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Old 21-04-2018, 01:23 AM   #1
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Smile Rover 600 - Off the road for several years

Hi all,

This is the beginning of what is likely to be a fairly short and sweet project, but I thought you would appreciate it all the same.

Last year, a close family friend who my whole family had been very involved with - passed away. In due course, I found that I would be getting an inheritance from the estate. Amongst this were the vehicles - one was an ATV buggy which I sold fairly early on, another was an old 1979 Mercedes cattle truck which has been sold recently for scrap, and lastly is the car which will feature here.

It is a 1999 Rover 600. Before I had any exposure to the car, this was absolutely all I knew about it. What I now know is that it is a 620 SI - which is a 2 litre Honda engine. This model seems to share quite a bit with the Honda Accord of the same vintage. SI is a mid spec trim which presumably adds alloy wheels and air conditioning etc.

The chap I inherited it from had owned it for 12 years - it seems to have had two owners before that - one from new until late 2005, and another for a few months inbetween. It has covered 101,000 miles.

He looked after the car to a standard that very few people do these days. He once told me that as soon as the Rover 600 was unveiled - he knew he had to get one. Coincidentally, I did find a couple of pages from an old 90's motor show guide with all the details of The New Rover 600 which he'd kept. Over the time he owned it - anything it wanted, it had - And it had the best quality.

Due to the owner's deteriorating health, the car has barely been used for several years. He had it MOT'd in February 2012 at 101,164 - the next time it was done was June 2013 where it had only covered a further 400 miles. By the next MOT which was done in February 2015 - it had only covered a further 14 miles (the distance to the MOT centre and back). At this point, I believe he had the cam belt changed - although unfortunately I don't have any paperwork. The only mileage it has since covered was me starting it and running it round his yard. So it now sits at 101,615.

Luckily, the car has been garaged the whole time he had owned it, so there hadn't been too much decay.

I first had access to the car last August, however my efforts have been fully focussed on sorting out the rest of the house and farm - as rather tragically, he had no family - hence why my family had been so involved in looking after him. I was able to keep the car stored in the garage until the beginning of this March - as I hadn't the time or decent enough weather to work on it.

Whilst it was in the garage, I did get it out on a few occasions to work out what sort of state it was in. Unsurprisingly, the battery was flat - although I was able to start it with my battery charger which has been a great bit of kit. It's a mains powered battery charger which also has an 80amp engine start function. Being a Honda engine - it started immediately and ran fine. Whilst he was alive but not well enough to drive the car, I had visited the garage every so often to keep the tyres pumped up. However the driver's rear does have a habit of going totally flat after being left for a month or so.

Here are a few pictures of the car from last year when I first looked at it. I cleared out quite a lot of the junk that was in it. It wasn't dirty, so much as cluttered with endless receipts, note books, pens, an unhealthy amount of Hall's Soothers (which have turned to a liquid inside the ash tray and an ancient Kit Kat. I only have one picture of the inside unfortunately, as I had to clear quite a lot out because my iCloud storage was full (who'd have thought )

Pulled out with the Discovery

The only real issue was the ABS light which was constantly illuminated. I found this whilst right in the middle of my MINI's ABS saga, so I was certainly not about to jump down that rabbit hole.

Jumping forward to the beginning of this year, I did a bit of googling on the ABS issue. Due to the age of car, it wasn't a case of plugging in an OBD code reader. It was actually simpler than that! There is a blue 2 pin connector in the passenger's footwell which you bridge by putting an unbent paperclip into it. Then as you turn the key, the ABS light will flash at you in a certain sequence, which gives you your fault code.

This all sounded so simple, I found the connector quite easily and bridged it. When I turned the key - nothing. The ABS light just stayed on. I then delved a bit deeper - thinking perhaps there was another connector in the same area. So out came the trim, the glove box, the carpet but there was nothing else around. I then tried pulling and checking fuses and relays. But nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I removed and cleaned the big connector on top of the ABS module, cleaned all earths in the vicinty and tried the diagnostic connector a few more times but still nothing. I made a few visits to the car trying all sorts of different things.

So the plan was formed - when decent weather arrived, I would tow the car to my house and clean it up ready for sale. I had hoped to fix the car and get an MOT on it - but with no way of diagnosing the ABS problem and not being willing to throw vast sums of money at the car to have a garage repair what is a very low value car - it just wasn't going to happen. I planned to stick it on eBay looking its best - detail the issue and hope someone else could fix and enjoy it.

