French Car Reliability
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  1. #1
    Fellow Frogger!
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    Default French Car Reliability

    Just reading with interest the thread on C5 ownership in the Citroen Forum, just wondering of other experiences with modern/old frogs?

    My 406 has clocked up some 121,000kms. The only repairs being a clutch cable and reverse light switch. Car has been routinely serviced by a non Froggy mechanic, with brake pads/rotors, timing belt change etc i.e. routine items.

    My mechanic commented on the 306's being a little naughty in that they have a few more issues than 406's.. Any comments from fellow froggers?

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    Regards
    Andrew

  2. #2
    Moderator Alan S's Avatar
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    I think there's a few issues that have to be considered.
    To my way of thinking, too many 306 drivers can tend to think they're a Rally driver in drag judging on some comments and adventures we read on the forums. Small cars whilst being a fun ride are also more vulnerable to breaking; too much is expected from a small car all too often.
    Quite a few of the 306 owners are also reasonably new to motor car ownership and as a result are vulnerable to rip offs by any dodgy operators in the repair industry. As an example, (this has nothing to do with a 306) I recently saw service records on a car that stated (by a "reputable" Citroen dealer) that 6 litres of LHM was put into a car after removing the tank, washing it out and cleaning the filters. It had about 10mm of shit & grease under the LHM tank, it had never been out of the car, the filters needed cleaning and it took just over 3 to refill. It also had a "second hand fan motor" in it for $265 which we reworked to as new condition for about $50, so effectively some of the service guys, the disreputable ones, feel that naive owners are easy pickings and take advantage and again, the 406 is often driven by a professional guy rather than a young person and the older types are usually more alert due having being bitten in their earlier years.
    Too many of the 306 drivers are disinterested in doing too much DIY on their cars and tend to leave it to place their trust in the local agent or repairer to look after them and often all too ready to swallow the fairy stories they get told.
    So whilst I'm not saying every 306 driver is wet behind the ears and drives his car into the ground, there are some that are and we should never lose sight of the fact that the French Car Bogey is used and has been used for decades to belt French car owners into submission all too often.
    I don't believe they are troublefree by a long shot but by the same token, they aren't as bad as some of the repairers would have the owners believe by using scare tactics and hokus pokus diagnosis of faults.

    Alan S
    If it ain't broke, use a 12" shifter.....that usually does the trick!!

  3. #3
    1000+ Posts dino's Avatar
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    ...have to agree with alan totally.....I ve had my 306 s16 for almost a year now.....I ve never let anybody touch it...I do my own servicing and beleive me its regular (oil is the blood of an engine)....fresh oil already replaced twice and plugs changed 2....brake bleed (total) coolant...the whole lot....(I ve done about 10K so far)
    And so far its been a an ABSOLUTE jevel .....
    Yes I ve had to rectify a poor battery connection and yes the cllutch is starting to show signs of wear.....but it is a servicable part and expected especially the way I drive it......The s16 is simply great and has not let me down at all and I ve owned and driven (and partially destroyed many others) golfs, beemers, fiats,volvos etc etc......So like alan has mentioned, no marque is totally imune from reliability issues and I m convinced the 306 range is no better or worse then the "supposed" corolla reliability myth....
    A good car can be destroyed just like any...but it can also be maintained like many.....I ve said it before and I ll repeat it again....:I think many of the reliability issues/problems are simply a result of incompetant mechanics, sad part is that these are usually the same people responsible for bringing down the good name and nature of many a model.....hell even those that have never even seen a citroen "seem: to already be aware of their "so called" unreliability......absolute BS IMO.......



    cheers


    dino

  4. #4
    1000+ Posts alan moore's Avatar
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    I have owned my '01 306 XT for three years, 65K, and have done my own servicing, and have only replaced brake pads as a service item. My car has been trouble free, as you would expect a late model car to be.

    My '89 Alpine GTA had all its' services done by a Renault dealer in England, and since getting it home I have gone through the car to find a brake fluid change 20K ago means to suck out the reservoir and put in new fluid, not to bleed it through the system. The fluid came out black.

