Don’t swap the engine; just get rid of the Freelander

Wednesday June 13 2018

The overheating could be something else totally. Also consider clogged injectors. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

The overheating could be something else totally. Also consider clogged injectors. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BARAZA JM
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Hi Baraza,

After plenty of disappointments and having pulled out most of my hair, I’ve decided to drop the failed KV6 engine of my 2001 Freelander 2.5 V6 and pop in a Toyota 4-cylinder 7A-T20C.

I have heard testimonies about a few Freelanders having had this swap and running fine, most having swapped the entire drive train to Toyota (front-wheel drive only). I prefer to retain the Tiptronic shift and the all-wheel drive, so I wish to retain the original JATCO JF506E gearbox. So I plan to swap only the engine, harness and ECU. However, I have a few concerns: Is it possible, and how complex is it to marry the two? Are the circuitry compatible? Is this likely to run efficiently and last? Given that the stock KV6 has about 177 hp at 6250 RPM while the 7A is rated 116 hp at 5800 rpm, how will the significant reduction in power affect performance?

Frank

Hi Frank,

I once narrated how the first generation Freelander was a lesson in how not to do car manufacturing, what with the raft of problems it left the factory with (136 known faults, according to classified internal documents), some of which might have included the gearbox.

Now, unlike you, I’m notoriously difficult to impress and as such, I too have heard of Toyota engine swaps being done into Freelander shells - up to and including but not limited to the 7A and 3S engines; just not with the roaring success you insinuate.

I’ve decided to drop the failed KV6 engine of my 2001 Freelander 2.5 V6 and pop in a Toyota 4-cylinder 7A-T20C. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

I’ve decided to drop the failed KV6 engine of my 2001 Freelander 2.5 V6 and pop in a Toyota 4-cylinder 7A-T20C. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

I have also visited the Land Rover forum and seen that you posted this exact same question on March 28 this year. You didn’t think I’d be that thorough, did you? :-) You do have a legitimate concern about the engine and gearbox working well together, and this comes down to the harness and ECU that you plan to swap alongside the engine.

To complicate matters further is the fact that you are changing from a 177hp V6 Rover engine which makes peak power at 6250rpm to a 116hp 4-cylinder Toyota engine which has seen its best work before 6000rpm.

This is starting to sound like a tuning affair and you might  end up doing the R&D work that the Rover Group should have done before releasing this joke of a car, with its 136 known factory faults.

To avoid the headache of developing the powertrain of a vehicle that should perhaps never have seen the light of day, you might need to go the whole distance: change everything from the engine up to the point right before the diffs: engine, gearbox, clutch, ECU, harness, TCM and speedometer/odometer reading cables. You might even need to change the diffs to gear down a little and compensate for the substantial drop in power you will eventually have to endure with the smaller Toyota engine. Whether or not it runs efficiently and lasts will depend on how much money and effort is thrown into the project, and this brings us to our conclusion:

Get rid of the damn car. Yours does not sound like a passionate endeavour; it is more like you simply want a Freelander that works, and your current one clearly doesn’t.

Make it somebody else’s headache because going the swap route is worse than the kind of jackpot-seeking gambling that involves teams you’ve never heard of and in which you throw all your money hoping for the best.

The potential for disaster is ominously incipient.

Vibration, lack of power and overheating point to lack of oil

Dear Baraza,

Thank you for the good work you are doing.

However, I was pretty miffed the other day when you said that the Nissan Dualis is driven only by women. Well mine is often driven by my wife but I own it. I guess it is the same with most of those you see around. Anyway, I need your help here.

My car, a 2007 model, has been quite trouble-free since I fished it from the Japanese market in 2014. Two weeks ago, I took it for routine service - just a change of oil and filter, and cleaning air filter, etc.

Then that evening I started to feel the car getting heavy. It was vibrating when I pressed on the accelerator, and fairly noiseless when I got my foot off the pedal. It is also losing power, as well as overheating.

