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French car anomalies


grogee
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So here at AS we all know and love* the way our Gallic cousins nail their cars together, and we are painfully familiar with the consequences. We've all got stories of mechanical woes and some horrible repairs that should be simple. 

But riddle me this: how come it's usually the French, and not anywhere else, that makes the longest-lasting shiters? 

Example posted below as a tempter but I've lost count of the number of people who've run French cars that are absolute nails, and they never spend anything on them. 

Maybe we are past 'peak French nail' now that n/a diesels are hard to come by, but I knew of a 306 and a Laguna diesels that just wouldn't die. Maybe, it's the simple stuff they do well, and the more complicated bits they struggle with. 

200k 306 for shale:

https://www.gumtree.com/p/cars-vans-motorbikes/classic-peugeot-306-1-year-mot-runs-well/1418032805?utm_source=com.atomczak.notepat&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=socialbuttons&utm_content=app_android

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In my experience it's usually the electronics that have let the side down, with car crippling consequences. It doesn't help that circa 2000 French wiring is so thin and brittle you could spit through it, causing all sorts of intermittent headbangingly frustrating issues.

I think there's also a bit of a hangover from previous generations of thought that French cars are a bit shit, even after things improved dramatically.

Both of my longest owned vehicles have been modernish Renaults that have faithfully eaten up the miles with minimal mechanical issues and no rust to speak of.  The japs had better engines and electronics but it's minimal use when the chassis is disintegrating before your eyes.

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French cars I have owned.
Renault 18 V reg
Renault 5 F reg
Citroen AX L reg
Pug 106 P reg
Renault clio M reg
Peugeot 806 S reg
Peugeot expert 51 reg
Citroen c5 03 reg
Peugeot 107 09 reg
Peugeot 205 N reg
Citroen c4 07 reg
Citroen c2 sensodrive 54 reg
Citroen c5 07 reg
Renault megane 54 reg
Peugeot 205 auto K reg
Citroen Xantia activa S reg
Citroen xantia TD S reg
Citroen berlingo 54 reg
Peugeot 407 coupe 57 reg
Peugeot 107 11 reg
Citroen c1 16 reg
I think that's them all in order of owning them. The only ones that did not give 100% reliability was the 57 reg peugeot 407, and cant even really count that as it was mis fuelled, nut ran for 50 miles before it conked out, and the c2 sensodrive which was the worst piece of shit I ever had and continually broke down. No electrical issues with any apart from the berlingo which permanently had the charge light on, but it charged fine. Both xantia needed a small patch on the left side door shut. No rust on any apart from that. I think I haven't had a French car for about a year and a half now, as they do not currently have a modern which appeals to me, and due to health issues I am not able to maintain older cars. I loved french stuff before I defected to vag stuff.

Sent from my SM-T585 using Tapatalk

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I think there are several reasons that French cars are reviled by the average Britisher;

1. They're not German. German cars are engineered not built, and achieve progress via technology, also they're not as reliable as a Volkswagen nor do they have those soft return grab handles. A mixture of bollocks and fantastic advertising copy which has none the less persisted in the popular imagination.

2. They're quirky innit. Mechanics usually dislike any car which isn't screwed together in the conventional way, so they automatically take against any car where you have inboard brake discs or where you change the clutch through the glovebox. Mechanics are rarely backward in coming forward about their opinions so this became gospel very quickly.

3. They're French. Buying French is seen as putting dollar franc euro in the pocket of the enemy by many people, interestingly often by the same people who are quite happy to buy foreign products from elsewhere (see 1).

4. They are driven by middle class socialists. Hippies, dropouts, members of the teaching profession all love a nice 2CV or Renault 4. Somewhat disproved by James Bond Roger Moore (Renault 5) and Andy McNab (Renault 4).

 

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19 minutes ago, warch said:

I think there are several reasons that French cars are reviled by the average Britisher;

1. They're not German. German cars are engineered not built, and achieve progress via technology, also they're not as reliable as a Volkswagen nor do they have those soft return grab handles. A mixture of bollocks and fantastic advertising copy which has none the less persisted in the popular imagination.

