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Mclaren Engine Low Oil Advice

The Mclaren range all uses the same base engine known as the M838T. The 3800cc twin turbo charged engine was originally developed for Indy car racing and after work from a variety of operations including Mclaren, Walkinshaw and Ricardo is now the staple engine for every Mclaren road model from P1 to 12c.


Over the models a variety of changes have taken place mainly to the head from 12c to 650 and 675LT and more changes to the Sports series and then the 720 where the capacity was increased by 200cc by stroke with new pistons and crank. The engine is nothing short of an engineering master piece having won awards since inception but being dry sump it does have one achilles heel – oil level.


Yes, thats in caps, it needs to be as I’m afraid we are starting to see cars with top end engine wear due to either insuffucient oil or being revved hard when cold (which is essentially the same thing – lack of oil pressure to the top end as the oil is cold).

Worn rocker

Now of course no one with any mechanical sympathy will want to run a car hard when cold or run the car with low oil, indeed we and any other engineer would consider it abuse and hence not covered by any warranty but sadly it does happen and potentially could happen when the car was not in your control (if you’re the second or third owner) so it is important to understand the importance.

Snapped rocker

Lack of oil, ie a lack of lubrication to moving parts is easy to identify; excess wear on the rockers, followers and cams which can be seen by scoring and marking on the surfaces.

worn cam lobes

Given time the rockers can wear so thin that they snap which is as bad as it sounds – lots of bits of metal floating round the engine which can result in even more internal damage.

So, without opening up the engine what are you looking for?

The answer is a ticking noise, when the engine is warm and running it should be relatively silent, any loud tick which runs in time with engine rpm is something to be concerned about. Its important to note that this is only an indication of engine wear when the engine is warm, ticking when the engine is cold is perfectly acceptable, the dry sump oil system and unique rotation of the cams means it can take some time for the oil to get to pressure and lubricate the top end of the engine hence the secondary advice of not to run the car hard when cold so some top end ticking on start up is not something to be overly worried about – only when the engine oil is up to temperature is any noise an indicator of a potential issue.

If you go to a Mclaren dealer they only have one solution – a new head(s) which at £4600 plus VAT each for a 650 and a whopping £7600 plus VAT each for a 12c (just fit a 650 head, they fit the same) plus 10 hours of labour timing and 30 hours labour removing and installing the engine means a ticking engine for a 12c if repaired by a dealer could equate to a £30,000 bill.

All parts now available

However we are now able to offer a full engine rebuild service, working with the same people who designed and engineered the engines for Mclaren Automotive and using the same suppliers for engine parts we can now offer a complete turn key engine build service. For a comparison, a full rebuilt head with coated rockers, followers and cam regrinds can be as low as £4000 with labour to remove and install the engine for £3500.

However the point of this message is avoid all that by simply by checking your engine oil regularly (once a week and before and after any track work) and when the next door neighbours kid comes out and tells you ‘rev it mister’ ignore the little scrote, 30 seconds of his entertainment could cost you thousands of £££.

If you’re unsure how to check your oil level watch this short video how to for a 12c/650 (its the same process for all the models and we will update our Youtube site with those as and when we can.

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Mclaren Owners Club Track Day support

As part of our continued support of the UK Mclaren Owners Club we attended their track event at Blyton Park. A total of 26 cars attended representing the entire range (save for the P1 and F1).

All the models were there

Our role was to ensure all the cars were prepared before going on track, deal with any issues and ensure all the cars were safe to drive home again which meant conducting the full Mclaren pre and post track inspection as well as dealing with any mechanical issues on the day.

It got busy

Yet again the cars all showed just how reliable (in real life) they are. Over the course of the day:

  • 12c with an oil leak, ‘fixed’ by a dealer a few weeks previously
  • 570 with a coolant leak, clip
  • 12c with a coolant leak, loose hose
  • 600LT with some error lights, all cleared
  • 675LT with low brake pads

Thats it. So thats 26 cars, some brand new, some over 5 years old all getting ragged round track without a single major issue.

Thats not to say we werent busy though, the Mclaren pre and post track day checks are quite thorough so do take time (especially when you have 26 cars lined up for them) and during the course of the day we had to deal with a variety of issues from clearing out dead birds from the air intakes to punctures which required us to lend a wheel from our own 12c to get the car off track (to avoid damage to the wheel).

