Friday, July 20, 2012

Land Rover Outrigger Repair, Step by Step (Series Rovers only)

I'm no Land Rover expert, but I've worked on a lot of cars and farm equipment, and this selection of photos seems like a pretty good step by step demonstration of the technique for replacing a rusted series Land Rover outrigger. I was looking for something like this myself, but couldn't find anything, and thus decided to make it. There were some useful tips to be found by gleaning the Land Rover chat rooms, some of which are represented here, but it wasn't all in one place. Now it is, and has become surprisingly popular, my most-read blog post in seven years of blogging about farming and science. Enjoy.

Make a comment if you have anything useful to add. (Comments are moderated.)

This particular vehicle is a 1971 Series 11A SWB (88-inch). If you arrived here after a Google search seeking how to do the repair, and are interested in how I acquired this particular car, enter "Land Rover" in the Google Blogger search engine, or click here. All the posts I have wherein "Land Rover" is mentioned will automatically be listed, more than you would ever want to read.

But the short version is, many years ago, when a young sprog, I was lucky enough to be a member of the famed Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service and, accordingly, rode in and drove Land Rovers on training and operations in the mountain and moorland areas of the British Isles. My RAFMRS mates and I are mostly in touch through FaceBook and through our exservice organization and journal, and between us we have more Land Rover stories than you can shake a stick at.

Once middle-aged, and financially able to occasionally indulge myself (only occasionally -- talk to my wife!), I realized I need a Rover, not only to make me happy, but for our farm and for search and rescue work, which I still do a good deal of here in the great and still very wild State o' Maine. So this old Rover actually gets used for all the purposes for which it was designed. I believe it outperforms many much newer vehicles in Maine's snow and mud. And, since I don't intend to ever buy another truck in my life, it will have to keep running for a few years yet.

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.

The first shot (above) is of the old rusty outrigger. The slot was cut to allow me access to clean out the mouse nests and rust on the inside, to see if it was repairable. I decided not, and ordered the replacement units which came very quickly, only two business days, from Atlantic British. As you can see from the second shot, Atlantic British are a BritPart outlet, but that's not all they stock, thankfully. (In the yUKe we say, "BritPart-shit-part.") The replacement outriggers are not one of the really bad BritPart products.

You start by removing the footplate, and then cut off all of the old outrigger and detach it from the outer end of the forward angle bracket using a cutting disc on a small hand-held grinder. Make sure to cut the angle bracket via its welds to the old outrigger, leaving enough of the bracket in place to weld to the new outrigger. Remove as well the long bolt that holds the outside of the outrigger to the galvanized sill channel. (At this point you'll wonder why Land Rover galvanized relatively inessential parts like the sill channel, and made the body out of aluminum, but didn't galvanize the frame. Go figure.) Be sure not to cut into the frame at this stage. You may need to cut out some rot later.

If you don't own a small angle grinder, you might manage by using a stick welder to burn the cuts and a sandpaper attachment on a drill to clean up the frame, but at some risk of a messier finish, and much longer to do the job. (This might be your time to buy an angle grinder.)

The bolt will most likely be stuck solid as a result of bimetalic (galvanic) corrosion. If you cut off the head (with a sawzall or similar), removing as few millimeters of the bolt guide as possible, you may then use the nut and some spare half-inch washers as a puller to remove the bolt. Take the nut off, put some washers on, and then put the nut back on and tighten it. Without a head, the bolt will be pulled out of its placement. You'll need a strong wrench (spanner) and cheater bar. It of course helps if you've sprayed the shit out of everything with penetrating oil and waited an hour or more. If you were deeper into your car and had already taken the bulkhead off, you might more easily do the same job by simply removing the lower door post and taking the assembly to a hydraulic press. If you had to cut them, buy new (half-inch by seven inch) frame bolts right away. You'll need them later. Be sure to get galvanized ones.

The inside of the outrigger may have corroded through the frame. This area needs to be tidied up with the grinder, and any debris inside the frame removed. (In my case there was a big old mouse nest, which was actually a relief, because that meant it was all relatively dry, although it was also disgusting to remove and made me gag.) If the rot here is more extreme than this, if it has traveled around more than one side of the rectangular section frame, you may need to worry about holding the frame straight while welding patches. You don't want your truck to start bending under it's own weight. Land Rovers will actually do this, if maltreated. It helps that the transmission is right behind, acting as a kind of built-in splint. Just be sure to do only one side of the truck at a time and in most cases you should be fine. If it's really bad, you'll need to examine the rest of the frame to see if it can be saved at all.

The BritPart replacement outrigger has a wide flange to take care of this kind of damage, but to my mind the metal is not thick enough, so you need a rectangular patch of thicker metal. I used 1/8 steel from an old American-style household oil tank. I have lots of this material left over from making a smoker out of the oil tank earlier in the year. Make this patch 5 and 7/8 inches tall to allow it to be welded to the edge of the six-inch tall frame, which edge is itself a weld and thus thicker, stronger metal. Weld this patch all the way around, but use a lower setting for the sides than for the top and the bottom. Sixty amps is fine, slow, but gets the job done without burning gratuitous holes in your frame. Here's the cleaned-up frame on my truck, ready for repair.

