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MG Midget and Sprite Technical - Engine problems? Any ideas?

Took Clarissa (the midget) over to Midland Classic Restorations in Ombersley for them on Friday to have a quick look at the gearbox and clutch so they could confirm for me that what I thought about the clutch judder and layshaft/gear were correct, which it was.

On the journey over there (43 miles or so), we had a great run - 55/60mph all the way, beautiful sunshine and the roof off. Had to stop for about 40 seconds for a car in front to turn right. When I came to pull away, it was almost as if she had was flooding slightly. Carried on driving the 10 miles or so left - she was still ok but every so often a little splutter. Got to the garage, the oil pressure dropped immediately on stopping to 20psi from it's usual of about 40 at idle (50-60 when driving) and car sounded like a bag of nails, nuts, bolts you name it!!!

Dom from MCR came out and she wouldn't start :O( When he had a look under the bonnet, we could smell burning oil :O( Eventually managed to start her and she sounded absolutely awful - we took her up the road and she was spluttering all over the place. He's now told me that as well as the gearbox (although it is just the laygear so not desperate) and the clutch (again not desperate - I can give her a few more revs at the biting point), her engine is knackered!!!!!!!!!!! Have now got a quote for 3000 to do all three!!!! I can't afford or justify that all in one go so don't know what on earth I'm going to do :O( He said I should be ok to drive her back gently, so after the most awful drive ever I eventually got her home. I really didn't think she was going to make it at times tbh.

Before he took her out, Dom checked the oil and said it was low (a little above the minimum line) so he topped it up. I last checked it myself a couple of weeks ago and I hadn't been anywhere apart from only a couple of miles until Friday but it was about halfway up the dipstick when I did check it and didn't need topping up. She's in pretty good condition to be fair (have a look at the pics on the link below). There is only one small bit of rust near the rear passenger wheel arch that I had wanted to get sorted out asap, but obviously there's no point just yet with what's going on. The floors are all good and she looks amazing from underneath - no underseal, no rust and really clean.

I've had some really helpful replies from the MGOC forum but I thought I'd start her up and video it so they could hear the noise that I'm on about. Have a look at the video in the link at the bottom of this message BUT when I started her (albeit at 3rd attempt which isn't usual) the oil pressure went straight up to 40psi and stayed there. She was making her usual noises but nothing that I wasn't used to. She has had what I call a tappet noise since I've had her and that's what I'd always been led to believe it was, although Dom implied different. So I thought ok I'll take her round the block and see what happens. Everything was fine - no misfire, no horrible noises. Oil pressure sat at 60psi until we came to a junction then it dropped to 40psi which is usual for her. Ended up driving about 5 miles and it was all fine. The only other thing that might be worth mentioning is the revs change when she's idling during a drive. She's been doing this for a while and I had the carbs adjusted at a local garage a couple of weeks ago. Don't know if this means anything? Her idle speed is set at about 800rpm and when I start her I do need to give her a gentle touch on the throttle until she warms up. However, when shes been driving for about 15 mins, the idling revs are intermittently sitting at 1500rpm. Oh and I fitted a new accelerator cable to her a couple of weeks ago - made it myself with a teflon bike cable and the other necessary bits and pieces.

The oil pressure has always been exactly the same since I first had her - 60psi when driving, 40psi at idle. I use the Halfords Classic Car Oil which is 20w50 and the last oil and filter change I did, was at the beginning of July 2010. I didn't think that I should have done it any sooner (though perhaps I should have), but she was off the road from the end of September until about 3 weeks ago so she hasn't even driven 1000 miles on that. If there is a leak, it must be retaining it within the engine as there isn't anything on the ground where she has been standing other than a very, very slight drip that has never given me any cause for concern on a 35 year old car and again has been there since I first got her. It really is hardly anything. It's difficult to say how much he topped her up with on Friday. It was enough but not a huge amount. I'd never really noticed the smell of burning oil before then either and it was horrible (though no smoke) when Dom lifted the bonnet and when we drove her. Though that had gone when I drove her on Friday night and I've never seen any smoke at all coming out of the exhaust - he had a quick glance at that too and said it was a little sooty but nothing much at all. The one other thing he did say when I asked whether she was ok to drive home was that she might do another 20,000 miles!!!! That seems a bit strange to me after him saying the engine was knackered and given the horrendous way she drove home plus considering that he had also driven her when she was missing really badly. How the heck could you drive a car that is performing so badly for 20,000 miles?

