Blog : K-Series, one impressive engine

Keith Adams

AROnline's Rover 75 spent the weekend in the workshop. It was a challenge.

AROnline's Rover 75 spent the weekend in the workshop. It was a challenge.

I’ve been pretty tough on the old K-Series engine in the past. Brilliant in theory and concept, disastrous in execution, its well-publicised weaknesses must have played a significant part in MG Rover’s demise in 2005. However, like all the elements in our story, things are never quite as simple as they first appear - when Mike Humble and I started work on the Project Rover 75 at the weekend, we couldn’t have imagined just how much of a microcosm of all that’s right and wrong with owners’ and the trade’s misunderstanding of its engine emerged over what became a challenging 27 hours of putting right the car’s wrongs…

I bought this 75 with a view to the car being a project for the website and, with that in mind, I went for a well-equipped Connoisseur model allied with the easy-to-fix 1.8-litre K-Series engine – the intention being to prove it’s possible to run a large, comfortable car properly without too much financial pain. The 75′s, so far, proved to be a perfect choice – one, because there are lots of issues to sort, and two, in daily running while I’ve been nursing it, I’ve easily topped 40mpg.

The main thing to do was to get the head gasket changed and record every step for a full FAQ, which will appear on site soon. So, that’s why I found myself diving to Mike’s on a warm Friday evening. Given the car’s variable appetite for coolant, I took plenty of bottles with me and checked on the drive down that all was good. On the 120 mile trip, it used less than a pint and the 75 delivered me to Swiss Towers in one piece, relaxed and reasonably happy. Yes, I’d been nursing a sick car which, as we all know, is a dismal experience, but at least when you’re going slow, things are so very unstressed.

The following morning – an early 6.00am start no less – we set about stripping down the car and soon began to realise that new and untold levels of bodgery had been applied to it. Dumping the oil, the sump drain was lacking a washer. That was just the start… I’ll not bore you too much with the horrors that Mike discovered, but I’ll give you a few points – bolts were either over-tightened or finger-loose; the inlet manifold gasket was wrecked and whoever was supposed to change it used Mastik; the camshaft seal gasket wasn’t fitted properly; there was more K-Seal than OAT in the coolant; the sump was fused to the block; the oil had all the consistency of black porridge; incorrect hoses have been used; and the battery wasn’t even attached…

However, the pièce de résistance had to be the head gasket itself. It wasn’t blown as such; no, it was shredded, absolutely wrecked beyond belief. Mike’s career spans 52 head gasket changes and he was unequivocal – this was the worst he’d ever seen. It was clearly a low-quality unit that had imploded pretty much the moment it was placed under load and yet, despite that, the car continued to run. I’d driven it from Adrian Fell’s place (where I’d bought it as a trade-in sold-as-seen project) in Buckinghamshire, then used it intermittently on my commute, before heading down to Mike’s with it in this condition. Yes, it was using coolant, was leaking oil and felt a bit underpowered, but the 75 ran on reasonably sweetly.

Mind you, had you seen the gasket (photographed below), you’d wonder how the hell this car ran at all and where on earth it was getting compression from. That proves one thing to me – far from being fragile, the K-Series is a bloody resilient little engine.

Bigger questions should be raised too. Clearly, a garage has been at this car. The gearbox has been off, the clutch is new (goodness I hope all three major parts have been changed), the inlet manifold is a replacement and the head’s been off too but the standard of work is less than substandard - it’s pretty much criminally negligent. Did the owner who commissioned this find his car running badly just days after the job and get spooked into selling it after significant (and unwarranted I bet) head gasket work? It’s a good bet.

Even more harmfully, has the owner subsequently gone on to tell all and sundry about how ‘crap’ Rovers are, after (possibly) multiple failures? I’d be confident on taking that bet. And is said person now abusing some old Audi or BMW in its place now?

Anyway, from what I can see in this case at least, the car’s not to blame at all. It’s been maintained by a bodger (as so, so many of my old Rovers have been), and has lived to tell the tale. I’m not exaggerating too on this point – Mike went way beyond the call of duty doing this one – he said, had it been anyone else’s car, he’d have condemned the engine, fearful of the beating it’s received – and felt that it was literally hours away from grenading spectacularly.

