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MG MGF Technical - Are MGF engines really bad?

I am thinking of buying a 1.8 engine out of an MGF for a conversion job. Whilst MG and Rover owners give me mixed opinions, garage mechanics say they are useless and break easily. What is the truth? Are they really useless or is it just that HGF happens to all engines and the MG's and Rovers just get the bad publicity. Don't hear about HGF with Toyota's! Before I spend £700 I would like to know? Anybody got an anwer?
Neil T

>>> Are MGF engines really bad? <<<
Yes, they are. But that's a conclusion that can be made for every fuel engine.

If you're thinking about using a K-seris for a conversion, then go ahead. The combination of the K-series in an MGF body (mid engine, front radiator, daily car, dodgy coolant changes in the early days, ...) made the K-series known for failing head gaskets. If you're planning a conversion, the latest HG and all the things we learned about preventing a HGF can be implemented, resulting in one fun engine to run and play with.
There's still a chance you will end up at the side of the road with a puff of steam or some mayo on the dipstick, but the chance won't be bigger than with any other engine.

The main problems with F engines is they are in the back and the radiator is in the front giving a very long coolant path with large differences in coolant temp across the engine. Post 2001 had internal mods to help the head stop "figiting" on the block which helped. The K series engine is light and powerful but has very little coolant in the block at any one time so a leak in the system escalates quickly. Add to this the fact that the engine is behind you so you don't see or smell anything odd and also the temp guage is rubbish and you can have trouble. The 1.8 block is right on the limits of its design bore wise(the engine was originally supposed to be a max of 1.4 I think)but lots of people are running high bhps out of them. Don't forget that this engine is also used in various saloon cars as well with no where near as bad a reputation so if you find a good one you should be fine. Make sure you get all the electronics that go with that particular engine or you will never get it running again unless you are going to an Emerald ecu or similar. What is the conversion job you are doing?...

Hi Neil

Ks in converted cars seem to me much more reliable, provided coooling pipe layout is given thought and the system is bled properly.

Russ has 210bhp in his midget, and gives it beans on the road and in competition (as do I).

Go for it.


It's going to go into a 1964 Midget.

You kindly repled to an email I sent to you today. Thanks.
Neil T

Nice, have you been on the Midget bbs on this site then? Will Munns has a 1.6(?)K engineed Midget and is our resident F/Midg expert.

Will Munns

Shouldn't that be Howdie!

Is it just me that has a vision of Will in a large hat, chaps and sitting round a fire eating beans - baaaaarp!

China, Texas, where next Will?

Hope Beckie's looking after that F and Midget for you :-)
Dave Livingstone

i heard mgf stood for many gasket failure. thats what a guy told me in the garage the other day. harsh but he might have a point
darren jeffery

<Are MGF engines really bad? <<<
Yes, they are. And very bad indeed. Mid-car engines and front radiator setting can be found in many sports cars but only in the F you will for sure get HGF.
David Terence

>Shouldn't that be Howdie!

whooe there partner, I've only been here for 4 days, and have yet to pick up the lingo or get used to the ditchfinder tyres.

In January I am going to be in sunny Cambridge, but I expect to spend every waking hour in the garage trying to get the midget on the road in time for my wedding using wedding cars sevenoaks in May.

The Midget is 'resting' under it's 'new' shell in the garage, snuggled up nice and tight with a dehumidifier.
Will Munns

Neil, don't take a lot of notice of the nay-sayers like David. Even in an F it is not certain that the HG will fail. Some do, but they are probably in the minority. And he seems to have missed the fact that you want to put it in the front of a Midget.

Neil Courtney

>>>Yes, they are. And very bad indeed. Mid-car engines and front radiator setting can be found in many sports cars but only in the F you will for sure get HGF.<<<

Tell that to Ferrari driver I spotted on the hard shoulder or the M61 / M60 junction a while back hand on head staring a a large plume of steam escaping from his rear vents, now he could have just had an overheating issue but it looked pretty terminal to me...

I wouldn't have wanted that bill ;-)

Mechanically, the K is extremely reliable. There are almost no weak points - and the engine is good for 200+k miles plus.

