Archive | CAT Inside Line

SMART FOR TWO 1998-2014


Way back in the 1990s, watch manufacturer Swatch had an idea that the manufacturing principle that it used to produce watches could be applied to cars. To cut a long and tortuous development story short, a deal was signed with Daimler Chrysler (as the company was then) and an all-new factory was built in Hambach which became known as ‘Smartville’.

Cars went on sale from 1998 with RHD versions (and official UK imports) from 2000. Having been through three generations, the two-seater model (originally known as City Coupé, latterly as For Two) it is the first two iterations that this guide is concerned with and most of this information can also be applied to the sort-live Smart Roadster. The three-cylinder petrol engine fitted to the vast majority of these vehicles received various upgrades throughout the production cycle, notably a start/stop system from 2008. There’s also a Mitsubishi- powered diesel fitted in some later cars as well as an all electric version, though these are rare.

The elephant in the room with petrol versions of these cars is the engine. Very early cars have a 599cc, three- cylinder twinspark unit, while later ones have 698cc and 999cc respectively. Loosely speaking, the the older the engine is, the fewer miles it will cover until a rebuild becomes necessary. According to specialist workshop Fudge Smart, the problem is with the oil control rings. These become ‘gunged up’ and prevent the oil being scraped back down to the sump. Instead it remains in the top end, causing the valves to burn out.

These engines are comparatively cheap to rebuild, but taking in a vehicle that needs such work is likely to knock out any profit that could have been made. Oil smoke and a misfire due to a lack of compression are the most common symptoms.

Not every misfire is a doomed engine. If you are lucky, it might just be the coil pack or the HT lead insulators – both are common faults on the ForTwo.

As with any forced induction engine, oil starvation can wreck the turbocharger. Luckily, this range seems to have pretty durable turbos as we haven’t heard many reports of them needing replacement.

Tridion cell makes vehicle safer than many believe

Tridion cell makes vehicle safer than many believe

Another common, and thankfully less serious, Fortwo engine part that puts the dash light on is the oil pressure switch. While a failing switch might be the cause of an oil leak, an intermittent illumination of the warning light may be the result of the pressure sensing part of the switch weakening. Technicians should also note that these engines are known to burn oil and therefore the oil level should be checked at the correct temperature and on level ground before diagnosis begins. (While the switch monitors oil pressure, very low oil level and air being drawn into the oil pump, has been known to cause the warning light to come on). An oil pressure check using an external, calibrated, oil pressure gauge should be used to also confirm the correct oil pressure before replacing the switch.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the lights although unless you have pipe cleaner arms the headlamp bulbs are a swine to change.

If the car won’t start and the indicators flash nine times when the key fob button is pressed, then the key needs to be recoded.

Roadsters have a specific issue where the wipers are impossible to switch off. This requires a new motor, but at least you won’t get any parking tickets.

Tridion cell makes vehicle safer than many believe

Tridion cell makes vehicle safer than many believe

Must and damp in the interior will probably be due to leaking quarter or rear windows as these. suggest that this is due to the original sealant giving up. Simply re-sealing the windows should keep the inside dry.

TecRMI point out that on early versions of the car, a faulty brake light switch can cause problems when selecting reverse while later versions brake light switch, clutch and software issues can cause difficulty in selecting reverse (N flashing on display).

Lambda sensors are a popular Cambiare part for these cars, often being replaced to get a car through the emissions section of an MOT test. Technicians should bear in mind that a spilt crankcase breather pipe can allow unmetered air into the engine and cause emissions related problems (causing lambda sensor and/or air flow meter fault codes). A blocked breather can increase crankcase pressure leading to increased oil consumption and again emission related issues. The breathers should be checked before replacing a lambda sensor unnecessarily.

The SAM unit, according to, can be a costly repair if it fails; with the main cause of failure being water ingress although this usually only affects roadsters. As with many parts of the Smart, the SAM is an unconventional design, as it is both a fuse box and an ECU in one combined unit. While it is possible to obtain a brand new unit from the dealer it is very expensive, so most in the trade will send them to a specialist for a rebuild. Note that you’ll need to send the main ECU along with it.

Posted in CAT Inside LineComments (0)


Santa_FeNamed after the mountainous New Mexico city, the bold styling of the first generation Hyundai Santa Fe got the model known in a sea of vanilla SUV-crossover models. For the second-gen designers, they decided to play it safe. The styling is so anonymous, you’d probably have to look at the badge to check what it is.

Nonetheless, these capable load-luggers are among the most popular Pacific Rim vehicles in the used car trade thanks to better than average reliability and a (very desirable) option of a third row of seats. While generally reliable, the diesel engines don’t suffer neglect well and manual cars can eat DMFs, due in part to the popularity of this range as a towcar.

Strangely, it seems that the spark plugs fitted at the factory on early cars were prone to breaking on removal. The plugs in question are Motorcraft PZT 2FE featuring an unusual two-piece design. Website explains that the crimped lower electrode shell that becomes coated with carbon, causing it to stick in the cylinder head. Rust and corrosion on the lower plug shell can also cause it to stick. When you attempt to unscrew the plug, the lower shell can twist off and get stuck in the head. If you are going to be looking after a number of these vehicles it might be worthwhile investing in a small tool that has been developed to extract it. Snap-On produce one in the US, if you ask your local rep, they will order it for you. Once you’ve got the OE plugs out, don’t refit like- for-like. Use one piece items (NGK, Denso, Bosch and Champion all produce good quality plugs that won’t break).

Some models had a 2.7 litre petrol engine known as ‘Mu’. This was an all-alloy V6 similar to an earlier DOHC Hyundai design, but with the inclusion of continuous variable valve timing. However, this must be rare as we couldn’t find any for sale and website indicates there are only around 300 registered.

Pre-2010 diesel engines were 2.2 litre four-cylinder common-rail units that came fitted with a variable vane turbocharger that has a timing belt that needed replacing every four years or 50,000 miles. This was replaced for the 2010 model year with the more powerful and refined ‘R’ type engine that replaces the timing belt with a chain and features piezo direct injection. As most vehicles in this range are fitted with a common rail diesel engine, it is perhaps unsurprising that most reported problems relate to the usual causes of contaminated fuel and carbon build-up. The Honest John website notes that it is vital to drain oil via the sump plug on this range rather than using a siphon as a tar residue can build up with inevitable consequences. Tec RMI note that Engine 2.2 CDi-R can suffer from non starting with following fault code P0611 (Fuel injector control module) stored. This is symptomatic of a faulty engine control module.


