A brief list of common problems for vehicles that we see time and again, use this information to help diagnose your problem, or avoid buying a lemon! We'll add more to the list, this is just a simple smattering of what we know, there are more horrors, some worse than others!

Rover 4 Cylinder K-Series Engine

Theres no kind way to put it, this engine series suffers from Head Gasket failure, and that includes all Rovers and MG's that used the different capacity K series.  From the 1.0 in the Metro/100 to the 2.0 (and all the ones in between) in all manner of Rovers,  this engine is guaranteed to fail.  A production error means one of the dowels used for positioning the head onto the block, isn't manufactured within tolerances, and the head 'walks' on the block, causing the head gasket to wear out and fail.  What also doesn't help is that the coolant system on the K-Series engines are quite a bit smaller, so if you have a radiator leak, you need to be on top of it sooner, or failure will occur sooner.

Rover 75 / MG / Freelander K-Series 2.0/2.5 V6

Rather an unfair naming procedure at Rover, this engine has NOTHING in common with the 4 cylinder K-Series, and doesn't suffer head gasket failure.  What they do suffer from is the butterfly valves in the air intake system breaking and getting sucked into the throttle body, expensive to replace if you have to get the bits from a dealer!

 

Vauxhall Vectra C DTi 2.0 / Saab 95 DTi 2.0

Car lacking power?  Can't get it over 3000rpm?  EGR valve is likely to be blocked up, and needs removing and cleaning.  Or maybe its tricky to start for the first time in the morning?  Not likely to be the Injector Pump, more likely the Injector seals are worn and leaking, allowing diesel to drain back to the fuel tank.

 Any Peugeot / Citroen HDi engined car 1.6-2.0-2.2

Car won't start or will do so intermittently?  More than likely the electric lift pump in the fuel tank has decided to expire.  Without the lift pump, the fuel can't get to the injector rail.  

Also another common fault on these engines, at higher miles is the high pressure pump bearing starts to fail and puts metal filings into the diesel filter on the front of the engine, and if they get anywhere near the injectors, oh dear! (and yes they can get beyond the filter!)

1990's era Mercedes E-Class

Not Mercedes Benz's finest hour in the 1990's,  rust is a massive problem on all their cars across the whole range, but none more so than the E Class.  Regularly check the front suspension top turrets under the bonnet, hidden rust causes a weakening of the metal at the top of the struts, and quite a few cars have had suspension struts burst out the top and through the bonnet.  Weak metal, rust, heavy car...... not a nice combination!

Smart Cars

Avoid high mileage examples of early Smart Cars unless there is documentary proof of an engine change... not a rebuild, a replacement engine.  Early engines have a shorter life than most!

 Ford Mondeo 2.0 MK3 TDCi

If the car has relatively high mileage and is a manual and theres no receipt for replacement of the Dual Mass Flywheel.... run away!  Massive expense, Taxi companies typically go the route of converting the entire system back to normal clutch and flywheel, saves them money in the long run.  Also prone to injector failure, and, just to make things more irritating, injectors are coded, i.e. you can't just put in an injector in from another car without calling out an auto electrician to code the replacement injector to the car, or it won't work!

 Peugeot 106 / Citroen Saxo 8v's

Any  8v Peugeot or Citroen that has the alternator located at the front of the engine, will fail due to its location.  Radiator isn't full width, so dirt and water from the road has easy access to the alternator, which over time causes it to seize up, meaning sometimes the car can be exceptionally difficult to start if at all.  Gives the symptoms of the battery really struggling to turn the car over, or it just won't do it at all, leading people to believe either the starter is dying, or the engines seized up!

 Peugeot 106/206/306/ Citroen Xsara (not Picasso)/Saxo 

Rear axle failure/collapse.  Vans, Picassos and ZX's tend not to suffer the same problem as typically they either carried more weight, or in the case of the ZX, was one of the first cars designed by PSA to have that type of rear axle so it got the best of everything, the cutting corners came later!  Typically the rear wheels will either start turning in at the top, potentially rubbing the inner arch, or as is most common, will drop and go solid, going over bumps gets very interesting!

 Fiat Multipla MK1

The rust proofing on the rear axle is simply not good enough. Inspite of the fact the metal is very thick, the plastic coating peels off, and the unprotected axle then rusts merrily away to the point where there is the distinct likelihood of hubs snapping away from the axle itself as the metal is weakened.

Fiat Punto MK1 Brava/Bravo/Marea

Rear Radius Arms are separate on these cars to give the suspension semi-independence.  Only problem is, the constant up and down movement of the independent arms causes the pin bearings to wear unnaturally on one side, causing the arms to 'knock' when going over bumps.  If they haven't been touched for a long time, main bolts that hold the arms onto the axle seize up and prove very tricky to remove.  Expensive, and most motor factors demand the old ones or a surcharge is payable.  Second hand ones are never a good idea, thankfully, Fiat abandoned them on the MK2 Puntos!

 Nissan Micras/Primeras/Almeras - Late 1990's cars with chipped key immobiliser

Don't ever let the main car battery die on one of these cars, as your key is likely to lose sync with the immobiliser system on the car.  This results in non-start of the vehicle as the car has lost its ability to recognise the correct chip code from the key.  A trip to an auto electrician can sort it, its not permanent.   Nissan Micras (Bubble shape) also tend to like to rot out the front cross member (it sits behind and below the front bumper and isn't readily viewable), its a major strength point on the car, and its an MOT fail if its holed by rust.... and it likely will be!

 Renault Clio MK1 and Facelift /Scenic MK1/Megane MK1/Laguna MK1

If your old Renault has a sunroof, don't expect to be able to start your car on a rainy day!  On older Renaults, the immobiliser is an infra red plip, the signal is transmitted to the receiver inside the car near the courtesy light.  If your sunroof leaks, or the drainage channels are blocked, water overflows and gets into the car and runs straight out through the courtesy light/immobiliser receiver and renders the car a non-starter.

