One of the pitfalls with owning a Citroën in Canada is repairs. One fine day, you’ll want to take your Citroën out for a ride, you turn the key…and it doesn’t start. With help of our membership, we’ll try and list a few of the main problems, and their solutions. Hopefully our database will become large enough to be of real help.
The 2CV and derivatives
Let’s start with basics. An internal combustion engine needs fuel, air, compression and a spark at the right time to make it go. The battery must be fully charged and connections clean and tight.
Most non-start problems with the 2CV are ignition related. The contact points, condenser, timing should all be checked. The spark should be clear and visible. There have been cases where the starter motor uses too much amperage, thereby reducing the spark at the spark plug. If this is the case, try a push start to confirm. The “bobine” or coil is always a suspect. The reason the coil is short-lived is because the electric field is always on when the key is on. It burns out rapidly.
I highly recommend an electronic ignition. The benefits are astounding! One, the coil voltage is shut off after one second of no starting activity, saving the coil of unnecessary burn-out. The spark at the plug is much better, guaranteeing better starting! You can reduce the idle RPM to almost nothing! Better fuel mileage is indicated as well. Wim at Eurocar sells these.
If the timing, points, plugs and coil all work, the problem is reduced to fuel or compression. If your 2CV has run fine and suddenly doesn’t start, the odds are fuel related. If it has been a problem steadily growing worse, it might be compression. To check the fuel, see if there’s fuel at the line going into the carb. Check that the float isn’t stuck, that all tolerances are proper within the carb. Check and replace all fuel filters.
If this hasn’t met with any success, do a compression check
Problem: The engine refuses to start when it is warm, and sputters and sneezes on a cold start.
Solution: Check the valve adjustments. More then likely, this is the problem. I’ve done exhaustive research into this area. I’ve come up with some interesting tidbits of knowledge.
The gasoline retailed in Ontario is heavily laden with sulphur. Up to 800ppm. This causes excess heat, deposits, and other nightmares on 2CV’s. The angled edge on the valve itself will “hollow” out, which in turn causes frequent valve lash settings, leading to necessary replacements. There are remedies. I’ve done research and discovered that all gasoline sold by Irving has a very low sulphur content because Irving sells large quantities to the Eastern U.S. (U.S. laws dictate 30ppm or lower!) Irving sells its gasoline through its own outlets and MacEwan outlets in Ontario. If one of these outlets is near you, I recommend it highly! My own 2CV had the above problem with valves. After doing an adjustment, setting the lash at .20mm, it runs like new!
The second remedy is to buy a fuel lead supplement at Canadian Tire. Marinus Dubbeldam suggested this to me and it makes a lot of sense. There is no catalytic converters on 2CV’s, no fancy electronic sensors, etc., so why not. The supplement helps keep valves and valve seats cooler, thus vastly prolonging their life span. Unleaded fuel does make these parts run considerably hotter. Remember, the 2CV is air-cooled. It needs to breathe. Make sure the fan and the little oil cooler is free of dirt and debris. A large moth or butterfly stuck spread-eagled on the oil cooler can actually cause overheating! Do not use a grill cover at temperatures over 12 degrees Celsius!
Keep the engine and the radiating fins free of grease and oil deposits. Use a carburetor cleaner.
For more details on doing the actual valve lash adjustments, check your workshop manual or contact me
If you notice a problem starting the car when it is raining: It means it’s time to change spark plug leads. Make sure the leads do not touch any metal/ground surfaces. Electricity follows the path of least resistance, and will “escape” if it can to ground itself somewhere else. Microscopic cracks in the leads can cause this problem. In a pinch, spraying the leads in a silicon-based solution such as LPS will work wonders, until it rains again.
Back Pressure: The 2CV, with its design, relies heavily on exhaust back pressure to start and run efficiently. An exhaust leak can cause headaches (literally) Make sure all joints are tight and do not leak. When re-doing a joint, use muffler cement, wrap in muffler tape, and apply a new clamp. It will never leak again!
The SM has contact points in most of their models. They are a twin system. Two sets of points, condensors, coils and headaches. I’ve had a problem once where the car only ran on 3 cylinders. Both systems should be thoroughly checked. There is an advantage here. If it doesn’t start at all, it is most likely the main power lead, or not ignition related at all!
The fuel filter is likely to be a culprit. The SM fuel tank is prone to rust inside. The rust particles plug filters quickly.
Other then something horrendous, like chains inside the engine, most problems on the SM are easily fixable.
The three Weber carburetors need to run like a well trained team. Settings must be even across all three. The short rubber fuel lines from the copper feed tube distributing into the carburetors MUST be replaced annually. This is the number one cause of fire on the SM. In fact, a metal mesh fuel line designed for hi-performance cars is highly recommended!
The most common of all Citroën-related problems is the wiring. The type of connectors used, in my humble opinion, is poor for our climate and conditions. Citroën always liked those round types that come apart when you look at it the wrong way. Many a Citroën will have a light out, or a gauge not working because of these connectors. As a matter of habit, whenever I encounter a problematic connector, I simply replace it with something better. (the flat style)
While on the subject, I’m a firm believer in die-electric grease. Trust me, it stops corrosion as well as ensuring good connections.