Third row of seats is a desirable extra

Early gearboxes are not the Santa Fe’s strongest suit. At launch, the second-generation car had a choice of four-speed auto on petrol models or a five-speed auto on diesels, or a conventional manual. The automatic gearbox was derided by journalists as being dated (most VMs by this stage offered five- speed ‘boxes). However, the unit itself is relatively trouble free, although care must be taken to ensure the correct SP III ATF fluid is used. The manual ‘box has reports of being low gears being too low – although this is probably down to customers expecting a big SUV to feel the same as a small hatchback.

Santa Fe’s have always been popular for towing (many were bought specifically for this purpose due to winning numerous towcar awards) DMFs do wear out and the master cylinder is known to give up the ghost occasionally, so bear this in mind if you are taking one in part exchange. Later models had a five-speed automatic and from 2010, a six-speed which was noted in contemporary reports for a harsh change.

The manual gearbox has always been noted for a notchy change, but if this is overly pronounced it is due to a production defect on the shroud of the gearchange mechanism, according to TecAlliance. The only solution is to detach the linkage from the gearbox and replace the shroud.

Another well-known drive train issue on manual cars is the cruise control. When these cars were still under warranty Hyundai attempted to repair it by replacing the module, but the problem seems to stem from the clock spring.

Only one DVSA-led recall affects UK-registered Santa Fe’s and it relates to an issue where the bonnet could chafe a fuel hose. The answer is a simple securing clip and it applies only to early facelift (2010) models. In the U.S the model didn’t fare so well as it had no fewer than ten safety recalls, mostly related to unexpected stalling.

Hyundai itself recalled a number of Santa Fe’s where brake switches may fail according to The Car Buying Group. This could result in brake lights not illuminating & cruise control not disengaging under braking.

It’s a heavy vehicle, so perhaps it is no surprise that front suspension arm bushes are prone to wear, as are other parts of the set-up. Other than this, we have no particular problems to report. However, if you take one in part exchange and the tyres are shot, be warned that the 235/60 R18s it requires will set you back £90-£100 per corner.

Tec RMI say that if ABS / ESP warning lights are illuminated and C1260 fault code is stored, then incorrect calibration of steering angle sensor might be at fault.

The OE head unit isn’t the best, particularly on the earlier models. There’s no RDS and reception is poor. A third row of seats (to make a seven-seater) was a £1000 option when new and is desirable to find today. The spare wheel is underslung under the vehicle. We’ve heard a couple of accounts of the spare being nicked and a replacements being difficult to source, so check it is in situ before doing anything to a customer’s vehicle.

TecAlliance explain that another problem is moisture in the passenger compartment, which is caused by the condensation water drain hose from the interior ventilation system, becoming twisted and not allowing the water to escape. Generally, slackening the clamps and running the drain hose smoothly, before retightening the clamps can easily overcome this problem. Dealer Chain The Car Buying Group report that sun visor mechanisms in earlier models could wear out prematurely, causing the visor to drop under it’s own weight and that the fuel gauge sometimes sticks, requiring a replacement tank float.

As mentioned, this range is popular with families that require a heavy towcar and any vehicles that pass through your care will very likely have a towbar fitted. Even the oldest first-generation Santa Fe is required to only be fitted with E-marked units (the ruling applies to cars built from 1998 and the Santa Fe was introduced in 1999). Don’t forget that correctly functioning towing electrics are also now part of the MOT.

Posted in CAT Inside Line, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, UncategorisedComments (0)

THE FORD MUSTANG (2005-2014) S197

Ford MustangThere was a fashion for retro-styled cars at the turn of the century. For example, you’ll remember cars such as the Mini, Rover 75, Jaguar S-Type and the PT Cruiser. Perhaps the coolest looking of the lot was the 2005 model year Mustang. It was the much-needed replacement for the SN95, which was itself a re-skin of the third generation built on the ‘Fox’ platform that spanned back to 1978.

Apart from the styling, buyers loved the traditional front-engine rear-drive layout, although reviewers noted that the live axle coupled with thin interior plastics made the car feel unrefined and tiring to drive. The normally aspirated V6 or V8 engine line up felt pretty old fashioned by modern standards too.

The car wasn’t officially sold in the UK, so the majority on the roads have been imported used from the USA and other countries. Ford never made a RHD S197, although there are a few out there that have been converted, notably for the Australian market.

Strangely, it seems that the spark plugs fitted at the factory on early cars were prone to breaking on removal. The plugs in question are Motorcraft PZT 2FE featuring an unusual two- piece design. Website aa1car. com explains that the crimped lower electrode shell that becomes coated with carbon, causing it to stick in the cylinder head. Rust and corrosion on the lower plug shell can also cause it to stick. When you attempt to unscrew the plug, the lower shell can twist off and get stuck in the head. If you are going to be looking after a number of these vehicles it might be worthwhile investing in a small tool that has been developed to extract it. Snap-On produce one in the US, if you ask your local rep, they should be able to order it for you. Once you’ve got the Motorcraft plugs out, don’t refit like-for-like. Use one piece items (NGK, Denso, Bosch and Champion all produce good quality plugs that won’t break).

If you have a customer who brings you a newly- acquired V6 and complains that it is sluggish, then he is probably right, but that’s how these cars are designed. In standard form the 4.0 V6 (which is not dissimilar to the Cologne unit you might remember in the Capri) is not as sprightly as the on-paper figures suggest. Unlike earlier versions of this engine, the 4.0 is of SOHC design with a jackshaft in place of a camshaft to drive a timing chain to each cylinder head. 2011-on V6 models used the far more modern Duratec V6 engine. It is more likely that cars you encounter have a version of the venerable Ford V8. These mills are tough and straightforward to service (other than the aforementioned issue with two-piece spark plugs). However, access is a little tight.


FM part missing on stereo

FM part missing on stereo

Unusually for an American car, the sporty Mustang is often specified with five on the floor.

The gearbox is not a problem in itself, but many used examples feel loose and notchy. This is easily sorted as it is usually down to worn bushes, bent linkage etc. However, the problem is symptomatic of an example that has been thrashed: bear this in mind if you are preparing it for resale.