I thought they had put too much oil so I returned it to the guys who serviced it and they drained some oil, but still there was no change. The vehicle can barely climb a hill. 

What has happened to this car that I love some much? Kindly wipe the tears from my eyes. I would like to hear from you before I take it to my mechanic.

Anthony Nderitu

 

 

Hello Nderitu,

About the Dualis: I went further and said “check the statistacks” didn’t I? You have then gone even further by proving me more right: it’s your wife who drives the car, irrespective of who owns it. Skrrrah! Man’s international, fam!

Now, I have no idea what kind of service they did on your car but they clearly did you wrong. It actually sounds like they didn’t put in enough oil and your car is giving the last agonising cries as it thrashes about on the throes of death. Vibration, lack of power and overheating are all symptoms of lack of oil and I don’t want to imagine this is the case because it might be too late and you need a new engine.

However, before you go down this depressing path, consider the case of a wiring problem for the power loss and vibration. The overheating could be something else totally. Also consider clogged injectors. Methinks that someone fiddled with components that had nothing to do with the service protocols and my biggest suspicion is wiring, since it might affect the spark plug leads (power loss and vibration) and the water pump and/or electric fans.

 

 

Let's talk understeer, oversteer and ground clearance

Hi JM,

Thanks for your well elucidated and articulate poetry on cars – very informative and, indeed, very helpful. Much appreciated.

I would wish to get your insights on these three cars in relation to road handling, maintenance and fuel consumption: Toyota Premio 1.8 (2005-2007models), Subaru legacy AWD 2.0 (2005-2007 models) and Toyota Mark II JZX 110 2.0 35th Anniversary (2003) model.

Which one would be a good second-hand buy for someone not in a hurry to resell and for use in Nairobi and a few trips upcountry in your neighbourhood? 

Secondly, is the cylinder head gasket failure still a problem with the Subaru H engines (boxer) and does changing tyres have any implications on AWD functional dynamics? 

Finally, what are the best methods to raise ground clearance without insurance implications?

Douglas 

 

Hello Douglas,

Interesting question, this. Comparing the handling of three unique front-engine drivetrain layouts.

The Premio is FWD and is, therefore, pegged to understeer; and it will understeer everywhere, especially on wet roads and with skinny tyres, which is what it is specced with anyway.

The odd thing is, despite its propensity for oversteer, the Mark II will not oversteer as easily as the Premio understeers, even when on skinny tyres. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

The odd thing is, despite its propensity for oversteer, the Mark II will not oversteer as easily as the Premio understeers, even when on skinny tyres. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Understeer is the safest form of loss control because it is very easy to cure in underpowered cars like the Premio: simply lift off - unlike the understeer in, say, a Porsche, which calls for more technical driving skills to cure. Therefore, understeer is the mainstay of boring cars that enthusiasts care little about.

The Mark II is RWD and might, therefore, have a tendency to oversteer. This is why it is a popular model for drifting, a form of driving where one deliberately oversteers for the sake of style points. The odd thing is, despite its propensity for oversteer, the Mark II will not oversteer as easily as the Premio understeers, even when on skinny tyres.

It boils down to available power and driving style: the Mark II will oversteer if you deliberately set it to, and if you do so on public roads, you should not have a driving licence. What the Mark II does more often is break traction on the inside rear tyre exiting a junction under a weighty hoof, which is wasteful and a bit noisy.

It is also slightly larger than the Premio and the Legacy, which means one should expect slightly overdamped and delayed responses when you start chucking it about. It might  also be,  say, maybe 5 per cent harder to park due to its extra dimensions, but that is neither here nor there.

The Subaru is AWD and lies in between the two above. It leans towards the Premio in that it will understeer when pushed, but it also leans towards the Mark II in that it will take a lot of uncouth manoeuvres before it starts to scrub wide. Its AWD stability is renowned in the motor industry, and of the three, it has the highest degree of directional stability.

