Long term test : Jaguar Sovereign

Launched in 1986, the Jaguar XJ40 was the result of an extremely extended gestation period beginning in 1972… A fully-loaded executive car, the first product of the revitalised Jaguar Car company under John Egan.

However, in familiar BL tradition, the car sometimes suffered from a lot of faults; some from new and others as the car aged. Always eager for a new challenge; Brian Gunn couldn’t resist running one as a replacement for his 620ti, this being his first rear wheel drive car…

Satin Beige complemented by a Doeskin leather interior. Standard 390mm Metric wheels with well worn tyres!

AFTER a busy year renovating a flat, Brian began to get itchy feet in relation to the choice of car he should be driving. As readers familiar with his previous car choices will know, Brian tends to enjoy upgrading and modifying his cars, and enjoys getting his teeth into vehicles that are increasingly more complex. He is also a keen advocate of the concept of ‘Bangernomics’ – aiming to get the most car, for the least amount of money…

After running a succession of Honda powered Rover 800s, Brian was keen to find something a little different to get his teeth into. The ideal opportunity arose when speaking to Keith Adams about the 620ti he bought as a ‘stop-gap’, and that after examining eBay, he had warmed to the XJ40 as his next car. Keith informed Brian that a friend had something rather interesting for sale, a low mileage 1989 Jaguar Sovereign….

Pictures of the car were duly sought, and a deal was struck – Brian finally had his first rear-wheel drive car, one with a somewhat superlative ride too! This is in marked contrast to his previous long term car!

Of course, any 17 year old car is not going to be without its problems, and this car is no exception. With electrical faults, a number of hydraulic system issues and some light rust issues, Brian has plenty to keep him occupied.

It will be extremely interesting to see Brian slowly restore this Jaguar back to its former glory.

Update – 18 April 2006

In all British built executive cars, electrics seem to be an issue. Brian’s new Jaguar seems to be no exception here:

The instrument pack, now fully working…

Brian relates the problems:

“The first thing I noticed when driving the car home from Keith’s is the wonderful vacuum florescent dashboard instruments. They’re wonderfully ’80s’; showing the high technology image car manufacturers were all trying to chase then. However, this instrument pack was not without its problems, gaining a reputation for notorious unreliability, and people often said they would prefer analogue instruments – Jaguar duly obliged in 1990.”

“My car is not without its problems in this department, either; at first I didn’t notice that the large dot matrix VCM/trip computer display was not lit up – thinking nothing of it. However, when I travelled over a large pot-hole, I noticed a fleeting glance of what should be seen. The display lit up, showing a number of faults (which I’ll talk about later!), before fading out equally rapidly. A quick thump on the top of the dash pod achieved the same effect! The speedo was also not operating, nor where there any figures showing on the trip computer in relation to speed or distance travelled; so the speed sensor must have failed.”

“Reading up on the subject, I found that a few dry joints on the rear of the instrument pack power supply, particularly around a little transformer – its weight causes the solder joints to crack with the vibration the instruments encounter. So, out came the instruments, off came the back and I soon found the culprits. Fifteen minutes with the soldering iron had it all back in working order. Fixing the speedo would necessitate a replacement speed sensor, which would be duly sourced from a breakers..”

It makes one wonder how many auto-electricians have wasted hours “chasing” electrical faults, but to no avail. If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is that if you have a Jaguar and are experiencing such niggles, get in touch with Brian, via the website!

Update – 2 May 2006

Brian repairs an all too common fault on these cars, and investigates something more serious…

Why is it, the more expensive or the bigger the car, the sillier the things that seem to go wrong? As seen above, small failures in the instrument pack lead to problems that look much worse than they are. The same could also be said about the door handles…

Ask any XJ40 owner, and they’ll tell you the one thing that always seems to fail on the car, despite how well behaved the rest of it might be: The door handles. Maybe Jaguar figured that a good way to make money is to design the least durable door handle, so the owners of their cars have to replace them repeatedly!

Of course, it would have to be the drivers door handle that fails first – meaning opening the car from the passenger side. Not so much a problem in a Mini – but a wide car like the Jag means a long reach to the drivers door!

