Our Cars : Say goodbye, tappety-tap-tap-tap

Rover 75's worn tappet
Rover 75’s worn tappet (left) vs good secondhand replacement.

The ongoing saga of Keith Adams’ Rover 75’s K-Series engine looks set to be serialised into book form. Publishers are fighting over the rights to what promises to be a 100,000-word drama, with all the twists and turns of Forsyte combined with the epic landscape of War and Peace. When you last left us, the 75 had run through its MoT, passing its emissions easily thanks to a tappet rattle that mysteriously cured itself for the duration of the test – only to return as soon as it left the inspection bay…

To say that was frustrating for both Mike Humble (who sweated blood and tears during his rebuild and headgasket change) and Keith (who hardly enjoyed driving a car that sounded like a 1978 Chrysler Alpine) was something of an understatement. But after driving it back home from sunny Eastbourne, with the tappet tapping away, both Keith and Mike were resigned to the fact that the cam covers were going to have to come off.

So, a mere week after the 75 received its new MoT, and Mike’s pounding up the M1 to visit AROnline Towers in his Rover CDV Commerce, knackered K-Series cylinder head in the boot. He has a plan, you see – to take the tappets (which are fine in this donor cylinder head; the engine was cooked, mind) out of that one, and put them in Keith’s car. Of course, there’s the small matter of getting the cambelt off again, the camshafts out, and then getting the old tappets out.

In the end, once Mike was on the case, the stripdown didn’t take that long at all, and it provided a great opportunity to see how the engine was wearing following its previous stripdown, which really did save it from a fate worse than death. Given it had received two oil changes in quick succession in order to flush out the muck and goo that hadn’t settled in the sump, things weren’t looking too bad at all – but once the old tappets were out, it was clear there was some serious wear on them.

When the headgasket was replaced, Mike did take the old tappets out and place them in an oil bath for the duration of the job, but a closer inspection this time around reveals that at least one is heavily scored, and that it was beginning to look like at some point, the engine’s been run low on oil. It’s certainly not terminal, given the smoothness, pre-tapetty-tap, so Mike has no problem putting in the lightly used set he’s scrounged.

Unlike last time, getting the cam cover and carrier off, and the shafts out are child’s play, given it’s been assembled correctly and when putting it all back together, he ensures that a new gaskets go in – reaffirming the K’s oil-tight status. In all, the replacement took about three hours, punctuated by the inevitable stops for tea and light refreshments.

However, when the engine was fired up again, it tapped merrily away, and poor old Mike looked crestfallen. A bit of quick running at standstill, and a run round the block once it was all warmed up, and the damned thing quietened down – and the smile returned to Mike’s face. Clearly this is an engine that wants to give us as many column inches as it possibly can.

We’re cooking up a cunning test run for the car in the coming months – a true challenge in the AROnline spirit. Stay tuned!

And it's quiet again
And it’s quiet again – and Mike looks pleased with himself


Keith Adams


  1. Tappets and cam lobes wear as a pair, I give your bodge 10K miles at most. Should have replaced with new tappets or used the donor cams with the tappets numbered against the correct lobes.

  2. God these cars are crap! I’m just fitting the fouth yes FOURTH intake manifold to my 55000 mile ZT. Another 600 quid plus labour, and they’re telling me the belts and plugs are due to be replaced. To think what I could have bought with all I’ve spent the last 6 years keeping this lemon on the road.

  3. @1 makes no difference,the hydraulic tappets spin in thier bore anyway,as long as there is oil film with good shear strengh there will be no problem,either carbon build up or oil frothing usualy knacker up lifters,orthe top ladder having silicone sealant instead of zero thickness sealant being used.

  4. @4 yes they spin, but they still wear as a pair. Fitting pre-used tappets will massively accelerate the wear of the “nose” of the cam lobe as the film of lubricant is soon broken down by the mismatched microscopic peaks and troughs – especially as there’s no longer much, if any, zinc in the oil to keep the catalytic converters from breaking down from zinc contamination.

  5. simple solution- drop in a trusty old ohv rover v8, no more expensive bills simple to work on lots of power and sounds good. one draw back though 18 mpg!!

  6. Most sane people would have sent this car to the crusher by now, but we know Keith & Mike are not playing with a full deck here LOL.

    It does honestly sound though, no matter what Mike does to this engine, it is basically fragged through years of neglect.

  7. why did you use second hand bits hwne new ones are £10-£20? Doesn’t sound allot for a crucial engine part.