No doubt, we’ve saved this one – although I need to watch things very closely during the upcoming weeks.

 

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Editor at AROnline and @hjclassics. Likes cars, taking pictures, travelling and knee-high boots...


52 Responses

  1. Doive - May 29, 2012

    Wow! That gasket is pretty screwed. I’m stunned that engine was running on four pots, let alone able to complete a 120 mile journey without much complaint. Hopefully all the work you guys are outting in will see it right.

  2. Philip Simpson - May 29, 2012

    Giving the car a good service & attempting a K seal badge did more for the smoothness & performance of our 25 than replacing the head gasket did. The replacement, with the revised MLS variety, meant that we didn’t have to take a five litre bottle of water with us wherever we went. Nor did the temperature gauge behave like a rev conter after that.

    £250 including a cambelt change wasn’t bad neither. Needless to say we bought another 25. A 2005 one with the modded gasket from new so, touch wood, no issues so far.

  3. francis brett francis brett - May 29, 2012

    pound to a penny the inlet gasket was the cause

  4. Rob Plews - May 29, 2012

    We’ve had 4 K series engines over the years from a 1991 214Si to an 05 reg 25. Total distance between them most have been in excess of 350,000 miles.

    All of them were faultless and strong, the 214 ran up 150,000 and never even had a head gasket.

    One of them, my brothers 2001 25, ingested water through the air filter. The compression stroke caused disaster – BANG – and it stopped. After taking the plugs out it started but was ill. Examination revealed two seriously bent conrods that were hitting the cylinder liners. The ‘notoriously weak’ head gasket? Perfectly intact.

  5. Dr Bobby Love Dr Bobby Love - May 29, 2012

    How did it feel driving home Keith?

  6. Keith Adams Keith Adams - May 29, 2012

    Like a new car. And it’s getting better and better.

    I actually filled the petrol tank this morning. First time I’ve had the confidence to do that!

  7. dolomitefan - May 29, 2012

    The reality is unfortunately too many bodgers make not even half an effort to fix the problem using crap quality parts and little skill resulting is repeated failure. How these places stay in business is a mystery. We then wonder why the trade has such a bad reputation.

    For the record between me, the wife, parents and grandfather we’ve had 4 K engined cars. Mine were both OK, did about 50k on those no problem. Wife’s one was crap, gasket went twice including with an MLS replacement. Grandfathers was fine and my parents R25 also exhibited signs of failure after 30k.

    The top and bottom of it is that the engine is alright but the execution my Rover was appalling and has tainted the brand forever more.

  8. Hilton D - May 29, 2012

    Luckily I never had any engine or head gasket problems on my R414, 45 1.6 or MGZS 1.8. The R45 did need a new water pump & timing belt at mid 40K+ miles though.

    At least the history of the K series is well documented and the expected problems and solutions are known.

  9. Jason 1.8TC - May 29, 2012

    It’s so so difficult buying a MG or Rover with a ‘K’ these days…prelimanary checks with the seller and a 30 minute test drive, driving hard, doesn’t always work (As I found with my 75 to my cost) At least with the MGF, parts and specialists will be around for sometime.

    When looking at pertol MG’s or Rover to buy, I add another £600.00 to the screen price so I can budget sensibly.

    Good luck Keith, I’m sure now your 75 will give you 1000′s miles of trouble free motoring. Supercover!

  10. stewart - May 29, 2012

    Modern day ‘mechanics’ have made service histories worthless. And low millege is equally worthelss. The only indciator of a car having had a resoanble level of servcieng in it’s life is high millage, assueming it’s still running correctly.

    Modern ‘mechanics’ are little more than fitters gone are the true mechanics worthy of the name, who were in fact ‘motor engnieers’ who actually understood how to solve issues and track down the root cause rather than just replace the failed part (seldom the cause of the issue more often the symptom). They also ususally posesd the skill to opperate lathes and mills to make parts if needed

  11. francis brett francis brett - May 29, 2012

    @10 thats the education systems fault,i am 40 and i had to calculate friction coefficient of clutches etc when i was at college,now they show you a picture.

