Air Suspension Air Leaks: Causes and Detection
Introduction: Air leaks are the primary adversary of your vehicle’s air suspension system. They can lead to performance issues, increased wear and tear, and costly repairs. In this guide, we’ll explore common sources of air leaks and provide step-by-step instructions on how to detect them.
1. Front Air Springs:
Front Air Springs can become loose from their top mountings, especially if the air suspension system is not disabled before the wheels hang down. This can result in intermittent leaks that worsen during driving due to movement and heat. Note that newer Air Springs with stainless steel bands around the top are less prone to this issue.
2. ‘O’ Ring Seals and Age Cracks:
Both front and rear Air Springs may develop leaks at ‘O’ Ring seals and small age cracks. In hot climates, this can occur as early as 8 to 10 years after installation. Replace Air Springs when you spot these issues, and consider aftermarket rubber bellows as a cost-effective solution.
3. Valve Block:
Valve Blocks are known to leak from ‘O’ Ring Seals, under Solenoid covers, and internally. Consider replacing the Valve Block, and inquire about reconditioned options from your repairer.
4. Exhaust Pipe Flange:
A leaking Engine Exhaust Pipe Flange above the rear axle can direct hot exhaust gases onto the Air Pipes located on the chassis, causing them to melt. Air Pipe joiners are available for replacement.
5. Battery Acid Spill:
Battery acid spills in Range Rovers can corrode the Air Pipe under the battery tray leading to the RH front Air Spring.
6. Air Tank:
Air Tank leaks can occur at ‘O’ Ring seals and threaded connections.
Regular Inspection is Key:
It’s strongly recommended to regularly check your Range Rover for air leaks, especially before long journeys. Air leaks force the Compressor and Valve Block to overwork, reducing their lifespan and costing you money.
7. Impact on Dryer:
Air leaks can saturate the dryer media with moisture, causing it to break down into a white powder. This can damage the Valve Block, affect valve sealing, cause Air Operated Solenoid Diaphragm failure, and clog the exhaust silencer.
Air leaks pose a significant threat to your air suspension system’s performance and longevity. Prioritize regular inspections and prompt repairs to save on potential costly replacements.
Detecting Air Leaks:
To identify air leaks, follow these steps:
- Prepare a soapy water solution in a spray bottle.
- Start the engine and raise your Range Rover to the highest height setting.
- Spray around the EAS-Box and Solenoids to check for leaks.
- Unscrew the Silencer from the Exhaust Port, and check for air flow with soapy water on your finger.
- During heavy compressor activity, inspect the Compressor Air Pipe, Dryer, Solenoid Valves, and Air Pipes for leaks.
- Lower the suspension to Standard height and measure and mark wheel arch heights.
- Drive for 10 to 20 minutes to detect hot Air Spring leaks.
- Park on a level surface and recheck for leaks.
- Leave the vehicle for half a day and monitor any height changes.
- Use the soapy water spray to pinpoint the leak source.
Replacing major components can be risky and should be left to professionals unless you have the necessary equipment and knowledge. Always prioritize safety and consider using a memory saver when replacing the battery to prevent BECM issues.
For additional guidance on dealing with a dead battery or alarm issues, refer to “EKA and Power Up.”
Maintaining Your Air Suspension System
Section 1: Battery Disconnect or Replacement
Air suspension systems are highly sensitive to air leaks, which can lead to performance issues. It’s crucial to be aware of potential problem areas when disconnecting or replacing your vehicle’s battery. Here’s what you need to know:
- Front Air Springs: Take care when allowing your vehicle’s wheels to hang without disabling the air suspension system. This can cause the top mounting of the Front Air Springs to come loose, potentially breaking the seal and causing air leaks.
- Note: New style Air Springs with stainless steel bands around the top are less prone to these issues.
