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French car anomalies


grogee
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From memory, my French car history is as follows:

Citroen Xantia S1 1.8 petrol 

Citroen Xantia S2 2.0 HDi 

Citroen ZX 1.9D 

Citroen Xantia 2.1TD 

Renault Scenic 1.9D 

Citroen Xantia 1.9TD VSX 

Citroen Berlingo 1.9D 

Peugeot 406 Coupe 2.2HDi 

Citroen AX 1.0 pez 

Citroen Saxo 1.1 pez 

Citroen Xantia 2.0HDi 

Peugeot 406 1.9TD 

They have been mostly reliable. I had the ZX for ~5 years and it needed little more than servicing and consumables. As for the others, they've mostly been moved on due to an approximate one in one out policy, the failures have been a long overdue timing belt failing on the first Xantia, the terrible clutch clip going on the VSX, the Renault was a dog when I bought it, and the 2.1 Xantia went crispy where all the estates do, in the rear door shut. 

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I’ve only had one French car, a 1998 Renault Laguna 1.9 dti RT. Very nice car, only got rid of it due to getting a company car .

Also bought my son a 107 but as mentioned before, being made in the Czech Republic from mostly Toyota parts , it’s not very French.

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to be fair, every HDi engined Citroen/Peugeot i have driven has had an excellent engine

that includes the 1.6, as if that is looked after by someone who knows their issues it's a very very good engine

petrols are meh

but their diesels are superb

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i'd love to get my hands on a 406.

there's 2 bizarre problems with that up here.

1, there's rarely ever any for sale (i guess sill rot in Scotland has killed 99%)

2. the few that do come up, the sellers never actually sell them. You always get the same response, they decided they can't let it go, was their dads car and holds sentimental value now etc.

In general, french diesels sound 'weird'. I can't put my finger on it exactly, there's something sort of wet sounding about their engine note. Most other diesels clatter, rattle or thrum, but all French ones have this slightly underwater noise. It's weird. I've never worked out why.

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12 hours ago, maxxo said:

to be fair, every HDi engined Citroen/Peugeot i have driven has had an excellent engine

that includes the 1.6, as if that is looked after by someone who knows their issues it's a very very good engine

petrols are meh

but their diesels are superb

The TU and XU are gr9 m9 engines IMO. My 1.4 has great torque for how little it is. It's leaky but good. Bulletproof too.

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3 minutes ago, Spurious said:

I can't say I know the modern stuff but the XUD and the later HDi DW engines were the best diesel lumps of their time. 

I think all French engine experience I've had are petrol. That being said, my dad remembers his boss' diesel BX having great pulling power and torque.

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Only actually owned 2 French cars myself. A CX and a 306. Both had to he recovered at some point. The 306 in particular left me stranded a few times, mainly just old car problems though and the CX gave me some terrible freights. Still want to own something with am XUD though

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Had a fair few French cars - the weirdest had to be a 1993 Safrane that I bought at auction (it was big and cheap).  2 litre petrol, 12valve (?) and sipped fuel on a long run. Lovely, big, big, barge to drive. Better than the previous diesel Laguna tbh.  Unfortunately there was a problem with no low down torque which we could never fix - tried all sorts - had to sell the car when we moved to a village at the top of a rather steep hill. 'Le Slug' (colour and speed) struggled even in first gear.
Most of the recent stuff through here has been French (and I'd include the 1.6 HDi in the Bini).  1.6 HDi Berlingo was ace at hauling ash and trash and kids and dogs and would tow a small caravan quite happily. Unfortunately a long drive in that always left me crippled with a bad back.

Happiest (also unhappiest) was a 1.7 C15 van I owned from new - bags of room, drove well. Ate one engine at 16,000 miles (dieseled the oil) then the new engine died at 64,000 (blew head gasket and left oil all down the M4 Motorway at 3am on Boxing Day). The dealer (Sands of Burnham) ran for the hills - put me off Citroens for all of maybe 18 months. Put me off buying new for ever.

... and, last night, Silver C15 on an '05 plate went past me -thought they were all dead

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1 hour ago, Fumbler said:

The TU and XU are gr9 m9 engines IMO. My 1.4 has great torque for how little it is. It's leaky but good. Bulletproof too.

drove a picasso with a TU5 16v 1.6 in it recently, it was actually alright

but it's their diesels that count

i'd like to see what their current offerings are like, probably smooth, efficient and quiet but less reliable

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42 minutes ago, EyesWeldedShut said:

 condemned as 'boring'

The obvious answer is to convert her by buying one. There's two (reasonably) affordable petrols I know of for sale at the moment, but one's a 1.6 and the other is a 1.4 TGE.

