Citroën Buyers Guide

© Copyright: J.Cats.


This page can help you with the purchase of your Citroën. However, this is only a guide and I can't be held responsible for any errors or things not listed here. It's always best to take along a person who is experienced with the car you're about to buy. Feel free to mail.


Propulsion Arrière

Because these cars are very old by now, it is important that you get a car that's complete. If it isn't, make sure that the missing part is available before you buy the car. The biggest problem of these cars is that an extensive restoration will usually cost more then the car is worth when finished.

Body/Chassis:

  • The chassis is very important because the body doesn't have much strength in it.
  • The metal is very thick but rust can disintegrate a complete chassis. Sometimes the rust weakens the chassis so much that it gradually bends under the load of the body.
  • Look for signs of crashes which could have resulted in a bend chassis which is very difficult to rectify.
  • Beware of welding to the chassis. This could mean the chassis is bend.
  • The bodies are easy to repair since there aren't many complex shapes.
  • Originality is a problem. Most cars have had quite a career by now. Lots of things will have been changed.
Mechanical:
  • Engines are very durable generally speaking but some have been abused as tractors or towing vehicles.
  • Because of the car's age, beware of large amounts of wear.
  • These cars are quite old now so never expect anything else then a full rebuilt, especially the mechanical things won't work. Never expect that for example an engine will still work after all this time.
  • Engines will always need rebuilting. With modern techniques the durability of an engine can be improved and all problems can be rectified. Even cracked and holed engine blocks (at a cost).


Traction Avant

The TA was one of the first cars with unitary construction so the state of the body is very important.

Body:

  • Sills are the best indication. A car with rotten sills will gradually collapse. Familiales and Commerciales are more at risk because of their increase wheelbase.
  • Always check that the back doors fit properly (especially on Familiales and Commerciales) at the rear bottom corner. If they don't close properly and leave a gap, the structural integrity is lost and this is impossible to repair.
  • Check for rust where wings touch the body.
  • Floors rust around the edges but especially in the foot wells because of a leaking ventilation shutter.
  • The body around the ventilation shutter can be very rusted. Repair panel available.
  • Boot floor on both small boot and big boot cars rust.
  • Parcel shelf rusts when rear window has been leaking.
  • Doors often need new bottoms and skins. A new door skin should reach up to the the window. Check for a seem by removing the door trim. When a seem is visible lower down, low quality repair panels have been used. Most doors have (had) rust in the square corner near the B post.
  • Front wings often have parking damage and when this is repaired with filler the flexing of the wing when driving will crack the filler and the paint.
  • Small tears in the wing above the center of the wheel are very common and can be difficult to repair.
  • Wings rust under ornaments on the tip. Remove them to check because the rust can be hard to spot from underneath (muck and undercoating).
  • Front bumper supports tend to tear away from their mountings on the front axle caused by rust and vibration of the bumper.
Mechanical:
  • The front axle can be a problem. They wear fast when neglected and by now most should have been rebuilt.
  • Check out these points on the front axle:
    • Silent blocks: they provide the location of the under arms. Replacement is a specialist job.
    • Upper and lower ball joints.
    • Bushes on the inner side of the upper triangular arms.
  • Drive shafts wear when not greased regularly. Wear is detectable as clonking when going through a corner.
  • Vibrating of the steering wheel when braking means that drive shaft taper end or drum is damaged.
  • Rear axle doesn't wear as much as the front. When worn, the car will feel sloppy, especially through corners.
  • Later engines are very good but earlier ones can be troublesome especially since these parts are scarce.
  • Exhaust manifold tears and expensive to replace. Often cause by omitting the brace between down pipe and sump.
  • Gearboxes are fragile, especially when driven hard, but stronger then most people think.
  • Most parts are easily available, especially in Europe.


2cv and derivative platform chassis.

The 2CV, Mehari, Dyane and Ami have an almost identical chassis. It is the backbone of the car. It always has a certain amount of movement in it. Welding or reinforcing the chassis will make it tear.

