Pictured above is a 2CV AZU, used by the Dutch Auto Club (ANWB) in the 60’s. This was the common service vehicle.
DISCLAIMER*** While we strive to assist you in the care of your Citroën, always seek a 2nd opinion. These are guidelines only. The suggestions described below are just that, suggestions. We do not take responsibility for any damage that may occur.
In this Issue:
Q: The fan belt, how tight should it be on a 2CV?
A: The fan belt on a 2CV only runs one thing, the generator/alternator.
It’s not running things like water pumps, A/C compressors, power steering pumps, air pumps or anything like that. It isn’t a serpentine belt running a pile of stuff. It just runs the generator/alternator.
The alternator (or generator in the older vernacular) doesn’t require much to spin.
Another consideration is the pulley which is bolted to the fan. These aren’t what I would call thick steel. In fact, a belt that is too tight can actually snap this pulley in the centre.
Corrosion on this part isn’t helpful either.
To finally answer the question, the belt should be snug, not tight. A play of 2cm when depressing it in the middle is fine. If the belt squeals, it needs a slight tightening.
Q. Electronic Ignition vs Contact points on the 2CV. Pros and Cons?
A. This issue has caused many debates. I have used both systems, and I’m sold on the Electronic Ignition. Why? Simple. The car runs better. The purists will give many reasons, some make valid points. (pardon the pun)
There are several manufacturers, all have their pros and cons.
Luminition, Newtronic, Multic and 123 Electronics are the contenders.
Of the 4 mentioned here, I like the 123 system the best. All is contained in one housing, simple to install. Gone are the butterfly counterweights that supposed measure centrifugal advance timing, replaced by 2 slip-on magnets and computer software. The others keep the butterfly back there, even though the little bearings wear out fast, and the centrifugal advance is not even. Especially in city traffic!
In layman’s terms, the acceleration is much smoother going up through the gears. More power going uphill, better fuel economy, easier starting, lower emissions, no more maintenance and, the biggie, no more burning out the ignition coil (bobine) Installation of the 123 system is a snap.
It will be a big temptation to up shift going uphill, stressing the little engine. This puts a strain on the crankshaft. Not a good thing. Another temptation is to run the car beyond 120km/h, past the RPM redline, causing premature wear on the engine.
If you are considering an electronic ignition for your 2CV, I highly recommend the 123 system.
Before buying anything, find out what the warranties are.
Contact Ignition Points
There is something to be said for these relics of a bygone era. There really isn’t a great deal of maintenance involved, most will operate for thousands of miles before needing attention. To upgrade to an electronic ignition is not cheap (About $200-$250) compared to the price of a set of points ($9.00 and up)
Fuel and the Citroën
Citroën has made many pronouncements regarding the type of fuel that should go in them.
Many of these technical bulletins were made in a CYA mode. (Cover Your Butt)
For example, Citroën decided to give some of the 2CV’s engines an “S” designation, which meant it was suitable for unleaded fuel. Funny thing, these engines were identical to the non “S” engines, including all part numbers.
In reality, I’ve discovered most Citroëns are fine with unleaded fuel, or even the ethanol mix.
If you own a Traction Avant, or anything up to 1969, I’d recommend a lead substitute.
What octane level should your Citroën use?
Unless your Citroën is a daily driver, use premium blends (90 octane or higher). The 2CV and it’s derivatives should run premium at all times, as should the SM. The ID/DS run fine on a lower octane, the CX/GSA should run 89 octane or higher.
If you hear a pinging sound when you’re going uphill or just accelerating, use a higher grade of octane.
Q. Is synthetic motor oil recommended?
A. In one word, YES!
Synthetics are much more tolerant against heat, therefore no “burning” or breaking down.
Some of the models Citroën came out with, had many problems with high heat. The SM, the air-cooled 2CV, and some DS models are prone to running very hot. Synthetic oils are the best at handling high operating temperatures. Lubrication is better, no viscosity breakdown. An excellent investment. Yes, it costs more. You get what you pay for.
Those parts falling off my car are high-quality French made!
Parts falling off? Yes. In particular the 2CV. The little engine seems to like shedding carburetor parts. Especially the Solex double-barrel carburetor. The choke pull-off and the accelerator pump have a nasty habit of rattling loose, and yes, falling off into the nether regions of the engine compartment, eventually adding to the scenic landscape of out country.