We did need to top up a lot of oil on cars though, 7 of the 26 cars were running low on oil to require small top ups to get them off the minimum so we continue to advise owners to check their oil once a week, running low oil on these cars can be disastrous with significant top end damage so please, keep an eye on your levels.

We are proud to continue our support for the owners club and delighted we can help members enjoy their cars with the comfort that if something goes wrong we are here to help, all free of charge.


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MSV Track Day Championship Round 2 – Snetterton

Well if it aint broke dont fix it, with a class win in round one we decided to leave the M3 in the same class and run it this year in part as a learning year for Callum as he gets used to the extra power and weight.

Well he’s learning, a near faultless drive and weekend got another podium and a second place trophy to add to the round 1 win – happy faces all round.

Weekend didnt quite go as planned though, the Friday test was a wash out (which was good as we missed it) but it meant everyone was going out for practice with the same lack of practice but some issues with the steering meant Cal couldnt really get to grips with the car so we qualified mid pack.

The race itself was great fun, Callum got off to a great start and quickly took three places and then managed to claw his way nearer the first placed car (another Clio) but at the pitstop was still 12 seconds adrift. Try as he might we couldnt close that gap in the time so Cal cruised home to collect class second place.

With a 1st and a 2nd and riding near the top of the championship standings we will run the rest of this year with the current power and see how the year pans out, but thus far Cal is doing great, no real issues with the car so hoping for a good season.



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Mclaren Track Day Support

Delighted to carry on in our third year of support for Mark and his Greystone Track day operations and support all the Mclaren owners in keeping their cars track ready at Silverstone this month all for free.

As usual we carried out the official Mclaren track day inspections for the cars and ensured all ran without issues and again there were few issues for us to consider – testimony to the real World reliability of these cars.

All Mclaren models were present

All we did was top up some oil, check tyre pressures, clear a few minor error codes and advise on set ups, no major mechanical issues from the 20 or so Mclaren cars (12c, 650s, 675, 570 and 540 models) present on track.

Full track day checks taken out

We even slummed it a bit and looked after a Ford GT and a Porsche Carrera GT but we cant all be snobs can we!

£1.5m right there!

Another great day helping Mclaren owners enjoy their cars.


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The Mysterious Hole – update

Remember the oil tank issue we discovered on Mclaren cars? if not the initial story is HERE where we had a car with a hole in the oil catch tank and no real way of understanding how the hole happened?

Well, now we know.

By way of a recap, all Mclaren models have a dry sump oil system and the tank for this is hidden away up behind the firewall and in front of the engine – about as far away from potential impact damage or contact as is physically possible but we had a 12c in with a leak from the tank. One of the downsides of being so protected is that its a proper job to replace it – the engine needs to come out so –  its not a small job, so we wanted to know why the tank had sprung a leak but on investigation all we could see was a neat hole with no under lying cause.

A hole in the side of the tank.

Our best guess at the time was a pulled weld from inside the tank but as this was the only one we had seen we were loathe to cut it up and thought it was a one off, but we warned owners at the time just in case.

Well we are afraid its not a one off, we now have three 12c models here all needing new oil tanks so we decided to cut one of the failed ones open and see what caused it.

Oil tank, cut open to show internal baffles


We were right, inside the tank a spot weld of one of the internal baffles has in effect pulled the aluminium wall in causing a neat square hole where it was fixed, either there has been a thermal difference in how the two materials (aluminium weld or aluminium wall) expanded and contracted or the tank itself has expanded and pulled away from the baffle mount. Either way its a new tank and the engine out to replace it.

Area where the hole appears
This is the baffle and the weld
The offending weld

So, if you have an oil leak from the drivers side front of the engine (just behind the drivers side door) then be prepared for an expensive bill, sorry.

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Mclaren 650S Coupe For sale – £119,950

November 2014 First registration
One Owner
8411 miles
Anthracite wheels
Alcantara trim with contrast stitching
Lift kit
Alcantara steering wheel with contrast stitching
Colour coded brake calipers
Carbon side vanes
Carbon Interior pack
Carbon wing mirrors
Soft close doors
New battery
Not VAT qualifying

1st Service – Sept 15 @ 1876 miles by Mclaren Ascot
2nd Service – May 17 @ 4508 miles by Mclaren Ascot
3rd Service – May 18 @ 7549 miles by Mclaren Ascot
4th Service – April 10 @ 8411 miles by Thorney Motorsport


Immaculate condition, mechanically 100% and covered by our full 12 month comprehensive warranty.