2. They're quirky innit. Mechanics usually dislike any car which isn't screwed together in the conventional way, so they automatically take against any car where you have inboard brake discs or where you change the clutch through the glovebox. Mechanics are rarely backward in coming forward about their opinions so this became gospel very quickly.

3. They're French. Buying French is seen as putting dollar franc euro in the pocket of the enemy by many people, interestingly often by the same people who are quite happy to buy foreign products from elsewhere (see 1).

4. They are driven by middle class socialists. Hippies, dropouts, members of the teaching profession all love a nice 2CV or Renault 4. Somewhat disproved by James Bond Roger Moore (Renault 5) and Andy McNab (Renault 4).

 

I somewhat agree that was true 30 years ago. Definitely the attitude about 'weird' (inventive) engineering from French manufacturers. However we've now reached a point where the average French eurobox is determinedly conventional. Ever since Citroen ditched the hydraulic suspension it hasn't really shown any ambition to be different. (C4 Cactus a notable exception although even that's gone boring now). I can't think of anything whacky from the French since Avantime, C6 and maybe Espace III. 

I do agree there is an unspoken reverie for German cars - VW can get away with a decent slice more paid for a Golf than a Mégane and it's mainly due to the perception not the reality. 

I've often wondered if GM didn't miss a trick ditching the Vauxhall name and cashing in on Opel. Can't say I've met many Vauxhall fans who sing the praises of the brand but again, probably no better or worse than the others. 

The funny thing is, the Germans have a habit of reinventing the wheel unnecessarily too. On Sunday a mate was showing me his dad's 06 E-class, he was changing the heater matrix (TADTS). I grimaced, expecting the dash to be in a million pieces - but apparently it's done through the bulkhead? Never heard of that before. Also the brakes are leaking, and they get 'primed' every time you open drivers door, because Mercedes. 

Isn't it interesting* that the same wallies who voted Leave will never buy French but happily plough money into some Audi or BMW shitbox? A Euro is a Euro whether it's in France or Germany.

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Looking from France here are some of the reasons.

Distances are often huge and a lot of people live in the countryside - a 100% reliable car is a must. Cars are expected to make 150,000km + easily. Lots of towns have lost their shops so the supermarket trip is important. There is virtually zero public transport about in many areas and trains are expensive and infrequent in the sticks.

People buy cars to keep and run into the ground - they expect them to last. Things like decent ground clearance, able to stand sub-zero starts and interior space and kpg are really important too.

Only middle class city dwellers and those on the Riviere buy the French fashion cars that fascinate the British - everybody else drives the basic reliable box usually with few frills.

Equally  - flashy cars are looked down on by most French I know something to do with the Revolution and 1968. France remains a determined Republic of equals. 

There is a surprisingly limited range of everyday cars bought - most people are happy to drive the reliable box without much in the way if extras.

So all in all cars are seen as useful tools and expected to be 100% issue free.  People  are very unemotional  when it comes to cars preferring to spend thir € on their families and lifestyle in general.

That's  why middle of the rue French cars are a good purchase avoiding the fashion cars. 

We will see how the latest Cactus holds up - but I'd expect to see plenty about in 10 years time with dents and the paint falling off... 😀 

I remain surprised  how imported cars have still not significantly  go a foothold in France - its still largely Renault/Peugeot/Citroen.  Dacia have made some inroads but they are seen as virtually  French - Nissan/Toyota a bit..etc.

 

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One problem with French motors was that for years they were very heavily discounted or sold with attractive offers like free insurance, which negatively affected their perceived value, especially as they were popular with young or less well off people.

