Blog : Rover 75 to come back home limping

Mike Humble

First to see will buy? Well second actually - The project 75 goes to a new home.

Me and my big mouth. A couple of weeks ago, I got in touch with Richard Fernadez, the nice chap who bought my project Rover 75 in 2012. I asked him if he was bringing it to the 2014 Pride of Longbridge – and despite a very busy schedule, Richard said he would make an effort to bring the car along. The conversation then turned to how it was running, and as expected, he said everything was tickety-boo.

Until recently that’s how the story has been. We have kept in touch during his tenure of my old – and much-missed – Rover 75 1.8 Club SE, and it’s good to know, that it has been performing well for its new parents on the Suffolk/Essex border.

That was until a few days ago. I received an email from Richard with a plea for help and advice. Enclosed, was a truly shocking estimate for a headgasket job from his local MG Rover ‘specialist’ for… wait for it… brace yourself… £1780+VAT. At first I thought they had mistaken the car for a KV6-powered example! The worse thing was that the estimate didn’t even include a head skim. For those who don’t know the score, this is around £1000 more than the norm for a non-turbo 1.8-litre K-Series. In fact, its nothing short of offensive and criminal.

I grabbed the phone and gave the chap a call, as I was a bit confused as to why it had blown. If, in fact, it had blown at all. Fast forward a day, and I’m hurtling northbound up the A12 heading for Suffolk, one of my favourite Counties. I have a bootful of tools, and I’m not afraid to use them. Once there, and with the kettle and water supply tested, sleeves rolled-up, I went into full Quincy mode.

It wasn’t long before I found the cause – the garage had correctly diagnosed that cylinder four was full of coolant but, something else had caught my eye. At the back of the cylinder head, was a pool of orange OAT coolant. No more than a thimble full, but a sure sign that the inlet manifold gasket has given up the ghost. Acting quickly, we tried to find a replacement, and see if that could solve the problem, but time was against us – and we missed a Colchester motor factor by five minutes. Damn, another hour wasted in travel time. We were battling against fading light, so in the name of experimentation, I tried the less-than-perfect idea of turning over the gasket and re-fitting it. Worth a pop I thought!

75 for sale 001

Once re-assembled, I turned over the engine minus its spark plugs. Not a good idea, as it sprayed everyone within a few feet, as a pretty orange fountain ensued, as the cylinder evacuated the flooded coolant. With dried plugs refitted, and the stored fault codes erased from the ECM, I turned the ignition key through squinted eyes and grimaced face, fearing the worse. But the damn thing burbled into life instantly. Sounds silly now, but we both could have cried with relief.

Richard’s lovely wife, Jill, with ‘er indoors in tow, came dashing out of the house, after hearing the car start up. Just for a moment, everyone was pleased as punch, as before it would only run on three cylinders, with a flashing amber lamp on the dash.

Sadly, it was not all over.

There was a faint sign of goo under the oil cap, and it was then that Richard explained the car had got rather warm previously. Obviously, the inlet manifold had caused a leak that caused an airlock, and that had caused it to overheat. Despite a rock steady temperature gauge sitting a millimetre under the mid way point (textbook 1.8), and the heater working fine on idle, the engine has suffered a trauma.

There is the slimmest of chances that I might be able to sort the car out, and I left Richard and Jill with a frank and honest low down of the long term prognosis of their English patient.

When you love a car like a family pet, it’s unconditional in some cases. To some of you reading this, the opinion might be, ‘they must be simple’. But the car is just too damn good to scrap, and they are going to trailer the car down to leafy Sussex for me to pull the head off, and check for warpage, and liner protrusion. I’m not holding my breath, but equally, the fat lady has not started singing yet!

We’ll keep you posted.

75 for sale 011

Mike Humble


  1. £1780! I would never darken their doorstep again. As opposed to my local Jag speialist, who just fixed a stuck-open wastegate on my X type diesel for £162 including VAT. Not a welcome bill, but I think a dealer would have told me I needed a new turbo, and charged me about £800. Nor would they have taken in the car on Friday 5pm and finished it by 11am Saturday!