    I think a coolant change was to drop a hose and then put in a few litres to top it up. The tappets were never done in 170 K, and fuel filters, not in the last 10 years, and so it goes on.
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    Fellow Frogger! nchandler's Avatar
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    I've had my 205 for a year now. I drive it spiritedly, but never thrash it. Hasn't been perfect, but certainly a notch above my 626 and 740 turbos in the reliability stakes.

    Had an intermittent starting issue, which I'm fairly sure was the high tension lead off the coil, woah, standard lead from repco, pricey stuff.

    Nothing else.

  6. #6
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    Here's another thought. What effect, long term, will the trend to longer service intervals have? Think just how little scrutiny a car gets when it is only serviced every 25000-30000 kms, in 100000 that's 3, maybe 4, services. Long enough for say a water oump to well and truly crap itself, long enough for a small leak from a hose to do some real damage. And then think about what reliability means in this environment.

    Yes, you are supposed to check this stuff weekly, but how many actually do?

    To me it's a bit like tyres. I rarely (in 30 years I can still count them on one hand and have three fingers left) have tyre problems, because I check them regularly. But look how many people have severe tyre failures, often on a freeway for the first time in months. Maybe we can expect to see a lot more severe mechanical failures of otherwise new cars?

    Barry.

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    1000+ Posts HONG KONG PUGGY's Avatar
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    Barry raises a good point, and when taken into account with Alan S and Dino's points you have a potential disaster. People who don't check their cars regularly combined with the lack of knowledge to even suspect something is wrong would lead to problems. I wonder how many serious accidents can be attributed to these types of failures?

  8. #8
    Real cars have hydraulics DoubleChevron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HONG KONG PUGGY
    Barry raises a good point, and when taken into account with Alan S and Dino's points you have a potential disaster. People who don't check their cars regularly combined with the lack of knowledge to even suspect something is wrong would lead to problems. I wonder how many serious accidents can be attributed to these types of failures?
    Actually it would be suprisingly little IMO. Just look at South Australia if you don't believe me.

    Now the brain dead idiotic victorian government has just put into service the first "DUI drug testing bus". This is a good thing, so why are the so stupid They state in there add something like 70% of fatalities the driver is under the influence of drugs ... ANYONE LISTENING ..... I THOUGHT THE ONLY CAUSE OF ACCIDENTS IS SPEED . Now if the government throws all those useless speed cameras in the bin and instead bough 100's of DUI testing buses I'm sure there would be NO public outcry. You know, it may even make a difference to the fatalities on the roads each year. It's a bugger they don't make horendous amounts of $$$ for the governent isn't it

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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew D
    Just reading with interest the thread on C5 ownership in the Citroen Forum, just wondering of other experiences with modern/old frogs?

    My 406 has clocked up some 121,000kms. The only repairs being a clutch cable and reverse light switch. Car has been routinely serviced by a non Froggy mechanic, with brake pads/rotors, timing belt change etc i.e. routine items.

    My mechanic commented on the 306's being a little naughty in that they have a few more issues than 406's.. Any comments from fellow froggers?

    Regards
    Andrew
    I can't comment on newer French cars but the older ones I find are particularly hard to kill even when neglected. R12's especially.

  10. #10
    Tadpole
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    I have only become a frog owner when I bought a 2001 306 2nd hand recently.
    I was not too impressed when the central-locking was broken, took the mechanic a couple of days slogging through the wiring to find the wire which snapped, and then had only just got the wiring fixed when a window regulator died. Not a favourable introduction to frogs. You can service the engine and tyres and minimise major machanical problems but when the fancy electrical stuff goes ....

    James.