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My first French car was a 1979 GS 1220 Pallas in 1985. I wanted an air cooled car as I'd had enough of the smell of antifreeze. Beetles were most expensive and rotten whereas Citroens were cheap and rotten. Fantastic car. Really quick. Radio where the handbrake should be - so handbrake where the radio should be. Huge boot - I loved the way the bumper lifted with the boot lid. I had the spheres recharged. Then the accumulator sphere let go in a big cloud of green mist. Since then I have always just replaced them. I did 50 miles each way commutes in that - 6 months from Epsom to Finchley and back, then 6 months from Epsom to Gillingham. A window fell out and a headlamp glass fell off. Not much else went wrong. I got to love non-cancelling indicators.

Next up was a seriously scruffy 1980 CX 2500D Super. Moon and back mileage - probably ex-taxi by the holes in the dash. That car had to do Sittingbourne to Southend and back every day which was about 60 miles each way, including the Dartford Tunnel. The handbrake and radio were back where they normally are, but this car had the rotating drums and the knights helmet ash tray. It had been Ziebarted from new - which had not saved it from having rust all over it. A white, unwashed, rusty diesel was the best way to make headway in the Dartford tunnel toll madness. For some reason people would just let me through. A hydraulic pipe let go in the tunnel once and the big red STOP light came on - can't miss it in the gloom of the tunnel but I carried on until I reached daylight. 

I went to the breakers for something once and came back with a gold 1978 CX 2400 Familiale C-Matic with a brown vinyl roof. It had a big smash in the NSF corner and was missing the steering box. I was going to break it for spares but it was far more solid than the diesel (even without the benefit of Ziebart) so I went back to the breakers for a headlight, bumper and a bonnet. I used  the diesel to pull the front corner back where it was supposed to be and then took the steering box out of the diesel and put it in the Familiale. That showed me that there was something wrong with the Diesel's steering - it did not weight up with speed. The governor cable was missing. So I got another steering box and a cable from the breakers and put them into the Diesel. Then I discovered how good Diravi steering is. These were the days when there were loads of CXs in breakers. All rusty or crashed.

I did loads of miles in the Diesel. It began to lose oil. The glow plugs gradually failed and it more and more cranking to start it. So the starter motor failed. I had to leave the engine running on a visit to my parents because i didn't think it would start. An hour or so running left quite a big puddle of engine oil on my parents' drive. Remember it was a need to get away from leaky cooling systems that got me into Citroens? I was reminded about this when, somewhere in France, the debubbler exploded. With no garages or breakdown service working at the weekend I had to replumb the cooling system, blocking off a pipe with the extension from my socket set, leaving us with no heater. Turns out it gets cold in Andorra even in the Summer. 

C-Matic was fun. Although after a while the drive would disengage on right turns and roundabouts. The engine was on the move. Before I got around to shifting it back to where it was supposed to be the driveshaft tri-lobe popped out and all drive was lost. I scrapped it and swapped the front doors and bonnet onto the diesel which I then painted with Japlac and sold - in the dark.

This was replaced with a brand new red and white 2CV Dolly. Somebody had to buy these brand new and that somebody was me. This was good fun but I was disappointed to read the "Made in Portugal" sticker. I had to take it back to the dealer to have rust sorted out under warranty. I had to replace the silencer when it was only 18 months old. The dealer was rubbish. So I sold the car within 2 years and thought that was it for me and Citroens. 

But it wasn't. A few years later, in about 1992, I bought a 1984 CX GTi Turbo. This was a Series 1 car with painted metal bumpers. It didn't have the drum speedo, but everything else was perfect Series 1. An excellent car. Slightly less excellent after I rammed a Calibra with it. I kept it until I got a company car. The CX was great to drive. A front tyre let go at about 80 and, even though the tyre tread parted from both sidewalls, I could easily keep control. The electrics weren't great - I regularly had to thump some relays when it would not start. But it was fantastic to drive.

Around this time my wife needed to get rid of her 127 which she replaced with a GSA. The previous owner's dog had eaten the rear seats so we got a replacement set from somewhere. Despite having a bigger engine, 5 speed box and hatchback - or maybe because of all that - it was not as good as the GS. It was slower and the boot was not as useful. Kids came along so it was replaced with a nearly new 1.9 NA ZX. That was a great car. But boring. I wrote a column on the ZX for the Citroen Car Club magazine for four years - no idea how... Nothing ever interesting happened to it or any other ZX ever. 