The problem in the MGF is almost entirely down to the design of the cooling circuit with oscillating temperatures brought about by the location of the thermostat and the flow through the bypass circuit. The new PRT thermostats are much, much better and HGF rates have plummeted for late model TFs. But HGF is a multifactorial process - and there have been multiple changes to the head gasket design, the way that the cylinder head is located on the block - along with a number of other detail changes.

A 1.8 litre K in a Midget ought to be almost bomb-proof - as they are in Caterhams - so long as you get the cooling system properly sorted...
Rob Bell

They are great fun and I think very good value for money. I have had a HGF, water pump failure, clutch replacement and a collapsed rear suspension ( thisbeing brought on by fitting stiffer shocks). My vehicle has almost travelled 100000 miles and for the past four years as well as being a daily drive car it is used in motokhanas, hill climbs and super sprints. Dollar per mile I don't think many cars would have been any cheaper to run subject to the same abuse. The biggest loss has been in resale value due to the factory closing which should enable you to buy a good car very cheaply. BUY one and ENJOY.
Andrew Regens

In my experience with three MGF/TF´s I can state that the K engine is the very worst engine among all the cars I have owned. The K is messy and expensive to fix, requires fixing very often and it is most unreliable. My personal opinion only that may or may not be shared.
m. brown

rear shockd 5 K series engines in the family and grasping wood firmly, we have had 1 HGF (under warranty) and 1 snapped gear cable. The oldest is our R reg F with just short of 60k on the clock. The servicing costs with the supplying dealer has totalled
PA Beet

Patrick, might explain why Lotus was so keen to get involved with NAC to bring the K-series up to Euro4 standard... perhaps they are very keen to replace the anchor iron Toyota engine with something rather more lightweight! ;o)
Rob Bell

If the K Series is so bad how come it is so popular in motorsport?

Personally I thik it is a cracking good wee motor.
Deborah Evans

Nothing wrong with a well maintained K series.
Sadly, many owners don't maintain them, treating them like domestic appliances.
Tony Harrison

PA:How can you fairly try to compare Porsche with MG?. Porsches are world class sports car. Every rational driver will for sure be most happy to drive one. Even a Boxster. MGs are a sad imitation of a real sports car. We all are stucked to our MGs because we cannot possible sell them, or we can not possible afford -my case- a real good car. So Porsches can fail. Of course as any other complex machine. But MGs WILL for sure fail. And that is a fact as you well know.
D. Clarcke

Mr Clark, you are talking illogical twoddle and fear you are so gullible you actually believe all this “brand” hype.

I have owned my F for 9 years and it still has the original shocks. The engine has also not started to leak oil. Compare and contrast with son’s “poor man’s Porsche”. It costs about 3 times more than the F and is significantly lower quality in a statistical sample of 2.. And yes I have driven it and it is “OK” but assuredly not 3 times better – maybe 20%. Other son’s Elise is a vastly better “sports” car – just I am too old to enter and exit it with any degree of elegance!

As for affordability, the country is so awash with credit, even the most lowly paid can afford BMWs and Porsches.
PA Beet

"MGs are a sad imitation of a real sports car." Obviously Mr Clarcke knows nothing of MG's history and the very real sporting heritage they achieved both pre- and post-war using tuned versions of the cars you could buy in the showrooms, not to mention all the world speed records they held (and in some cases still hold). The cars on which Porsche's very worthy racing claims are founded are nothing like the road cars they produce.

"MGs WILL for sure fail". I have used a 1971 MGB as my daily driver for 12 years. It has been used in absolutely all weathers, for local trips and journeys the length of the country. In all my 40 years driving there has never been a more reliable car. Not once did it ever fail to start or let me down on a journey. It was also cheap to insure & maintain and provided lots of fun in the process.

As for Porsche quality, Honest John, the motoring correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, always advises readers NOT to buy a Boxster because of the lamentable reliability record. It is hard to compare an MG with a Porsche because the MG was always exceptional value for money, which a Porsche never has been. As a cheap to buy, cheap to run roadster, MGs take a lot of beating. That's not to say I wouldn't run a Porsche if I could afford it, but for smiles per pound I'll keep my MGs.

