Sunday, March 29, 2015

Installing Terrafirma T818 Rock Sliders onto LR4

This is going to be a long post.  It took me much longer to install the rock sliders than I thought it would.

Here's how I installed the Terrafirma T818 rock sliders onto my 2015 Land Rover LR4.  I bought the sliders from Lucky8.  They didn't come with instructions, just a bag-o-bolts/washers/nuts.

Mounting Hole Alignment
I'd read LR forum posts indicating that the mounting holes on the slider might not align with the holes on the car.  In one post, Scott Brady was defending Terrafirma saying that LR seems to be moving the holes on the car.   After I removed the running boards, I compared the bolt hole patterns on the rock sliders to the holes I could see on the car.  Existing holes used by the running boards appear to align with the holes in the rock sliders.  I wondered if I might be able to use the T40 Torx bolts that held the running boards to bolt the sliders into the same threaded holes in the frame.  Spoiler: yes.  

I made masks from cardboard to check the hole alignment.  I simply traced each slider and their bolt holes onto cardboard and then cut them out.  I then placed each mask against the rocker panel and looked to see if the holes in the mask lined up with the holes in the frame.  I made 4 masks, 2 for each side (bottom holes and side holes).  All of the holes appeared to align properly.  To do it right, I should have made 1 mask per side, to ensure that the bottom and side holes are aligned to each other.

Initial Fit Check
Then I did a fit check.  I balanced the slider on top a bottle jack and raised it up partially into position.  Once the jack is supporting the weight (25 lbs) it's easy to maneuver the slider with one hand.  I looked underneath and checked for any interference.  It looked like it would fit.  

Removing Trim
I removed the rocker panel trim and tried installing the slider.  It's getting easier to remove the trim, now that I know how it's attached.  I have a handy Prylon trim pry tool from Amazon that made it super easy to remove the plastic rivets on the bottom of the trim.  (To be perfectly honest, I could have done it with a fork.)  Popping the trim off the car leaves yellow trim clips attached (the male part of the M/F clip design).  It looked like they would interfere with the slider, so I decided to remove them.  Just to be safe, I checked online and it looks like I can buy more clips of the same design.  The design also suggests that I won't be able to pry or twist the clip from the frame.  So I chiseled them off with a putty knife and a hammer.

I also removed the black plastic trim along the rocker panel at the rear of the front fender trim.  To so this, I first gained some range-of-motion by unsnapping 2 of the snaps holding the fender trim.  I learned a lot by watching this youtube video showing how to remove the fender trim.  The black plastic trim is held in place with 2 snap clips.

Another Fit Check
There were a couple interference issues on the passenger side.  The AC lines running down the rocker panel (clad in foam insulation) come in contact with the slider.  More important, a few hose clamps definitely press against the slider.  These clamps are used to attach a joiner section of hose between bare aluminum pipes and insulated pipes.  Those steel hose clamps will rub against the slider and might cause problems over time.

I was pleased to see that the slider would clear those big heat sinks that are mounted to the frame.  UPDATE: apparently they're not heat sinks, but some kind of crumple device used in conjunction with the running boards I removed.  I could have removed those after removing the running boards.  The sliders might block my access to the bolts used to attach them.  But it shouldn't hurt to still have them mounted - heck, maybe they'll still provide crumple protection from a side impact on my sliders.

Note: I tried using pliers to loosen the hose clamps and just rotate their clocking angle on the hoses.  That failed miserably.  I checked the local stores for hose-clamp pliers, so I'd have a better grip on the clamps, but I couldn't find any.  So I gave up on that idea.

Cutting the Sliders
I decided to cut off a section of the vertical fin on the passenger side slider to clear the AC lines in that area.  After a bit of trial and error, it was easy.  I used my cordless circular saw with a blade made for cutting aluminum.  I was surprised at how easy that blade cut the 0.25 inch thick aluminum slider.

At first, I cut off only a section.  Here's a photo of the fit check afterward.  You can see that the hose clamps are clear now.  However, the insulated line is in contact with the section I left at the end.  