  12. Chris Baglin - May 29, 2012

    I really would like to change my opinion on the K Series- however, too many in my experience have suffered HGF- including one on a virtually brand new car being run as a company car by a friend. Whilst I accept the general consensus about poorly trained mechanics, unfortunately HGF is always going to be roulette with cars with this engine.

    I’d quite like a 25- wasn’t too keen on its larger brother, the 45 (which really needed putting out to pasture long before MGR bit the dust)- but I’d be afraid to buy one because of the likelihood of HGF, or poorly executed repairs. I will be watching with interest…

  13. dzt103 dzt103 - May 29, 2012

    If the 75 was a good drive before the “fixes”
    It must feel like you are driving the pinnacle of motor engineering now :)
    Amazing how that engine stayed together despite everything..

    So many people just put fuel into their cars and little else
    & then wonder why it breaksdown so often…

  14. AnthonyC - May 29, 2012

    A friend of mine had a 214 company car in 1990; his commute was Abingdon to Tewkes over the Cotswolds. He was a furious WOTer, even from cold; his car would reach 6K leaving the company car-park. I went with him on a few journeys and was always staggered at the pasting the car was given virtually all the time (not at all comfortable to be a passenger…).

    At 100K, the company decided to have his car serviced ’round the corner’ instead of the (excellent) Rover Dealer in Tewkes. Next day friend came to work in absolute fury… his pads had caught fire on way home and brakes were nearly useless. (Gives you an idea of the pasting it was having). So a trip to Rover for a proper service…

    With 120K on clock, employee bought car and many years later still no recorded problems with the car. Not even the odd puff of smoke from the pipe.

    I can’t imagine many other engines surviving this kind of punishment over 3+ years.

    BTW – I use a 1.8K in my MG Midget… ;)

  15. francis brett francis brett - May 29, 2012

    @14 the cars from roundabout the early nineties never seemed to give trouble with HGF,i hired one for a week and was amazed how refined it was-the escort couldnt stand next to it in any way at all,that said the best car i ever had and will miss like a great friend was my 416 GTI,simon erland on his essay on the K series is an interesting read about this engine and does have some salient points as regards the position of the thermostat-better at the front water elbow than behind water pump,even with original type head gasket which should not really fail but does due to thermal shock,not to mention the dowels-which i grind 3mm off when i use the newer type composite/MLR gasket and headsaver shim.To be honest,for me this is a 3hr job-remove,get skimmed etc and refit,they are a very advanced engine-even today made easy to work on.

  16. ChrisM - May 29, 2012

    Impressive. I’ve just spent as much money as I paid for my car on, what should have been a simple head gasket repair – 2 weeks later and a new low mileage engine I’m now a happy bunny, but it makes me not wish to buy a car off anyone ever again!

  17. Oliver - May 29, 2012

    The k series engines were completely different in their build quality! It was a big problem for Rover to keep a staight building quality. There were many problems with the castings of the alloy parts (many percents were not useable) and that is much too much. By BMW we have about 0,002 percent of wrong castings!
    The worse headgaskets have done the rest!

  18. bangernomic gav - May 29, 2012

    This makes me even more unlikely to buy a K-engined car (although I like 75s). The chances of it having had a head gasket replacement are just too high, and without taking the engine apart you can’t know how good the job was.

    On saying that I’m running an XJ8 from 99, so the piston rings could have eaten the liners, but I’ll not think about that.

    Also does anyone know whether BMW did intend to replace the K with the tough but difficult to work on N42, or is that just wiki based lies.

  19. HerstonHolt - May 29, 2012

    I had a head gasket blow on a 1.6 K-Series (HHR 416 Saloon). It happened in early November (although the water pump went in the July) but judicious use of water and oil kept the car running until I traded it in the following February for an Accord when a wheel bearing went.

  20. francis brett francis brett - May 29, 2012

    @18 i dont think the N42 valvetronic engine was as compact as the K,variators caused chain noise too.

  21. Mikey C - May 29, 2012

    Gav
    As the N42 is built at Hamms Hall it would be surprising if it didn’t replace the K series (certainly the 1.6 and 1.8 versions) in the lower 75s and new 55. With the 25 and 45 phased out, Tritec would effectively replace the lower Ks in the MINI.
    According to Wiki, Rover engineers were involved in the design of N42 which is interesting…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_N42

  22. David Dawson - May 29, 2012

    “The car’s not to blame at all” Well, this statement also describes my 75 1.8 K-Series experience. Exactly, in fact -

    As I explained in a story which I sent to Mike, my 75 suffered two head gasket failures within the first 3 or 4 thousand miles of ownership. The first was ultimately caused by the apparently respectable dealer adding some kind of gasket sealant to the coolant. The second resulted from a bodged repair by the local X-Part agent.

