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MG Car Repair/1951 MGTD Hot oil Smell and loss of power


QUESTION: Hello, I was traveling home from a car show driving down the highway at about 50- 55 mph when I began to smell a little hot oil. After a minute or so I began lossing acceleration power and then there was a clanking noise. There was not oil running out from anywhere. But the starter would not turn the engine over or even click in after that. Had to tow it home. Any ideas of where to start to look. This car has 3800 mile on a complete rebuild and has run great up to this point. I checked oil and transmission fluid befor I left and everything was fine. Also got to the show and noticed a dash pot cap was statring to come loose.

This sounds serious.  The loss of power makes me think that the engine overheated and seized.

I would begin by checking the level of oil in the engine and the amount of water in the radiator.  

If the levels are OK then I would try turning the engine using the starting handle (with the ignition turned off).  Can you turn the engine over?  If not, then the engine has seized.  

However, it could free up when it cools down, in which case you must find the cause of the problem or else it will happen again.  

Another possibility is a loose fanbelt, so the water pump was not working properly.  However, that would also cause the rev counter to act strangely, which you would probably have noticed.

Let me know what you find and I should be able to give you some better advice.

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

QUESTION: Well as you suggested, it is froze up. My plan is to pull the motor this weekend and start trying to find the cause. I completly did a ground up restoration on this car in 1998. It appears the fan belt was a little loos but the water pump still turns so that did not freeze up. Oil pressure was fine when I was driving it, but did not check it when all of the stuff started happening. I guess I really won't know until I get the motor appart. I guess it could be a lot of things, oil pump, fan belt to loose, bearing.When I rebuilt it originally I bored it out 10 over so hopefully I have some room to do it again as it is a matching body and motor.

Hi Mike

That is bad news.  

Engines do not seize for no reason.  

For example you may find that one piston is frozen in place and the other 3 are OK.  If that is the case, then you need to check the oil feed to the corresponding big end, including the small oil spray hole which sprays oil out of the con-rod and onto the wall of the cylinder below the piston.  If there is one oilway which is blocked, then that is enough to cause this problem.

Sometimes a seized bore can be cleaned up with a special honing tool.

Standard blocks can be bored +010, +020, +030, +040 and more, so you have plenty of room.

Let me know what you find when you do the strip down and perhaps I can give you more advice.

Regards, Barrie

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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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