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2003 Renault Espace IV - 7/1 MOT'd again, lovely

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#1 OFFLINE   r.welfare

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 07:12 PM

Ever since I admitted, in my closing report on my Mazda, that I was replacing it with a Mk4 Espace and basically had no responses of support I did wonder if I had gone completely mental. After all, this is the car that came bottom in a reliability survey and is generally synonymous with everything that went wrong at Renault in the early 2000s, i.e. too much unproven technology too soon. But even so, given the number of Laguna lickers on the forum I wondered, how bad could it be?

The main reason I bought this, of course, was alcohol + price, that heady combination. £550 (offered and immediately accepted on eBay), MOT until February. I hoped, and still hope, that although this is automotive Russian Roulette I was taking at least one bullet from the chamber by selecting a petrol engined model with a manual gearbox in a low(ish) specification. There's only one way to find out...

Saturday saw me up early and being driven at high speed by my brother to Ampthill on the outskirts of Bedford, some 90 miles from my home. Arriving at the seller's house an hour early (a courtesy text unacknowledged) there was no response at the door, but the car was there - albeit I couldn't see much as it was wedged into a very narrow alley. We retreated for breakfast and half an hour later saw me shown around the car, monies exchanged and an uneventful drive home.

So what did I get for my money? As usual, a curious mix of the better and worse than expected.

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Personally I think this last generation of Espace (I'm ignoring the fact Renault released a new model last year in mainland Europe - it's more SUV than MPV) looks pretty freakin' cool. I love the TGV-inspired front end, although this causes form over function issues as we'll see later. The body is generally straight. The wheeltrims were a nice touch as the eBay photos showed none; the offside front is missing but a secondhand replacement for a tenner is winging its way to me to complete the set. Pleasant surprise no.2 was a decent set of boots; Autoshite-favourite Uniroyal Rainexperts on the front and Avon ZV3's on the back.

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On the minus side the seller spoke of "car park dents" but only photographed the nearside. I should have, of course, asked why - the answer is a small dent and scuff on the leading edge of the driver's door...

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...and a similar ding on the offside rear arch. Currently undecided about rectification, although touch-up paint is on its way.

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The seller mentioned that the keycard doesn't lock the car, hence a missing cover for the lock on the passenger door. Surprise, surprise - shaking the keycard produces a rattle, so the microswitch for locking will have fallen off. I think I will use one of the keycard repair companies - any suggestions, Laguna 2 fans?

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Not sure what caused this sill dent, nor whether I can do anything about it. The last Espace was built by Renault, rather than Matra, and in steel (aluminum doors and bonnet) rather than fibreglass). Like most modern Renaults, it seems rust free.

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Tailgate lower trim has a crack behind the numberplate and some damage inside, I'll be firing up the soldering iron to sort this out.

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The entire dashboard is pretty much a massive multi-compartmented glovebox/rattlefest with a thin digital instrument panel strip at the top. It all seems to work which is good. The engine light is on and the computer tells me "antipollution monitor faulty" which I assume is oxygen-sensor related. My OBD reader didn't find any codes and put out the light, but it came back on within 20 miles. Do I need CANCLIP or something?

The main downside of the car is interior-related - it ABSOLUTELY HONKS of cigarettes. This is very sad - as a former smoker I know it's hard to give up but the seller had 7 kids and I'd assume they've all had to dodge ash on a daily basis (blim burns on pretty much all the seats and trim panels). I've given it a wet vac today and once it's dry will take another look. The tar coming out of the dashboard plastics is unbelievable. There's also various broken or missing bits of plastic trim which will need a scrappy visit if I can be bothered.

Also the aircon is dead but I kind of expected that. I doubt it will be as simple to resurrect as the Mazda's which really was just in need of a regas, but I will have a word with my local aircon wizard. Finally, Renault seems to suffer the same as VAG with the rubberised coating on switches and buttons bubbling up and peeling off.

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Finally, the motor - the same as in the Megane, Scenic and Laguna 2, it's a detuned version of the Clio 172/182 engine with about 136bhp and variable valve timing via a dephaser pulley which Mr_Bo11ox has had lots of fun with. This one seems fairly quiet at warm idle, certainly not XUD levels of noise and vibration. Access is risible though, you need to take the pollen filter housing off and undo the mountings for the header tank and brake fluid reservoir to do anything! Just getting at the oil filter looks like a massive faff.

