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1990 defender 90 gear problems

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Where to start? I attempted to move my landrover defender '90 (for the first time in two and a half years) from one shed to another for a full restore. It started first swing but have no pressure in clutch pedal. I had a look around and oil levels are fine, no visible leaks. I forced her into gear ? and away she went with no problems but when I switched her off immediately afterwards, she would not move out of gear.

Any advice/suggestions on where to go from here would be greatly appreciated.

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sounds like the transmission is a little wound up, you have no clutch hydraulics and therefore no way of disengaging the clutch. Try knocking the transfer box into neutral and trying to pull it out of gear. Alternatively, start it up again (it will pull away if in gear) and slip out of gear while it's still moving.

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It sounds like at least one of your cylinders has failed, not particularly surprising considering how long it's been laid up, for the cost of them, i'd just replace both and be happy that the clutch hydraulics should be sound for some time. Be sure to use quality parts though, britpart won't last long if they work at all.

I'm guessing that before it was laid up the clutch worked fine? TDI's are known for punching a hole in the release fork. If you're doing a full restore have you considered changing the clutch and all it's associated parts?

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Cheers for all replys

Scotts90 yes rod is moving an no bend in it..just a bit rusty.and yes it is squirting?

Dave88sw yes I will be changing clutch and the rest.i just need it to drive for me to be able to move it into my tool shed which is at the back of my field up a hill and have no other means to move it into my shed.

Do you know what are good brand for cylinders??

Thank again lads for your help.

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That's a weird one had problems myself and replaced both cylinders specially as master was leaking. Then realised I also needed drastic remedial work on gearbox so bit the bullet and took it to transmission specialist who just finished rebuilding my box with new input shaft (splines worn), new gear #2 and synchro rings plus bearings, they also replaced clutch with HD kit I supplied and welded part of chassis where cross member fits.

Picked it up Monday and it drove home went like a dream no clunk's or struggling to find gears.

However, got it home and noticed oil leaking from the wading hole on the crank case. The following day took it out and gear selection was deteriorating, struggling to get specific gears again.

Tonight while driving to work, it seemed to be getting worse (considered taking it back to the transmission specialists) then noticed the clutch pedal was lacking pressure and realised I must have a leak on the master cylinder and that's where the oil leak is coming from. As I had a new crank oil seal fitted as well with the clutch kit.

I don't know what make the master cylinder was, I got it off Ebay thought it was Bearmach usually avoid Britparts.

Its been on less than 2 months since I fitted the master, hard to believe it's failed already but everything points to that.

So when I ready this topic it made even more sense as the symptoms are similar. I am going to see if I can find out who supplied the part and see if I can get a refund and next time get a quality part, may even splash out on a Land Rover genuine part it will be worth it to get it sorted.

Regards Ian

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Hi there just checked the master cylinder I fitted, it was a Bearmach and I bought it in April and fitted it in May this year ?

As aftermarket parts go I have always had no problems with Bearmach in the past ! Notified the seller I suspect its faulty, will inspect it tomorrow and if its leaking as I suspect will have to get a new one and hopefully get a refund on this part.

Any recommendations on which manufacturer to use Girling or just buy from Land Rover as genuine part ?

Regards Ian

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Just had second thoughts might be the slave cylinder that's more likely to be leaking directly into the bell housing. Will check that first whatever the fault I have learned my lesson and will go for genuine parts in future.


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Ian, if it's leaking out of the bell housing then it'll be the slave. I always change both clutch slave and master at the same time as the pressure from a single new item will quickly overwhelm an older other part.

Did you change the slave when you changed the master cylinder ?


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Changed the slave first around December last year maybe even January this year, cannot be specific. I then discovered the leak running down my clutch pedal and decided to replace the master which I did in May this year.

The Master is definitely a Bearmach I am not so sure that's failed now, the slave I am not so sure about the make now, it was cheap.

Until gearbox went in for the overhaul I had not noticed the leak from the bell housing, but the guy's said it was oiled up inside there and cleaned it out with brake cleaner before re-assembly. It was definitely worse when I got the defender back on Monday. Only driven it 3 times since and short journey's I noticed last night while struggling to select gears that the pressure in the clutch pedal had dropped off a little so assumed it was one of the cylinders leaking.

Assumed again wrongly it was the master at first but after some consideration wondered how oil could leak into the bell housing from there ? So realised it has to be the slave as you said Mo. However, unless its a cheap nasty part which it most likely is I am dumb founded its failed so quickly !

Thought it might help BrianJJ14 make a decision on how to progress with his problem as it sounds similar ? clutch cylinder failure.

I am going to bleed the system and make sure the reservoir is fully topped up this morning when I get home from my night shift. Then I will order a new slave cylinder and if in stock will fit later today.

Going to try and get a TRW Lucas part as they supply the OEM to Land Rover. Alternatively may consider Girling, used that make on my old series models in past with no issues if they still supply them for the Defender or at a push Bearmach, as I suspect the master is now okay (always trusted them up to now). I will be avoiding Allmakes and Britpart at all cost.

Just hope I have not done any detrimental damage to my new synchro rings in the mean time (cost £500 for parts from Land Rover, transmission guy's didn't use cheap shoddy parts there phew!) I will have to be careful with my gear selection on way home this morning, fortunately not far to travel only 9 miles and mostly motorway so not many gear changes.

Regards Ian

Hope my post provides some help and advice to anyone reading and this finally sorts my gearbox/gear change problems for the long term or at least foreseeable future (particularly the oil leak's on my drive, which my wife is getting more aggravated with daily :angry2: ).

Just my diff/prop shaft oil seals to do and replacement of a couple of oil cooler pipes which are weeping and then oil leak free - LOL and pigs might fly.

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I got a TRW/Girling today, bit too late to fit it though as I am working again tonight. Cost me £28 but hopefully it will be worth it for peace of mind.

Struggled a bit to bleed the old one and surprisingly there was plenty of hydraulic fluid still in the master reservoir. That got me thinking again so did the taste test and I am 90% certain now the oil leak is engine oil not hydraulic. That gives me 2 problems:

First is that the oil is coming from the engine! having done the cylinder head in January this year due to oil leak at rear of engine I am now wondering if its not been sorted after all and is running down to the bell housing (problem is transmission specialists said inside of bell housing had oil in?) During the gearbox rebuild they replaced the crank oil seal and bush too so convinced oil is not coming from there.

The other thing is that after bleeding the clutch today the pressure in the pedal still seems low, compared with the period before I had the rebuild on the gearbox (I have bigger leg muscles on the left due to clutch operation, now it appears relatively easy like a car ?). I did find some improvement today in gear changes while collecting the replacement slave cylinder, but still getting the odd sticky changes and no where near as good as Monday when I picked it up, the gear changes where like silk across all the ranges.

Planning to change the slave tomorrow morning as soon as I get home, so will let you know how it performs after the change.

The Guy at Land Ranger services said its common when gearboxes are re-built/refitted its common to get mis-alignments or part failures ? He was a bit vague with the comment and didn't qualify his remark with an explanation why.

The money I have been and will be throwing at this thing lately, I could have gone and bought a newer TD5 with less issues. I keep getting the raised eye brows off her indoors lately too, every time I buy another part for it, plus the constant nagging about the oil leaks.

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