You'd think by now when starting a wrenching job for which I have no specific directions provided by the FSM, I should default to "remove everything". Hell just pull the damn engine, in the long run it'll save time and effort.
Today I set out to replace the low pressure power steering hose on my 2001 Land Rover Discovery. On Tuesday, after braving the beginnings of a winter storm in my Volvo C30 to pick up the Land Rover from storage, the hose decided to unceremoniously break. This failure, in truth, was not without warning. For about a year the power steering pump would groan for the first few seconds on startup, and then be fine. I now know this sound was the pump expelling air due to a slow leak, but hindsight is bullshit.
With a modest coating of ice on the roads and 6+ inches of snow looming in the forecast and the Land Rover being my only functional on-site vehicle, I needed to get it fixed. After confirming the leak was most likely, as suspected, from the low pressure return hose, I ordered the part next day delivery from O'Reilly Auto and waited.
But, of course, the weather had other ideas and they part was, you guessed it, delayed due to weather. Luckily, it was only delayed a day and came in in the early afternoon today. However, while the temperature yesterday, the day the part was supposed to be delivered, was a balmy 25F (-4C). Today, the high was 19F (-7C) and I wasn't able to start until 5PM.
But it is just one hose and less than 2 feet long at that. How hard could it be?
Quickly I identified the end attached to the power steering pump was going to be a pain to remove. It still had the factory snap in hose clamp, or whatever you want to call it, and the hose was so covered in dirt, fluid, and grime that I couldn't actually identify where the clamp was. Access on all sides was thwarted by the exhaust manifold, a splash shield, the fan assembly, the engine, and the intake ducting. As removing the intake and air box is fairly straightforward, I started there. While this gave me enough room to touch the hose clamp, I couldn't quite get the reach to remove it so I proceeded to remove the splash shield underneath. This opened thing up dramatically, and I could begin to spray all manner of chemicals on the hose to clean off the dirt and grime, and eventually found the clasp was facing the driver's side fender, partially occluded by the high pressure outlet piping.
After trying a multitude of random tools and bits of metal, I eventually got the clasp off. VICTORY!
No amount of tugging, pulling, shouting, crying, or hitting seemed to want to make this mothe- hose budge off its mooring. For a failed hose, it sure had a strange desire to remain on the car!
After removing the radiator shroud in an attempt to gain better access, I eventually got decent enough purchase with a knife to cut the old hose loose and was treated to a golden shower of old power steering fluid.
I grabbed the new pipe and quickly ran into my first problem: it wouldn't go onto the hose barb. While my leverage wasn't ideal, it was far from terrible and yet I could not get it to fit around the barb. Then I had a brain wave: the current ambient temperature is 13F (-11C) and rubber isn't known for being particularly compliant at 70F (21C), let alone below freezing. I needed a heater.
I guess now is as good of a time as any to talk about warmth. I know there are a lot of Oppos that wrench in the cold regularly. I am not one of those. As a result, I came to this party prepared. On my lower half I had: long johns, thermal running pants, scrubs, socks, and sheepskin slippers. On my upper half I had an undershirt, long sleeve shirt, polo, hoodie, two catalytic hand warmers, scarf, hat, and a winter coat. On top of all that I had the dual burner propane heater blasting away to the tune of 20,000 BTUs.
Surprisingly I was not cold! Only my hands needed occasional attention, but otherwise I was able to zip/unzip the first two layers to effectively manage my temperature depending on activity level.
I should also point out that while the above work took only paragraphs to draw out like a high school English paper, we're talking hours of work here. By the time 8PM rolled around, three hours after I'd started, I'd only managed to seat the tip of the hose.
Eventually a small electric heater got everything mailable enough to effectively seat, and finally I had a hose on.
Next up I needed to tighten the hose clamp. However, given that I barely had enough room to get a small pry bar in to remove the OE clamp, finding the correct angle to tighten the hose clamp proved... challenging.
And by "challenging" I mean "impossible."
Turns out my hours wasted procrastinating disassembling the vehicle further were, indeed wasted. More was going to have to come off.
Namely, I needed to remove the power steering pully, at a minimum. This meant removing the fan clutch and serpentine belt. I'd already given removing the former a go, but ultimately met with failure and moved on. However, which a renewed sense of inevitability, after further disassembling the air box I found a way to wedge a pry bar in the water pump so I could effectively remove the fan clutch.
After much faffing around with that, I finally was able to remove the serpentine belt, then put it back on, loosen the power steering pump idler and pully, and then re-remove the belt, and finally remove the pullies.
With all that crap out of the way, I was finally able to get adequate access to the new hose clamp to get it fully secured.
Well... no, of course not.
After putting the pullies and belt back on, it was time to attach the other end of the hose to the power steering reservoir. Allegedly an easy job, right? Of course not! Remember how it is still crazy cold out?! Yeah... the rubber didn't forget! After applying more heat, I eventually got the hose to an acceptable temperature and it reluctantly seated.
After filling the reservoir to the brim and checking, reseating, re-checking, and re-reseating the serpentine belt, I finally had a functional enough vehicle to check my work. Replacing the fan, fan clutch, and intake could wait. Or at least I suspected it could... I've heard of cars running without a MAF but I've never tried it.
Anyway, I started the car, the battery very unhappy with the current temperature outside and...
It started! And the power steering sounded OK!
For a time...
Then the groaning intensified and the system stopped working.
Air in the system? No, turning the wheel confirmed the power steering was dead again.
Looking at the reservoir, it was beginning to fill will foam again, the symptom I was trying to fix!
But... there was also very little fluid?
I stopped the car, let the fluid settle, and then REALLY filled it up. Could it be that it just sucked all the fluid in, then grabbed a gulp of air, and produced the same symptoms as before. No way I could be that lucky...
After some initial groaning and carrying on, the sound reduced, the bubbles started falling out, and the steering started to feel... normal?
Now, don't get me wrong, the pump was still the loudest component in the engine, but I seem to recall that is always the case when it is super cold out?
At this point, it was 11PM and well and truly cocktail time. While the engine bay, driveway, and everything else was a total mess, I didn't have enough confidence in the fix or my continued longevity to button the car back up and finish the job properly.
So this is where I leave you, between hope and despair.
(Typed but not proofread)