Electrics, dash, and plan of action

Last weekend the weather was fantastic, mild and dry but due to family commitments and catching up on a very busy but profitless week of work, at the most there would only be half a Sunday afternoon allotted to the Land Rover.

Sunday afternoon came around and I thought I’d have enough time to quickly tidy up the wiring from the ignition and indicator stalk, connect the battery and have one last drive for a while. The MOT was due the next day and I still have the exhaust to replace so Dilly may be off the road for a couple of weeks.

I had grabbed a couple of hours last week, it was hardly worth posting my efforts but I did get to tidy the wiring that runs along the top of the lower dash to the heater, windscreen wiper and auxiliary panel. I am methodically replacing the bits of mains flex with wires of the correct colours and gauge. I ordered all the thin-wall cable I thought I needed from Vehicle Wiring Products. This time it was the brake warning light / test switch and the rear fog lamp switch that needed partially rewiring. Neither of these had worked. The fog light fault was a poorly crimped connection and the brake warning circuit had become unplugged from the shuttle valve.

Brake pressure warning light/switch and rear fog light switch
Brake pressure warning light/switch and rear fog light switch

Incidentally, when I removed the panel, I discovered why the hazards weren’t working – there are none! What I assumed to be a hazard switch was just a single-pole illuminated switch with no wires connected. I will address this after the MOT as having hazard lights seem all the rage these days.

A few shots of the interior since fitting the lower dash:

I tided the cables within split-convoluted conduit secured with these handy cable-tie mounts
I tided the cables within split-convoluted conduit secured with these handy cable-tie mounts
Both these switches now work!
Both these switches now work!
I added protection to these cables where they pass into the dash
I added protection to these cables where they pass into the dash

So, I refitted the steering wheel and the shroud (can’t find pictures at the moment) and reconnected the battery. All electrics tested perfectly, so time to start her up and have that little run out and maybe hunt for chestnuts at Quarles before dark….

No way, it wouldn’t start. Not even a click from the solenoid, nothing so I immediately wondered what I’d done wrong.

Off came the shroud, out came the multimeter, all looked OK. More by luck than judgement I checked the ignition terminal first and pulled off the White/Red wire from the ignition switch. I couldn’t think whether I should see battery or earth on this cable, but there was nothing so I reached down to the solenoid and blindly wriggled the other end, it came off in my hand. I tightened up the spade, reconnected and she started.

It was too late to go for that last drive now so I thought I’d properly investigate the atrocious wiring on this vehicle. I knew it was bad but I’d had my head in the sand for too long.

My previous two Land Rovers were ex-military, a 109, then a lightweight. I do believe that these were a far better buy in lots of ways because whilst under the care of the MOD they were properly maintained and repaired with genuine parts almost regardless of cost. The electrics on those corresponded to the diagrams and there were no forgotten ‘get-you-home’ repairs. This vehicle is full of them. Some of the faults were undoubtedly introduced during the tdi conversion, mostly by poor crimping technique, others by wear and tear.

Solenoid connections

Access to the starter is extremely difficult due to the exhaust and turbo being in the way. I managed to get a picture of it and it isn’t pretty:

This needs sorting!
This needs sorting!

The whole assembly needs cleaning, the cable to the battery is frayed. The ignition cable has been lengthened with some blue mains flex and a non-insulated crimp is used, I will have to drop the exhaust to gain access to this.

This connection just fell apart as soon as I picked it up.
This connection just fell apart as soon as I picked it up.

The picture above shows the cable that goes from the solenoid to the fusebox, it powers the dash, the lights, heater, everything really. I imagine these wires would have been lengthened during the engine conversion. The crimp looks as though it was made with someone’s teeth! I must admit that I used to have trouble getting a decent crimp, but it doesn’t take much effort to test. I bought a ratchet crimping tool a while back and if used with high quality crimps I have a close to 100% success rate now.

Alternator connection

No wonder the charge light comes on!
No wonder the charge light comes on!

A similar crimping technique has been used on this alternator connection. The heavy brown cable to the left is supposed to be connected to the centre terminal on the alternator. I touched it and it pinged out of the crimp connector. This is how fires start, the loss of this conductor means that the charging current is now handled by the thinner red wire.

The plan…

Well, it has started with a very expensive order from Vehicle Wiring Products. It’s pointless even thinking about the MOT when I can’t be confident of getting to the testing station! I’m lucky to have made it to my gigs I think.

  • Fit proper alternator plug
  • Remove and clean starter motor
  • Fit positive heavy duty busbar under the passenger seat, next to the battery and in the dry
  • Replace cable from solenoid to battery
  • Remove all other cables from the main solenoid post and move the connection to the busbar.
  • Replace all ignition / charging cables with uprated gauge, in one length and in the correct colours
  • Allow for the future addition of an extra fusebox under the seat for lights etc (these vehicles have no fuse whatsoever in the lights and some other circuits!)
  • Route cables away from their current runs (around the exhaust manifold!) I am going to run these cables in conduit internally along the upper dash so that they exit into the engine bay on the side that they terminate. Non-standard I know, but safer, less likely to be damaged, and well away from the steering and throttle linkages that they currently interfere with. Also it will help in the future when I sort out the mass of other frayed cables on the driver’s side.

That’s not all…

So, I used the last of the light to drop the exhaust, and that’s when I spotted another problem. What a day. I will detail this problem in a later post, but radical changes are afoot and Dilly will likely be off the road for some time 😦

Narrow gauge steam railway interlude

On the Saturday we took our granddaughter for a ride on the Wells Walsingham Railway, approx 5 miles of 10¼” gauge track laid in the early 1980s along the old Great Eastern track bed from Wells to Walsingham. This weekend was the ‘Spooky Express’ with various ghostly goings-on along the line for Halloween, very well done it was too. One of my earliest memories is travelling along this line from Fakenham to Wells with my mother to visit my Grandfather each Wednesday in the early 1960s. I think the line closed before I started school so it’s getting on for 50 years ago. There are no Halloween memories from my childhood, is this is a new thing?

We will be back for another ride, very soon, it was a marvellous day out, very reasonably priced, right on our doorstep yet ignored until now. The unseasonably warm weather and the fantastic staff helped make a perfect day.

Passing beneath the road just through Warham, complete with Halloween ghost
Passing beneath the road just through Warham, complete with Halloween ghost


  1. Great post! Love the look of the lower dash and switch panel in body colour. We had similar issues with bodged wiring in Annie a year or so ago which resulted in me stripping out the dash and having to crimp new connectors on virtually all the wires along with fitting new switches etc. I hate wiring but as you say, testing for a decent crimp is easy enough. I too bought a lovely ratchet crimping tool. Touch wood we’ve not had any further electrical issues in the 18 months since doing all that work.

    Our kids love trains, especially steam engines. We have a nice local preserved branch line with working steam engine that we have visited a few times now. It does santa specials in December. These special events are a great way to attract the visitors in to get some funding.


    • Thanks Ian, I really should have addressed this wiring in the summer, it’s so easy to get distracted, but there again the seat-box and dash jobs needed doing to facilitate the wiring. I just hope I can get her back on the road soon, there’s nothing worse than having a grounded Land Rover during the winter when they’re at their most useful.

      I’m hoping we can borrow our granddaughter for the Santa Special here, she loves steam trains too and there are a couple more beautiful railways here in North Norfolk so keeping my fingers crossed.


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