The temperature gauge rises gently after starting and stops just a fraction short of the normal operating temp on the gauge (if it was a clock the needle would be around 25 minutes to the hour) and never goes any higher than that. Friday was no exception. When I took her out during the evening, she got up to that during the drive and everything seemed ok, though obviously it isn't.

Dom said that he could hear a bit of "pinking" and mentioned the timing, so obviously that's something else that needs looking at. I can't say for definite, but I don't think the engine would have been hot when the carbs were adjusted and other than those and the idling speed he hadn't touched anything else. She was done and dusted in an hour. I haven't, in all honesty, ever heard a knock or a rattle when I start her up from cold - that's something else that Dom asked about. I'm wondering whether some of the low rumble that you will hear (the MGOC forum have commented on it) could be the laygear - it's quite noisy and obviously the clutch was out while I was videoing it. I might have to try and get someone to pop their foot on the clutch while I record it again, just to make sure.

I'm as certain as I can be that she hasn't had an engine rebuild. When I bought her I was given all the receipts from the last 7 years or so and I can't see anything in there that would make me think it has been rebuilt - although I vaguely seem to recall a receipt for a new oil pump.

She really is in lovely condition to be fair. The amount of effort (and money) that someone has put into her really is obvious when you see her and that was one of the first things that I noticed about her. I think if it wasn't for the issue of the gearbox and the clutch as well, I wouldn't have so much of a problem sorting it out but when it's all three that need doing and you get a quote for 3000 it's a huge amount of money to spend on a car that cost less than that to buy and obviously by spending that it's not going to increase the value of the car. That said I do absolutely adore her (she really is part of my family) and I've said all along that she will be with me until I can no longer get behind the wheel so on that basis it's a job worth doing (though just not at that price). Perhaps I need to concentrate on just the engine and forget about doing the other two for now - I know it will cost me more in the long run on labour but it's probably the only way I'm realistically going to be able to afford to do it.

Yesterday I took her to the local exhaust centre as one of the brackets had worked loose and I really wasn't in the mood for getting under there today to tighten it up (thumping headache after Friday afternoons' drama) so they did that and I took her out for a little drive - country roads but within 10 miles of home so if anything happened I could get back. Trouble is I'm just waiting for something to go wrong now. I checked the oil level before I left home, after Dom had topped it up on Friday and it hadn't used a drop (sat on the max line) on the nightmare journey back Friday which given everything that was going on, is even more bizarre. When she was up in the air at the exhaust centre, I had a quick mooch around underneath and there are no signs of a leak as far as I or the guy doing the exhaust could see - she is as clean as ever. Will go and check the level again shortly and see if it's lost any while I've been out.

Anyway, she started perfectly and everything was fine for the first 10 miles or so... then it started again, exactly the same. Oil pressure dropping to 20psi when I was stationery at a junction etc and then when I tried to pull away she was awful. It's almost as if she's flooding. Didn't take her over 45mph, but ended up stuck behind a tractor on a B road with a stack of traffic behind me, tried to summon up the courage to overtake it and she wasn't having any of it, so I pulled off and came home on all the country lanes.

The water temp is reading as normal and there was a very slight smell of burning oil when I got home, but I'm sure I can smell petrol more than anything. There seemed quite a lot of heat coming off the block too when I lifted the bonnet. Don't think I've opened it up straight after getting back from a drive before so don't know if that's normal or not. Will definitely get the garage to recheck the carbs when they are warm on Monday. It's a BIG worry where to take her now though, cos nobody seems to be able to work on old cars anymore. The garage that MOT'd her in Feb (very reputable) had said she was running a bit rich when they did the MOT so I popped her back up there the other week to get them to tweek the carbs and they couldn't do it cos she wasn't electronic!!!!! Unbelievable! That's how I've ended up at the other garage that is just down the road. He learned his trade in the 70s on Midgets and Minis so at least he does know something about them. He has already quoted me quite cheaply to do the gearbox and clutch - 200 labour which is half of what MCR had quoted. But I think it's more of a problem for him to source a recon gearbox though, whereas MCR have got Peter May right next door. Obviously I haven't spoken to them about the engine yet.

