Common or potential faults associated with the French & Italian range. Having worked with our chosen marques for quite some time now, it stands to reason that we have come across a whole plethora of faults, failures and potential automotive hiccups. Sometimes they are quite clearly due to a lack of maintenance. Others are due to poor design. Then there is just bad luck. Here follows a list (in no particular order) of some of the more common occurances we have encountered. Included are our comments and/or opinions as to how 'we' have dealt with the situation or believe would or could be an effective solution. Our ramblings are by no means a substitute for competent professional diagnosis and should be regarded as bodhi for interested parties.
Common or potential faults associated with the French & Italian range.
Having worked with our chosen marques for quite some time now, it stands to reason that we have come across a whole plethora of faults, failures and potential automotive hiccups. Sometimes they are quite clearly due to a lack of maintenance. Others are due to poor design. Then there is just bad luck.
Here follows a list (in no particular order) of some of the more common occurances we have encountered. Included are our comments and/or opinions as to how 'we' have dealt with the situation or believe would or could be an effective solution. Our ramblings are by no means a substitute for competent professional diagnosis and should be regarded as bodhi for interested parties.
Some thoughts on Clutches & Actuators by our resident Guru Stu
Dispelling a few myths about piloted manual gearboxes, or senso-drive transmission of Citroen C2 & C3.
Thinking back a few years, I had heard a few nightmare stories about auto gearboxes fitted to the new small Citroens, firstly it was tales of having to replace the gearbox, along with the clutch actuator and gearbox ecu, and its still got the same problem (the nature of which was never very clear). There were also many cases of the engine being impossible to start, in fact at Euro Car Care we dealt with quite a few cars which had been recovered to us with suspect battery problems, batteries had gone flat and then the car wouldn’t start- we would then do a diag check on the gearbox ecu to find a ‘power latch fault’ indicating some kind of voltage related fault causing the transmission to prohibit engine starting, may be because the transmission has somehow lost its programming. The battery would then be replaced and we would re-initialise the gearbox / clutch actuators and the car would start. We then started seeing a few actual clutch actuator failures, although they were not always attached to the car – they were brought to us by other garages who had replaced clutches or had recovered broken down cars and removed the clutch actuator as a possible reason for the car getting stuck in gear or impossible to engage a gear. We stripped down these actuators and found the mechanical adjuster inside the actuator had broken, these adjusters were repaired where possible and fitted back to the car. I have seen only one clutch actuator which had an electrical fault and this had a burnt out electric motor (which can be separated from the actuator), which we replaced from another failed actuator, and one case of input shaft bearing failure of the gearbox.
Around 2005 the software in the gearbox ecu was updated and this dealt with some driveability problems but mostly allowed the gearbox to remain in ‘auto’ mode after manually changing gear (the earlier system reverted to manual mode if the ‘flappy-paddles’ were used) This software can be installed in the earlier cars and this update sometimes seemed to cure clutch faults for a while.
Exhaust Box Bracket Rusted Through
"So, there was this weird rattling sound from the back of me Picasso, right."
"Yeah, well then it got louder and louder and then there was an almighty Keerlangggggg ang ang ang!"
"You should work for the BBC sound effects department"
"Yeah, thanks. So I stops the Picasso, right, and has a look underneath. guess what I found?"
"Dunno Dave, what did you find?"
"I found that the rear exhaust box, you know, the silencer thing at the back had dropped."
"Yeah, and it wasn't the silencer what broke it was the strap that holds it on. The exhaust silencer was in great shape, but the strap is as rotten as a pear mate. Rusted right through till it snapped!"
"Yeah, and the exhaust place want to change the whole thing, which is going to cost a mint mate. Said they don't do just the strap hanger bracket thing"
"Yeah, well you know what to do then don't you?"