  2. £1780 quid + VAT!? – The cheeky B*******s!
    It would be cheaper and less hassle to replace the whole engine…
    Just goes to show, even the most well maintained and cherished examples can fail too.

    Hope you can save the day, Mike

  3. The theme of the banner in the third photo is salvation from death and destruction. Let’s hope Mike achieves precisely this for the Rover.

    The ridiculous repair quote makes you wonder how many good cars of about this age are written off due to only moderate faults. Subjectively, it does feel that the attrition rate of many larger cars occurs these days when values drop to about £2K, rather than the £500 or so of only a few years ago.

  4. I thought that a garage was trying to rip me off when I got a ball park quote of over a grand to fix the head gasket on my 25. In the end, a friend of a friend fixed it at his garage for £600.

    He does about one every six weeks & loves the cars so it saddens him when he hears of people scrapping them due to ignorance of how to fix an otherwise cracking engine.

    In all the time he’s been replacing head gaskets on K series, not one has failed on him again. Fingers crossed!

  5. That’s £2136, you can get a wonderful 2.5 Connoisseur/Contemporary for taht money!!! Please, state name and address of thes daylight robbers…

  6. Best thing to do with a K series is to look after it in the first place. Just keeping the water level topped up and driving sensibly is often enough. My dad did about 30,000 in his 416 with no prob’s, I also know a couple who did similar miles in an MG TF and a Freelander without HGF prob’s. The K series was not deigned to withstand abuse, which is what most people give their cars.

    #5 – LOL. A friend of mine was a vicar’s son, and got involved in a discussion as to how to get more people into their (old fashioned Anglican) church. He suggested putting a four poster hydraulic lift in the main aisle, so that people could bring their cars in and service them. Believe it or not, they took him seriously.

  7. To be fair on the K series, the two of mine that have gone had done 95 & 79 thousand miles respectively.

    Ironically the other K series I have had was bought on the cheap, drove like it had been thrashed by never failed!

  8. Make sure replacement inlet gaskets are black in colour (ironically the same colour of the original 1996 ones)

    If you have replaced the head gasket a few years ago and fitted a green one it will it will turn to jelly after about two years.

  9. Don’t think its worth buying anything with a K series engine. My wife and I own a 2005 MG ZR ,the Mg has recently had a replacement head gasket, water pump etc.including service at a cost of £750.00+VAT.
    This at 36000 miles and the car has been pampered all its life with gentle driving and regular servicing.
    Now its been repaired I’m reminded what a great engine the K series could have been but how long before mine deteriorates again?

  10. @13 provided the head gasket’s been replaced with the tougher Land Rover one (standard procedure provided the garage knows anything about K-Series) it should be absolutely fine. The head gasket’s the only major failure point on these engines, that I know about anyway. Did it overheat at all when the gasket blew? They’ve got a very clever construction, but they don’t take well to overheating.

    Also, does anyone know how’s best to go about procuring a decent K-Series? My sister’s ZR had the head gasket let go and she kept driving it for a couple of days before she told anyone :S

    • Will & BiTurbo

      I went one better and fitted a DANA / REINZ MLS unit to the car a while ago… they simply dont go unless something else does. It was the inlet manifold failing and subsequent overheating that popped the head. Quite eveidently, the REINZ inlet manifold gaskets are pap!

  11. The black rubber inlet manifold gasket’s are far superior to the green one’s.
    The early 1.8k’s are different to later ones in terms of casting and engine mount points on the block and seem less averse to piston slap/little end knock.

    With the MLS and head saver shim with new stat and water pump there is no reason at all why they should not do moon miles, like anything else keep an eye on water and oil.

  12. My 25 went at 68k/11 years. £300 + £60 petrol for one of the MGR specialist mobile mechanics to fix. 6 months on still runs perfectly. Hopefully get another few years from the car. Can only echo what’s been said above that a lot of cars must get written off unnecessarily.