Fortunately, eBay came to the rescue, a replacement (working) handle was sourced, along with some other parts; A replacement speed sensor, a heated washer jet (the passenger side jet was missing, resulting in a huge water fountain everytime the washers were used!) and a hydraulic brake servo (more on this later). A quick afternoon’s work saw the handle, speed sensor and washer jet fitted. Hooray! Not only can I now embark the car from his own door, but also determine the speed the car travels at!

On to the brakes: Any seasoned XJ40 owner will tell you that the brake system on these cars is no simple affair. Designed to work with the Self Levelling Suspension (SLS) system at the rear of the car, there is a whole tangle of pipework, an engine driven pump, tank, and valve bodies. The traditional vacuum brake servo is dispensed with, replaced with a high pressure hydraulic booster (that operates at 100bar). This system also runs on special fluid, called HSMO (Hydraulic System Mineral Oil), which is expensive and not common (although a Jaguar development engineer has since informed me that it is perfectly acceptable to use Citroen LHM fluid) …

Whilst the SLS system worked well when the car was new, as the system aged, it became very unreliable – failing to keep the car level, bouncing the rear around, leaking or both! Jaguar produced a kit to resolve this problem; which replaced the self levellers and pipework with standard dampers and springs, and blocked the pressure feed from the valve body. However, as the rest of the system ages, leaks frequently occur from the brake servo, as well as the pressure switches and accumulator. And of course, new parts are only available at an astronomical cost!

It was only when I restored the instrument pack to full operation that the reason for the brake performance of his car became apparent. The VCM repeatedly flashing up warnings of “POWER FLUID LOW” and “LOW BRAKE PRESSURE” meant the hydraulic servo system wasn’t working as it should.

This is why the brake pedal needs a really good shove sometimes, there being little or no servo effort on the brakes! Obviously, with the low power fluid warning, there was a leak somewhere. So, looking over carefully, the first leak was noted at the rear of the servo unit – the ‘green blood’ was running down the pedal box and onto the bulkhead.

So, I replaced the servo with the one I purchased on eBay, and refilled the fluid reservoir. Sure enough, the low brake pressure and power fluid low warnings went out, and the brake action was vastly improved. There was still an occasional “ANTI-LOCK FAILURE” and “BRAKE PAD LOW” warning appearing though. So it looks like a brake overhaul is needed then!

Update – 4 June 2006

The brake overhaul..

As indicated in my last update, I noticed that the VCM was giving me a “BRAKE PAD LOW” warning. Following a very quick wheel-off examination, I saw that the brake pads and discs were rather worn. Not the worst I’d ever seen, but in need of replacement nonetheless. As I’d been planning to give the car a good service, anyway, this was merely another thing to add to the list.

After obtaining the parts I needed from a well known supplier, I allocated a day to replace the brakes. At the wheels, the Jaguar braking system is pretty conventional, and replacing the pads and discs was no great trouble. A few hours work saw everything replaced with shiny new parts, and the car was ready to roll.

Whilst the brakes were apart, I also noticed some play in the front wheel bearings. Being adjustable, I removed the grease cap, and tightened the nut to attempt to remove the slack. The trouble was, if I tightened the nut to remove the play, the bearings were under load, and binding – so there was only one option, I had to replace them. Another item on the list!

When I removed the front wheels to access the brakes, I noticed that the front tyres were dangerously worn on their inside edge! Obviously the toe setting was incorrect, which is no great difficulty. The main problem would be replacing the tyres – as mentioned above, Jaguar fitted Metric wheels to pre 1991 XJs with TD (run flat) tyres. Unfortunately, these never really took off, and so there are only a few manufacturers that make them these days! So unless I wanted to pay £150+ each for a tyre, the wheels had to go.

Metric wheels…

So priority number one was to obtain some replacement wheels and tyres, as well as replacing the wheel bearings…


Update – 16 July 2006

eBay came to the rescue again. After watching a few sets of wheels come and go, I managed to find myself a nice, “honest” set of imperial X300 wheels, shod with a set of reasonable tyres. I say “honest”, because whilst not being absolutely mint, they are in very good condition, merely with a few chips and scratches here and there. Of course, the advantage with this – especially when the seller describes them so accurately – is that the price isn’t so high!

