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AX Weirdness


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Hi guys, new member here, long time lurker but glad I’ve finally joined the fold! Got a bit of a tale with my AX and a few oddities that I was hoping to pick your brains on! 


First a bit of context and intro to how we came by the car- bought the car in Feb for £250, so knew there would be issues. Didn’t get round to SORNing it before lockdown despite it being off the road, which was a blessing because the V5 in my name took 6 months to arrive 😟

Insured it in May, first chance I had to travel any distance again, once I’d fitted two new tyres, done a full service, a timing belt/w.pump change, and fitted a fan switch as it was inop. It did us proud over summer, clocking up many thousands of miles on many formidable roads - the A30 between Bodmin and Redruth could either be tackled at 70, or 35, and nothing in between, while some of the Cornish lanes had us crawling up in 1st. Only significant FTP (slightly binding brakes aside) was when we were on the return leg of a long trip, about to hit our rest stop for the night and the clutch went all floppy. Miss AxWomble was driving and managed to limp it the 1/2 a mile to my Aunt’s house where I diagnosed that the pressure plate had taken some sort of dump, because all springs and linkages were is good nick. Any touch on the clutch had it slipping and anything over 1/4 throttle gave slip unless you were very very careful.
 

Made it home from Norfolk to Cheshire on a wing and a prayer, coming back over the Pennines because our favourite curry house is in Hope, Derbyshire and we’re massive idiots. It made it! Can’t find a pic of the pressure plate now, but it was decidedly un-springy. Prior to leaving, I’d ordered a shiny new Valeo clutch kit on eBay for £65 so we spent a merry day and night fitting that on stands on the driveway. Naturally we spent 3 hours trying to get the box back in, before it slotted nearly back in when we weren’t even trying! So yeah, cracking motor, I know most of its issues now and it’s done us properly proud. 
 

Issue 1 - minor, the driver’s side mirror has a bizarre perspective to it. It’s incredibly narrow in terms of the field of view and creates a massive blind spot however you position it. Has anyone else experienced this? No idea if they’re all like that, especially as it’s a replacement that I fitted to try to remedy the problem, and it’s just the same as the first, 

Issue 2 - when in traffic, it sometimes smokes. It’s happened twice in 6000 miles, once in a ‘jam while passing Stonehenge, and once (slightly more nervously) while in traffic in South Kensington about to cross the Thames. With no warning, huge plumes of blue-white smoke that envelop the car and try to suffocate anyone with 1/2 a mile. Settles down once you’re up and moving again. No high temp light, no mayo in oil or coolant (coolant is completely clean). It screams ‘HGF’ to me but as it’s so intermittent, I thought I’d ask if anyone else has had similar? The valve stem seals are a bit tired too (I think),  it smokes on startup for a few seconds and then is more or less fine. 
 

And it’s a 1995 954cc, with 99,000 miles. TIA for any hints and tips you may have and it’s good to be here! 
 

 

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Looks like a nice thing to blezz around in.

Your mechanical woes are very similar to the ones I've had with my 205 (1124cc TU1). I did a head gasket and valve stem seals  5 years/less than 30k miles ago and it now has the same smoking habit-  mines done 119k.

Did a vacuum test with a Gunson vac gauge recently and believe it is worn valve guides/seals again- worn piston rings would give a different reading (apparently). I can't be arsed doing anything about as it only does a Red Arrows impression when setting off after  a longer idle, which isn't too often.

I wonder if the funny mirror is a LHD spec one- sometimes the glass is either flat or convex depending on which side of the car the driver is on.

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You can't make a much better introduction than with a high mileage AX on three stud steels.  Hope you get to the bottom of the smoking issue, since it's only doing it at idle when warm that should narrow the causes down at least.  Usuals are going to be a compression test, checking the plugs for oil fouling, and cleaning any filters, breathers, idle control valves, etc. out I'd expect.  If it's only doing it occasionally and you're not using any noticeable quantity of oil it's probably nothing to worry about.

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23 hours ago, MrSteve said:

I wonder if the funny mirror is a LHD spec one- sometimes the glass is either flat or convex depending on which side of the car the driver is on.

