Rover Tech: Discovery 1 GM Fuel Pump Swap

NB: This is an incomplete post from December 2016 on the subject of replacing the core of fuel pumps for 1980s-90s Land Rovers. I never finished it, but I’m publishing it in March 2018 for the benefit of a friend in need of the information. I’ll get to it eventually.

If there’s one thing I like doing with my truck, it’s making it more field servicable. The great thing about 90s-era Land Rovers is that they actually have a lot of parts crossover with other European, and even American, cars. One of the classic instances of this is swapping a fuel pump from a General Motors vehicle into a Discovery 1 or Range Rover Classic.

I did this on the side of the road in Upstate New York back in June 2016, but it seems like my half-assed trail fix backfired, as now in a deep and dark December, I find my truck again stranded, this time in my driveway.

Since there’s a lot of forum posts about how to fix this, but no really thorough explanation for those of us who are both visual and anal-retentive, I’ve written this heavily-illustrated article to help you, oh gentle reader, too get your Land Rover on the road.

This is a somewhat simple fix, all in. You can cobble it together, as I did, and do fine for a while. But in the heat of the moment on a warm summer’s day in a gas station forecourt, I missed several steps, and there’s some things I wish I’d done differently.

The details henceforth apply to a 1994 Discovery 1 with a North American-spec 3.9 litre Rover V8. They “should” cross over to V8 Range Rover Classics after 1989, and continue to cover all Discovery 1 models through the run-out year of 1999. However, I make no guarantees. Later Discovery 1 trucks had some variations in their fuel systems, most notably the addition of AEL (Advanced Evaporation Loss) systems in the 1997 model year, and the 4.0 litre GEMS engine may have some different requirements to the earlier 14CUX ignition system. As I’ve only ever owned 14CUX trucks, I’m not sure there. There’s a pretty good chance that these instructions largely or totally apply to these other applications, but I make no guarantees, and if you blow up your truck using these instructions, that’s on you.

Right, onward.

When I say "remove everything from the back," this is how not-fun that is to do on a roadtrip.
When I say “remove everything from the back,” this is how not-fun that is to do on a roadtrip.

The fuel pump is located in the fuel tank, and can be accessed through a hatch in the rear floor on all Discovery 1s and Range Rover Classics after 1989. To get to this hatch, remove everything from the back of the vehicle, pull up the rear carpeting, and you will find a flap cut into the rubber padding beneath in the rear cargo area floor. Flip it over and you’ll see a round hatch about twelve inches around. Undo the six screws and set it aside. Do not lose the screws like I did.

There’s three things to disconnect here, which are both electric and fuel. Remember, these things do not go well together. The electric multiplug comes off by pushing the tab in the side and sliding it off. There’s two fittings holding the feed and return lines that go from the pump to the engine. Depending on where you live, when/if this was last done, and your lot in life, these may be very, very seized. A liberal application of your favourite penetrating liquid (I’m a PB Blaster man myself) and high-quality profanity, combined with the patience of a saint, should undo these. Keep calm, if these break you’re kinda pretty much completely screwed.

Now that you’ve undone these three connections, the good thing to do would be to vacuum the indentation around the fuel pump port in the tank so that you don’t get all the dirt and crap in the tank. This is possible to varying degrees depending on situation, however, so if you’re really stuck just do the best you can. Then undo the giant ring around the fuel pump hole, and lift it away. The pump now sits before you, awaiting its careful removal from the hole in the tank, an exercise to be undertaken with the greatest of care to avoid damaging the float for the level sensor.

Unless you’re a better man or woman than I, you will spill fuel in your cargo area. Fortunately you’ve got the carpet all tucked away somewhere nice, and you can just try and sop up as much as you can.

The liberated pump.
—”Mr Fuel Pump, are you free?” —”I’m free!”

You have now liberated the fuel pump, and it’s time to really dig in. Go somewhere relatively clean with it and it’s time to disassemble.

The pump itself is contained in the lower, enclosed half of the assembly. To detach this, carefully prise the four clips holding it in, taking the utmost of care to not break them. Doing this second exercise in December, with an outdoor temperature of 15 Fahrenheit, I decided that it would be prudent to bring the assembly inside to warm up a bit to help prevent brittleness issues. (Remember, direct heat is not a way to assuage this, considering the circumstance.)

