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2003 MG ZR 160
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi All, I have just bought a cheap 5 door 160 for pottering around in and doing a bit of budget motorsport (targa rallies, autosolos, production hillclimbs, etc.). She's a 2003 model with 81k on the clock in reasonable nick but a bit unloved really - as I suspect most are these days! The car has only done about 3k in the last 3 years and doesn't look like it's had much servicing done on it in that time. I've got no history with the car but apparently the HG was changed a few years ago. This is totally unconfirmed but in 400 (hard) miles I've done so far the cooling system seems rock solid and there has been no loss of coolant at all.

I am wondering what you would recommend doing for a good 'mid-life' service on this car? I have done an engine oil flush (it was jet black) and an oil/filter change (10w40 diesel specific oil, will change again in a couple of k for Magnatec), I have replaced the original HT leads and put new Denso plugs in (the plugs in it were NGK and all looked good on removal). I am going to do the air filter/fuel filter/cabin filer this week, and I am going to replace the centre and rear exhaust sections as these are looking a bit rusty/blowy! The engine actually runs really well and seems to be making a healthy amount of power, I'm sure given some dry weather I could match the factory 0-60 time.

The top-end is a bit noisy at idle up to 2500rpm, only once the engine has warmed up - I am led to believe this is the VVC mechs and is either nothing to worry about/the sound of impending disaster. The noise is a plasticky 'clacking' sound from the inlet cam cover area, it is not very loud - sounds more like the noise of an older diesel. The lack of bonnet soundproofing I'm sure doesn't help. Has anyone any advice about practical steps I can take to ensure this doesn't lead to catastrophe? Given the value of the car I don't think it prudent to replace the head if it's just a case of living with the noise, but what should I be checking otherwise? The tension of the right-side camshaft sprockets? The car revs to 7000rpm (with ease!) so I think all the VVC plugs are in the right order. Oil is just below the max mark, should I put a couple of 100ml more in to take it right up to the top? Cambelt appears like new with no cracking, all Continental logos visible and unmarked.

Other things I was considering doing are:
1. Coolant flush and refill with G12.
2. Anti-roll bar bushes appear cracked, maybe replace with polybush?
3. There is some slight oil sweat from the cam cover gasket area at the left hand side, also maybe from the cam carrier joint in the same location. Better just to clean up and monitor? Or clean up and replace the cam cover gasket first to see if that stops the sweating?

Anything else I should be addressing? Thanks in advance.
 

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All that sounds sensible servicing. Do you know the mileage/ age of the cam belts? Presumably they looked the right tension when you looked. If ok, just finish the service and enjoy! If you think the tappets are noisy once the new oil has settled in, you could try an additive, or add some lube directly if you do take off the cover to do the gasket.
 

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2006 MG ZR +120 (HQM) 2004 MG ZR 105 (IAB)
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Not much to add to the above recommendations:

The cam cover gasket is very easy to change, and not expensive either, so well worth doing if it is leaking externally (I would get either a genuine XPart/MG Rover one, or at least one from a reputable manufacturer - there have been some cheapo ones about in the past that are just plain steel without the elastomer sealant coating over them and need to have a sealant applied or they leak straight away).

Unless you are certain of when the cam belt was changed, I would change it anyway - if doing so yourself it is a relatively straighforward job (if a bit of a fiddle in some ways), and again, a new belt is not expensive. Just because the writing on the belt appears good doesn't necessarily mean it is new - the writing survives for a lot of mileage before it looks obviously worn, and if the car hasn't done much mileage in recent years, the belt may well be beyond is age for needing to be changed (60000 miles or 4 years for the VVC engines). Some will tell you to change the water pump and belt tensioner too as the manual tensioner on the VVC engines can lead to overtightening of the belt and consequent wear to one part of the water pump seal. If this has happened, and the belt is replaced and correctly tensioned, the wear to the seal can allow the pump to leak within a short time. Change the auxiliary belts too because if one of those breaks, it can get pulled into the cam belt and damage that too. If you are going to do rallies and hillclimbs, it's not as though you will be pottering and being gentle with it all the time ;
 

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Not much to add to the above recommendations:

The cam cover gasket is very easy to change, and not expensive either, so well worth doing if it is leaking externally (I would get either a genuine XPart/MG Rover one, or at least one from a reputable manufacturer - there have been some cheapo ones about in the past that are just plain steel without the elastomer sealant coating over them and need to have a sealant applied or they leak straight away).

Unless you are certain of when the cam belt was changed, I would change it anyway - if doing so yourself it is a relatively straighforward job (if a bit of a fiddle in some ways), and again, a new belt is not expensive. Just because the writing on the belt appears good doesn't necessarily mean it is new - the writing survives for a lot of mileage before it looks obviously worn, and if the car hasn't done much mileage in recent years, the belt may well be beyond is age for needing to be changed (60000 miles or 4 years for the VVC engines). Some will tell you to change the water pump and belt tensioner too as the manual tensioner on the VVC engines can lead to overtightening of the belt and consequent wear to one part of the water pump seal. If this has happened, and the belt is replaced and correctly tensioned, the wear to the seal can allow the pump to leak within a short time. Change the auxiliary belts too because if one of those breaks, it can get pulled into the cam belt and damage that too. If you are going to do rallies and hillclimbs, it's not as though you will be pottering and being gentle with it all the time ;
€€
Hi All, I have just bought a cheap 5 door 160 for pottering around in and doing a bit of budget motorsport (targa rallies, autosolos, production hillclimbs, etc.). She's a 2003 model with 81k on the clock in reasonable nick but a bit unloved really - as I suspect most are these days! The car has only done about 3k in the last 3 years and doesn't look like it's had much servicing done on it in that time. I've got no history with the car but apparently the HG was changed a few years ago. This is totally unconfirmed but in 400 (hard) miles I've done so far the cooling system seems rock solid and there has been no loss of coolant at all.