"You go to EuroCarCare you prune, and order just the bracket from them. Here's the link mate"
"Oh! Ta dave"
"You're welcome. Do your fruit bat impersonation now, I like that one"
Turbo problems with 1.6 HDI Engines
Have you had your engine management light come on or experienced a lack of power or strange noise from your car? It could be that you are suffering from a common turbo fault. We have recently diagnosed and repaired several of these faults and have figured out what seems to be the problem. On the slightly earlier engines there has been a problem with compression gases leaking past the injectors and causing a build up of carbon around the injector, an audible blow from the cylinder and even foul acrid fumes getting into the cabin-yuk. With the later engines the same leak of compression gases is occurring but the carbon is ending up in the engine oil via the rocker cover, piston rings or valve stems. Over a period of time even with proper servicing the oil quality is degraded and carbon blocks the oil strainer affecting the turbo spindle bearings, which is not what you want! This can and has caused complete failure of the turbo and a knock on affect of throwing lots of oil and broken bits of turbo into the complicated air induction system. When all this happens, the turbo and oil strainer need replacing and the induction system stripping and cleaning. Obviously this is an expensive business but we try to avoid doing any unnecessary work by diagnosing the fault correctly in the first place and then only repairing the parts that need repairing. Prevention of course is always better than cure so you should always have oil changes carried out in line with the service schedule, but if you didn’t have a problem with your turbo you probably wouldn’t be reading this article would you? If your vehicle is still in its warranty period then this matter should be taken up with your dealer but if not, we aim to provide a competitively priced cure and all the help and advice you could need.
Grinding, graunching noise when parking, occasionally a huge TWANG!
Many cars with macpherson strut front suspension will suffer this one at some time or other. Due to the design the front suspension including coil spring must rotate with the wheel when steering. To facilitate this the coil spring is mounted on a roller bearing. Over time these bearings seize/rust/dry up/fall to bits. When this happens the spring is fighting against the seized bearing. If the bearing wins the coil spring will wind up like a clock spring and try to return the steering back to centre. If the spring suddenly wins it'll unwind with a big Twang or Boing (in extreme cases a blood curdling Ping). The lead up to all this is general grating noises when parking etc. The cure is of course to replace the bearing. Generally inexpensive to buy and we have lots in stock.
Why on earth is my heater / aircon hot on one side and cold on the other?
Strangely, the air conditioning and heating seems to be cold on one side and hot on the other. This can be intermittant, choosing it's moments, which renders diagnosis frustratingly difficult. Alternatively, the dual climate control air distribution can become somewhat vague in operation. The cause of all this we have discovered is due to the failure of a small piece of plastic. One of the flaps that controls air distribution mounted within the heater housing is driven by a beautifully under engineered plastic bar which after a period literally twists off.
Of course, the upshot is that the flap, driven by it's motors cannot move correctly. All of this is buried deep within the dash and is a complete biatch to get at. Just to rub salt in, the part is not available individually, but comes complete with the heater housing at around £1000. Once you've had this fitted at your local main dealer, expect to drive home £1600 lighter. The good news is that we have developed a form of keyhole surgery and can initiate a guaranteed successful repair that is much stronger than the original design. Expect to drive home with a smile and a much less bruised bank balance, as our repair will set you back but a fraction of the main dealer price. Clearly your vehicle will need to be with us here in Derby for the repair to take place, but why not bring along the family and spend the day taking in all the historic land marks and points of interest in and around Derby. Alternatively, wait in our comfortable reception area and overdose on caffeine, day-time television and inane small talk. For more information or to make a booking call Gavin on 01332 345869
If the suspension is "hard" and the car appears to be bouncing out all of your fillings...
The suspension spheres are more than likely done for. Over time, 6 to 10 years on average the spheres slowly lose their pressure. Each sphere has a diaphragm within. On one side the LHM fluid, on the other, nitrogen gas which during use is the compressable medium. If the diaphragm becomes breached or porous the gas side fills with oil. That sphere will then be about as useful as a chocolate teapot. At this stage there is no other cure other than to replace the unit (pairs are highly recommended). Spheres can be regassed or 'reconditioned', but this is only possible BEFORE they reach this stage. Buying new ones has become the common trend, mainly as replacement units are now quite cheaply available. For some models a 'comfort-sphere' is available which gives a softer ride.