You should now see the metal cylindrical pump exposed, with two electrical wires attaching it to the top of the assembly and a plastic corrugated hose connecting the pump’s output to the outlet for the feed line at the top of the assembly. The original pump, at least on my truck, has a flanged barb on the end of the output outlet, which nicely nests into this hose.

When keeping in mind that Land Rover did not really intend for this assembly to be a user-serviceable part, this hose has a very symbiotic relationship with its original host pump, but it is both very difficult and somewhat impractical to reuse it. The two replacement pumps I’ve had so far (more on that below) did not have these dramatic barbs on the outlet, which impacts the ability of this hose to seal to the new pump. When I had my original trailside repair, I kind of picked it off with an etching chisel and needlenose pliers, and later reattached it by squeezing it shut with a zip tie. This was functional but not ideal, so let’s do it proper.

Right, now you’ve got the actual pump itself free, let’s take a look.

I’m looking at three pumps here: (1) the original Land Rover part, which may or may not have been there for twenty-two years; (2) the latest purchase, an ACDelco EP241; and (3) the interim device, a Delphi FE0114 that I purchased at a NAPA on site.

Here is where I figured some stuff out after the fact. Apparently the 14CUX (1994-5 D1, possibly RRC 1989ish-1995) and GEMS (1996-9) trucks could use different spec pumps. Going back to vintage resources, the venerable Discoweb parts number resource, likely last updated some time during the second Bush administration, supplies different part numbers that I’ve extrapolated as follows:

14CUX/3.9
AC Delco EP-241

GEMS/4.0
Airtex E3270
Delphi FE0114

What’s the difference?

(WHAT THE $@%# IS THE DIFFERENCE?)

After replacing the part, I’ve found that the EP-241 does, in fact, seem to run better than the FE0114. It is quieter, and the truck seems to have slightly better performance. This may be in my head.

 

The Trials and Tribulations of a Land Rover Owner, Part One

The first thing the new owner of an older Land Rover will learn is that breakdowns are always to be expected at the point where you have finally become totally confident about the state of your vehicle. You learn this lesson very, very quickly. After a few years, the underlying anxiety that accompanies any road trip becomes a part of your psyche, and you throw a bottle of Xanax or whatever in the center console and be done with it.

The second thing you learn is that most things in an old Land Rover are possible to bodge together again with some basic tools and knowledge, and possibly some RTV sealant. By “basic tools,” I mean the three large Husky tool bags I keep in the back of my Discovery, plus the crate of extra fluids, plus the spare parts artfully placed throughout the vehicle. (Upper coolant hose under the driver’s seat, spare serpentine belt next to the atlas behind the back seat, spare radiator cap in the glove box.)

And this is where my latest Trials and Tribulations — the first of this blog column — began.

A few weeks ago, I was heading to the Ottawa Valley Land Rovers‘ 33rd Annual Birthday Party rally, one of the biggest and oldest Land Rover events on the East Coast. With the goal of exploring some parts of the Ontarian side of the St. Lawrence Seaway, I rolled out of the house at 3 AM, streaming BBC Merseyside on TuneIn to track the returns of the Brexit referendum. By Scranton, David Cameron had resigned, the sun was rising, and everything on the Disco was feeling pretty tickety boo. I hit Syracuse at rush hour, headed up I-81, and just south of Watertown, decided to fill the truck up with some sweet ethanol-free 91 octane petrol that we’re not allowed to have in the good ol’ Garden State.

The ungrateful bastard rewarded this gift by not starting. Shit.

I flicked the key; the solenoid in the starter clicked once, the fuel pump’s familiar two-second startup buzz was absent. I thus realized two things: one, I should swap out the fuel pump I wanted to swap out anyway; and two, my friends were coming up to the same event from Connecticut via Albany, and I should probably get in touch with them to rendezvous if needed.

I was thus sat front of a gas pump at a moderately busy Sunoco station, taking the entirety of my camping gear out of the back of the truck and laying it out on the forecourt so I could access the fuel pump in the tank, and somehow the entire patronage of the station was entirely nonplussed, oblivious to the old green truck with the New Jersey plates expelling its contents out of its rear.

Someone finally noticed me, helped me push the truck onto the side of the station, and in a move that forever cements him on the good side of my Rover Karma Book, offered me a lift to the NAPA a mile away to score a new fuel pump.

These things would never happen Downstate.

I scored a Delphi fuel pump to serve the purposes of the famous Land Rover/General Motors pump swap, and nothing more. This will become important later and was quite bone-headed.