So I cut off that last section too.  Now even that rear section clears those insulated lines.

Next was the driver side.  I was worried because the AC lines running down the rocker panel interfere with the slider on that side also.  There's a connector along that line that sticks out a lot and it blocks the slider from going into position.

I marked the location of those AC lines on my cardboard mask and transferred those to the slider.  The next photo shows the slider raised for a fit check with the planned cut line marked on painters tape.  The slider wouldn't even raise all the way because the hose connector was blocking it.

Then I cut off part of the vertical fin on that slider and re-checked the fit.  

Installing the Sliders
Mounting the sliders was now easy.  The photos below show the driver side because I took more photos then.  I just raised it up and started a few of the bolts.  Then added the remaining bolts and tightened them all.

Cutting the Trim
I had to cut away part of the plastic trim right behind the front fender (on each side).  That's the only permanent damage I did to the car.  Otherwise, everything I did is reversable.  I cut away a spacer piece that holds the trim away from the rocker panel.  With the slider in place, that spacer is no longer needed and it will cause the trim to stick out.  I just cut it off with a small hack saw (any sharp knife would work also).

Final Thoughts
The red body color makes the Terafirma logo look really nice.

My sliders arrived from Lucky8 with those nicks.  You can't miss them since they're right below the driver's door.  It's unfortunate, but oh well.  I painted those nicks with some Krylon black satin paint (dabbed on with a Q-tip - it's not a super clean job).  I'll seal them with Gtechniq C1 and EXOv2 products.

It took me a long time over many days to install these.  I decided to not describe all the tests and mistakes I made.  I was extra careful because I didn't want to damage my brand new car.  Now that I know how things come apart and go back together, I could install them in under 3 hours (in my small dark garage).  In a large well-lit bay, I could install them in under 2 hours.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Land Rover ECO Mode (aka Stop/Start)

The 2015 LR4 has a Start/Stop feature.  They call it ECO mode.  You can turn it off any time you like by simply pressing the ECO button (I circled it in blue below).

When you press that button, a light on the dash tells you that the ECO mode is disabled. 

Then the amber light remains lit while you drive.   It's an annoying nanny light.  I'm surprised they didn't have it sound a loud klaxon too.

ECO mode will turn back on the next time you start the car.  Luckily, I read somewhere that it is automatically disabled when you are in any "terrain mode" other than normal driving.  That's good.  (Although I can't locate where I saw that tidbit.)

Two things I don't like about it are (according to the video on the DVD that came with the car): (1) when the driver's seatbelt is unfastened and the car is in park, the engine shuts off, and (2) when the driver's seatbelt is unfastened and the brake pedal are released, then it shuts off.  Maybe I'll get used to it.  But I can't help wonder how the battery and starter can handle the added load.  Heck, right now with the car in the garage doing nothing, it gives me a warning light every other day saying "Low Battery, Start Engine".  This does not give me confidence in the battery's capability.  So I'd prefer to keep the engine running, thank you.

To be honest, I don't like this feature in this car.  Here's my summary comment: Seriously?  In a 3 ton SUV?  It's not as if this feature is giving me 25% fuel savings.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

C1 / EXOv2 Tips

Before I get around to sharing my mistakes (actually I need to find some good lighting so the photos will show the C1 residue I failed to remove), I thought I'd share a few tips for anybody who is considering using the Gtechniq C1 and EXOv2 products.

