I Solved My Land Rover’s Miserable Oil Leak With the Easy Fix I Didn’t Check First
I fee like an idiot for how long it took me to realize this, but at least it was a cheap and easy repair.
Man, do I feel like an idiot. Ever since buying my 1997 Land Rover Discovery back in April, I’ve experienced an oil drip of varying intensity at one particular spot on the front of the engine, right at the oil filter. I thought I had solved this when I replaced the pesky oil pressure switch, which did significantly cut oil loss, but the drip was still there. I then examined everything more closely, including the front cover that houses the timing chain and the oil filter flange that’s a part of said cover. I also knew it wasn’t related to a separate leak coming from the main seal, as that had a different identifiable leak path, so I was starting to feel stumped.
Sigh, then it finally hit me, like that scene in The Usual Suspects when Special Agent Dave Kujan puts everything together and drops his coffee cup. The oil cooler lines.
I’d read a few months back on the forums that these little bastards were annoying. I should’ve taken no more than two minutes of my precious time to closely examine my own Disco’s oil cooler lines, but they’d gone overlooked.
The closest part of the engine to this drip is the front of the block, where the front cover gasket lives, which is also known for developing leaks. Yep, the jokes about Land Rovers leaking fluids are, well, no joke. I originally thought this was the culprit. However, further up the line is where the cooler lines’ metal portion turns into a flexible rubber hose and then turns back into metal. Where the rubber meets the metal is where oil was seeping out. And based on how much oil pressure is moving through these lines — one of them receives oil directly from the oil pump — you can imagine how much oil was getting pushed out as the Disco’s not-very-mighty V8 revved up and down.
I purchased two brand new OEM lines early in the week, and they were in my possession by a few days later. The replacement job was very straightforward: Unplug the oil lines and throw the new ones in. They’re kind of a pain, as you have to have drain pans ready, especially due to the job being a bit easier with the oil filter removed. There also isn’t much space for moving around. Had I removed the fan clutch, that would’ve freed up some space and allowed more wrench rotation where the lines met the oil-and-transmission-cooler-slash-radiator up front. Otherwise, it only took about 45 minutes.
After completing the job, I fired up the Disco and let it sit for a while to get up to temperature, and after revving it up and down, letting it sit, and revving it up and down some more, there were no signs of any drips! The oil pressure kept normal, as well.
I learned a few lessons with this chapter in the continuing saga of making my Discovery as reliable and leak-free as possible. First and foremost, it must be said that I’m still a freshly amateur wrench. I don’t possess the capability to ever get paid to wrench, at least in the sense of being a tech working in a shop, but that’s ok. DIY car maintenance comes in many forms, and it’s fine to move at a snail’s pace or have trouble figuring out the most obvious and basic issues. I still saved a lot of money by doing it myself, likely more than $120 in labor costs alone, and I learned something new.
The secondary lesson is to always thoroughly examine each and every issue that a platform has. Had I taken the time to thoroughly inspect my oil cooler lines after reading up on how shitty they were a few months ago, I definitely would have replaced them back then. Or, I would’ve replaced them to be safe: It was an easy job and cost me just $60 and a quart of oil to replenish the system.
Up next I plan to replace the pesky aforementioned front main seal. I know that leak’s drip goes down the exact center of the front of the engine, so half the battle has already been won. Some of this oil also reaches the oil pan gasket, making it look like it too is leaking, which is quite annoying.
My ignition lock cylinder assembly is also giving me issues. I bought a lightly used one a month ago, and I think it’s about time to install it, as it takes an average of five minutes of fumbling to get the key turned. It used to only take a few seconds.
Never a dull day when you own an old Land Rover.