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MG MGF Technical - Snapped timing belt

Tragic sequence of events with my '96 VVC, 30k miles.
Alternator belt snapped and somehow took out timing belt. Engine destroyed. Estimated £3k to replace.
How can this happen? Have taken up matter with MGR Technical Operations and they are "investigating". There are apparently others this has happened to, both with MGFs and Elises. Is this a greater case than I first thought? Are MGR aware of it and keeping it quiet? Shall I phone "Watchdog" Ha Ha!!
I need to try and gather information to state my case with MGR.
Any info would help my case, guys, and would be greatly appreciated.
Now into second week without the "F" at the hottest time on record :-(
John M

Sorry to hear the news John,

I can't help with any info for your case but suggest you go for a secondhand engine from a breaker. A lot cheaper.

Bruce Caldwell

3K is a bit excessive. I recently had my cam belt snap. You will have definately bent your valves, but unless your really unlucky you wont have done that much damage to the pistons. Take the head off and have a look. if thats all then get yourself a used head from a breakers. Cost about 300 quid. viking spares in birmingham will sort you out. You could get a whole used engine, not sure what the price is though.

If your inspecting the head and nothing else seems wrong, i know a few people who simply bought new valves ( 10 quid each ) and had them reseated in the original head. Job Done.

Assuming that the pistons are OK, which is a big assumption, and the cost of stripping the engine to this point (£200? above the cost of just pulling the engine)
Will Munns


3K sounds a lot I was quoted half of that for a nearly new VVC engine from the MGF Centre, try them.
J Price

Dealer has just been on phone and said there is so much damage I need a new engine.
As a goodwill gesture (following MGR guidelines!) they have given a discount but still quote me £3700.
What are they on?
I said I am NOT PLEASED having an alternator belt snap and cause that amount of damage. He said he has never heard of it before and it was just "bad luck". MGR Customer service said it is at the discretion of the dealer. Dealer said that is best offer.
I need some advice here guys. What do you reckon?
Any other similar cases that we know of that I can use as evidence. Someone suggested it had been reported on Elise BBS. Anyone know of this?
This is now an urgent matter and I would REALLY appreciate some guidance.
John M

MGF Centre .....

Tel/Fax : (01902) 403045
J Price


Sorry to hear of your troubles, TBH this is the first time i have heard of a snapped alternator belt destroying the timing belt as well and to be honest this isn't really an area of the engine i am very familiar with.

What i will say is that when Scarlet's first engine died in 1998, the cause was a sheared valve and i am therefore very aware of the damage contact between the valves and pistons can cause. In my case it was a shattered liner, disintegrated piston and internal damage to the entire head and exhaust sytem as the particles were expelled up to the cat and then in the resultant backfire re-inducted into the other cylinders. I may put a gallery up on the SOS site if i get time tonight as i have a lot of pictures of the engine in bits.

In my case it was £3500.00 all in. A brand new engine installed by non-Rover mechanic in 1998. I know it's a lot of money, but the £3700.00 you have been quoted sounds to me to be in the right ball park based upon previous experience.

This is a hell of a lot of cash to find in an emergency and it screwed me up financially for over a year, so i would try to source the engine elsewhere if possible and would concur with the suggestion earlier about trying the MGF Centre, at the very leat they should be able to offer you some advice.

I have no idea how to proceed with MGR / your dealership and can't offer any advice in this area i'm afraid. :-(

Good luck

Scarlet Fever

Oh, i meant to add that in my case it wasn't down to belts snapping, so my experience is limited to replacement costs as opposed to being a statistic to back you up. :-(

Scarlet Fever

John - the dealership that you say is prepared to do the work for 3.7k - is this the dealership that supplied you the car, or a third party MGR dealership?

Sometimes problems do occur - and there is no good reason why they've happened. This may be the case here and therefore, unfortunately, I don't think that MGR are bound to offer any form of compensation :o( :o(

I think that you still have a case against the company that supplied the car to you in the first place.

Your only recourse is to look carefully at the supplying company's warranty. As I recall, you said that it was only for 3 months. Is this legal? I thought that dealerships had to provide a longer warranty than this??? Might be worth investigating. Have a chat to your local trading standards office.

At the end of the day though, you are not now tied into using the MG dealer to complete your engine replacement . Remember that a lot of that cost is in hourly labour rates. An mg specialist - that will possibly perform the job better in the first place - such as Techspeed, MGF Centre, Mike Satur, Brown and Gammons etc etc - have much lower labour rates, saving you s, and probably will be able to complete the job in a shorter period anyway.

Further savings can be had in sourcing a suitable engine from an automotive breaker, such as those already mentioned... you should easily save between 30-50% of the quoted cost. Still a big bill to swallow though... :o(

Really really bleak news, sorry John. But hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Rob Bell

I really think you need to ask them excactly what is wrong with the engine. First place you'll save money is getting the engine form a breakers. That will save you instantly 1.5 - 2K or so. A new VVC engine probably runs to about 2.5K from rover. PLus rover charge around 70 and hour. Most decent mechanics wont be much more than around 30 or so.