  11. #11
    Budding Architect ???? pugrambo's Avatar
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    in the years i have been driving pugs and the miles i have travelled i have only ever been stranded on the road 2-3 times and that was my fault

    twice for petrol and once for a loose wire i didn't tighten up on the coil

    as for other little problems i have had a bearing let go in a 5spd but the car still made it home

    had a welch plug let go behind a water pump but the car still made it home

    i have only ever blown 2 head gaskets in cars but the cars still got home

    i did blow a timing belt in one as well so that was a stranded at the side of the road as well situation

    other than that i think i have had a damn good run from pugs in general
    3 x '78 604 SL

    1 x '98 306 GTi6

    1 x secret project

    1 x '98 406 STDT troop carrier and i don't care if it stinks, i don't sniff it's arse Death by wank tank

    1 x '99 406SV 5spd wagon, time to burn more fuel

    1 x 1994 605 SV3.0


    WTD long range fuel tank for 605

  12. #12
    Moderator Alan S's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimB
    I have only become a frog owner when I bought a 2001 306 2nd hand recently.
    I was not too impressed when the central-locking was broken, took the mechanic a couple of days slogging through the wiring to find the wire which snapped, and then had only just got the wiring fixed when a window regulator died. Not a favourable introduction to frogs. You can service the engine and tyres and minimise major machanical problems but when the fancy electrical stuff goes ....

    James.
    James,

    I doubt there's too many who will argue about the problems of troubleshooting electricals on these or any car for that matter, but again it comes down to the competance of the repairer.
    Their biggest failing is having diagrams the average bear can read & understand but again, I have never looked under the bonnet of a French car that doesn't have a half dozen of those rubbishy knife type quick connectors with a wire that is obviously totally different to the rest of the wiring that some auto sparky has fitted to by-pass something.
    They never want to fix an electrical problem; they just run a wire around it as a precaution/innovative fix. You have to ask yourself, why are we paying these donkeys $80 - $110 an hour to practice "bush mechanics?" Almost every time I have a problem on one of my cars, I head straight for the dodgy connectors someone's fitted in the past, usually with outstanding success. The argument is, would I pay for them to trace the roblem & fix it properly and my answer is that when I find a decent tradesman, I find he takes less time than the bush mechanic & it only needs fixing once which has to be cheaper.

    Alan S

    BTW, I have had CXs stop on me on 3 occasions; first was as I was passing a convoy carring a house going UP the Blackbutt Range which turned out to be the main HT lead cut through by the alternator belt and the other was at 1am on a deserted stretch of the Bruce Highay that was one of these dodgy connectors that wasn't fitted peoperly and a third time as I was coming down the Mountain at Palmwoods and everything went dead & I almost went over the side of the range, about 1000 feet down.
    In each case the item that failed had been worked on by a "tradesman" within a couple of days; that was when I had my business and didn't have time to do the work myself. As I had to keep redoing their's I decided I might as well do it myself in the first place & 'cut the middle man out' (ie by definition) the one making the most profit for doing the least.
    Last edited by Alan S; 14th December 2004 at 12:31 PM.
    If it ain't broke, use a 12" shifter.....that usually does the trick!!

  13. #13
    1000+ Posts dino's Avatar
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    took the mechanic a couple of days slogging through the wiring to find the wire which snapped, and then had only just got the wiring fixed when a window regulator died.


    ...mmmmm...interesting....

    YOU say it took him a couple of days.....well thats just wonderfull....
    In a couple of days he should be able to get the car stripped back to its shell....
    I m sorry...I really am......but thats just stupid.....Even an inexperoienced installer can manage to replace whole central locking (4 doors) and even install new alarm in a less than a day.....so why it took a couple of days to trace a broken wire is absolutely beyond me......IT seems that some mechanics should stick to "mechanics" and leave the electrics to an electrician.....Hell I bet you could have done the job yourself (if you put your mind to it) in less than a day.....and your regulator would still be working....
    I d be walking away from that particular operator.....




    cheers


    dino

  14. #14
    Tadpole
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    Hi Dino ,

    I only used the guy because he came with the dealer I bought the car from. It was all fixed under warranty, luckily. I guess the guy is a jack-of-trades and an electrical specialist should have been faster.
    I'm just hoping this will be the last of my problems.

    James.

