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1500 engine issues

Posted by Ohiospider1975 
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MGARuss Avatar
Russ Sharples
New Jersey, USA   usa
1960 MG MGA 1600 "Bonnie"
1993 Mazda MX-5 "Bombita"
Warren - I take you are no longer with the car (e.g. it's in Florida and you are in Ohio)? You going to start sorting this out when you get it home or do you need to get something done to it while it is still in Florida?


Ohiospider1975 Avatar
Warren Brown
Findlay, Ohio, USA   usa
That is the current issue. If I do nothing while it is in Florida, I lose about a month. If I choose to do something, then I am returning the car to where it has been for the last year. They were the ones who told me the car completely checked out and all this overheating went unnoticed. It could be the car just sat there until the PO got rid of it and they knew nothing of the problem. You'll note that I have not identified the garage, and I will not do so. My intention is not to anger anyone in getting this over-heating issue fixed. I prefer just to get the problem solved. I have contacted the Ohio MGA Club and have the name of a mechanic shop about 16 miles from me who does engine work. In additon, I have met a fellow just down the road who recently sold his 1962 Mk II. He had it 15 years and did all his own engine work. He lives about 3 miles from where I will store this MGA. We are meeting together this Saturday morning. I hope to map out a plan with him.

TX, USA   usa

You didn't describe the conditions and expectations under which you bought the car in December. Was it from a reputable organization, or an individual?

Unless you personally know how to isolate the problems and fix them yourself you might work something out with the seller. Did you test drive before buying? What was the advertised condition of the car? Had it been driven enough to sort out the squawks?.One might anticipate a few problems with a purchase, and yours may be negotiable even if no warranty was given. Been there...done that and not long ago. Call me if I can help. Dave Pyle 713 464 6717.

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Ohiospider1975 Avatar
Warren Brown
Findlay, Ohio, USA   usa
I was permitted to drive the car around the block at the purchase time in December. It was not sufficient time to experience the overheating problems. The car was sold, as is. No implied warranty. The mechanic/body shop is a guy who specializes in British cars and sells lots of parts on eBay. Whether he is an engine expert or not, I cannot say.

I asked what items needed to be addressed immediately. The garage mechanic said that the wiring harness needed to be replaced and it needed new relays and other than that it was a strong "driver car" with no problems or hidden corrosions. In December we put the car up on a hydraulic hoist, and he opened the doors before hand so the body sag wouldn't knock the doors out of jam. I saw no massive cancer spots on the frame or door sills. The brake lines were all new, so were the brake drum linings and so were the fuel lines. So, I thought someone had spent some money on it. It had received a paint over, which was obvious. If it was done to just move the car, then they were successful. I do not know.

When I picked up the car last Friday, it wouldn't start. They messed around with the distributor, the coil and the plugs and finally it fired. I tried the horn, and it still didn't work. So, I thought, if these guys redid the wiring harness and the horn still doesn't work, why am I keeping the car there. That is why I chose to drive it and find out what was its condition. It only has one long 4 inch hose under the hood going to the heater box. The short piece on the left side does not exist and there is no hose on the right side (carburator side) at all. I know, I know...but at that time... I didn't know. The gas gauge showed 3/4 full. I put 8 gallons in, and it still showed 3/4 full. Ha. Wipers worked, Headlights worked. Engine warning light in gauge worked. Water temp gauged moved.

Please I am not looking for further verbal abuse on this and am therefore hesitant to discuss this further. I just want to solve the problems and drive the car.

HL Miller Avatar
Henry Miller
Chair City, NC, USA   usa
Warren, it sounds like you'll be able to get a good look at it Saturday with some local help -glad you found someone close by. Hope you're able to get it diagnosed while you're still down there.

Blueosprey90 Avatar
Jeff Sienkiewicz
New Milford, CT, USA   usa
1959 MG MGA
Well, we can shun Team Evil for a while as his punishment for being rude. I'll appoligize for him.

Remember, nobody can accuse any of us of being the brightest bulbs on the planet - otherwise we would all own a Prius. No question is too stupid - and despite your poor initial reception here, you will get sound advice.

So you have a few problems - no big deal if you tackle them one at a time. The cars are pretty simple to work on with just a few specialty tools. Harbor Freight has what you need in cheap Chinese tools that will cover you if you don't want to spend the highest dollars. Not the best but adequate.

First off, try to find youself an owners manual. If all else fails, see here where I think it is one of the books in pdf format.

Second, order a Moss Motors MGA catalogue - if for no other reason than to get good blow up pictures of the parts. The catalogue drawings are better and more understandable that the service manual IMHO. Plus you don't need to get the service manual all greasy and a catalogue comes out every few months.

Third, make a list of your technical problems and start spending the hours between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. reading the technical articles on Barney Gaylords site. He has already given you advice here. He is usually spot on. Here is the link:

Forth, find youself the John Twist, University Motors website. He has many videos about solving technical issues. Here's an example for setting the valve lash.

Moss Motors is also developing a technical video library, but it is a little hard to manuever through their site.

Fifth, learn to use the search function on this forum and on the MGB forum. The early MGB 3 main bearing engine is almost identical to the 1500 and 1600 engines. But if you use the search function, for "gas gauge", let's say, you will discover how lucky you are to have 3/4 of a tank of gas. Most of us are on empty. winking smiley

Speaking of gauges, there are a number of vendors that specialize in rebuilding MGA gauges, shocks, distributors, etc. Check the Vendor Deals forum and the main MG Experience page. Or just ask here. You will get a recommendation.

Sixth, check the Library link on the main MG Experience page.

