Our Cars : Rover 75 has a hissy fit! / Updated

Words: Keith Adams Photographs: Michael Hayward

Our Rover 75 yesterday, not leaking its coolant yet
Our Rover 75 yesterday, not leaking its coolant yet

After a couple of weeks spent languishing in the office car park, it seemed only fair to pull the Rover 75 from under its tree and spend some quality time together. Jumping in this wood-trimmed leather-lined exec is always a treat and, thanks to nice, healthy mechanicals, it didn’t surprise me that the thing burst into life as eagerly as if it’d been left overnight in a nice, warm garage.

Since our last update, there’s not been much to add. The replacement tappets are doing their job quietly and the engine may finally have settled down for the long haul. Taking the car out for a quick 50-mile canter across country reminded me just how good these cars can be – even if mine is on decrepit dampers, bushes and tyres. With a bit more of a settled life, I can finally get down to changing a few more bits and fixing its remaining foibles – like the variable idling (which has made a return).

On the road, one thing that does annoy me about the 75 – and there’s no getting away from it – is that it’s s-l-o-w in normal driving. The way the engine management is set-up, you feel it has a heavy flywheel and long gearing, which encourages you to adopt a lazy driving style. That results in early changes and a reliance on the torque curve. However, this unstressed feeling is totally misleading – because the gearing is actually too short and the engine delivers its best over 4000rpm. That’s why, if you really want to keep up with the flow, you really have to row it along revving it hard… despite what your senses are telling you.

It’s all a little confusing and unrewarding.

If ever a car needed a sixth gear, this is it...
If ever a car needed a sixth gear, this is it. That K-Series is working far too hard on the motorway.

The proof is seen in this photo. Cross-check the road and engine speed. It’s approaching 3200rpm for 70mph – and that’s far too busy for what is otherwise a cossetting saloon. Compare that with my equally peaky Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer‘s 2100rpm at 70mph and you’ll get the idea but then, that car has six speeds. Time and time again, I found myself saying, ‘this needs to go and needs to be replaced by a manual 2.5-litre V6, if only for my sanity.’

Destination reached, I parked up and jumped out of the car – only to get a strong whiff of coolant. Sure enough, and with hissing and gurgling noises coming from the front of the car, I reckoned it might have lost a little coolant – surprising as I’d checked it before I left and it was fine. So, I quickly topped it up (with water, I’d bravely decided not to carry coolant with me), went for my walk in the country and put it out of my mind.

When I drove the car home, it gave no sign that anything was amiss but, again, once I’d switched off, I knew I had a leak. A look underneath the car confirmed the worst – it was steaming, hissing and gurgling again, only this time, it decided to leave a great big trail as I backed it onto the drive, fresh coolant lubricating the power steering belt in the process, so that I lost assistance as well. Smiling grimly, I jumped out, opened the bonnet and admired the drenched engine bay – the leak’s coming from the offside rear of the engine. I then closed the bonnet, hit the car with a branch and called Mike to cook up a plan.

And this is it… we’d planned to spend the weekend fettling my Lancia Integrale – so instead, we’ll spend a little time working on the Rover. I’m sanguine about it really – this is a Bangernomics car that’s now 13-years old and rubber coolant pipes wear out. Anyway, it’s a DIY proposition. It’s no big deal. Running it on Bangernomics principles dictates that we should start with a trip to the scrapper to source some good-looking used replacements – but I might just take a look at the price of a full set of new (silicone?) replacements in the meantime.

Mind you, as I’ve not actually located the leak yet and that it could be coming from the underside of the inlet manifold, it’s still too early to say. As they say, I’ll keep you posted.

But if you are selling a 75 V6, please don’t tell me*.

Update: 26 August

That was interesting! The leak had been traced to a split pipe that connects the inlet manifold to the top of the radiator and, as the cooling system pressurised, it opened up, literally dousing the engine bay in sticky OAT coolant. Once again, Mike Humble made use of the enormous scrap yard at Pease Pottage to collect a few bits and bobs to fix the 75’s latest malady, including a very healthy-looking replacement hose from an ’04 car. Let’s just hope that wasn’t a victim of overheating.