The best pleasant surprise was a decent service history - receipts from January 2012 until May last year, all from one garage for a previous owner (previous to the one I bought it off I think) totalling £3,800! This includes a cambelt kit (not clear on whether the dephaser pulley was also changed), the aforementioned decent tyres, offside front and rear springs (that explains some of the tyres then), a clutch and DMF (on a petrol - what!) and regular servicing. The fact that nearly 4 grand was spent over about 23,000 miles is pretty scary and lives up to the reputation of these motors.

It drives very nicely indeed, it has a 6-speed 'box which has a good change and the suspension is as you would expect, very cossetting, and the driving position is spot-on. I must say the Mazda has it licked for handling though, the Espace feels floaty and a real understeerer. The engine is super-smooth but it's not fast, I would say it feels slower than the Mazda which is odd given the weights are similar and the Renner has 20bhp more. The onboard computer is saying 29mpg at the moment but I've not commuted in it yet.

All in all it's early days but I've done around 120 miles now with no FTP so it's not all bad. Watch this space...


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#2 OFFLINE   Cavcraft

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 07:21 PM

Good luck with it, it's pretty good to see another roundly despised car on here to go with the Lagunas.
Those Espaces are actually ok to drive (IMHO) albeit a sort of detached and wafty/wallowy.
The feeling of being in a different postcode to the windscreen is quite surreal and equally cool I reckon. Does this have those stupid gear change cables like the slightly earlier ones?
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#3 OFFLINE   Kiltox

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 07:24 PM

It must hurt carrying those huge testes around with you

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#4 OFFLINE   r.welfare

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 07:25 PM

To me the gear change seems very good indeed, so I would suspect they sorted it out. It's based heavily on the Laguna 2 but I've not driven one of them to compare.

The windscreen is a novelty at the mo but ask me again how I feel about it on the hottest day of the year, if I haven't got the aircon fixed.
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#5 OFFLINE   Kiltox

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 07:29 PM

My Scenic is hell on earth on a hot day so yeah, fix the air con
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#6 ONLINE   Spottedlaurel

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 07:41 PM

Good luck RW!

 

I know Japanese cars seem to be your favoured choice for everyday motoring. I'm struggling to recall if you've had anything French before?


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#7 OFFLINE   r.welfare

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 07:52 PM

Are you kidding - I was a serial 405TD owner between 2007 and 2010. Had five of them, wonderful cars. But never a Renault. I do prefer Japanese cars, however they have left the 7 seater market and other options tend to be too old (Previa, Shuttle) or have their own issues like the Mazda5. It's a shame that Mazda seem to suffer so badly with rust and piston rings.

Sadly I think this Espace is too early to show Nissan's influence - my wife has a 2010 Qashqai 1.6 which is about to hit 140,000 miles, so even with a lot of shared parts the reliability still seems good.

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#8 ONLINE   Dave_Q

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 07:58 PM

Hope I don't jinx you or anything but it's a fairly modern car with a normal-ish pez engine, yes things may go wrong but surely nothing that will stop you getting to work?

 

Having said that I could only drive this if it was part of a fleet so I had a backup in case of explosions.

 

Good luck!


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#9 OFFLINE   Kiltox

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 08:01 PM

Hope I don't jinx you or anything but it's a fairly modern car with a normal-ish pez engine, yes things may go wrong but surely nothing that will stop you getting to work?
 
Having said that I could only drive this if it was part of a fleet so I had a backup in case of explosions.
 
Good luck!


Are you familiar with any of the Laguna ownership stories on here? :D
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#10 ONLINE   Jim Bell

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 08:06 PM

I bet you that could do the Kestrel run in 4.8 parsnips.


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#11 OFFLINE   r.welfare

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 08:14 PM

I too would be hopeful of nothing major causing a failure to proceed. The fact the cambelt was done 3 years and under 30k miles ago is (touch wood!) one less thing to worry about; I played cambelt roulette for 2 years and 20k miles with my Mazda, something I have never done before (I speak as someone who bought a Rover 214 many years ago only to have the belt snap within 20 miles of purchase). The smart betting would be on the n/s coil springs because I only have invoices for replacing the offside ones...

