Here are some of the problems you may encounter and what to look for when making that all important purchase. No liability will be accepted by either the group or any individual member of the group for any problems that occur/were not identified. This is just to help you hopefully pick a decent coupe and enjoy it.
Identification of which model
The engine bay is the easiest way to positively identify the coupe you’re looking at:
216 Honda (D-series) coupe (1992 K to 1995 N reg)
Note the engine on the right hand side of the bay unlike the rover engines.
220 NASP (T-series) coupe (1992 K to 1995 N reg)
Note the plenium engraved with injection on it.
220 Turbo (T-series) coupe (1992 K to 1995 N reg)
Note this turbo has aircon, so has more pipes, different alternator posistion and a different top rad hose from the non aircon turbo’s
216 Rover (K-series) coupe (1996 P to 1999 T reg)
Note the plastic inlet plenum and the dizzy on the side of the head.
218 VVC (K-series) coupe (1996 P to 1999 T reg)
Note the VVC on the inlet plenum and the two cambelt covers.
Check both sills for rust as they are structural. Other places to check are bottom corners of doors, wheel arches, leading edge of windscreen and around the rear lights. Panel fit should be good though not always perfect, anything too out of line could indicate accident damage. Bumpers should be fitting square and not sagging.
Rear wings have a tendancy to bubble. This is more common on the later models or 216’s fitted with a later rear wing by it’s owner. Respraying will only cure temporarily!!! Check the rear quarter panels are straight. Especially note that the piller between the rear windscreen and side windows should be in good shape. These tend to take the brunt of heavy rear smashes and bend. Looking underneath the car under the boot will also show up any signs of welding to the floor or chassis legs. Peel back the trim carpet in the boot and have a look round the rear lights for signs of damage, these panels always get creased when there a rear impact. Of course, if carried out properly, repairs are not a reason to walk away if the rest of the car is good. Check the boot for any signs of water. They can leak from either the rear lights or the rear window. Check the handles of the targa roof aren’t wet as this is another common point of leakage but an easy fix with a smear of silicone.
Have a good look at the seats, carpets, steering wheel and rubber pedal covers. These are a good sign of the cars actaul age/mileage. Seat bolsters are commonly worn especially on the drivers seat. If the rear interior side trim panels are hanging off this is almost certainly a sign that they have been off at somepoint; the clips aren’t re-usable but only cost pennys from your orver dealer. Check that the seat belts work and that the seatbelt pretensioner hasnt been fired in an acsident.
Check that the car alarm and immobiliser works off of the fob as it should. Check that the rear number plate lights work if not, this could be either a bulb or the wiring were its goes from the car body to the boot lid. These can get worn through at this point. Check the interior lights work when both doors are open (one at a time). The door switches are prone to getting wet and failing. These will just need a clean up, or can be replaced for a couple of pounds for a replacement.
Suspension bushes – front anti-roll bar drop links break down quickly. Dont worry if they are worn when you look at the car, knock a few quid off then get some Superflex ones to replace the standard bushes. Rear trailing arm bushes also go – easy way to tell is jack up the rear end and look at it – cracks / tears in the rubber will soon become apparant. All the others should be ok, but then you’ll be replacing them
with uprated ones anyway!
Fronts warp very quickly – check for vibration/grating under braking and wobble under acceleration – though wobble can also be associated with dodgy lower arm ball joints/track rod ends/wheel bearings/tyres off balance.
T-SERIES (2.0 AND 2.0 TURBO)
Things to check for:
Pull off the pipe between iintercooler and throttle and check for excessive oil – a bit of oil is to be expected due to the breather set up of the car. Rattle on start up are normal – usualy tappet rattle – should go with a second or 2 though. This noise can also be due to low oil, not a good sign from the seller as the car should be in it’s best condition so could indicate neglect. Start the car up, and from under the bonnet, use the throttle cable to raise the revs up to approx 3000 – 3500rpm and hold it there and have a good listen. Any metallic knocking/banging is not good.
One thing also to note is that a tappety noise from start for more than a couple of seconds noise is often caused by a defective exhuast manifold gasket in need of reaplcement or missing bolts/studs etc. Check these things before writing the tappets off because they’re cheap fixes.
Headgasket – front r/h/s of engine, small leakage is fine, lots = replace time. Klinger gaskets are of course recommended, but no means a gaurantee of sorting the leak.