Anyway, that should keep you busy until I get back from vacation.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2012-02-23 04:11 PM by Blueosprey90.

Blueosprey90 Avatar
Jeff Sienkiewicz
New Milford, CT, USA   usa
1959 MG MGA
Well, I just had to do this.

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TX, USA   usa

My 'new' MGA stopped twice on the road soon after I got it. The seller was 1000 miles away and I sort of understood what I was getting into. It is now all sorted out with the help of a 'never give up' local guru. Idles smoothly at 600 RPM and doesn't overheat on 100 degree days . Still I preach strict due diligence no matter the price.

Finding some one you trust to help you is important. The missing hose connections to the heater box was a symptom, easily fixed. The heater valve from the engine not so obvious but cheap to replace. In fact IMO parts are surprisingly cheap. Moss is a reliable source. Some things are less at Little British Car Company, or at Scarborough Faire. All offer phone technical help. Barney was sent from heaven to help MGA people.

Give it time. But If you can't get beyond the problems turn it over and find a more reliable "A".

MGARuss Avatar
Russ Sharples
New Jersey, USA   usa
1960 MG MGA 1600 "Bonnie"
1993 Mazda MX-5 "Bombita"
David - 600 RPM idle? Really? Is your tach that accuate? I didn't think an inline 4 cylinder engine would idle smoothly at that low an RPM. My MGA idles about 900~1000 RPM (according to a Sears engine analyzer) and after cruising on the highway, it will often sit at 1300 RPM.

Warren - let us know what you plan to do, there are a bunch of us who are really interested in hearing about your problem and the solution. As I said, I think it is telling that the problem doesn't develop until the engine overheats so I think replacing the radiator cap is the first fix. Were you planning to drive the car to Ohio or transport it? If the latter, does it really matter if you get it fixed in Florida?


mgageoff Avatar
Geoff Howard
Ashburn, VA, USA   usa
BTW you can pick up a proper radiator cap at a napa auto parts store. Look for Balkamp part# 703-1411 (7-psi long neck radiator cap). That way you don't need to wait for a shipment.

Geoff Howard
Now Playing on the Blog (8/8/2013): Don't Blow Your Top

Rob Medynski
Canterbury, N.H., USA   usa
Note; If the engine is rebuilt, at will run a little hotter the first few hundred miles. As it heats up it get tighter and will produce more heat.
New or older engines, check the amount and mixture of anti freeze in the cooling system. More that 50/50 the car will over heat. Always use a good name brand. Years ago I tested cheep anti freeze compared to good name brands. The cheep stuff needed 2/3s to reach protection where as the good stuff was good at 45 to 50% mix. More than 50% will cause heating issues and does not dissipate heat. I had a customer who called me with a similar issue after he installed the TD engine I rebuilt. I had him tow the car up and found the only problem was the anti freeze mix. He thought the more the better.
Check the distributor. Most need a good overhaul or at least a good cleaning and oil. I've had many cars run much cooler after cleaning and making sure the distributor advanced properly, the line to the vacuum unit held vacuum, was hooked up properly and didn't leak. Almost every vacuum unit we check, even if it holds vacuum, is found to have limited advance because of condensed fuel build up or a dry diaphragm. Some vacuum units are so far out of range they're almost worthless. The MGA vacuum advance unit, advances the timing at the crank 20 degrees. Loss of that much timing will cause hotter running conditions. You may have other issues, but when a car has a heating problem these are the first things I check and many times are the problems.
Good luck

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TX, USA   usa

Could it be? My repairer drained the water and added antifreeze. I don't know what proportion.

Prior to that with only water the car ran satisfactorily even in 100 degree weather rarely going beyond 190 water temp while running.

Cooler weather no problem with the water/antifreeze mix, but now with 80+ OAT when restarted after shutting down it runs very rough. During shut down water temp goes to 212+ and takes a long time to cool down. Simple enough to go back to water only and see what happens.

Ohiospider1975 Avatar
Warren Brown
Findlay, Ohio, USA   usa
The MGA begins its trailer trip from Florida to Ohio on Wednesday March 21.

michalakmj Avatar
Mark Michalak
Chicago, USA   usa
1958 MG Magnette ZB "Hilda"
1958 MG Magnette ZB "Mr. Belvidere"
1960 MG MGA 1600 Coupe
Building off of what Rob said, the first thing you're going to want to do after you check out that water pump is start from scratch and give that car a complete tune-up. Get some technical manuals and read the BBS. The archives at have some good info. (Sorry for promoting another board here, but I prefer the search function on that board for archived threads.) If the guys at that garage can't install a wiring harness right and they're telling you it needs new relays then I'm guessing they also can't set ignition timing and balance carbs. The MGA doesn't have relays, by the way.

I would start off assuming that everything on that car is set up wrong and don't take anything for granted. This way you won't overlook anything in the troubleshooting department. Everything starts with the timing, so get that right and go from there. I think someone said it's hard to get the car to idle at 600rpm. Depending on your engine setup that may be true, but if you don't have your idle that low then the distributor advance weights will start opening up and will throw off your timing settings.

I've had my car overheat due to traffic on hot days and put that neeedle close to 230, but the engine never gave up on me the way yours is which leads me to believe that the overheating is the effect not the cause. There are cooling quirks with this car and there is a lot of information out there to help you overcome them, but first make sure the car is set up properly and then come back and we can bang out your other issues.


Ohiospider1975 Avatar
Warren Brown
Findlay, Ohio, USA   usa
Transporter picked up vehicle today in Sarasota, FL. Loaded on flatbed for transport north. Insurance activated for transit. Expect the MGA to arrive Ohio Monday or Tuesday next week.

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