We have been experiencing an upsurge in Punto ECU failures. Commonly due to water ingress from the heater matrix. There is a couple of fixes for this being A) have your existing unit repaired. or B) Fit a new replacement unit. The new unit will need to be coded to YOUR vehicle so will require aquisition (good word) of the four letter (apt) code. Fiat do make a charge for supplying the code.
Erratic or surging whilst idling
Some of the petrol models suffer a vibration or rough idle. This can commonly be sorted by replacing the stepper motor (also referred to as an idle speed motor, idle valve or motor) It might be worth trying to remove the unit and cleaning the solenoid. The fault usually returns after a while so the best cure is to just whang in a new 'un.
Everytime I go over a pothole or sleeping policemen (sorry officer) I get GA-Donk! GA-Donk!
The antiroll bar link (rod) ball joints have probably become worn. Like any worn ball joint, the ball will rattle around inside it's cup when agitated. There is no cure other than to replace the rod. The vehicle will have an Antiroll bar running laterally across the suspension from one side to the other. The rod links the bar to the lower suspension arm or track control arm. Most versions will be a metal (plastic on some ZX/306's) rod with a ball joint at each end. Early ZX's have a small unit shaped like a figure '8', whereas Fiats, Alfas and most Renaults have a pin & bushes arrangement. But, they all wear out just the same.
My drivers door has dropped and doesn't latch shut easily anymore
The hinges are welded to the 'A' post of the vehicle. Or at least they are supposed to be! The 'A' post is a double skinned affair, but in some instances the factory weld does not appear to have penetrated through to the second layer. What happens is that the single skin holding the door becomes weak with metal fatigue and eventually cracks and allows the door the fall away. If left indefinately the door would literally drop off its top mounting. Go out and check yours by opening the door to 90º and trying to lift the door. if any movement can be detected where the hinge is welded, or any cracking or weakness is evident, get it welded through to both skins. It is a very fiddly job and should be undertaken by a competant welder. this fault appears to be more common in estate versions.
I get a scraping noise from the rear brakes, but the pads seem ok
This is an odd one but very common in the Xantia, and is reappearing in the C5's (Come on Pierre you knew this would happen!). The rear brake caliper is mounted on a rear suspension arm bracket. Due to electrolysis (nice word) between the steel of the arm and the alloy of the caliper body, a build up of white corrosion appears. This happens very slowly, but like a daisy slowly pushing it's way up through tarmac the corrosion slowly pushes the caliper away from the bracket. Eventually the caliper becomes misaligned to the brake disc, which in turn causes the top and bottom edges of each brake pad to come into contact with the disc (the grating noise). In the end the disc can be unevenly worn. Assuming you can put up with the noise that long. To remedy this effect simply remove the caliper, carefully clean up the mating surfaces and liberally apply 'copper grease' to both surfaces befor refitting. This will stop the electrolysis for quite some time. Certainly till the next pad change.
My rear wheels appear to be inclining inwards at the top
This is due to worn trailing arm bushes. The rear arm pivots on two bushes and is held in by a chuffin' great bolt. The bushes wear allowing the arm to tilt at an angle. Makes the thing look like an 'overloaded VW Beetle'. Simple cure, get yourself a bush repair kit. they will come with all the appropriate bits to do the job. If however it has been left for too long the trailing arm housing may have become damaged necessitating complete replacement of the beam. Sadly For the Ax/saxo/206 brigade this IS the only course of action. Replacement bush kits are not currently available, however we can now source exchange axles. Please do enquire regarding price.
Rattle, Rattle Bloody Rattle from the back end !!! AARGGGHH
What you need my son is a new bush. No put the gardening supplement away. The Activa is fitted with a ram on the rear anti-roll mechanism. The end bush when worn makes itself known quite audibly. The bush will be less than a tenner and is fitted into a tapered housing so make sure you're pulling it out through the BIG end!
My beautiful twinspark sounds like an old knackered Cortina!