That was my first thought, as there was a fair amount of bodging around the car and I wouldn’t have been surprised, but then I changed it for another from a UK based chap who was breaking an AX and it’s exactly the same! Thinking of trying a RHD one brand new from AUTODOC seeing as they’re only a tenner

18 hours ago, vulgalour said:

If it's only doing it occasionally and you're not using any noticeable quantity of oil it's probably nothing to worry about.

This car is very Autoshite, I certainly feel like I fit in 😂 as for the diagnosis I think you’re probably not far off. Forgot to mention but it does like a drink in normal driving (worse on motorway, worse again if you drive at 70 instead of 60), oil needs topping up every 500 miles or so with a few good glugs, probably 500ml or so. Pretty worn out old thing but it scraped through emissions and oil is cheap! Valve stem seals would be first port of call p, I’ve even got them, but it’s a head off job and I’m tempted to leave it until something more major happens to prompt a head off, skim, new HG. 
 

15 hours ago, spartacus said:

That looks ace, I need to try an AX before it's too late. 

As has already been said, a compression test will tell you if it's rings or not, although I'm more inclined to suspect valve guide oil seals, and/or a blocked breather.

It’s a cracking wee thing! Absolutely no guts off the line but it pulls itself along very very nicely on A roads and can keep up with most people if you maintain the momentum! We were very lucky to stumble across it really, the chap selling it had advertised it for £500 4 months beforehand, had various chancers and no shows and then advertised it for breaking when I stepped in, asked what he’d take for it and got it that weekend. We were all set to end up with something from around 2000 with no character at all so I was made up to be able to afford something vaguely old! Values aren’t going to go down and they won’t get any less rare so grab one while you can! Parts aren’t too bad even, I’ve had plenty from scrapyards from Peugeots of the same era, trim is more problematic but even then there is still plenty floating around. 

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Welcome - I had a 954cc AX as my first car, as a clueless 18 year old I had no idea how to fix anything and as it was a shabby and neglected example it racked up some sizeable garage bills over the 3 years I had it.  I recall mine had similar issues at about 120k miles, had already had the head gasket done but always puffed blue smoke on startup and tended to run on 3 for a while when it'd been sat for a while, probably similar issues exacerbated by the previous owner never changing the oil no doubt. 

I found the same with mine, would hardly get out of its own way but once wound up to speed it was easy to keep momentum up on windy A roads.  Decent little cars really and very fuel efficient, simple and full of character, they don't seem particularly prone to rust either, given their age now.

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On 12/2/2020 at 7:23 PM, Six-cylinder said:

Until a year ago I had an AX 11TZX that puffed a little smoke on start up and I was convinced it was valve guides. I was planning to have the head removed and overhauled but sold it because I had a chance to buy my heartthrob!

Yes now I have an AX 14TRS Mk1

 

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Cor, that MK1 is a bit tasty! Unusual but lovely colour too. Well bought Sir 6cyl!

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You can have loads of fun with these. It's relatively easy to whack saxo running gear in and convert over to 4 stud. A 16v vts engine or 8v vtr swap is usually easier and cheaper than repairing the 1.0 lump and the 4spd boxes do run on the newer saxo 8 and 16v engines as we did it with a mates AX, very interchangeable without changing external looks (if you are into that kind of thing).

Can be made mental for peanuts or kept standard and blez around in them for years ..... Love them as a car but my feet are too big to comfortably drive them because of the tiny, closely set pedals.

Guess on smoking is stem seals and/or guides as others have said definitely worth checking all the breathers are clear though.

Worth getting the head overhauled if keeping it and shouldn't cost much north of £300 for a properly good head rebuild.

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On 12/2/2020 at 4:42 PM, phil_lihp said:

Decent little cars really and very fuel efficient, simple and full of character, they don't seem particularly prone to rust either, given their age now.

It’s a cracking thing! Beats my dad’s k12 Micra on fuel and feels faster and much (MUCH) more planted on a twisty road. 
 

 

On 12/2/2020 at 7:23 PM, Six-cylinder said:

Yes now I have an AX 14TRS Mk1

 

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Ooh, now that’s rather tasty! Early examples like this are well out of my budget but we’re planning to keep hold of this one for a good while yet - seems a shame to sell the first car, and I’d worry about it being scrapped within the year due to someone expecting a modern motor with no issues (or character!) 

