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Head Gasket Gone?? Am I being conned?

1532 Views 10 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  chilljohn
I hope you can help me here, as Im a complete amateur when it comes to cars!

I have a Rover 45 1.6, X-reg done 85,000 miles.

Last night when completing a 40 mile journey I noticed smoke from under the bonnet. It is an oil leak from the front upper part of the engine. The smell is not that of normal burnt oil - it has a sweet tinge to it.

I took it to a garage and a guy looked at it without starting the engine or anything and said the head gasket has gone, plus it needs new water pump and Cam Belt and tensioners. He's quoted me £750 to repair.

Ive done a bit of looking online, and im not sure thats the problem. The coolant level has dropped but only a very little (perhaps 3mm in the tank), the dipstick is dry but I guess thats because most of the oil has leaked (yet the oil warning light is not lit). There is no white exhaust fume, the oil filler cap seems normal. The coolant doesnt smell particularly of exhaust. The engine management light is not lit when I drive it.

Having said that, the car has been a little sluggish of late and reaches temperature very quickly but the temp guage never goes towards overheat. A couple of times when Ive started her recently it takes longer than normal for the engine to kick in.

Im really besides myself withn worry because there's no way I can afford £750, and I really need the car to transport my two disabled parents around.

Any help you can offer would be really gratefully received!

Thank you in advance.
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First read the section on gasket failure -

From your description, you don't seem to have any of the symptoms and K series head gaskets hardly ever leak oil so I think that is coming from somewhere else.

The sweet smell you describe does sound like you have a coolant leak from somewhere. Check around the head gasket joint line especially under the exhaust manifold. This is where they tend to fail. If you do find anything, check that it is not leaking from the inlet manifold gasket and then running around the head gasket joint line.

Should it ever come to changing the gasket, a good price would be £400 plus, including the belt and water pump that should indeed be changed at the same time.
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Thank you for your advice. I dont suppose you know of a free online drawing of these areas so I can ensure Im looking at exactly the right part of the engine do you?

Thanks again - your being very helpful so far.
Whilst you may have HG failure there are too many garages not diagnosing things properly because of a percieved reputation.

If they couldn't be bothered to test anything out I wouldn't give them your business even if there was something wrong. Just fill your oil up and make sure you keep an eye on all fluids in future at least weekly. You may have a small leak from a hose, radiator or even your inlet manifold gasket. All of these are easy to fix.

Sorry for the rant here but there are too many mechanics who are not mechanics anymore. All they want to do is MOT's.
So as long asI top up the oil and the coolant regularly is it still safe to drive? I really dont think its any hoses etc - Im more concerned about the oil leaking as this seems to be a fairly substantial amount of leakage that causes smoke which is slightly sweet smelling. The oil leak worries me a lot because of the risk of fire etc, and the smoke is very unsightly when at traffic lights etc! Is there a short-term fix I can do until I get a hopefully decent mechanic to look at it?

Im so so worried - I need some reassurance from someone please??!!??
There is definitely no leak from the radiator. The oil seems to be coming from near the top of the front of the main engine part
If you name the parts you don't understand, someone will post up a picture or at least explain what and where the parts are.

An oil leak from the top part of the engine is likely to be the cam cover gasket. These are very cheap and easy to replace. The next joint down is the cam carrier to cylinder head joint and fixing this would be much more involved, but they don't often do more than just weep and cam be kept clean fairly easily if you decide to just live with it.

If the oil looks OK and is not starting to take on the brown colour of chocolate milkshake, you will be OK to drive. Keep a very careful eye on the coolant level and don't let it run out. This is the main danger and can result in head gasket failure. That is why it is so important to track down the leak and fix it.
sounds like cam cover seal to me, second choice would be camshaft oil seal/s try cleaning it up a bit then run for a day or two as normal and look again may be able to see where leaking from once cleaned up a bit.
nothing to worry about mate the front of my engine is like the BP oil spill. I need new camshaft seals and perhaps you do to. A mechanic should be able to do this for no more than £150-200 including a new timing belt if needed.
Whoa, very unprofessional. Before he could say for sure it was the HG he HAS to start the motor and check things with the engine running. Doesn't sound like the HG to me. Just a leaking seal.
hows the power steering fluid level on your car ? when mine leaked it smelt sweet
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