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1 hour ago, Daviemck2006 said:

French cars I have owned.
Renault 18 V reg
Renault 5 F reg
Citroen AX L reg
Pug 106 P reg
Renault clio M reg
Peugeot 806 S reg
Peugeot expert 51 reg
Citroen c5 03 reg
Peugeot 107 09 reg
Peugeot 205 N reg
Citroen c4 07 reg
Citroen c2 sensodrive 54 reg
Citroen c5 07 reg
Renault megane 54 reg
Peugeot 205 auto K reg
Citroen Xantia activa S reg
Citroen xantia TD S reg
Citroen berlingo 54 reg
Peugeot 407 coupe 57 reg
Peugeot 107 11 reg
Citroen c1 16 reg
I think that's them all in order of owning them. The only ones that did not give 100% reliability was the 57 reg peugeot 407, and cant even really count that as it was mis fuelled, nut ran for 50 miles before it conked out, and the c2 sensodrive which was the worst piece of shit I ever had and continually broke down. No electrical issues with any apart from the berlingo which permanently had the charge light on, but it charged fine. Both xantia needed a small patch on the left side door shut. No rust on any apart from that. I think I haven't had a French car for about a year and a half now, as they do not currently have a modern which appeals to me, and due to health issues I am not able to maintain older cars. I loved french stuff before I defected to vag stuff.

Sent from my SM-T585 using Tapatalk
 

My French ownership list goes something like:

309 GTI

205 GTI 1.6

nothing French for ages, then

306 HDi

806

Espace III

(can you guess I had kids)

Looking back they were all OK. The Espace had its share of electrical issues but some of them were (ahem) self inflicted. The 806 was tatty but I made it better and used it as wedding & luggage transport then sold it.

The 306 was nice, it had a bodykit I think and they are a nice looking car from when Pinninfarina did the colouring in for Peugeot. 

Tomorrow I have the pleasure of fixing a 207 front suspension failure/collapse (not spring, the owner insists). It'll be OK I hope, unless it's not.

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I think the 1990s era of French cars are unbelievably resilient old things. Provided you keep on top of belt changes they're almost as robust as the Japs mechanically, with the added bonus of excellent rustproofing. The inevitable and well-documented niggling faults will drive you mad but you'll always reach your destination.

 

My main car for the last 4-5 years has been a Peugeot 306. It gets used pretty much every day all year round. I bought it at 128k, it's now on 175k. In that time it's had a couple of services (including a cambelt change last year), the odd tyre, a set of discs and pads, an indicator bulb, a set of wiper blades... and that's it! Without a doubt the most reliable car I've owned, and it's absolutely rock solid underneath.

 

Now I've sung its praises it will probably shit itself tomorrow...

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5 hours ago, warch said:

They're quirky innit. Mechanics usually dislike any car which isn't screwed together in the conventional way, so they automatically take against any car where you have inboard brake discs or where you change the clutch through the glovebox. Mechanics are rarely backward in coming forward about their opinions so this became gospel very quickly.

It has taken years to realise that my mechanic mate will say "why the fuck did you buy that piece of shit?!" about absolutely anything that isn't a Sierra or a Cavalier.

He might let a BMW pass without turning his nose up at it, if it was built before 1995. Maybe a Capri?

Another mate bought a 911. Proud as punch he was.

"Its a fucking Beetle!"

 

For the record, I've had:

205Gti (£4k)

405Mi16 (£4k)

405 Td  estate (£400)

106XS (£75)

AxGT (£100)

Breakdowns = 1 Some twat broke the 205 rotor arm locating peg and it gradually turned on the shaft until it wouldn't run any more. (Yes, of course it was me.)

You can tell from the prices :

A. When I bought a house, and

B. How long ago it was I bought the AX (although there was the small matter of a wiring loom fire that was reflected in the price.  The 106 was accident damaged but was kicked straight and pressed into service.)

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my last car was a 2005 Xsara Picasso i dragged out of a hedge that hadn't been serviced in years and was knackered, that car had one failure to proceed when a spring snapped

it also shit it's clutch, but otherwise, apart from a pair of shocks it was 100% reliable and i did almost 40k in 2 years

it had some quirks, sometimes it would randomly turn on it's rear wiper, it would also put itself in economy mode at times

 

