Modifications, upgrades, customizations, and general tech
Less Spaghetti, More Cooling – I made the mistake of performing a coolant flush on the Discovery last year, which in it’s life had never experienced problems with the cooling system. It was long overdue, but instead of being a simple matter of replacing old coolant with new it turned into a nightmare of unstable running temperatures, genuine “repair” failures, and frustrations with the original Land Rover design. I decided it was time to toss out the complexity, hard to find parts, and acid-based coolant and build something better… Inline Thermostat
The Forester project stretches its legs – It was the shop calling, and far too early for new tires to be mounted and a four-wheel alignment done. I had been warned the tire size I selected for the project “just barely doesn’t fit,” but ever the optimist elected to follow the well-documented build of a certain Forester-of-the-Month—a build with the same size tire and no lift. “We can squeeze it in there if we do a little trimming on the plastic bits.” Reluctantly, I gave the go-ahead… Make It Taller
Phase One of the Mule's Refit nears completion – The last of the painting was finished up last week. The body, tailgate, and lid now rest under an easy to touch-up, semi-gloss bedliner. For the first time in over two years The Mule is rehitched to the Disco (and riding almost perfectly level). There’s nowhere near enough time to tick off all the wishlist items and still have the trailer ready for the next Overland Expo, so our focus has been on getting the trailer lighted, legal, and liveable… Rehitched
It all started with a CRACK! In a matter of seconds, an old man with bad eyesight and a late-90s Dodge Dakota had reduced the front end of my Discovery to shattered plastic. I’m still amazed that my fellow motorists find it hard to see a seven foot tall truck in broad daylight—no, this isn’t the first time someone has run into my truck in a parking lot. Despite proper parking lot speeds too slow to register on the speedometer, the insurance adjuster informed me there was $1,600 worth of crumpled cosmetic complexity in need of repair. I smiled and thanked him for stopping by as he handed over the freshly printed funding for the next upgrade. Stout aftermarket bumpers have always been in the build plan for this truck, but rarely do I come across an example of a good looking bumper on a Discovery. It’s a strange market, where “industry leaders” frequently disappear under mysterious or dubious circumstances, and new companies pop up out of nowhere. The rest of my week was spent researching prices, weights, strength, options, accessories, compatibilities, mounting points, crash performances, horror stories, and most importantly—sexiness when paired with the beautiful front end of a 2004 Discovery. Throughout all this craziness only two companies have stood the test of time and continually delivered proven solutions. Only one of these met my strict aesthetic requirements, so I set aside the biases left over from my Big Jeep days and put in the request for an ARB Bullbar. A few weeks later a box nearly the size of the Discovery arrived. The Install Installing the bumper is a relatively straight-forward task, and ARB does an excellent job writing out detailed instructions (something surprisingly few manufacturers have mastered). However, there are still a few pointers that were left out, so I will focus on those here. First up… Install your winch before you install the Bullbar! As might seem obvious, getting the winch into the Bullbar is much easier with the Bullbar sitting face-down on the ground. What isn’t obvious is the bottom-heavy attitude the bumper will have when maneuvering it onto the truck and finalizing the fitting with a winch hanging off the back, which makes it all much easier to accomplish. All of this can be done before tearing down your truck, that way you still have wheels if you need to make a trip to the hardware store (I did, twice).… ARB Bullbar
This was the first real outing for The Mule, our new-to-us generator-hauler-turned-expedition trailer. In the past we’ve been unsure about the compromises proposed by towing while on the trail. Despite being poorly equipped for the task our Mule has proved to us it will be well worth the effort. It has earned itself a real suspension, a matched set of tires & wheels, and a good kit of on-board support equipment for our longer treks. The little trailer made the entire trip without issue until 20 minutes outside Laughlin, where one of the el cheapo Wal-Mart tires exploded, probably from a cholla picked up in Lanfair Valley. Luckily, I was able to borrow a bigger trailer from a friend to go pick it up…… Proof of Concept Wrap-up
This began with an exhausting Craigslist search for what I thought would be the ideal long-term camping and canoe hauling platform: an old Datsun truck-bed trailer. The last long trip we took saw 500 pounds of water sitting in the back of the Disco with all the other gear, and even with the OME heavy duty springs it was not fun to drive. We ended up supplying water for most of the group during the first few days just to get the weight down. After finally tracking down a trailer that didn’t disappear before I could reach the seller, we made the 8-hour drive down to Tuscon only to realize that the Datsun’s bed would be way too big for what I had in mind (the constant question was “Would I have been ok towing this on the Navajo trip?”). Fortunately, we found this little… The Mule
I finally got the lift finished and the Disco back on the road this weekend (actually, it was the partially finished roof rack install that was holding things up). The OME 2-inch “Heavy Duty” lift kit consists of four Nitrocharger Sport shocks, two #779 front springs, and two #762 rear springs. I opted to go with the HD kit in anticipation of the added weight from a front winch/bumper and a large rear cargo drawer system that will be added in the near future. The best price (including quite reasonable shipping) I’ve found is from Lucky8, who also has an easy to follow installation video… Old Man Emu 2-inch Lift
I’ve been in the market for a roof rack for some time now, both as a mounting point for antennas/lights, and to carry bulky (but light) gear like sleeping bags and tarps. Since my needs are very small and I really like the view out of my sunroof, I really wanted a half-length rack. I also wanted it to sit nice and low, close to the roof’s surface. There are only a few off-the-shelf options available for a roof rack on a Discovery, and almost all of them are full racks. In fact, the only half-rack option I was able to find is by a company that has an awful reputation on the various Land Rover forums. Ultimately, I opted to go with a unit from Defender Rack and figure out some other way to handle mounting. Defender makes a model that is 4 feet wide (perfect on a Discovery) and can be had as short as 3 feet—I went with a 5-foot one-piece welded model. The build-quality is top-notch, but it could have used another trip through the powder coater as it is already showing (slight) signs of rust from this year’s rain… Defender 4′ x 5′ (half) Roof Rack
Columbia Rovers Aluminum Fuel Tank Skid offers 1/4-inch of fuel tank protection at only 18 pounds of added bulk. I’ll admit, I’m still a skeptic of aluminum when it comes to protecting a two-ton truck from rock damage, but recent conversations with other off-roading experts have convinced me to give it a try. I’ve opted to do this test with a fuel tank skid, since there is not one available from the factory, and it is not a place I would consider in the least bit vulerable (in 5 years of wheeling a Discovery, I have never hit the fuel tank)… Aluminum Fuel Tank Skid