So, £150 lighter, and a 300 mile journey later, I had some new boots for the car. Remember how one Metric tyre alone could cost this much! Before I could put them on though, I had to resolve the wheel bearing issue, and set the front toe – so I didn’t tear my new tyres to shreds…

An afternoon’s work saw the wheelbearings replaced – being a rear-wheel drive car there are no driving loads through them, so replacement is very simple. I then took the car to a local garage and had the toe setting adjusted – sure enough the car was heavily toed out!

Once I returned home, I could fit my new wheels – and how much better they made the car look:

Shiny ‘new’ wheels – suddenly the car looks much more modern…

I took the car for a test drive, immediately noticing the ride was quieter, and the car felt a lot more positive on the road. After all, the Metric tyres had aged badly, and they were also somewhat narrower than the 225 profile tyres now fitted. The old wheels were 390mm (just over 15″), and the new are 16″ so the reduction in the size of the tyre’s profile obviously helped the handling, without sacrificing ride comfort. This is exactly what we want!

Of course, there was always something to burst my bubble, and in this case it was that damn “POWER FLUID LOW” and “LOW BRAKE PRESSURE” warning again. I’ve obviously got another leak in my hydraulic system. This thing is beginning to get on my nerves!

Update – 16 August 2006

Repairing the leaky hydraulics…

What with the constant warnings about the power hydraulic system running low on fluid and pressure, something had to be done in order to restore full braking effort, and allow the car to pass it’s impending MOT test.

Upon careful examination of the entire power hydraulic system, it was evident that there were a number of leaks; taking the hydraulic tank from it’s mountings revealed the area below was completely soaked in old fluid. Following down to the pump, and then to the accumulator and pressure switch body showed that fluid appeared to be literally spraying from one of the pressure switches – with a system that operates at over 100bar pressure, it’s not much wonder that the fluid was going quickly..

Just a little leak or two…

So, armed with this information, I telephoned a few Jaguar breakers, in order to source these parts. At that point, I realised this was going to be a very expensive proposition, prices of £150 for the pressure switches and accumulator alone! Bear in mind, these were second-hand parts, and there was no guarantee that the same wasn’t to occur in a short time..

At this point, I had to investigate another way – there had to be another way! After all, all other cars I’d been used to used a plain, simple, and reliable vacuum servo. Couldn’t the Jag be fitted with something from another car? So I performed some internet searches, and hey presto, found others had been thinking the same as me.

An American company had produced a kit to substitute the high pressure system for a simple vacuum servo, from a series 3 XJ, or XJ-S of all cars! The cost of the kit was a not inconsiderable sum of £120, but at least I knew my problems wouldn’t return. Of course, I had to add in the cost of a servo (£50), and I got stung for customs charges, but at least I could have peace of mind when the conversion was done.

Following the kit instructions, I removed the old hydraulic components; pump, tank, valves and numerous hydraulic parts! Taking these off would save several kilo’s in weight, and made the engine bay somewhat tidier! The space vacated by the hydraulic pump on the engine was covered with the plate supplied in the kit.



Servo fitting kit…

The first job I had to do was to remove the pedal box from the car, after unbolting the brake master cylinder from it. This was followed by removing the hydraulic servo, and attaching a 4mm thick aluminium adapter plate that allowed the vacuum servo to be mounted at the correct angle. This is attached with some countersunk allen screws, and tightened securely.

Left to Right: XJ6 Series 3 Brake servo (repainted), Adapter plate on pedal box with fixing screws, Half way through cutting Brake Servo Mounting Studs

The servo then mounted to this, although two of the studs had to be cut short to allow it to sit back fully, this was quickly achieved with a hacksaw. Once the servo was bolted up and connected to the pedal, I then had to adjust the brake light/cruise control switch to work correctly with the altered pedal position. After this, the assembly could be fitted back to the car.

The following job was to drill out the bolt holes on the brake master to accept the larger studs on the servo. This could then be bolted up, and this part of the work was complete.

The next part of the job was to fit a vacuum tapping into the inlet manifold, to provide the servo assistance. The kit was supplied with a 1/4″ NPT hose fitting, which fits in a hole tapped in the manifold. Jaguar thoughtfully designed the manifold for this purpose, as there was a 7/16″ blanked off hole for this exact reason (the AJ6 engine was used in the XJ-S, which had vacuum servo assistance until approx. 1987).