I now have a 2003 Citroen C5 with 164,500 miles on it i purchased off a random man from facebook at a motorway services hundreds of miles away

i have done 14k in it so far in the past 7 months

the autobox is a bit dodgy when cold, i'm getting that repaired in the coming weeks

zero failure to proceeds, has had a replacement starter motor and new rear arm bearings

it is a truly fantastic car, extremely floaty and exactly what i was wanting

it also has a few quirks

it likes to randomly change it's ride height when stopped at the lights etc

sometimes it sinks down almost to the floor overnight

sometimes the radio turns on when you unlock

drivers window switch backlight turns off for a few seconds every couple of minutes

i love it

to be fair, is it really holding up any worse than an equivelant passat/mondeo? i think not

 

never had a citroen let me down, i can say i doubt there will ever be a time when i don't have a citroen, i love them

i don't like german cars

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10 hours ago, MrGTI6 said:

I think the 1990s era of French cars are unbelievably resilient old things. Provided you keep on top of belt changes they're almost as robust as the Japs mechanically, with the added bonus of excellent rustproofing. The inevitable and well-documented niggling faults will drive you mad but you'll always reach your destination.

 

My main car for the last 4-5 years has been a Peugeot 306. It gets used pretty much every day all year round. I bought it at 128k, it's now on 175k. In that time it's had a couple of services (including a cambelt change last year), the odd tyre, a set of discs and pads, an indicator bulb, a set of wiper blades... and that's it! Without a doubt the most reliable car I've owned, and it's absolutely rock solid underneath.

 

Now I've sung its praises it will probably shit itself tomorrow...

Does your 306 have a clock that says the time is:

HORIZONTAL LINES

VERTICAL LINES

o'clock?

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9 hours ago, maxxo said:

my last car was a 2005 Xsara Picasso i dragged out of a hedge that hadn't been serviced in years and was knackered, that car had one failure to proceed when a spring snapped

it also shit it's clutch, but otherwise, apart from a pair of shocks it was 100% reliable and i did almost 40k in 2 years

it had some quirks, sometimes it would randomly turn on it's rear wiper, it would also put itself in economy mode at times

 

I now have a 2003 Citroen C5 with 164,500 miles on it i purchased off a random man from facebook at a motorway services hundreds of miles away

i have done 14k in it so far in the past 7 months

the autobox is a bit dodgy when cold, i'm getting that repaired in the coming weeks

zero failure to proceeds, has had a replacement starter motor and new rear arm bearings

it is a truly fantastic car, extremely floaty and exactly what i was wanting

it also has a few quirks

it likes to randomly change it's ride height when stopped at the lights etc

sometimes it sinks down almost to the floor overnight

sometimes the radio turns on when you unlock

drivers window switch backlight turns off for a few seconds every couple of minutes

i love it

to be fair, is it really holding up any worse than an equivelant passat/mondeo? i think not

 

never had a citroen let me down, i can say i doubt there will ever be a time when i don't have a citroen, i love them

i don't like german cars

Always wanted a floaty Citroen. Was offered one at low miles and low price a few years ago but turned it down because it stank of fags. Maybe it was the 'Gauloise' interior scent option.

Your story about acquiring the Citroen from motorway services is entertaining. Maybe we should make that a shiteing rule too.

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1 hour ago, grogee said:

Your story about acquiring the Citroen from motorway services is entertaining. Maybe we should make that a shiteing rule too.

I've just remembered, you're new, right?    It's already a Thing, I've done it twice!  I've also done handovers at other meeting points, one of them featuring one of the motorway cars!

I drove my Topless Saab down to Lancaster Services to meet my mate Dave (RIP) and reclaim my MR2 from him; then about 18 months later, met him in Preston to reclaim the Saab and leave him with what turned out to be his last car, a Rover 75.

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Citroen Ami Super 9/10 quirkness. Needed nothing despite the neglect it had obviously received before I had it.

Citroen BX Diesel  5/10 quirkiness. New, faultless  except for the miserably uncomfortable seat, while I put about 30,000 miles on it.

Citroen Visa   3/10 quirkiness. Ok once I had replaced the absent engine mounting bolt it came without.

Renault Alpine GTA  8/10 quirkiness but mechanically dead simple. The fuel flow meter for calculating mpgs and the stupid electric door latches were the only electric problems, both of which could be ignored as required.