Cart springs and a live axle were old hat when the marquee was first introduced in 1964, so it is perhaps not surprising that 40 years later Ford scored a fair amount of flak from the motoring press for continuing to use them instead of indepen


Lights need to be modified

Lights need to be modified

As with all imported LHD cars, the lights need to be converted before the car can be registered in the UK. As with most cars imported from outside of the EU, the vehicle will have needed to go through an SVA test before it can be registered. There’s a number of specialists that can help with this, but as it is always a DIY job, the results can be patchy.

Like most American cars, the S197 benefitted from various year-on- year changes, and as you might expect from Ford, the options list was as long as your arm.

Suffice it to say that 2005-2008 cars had fairly rattly interiors, where later models enjoyed a notable improvement in fit and finish. Standard stereo systems were pretty good, though most customers ticked the option of a ‘shaker’ sound system. If your customer’s goal is just to listen to the Archers, they might be disappointed as US radios only tune on ‘odd’ FM frequencies (94.3, 94.5, 94.7 etc). There’s also no RDS/TP or TA etc. As the dash supports a standard double DIN, your customer might prefer to update the head unit to a modern touchscreen model.

US-market cars are designed to be serviced every few months and don’t demand the high- performance oils that we are used to writing about. That said, the V6 and V8 in the 2005 cars are designed for a thin 5w-20 oil which can be hard to come by in the UK. Several of the Mustang owner’s forums show that many owners use a cheaper and more commonly available 5w-30.

Diode pack failure in the alternator is relatively common, and as it is not an off-the-shelf part you would be best advised to have the customer’s existing unit rebuilt. Fortunately there are a number of specialists such as Autoelectro that will be prepared to undertake this
for you.

Posted in CAT Inside LineComments (0)

JAGUAR XF (2007-2015)


Launched in 2007, the Jaguar XF was a replacement for the elderly S-type. While the
styling divided critics no-one could accuse JLR of producing another retro pastiche vehicle – indeed the car was all about modernism.

In 2008 JLR was bought out by Indian conglomerate Tata Steel Industries. a move which many commentators were sceptical about at the time, but now agree it was one of the best things to have ever happened to the company in terms of design and build quality. The result of this is that the 2007-2015 XF is a popular car in the trade, with values remaining steady after the initial drop-off.

TPMS sensors are prone to corroding and producing the MOT-failing problem of putting the light on. A lot of these cars were ordered with the 20” wheel and low-profile tyre package. These look cool, but do little to improve the ride and the rims often come into the trade with damage that goes beyond just scuffs. It’s a powerful car, so you might expect it to run brake pads relatively quickly, although there are reports that it uses rear pads faster than you might imagine.

On XJR and XFRS models there is a possibility that the rear toe linkage could have separated from the subframe if the vehicle has been particularly harshly driven. Other than this, all the usual suspension checks apply.

All diesels that don’t go on regular runs can suffer from blocked DPFs, though a search of forums including Pistonheads suggests that this range suffers more than most. A few people have reported cracked DPFs – presumably as a result of forced regeneration.

Diesel is most common power unit on UK cars

Diesel is most common power unit on UK cars

The 2.7 diesel is the only engine in the range to use a cam belt – and JLR recommends replacing it at an optimistic 112,000 miles or 10 years. As always, these numbers should be treated as an absolute maximum. The diesel engine was popular through the XFs run as it was reasonably economical compared with the petrol versions and sat in a low tax group (a situation that is likely to change in the coming years). Cambiare say that technicians investigating a hesitation, or stalling as the engine returns to idle, should bear in mind that the engine oil temperature sensor on these cars relays data to the engine ECU. This is used to determine the viscosity of the engine oil and control the operation of the variable valve solenoid. A failing temperature sensor could cause the valve timing adjustment to be set incorrectly, effecting running. A fault code of P0197 may be recovered.

Owners have reported problems with both Camshaft sensors on some of the petrol engines. Cambiare explains that it would be unusual for two sensors to fail at the same time, so the cause of the problem is likely to be the shared earth via the ECU. Technicians should check continuity of the wire, often Green/Black in colour, before replacing the sensors unnecessarily. Fault codes P1174, P1175 and or P1176 may be present. Fault codes P1106 and P1107 may direct a technician towards replacing the MAP sensor. However, these codes can also refer to the charging reference from the alternator being out of range and require the battery status monitoring software resetting.

Cambiare mentions that brake lights may sometimes fail to illuminate when the brake pedal is depressed after a battery replacement. Technicians should be aware that suspected brake light switch failure could also be linked to the battery power management system not being re-programmed when the battery was replaced. It advises that this should be investigated before a new brake light switch is fitted.

Relatively common faults identified by TecRMI, (the technical service and repair arm of the TecAlliance Group) include the engine dying and a short circuit with a subsequent fire risk. The first cause, which generally affects vehicles manufactured between November 2012 and May 2013 is due to the fuel pump stopping and therefore cutting the supply of fuel and is the result of a problem with the cable harness, which will need to be replaced. The second, which generally affects vehicles manufactured between September 2012 and March 2013, is also wiring related and is caused by the wiring harness being damaged through chafing against adjacent components and requires the installation of protective covers.

Leather is the only seat covering offered, which is tough for anyone who is repulsed by the idea of sitting on animal hide. This is unusual for Jaguar, as its models have usually been offered with an option of cloth. Generally the interior is good and hardwearing, although the touchscreen infotainment system feels a little dated now and the modules are expensive to replace when they go wrong. Depending on spec, you may find that vehicles come with heated or cooled seats and some models are specified with a Bowers and Wilkins or Meridian sounds system. Note that these vehicles use the fibre-optic MOST network. Don’t try to splice extra equipment into the loom – it won’t work and the car may refuse to start. Some owners report problems with touchscreens freezing – which is perhaps to be expected. However, some other electrical niggles such as ‘boot open’ light remaining on, could take ages to diagnose and fix – or they will result in an unhappy customer returning the car. The clock apparently runs a little slow and loses a minute every couple of months – though there’s not much you can do about this!

