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MG MGF Technical - 5 year VVC Cam Belt change

Hi all,

I have a 1996 (P) 1.8VVC which has now only just done 10,000 miles(!).

I was advised by a couple of people that as the car had done so few miles, it would not be worth spending the cash on getting the cam belt changed (due at the last service - 5 year).

The dealership didn't really quibble about this but just advised it would be sensible to have it done.

Is the belt a TIME or MILEAGE lifed item? Surely if the engine has done so few miles it can't need a new belt? But then, I don't want to screw the engine...

Any advice from those in the know appreciated.
Mark Templeman

I would get it done. The rubber in the belt does perish over a period of time and it is better to be safe than sorry. I believe the manual states that the belt should be replaced at 60000 miles or at 5 years which ever comes soonest.

Bruce Caldwell

I agree, mine is '97 and 30k miles but the belt gets changed this year. It is like buying an insurance policy - money well spent only if something goes wrong

I bought my 97 vvc this year and had a full dealer service before collection, including cam belt change, even thogh there were only 31000 (verofied) miles on the dash.

BTW, also ignore what the user manual says (in its early editions) about 96,000!

Mine's also being done next week @ what will probably be closer to 61000 by then.

I'm also going to get him to change the tensioner, bearing in mind Ralph's problem, albeit at a significantly higher milage.

(also 97 VVC)

Is the cam belt less likely to perish if fully synthetic oil has always been used.
How much is a cam belt change.
Is it a home job?

Thanks for the comments. My manual does say 96k miles, with no time limit specified.

The dealer wanted just over 500 for the service and belt change, as opposed to just over 100 for the service - seems a bit of a rip-off really.

I will get it done in March when the next service is due, as the F is now tucked up in the garage for the winter.
Mark Templeman

Its quite a time consuming job: you have to undo one of the bottom engine mounts to get the cover off: that's why it costs (time = money, to some extent).


You have to remove the engine mounting bolts on the RH side to get the belt off because it goes around the mount.

Also, on a VVC there is another timing belt connecting the two camshafts. More expense.

While your at it have the alternator belt replaced as well!

Bruce Caldwell

The cost is quite high but compared to the cost if the cam belt snaps it is quite small.

Hello Mark,

Juat about to have mine done on my R Reg VVC F (40,000) just turned 5 years old..

Good Advice:
I phoned a few Rover garages and the price changed a lot:
Rover 1 400
Rover 2 350
Rover 3 300
Rover 4 230

I would go with Rover for this as if it goes then I'd rather sue Rover then a back street garage.

Mike Gibson

oil changet under
paul weatherill


Where are you getting the belt changed

Have you got a price?


Paul Weatherill

I read with interest your comment about a screeching noise when starting from cold following cam belt change.

My VVC suffers the same problem and when I took it back to B&G they thought it was the belt tension, they then confirmed it wasn't that and charged me for checking.

Anyway the car is back at B&G today to have its fourth S/S down pipe fitted and to check noise again.

They have phoned to tell me they think that its a bearing within the engine so will change it. I hope that this time they are right because their second guess is the water pump, and their guesses are costing me money.

So far this year I must have spent about 1100 and not much has been broken except for the 100 down pipe.
T Graveling

:-( that doesn't sound good.

think my problem is belt related, as very familiar sounds, and the fact it has suddenly happened after i've just had the two belts replaced is a bit too coincidential.

could the belt be at the correct tension, and be slipping for other reasons? grease in the wrong place perhaps?

paul weatherill


The cam belt can not slip - it is notched and if it did you might just get a few other nasty noises.

Sounds mor like an altenator belt.

Ted Newman

Thanks Ted, that's just put my mind at ease.

Slipping alternator doesn't sound quite as bad :-)

paul weatherill

My '97 VVC also screeches from a cold start; it's had new cambelts and alternator belt.
It's not something I'd consider spending money on.