Here we have a classic case of poorly cam timing variator. It's virtually a service item on all 1.4/1.6/1.8/2.0 16 valve T.spark engines (97-02) & JTS engines (02 onwards) when changing the cam belt. Replacement of the variator will eliminate that annoying diesel type rattle when starting up, or at low revs and will also improve performance noticeably. All variants use the same unit, just ask for a 60666199 and all will be well with the world and your Alfa. (not recommended as a DIY job).
Total steering failure!
Pretty scary one this. On the Fiats, it'll probably boil down to one of two things. Either the electronic torque sensor within the mechanism has failed necessitating replacement of the whole column/pump assembly. Or possible failure of the electronic control unit which is located on the same column/pump unit but is available seperately.
Increasingly popular is the gradual or not so gradual deterioration of power steering. With the electrical pumps fitted to various Citroens and Peugeots giving up the ghost, common symptoms are intermittant heavy steering or permanent loss of power steering. (A bit hairy on roundabouts!). The system is protected by a fuse in the fuse box. This is of course your first port of call. Secondly, check the control relay. Early versions have a relief relay with a round multi-block connexion. Later versions have a standard looking relay. Both should be less than the price of a pint. If the relay tests out OK, then you are almost surely looking for a new pump.
Loss of power or intermittant no-go
Sadly another fairly predictable fault. Fuel lift pump failure on every Hdi version. If your Hdi has died on you, occasionally a hefty thump and a hearty expletive will get her going again temporarily. The bit to swear at is the fuel pump/sender unit located in the fuel tank (under the rear seats on most models). You may be able to 'limp' home albeit with little power. A replacement pump unit will usually bring performance and reliability back into the realm of normalcy.
Loss of power, poor performance or no-go
Increasingly we are seeing problems with the SL96 ECU. This is caused initially by coil pack failure. The coil essentially 'spikes' the ECU. Should an ECU require repair or replacement it is essential that the coil be also replaced with the new type bougicord coil pack, as this could well have been the actual cause of the problem in the first instace. Failure to do so will cause your new ECU to go 'poof' too.
Another favourite whilst we're on the subject of non-starters is the 'double relay'. This fellah controls fuel/ignition systems and failure can be a cause of fuel or ignition failure (strange that innit?). The unit is usually located under or around the ECU under the bonnet, or behind the headlamp. A few we've encountered have suffered water damage and/or pin corrosion too. The unit is usually black, or a rather fetching shade of terracotta darlings. But it doesnt always follow that like colours are compatable. They are commonly cobbled together by Bitron and sport an ID number on the relay body that will resemble 1304 or 1307 or some such. The multiblock connexion is also designed so that the incorrect relay cannot be fitted.
Airbag warning on (intermittant)
A possible easy fix if you're lucky. pretty commonly it is a poor or non-existant connexion located beneath the front seats. if your warning lamp is on, look for the (orange usually) connector beneath the seats leading to the seatbelt pretensioners. This connexion can be disturbed by rogue objects left lying around in the rear footwells (and it is amazing what you find there - embarrassing even), or just due to regular movement of the seat. If like me you are a strapping 6 foot 31/2" and you missus is 2 foot 1" the front seats are back n' forth like a fiddler's whatsit. Anyway, I digress. Either way, try disconnecting and reconnecting. If that puts the light out, job done. ....but it will probably reoccur. For a permanent fix get the connexions 'hard-wired'. A good soldered joint will sort the problem for good. !!warning!! please don't go prodding about the terminals with any sort of powered test gear. The seatbelt pyrotechnic pretensioners are electronically activated and could very easily be triggered, and then.... KABOOM !!