In late February, with my deadline approaching, I cleared the last of the items in the garage out. I was able to move the Rover under cover in a rather ramshackle building next to the cattle truck I hadn't yet got rid of. I didn't spend any longer in that building than I had to - as the left wall has shifted considerably! The Rover looked really sorry for itself parked in there.

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Old 21-04-2018, 02:22 AM   #2
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I do love a Rover 600!

My dad used to have a 620i in that exact colour - nightfire red.
You can tell this one has been cared for and hasn’t seen much abuse.

I’m really looking forward to the next updates!
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Old 21-04-2018, 02:28 AM   #3
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Still a nice looking car. I think I've only ever seen them in that colour too!! It's a shame more BL/Austin Rover products don't get looked after. I used to live a stone's throw from the Cowley plant and remember the change of shifts and waves of workers coming off the night shift being replaced by the day workers - you couldn't move for the number of bikes!! I almost joined their design team from school too. They were screwed over by idiot management, militant union leaders in the 70s and poor investment. I'd love a nice SD1 V8 but there are very few over here.
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Old 21-04-2018, 03:26 AM   #4
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My dad had a 618 for a bit. Really liked it, used to waft along nicely.
Then he lost the key, and it was going to cost about £200 more for a key than what he paid for the car. So he scrapped it.
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Old 21-04-2018, 08:54 AM   #5
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Might be worth posting something about the ABS light (or, indeed a "for sale") on here:

The Rover/Honda collaboration produced some very good and often overlooked cars.

All the best with her.

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Old 21-04-2018, 08:58 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by AndyN01 View Post
Might be worth posting something about the ABS light (or, indeed a "for sale") on here:

The Rover/Honda collaboration produced some very good and often overlooked cars.

All the best with her.

Thank you Andy. In the update coming very shortly, you’ll see that I actually have posted on there! I’m just finishing it off now. Seems like a good resource for these cars. There really isn’t a lot else around for them.
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Old 21-04-2018, 09:03 AM   #7
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Oh very nice looking car - does look like it’s been looked after as you say.

Hope you manage to get the ABS issue sorted and bring the car back to life
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Old 21-04-2018, 09:25 AM   #8
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Have you tried driving around on full steering lock left and right ?

If the battery has gone flat it throws all sorts of errors, perhaps the ABS sensors just need ‘calibrating’.
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Old 21-04-2018, 09:35 AM   #9
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My dad used to have a 620Si in BRG, and a cream interior.
I seem to remember it being a great car with a bit of poke too.

The Si was the Honda variant, and you will find a lot of the parts are Honda where essentially it's only the body that's Rover.
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Old 21-04-2018, 10:16 AM   #10
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With the favourable forecast for this week, I went down with my Discovery and the battery borrowed from my MINI, started the Rover up - pumped up the rear tyre and hooked it up to my Discovery with the fixed tow line (the one I brought the MINI home with!).

I wasn't initially sure if it would work - as the Rover has no front towing eye at all! The only provision is a tiedown hook well under the front end. Luckily my fixed line clipped into this and onto my tow bar at a shallow enough angle not to damage the front bumper. It's only a couple of miles back to my house, it was fine - even with my Mum's terrified face behind the wheel of the Rover. It's not a lot of fun to be on that fixed line - you only have to steer, but you can't see where you're going at all, and you're incredibly close to the tow car.

Backup camera I fitted is great in these situations, you can see exactly what's going on! Without this, you can barely see the car in the mirrors!

The Discovery towed it very happily, it's funny - it is always slow, but it doesn't matter what you tow behind it ... it never gets any slower! You can barely feel that there's anything behind you.

The next day, I started work on it. Whilst the car wasn't hugely dirty, it did have some mud around the wheel arches where it had been driven round the mucky yard, and a lot of dust built up from sitting idle.

I decided the whole project would be kept as low cost as possible - I have very little available to spend on the car and regardless - pumping money in and using expensive products won't realistically see much return. I'm obviously still going to be sensible with the car, but not as strict as I would normally be (and this is coming from the guy who touches in the white roof of his Mini with Tipp-Ex!).

Here are some before pictures

Running out of car space - I'll admit 5 cars between 2 people is a little bit much

Mats over mats over mats

Original Rover mats hidden down there

Grubby glass

Liquified Hall's Soothers in the ash tray

The car's duff battery (Nice Varta battery as well) and 2 spare Michelin tyres! An indication of the sort of care taken over this car. It's now fitted with a matching set of Vredestein Snowtrac 3 winter tyres.

