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Range Rover HSE 2003: Air Suspension Issue

Ever since we left London we had the privilege of driving on butter smooth roads of Europe with one or two rough patches. Russia did not disappoint us either, with smooth multi-lane highways in the cities to single-lane clean roads through villages we were pretty happy with what we had treaded on till now.

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We did read few horror stories of roads in Kazakhstan but we were very confident that RR would be able to eat it all and it was time to put that to test.

We finally (getting into Kazakhstan was quite dramatic) managed to cross Russia-Kazakhstan border. The moment we crossed the border, driving was more kind of a video game where you have to manoeuvre your car on an obstacle course. The road dint have potholes but dried out ponds!

RR was handling the so called road pretty well, we were feeling proud of the choice we had made when everyone that we know was calling us fools. Some idiotic thought in my mind asked me to raise the suspension so that i could drive RR on the side of the road and what a mistake that was!

Driving the car through whole of Europe, Turkey and Russia had worn out the suspension (not to forget that RR was a 2003 model with original suspension). The moment i pressed the control to raise the suspension, there was a hiss and full front part just dropped dead. I tried resetting the electronics and try raising it again but just a hiss and that’s all.

My initial guess was that maybe the pump failed as it is prone to failure and luckily i was carrying the repair kit (smart move eh). We got back into the car hoping to find a repair station nearby and started moving with a broken front suspension. We had a winch mounted in the front and it was not very high (the mechanic who did the setup was doing it for the first time and same applies to me as well), almost at the same level as the bumper. Now with the front down, the frame on which the winch was mounted started scraping against the uneven road, it added salt to RR’s wounds. We started moving very slowly looking out for any service station we could find. After covering quite a few miles, we found one workshop and got the winch frame cut out as the bolts that were holding it had deformed.

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An important thing that we did not knew about Kazakhstan was that it does not have SUV’s … I know, it is sad and meant we would not be able to get the front suspension repaired. And only option we had was to cross whole of Kazakhstan with the front suspension down on those roads (i don’t know if can call them roads), and if that was not enough we had to do this in one day as we would not be able to enter Turkmenistan if we take more than a day!

We started driving RR at 80+ miles speed on tracks full of uneven tarmac with holes big enough to break any heavy duty suspension to pieces. RR took all in her stride and we were shockingly impressed. Even without the suspension, RR was not rattling our bones and appeared as if only the suspension was stiff. However it was good enough to get us tired, we found a room in some hotel in Kulsary and called it a day.

We woke up a little early, tried resetting the electronics to try our luck once again but no magic happened 🙂

Left with no choice we continued our journey, the road now was quite better with odd stretch of bad road till Beyneu.

The road from Beyneu towards the Uzbekistan border (90+ KMs) was non-existent, we had to relying heavily on the GPS we were using and and it just showed a straight line towards the border. The road was made of sand, mud, stones and since there were no road marking, we did wander off few times but thanks to helpful locals we were back on track.

We finally reached Uzbekistan border, it took a while for us to unload all the stuff, get them scanned, complete legal formalities. In 3-4 hours we were back on road, we checked with one taxi driver and he confirmed we would find a mechanic in Khiva, bad news was that for the first 100 KMs or so, roads were not that welcoming. So, plan was to reach Khiva and get the suspension fixed as Uzbekistan had SUV’s and workshops to fix them.

After driving whole night we reached Nukus, we tried finding a hotel to stretch out legs for few hours but surprisingly none of the hotels had a room to spare! With no choice left, we continued towards Khiva. Thankfully son of the hotel owner in Khiva was both well conversant in English and knew a good mechanic too. He took me to this guy, and the way he started the diagnosis, it made me confident that he would do something about it. Hotel owner’s son translated it to me that the mechanic had recently fixed another RR recently also with suspension issue.

Once his inspection was over, he told us there was a big hole in the left front suspension. He removed the suspension and started checking within his circle if it could be mended because finding a replacement had lesser chances then winning a lottery!

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With the puncture expert giving up, only way out was to remove the rubber bladder and replace it with a coil. Luckily the mechanic had coil from a passenger vehicle lying around, unfortunately it was not strong enough so he combined two together and the final product kind of held the RR perfectly. He blocked the air inlet for the damaged side, i gave RR a reset, plugged the key in, switched it on and RR was back up with the front held high .. Woo Hoo :-)

At that instance thought of replacing the right suspension with a coil did occur to me but i dint want to fix what ain’t broken and moreover the mechanic did not have another pair of coils and we were running out of time to cross Uzbekistan and enter Turkmenistan.

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