Cooling Woes and You Can’t Get Better (Oh Yes You Can)

Mike Humble   

Well, another month rolls by in the Rover with not a care in the world besides some pleb stealing my rear wiper blade. Everything is sorted, new MoT, new tyres, new brakes and even I had a new haircut. That was until just the other day…   

As we all know, we have had some stunning weather lately. The other Sunday saw temperatures in the West Sussex area soar to over 30 degrees and, being a sun worshipper, BRING IT ON. The following Monday, my return journey home from work was blighted by a broken down artic on a single lane A road, on a blind bend with double white lines – complete and utter pandemonium.   

Traffic heading back towards Horsham was queuing for a good half a mile or so and even at 4.30pm it was still swelteringly hot. I sat there dreaming of the days when I had an A4 S-Line TDi Avant with its dual zone climate and my old Saab 9-3 SE Turbo that could quite literally freeze you solid or roast you to death at the push of a button. Anyway dreamtime over, I’m crawling along at less than a walking pace with the sunroof open and windows down sweating my cobs off.   

Even though I know for a fact my engine is 110% perfect in fettle, I never forget to cast a quick eye on the dials every now and again – I even carry a paper clip in the coin tray just in case the fan switch gives up the ghost. My 214, even when fully warmed through on a hot day, never shows more than midway on the temp gauge settling to just below midway once the fan cuts out.   

Glancing down, I noticed the needle creeping upwards of halfway but put this down it being really really hot outside and relaxed, confident all was OK thanks to my recent new radiator. Sure enough, I heard the engine note drop as the cooling fan kicked in and once more the needle settled back to normality. Once the traffic cleared, I threw some more coal on the boiler to get myself home but, glancing down at the dials, I viewed a sight so common to many MG and Rover owners.   

Rover 214 temperature reading - not good!

Not good!


I know the A272 like the back of my hand and I knew there was a bus stop just ahead. Pulling into the lay-by like a mad man, I lifted the bonnet to find everything as I would have expected, normal coolant level, no leaks, no smell of death from the engine, nice clean oil and normal pressure in the coolant hoses. Turning the engine on again after 5 mins, she ticked over as happy as Larry and after a moment the fan whirred into life once more. Dropping the bonnet, I carried on my journey home, albeit with care.   

Rover 214 temperature sender

The offending sender


The problem was a faulty temperature sender unit which had failed internally causing the gauge to ‘go to ground’ and shoot upwards. Thankfully, I keep a tidy supply of spare odds and ends and once the engine had cooled down a bit, I swapped the sender unit over and everything was back to normal once again. So here is some sound advice…   

If like I, Keith and co, you have a strong desire to drive around in cars older than your nan’s record collection, take time out to really check over your cooling system on your BL/Rover car, especially if it’s K-Series powered and carry these parts in your car as spares.   

A spare temp sender unit
A spare drive belt
A spare fan switch (or failing that, a paper clip to short the terminal wires thus making the fan run constantly)   

MG ZS 120   

My friend Jo Sherwood runs an ’03-plate ZS 120 and for some time suffered with a poor handbrake. Those who know the later Rover 400s – 45s & ZS with a rear disc set up will be aware that these cars don’t exactly have the world best handbrake when new owing to the brake pads being not much bigger than Lego bricks.   

A while back, Jo had new pads, discs & calipers fitted by a leading fast fit centre who shall remain nameless (they claim to be the boys to trust) after getting an advisory notice on her MoT. After a few visits to complain all was still not right, she was told by the staff that it’s ‘just how they are’.   

Burned out MG ZS brake pads

Burned out MG ZS brake pads


I serviced the car for her recently and I commented that the parking brake was not up to much and offered to do something with it. Well, I can certainly say that the standard of workmanship on the rear brakes was nothing short of dismal, the pads were rusting in to the back plate thanks to having no copper grease applied to them. The caliper sliders were bone dry and one was slightly bent resulting in the pads wearing lopsided. The actual calipers themselves were fine, even if they weren’t a matching make.   

So many times on these cars and the Rover 200/600 I have seen the rear calipers condemned because of a poor handbrake when in actual fact there is nothing wrong with them. So try the following if your Rover handbrake is rubbish on 200/400/600/25/45/ZR/ZS with rear discs before shelling out on reconditioned calipers.   

Wind off the handbrake cable all the way (adjuster is underneath or behind the rear ashtray)   

Remove rear pads (replace if less than 2mm of lining left)   

Using the special caliper tool or a decent set of circlip pliers wind the pistons clockwise into the caliper body, making sure the grooves in the piston will slot into the dimples of the pad backing when you refit the caliper. If the piston will not budge then it’s sadly seized.   

Use copper slip to grease the sliders, pad backings and squeal plates.   

After refitting both rear brakes, press the brake pedal hard 3 or 4 times to set the pistons up.   

Bleed both rear circuits   

Pull up the handbrake 3 clicks and adjust the cable from inside the car until you can’t turn the hubs with both hands.   

Your handbrake should now be many times better than it used to be (allow a week if you have fitted new pads)   

Check handbrake adjustment after a few weeks   

Now all this may seem long winded, but follow the above with common sense and your Haynes manual and you will find the average DIY person will have the job licked in an hour and you will have saved a small fortune… Trust me!

Posted in: AROnline, AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

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