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MG MGF Technical - Help....My car won't start

I have a 1997 VVC, (38 000 km) never had any problems so far. The other day, after not using it for about a week decided to take it for a spin (sunny day). I went to start the car, turned the ignition key: dashboard lights came on as usual, turned the key to ignition but it wouldn't fire. I only got a constant click, click sound coming from the rear of the car.
The only strange thing I noticed was that my radio/CD player needed the code for it to function, meaning that the battery must have been disconnected temporarily at some stage? The analogue clock was correct and headlights work, so I don't think that the battery is the problem!

Hopefully some one can diagnose the problem for me.
Ian Sexton

Hi there,
The radio code thing would suggest that there is something going on with the battery. However, I think I should mention this, it is a longshot and I don't want to worry you in any way. But my car is currently having it's engine replaced. The first sign I had of anything wrong, was the car refusing to start, I turned the key the lights came on and just got a click, it wouldn't turn over. This was because the head gasket was gone, water had leaked into the cylinders and the cylinders couldn't compress the water, when I drove the car off I did enough damage to make it not worth attempting to repair. If I hadn't driven it off I am guessing it might have been repairable (maybe not, I'm no mechanic). I would maybe check your car to make sure your coolant levels are alright and any other signs of Head Gasket failure as a precaution to rule out the unlikely event that this has happened. It's most likely not the case, but better safe than sorry. (If you do get it going and see more steam than usual coming out the exhausts, stop straight away and call a mechanic).

This is an excerpt from a synopsis, one of the kind guys on the BBS came up with on the last few minutes of my engines useful life. (Thanks Dave, Rob, Rog, Dieter and everyone else for the advice and help)

Clearly to me the last period of running the engine had went something like this. Turn key, click, water has leaked into the one cylinder and as Rob says it doesn't compress. Try again and some water is forced out of the chamber via valves that are open by a very small degree. The repeated clicks continue to force small amounts of water out and each time water is expelled the piston is able to movbe a little further up the bore. Additionally the engine turning continues to open valves and this allows more water to escape. After the piston reached TDC the water is finally removed and the engine turns and fires. Probably with a hint of misfire for a second or so then clears and ran fine. Of course the gasket was history as you soon found out.

The obvious catastrophic failure that this engine has suffered really does consign it to the skip. I certainly wouldn't trust it even if it could be made to run again.
David Quigley

I would guess the battery is dead. The fact that the radio now needs the code just illustrates that the voltage to the radio dropped low enough for the radio think it was disconnected - probably during the start attempt.
Check you oil and water, and if all are normal then use another battery to start the car. The battery has probably lost at least one cell - so it will still give 12+ volts on a simple test, but the voltage will drop *much* lower during start.
You might also want to check each battery cell, if any has run dry then this could be the cause.


I would agree with Steve and because of the load factors on an *F* battery you will almost certainly be best off replaceing it - I did and found all my problems (and worries) no longer existed - well as far as the *F* was concened.

Ted Newman

My VVC is the same after a week of none use I usually need to charge the battery. Need a new one ...

Thinking of David's comments - perhaps we should all leap out and check the coolant level if the car does *anything* stange.

Seriously, though, the results of driving off with a cylinder full of water are too horrible to contemplate.

But the coolant doesn't *always* fall after an HGF does it?
David Bainbridge

I hope it is the battery, the first remarks from David are rather disconcerting. I actually have a battery on charge at the moment and will try it tonight. The battery in the car at the moment is only about 6 months old, which is slightly worrying.

Thanks for the help so far.

Ian Sexton

I wouldn't get unduly worried. As David says, its over the top to check your oil and water every time anything at all goes wrong, especially when its something seemingly unrelated. Besides, an essay of what I know about engines wouldn't fill the back of a stamp. However what I do know without doubt, is that my car gave the exact same initial problem as yours is doing now with the same symptoms (except for the radio code, because I have a retro fitted CD player with no code so thats not really applicable), so maybe it's something you should be aware of, on the slim chance that you have the same problem I had.


PS: My car did eventually start on about the 10th to 15th attempt, and after a shaky start, drove off perfectly down the road. A lot of excess steam seemed to come out initially, I put this down to engine flooding fool that I am, sure enough the temperature didn't move and the steam stopped. When I got home, I took a drive to the shop, the steam started coming out and just got worse, thats when I noticed the temperature needle moving like a rev counter towards the red and hit the brakes. A little too late. Keep an eye out for these symptoms, I think maybe if I had stopped the car when the initial problem occured, and not let the heat build up to damage the engine, it might have been a simple Gasket replacement instead of the whole engine.
D Quigley

I had this too (sigh), E X A C T L Y the same symptoms, just a click, all rest of electrical blahblah works. They thought it was the starter engine which was blocked (I had to get with an umbrella into the engine and start knocking on wires & starter engine to make it work again - not funny if you're in front of a full pub with big windows! Good for MG reputation ! >:(
But hell no, it were just the high tension leads which were dirty at the connectors.
Since these were cleaned it never ever happened again.