  8. Just to clarify… The tappets used were virtually new with about 2k of usage taken from a lump that went pop. New ones of a decent quality are 20+ notes EACH, so a set of almost new ones for nowt are worth a punt IMO

  9. @ 2 & 3

    Well, my two years of 75 ownership most definitely showed great car, but very often poor garage service. Their advice was often inconsistent, contradictory, ill informed. And, the X Part agent, in particular, offered poor workmanship. Their head gasket replacement involved the car being off the road for 3 weeks and only lasted 1000 miles!

    Head gasket issues aside my 75 was utterly reliable, trouble free. A very classy, extremely relaxing drive.

  10. The trouble with Rovers, that most brand new were bought by giffers, who only pootled to the shops for a packet of Old Holborn for their pipe, a copy of the Racing Post, and a packet of Werthers Originals, then next door to the post office to get their pensions, so the engines never really got warm, and also the old buggers would rarely have them serviced, so as son as they ended up in noraml peoples hands, the neglect would cause instant meltdown of some vital component, or in the case of the K, almost every component would commit suicide

  11. @5 i will take the pepsi challenge on that anyday,anyway i have yet to see a cylinder head specialist anywhere to put the lifters back in order,crucial on a race engine or some old tesco multigrade 70’s knocker.To be honest,i never mix them up and if i have bent only three valves and two have been tupped and the rest ok i change the lot regardless,especially diesel heads,the valvegear on the K is forgiving,the only trouble i ever had as no compression due to drained and cleaned lifters-tried all day to start,got fed up come to it next morningand fired up first cough!

  12. Well, I have the full service history for my 107,000 mile 75 2.5 V6 and it is still on the original intake manifold. No problems evident. Cambelt replacement done at 90K miles, along with the water pump. Engine runs like clockwork.

    The experiences vary hugely. How much can be put down to Monday/Friday cars, and how much to poor servicing/workmanship?

  13. Well, early feedback is that it drives better than it’s ever done before – smooth and refined. I’m enjoying it, even if I get 10K out of it 😉

  14. Last picture: fags, bog roll and a mug of tea – Mike Humble’s well prepared for any eventuality!

    Let’s hope that’s it for a while on the R75 spending front for Keith. Fair play in keeping the old girl running. Now for the Lancia!

  15. @Marty B. I wouldnt call myself an old “giffer” yet, but every year I get closer to being one and thats made me realise, that the only alternative to becoming one is to die young. I know what I would rather do, so do tend to be rather more respectful these days!

  16. @17, I was referring to 99% of Rovers bought new. Rover’s target market for private sales was the middle class person who had them as company cars, and often as a retirement present, a brand new Rover would adorn the driveway, to do about 1500 miles a year in, and never get warmed up, suffer awful bore wash, and be completely knackered after about 5 years. I know of several OAP’s who never had their cars serviced every year because ‘they haven’t done the miles’, but what they fail to realise is, the gloop that is the engine oil starts to kill the engine. I remember doing a full service on an elderly neighbours Ford Escort which he had from a year old (with 12,000 on), it was about 7 years old by then, but only had around 25,000 on the clock. The engine oil was breaking down big time (it had lumps in it!). I would say its last service had been just before he bought it. He ended up giving the car to his daughter when his eyesight started to fail about 3 years later. Not long after she scrapped it when the engine went (cambelt). The bodywork & interior though were still like new.

  17. @13 I wouldn’t dream of mixing followers either – and nor do you by the looks of it. Nor would any engineer worth his salts. I’ve seen plenty of Rover V8s with horrendous cam wear shortly after rebuilds thanks to mixing up worn lifters – it makes a difference, mismatched wear patterns will make mincemeat of the shear strength of any oil – Especially on engines that are often set-up to idle slowly such as the Rover V8.

    Mike Humble has since stated his second hand tappets were practically new so it will probably be fine as no real wear patterns will have been established in under 2K miles.

  18. well my 214 16v has just started tapping from cold but once u have done a few miles it goes away then once u have turned the engine off then goto restart it again the tapping is bk then as b4 it then goes away again then sometimes it doesnt do it 4 some days its baffeling me have tried wynns hydralic lifter treatment but hasnt cured it i guess its a tappet wearing damm k series engines!! my oil is changed on the button every 6000

  19. I have same issue with my 1.8 K series, it is coming off the road in July to get the job done, i will have to romp around in my trusty ole KV6 75

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