Cluster fault prompted recall

Cluster fault prompted recall

The XF has had more than its fair share of recalls. DVSA first recalled this car in 2008 for rear seatbelt problems. Since then it has had recalls for instrument cluster warning speaker faults, various recalls relating to fuel starvation and fuel leaks as well as power steering failures. These steering failures are down to pin holes appearing from corroded pipes with the resultant loss of hydraulic fluid. DVSA notes that this fluid leaking poses a fire risk. A further recall was announced to sort an engine-cut out issue relating to the charge air cooler hoses and resonator on some models built between July 2012 and September 2013. There was a production issue, which means they can leak leading to a risk of stalling. Most recently, in June 2016 the factory issues a further recall over an engine cut-out issue relating to sudden in-tank fuel pump failure.

Posted in CAT Inside Line, Garage News, NewsComments (0)


Renault_Laguna II (2001-2008)

Occasionally a vehicle model will turn out to be the gift that keeps on giving for the aftermarket. In last months magazine we mentioned the number of K-series head gasket sets that were sold when Rover 200s ruled the roads, but we could also have talked about R53 Mini PAS pumps, Vectra alternators or many other part numbers that for a time dominated the replacement market.

One car that was known as being problematic when it came out of warranty is the second-generation Renault Laguna. A few years ago it was famous for numerous small but significant electrical gremlins that would lead to odd instrument readings or limpy running, many of which were eventually traced to a poor design of sensor plug. As these cars range between eight and sixteen years old you might think that survivors would be few and far between, but in fact TecAlliance data suggests that more than 60,000 are still on UK roads. Families continue to hold this range in high regard thanks to the NCAP five-star rating and comfortable ride.

Rear axle bushes are prone to premature wear and require replacement in all instances. Wear is often identified by knocking from the rear suspension whilst driving over uneven surfaces or through cornering. The Renault Laguna II axle bushes are handed items and Motaquip recommend that they should always be replaced as a pair.

The Renault Laguna II can experience what might appear to be a failing crankshaft sensor but is actually poor or corroded terminals in the sensor plug. Elta Automotive explains that there are two versions, a black and a blue version. The original black version was prone to coming loose causing the usual symptoms of crankshaft sensor failure including difficulty starting, stalling, misfires and acceleration issues. The modified blue version was introduced to address these issues. Cambiare offers a kit to overcome this problem; this includes a new crankshaft sensor and multi-plug, since replacing just the sensor will not guarantee to fix the problem.

Cambiare also mentions that a fall of power below 2000rpm and failure of the temperature gauge to register variations correctly, possibly accompanied by fault code P0115- could be the result of a broken wire close to the temperature sensor rather than a failed part and advises technicians to bear this in mind as part of their diagnostic routine. Reader Steve Stokes says that rear electric handbrake wires chafing in the wheel arch often cause problems as do the fan switch and motor.

Laguna 1.9DCi engines can experience oil leaks from the oil pressure switch. Cambiare recommends technicians to check the oil pressure with an external gauge before replacing a leaking switch as it has been known that a sticking oil pressure relief valve can result in the generation of a higher than specified oil pressure. This increases the risk of leaks via the pressure switch and/or the turbo seals, leading to premature turbo failure.

When checking the non-illumination or permanent illumination of the brake lights, the problem could be the result of the brake light switch detaching from its mounting bracket. The switch is located under the dashboard on the passenger side and could simply be dislodged by a passenger stretching out and pressing on the carpet under the glovebox. The engine speed can vary for a variety of reasons, but one of the first places to check must be the accelerator pedal sensor.

The credit cards style chip ‘key’ for this range caused problems almost as soon as the model was launched. Notably, there is no way to get into the vehicle if the battery goes flat – and that the key can lose its code if left flat for too long. Hopefully your customer will have the spare key, which can be used to restart the car and will recode the main key.

Many aspects on the front suspension are known for failing prematurely, including the front coil springs says QH The Laguna II has relatively long springs so it is important to use quality replacements. The suspension arm bushes are also known for wearing rapidly. This wear can cause the control arm to be misaligned and affect camber.

There’s nothing particularly weird about the auxiliary and drive belts, according to Dayco and INA, though both companies point out that the idler and tensioner should be changed at the same time and the crankshaft pulley should be checked for operation. However, the specified replacement intervals on these vehicles is not a guideline – they will break if left on the vehicle for too long. Corteco say vehicles are likely to require a Torsional Vibration Damper (TVD) upgrade in the near future as these components are near the end of their operational life.

On Petrol 1.6 petrol models the alternator pulley rubber damper insert can fail due to tensioning issues, resulting in a noisy unit, and on Diesel 1.9DCi models fluid ingress can cause failure of the alternator according to Autoelectro.

The RMI-F say that all variants can have the ABS light on, but mysteriously have no fault codes stored. This is traced to water damage to the ABS module, which is situated behind the front bumper on the left hand side. The Federation also points out that models with the DCi engine can suffer intermittent loss of all instruments. This is usually traced to a poor earth connection bottom of the A-pillar from the instrument unit. The 2000-on Laguna was one of the first vehicles to have a TPMS system as standard, but the technology behind it is best regarded as ‘experimental’ – they rarely work.

Posted in CAT Inside Line, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, NewsComments (1)


Ford Escort RWDLaunched for the 1968 model year, the Escort replaced the Anglia in Europe – and was an instant hit with the buying public. The model never dropped from the top 10 registrations list here in the UK for its entire production run. Built in Halewood as well as in Genk (although Continental production was shifted to Saarlouis shortly after.) Over two million Mk1s were produced and the MkII also sold extremely well, despite tough FWD competition such as the Fiat 128 and VW Golf. The relatively austere spec of the basic models coupled with the potential for easy DIY modification lead to the ‘tuning boom’ that saw accessory shops stacked with products for all driving styles and budgets.

The vast majority of surviving cars are either the sporting derivations (which were all produced in tiny numbers compared with the main run) or have been modified – so make sure you know what you are looking at.


The first Escort built at Halewood doesn’t have much in common with the last, built in the same plant at the turn of the century. However, one fault common on all models of Escort is the rear lights, which are prone to water ingress and earthing problems.
On Mk1s, the Sporting Escort Owners Club advises that you clean all of the connections and check that the earth strap (on the underside of the lamp) is firmly secured. The club notes that big gains can be made by simply cleaning up or replacing the reflector on Mk1s, or using foil tape on MkIIs (as these cars have a plastic reflector as standard).


