Air Conditioning

Ghana is a hot humid country in the tropics, so air conditioning is not an optional feature, we have to have it.  The EPA Land Rover is equipped for air conditioning, but after 15 years it is not in great shape.  Opere does not do A/C and does not seem to want to recommend someone.  I got Francis to put me in touch with someone, Ben from Big-Ben Air Conditioning.

In the process of getting a quote I encouraged Ben to re-use any of the parts, but both he and Francis were quite insistent that to work properly and last the compressor, condenser, evaporator, and hoses should all be replaced. Opere also confirmed that much, so I will bite the bullet.   In this case I did not even go to the trouble of getting two quotes; instead I perused the web as a source of wisdom and prices for parts.  Ben’s quote was really only a fraction of the price of bringing in new parts: GHC 550 (CAD 300) for a reconditioned air conditioning system – new hoses all round, a new fan belt and the reconditioned compressor, condenser and evaporator – gassed up and ready to go.  At that price, we signed a contract with 50%  down and 50% on delivery, with a 3 month guarantee.  I tried for a hold-back but Ben was not buying that.

When delivered a week later the system seemed to work well, but there were a couple of problems. There was a fair bit of condensation on distribution system in the cabin, and  I also noticed that the belt seemed to be fraying on one edge.  Then when I was out to see Opere on something else he pointed out that the thermostat had been mounted in the wrong place under the bonnet, up high in front of the fuel filter so that it would not be possible to change the filter without removing the whole housing from the frame.

With those problems obviously I had to call Ben to test the worth of the guarantee I had secured without the benefit of the holdback.  It took him a few days to return my call, and when he did finally come by he was not easily convinced the thermostat had been misplaced.  However, when I explained the placement Opere had shown me he agreed to relocate it.  On the condensation he said that was normal, but could be reduced by the installation of some foam around the interior distribution system for another GHC 30.  I offered to deliver the vehicle  to his shop, which is located near Kaneshie market.   It was interesting to see that this is not a “shop-under-a-tree, he has a whole fenced yard with a gate and a building.  I drop it off on a Saturday and grab one of Accra’s dilapidated but affordable taxis  back across town through the late Saturday afternoon traffic.

Ben brought the Defender back to me on Tuesday.   It is working quite well and the drive is much more comfortable.  In addition to re-situating the thermostat and replacing one of the interior vent housings that had been broken before I gave it to him, , he also also insulated the simple, rather bulky interior A/C distribution system for the GHC30 (CDN 20) cost of the foam.  We really appreciate the greater comfort this offers, although the effectiveness of the new A/C is temporarily limited by the fact that all the door seals and panels are all off because of the body work in progress so the cool air does not stay in for too long.  That will be corrected after we paint and can finish the interior.   I do not have unlimited confidence in the reconditioned parts that were sourced from god-only-knows-where, but at least the cost was low enough we can  replace a few parts before we get close to the cost of new parts.   The additional work of the belt-driven compressor seems to make the engine run hotter, which is no great surprise, and  suggests I should also look carefully at the cooling system to mitigate the risk of overheating.   But in addition to being more comfortable, the whole vehicle seems to run more quietly, even when the A/C is not activated.      Need to get focused on painting, soundproofing and interior upholstery next.

Completion of Phase I of the Body Work

After reviewing a couple of other options I signed a  GHC 300 contract with Paani the “welder” for the body work,which included removal and replacement of all the rusted door and floor pieces, removal  of the electrical plugs along the roof gutter, repair of the door hinges and loose windows, and straightening/filling/adjusting of the body dents.   It was a big job and the contract I did up gave him 3 weeks to complete the work but he had it done in less than two.

Stripped down to gain access to bulkhead and footwells
New footwell on passenger side, note A/C distributor is out











Some before and after pictures are particularly instructive in this case.  The one immediately below is of the footwell on the passenger side which was so rusted I could see the road through the left hand side under my feet as I drove.  When it rained my feet got wet.  I had purchased replacements for both the right and left had side footwells  from Famous Four in the UK and had Paani install these.  I learned after I had imported mine that Paani also makes these, but the material cost would have been about the same.  I think Paani would have preferred I not buy my own because they are harder to install, but they fit well and are a heavier grade of galvanized aluminum than what he has.

New driver's side footwell, in the proces of being installed
Driver side footwell, before











A big part of what Paani had to do was restore the bottom of the door frames.  A classic issue with Land Rovers is rust that appears where the aluminum body sheets come into contact with the steel door frames, especially at the bottom because that is more exposed to wet conditions.  He cut out the entire bottom of all the door frames and replaced this with galvanized pieces he makes.

Paani the welder with a restored door, note the new metal at the bottom

The rear “safari door” got special treatment.  Paani advised me that where the spare tire is mounted on the rear door it is not uncommon for the door frame to bend or break, particularly if the vehicle has been driven on lots of bad roads.  Ours is a good example of this, when the rear door closed with the tire on it shook as if it were going to fall off.  Not any more, Paani repaired and re-inforced the door and it now closes very smoothly.

Repaired and reinforced rear safari door










The door work included taking all the doors off and remounting them.   Paani showed me if you open a door and stand at the end and move the door up and down you can notice a bit of wiggle, which indicates wear in the hings and mountings. That wiggle is now gone.  He also replaced all the exterior door hinge screws, using a replacement set I had imported with my second shipment from  Famous Four in the UK.  This is as much appearance as anything, it will pay off when it comes time for repainting as many of the screw heads were showing signs of rust.

One of the delights of this phase of the restoration has been working with Paani  He fulfilled all the terms of his contract and surpassed these in several ways.  Our contract did say he had to replace all rusted metal, but when I wrote that I did not realize how much there was to replace and which I only notice as I go around and see all the new metal in the bulkhead, doors and elsewhere he has put in.  He also straightened a bend in the front bumper that I had not even noticed until he showed me he had straightened it.  He also reseated the side door sills that 15 years of abuse had left a bit loose and  off-kilter.  Not in the contract at all was the removal of all the door panels and roof lining that he had to do to complete the work.  He has all the pieces neatly stored in a corner of a shed at Opere’s Shop under the tree; perhaps I should be nervous something is going to get lost, but I’m not.   Paani is a charming, consientious young man who takes great pride in his work.  It is a pleasure to work with him and he is certainly going to benefit from a good “dash” for the work he has done for me.

The fender the elephant must have sat on
Dent hammered out and filled, before sanding
So all the basic metal work and external body work is done.   The reference in the title of this post to “Phase I” of the body work is less a reflection of a pre-conceived multi-phase plan than it is the simple recognition that there is still more body work to do.  Paani still has to fill the holes in the cargo bay as per contract before I can pay him his holdback, and there is also the not-so-minor matter of cutting out the rear wheel wells to allow installation of rear seats from a Land Rover Discovery to make the back seat more comfortable (I hope to do a separate post on this).  I am also discussing with Paani the options for the door “steps” which also deserve a separate post.   Then there are a few other details that will come back after painting, like the installation of the 3mm aluminum chequerplate on the fenders and bonnet, and perhaps a few 2mm decorative sheets in places like the sills and bumper tops.  But that all needs to be kept on the back burner for now, first I have to organize a few electrical touches and the painting of course.