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MG ZR ZS ZT Technical - MAJOR!!!!!! Help needed

We have had our ZS180 for 2 weeks now, loved every minute of it until 4.50 this afternoon. Cleaned it and thought that I should check the oil. Guess what? no bloody oil. Panicked and phoned the dealer straight away, took it to them. They put in 3(yes 3) whole litres of oil. The questions are;
1/ Was there ever a full oil sump?
2/ Has the car used 3 litres of oil in 800 miles
3/ What damage may have been done to my engine
4/ What do I do now?
The car was a demonstrator and we bought it with 2500 miles on. It has now 3300. The way I see it is that either the car has not been PDI'd properly or there is a serious problem.
Along with the dealer I will monitor the situation over the next week. If the oil disappears again or I am informed that lasting damage has been done, I will need to return the car to MGR. What are my chances???
All opinions will be valued.
Nik & Anita

Bit worrying that experience. Hope it turns out well for you. For obvious reasons, demonstration cars should be regularly checked and maintained in tip top condition. But, human nature being what it is means things can get overlooked.

Several lessons here - first one, in the words of Cpl Jones: Dont panic.

Secondly, it's wise to ALWAYS give any car you've just taken delivery of (new or used, particularly new) a quick "once over" of even the most obvious things - such as all the fluid levels. I know someone who over the years bought several new cars and had the AA inspect them before he took delivery. May seem like overkill but this guy had his reasons. It's not unknown for a wheel to fall off!

Thirdly, monitor that suspect oil loss/consumption very closely for much more than one week - a few months if you keep the car.

Lastly, three litres seems an awful lot of oil to lose but in my experience with some cars, particularly those with larger capacity engines such as the ZS180, it may well not cause any long term harm. However, in common with most other drivers, I have no long term experience with the V6 Z-car engines.

Good luck - please report outcome and findings in due course.

John McFeely
John McFeely

Now I just wonder if you happen to check the level first thing in the morning, as long as the car has been left parked on flat ground, and I would not be at all surprised to see that there will be a somewhat eye opening oil level well over the maximum mark!

Why should I suggest such a thing? Well your experience is exactly, and I mean exactly, what a good friend of mine has gone through only about 3 weeks ago with his ZS180. I have also noted with my own 180 that oil level has to be checked a long time after the engine is shut down, otherwise I get a false (low) reading.

I do hope that this is the same circumstances for you too, and if it is then get back to the dealer pronto as having too much oil will soon cause some serious problems.

BTW loss of oil level will firstly turn the car into a vocal unit as the oil frains from the hydraulic tappets first and this sounds like a load of nuts and bolts shaken about in a large tin! This warns to a loss of oil volume. This will be followed by a loss of pressure and the oil light will illuminate and give a visual warning of a problem.

With both visual and audible warnings, especially the audible one as the car is so quiet and refined normally, you would be aware of a problem that was leading to a potential serious engine problem. Without such positive warnings then the engine will not have suffered any problem.

BTW I have several hudred thousand miles of connection with cars with the KV6 engine since it first came out in the Rover 800 in the mid 1990's. The cars had a very hard life and there were a few initial issues, but there again nothing desperate.

Roger Parker

Rog - I know of two cases (out of three!) where there has been oil in the radiator header tank on K-series engines (not Z-cars, I hasten to add) i.e. probable head gasket problems, and on pointing this out to the vendor of the 2nd he said "it's a common problem, it's been fixed, but you can never get all the oil out of the cooling system". Is that true?

Paul Hunt

I am not going to answer to Rog as I have no experience of this directly- however surely any trace of oil in the coolant can be regarded as 'a bad thing' and I cannot believe that it is beyond the will of man to adequately flush the rad and cooling system if oil is found in it.

Paul, I am sure you had a similar reaction to this statement as I- ie that it is tentamount to a pile of BS!
Rob Bell

3 flushes of clean water with a few days use between each, should clear all the crud. It might be an idea to add a proprietary cooling system solvent/detergent on the middle fill. If done properly it *is* possible to clean it.

Maybe I should have been clearer in that my "is that true?" was about the "common problem" and not the "you can never get all the oil out"! And what is the likelyhood of it happening to the Z-cars as well?
Paul Hunt

Paul, are you asking about the frequency of HGF on K-series engines?

I doubt if anyone has definitive information on this, but for some 'feel' of the problem, such as it exists on the MGF (1.8 litre K-series), look at the web site

It looks like a problem more associated with earlier (pre-1999) cars; the current Z series saloons should be much better in this regard.


Rob Bell

My conclusion (in line with some others) is that the problem is confined to the use of the K series lump in a mid-engined configuration, ie you see the problem often in the MGF and the Elise, but hardly at all (relatively) in the front-engined models.

Look lads
I hate to say it, but MGFs are crap. I work next to chap thatdoes retriming work and replaces hoods.I have driven at lest 25 of them over the last 2-3 years. Not one drove the same as the last and EVERY owner had a "Sob Story" to tell. Lets not be silly here. You dont hear MX5 s having this trouble!

Oh yes you do - a mate of mine has had 2 and his ex had one. All three has gearbox problems, one had trim falling off and one had leaks from the roof. So it isnt just MGF's - you simply hear more of them becuase they are the best selling sports car in the UK

Sorry Rob
But we work with a chap who imports Old very well used MX5s. He tells us that he has NEVER had one back unless its the hood or radio.

I knew that telling the truth on the MGF would not be easy. You guys see what you want to see. The rest of us jusy buy (much) better cars!