There are two types of rear bearings on this model, First Line advises. One fitted to the Cologne/Köln axle, the other fitted to the Banjo axle and the easiest way to differentiate which is which is via the differential. If it is built into the rear axle, it’s the Cologne/Köln, but if they can be separated, it’s the Banjo.


All cars from the 1970s rust and the Escort was no exception. The problem if you are asked to inspect a car today is not so much what parts are obviously rusty – it is more a matter of detecting what rust has been hidden or plated. Cover sills used to be a common bodge, as did bunging the wheel arches full of filler. Strut tops are often plated as this was a common rust spot. We could point out every last spot where these cars can rust – but in short they can rust everywhere and it is east to cover up. Fortunately, there are a lot of new pattern panels on the market. Euro Car Parts for example launched a wide range of body panels a couple of years ago. the steering rack. Top strut mounting and bearings can fail regularly causing the steering to become tight, which can cause poor handling, as well as intermittent squeaking noises. First Line recommended that when replacing the shock absorbers or coil springs that the top mounts are replaced at the same time.


A sad fact today is that thieves are targeting popular classics from the 1970s. You’ll read elsewhere in this issue about a gang that have been caught, but not before they cut up at least 30 classic Minis. If you are doing an inspection, known history is absolutely everything, but this can have come from another car taken off the road long ago of course. VIN plates are often replaced during restoration. If this looks like it is the case, then ask to see the old one. On a slightly less serious note, owners, enthusiasts and ‘horse traders’ have rebuilt bread-and-butter versions of these cars to resemble RS, Mexico and AVO ‘works’ versions of these cars and the real identity of the vehicle might have got mixed up over time. There are books dedicated on how to tell a real works shell and there is a large price difference between the real thing and a recreation – so check carefully.


Pushrod Kent engines were fitted to the majority of RWD Escorts built, but most of those that survive today have a version of the Pinto BDA engine, or possibly have a Cosworth YB unit shoehorned in. Pushrod engines of course do not have an overhead cam or a belt to drive it, but all the others do and require the belt to be changed every five years, even if the car has covered comparatively little mileage. Gates points out that if an engine upgrade has taken place, the standard OE belt may not be suitable. The firm is able to supply upgraded reinforced belts for Cosworth BDA & YB. Importantly, the company recommends a drive system overhaul – replacement of tensioners, idlers and water pump (where fitted) is always part of the belt. If you have an original RS2000 that is suffering from rough, lumpy idle and poor starting it could be the clearance on the exhaust valves say TecRMI.


Interestingly, Continental versions of the Mk1 had dual circuit brakes, while the UK had to make do with single circuit. All years with drum brakes pulling to one side under heavy braking are likely to have the wrong wheel cylinder fitted to one side, van and saloon wheel cylinder inner bores are different sizes according to TecRMI.


Changing early cars from dynamo to alternator used to be something auto electricians would be asked to do every week. These days, a car that is so original as to still have a dynamo will probably be kept that way, but for the record, RWD Escorts with alternators were fitted either with Bosch, ACR-series Lucas or Femsa units, but it isn’t uncommon to find unrestored cars.


Front springs on the Escort are thick, heavy and rarely break. That said, many of these cars were inexpertly lowered by means of cutting the bottom loop off the spring. Such a bodge should be remedied on sight – proper springs and lowering solutions are available from firms including KYB and Bilstein. Suspension arms are a common failure with their bushes prone to splitting, so First Line continues to offer the lower suspension arms, as well as the suspension arm replacement bush kit. The firm also offers outer tie rod ends, as these too can also fail due to the rubber boot perishing over time, which causes contamination and leads to premature wear.


Dashboards were often cut about to accommodate extra switches or stereo gear – but note that an unmolested dash does increase value. RS version had a charcoal headlining where other models have a cream one. Almost everything can be re-trimmed or repaired at a price, but not everything is available new.

Posted in CAT Inside Line, Garage News, NewsComments (0)


Fiat Ducato

Fiat Ducato

Way back in 1978 a joint venture between several European VMs lead to an enormous factory being constructed in Atessa, Italy. The factory covered some 3.7m sq ft and was dedicated to producing just one product – an LCV. The product was available in a variety of configurations and weights, but what was curious was the amount of badge engineering that went on. The original model was available as the Fiat Ducato, Peugeot J5, Citroen C25 and even as an Alfa Romeo. However in the UK the range is best remembered as the Talbot Express – the last model to bear the Talbot name and the basis for thousands of motorhomes, many of which are still running.

Fast forward to 2007 and the ‘Sevel’ (an acronym in French that translates as ‘European light vehicle company’) joint venture is still operational with the third generation model entering production. Available in the UK as Peugeot Boxer and Citroen Relay and Fiat Ducato the range still produced, having undergone a facelift in 2014. This guide is applicable to all of this range, though we have focussed on the 2.2 and 2.3 Multijet Fiat models.

Brake light switches for these models are a popular part say Cambiare. Apparently the routing of the loom around the pedal box causes the problem, so chaffed or broken wires could be the root cause.

The reversing light occasionally goes wrong, which curiously is caused by water entering the gearbox via an incorrectly routed drain pipe at the base of the windscreen. Another symptom of this condition is the corrosion of the gear change linkage, say Cambiare leading to stiff operation. This will require draining and refilling of the gearbox to prevent a recurrence of this and other related problems.

There was a manufacturer recall to check and tighten incorrectly torqued rear leaf spring “U” bolts that secured the leaf spring to the rear axle. Motaquip recommends that damaged bolts should be replaced as a matter of course and should be tightened to the recommended torque levels.

The high centre of gravity coupled with the use a van gets can cause premature wear of the ball joint according to Meyle. The firm produces a replacement stabiliser link with an over-engineered ball pin diameter to counter this. A lack of lubrication between the steering rack and pinion during manufacture can be diagnosed through increasingly difficult steering operation say Motaquip. The lack of lubrication and excessive levels of strain can lead to premature damage to the steering rack. Top strut mounting and bearings can fail regularly causing the steering to become tight, which can cause poor handling, as well as intermittent squeaking noises. First Line recommended that when replacing the shock absorbers or coil springs that the top mounts are replaced at the same time.