Inlet manifold with elbow removed to prevent swarf entering engine – notice the blind hole at the top…

In order to prevent swarf entering the engine, I removed the inlet elbow pipe at the rear of the engine, and stuffed a large bundle of rag into the hole. I then drilled the hole through, and ran the tap into the hole. After cleaning any swarf away, I refitted the elbow, and then fitted the hose fitting with some PTFE tape on the threads.

Vacuum take off fitting fitted…

It was then a simple case of connecting this up to the servo with some 9mm bore hose, with a non-return valve in between (the valve I used was obtained from a 1.6 Rover R8 incidentally), and neatly routing the pipe along another, tiewrapping it at regular intervals. Then I refitted all other ancillary components, such as the power steering fluid reservoir, and any connectors that were separated whilst work was in progress.

The final part of the job was to solder together the wires on the pressure switch connectors, and fluid reservoir level sensor, to ‘fool’ the VCM into thinking all was well with the hydraulic system that wasn’t there. Turning on the ignition, I could be happy in the knowledge that I’d never get that damn “LOW BRAKE PRESSURE” warning again!

Simple, neat installation – like it came from the factory…

To check the vacuum servo was working correctly, I pressed the brake pedal down lightly, and started the engine. Sure enough, the pedal ‘relaxed’ into the floor, signifying the servo was working correctly – success!

Before driving the car, I took the opportunity to change the spark plugs, as well as the rotor arm, distributor cap and HT leads, they were all well past their best; the spark plugs particularly so! Restarting the car, the engine seemed much more lively on the throttle, and idling was smoother.

On the road, it was immediately evident that the car was a lot lighter on it’s feet – the engine seemed particularly stronger in the mid-range, and acceleration was measurably improved. Turning one’s attention to the brakes – it was welcome to find the servo operated consistently (the hydraulic system, although more powerful on initial application, was considerably worse when the fluid level was low!). Give the pedal a good hard shove, and the ABS system rapidly cut in. This made the car a hundred times better than when I first drove it!

Next job on the list – replace the differential output bearings, anyone that’s familiar with the Jaguar rear suspension system will realise there is no top suspension arm – this job being peformed by the driveshaft itself. Of course, this means the bearing supporting the diff. output shaft takes suspension loads – leading to wheel play when worn.

Update – 22 October 2006

Curing the wobbles…

I’ve had a hectic couple of months, after going on holiday, and then participating in S2N 2006 with Keith Adams, so now was the time to turn my attentions to the Jaguar again.

Ever since I’d got the car, I’d always noticed a small amount of driveline vibration and ‘shuddering’ under hard acceleration, or when the engine is idling. My first thoughts on this were that this would go away once a service was done – the ignition components weren’t exactly in their first flush of youth, so surely there’d be a misfire or two occurring every now and again?

After replacing these parts, and noting a mild improvement, the shuddering was still there. My next thoughts were that engine or gearbox mountings could be the cause of this; any uncontrolled movement often causes this in a car, as the driveline can move out of alignment etc.

Reading up about how the XJ40’s engine and gearbox is mounted turns up a surprise, Jaguar – rather cleverly – mounted the engine and gearbox (not an inconsiderable lump of metal I might add) on only three mountings. Two support the engine in a cradle at the front, and even more strangely; the third, at the rear, supports the gearbox at the tail shaft in the vertical plane. This mounting is comprises of a large ‘doughnut’ shaped assembly, with two powerful springs, with a balance weight in between which is guided by a large foam bush to stop the gearbox moving side/side or fore/aft.

Being made of foam, the guide bush degrades over time, which means it no longer does its job of restraining the gearbox, which allows the propshaft to run out of line, causing vibration. After checking the various Jaguar forums online I found the destruction of this bush is a frequent occurrence, and is one of the first places to look if there’s a driveline problem.

Gearbox mount: The thoroughly mullered foam buffer is on the left, nice new one on the right…

As you can see from the pictures, all of the wearing parts in the mounting were thoroughly worn, the foam guide bush having almost disintegrated when it was removed. Rather tellingly, the new bush was made of rubber – which whilst being harder with the possibility of more vibration being transmitted to the car, is much more durable than foam. Within 20 minutes, the new parts were refitted to the car, and everything lined up correctly (unlike before, with the old worn parts).

