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MG MGF Technical - Front end damage and coolant loss

Last weekend the F suffered damage when a people carrier reversed into it. The impact damage was all front nearside - split front bumper, broken indicator and headlight glass, but not the reflector. The numberplate and offside front are all intact. It was inspected at a local garage by a friend of the 3rd party who taped it all up so I could drive it.

Forward fast exactly 7 days and my wife notices coolant dripping from the front. The header tank was empty. I refilled and drove it a couple of hundred yards back to the garage - hopefully avoiding a 2nd HGF. I can't tell from which side the leak is as it appeared to be running across the bottom front of the car. When we first noticed it the puddle was offside front; at the garage it was nearside front.

What are the chances the impact and leak are unrelated?

The radiator was replaced by a dealer nearly three years ~70k miles ago. The under body pipes were replaced about 15 months (~30k miles) ago.

Trevor Hobden

Trevor, the rad may already have been quite corroded before the impact, and there is a chance, of course, that the impact has damaged the radiator... The only way to confirm is of course to remove the bumper and inspect.
Rob Bell

Hi Trevor,

From an insurance claim point of view I'd say there was enough probability of the radiator mountings having shifted slightly, twisting the radiator and opening up a hole in the matrix. But as Rob says, closer inspection with the bumper off is the only way to see for sure. The headlamp casing should be examined too, the glass is pretty strong so if the impact was enough to damage it there may be further damage to the mounting lug and arm.
Mike Hankin

Hi Mike/Rob,

The headlamp is being replaced as a part of the claim. The mounts were broken in the impact but the beam angles down rather than up, fortunately.

The bumper has definitely shifted. I'm going to assume the radiator is mounted some way back and not on the bumper!

The guy who checked it this Saturday and did the repair quote the previous Saturday had a definite "This wasn't leaking last week" opening bid. Unless I can show that it started 7 days earlier on impact and has slowly got worse, I'm stuffed.

If it is down to me to fix, is there a simple lash up that might last the forty m-way miles to the independent mg specialist whom I trust not to balls any repair up? I understand radweld's a no-no but is there an alternative? One that doesn't involve a low loader/tow.
Trevor Hobden

The lower mountings of the radiator are well protected, but the top mountings are in the bonnet slam panel. Is the shut line across the front lip of the bonnet still equal? If not that suggests the slam panel has moved a little, and moving a little just at one side is enough to stress the radiator.

With the bumper off you should be able to see exactly where the leak is, and some plumbers putty might be enough to stem the leak well enough to make the journey.

Without wanting to sound like a vulture, does that mean you'll shortly have a reflector bowl moulding you could donate to the re-silvering project..? ;o)
Mike Hankin

Mike - strangely, it took two to open the bonnet. One to pull the lever, one to palm slap the front of the bonnet over the release mechanism. Maybe sufficiently hard to do damage, if it wasn't done already?

Will the pressure and heat of the coolant system blow plumbers putty off the leak?

I think we've already had the reflector bowl discussion in an email exchange earlier last week. I need to see if the reflector can be salvaged from the busted unit. I'll let you know.
Trevor Hobden

Trevor, my apologies, I recall now ;o)

Difficulty opening the bonnet confirms the slam panel has been shifted, so the likelihood is that although the initial inspection didn't spot evidence of the leak, that shouldn't be taken to mean it wasn't there. For anyone to say it's just a coincidence is stretching it a bit IMHO.

If you were to go for another quote from a different repairer, they'd now see evidence of a coolant leak and quote accordingly. That would strengthen your case that the initial inspection/quote missed it.

Provided the engine isn't worked too hard the coolant pressure won't be massive, the radiator is about the least pressured point of the cooling system fortunately. There's probably better stuff than putty for the job, not sure of the name of it but there's a glue that sets even underwater which ought to do the trick.
Mike Hankin

The insurer's engineer visited today and was happy to wait for the bumper to be removed to check the rad. Apparently, it was well corroded with the fins falling off. The whole bottom side of the radiator was soaked. As a result, he won't entertain a claim.

I've checked my receipts and found I was way out on my guess of it's age. Not three years old - barely 18 months ago. It was replaced in Oct 2004 since when it's done another 42k miles. I'm getting through radiators faster than front tyres!

I may talk to the dealer who replaced the rad tomorrow. And the insurer, again.
Trevor Hobden

That's a very short time for a radiator to fail, certainly worth asking the dealer why it has failed so soon - the average is more like 5 years. Possible it was reconditioned as opposed to new?

Difficult one to argue re the insurance claim - clearly the radiator wasn't in the best of shapes before the impact, but even when brand new they're not designed to be able to withstand stresses from movement of the panels they bolt into. Worth asking them if they would meet you half way on the replacement cost, since if the radiator had been brand new they would be paying full whack.
Mike Hankin

This thread was discussed between 15/05/2006 and 16/05/2006

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