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MG Car Repair/Dormant MGB


QUESTION: hi Barrie - I am considering another MGB purchase ( 1978 ) however it's been sitting and has not been started for 3 years. Do you have some tips on what is most important to check and do before attempting re-starting?.
best regards.. Paul

ANSWER: Hi Paul.  

This is a short answer.  I would need a lot of time to give you the long version.  However, here goes...

This MG is about 35 years old, so the number one problem is usually rust.  Take a magnet with you.  Check all the usual places.  If anywhere looks suspicious, use the magnet to check for filler.  

Pay special attention to the sills.  The outer ones cannot be repaired properly without cutting and replacing part of the rear wing.  If the outers have gone, then the middle sill panel will also be rusted through.  If the inner sill is rusted through, walk away.   

Check under the front wheel arches, just behind the wheels.  The inner arches have a ledge above them.  This usually gets a layer of mud on top which sits there like a damp sponge and rots the inner arch.  Clear any mud with your hand, being careful not to cut yourself on any sharp edges.  The top of the panel should not be rusted through.  If it is, you are looking at a lot of work to repair them.

Do not worry if the battery has difficulty starting the car.  After 3 years it is probably ready to be replaced.  

Rubber parts deteriorate if a car is not used.  It may need new fanbelt, radiator hoses & brake hoses. If the car has not been moved for 3 years then they will have developed a flat spot which will not go away, so budget for 4 new tyres.

The rear brakes can stick on the drums, especially if the car has been parked with the handbrake on.

I prefer to remove the spark plugs and turn the engine over on the starter motor until the oil pressure shows on the gauge.  Then refit the spark plugs and fire up the engine.

The fuel in the tank will deteriorate over time, so If the car turns over but refuses to fire, you may need to drain the tank and fill up with fresh fuel.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: thanks Barry - I assume it would be wise to change oil in crankcase in short order. When cranking for the first time, what about providing some lubrication directly to pistons as they will be completely dry? Can pistons seize up after sitting so long?

Hi Paul

So long as the engine turns by hand I wouldn't worry about lubricating the pistons.  If the pistons are seized that is another matter.  Rings can gum up so expect a bit of smoke to start with.

Once you own the car, do a full 12,000 mile service on it and change the spark plugs and brake fluid.  

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Barrie Jones


MG Sports Cars from 1949 to 1980 - Including MGB, MGBGT V8, TF1500, TF, TD and modern Midgets. I also specialise in SU carburettors, Lucas wiring, suspension, steering & brakes.


I have owned my 1955 TF1500 since 1966. Technical specialist for the TD and TF with the MG Car Club T Register. Also owned 20 MGBs and currently own an MGBGT V8. Written 3 books on MGs and produced a DVD on how to strip and rebuild the TD/TF gearbox.

MG Car Club.

Barrie's Notes on the 1953-55 MG TF (author). /=====/ Barrie's Notes on the MGB (author). /=====/ Barrie's Notes on the MGB GT V8 (author). /=====/ The Essential Buyer's Guide to the MG TD, TF and TF1500. (author)

M Phil, C Eng, BSc (Eng).

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