Gearbox mount: Upper spring seat rubber as it came off the car…

Whilst I was under the car, I figured it’d be a good time to drain the automatic fluid, clean out the sump pan and change the fluid filter. The fluid looked a little brown on the dipstick, so I knew it needed changing, but it wasn’t until I allowed it to drain that I saw how bad it was. Once I removed the sump pan, it was clear the fluid hadn’t been changed for some time, as the magnets in the base of the pan were thoroughly ‘furred up’ in very light powder, the filter looked to be clogged with fine bits too. (see pic below) Worryingly, when the fluid is a brown colour, it suggests that the clutch packs in the gearbox might be burnt, and could fail. It seems the gearbox had been neglected over the years… I’m hoping I’ve caught this one in the nick of time.

Old auto transmission fluid and ‘furred up’ magnet in the base of sump pan…

After replacing all of the parts, I filled the transmission with fresh Dexron III fluid. After checking the level correctly, I took the car for a drive. And what a difference! The car seemed much quieter, and the shift quality of the transmission was much improved. Not perfect, but as the fluid was so filthy, I’m planning on changing it another couple of times to flush out the rest of the debris (not all of the fluid comes out when draining an automatic gearbox).

Next on the list – differential output shaft bearings, as the car has an impending MOT, and one of the rear wheels has slight play due to movement in the suspension. Also, the car seems to have developed a starting problem – it was an absolute pig to start this morning!

Update – 4 November 2006

…More wobble curing…

As mentioned over the last few months, I noticed a small amount of play had developed in the differential output shaft bearings, particularly on the passenger side of the car. Anyone who knows how the Jaguar rear suspension system works, will note that the driveshaft forms the top link of a double wishbone design, as it is of fixed length with no sliding coupling. This is rather ingenious, not only does it save weight and space, but also the system neatly avoids the issue of a splined driveline locking up upon the application of torque – in exactly the same vein as Spen King designed the Rover de-dion system on the P6.

Output drive flange pictured from below – worn oil seal clearly evident…

Unfortunately, this also means suspension loads are fed into the output shaft of the differential, which is located by a rather large bearing that is pressed onto the shaft, and retained by a large pressed on collar. Anyone who’s done the job before will know that it can be a real pig to replace the bearing, as not only do you have to removed a pressed on sleeve, but also a ball bearing that’s quite tightly pressed on!

Once the driveshaft universal joint was unbolted from the drive flange, and the retaining bolts removed, I could remove the shaft from the car. The service manual instructs you to drill a series of small holes to break through the retaining collar, before cracking it with a chisel and sliding it off. This was easy enough; within 15 minutes I had this removed and was beginning to think this was actually a pretty nice job. Then I tried to remove the bearing, and it wasn’t going anywhere!

Trying the most obvious first, I dug out my three-jaw puller, and quickly realized it didn’t have enough reach to get down to the bearing. Damn!

Next I supported the retaining plate in a vice, and hit the end of the shaft (with wood interposed, so I didn’t chew the end of the splines up). The bearing didn’t even budge.

I then applied heat to the inner race of the bearing, in the hope that expanding it might allow it to slide from the shaft more easily. Not a chance.

That left me with one way to remove it: Firstly, I smashed the inner cage out, so I could move all of the balls to one side of the bearing, after which I cut through the outer race with an angle grinder, and levered it off. Once the inner race was revealed, I again cut through it (as close to the shaft inside as possible without touching), cracked the race and slid it off the shaft.

It was a fairly simple matter to knock on the new bearing, but the new retaining collar needed special attention. Not having access to a press meant I had to use another approach to fitting it, which again involved heat. Using a blowtorch, I heated the collar enough to allow it to be knocked onto the shaft with not too much effort. Thankfully the hard part of the job was over!

Left: New bearing and retaining collar, Right: Drilled/cracked retaining collar before removal…

Another twenty minutes saw the refurbished assembly put back on the car, with the correct shims to ensure 0.004″ play, and the driveshaft coupled up to it. A quick wiggle of the wheel confirmed there was no play!

I also noticed that the universal joints on the driveshafts are fitted with grease nipples, so whilst the car was up on stands I greased them. Well, only one of four before I ran out of grease! Another job to do as soon as I can.

Checking the drivers side wheel confirmed that the bearing was just starting to go the same way. Arghhh – another one to do!

