Dobbo Dow n Under
“Getting the manifold off takes a bit of time because of my previous bodges, involving putty and exhaust bandages”
Next month I am getting married (I have had a year to prepare for this big day but it feels like it has crept up on me). We are having a beach wedding and, of course, you know what that means – we get to arrive at our wedding in our favourite vehicles – Old Girl and Bruce. As many of you will be aware, weddings have the tendency to become a fairly huge undertaking and ours seems to be no exception. Using our vehicles certainly adds a degree of complexity. The wedding is about 750 miles away and on an island off the coast of Queensland. The plan is for my dad and I to drive up there over the course of four days (my fiancée, being more sensible, has opted to fly). I think it should be a bit of an adventure though I am slightly anxious – the last time I took Old Girl on a big trip like this she disgraced herself in spectacular fashion.
Now with a wedding ceremony on the beach we really need to have four-wheel drive. You would think that is part and parcel of owning a Land Rover but, rather embarrassingly, I must admit that Old Girl is only rear-wheel drive. About three years ago I replaced the rear differential with an early Discovery unit. It is a higher ratio which makes a big difference to cruising speeds (highly recommended for those of you with a more powerful, non-standard engine). What I neglected to do was change the front diff so with mismatched gearing I have been unable to engage four-wheel drive. It has not really mattered too much as Old Girl has been more of a city slicker these last few years.
Anyway it was time to find a new diff. After some calls and begging, someone took pity on me and offered me an early Range Rover rear diff. The only condition was I had to remove it. All was fine until I got to the last propshaft bolt. Why is this almost always the case? I ended up having to disconnect it from the gearbox end and removing the diff with it still attached. Some treatment with an angle grinder and finally it was free.
Back at home it was time to get cracking. First I chocked the rear wheels then jacked the front up placing her down on a set of axle stands, which I had just rushed out to buy having discovered my last set got lost during the move. I then drained the axle – there was practically no oil. Then it was wheels off, track rods off, but I did not have the right tool for this so resorted to my favourite tool, the Stilsons (not recommended) and then onto the bolts that secure the end of each axle. As these are right in the firing line for mud I was expecting them to be a nightmare but they were really very easy to deal with. Next it was time to withdraw each swivel away from the axle casing just enough so I could clear the splines of the diff. Thankfully the flexible brakes hoses are long enough to allow this rather delicate operation.
Then I was on my back, undoing the front propshaft followed by the diff securing bolts. It was a filthy job and the EP90 disintegrated my gloves. Using a large screwdriver I was then able to jiggle the diff out without it falling on me (more luck than judgement). Putting it all back together is ‘simply’ a case of repeating the steps in reverse, only this time you have a very heavy diff to lift up in a confined space. It was not a particularly difficult job, but it is time-consuming and I am glad it is over. It took me six hours to get it done.
The next day I took Old Girl for a test drive and found a place to engage four-wheel drive. Thankfully with no nasty crunches it all seems to be working. However, I notice Old Girl is much louder than before. I am used to a fair amount of noise – the exhaust pipe has never quite fitted the manifold – but the noise is different; it is much louder and she sounds like a Spitfire under acceleration. I open the bonnet and put my hand down next to the manifold to see if I can feel where there is a leak. I find several which suggest a failed gasket and, more worryingly, a crack on the underside of the manifold.
After removing the inlet and manifold sure enough I find that the gasket has failed in two places. Getting the manifold fully off takes a bit of time because one of my previous bodges, which involved industrial amounts of putty and exhaust bandages. Finally, with the manifold removed, I can clearly see a crack running along the underside. I called several places to see if I could find a replacement and had no luck. I decided to join the local Holden Facebook page (I have a Holden six-cylinder engine fitted) and put up a wanted notice. Within 20 minutes I had been offered three replacements all within the local area. You see, social media does have its uses! When Brit Jack Dobson emigrated to Australia in 2010 he brought his passion for Land Rovers along with him.