Cost-cutting ignites my anger!

Mike Humble 

Rover 75 1.8 - Can be a cost-effective car if it's looked after!

What should have been a simple winter service on a Rover 75 proves to be rather more complicated… 

The legendary Rover 75, with its smooth, sleek styling, not too big, inviting interior and quiet refinement, can often be the perfect antidote to the usual Mondectra class of car. Used values of some the earlier metal such as the W-plate examples are rock bottom and these can be bought for well under a grand – often in perfect running order too. Very much a flawed gem, the 75 for me still looks the part out on the road, especially in the right colour. Obviously, there is some crud out there, but the same pitfalls apply with any used car you choose. 

The K-Series powered 1.8 models are reknowned for being a tad fragile with gaskets, but a well sorted, decent spec Rover 75  1.8 can make perfect sense as a used buy with its revvy natured-engine and ease of servicing thanks to a timing belt that takes a few hours rather than a few years to change, unlike its KV6-engined siblings. Performance wise, it will never set the world on fire but, use it as a distance car, and you will pleasantly be surprised with its fuel economy. 

In all fairness, most 1.8 75s have by now been through the pain barrier and many which have received a new, upgraded head gasket go on to give many miles of smiles to bargain conscious owners. Where the wheels fall off so to speak, is when you skimp on the routine servicing and maintenance. Rover cars, along with many other brands such as Saab and most of the French kit, will and do turn round and bite you in the pocket if you try to run them on a shoestring. I’ll bet you 10 bob that many cars found in the breakers’ yards are dead because their previous owners never bothered or couldn’t afford to service them. 


Scrapped for the sake of a pint of oil – often such is the case! 

Recently, I was contacted about servicing a Rover 75 1.8 which also had an intermittent misfire when cold. I didn’t know the guy personally as he was a friend of a friend of a friend if you catch my drift. Speaking to him on the ‘phone at length (oh yes, I always vet referrals, once bitten twice etc.), it transpired his usual mechanic had gone to ground and couldn’t be contacted. To cut a long story short, the car was delivered to me and I set out to see what the problem was. The following morning I fired up the car and the misfire was there alright, enough to make the OBD warning light flash on and off. Plugging in my code scanner, it confirmed that number 4 cylinder was at fault. 

The owner of the car said it couldn’t be the plugs on the ‘phone as he had, and I quote “paid extra for some super dooper long life plugs and leads.” Taking this on board, I started to remove the plugs only to find the first one was almost siezed into the head. This also applied to the other three plugs and the lead for number four cylinder was so brittle that it simply fell to pieces upon removal. What I found was horrible – three plugs were Bosch and one was a Unipart-branded item and all of them were of the incorrect heat rating which obviously contributed to the brittle leads and siezed-up sparkers. 

WD40 - Plus Gas & Copper Ease - Every chemical known to mankind needed to shift the plugs!

A panic drive to a nearby breaker’s yard to source a plug lead thanks to the complete incompetence of my local branch of Hellfrauds eventually cured the stuttering 75. The rest of the service went without a hitch and the car was dispatched to its rightful (and chuffed to bits) owner. 

Anyway, the moral of this story is: 

Not everyone is blessed with mechanical aptitude – obviously the previous mechanic on this car was a buffoon and had charged the hapless owner £35 for a set of what apeared to be secondhand spark plugs and £20 for plug leads that had never been changed. Referrals are what its all about: if you can’t or are simply not able to service your own car, ask a friend or relative for a trusted garage or mobile mechanic. There are loads of them out there and many have no need to advertise. 

DON’T: Skimp on your servicing and, if you use a mobile mechanic or independent garage, don’t feel tight by offering to supply your own parts – many take this option and you may even save a few bob too! 

DON’T: Feel embarrassed to ask to see the old parts as any decent Technician worth his salt won’t bat an eyelid – trust me! 

DO: Ask the Techician or Workshop Manager to explain exactly what has been done by showing you under the bonnet before you pay the bill. 


A stamp in the Service Book is worth nothing without paperwork backing it up as well. 

The only person who gains from cutting corners on servicing and preventative maintenance is the man who owns the breaker’s yard! 


Mike Humble


  1. Sound advice there, Mike. I’ve been supplying my own parts when getting the car serviced for many years. The garage don’t mind at all and always ask if I need the originals back.

    On bigger jobs, whenever possible, I like to book off time from work to “help out.” Normally, this is just doing easy stuff like making the tea, removing the road wheels ready for access and so on.

    However, it’s amazing the tricks you can pick up along the way – you know the parts have actually been fitted and you can shave a few notes off the invoice too (on the assumption that many hands make light work).

  2. I have often wondered how many Rovers are properly serviced and how much of the bad reputation is simply down to the correct maintenance not being carried out.

    I also believe the reputation for unreliability to be self-perpetuating, simply because it increases the rate of depreciation of a marque/model. A car will therefore reach the stage where a cambelt service will cost a significant percentage of the car’s worth – this is put down to the car being a ‘crap Rover’ rather than to a ‘crap owner’ or ‘crap mechanic.’

    Interestingly, I have owned many ‘unreliable’ Rovers (including a VVC), done many miles in them, and not had a day’s trouble with any. Is this just plain luck or because I do my own servicing and they have been properly maintained?

  3. This is a point we have discussed when Keith posted a similar blog about servicing worthless cars a long time ago.

    Many people don’t invest £150 on brakes or even £400 on a proper service, because the car is only worth £500 so, instead, the car gets scrapped or sold for next to nothing and the next car is bought.

    However, what are chances that the next car bought for £500 will not require serious servicing soon? I firmly believe that it is cheaper in the long run to invest in a good car, even if a basic service is more expensive than the car itself.

    Admittedly, this way, I have spent a rather large total on my Maestro over the 8 or 9 years I have run it for now, but changing the car every year would most likely not have been cheaper. In the end, running any car costs money.

  4. Hi,

    Any one please tell me where i get ford mk2 in scrap in uk? or any dealers for such type of business.

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