- Leaking ‘O’ Ring Seals: Both front and rear Air Springs may develop leaks at the Air Pipe connections or age-related cracks. Replace the Air Springs when these issues arise, and consider aftermarket rubber bellows as replacements.
- Valve Block Leaks: The Valve Block can leak from ‘O’ Ring Seals for the Air Pipes, under Solenoid covers, or internally. It’s advisable to replace the Valve Block.
- Exhaust Pipe Flange: A leaking Engine Exhaust Pipe Flange can damage the Air Pipes located on top of the chassis, leading to air leaks.
- Battery Acid Spill: Be cautious of battery acid spills, as they can corrode the Air Pipe under the battery tray connected to the RH front Air Spring.
- Air Tank Leaks: Check for ‘O’ Ring seal leaks and threaded connection leaks in the Air Tank.
- Regular Checks: Regularly inspect your Range Rover for air leaks, especially before embarking on long trips. Addressing leaks promptly can extend the lifespan of your air suspension system and save you money.
- Dryer Maintenance: The dryer’s role is to absorb moisture from compressed air. Air leaks can saturate the dryer media, causing it to break down and compromise the Valve Block, Air Operated Solenoid Diaphragm, and exhaust silencer. Keep an eye on dryer performance to prevent these issues.
- Important Reminder: Always remember that air leaks are the primary adversary of your air suspension system. Identifying and addressing leaks promptly can help you save on costly repairs.
Section 2: Finding Air Leaks
To identify air leaks in your air suspension system, follow these steps:
- Prepare a Soapy Water Solution: Mix a soapy water solution in a spray bottle. We recommend diluted Morning Fresh dishwashing liquid for its excellent bubble-making properties.
- Raise Your Range Rover: Start the engine and elevate your vehicle to the highest height setting. Ensure a door or tailgate is open to prevent further height changes.
- Inspect the EAS-Box: Spray soapy water around the bases of the black Solenoids on top of the EAS-Box. Additionally, check the Exhaust Port for air flow. Steady air indicates a damaged Diaphragm in the Air Operated Solenoid Valve.
- Check the Silencer: Unscrew the Silencer from the Exhaust Port and check for white powder residue (Dryer Media) inside. Test for blockages by blowing air through it.
- Front and Rear Air Springs: Spray the top fittings of both the front and rear Air Springs to detect any leaking ‘O’ Rings or cracks in the rubber bellows.
- Inspect Air Tank and Valve Block: While the Compressor is working at its hardest, spray the Compressor Air Pipe, Dryer, Solenoid Valves, and Air Pipes on the Valve Block for leaking ‘O’ Rings.
- Settle at Standard Height: After the Air Tank is full, set the suspension to Standard height and wait for it to settle. Check the front and rear Air Springs over the tires.
- Check Corner Heights: Measure corner heights and monitor them for changes over half a day. A significant drop may indicate external air leaks, while an increase could signal an internally leaking Valve Block.
- Troubleshoot with Soapy Water: If you can’t locate a leak in the Air Spring or Air Pipe, suspect the Valve Block. Place soapy water over the Exhaust Port opening, and if you observe air flow, it indicates an internal leak.
- Final Steps: Reassemble the Silencer (for Classic Range Rovers), check the Air Tank for leaks, and monitor the Compressor’s operation. A good Compressor should fill an empty Air Tank in under 10 minutes.
- Positive Signs: If your Range Rover doesn’t drop overnight, and the compressor doesn’t need to refill the air tank in the morning, you likely have no major air leaks.
Remember, finding and addressing air leaks is crucial for the health of your air suspension system.
Section 3: Emergency Key Access and BECM Reset (For Certain Vehicles)
If you encounter issues with your remote handset or need to reset the BECM (Body Electronic Control Module), follow these steps:
- Unlocking Without the Remote Handset (Vehicles up to 96MY):
- Unlock the driver’s door with the key.
- Open the door, and the alarm will sound twice.
- Close the driver’s door while ensuring all doors, the tail door, and the bonnet are closed.