Ssshhh Click Click Click Click Click Shhh! every second...Accumulator Sphere
On a healthy system the click or hiss from a regulator should be approximately every 15-25 seconds. If the regulator ticks or hisses at shorter intervals than this, it is a sign that the accumulator sphere is worn and needs to be replaced. Much like suspension spheres the diaphragm between the gas and fluid inside the sphere perforates over time, and weakens until eventually all the sphere stores is fluid (and consequently cannot maintain any pressure). Get this changed as the accumulator sphere also holds a charge of pressure in the event that any component of the system fails (without it's assistance you'll be left with NO brakes, steering etc!). Luckly replacements are inexpensive, and you should notice an immediate improvement in your vehicle, and substantially reduce the load on your hydraulic pump :D
Clutch Down – BANG, Clutch Pedal Sits on the Floor
The dreaded clutch cable clip, which when it goes can leave you stranded. Citroens often have small nylon clips that hold the clutch pedal onto the end of the cable. The original routing of the clutch cable also often means that it is close to the exhaust, causing the cable to dry out and go stiff over time. The increase in pressure on the pedal (heavy clutch) causes the clips to deteriorate, and eventually breaks leaving you unable to depress the clutch or select any gears. If this happens in an awkward place, drop the car into first or second gear, and drive it on the starter-motor onto the pavement and off the road until you can be recovered (this fault cannot be repaired by the road-side). Replacing the clip is a fiddly job and it’s also important to check why the failure occurred in the first place (in some cases worn clutches can cause the entire mechanism to become stiff, though usually it’s down to a dry or failing cable). Replacing the clip is not a job for the faint-hearted as access is difficult, so if this happens to you, I recommend you give eurocarcare a call!.
Misty Windows that don’t clear, wet carpet, steam from dash vents, smell of antifreeze
Happens when the heater-matrix (which carries hot water from the engine to warm the cabin) springs a leak due to corrosion or damage due to excess pressure. The first sign of this might be a wet carpet in the passenger side foot well. Unfortunately it’s probably also one of the first components that gets placed in the car when constructing the interior, and typically means the removal of the dash-board in order to repair or replace. It’s a big job and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly, and it’s also important to find out why the matrix has deteriorated. A failing head-gasket leading to pressurization of the cooling system is a common reason (check for a leaking or flow restricted radiator in conjunction with this). The best action you can take against preventing this problem, is to ensure that you have your coolant changed every two years, and to ensure that the system is appropriatly flushed each time.
Hdi diesel - ticking noise or rattle
So, your normally smooth-running Hdi sounds like it's suffering an injector tick or tappet rattle. If it sounds VERY rattly STOP DRIVING IT NOW!!
Simultaneous Failure of Heated rear window & heater blower
Seems like a strange thing to occur, but it is pretty common. Saxos have an inherant fault with the ignition switch that causes both the heater fan and the heated rear window to become inoperative. The best remedy is to replace the switch unit. Under no circumstances attempt to source a feed from any of the other contacts as HRW and fan motor both draw heavily on current which will overload an already overloaded contact. Either that or invest in a fire extinguisher or some quality insurance.
Constant Velocity Joints
Typically, a great idea gone bad. CV boots used to be made of good old rubber. With time they happily perished, split and liberally greased your wheel arch with lovely black goop. If not regreased and replaced soon it was bye-bye CV joint. Nowadays of course thats all history. Boots are made of rigid neoprene and are virtually indestructable.
A/ Buy a complete kit from the main dealer for extortion + Vat, Throw away the new boot and fit the clip
wanna phone a friend?
Ticking Front Brakes
As Peter points out, an annoying ticking can occur from the front calipers on Xantias. This is caused simply by broken or corroded anti-rattle shims fitted with the brake pads. The ticking invariably is noticable at 40mph or less. The remedy is of course to either replace the shims, or go the whole hog and fit new pads which 'should' come with the shims.
An annoying and potentially dangerous and expensive fault is emerging. We are finding many petrol models of all makes coming in with fuel smell or poor fuel economy booking in. Many of these cars have the same fault. Simply fuel leaking from the fuel filter mounted under the car (usually near the tank). The cause is simply corrosion.
It's that stop-motion frame of Wile E Coyote just before the explosion that always raises a grin with me. Not so funny if it's in your Cinquecento or Seicento. fairly common fault this one. So much so Fiat were changing tanks under warranty. If you have a late Sei check with your Main dealer, they will have a record of whether the tank has been replaced yet. For older Cinq's or Sei's with that worrying fuel stench, check the tank for tell tale streaks. It's usually obvious. If there's clearly signs of fuel escaping, get the tank changed asap. If nothing seems apparant it's well worth pulling up the rear seat and removing the triangular inspection plate. Underneath you will be presented with the fuel level sensor and the fuel pump tops. Check for any dampness. This may not be blatent, On mine it only appeared after a couple of miles with a 3/4 full+ tank and it was a pretty minimal leak, but enough to make any journey a psychedelic experience.