 

On 12/3/2020 at 8:28 AM, lesapandre said:

Mine out in London yesterday - Herne Hill - with dent.

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Bizarrely, we were in that neck of the woods the day before you, visiting Brockwell Park. Small world! As for dents, mine has the tidy side (which is immaculate, it’s the nearside) and the offside, which looks like someone has had a go at it with a cricket bat. Odd because everything else I’ve driven has been scruffy and rusting on the nearside not the other way round.

On 12/10/2020 at 12:07 AM, chompy_snake said:

Can be made mental for peanuts or kept standard and blez around in them for years ..... Love them as a car but my feet are too big to comfortably drive them because of the tiny, closely set pedals.

Guess on smoking is stem seals and/or guides as others have said definitely worth checking all the breathers are clear though.

Worth getting the head overhauled if keeping it and shouldn't cost much north of £300 for a properly good head rebuild.


The temptation to whack in a 1.4 8v is pretty strong, especially given that the outlay would be less than £150 and I’d immediately have 75hp instead of 50. (Assuming none of mine have escaped, which is unlikely). A dodgy driveway head overhaul is more likely (I’ve even got the new studs and gasket/seal kit ready!) but at the moment I’m thinking it’s wiser to leave it functioning for the imminent travel over Christmas! I’d be shot if I broke it just before all our essential-ish travel! 
 

 I reckon a 1.4 would give it the power that it can handle whereas with the 1.0 it’s really punching below its weight and the chassis could take more. How much more nippy is it with the bigger engine @Six-cylinder?

 

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1 hour ago, AxWomble said:

 I reckon a 1.4 would give it the power that it can handle whereas with the 1.0 it’s really punching below its weight and the chassis could take more. How much more nippy is it with the bigger engine @Six-cylinder?

I would say the sweet spot is the 1.1 with a 5 speed gearbox carb or injection. Around 700kg so goes very nicely. The best bit is they don't seem much more expensive than the 1.0i.

My 14 TRS has another 10 bhp over a 1.1i but it does not feel very much faster. The 14 GTs and GTis are much faster. The GTs and GTis seem to command a huge price difference over other AXs which put me off. Also GT/GTi are fashionable and I would rather have something more unique hence my TRS. 14TRS is worth a bit more than a 1.0i but nothing like a GT.

1.0 carb - 45 bhp

1.0i - 50 bhp

1.1 carb - 55 bhp

1.1i - 60 bhp

14 carb - 70 bhp

14 GT - 85 bhp

14 GTi - 100 bhp

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My GTD out in London tonight. There was no real GTD - this is a 1.5D with some tweaks including rock-hard suspension and  and wing. Unusual light-metallic blue paintwork and some tweaking to engine - it goes very very well - drives like a go-cart. Original dealer plates and badge on back too. Of all my cars my favourite. 

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I had a 1.4D 3 door echo with GT wheels.  To make the rear wheels fit, I put a block of wood in the rear arch and jacked it out using a bottle jack a couple of cm. 

Oh and had to buy longer wheel studs as the ones for steel wheels only give you about 2 turns of thread when fitted with alloys.

The wider tyres improved the ability to go round corners faster, but reduced the acceleration and decreased the fuel consumption. 

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3 minutes ago, New POD said:

I had a 1.4D 3 door echo with GT wheels.  To make the rear wheels fit, I put a block of wood in the rear arch and jacked it out using a bottle jack a couple of cm. 

Oh and had to buy longer wheel studs as the ones for steel wheels only give you about 2 turns of thread when fitted with alloys.

The wider tyres improved the ability to go round corners faster, but reduced the acceleration and decreased the fuel consumption. 

That’s interesting. I guess the beams were different on the GT models, similar to the 205 GTIs rear beams vs non-GTIs? 

I’ve read claims that the factory steel wheels on the circa 1.0-1.1l models are actually the best all round for handling/economy. Doesn’t stop me periodically perusing GT alloys, although I had overlooked the wheel stud lengths.

