Range Rover air suspension

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Email from David Burton

Having acquired an air suspension Range-Rover this year, may I congratulate you on tackling the subject of air suspension problems on your most helpful web-site.

May I offer some of my recently acquired experience and information?

First, there are two levels of fault code on the Classic (1992-95) Range Rover. Both are indicated by the suspension control lights flashing for approx. 15secs. after the engine is started, followed by them all remaining on continuously. "Non-fatal" fault codes allow the vehicle to be driven normally (i.e. the system will attempt to maintain last known level settings) but do not permit raising and lowering of the system. "Fatal" fault codes dump the air pressure and the vehicle sits on its bump stops until fixed! (When this happens, if you need to drive more than about 2 miles, you must replace the bump stops afterwards - they can't take much stick).

Second, there is another possible fault situation if the main 15A suspension system feed fuse blows - there is no flashing when the ignition is switched on, the lights just remain permanently alight. I have not come across this personally but both LR people and non-franchise specialists reckon it happens.

Third, there is no reason in theory to disconnect the battery when working on suspension components such as radius arms/shock absorbers/Panhard rods as these have no electrical connection to the system, only the level> sensors do. However you would be pretty dumb not to freeze the system (using the switch under the driver's seat) if the vehicle is jacked as it could attempt to re-level itself with you underneath it. There is no harm in disconnecting the battery as a "belt & braces" measure.

Fourth, reports have reached me of a particular fault on both Classic and new (1995-on) Range Rovers which are normally only used on short journeys and are then taken on a much longer run (I live in Nottinghamshire and a dealer mechanic says that Folkestone Channel Tunnel terminal seems to be the favourite place for the fault to occur from here.........). No one has quite worked out why, but the ECU picks up a compressor over-work fault. The compressor has an automatic shut-off to prevent overheating (why they couldn't use a thermal sensor I don't know) which may or may not generate a fault code, depending on circumstances. If I find out more, I will let you know.

Fifth, I am aware of at least one non-franchise Land Rover specialist (Nene Overland of Peterborough) which has got its hands some diagnostic software.
It also seems that tales of fault diagnosis by main dealers being horrendously expensive are exagerrated. My local dealer quotes a half-hour labour for simple diagnostic, you put the fault right yourself (if you can) and he will clear the fault for another one hour's labour. Not bad, eh? All this assumes that the vehicle is driveable. Deflating the system & re-pressurising to change an air spring starts to get a bit more costly. I know there is a lot of variation between dealers, sadly a fair number of them really don't seem to know what they're doing with air suspension. Another tip is that many trucks & buses use air suspension so in theory Lucas service dealers ought to be able to sort out problems, IF they have the L-R software.

Sixth, a common problem for a "non-fatal" fault code is bad electrical connections between the level sensors and the ECU. For some inexplicable reason, Range Rover underside wiring is very exposed and the connector blocks get filled with road spray (or worse if you go off-road). These need cleaning and waterproofing, but if that rectifies the fault, you've still got to go to the dealer to have the ECU fault code cleared (unless your suggested method of holding down the over-ride button works). Also, seized level sensors seem a problem. On the Classic Range Rover, the only way to re-level the vehicle when clearing a fault code is using 4 jacks and a measuring tape (even if you are the dealer), and level ground. The new Range Rover can be levelled using the diagnostic software.

As a final point, when someone tells you "it will cost UK1500 just to look at the air suspension" it's worth pointing out that for around UK1000 you could convert the car to coil suspension using all new parts..........

Best regards, David Burton.

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