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Rover Vitesse, Up In The Air – Part 2

Things with Tess haven’t been going quite to plan, so I took a couple of days off, but here we go again.

After pulling down the front struts to replace the shocks, the next part of the game was to strip out the rear and replace the shocks and springs there. I also needed to get some oil into the now clean but empty transmission.

That was the first thing I wanted to do, fill the trans. Now I did mention in the previous post that I had a special mixture of oil to go in the trans, and here it is.

Another variation of a Ramon recommended solution for the gearbox. He swears by a mixture of  “5W40 “Castrol RS” ” and a dose of Molyslip. Now, neither the Castrol RS oil (which I believe has been superseded anyway) nor the Molyslip is available locally, so I substituted for the closest I could get. The Shell fully synthetic oil seems to be decent stuff, was available in 1L bottles, and cheap. The Nulon Smooth Shift is an additive that is meant to improve shifting. This seems to be very similar to the Molyslip additive, and should do nicely as a substitute.

I was originally going to use some Redline MTL, but my local BNT was out of stock. I couldn’t be bothered ordering it in, so decided to try this combo instead. Hell, if it doesn’t work to plan, it can’t be worse than no oil, and I’ll just drain it and refill with MTL later.

Filling the trans was the same as filling it with the flushing solution, except I squeezed the tube of the Nulon additive in first, and then pumped in the oil. Of course, before I did this I popped the drain plug back in with a new fibre washer. The washers I used come in a pack, from Mitre10, and were cheap as chips.

Much better than the over re-used and over crushed washer on the fill plug (which was loose and leaking originally), and the remains of the washer on the drain plug, which had turned to mush and stuck to the transmission. Needed a scraper to remove the remains of that one.

The verdict so far? Well, I haven’t driven the car obviously, but I ran it through the gears today. At idle it’s already much quieter, although the bearing whine is still just audible but it doesn’t sound like a bag of bolts now. All the gears went in slickly, but the real test will be how it drives on the road after about 200km or so when the oil has broken in. Its going to go either way, it’ll be an improvement on no oil, or I have just made it so much worse and will need to rebuild my spare gearbox for transplant. That’d be my luck.

Moving back the main event, the suspension. This is what’s currently in the rear, some lovely Monroe air shocks. Well over their use by date, don’t seem to hold air and do NOTHING that resembles damping. Playing with them, I suspect the air in them does all the damping, so without any air in them they just bottom out. Guess this explains why they recommend something like 15PSI in them at minimum. One of them also rattles when shaken…

It’s a fairly tidy install with the air hose run through a tiny little hole the perfect size for the hose. The springs are a bit random. They are lowered, and have a sticker on them with “PROKIT” on it, but other than that no obvious markings.

The bump stops have seen better days… years ago. You can see above, in the middle of the spring mount, a nice clean patch. That’s where the metal bolt that should be the bump stop, has been hitting it.

No bloody wonder it feels like the car is being rear ended when going over bumps in the rear. Ouch.

Now in theory the rear suspension should the one of the easiest things to do on a car like this, with a solid live axle. The shocks are just bolted top and bottom, and the spring is held in place by a clamp on the bottom, and hopes and dreams at the top (well, they kinda freely rattle around in the tower but are stopped from dropping out by the shock limiting the axles downwards travel).

First up was to find the top of the shock. Drop the rear seat, and then behind the carpet will be the top of the shock. I also removed the bolsters, because it’s easy on my cars and I didn’t know what I was looking for (and thought I had to remove them; you don’t, but the extra room is good).

With those located on both sides, all that was left to do was to stick the jack under the axle to take the weight

Rattle gun off the nut, and lower the axle down to drop the shock out of the body

The bottom of the shock had a locking nut setup with two nuts. Whizz them off, and the shock just freely pulls out. You can see the state of the bushes too; they are stuffed. Interesting to note there was nothing locating these shock in place in the (much larger) holes, other than friction and the compression of the bushes.

Old shock vs new shock. Here you can see the length difference, which I will go into shortly.

With the shock removed, if you lower the axle down further the top of the spring comes free, and the spring is then only retained in place by the single clamp on the bottom mount. This is held in with a 10mm nut/bolt setup. Undo that, remove the clamp and out comes the spring.

New spring is a bit longer, but has more coils.

With the spring removed you can also remove the top cone that has the bump stop mounted to it, and replace the bump stop. Obviously mine was missing something previously…

That’s better

Pop that on the top of the new spring, and slip the new spring in place. Here starts the first of many issues I have with the Rimmers kit. If you refer back to the photo comparing the two springs, you can just make out that the overall width of the new spring is narrower than the old spring. It’s not by much, but its enough that when you try to get it to sit nicely on the lower spring perch, it doesn’t. It’s a real fight to get it to sit nicely, and it has a habit of pulling free from the clamp.

