July 18th – 30th, 2015
We knew going into this trip that a big challenge for us, should something on the Land Rover break, would be finding parts. It’s not that Land Rovers aren’t sold in North America; it’s more that the Defender line was never sold so parts aren’t found just anywhere. You have to order them from specialty shops, and then wait patiently for the Post to deliver.
We also knew that by the time we would be in Alberta the Landy would need it’s first oil change. What we didn’t know was that we could also use new rear coil springs. The springs and shock absorbers on the Land Rover were still the originals and they seemed to be working just fine when we bought and converted it. Though with the additional weight of a roof tent, rack, storage boxes and all the stuff we have, it did sag a bit but we didn’t pay too much attention to it and thought we could get some more mileage out of them. Though with all the rough roads we’ve experienced on our trip the springs took a heavier beating than we had anticipated and by Labrador we experienced the first indications that the springs were old; when going over a big bump the frame banged against the axels rubber bump stopper. That meant that the springs, along with the suspension were no longer good enough to carry the weight of the vehicle. I thought the more difficult problem would be finding a service kit for the oil change so ordered some online to be delivered to family friends just outside of Edmonton.
Typical for us we ordered them last minute with rush delivery and hoped that they would arrive in Edmonton around about the same time we did…. They didn’t. It’s not that we didn’t know way in advance that we would need an oil change, it’s just that we had no idea where we would be when the time came, or which route we wanted to take.
Having family friends just outside of Edmonton made ordering the parts that much easier, we actually had an address, which of course is a big plus when you want something shipped. Although we hadn’t seen each other in over 15 years, Miranda and family welcomed us warmly into their homes and had supper prepared for us even though we arrived a day earlier than anticipated. We originally wanted to spend a night at Elk Island National Park before heading to Edmonton but it was booked solid. Miranda had a room cleared for us and we “moved” in almost instantly becoming extended family. It was really comfortable and somewhat lively with two 3-year-old boys in the house, but that made it all the more a big family atmosphere. It was really great to sleep inside again and be a bit separated from nature, that and not have to walk a half kilometer to an outhouse! And of course we were spoiled with BBQ’s, beers and cookies, which made it even better.
We quickly found an off-road auto specialist 4 Wheel Auto in Edmonton who could order and install springs for our Landy. The parts should either arrive on the coming Friday or Monday so we had a week to kill. While we waited for the springs and the service kit to be delivered we relaxed, caught up on much needed laundry, our chronically out of date blog, and did some shopping. Although we aren’t really “Mall” people we couldn’t really pass up the opportunity to check out West Edmonton Mall, the most absurd shopping mall in the North America. There is an ice rink, swimming pool, sea lions, and even a roller coaster. It has over 800 shops with over 30 million visitors per year. It’s loud, obnoxious and the air is thick with food smells and the masses of people. It’s a crazy attraction that you kind of have to take in if you are in the neighborhood but once was enough for us! The Landy got a much-needed wash with help of a pressure washer, and the dust and dirt from the last 12000 km was finally vacuumed out. A number of small repairs had to be done too and Kyle (Miranda’s husband) was happy to lend a hand and provided beers to make the work even that much more tolerable.
DIY – Do it yourself!
The service kit arrived exactly one day late even after paying about as much for shipping as we did for the kit, never the less I set about preparing to do the oil change myself. It’s not that hard to do; you just need a pan to catch the oil as it pours out and try not to spill too much and cause an environmental disaster on the driveway. So far so good, Canadian Tire is the place for just about everything so I picked up an cheap oil change kit complete with latex gloves, spill blanket, absorbent pads and an oil pan to catch the old oil.
I warmed up the engine a bit (as suggested in the service manual) so that the oil would drain better and moved the Landy onto the driveway put on my overalls, latex gloves and moved the oil pan under the drain plug. The Land rover Defender has an oil capacity of about 6 liters. Six liters of oil has no problem fitting into a pan that holds six liters, there is only a problem when the pan that is to hold 6 liters is sitting on a slanted surface. This would have been the perfect time to get Frederike to record the event so you could all see that there is room for improvement. If you visit our friends in Leduc I am sure you will see the signs I left behind on their driveway… Thankfully they have a pressure washer! It’s amazing what you can do with some soap and a pressure washer…
There is always something
4 Wheel Auto had “promised” to get us on the road the day the springs came in at the latest Monday. We were feeling a bit rushed; we may have given up our plan to be in Alaska by July but we still didn’t want to waste too much time. I called first thing Monday morning to see about when we should bring the Land Rover in only to find out that there was some kind of mix-up with our order and it didn’t arrive, in fact it didn’t even get ordered! From what we were told the company they ordered the parts from had charged their credit card but didn’t bother actually making the order. I just about flipped out and burst a blood vessel in my brain when I heard that. Here we waited a week for the parts to come in to find out that they weren’t even ordered! Winter arrives bloody early in the North and the longer we dallied here the less time we would have. After expressing my disappointment, quite impressively without using any swear words, I was told they would look into it and get back to us right way. Not having the patience to wait too long I drove over and had a chat with the guys. I again expressed my disappointment in how the transaction went through, this time with the owner, and they managed to track down a different set of springs from a different supplier (one that’s a bit more reliable) somewhere in Florida. Unfortunately the Florida shop was already closed so it would be another day delay before they could even be ordered. It wasn’t their fault for the mix-up, which I understood, but it still didn’t change the fact that we would loose more time. I guess they saw it in my face, felt sorry for us and the problems the supplier had caused and had them ship the parts express overnight, which they paid for and it probably cost quite a bit. We were promised that we would be back on the road with only a two-day extra delay. This time the springs actually did arrive and were installed without delay. They even let me in the shop to take a few pictures while the work was being done.
What a difference the new springs make, instead of drooping the rear is now set a little higher than the front. Our Landy is now ready for the rough roads in the Yukon and Alaska.
Although we ended up spending a lot longer in Edmonton than we originally planned we still really enjoyed our time there especially due to the warm welcome we received by Miranda and her family. Thanks again to all of you for putting us up, and putting up with us :).
More Photos on Flickr: Edmonton