  • NEVER buy a 2cv or derivative without looking at the bottom of the chassis properly. Take a piece of cardboard with you when buying to sit / lay on.
  • The chassis rust from the inside out and I witnessed one collapsing under it's own weight after the body was taken of.
  • The rust is almost unstoppable especially since rust proofing from the factory was very little.
  • Because the rust starts on the inside it's hard to detect until it's to late.
  • Typical rust spots:
    • Where engine protection plate is welded to the chassis legs.
    • Where chassis legs connect to main chassis section.
    • Where the footwell / lower bulkhead sits on the chassis.
    • The edges of the chassis side members that are folded over the top and bottom chassis plate (the edge should be clearly visible from underneath).
    • On the chassis sides in front of and behind the axle mountings.
    • Where the rear legs connect to the main chassis section.
    • The whole rear legs.
  • When the steering is heavy and the gear lever has moved into the interior, the chassis is bend.
  • At this moment it's virtually impossible to find a late 2cv that hasn't had any chassis welding.
Mechanical:
  • Early cars (2CVs) will probably have their engine replaced by a later model to increase performance. Good original engines, especially 375cc are very hard to find.
  • Wheel bearings are often knackered.
  • Kingpins on the front arms wear fast. These have to be greased regularly. Put jack under arm near the wheel and rock the wheel. A little play is normal but to much is easily detected. They can be replaced but it needs some practice and a few special tools.
  • Parts are easy to come by, especially in Europe.
  • Engine is usually foolproof. Crankshaft oil seals can leak but are easily replaced.
  • Engine should start on first turn, otherwise the points are no good or not set properly.
  • When the oil pressure light comes on occasionally and the engine leaks oil, the oil pressure sensor is broken.
  • Ticking can usually be solved by replacing the camshaft followers. Engine doesn't even have to come out!
  • Drive shafts wear, especially at the gearbox end (clonking in corners).
  • Gearbox could give problems but only when neglected. Listen for whining in fourth gear.
  • Reverse gearwheel can loose it's locking nut and drop off, jamming the gearbox. Only happens when abusing reverse.
  • Rear brakes are often a mess. 2cvs normally brake VERY well.
  • Sticking brakes on all wheels indicates worn rubbers in master brake cylinder.
  • Check brake pipes (on the wheel arms and side of chassis) for rust.
  • State of engine is easy to check. Remove a valve cover. If it looks clean, engine is ok. High mileage, neglect and short distance driving make everything black and gummy.


2CV

  • Check the chassis section as well.
  • Beware of bodged cars, prepared by "specialists".
  • A "NEW" 2cv for under 4000 euro from a "specialist" is a hoax.
  • Never buy a car that has been painted less then 6 months ago.
  • Always check for filler, there shouldn't be any.
  • For ALL typically rusty bits remanufacturered repair panels are available.
  • Typical rust spots:
    • Where floor meets bulkhead / firewall in front of front seats.
    • The whole lower section of the bulkhead / firewall.
    • Where original reinforcements have been welded on underneath the floor.
    • Floor under the seat rails.
    • Where the floor meets the sill.
    • Any corners (interior), around and under body seal.
    • Sills from inside out, especially at the front and rear ends, check underneath.
    • Spot welds on the exterior of the sills should be visible.
    • Where inner rear wings connects to the body, just above the rear wing, all along the edge.
    • Bottoms of doors rust, rubber falls off.
    • The third window surround rusts at the bottom, lift rubber from the inside.
    • Spare wheel well rusts along the edges and where chassis sits underneath.
    • Bonnet hinge rusts loose from body.
    • Boot lid rusts at the hinge.
    • Rear panel rusts below the rear lights and at the corners. The seam between rear panel and side panels should be visible.
    • Front windscreen surround below the windscreen.
    • Above the windscreen and the outer edges of the roof where the 2 plates are welded on.
    • Front wings rust along the edges and on the seams near the rear tip.
  • Rubber between body and chassis absorbs water and makes both body and chassis rust.
  • Targa plastic seat covers tear easily.
  • Cloth seat covers disappear when left unprotected from the sun.
  • Getting hold of nice straight doors can be a problem. Most have small dents, even new ones!