  15. #15
    Moderator Alan S's Avatar
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    Here's a thread that potentially could be exactly what we're talking about as regards "reliability" and the causes of the lack of it.
    I could be wrong but it doesn't sound like it.

    Xantia anti-sink valve tale of woe


    Alan S
    If it ain't broke, use a 12" shifter.....that usually does the trick!!

  16. #16
    1000+ Posts dino's Avatar
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    jimb...well as long as you r happy at the end....it is important to distinguish quality of engeneering/build quality versus somebodys competance in maintaing/improving that level of build etc.....you get what i mean...

    Here is a quick scenario I experienced working for a prestigious melb. honda dealership....

    Close your eyes and imagine this scenario.....(actually prob. best you don t close your eyes...hard to read that way...aint it???)

    A mechanic (we ll call him SCOTT) is asked by his friend (we ll call him LUCKY) if there is any work available at the abovementioned dealer service centre.... SCOTT being a nice scotish (spell) bloke figures he might be able to help.....So SCOTT comes up with a little story....He approaches the Service Manager and asks for a favour....ie...if he could give some part time work to a fellow "mechanic".....Now LUCKY...well, he s just a bum really and has never really worked on a car before....,let alone be aware what an ECU, ie. he wouldn t know the exhaust manifold from an inlet....
    So sure enough,...service manager takes SCOTT on his word and hires LUCKY after a quick interview (which was more about personal tragedies (made up ones ofcourse, as per SCOTTs plan)) After all SCOTT had been with the firm for a few years and was a trusted and competant mechanic....
    So sure enough, LUCKY starts work...helping here a bit, removing this...cleaning this etc...
    A few days....A silly character called "DINO" approaches SCOTT and asks out of curiosity if LUCKY had "ever" done any mechanical work before...Dino and SCOTT were mates as well so SCOTT confides to DINO and tells him how they "duped" the dealership into giving him work....Dino naturally keeps his mouth shut as its the australian thing to do (if I had been german this may not have been the case)...So yes, two weeks later...LUCKY is attempting his first HEAD JOB (honda accord-yes they blow them 2 just like beemers and mercs and pugs and cits and and etc etc)
    Now imagine YOURSELF coming down to this centre for service.....Yes You could also be CALLED "lucky" if scott looks after your car.......but I m sure "lucky" is not what your name will be if LUCKY "the new mechnanic" takes "care" of your car....
    either way....service center is no longer....so is the dealership...and I m sure LUCKY was ONE of the MANY reasons this is the case.....



    cheers

    dino


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    I've just recently bought another Fuego after selling my old one 18 months ago. When people ask me why I tell them I got the old one with 140k on it in '90 and when I sold it it had 541k. In 13 years and roughly 400 000 kilometres the only thing that ever stopped it was breaking a wiper linkage in a tropical cyclone. I replaced 2 water pumps, an alternater and the usual consumables such as brake pads and tyres and the original battery in 2001 but nothing major. When I sold it it still had original exhaust, cv's, brake rotors etc. and was still going strong. All electrics were still working (if a little slowly or dimly) and the only smoke it was blowing was because the webber needed an overhaul. I hadn't even done the timing belt. My new one has 210k on the clock so I'm looking forward to another 300k at least. So whenever anyone talks to me about French cars being unreliable I tell them my story and it usually shuts them up.

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    Good one Scrumhead. Not as good, but my R12 has never let me down in 13 years. It's now done over 490,000km (engine's been rebuilt) but hasn't ever broken, or even altered in its driving characteristics, like going 'out of tune'. Good car, IMO.

    And that leads me to back up some comments above. I've never had a car let me down, and the trick is to LOOK. Work on your car. Look at everything while you're under it. Squeeze hoses. Look for leaks around the water pump, on brake back plates etc. Build a mental picture of the condition of your car, and slowly get round to servicing things. Every job you do is an opportunity to look at other bits and pieces and assess their condition.

