Waterford Land Rover: Oil in fuel injector and questionable ethics?

In one of my previous posts I raised my latest issue on my Land Rover and was hoping that either Land Rover South Africa or the dealership in question (Waterford Land Rover, Fourways) would address my concerns. (I also reported this on HelloPeter.com, MyADSL and PS3ZA. The power of Web2.0: Twitter, Facebook, Technorati and others link to this article)

When I made my purchase decision for a Land Rover Defender in 2002, I thought that a rugged car, which is associated with expeditions (it featured in the Camel Trophy for decades) and is variously used in agriculture, industry and military, would be a vehicle without problems.

While the Land Rover has no unibody design and is largely handcrafted (gave me a wrong sense of quality in the first place), this type of manufacturing is highly expensive and unreliable. It makes you think, that due to safety regulations (lack of airbags for both front seat passengers as well as side door impact requirements), Land Rover was forced to retire the sale of it’s Defender range in the United States in 1997.

But back to my story: After an extremely (R 11,000.00) major service in May, I recently suffered the typical “oil in the injector harness”-problem which seems to plague many Land Rovers (not just Defenders, but also other models). While I still believe that my recent service at Waterford Land Rover contributed to my problem, I also believe that the vehicle’s build is inferior and would have resulted in the United States into a class-action-law-suit against Land Rover in the first place.

While I still believe that R 14,000 repairs carried out by Waterford Land Rover was unnecessary (not to mention that I almost got scammed in replacing a camshaft gasket which I had newly replaced just 6 weeks before at the same dealership), as a mechanical novice, you place your trust with a dealership and believe that they will put a customer’s interest first and try to save you money where possible.

For completeness – I was charged (amounting to R 14658.75 incl VAT):

  • R 7535.74 for Wire Assembly (part YSB000872),
  • R 930.16 for Harness Fuel Injector (part AMR6103),
  • R 503.48 for Gasket Camshaft (part LVP000020 – I questioned this, as the dealer supposedly replaced this part as my 22/05 major service – makes you think?),
  • R 979.17 for Sensor Cranks (part NSC100790) and
  • R 2910.00 for labour

The vehicle sales must really affect all car manufacturers, hence resulting in questionable tactics to extort money from unwary customers.

Across South Africa, there is a fair amount of “ripping off” going on with regard to the perennial TD5 issue of diesel/oil in the injector harness / ECU. My recent research has shown, that a lot of people report this issue and pay in excess of R 15,000 to have the problem fixed.

However, repairing the problem is no big deal and will not cost you a fortune. The symptoms are misfire (not a backfire), jerking and loss of power while accelerating – the exact same issues I faced a mere 7 days ago. This is caused by diesel entering the ECU via the plug:

There does not seem to be a solution to the problem, and even late model TD5’s can suffer from it. It is caused by engine oil contamination to the injector plugs inside the rocker cover, which are soaked with engine oil all the time the engine is running and oil being forced into the wires at an injector (Waterford Land Rover denies that their work carried out on injectors and replacement of an O-ring on the 22nd May contributed to the problem) and traveling between the copper wire and the insulation all the way down to the ECU.

Fixing the problem consists of cleaning the ECU (flush out with a solvent and dry) and replacing the injector harness. Note that this harness is a very simple item with 5×2 plastic insulated wires, terminating in a plug at the front of the tappet cover. While the injector harness should not cost more than R 100,00 to produce, Land Rover Waterford charged me R 930.00 (ex VAT).

Replacing this is simply a matter of removing the tappet cover, unplugging 5 injector feed plugs and one connector plug to the wiring loom at the front of the tappet cover and then fitting a new harness (the same procedure in reverse). In discussion with Land Rover mechanics this will take about 30 minutes to 1 hour (Land Rover Waterford charged me R 2,910.00 ex VAT for labour).

I call the above workshop/dealership survival in tough times and an easy way to make quick cash. As a layman it is impossible to establish if the type of work needs to be carried out and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) instilled by your “reliable” dealership will convince you that this work is necessary. After all, you need a car to get to work in order to put food on the table and support your family.

For those who do not wish to pay close to R 1,000.00 for an injector harness, there is an alternative free fix: As can be imagined, to force diesel down a meter or more of insulated wire takes a lot of pressure (remember the injectors generate 22,000 PSI). All we have to do is make provision for the diesel to find an easier route out. This can be done by piercing each wire with a needle – so allowing the diesel an easier exit. Or cut and resolder each of the 10 wires, thus breaking the insulator route.

PUBLIC WARNING: While one should think that an authorized dealer will have a customer’s interest at heart, try and get a 2nd opinion. This might prove difficult most of times, but in my case I would have been cheaper off renting a car while the Defender is fixed by workshops who don’t try to rip you off. LandyOnline.co.za is a good source for alternative repair options.

Instructions and pictures are courtesy of Les Henson – visit lr4x4.com for a detailed guide with more pictures.