As for your mate i think you should tell him what the left pedel is for.


I had an MX5. Yes, it was reliable. Yes, it was well finished (ish). And it was the most inert "sportscar" i have EVER parked my ar*e in. After 7 months I was back at my Rover dealers.
I suggest your "mates" customers have never been around Snetterton in an MX5, and then jumped into an F and seen how it should be done. If you dont believe me, then you have never read any race appraisals 'twixt these two. So, I'll tell you what..Bring us some Jap Clap, and I'll bring the F to, say, Oulton Park, (Thats near to you, Eh?) someday, and lets see who outguns who.

Are you game? Or is it just another case of Big talk, little man?
Andrew D

Andrew- Inert? if you mean slow, then yes, Mixies are slow. But the handling is an absolute joy, the most sorted car this side of an Elise and certainly on a par with the sublime handling of a Sprite.

MGF's are faster, and generate more cornering G's, but they bite. Now some people put Acceleration, top speed, and cornering grip above handling, and that's fine. To such a person, an MGF is preferable. I, however, prefer a car with smooth predicatable handling, even when taken beyond its limits, and for that I appreciate the MX5.

Of course I also think they're naff, common hairdressers cars and wouldnt be seen dead in one. That's why I've got a Sprite.


Well, as someone who has driven neither, but knows friends who have them.. ( beaten both off the lights) I'd say they are equally matched... both drivers have had their share of problems, (MX5 got dodgy gearbox in 500 miles, boiught 2nd hand from mazda dealer) and MGF had powerloss, but BOTH are hairdresser's cars! anyway, wasn't the MX5/Eunos project originally instigated by a Japanese exec. who drove MG midgets? I remember a program some time ago saying how the Japanese loved Midgets for their "smiley face"?
Will Moreton

I have to agree with Growler on this. The stock MX-5 - ignoring the Le Mans special edition - is slower with less cornering grip than the MGF VVC, but the handling is a joy. Slow it may be, inert it ain't. I love my ZS180 - it's quicker and has more grip than my '5 ever did but, if my circumstances permitted, I would buy another '5 without a moments hesitation.

Regarding the genesis of the MX-5, there were three seperate developments, RR and FF in Japan and FR in the States. The designers in the States had a TR4 outside, which they were encouraged to take for a drive if they weren't sure what to do about a certain aspect of the car...

Finally, I know a lot of people with MX-5s, and probelms are rare. Some early gearboxes can suffer from a weak 2nd gear sychro at highish mileages but this is usually 'fixed' by using redline synthetic gearbox oil. Other than that it, and the engine, are both bullet-proof. The gearbox is basically from an RX-7 and the 1.6 engine is out of the 323GTX rally car, where it produced 600bhp. BBR did an Mazda approved turbo conversion, giving 190bhp without invalidating your warranty. Some guys in the States have Turbo'd their cars to ~350bhp with the standard gearbox - only the clutch needs up rating - and have run them like that for 60,000+ miles without any reliability issues.

There are plenty of suspension mods to get more grip, but I think that it is well judged for use of the public roads. And I'm not alone. Peter Stevens is on record as saying it is the most enjoyable car that he has driven for hacking around the back-roads...

Steve H

You never say NEVER. It is simply a lie to intimate any mechanical object of the compexity and cheapness of a motor vehicle is perfect, which 'never' in this context intimates. To do so devalues any argument from that perspective to a complete joke.

The issue on this thread in not a discussion about the MGF and the 4 cylinder K series, which has had a higher than desirable incidence of head gasket failures related to cooling system issues, but on the KV6 which is a related, but completely separate engie with a completely separate adgenda.

There are components in the KV6 that are the same or have a design connection to the 4 cylinder cars. For example the heads are running the ports and valves used in the non VVC Motorsport desing from the 4 cyl. However other areas, such as the engine managment, are completely different to MEMS equipped 4 cyl engines. Siemens is the current system although late Rover 825 with the first KV6 did use a version of MEMS.

Paul, I concur relating to the move of oil from the cranbkcase into the cooling system that this is the classic symptom of a HGF, but with the V6 the issue is much more of one where oil is retained in the upper part of the Vee. This shouldn't be an issue as the engine has had over 5 years production behind it and I have not seen it in some of the fleet cars. However it may be a characteristic of the odd sump design and the point at which the dipstick measures the level.

It would be interesting for many to have some feedback from Nik and Anita...

Roger Parker

The qustion was if the MGF was a well buit car (No its not!). If you don't agree look at J.D Power! AS for racing qustion i would say this. To finish first first you got to finish!

Firstly...We (touch wood) are on our 2nd MGF and we have not had a problem with either. We will probably have an F for a very long time.
The dealer is going to check the oil on Friday afternoon, but as I now check it every morning I can tell you that the oil is now at the mid-point on the stick. Good advice from the BBS made me feel a bit better earlier in the week but I do fear the worst as the oil level is dropping. Any advice on what solution I should expect and accept will be appreciated..
Nik& Anita

Picked up my ZS 180 from the dealer yesterday. He warned me that they had found on their demonstrators that they tended to "use" a little oil in the first 1000 miles and to regularly check the level during this period. Their experience is that things tend to normalise after this period. It seems to be some kind of "bedding in" thing.

Ray Kemble

Nik & Anita,

My consumption has been half a litre during the first 1500 miles.

Roger Parker

This thread was discussed between 05/10/2001 and 12/10/2001

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