John, as I mentioned previously, this is a similar figure to what I was quoted (£3k plus fitting) when my cam belt slipped on my 1.8i. Since my F had done just under 160k miles and needed transport quickly I decided to trade the F in for a ZS180.

The problem that I see you having is that the cam belt itself did not fail, otherwise you would have a good case against MGR provided that the cam belt had been changed to schedule. Instead it is the alternator belt that failed which, if my F was anything to go by, probably had not been replaced by the dealer when it needed to be. So, unless you can prove that the cover protecting the cam belt was defective, there is not really any case against MGR. However, the £3,700 qutoed by the dealer does not appear to me to include much in the way of discount.

Sorry for that.

Might be worth contacting MGR customer support directly. They may be able to give you more discount than the delaer is offering you as a goodwill gesture.

If you don't have any joy through MGR then, as other have said, your best bet is to source a good second hand engine.



I would go into another MGR dealer and ask how much to supply & fit an engine. This way you will see if you are getting a discount.

I couldn't afford what you have been quoted so I would be taking the car to Mike Satur, and getting him to fit a secondhand engine.

Paul had his engine die at a track night and I believe he paid a round £1500 from one of the MG places in Woverhampton, to supply & fit a second hand one.

Do you have any service history stating that the timming belt had been changed at 5 years?


Alastair McLeod

I'm no mechanic but believe alternator and timing belts are in the same vicinity, and the alternator belt going can get tangled up with timing belt and cause big problems. Probably a feature of the K series design hence affecting elises and F's.

Check out the warranty and argue like hell, however if at the end of the day they refuse to budge you will be much cheaper getting a s/h engine from the MGF centre (or midland MGF?) and getting a specialist like Mike / Techspeed / MGF centre to fit it.


Im a little bit confused about how an alternator belt breaking can cause the cam-belt to fail at the same time?

Im not an expert on the K series engine, but I have experience on other engine types (BMW & Vauxhall). Normally the Alternator belt runs around a number of pulleys (may include power steering pump and/or waterpump but usually at least the end of the crankshaft)on the outside of the engine. The cam-belt usually runs around pulley's on the end of the crankshaft and camshaft and a tensioner. This belt is invariably completley covered to prevent damage from everything such as oil, water contamination and foreign objects hitting it (like alternator belts).

If the K series engine is built like this then I repeat my question - how did the alternator belt breakage cause the cam-belt to fail??

With the VVC engine, does the alternator belt have anything to do with the variable Valve controller?? Could this be why?

An alternative way of looking at it - Did the timing belt break taking out the alternator belt at the same time? When a timing belt fails as you might imagine it causes a bit of a jolt to the engine which could have caused the alternator belt to give up the ghost??

Just some thoughts.

Im sorry to hear your predicament and hope you manage to get it sorted one way or another.

Ross - you are right - the alternator belt is separated from the timing belt by a plastic cover. Unless this cover was damaged or incorrectly fitted, then it is very difficult to understand HOW the alternator belt failure could in any way contribute to the failure of the timing belt...

I don't think that we're going to get a satisfactory answer to this. All I can imagine is that by some freak coincidence, some of the debris from the frayed, failing alternator belt managed to work its way inside the timing belt cover to wreak damage. But the chances of this do seem vanishingly small.
Rob Bell

John, seems you have had some bad luck here, I have seen this happen a few times with various results, sometimes the alternator belt gets dragged into the crank pully and can cause the timing belt to jump. If this happens then it will either cause a loss of power, due to the timing jumped a tooth or cause piston to valve contact if the timing has moved excessively, as in your case it seems.This causes the valves to bend and then break due to the continual hammering of piston contact. Overreving can cause the same damage through a missed gear change.
If the garage has assessed the damage as terminal then the engine may have been run a while or turned on the starter to cause further damage.
Check your service records for cam belt renewal as this would require the alt belt to be removed to fit, if it was perished then it should have been replaced , if it was replaced(IMO it should be done at the cam belt change)then perhaps some burdan of blame may be attributable to the garage. Proving it is another matter though.
Good luck.

It appears that MG main dealers do not replace alternator belts when they are past their service life, even if they have had to remove them to replace the cam belt. I guess their view is that they can charge the customer more if it is replaced later, when it breaks.

Luckily, in my case, the failing belt was spotted by B&G, who did the next service after the cam belt change, before it broke.


I took my F for its 5 year service and over the phone they never mentioned the Alternator belt, but when I arrived I was informed that there was a "small crack" in my alternator belt, but it was "nothing to worry about". Judging by the fact that there is a crack in the belt and that the MGR dealer is an idiot, should I be worried? I'm thinking 'yes' at the moment!

Is it an expensive job to replace an alternator belt?