It's clear that these things were a step too far for the dealer service network and customers when they were new and they certainly don't look like fun to work on, so I would suspect that the models everyone wants (diesels - sub 30mpg and >225g/km CO2 puts petrols out of the equation for most) are a ticking time bomb as they age. Shame as they are such lookers IMO.

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#12 OFFLINE   purplebargeken

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 08:15 PM

Nice write up. I have to admit that these are handsome beasts. Not much money for a lot of car and one with a decent service history. None of t hat bodywork would be bothered with in North London, well ok, I might warm up the soldering iron too.

Cracking car and the cig odour will fade with time and effort. Very nice indeed.

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#13 ONLINE   NorfolkNWeigh

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 08:29 PM

I have mentioned ( once or twice) my Espace disaster, so won't repeat it here .
Suffice to say at this price point and with a 2.0 petrol the odds are much more favourable for you than when I spunked £9k on a DCi .
Bon chance! Mon ami !

#14 ONLINE   SiC

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 10:03 PM

£550 (offered and immediately accepted on eBay), MOT until February. I hoped, and still hope, that although this is automotive Russian Roulette I was taking at least one bullet from the chamber by selecting a petrol engined model with a manual gearbox in a low(ish) specification. There's only one way to find out...


For that price I'd (almost) take back what I said last and say give it a punt. These always seem to sell for good money (for a big French car) - often £1k to even £3k-4k. That's a bit much I'd want to spend on one of these. But £550, yeah worth a go.

Out of all the engines, this is the one I'd choose for reliability and economy - factoring in diese low fuel, high repair costs vs n/a petrol highish fuel, low repair costs (+simplicity).

Today I've just completed a 2x 1 hr 45min trip to Devon for father's day and in total done 1600 miles in a £520 Laguna II. Current ownership is 2 months in a few days. My FTP count so far: zero.

That's useful as, most of the key electrics are shared with a Laguna 2.

Verdict: Might actually be perfectly alright.
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#15 OFFLINE   The Moog

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 10:12 PM

They look very lickable. Let me know your dehonking tricks for the car.
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#16 ONLINE   SiC

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 10:19 PM

Aircon fault could be as simple as a aircon pressure sensor. Or maybe even a regas - especially if those ports are hard to get at thru the bonnet rather slim Access Hatch.
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#17 OFFLINE   r.welfare

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 06:21 AM

I'm hoping but I need to book in my local mobile a/c guru. Fuse is ok and the a/c buttons light up on the HVAC control panel but no chilled air comes forth and I can't hear the compressor.

I've read these things can require the aircon ECU to be reset which sounds a bit crackers.

On the dehonking front things are better but not perfect. Before I went at it with the wet vac I blasted a load of Stardrops so I'm not sure if the smell is white vinegar, cigarette smoke or an unpleasant mix of the two.

But there is definitely more to do. I think the next stage is to take all the rear seats out. These are quite clever as they are self contained units with the seatbelt built in. On the downside because of all the seatbelt and ISOFIX gubbins there's no foot room underneath as there's a plastic panel there, predictably half of mine are missing. And one of the seats appears to be stuck fore/aft, so I need to crack that too.

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#18 OFFLINE   Bren

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 06:26 AM

You would be better off with a pair of stout shoes than a DCi espace.

At least if it's petrol it has half a chance.

#19 OFFLINE   r.welfare

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Posted 23 June 2016 - 03:29 PM

Waiting for the mobile aircon man to come and have a look, so I thought I'd bring you up to date on the desnagging efforts.

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Euro Car Parts delivered air, oil, fuel and pollen filters for £25, mainly Mann which is my favoured brand. The pollen filter is simplicity itself, the others much less so. Jury is out on whether it has an external fuel filter anyway.

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Fourth wheel trim added which lifts the visuals.

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As does a lock cover for the passenger side. I will paint it in due course.

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Passenger climate control panels, old and new. You can see the extent of the peeled soft coating. Like a berk I thought I could change them over without removing the door card, not so! Thankfully it's fairly easy and I didn't break any clips. Also visible is the broken n/s mirror glass. The original parted company with the car just past Watford on the collection journey, so I bought a stick on job for £4 on the Bay. I stuck it on, realised it wasn't quite straight, unpeeled it and it cracked! So I bought a complete s/hand mirror unit instead for £8.99 delivered, looks like cap is the right colour too.

