Once, twice, three times a breakdown
I have lost count the numbers of times that many people (including myself) bang on about servicing your car regularly and correctly in order to get the very best compromise of economy and reliability. It is, of course, completely true that if you never lift the bonnet, your car will simply wither and die slowly, like an ignored house plant. So, armed with a little time off and some dry weather the Project 75 was treated to a little love.
To be fair, it only required a lube service and general kick of the tyres, as everything else was dealt with this time last year. However, I wanted to be sure everything was as ship shape as can be before the cold sets in – rolling around on the drive in a foot of snow is no fun, trust me!
Anyway, up on blocks it went – the old oil was flushed through with the aid of a litre of diesel and a lengthy period of fast idling, some new blood was transfused and a shiny new oil filter spun onto the K-Series oil pump housing. The brake pipes were re-greased followed with a good old fashioned ‘look see’ and that was it, off the stands and ready for whatever the English winter weather can throw at it – or so I thought.
Just a few days before a journey back to its birthplace (Longbridge), a familiar slight cough returned to perplex me and try my sanity. In a similar vain to old steam engine drivers being able to hear the loco speaking, I know right away when something is awry with the Rover – and something certainly was.
The last time a similar event happened, it was cured after a little tinkering on a T4 laptop but this time the little splutter was more pronounced and regular – especially when cold. On a return charter home it gave a god almighty cough only this time enough to illuminate the ECM lamp on the dash – at least now there would be a fault code to aid the diagnosis.
Sure as anything there was a stored code showing a malfunction of the upstream oxygen sensor, so I fitted a good working spare item which sadly required the butchering of a decent 22mm ring spanner with a hack saw in order to fit it and the code was cleared from the ECU. A road test followed and the car seemed to be okay for the time being at least but the joy of seeming success was to be shortlived.
The long drive up to Birmingham went without fuss but there was a noticeable lack of va-va-voom on the hilly parts of the M25 and M40. Yes… yes… I know my model has the poverty spec 120bhp 1.8-litre under the bonnet but, even so, there was certainly something holding a large proportion of those horses back. Also the fuel consumption was no where near as frugal as per the norm.
Later on that afternoon, I navigated a convoy of three to one of Birmingham’s Balti houses of repute after a trip to MG Motor UK’s factory at Longbridge and, when heading northbound on the A38 through Brum’s rush hour drudgery, a pronounced and rather violent misfire started. The later journey (following a great meal with excellent company) back to leafy Sussex went without fuss – well, that was until we got onto the M25 for the final furlong…
After dropping my passenger off in Surrey, I made my way home along the back roads towards Gatwick when the stuttering and coughing got so bad, the ECM lamp was flashing and the car felt more like some kind of electronic bucking bronco – I pulled over quickly for further inspection.
Dipping into one’s pocket for a sensor or a spark plug is one thing, but I felt sick at the thought of a spiked catalytic converter. The code reader spoke of a random multiple misfire and an O2 sensor malfunction. Now the fault only occurred under mid or heavy throttle, so it seemed fairly obvious that something electrical on the ignition side was breaking down but it was after midnight and I was cold and tired.
I was, in part, minded to call out the RAC but that is the last resort as well as a massive dent in personal pride so I resumed my journey for the remaining 15 miles using the lightest of dabs on the loud pedal to avoid a machine gun sounding engine and a potential blown cat.
The following day, after a good night’s kip, I set upon righting the worrying wrongs with the car and started some initial digging about and routine investigation. A previous blog mentions about the changing of the coil packs, so imagine my surprise to find the coil pack on cylinder number three to be tracking voltage from the insulator that fits over the spark plug. A rummage around in my trusty spare bins I was in luck – two coil packs and some brand new plug leads.
Within two shakes of Stella, the workshop cat’s tail, the parts were fitted, fault codes erased and a damn good road thrash confirmed all was back to normal but oddly with a whole lot more throttle pick up from low revs. Equally odd was the ‘phone call from my trusty MoT tester later that day asking if he could use my car as a Guinea Pig.
My MoT chap had just taken on a new mechanic who was ex-MGR Dealer trained and he wanted to learn how to use T4 but had no MGR product booked in to have a play on. I agreed and popped by his premises that very afternoon so the pair of them could poke and prod a lap top with my car sitting there connected up to a very long and industrious looking wiring harness.
Half an hour later Rover was released back into the wild and, placebo-effect or not, the car was transformed in every manner. The slightly hunting K-Series idle was replaced with a dead level 800rpm tick over. The throttle response from idle is now almost like a two stroke racing bike (minus the blue smoke) in comparison to how it was before and little more eager through the gears – I was so pleased I could have kissed the pair of them.
I used the car for work for a couple of days and the adaptive learning MEMS3 ECU became accustomed to my driving style, making a good car even better on bitter cold mornings thanks to an engine renowned for its rapid warm up period and the 75’s superb climate control – Oh, life once again seems so good.
Erm… well ,it did until this morning that is. On my to work at 5.00am on the coldest morning so far, I visited my local Tesco for a paper en route and passing our local commuter station I traversed the level crossing but,as the back wheels bump-thumped over the rails, the power just died almost like the ignition was turned off – which it wasn’t.
Thankfully the road from there has a gentle downhill gradient and I could do nothing but coast to a standstill by the kerb in total darkness with an outside temperature of a brass Monkey-worrying -5 degrees. ‘Er indoors was nonplussed with me ‘phoning for a lift home, but she came up trumps with the Golf looming out of the darkness like a kind of automotive St. Bernard (minus the brandy!).
I popped back home for a torch and some spares then returned to the stricken Rover a little while later. A quick look around revealed a faulty relay in the under-bonnet fusebox. The dud relay was duly thrown over a garden wall in the traditional manner and a suitable spare replacement popped into the fuse box – et voilà, the car burst into life once again. So there we have it folks, they say trouble comes in threes and that’s my three troubles.
From now on I’m looking forward to solid reliability and an unblemished copy book – though, I won’t hold my breath just yet.
- Essays : Selling the brand - 18 November 2023
- Review : Land Rover Discovery – first off the line - 15 September 2023
- Events : Leyland National 51 gathering, Whitehaven 29-30 April - 5 April 2023