The choke pull-off is held with only 2 small screws, and is quite expensive to replace. The solution is to by something called “Loc-Tite” or “Permatex”
Permatex comes in two flavours, permanent red or semi-permanent blue. I highly recommend the “blue” permatex. Simply dip the screw threads into the blue goo, and screw them in. Let it set for a few hours, and no more parts falling off! I’d recommend the “red” solution, but seeing that the screws are of a slot type, it might be impossible to remove them afterwards.
Q. How do I get my 2CV to go faster?
A. By selling it and buying a faster car. Seriously, improving the speed of a 2CV is a two-edged sword. The little 2 cylinder engines love being run full out, but making them perform past their limits can damage them. Having said that, there are ways to increase economy, and have the engine perform better. Here’s how:
1. The air breather element on the 2CV is restrictive. Removing the element and adapting a K&N filter to the horn of the breather will help immensely. The poor man’s fix is replacing the element with a Heppa filter, replacing it every 5,000kms. Heppa filters can be bought at any home improvement store. Just cut it to size. Make sure it covers completely.
2. Replace the ignition points with an electronic ignition. Better spark, easier starts, better economy.
3.Make sure your 2CV is tuned properly. Things like timing, fuel mix, clean air filter, proper oil properly set points all make a big difference in the performance of a 2CV.
The addition of aftermarket parts, such as an electronic ignition do help quite a bit. One item I’ve been following is the development of the fuel injection system for the 2CV. This should make a huge difference in economy and performance, if it works right and isn’t too expensive.
Q. I have seen some 2CV’s with whitewall tires. Where can I get them, or is there a way to turn my existing tires into whitewalls?
You might have difficulty in finding a new whitewall tire anywhere. There are ways to convert your existing tires however. There is a ready-made solution that can be adhered to your tires. I have no idea how long they last, or how nice they look. Wim at Eurocar sells these.
I also have a workable solution. I have converted my Michelins into whitewalls by using shoe dye. Yes, shoe dye. The Michelins have a ribbed area about 15mm from the wheel rim. the ribbed area is about 15mm wide. Take the wheel off the car, clean this ribbed area thoroughly with a degreaser. Rinse, and make sure it is absolutely dry. Using a white shoe dye, with a small paintbrush with very short bristles and a steady hand, you can paint this area white. It’ll need at least 2 coats. When done, re-attach the wheel to the car and let it dry overnight. If you made any smudges, fix it with a black marker. The result is amazing. This will need touch-ups from time to time.
Q. Where can I buy that green hydraulic oil in Canada?
It is available. UAP/NAPA auto parts stores carry it. It’s about $15.00 a litre (ouch). I suggest using Aeroshell Fluid 40, available by Shell. It is red in colour, but matches LHM in every way. It costs $5.29 a US quart. Can be purchased at any airport Shell. (It is designed for avionic hydraulic systems.)
Q. What about the red fluid, LHS? Where can I find it?
Forget about sourcing it. It is rare. The absolute easiest and best substitute is to mix SAE DOT 4 or 5 brake fluid at about 5:1 with Castor oil. It is a low cost alternative and works just fine.
Q. My rotors need to be turned on a lathe. It is a big job to remove them. Any suggestions?
Most Citroëns have inboard front rotors. These are removable, but it is labour intensive. There is a way to “turn” the rotors without removing them.
Raise one front side, lifting the wheel off the ground. Block all the other wheels. Remove the brake pads. (It helps if you are replacing the pads!). Using grinder disks from an angle grinder, cut these in the shape of the friction material of your old pads. Glue them to your old pads with contact cement. Make sure the smooth side is glued to the pad. Re-install the old pads, start the car, put it in gear, and rev up the engine, then brake. Repeat this 4-5 times. Your rotor has now been resurfaced. Install the new pads, and finish installing the wheel. Repeat this on the other side. (You can use the same modified pads.)
Q. Should I drive my Citroën in the winter?
A. No, for obvious reasons, rust. Citroën used a harder steel to construct their cars, to allow more rigidity in those sleek aerodynamic designs. The trade-off is heavier corrosion. Enjoy your car in the summer! Salt is the enemy. Guard against it! I also recommend good rust protection. No drip oil systems, or a pliable coating application offer good all-round protection. In Europe, something called “Dinitrol” is used. While effective there, I recommend Diamond Cote or similar here. Dinitrol hardens in extreme cold temperatures, like your unheated garage where your car is stored. In the spring, it’ll have lost its adhesion and simply flake off.
Q. My SM runs too hot, how do I fix this?
A. The problem with overheating on the SM is usually caused by an improperly bled cooling system. Citroën did not employ a bleeder valve in the correct location. The upper radiator hose kinks upward, then down. At the top of the arch is a solid pipe. I recommend putting a tire valve assembly in this location. (on the top of course) Bleeding air from this location greatly reduces constriction caused by air. It is amazing how much of a difference this makes.