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Finally I was impressed to see that Renault did capless fuelling long before Ford. Current mileage accrued is 310, MPG currently showing at 28.4 on the computer. It's very smooth but not at all fast, but my goodness it is nice to waft in.

Next up will be servicing and trying to get the smell out of the interior...I think removing all the seats and steam cleaning everything will be the way to go.
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#20 ONLINE   Mr_Bo11ox

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Posted 23 June 2016 - 08:57 PM

NIce work Welf!!!!! I thought the 2.0 renner engine was very nice, even with a tired dephaser, above 1800rpm or whatever it was it was as smooth as any 4-cyl engine ive tried. The gearchange was nice too after I had oiled the levers at the gearbox end, fingertip-light and very pleasant. Spuds rating: 11.82/10


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#21 OFFLINE   r.welfare

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Posted 23 June 2016 - 08:59 PM

It's too early to tell but I do hope to keep the car for some time.  I think that the build quality and design engineering of the Espace is not up to the standard of the Japanese.  This, allied with the fact that the usual 2nd or 3rd owner of a 7 seater generally doesn't have the funds or inclination to maintain it properly, could spell trouble.  As I mentioned before, the 2nd or 3rd owner spent a lot of money between January 2012 and May 2015.  The person I bought it from told me they had various things done to it but there were no receipts, so the jury's out whether they were telling fibs or not.

 

On the subject of air conditioning, my local mobile guru (www.vehicools.co.uk, if you are on the Berkshire/Hampshire borders I thoroughly recommend him) spent a good 2 hours going over it.  The condensor (the aircon radiator) doesn't look too clever, having bulged at the bottom (in the same way a tired coolant radiator can do) and a number of the fins have consequently fallen out.  There was no gas in the system so this was replenished.  The compressor is not seized but, annoyingly, does not engage.  A fault code reader was produced which showed an error of open or short circuit to the compressor controller. 

 

A further irritation is that the location of the air conditioning relay is not clear.  My suspicion, from studying a PDF of the Renault workshop manual, is that it is somewhere under the top of the dashboard.  The instructions for removing that start with removal of the steering wheel and airbag - eek!

 

So at the moment the system is gassed up but we have no idea if it has a leak as it won't operate - frustrating.  In the meantime I am scouting the Internet for fault code DF090 and seeing if I can find a wiring diagram before we reconvene on the 11th.  Until then, I'm opening the windows (which helps to get the rank cigarette/Stardrops smell out of the interior I suppose)...


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#22 OFFLINE   r.welfare

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Posted 23 June 2016 - 09:04 PM

I must say I love driving this car.  It bobs around like a boat which might be soft springs, knackered dampers, or just the original specification, so you can't hoon it around with confidence.  Therefore I find myself backing off a few tenths and just getting it into 6th and driving smoothly to keep the momentum.  That soft suspension, allied to the comfy seats and tallish (60 profile) sidewalls means that it rides really well.

 

Off the line it's not very fast and if you wind it out in 1st it still seems to bog down a bit when you change into 2nd.  The higher gears are fine.  The dashboard rattles like an absolute sod in 1st and 2nd though, horrible.  I don't want to jinx it but the electric handbrake works very well and I've got quite used to it now.  Still leave it in gear when I park it just in case.  There's a fair amount of travel in the brake pedal and it generally feels a bit soft (they do work though) so not sure if it needs bleeding, new fluid, or a new master cylinder.

 

At the moment total spend inc. purchase is up to £640 with another £60 to come when the aircon man returns.  Let's hope chilled air is the result... 


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#23 ONLINE   cort16

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Posted 23 June 2016 - 09:26 PM

I remember my Dad hired one of these a good 10 years ago and I was mega impressed with it. I think a working one would make a great family car.


I estimate this car needs £3000 maybe £4000 spending on it to get it rite and when this is done it will be wotrth about £1500!!


#24 ONLINE   NorfolkNWeigh

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Posted 24 June 2016 - 02:00 AM

I remember my Dad hired one of these a good 10 years ago and I was mega impressed with it. I think a working one would make a great family car.


Somewhere there's a picture of 2 of my kids standing up through the big panoramic sunroof of my Grand Espace , with a beautiful Provence view in the background . On the way down there it had cruised the Autoroutes at 100mph , imperiously sweeping past the natives who obviously applauded the Rosbiff in the stylish car.
The range showed a 1000 miles at the first fill and I couldn't understand how anyone would ever buy anything else as a family car.