  13. @15 Interestingly they weren’t prepared to guarantee it with an MLS gasket due to the head condition not being perfect. Said the original style gasket would seal better. It’s OK so far, after all the 1st one lasted 11 years, guess I’ll just have to see how it goes! Not too worried as the car was so cheap to buy that even if I only get another year or two’s use its been an absolute bargain.

    • The MLS gasket is not always needed, and I feel it is not always the best choice. In out Tourer the head had to come off due to a different problem at about 140k miles. Since it was fine before, but the stand proud of the cylinder liners was on the low side, we decided against the MLS gasket and chose a Payen made ‘traditional’ K-series gasket. We are now more than 30k miles on, and everything is perfect. If the head is not in good shape anymore (heavy indentations could be an indication), the choice is less straight forward. In the end the head has to come off before making any safe claim about the possibilities of a lasting repair – but that is not really different on most other cars.

  14. I still, to this day, wonder how many IMG failures have been misdiagnosed as HGF by garages that automatically assume, rather than actually check, and how many good cars got scrapped over a £10 gasket and a few minutes work.

    I do agree about the gaskets, sometimes, the new neoprene gaskets are just as good, if not better in most cases as a replacement, unless you ensure everything is perfectly flat, so a MLS gasket may be better after a skim, however if it’s found the head is still true, I would probably go for the uprated neoprene one.

  15. I have had multiple vehicles that have exceeded 150,000 miles with no major engine problems.

    I do nearly all my own maintenance and repairs and have only ever replaced one headgasket due to failure.

    Our current daily driver vehicles one Japanese and one US are at 130,000 and 145,000.Both over 10 years old.

    Lots of excuses here. Seems like we are setting the bar rather low, no wonder they couldn’t export the bloody things!

  16. I have done upwards of 300 K head gaskets and the MLS is far superior to the original that cannot cope with thermal shocks of any kind.

    I have never once installed a MLS and had a return. |If muppets are let loose on these engines expect trouble.
    There is no good reason why a MLS and headsaver shim cannot be fitted to these engines whatsoever.

    I have seen Freelanders with delivery miles and 98K 25’s with HGF. They are fixable.

    Ask any Avensis taxi owner does when they have HGF-they throw an engine in.

  17. My sister bought a Rover 200 in 2006 where the previous owner had wisely replaced the head gasket before the inevitable happened with a brass one, which lasted the lifetime of the car. If the head gasket is replaced, usually the K series is a good engine with decent performance, refinement and economy.

  18. Quite surprised to learn that your old 75 has had such issues, Mike.

    I know that HGF is very common with the K series – my 75 1.8 suffered two!! However, is it inevitable? My 1.4 ZR, now at 51K miles, seems ok so far. God, I hope I haven’t tempted fate!!

  19. That’s more like £1300 too much. I know a guy who is a mobile mechanic, well known in MGF and TF circles who can do the job for £399 including cambelt.

    He offers a 12 month warranty. Not going to name him here, but everyone and I mean everyone in the MGF Register has heard of him.

    Hopefully it’s nothing too serious. It had sat with a cylinder full of coolant, which isn’t going to help condensation wise. TBH I’d be more worried about hydraulic lock, however if it’s running OK apart from the goo then it looks like that isn’t a problem.

  20. The K series is famous for it.

    However, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d heard of a BMW having HGF, or a VW eating injectors, or a Toyota burning all its oil and seizing etc.

    I’ve owned a good variety of cars and learnt that every car marque has it’s problems. Even the reliable Honda was let down by one of it’s German components – a Siemens main relay. Not to mention sticking expensive calipers.

    It’s all about marketing and perception. Unfortunately Rover was never able to turn it around, yet LR, who admittedly found a fix for the HG issues, is going from strength to strength.

  21. Mikes ex R75 is too good a car not to persevere with, hope it gets back to full health soon. I never had trouble with HGF on my R414, 45 or ZS but admittedly none of them had huge mileages when I sold them on…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.