Q. The headlights won’t turn on my SM anymore. It’s going to cost me hundreds of dollars to fix it.
A. No it won’t! Replace the hydraulic tubing and retro-fit bicycle brake cables. A $12 fix! I know, sounds silly, but I’ve done it. Truthfully, I’ve always felt the original system was over-engineered.
Another issue on the SM, as well as a lot of other models, is the loss of reflective material inside the headlight itself, the silver stuff. Yes, they can be replaced or re-silvered. You can re-silver them yourself!
Using a Dremel tool, grind out the gunk that holds the glass in place. Carefully pry the glass off. Using pieces of Mylar (like the flower shop balloons) cut pieces into the right shape. Mylar can handle the heat by the way! Clean everything! Using contact cement, carefully glue the pieces in. Reseal the glass using silicone. You just saved hundreds of dollars and once the glass is in place, you can’t tell if this is a new headlight or not!
Q. Where do I get tires for my 2CV?
A. There are places you can get tires. Coker Tires in the US sell Michelins, and Wim at Eurocar does as well I think. While we are on the subject of tires, let me offer my opinion on Michelin vs Firestone.
It is only an opinion, but, I think the Michelin is a far superior tire for the Citroën. I remember during the 60’s, when Firestones where tried on the Dutch Auto Club’s 2CV AZU’s. The results were catastrophic. I know, this was 40 years ago. However, the recent experience with Ford Explorers raises the question: Can Firestone build a decent tire? It’s your car, your loved ones in it. You decide.
Rust never sleeps!
Citroëns earned a bad reputation in North America for rust. Deservedly so. The high strength steel used was very prone to rust. So was the design itself, and the manufacturing process never seriously took rust into consideration.
Most Citroëns have a “double-hull” design underneath. An inner section with floorboards etc., and the outer section visible from underneath. The rust usually starts in between, where the factory never bothered to use much anti-rust treatments. In sunny France that’s fine, but here…no.
The DS/ID, SM, CX, 2CV etc. all employ the double hull design to some degree. My recommendation is to make drain holes, and using those drain holes, have the in-between space rust-proofed.
The 2CV frame should be inspected every year, and by all means, keep them covered with anti-rust treatment! If you are restoring a 2CV, remove the frame and have it galvanized. If replacing it, buy an already galvanized frame.
The DS/ID, and SM frame is on the outer edges of the car, and isn’t thick steel, but more like pressed light gauge metal. It is extremely important to get inside and rust proof this!
The floor boards in the Citroëns are another concern. They accumulate water from various sources and it’ll cause rust! Clean it, sand it, prime then apply anti-rust paint. Then, use a good anti-rust treatment. The 2CV’s have rubber floor mats. This really makes them rust! Replace it with carpeting if at all possible. The DS/ID had foam rubber backing on their carpets…Yikes! A sponge to hold water!
There are choices when it comes to anti-rust treatments. You have the annual no-drip oil treatments, or the one-shot Ziebart type applications. Both will work fine if all recommendations are followed. The one shot treatments must be inspected annually and touched up where necessary.
If you see rust, fix it immediately.
Q. The alternator on my Citroën is no longer charging. OEM replacements are expensive, any suggestions?
A. In fact, yes. Any good alternator/generator rebuild shop can help you. When the alternator on my SM blew a diode, I had it rebuild. The shop replaced the innards with GM stuff. This was nice, because the AC Delco put out about 50 extra amps. The SM loved it! I could have stayed with original Paris Rhone parts, but I wanted the extra juice. The same applies to starter motors.
Q. What about friction linings like brakes and clutches?
A. If you have a brake & clutch shop in your area, breathe easy! These shops can reline brakes and clutches without any problems. Expect to pay a little more however.
Q. How can you tell the spheres are no longer fully charged?
A. Simple, the ride will be rough. Drive over a washboard road. If the spheres aren’t up to snuff, your Citroën will bounce all over the road. There are two replacement types available: The throw-away type and the rebuild type. I recommend the latter. At the same time, replace the brake accumulator sphere. The rebuild types allow you to have your spheres re-done when the time comes.
Q. Are there any shops in Canada that can work on my Citroën?
A. There are some. Remember, when owning a Citroën in Canada, purchase a shop manual. It’s better to do most of the work yourself. If there is no one in your area that works on Citroëns, try finding a garage where the mechanic(s) are European immigrants. These fellows have probably worked on them in a previous life.