The ignition system isn't standard. It was changed to electronic when she was restored, so no points. It's also got a newish coil on it, though I did have a bit of a worry over that (I'm trying to get this straight in my head) as it's non-ballast and someone who had done quite a few restoration projects on Triumph Stags, and was just interested in having a look at Clarissa one day, was adamant that it was the incorrect coil for the car. That was my reason for posting on here originally when I first got her. At the time, the general consensus on here was that it was the ok. I'm not sure whether the fuel pump is mechanical or electrical to be honest, and I haven't changed the fuel cap. It's the standard one that I've seen on other Midgets.

I always start her on full choke then I have to pop it completely back in as soon as she has started. She really doesn't like sitting on any choke at all - she never has, before or after the carb adjustment. If I leave her on choke even for 10-15 seconds she starts to splutter and die. This is always the same regardless of whether it's spring, summer, autumn or winter. So I always end up sitting in the car for 5 mins or so with my foot just gently on the accelerator so that she's revving at about 1000rpm and she's quite happy then.

This has probably got absolutely no significance whatsoever, but it's worth a mention just in case there is any connection - I had to have a new ignition switch fitted last week. The old one wouldn't stay at the point where the ignition light wasn't on so I had it swapped. The new one that was fitted then developed a problem after 3 days. It didn't want to accept the key, then when it did the starter motor wouldn't disengage until the key was turned very slightly to the left so the company it came from had to send another out. Yesterday was the first time I'd driven Clarissa since that was re-fitted.

All of this seems to have started since the carbs were adjusted - I hadn't realised until I thought about it yesterday that I hadn't driven over 10 miles at a time in her since they were done. So it would appear to be something that is happening once the engine is fully warm. What do you all think? Knackered engine? Oh I dunno :O(I'm worried sick atm and just don't know what to do for the best, hence my post asking Rach for the garage name in Tamworth that she goes to - I need second and third opinions IF I can get her there in one piece.

Anyway, sorry for all the rambling and thanks for reading - it's such a long post that I hope you haven't nodded off! Fingers crossed it makes sense and isn't too disjointed as I've copied my original post and replies to questions from the guys on the MGOC forum. If you want to have a listen, just click on the link. It will take you to my photobucket account. There is a video of the engine bay - you can hear the tappet (and laygear) noise I mentioned - and there are photos in there of her and one showing the tiny bit of rust that I mentioned.

Thanks very much in advance. I really do appreciate it.
Jue Williams

Oh and she's got an oil cooler fitted too.
Jue Williams


I didn't turn on the video because I don't have any sound on my computer.

The thing that comes to mind for rapid changes in oil pressure is an oil pressure relief valve.

It might help others to make an educated guess if you mentioned the year of your car, and which engine you have.

C R Huff

What, exactly, did Dom say was wrong with the engine?
Dave O'Neill 2

Sorry I should have thought to say - she's a 1976 1500.

To be honest, I can't remember half of what Dom said, I think I was shell shocked after what had happened, but in a nutshell he said that the noise he could hear wasn't good (some that have listened to the video can hear a low rumble, though we aren't sure if some of that is the layshaft as it's quite noisy) but he didn't elaborate on exactly what it was. He said about the smell of burning oil being bad news and that the crank could possibly be knackered so that if I exchanged mine I wouldn't necessarily get anything for it. He basically said it was a new engine and that they were £1300 in the current Moss Catalogue so whatever he thinks it is it's got to be something big I'd have thought. The guys on the MGOC forum thought it could be the big end but obviously no one knows for definite until the engine is stripped down.

I did email Dom after I got home to ask him to put everything down in writing as my brain had just exploded by that point and wasn't up to retaining any information. Hopefully I'll hear back from him tomorrow and can let you know exactly what's what from his point of view.

I've got to say that since I got home from Ombersley, she hasn't sounded any different to how she's always been, so other than the oil pressure and the flooding which both only happen after 10-15 miles, she seems to be exactly the same as usual.
Jue Williams

It is possible to check the big-end and main bearings with the engine in-situ.

To just say that the engine is 'knackered' and that it'll be £1300 for a replacement seems a little odd without carrying out any diagnostics/exploratory work.
Dave O'Neill 2

A couple of things.

I have never heard of anyone managing to diagnose a layshaft problem from listening to a video or indeed standing next to the car so I find it staggerring how you believed the layshaft was "rumbling"

If I ever heard a 1500 engine rumbling I would immediately think the bigends mains were stuffed. However I am surprised that the noises appear to be intermittent.