    Vans:

  • Check all edges at the rear thoroughly. Beware of newly sealed edges.
  • Open the spare wheel / tool panel to check for rust.
  • Rear doors rust everywhere and crack, there aren't any good ones left.
  • Rear wing panels rust where the spare wheel cover / tool panel / fuel tank panel sits on it.
  • Lower parts of the luggage compartment sides rust just above the floor and where the bump stop os welded on.
  • Rear and front end of the luggage floor rusts.
  • Rear panel below the doors rusts.
  • Strengthening beam welded to the waistline rusts, check the bottom.


2CV Specials

  • Check the chassis section as well.
  • Always check the GRP for stress cracks.
  • Investigate if spare body panels are still available.
  • Pay attention to the amount of detail work carried out. This usually says a lot about how good the car really is.
  • Ask for bills of mechanical parts.
  • Check condition of mechanical parts, many have fancy detailing but are mechanically bad.


Dyane

  • Check the chassis section as well.
  • Typical rust spots:
    • Where floor meets bulkhead / firewall in front of front seats.
    • The whole lower section of the bulkhead / firewall.
    • Where original reinforcements have been welded on underneath the floor.
    • Floor under the seat rails.
    • Where the floor meets the sill.
    • Any corners (interior), around and under body seal.
    • Sills from inside out, especially at the front and rear ends, check underneath.
    • Where inner rear wings connects to the body, just above the rear wing, all along the edge.
    • Bottoms of doors.
    • The third window surround rusts at the bottom, lift rubber from the inside.
    • Spare wheel well rusts along the edges and where chassis sits underneath.
    • Front windscreen surround around the windscreen.
  • Rubber between body and chassis absorbs water and makes both body and chassis rust.
  • Targa plastic seat covers tear easily.
  • Cloth seat covers disappear when left unprotected from the sun.
  • Window rails rust and wear.
  • Boot lid rusts around the edges.
  • On the Acadiane, check around the rear doors and the open the tool panel.
  • On the Acadiane, rear doors, there aren't any good ones left.


Mehari

  • Check the chassis section as well.
  • Plastic body is supported by tubular frame.
  • Every single part, including all body panels and frames, is available new.
  • The frame rusts because there was NO rust proofing.
  • Look under the car in front of the seats. This should tell you enough.
  • First rust will appear on the outside of the frame in line with spray from the wheels.
  • Water running down from the windscreen goes into the frame and makes it rust from the inside out.
  • The frame gets bend during off road use.
  • Body hardens and cracks with age and because of exposure to sunlight. Difficult to repair lasting.
  • Seats don't last and tear.


Ami 6, 8, Super

  • Check the chassis section as well.
  • The Ami has stronger panels then the 2CV which means that a lot of double skinning is used which means rust.
  • Rust:
    • Nose section, all edges and bottom
    • Front wings, bottom front and rear corner, remanufactured ones are available.
    • Firewall, where the inner wings bolt to it, footwell, under battery tray.
    • Windscreen surround.
    • Jacking points and their surrounds.
    • Doors, all bottoms, especially door tips, window surrounds.
    • Edge of the roof, everywhere, also look underneath (outside).
    • Floors, where they meet footwell, near sills, where reinforcements are welded underneath.
    • Sills, everywhere, near seatbelt mounts, all corners and edges.
    • Under rear bench, corners.
    • Boot floor, where cross members run underneath, along inner wings.
    • Rear inner wings, all edges, where bump stop is welded on, around hole for seatbelt.
    • Rear wings, all edges, bottom, rear light holder (8 and super), new and plastic ones available.
    • Rear edge of the body below boot, especially on breaks.
  • Specific Ami parts relatively difficult to find.
  • Not many Amis still have straight doors and wings.
  • Remanufactured repair panels: sills, floors, footwell.
  • Good quality GRP plastic rear wings are available.
  • New doors can still be found but they are relatively expensive.
  • Rear suspension arms on Ami are different from 2cv (less wide).
  • Headlining is unavailable.
  • Seat material is very hard to find, especially targa (8+super) and cloth (ami 6)
  • Carpets impossible to find.