  • The 10 to 60 seconds time frame for removing the C1 residue is accurate.  A few times I waited too long and you can really feel the resistance on the microfiber cloth as  you pass it over the spot.  I had to buff hard to remove the visible residue.  I then figured that I'd just removed the C1, so I reapplied in that area.
  • Folding the microfiber cloths into quarters (as described by the Gtechniq instructions) is a very handy way to avoid re-using a section of cloth that has C1 residue in it (and is curing into crystals).  You don't have to wonder or guess.  You simply progress through the squares - using the 8 quarter faces of the cloth.  I chose to flip the mf often.  I've got loads of mf cloths.
  • It was easy to spot when I accidentally put C1 on top of EXO.  I was applying C1 along the top of the doors, and it became very slippery.  Realizing what I'd done, I just continued with the C1 and later added EXO on top of that.  I hope there aren't any lasting effects from that mistake.  I learned that I need to keep better track of what I've treated, with what products.
  • It is very helpful to buy the larger EXOv2 bottle (50 ml).  You need more in order to apply 2 coats.  You can apply EXO to more surfaces; I applied it to the black plastic trim pieces after the nice people at Gtechniq told me that this will work fine.
  • Bright diffuse lighting is VERY VERY important.  When the garage door was partially open, the bright light coming from that area was great at illuminating many mistakes I had made and not yet caught.  If I had better lighting then I surely would have made far fewer mistakes.
  • When it's warm, you need to apply EXO to smaller areas.  Otherwise the EXO product will appear to disappear while you're still covering the larger area, and then it's harder to remove the residue.  It's fine to use smaller areas, even if you overlap them a bit, there's no negative consequences.
  • If you apply EXO to your black plastic trim bits, then it helps to use a different applicator pad.  On my car, the black plastic trim has a surprising amount of rough edges and that caused damage (rips and tears) to the applicator pad.  This is a big difference from the normal smooth body panels.  Also, much of my plastic trim has a fine surface texture that seemed to retain dirt, even after I carefully cleaned it.  This visibly contaminates the applicator pad.  I was glad for my decision to use the small cotton Gtechniq pads for the plastic trim.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Applying Gtechniq EXOv2 Ultra Durable Hybrid Coating

I applied Gtechniq EXOv2 to everything that I treated with C1.  In addition, I used it on the door handles, wing mirror enclosures, front grill, and the black plastic trim in these areas: front bumper, rear bumper, rocker panels, and roof rack rails.

I enjoyed applying EXOv2.  It goes on very fast and it's very easy to remove the residue.  EXOv2 also has a much nicer smell.  It has a fruity aroma that is much better than the long-chain hydrocarbon odor from C1.

The application instructions from the Gtechniq web site worked well.  The residue came off easily.  It was more difficult if I worked on a larger panel and also when the temperature was warmer (over 85F).  I noticed the change and simply worked smaller areas at a time.  When applying it to the black plastic trim bits, I used a small Gtechniq applicator pad.  I wanted to use the furnished EXO applicator pad only for the body panels.

While applying EXOv2, I found a few spots where I failed to properly remove all the C1 residue.  Bummer.  It's kinda sealed in now.  One of those spots is very noticeable because it's right next to the driver's door handle.  I'll probably polish that area and reapply C1/EXO. 

I didn't have the same anxiety about running out of EXOv2.  This is because I bought the 50 ml bottle. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Applying Gtechniq C1 Crystal Lacquer

Yesterday I began applying Gtechniq C1 Crystal Lacquer to my new car.  The weather had cooled down enough to work in a closed garage without fans blowing dust around that would settle onto the curing products.  And the temperature would be below the Gtechniq recommended 30 deg C (86F) for C1.

My plan was to treat the following surfaces with C1: all painted surfaces (body panels and fenders) including the roof and tailgate, headlamps, taillamps, A & B pillars, and wiper arms.  I decided to start with the roof.  I figured I'd make the most mistakes at the beginning and I'd prefer those to be out of sight.  This turned out to be a good idea.  I'll post some photos of my mistakes in a few days.

The instructional videos suggest you use bright diffuse lighting, and that you move your head around a lot.  This is very good advice.  It is sometimes very hard to see the residue.  I don't have the luxury of a well lit bay.  I did mine in a dark garage with the door closed and 3 LED work lamps that I kept repositioning.  The most helpful thing I did was to buy a little handheld LED light.  I got the Larry 2 by NEBO.  This thing is excellent for this kind of work.  It was much easier to move a small light around, than to move my head.  This light was perfect and many times it allowed me to spot the C1 residue that I had missed.

