WORKSHOP: Fixing a Jeep – using Land Rover UJs
In the endless war of words between Land Rover fans and, well, pretty much everyone else, one of the most common battle grounds is the subject of parts. Landy fans will point out that parts for everything else cost ten times as much: everyone else will reply that that doesn’t matter because they hardly ever need them.
Neither position is entirely true, of course. But yes, parts for Land Rovers do tend to be a great deal cheaper than those for Japanese or American vehicles – not least because there are so many aftermarket suppliers jostling to sell them to you.
It’s a question of supply and demand, of course. There Land Rover market is enormous in the UK, much bigger than for every other brand of off-road vehicle put together – which of course explains the enormous imbalance in parts prices.
But what if you could find Land Rover parts that you could use on other manufacturers’ trucks? People already do this with things like axles and engines, of course, but we’re not talking about hybridising here so much as the everyday parts you need to keep your truck up and running.
We’ve spoken to people in the past who’ve taken wheelarch flares, side steps, sump guards and winch bumpers designed for Defenders or Discoverys and made them fit on Japanese trucks. Radiators, alternators, PAS boxes… the list goes on.
But right down at the bottom of the food chain is the humble universal joint. Everyone who does off-roading is going to wear one out before many years have passed, and when they do it’ll announce itself by trying to shake their truck to bits.
That’s what happened to the Jeep Cherokee XJ whose UJ is being changed in these pictures. Now, joints for Jeeps aren’t cripplingly expensive – especially not with the excellent supply chain that’s grown up with enthusiasts in mind. But there’s another problem.
This is that every independent 4x4 garage in Britain will carry a stock of parts like this for Land Rovers. Whether you’re booking it in or doing it yourself, a quick visit to the Britpart or Bearmach website will yield somebody in your area who’s got one on the shelf. But if you own a Jeep or Toyota, or indeed any other make of 4x4 (far less the really rare kind), chances are you’ll be waiting ‘til tomorrow – or longer.
So if you run a 4x4 that was made by someone other than Land Rover, it pays to know what parts from the green oval you can bolt on to it. This UJ, for example (part number RTC3346) isn’t quite the same shape as the one from the Jeep’s Spicer propshaft. But it’s exactly the same size, in terms of both the length and diameter of its lugs – and if the proof of the pudding is in the eating, well, the Jeep scoffed the lot. Four years after these pictures were taken, it was retired with a bent chassis – but the UJ swapped in here was still going strong.
Changing a universal joint is a strong candidate for DIY attention, and while it does need a few tools you won’t find in your local Wilko they’re all the sort of stuff it’s good to have in your collection anyway if you own a 4x4. Not least because this is one of the more regular jobs you’ll do.
At least, it will be if you don’t die a horrible death because you didn’t know how to raise and support a vehicle properly. If you don’t, get taught by someone who does before you even think about sticking your head under a vehicle. You only ever need to see one fall off a jack to know why.
Assuming all’s well, a UJ change like this should see you back on the road within about an hour. By then, the other guy who didn’t think to use a Land Rover part will be sitting by the phone with his credit card in his hand – and just starting to wonder whether the parts factor is ever going to ring him back…