It won’t oversteer, though, unless, perhaps, you yank the handbrake or induce drifting using methods such as the Scandinavian flick, but these will apply to any car out there, Premio included.

I don’t know what your insurance company’s feelings on suspension modifications are, so for now perhaps you want to use slightly bigger tyres and get rid of any body kits you might have.

You could install taller springs and shocks but at least be subtle about it, don’t make your car look like mine, where one can see right through the suspension gubbins above the tyres, and out the other side.

 

Most people buy cars according to their needs, not for prestige

Hi Baraza,

I am a diehard fan of your articles although I’m little bit stuck on decision-making.

I come from a family where you are defined by the car you are driving. I love that since it has made all my older siblings and extended family go the extra mile.

I would love to get a German machine and I am torn between BMW X6 and Mercedes. I can comfortably afford any of the machines but I am confused since, if it’s a Merc, I am into a classic or vintage one. We went to shags (Kisumu) using my dad’s KAD­  *** 200E Merc and it was amazing, as always. We raced a Discovery 3 and from Nakuru, and the old man driving the Land Rover was quite amazed. The speed and comfort made me love the Merc even more, though I would like to get a BMW, despite having not used or boarded one. I am confused on picking one of the two, Merc and BMW. I hate Mercs since 80 per cent of family have  one, thus I have at least used various class of Mercedes. My price range is Sh0-15million for a good German machine to cruise in.

 

Hi Tracy,

Yours are problems I cannot identify with. Where I come from, we buy cars according to our needs and to Hades with whatever my siblings think of a dark, lengthy wagon with a tailpipe the size of a toilet bowl. I am yet to reach the tax bracket where one buys a car to sway public opinion about their economic status, which is what that one-upmanship game you and your family play is about.

That being said, don’t waste 10-15m on an old Mercedes unless it is something along the lines of a 300SLR Gullwing, in which case don’t go to “shags” with it. That is just foolish. Now that you say 80 per cent of your family owns Mercedes cars and you want to stand out, then that kind of makes the BMW X6 an obvious choice.

But is it?

There are two factors at play here, first is the BMW X6 is a very polarising vehicle. Those who like it really love it; those who don’t want to send it to outer space in the hope it never comes back.

If I were to take the judgmental route you all seem to walk down in your well-off homestead, it would not be a kind outlook I would have on X6 owners. Says something about their sense of taste and how easily impressed they are by tacky objects. Class is restrained, class is discretionary, class is about maturity.

There is nothing restrained, discretionary or mature about an X6’s looks. What if your family arrives at the same conclusion? That would be a total waste of Sh10-15 million, wouldn’t it?

Second factor is rooted in something I like to call implied brand equity. Mercedes-Benz runs the show when it comes to gravitas and status-symbolism – no contest. From when the Saxon farmers first slapped a three-pointed star onto an ox-cart and swayed the opinions (and loins) of all the pigtailed blonde milkmaids, Mercedes-Benz has been the definitive brand as far as making a point goes.

People whose ancestors made it (where “it” is so much money it hasn’t run out several generations later) ride in an S Class. People who made it (where “it” is so much money they evade taxes by registering their private jets in foreign countries without extradition laws) ride around in a Gelandewagen with an AMG badge, using only 3  per cent of its capability in the process.

People who dream of making it one day and want to believe they are on the right path get a C Class. Mercedes is unbeatable in the status game, which explains why BMW prefers to focus on their motorsport history, and which also explains why 80 per cent  of your family has Mercs. Perhaps you might want to go with flow.

Add another 3 million to your budget and get a GLS from the local Mercedes outlet. It is a rather handsomely imposing (or imposingly handsome) vehicle but more importantly: nothing shouts “You look bankrupt in your V8 S Class!!” as loudly as a 221-inch SUV with a giant 3-pointed star in the grille.