And that's when the Traction Avant turned up. Which I still have. Several years later we got a Renault Scenic and an Alfa 156. The Scenic was a Y-reg facelift Mk1 2000cc auto top of the range thing with 2 sunroofs and picnic tables. The whole car was made of kit-kat wrappers. It wan an ex-mobility car which had had a hand throttle. This had been put back to standard before we bought it but they hadn't remapped the throttle pot so the car became progressively more difficult to drive. This took the garage several goes to properly diagnose. After that was fixed it was a great thing to drive. We took that everywhere - very quick and comfy. Gradually things broke or stopped working. The hazard warning lights would start to flash on their own volition. I'm sure that was an earth problem but couldn't find it. The car was really quick. Until the auto box crapped out after about 90k miles. Then we scrapped it and got a Golf.

Soon after the Scenic died, so did my Alfa (OMGHGF), which I replaced with a 1972 DSuper. That shares daily driving duties with the Traction.  The D demonstrates that the only thing worse than French electrics are old French electrics. The Traction gets away with it because there's so little wiring and none of it uses bullet connectors. The D has loads of them, all getting a bit crusty, and  the wiring diagram and colouring are just dreadful. Both the D and the Traction will need a bit of welding soon - neither of them have had any yet. 

So, that's my French car history.  Apologies for rambling on.

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I once owned a completely standard* ex Oxford CID Peugeot 406 2.0 Pezzer. 

Much to the chagrin of it's former owner, I removed the wheel trims and repainted the steel rims in gloss black. 

I didn't bother cleaning it's dark grey metallic bodywork. 

I may* have surprised a couple of people trying it on. The 65 mph top speed in 2nd gear and passive rear steer may have played a part in tearing a couple of people a new one in far more desirable* cars at that time. 

Fun times. Great memories. I replaced this car with an 18 year old E32 7 Series. As one does... 😇😇😇

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My first french car was a Mk1 Renault Clio 1.9D. I bought this off a friend as an experiment to see if I could run a car off veg oil. Being a Lucas pump, I had to twin tank it. This worked fine and I have happy memories of sliding off the flat seats whilst GLF round corners with it. I was scared it would need tons of work for the upcoming MOT so I randomly sold it back to the same person I bought it off when they returned from back packing round Australia, who then Mot’d it with no problems!
 

My next French car was a bottom of the range 206 2.0 DW8, I actually bought this for my OH but ended up inheriting it when she needed a five door. This was incredibly slow, I remember struggling up hills on the motorway with it. Overtaking required considerably planning and you were screwed if the asshat you were going past sped up.  Sadly the fuel economy wasn’t amazing either, especially if you dared to do 70.
 

It was however very reliable, annoyingly enough the only time it did FTP’d was when I was on a work trip, had finished early and I decided to have a look round Cambridge. it conked out right in the centre at a set of temporary traffic lights. I managed to join the RAC, wait an hour then call them up, the woman who answered the phone was raging at me. The recovery guy couldn’t have been nicer though. Sadly to have him recover me home would have been more than the car was worth, so he dumped it in a retail car park that he was ‘pretty sure’ didn’t clamp cars. 
 

I had to call my company and ask the secretary to quietly order me a hire car to get home. I then (unknown at the time but illegally due to my licence) borrowed a van and trailer and drove down from Fife to collect it and drag it home. Turned out to be a bad connection in the engine loom plug which I simply bypassed. 
 

The day the Mayans had predicted the world was going to end I drowned it in a huge flood going to work. I remember my OH crying when I had to call her and tell her I had killed her first car. Until then it had manage to clock over 200,000 miles. 

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I then had an Alfa, a Fiat and a Volvo before again going French with my now current car a 307 SW 2.0 HDi. This in now only 10,000 mile short of 200,000. I keep thinking about replacing it but I can’t find anything that I fancy apart from a Bini Clubman which I can’t afford! 

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My first French car was a Clio 182 , was expecting a whole heap of reliability issues but all that happened during my ownership was the reverse light switch failing.  I would have hated to do any engine work on it, the engine really was too big to package under the bonnet. You couldn't even get the dipstick out without scraping your knuckles. I would definitely have another. Great cars

The XM currently sat on my drive since April is my second French car. I will reserve judgment as I have still never driven it but some of the packing on that is , shall we say, interesting 

I had a part French engine in the recently departed Bini Clubman Cooper S but the less said about my thoughts on that the better 😂

 

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1 hour ago, wesacosa said:

My first French car was a Clio 182 , was expecting a whole heap of reliability issues but all that happened during my ownership was the reverse light switch failing.  I would have hated to do any engine work on it, the engine really was too big to package under the bonnet. You couldn't even get the dipstick out without scraping your knuckles. I would definitely have another. Great cars

The XM currently sat on my drive since April is my second French car. I will reserve judgment as I have still never driven it but some of the packing on that is , shall we say, interesting 

I had a part French engine in the recently departed Bini Clubman Cooper S but the less said about my thoughts on that the better 😂

 

My "need" for a CX is not being sated, and I keep wondering if an XM isn't a better* idea. I guess it might be possible to get one with functioning A/C?

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