In my opinion the short answer to the question of whether you should avoid buying a Rover / MG / Freelander with a K-series engine is No (mind you I would say that wouldn’t I!!).
I agree, the K-series engines are prone to head gasket failure, but then most cars have their own issues. If you take the time to understand and care for your vehicle then you can avoid the unexpected and very high bills that come with any car when it breaks down.
These are great engines if treated well; in fact when they were first introduced they were revolutionary. Not only that, but they have been winning races in the British Touring Car Championships for over 20 years – so they are still at the forefront of technology.
The K-series engine is powerful and lightweight, and is (contrary to what some might think) a very durable engine, the bottom end is practically indestructible.
So what do you need to understand about the Rover / MG / Freelander K-series engine to ensure you don’t have problems?
The first thing is that these vehicles were fitted with a single layer head gasket – don’t expect to get more than 70,000 miles out of it (and it’s often much less). The problem of these gaskets has been rectified by the introduction, first of a multi layer steel (MLS) head gasket, then by a modified multi layer steel (modified / upgraded MLS) head gasket. If you are buying a K-series Rover / MG / Freelander make sure it has had the head gasket replaced with the modified multi layer steel (modified / uprated MLS) head gasket, and if not replace it before you have a problem and not after!
If you are going to work your Rover / MG / Freelander hard then a stronger oil rail was introduced which allows the oil to flow better around the system; so it would be worth fitting one of these at the same time as you change the head gasket.
But you don’t have to pay out big money to protect your new prized possession. Just like all of us, what it needs more than anything is a bit of love and attention. With the K-series engine you should not ignore it from one years service to the next. Flick up that bonnet every week or two and check the oil and water. You’ll soon get to know how your best buddy works (which of your other buddies would take you wherever you want to go, whenever you want to go?). This way you will quickly realise if your Rover / MG / Freelander is drinking too much – time for a quick detox at the garage before it gets out of hand.
A problem caught early can save you thousands! The K-series engine is a great engine, powerful and strong, it just needs that love, attention and a bit of understanding – go on, give it some love, and that’s easy because these are such beautiful vehicles!