Oil Leak from Head Gasket
If you own any of these variants you will undoubtedly come across a head gasket leak eventually, if you haven't got one already. They all leak from the right hand corner of the engine. It's a minor leak, they all do it, if you fork out to change the gasket it will return like last nights newkie 'n kebab.
Misfire - No power - No-go
Very common fault. Get your 'pencil' coils checked. The 16 valve versions use a long thin ignition coil (one per cylinder) that takes the place of the conventional ignition leads. They are sadly VERY prone to breaking down. A faulty coil, apart from making the car a pig to drive may cause catalytic converter damage, as unburny fuel will find its way to the cat and eventually kill the poor thing.
If she won't go, but the battery is good, the starter is spinning well. Check out the TDC (Top Dead Centre)/Crank position sensor. This little fellow can invariably be found residing in the vicinity of the flywheel. Usually fixed to the clutch bell housing.
Clonk! - over bumps
In a word, 'Anti roll'...thats two words. Ok, in two words. 'Anti Roll bar'.... Ok three. 'Anti Roll Bar Links....
If your Anti Roll Bar Links or Rods or Bushes are talking to you, the only course of action is to get them changed. Prepare to have to hacksaw the old ones off as the nuts are almost always seized. So make sure you get new nuts with your rods.
Screen wash bottle self-emptys
The screenwash reservoir on the 'ol Cinq is hidden under the right hand front wing behind the plastic wheel arch liner. Due to their placement the screen wash pumps (One for front & one for rear) are subject to pretty bad corrosion. So much so that they rot out and leak.
Clonk! - over bumps rides again
I can see we're going to have to have a dedicated 'clonk' section here. Anyway, both Cinq's & Sei's both have rear trailing arms that are rubber bush mounted at the pivot point. In effect when these babies wear out they will clonk summat chronic on bumps and potholes. On particularly lumpy roads I have been known to hang out of the window to check the skies, as it does tend to sound like you're being strafed by a ME109 ! (Ask yer Granddad) The recognised cure is to replace the trailing arm complete (£100+per side) The good news is that replacement bushes are available in the aftermarket. And for less than it costs to take the missus out for the night - and they're quieter too *grin* . And whats more you have a choice kids. Go for the original equipment style of rubber metalastic bush that needs pressing in. OR, go for the Powerflex poly bushes that can be fitted without the aid of any expensive tooling or a safety net.
Heavy Clutch Pedal
So, Your left leg is beginning to look like Arnie Schwartzenegger's. It's time for a little investigation.
For vehicles equipped with a clutch CABLE.
For vehicle with a HYDRAULIC clutch
So, all that checks out OK does it? In that case the problem lies within the bell housing and with most cars it means gearbox out.
If yours falls into the above catagory then I'm afraid it will almost certainly need a new clutch cover plate and bearing.
Whilst were on clutch doom 'n gloom, other symptoms of clutch demise are; Slipping when accelerating in gear, and quite often 'crunching' into reverse or occasionally other gears even when you are being especially careful.
Indicator Turn Signal Not Returning
Ok, so maybe that's a little heavy but either way 'tis not good. And it's worse still when it's not even your own stupid fault.
Many Citroens and Peugeots are making fools of their owners due to faulty self cancel mechanisms. The main offenders are those fitted with the COM2000 type indicator stalk setup. You know the one, you need a mortgage when they need replacing. Well, it appears that the culprit is just a naff little spring that loses it's tension, becomes weak and doesn't have the energy to return the little widget. Now I'm not going to recommend y'all start ripping two hundred quids worth of switchgear apart, but if you are a bit handy, have nerves of steel and a good eye, it may be worth a bash.
Stretch the return springs a little to give it a touch more oomph. Don't go mad because the sucker won't work at all if it's too tight.
Now, if anyone asks, you've not seen me...right?