Ref engines, I’d hunt for an AX GT or 205 XS TU3S (K2A) 1.4 engine and box. 85bhp and hilariously revvy. 

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15 minutes ago, ruffgeezer said:

The Gts had rounded rear arches and hence more space, the beam was the same save for thicker torsion bars & arb. 

 

Yes. That's why. I once saw a max power AX with rear arches off a nova. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 12/11/2020 at 8:00 PM, Six-cylinder said:

I would say the sweet spot is the 1.1 with a 5 speed gearbox carb or injection. Around 700kg so goes very nicely. The best bit is they don't seem much more expensive than the 1.0i.

My 14 TRS has another 10 bhp over a 1.1i but it does not feel very much faster. The 14 GTs and GTis are much faster. The GTs and GTis seem to command a huge price difference over other AXs which put me off. Also GT/GTi are fashionable and I would rather have something more unique hence my TRS. 14TRS is worth a bit more than a 1.0i but nothing like a GT

In reality a decent 1.1 is a lot easier to come by (and a lot cheaper) than a decent 1.4, so if it ever goes pop that’ll be the choice. It’s developed a very slight knock on the overrun (sounds bottom end rather than valves) which has worsened slightly over the last 1000 miles, so it probably isn’t worth rebuilding the top end if the bottom isn’t completely sound. I’ve got no clue on past servicing before my ownership either so it could have been horribly neglected at some point in its middle age. Early service history was a lady owner who did stratospheric miles in it and serviced it at good intervals but the bit between now and then is a mystery! 
 

Naturally this winter has thrown up some more niggles, but not related to running, mainly in the form of small leaks around the boot seal. Had a sizeable frozen puddle on the (thankfully) vinyl parcel shelf this morning, so some investigation into the boot seal is needed! The boot catch anchorage from @NorthernMonkeyhas improved matters enormously RE squeaks, so I need to make sure everything is still aligned back there. 
 

Last of all, some tasteful* modifications have occurred; 

First of all - a £6 eBay temperature gauge with a sender also from ebay fitted into the blanking plug on the top of the thermostat housing (I.e where the higher spec models would have it located). Wired in using a single feed from the sender and then the live and neutral from the illuminated ashtray - which has never worked since I swapped its functional bulb with the non-functioning one behind the heating/ventilation panel. Was amazed that such a low spec basic car had such a thing as a lit-up ashtray - French innit? 

Seems to work very well, accurate and true when compared with an IR laser thermometer thingy pointed at various bits of the cooling system, and goes up and down in a very reassuring way when the thermostat opens and closes. Blinding LED backlight too, which is handy for night-driving - I fitted a switch as I was worried it would glare a bit too much but it turns out that my left knee obscures it quite nicely when I’m not changing gear so I tend to leave it illuminated now.  Seems to run just above 90 and pushes up to 98 or so in heavy traffic if you’ve just been on a hot run. So the radiator could be a bit furred up, might look into that in the new year. (FYI, contrary to what this pic might suggest,  the car is a 4 speed, the knob disintegrated and a breakers yard Berlingo van provided a cheap fix! 

 

Second modification - some cheapo spotlights! Also an EBay special, gloriously shonky and requiring exciting levels of shelf related hardware to install on the bumper. Not wired up yet but should improve nighttime hoon potential enormously! All wired into the main beam of course so no wires need to go into the cabin and it’ll satisfy Plod if he ever feels the need to question the install....

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1 hour ago, AxWomble said:

In reality a decent 1.1 is a lot easier to come by (and a lot cheaper) than a decent 1.4, 
 

RE squeaks,

Remember that the 1400 from the ZX/ Saxo  early Xsara will also drop in, for rhe masochistic the later 1.6 16v Picasso engine is the same as the Saxo VTS but the mounts and gearbox differ so its not a straightforward swap - the AX is not the most rigid of cars so squeaks were normal from nearly new.

If its any consolation my much newer C3 suffers from water ingress in the boot, though mine is from tail light rubbers.

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Nice mod with the temp gauge. I've often questioned the priorities of the 4spd Citroen AX design team, with lack of temp gauge and rev counter, but illuminated ashtray and mahoosive analogue clock front and centre 😄

 I think the standard thermostat opens at 89*C.  If its up around 98*C in traffic that is a bit hot though, so I agree replacing the radiator, new 'stat, flush the coolant etc might be worthwhile. 