Fortunately, Mike also picked up a replacement top main hose – this was not the correct item on my car and very likely the cause of the air locks that caused so much grief when we bled the system following the headgasket change back in May. The coolant hoses didn’t take long to change and, while we were there, we trimmed down the over-long replacement overflow hose (Lord knows where that came from). However, once again, bleeding the cooling system proved troublesome and, once the engine came up to full temperature, the overflow hose failed, causing another pressurised fountain.

We duly removed that, finding that this hose wasn’t braided and also that it looked like it had been weakened and the rubber had become contaminated – perhaps from all the K-Seal that had been used in the past – so that was thrown away and a nice new piece of replacement hose was fitted. After a little more faffing, the cooling system looks to have been sorted. For now…

However, as Mike noted, the bottom hose didn’t look in great condition. Oh, and we still need to change that serpentine belt.

Still, at least it’s on the road again…


Keith Adams


  1. Check the thermostat housing, i’ve had a couple go where the 2 halves joint together, but you dont see it until its hat and under pressure…. just when you dont want your face under the car!!

  2. There is a reason I didn’t buy a 1.8 and it wasn’t the fear of HGF. The really great thing about having a 2.5 V6 is its performance and I think it suits the style of the car better. Most Germanic Mono Chrome Derv Company cars driven by equally dull materialistic twits with lots of hair product, often assume when they are glued to the backide of my 75 on the M6, that it is an 1.8 Tommy Boiler. A quick blip of throttle usually leaves them wallowing in the fast lane bending valves and a brief realisation that ‘Clothes Don’t Maketh the Man’in otherwords all show and no go. Time to trade up and have some fun, by a V6!

  3. Watch it Simon, i’ve been driving Germanic Mono Chrome Derv cars for 7 years now! 🙂

    …. But I still own a ZS 120 and a Montego 🙂

  4. Every Rover I’ve driven as been under geared and therefore noisy in the cruise. I cured it on my mk2 820 Sterling by fitting a gearbox from a 420 diesel, thereby knocking 700 rpm off at cruising speeds. I also gained 1-2 MPG in the process. It made the car as civilised as it always should have been.

  5. I got a similar problem with my MGF when a jerk that calls himself a mechanic put the engine head on the rubber pipe when he changed the valves (curved when the distribution belt brake off)so the edge of the head literally cut the pipe, and the preassure just done the rest.

    u used a 10 cm copper pipe (used for central heating instalation) and two strong clips solved the problem…so no big deal to resolve it, but i was a “bit” upset with the upper described sublect who saw my car for the last time…..

  6. I had the same problem on my 75 whilst on a 250 mile trip to Minehead.Turned out the coolant system just needed bleeding. The garage had not done it properly when I had it serviced!

  7. Well folks.. it transpires that the inlet manifold to T piece hose has gone west.

    Also, the car came with an incorrect top hose fitted by the previous twonk who severely bodged the head gasket.

    A provocative trip to the breakers has secured said parts and the 75 goes under surgery (again) this weekend!

  8. I can easily see this is going to seriously soak up Lancia fettling funds now. I’m beginning to think like Lord Sward here. Strip it for spares, so other 75s can live that little bit longer

  9. I remember that my Dad always carried a full set of hoses in the boot of his cars and a plastic container with water in it. Blown hoses etc were fairly normal once upon a time. As you say the car is 13 and ben on the recieving end of some poor servicing over the years. It is no big hassle to sort. The Lancia can wait…

  10. Tony I always used to check in the boot of cars at the scrap yards when looking for spares, got many a new hose that way.
    So I have also now found out why I’m always getting stuck behind these cars! I though it was the old duffers driving them. My Mondy diesel runs at 2500 rpm at just over 90 mph, until I get stuck behind a Rover 75 that is! Anyway a proper Rover has a V8 all aluminium engine. Old Fords have V6s.

  11. @ Simon Woodward:

    “Most Germanic Mono Chrome Derv Company cars driven by equally dull materialistic twits with lots of hair product, often assume when they are glued to the backide of my 75 on the M6, that it is an 1.8 Tommy Boiler.”