Trim i'd removed in my search for an ABS diagnostic plug

The first thing I did was to remove the radio. The car had the original factory tape deck fitted (CD changer in boot), however it had wanted a code since 2006 when he bought the car! Ordinarily, I would source the code - however in recent years, the small screen in the dash had failed, meaning that you can't input the code anyway! This seems to happen on all 600's at some point and requires the removal of most of the centre dash to even access it. So I fitted a spare head unit I had in the garage (removed from my MINI in an update coming in the near future!) this plugged straight in - even the electric aerial works with it! I've never come across a car with an electric aerial before - it blew my mind ... I want one! I will keep the original head unit with the car, on the off-chance that the next owner is some sort of Rover purist!

My usual radio removal method for a head unit I don't have the removal keys for, is two regular kitchen knives (one each side of the head unit) which works every time! Top tip for any wannabe 1980's car radio thiefs! However on this headunit, I had to employ the 4 screwdriver method, which was highly successful.

New one in. It's not a looker - but it works. First Rover ever tuned to Radio 1.

On the subject of the dodgy dash clock - the previous owner had substitued it with a bedside alarm clock blue tacked to the dash crude but effective I suppose! Picture taken some time ago.

I then put back all the trim I had removed in my search for an ABS diagnostic connector.

Now on to the interior clean. First was to remove the makeshift overmats (a rubber door mat plus an offcut of carpet installed over the original Rover 600 series floormats). I have made use of the door mats in my garage, i'm sure you'll be pleased to know

This revealed the original floor mats which are in remarkably good condition considering their 100,000 mile life plus 19 years! I then hoovered everything.

After this, I mixed up some homemade APC - bog standard Morrisons all purpose cleaner (citrus zing or something) diluted 1:1 with water. It's dead cheap, anti bacterial, cuts through muck and generally does a great job on a 'brand-used' car interior. I put it into a big spray bottle (an old Demon Shine bottle I think, they are big and have durable trigger sprayers).

I sprayed it on every hard surface inside - the dash, pedals, sun visors, everyhing. Then wiped clean with a microfibre. This made the car look and smell a lot more fresh.

I had intended to use an inteiror fabric cleaner on any grubby parts - but I really couldn't see any marks worth cleaning (quite an achievement on a 19 year old car with a light grey velour interior!) so I moved straight on to dressing the main plastics you come into contact with. I used Meguiars interior detailer - I've used this product for years on everything. It just does the job well. I dressed the dash and all the usual areas you touch or look at.

After this, I removed all the window stickers - there was an old tax disc holder, stuffed full of tax discs back to 2007, a national trust sticker, a 'next service due' sticker and a used car dealer one in the back window. They all came off without a fight. I then wiped down all the glass with Meguiars glass cleaner - I got this in a gift bag at Christmas. It seems like a fairly easy product to work with - although it smells like a portaloo in my opinion

One very strange feature I have found is this - the car has front electric windows which are operated by this single central control. However the rocker switch above it which says 'on' is a deactivation for the passenger side window (similar to that seen in most cars where you can disable the rear windows to stop children messing with them). However, the button to disable it is directly next to the actual window switch which is well in the passenger's reach - what is the point?

With the interior done, I moved onto the outside. As it was one of the first nice days of the year, and the neighbours were out in the garden - I didn't want to run the noisy pressure washer for too long. So I used the normal hose to wet all the bodywork and wheelarches, then just used the pressure washer to blast off the worst of the dirt. The rear wheel arches seem like a big dirt trap on this car - there was loads of mud hidden in there.

The bodywork seemed to have a hell of a lot of fallout on it and a lot of swirls were very evident - so I didn't see any point in using a nice smooth PH neutral shampoo - so I opted for cheapo washing up liquid in really hot water! It seemed to shift the muck well and I thought it would loosen some of the rubbish on the paint too.

After a thorough wash and dry, I moved onto the wheels which still had a lot of black marks on them. This provided another opportunity to try a new product out - Meguiars hot rims wheel cleaner which I also recieved in a Christmas gift pack. I was really impressed by the amount of dirt it shifted in one go. I don't use alloy wheel cleaners myself, as my wheels never get to a bad enough state to need it!




Some shots of the car after the wash

Now that the car was looking half decent, I began to feel a little it guilty - and decided to have yet another look at the ABS problem. I cleaned the multi plug on the ABS module again, had a look and the wiring loom (although it's covered by plastic shielding) and re checked the fuses. I also jacked it up and removed the front nearside wheel (as this is often the first ABS sensor to go on a lot of cars. It looked fine, I gave it a bit of a clean up too. Still no further forward.

