The best laid plans of mice and men, eh? They never pan out as expected. Friends of ours were travelling to Canada for a fortnight flying from Gatwick so, rather than blow their money on an expensive travel tavern with a cardboard breakfast, I invited them to stay the night here, have a takeaway, leave the car on the drive and run them to the airport that’s just up the road – sounds like a plan doesn’t it? Well, we’ve done it before and it worked, so why not again?
We dispatched good friends and site fans Neil and Tracy to Gatwick’s South Terminal while their 2004 Rover Streetwise slept quietly on our drive – what could possibly go wrong? Seemingly, very little until I had to move the cars around in order to give mine a wash. Firing up the Streetwise for the first time in ten days should have been uneventful, I did and it wasn’t – damn and blast. It fired up okay but on three cylinders Thankfully, that’s not as bad as it sounds…
Noting an ever so slight drop in the coolant bottle, I also spotted a drip or two of the red stuff (OAT antifreeze) round the back of the engine block – the dreaded inlet manifold or gasket. Thanks to the wonders of MSN Messenger, I chatted with Neil from the other side of the world letting him know what was wrong and offered to render the car back to full operational standards. A few quid later and a short while spent spannering, meant that we’ve averted what could have potentially been a disaster.
Familiarity breeds content…
Despite the bolts being an acquired art to get at, I’ve done that many over the years I reckon I could almost do them blindfolded – come to think of it, I actually have done them aided only by a lead lamp in the past. Anyway, the seven 13mm nuts are removed without any of them falling on the floor (a first for me) and the problem was there to see right away – a faulty gasket. Phew… at least it wasn’t the brass ferrules of the actual manifold that had failed – it starts getting rather expensive had that been the case.
I already knew that a previous jockey of the Streetwise had in fact gone through the pain of having the head gasket replaced. After mentioning the problem on social media, the previous owner piped up that they had known the inlet manifold gasket had been ignored at the time of the HGF. For those in the know this is madness – this issue can be almost just as common as cylinder head gasket failures. An extra 20 minutes work is all it takes… and the damn thing even comes included in the head gasket set.
Anyway, rant over… The gasket had split right on the edge of the water jacket and number four cylinder and, in next to no time, it was replaced with a quality item and the coolant topped up. Not exactly the most dramatic of jobs undertaken in recent months but, left unnoticed, it could have led to the engine hydraulically locking itself and/or giving many of the symptoms a blown cylinder head gasket. Even today some less informed garages still misdiagnose a failed inlet manifold gasket for a blown head.
Don’t fall for a conman’s trick
In fact, many moons ago, I stood at the counter in a Unipart factors listening to one mobile mechanic boasting to another about how much money he could earn by telling the hapless customer the head gasket had gone to lunch, when all it was the inlet. If you believe in Karma, as I do, I’m sure he’s had his comeuppance – if not in this life, then the next. However, it’s also worth reminding any budding DIY have-a-go hero about good practice when it comes to K-Series engines.
Though it is quite possible to undertake a later K-Series head gasket replacement without disturbing the inlet manifold studs, to do this is utter madness. If the car has the resin-type inlet manifold then they can fail almost as often as the head gasket and, if the car has been seriously overheated in the past, you can pretty much bet the manifold will be warped. For the sake of an extra 20 minutes work, change the inlet manifold gasket at the same time, it,s worth it. Oh, and be wary of cheap Internet-sourced parts, too.
If I’ve told you once…
A good example was someone who asked me to do the head on their Rover 45 a couple of years back. Despite my pleas and begging against it the parts were sourced via the web by the owner. The chap was victorious in telling me how all his parts were some £50 less than what I had quoted – I knew it was going to end in tears. I reluctantly agreed to do the job but made it quite clear that, if it all went wrong, it was at their risk. All parties were in agreement so the car was duly stripped down and repaired.
The dreaded ‘phone call came some two months later – the car had developed more of an appetite for water than the London Fire Brigade. Once again, my boot was full of kit and I was off up the road to Surrey to put things right and luckily a branch of ECP (not normally my chosen factor of choice) had what I needed. You’ve guessed it by now, it was the inlet manifold gasket, made from such cheap material that it had virtually turned into a jelly-like substance.
I’ve said it time and time again, but buying cheap parts is the most expensive way of doing a job. It’s no wonder these cars and other MGR stuff get such a bad name – and a lot of the time it’s the owners’ fault, too. Look at some our previous project cars like the 414 HHR and the Rover 75 and the point is proven: do it right first time using reputable quality parts and they become dependable daily smokers which rarely give similar trouble again unless abused or neglected.