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Alfa Romeo Spider/Gulia

Published: 16th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Alfa Romeo Spider/Gulia
Alfa Romeo Spider/Gulia
Alfa Romeo Spider/Gulia
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Luckily for Spider owners, the car is a conventional rear wheel machine, and because of this, despite fairly restricted space around the power unit, most respects of routine maintenance are straightforward for enthusiasts to tackle at home with fair ease.

Note 1: Mileage/time intervals shown are suggested for typical use; frequency may need to be increased under harsh operating conditions.
Note 2: Spider specifications changed during production. Consult Alfa Romeo literature for full details of each aspect of maintenance relating to your specific version. The following information concentrates on the later versions.
Note 3: This information is necessarily abbreviated, and for guidance only. For complete data consult Alfa Romeo literature. Suggested basic service intervals: At least every 6000 miles or annually, whichever comes first (unless otherwise indicated).

How easy is it to work on?

Luckily for Spider owners, the car is a conventional rear wheel machine, and because of this, despite fairly restricted space around the power unit, mostrespects of routine maintenance are straightforward for enthusiasts to tackle at home with fair ease. Having said that, more major operations can prove to be challenging – including working on the fuel injection system, replacing the timing chain and adjusting the valve clearances (although, to be fair, re-adjustment here is seldom required unless engine has been dismantled or the cylinder head removed/torqued down). All components required to keep a Spider running sweetly are readily available from specialist suppliers, and most ‘servicing’ items can still be sourced locally (through parts factors and motor accessory shops, for example).


Spark plugs: Lodge 2HL. Gaps pre-set (no adjustment is required). NOTE: Owners advise using only the correct Lodge plugs. If alternatives incorporating long centre electrodes are fitted, the pistons can clout the electrodes, causing serious damage. Alfa’s recommendation for Series 4 models is to renew the plugs every 30,000 miles (it’s wise to check/clean them every 12,000 miles or annually (whichever comes first). Apply a little copper-based anti-seize compound to the plug threads when fitting, this is to aid removal of the plugs in the future by helping them resist rust – do not use conventional oil or grease. Firing order: 1-4-3-2 (No. 1 cylinder at front of engine). The use of breaker-less electronic ignition and an engine management system means that maintenance requirements are minimal. Every 6000 miles/annually, examine the distributor cap, rotor arm and high tension leads. Make sure that all are in clean, undamaged condition, and that all connections are sound.


Twin overhead camshaft, four-cylinder. Later engines featured Bosch fuel injection and variable valve timing. 1962cc; S3, 115 bhp; S4, 120 bhp. Earlier versions had smaller capacity motors (1.3, 1.6 and 1.8-litre units).

Valve clearances

Every 12,000 miles/annually (whichever comes first), check the valve clearances (consult Alfa literature for correct clearances for your model). The gaps are controlled by selective shims at the top of each valve stem (to adjust a clearance the valve gear has to be dismantled). In each case with the cam lobe pointing directly away from the valve, use feeler gauges (applied between the flat of the cam and the valve ‘cup’) to ascertain the existing clearance.

Engine – mechanical aspects

It is advisable to re-adjust the timing chain at least every 6000 miles. First run the engine at 1200rpm, then, with the unit at idling speed, slacken the tensioner screw to permit the tensioner to tighten the chain. Firmly re-tighten the screw on completion. At every service, visually examine the finned sump, checking for damage (particularly likely if the front suspension has been lowered) and making sure that the fins are not clogged with dirt; ideally power-wash the fins at least once a year (to help prevent the engine from running hot). Late engines have variable valve timing. There is an easy way of ascertaining if the system is operating… With the system’s electrical connector detached from the front of the cam cover, the engine should not start. If the motor fires up when the cable is re-connected, all is well. For optimum engine life, NEVER rev the unit hard before it has fully warmed up.
NOTE: Before closing the bonnet, make quite sure that no tools or components (etc.) are left on top of the engine; the bonnet sits just above the motor and is easily dented if slammed shut onto such items…

Fuel system

Every 6000 miles/annually: Examine all fuel system pipework and connections. Re-lubricate operating linkages. Check the air filter element(s); renew regardless at least every 12,000 miles. Spiders may be equipped with SPICA mechanical fuel injection (seek specialist help), twin Weber carburettors (adjust using proprietary equipment for balancing/tuning twin carburettors, and in conjunction with the manufacturer’s literature), or Bosch fuel injection (usually extremely reliable in service; seek specialist help for problems). Renew the fuel filter at least every 30,000 miles. Try to avoid running low on fuel – this can result in dirt circulating through the system, seriously damaging the components within.
NOTE: If petrol can be smelt inside the car, first check for serious leaks from the fuel system. If none are discovered, the culprit could be the complex system installed for fuel vapour recirculation. This incorporates pipework to direct the fuel vapour into a carbon canister within the front right hand wheel arch. Many owners have done away with this system.


