After a long battle replacing the power steering suction hose in temperatures well below freezing with a major winter storm on the horizon, for the first time since owning it the Land Rover failed me. The problem was not the suction hose (though it wasn't far from being bad too) it was, indeed the pump.
As the temperatures plummeted into the negatives (freedom units) and Oklahoma began to become covered in snow and ice, the Discovery sat in my driveway as a testament to my hubris. Finally my love affair with unreliable cars had created a problem that could not be readily solved with time, money, or both. The extreme weather meant even if I wanted to pay to have the pump replaced, no shop was open and presumably tow services were occupied helping people out of ditches and accidents. With the part unavailable locally I was forced to order it, but the major shippers were, at best, hit of miss in this weather. Understandable, but frustrating. Ultimately I ordered a pump off Amazon, even though the price ($110) was a little too cheap for it to be a quality part (most are $150 + core, OE is ~ $240) of the carriers, I figured Amazon or USPS were the most likely to be able to get me the part.
Now I should say as far as thing to worry about go, this wasn't huge. We still had my partner's Jeep to get around, all of my other cars either being unreliable or in storage, and with the city being hammered with crazy winter weather it isn't like we had anywhere to go anyway. Also complaining about a broken Land Rover when millions are without power, water, gas, heat, and food is... well, I am aware of the optics. That doesn't mean I can't be bummed about it, it was just another thing to add to the pile of dread.
Luckily by Friday Tulsa had endured worst of the weather. Our rolling blackouts here were limited and our house never lost utilities, despite threats. Furthermore, the part arrived only one day late, which was both comfortably within tolerance and impressive, considering. With the forecast showing a balmy high of 45F (7C), I made plans to start work the next day.
And so I did.
I was fortunate in that after discovering the sucktion hose was not the problem, I never reassembled the engine bay. As a result, most of the work to get access to the pump was already done. All that remained was to re-remove the fan, serpentine belt, idler (jockey) pulley, and power steering pulley, then remove the AC compressor and the odd bracket that houses the pump.
Of course, this didn't go smoothly.
I started by removing the fan, belt, and then the AC compressor. The latter sounds scary but isn't actually. It is held in by four bolts on on the top and you don't need to break the pressure lines to get it out of the way, so no needing to discharge/charge the system. (Compressor can be seen sitting on the throttle body in the picture below.)
Next I removed the idler pulley, and then got to work on the power steering pulley.
Attentive readers might have noticed that I donked up here. Without the belt in place, there is nothing to encourage the pulley to stay put while I remove the three bolts holding it on. I have made this mistake literally every time I've had this thing off. Ordinarily I'd go and grab a strap wrench and make it work, but mine dry rotted and I haven't bought a replacement yet. Unwilling to go to the hardware store for such a trivial item, and still lacking an actually functioning vehicle, after confirming my electric impact wouldn't fit but my air impact cleared by almost a whole centimeter, I fired up the air compressor and drug 75 feet of air hose through the melting snow. A few zips with that and the pulley was off, revealing the treacherous power steering pump.
Well... sort of. The power steering pump is buried in what Rover calls the "auxiliary housing," a big hunk of aluminum to which the AC compressor, power steering pump, and, if equipped, active roll bar (ACE) pump attach. Either way, after removing the bolts that hold that to the engine block, then I got to see the treasonous power steering pump.
And you know what? That bugger is tiny! I'm really shocked how small it is. Realistically about the size of a medium grapefruit maybe?
Anyway, a few love taps with a dead blow and the pump was free of the housing.
As with these things, installation is the reverse of removal, and everything went back together pretty quickly. I did get the chance to repair something I broke the last time I had this all apart though. The auxiliary housing is speared by this locating rod for reasons I don't fully understand and when reassembling the Disco last time I over-torqued the nut and sheared the shaft. Being a very odd part, replacements were weeks away, so with a deadline looming and not fully understanding the purpose of the part, at the time I reassembled without. But, I did order the part, so this time I had a chance to make amends and install the new one. I also threw a new bleed screw in the steering box, because why not?
Anyway, once I got the pullies and belt back on, I filled the reservoir with fresh power steering fluid, leaving the cap off to aid in burping, and turned the key.
... and was treated to a shockingly quiet power steering pump!
Followed by a very loud one.
I shut off the car and resisted attempting to set fire to it. Instead I went and checked the fluid level. It had dropped a little, and there were little bubbles in the fluid as a result, but it was far from frothy as it was before. After giving the system a second to settle, I tried again.
And it stayed quiet.
I followed the usual purging procedure (move the wheels left to right a bunch with the cap off) and the pump stayed happy. Without any major evidence to the contrary, after taking measurements for the possible forthcoming eFan conversion, I reassembled the rest of the engine.
Only time will tell if this fix will hold, but I am cautiously optimistic.
Trust and Consequences
To my mind the elephant in the room here is: what would you do if this had happened on the trail. I'll admit, complete failure of my power steering system is not an eventuality I even thought would happen. Presumably after frothing all of its fluid out of the reservoir the pump would eventually run dry enough that the system would be stable... until the pump seized, eventually breaking the serpentine belt, at which point the water pump and alternator would cease their critical functions.
It would not be ideal.
However, this failure was not without warning. I think I'm right in saying the power steering pump has been groaning on startup for at least a year, but looking into it has always been on the "I'll get to it eventually" list. Until this failure I never considered power steering to be an essential function of the vehicle, but hot damn apparently it can really mess things up with the right failure, depending on how it is set up.
I am fortunate that while I didn't have the Land Rover to drive in the snow and ice, the pump was kind enough to die in the driveway rather than the multitude of horrible places it could have.
Overall I don't see this as affecting our (the Landy and I) trust relationship. It tried to tell me something was about to go bang and I didn't heed the warning. In the future, I'll be more proactive in hunting down unusual noises. Ultimately, this thing will fail me on the trail one day, and I've accepted that. My only hope is it will fail in such a way I can at least, one way or the other, get back to the road.
Either way, I still love it and don't hold this "fun" against it.
Burn baby burn.