British ClassicsCarsLand Rover

My Land Rover Series IIa Project: Electrical Update

Last Updated: 5/3/2020

If you have any suggestions or ideas, please leave them down below in the comments!

I’m in the middle of a do it yourself dashboard rebuild on my Land Rover Series IIa. The car is from Central America, and the previous owner did a fair share of his own do it yourself wiring. In fact, he made the decision to update the steering wheel, directionals, lights, and windshield wiper switch to a much new Land Rover assembly.

The Series I and Series IIa has a center mounted dashboard, as you can see below. The original steering wheel was simple, and the only thing mounted on the steering column was a Tex Magna Lite directional switch.

Additionally, the previous owner rewired the igntion from the center mounted ignition switch to a steering column switch.

I generally like old cars to be the way they were when they rolled off the assembly line, so in the case of this Series IIa, I have some work to do.

First, I needed to remove the steering wheel and begin to understand how the newer switches were wired.

Removing the Steering Wheel on a Land Rover Series IIa

There is 1 nut that holds the steering wheel to the steering column, I believe it was 17mm, it was on the larger side. I first had to remove the plastic horn assembly from the existing steering wheel, but that popped right off without and damage or difficulty.

Once I could see the bolt, I loosened it, then tried to pull on the wheel and nothing happened. I’d read horror stories about people tugging on a steering wheel and it suddenly breaking lose, and hitting them in the face as they pulled to too hard towards themselves.

My technique was to push on the left side of the wheel, while pulling on the right side, then doing the opposite. This broke it lose, and it popped off without any trouble.

I’ll be replacing this with a steering wheel I purchased from Europe that is original to a Series IIa, and shows nice patina and weathering. That’s exactly what I wanted. Although you can buy restored wheels, I’m not looking for that perfectly polished look. I want to see the age and patina.

Replacing the Land Rover Series IIa Directional Switch

The original switch would have been a Tex Magna, so I ordered one from Australia. Again, like the steering wheel, you can find them perfectly polished and restored. They’re sometimes used in hot rod’s. But that’s not what I wanted, I wanted one that is mechanically functionally, but looks old. I finally found one, and I’m waiting on it to arrive. I’ll add pictures when it gets here.

New Directional Lights, many Land Rovers have these, but not all.

Replacing Land Rover Series IIa Head Side Light Switch

The original Land Rover Series IIa would have had a 3 way Lucas switch in the “off-on-on” positions. Pointing straight up is off. This switch turns on the parking lights on the first position, then the headlines AND parking lights in the second on position. This switch brings the car back to original functionality, vs the steering column mounted light switch.

Replacing the Land Rover Series IIa Hazard Switch

This Series IIa has the hazard switch built into the newer steering wheel assembly, so since that’s coming out, I need to add a hazard switch. I’ve seen a few different variations. I think the correct hazard switch is a pull switch, but I’m going to use a Lucas flip switch because I think that will fit better on this dashboard. I don’t mind not being 100% perfect on this. Many Land Rover owners customized their vehicles with accessories, different switches, etc. As a result, while there is a factory version, those would be fairly uncommon.

Updating the Land Rover Series IIa Glow Plugs Switch

An original Series IIa would have turned on the glow plugs when the ignition was turned, and just before the starter engages. This is one of the terminals on a diesel ignition switch. However, the previous owner replaced the original switch with the steering column switch, and it was from a petrol (gas) engine. As a result, he had to hard wire a switch directly to the battery that when pressed, turned on the glow plugs.

The first thing I need to do is understand the wiring of the glow plug switch he installed, so I can rewire to the new ignition.

What I discovered is that the glow plugs switch is completely disconnected from the ignition switch, and is hardwired to the battery. The new ignition has a terminal for glow plugs, so I’ll connect them directly to that and remove the old hardwire to the battery.

I can’t confirm how well the glow plugs are working, the engine is a bit hard to start, but that may be related to the cold weather. I’ll need a friend to help me test out.

Replacing the Land Rover Series IIa Ignition

The Series IIa Ignition typically would be pretty straight forward. You’d be removing an ignition and replacing it with the same model. The only thing you’d need to do is use a multi-meter to confirm which wires are hot, glow plugs, ACC, and the starter.

The ignition has 2 Battery terminals, I’m not sure if one is supposed to go out to the alternator, but the battery is separately wired to the alternator. Any tips?

In my case, the previous owner took a 7 terminal ignition from a new Land Rover and connected it to just 4 wires from the original wiring harness. It’s unusual, but as I pulled it apart, first I separated which wires went to the directionals, wipers, lights, and then I was left with glow plugs, starter, and AAC. Finding the hot wire was easy.

More updates coming soon!

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5 Comments

  1. Hey Ross, this is great I’m a tire kicker too. Cars are my life it’s how I have made my living the last 30yr’s. I started as a mechanic in the 80’s for about ten years then went into auto body. Owned 3 body shops and also became a PDR Tech “Paintless Dent Repair” Now I’m an up and coming pro-day trader thanks to you man. I did a complete restore on a 1986 Toyota truck it came out beautiful I’ll have to send you a pic. It was a frame off restore in my shop. So about you’r hard start I would say you are right thinking it’s the glow plug’s. If it was hard wired to the battery and the power was never off except when the key is off it’s really hard on those plugs. They overheat and slowly disintegrate. This will give you a hard starting problem. I think you should have a wire that runs from the switch to you’r relay to a 100-60 amp fuse box to the glow plugs. FYI I have never worked on a Land Rover Diesel but I have worked on a few diesels in the past so Please check first but I think this will put you on track maybe. Love the VW and Rover! See you in chat.

    1. hey Dennis! that’s awesome on the Toyota, those older trucks are very cool. Around here they get so rusty, but that 4 cylinder engine will last forever. The glow plugs are hard wired, but on a push button switch, so they’re only on when the button is pushed, but this is different from how it originally would have been, which is glow plugs via ignition. I did get an engine block heater that goes in the lower coolant line. I’m going to install that at some point soon. Thanks for your comment! Keep following along 🙂

  2. Hey Ross,
    According to the wiring diagram the hot terminal on the ignition should have power coming in and the conjoined terminal goes to a light switch that controls your head lamps/tail lamps. The glow plug terminal should go from the ignition to a relay/timer and then the (series-wired) glow plugs. The acc terminal should go to a 35 amp fuse that controls gauges, wipers, brake lights, etc.
    Hope this helps!

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