I had posted up on the MG Rover forum about this issue, but people were only backing up what I had read online (connector in passenger footwell). They did provide a few suggestions of things to try - which unfortunately had no effect.

Whilst the bonnet was up, I got the multi meter out, traced the connectors for the ABS sensors and checked them for continuity. Both the front sensors were fine. I then peeled back the boot trim and found the rear ABS sensor plugs. The nearside rear was showing open circuit, and the offiside was fine. So I had found a problem at last! I was pleased, but still a bit wary as the diagnostic system didn't appear to be working.

I went on eBay and searched for the appropriate part - but there was nothing available. I thought there would be some sort of aftermarket support around on eBay for these cars. So I tried google instead - the only rear ABS sensor for sale was from Rimmer Bros and it was £160! This left me with a problem - because I had found a fault, but couldn't get the diagnostic system to confirm it, and the part was stupidly expensive for the value of the car!

Using a bit of lateral thinking, I set about removing the sensor to see what it looked like - It turned out to be a funny looking thing on a very long lead with grommets and clamps all along it. I also wanted to be sure that the bolts would all undo.

I wasn't certain where to put my trolley jack, so I lifted the car with the standard widowmaker jack, put my trolley jack under the end of one of the suspension arms to take some of the weight and an axle stand elsewhere for good measure. The first thing that happened was the bottom half of the brake disc shield came off in my hand!

The sensor came off with relative ease

On the off-chance, I searched for a Honda Accord ABS sensor from a similar year - it turned out to be the exact same part and it was a much more reasonable £35. I ordered it straight away. I have no idea of the reputation of the brand, but I hadn't got a lot of choice!

The next day, I was able to have a good look at the paintwork overall. There was a bit of etching from a bird poo on the nearside rear pillar

Some water marks, where condensation in the garage had dripped off the metal rails. It had made a very definite line across the bonnet.

Also there was a dent in the boot lid to the right of the registration plate where the previous owner had reversed into a tree not long before giving up driving the car somewhere in 2012 (me and my Grandma ferried him around after that).

I could see the swirls a mile off.

I wasn't willing to invest the time, energy or products to do a paint correction, so I opted for a quicker fix. I got the DA out, with an old polishing pad and the dregs of some AG SRP which I knew was stuffed full of fillers and set about the car. It does an amazing job of masking the swirls very easily. Brought the paintwork up really nicely.

Some of the 'chrome' parts were looking a bit dull, so I got the AutoSol out and gave them a quick polish.


After: (You can see the dent in the boot here)

I knew I couldn't really fix the dent, but I managed to push it out from the inside a bit which lessened it quite a bit. I then polished out the scuffs which left it much less noticeable.

There was also some damage on the nearside rear corner. Scuffs in the rear bumper, scuffs in the tail light and a chunk of paint loss below the tail light.

I used the DA to work out the scuffs in the bumper and tail light, then was left with a chunk of ugly paint loss. The eagle eyed viewer will notice that the Nightfire Red paint is very similar (if not identical) to the Rioja Red paint on my Discovery. I just happened to have a bit of touch up paint in the garage, which actually matches the Rover better than the Discovery it was designed for!

In one final attempt, I googled the ABS issue again. This time with slightly different wording. I found a forum post saying that in another very late model Rover 600, the ABS connector was on the driver's side under the dashboard, so I had a quick look. I poked around with the torch for a bit and eventually found a 2 pin connector identical to the supposed ABS connector on the passenger side, however this one was taped into the wiring for the OBD type connector under the steering column. I bridged it with an unbent paper clip and turned the key ... SUCCESS! This was it! The ABS light flashed a code at me. 1 long flash followed by 7 short flashes.

I have no idea why the connector is in a totally different place to where everyone says it should be!

I googled the codes for a Rover 600, but couldn't find a corresponding code. After a few searches I found a list of codes for a Rover 600 Bosch ABS unit (which mine seems to have) and found a 1 7 code which indicates a problem with the neaside rear sensor (the one I had already found to be faulty) so I think we have progress!

I took a few pictures once the car was clean and up to standard!

I towed the car down to my friend's yard to store it yesterday evening. The ABS sensor is due on Monday - I should be able to fit it down there. So the next update will follow when I have fitted it. If the ABS light goes out, I should be able to book it in for an MOT to see what's what.

I hope to be able to sell it to someone who will appreciate and enjoy it, rather than just run it into the ground. It's such a comfy car, I just don't think I'm ready for a Rover at 25
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