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September, 2018: In Praise of the Perplexing P38. Or Not...

September, 2018: In Praise of the Perplexing P38. Or Not...

It was one of those moments where I hoped no one was watching. I had never been locked inside my own car. How stupid would that be? Attempts at pulling the lock latch up proved to be futile. I would pull it up, and it automatically slammed down. I tried to pull the door open at the same time as pulling up on the lock, but the lock slammed down faster than I could catch the handle. I sat for a few moments, thinking "How did I end up in this little pickle?", and wondering how this might look to the neighbours across the street. I could hear the comments being made as they looked through their windows, "What's he doing now? Odd fellow. Spends a lot of time fooling around in that Range Rover of his."

I owned the '99 Range Rover for about 3 months at this point; bought as a daily drive replacement for my younger, but higher mileage and trouble-some 2004 Discovery. Even though it was 5 years older, the Range Rover had less than 190,000 KMs, (about 119,000 miles), which meant it had a few more years to give. And it looks good, runs well, and the ride is unmistakably air suspension. It was the air suspension that initially exposed some irritating issues. On the night that the previous owner delivered the car to the shop, (which I really appreciated), it arrived sitting rather crooked, somewhat looking like a dog rubbing its' behind on the living room carpet. He apologized, but was prepared with an included dongle and software to clear the occasional air suspension fault code. Sounded good to me... Until the first re-occurance of an air suspension fault, half-way home, when the lights started flashing on the dash, and the system decided that it might be safer to drop the entire suspension down to the bump stops, leaving me bouncing the rest of the way home in what certainly looked like a chopped down SUV. Although the warning on the dash states "Do Not Exceed 50Kph", I pushed it to 80, just to avoid any further attention from the surrounding traffic; pride trumped safety for those last few miles.

The following morning I plugged in the dongle, ran the software, and cleared the code. This has become a ritual that re-occurs every two to three weeks, when something goes "Twang" somewhere in the many miles of wiring or computer controlled, (oxymoron), sensors, gidgits and gadgets. After replacing all air spring bags, rebuilding the air valve block twice, and still having problems, a standard spring conversion kit is on the shopping list.

There was also the "SRS" (Safety Restraint System), error that came up within the maiden "Show off the latest investment to my wife" voyage. Being on a major highway, I thought I would try the cruise control. Turned it on, set the speed, and the warning beeps blared out accompanied by a dash message about the other kind of air bags. Needless to say, my wife wasn't feeling the 'safety' and 'security' that one would expect from a Range Rover. My explaining that "I always carry a knife, just in case the air bags inexplicably explode!", didn't appear to reassure her. Two weeks later, the error message on the dash disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared; only to show up again a month later. I now live with the "SRS" bleep when the car is started.

So here I was, locked inside of the Range Rover. It started with an ice storm freezing up the door, and me hitting "unlock" on the key fob while yanking on the door handle. Repeating this a few times, I managed to get the door open just a crack, stuffed my keys in my pocket and gave it one final hard pull. I suspect there was a simultaneous "pocket lock", because there was a honk at the same time that the door swung open. Didn't matter to me, I was in! Popped the key in the ignition, and... nothing. Well, nothing but a "ding", "ding", "ding", and the oddest message on the dash - "Engine Disabled". Oh crap... that can't be good. Visions of a tow to a Land Rover dealership, a service tech asking "How did you do that?", and a sales manager suggesting "You might want to consider a later model", flashed through my mind. I pulled out the key and grabbed the door handle, to find that nothing happened. "Ahhh, that's what's going on, I locked the doors." So I pulled the lock up, only to see it snap back down. Right, I need to use the fob, so I pushed "Unlock" on the fob. I stared at it in disbelief. I hit "Unlock", it pops up, and then snaps back down. I could do this a dozen times... okay, I did this a dozen times, same result. I tried every combination of Lock, Unlock, key in the ignition, hold the lock button, step on the brake, put the shift into drive, then back into park. Nothing... I was locked in. I was going to be found in the morning, frozen, one hand on the door handle, the other gripping the key fob, thumb pressing "Unlock".

 Range Rover P38

After 20 minutes of attempting everything, (other than honking and screaming for help), I noticed that the rear side door lock moved a little slower than the front door when snapping back down. So I crawled into the rear seats, (not an easy thing with a winter coat on), and ran through my routine of button pushing, handle grabbing and swearing. On the third swear, the rear door popped open - and I was free! 20 minutes later, the door locks worked perfectly normal, the "Engine Disabled" message was gone, and everything seemed "normal" again. I would swear it was messing with me! Later I learned that this was all a result of it's "Super-Lock" capability. Hmmm... guess the engineers never considered that someone might be inside the car when it would "Super-Lock" itself up.

After a year of learning how to deal with qwuirky issues, embarrassing antics, and mysterious messages, I am now a Range Rover P38 daily driver that is looking forward to getting back into driving my Disco 2.

December 2019 Update: Love my Range Rover! Well, 3 months ago we installed the Terrafirma Air to Coil Conversion Kit with Shocks for roughly $1100. It's amazing how your confidence level in a car can quickly improve, especially when the car sits at the same level every time you get into it. Great ride, and I've even managed to keep myself from getting locked in lately!

Previous article October, 2022: To "E" or Not To "E", That is the Question.
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