    I trusted the guy who replaced the head gasket second time around and getting on for twenty thosand miles have shown I was right to do so. However, even here a dollop of mayo resulting from the blow was not successfully ‘washed’ from the cooling system and after a thousand miles or so it worked its way into the expansion tank. My intial reaction was ‘oh, bloody hell, not again!”. However, after I scooped it out only traces remained and there was no coolant loss. I have now cleaned the expansion tank more thoroughly (Mike was rather concerned at the POL) and sourced a new cap. The coolant in the expansion tank is now PERFECTLY clean.

    Anyway, the crux of the tale is that most of my problems were caused by dodgy dealers, workshops and not the car itself. Had I not been such a loyal BL>MG Rover nut I would probably have given up early on adding more bad press to the Rover name.

  23. Linearaudio - May 29, 2012

    The mere fact that, even 20+ years after its introduction, the K is still a revolutionary engine design,and that being typically a British product,is a terrific design buggered up by poor execution,says something about the problems inherent with innovation coming up against reality! The casting concerns were well documented in the Engineering press before production started but presumably BL were up against it to implement production before all its current engines were legislated out by tightening emissions limits. Intriguing is the fact that the initial series had elaboratly rigged SU carbs rather than taking the plunge straight into fuel injection, which was surely by the early nineties the obvious future from the point of emissions!
    Considering that the initial design was for a 1.1,with the 1.4 as the big brother, that it was then successfully stretched to 1.8 is also to be admired!

  24. WarrenL - May 30, 2012

    Can we please clarify if it is the 4-cylinder K-series that suffers these problems? As a KV6 owner, I’m keen for reassurance!

  25. Mike Humble Mike Humble - May 30, 2012

    Re: KV6

    They can blow as any car, but the physical build if the engine is totally different to the “Tommy Boiler” 4 pot.

    They are not as reknown as the K for head issues, but… They will NOT tollerate skimped maintenance. They do however present a major headache for inlet manifold, thermostat & intake servo motor’s… But an awesome plant non the less.

  26. francis brett francis brett - May 30, 2012

    @24 i have only come across water elbows cracking,manifolds and only two cases of porous heads,only scrupulous maintainance (as with any car)ensures reliability,those daily/weekly check instructions in drivers handbooks are not there by accident!

  27. James Godwin J Godwin - May 30, 2012

    Have experience low mileage main dealer serviced K-Series 1100 and 1800 K failures which was a pity as they are fine efficient and great sounding engines. Well done on the repair guys and here’s to many happy relaxed miles.

  28. Landyboy - May 30, 2012

    The BMW master plan was definitely to replace the K-Series, but not exclusively with the Hams Hall Motor, as the Brazilian built Pentagon Mini engine was better suited for smaller capacities. The NGV6 would have replaced the 2.5 KV6, which was only ever supposed to have been a stop gap, when Honda said they wouldn’t supply their 2.7 V6 any longer.

  29. marinast - May 30, 2012

    My 214 has over 190,000 miles on the clock, still returns nearly 50mpg on a run and just keeps on going and going.

    Not to say it’s not had a bit of work in its time, my father owned it from new and I remember some parts were NLA for the SPi as far back as 1998.
    It’s had three head gaskets, one failed big time, another was caught just before it caused any issue as I regularily keep an eye on the coolant level and the last was replaced when the cambelt snapped last year.
    The reason for it snapping was not down to a duff MGR part, but it transpired the garage I had entrusted to do the work on the second head gasket had refitted the old timing belt despite being asked to change this as well at the same time. The ‘old’ belt was close to it’s life limit, the ‘new’ belt was 18 months old at the time. Fortunately I had a spare engine and the head was duely fitted and the car runs fine. By the way after passing the 214 to me my father bought a 2003 1.8 75 back in 2005 and has it to the present. It’s a lovely car, the later open deck engines have a weakness the earlier ones like mine don’t but it’s driven well and has yet to have the dreaded HGF at 65k miles.
    By the way Keith do you know what the situation is with E10 petrol and MGR products, my MOT inspector said it’s going to kill and force many cars off the road including ALL MGR products, perhaps an article covering this topic would be a good idea so owners can learn how to keep their cars going for longer. E5 is being sold at the moment and apparently the only petrol on the market without Ethanol is BP Ultimate, though that could well change!