Oil leaks – There can be a lot, camshaft seals are prone to leakage, obvious on the dizzy side of the engine, not so on the cambelt end. Take a small 8mm socket with you and undo the top 5 bolts holding the cam cover on and take a peak – should be dry from oil. Oily means a leaking seal and a contaminated cambelt. Oil can leak from these and run around the front of the engine giving the impression that the head gaskets gone, so keep that in mind when looking over the engine. Contaminated belt will deteriorate and ultimately fail causing serious engine damage and usually complete replacement. Also check the sump – the plugs always tend to leak a bit leaving a small drip hanging off the bottom of the sump – any more than that and expect leaks from the oil radiator feed pipe unions or sump gasket.
On the turbo engne the oil and filter should have been changed every 3000 miles and a full service at 6000.
K-SERIES (1.6 AND 1.8 VVC)
The first thing to check when under the bonnet of the K series engine is the levels and the condition of the fluids. Check the expansion bottle first, it should contain nice clean water/antifreeze mix up to the max mark. If the level is below this mark it could mean there is a problem. Also check that there isn’t any mayo (oil water mix) in there to.
Next remove the oil filler cap and check the inside of the cap, if its clean then that good but if there’s a build up of mayo (oil water mix) this could be a sign of a problem too.
While you are under the bonnet check all the coolant hose’s. If there is a build up of whitish solid on any of the coolant system there could be a leak, this could just be needing a new jubilee clip or maybe a new pipe.
Lift the oil dip stick out and have a look at the oil, the level should be between the low and the max line. If its below the low line walk away as the car hasn’t been looked after. Also have a look at the colour of the oil if its nice and clean it could just have been changed; this could be to disguise a problem but most probably the car has just had a service (check for history) if its black and runny its over due its service (again check history).
Next have a look at the power steering system. The header tank should be full to the max level but its not uncommon to have a leak on this system. While the engine is running have a listen to the pump it should be quiet. Get some one to turn the steering wheel from let to right if the pump starts to whine it could be the start of the PAS pump going. If its loud the pump is on its last legs!
When you start it up (from cold) the tappets should quieten down in a few seconds (as the oil pressure builds), if it doesn’t this could be sign of a head rebuild needed but might be alright with a flush. This is also a sign on poor treatment and old age if the mileage is high.
The VVC mechanisms tend to be a bit diesel sounding but quite normal and you shouldn’t be alarmed unless they’re really noising.
On cold tick-over the revs should sit at about 1200rpm, when the temp comes up the revs should drop to around 800-900rpm. If this doesn’t happen it could be one of a few things: the air bleed control valve needs resetting or the coolant temp sensor is not functioning correctly.
Obviously check for oil leaks and just general appearance of the engine bay and check it against the history if there is any. K-series engine should have new oil, oil filter, air filter, rotor arm (1.6 only) and dizzy cap (1.6 only) every 6,000 miles or 6 month’s , which ever comes up quickest. The plugs need changing every 40,000 miles. Check that the cam belt has been changed every 60,000miles.
D-SERIES (1.6 SOHC AND DOHC)
Things to look out for on these units.
One of the big issues on these engines is the disributor. After time the cap cracks and you will need a replacement.
Headgasket failure: look for ‘mayo’ or water and oil mixed toghther to give a creamy like substance in the oil cap and the expansion tank.
These engines can get a bit noisey at high milage, but well looked after and maintained they will give you a easy 150k miles. Oil needs replacing every 4000 miles and a full service at 8000 miles to keep things in tip top shape.
When taking the car for a test drive rev the car to the limiter in every gear listerning for any rattles knocks etc. The engine should pull all the way through the range with no noises in every gear (this isn’t advised it in 5th obviosuly!).
While you have the car started, get someone to press the clutch pedal while its in neutral and if there is any significant noise change it means the bearings are worn in the gear box but if a noise starts when the pedal is pressed it could mean the clutch release bearing is worn. A slight noise when still in idle with clutch engaged is ‘ok’, any rumbles etc are not. Also when driving listen out for groans/rumbles as they could give evidence to a dodgy box. Gear change should be nice and light, the clutch can be quite heavy though. On the T-series models, if the gear change feels like stirring porridge your gear linkage needs replacing!
On the turbo model, check that the gearbox has got a TorsenTM LSD fitted. Have a look at the sticker on the gearbox, the code should start with a K7BX, K7BSUT or K4BX for original boxes however this is by no means a gaurentee that its is still running with an LSD. Check the history of the box if available because worn bearings are know to break the LSD and often get replaced with normal ‘open’ diffs. Best way to tell when driving, get it in 2nd at mid revs, find a sweeping bend and toe it – car will pull you around the corner.