Generally, the cooling system on this range is reliable, provided it has been filled with the correct grade of coolant. However, a number of garages have taken in vehicles reading strange temperature levels. The cause is not the temperature sensor (as is often thought) but dry solder joints on the instrument cluster. Another fault on the 2.3 Multijet that leads the driver to think their van is loosing its cool is down to a corroded part of the loom. This manifests as P0482 and should be an easy fix, say RMI.

Cambiare mentions that the JTD engine in Ducatos can be susceptible to the failure of the crankshaft sensor after approx. 50,000 miles. The engine cutting out intermittently after it has reached the operating temperature and failing to restart until it has cooled down again often accompanies this. Failure to start from cold may also be the result of a faulty crankshaft sensor, generally indicated by the fault code P0335. Engine hesitation, failure to start and irregular idle speeds can be attributed to a faulty EGR Valve. Motaquip recommends the replacement of the EGR Valve rather than the temporary solution of cleaning the faulty item.

When changing the clutch on these vehicles it is vitally important to check for any signs of oil contamination from inside the gearbox say LuK. Any leaks should then be rectified before the new clutch is fitted. Failure to rectify these leaks could lead to the new clutch slipping. When the old clutch components are removed from the gearbox carry out a visual comparison of the old clutch and Concentric Slave Cylinder (CSC) against the new. Don’t be tempted to ignore the CSC replacement when changing the clutch; remember it’s a bearing and the last thing you and your customer wants is to be removing the gearbox again.

On the Ducato 2.0D, 2.2D and 3.0D, check the Over Running Alternator Pulley (OAP), if excessive Front End Auxiliary Drive (FEAD) tensioner movement, or belt squeal is evident. The 2.3D has a TVD, and this should be checked regularly according to INA.

There’s nothing particularly odd about the lubricants for this range, though Comma point out that long service intervals and multi-drop driving can lead to engine oil needing a couple of top-ups between services – a fact the user might need reminding of. Long-life servicing often appears on these pages as the basis of faults. These vehicles often appear at garages with the oil pressure light on – a fault that must be rectified immediately. Cambiare note that garages will often reach for a new pressure switch, but the problem is often that the structure of the oil has collapsed. This can be checked with an external gauge. Forté recommends an engine flush with one of its products if the oil has been allowed to deteriorate this far. This range doesn’t just lose oil by burning it. Cambiare advise that oil leaks could be the result of a leaking oil pressure switch. However, technicians tracing leaks should also bear in mind that Ducato-based motorhomes in particular can experience corroded or porous sumps due to long periods of non-use.

Sticky windows are a problem common among infrequently used motorhomes. If there is a rotating, clanking or crunching sound when the switch is operated or the window is sticking and requires a knock or push to start moving, then the regulator mechanism is likely to be at fault say Lucas Electrical supplier Elta Automotive. Corrosion causes the sticking and explains why a knock can send the window on its way. If left like this, cables may break and the mechanism will fail completely. No noise or movement when the switch is operated can point to motor failure but always check the fuses and switches before replacement. Motors usually fail due to excessive strain caused by corrosion in the mechanism or trying to lower frozen windows. If the central locking fails it is probably due to the module under the facia say RMI, while Motaquip points out that rapid an unexplained battery drain is often due to an alarm module under the seat shorting out due to water ingress. Rust is less of an issue on these vans compared with their predecessors, but silver paint (as used on the Ducato) has an odd tendency to peel off.

Posted in CAT Inside LineComments (0)

FIAT 500 (2007-2015)

Fiat 500 (2007-2015)Cashing in on a spate of retro-styled vehicles, Fiat scored an immediate hit with the 500. Launched as a two-door hatchback and a cabrio, the
vehicle sold more than 1.5 million units during it’s seven year run and paved the way for the re-introduction to the North American market.

Curiously, the 500 was far more successful than the second-generation Ford Ka, with which it shared a platform – despite the fact that the Ford had a more comfortable suspension set up.

Engines include a naturally-aspirated 1.2 petrol, a more perky 1.3 and 1.4 petrol as well as a Multijet common-rail diesel unit. From 2010 onwards a Twinair version was also available. These two-cylinder engines are more similar in concept to the 1950s car, although the engineering could not be more different.

Just to confuse things, a special edition called ‘By Diesel’ was launched available in 1.2 and 1.4 petrol only!


Such is the way that these cars are configured when they were ordered there is a confusing array of wheel size combinations available for the same car. Briefly, you could order the car with 14,15 or 16” wheels. says that tyres should always be H-rated.


Anyone buying a Fiat 500 will have to get used to a choppy ride, particularly on pre-2010 models (there were a few changes made to the set-up in later cars). The says that this harshness is due in part to the engine, with the 1.4 being the harshest and the 1.3 being the smoothest. Oddly, forum members indicate that the ride comfort can actually be improved with the fitment of Bilstein B14 sports dampers, although lowering a car is not usually associated with increased comfort.

Other members report that Koni FSD dampers can also be used as an aftermarket upgrade to the suspension. TecAlliance suggests that fitting a special plastic cover to the coil spring upper winding will sort this out.


Motaquip points out that upper shock absorber bushes are known to fail prematurely, causing knocking and vibration to occur within rear suspension components.

First Line note the odd fact that models fitted with Xenon headlights have a unique left hand suspension arm that differs from the standard left hand arm by having threaded mounting points for the headlight adjustment.


1.2 and 1.4 petrol models have a known issue with the drive belt becoming loose say Autoelectro. This can be caused due to either incorrect tensioning of the drive belt or the belt has become stretched. This fault can result in belt slippage and the alternator to charge incorrectly. The firm also say that the 1.3 JTD/Multijet models with stop start have a known issue where the start-stop system fails to automatically re-start the engine. This fault is caused by a fault with the vehicles engine control module.


On all petrol models a smell of engine burning oil indicates the crankcase breather pipe down the back of the engine hair line splitting, causing fumes to enter the heating system according to the RMI.

The RMI also point out that if the engine oil pressure warning illuminates intermittently then there is an ECU issue that can be fixed with a software flash (unless of course there really is an issue with oil pressure drop, in which case the remedy is likely to be substantially more expensive).

Petronas say that care is needed when choosing the correct oil grade: 85hp Twinair requires a synthetic 5w-40 meeting ACEA C3, but the otherwise identical 65hp needs a synth 0w-30 meeting ACEA C2.

Comma Oil remind us that Fiat specify a two-year change interval for a reason: The system is hard worked and will degrade over time.