A badly tensioned alternator belt will screech from a cold start because the alternator is working hard to recharge the battery. Same thing happens on cars (not MGF) with hydraulic power steering when on full lock.

>The cam belt can not slip - it is notched and if it did you might just get a few other nasty noises.

Ted, I have to disagree with you. My belt slipped because the tensioner disintegrated. I did get some rather nasty noises and a severe and sudden drop in power.



That is not the belt slipping, that is another component breaking causing the system to get out of synch.

When I said the belt can not slip I mean it in the sense that it is not a pure friction drive the cam belts are notched and so are the pulleys so they stay in synchronisation. If the tensioner breaks then that allows the belt to become loose and perhaps jump on the pulley and even without jumping it may be that it leaves enough slack in the drive to throw the valve timing out and so cause piston/valve collision.

However it is still very expensive and above all you would in all probabilities hear the noise only once.

Ted Newman

It is possible for the Cambelt to slip if the tensioner goes, and it may only go one or two notches and the valves bo OK.
The screeching noise is probably a loose alternator belt or it could be the clutch thrust bearing. The first is much cheaper than the second!
T Green

A screeching may be caused by the belt being at too high a tension, if this is the case then try to get the garage to fit you a new one because they ar*ed up the original, the belt may have a limited life if it has been stressed
Will Munns

Cam belts don't slip period! The tensioner ensures that the belt remains at a pre determined tension, constantly adjusted on post 1999 MPi engines, and the toothed construction provided accurate and continuous location. If the tensioner fails in any way then the belt simply disengages and the 'nasty noises' Ted points out is the contact between valves and pistons. Cam belts have the specific accurately toothed belt in order than NO slip is possible otherwise your cam, and valve timing, is altering and the efficiency of the engine is lost - at least for that brief period before it turns itself into a scrap pile.

It is possible for an incorrectly tensioned belt (loose) to jump a tooth and the result will be to advance or retard that cam and the engine will then run not just flat, but about as well as a half charged electric milk float. Under these circumstances subsequent jumps will occur and the same terminal problem will be encontered. In the days of the old Ford Pinto engine vehicles like builder's Transit vans would have work done on them only when they broke! These could often see cambelt issues as described and the engine could sometimes continue to run. Here though a single OHC, with vertically set valves that when open still can't reach the psiton at TDC, is nothing like a twin cam engine with angled valves that by definition only just miss each other and the top of the pistons when working normally.

Based on the very close tolerances adopted bt all 16 valve twin cam engines who is going to push past the actual sheduled change point? This is EITHER 5 years or 60,000 miles WHICHEVER COMES FIRST. Aging of the belt takes no account of contamination from other fluids or damage of any sort. If either is present then the source of the contamination must be found and eliminated AND the cambelt changed irrespective of the use/age it has seen. Synthetic oil, mineral oil, hydraulic fluid, and even coolant contamination can damage the belt and promote rapid failure.

Originally the K series was developed with a 96,000 mile/8 year chenge point for the cam belt. However a significant number of terminal engine failures due to belts breaking well before the service shedule saw the service point reduced to the 5 year/60k miles. It is interesting to note that recent K series have adopted a 3mm wider (stronger) belt and 15,000 mile/12 month service interval. This makes the cambelt change 84,000/5 years now, but note that the wider belt arrived with the auto tensioner and these are seen on late Mk 1 cars that are still subject to the earlier mileage change points.

Belt sqeal is a common issue at this time of year with the increase in condensation that covers the engine and components. As the engine starts the draw on the battery from the starter and the lower battery temperature sees it in less than fully charged state. The alternator being a minimum of 85 amp output will be on full load and drawing several BHP to generate power.