Once that’s done, I can put the car through its MOT. There are a few things I need to look at soon: the starting problem (it seems to be worse in cold weather), the front suspension (seems to be rather saggy – I’ve bottomed out a couple of times over large bumps), change the differential oil, and get the air conditioning working (it gradually gave up one summer’s day).

Update – 11 November 2006

Finishing the job…

Attention was turned to the other side of the car; the play at the wheel for the drivers side was also too great, so the bearing had to be replaced. I now have this down to a fine art; however, and within an hour I had changed the bearing, and fitted the assembly to the car. By attacking the bearing with an angle grinder, cracking the races and pulling it off that way, I took a lot less time, and the work was considerably easier.

I’d noticed the differential oil was rather dark and smelly when a small amount poured out of the casing when the output shaft was out, so I used the time the car was up on axle stands as an opportunity to change the oil. Simple enough really, the drain plug is a ½” square – hidden behind a hole in the ‘A frame’, so the obvious thing to do is to knock on a ½” socket extension, and then use a spanner on the square drive.

I wasn’t prepared for the deluge of the most disgusting brown liquid that seemed to come out all at once, though! Despite being EP90 oil (when it was put in all those years ago), it seemed to have the consistency of watered down fairy liquid! The smell was also very bad – particularly sulphorous, as is often the case with gear oil that has broken down after numerous years of hard work. Looking at the condition of the fluid, I’d say it was the original 17-year-old oil – or at least 10 years old – and well overdue for changing!

Refilling was a routine job, the filler plug (1/2″ socket this time) being reached from an access plug in the front of the boot, behind the spare wheel. I also greased the driveshaft universal joints, having bought some more grease.

After a thorough warming up of the engine and gearbox, I then drained the auto transmission fluid, which didn’t come out in ‘as new in pink’ condition, but was a whole lot better than before. Refilled with 3 litres of fresh Dexron III.

I also found the source of a noise from the exhaust when the engine was hot – two small cracks had developed around the entry of the pipe into the front silencer box. Being stainless steel, there was no rust, but an unfortunate property of stainless is that it work hardens very easily, and tends to crack – which is often the case on old exhausts. A few minutes with the grinder had the crack site cleaned up, and I could then affect a repair with welds. When hot, the car sounded like a Jaguar again!

Driving the car, it was immediately apparent that things were much improved in the transmission department. It’s not as if the car was much quieter, although it is amazing how whisper quiet driving is, but what was immediately noticeable was the fact that the transmission seemed to be wasting less energy in driving the car. Acceleration seems to be improved, the car lighter on its feet and when coasting, the slowing effect of parasitic drag seems much less apparent. I would therefore urge all of you to go through the rigmarole of changing all of your fluids – the effect it has on your car is far more pronounced than you’d think!

When I returned home, I drained and refilled the transmission fluid for a third time, the fluid that came out was a much healthier pink colour, so it was obvious the gearbox had been flushed out fully.

I had some spare ATF, so also changed the power steering system fluid, as I had noticed the steering was becoming increasingly heavy – especially when the engine was at full temperature. After vacuuming the contents of the fluid reservoir with an old gear oil bottle (the flexible spout helping here), I could then take off the fluid return pipe from the reservoir and aim it into an empty container. By starting the engine, and quickly turning the steering from side to side (not for too long as you can damage the pump), the system was empty. It was then a quick job to re-connect the fluid return pipe, and refill the reservoir with fluid. Then, after turning the steering slowly from side to side to bleed the steering rack, I could restart the engine to fully evacuate any air bubbles. After checking the level again, all was well.

With a large heavy car like the Jag, it was especially noticeable that the system wasn’t working properly, so changing the fluid made a great difference. Parking and low speed driving was far more relaxed, the steering much more consistent, with greater feel at high speed. A win-win situation if you ask me!

Now I’ve completed the work on the rear suspension, the car is ready for an MOT. Soon we’ll see if I’m all smiles with a freshly MOTd car, or I’ve got more work to do!

Update – 2, 3 & 4 December 2006

Pre MOT checks gone wrong…

As mentioned in the last update, the car was due for an MOT, and as I often do, I gave the car a quick once over before the test. Everything previously fitted had settled down nicely, the engine running nicely, rear suspension working nicely, and the gearbox behaving better by the day. As ever, there was one thing to spoil the party – namely wear in one of the top suspension bushes on the passenger side top wishbone.