 

Vauxhall Cavalier/Calibra/Vectra/Omega 2.5/3.0/3.2 V6

Suspected head gasket failure?  Not likely on these engines, remarkably durable and tough.  More likely its the oil cooler that has developed a pin hole leak, which allows water into the oil, giving the impression its got head gasket failure.  Not a nice job to do, its buried in the centre of the engine under all those engine covers and fuel lines.

 Fiat Punto MK2

Generally a pretty solid car, all of them came with Electric Power Steering, and they tend to fail.  Garages and dealers will tell you, you have to replace the entire steering column.... nonsense.  Open up the fuse box cover that's to the right of the ignition barrel, and you'll see the cylindrical motor poking out horizontally from the column.  99.99% of the time, its that unit alone that's at fault, three bolts to undo, slide off, slide replacement on, and off you drive!

If you've got the 1.2 8v engine and your cambelt snaps, put your tissues away, this engine is SAFE!  That means that no matter what, if the cambelt snaps at any speed, valves and pistons will NOT collide, meaning you time the engine up, slip a new belt on it, start it up, and drive it on.

Rover 100 / Metro

These cars use Hydro-gas suspension, and after a period of time, they are prone to settling lower and lower, meaning an uncomfortable ride.  Before buying one of these 'gems' however, check with your local garage, many of them no longer have the kit needed to re-gas/fluid this system anymore, as these cars are starting to get thin on the ground.

 Ford KA MK1

Put simply, you should avoid buying one of these horror boxes with every fibre of your being, unless you are A). Loaded, B) Have a friend that can weld at 'mates rates' and doesn't mind doing it every single year you own it!  If its developed rust around the fuel cap, its probably already too late, the rot has set in, it WILL need welding for its next MOT.  Power Steering pipes are known to rot through because of their location, and their location also happens to be irritatingly tiny for hands and tools to get to.

 Renault Laguna MK1 & MK2

 These cars love eating gearboxes, the differentials in them are more suited to a lighter car such as the Clio, and obviously a Laguna is a much heavier car, meaning the diff has to drag more weight around.  They don't like it, and they die.  Same problem affects the MK2's, as well as Keycards playing up as well as nasty electrical gremlins that prematurely finish the car off.

 Vauxhall Omega

Higher spec Omegas have a Power Sounder, i.e. a separate alarm horn which is located under the scuttle panel.  The problem that happens is that the battery if left for too long, will start to leak and corrode various electrical components inside, and when current is still passing through, can cause all manner of problems, the worst being that the Power Sounder catches fire!  Many owners of Omegas have long since removed them for very good reasons.

 Testing an infra red immobiliser plip

 Not sure if your remote plip is working properly?  Got a mobile phone with a camera on it?  Well, follow this handy tip.  Put your phones camera on, and point the infra red led toward the camera, and press the plip button.  If your plip is working, the camera will actually pick up the infra red waves coming from the plip, and it will visibly light up your phones screen.

 Does your car have a DPF system?

One thing to note about this 'brilliant' 'innovation' is that they do NOT like short journeys.  If you want to prolong the life of your DPF system (and believe me, you do!), then periodically, give the car a good thrashing on a decent stretch of road in 4th gear, if you've got an auto, manually select a gear below top gear so you can keep the revs up.  This will generally help clear out some of the sooty deposits that can accumulate, which if left untouched, will eventually result in the car having poor performance, poor starting, and likely running in limp mode.    If you are intending to buy a car with a DPF system and there is any kind of DPF warning light lit or the engine management light stays on, run away.  DPF systems are massively expensive, and it shows a general lack of care for the car.

 Electric Windows

If you own a VW Golf MK3, Citroen Xsara Picasso, BMW E46, your drivers side electric window WILL fail with absolute certainty.  You have been informed!

Dual Mass Flywheels

These are the spawn of Satan himself.  Supposedly to make gear changes and power take up smoother, no, what they do instead is relieve you of hundreds of Pounds of your hard earned money.  If your clutch goes, you need to replace that AND the flywheel, its massively expensive, and of course, your modern car has been built to need half of it dismantling to achieve its renewal!  If the car you're buying is in excess of 80,000 miles, is 2002 or newer, check online to see if your particular model you're interested in has a Dual Mass Flywheel, and if it does, check for paperwork to prove its been done.  If it hasn't, run for the hills.  Please, investigate the expense before you blunder in thinking it will be alright, in some cases, renewal of the Dual Mass Flywheel and the labour exceeds the value of the car you're buying.... We're not kidding!

 Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin

If you have the opportunity and desire to buy a cheap 4x4, make sure its not the Pinin!  Oh yes, its very capable off road, in fact its better off road than it is on road, but then again, that depends if its rear suspension arms haven't rotted off the chassis first though!  Think we're joking?  Rust proofing on the chassis and underside of the body of this model (Pinin only not other Shoguns) is of a 'quality' that would make a 1970's Fiat owner laugh.

  Any old Daewoo

Just don't!  Unless its the really early 8v stuff, any of the later 16v stuff is prone to head gasket failure.  Never mind the expense of fixing that, changing a tyre is possibly an expense worth more than the car itself.  Unless its a Matiz, old Daewoos are utterly worthless.

 

 Vauxhall Vivaro/Renault Trafic/Nissan Primastar

 

 Pretty little vans aren't they?  Quick, comfortable, and unlike Ford Transits and Mercedes Sprinters/Vitos, don't rust..... however, they fail in areas more costly than that.  Diesel injectors stuck in the head, gearboxs going pop, electrical gremlins, any of these vans before 2008 are best avoided, money pits the lot of them.