All that said Dom is a very capable motor engineer but like anything else you will have put him on the spot and until someone puts some time into the car to assess the problems everyone is simply guessing.

Whilst I am not about to claim to know what is wrong with the car I would suspect the engine certainly needs to have time spent on it and possibly removing to see what it needs as would the gearbox.

The thing is there are a lot of engine builders about who would rebuild a triumph engine I am sure for less than Moss or the MGOC (who are a bunch of rouges IMO)
So I would anticipate getting an engine for about a gran!

If you garage man is a Midget Mini man he should eat these kind of problems for breakfast and ought to be able to sort this so why did you need to go to see Dominic?
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

Dave, tbf to him he did say that he would need to book her in to do some proper tests, but that in his opinion the engine was knackered and it would be 1300 for a new one. He didn't even suggest that it could just be the big end so that the bearings etc could be replaced - just that it would be a new engine.

Bob, the noise from the layshaft is very evident and obviously from the gearbox - you can feel it through the clutch/gearstick and hear it when the clutch is out - Dom also confirmed this. As soon as the clutch is depressed it stops.

The main reason I went to Dom was because he is an mg specialist and to get a second opinion on the gearbox/clutch and to see whether he felt it necessary to change them at this time. Neither of those things are a major problem at the moment but I discussed them with the local guy when I had the carbs adjusted the other week and it made me think whether it was worth doing it now rather than leaving it, hence the visit to Dom. The local guy "seems" very knowledgeable and was recommended to me by a mutual friend in the parts trade. Obviously, this engine problem only occurred when I was on my way to Dom which is why he gave me his opinion on it. I won't know what the other one thinks until tomorrow. As I want to look after her as best I can, I'm concerned that I go to someone who knows their stuff and does a good job. I can't say what someone tells me is necessarily correct as I barely know one end of an engine from another at the moment although I am slowly learning, but that means I'm reliant on recommendations for trustworthy garages.
Jue Williams


Well maybe it is the layshaft but that is unusual but never mind.

Take your point but in defence of Dominic a MG Specialist will not be "cheap" but will be good, does that qualify as trustworthy? or is trustworthy quality and Cheap?

Dominic has to give you a worse case scenario I feel otherwise you could claim that he misdiagnosed your problem and charged you for a load of other stuff. It does happen. I do a lot of MG repairs and I would say to any customer that until I strip it down or spend a few quid on the car I can not tell them a price. However I do tend to say it could be this or it could be hat and if so you are looking at This price. It is not easy.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

My definition of trustworthy is someone that isn't going to tell you that you need x, y and z doing when you don't. Quality obviously doesn't come cheap and I really am aware of that, but it would be very foolish of me not to get quotes for the worst case scenario from elsewhere. I appreciate it's not simply a case of being able to diagnose the exact problem without having to undertake a certain amount of work in the first place. Perhaps just mentioning her needing a complete new engine has made me panic a bit, I don't know. As it was my first proper drive since the carbs were adjusted a couple of weeks ago, I was simply trying to find out whether anyone thought it was engine failure that is causing it or if it could be something else. It doesn't seem to matter how I write that down, it doesn't sound right or make sense but ultimately my need for a second/third opinion is for the right reasons.

I'm just trying to weigh up (if there are any) the options that I've possibly got before I spend a lot of money. Dom couldn't have been any more helpful or honest than he was. He really couldn't.
Jue Williams

To answer your question then yes it could of course be a number of things but at somepoint someone needs o do some searching. As you say at the worst case scenario it could be hat the work is not cost effective but maybe a more dtailed onversation with ?Dom and other specialists may prove of benefit and let them know your concerns. Perhaps you need to agree a price for some exploritory work and hen have a meeting.

However good luck.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

Thanks Bob. I've got a few numbers to call, thanks to the replies on the other thread, so will see how I get on this week and what I can find out.
Jue Williams

Jue, First of all don't panic buy! An engine that ran well last year is (most likely) going to run this year.. There are a few things that can go wrong after a lay up and these need to be confirmed before replacing anything!
A couple of observations on your "experts". First is you should never ever adjust a carb on a cold engine or before you check the tappets, ignition timing, points (not in your case on this one!) and confirming the other components are running properly eg checking the correct coil is fitted and connected correctly. Second, you can't declare an engine knackered without spending some time with it both hot and cold.