The return journey was in a Europcar Berlingo as far as Calais then a Europcar Jetta from Dover, I can't understand why anyone would trust an Espace to take a family anywhere.

Thing is I still love them, apart from a new Range Rover ( ironically probably as reliable) I've never driven anything that feels so good on long motorway journies.
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#25 OFFLINE   r.welfare

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Posted 24 June 2016 - 10:20 AM

Expression perhaps? Same spec as mine. The expression I wear while driving it is, of course, one of mild surprise that it has not FTP'd yet...are you talking about the one on eBay being sold by a dealer with a noisy wheel bearing for £695?

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#26 ONLINE   SiC

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Posted 24 June 2016 - 10:13 PM

If it's any help, the French usually buy the base spec of their native brands. Often suspected it's because less to go wrong!

Is there a authentique model? (Renault base). If so does that still have an electronic handbrake? The scenic authentique don't you see.
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#27 OFFLINE   r.welfare

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Posted 25 June 2016 - 05:56 AM

Think Expression is the base model. They all had a/c and electric handbrakes. The latter of which seems ok for now and I am getting on quite well with. Today's jobs will hopefully include servicing, looking for corroded wiring in the a/c compressor circuit, and fitting parking sensors.
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Posted 25 June 2016 - 06:00 PM

Ok so no servicing was done today but I did get the aircon working. I found, thanks to Google Translate, someone on a Dutch forum who had encountered the same issues as me and had traced it to corroded wiring in the loom. Underneath the battery are two groups of wires, and sure enough one of the wires was showing the green tinge of corrosion. Snipping it out, stripping the ends and implementing a Scotchblock, upon restarting the engine I found I had working a/c.

The compressor is a bit tappy and seems to be on all the time which may be a feature of this variable displacement (so non clutched) type. But it does blow cold, the question is I suppose for how long. The plan is to run the a/c all the time until the a/c guy comes back on the 11th of July and works out how much gas it has lost, if any.

The rest of the time was taken up removing the rear five seats and cleaning them outside the car using Autoglym Interior Shampoo and doing the front seats, carpets and door cards inside the car. Also the tailgate seems to use utterly shite two-piece trim clips which fail as soon as you look at them so an ultimately fruitless half hour was spent trying to sort them out.

In the meantime the heavens opened, which rinsed the seats pretty well. I put them all back and managed to free off the sliding mechanism on one with a big hammer so they all move fore and aft. The dehumidifier is now running to try and dry it all out a bit.
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#29 OFFLINE   r.welfare

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 05:14 PM

Motherhubbard! Changing the air filter is a royal pain in the arse requiring the removal of the pollen filter and housing, moving the brake fluid and coolant reservoirs off their mountings, removing the air box and trunking, engine cover and servo hose before you can unscrew the filter housing.

Then the fun starts, because this is all under the scuttle so you can't see it and have to relocate the bottom of the housing (using a variety of prongs and slots) just right before you can screw it back in at the top. Just getting that lined up took the best part of 20 minutes.

It gets worse though because the air box and rebuking connect via a cheap-ass rubber lip which is crying out for a hose clip. Of course it doesn't have one so I then spent another 30 minutes trying to coax the lip over the filter housing, either failing miserably or being lulled into a false sense of security only for the lip to part company when something else was done up. Quite a bit of time was also spent collecting these bits from around the driveway after I had thrown them in a paddy, which coincided with me wondering to myself whether I should take up smoking again.

Anyway, it's done now although after the multiple reassembling the new air filter looked dirtier than the old one, but I'll see if the MPG goes up this week. With the air blowing full tilt now the computer tells me we're around the 28MPG mark which isn't bad but could be improved upon.

On the plus side the smell of cigarettes seems to have gone so the interior clean can be deemed a success. Taking my daughter out on her bike (she's not quite at the stage of being confident on narrow pavement so we go to the local rec's 400m running track) showed that the boot space is less than the Mazda's in both width and depth, and I'd say the rear 2 seats are more Zafira-like in dimensions for adults than I had expected. Maybe this is why Renault sold the Grand Espace? Anyway my wife is making noises about buying a larder cupboard so no doubt I will get to test the load space very soon.
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#30 OFFLINE   Kiltox

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 05:16 PM

Interesting fix on the AC - I wonder if that's the cause of my Scenic's woes
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