General Hydraulics

  • Citroën hydraulics are famous but scare loads of people.
  • They are not as bad as they are said to be.
  • Hydraulic parts shouldn't be a problem if not neglected (and many are neglected).
  • Rust on pipes is the biggest problem on older cars.
  • Spheres should be checked and filled regularly.
  • If the car floats when driven, all is well, if not get the spheres checked.
  • Spheres act as springs AND shock absorbers.
  • Pumps can leak but can be overhauled by specialist. Without special equipment this is almost impossible and the pump could be damaged.
  • Too frequent clicking of the hydraulic pump indicates that the hydraulic spheres needs to be renewed or refilled with Nitrogen gas, which can be done by any Citroën garage at fairly low costs.
  • If you're brave, it can be self maintained.
  • Most leaks or problems are a result of old age of rubbers.
  • Old cars (T.A. 15 Six H and early DS and ID) use red fluid (LHS). New cars use green (LHM).
  • Parts are marked red or green accordingly. Mix them up and the wrong fluid will destroy all rubber.
  • Don't use anything else to top-up the system. This will only give you trouble and huge repair and part bills. There is also no point in flushing the system with anything else then the original fluid.


SM

In general these cars are very solid and strong although their reputation says otherwise. The bad reputation is the result of cars getting problems after neglect. They are very sensitive to neglect. Cars that have been standing for a long time also give trouble.

Body:

  • Many cars have (sometimes badly repaired) accident damage.
  • Reflectors at the front rust.
  • American lights can be converted to European but these are hard to get and very expensive.
  • Not all bumper rubbers are obtainable .
  • Californian cars can have interiors that have suffered badly from the sunshine.
  • Foam inside seats hardens and crumble.
  • Check the sills and the floor under the back seats as well as in the boot.
  • Front wings have several rust traps. Remove protective coating to reveal all the rust.
  • Bonnet is aluminum but corrodes on the front edge, boot lid rusts as well.
  • Check if all the electrics work because this can be a big problem to rectify.
  • Parts can be expensive so check what's missing and find out how much replacement costs.
  • Front and back screen are glued into place. Trying to remove can easily break them, so this should only be tried when a replacement is present!
  • Replacement glass can be hard to find.
  • All trim is stainless steel, NOT chromed steel!
Mechanical:
  • Check the General Hydraulics as well.
  • Best way to check suspension and engine is a by a short drive.
  • Engines from Maserati, with their problems and reputation.
  • Engines better than their reputation if maintained properly but they drop like flies when neglected, and most have been neglected at one point in their life.
  • Timing chain needs tensioning every 7500 km, and should be replaced every 60.000 km.
  • Valves are hollow and sodium filled. They can brake and take piston and cylinder head with them!
  • Listen for noise and rattles from the engine. There shouldn't be ANY.
  • Engine should pull strongly but never gives the impression of being really fast because of the car's weight.
  • Look for oil burning smoke when starting a warm engine
  • Starting a warm engine can be a problem but electronic ignition should help.
  • Electronic ignition is a must. (Luminition from GB works very well)
  • Injection can be troublesome but doesn't have to be. Expensive to put right.
  • Gearbox is very similar to DS and bulletproof.
  • Automatic box can only just cope with the power, so it should be kept in good condition.
  • Mild steel exhaust lasts one year in european conditions.
  • Steering should self center and P.A.S. should stiffen up at higher speed.
  • Brakes should be extremely responsive.
  • Front suspension in particular can show wear in upper and lower ball joints and the bearings of the suspension arms.
  • Drive shafts wear like on the DS.
  • No matter what people tell you: They ARE a bitch to work on. Especially injections. Try changing the plugs without taking the injection out!!!!!
  • When working on these cars get a garage manual and check it before you start! If you do anything in the wrong order, you can start again!
  • Wiring can be troublesome but with a diagram (available from specialists) this shouldn't be to hard to locate.
The market value of this car does not always justify the costs of major restorations and/or rebuilts, so best buy will be a car in overall good condition, mechanically as well as body wise. Because the engine is from Maserati, prices are accordingly! The engines are much more complex then other Citroën engines and much more vulnerable!


ID and DS

ID is the same as DS but with less Hydraulic parts (steering, brakes).