Back at the truck, I proceeded to remove the entirety of my fuel pump from the tank, feeling not that bad about spilling some of the fuel, because it’s a bloody gas station, and I’m quite proud of myself because I’m a New Jerseyite and I didn’t spill any this time at the pump like I always do because we don’t do this shit ourselves. On speakerphone with some friends, which I don’t think you’re supposed to do either but whatever, I got it done and in, and it still didn’t start.

I directed my friends to rendezvous, and regretted not buying that damn wire. I fiddled for about an hour, until my friends arrived in a glorious convoy. One of them went to purchase the wire so we could hot wire the fuel pump. The starter solenoid seemed to have also gone decidedly wonky, causing part of these issues, so we jumped the solenoid with my jump leads and headed northward to a fantastic event, where I alas played it safe and didn’t wheel the truck, because no way was I jumping that solenoid if I stalled in a river. We tinkered some over the weekend, but nothing we hypothesized seemed to actually work, except for our theory of “let’s drink for now and worry about it later.”

20160625_065757
The extent of Duncan’s Canadian fun.

And thus, with a hot wired fuel pump and a starter that works sometimes on its own and sometimes by crawling under with the jump leads and being careful to not scald yourself on the exhaust, I go into the third lesson of a Land Rover owner.

Lesson Three: because these things break down so frequently, and because they’re so bog easy to repair, once you have some kind of workaround to fix things you sometimes become incredibly complacent with things like your convoluted starting procedure that includes connecting something submerged in a 23-gallon tank of waiting explosion to a live battery of waiting fire, and consider using jump leads to start your car without involving another car totally fine and acceptable.

Complacency in action.
Complacency in action.

So I drove around town with said complacency, and felt so damn confident with my vehicle’s bodged together state that I decided, I shall take this vehicle off roading with my friends in Vermont two weekends after the Ottawa adventure, having put minimal effort into fixing anything.

This is the source of the Fitzgerald Corollary, which is that whenever I take my trucks on any trip with other Land Rovers, they get incredibly antisocial and decide to expound all their grief and woes of any degree into one gloriously large and dramatic breakdown. The lead-in hint was an expulsion of coolant from the expansion tank at a rest area in New York, as I ironically sat waiting for my friend Jarek’s Mercedes-Benz OM617-powered Disovery to cool down from a sustained 70mph highway run. And then to make it worse, I found myself on a hill climb into a crazy trail in Southern Vermont, with a truck that has now compounded all of its issues into a fit of stalling and cutting out whenever asked to perform between 700rpm and 1800rpm on an incline, requiring immense group effort and use of tow straps to coax it to the top of said complex hill climb, until such point as I jumped in at the top of the hill and drove it down the other side with the CD changer spinning and the truck performing near enough perfectly. The only issue was that the speedometer wasn’t working, due to the Vehicle Speed Sensor that has not worked since December, and the absence of which has caused minimal issue for 5,000 miles of driving since then. That may or may not have still been a cause of the trail issues; jury’s out.

Disco Woe on the Thruway.
Disco Woe on the Thruway.

To make matters more fun is another tenet, the one of “just because you think you engineered something better than everyone else ever has does does not mean it is.” In my case, I learnt that my method of dealing with a seized center differential lock lever was brilliant and convenient in the driveway, but beggared second-degree burns when implemented in the wild, which I have the scars to prove such on the back of my left hand and back of my right arm.

And so, I got to that point of caving to all of the lessons and tenets, and realized We Have Issues and headed home early to solve my woes, by way of my friend Eric Riston in Albany who sells parts for Atlantic British and will help you with your woes as much as he helped me with mine if you call him there on extension 231.

At a Land Rover Holy Land, Atlantic British in Clifton Park, NY.
At a Land Rover Holy Land, Atlantic British in Clifton Park, NY.

Because I have found that I do not need to drive this truck during the week, since I carpool to work and get home too late to actually have a life, I’ve parked it in the driveway the past two weeks and have done heavy tinkering on it at night. Although I’ve done tons of work on this truck lately, I did purchase it as a sort of step above a barn find in Vermont, having been off the road approximately five years. It’s structurally in quite good condition considering its age and location, but there’s lots of little stuff still to keep on top of to get it in the great shape it has potential to be in.

The results of said tinkering? To be figured out Friday night, when Duncan comes out again for yet another rally — fortunately, closer to home.