    A great comment that I fully endorse. Although I don’t own a Rover 75 (yet), back in the 1990s and into the new Millennium I experienced the same problem from Volkswagen Golf drivers when driving my Maestro, albeit the rather spirited MG Maestro 2.0i.

  12. Keith, you HOPE it is just a few quids worth of parts. This car has had some severe bodgery over the years, and to be honest if you were using a garage & not Mike, bills for this car would be well past 4 figures and climbing. Get shut of it while you can still get a reasonable scratch for it, and poor that cash into the Lancia, because that is going to really be an expensive baby, because it is a red blooded Italian sports car, and they have a hot temper, and like to have plenty of tantrums, and parts can be eyewateringly insane

  13. @15. Another reason you’ll be stuck behind them is that every one I’ve ever had (3 and counting) has a ridiculously fast speedo. In my experience an indicated 70mph is a GPS verified 64.

  14. @21,i think old german cars are brilliant,i have a ’89 E30 325i that exudes personality and soul,Nothing from BMW stirs me after this model-im not going to go into the realms of the M cars thats another matter.I love italian cars from old-an alfasud with its unmatchable handling and roadholding,fiat strada 130 twin cam,mirafiori twin cam and alfa 75 V6 and loads of other trouble,they had character and soul and would let you down always but they were emotive,german cars age badly now.

  15. Keith @12

    No, you can hardly scrap the car for the sake of a bit of hose, especially after Mike’s head gasket work!

    That expansion tank shot does take me back – my 75 has only been gone for 7 weeks or so but somehow it seems an age away.

  16. The problem with POB (previous owner bodging) is you never know how deep it goes. If they’ve skimped on simple stuff like hoses what’s the rest of the car like?

    It might become a good car if you can dig out all the bodged nonsense in the cooling system. The question is how much patience do you have?

  17. The cooling system on the 75 is simple,the golden rule is bleed the cooling system via the 8mm nut on the steel pipe that run round the side of the engine and wait till you get good air free anti freeze nothing more,nothing less,obviously bodges like missing thermostats and the constantly running fans are a both silly and can cause further problems like thermal shock,i always remove the ball bearing out of the inlet manifold outlet,and i ALWAYS examine the inlet manifold for decay in the gasket lands and for distortion after overheat.Bodges do happen but are not necessary unless you are horrible and selling on!

  18. Ah we did bleed it correctly – it just took a lot of time to get the air out. It was a *real* pain last time, though – but the non-standard top hose probably introduced all manner of pain.

    To be honest, I’m getting tired of living with the consequences of the previous owner (or two)’s propensity to bodge it to death.

  19. I feel for you Keith, but keep the faith. My blue 75 suffered HGF within 2000 miles of buying it due to a bodger. I got it sorted by someone who knew what they were doing and it gave me 50000+ miles of reliable service before I sold it on in March.

  20. “To be honest, I’m getting tired of living with the consequences of the previous owner (or two)’s propensity to bodge it to death.”

    That was what drove me to buy a new C6 after my youngest big Citroën being 7 years old.

    It came pre-bodged and was no less painful to own!

  21. If its an X-reg you won’t get the top hose – or at least I couldn’t on my Y – they changed the design when they moved the PRT, the later ones don’t fit and the earlier ones are (or were) unavailable. I modified a freelander 1.8 to fit.

  22. The Rover 75 is a very tempermental machine. Must be treated with care — I know from experience.

    In the end I just decided I’d sell my Rover to trusted car buyers and end its reign as a money pit. Don’t get me wrong, I loved driving it, just when it worked.

    Glad yours is at least back on the road again (I say, somewhat jealously) 😉

  23. well read with interest above comments, ive had a 1.8 turbo 75 for 4 years now on 12000 miles don’t find it at all sluggish & has been faultless turbo most necessary on this model then ups it to 148bhp, good on gas too, aint getting rid of this car, till it dies. just love it & all for a purchase price of £1800 4 years ago.

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