I'm in the middle of rebuilding a friend's 1500 and in rattled like a bag of hammers on first start up but still ran well! 1500's drain the oil filter which needs filling before the engine sees any oil at all and this causes the crankshaft to wear excessively. However, as you have an oil cooler this won't be a problem as the cooler connection should have an anti drain valve.

So lets start eliminating what its not.. You say the temperature is rock steady on the low side of the N on the gauge? This tells me the cooling system is good and there are no head gasket issues between water and cylinder. Let's deal with oil next.. 20w50 is correct and I would change it at the start of every summer (so we're okay there). As far a pressure goes the 1500's do run a bit on the low side compared to 1275's. Now, engines are pretty basic bits of kit which can be broken down in to either the top end or the bottom end! The top end is where most of the clever stuff happens eg cyl head, intake, exhaust and combustion. The bottom end is where most of the grunt work is done eg crankshaft, big end and pistons. It has been known for either a valve or piston ring to stick after a winter lay up (as happened to my mates, hence the rebuild!). To confirm this you would need to take the plugs out to see if one or more are “oiling up”. When this happens the engine misfires and (usually) runs on three cylinders. This will make you think you are running a bag of spanners!

You say you need little or no choke to get the car started! I know you live a bit further south than me but in the UK I would expect some choke for the best part of 5 mins and then fast idle for another 5 to get the engine up to temp. I would definitely question the carb set up especially if you can smell petrol in the engine bay (this is also a symptom of a misfire!)... I would also check the throttle return springs are actually working..
Now the interesting point is the car failed to start at Dom's but then was okay after a "rest" at home! It then started to play up after a short run. Setting aside the change in oil pressure for the moment, this sounds like a coil or ignition fault. The "ballast resistor" is built in to the wiring loom and has been known to cause problems. I would change the coil (if only temporarily) with a standard 12v one and run a separate feed to it from the fuse box.

HTH’s and for 3 grand I’ll take a holiday in Shropshire to fix it for you!!

PS, a noisy laygear will go on for years…
M McAndrew

I am inclined to agree with Mike - at least to the point that it may not be a replacement engine job. But then I suspect that Dom (whom I don't know) was having a "conversation" about possible problems, rather than giving a diagnosis. He, like any other good mechanic, would need to do some investigations first.

Your description of an engine that runs smoothly at first and then starts to loose power, make a "bag of spanners" noise and loose oil pressure does suggest a worn engine, but as Mike says there could be other less expensive issues. Only a proper check would determine this. It sounds to me like an overheating engine which would explain the loss of power and also would makes the oil thin giving low oil pressure which in turn makes them sound really quite rattly. A possibility is a worn or damaged water pump which would result in overheating after a few miles, - and then the symptoms that you mention.

One problem with the temperature gauge on the 1500 is that the needle tends to fall if the car is low on water, so the gauge may not warn you that the car is overheating as you might expect.
(The reason being that low water level can leave the temperature probe high and dry inside the engine so it gives an inaccurate reading).

I take it from your messages that you have limited DIY experience - at least so far? You should at least check the oil and water levels (engine cold). Neil here should by now have advised you to get hold of an Owners Handbook, and it is good advice!

Low oil pressure and engine noise could be from the oil getting too hot if the level is low, or possibly the oil may be thinned by petrol draining into the cylinders if the carburettor is set too rich, and if you only do short journeys. The best solution would be to do an oil change, but at the least you should top the oil up to the full mark on the dipstick. Half full isn't good enough!

Even if the engine is a bit worn there may be cheaper alternatives than fitting a full reconditioned engine. One can fit new bearings if they are worn (2hours + 50 for parts). And the 1500 gearboxes are often rattly on tickover. It may help to turn the engine idle speed up a little and a gearbox oil change can work wonders!

You need to be prepared to leave the car at a good local garage used to dealing with MGs or at least older cars for them to do some proper tests to get a firm diagnosis. Or there may be someone on here who live s near who could come and investigate further.


Jue - sorry - I didn't read this before .... and now I have!

It would be nice to see your oil pressure a bit higher on driving, but, there are several areas which do leak on the 1500 engine, and, as such, it would probably be one of them that is leaking, and some of them aren't that easy to find - although, they are handy for keeping the underside of your car well protected :)

Have you changed the gearbox oil? If it's low, then it can be a tad noisy (very!), but laygears can be replaced, and second hand gearboxes got quite easily - although, I gather that some of the racers are buying them, so don't count of them staying cheap for long ...!!! I would have a spare one anyway if I was you, but then, I have a habit of breaking them when the adrenalin goes a bit high.