    I've had my Mi for a couple of months. I bought it with the prior knowledge that I was going to replace the brake fluid, coolant, oil and check over the brake calipers. The cam belt's been done. As you do jobs, you observe things. This is how a car remains reliable. Like, I just replaced two RHS CV boots. In the process I dismantled the guide pins in the brake calipers and cleaned them and replaced the grease, then pushed the caliper pistons back in to free them up a bit. The whole job took half an hour longer, but this makes things last longer and work better. I've inspected the front brakes now and know they are fine. As these things build up, you become more confident in the car's reliability. I also now know that there's a minor coolant leak that won't cause an immediate issue, but needs fixing in the next couple of months - and so on...

    Cheers

    Stuey


    2003 PEUGEOT 206 GTi

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by scrumhead

    ...I got the old one with 140k on it in '90 and when I sold it it had 541k. In 13 years and roughly 400 000 kilometres....

    When I sold it it still had original exhaust, cv's, brake rotors etc. and was still going strong. All electrics were still working (if a little slowly or dimly) and the only smoke it was blowing was because the webber needed an overhaul.

    ...I hadn't even done the timing belt....
    Geez mate, 400000 and no timing belt change? Lottery ticket time, or maybe you've used up all your luck already.

    The Douvrin motors get knocked a lot, but you're right they last and last.

    Barry.

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    Quote Originally Posted by graham66
    I can't comment on newer French cars but the older ones I find are particularly hard to kill even when neglected. R12's especially.
    Amen to that. Long live the indestructable Renault 12! Mine is still going strong after 35 years of daily use and misuse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by barryg
    Geez mate, 400000 and no timing belt change? Lottery ticket time, or maybe you've used up all your luck already.

    The Douvrin motors get knocked a lot, but you're right they last and last.

    Barry.
    The 12 has got a push rod motor and runs a chain.
    Graham

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    I think he was referring to a foo-ay-go.


    2003 PEUGEOT 206 GTi

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    Still see R12s on the road and rarely even see smokey exhaust.
    This may lack some objectivity as my impression in reliability is tinged by Fiat ownership!

    The R21 very reliable except for one coolant leak requiring tow home on way to see wife in hospital. Coolant leak out of the metal pipe alonside the cylinder head. I bought second hand so no way of knowing what coolant had been in there. Other stalling when hot issue was traced to wrong sender unit having been supplied. Australia had a supply of ones for the 1700 motor fitted in english market which increase the choke effect as engine heats up. The supplier would not stand by this so I was out of pocket.

    The Laguna, well have said it befeore on AF niggling electrical issues including gear boxes (We ran two in family)

    MI16 1989 model, Aircond faults and that about it from memory, tended to forget when drive it, Like a good meal.

    406 Totally reliable for two years now except for recirculation A/C problem which has been disconnected. Repairer sais all he does is service 406 nothing much goes wrong. Do not ask him about the 95-6 model Laguna tho.

    Xsara no reliability issues, just the brake rotors juddering and the clutch cable replaced under warranty.

    Been driving Frogs for 13 years now not including my first car a Dauphine.

    I see no reason to go to a bland car.

    Graelin

  24. #24
    Fellow Frogger! frogs4ever's Avatar
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    I have owned several froggies and a couple of other makes over the last 20 years.

    First car was an Audi Fox (VW Passat sedan). Major engine problems (smashed rings, leading to horendous oil consumption) at 100,000km. Replacement reconditioned engine had similar troubles and more within a month or so. Yes I was very hard on them, but I have also been very hard on all of the Froggies I've owned since, and none of them have broken.

    Second car was a 1976 Renault 16TS automatic which I purchased from my old man for $500 to save it from a one way trip to the wreckers due to what he thought was automatic transmission failure. I fitted a reconditioned electronic control unit to the automatic, which sorted most of the problems, allowing me to drive it relatively problem-free for a few years after that. Also replaced a starter motor. After 290,000 kms, the front suspension was getting sloppy and, being unemployed at the time, I didn't have the funds to do anything about it. Finished up at the wreckers after the rego ran out. That car was worked very hard over its life. Frequently over loaded, and frequently thrashed, the Renault donk seemed indestructable.