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2 hours ago, sickboy said:

Nice mod with the temp gauge. I've often questioned the priorities of the 4spd Citroen AX design team, with lack of temp gauge and rev counter, but illuminated ashtray and mahoosive analogue clock front and centre 😄

 I think the standard thermostat opens at 89*C.  If its up around 98*C in traffic that is a bit hot though, so I agree replacing the radiator, new 'stat, flush the coolant etc might be worthwhile. 

i disagree- the fan on an a-series maestro came on at about 100-102*c with normal being around 90/92*c which is around the same as my modern civic and pug 208 i used at work

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4 hours ago, UltraWomble said:

Remember that the 1400 from the ZX/ Saxo  early Xsara will also drop in, for rhe masochistic the later 1.6 16v Picasso engine is the same as the Saxo VTS but the mounts and gearbox differ so its not a straightforward swap - the AX is not the most rigid of cars so squeaks were normal from nearly new.

If its any consolation my much newer C3 suffers from water ingress in the boot, though mine is from tail light rubbers.

If a 1.4 was to fall into my hands, I’d think about it, but I reckon for ease I’ll be staying on old 8 valves! The squeaking was from the very very worn rubber on the anchorage for the boot catch - all cured now! Being a ph2 AX (or mk2, whatever it’s called) this one is fairly solidly built - everything’s relative of course, the interior does still make the plastic from inside a box of Milk Tray look pretty robust! Anything is better than ancient, sticky soft touch plastics in an old VAG product, so I’ll take scratchy hard plastics any day of the week! 
 

2 hours ago, sickboy said:

Nice mod with the temp gauge. I've often questioned the priorities of the 4spd Citroen AX design team, with lack of temp gauge and rev counter, but illuminated ashtray and mahoosive analogue clock front and centre 😄

 I think the standard thermostat opens at 89*C.  If its up around 98*C in traffic that is a bit hot though, so I agree replacing the radiator, new 'stat, flush the coolant etc might be worthwhile. 

They clearly had a very strict design brief! In other interior related news, just been out and been treated to a shower from the sunroof, so I’ll be going to see if my sunroof drains are frozen/otherwise blocked. It’s not been under any trees and they were clear in September so hopefully they just need a quick push through. The coolant was changed, along with the stat in May, so they’ll be fine. Will try to backflush next time the coolant is drained for any reason and see what that brings out, I’m expecting some lumps because the old coolant was like day-old gravy! 
 

46 minutes ago, Noel Tidybeard said:

i disagree- the fan on an a-series maestro came on at about 100-102*c with normal being around 90/92*c which is around the same as my modern civic and pug 208 i used at work

I think that 98 is around the top of the normal range for this engine, nothing to worry particularly about and I’ve not seen (since fitting the gauge) anything over 100. Should really pay attention to when the fan switch comes on, but it is definitely operating. Thank you for sharing that! 

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Ooh, one other thing, anyone had any luck bodging the heater fans on these? Some resistor or other went pop the other day and I’ve now got speed 3 or nothing - not a huge issue but in a slightly damp car it is nice to have full control over your ventilation! Also, running the fan on full means that all the heat is sucked out of the heater matrix so the air you get is never any more than pleasantly lukewarm. Have heard it might be a thermal fuse on top of the fan but surely that would take out all speeds and not leave no.3 working? Sadly a bit out of reach of a breaker’s yard currently so exploring other options... (unless anyone knows a good yard around Guildford way). Thanks! 

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Blower fan resistor - PSA make them out of the foil in Wriglys Juicy Fruit packs - 20 years on they still go pop for fun.

About 45 minutes of a job to replace - Ive done a Berlingo one and a ZX one.

Its a standard part over quite a lot of the PSA range that doesnt have AC/Climate and costs about a tenner - when the fail they fail open ( ie zero reistance) so its either ON of off

EDIT: Heres one on the bay - hunt about they are cheaper or yours might use the ERA unit which is cheaper still. Pull the blower motor and see what is fitted then get ye down GSF

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/163266487228

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