The problem gets worse when you fit the shocks that come with the kit…. but more on that soon. To fit said shocks, first you need to fit the new bushes. These are a much better design than the ones I removed, so obviously Rover had some idea of what they were doing here. The new bush goes through the hole so that it has rubber on each sides of the hole. The two washers are to squish the rubber against a metal sleeve on the inside of the bush.

This is the lower bush in place, with the metal sleeve inside. The sleeve is only half the length of the bush. This setup locates the shock centrally in the holes.

Just for reference, here is an awesomely drawn diagram from one of the Rover workshop manuals.

I love exploded diagrams. This is what things look like inside my head.

Getting the bushes in is a pain. LOTS of silicone spray helps, but in the end it just takes lots of force and some twisting to get them in place.

Tightening up the top nut takes some creativity as I didn’t have a spanner small enough for the flat on the top of the shock, to stop the shaft spinning as you turn the nut. I gently used some vice grips on the shaft and a ratcheting spanner on the nut to tighten it up. You can see some squidge in the second photo; you need to tighten the nut until it squashes the rubber and the nut starts to tighten down on the sleeve.

So with the shock installed I noticed one of the most annoying issues with the Rimmers kit. The shocks are too long, and allow the rear springs to drop down too low. For me this caused binding of the cone on top of the spring, which would pull the bottom of the spring out of the retainer clamp. If the shocks were shorter this wouldn’t be an issue. I could also have issues come WOF time if the springs fail to be captive. I will have to see how I go on that one.

I was a bit pissed off by then but decided to do the other side too, just in case there was an issue with that side of my car.

The bump stop was even worse on this side, it had been hit so hard it had dented the cone inwards!

You can see the impact point on the spring perch

Low springs plus stuffed shocks = pain.

The new bump stop pulled the dent out as I tightened it, but the issues I had on the right side were also the same on the left. It’s the kit that’s at fault, not the car. You can just make out the grey zip tie that is stopping the spring from pulling out of the retainer.

After this I was pretty pissed off and feeling a bit dark about the whole job, so I took a day or two off from working on the car.

Today I cracked back into it, and got stuck into reassembling the front struts. Autolign supplied some generic bump stops that fit well (to suit the 22mm shaft); thanks to one of my Facebook followers for messaging me about that.

Reassembly of the struts isn’t rocket science, it’s just the reverse of disassembly. Compress the spring as much as possible, fit it, fit the boot, then the spring seat and top mount. Whack the nut in and tighten it up. Oh, another thing, the flash new nuts that came with the new front struts didn’t actually fit, they are too small, so I had to reuse the old center nuts.

I thought fitting the struts back into the car would be hard, as completely assembled they are actually pretty heavy, especially with the new springs, but it went smoothly and easily. I’m a fiercely independent person in the garage, so I managed it all myself. Jack under the strut, and whilst operating the jack with one hand, maneuver and align the strut with the other hand. Align the studs with the hole, raise it up and pop the nuts on. Done. I did need to do some extra jiggling to get the swaybar back into place, but nothing major. Jacks are such a handy third hand.

It was good to finally see the car looking more like a car again. Since the struts were in, I took the chance to swap over the new tie rod ends, to get rid of the worn out haggard looking ones on the car.

This is the part number for future reference.

Fits like a glove and looks so much better. Be interesting to see if I can tell any difference in the steering. They are a lot stiffer than the old ones.

The last thing I did today was to remove the other front caliper for repainting.

As you can see they don’t look flash at all. The black paint is covering many years of other colours, from red to white (primer?) and even our familiar friend, yellow.

The pads look to have been changed fairly recently as they have good meat on them, but the retaining pins and shims have seen better days. I’ll get some new ones in my next Rimmers order and swap them over in the future.

Compared to Effies brakes, these are ugly.

Be interesting to see if the pads have any part numbers on them, as they are different to the ones in Effie. Would be good to know more options.

That’s where we are. I’ll need to find some time to get to the brake specialists in town to have the broken pipe remade, and I’ll repaint the calipers. Once that’s done, I’ll drop her down and see how I feel about the new ride height. Many nerves about that. I hope like hell it was worth it.

Parts Used

GSA74273 – Front Strut Insert WoodHead x2
GRS143UR – Front Spring Uprated Yellow 30mm x2
CRC1276 – Front Bump Stop Kit
RO1049 – Rear Standard Suspension Kit Vitesse (Incl. Springs and Shocks)
CRC1121 – Bump Stop Rear x2
CRC1136K – Rear Spring Retaining Kit
GSJ149 – Track Rod End x2

Please note these parts are specific to my car and may vary. Please check before ordering.

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