Another tip I have is: buy an extra package (or 2) of the applicator pads.  C1 comes with 5 pads.  Unless you have a much smaller car, you will need more than 5.  I bought 2 extra packages (they're cheap), and I'm glad I did.  I've used about 10 pads total so far.  I don't like to continue using a pad if I can see any dirt on it.  Yes, I know, that means my car isn't super clean.  Meh.  But also, C1 will start to cure in the pad and those crystals can result in a messy application.

My progress was much slower than it would be if I were waxing the car.  Mostly, this was due to the time it took to carefully inspect each patch and buff off any remaining residue.  Wax haze is easy to see.  C1 residue is almost invisible unless the light hits it just right.  Additional time is also required to prevent C1 from starting to cure in the bottle: close the lid after dabbing the C1 onto the application pad, and set the bottle down so your body heat doesn't promote curing.  Since it cures so fast, you need to buff off any residue within about 60 seconds of applying it.  This means you work small areas.  

After 3 hours, I had not yet finished covering all the planned areas.  The LR4 has a lot of surface area.  I was worried that the 30 ml bottle might not be enough.  Gtechniq says that's enough to cover the average car.  But the LR4 is kinda big.

Since I was getting tired, I decided to delay applying C1 to some remaining areas (the passenger side and the painted areas on the front bumper).  I needed to get busy applying the EXOv2 stacked on top of the C1.  Gtechniq recommends applying EXOv2 between 3 and 12 hours after applying C1 for best results.

So far, I'm not sure it's worth all the effort.  The cost of a mistake is high, compared to using wax.  Late in the day I was wishing I'd chosen Zymol Carbon wax.  I would have been done much faster.  Although it wouldn't last as long and wouldn't have the same hydrophobic properties of the Gtechniq products.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Gtechniq L1 Leather Guard

I have some concerns about the Gtechniq L1 Leather Guard product.  I've applied it to a few areas now in the front row: the seat pans, lower sides of the seats, arm rests, door arm rests, and head rests.  I read the application instructions several times, and I watched a video online showing its application on seats in a Porsche.  The instructions on the bottle read:

  • Thoroughly clean and dry surfaces
  • Apply in a circular motion using a clean lint-free cloth
  • Allow film to dry and then buff with a second lint-free cloth
  • For optimum performance apply 2 coats of L1 allowing 24 hours between applications

Fine.  I did that.  Although I never noticed any residue.  I never used any force during application, just a spreading action.  I wasn't trying to clean the surface, just treat it.

The spray doesn't output a lot of liquid, and so it takes quite a few sprays to get enough to spread around.  At first I used a microfiber cloth, but that seemed to be absorbing a lot of the product.  I switched to an old white T-shirt.  That worked much better because it didn't absorb as much product.  After drying, I used a clean microfiber to wipe down the surface and remove any residue.

Then a few days later I noticed that the T-shirt was literally coming apart where the product had been.  Also, there is some discoloration that matches the color of my leather seats.  I tried googling this, but found nothing.  It appears that the L1 product is eating away the fibers of the cotton shirt.  Although the photo shows that there aren't any holes, so it's not really being "eaten."  There are many small (1 cm) linear cuts.  Maybe the L1 product weakens the cotton fibers and they then shred from the small shear forces involved.

So, I don't know what's happening.  Heck, maybe it's interacting with some chemical that's in the shirt after surviving many laundry cycles.  Maybe I should have flipped the T-shirt more often during application.  Maybe I just used too much L1.

I'm just a little concerned.  I've stopped applying it on other leather surfaces.  I'll watch it carefully to see how it ages and wears over time.

In the meantime I'll try to devise a careful test. 