The belt can often slip with the moisture present even if correctly tensioned and a new belt. However incorrect tension (ususally loose as an overtightened belt usually whines and as Will says a stretched belt can be permanently damaged.) can see the belt stlip for much longer periods. Beware that this belt slip will polish and ultimately damage the shoulders of the belt and reduce the grip between the shoulders and the sides of the Vee in the pulley. Being as the belt is a multi Vee belt and pulley this effect is minimised, but wear can still occur leading to contact between parts of the belt and pulley that do not have the same surface area for grip.

Tension is a little awkward to sort on the F as there is a possibility of the adjuster becoming jammed and appearing to be at the end of the adjustment range. This is just the actual adjuster bolt becoming stuck against the alternator bracket and needs a little additional loosening to allow the bolt to take up the tension fully before the locking bolts are tightened again.

Cambelt changes on the F is a less than appealing job as it takes about 50% longer than a similar FWD K series car. Access is the problem and this extends especially to lining up the cam wheels properly. I suggest that whilst the belt can be changed without the aid of a specific pulley locking tool, it becomes a real headache to do the job without one. The 18mm headed engine mounting bolts are also a problem for many whose socket sets go from 17mm to 19mm.

Roger Parker

If you think we have cam belt problems, you should consider the poor Polski Fiat drivers. Once, after a long series of meetings in the UK with a Polish client, we achieved an agreement and he signed the order. After the meeting the client took me aside and it was obvious heed wanted something; cash, woman, night on the town? He wanted to visit the local Polski Fiat dealer to buy some European made cambelts for all his friends as these lasted longer the the Polish made product.

Before 'The Wall' came down when ever I visited our relatives in 'The East' I used to get a list of components to take with me such as Spark Plugs, Wiper Blades, Fan Belts, Brake linings/pads etc. as all the locally made items had a working life counted in days rather than years - BTW this was for cars such as Skoda and fortunately I had an understanding dealer just round the corner from where I lived and he used to let me have the items at trade prices.

Ted Newman

On a related issue.... I had my Cam Belt done last year (10,000 miles ago) and over the weekend had a major failure, not of the belt, but the cog attached to (one of) the cam shafts (driven by the belt). The locking screw apparently sheared and threw the camshaft unsteady which caused the belt to losen and wham, car stops after some very loud banging noises... anyone had anything similar on VVC ? I am going to try and push Rover / Dealer as it was only belted last year, and surely they had to have checked tensions / nuts etc ?! Anyone any experience / comments ? I have a feeling I am in for a hefty bill ;o(


There was a bulletin issued (at the same time as the escutcheon recall) about VVC fan belts many years ago - can't remember exactly what it was (I have an MPi) but it was something to do with the the torque on tightening a pulley - someone else might have more details and might just be a bit of ammunition for you.

Ted Newman

>>The locking screw apparently sheared and threw the camshaft unsteady which caused the belt to losen and wham, car stops after some very loud banging noises... anyone had anything similar on VVC ?<<

See recall #2 on

This has happened on enough occasions for Mike Satur to retail an upgrade cam bolt, that can be purchased as part of his 'engine saver kit' Probably worth while investing in now, even after the event, to avoid potential mishaps again in the future.
Rob Bell

Guy,sorry to hear of your engine demise.The cam gear retaining bolts can 'relax' and undo causing valves to contact the pistons with expensive repair bills .
Depending on mileage, service history etc it might be worth your while to pursue for a repair from your dealer under 'good will' This is a known problem and could have been avoided if the bolts were changed and 'loctited' in.IMO this ought to be done on all VVC engines at the service interval and noted on the service book.The usual damage is bent valves a damaged VVC cam a repair will be around 1100plus vat fitted,further damage can be sustained if the engine has been turned over. A head removal will show the full extent. HTH.


I'm getting Mel in Stokenchurch to do the belt change - though he's moving to somewhere near Tring next week!

He "estimated" about 300 (though it was a little while ago I asked him) - which is quite a few hours of his time, though that, unfortunately, may be now wrong (see "rattly VVC" thread!)


This thread was discussed between 12/10/2002 and 23/10/2002

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