Leaf Spring Sus­pen­sion

Se­ries Land Rovers should ride and han­dle with com­fort and pre­ci­sion. Ed Evans ex­plains why they of­ten don’t – and shows how to im­prove and main­tain the stan­dard ride

Land Rover Monthly - - Writer's Rovers -

156 Se­ries Land Rovers should ride well. If yours doesn’t here’s how to im­prove it

Any Se­ries Land Rover with its orig­i­nal leaf spring and tele­scopic damper sus­pen­sion sys­tem should ride well. If it doesn’t, it’s not be­cause of an old de­sign that’s rough and ready, it’s be­cause some­thing is wrong. The truth is that a Se­ries ve­hi­cle should ride and han­dle well. Ad­mit­tedly, ride qual­ity may fall short of mod­ern stan­dards, es­pe­cially in a Se­ries I, but they aren’t so bad as is of­ten as­sumed. In­deed, a long wheel­base model can give a tol­er­a­bly smooth ride, and a short wheel­base model can be pre­dictable and tight in its han­dling. Steer­ing ob­vi­ously also af­fects han­dling – and that means front wheel toe-in, steer­ing joints, steer­ing box, steer­ing re­lay, drag link, track rod, steer­ing damper (where fit­ted) and tyres all need to be in good order. But steer­ing is a whole sub­ject on its own so, as­sum­ing the steer­ing is well main­tained, we’ll con­cen­trate in this fea­ture on the sus­pen­sion.

Sus­pen­sion con­di­tion can be dif­fi­cult to as­sess be­cause the com­po­nents de­te­ri­o­rate grad­u­ally and we nat­u­rally ad­just our driv­ing style to com­pen­sate, un­aware of the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion un­til we drive some­one else’s re­fur­bished ve­hi­cle and im­me­di­ately no­tice the dif­fer­ence.

It’s all fairly sim­ple, though. All we have at each wheel cor­ner is a damper, a spring and some bushes. Check and main­tain them, re­place them with qual­ity items if needed, and the wagon should roll like it’s new. Here’s how to check the parts and keep the ride like new.

DE­SPITE DAMPERS be­ing re­ferred to as shock ab­sorbers, it’s ac­tu­ally the springs that ab­sorb the shocks, while the dampers con­trol the springs’ move­ment so the ve­hi­cle doesn’t keep bounc­ing af­ter hit­ting a bump. So, bouncy ve­hi­cle means de­fec­tive dampers, sim­ple as that.

Dampers also con­trol the rate at which the spring de­forms and re­turns back to shape, and they are matched to suit the spring. In­cor­rect dampers can spoil the ride and the han­dling, as can non­stan­dard springs such as parabol­ics or re­place­ments of non-stan­dard spring rate when fit­ted with stan­dard dampers. So when fit­ting non-stan­dard springs, the dampers should be changed to match, and it’s rea­son­able to ex­pect the spring sup­plier to know the cor­rect damper to fit.

Dampers are best as­sessed when driv­ing. Look for a ten­dency to swerve un­der heavy brak­ing, or the front-end div­ing. Ex­ces­sive cor­ner­ing roll is likely to be caused by de­fects in the dampers rather than the springs. Also look for leak­age, and for cor­ro­sion holes in up­per skirt al­low­ing dirt onto the shaft, though these two checks don’t nec­es­sar­ily con­firm damper per­for­mance.

Land Rovers are a tad hefty to use the cor­ner bounce test. Try it though – pull the ve­hi­cle down hard at each cor­ner in turn and watch it bounce back up and stop. If it keeps on bounc­ing, the damper is not con­trol­ling the spring – re­place them only in axle pairs. Re­gard­less of all other tests, if the damper con­di­tion is doubt­ful, then it’s nec­es­sary also to test them off the ve­hi­cle. Hold the bot­tom eye of the damper in a vice and ex­tend and com­press the top of the damper by hand. The re­sis­tance should feel the same through the full move­ment in both di­rec­tions. If there are slack spots, or sec­tions of dif­fer­ing re­sis­tance, the damper is done.

When test­ing, keep the damper ver­ti­cal af­ter re­mov­ing from the ve­hi­cle, and mount it ver­ti­cally in vice, as on the ve­hi­cle.

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