Body:

  • Body rusts like no other.
  • Wings are easily detachable and at least rear ones should be taken of when buying a car. (one bolt!)
  • Rain gutters on the back between wing and boot lid rust away.
  • Boot floors and parcel shelf rusts.
  • Sills rust but are made from straight metal and thus easily repaired and bodged.
  • Get a good look underneath the car and examine the sills well. Also check by lifting the carpets..
  • A, B and C posts rot away at the bottom. When this happens, doors will sag.
  • Panel alignment is easy to achieve so should be right on a decent car.
  • Front wings rust around headlights. Especially on later cars.
  • Doors rust everywhere.
  • Corners of the shelf behind the rear seat need examining to.
  • Rust can also take hold of the roof's edges.
  • These were the first cars to use the recycled metal for the panels and this means some start rusting in the strangest places (and for no apparent reason!)
  • Rust around door strips is common. These strips are to be found on the Pallas cars only.
  • Pallas includes leather seats AND leather on top of the doors (except the early Pallas cars).
  • Most DS's have leather seats by now but real Pallas cars are worth more.
  • Converting to Pallas isn't difficult and often done.
  • Only really nice cars are worth decent money.
  • Cost of restoration is greater then value of the car (in most cases) especially if you can't do much yourself. So think before you buy and shop around.
  • With low budget, go for the sound car but mechanically tatty.
Mechanical:
  • Check the General Hydraulics as well.
  • Engine is bullet proof and should be capable of pretty high mileage.
  • Engines are often swapped. Check books for car and engine numbers!
  • Sometimes electronic injection can give problems. This can be expensive to put right.
  • Water pumps leak and later types can't be overhauled!
  • Jerky steering usually only needs adjusting. Sometimes ball joints wear as well.
  • Drive shaft play (clonking when going through corners) is usually caused by the 3 balls at the gearbox end. They can easily be replaced.
  • DSs and IDs can be a lot of work to repair, even smaller things.
  • Wiring can be troublesome but with a diagram (available from specialists) this shouldn't be to hard to locate.


GS and GSA

Body:

  • Doors rust at the bottom.
  • Floors rust in front of the front seats.
  • Sills rust, especially at the front bottom of the A post.
  • Area around the windscreen rusts, especially around the bottom corners.
  • Wings rust and the rear ones are NOT detachable.
  • Body rusts around suspension sub frame attachment points.
  • Rear sub frame itself rusts as well, especially the front round section.
  • Lift battery, there's a rust trap underneath.
  • Rear inner wheel arches rust.
  • Front valance rust, especially those sections covered by the bumper.
  • Bottoms of the inner wings rust where they meet the valance when not covered in oil.
Mechanical:
  • Check the General Hydraulics as well.
  • Engine is slightly hard to get at.
  • Belts driving the camshafts wear and should be replaced every 20.000 km (14.000 miles).
  • Make sure that the belts are on the right way, get them wrong and the pistons start hitting the valves.
  • Crankshaft oil seals front and rear go before 100.000 km.
  • Camshafts wear if valve clearances are not properly adjusted.
  • 1015cc engined cars have camshaft problems. Avoid any engine from before September 1972.
  • Drive shafts last no longer then 100.000 km (62.000 miles).
  • State of engine is easy to check. Remove a valve cover but not the one with the oil filler. If it looks clean, engine is ok. High mileage and neglect makes thing black.


CX

Body:

  • Cars with pull-out ashtray have improved rust proofing (1981 onwards).
  • Panels below front and rear bumper rust.
  • Check door bottoms and door tips. Clogged drain holes trap water.
  • Wheel arches rust, both front and rear.
  • Bonnet and boot lid rust along edges.
  • Look at the top of the A pillar / bottom of the windscreen surround.
  • Turbo and GTi alloy wheels corrode and are very hard to get clean again.
  • Interiors often very worn. This also indicates high mileage.
  • Check front chassis members for accident damage.
  • Rust forms below battery.
  • Headlights, front indicators and mirrors are often broken and are expensive and unobtainable from scrapyards.
  • Leather seats valuable option. Same goes for arm rest between front seats.
Mechanical:
  • Check the General Hydraulics as well.
  • Don't buy the early of cars if you don't want a car that's not fully without minor faults.
  • Some have electrical gremlins. Can be hard to pinpoint.
  • Early 2400 sometimes have cracked heads. Same symptoms as faulty head gasket.
  • All engines are very long lived an can reach enormous mileage if properly maintained. Be aware of abused turbos though.
  • Reflex and Athena engines best of all but least sought after.
  • Low mileage cars are hard to find and are worth their money.


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