As for your engine - yes, £3000 is alot in one hit, BUT Dom is a good mechanic, and it depends what he's talking about doing - IF it's a total rebuild and putting in good quality parts and a new head etc - and building up the power etc etc etc, then it's NOT an unreasonable amount, so you really now have to sit down, have a mug of tea, and decide what you really want to do with the car. For example, Debs would charge you about the same amount but you'll get a very very good fast road engine, which will last you for ages. OR you can always go for a replacement engine from MGBhive or some such for about £1200.

I don't know how much you paid for it - apart from under £3000! - so the question is "I can buy a new, good mechanically, good bodywork, well looked after 1500 for about £3000, and get back what I can from this one - OR I can say, I know this, so will put in whatever it takes to make it equal to, or better, than the one I can buy?" YOU are the only person who can answer this - by all means, I know a couple of excellent (and I mean, really excellent) ones for sale if you do decide that, but, have a think and a chat around, and see what you decide to do.

Whatever you decide, we've ALL been there with our cars, and what we decide is as personal as the cars themselves, so, don't let anyone tell you what to do :) I would advise though, if you're going to get it done, then, get it done to the best standard you can, and not just muck around doing this bit and that bit and 'tother bit until nothing works together and causes you more trouble than you have now ....

Is that a record for the longest post?
Good luck with the problems.
c pearce

As Guy says, it does sound like an overheating engine.

It might be an idea to give the cooling system a going over - check water level, thermostat, temp gauge accuracy and flush out the engine and rad.

That should be something your local garage could do, if you aren't able to do it yourself.
Dave O'Neill 2

Jue - was out and thinking about your problem whilst out - and came back in and re-read your post!

Which electronic ignition is it? Did they replace the coil at the same time? It's almost certainly not connected, but, worth checking whilst you're doing it anyway as some of them the coil and the system doesn't always join up together ...!

Does the fuel pump "click" when you turn the ignition on?

LOL sorry - there's alot to take in.

It's probably worth getting your man down the garage to check the timing and carb setting - some MOT garages who only don't know the cars do set them a little too lean, especially a 1500. However, don't forget that pinking can be caused by something as simple as cheaper fuel, especially if the timing is slightly out.

Why would the fuel pump on a 1500 click? I thought that only the A series engines had ticking fuel pumps?


They don't - that's why I asked! If it does, then it's probably an add on - and - oh heck, you know me, blame everything on the new stuff ;)!!!!

Ahh, I see. - I think? Wrong fuel pump seems a bit of a random starting point for a noisy engine diagnosis!

LOL Guy - it's not - it was something else that was mentioned in the post ...:)!!!!!!

Missed that bit, but then it was a long post!


Thanks ever so much for all your replies. That's really helpful and has given me a lot to think about. Re the carbs being adjusted when cold, I've double checked with the mechanic today and they were done when they were warm not cold.

Took Clarissa out for a run first thing to get her up to temperature so that she'd start playing up. It didn't happen. Must have driven 20 miles and no problem whatsoever! Went to the garage and had a chat with the mechanic - it turns out he had a Triumph Spitfire for many years (and has worked on plenty of Midgets in the past) and that he'd had something very similar happen to him. He had pinpointed that to a missing heat shield. I'll give you three guesses what's also missing on Clarissa? Anyway, because she wasn't playing up at the time, I took her out for a longer drive to try and get the problem to come back - went on the bypass up to 60mph for a few miles. Stopped at the traffic lights and bingo she was chugging all over the place again. Went back to the garage and he drove her with me in the passenger seat. Still doing it for a while and then everything was ok again. He said when she was running well (which she did after the initial blip), it was a really beautiful drive and that other than the layshaft she sounded lovely.