Important information

We do not sell cars, we are offering this car for sale on behalf of the owner, we have no income from the sale whatsoever, we are not on SOR or take any percentage of any sale figure in any shape or form. It just happens to be a stunning example of a 650s, one of the best we have ever seen and has been thoroughly inspected and checked to benefit from our comprehensive warranty cover.

For inspection contact us, any payments for any sale go direct to the owner, not us.

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Mclaren Engine Advice

It has come to our attention that it is possible to cause engine damage to Mclaren cars if the car is run with low oil pressure or low oil level.

Now this may sound a bit ‘well, really’ but due to the potential consequences resulting from such action we feel it necessary to make owners aware of the risks.

Are of the engine where damage most commonly occurs.

In the event of running the engine at high rpm when cold or at any rpm with low oil the lack of lubrication is resulting in cam and cam follower damage. Mclaren do not supply engine parts separately so damage to these parts requires a new head, a minimum £4000 part up to £7000 for a 12c and the engine must be removed to effect the repair – 20 hours of labour so its not a minor fix.

Shows excess wear on cam and follower due to lack of lubrication

Our advice to owners is to always warm the car up fully before using higher rpm and to check their oil levels regularly, especially after a a service as its also come to our attention that some cars are being incorrectly serviced with inaccurate oil levels.

Area of the engine concerned

For details on how to check your oil level take a look at a short video here:

So, our advice to owners is always warm their cars up fully before any high rpm work and check your oil regularly, not exactly rocket science but certainly worth following.

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MSV Track Day Championship Round 1

You never know what will happen with a new season and its fair to say that this one was a bit of a surprise.

Pre-season went well, the car has been heavily updated with new brakes, aero, less weight, new exhaust but the one thing we didnt touch was the power, plan was to run stock power and ballast to fit into the regulations for the Track Day Championship which we were entering for the first time this year.

New season, new grid

Pre-season testing went well, a day at Silverstone gave Callum the seat time he needed to get used to the upgrades and we were nice and confident for the first round at Donington Park. As with most championships that are based on power to weight there is an official dyno set to record the cars power which determines its class so the Friday before the race we took the car up to Donington for it to be tested. Well it came up with 215bhp – eeep.

Dyno tested on the Friday on the official series dyno

Now this was a bit of a surprise, we hadnt touched the mapping on the car since last season (no need to) and the pre-season testing went as expected so be told (by the official dyno for the series) that we are 80bhp down on what we would expect was a bit of a surprise, so we took the car back, put it on our dyno and the data was correct – 215bhp. So at Friday night before the race we had a bit of a dilemma, the car was low on power and no time to investigate so do we pull it or run the car in a lower class, so we put it in the lower class as the power was confirmed for the class so was legit.

Faultless drive on track

Well, they say power is only part of a race car and this was never more true, with the upgrades to brakes, weight and aero Callum drove a perfect race to collect his first win for the year. Comparing the laptimes to the other M3’s there it was clear he was hugely down on power so whilst the class was a bit of a surprise the result was well deserved and based on Callums driving.

First race, first win

The question now of course is what do we do, sort the power issue or run in the lower class with the lower power?

Either way was a great result from Callum, he didnt put a foot wrong in practice or the race so delighted to start the season with a trophy.

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2019 Season BMW Racing

Well 2019 is with us and there has been a lot of changes to the BMW E36 M3 driven by Callum Noble.

Last year was a test year really to see how Callum adapted to the higher weight, power and grip of the E46 M3 chassis which bearing in mind he came from the 1125kg BMW E30 Production BMW series with a mere 145bhp was always going to be a leap. However Callum performed brilliantly and the season went pretty well with some good finishes but the car was a basic spec, relatively high weight (1320kg), standard power, only stage 1 brake upgrade, standard power and was really there to allow the transission from PBMW. Bigger plans were afoot for the 2019 season.

So over Winter the M3 has had its upgrades:

  • Weight reduction from 1320kg to 1250kg
  • Brake upgrade to AP5000 Race Kit front and rear
  • CSL Cup rear wing
  • CSL Cup front splitter
  • Rear diffuser
  • 3" bore race exhaust, decatted and single centre exit
  • Lexan windows

After a shakedown session at Silverstone we will have the first race in the Track Day Championship which starts at Donington Park on April 7th. We will of course keep everyone updated as to progress.

Here's to a successful season!