The offending item, front wishbone bush (seen to the left in this picture)…

A quick read of the manual confirmed that replacement of this was of no great difficulty, no press tools required for their removal, simply the extraction of a large bolt from the subframe and then pop some new ones in. Being the conscientious person I am, I ordered a pair of bushes, as well as four bushes for the damper mountings – these are made from high density foam, and frequently crumble over time (as mine had started to).

When these arrived, I drove the car to my work area, and began work. Simple enough, two bolts holding the wishbone together with the upper balljoint between, and a long bolt going through the subframe acting as the fulcrum for the arm. I slackened off the locknut at the rear of the fulcrum bolt, and pulled off the rear part of the arm, and then after a quick attempt to remove the bolt, the reality of the situation hit me.

The bolt was seized solid in its mounting tube in the subframe. No amount of swinging on a breaker bar with a socket on its head would provide ANY movement – and it was clear the bolt was stuck fast.

As anyone will know, when faced with a seized bolt on the suspension system of a car, generally the only way to remove it is to provide a large amount of heat to it, or cut the ends off and drill it out. This is all very well, but often access is so poor that you need to dismantle half of the car to get to the area with a drill, and this is exactly what I was faced with. How could a £12 bush be retained by a bolt that needed 2 days of work to get to?

Feeling somewhat suicidal at this point, I then began the process of dropping the subframe, to allow me to remove the bolt. Not the work of a moment, as the engine is supported by the crossmember, as well as numerous other parts that had to be disconnected. I even found that two of the subframe mounting bolts were seized solid, and wouldn’t budge. Things were just getting better and better.

Thankfully, my good friend Stu was providing assistance and good humour by this point, because I felt the only course of action to take was to purchase 5 litres of unleaded, a packet of matches, and let nature take its course. Stu suggested that it would be quite possible to pivot the subframe down on the rear mountings (that were stuck fast), and this would provide access to the offending bolt.

Subframe hanging down from the car by the rear mountings, spring compressors retaining the coil spring…

After struggling with spring compressors for half an hour to retain the suspension whilst the top arm was removed, we tried the age old technique of heating the tubes in the subframe, to try and provide some expansion to free the bolt. Nothing was moving, despite the assistance of an 18lb sledge hammer on the rear of the bolt. At this point, we both considered that we’d need a bomb to remove this bolt! Feeling there was nothing to lose, I attacked the head of the bolt with a cutting disc in an angle grinder, and successfully removed the remaining part of the arm. This still took some time though, as the bolt is a high tensile item, bearing some of the weight of the car.

Day two..

With a fresh pair of eyes, and slightly less aches and pains than the night before, I approached the job again. Worried that I wouldn’t be able to drill the bolt out, I then cut the ends off right next to the tubes on each side of the subframe, and tried to drill a small hole in the centre at one end. Fortunately, with a sharp drill, and some care I managed to penetrate through the bolt past where it was bound by rust, leaving a nice pilot hole for a larger drill. Going through a succession of drill bits, I managed to weaken the bolt enough to hammer it out!

Left: The old bolt after destruction, note it has no head or thread. Right: Brand new bolt and locknut…

Yes! To say I felt elated at this point was an understatement. Lord knows why, I had a car that was in bits, and I still needed to obtain a replacement bolt to be able to drive it again. But at least I managed to free the most stubborn bolt I’ve ever encountered!

I spent a little time cleaning up the bore of the tube the bolt fits through, so the new one would fit easily. At least I could fit the subframe, and all of the items removed to enable its removal – and then once I got another bolt, I could put the car back together easily..

So, yes, you guessed it – the rest of the day was spent fitting everything back again. I had a lovely time shuffling the engine about to get it back onto its mountings, and the same difficulty re-mounting the subframe. Before too long, though, I had the car back in a state ready for the new bolt.

Day three..

‘Phoning around a few well-known Jaguar parts specialists left me in a quandary. All of them stated that the bolt would have to be sourced directly from Jaguar, and would take at least four days. Four days without my car would be too much, so I tried contacting a few local Jaguar dealerships myself.

No luck on the first one, they didn’t even answer the telephone! The next one I chanced upon was a small dealership located just near the Kensington High Street (ideal for me to get to, considering I was car-less). Would they have one in stock? Of course, and the locknut too.