Brother had it too: cable was touching bodywork doing a shortcircuit, blowing the starter engine fuse all the time (under steering wheel). But his car did not click when turning the key afterwards, just silence, zilch, zero, nothing.

But don't do like my brother, go 3 times to dealer for such random starting problems, replace all kinda things (cables, sensors, battery, starter engine, plugs...) just to realize 1 week later his car didn't start at all anymore, braindead!
Now it seems they have found it the 4th time... dunno yet what it was this time, I'm sure he'll tell.

David Quigley,

Er, actually I wasn't suggesting that your contribution was over the top at all! It really brought home to me how apparently trivial problems can be signs of the start of something grim. I get my new VVC next week, and I reckon I *will* be jumping out to check the coolant level every time the CD player jumps.

I've never had a new car before, and certainly nothing as groovy as an F, and I think paranoia will be the order of the day. Paranoia mixed with fun, of course.

If there's one thing I've learnt from this BBS, it's that if I have even the slightest suspicion of an HGF, I should switch off (the car, not me) and phone Brown and Gammons.
David Bainbridge

The *F* is a car and like all cars you should 'listen' to it, become sypmathetic and you will be surprised what it will tell you, take heed of what it does say and it will reward you.

Treat it only as a 'go-faster' Hi-Fi unit and use the throttle as an on/off switch and it will feel let-down and then it will do the same to you.

Yes I know that is a stupid old fashioned outlook and modern cars costing almost 20 grand should look after themselves and you as well - if only life was like that, even a multi billion dollar vehicle can blow itself and its occupants to pieces just a few seconds after leaving its 'garage, and as was shown on TV all because people did not listen to it.

Ted Newman

Ian, I would look under the boot lid to see if you still have got an engine ,someone guy in Ireland just picked up one dirt cheap!!


As others have already pointed out my money too would be on a flat/low battery. Following a period without use, if that click-click-click you mention is rapid and continuous WITHOUT TURNING THE ENGINE or simply a single click and then nothing, that is exactly my experience with several cars over the years. The radio needing re-coding suggests that so little power is available from the battery, that when the maximum is demanded of it when starting, there's nothing left to maintain the Radio code.

When sorted, be interested to know cause. Good luck.

John McFeely

I am glad to say that the car is now running as before, in fact it would appear to only have been a flat battery. I checked the water/oil before start up and everything was at it's correct level.
Now that we seem to have better weather the car will be used frequently, hopefully keeping the battery charged.
Just like to thank everyone for their input.

Ian Sexton

Cool, brother got his car back on Friday and it fired up like in the good ol' days!
They discovered the replaced battery was dead, did not recharge... ALternator was OK.

Too bad on Saturday morning he had to try for 30 mins to get it started ;-)

And Sunday again the same CRAP... "Reu-reu-reu"... Brother finally starts to hate MGF from what I heard of his comments ;-))

So car is back at dealer for undefined period until this HIGHLY annoying niggle is sorted out. I hope he considers selling it for once and for all. 2 batteries, cabling, plugs, sensors and now even checked for bulbs staying on in in boots (nope they don't). So a very expensive ECU is probably what needs to be replaced, another 500 down the drain.

And famous Ted wrote:
"The *F* is a car and like all cars you should 'listen' to it, become sypmathetic and you will be surprised what it will tell you, take heed of what it does say and it will reward you."

My version:
" The *F*is a car but unlike all cars you should pump a cap in its butt, become everything except sympathetic (it doesn't help to be nice to it anyway) and you will be surprised what it will tell you ("Bring me to the dealer!"), take surely heed of what it does say (it won't start) and it will screw you up once more (when another invoice is presented to you)"



I am really sorry you have had a bad experience with the MGF, and you are perfectly entitled to hold and express strong adverse opinions on the car. But, do you have to do it on every thread?

When your name appears on the screen, my first thought is "Here we go again, more rantings about how c**p the MGF is". Now that's a shame, because you have so much information and detail to offer. I have read other threads where you are rational and actually provide useful information rather than general MGF related abuse.

All makes of car have problems and rogue cars. My friends brand new BMW 325i has only been on the road for 2 days since he collected it. The rest of the time it has been in the dealer getting faults fixed. Does that mean all BMWs are c**p. I suspect not.

There are plenty of people on this BBS who will testify that the MGF is a good reliable car - albeit with some faults. I will side with them on this one.

I'll uphold your right to express your opinions, but it does get a bit boring reading the same ones over and over again.

Cheer up it's nearly summer.

David Mills

Dirk Said : Brother finally starts to hate MGF from what I heard of his comments ;-))

With the anti-MGF comments coming from you, I'm not suprised.