Got back to the garage and he checked the coil, carbs, distributor, condenser, plugs etc all of which were fine. Came to look at the electronic ignition and one wire was down to bare wires at one point from touching something hot, so he sorted that out. He is of the opinion at the moment, that the heat shield isn't helping matters as it's likely to be causing the carbs to get too hot and then the fuel is evaporating, so I've ordered a new one from Moss this afternoon (he's going to fit it later in the week for me). Obviously, it's going to be a process of elimination so we are going to take it one step at a time and start with this and then once he's fitted it, he is going to take her for a long drive himself and see again what (if anything) happens. Next step if that fails, will be to have a look at what's happening in the carbs. One other thing he mentioned is the oil filler cap on top of the new rocker cover (not changed by me but is very new) is vented and it shouldn't be so I'm going to order a non vented one tomorrow.

One piece of really good news is that he has listened to the engine and said he can't hear anything wrong with it at all. Nor could he smell burning oil. He said the overriding smell is petrol, which is obviously linked to the spluttering problem. He thinks the low rumble that I said about is definitely the layshaft, so I think I am going to go ahead with the gearbox and clutch, but only once this other problem has been sorted and then while the engine is out, he will take the bottom off and have a look at the bearings and crank - he said there is no knocking or anything that would concern him at the moment whatsoever. We will change the bearings and shells as a matter of course, but at least this way I can get those two sorted out and the engine checked properly. If she has got a few more years left in her, hopefully changing the bearings and shells will give me some time to save up in preparation for having a full rebuild sometime in the future. If not, well then I'll have to deal with the engine as soon as I can. We still haven't resolved the oil pressure dropping to 20psi but he said as it's not low when I'm driving it would be ok. Again once he's sorted this other problem out he's going to have a look at what's going on with that.

He said it would be very wise to do a proper inspection on her as I've never had one, so he got her up in the air and then checked absolutely everything underneath (including showing me where I need to put grease and how to do it). He really spent a long time going over her - I must have been there for 5 hours and he's certainly put my mind at rest about a number of things. He said it was very obvious that she has had a lot of time and money spent on her and that her condition is very, very good. So I'm absolutely over the moon!!!!!!

I've told him that he's not allowed to retire just yet (he's coming up for 60) and that if he does find it necessary, then he must keep an exclusive client list with Clarissa's name on it!

Interestingly, when I got home I put a search in google for MG Midget Heat Shield and found this... Does it sound familiar?

Anyway, please keep everything crossed for later in the week when the new heat shield is fitted!! I've been thinking about it alot since he first mentioned it and it really does sound plausible. Obviously when she's driving along she is getting the air moving through the car (although the two tiny grills behind the numberplate have had the mesh replaced at some stage and the mesh that is now in there has got the tiniest holes ever so they really can't be allowing that much air through), but when she stops there is no air circulating and the heat from the block could feasibly be causing the petrol to evaporate. Fingers crossed anyway.

I also got him to check the gearbox oil for me - it's is up to the max but thanks for mentioning it. Oh and thanks for saying about the owners handbook - I've placed an order. I'd been given various Haynes manuals when I bought her but hadn't got that. Rach, yes the fuel pump does tick - I think it was replaced during the restoration. I'm not entirely sure which electronic ignition it is, but as far as I know the coil was changed at the same time.

One last thing, if I do happen to put a cheaper (supermarket) fuel in is there any additive that I can put in with it to avoid the pinking or is it mainly a timing issue? More often than not I put the higher octaine Esso fuel in, but if that garage is closed the only other option I've got is the likes of Tesco/Asda etc.

Hope you've all had a good Monday. I'll speak to you soon with hopefully a successful update.

ps do I get a prize for the longest post? ;O) I promise not to ramble on quite so much in future lol. I was just trying to make sure I didn't forget anything ha ha.
Jue Williams

Well, l do like a good news bedtime story!

Lol no prize but are you now coming to Midget50?!

Funny thing is that I presumed you had a heatshield when you said money had been spent on her!!! One piece of advice would be to cut a bit out before you fit it around the dipstick as it's too darn tight in the 1500 to get in when it's warm!

Glad you've found a fantastic garage who not only can do the work but are willing to help you too.

Thanks Rach and Guy :O)

If only you could see the huge smile on my face :O) I really am so very, very relieved and happy now. I was worrying myself silly last night thinking about it and what today might bring.

Fingers crossed that the heat shield does the trick, but if it doesn't I know that he will work through everything methodically to find the problem. He said it would be easy to spend a lot of money by just saying ok we'll change x, y and z but that it was better to work through things one by one. At least with the heat shield and the filler cap, even if they don't ultimately resolve the problem, they are still both things that I need, so I'm not spending any money unnecessarily.