  30. Big D-Dubya - May 30, 2012

    looking forward to the guide, got a poorly 25 with a K-series with a failing HG

  31. marcelfromholland - May 31, 2012

    i did once own & drive a marvellous little fast reliable 114 GTi with more than 100000kms K engine with no trouble at all and a very very troublesome MG F with all the K trouble you dont wanted… pff
    the story of the K engine looks a bit to me like that of the Triumph Stag etc. story 30 years later ans nothing learned…

  32. Tim_Burgess Tim Burgess - May 31, 2012

    Nice work Keith. Back in 2006 my 1.8 75 suffered HGF at 38k, just prior to me buying it. That was fixed by a “bodger”. I bought it from a trader “Head gasket’s been done mate” and it failed again at 40k.

    I had it fixed by a specialist using L/R sourced MLS gasket and sump rail as the X-Part kit wasn’t available at the time.

    I sold that car in March 2012 but 6 years and 50k later it was still fine and never used a drop of coolant.

    I’m now on K-Series car number 7 with only 2 HGFs. Even our MGF got to 74k on its original head gasket.

    My 400 Tourer was 1.6 K and that did nearly 200,000 on it’s original gasket.

  33. ROBERT BIRD - May 31, 2012

    *** URGENT NEWS MAKE SURE YOU FIT A BLACK INLET GASKET AS THE GREEN ONES NOW LEAK MORE THAN THE ORIGINAL BLACK ONE.I HAVE HAD TWO CARS LEAK MONTHS AFTER HEAD GASKET REPAIR.PROBLEM IS RESOLVED WITH LATEST BLACK GASKET.

  34. Alexander Boucke - May 31, 2012

    Indeed, that inlet manifold gasket is often overlooked – I wonder how many K-series received a new head gasket when all it was needed was a new inlet manifold gasket…

  35. Tim_Burgess Tim Burgess - May 31, 2012

    @34 Very true. So often the “Service Technicians” treat the symptom not the cause.

    Keith, now you’ve had the gaskets done PLEASE check that the cooling fan is OK. The early 3 speed units are very prone to failure, not an issue you want with a 1.8.

    Later 2 speed motors are better but the factory fit 50A resistor fails and needs to be upgraded to a 100A. I know, I’ve recently had to go through this with my ZT-T 120

  36. Marty B - June 1, 2012

    I suggest you guys look for v8jagnut on Youtube. He’s a home mechanic down under, who seems to get absolutely tons of work dealing with crap like the bodging of Keith’s 75. The latest one he uploaded, a 1984 Camry, well, the bodging and ripping off that has happened to the owner of that car is scary! (One of his current cars is also a Mazda rotary powered NSU RO80, and his every day car is a V8 repowered S1 XJ6!

    And there are still places that will ‘make you a service history’ for less than £50, with fake rubber stamps, so FSH is worthless nowadays

  37. Ianto Ianto - June 1, 2012

    Never had a problem with my 416, regular serving by Newtown Motors in Cwmbran at 10,000 miles, and Mobil 1 at every oil change. Fantastic engine if looked after, I took mine from 15,000 to 90,000 with no problems over a four year period. Replaced with Renault Diesel which regulalry broke down, and spent more time on the back of a low loader than on the road.

  38. Graham - June 1, 2012

    My last Rover was one of the first batch of ZT260′s (second place was the TF I owned before). It was the most unreliable car I have ever owned. At the time I knew a lot of the issues were dealer related such as uploading left hand drive software, although also a number of assembly issues, including the gearbox being only attached by hand tightened bolts. Again not helped by the dealer referring to the transmission vibration as “they all do that sir”.

    However when MG Rover went bust taking what was left of the warranty with it (due to the consistent problems and lengthy periods off the road I had the warranty was extended as compensation by MG Rover) I went to an independent MG Rover service centre and the reliability of the car was transformed.