Mike Howlett

The K series engine is pretty good. HGF is due to poorly serviced vehicles, either not being bled properly causing hotspots in the head or the wrong type of coolant being using. MGFs drive nice and are value for money, roll on November/December 2006 when Longbridge start producing again.
Ian Reeves

>>>> roll on November/December 2006 when Longbridge start producing again. <<<<

IIRC TF production is due to start in China, 27th March 2007 (Nanjings 60th anniversary), Longbridge will be used for assembly work.
Steve P

"How can you fairly try to compare Porsche with MG?. "
As a driver of both a MGB and a porsche Cayman found the arguments very passionate however interesting. We all have to wait to see what MG the chinese will deliver. However I recently visited the UK and, as a MG fan, got myself the possibility to drive a brand new TF. I must say the experience was somewhat deceiving and the car, sadly, let me unimpressed. I now certainly believe that you can not fairly compare any Porsche to any MG. Porsches my friends are years ahead of any actual british car, Astons included. Now we all have to keep an open mind to see what will come. The chinese are outstanding producing goods when most countries are not.
Alex Clinton

You should had been driven a well sorted "F" , not a straight out of the showroom TF (early one?). Sadly those TF´s were not an improvement ,at least not when it came to handling. Same can be said for some of the F's , BUT here at least some refinement could be done that would not cost an arm and a leg !
As for the Porsche Boxters be aware that what we get in Europe are the German built cars,the U.S only get the highest quality Valmet-Finland built ones. The diff. is clear in number of faulty engines ,porous gearboxes etc. etc. All well known problems that normally the dealers will fix if the car has a sound service record..
The main thrill to come in 2007 is how well the Chinese has succseded in transforming the MG into a fun cheap and bullet-proof entry sportcar !
And yes, I am a long standing member of both clubs.Porsche for the hard hat,MG for the soft one ;O)
Carl Blom

now i am worried about this bloody HGF issue...its been repeated one to many times. anyone has any idea of a way for me to prevent this, everyone keeps saying water pump and etc, but no firm description to help the owners of an MGF.
What would be the best way to prevent our tempreture from keep increasing and how should we align the host or move the thermo?
HT Lee

Sorry to let you know HT but HGF is a K-series engine very common issue. Enough to keep every F or TF driver very worried. I have learn that the hard way -three HGF´s-. If you own a F you will experience HGF sooner or later. As bad as that. No matter what you do about.
Mike Elliot

Mike non-member - going on eleven years now with our *F* and still waiting and not the least bit worried!

Another troll with wild statements.
Ted Newman

Every time someone has come up with an ani-HGF device, there has been a post on here along the lines of is this the end of HGFs?. But, there have now been so many solutions offered, from better routine maintenance to strengthened engine parts that the only safe conclusion is the cause remains unknown and a lot depends on luck.

Since the infamous "Watchdog" TV programme that compared the treatment of LR and MGR customers suffering from HGF, LR seems to have arrested the problem at least as far as front mounted engines is concerned.

It's probably too early to judge whether the various LR improvements really are a solution to the MF/TF problem. I hope so, but it will be a few years yet before there will be sufficient evidence to show the problem has gone away. However, I guess we will never know why the bored out K series should suffer more than other engine.

The best solution would seem to be, enjoy the car while it works and keep some money in your back pocket for the repairs if, or when they arise.


>> now i am worried about this bloody HGF issue...its been repeated one to many times. anyone has any idea of a way for me to prevent this, everyone keeps saying water pump and etc, but no firm description to help the owners of an MGF.
What would be the best way to prevent our tempreture from keep increasing and how should we align the host or move the thermo? <<

Have a look at this page - and the other pages related to it...

The remote PRT thermostat has to be the way forward. The EWP may be a 'good idea', and I would also consider a water/oil cooler (Laminova), which not only warms your oil up more quickly, keeps your oil cool, but it also equalises the temperature of these two cooling media...
Rob Bell

This thread was discussed between 14/09/2006 and 03/10/2006

MG MGF Technical index

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