Q. I have a beautiful Citroën. I’d like to show it off. Any suggestions?
A. The Cruise Nights in many towns and cities are a perfect place! Be ready for a lot of questions! It helps to print out little fact sheets. Also, bring a towel to remove drool stains. When I showed my SM, it seemed every one knew someone who had one. A bit strange, since less then 300 sold here in Canada. The same with my 2CV. It seems everyone knew a doctor who had an SM. No doctor I’ve ever been to has owned an SM! In Europe however, this may be true. I know the Traction Avant, the DS, and the SM are/were a favourite amongst the medical types. I do know one doctor in our club who has just bought a 2CV, a far cry from an SM.
Q. What about models, miniatures and the like?
A. Revell makes models of the DS, and the 2CV. There is a “Gendarme” SM too. Siku, Matchbox, Maisto make the metal variety. There are probably more. Don’t expect to find many SM’s in this catagory.
I’ll keep this section simple. Remember the three “R’s”. Does it Run, Rise, and does it have Rust?
Make sure the engine runs smooth, starts quickly, no knocking or banging sounds. (as with any used car buy!) Check the oil dipstick. Is the oil clean? If not, it is a sign of neglect. If its a Citroën with hydra-pneumatic suspension, it should rise. Put is as high as you can, and look underneath. Any leaks? Is the bottom solid? Use the “jack” on both sides to see if the body flexes. Set it at normal, and drive it backwards a few feet. Look at the rear wheels, are they doing the splits? Check the frame carefully. Look for previous repairs. Is there a lot of bodyfill on the doors, on the back? On the DS/ID, a place to look closely is the top of the front wheel arch. OEM replacement panels just weren’t readily available in Canada and the US. A lot of body shops doing work had to make their own, and in a lot of cases, fibreglass was used. There may be hidden nightmares. Check very carefully! Some of the franchise type shops have allergies to welding in new metal, preferring to stuff holes with metal tape, used grinder discs, or just bondo. I have worked in this field. Trust me, I’ve seen some horrors!
So the body, engine and hydraulics seem to be in order. Check the rest! Tires, interior, the usual stuff. Let the car run awhile. Does it overheat? Take the car for a road test.
If the ride is rugged, the spheres need work. The steering must be straight. The brakes shouldn’t pull.
With 2CV’s, check the frame. The 2CV’s built from 1988-1990 were made in Portugal. The fit and finish isn’t very good. Be suspicious of these models. Get a 2CV with a new frame (chassis) if at all possible. Walk away if you see a lot of rust. Some unscrupulous sellers may be good at hiding rust. On the 2CV, look at the triangular shaped piece on the side, between the fender and the hood (wing and bonnet?) The gaps along the vertical side should be even. If it isn’t, again, walk away. Check under the carpeting or rubber inside. See the road? If so, hit the road.
Once you’ve purchased a Citroën, and have it registered, licenced, etc., get it properly rust proofed. You may opt for additional soundproofing on the 2CV.
In Ontario, vehicles under 20 years old are required to be tested under the Drive Clean Program. I believe in a clean environment and support testing of automobiles to help keep our environment clean. I also believe the testing must be fair. Since vehicles at 15 years of age or older can be brought into Canada without Transport Canada regulations and Drive clean testing is required for vehicles up to 20 years of age, this leaves a 5 year area (1984-1989) where privately imported automobiles (gray market) are required to be tested for emissions. So far, so good. I have no issue with this.
The issue I dispute is the test parameters under which our beloved Citroëns are subjected to.
I’m not going to into that here. I will explain how a 2CV can pass this test.
The premise is to reduce Carbon Monoxide (CO) emissions at idle speed. The main contributor is Positive Crankcase Ventilation. This means the vapours inside the engine are drawn into the engine intake, where they are burnt. This is what causes the CO to go high at idle speed. In 1971, anti-pollutions controls were very basic. Its is exactly the same system that the 2CV uses. These vapours are harmful to the environment, which is why they are burnt off. To pass the emissions test, these vapours must not be burned in the combustion chamber.
The above illustrations shows how to bypass the PCV system. Using a “T” joint (copper plumbing pieces are fine!) and a new piece of hose, you can quickly and easily make a by-pass.
Make sure the piece from the “T” to the air breather is plugged up.
The next step is to remove the air filter element. This will make the engine run lean. Make sure the tank is filled with ethanol gasoline. You are done!
Remember to put all the original equipment back when you are done the test! (at home of course!)