Steve Childs

For what it's worth, I understand where both Dirk and David Mills are coming from. David, as you rightly pointed out, the MGF is a great little car, it has it's quirks like all other cars, but you can forgive them. On the other hand I can sympathise with Dirk as although I would not come on this BBS and say how crap the car is, I would be the first to complain about the strength of the engine in it. The entire car is not built quite as well as many of its opponents and the K engine whilst a great design, is judging by the posts on this board and mechanics I have spoken to a little weaker than most (a fact that my engine which was written off at 29k confirms), not all people are so unlucky as Dirk and to a lesser extent me, and unless this has happened to you you can't begin to imagine how angry you feel, seeing so many other people having similar problems on this BBS and Dirks old hall of shame, actually made me angrier with Rover. The stats are there, although all cars have their flaws, the MGF does seem to have more than most, that would certainly be my experience of the car.
But would I slag it off ? Hell no. For all its faults, it looks better than it's opposition, it's cheaper, feels great, and above all its MG, although price wise theres nothing in it, the MG just has more class than an MX5, its got a great heritage, Enthusiasts the world over, events etc...... Its not a car, it's a hobby for most. I think Dirk is entitled to his opinions, he's angry and I know how he feels, my car has been in a garage nearly 2 months now, I should be getting it back this week, it's going to cost me a bomb, so I find it easier to sympathise than most, but I do think that the MGF has something special that makes all the trouble worth it.

That said if the new engine blows, I'll probably have to throw a match on it because I couldn't pay that amount of cash out again !

D Quigley

Just out of interest Mr Quigley (sorry, i don't know your first name), have you asked for a higher standard Head gasket to be used this time around (i.e. a Competition standard), or are you using the standard Rover issue?

Steve Childs

Mr (Dave?) Quigley,

as you quite rightly say, the stats are here. We are aware that there is a problem and that Rover should have and should fix it.


1) Dirk has so much information which could be used constructively to try and force Rover/MG to do something and help other MGF owners. Instead he uses this board to continually slag off the car. Some of what he says is right, but the way it is said is boring and the point gets lost.

2) You have obviously been very unlucky. As I understand it, however, (and I am sure I will be swiftly lambasted and corrected if I am wrong) Dirk had some non-standard modifications on his F and used the right pedal as an on/off switch. So some of Dirks problems were self inflicted.

The point I was trying to make was Dirk would have more support and success if he presented a single coherent case rather than simply acting like a stuck record and repeatedly saying "MGF = C**P"

Sorry if it came across wrongly. I was not trying to upset anybody.

Oh, and one final point. We are enthusiasts with a web site dedicated to our car. All the problems can then be collated and the real endemic ones spotted. For cars like a Ka or a Corsa or Puma or 306 etc, the stats don't get collected in a similar way. Therefore, the manufacturer may see a trend, but would the owners? We are in a privileged position, so lets use it for good.

Soap box back in the cupboard.

David Mills

I didn't even need to ask, my mechanic had his wits about him. He was the head mechanic in a BMW dealership for many years who tuned rally cars as a hobby. Before I thought of ringing him up to ask him to get the performace gasket, he rang me and told me that he already got one. I'll keep you posted on how that one goes, because theres not much data available on the board to suggest wether the performace gasket makes any difference.

David, I'm not trying to defend Dirk although he does contribute greatley to the board, he does go a bit mad sometimes when he gets upset, and you certainley have not upset me. I would wonder what effect the mods Dirk made had on the car and if they contributed to the mulitude of problems. I would imagine that the harder you push a car the more likely things are to go wrong, so in a sense maybe some problems were self inflicted, although I am no mechanic and couldn't tell you that. I guess I was unlucky, my car is exactley the same now as when it rolled of the production line in Nov 95. The only additions being a CD Player, MG Mudflaps and Mats. I am not sure about the previous owners but I know for the few months I had the car before it went up in a cloud of vapour, it was driven softley. I'm not bitter though. A bit frightened of it happening again perhaps.

The cult like nature of the MG brand ensures that there is a huge base of entusiasts out there. Problems are easily spotted alright. I did find a similar type of site for Renault Megane problems (the other halfs car) and it too had thousands of postings. Almost all of which were silly electrical things, but point taken, owners of cars like that who visit web sites based on their car, would be in far smaller proportion to the numbers of owners of MG's who visit sites like this. So I would agree the way these problems are reported is different for the MG. However, my mechanic who is an MG lover and up until recently his dad was driving a mid 1930's MG something or other, a picture of which he has up on the garage wall, insists that (adopt irish accent here), theyre as soft as shoite.
So go figure. That said I am praying that my car comes back in perfect order, up till the HG went and took the engine with it, reliability was great, it always started on even the coldest morning and never gave me any hassle.

I found this board when looking for a solution to the HGF, I am looking forward to getting the car back so I can worry about things like boot leaks, and what sunblock to put on my ears in the summer. Maybe try to make it to one of these events Ted is always talking about. Thats what the MG is all about, and I am looking forward to it. (although I will be keeping a tow rope in the boot just in case ;)
David Quigley

This thread was discussed between 30/03/2001 and 02/04/2001

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