Good news! I restored my Land Rover’s power steering, and so far it’s working really well. If you’ve been thinking about undertaking such a task yourself, hopefully reading about my experience will inspire you to give it a shot. Or if you still need to outsource the job, at least you’ll have a better idea of what’s involved.
Are you looking for more Land Rover Discovery 1-specific info? We wrote a whole Bible about this vehicle, check it out here!
Of course, like any DIY old-car project, this didn’t go down without some hardship. When I bought this sturdy British steed a little over a month ago, the previous owner stated that the power steering system was disconnected and looped at some point to avoid future leaks. This didn’t deter me on buying the car, as my “how hard can it be?” mindset kicked in.
“Surely, I can restore it myself without much issue,” I figured. Once I started looking into what’s all involved however, a little bit of fear manifested itself in me. It also slightly extinguished my newbie ambition.
Expensive Parts I Really Didn’t Want To Replace
The power steering system that pumps hydraulic fluid through a series of tubes under the hood isn’t all that complex. However, one piece of the puzzle is pretty expensive and prone to failing or leaking with age… and my Landy’s got over 180,000 miles on it.
That pricey part would be the steering box, which takes spinning motion from the steering wheel and moves components to turn the front wheels. When you add pressurized hydraulic fluid to the mix, that’s what aids in moving them. It has a few pipes and gaskets exposed to the outside world, and is a pretty complex piece of engineering. If that needs replacing due to leakage or it’s just not working right, brand-new units are $1,400. As you can see in the screenshot, remanufactured parts are cheaper but still spendy. I’d be out at least $400 after a mailing off the old one for a core refund. It also looks like a pain to replace. I really, really hoped this wasn’t a potential source of woes.
The power steering pump, which sucks in fluid from the reservoir, pressurizes it, and then, well, pumps it into the steering box, can make weird noises, leak, and generally just fail. That part is thankfully very easy to replace, and $150 max for a good, new example.
The lines that go between the reservoir, pump, box, and back to the reservoir, aren’t expensive, are easy to access, but it could be a big pain to get the old lines out.
I decided to start with the lines. I’d at least need fluid coursing through the system to troubleshoot any issues from there, and they’re the cheapest piece of the puzzle.
Out With the Very, Very Old and In With the New
I ordered a set of fresh lines from RoverParts.com and they arrived very quickly. They had all-new O-rings and were so flexible and shiny. Quite the opposite from the old, hardened, muddy ones under the hood. I also learned upon close examination that the old lines going to and from the steering box were simply cut off and not really well-sealed. Joy of joys, I figured there probably some gunk in there and it definitely wasn’t helping the steering work right.
Getting the old lines out was 70 percent of the battle. A trip to Harbor Freight for stubby open-end wrenches luckily made the job a lot easier than otherwise, but I really should’ve went for a crowfoot set. Quarters were tight, to say the least. Removing the serpentine belt made the two lines under the pump easy to get to, however getting the old, hardened, rubber low-pressure line off was a huge pain. Hacking at it with the sharpest razor I had still took a while.
At first I was a little lost about which new line went where. The looped system gave a slight hint, but not much. I couldn’t find a left-hand drive, easy-to-read diagram in the RAVE manual, though I found a pic of the return line’s placement, which helped rationalize the other two lines’ placement. Then I realized that the kit I bought from RoverParts.com was very rational; it wouldn’t look right if installed incorrectly. I was also sure to route everything so they wouldn’t contact each other or any moving parts.
The Moment of Truth
After double-checking that everything was tight, confirming on a Disco 1 Facebook Group that it was indeed OK for some of the lines’ threads to stick out, re-installing the serpentine belt, and filling the reservoir with quality ATF (going by enthusiasts’ recommendations), I was ready to turn the key and start filling/bleeding the system.
Much to my relief, everything went smoothly! I went through the process of adding fluid, turning it off, adding more fluid, turning the wheel lock-to-lock, turning it off, and generally repeating this until the fluid level stabilized and the bubbles in the reservoir ceased. A test drive revealed a little bit of roughness at first, but it quickly smoothened out and felt very good lock-to-lock. No moaning from the system, either.
I’m still going to properly bleed it from the nipple on top of the box before I accrue much more mileage, and flush it as well since some crud most likely got into the box before my ownership. But otherwise, everything seems good and I found no leaks.
Since my Discovery 1 is a second car, I was quite happy to be able to designate 1.5ish hours per night to messing with all this. It ended up taking three nights total to do the job, which included getting all set up, checking around, referring to diagrams, and just taking my sweet time. I don’t know if I could ever wrench for a living as I’m very slow and methodical. But that’s OK; like many other things in life, slow and steady wins the race.
Here’s hoping you’re inspired to try and sort out your own power steering issues now. And if you’re looking for different Discovery-specific repair info, don’t forget to check out Land Rover Discovery Series 1: The Car Bible (D1; 1994-1998) too.