For what it's worth, the bottle indicates that L1 contains: 5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one and 2-methyl-2H-isothiazol-3-one.  I'm not a chemist, so I guess that's all good stuff.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

LR4 Battery

I noticed something different about the battery in the 2015 LR4.  It has an extra wire.  There's a wire in a black plastic flex conduit with a red angled jack connector.  It sticks into the side at the top of the battery.  This makes me wonder if, when it comes time to replace the battery, i'll need to find a battery that supports this odd feature.  

I'm afraid to disconnect the wire for fear it services something important like the vehicle security system or the stop/start system.  I haven't found anything on google about this, but that's because the things you'd search for (battery wire red top) will generate a ton of results that are not about this.

Monday, March 16, 2015

LR4 Oil Changes

The 2015 LR4 does not have the standard oil drain plug.  And the oil filter isn't mounted on the bottom of the engine.  It's on top.  There's also no physical dip-stick.  I think they started this around MY2013.  Here's a photo of the top of the engine.

And here it is with the plastic cover removed.

The cover comes off very easily.  It's soft-snapped onto the plastic spheres and "C" shape parts mate with 2 posts at the rear.

Here's a photo showing the oil filter location.

Removing the oil filler cap reveals a central tube that runs to the bottom of the oil sump.  

LR4 owners change their own oil by first pumping out the oil through that central tube using a MityVac pump.  I'll order mine soon.

Here's a very helpful youtube video by Umberto Bonfante.  He lives near me, but I've yet to meet him, or even see his rig.  I learn a lot from his posts to the various Land Rover forums.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Other Car Care Products

While I'm on the topic of preparing my new LR4, I'll mention a few other car care products that I'm using.  They may not be the best in their field, but they work fine for me.

303 Fabric Guard
I'm trying 303 Fabric Guard on the carpeting.  I've never used it before, but I've used 303 Aerospace Protectant for many years.  I want to add some protection from dirt and stains that have always appeared in the carpets around the border of my rubber mud floor mats.  This product takes 6-12 hours to dry, and I applied 2 coats as the instructions suggested.  

The instructions also include some interesting warnings.  It's very flammable and you need to keep it away from flames, sparks, and heat.  The vapors are harmful and you should avoid breathing them.  Wear protective gloves and do not get the product on your skin.  Do not use on vinyl, plastic, rubber... Protect those areas from overspray and wipe up any overspray immediately.

The product went on easily with no problems and I noticed no unpleasant odors or staining on nearby surfaces.  There's plenty of plastic bits around the carpeting of my LR4, so I just wiped them off immediately with a clean microfiber cloth.

Wheel Wax
I've used Wheel Wax for years and it works very well.  Unfortunately, it's harder to wax my new wheels because they have a lot of nooks and they are black.  The additional surface features in the wheel are an obvious factor that makes waxing take longer.  The black color had a surprising effect.  The black color is not forgiving when you're buffing off the wax.  Unlike a silver colored wheel, you can clearly see every tiny bit of wax that you failed to buff off.  I considered returning to using the Armor All Wheel Protectant product, but learned from googling that it leaves a residue that is visible on black wheels.  So, Wheel Wax it is.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


I'm trying some products from Gtechniq to protect my new Land Rover LR4.  I've never used their products before, so I'm hoping it works out well.  A few of their products require extra care during application.  But that's fine for an OCD nut like me.

The North American distributor for Gtechniq has been out of stock of the Exov2 product for a very long time, so I bought that from online retail shops in the UK.  Gtechniq is a UK company.

These are the products I'll be using:

I am applying C1 to all metal surfaces including the A and B pillars, as well as the headlamps and tail lamps.  This fancy sealant is supposed to last much longer than wax or other paint sealants.  The Gtechniq website indicates it lasts 3 to 5 years.

I'll post photos of the C1 application later.

I plan to apply Exov2 to all the metal surfaces including the A and B pillars - as an outer coating on top of the C1 sealant.  The black plastic trim pieces will also be treated.  I emailed Gtechniq and the confirmed that it can be applied to those plastic bits.  Like C1, the EXOv2 product lasts a long time: 12 to 18 months according to the web site.