Lets be clear about this, if the alternator belt breaks it only needs a very small part of it to go down behind the front pulley where there is more than adequate space for it to enter the cavity where the cambelt lives, from here it's just a couple of engine revolutions away from a complete disaster. I have seen this happen at Curborough where a good friend wrecked a £10,000 engine by playing with the alternator mounts with the engine running, the belt slipped off down the back of the pulley and ate the engine. It sounds like bad luck to me.

Did the last service include an alternator belt check? in my experience they are pretty much always half trashed.

I have a good secondhand VVC engine here for sale at reasonable money and there are many places where they can be bought. If a head has come off a valve then I can understand why the service centre want to fit a new engine, but in my experience most places dont like strippind and rebuilding VVC heads because they are not comfortable with re-timing the VVC mechanisms. If the damge is confined toi the head and is just valves/guides then it could probably be repaired for £200-300.


Dave Andrews

Thanks for all the recent advice.
Sorry for delay in responding but I have been on the phone so much recently!
MGR Main Dealer report states that the engine is totally destroyed and needs replacing.
Furthermore, the alternator belt (Primary cause!)was perished. The garage I bought the car from seviced it before I collected it. They obviously didn't change this belt and the consequences are plain to see.
I have sought legal advice. They say I should take them to court under the "Sale of Goods Act". Could be a lengthy, costly process but I have no option. The garage I bought from are saying they are "willing to help by keeping the costs down and have sourced a used engine".
I paid top price for this car ('96 with only 26,000 on clock full MGR service record). I feel like this is a double blow as the re-sale value will now be affected.
Also, I may get an engine of dubious history with how many miles on it???
Will keep you all posted (From my padded cell!!!)
John M

>Is it an expensive job to replace an alternator belt?
No, particularly if you do it yourself. The belt is problably around £5. The main dealer will no doubt charge you an hour for fitting, if you are not having any other work done. But it is certainly worth it if you consider the potential consequences of having the belt fail.


I am in the middle of the exact same situation as John has described.

Three days ago my 97 VVC completly cut out on me (whilst cornering at 60kph!). I called the local towing service immediatly as the car would not re-start and had the car taken to the MG dealer.

I was told initially by the dealer that the timing belt had snapped and would be given a complete quote by the next day.

Two days later and after several calls to the dealer to determine the progress, I was told that the the cam-belt has snapped and would need to be replaced and quoted at AU$3,200. This would cover the replacement of the belt and the head would be sent away to be machiened.

After reading through the above posts I called the dealer to check on the progress and was informed that I now need a new set of pistons and that the quote had increased to AU$4,900.

I am not at all familiar with the mechanics involved, but there does seem to be some significant differences between the prices that I have been quoted (around 2,000 english pounds) and those discussed here. I am especially angry about the additional $1,700 for new pistons.

I think that the dealer is trying to take advantage of the situation....


Hi all!

I had the same engine breakdown for 3 mouths ago. But I has lucky so nothing expensive was broken (paid £500). But this must be investigating more. How can this happened and why arenít Rover taking there responsibility?

I will tip all with a car older than -98 too change the alternator belt!


Quick update:
Car taken form MGR dealer who then charged me for "investigative work" before they would release my car!
Car now at engine specialist. He said he can rebuild it, and MGR were trying to rip me off. He will give me warranty on his work, and will pop a new clutch in while he's busy!
Seen more and more evidence of this problem. May take it up (AGAIN) with MGR to see thier reaction.
Will keep you all posted, and thanks for your comments.
John M

Don't want to depress you but I would agree with thoughts above that if the timing belt went first, when the engine locked it could take out the alternator belt. I really don't know how you can prove otherwise especially as the timing belt should be changed on elapsed time as well as mileage.

In the UK, you should be able find a good condition VVC engine for < £1,000. If you are going ahead with repair, no one can give you a price until the head comes off and the damage can be seen - Is this what the MGR dealer has really donm?

Derrick Rowe

John M. the best thing you can do is, to talk to Dave Andrews.

He has helped me putting my car back on road. Without his help, my repair cost could have been a lot higher.

My mechanic friend gave me a really good deal, complete re-build of VVC with second hand VVC unit + 4 bent valves + cam gears etc. He only charged me for 11 hours, and Dave Andrews supplied me with all the parts that I needed.

The car is now in great condition. And goes like a new engine. The car is not with me anymore, as it's sold.

Talking to Dave Andrews can be one best thing u can do for your F and your engine. Why don't you ask him to rebuild it for you with full racing spec.


My cam gear fell off / thus loss of cam belt, but luckily during idling at the lights.
Hanah Kim

>How can this happened and why arenít Rover taking there responsibility?
>I will tip all with a car older than -98 too change the alternator belt!

Some makes have a time-limit as well as a mileage limit on their parts. Toyota for instance recommend changing cam belts every 60,000 miles OR every five years, irrespective of the mileage.

It happened to me on a 12-year-old Starlet in my student days.

I would indeed recommend changing the cam belt on an F after 5 years irrespective of the mileage.
Anthony Braham

This thread was discussed between 11/08/2003 and 29/08/2003

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