- Turn the key to the lock position.
- Enter a four-digit code using key turns in the lock/unlock direction to disarm the alarm and unlock the doors.
- Unlocking Without the Remote Handset (Vehicles from 96MY):
- If the vehicle wasn’t locked with the remote handset, turn the key four times to the lock position.
- Enter a four-digit code to unlock the doors, following specific key turn instructions.
- Be aware of the reduced number of incorrect attempts (three) and an extended lockout period (thirty minutes).
- Powering Up a P38 BECM (Body Electronic Control Module):
- In the engine bay fuse box, remove three large 60 amp (blue) fuses supplying power to the BECM.
- With a charged battery fitted, open the driver’s door and leave it open.
- Insert one key/remote into the steering column lock without turning it.
- Replace the three fuses in reverse order, front first.
- As the BECM powers up, it should initiate a friendly mobilization sequence.
- If not, repeat the process with the ignition key in the “on” position.
Always prioritize safety and consider seeking professional help for major component replacements.
Note: When reconnecting the battery, use a memory saver to prevent BECM alarms or immobilization.
For lost or failed remote handsets, follow manufacturer instructions to obtain a unique vehicle code.
EKA and Power Up
Unlocking Your Range Rover – Emergency Key Access (EKA)
If you’ve locked your Range Rover using the remote handset and the handset is lost or fails, you can still unlock the vehicle and disarm the alarm by entering a unique four-digit code using the key in the driver’s door lock. You can find this code on the security information card or obtain it from the factory.
EKA Procedure – Vehicles Up to 1996 Model Year (96MY)
- Unlock the driver’s door with the key.
- Open the door; the alarm will sound twice. If you attempt to start the engine at this point, it won’t crank, and the message center will display ‘ENGINE DISABLED PRESS REMOTE OR USE KEY CODE.’
- Close the driver’s door, ensuring that all doors, the tail door, and the bonnet are closed (this is essential for the EKA to work).
- Turn the key to the lock position.
- Note: If you see ‘KEY CODE LOCKOUT’ in the message center, you cannot enter the code.
- Enter the code as follows: Each time you turn the key to the lock or unlock position, the side lamp warning lamp in the instrument pack will flash to confirm recognition.
- Enter the first digit; if it’s ‘2,’ turn and release the key twice in the unlock direction.
- Enter the second digit; if it’s ‘5,’ turn and release the key five times in the lock direction.
- Enter the third digit; if it’s ‘4,’ turn and release the key four times in the unlock direction.
- Enter the fourth digit; if it’s ‘2,’ turn and release the key two times in the lock direction.
- Turn the key to the unlock direction; if the code was entered correctly, all doors and the tail door will unlock, and the alarm will be partially disarmed.
Once the EKA code is entered, the security LED will continue flashing to indicate the alarm is partially disarmed but will trigger if the bonnet is opened. If you enter the code incorrectly, a mislock will sound on the final unlock turn, and the remaining doors and the tail door will stay locked, with the alarm partially armed. After five incorrect attempts, there is a ten-minute ‘lockout’ period with ‘KEY CODE LOCKOUT’ displayed in the message center.
If a mistake is made while entering the code, open either front door, and a mislock will sound. Close the door, lock it, and restart the code entry from the beginning; this won’t count as an incorrect entry. While in EKA mode, pressing the remote handset’s unlock button will unlock all doors and disarm the alarm, but the lock button won’t work during code entry.
EKA Procedure – Vehicles from 1996 Model Year (96MY) and Later
For vehicles locked with the remote handset, follow the EKA procedure as described above, with two exceptions:
- If the vehicle wasn’t locked with the remote handset, in step 4, turn the key four times to the lock position.
- The number of incorrect attempts is reduced to three, and the lockout period increases to thirty minutes.
Powering Up Your P38 BECM
This procedure usually works when your vehicle is locked out, has a flat battery, undergoes a battery replacement, or when you’re removing and refitting the BECM.
