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MG MGF Technical - Burst Cylinder Head

Just got the worst news about my 1998 VVC and looking for some kind of explanation.

Been checking oil and water weekly, with no usage and no oil in water or water in oil. Also keping careful eye on temperature gauges before booting it.

Suddenly without any warning white smoke pouring out of engine compartment after a very short trip. Called my brother (my mechanic) and he accuses me of letting it run short of water. Yet only checked 5 days earlier and 50 miles ago.

Now when fill water tank, water pours out head at RHS. Told that taking head apart very complicated and not to be attempted by ordinary mechanic, therefore bill of 400-1100.

Any suggestion as to how this happened?




Bad luck Elaine - Smoke or Steam?

It has all the signs of a head gasget failure (HGF) which has been a fairly common problem with the F (VVC and MPi).

A simple HGF is normally a breach at the right hand side letting water out and is easy to fix (but needs a skilled mechanic).

There will only be signs of oil in water if the gasket is breached between an oilway and a waterway.

If a simple HGF and no collerateral damage then cost should be down at the 350-450 level. If HGF with head damage then cost could go up depending on amount of head damage, even head replacement.

There are sources of heads other than MGR dealers. Are there any mg specialists in your area?

Search archive for HGF if you want further info and I'm sure somebody else will be posting here in due course.

Contributing factors for HGF are (or could be):

*MG Rover using plastic dowels for alignment (allows sideways movement) These are now metal (make sure these are upgraded when the gasket is replaced)

*The covoluted cooling path within the 'F' which can lead to localised hot spots which contribute to failure

* Incorrect replacement of the coolant (or more accurately, bleeding of the cooling system) which creates big hot spots (failure normally occurs pretty soon after a coolant change in these cases)

* Pressure build-up due to coolant cap failing and not releasing pressure, leading to failure

* Flimsey gasket (now also replaced with an improved version I believe)

Rover dealer should be able to get you a price on replacement and skim. As yours is a '98, if you've not had the 5 year service done yet, get it done with the gasket (replace drive belts).

Sounds like you've been a careful driver, and you're not the only one to suffer HGF. There are quite a few people here who can testify to HGF's for a number of reasons, none to do with negligence.

Tell your brother it's a 'known' problem with the 'F', which MGR have tried to 'unofficially' address through the uprating of the gasket components. If you're brother is a competent mechanic, I wouldn't have thought that replacing the gasket would be beyond him though.

I've now got my fingers crossed for my '98 VVC as you're not the first at this age.

> Are there any MG specialists in your area?

Closest specialist is probably Mike Satur, however MGR may be able to do it for you. Brother might do a better job, and he can always ask here if he has any queries about parts of the job!

L Reid

>Tell your brother it's a 'known' problem with the 'F',

Sorry about the problem. Even careful drivers can't overcome sudden appearance of failures.

Your bro should check the front fan fuse whether ist's still OK. If not than you found another reason for the damn HGF. Might be blow by coincidence or due to shortcut of the fan harness.
The ECU coolant sensor is another well known reason.

btw, our speciallists might please have a look to the thread 'all coolant gone'. I tried to face on another probabble fault part.

Anyway, the repair of a gone head gasket takes about 8 workshop hours and costs relate as well to additional parts involved.
New cam belt in any way, waterpump if it had done already huge mileage etc.

Some useful documents of MGF webmasters are here.
(click all the links on top)

At last, please register your unlucky experiance to

Good luck
Dieter K.

Thanks for all your help and advice. I will be showing my brother all this information and hopefully he will stop blaming me. My brother has no problem removing the head but has been warned not to attempt taking it apart as special tools are required. Therefore does anyone know of somewhere local(ish) to take the head apart and skim if required. The place my brother uses (Agra engineering)has only ever done 4 before. Also once fixed is ther anything that can be done to prevent this happening again? The car has only done 30K so not exactly tired!

>taking it apart as special tools are required.

Not only special tool, which isn't that very special.

The trouble is the works sequence and sensitivity of an experianced mechanic.
The gasket change itself is nearly no problem, but several circumstances can happen or need to be verified while the works go on. (waterpump ?/head skimming ?/which gasket kits to be bought/ system flush?/ cam belt/ cam belt tensioner?)
We've seen here very experianced mechanics (two of, to be correct) who failed the first time and had to do it again.
And those mechanics had the official workshop manual (RCL0051ENG) to hands.

Please don't get me wrong.
If I'd be your bro, I would'nt take this stress for my sister :), but spend 100 quid special cash gift for her and send her to a good workshop.

Dieter K.

I agree with Dieter. The VVC mechanism ITSELF requires fairly specialist attention - but this is not the problem with your car. Happily the head can be removed without disturbing the cams. :o) The only tool you then need is a cam locking tool - and these are readily available and cheap (can be purchased even from your local dealership).

If you brother is confident regarding head removal, then he should go for it. I suspect that the gasket has failed in the front right hand corner of the block, above the alternator - a fairly common area to fail.

Just make sure that the head is hardness tested and skimmed if necessary. The job is then pretty straight forward (just ask Rob in Sheffield, who has just rebuild his own engine himself!)

Good luck - hopefully you'll be able to get big savings off that quoted repair bill!!!
Rob Bell

In addition to Rob's comment be careful to tension the head bolts in sequence and in the correct manor. Should be in the workshop manual I would imagine...
tim woolcott

This thread was discussed between 23/03/2003 and 24/03/2003

MG MGF Technical index

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