One thing that really made me smile was that he had a huge smile on his face the whole time he was working on her and was chuckling about their funny little ways and habits when he was driving her. He drives a beautiful 1960s 2 litre Fiat Spider now - I still much prefer Clarissa though! After all the time and effort he had spent on her, he only charged me £35!!! I couldn't believe it. He didn't even stop for a lunch break or a cuppa, so I popped back with a big box of choccy biccies and an extra tenner for a few pints to say thank you.

If everything is running ok by the time Midget50 comes round, I will definitely try and get down there. It would be great to meet some other owners.

Speak to you soon and thank you so very much for all your help and advice.
Jue Williams

Just thought of something else that the mechanic mentioned. He said that the breather hose to the carbs is starting to collapse so will order a replacement tomorrow and that can then be done at the same time as the heat shield.
Jue Williams

Jue, sounds like you're on to the right guy, treasure him and treat him well

I think you might now see the purpose of my usual advice, get your chap to confirm it

It's not that clever advice, just basic, necessary

Buy an owners Handbook as it tells you so much you need to know as to own, drive, service and maintain your car -

always have the battery in good condition and all battery connections and leads clean, secure and protected, same for all electrical wiring and connections

As soon as possible do a full and proper 36,000 miles service only miss out items that you have 100% proof have already been done very recently, including;
g/box and back axle oils
brake and clutch fluids
dissy cap, rotor arm and leads (buy good quality ones)
fan belt

Check the age of your tyres if they are 6 years old or more replace ASAP regardless of tread depth, this will improve, the braking, steering, ride, handling and possibly noise, of the car greatly

Change rubber coolant hoses to silicone when you get a chance -

Use the car regularly - to get used to it, sort out any wrinkles and prevent others, and enjoy it

Every few weeks check your horn and wipers work (no problem if you use the car regularly)

Follow regular checks, servicing and maintenance as per owners Handbook

Drive in all weathers, the Midget hood should be very watertight if fitted correctly and the heater is more than adequate, if working correctly, for the small cabin

Do not do any cosmetic or improvement work for at least 12 months of regular use, unless you need to replace parts or components, as you may need to use the money elsewhere on the car

Also very useful, you can get suppliers catalogues for free to get you started to see where things go but in my personal opinion they’re not as good paper copy like -

All the best to you
Nigel Atkins

Thanks Nigel. That's very useful advice to have. I've ordered the owners handbook so hopefully that should be here in the next few days.
Jue Williams

Well as I said get someone to put some time into testing it and then see where you are.
That was exactly the right thing to do and hopefully you will soon be sorted.

However it is easy for everyone to smile and to be happy when things work out easy and cheap, not so nice when the news is bad!! :(

I once had a father and daughter come to me with a Mini and asked for an oil change. Did that no problem but notced before and after that the oil light was on, however there were no nasty noises so when giving them the keys and the bill I mentioned the oil light problem. The father immediately complained saying that was the reason why they had brought the car for an oil change. He was actually accusing me of not doing the change right!

After I calmed him down a friend of his had diagnosed the problem with the oil light was a requirement for an oil change so naturally he believed him and I must be at fault.

So he then asked me how much it was to fix the problem? Are you with me on this on Jue? I said it could be a recon engine job. The man went potty, or I said it could be a twopence halfpenny oil switch? I don't now until I look further. He asked me to investigate, turned out to be the oil pressure switch and guess what he was over the moon we were all smiling and I was the best mechanic the world had ever seen!

I just wondered what the story would have been had the engine been krackered?

Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo


when you read and follow the Handbook I'm sure you'll know a lot more about your car (and be able to answer questions on here from some others!)

and if you follow the servicing schedule in the Handbook it will help to keep your car running well and help to reduce potential future problems


just as there are many bad garages there are also many bad customers or badly informed customer in that case - many people think an oil change is a full service and it will cure and prevent all engine ills - I believe it's called magical thinking

if I remember correctly, the oil light (in 1100/1300) were often disconnected because they would come on too frequently
Nigel Atkins

Just read your post and have to say it sounds very close to home. My midget 1500 is doing the exact same thing runs fine then loses power and dies. I too have investigated this and found my heat shield to be made out of cardboard and foil! It only happens when the engine is getting very hot needle is at halfway (is this normal) I am going to replace the heat shield and go from there.
C Carter

This thread was discussed between 10/04/2011 and 21/04/2011

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