  39. Mike Humble Mike Humble - June 1, 2012

    @ Marty B

    50 sovs for a stamp? That’s steep, I pay 35 for mine (ahem sniff)

  40. Malcolm - June 1, 2012

    My MGF blew it’s head gasket at about 40k after an extended Autobahn drive. I had it done as it happened about 300km from home. Roughly 6 weeks later there was always a puddle under the car as the garage had managed to damage the inlet manifold gasket whilst doing the cylinder head job! Had this repaired and had a routine service done after which it was dry but running rough. After numerous visits to the experts I decided to check it out myself an lo and behold one of the transistor ignition units had been “insulated” using lots of silicone. Fitted new unit and now she runs like a dream and that’s about 40k on.

  41. David Dawson - June 2, 2012

    The Land Rover parts, service specialist by Halewood who’ve looked after my 75 recently made an encouraging comment on Thursday -

    My air con needs ‘charging up’ and I took my 75 to the ‘LR Centre’ just to make sure this was the only reason for the strange noise – yes it was. Also, the mechanic told me that the radiator fan DOES cut in but not too readily. “Shows the engine is staying nice & cool which is good news” he said.

    He didn’t charge me a penny for his time either!!

    Don’t think I’ll rush to sort the air con. I prefer the way the car drives without it and you can’t beat an open window when it’s really warm! I’ll be watching out for better mpg too.

  42. David Dawson - June 2, 2012

    And oh yes! Was visiting my daughter briefly this morning and my now ex father in law arrived in his company 3-series and pulled up behind my 75. I felt rather pleased – there was no contest as to which was the more special car and I think he knew it!!!!

  43. Paul - June 3, 2012

    The tragedy here is that the K series was a 16 year old design by the time Rover went into administration and it was still plagued with the same faults it had from day 1. Absolutely no development work had been carried out to cure the Head Gasket and other problems. I cant imagine another manufacturer in the world allowing this to happen. This absolute contempt for the customer alone warranted Rovers demise. Also remember Rovers where not some sort of exotica. They where very mainstream cars. They should not have needed all sorts of special service attention to keep them on the roads.

  44. Alexander Boucke - June 3, 2012

    @Paul: This is not entirely true though… The real tragedy is, that the first version of the engine, made until the enlarged versions came along, were reliable and robust engines. Still, the problems introduced 1995 should have been rectified by 2005. Personally my experience with the K is far better than with the generally well regarded Honda D-series the K replaced in the small Rovers.

  45. matthewsemple - June 4, 2012

    What Paul has posted about development in post 43 is quite untrue.

    The original sized engines (1.1 and 1.4) used in Metros and Rover R8s were not particularly prone to HG failure which is why you get people post things like ‘I had a Rover 214SLi and it was fine’. Or the chap above who said his 416GTi was a good car (that one has a Honda engine!)

    The 1.8 engines were first used in the MGF and owners were experiencing very high incidence of HG failure. This received much adverse publicity (including being featured on Watchdog) for a variety of reasons: 1) The MGFs engine is mid-engined so is more likely to get hot, 2) Many of the owners bought the car because it was pretty and they wouldn’t even be aware that routine checks of oil and water are a good idea on any car 3) these owners were frustrated with the appalling service that some received from the dealership network and 4) many were not traditional MG/Rover fans, so they were happy to slate the brand and move on to something foreign or whatever was currently trendy two to three years later.

    Since then a range of measures were taken to solve the problem which were all well documented by Rover Parker (who has published figures to show that the situation was improving as production continued). The ultimate solution, the MLS gasket and new bottom-end oil rail, was developed by MG Rover but because they were only fitted in production to Land Rovers, this work is often incorrectly attributed to Land Rover.

  46. francis brett francis brett - June 4, 2012

    @45 i know it was honda i was just missing the car1

  47. Mike Humble Mike Humble - June 4, 2012

    @ Matthew (45)

    To a point your are quite right but one major event tipped Rover into oblivion with K series HGF

    In later years, they were forced to match both Ford & GM with 3 year warranties.. thus making them liable for HGF failure which in most cases ocurred beyond the traditional 12 month period

    Also, during Bavarian ownership, engineers at Gaydon and Longbridge had a solution of MLS gaskets and high tensile oil ladders ready for the green light. BMW would not sanction this as all intentions were to change over to Hamms Hall BMW based power units.