Here's what a completed patch should look like. In my case a patch was required on the passenger side but not the driver's side. Don't cover the frame holes if you can help it. These are useful for spraying corrosion inhibitor inside the frame.


Once the patch is in place, or not, you need to grind it level and then you're ready for the new outrigger. Consult the Hayne's manual or some other reference to determine the exact placement relative to other areas on the frame on your particular truck. In the case of the passenger side, using some arithmetic, I worked out that the leading edge of the new outrigger was required to be 12.5 inches ahead of the trailing edge of the forward gas tank outrigger. If yours is a late Series II 88, this is the correct measurement. If it's a different model, look it up.

Use a large c-clamp to hold the new outrigger in place while you weld. You can snug up the c-clamp finger-tight and use a mallet to gently tap it into the perfect final position. If your bulkhead has been weakened by rust, it may have sagged as a result of the rusty outrigger, and you'll need to use a floor jack below the sill channel, and possibly a bottle jack located between the frame and the sill channel, to square up the outrigger and bulkhead and sill channel so the end of the outrigger is properly positioned, and so the seven-inch bolt is easily inserted. The frame is your best reference point, assuming it remains square.

I learned how to make this adjustment the hard way, by not making it the first time I did this, and then having to force the bolt home. A small carpenter's square might help here. Once you have the outrigger in the correct position, and the bolt in place, weld the flange to the frame, all the way around. Finally, weld the end of the angle bracket back into place.

I ignored the extra width added by the frame patch, and so my Rover is now fully 1/8 inch wider than it was before. (Big deal!) It would be 1/4 inch wider if I'd needed two frame patches. If you're picky or a perfectionist, there are alternatives to this forced re-sizing: You could work harder to make a flush frame patch, or you could just use the replacement outrigger without a patch. Both would leave your Rover at its original dimensions, but the repair would be weaker.

Here's the finished product, a brand new outrigger and reinforced frame where before there was a rusty mess. Now is the time to use a wire wheel to clean up the welds and then spray the heck out of everything with rust-proof primer and then rubberized underseal.

Again, some kind of corrosion inhibitor inside the frame is a good idea. I've even heard of guys parking the car on a steep hill facing down and filling the frame with oil via the drain holes on the rear crossmember, but I'm going to spray some product inside using a pneumatic sprayer and a long hose.

Learn. Fix. Drive. Enjoy.


  1. Hi,
    I am currently replacing both bulkhead outriggers with new ones. The existing outriggers were not originals, they were only angles welded to the chassis. Did remove and repair every thing but would like to get the exact distance to where I should install the new ones on the frame. Looking everywhere on the web can't find anything? As part of a restoration, the bulkhead is removed and want to make sure everything will align.
    Can you help?


  2. I found somewhere the original frame specifications including distances to and from known points. I remember, for instance, that the trailing edge of the right hand side outrigger had to something like be 12.5 inches ahead of front of the gas tank outrigger. You had to do some arithmetic to get some of theses distances.

    I think they are actually in the Haynes manual.

    OK. I checked. If you google "series land rover frame dimensions" a large number of image files of the same specs document come up.,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=St17UMGFBZDQ9ATfq4DgDA

  3. Hi Mick,

    I got the Haynes Restoration manual, they were explaining the procedures but did not offers the dimensions. Thanks for your pointers, I was searching on GoogIe but had the wrong keywords... got a great diagram from this link (looks like the LR service manual) :

    Bulkhead restoration is quite the project for the DIY!

    Thanks again!


  4. It is a bit of a project, but not really more complicated than the kind of repair we used to do as kids on Minis and other British Leyland crap. (With a cheap stick welder on the side of the street in towns in northern England.)

    Those were the days. Welding in the rain on the side of the street. "When I were a lad..."


  5. Did you have any issues lining them up? I am currently doing this on series 3, however, mine sits 1cm too low when flush to the chassis, but lifting it to the correct height, it sits away at the top of the outrigger and chassis, and I don't know if I need to chop anything to make it fit, it looks as if the sill needs chopping, did you have to do anything like that?

  6. did you have any issues lining them up? I am currently doing this to my series 3, however when flush to the chassis, it sits 1cm too low, and looks as if the sill needs trimming to fit, but I would have thought it just sits where the original was. please help if you can.

  7. Yes, I did. It seems that if the bulkhead (the firewall at the rear of the engine) is weak, then the sides of the vehicle may sag, setting the sill low. The frames can bend too, exacerbating the problem. I saw a picture of a Rover with a bent frame. They bend easily right there if the rot is allowed to spread into the frame from the front outriggers.

    On mine I used a small "bottle jack" as a hydraulic press to align the end of the outrigger with the outside frame bolt after the new outrigger was welded in place. With this jack between the frame and the sill (needed wood blocks to span the gap) and a one tone trolley or floor jack under that sill, I was able to line the bolt hole up nicely, and the bolt slid into place.

  8. Update: summer 2013: I'm pleased and flattered that so many folks have found this post useful. For all you Land Rover fans out there, here's a link to a Facebook slideshow of the full resto job, last summer.


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