What a fantastic little place – located in a small Mews near High St Kensington station, with a rather beautifully polished XK120 engine in a glass case in the showroom. An excellent parts department – staff very helpful, and a good stock of spares, I’d recommend them to anyone needing genuine spares.

Returning home, I quickly fitted the new bolt (with copious amounts of copper grease, I might add) and fitted the new bushes into the wishbone. Before long, I had the car back on all four wheels, and the previous days’ troubles were a thing of the past.

Driving the car, it is clear that a pair of small bushes like this affect the ride and handling markedly. The annoying clonk from the front suspension has gone, and the ride height seems to have come up slightly too. The ‘magic carpet’ persona of the car had been restored; the ride is – quite simply – astonishing.

Now considered MOT worthy, watch this space for news of the test!

Update – 5 December 2006


The title says it all really. The car passed its MOT with flying colours. Anyone who’s owned an old XJ40 will tell you that is definitely a good thing!

It’s at this juncture that I have to write that the Jaguar sadly has to go. It’s not that I haven’t fallen for it’s magnetic charm, because I have. The car is a fabulous drive and it has road presence in spadeloads. It has an original “Gentlemans Club” interior, with an ambience that many modern cars struggle to capture. Turn the key and watch the “Tokyo by night” instruments boot up, and you’ll see that this is not just an old fashioned car though, being crammed full of technology (and before you scoff, remember it was designed in the seventies!). You cannot fail to be impressed with the thought that has gone into this car as the doors shut with a rewarding “thump”, and the car glides over bumps and ripples in the road effortlessly.

Indeed, it is impossible not to resort to cliches when describing this car. “Magic Carpet” ride, coupled with “Limpet” like roadholding, and cornering performance as if the car is on rails. Yes – I did it, I used those awful cliches, and until you drive a car like this, you’ll probably wonder what the hell I am on about. It really is that good.

Sideways action on slippery damp (empty) corners, the effortless capability of being able to “launch” itself away from the lights, and comfort like no other. I’m really going to miss this car – but I hope the new owner appreciates its charms as much as I have. It won’t be my last RWD car either…

£1200 gets you tax, test and a whole load of style…

Update – 7 January 2006

Moving on…

Well, it had to happen, didn’t it? Yes, I’m now Jaguarless. After seeing the car within the pages of Classic Car Weekly, an enthusiast from Christchurch came and viewed the car and bought it on the spot!

So, on reflection, what was Jaguar ownership like; was it all it was cracked up to be? On balance, I have to say yes. At times, I found myself swearing at the car more times than is decent and I really did question my sanity for even owning the car. But every time I sat in the cossetting drivers seat, turned the key, clicked the car into ‘Drive’ and pulled off; I knew why I chose the car.

The way the car had a majestic presence on the road, the soft and supple ride and the effortless progress the 3.6 straight six and ZF autobox delivered. This car really did have it all, including a prodigious thirst!

Fond memories…

Keith Adams


  1. A wonderful story of the pitfalls of an old Jag, and the cost effective means to solve them, given a little commonsense and ingenuity! It should allay a lot of peoples fears about owning one!I still hanker for a facelift version- I remember that even on launch the square lights front and back compromised the lines(and the odd pinky red “secret til lit rear lenses, very technically designed, and quite underwhelming in reality!), rather like RR’s horrible black square front light surrounds. Some car makers should stick with a trusted formula! Look how awful the Alfa styling was ten years back, flat areas and slitty rear lights, then look at the aggressive new generation-real attitude!

  2. Hi there,
    really cool story. I have an XJ6 1990, and I was wondering if you could let me know where you bought the brake conversion kit? I am thinking of doing the same and get rid of the low pressure warning signal.

    Thanks a bunch.

  3. Great story I have same question about the brake servo unit , where did you purchase the kit? Nagging now and then light for low pressure in my 1989 xj brakes feel great and all , even upgraded to slotted drilled rotors and semi metallic pads all around for performance breaking.

  4. Hi/ cold you please tell me if you could kit a 4LT engine 1989 XJ6 into a3.6 1989XJ40 could the 3.6 head fit 4LT

  5. Hi Brian,
    I have an x type 2008 2.2 jaguar and have great difficulty in reading the computer screen on the dashboard, also the outside temp. And inside temp.on the main consul. Using the dimmer does not improve this, it is worse during the day.
    Any suggestions.

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