reject the vehicle if it has been well maintained, but once again, assume the worst.

Of course, you will want to customise your new vehicle. However, be careful of spending money on upgrades until ALL of the essentials have been done. Never kid yourself that the purchase price will cover everything that is needed. If you get the vehicle at a reasonable price, it is prudent to spend a bit more money with a professional Land Rover specialist to ensure it is safe and totally roadworthy.

AVOIDING TRAILER WOES

Even experienced Land Rover owners refuse to tow trailers because trailers can be accidents no longer waiting for a place to happen. However, many potential problems can be avoided by regular inspection and maintenance. Here are some suggestions:

1. Left side wheel nuts. Think about it – right hand threads on the RIGHT SIDE of the trailer will try to tighten themselves as the wheel rotates. BUT the right hand threads on the LEFT SIDE wheel nuts are trying to undo themselves. Check them for tightness BEFORE setting out to avoid losing the wheel when the nuts spin off. Don’t laugh – this happens frequently

2. Don’t expect the ball of the coupling to stay tight – vibration may cause the nut to loosen even if fitted with a spring washer, resulting in it literally falling off the tongue. Remove the ball joint, drill a 4 mm hole right through the shaft below where the nut will sit when tight. Replace it and insert a heavy split pin through the hole you drilled.

3. Though hard to believe, the spring pin securing the towbar tongue to the frame has been know to fall out, Then it is only a matter of time before the entire tongue works its way out of the frame. Because the safety chain is usually shackled to the tongue and not the actual vehicle, the trailer will fall off along with the tongue. On a highway this could result in serious accident to a following vehicle. The solution is to replace the spring pin with a bolt and nylock nut OR replace the entire pin with a 1/2″ high tensile bolt and nylock nut. Do NOT use plain nuts or they will work loose too.

4 Driving techniques should be practiced BEFORE setting out onto the public roads. This especially means learning how to back and turn safely without hitting another vehicle OR jack-knifing the trailer into your vehicle. If rear vision is poor, screw or bond a length of brightly coloured metal or plastic so these sit proud of the extreme front edges of the trailer and can be seen easily in your side mirrors

Finally, check your wiring before setting out. It is easier to repair a broken wire at home than do it on the roadside – especially if the Fuzz have stopped you for not having working lights