Surprisingly, there have been no fewer than ten DVSA recalls on this range. These include fuel leaking from the manifold and a risk of rear brake lock up. Worryingly (and we think uniquely) there was a risk of the wrong airbag deploying on certain models. The Arbarth had a recall relating to a risk of failing lights. Check that any model passing through your care has had these done.


Brake calipers are known to suffer with significant corrosion of sliding components resulting in diminished levels of return force for brake pads. This leads to vibration and noise resulting from the consequential brake drag say Motaquip.


Some owners have reported excessive gear whine, which seems to be caused by oil starvation. Gearbox oil top-ups are occasionally needed – but level checks can sometimes get missed in services. Petronas recommend a synthetic-based 75w85 lube and the capacity is 1.65 litres.


Knocking sounds that occur under steering loads can be attributed to the upper steering shaft fork incorrectly fixed/staked in place according to Motaquip. In extreme cases the fork can become separated from the shaft causing complete loss of steering function.

The presence of steering column noises is often caused by an insufficient quantity of thread locking agent being applied to the upper shaft fixing-bolt during assembly. In extreme cases this may result in a complete loss of steering control.

Premature failure of power steering motor can be diagnosed by instances of reduced levels of power steering response when performing slow manoeuvres such as parking or reversing. The solution for this would be to replace the power steering motor.


Due to the number of options when new, you are unlikely to ever see two 500 interiors exactly the same. Some reports suggest that Blue&Me wireless connection can be troublesome, though the root of this problem is often down to the user’s phone. You can read the trim code on the VIN plate, although it may often be easier to source some trim parts second hand. Eagle-eyed readers may spot that the VIN starts with the Polish letter code SU through to SZ. This is because the 500 is built in Tychy, Poland in a factory used at various times to produce the Polski Fiat 126p, Cinquecento and Sceicento – the 500s immediate predecessors.

Posted in CAT Inside Line, Garage News, NewsComments (1)


The Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit is the latest car to get the once over on our ramp

Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

Originally launched in 1980 as the successor of the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II and the Silver Wraith II, this range of vehicles would be the flagship vehicles for Rolls-Royce and Bentleys. The Silver Spirit came in four marks over its 20 years in production with the series spawning the Rolls-Royce Silver Spur and Silver Dawn, as well as the Bentley Mulsanne and Eight, before being succeeded by the Silver Seraph.

The Silver Spirit was fitted with Rolls-Royce’s 6.75-litre V8 engine with either a three or four-speed automatic gearbox, depending on the age of the vehicle. Throughout the various marks new complex technology was added to each Silver Spirit, with gas-charged shock absorbers fitted on the Mark I, while automatic ride control was introduced from the Mark II onwards.


The RMI says that issues with the automatic transmission is related to problems with the selection control unit. The gear position is electronic controlled by a transmission control position sensor transmitted by a wire. Higher mileage versions of the Rolls-Royce are the most likely to suffer from this issue.


Rolls-Royce and Bentley parts specialist Flying Spares says that when the rear springs on the Silver Spirit lose their pressure, the suspension goes solid leading to a harsh and bumpy ride. The fix is by replacing the rear gas springs, and garages will need to fit the spheres, run the car and check the mineral oil, after which the Silver Spirit will jack itself up and self-bleed.


The RMI says that the Rolls-Royce is prone to the electronic suspension ride control system or one or more of the suspension units failing, which is noticeable by noisy suspension. FPS adds that the heavy nature of the Silver Spirit and soft ride plays havoc with the suspension and shock absorbers. It says tell-tale signs include a soft bouncy ride, and that electronic ride control on early 1990 versions didn’t alleviate the problem.


Forum says that the Silver Spirit has a ‘notorious’ history of problems with its steering rack, which is prone to premature failure, so much so that owners are advised to avoid going to full lock position even if there is no sign of tyre rubbing or clunking. It says that these racks when at full lock are known to suffer from the pressure maxing out and blowing the seals.


Flying Spares warns that Rolls-Royce Silver Spirits that fail their emission tests due to overheating, will be linked to the black otter switches, which affects the functioning of the fans, clock, windowns, interior lighting and central locking. It suggests trying the otter reset switches located in the glove box.


The brakes on the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit are prone to common problems. FPS says that it is common to get marks on the brake discs where the pad is in contact while the car is left standing for long periods. Eventually these marks will lead to brake judder, and it will lead to a four-to-six hour replacement job, with the rear brakes requring a specialist Rolls-Royce hub tool. The RMI says if the brake judder persists after the discs are replaced, this could be down to the soft suspension bushes exaggerating any minor disc runout.


FPS adds that clunks heard at the front of Rolls-Royces and Bentleys are linked to front shock bushings and compliance mounts. It adds that the job will take all-day and will require a special Rolls-Royce tool.


Flying Spares advises that Rolls-Royces and Bentleys built between 1988 and 1992 are prone to a whining noise being generated from the differentials. It adds that these sounds can affect any vehicle in this production period regardless of mileage covered, and could mean either replacing the differential or requesting the owner puts up with it.


Flying Spares says that if the fuel gauge fails, the way to access and replace the fuel tank sender is via the boot facing panel, which is a drop down screw or plastic clip depending on the age of
the vehicle.

PUMPING UP THE VIBE says that a whine from behind the rear tyre is linked to the fuel pump, and when jacked up it will become apparent quickly whether the pump is vibrating.


FPS advises technicians to be wary of the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit’s pressure regulation systems, referred to BRAKE 1 and BRAKE 2, both with their own sensors. On start up the lights should go out after 30 seconds and if they don’t the fault could be linked to a weak accumulator valve block.


Flying Spares says that earthing problems with cars built between 1988 and 1993 are common. The issue relates to the earthing strap between the driver’s side rear engine mount and the chassis leg. The remedy is simple, and involves cleaning the contacts, or alternatively adding a second strap to the nearside engine mount.

ALARM SYSTEMS says that owners complaining about their fob not unlocking their car, therefore having to use the key to unlock it. However, with the car self-locking itself unlocking the car again means the alarm goes off. This problem is linked to the battery leaking onto the alarm’s ECU PCB, which is known to cause the problem. This fault can affect the Silver Spirit and the Bentley Arnage.