Starting the 2CV
It is hot, hot, hot! You’ve just driven your 2CV thru heavy city traffic, you stop quickly to grab something cold to drink, you turn the key… oh no, it doesn’t start! Now what?
This is a common ailment. Try putting the accelerator to the floor, holding it there, and turn the key. It’ll start.
When temperatures are very cold, use the choke.
With moderate temperatures and a cold engine start, you really shouldn’t need to use the choke. If you do need to use it under these conditions, you may need to re-tune the engine.
No matter what kind of Citroën you drive, You’ll need a fuel pump. These can be one of two types: Electric and mechanical.
The mechanical type works with the use of a camshaft in the engine. The cam moves a lever back and forth creating the pumping action. Much like the old water pump on old farms. Move the lever up and down, water will come out.
The electric pumps work on a different principle. Inside these pumps is an armature, brushes, much like a starter motor.
When electricity is supplied, the shaft will turn an impeller, which is what pumps the fuel.
The advantages of an electric pump are many. Electric pumps can be retro-fitted to systems using a mechanical pump. Electric pumps will supply a more or less steady pressure, whereas the mechanical ones are more like pulses.
Electric pumps can also create much higher pressure, ideal for fuel-injected systems.
The electric pumps have but one disadvantage, that being the price.
To purchase an electric fuel pump for a CX with fuel injection will set you back at least $300.00
The aftermarket has a pump that’ll do the trick.
After much research, I found there’s an aftermarket pump available that can be used in any Citroën with fuel injection.
A Carter P5000. It is available at most auto supply stores. Prices range from $165.00-$175.00.
The Carter pump has a variable pressure range of 22-75 PSI.
No shipping costs, hassles with customs, etc.
For those with mechanical pumps, it may be an advantage to go with an electric fuel pump. Canadian Tire sells one for about $50.00 which is perfect for use with ID/DS, 2CV, etc.
The time has come. For whatever reason, the Citroën has to go. How does one go about selling a Citroën in North America?
There are things to take into consideration. Most North Americans won’t buy a Citroën. The reason for this is because they were brought up on the “Big Three”, being, GM, Ford and Chrysler. When they shop for a classic, they’ll opt for the ’57 Chevy anyday. There is nothing wrong with that. To most North Americans the Citroën does not feel nostalgic or familiar. They want American Graffitti cars. (Although I do seem to remember a 2CV in the American Graffitti movie!)
To advertise a Citroën in a regular Auto Trader or newspaper will have very limited effect. To use the collecter/antique section is not effective either. Remember, your Citroën is European, it appeals to a different type of person.
If you bring your car to car shows, cruise nights etc., with a “For Sale” sign on it, you may get lucky. Still, that’s a crapshoot.
So here are my tried and proven tricks to sell your Citroën.
Make sure the car is in good shape. Those who buy Citroëns aren’t stupid. They know their cars!
A non-running Citroën is practically worthless. One with huge puddles of LHM or LHS under it won’t convince anyone. Get the car running and looking good! You don’t have to spend a fortune, but optics sure help! Advertising it is a challenge. I suggest the following places:
One important factor to remember is to be fair. You may think your Dyane is worth $9,000 USD, but be realistic, it isn’t. Look around, see what similar cars are going for. I know the prices vary wildly, but remember, there are those trying to get a maximum bang. Use a median price. I’ve seen SM’s with rust being peddled for $35,000 USD. I’m sorry, but that is totally out of line.
If you have a Citroën that doesn’t run, or has been off the road for years, it just isn’t going to fetch a lot of money. Parts are expensive, there are precious few mechanics who’ll tackle it, and very few enthusiasts who have a thorough knowledge of restoration. For the very few who would buy a Citroën, there is a tiny minority who are able to transform it into its former glory. I bought a non-running DS for $500 cdn. The man originally wanted $2000. He had to be convinced it was a major project. When I showed him the non-existent frame, he dropped his price fast!
This is important! Whether you just want to enjoy your car, or to sell, show or whatever, “detailing” your car is always a good move.
In my life, I have seen many beautiful 2CV’s. I enjoy looking at them, and see the owners really love their cars. Until the hood opens. You get the idea. The 2CV is an air cooled engine. It can’t cool with a layer of grease and oil everywhere. In fact, this can lead to fires. Shampoo the engine, remove the dust, mud, etc. repaint rusty areas. Make it look new!
By paying attention to the details of your car, everyone can see you take pride in your ownership.
If you have a rare Citroën, such as a Rosalie, C4, Traction Avant, DS Chapron convertible, you may wish to try and sell it in Europe.