Hello everyone, I'm new to this forum. My name is James as you may have guessed and I live in the UK but my car is in Spain where I will be returning to live shortly and want to sort it out when I get there.

I've owned my present car - Renault Clio RT 1.4 1993 - for the past 5 years and it's served me well, just requiring a new exhaust and an overhaul of the starter motor.

It's had a few troubles from the start of my ownership of it, though, which I've never been able to cure, and since I can't afford to "buy and try", I've just had to stop guessing at what the trouble is.

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I was wondering if anyone here would mind adding their expertise to the problem please?

I will try to explain the two troubles (three originally, but poor brakes seems to be down to knackered master cylinder) as explicitly as possible without writing an essay...

First of all there's the steering, it does not have PAS. It's very stiff indeed, to the point that my mother can barely drive the car. Instead of a small car, it's like driving an Escort with no PAS. My brother's 1.2 Clio is much lighter and more pleasant to drive - and more powerful, but more of that afterwards. I got the car on axle stands and found the steering so light that I could turn it with my pinky. Got the car back on the ground and it was so heavy I needed both hands to turn it, and I'm not a weakling (I hope).

A mechanic said the steering rack might be bent, but I would have expected that to cause the steering to be stiff even with the wheels off the ground?

Anyway, I decided to apply as much logic to the situation as I could with my limited mechanical knowledge and looked at what changed when the car was up on stands. Only thing I could think of were the bearing races which the Haynes manual stated were on top of the suspension struts. When the car is up, the struts drop and the tops of them aren't touching the body supports under the bonnet. With wheels on the ground, though, the tops of the struts are pressed hard into the supports, and any bearings are then involved in the rotational movement caused by turning the steering wheel.

So, could those bearings be seized or something and can I get to them by just dropping the struts out, or do the springs need to be removed, meaning I'd have to get a spring compressor. Also, can they be greased or are replacement bearing races available? Or are there still other things which may be causing the heavy steering and my ideas are wrong?

Next, there's the power problem. On flats the car seems to be pretty powerful, tearing in third gear. As soon as the road slopes uphill, though, and the car has to work harder, the power disappears. To put this into perspective, I can be on the motorway and accelerating. I might reach 50mph at which point the road starts going uphill slightly, and the car then stops accelerating really. I get beeps and flashes of headlights behind me and can do nothing. Dropping a gear and putting my foot to the floor makes little difference, if the road slopes uphill a lot then the speed will not rise at all.

Yet my brother's Clio 1.2 RL has no such problems, it seems like a 1.8 compared to mine, on both the flats and uphill. He can overtake on slopes, whereas I couldn't dream of it, since I can't accelerate. In fact, I thought mine was nippy for a 1.4 until he shot past me one day. I thought in 3rd gear I had some poke, until I was in the car with him tearing past people with acceleration which beat mine. I took it to a different mechanic about this problem, but he went for a 5 minute drive around town in it and said it was about normal for a 1.4, perhaps not the nippiest, but normal. And since he didn't take it uphill or on the motorway, I don't think he got a grasp of the trouble. But then when does a mechanic ever?

So there it is. Any and all help will be appreciated a great deal indeed. And if you live near me, I'll send you a bottle of Grolsch.

Thanks,
James