    As Alexander states, earlier closed deck engines were pretty hardy little blighters. A few porous heads were known, but things took a nose dive with later “open top deck” engines of 1.6 & 1.8 sizes.

    To make ANY open deck (alloy sump) K series right, you quite simply have to beef them up. The main issue is lower block torsional rigidity and NOT the thermostat, though a PRT thermostat may help matters, there is no substitue for block strength. This can ONLY be done by using a quality MLS gasket from Dana (Reinz) or XPart using the latest upgraded oil ladder and approved head bolts while religiously paying attention to cleanliness, head distortion, liner protrusion and the revised torquing practices, especially on the 1.8 engine.

    Set a budget of £250 and a weekends toil and youv’e cracked it for good!

  48. Alexander Boucke - June 4, 2012

    When the head of our 1.6 head to come off (at above 150k miles!) due to a broken crank pulley drive key (belt slipped, bent valves), we deliberatly choose not to use the MLS gasket and new oil rail: The engine was perfect for the 1st 150k miles and there were no signs of weak spots. BUT: The liner protrusion was on the low side. This is not too good for the MLS gasket, so we choose the ‘old style’ gasket again and so far – a couple of thousend miles and 1 year on, everything is fine. But why shouldn’t it?

  49. brianp4 - June 5, 2012

    I think what is particularly sad is that the exact same head gasket issue had already destroyed a similar car- the Lancia Gamma. Like the K series, the Gamma used the same sandwich liner construction, with a paper gasket at the bottom and a head gasket at the top of the block. (there are some differences, but the failure mode is the same). Like the Rover, the Gamma’s alloy engine expanded and contracted and had such large cylinders that there wasn’t enough gasket area. Hence, the ‘can I have an oil/filter job and 2 new head gaskets please’ at each service. That is unless you dared to turn the steering wheel when the fluid was cold an destroyed the engine.

    I find it amazing that anyone involved in the engineering of the K series was unaware of the Gamma fiasco enough to not anticipate this would happen before the first test engine was built.

    I had a Gamma, and it was enough to make me not want to risk a Rover 75, MGF, or anything with wet liners- even though I love the cars themselves. However, I do like to go on ebay after a long night at the pub, so never say never.

  50. Roger Carr - June 5, 2012

    Hi there,

    you may be (probably are) entirely bang on the money all the way through this piece, but…

    “It’s been maintained by a bodger (as so, so many of my old Rovers have been)”…….. and therefore (my inference, I accept) not a level playing field but a Cortina, a Sierra, an Escort, a Cavalier, a Fiesta. an Astra, even a Montego or Maestro could take an “unauthorised” repair and still get you there, the K series couldn’t, and you need to know it has had a fundamental repair before you buy one…..

    And then we wonder led to The End in 2005?

    My last Focus did 120k on the first set of wiper blades! Only sold it because of the colour ;-)

  51. David Dawson1 - June 6, 2012

    Mike, Comment 47

    As you confirmed at the POL, my car does have the better head gasket fitted and the head bolts were renewed, itemised on my HGF bill. However, I’ve noted your comments before regarding the ‘upgraded oil ladder’. I’m not sure if this has been fitted to my car. What exactly is this? It wasn’t shown on my bill but this could simply be a clerical issue. Would someone who knew what they were doing likely fit an upgrade oil ladder? My impression of the guy who renewed my head gasket second time around was of a mechanical expert but not an administrative one!! And it was 5pm New Year’s Eve when he wrote the bill!!

    As I’ve said elsewhere, the traces of mayo which you noticed have now been TOTALLY removed. As I thought, they were from the blow itself – several recent checks have shown beautifully clean coolant.

  52. francis brett francis brett - June 6, 2012

    @51 the ladder forms part of the “sandwich” head,crankcase and bearing/oil ladder.The newer ladder was a fix on freelanders initially being stronger than original,it does not really matter if changed really,what is of the utmost importance is the use of OE headbolts and not so-called “uprated ones” X-part stock everything you need for a K series

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