I'll post photos of the Exov2 application later.

The LR4 has lots of glass, and I used G5 on all of it.  G5 appears to be a soft liquid wax product, although the Gtechniq site does not say this.  It goes on, dries, and comes off exactly like other liquid wax products I've used.  I'm eager to see how well it holds up and how long it lasts.  The website indicates that it lasts up to 3 to 6 months.

I am applying L1 to the arm rests, high-wear areas on the front seats, and the rear seat pans.  I like that this product is not designed to "feed" your leather.  Gtechniq understands that your vehicle leather came with a protective coating that simply wears out over time.  L1 adds more layers of protection.  This makes sense to me.  L1 is reported to last 3 to 12 months.

I first tested L1 on a 2nd row headrest.  I wanted to see if it caused any changes in color, luster/finish, odor, or anything else I might not want.  The test went well and I decided to use L1 as outlined above.  Leather interiors in my cars have shown the most wear in only a couple areas: the driver seat (especially the front and left edge of the seat pan), the armrest, and the top of the center console.  Obviously, these areas have the most exposure to people.  The top of the center console on my new LR4 isn't leather.  It appears to be vinyl.  This is a surprise because it was leather on my 2008 LR3.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Removing LR4 Running Boards

Here's how I removed the running boards on my 2015 Land Rover LR4.  These are a mandatory feature on the 2015 model.  They are installed at the factory and the dealership is forbidden from removing them.  I removed them so I could install my after-market rock sliders.

They're relatively easy to remove.  It's just time consuming and requires some awkward positioning since I don't have a lift.  I found a video online showing the installation process, but that LR4 had a slightly different rocker panel trim.

Tools Used:

a) phillips screwdriver
b) T40 Torx bit and socket wrench
c) 10 mm socket and 3 inch extension
d) trim removal pry tools

Procedure Used:

1) Locate and remove all 9 Torx bolts on the bottom of each running board that fasten it to the frame.  Don't worry about needing to support the running board at this time.  There are 7 more bolts to be removed and they easily hold it onto the car.

2) Remove 2 screws that fasten the rear of the rocker panel trim to the car.

3) Looking up at the bottom of the running boards, remove the 7 nuts that fasten the board exterior to its structure.

4) Remove the running board surface.  Close the doors and lift the running board.  To get it free, you must clear those bolts (that you removed the nuts from) from the holes in the structure.  I had to jiggle it a bit and roll it toward the car as I lifted.

5) Open both doors and pry the rocker panel trim away from the body along the top edge using a pry tool.  I happen to have some plastic trim pry tools that worked well.  But I also did a bit with a screwdriver.  I did not completely remove the trim.  I only unsnapped the white/yellow snap-fasteners.  This was enough to let me squeeze a socket wrench in from above to remove the remaining bolts.

6) Remove the remaining 7 Torx bolts that hold the running board structure to the side of the car.  Remember that the last one will be supporting the entire weight of the running board.  They are a bit heavy.  I weighed one and it was 54 pounds.  I simply removed the front and rear bolts first, then I sat on the floor facing the car with the running boards resting on my (slightly bent) knees and removed the center bolts.

7) Lower the running board structure and set it aside.

Note: I did the above procedure in my garage with the car in off-road height.  It would have been easier in extended mode, or on a lift.  It helped that I had a handy low-profile ratchet driver to get at the bolts behind the trim and the screws at the back of the trim.  I'm sure competent people have better tools.

It took me about 2 hours total to remove both running boards.  More was spent on the first one, then it got easier.

Since I won't install the rock sliders for a week or so (it looks like I might need to cut one of them to fit), I snapped the rocker panel trim back into place and fastened the 2 screws at the back of the trim.  The car now looks normal.  You'd have to be very short and know a lot about Land Rovers to notice that the rocker panel trim has some factory-made cuts to accommodate the running boards.  

Now I can focus on protecting the finish and such.

UPDATE: I've added a new post with photos showing the LR4 without running boards, before I installed rock sliders.