    My next car was a 1975 Renault 16TS manual. Engine, gearbox and clutch were faultless over several years of use and abuse. I've seen it reach 7500 RPM during a muffed gear change, and 6500 RPM in a traffic light GP. Sundry front suspension bushes and balljoints were replaced and brakes needed attention on several occasions. Eventually sold for $2 due to rust and worn rear suspension bushes (which is a very expensive job on these cars due to the many hours of labour involved - or so I'm told), and a rusty welsh plug in the cylinder head, which was allowing water into the oil. The fact the I drove it for a few months like this is testimony to the strength of the engine.

    A 1985 Mitsubishi Magna replaced the rusting R16. Engine self-destructed one morning upon startup, after a few months of ownership. I had no desire to resurect it because I found the fuel consumption of these cars is horrendous and the stability at the crusing speeds on second-rate roads was genuinely scarey. And contrary to popular opinion, I found parts prices for the Magna were no cheaper than comparable bits for my froggies.

    A 1976 Pug 504 replaced the Magna. Tough engine and chassis. BW35 auto gearbox (non-French gearbox) required recon at just under $1000. Also needed to replace dizzy ($170), fuel pump ($50), rear shocks, a few front suspension/steering bushes and a few other minor bits and pieces. Nothing out of the ordinary for the age of the car, and none of the parts or labour were expensive. Like my previous cars, the 504 was often driven very hard. Sold in good going order for $1200 (same as what I paid for it) after about 3 years of ownership, just after I bought my new Clio.

    I recently owned a 1984 Fuego for a about a year. A gear linkage part and associated bushes needed replacing at approx $200 (though would have been a lot less if I had diagnosed the problem properly in the first place, rather than just replacing everything. Various instrumentation problems were cured by cleaning oxidized contacts in the fuse box. Central locking problems remained a mystery. Engine and gearbox tough as nails - several successful traffic light GP's taken in stride, including a VL Calais and an EB Falcon. Rear brakes needed attention.

    At just over 8000km, it's too early to give a reliability verdict on the new Clio 1.4 auto. Overall, it feels very tight and well constructed. I've had one issue requiring warranty attention - a crook selenoid in the auto trans, but this was fixed quickly with no hassle by dealer and a courtesy car was provided free of charge. It also sometimes briefly flares the first time it shifts from first and second when the engine and tranny is stone cold, but only on the first shift and only when cold. The other thing that bothers me a little, is that the software is programed in such a way that torque converter is won't unlock until below 1500 RPM when accelating gently at low speeds, resulting in some engine vibration which sets of what sounds like an exhaust or heat shield rattle. I'm hoping a software update at the next dealer service will fix those two remaining issues. Apart from this, the car has been completely glitch-free and a pleasure to own and drive. I might also add, that I checked the engine oil level a few days ago and it is still at the top mark on the dipstick, after over 8000km which includes the run-in period.

    In summary, I would say the reliability and repair costs of my Froggies has been about the same as you would expect for most cars of their age. But, from my experience, what tips things in the Froggies favour, is the bullet proof nature the engines and transmissions and low fuel consumption. While various non-citical bits of the cars wear, fail, or cause anoyance, the drive trains just keep on going, despite high mileages, neglect and my sometimes over-enthusiastic driving style.

    Like Graelin, I also see no reason to go to a bland car.
    2004 Clio Expression Verve 4sp auto -
    1984 Fuego GTX 5 speed (now a write off) -
    1976 504 GL auto (sold)

    French cars, Australian wine.

  25. #25
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    11

    Default Timing belt replacement

    At my Cit AXGT's last service I was told I needed to get the timing belt replaced (hasn't been done since I bought her in 2001), preferably in the next 2-3 months. Are there any symptoms of the belt being about to 'go' when driving & how much would you normally expect to pay for it to be replaced at the service centre - I was quoted $240-$280.

    I'm pretty happy with my current service centre in Vic.Park but would appreciate hearing about other Froggers' experiences/recommendations with regard to Perth froggie-servicers.

    Ally
    AXGT
    R4

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