Steering Column Tilt Adjustment Problems & Solutions (Mark III)

Steering wheel on RR III
Failure Symptoms
Official Land Rover Efforts to Address Problem
Temporary Fixes
Permanent Cure: Replacement with Revised Tilt Motor
Likelihood of Recurrence
2006 Recall Campaign
Alternative Solutions
More Information

Photo: Steering wheel on a 2003 Supercharged Range Rover  (from official press photo)

Some of the most common problems experienced by owners of the Range Rover III/4.4/L322 have to do with the steering column power adjust mechanism. (For problem reports see the RR III Common Symptoms and Fixes page). The main problem was the tilt mechanism, with owners reporting jamming at the top of the motion range, or sometimes dropping to the bottom of its range and flopping freely up and down. This page is an effort to document the official solutions and solicit input from owners regarding any alternative solutions.

Failure Symptoms

The steering column tilt adjustment jams, usually in the uppermost position. The problem can be intermittent. It can probably be avoided by not adjusting the mechanism to its extreme high and low points.

Official Land Rover Efforts to Address Problem

In December 2002, Land Rover issued a service bulletin (TA02 5704) with a temporary cure pending the availability of an upgraded tilt motor. The cause is improper adjustment of the spindle nut on the steering column motor mechanism.  The spindle comes out of the motor transmission on the tilt or telescoping motor, and was improperly adjusted at Solihull.  The nut on the spindle shaft tightens up excessively as the column reaches its end of travel and if the driver does not release the adjustment switch immediately, it tends to lock the spindle and no further movement in the opposite direction is possible. One quick solution is to introduce a second nut after the original nut and lock the two together. Thus, the tendency of the two interlocked nuts to rotate any further is significantly reduced. The solution consisted of slackening the tension on the jammed adjustment spindle.

Four months later, in April 2003, a more permanent fix was announced in service bulletin TEC570405. At this time the new tilt motor became available and instructions for replacement were issued.

Up until 2006, there was never a service campaign to replace the motor on all affected RRs, so models with a build date before the April 2004 bulletin were still at risk for the problem. Later models should have the new tilt motor installed during production.

In April 2006, another service bulletin was issued covering all RRs built to that date, specifying that any remaining problems should be fixed by replacing the entire steering column. Later in 2006 this became an official recall campaign.

Spindle housing and nyloc adjustment nutTemporary Fix

To access the tilt mechanism, simply disconnect the steering column extension bellows and undo the three Torx screws holding the lower steering column shroud in place. After dropping this shroud, you should be able to see the mechanism depicted at right.

Acccording to the first service bulletin on this issue, at the extremes of tilt travel the tilt adjustment motor spindle can move laterally within its bearing, causing the tilt adjustment system to jam. From what I can glean and guess, it seems that the problem lies in a sloppy fit of the motor output shaft to the spindle.

Without a redesigned tilt motor, the officially recommended temporary cure was to slackening the tension on the jammed adjustment spindle to restore operation. The procedure was simply to rotate the nyloc spindle nut half a turn counterclockwise (viewed from the end of the shaft). Vehicles that have undergone this provedure will have a dab of white paint on the spindle housing to indicate this operation was done.

(Photo at right adapted from the official Land Rover TSB shows the nyloc nut at the extreme right. The tilt motor itself is out of picture at left)

An unofficial improvement to this fix is is to slacken the tension on the jammed adjustment spindle as above, and then introduce a second nut after the original nut and lock the two together. Thus, the tendency of the two interlocked nuts to rotate any further is significantly reduced. However this is a bit tricky because there is not much thread on the spindle protruding beyond the nyloc nut.

View of tilt mechanismPermanent Cure: Replacement with Revised Tilt Motor

Replacing the tilt motor with the later design introduced in April 2003 is a fairly simple operation and is supposed to cure the tilt jamming problem entirely. A kit consisting of the replacement motor and mounting screws is part number QME500070. The main steps of the procedure are outlined below.

(Photo at right of tilt motor mechanism adapted from official Land Rover TSB)

Move the seat back, extend the steering column and disconnect the extension bellows from the trim. Undo the three Torx screws holding the lower steering column shroud in place. After dropping this shroud, you should be able to see the tilt mechanism, looking something like the picture at right.

2. Officially the battery would be disconnected before the next step -- wait at least 2 minutes after turning off the ignition and then disconnect the battery ground lead. Then disconnect the tilt motor's multiplug.

3. Remove the two Allen head mounting screws holding the tilt motor on (see photo). Remove the adjustment motor, being careful to save the drive spindle piece that joins the motor output to the threaded spindle shaft (see photo inset).

4. Stick the old spindle into the new motor, and mount the motor in position, torquing up the Allen screws to 4.1 lb-ft (5.5 Nm). If the nyloc "steering column tilt adjustment drive gear nut" moves, torque it to 2.2 lb-ft (3 Nm). Slap the trim back on and you are done. Official tech time for the operation is 18 minutes.

Likelihood of Recurrence
I have heard of the occasional case where failure occurs again even after replacement of the tilt motor. For example,  Andrew Prete reported in April 2006: "
My tilt motor failed in March 2005.  The car was still under 50,000 miles. So, Land Rover in Harrisburg, PA replaced the tilt motor.  It worked for awhile and failed again. I brought the car to Jake Kaplan's Land Rover in RI and they will not cover it under the warranty because the car now has 57,000 miles and it has been more than a year since the first time it was fixed (March 2005).  I was quoted $870 for a new tilt motor or $1,450 for a new steering column.  Seem outrageous that I am required to pay to replace this when LR is well aware of this problem." 

2006 Recall Campaign
As noted above, in mid 2006 Land Rover issued a recall on all 2003-2006 Range Rovers to have their steering columns replaced. The new part umbers are as follows:

2003-2005 models:  QMB500711 (old part number was QMB000164)
2006 models:           QMB500691

As of this writing (October 2006) it is not at all clear that the recall has solved the problem. In my own case, since the recall work was done, the column moves freely up and down when in the extended position! Andrew Prete reports that his lasted 6 days after the recall work before jamming again.

Alternative Solutions
If my theory about the problem being due to a sloppy fit of the drive spindle in the tilt motor output shaft, it might be possible to fix it by replacing the drive spindle with a home made piece that fits better. If you have acces to a basic machine shop this would not be difficult.

More Information

Owner reports of steering tilt problems and fixes
Common Problems and Fixes (Range Rover III).





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Page revised February 2, 2012