Cambiare warns that the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirits are prone to hard starting and misfires under load due to a faulty ignition coil. While FPS adds that roughness on idle even with the air conditioning and accessories are turned off, and the car is fully warmed up, could be linked to clogged injectors or other engine management related issues.

Next month we’ll be looking at the Fiat 500, so wherever you work in the aftermarket and have some insight to share, we would be delighted to hear
from you.

To get your advice included contact

Posted in CAT Inside LineComments (1)


Porsche BoxsterThe Porsche Boxster is the latest car to get the once over on our ramp.

Originally launched in 1996 the 986 was styled on the 550 Spyder, before in 2005, the model was replaced by the 987 in 2005 and was in production until 2012. The second generation Boxster took the roadster concept and improved it both cosmetically and mechanically. It eventually became the basis on which the much-coveted Cayman was then spawned.

The Boxster was fitted with water-cooled engines – codenamed M96. This rear-wheel drive car was fitted with a range of engines throughout the 986’s and 987’s 16-year lifespan, with Porsche producing 2.5-, 2.7-, 2.9-, 3.2- and 3.4-litre petrol engines, with varying power outputs.

These Boxsters were fitted with a five- or six-speed manual or a PDK automatic and a complex folding roof, which will provide some extra challenges.

Reluctant Airbag

Forum says that the early Boxsters were known for their seatbelt buckles not being grounded properly and causing the airbag warning light to activate. Most have been replaced, but the problem is said to be a reoccuring one.

Smoking Boxer says that it is natural for the Boxster to produce a puff of smoke on start up, if the car has been sitting around for a few days or more. This is due to oil accumulating on the piston rings due to the construction of the boxer engine. As a result it advises technicians to tell customers to keep an eye on their oil level between services.

Flooding The Hood

Autofarm says that electric roofs on the Boxster are complex and very expensive to repair. So it advises to clear drain holes regularly, otherwise the excess water will run down the rear bulkhead and flood the electrics. This can cause minor operating niggles with the roof, windows and the central locking or cause more permanent damage to the ECUs which are located under the driver’s seat.

Rotating Rules

Rotating electrics remanufacturer Autoelectro advises technicians to be wary when replacing these parts on the Boxster. It explains that the 1999-2004 986 version uses a variation of starter motors for its manual and automatic, and 2.5-, 2.7- and 3.2-litre Boxsters. Although the units look similar the differences lie with the power output, with the manual starter motors rated at 1.1kW, while the automatics use 1.7kW or 1.8kW units.

While it adds that Boxsters made in 2006 came with two alternator variants. One operates on a warning light system, while the other was ECU-controlled. In both instances fitting the wrong type of rotating electric will cause the new unit to prematurely fail.

Watertight Block

Independent Porsche specialist Autofarm says that the early versions of the 2.5-litre Boxster suffered from a porous block. It adds that many have been rectified under warranty, but there may still be some out there.

Slipping Sleeves says that Boxsters built between mid-98 through to early-99 suffered slipped sleeves in the engine causing total failure. Again most vehicles built between these date ranges would of had their engine replaced under warranty, but there may be some still out there.

Bearing Blowout

Autofarm says that the a more serious problem that affects the water-cooled M96 engine found in the first generation Boxster is with its intermediate shaft bearing prematurely failing. It adds that there are no tell-tale signs of failure, but you may spot traces of oil in the bellhousing or metal flakes in the oil filter.

Forum says that this problem is indiscrimanate, with some engines over 100,000 miles still working with its original bearing. It adds that there may be a grinding noise prior to failure of the bearing, but in some cases it can happen unexpectedly.

Autofarm warns that failure of the bearing can be catastrophic, leaving many a Boxster facing the breaker’s yard. However, if the failure happens at low speed, then the valves are likely to be bent, leaving the Boxster’s engine repairable.

Depressing Breakage adds that the Boxster is also prone to a D-shape piece fracturing off when the sleeve slips in the cylinder. This damage is thought to be caused by not allowing the Porsche to warm up thoroughly before moving off.

Breaking The Seal mentions that the Boxster is susceptible to rear main seal failure, through the means of dripping oil. The problem is said to originate from the poorly designed seals on the crankshaft and supporting structure. The issue is said to affect manual Boxsters more than its automatic variants.

Mounting Problems

The rubber in the engine mounts on the Porsche Boxster are known to deterioate says The symptoms include hearing a clunk when changing gear or struggling to move the lever.

Worn Down By Suspense

The RMI says that the Porsche Boxster suffers from a couple of common suspension problems, such as worn suspension bushes, which can lead to excessive wear of the Porsche’s tyres. While it adds that the front suspension springs are known to break after being put on wheel free lift.

A Tear In My Porsche’s Boots

Both Porsche forums and say that the CV boots on the Boxster are known to breakdown and fail on the six-speed versions. The boots are well known to rip frequently allowing dirt and water to penetrate the bearings, and causing it to prematurely fail. It advises to check the CV boots regularly on these Boxsters, although five-speed manuals and automatics don’t seem to be affected quite as much.

Battery Lockup

Forum says that the Boxster’s battery is locked in the trunk at the front, and warns that access can be tricky if the battery is flat. There is often not enough voltage to power the motor that releases the catch to get access to the battery. There are ways to jump the battery and releasing the boot mechanically.

Fuel System Japeries

The 3.2 litre engine in the Porsche Boxster 987S can suffer from catalytic converter problems, signified by a fault code being stored for catalyst efficiency below threshold say Forté. The firm produces a range of additives than can help clear the problems.

Serviced The Fluids?

Comma says that most 986 and 987 Boxsters will use 5W40 engine oil to lubricate its range of powerplants. It adds that with the Porsche’s service interval every 18,500 miles, it is advisable to mention to motorists to regularly check their vehicle’s oil to protect sensitive components and a good opportunity to sell top-up packs as well.

Next month we’ll be looking at the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, so wherever you work in the aftermarket if you have insight to share, we would be delighted to hear from you.

To get your advice included contact

Posted in CAT Inside LineComments (0)

  • How a devastating flood left difficult decisions for wholesalers
  • Air con? Cartel exposed: European Commission metals out huge fine
  • When is the best time to expand your business?

more info

    • Given rising costs, do you think the number of van runs from factor branches will decrease?

      View Results

      Loading ... Loading ...
    • Popular
    • Latest
    • Comments
    • Tags
    • Subscribe