- Go to the engine bay fuse box and remove the three large 60-amp (blue) fuses, starting with the rear one, then the middle one, and finally the front one. These fuses provide power to the three brown wires on the outside of the BECM. If you’re removing and refitting the BECM, leave the battery terminals connected to keep power going to the other computers; with the three fuses removed, there is no power at the BECM.
- With a charged battery installed (and the BECM refitted and connected):
- Open the driver’s door and leave it open.
- Insert only one key/remote into the steering column lock; do not turn it. Multiple signals from more than one key/remote near the ignition lock will prevent friendly mobilization.
- Replace the three fuses in reverse order: front one first, middle one next, and rear one last.
As the BECM powers up (with the key in the steering column and the driver’s door open), it should perform a friendly mobilization sequence. If it doesn’t, remove the fuses in the reverse order, turn the ignition key to the “ignition on” position, and refit the fuses in the reverse order.
If the other doors unlock at this time, close and open the driver’s door or any other door within one minute to prevent automatic relocking of all doors and arming of the alarm.
You’ll need to re-synchronize the remote(s) to the BECM. Insert the remote key into the driver’s door lock, turn it to the lock or unlock position, and quickly return it to the rest position. Quickly press either button on the remote once. Repeat this process until the remote re-synchronizes with the BECM; you’ll notice all the doors locking and unlocking with each press.
Unlock the vehicle, open the driver’s door (or any door), and if no door is opened within one minute, the vehicle will automatically relock all doors and arm the alarm.
Insert the remote key into the ignition lock, and when you turn the key, the engine should start.
Best of luck! Any feedback is appreciated.
Maintaining Your P-38 Remote
Introduction: If you’re having issues with your P-38 remote, here are some simple steps to troubleshoot and maintain it. Follow these guidelines to ensure your remote stays in good working condition.
Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace
- Open the car’s bonnet (hood).
- Leave the driver’s door open and the window down to prevent the immobilization or alarm from activating while you work on the remote.
Step 2: Remove the Rubber Cover
- Gently lift the soft rubber cover over the push buttons using a pocket knife blade.
- Peel off the rubber cover with your fingers.
Step 3: Inspect the Push Buttons
- You’ll find pushbutton switches underneath.
- Use a small jeweler’s screwdriver to gently poke at each switch.
- If a switch moves, it’s loose on the circuit board, which could be the cause of the problem.
- Push each button and listen for the click to ensure the switches are working.
- If needed, you can open the remote case to resolder a loose switch.
Step 4: Check the Battery Compartment
- Remove the battery cover and batteries.
- Inside, you’ll see a ring of three spring terminals.
- Use the jeweler’s screwdriver to check if they’re loose at the solder points.
- Scrape each terminal slightly near their free ends and bend them up a bit.
Step 5: Examine the Other Battery Terminal
- Look at the battery terminal at the lip of the hole.
- There should be a rubber tensioner under it.
- If not, cut a small O-ring to fit in place.
- Scrape the contact surface gently with the screwdriver to ensure it’s springy and aligned with the battery cover contact.
Step 6: Battery Maintenance
- Remove the batteries from the cover.
- Carefully scrape the battery contacts at the bottom and on the lip.
- Test the batteries and replace if needed.
- Wipe them with a clean tissue or cloth.
- Avoid touching the battery surfaces with your fingers, as oil can insulate them and cause malfunction.
Step 7: Reassembly
- Reassemble the remote.
- Check if the red LED flashes when you push each button.
- Close the bonnet and the driver’s door (with the window open).
- Initialize the remotes in the door lock.
Replacement Parts: If you need replacement parts, here are the part numbers:
- New rubber keypads: YWC000300
- Battery Cover/Holder: STC4352
- Battery Cover O-Ring: STC1867
Follow these steps to keep your P-38 remote working reliably.