Renault Avantime  The styling, body construction and concept 10/10 quirky but very conventional mechanically.  No faults until I broke the engine with flood water and insurer wrote it off at virtually no loss to me. (It was repaired and taxed last time I looked)

 

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Well. Some of you know about my Romahome, based on the venerable C15.

I bought this a long time ago for £1,500. It was a good example albeit with the awful 1.2 petrol. It rotted out after a few years and I liked the van so much I bought a more or less new C15 to do a body transplant. All done by a coachbuilder who specialised in Romahome body swaps. It was a financial event.

The engine on that C15 is truly great, but the second body is now failing, because it was designed in a stupid way. Also as said it has a lot of irritating electrical faults even when it was more or less new that it shouldn't have had.

Those are good enough reasons to dislike them. What's the point in a million mile engine if you only have a 60,000 mile body?

I wish now that I'd spent the price of the van and the transplant on a Berlingo. I believe they are mechanically quite similar, but the Berlingo had a galvanised body. One of those cars you could just keep going forever if you were careful.

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52 minutes ago, MrGTI6 said:

Check it out! 

IMG_20211027_101837.jpg

Amazing. It's nineteen minutes past something, and a balmy 16 degrees C outside.

From memory my 306 was surprisingly rust-free although the exhaust was soluble. Same as any other car.

I do love a temperature gauge. Maybe it's a British weather obsession.

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1 minute ago, chris667 said:

Well. Some of you know about my Romahome, based on the venerable C15.

I bought this a long time ago for £1,500. It was a good example albeit with the awful 1.2 petrol. It rotted out after a few years and I liked the van so much I bought a more or less new C15 to do a body transplant. All done by a coachbuilder who specialised in Romahome body swaps. It was a financial event.

The engine on that C15 is truly great, but the second body is now failing, because it was designed in a stupid way. Also as said it has a lot of irritating electrical faults even when it was more or less new that it shouldn't have had.

Those are good enough reasons to dislike them. What's the point in a million mile engine if you only have a 60,000 mile body?

I wish now that I'd spent the price of the van and the transplant on a Berlingo. I believe they are mechanically quite similar, but the Berlingo had a galvanised body. One of those cars you could just keep going forever if you were careful.

Absolutely adore the Visa and C15, I have seen a few at affordable* prices with the n/a diesel which surely goes forever. But yes I am sure they like to rot just as the Visa did, which is why there are no Visas left.

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I’ve found French cars seem rustfree until the day it goes for the test and someone pokes a bit of the thick mastic they spray on the sills and a 2 foot long hole appears. I remember the facelift Megane Mk1 had a bung that let the water out on the backs of the sills, we had a 3 year old one that used to make a sloshing sound when you pulled up, at the factory they’d pasted the thick rubbery shutz over the top so it couldn’t get out, poked it through and all this brown rusty water gushed out. Any MOT tester will back me up on this but most surviving 406 or Picasso are held together by rubberised shutz by now. The 306 whilst it would look fairly presentable were prone to the upper belt mounts pulling clean out of the C pillar. 

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19 hours ago, Daviemck2006 said:

Peugeot 107 11 reg
Citroen c1 16 reg

If it pleases the court, may these two be stricken from the record as Toyota showed PSA how to make a reliable car. I think Toyota only let PSA design the brake calipers?

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33 minutes ago, dean36014 said:

French cars? Positively hate them😁 The current fleet, just need to get the bx in for a MOT now since I've done a head gasket change. The cx is the current daily until the salt spreading season starts.

IMG_20211009_095449432_HDR.thumb.jpg.df8def7d6928ae32b9ababe75d432290.jpg

IMG_20210617_130811312_HDR.thumb.jpg.6575bcd612b1e944698bab6e9c6dbf2f.jpgIMG_20210404_174511902_HDR.thumb.jpg.56ab158d433adaeddd03c5a98891d397.jpg

Siri, define "humblebrag"

"The CX is the current daily..."

You swine. Of all the Eighties cars, the CX is the one I yearn for most. Preferably in Phase 2 grey plastic not earlier chrome. 

That is as close to space as any of us are going to get.

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