I am wondering what you would recommend doing for a good 'mid-life' service on this car? I have done an engine oil flush (it was jet black) and an oil/filter change (10w40 diesel specific oil, will change again in a couple of k for Magnatec), I have replaced the original HT leads and put new Denso plugs in (the plugs in it were NGK and all looked good on removal). I am going to do the air filter/fuel filter/cabin filer this week, and I am going to replace the centre and rear exhaust sections as these are looking a bit rusty/blowy! The engine actually runs really well and seems to be making a healthy amount of power, I'm sure given some dry weather I could match the factory 0-60 time.

The top-end is a bit noisy at idle up to 2500rpm, only once the engine has warmed up - I am led to believe this is the VVC mechs and is either nothing to worry about/the sound of impending disaster. The noise is a plasticky 'clacking' sound from the inlet cam cover area, it is not very loud - sounds more like the noise of an older diesel. The lack of bonnet soundproofing I'm sure doesn't help. Has anyone any advice about practical steps I can take to ensure this doesn't lead to catastrophe? Given the value of the car I don't think it prudent to replace the head if it's just a case of living with the noise, but what should I be checking otherwise? The tension of the right-side camshaft sprockets? The car revs to 7000rpm (with ease!) so I think all the VVC plugs are in the right order. Oil is just below the max mark, should I put a couple of 100ml more in to take it right up to the top? Cambelt appears like new with no cracking, all Continental logos visible and unmarked.

Other things I was considering doing are:
1. Coolant flush and refill with G12.
2. Anti-roll bar bushes appear cracked, maybe replace with polybush?
3. There is some slight oil sweat from the cam cover gasket area at the left hand side, also maybe from the cam carrier joint in the same location. Better just to clean up and monitor? Or clean up and replace the cam cover gasket first to see if that stops the sweating?

Anything else I should be addressing? Thanks in advance.
  1. I have a S/Steel exhaust,, centre & rear, that I replaced on my 160 s it was too loud for me. Cost £300. will sell for £90! As it was cut off will need welding.
 

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2003 MG ZR 160
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for all the advice. I have an MOT coming up in May, if the car passes without too many other expenses I will look at changing the belts. As I said they look fine to me with no cracking and the tension seems fine - I can twist the belt about 45 degrees with my finger between alternator and cam sprocket. The cambelt cover seems to be missing a couple of screws though so i'll try to find some replacements and will have another look then, and have a look at the rear cam belt.

Gearbox oil, PAS fluid and Brake fluid. PAS fluid level seems to be OK. I suppose I should check the brake fluid for water content. What gearbox oil does the PG1 take? I'm guessing this will never have been changed!
 

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2006 MG ZR +120 (HQM) 2004 MG ZR 105 (IAB)
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9,096 Posts
The PG1 gearbox fitted to the 1.8 engined ZRs was at that time filled with MTF94, (with the official suggestion that 10W40 engine oil may be used for topping up - at one time Rover factory filled these gearboxes with 10W40, but it needed changing every 30 something thousand miles!)). MTF94 is basically a long life 75W80 transmission oil.

It was regarded as 'filled-for-life', and the only reference to an oil change on the official Rover service schedule is for one to be done at 105000 miles or 7 years, but it probably hasn't actually been changed from new and, after over 16 years and 81k, changing it is probably a good idea. It may well be low on oil if it hasn't been checked - lack of oil is the biggest killer of gearboxes.
 

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2003 MG ZR 160
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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the useful answer. Is there an easy way to check the level without changing the oil? Can you just open the filler plug and top up to a certain point?
 

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Yeah there’s an oil-level plug you can remove and check the oil is at that level when the car is level. Sqeezing oil in through a tube from a 500ml container, until it starts to come out of the level-hole, is how this can be done.
 

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2003 MG ZR 160
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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks Gnu, I will procure a bottle of MTF94 and will top up if required.

On another point, I'm just gathering a few more bits before I get a free day to perform the rest of the service and whilst inspecting my cambelt I have noticed that the left-side (of the block, as opposed to VVC rear mech) plastic cover is loose and is wobbling about a bit. It is not contacting the belt but obviously much better if this is tightened right up. I have taken the outer cover off to see how the inner cover is securely fastened to the block but it is not clear to me which bolts apart from the lower right by the alternator go right through both covers into the block. The lower left bolt appears to be missing, and none of the upper three bolts seem to go through the inner cover to the block. Can anyone advise? I was going to araldite a little restraining strap to the top of the inner cover if I can't get it secure via conventional means, fixed back to one of the spark plug cover bolts.
 
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