Engine oil: Although the official advice (for Series 4 cars) is to change the engine oil and filter at least every 10,000 miles or annually (whichever comes first), for maximum engine life it is beneficial to reduce the mileage interval between changes to 6000. Warm the engine during a long run, then drain the oil. Use a good quality multi-grade oil, with a viscosity rating of 10W50 or 15W50. The oil capacity is 7.16 litres. Please dispose of the old oil in an environmentally friendly manner - local councils provide waste oil collection points. At every service, check for oil leaks – especially from the ‘O’ rings underneath the camshaft bearings. Transmission oil: Alfa’s advice for Series 4 cars is to check the transmission oil levels every 30,000 miles, but it is wise to check at least every 10,000 miles or annually (whichever comes first). Top up if necessary with 85W90 oil. Some owners report that the gearchange action can be improved, especially when cold, by using a modern synthetic gearbox oil. Every 20,000 miles, re-grease the propeller shaft slip yoke. Other aspects: Every 3000 miles/annually, sparingly lubricate the hinges and lock mechanisms (wipe off excess lubricant).


At least every 6000 miles or six months, whichever comes first: Closely inspect the brake fluid, fixed brake pipes, flexible hoses and the master cylinder. Ensure that all the caliper pistons are operating freely. Renew any ailing components AT ONCE. In addition, carefully examine the front and rear brake pads and discs. AVOID INHALING DUST FROM THE PADS/SHOES – IT MAY CONTAIN ASBESTOS. WEAR A MASK AND USE A PURPOSE-DESIGNED BRAKE CLEANER FLUID TO HELP ELIMINATE AIRBORNE DUST. Check at each service that the handbrake mechanism moves freely and is properly lubricated. The handbrake operates on separate shoes, which need to be checked periodically. Ensure too that the cables and linkages are not worn, and that the cable is properly secured at its rear end. At least every 24,000 miles/two years (whichever comes first), change the brake fluid after flushing the system.

Cooling system/fan belt

Neglect of the cooling system can result in problems in the long term; Spider engines tend to run hot and it is essential that the system is in good condition at all times. The all-aluminium motor dictates the use of anti-freeze mixture all year round; it is also wise to use distilled or de-ionised water, rather than tap water, to mix with the anti-freeze. At each service, inspect the anti-freeze and check for inter-mixing of the engine oil and coolant (indicating cylinder head gasket failure, which can occur, particularly with the two litre units). Ensure also that the anti-freeze mixture is up to strength. At every service examine the radiator, check for correct operation of the thermostat and the two electrically powered cooling fans, and inspect the hoses. Investigate at once any coolant leaks. At each service, check the alternator/water pump drive belt for condition and tension; deflection should be approximately 13mm or 1/2inch, at the centre point of the longest belt run. Drain and reverse-flush the cooling system at least every 30,000 miles/two years, whichever comes first.

Sundry items

Every 3000 miles, or annually (whichever comes first)... Check brake fluid level and check its cleanliness. Scrutinise all gaiters. If split, the gaiters must be replaced at once, to prevent the ingress of dirt and moisture. Check all electrical connections and the fuses; inspect all wiring for damage. Assess the condition/security of the exhaust system. Examine all running gear components, steering mounts/attachments, and suspension components/mountings/bushes. Note that the standard rubber mounting bushes tend to deteriorate from around 50,000 miles; polyurethane types are available. Ensure that all mounting bolts/nuts are all tight – including the wheel nuts. Check the shock absorbers for deterioration/leaks. Examine the coil springs for damage (the rears are prone to breakage). Stiffer rear springs are available; these also improve the car’s ride height at the rear. Inspect the underbody for damage and rectify paint blemishes. Assess all tyres (including the spare) for condition and pressure. If the front tyres wear unevenly, adjustable top suspension arms are available (from the United States), to improve matters.


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