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MG MGA - Car sat 10 years - what should I do to start it?


I just bought a '58 A that sat for probably 10 years, and plan to do a full restoration. It needs a lot of body work, but all the mechanicals are there and hooked up (including the 6 volt batteries, etc.). Before I start taking the A apart, I'd like to try and start it so that I can try and get an idea of what I have to work with.

Aside from the obvious stuff like a new battery, I'd appreciate any suggestions on what to do to prepare the car to try and start it, and how best to go about starting it.

As always, thanks.

TM Going

Start here:
Also a few more pages to follow.
Barney Gaylord

Before you connect the new battery or jump leads, I would take out the plugs, squirt a little oil into the cylinders and try to turn the engine over using the starter handle.

If there is no handle just put the car into 2nd or 3rd gear and push the car along.
(If you take the distibutor cap off you can also see if the points are opening and closing. I would clean and re set the points at this point also)
If the engine rotates ok then clean the plugs up and replace them.

Change the engine oil and filter and drain out the coolant, back-flush with a hose pipe and refill with new. If it is just a quick test then you can refill with just water so long as you drain it out immediately afterwards.
If you dont intend to drain it out then you must add antifreeze to prevent corrosion.

The old fuel in the tank should be drained out as it probably will have evaporated down to diesel oil or similar after all those years and just put a gallon or so in to check things out.

Next connect the new battery (check the polarity here as it should be positive earth but it may have been switched to negative earth in the past.

Switch on the ignition and if the fuel pump works then immediately check the carbs for leaks as the seals on the float chambers can deteriorate and leak or the floats can stick down. If you have leaks here, dont start up til you have fixed them as the fuel will have leaked out all over the exhaust manifold and is in the perfect place to ignite!

If the fuel pump doesnt work, try giving it a sharp knock to see if that kicks it into life.
If it doesnt then you may be able to clean up the points on the pump in situ to get it started.

Once you are leak free then check to see if the throttle cable works freely and wont jam open, similarly the choke cable.

Then switch on and try to fire it up.

It may take a bit if starting after so long and when it fires up, check for reasonable oil pressure and oil leaks.

Dont rev it too much until it has warmed up a little.

Also the clutch plate may have stuck to the flywheel after so long so watch for this

Finally, dont be tempted to drive it til you have checked the brakes as these may well have seized up after so long.

Best of luck


Just noticed that Barney has replied to your question too, so he has probably covered everything you need to do to get it going.

You will just love his website if you dont already know it, it is brilliant.

Colyn Firth

You will also need new tires probably before you drive any long distance, or at any high speeds.
Get a workshop manual and a parts book as soon as you can as they are great reference books.
Welcome to this forum. Check out
P. Tilbury

Thanks everyone for all the great information. Right now, it appears that it may be stuck. Took the plugs out and put some WD40 in each hole, and could not rock it in 4th gear. Anything else I should be thinking of, other than letting it sit a bit and trying to rock it (or pull it)? Assuming its not going to free up, are there any suggestions for who I should have look at it/rebuild it? I live outside Phila., and will pull the motor out in the next few months. Thanks!

TM Going

The first A I bought would not turn with the starter but after soaking with WD for a couple days I put the crank in and with a pipe wrench I got it to turn. I have driven tha car 20,000 miles and have never had the head off. On other cars I have broken off the tips of the crank and I was unable to get the engine to turn, As for where to get it rebuilt contact someone in the DVC for advice on that.
GK George

I was working on a B motor a few months ago of unknown history. This would not turn over, so I put a bit of oil/release oil in it every week for about three months. Still it would not budge. Took the head off, and all the oil was sitting on top of the pistons. Not a drop had gone down the cylinders.
In the end I had to take a huge hammer with a wooden drift to the top of the pistons, and with a friend on the crankshaft nut with a long spanner, we were eventually able to move the pistons until we could get at the con rod nuts, and then remove the pistons out the top of the engine.
For recomendations on engine shops near you, you could contact one of the five NAMGAR Chapter Clubs in PA. They are listed on, or you could phone Lee and Liz Niner in Creamery, 610 831 1531, who will be happy to assist you.
P. Tilbury

You may indeed have a stuck engine, but you don't have to go to extremes. Your best bet for turning the engine over is to spray WD or another penetrant into each cylinder, as you have done, wait a couple of days and do it again. Take out the starter and take a bar and 'bar' the engine over via the flywheel. You should try to make 2 complete revolutions on the engine. Then you should take the valve covers off and adjust the valves. Change the oil and insure coolant in the engine. PUt the starter back in and try to start the car. Note: if your fuel pump isn't working and won't after you follow Colyn's advice above, you can start the car by taking off the float chamber lids and pouring gasoline into them, keeping them full as you run the car. This worked for me with an engine that hadn't run since 1974, and it took about 2 hours to get it running in 2007.
Mike Parker

Thanks Mike and everyone else. Can you give me a few more details on how to "bar" the engine? I can certainly take off the starter, but where does the bar go exactly? How do you then use it exactly?

I noted that the WD40 I put in 3 cylinders appears to have all gone down, but in one, it seems to just be sitting in the cylinder. That is, I stuck a pencil in each spark plug hole, and all came up dry but the one.

Anyway, I'll continue to fill the cylinders until hopefully you can give me more info on how to "bar" the engine.

Thanks again to all!

TM Going

Tom, sounds like some progress on the stuck engine. I've heard that Marvel Mystery Oil is good for freeing up pistons, you may want to give that a try.

G Goeppner

The bar is just a long breaker bar with a socket on the end which fits on the crankshaft front nut ("dog nut")
Get a 24" bar and try it.
Also diesel oil might be a good lubricant in the plug holes.
The big risk is that you have rust and the rings are rusted to the bore. this can come from condensation. But you won't know until you get there and you have to get the crank to turn one way or another.
Mine was rusted and I had to break 2 pistons.
Art Pearse

the reason that I bar the engine over from the flywheel is that I get more torque from the flywheel ring gear than I do from the crankshaft nut, and I don't have to worry about damage to the front of the crankshaft or the crankshaft nut.
I take a wrecking bar or pinch bar and pry the engine over one or two teeth at a time, using the end of the bar in the flywheel and prying against the starter opening. It takes a little time to do it, but it does work.
Mike Parker

When you do get it to turn, pre-oil the engine before starting. Remove the plugs and turn the engine with the starter or crank handle *whew* until you get oil pressure at the guage. If no pressure, remove the oil flex to the guage at the block and squirt oil into the fitting to prime the oil pump. Replace the flex and turn the motor etc.

Russ Carnes

This thread was discussed between 27/02/2012 and 01/03/2012

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