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Citroën 2CV

Published: 24th Jun 2011 - 2 Comments

Citroën 2CV
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Engines can be perked up and have even been turbocharged but to us it largely negates the point of the whole car, which is economy first and last.


(1985 2CV6 specification taken as example). Air-cooled, overhead valve, horizontally opposed (flat) twin cylinder 602cc, 29 bhp

Sundry items

Every 3000 miles, or annually (whichever comes first)... Examine alternator belt and re-tension if necessary, aiming for approx. 1/4in. (6.5mm.) play in centre of longest belt run. Check cleanliness/security of all electrical connections; inspect wiring for damage. Ensure that all wiring in engine compartment is secured well clear of hot components. Check headlamp adjustment; use knurled adjuster inside car (rotate clockwise to lower beams; anti-clockwise to raise them). Assess condition/security of all steering and running gear components and suspension mounting bushes. Check exhaust system for leaks. Inspect underbody for damage and rectify paint chips, etc.


Engine oil: For optimum engine life, ideally change oil and filter at least every 3000 miles or annually (whichever comes first). (Note: Early cars lacked a conventional external filter; on these the oil needs to be changed at least every 1500 miles). Use top quality multigrade oil. Please dispose of old oil in environmentally friendly manner - local councils provide waste oil collection points.
Oil capacity (for oil change): Approx. 2.2 litres (3.9 pints).
Manual Gearbox oil: Every 3000 miles/annually (whichever comes first), check/top up gearbox (with car horizontal). Use SAE 80EP oil.
Gearbox capacity: 0.9 litres (1.6 pints). (Provision is made for draining the transmission when required).
Running gear: At least every 1000 miles, lubricate grease nipples as follows: King pins - pump in grease until it emerges from between each king pin and the axle assembly; ensure king pin sealing plugs are intact. Driveshaft joints (ensure that gaiters are not damaged).
Other aspects: Every 3000 miles, lubricate hinges and lock mechanisms (wipe off excess lubricant).

Valve clearances

Inlet and exhaust (cold), 0.2mm. (0.008in.); adjustment is by screw and locknut. Rotate engine until one valve is fully open, then check/adjust clearance on corresponding valve on opposite cylinder. Repeat process for all valves.

Fuel system

Every 3000 miles or annually (whichever comes first), examine all fuel system pipework/connections; renew at once any ailing components. Every 3000 miles, check condition of air filter element (it can be swilled in clean paraffin; dry before re-fitting); ideally renew filter regardless every 6000 miles (or when seriously clogged). Every 3000 miles, check carburettor controls for correct operation; lightly oil moving parts. After valve clearances and all ignition settings have been checked/set, and with engine fully warmed up, check/reset carburettor mixture/idle speed settings. Aim for idling speed of approximately 800 to 850 rpm (0.8 to 1.6%CO).


At least every 3000 miles or annually, whichever comes first, examine front brake pads and discs (brake shoes and drums at front on early cars; the brakes are inboard-mounted and difficult to reach, so are often ignored. On these, the driveshafts first need to be separated from the drums, by removing six bolts on each side. Always inspect cylinders for leaks and renew in axle sets if leaking).Examine also the rear shoes, cylinders and drums (see Top Tips). Check also brake pipes, flexible hoses and master cylinder. Renew any ailing components AT ONCE. AVOID INHALING DUST FROM PADS/SHOES – MAY CONTAIN ASBESTOS. Adjust brake shoe to drum clearances as required. Check handbrake adjustment (handbrake operates on front wheels. On drum-braked cars, rotate wingnut adjuster located at rear of engine compartment, near to transmission assembly; take up cable slack without applying tension. On disc braked cars rotate eccentric until pads lock disc, then back off; lock eccentric and adjust cables so that cable ends protrude equally). (Note: Front brake pads require replacement if they cannot be adjusted to grip disc). At least every two years, change brake fluid.


Spark plugs: Champion L85 or L87Y, AC42FF or equivalent. Gap 0.6 to 0.7mm. (0.024in. to 0.027in.). Check/clean every 6,000 miles or annually (whichever comes first); renew regardless every 12,000 miles. Remove rubber plugs from ducting in order to reach plugs.
Contact points: Gap 0.4±0.05mm. (0.014 to 0.018in.), corresponding with dwell angle reading of 109±3 degrees. In each case, check/clean points every 6000 miles or annually (whichever comes first); renew regardless every 12,000 miles (note - contact breakers operate at half speed of that required for a four cylinder engine, and so can survive longer). To reach contact points… First remove cooling fan cowl and release/remove fan securing nut (deep 14mm. socket or box spanner; tap on extension bar with hammer to loosen fan, which is located on crankshaft taper). With points box cover removed, re-fit fan securing nut and, using 14mm socket spanner, rotate engine until points are fully open; inspect their condition (renew if necessary) and check gap. Apply a little high melting point grease to cam lobes.
High tension leads: Every 3000 miles, clean and check condition, ensuring that all connections are sound.
Timing: Check timing while contact points box is still exposed. Static setting is 12 degrees BTDC. To check, connect a 12 volt test lamp between contact points terminal and battery’s positive connection. Pass a 6mm diameter rod (or 5mm hexagon) through aperture in flywheel housing and slowly rotate engine until rod engages in the timing hole in the flywheel. With test lamp connected and ignition on, slacken contact points box support bolts and rotate box clockwise, then anticlockwise until lamp just extinguishes. (Note: A voltmeter can be used instead of a test lamp). Re-tighten contact box bolts and re-assemble.

Best Mods

  • With so little power available even when running properly, you need to make sure the ignition system is running optimally all the time.The most useful upgrade you can make is a 123 electronic ignition system, for £125 (from
  • Halogen headlights are also worthwhile; you’ll need a special ring to take the modern bulb, but you can convert for around £30. An electric heater for £90 stops you getting hypothermia in winter, while a heated rear window at £125 is worth considering on a daily driver.
  • Another mod that’s worthwhile is a hatchback conversion; this is an original Citroen offering that can be tracked down for around £30 on a used basis. It connects the boot lid and window to each other, with the latter hinging at the top to become a tailgate. When closed nobody can tell the difference, but it increases the car’s practicality no end.
  • Engines can be perked up and have even been turbocharged but to us it largely negates the point of the whole car, which is economy first and last.

Top Tips

  • Note that for better access to the sides of the engine, the front wings can be unbolted and removed while the bonnet simply lifts away. Also the doors can be removed by simply removing their split pins but take care not to damage the panels while not fitted to the car though!
  • Take care when raising the car as the suspension travel is considerable.
  • Removing the front brake drums is one of the worst jobs on early cars. asit involves either removing the six securing nuts, pushing the drive-shaft out of the way and wriggling the drum off in a very limited space… Or removing the driveshaft completely.
  • Later post ‘81 disc-braked cars are naturally much easier although still in-board although really require LHM brake fluid. At the rear, the main hub nut requires a 44mm socket spanner to remove, then brake drum needs to be removed using a puller, or by carefully levering simultaneously from both sides.
  • King pin wear is common although inexpensive to put right. Heavy steering can be down to a twisted chassis or seized kingpins if they haven’t been greased every 1500 miles. To check them, jack up the car and try rocking the wheel at the top and bottom. There should be a small amount of play, but anything significant means they need replacing, which is best left to a specialist. Budget on £15 and two hours’ labour per side.
  • There’s an arm from the front wheel hub to the track rod end. This arm has a ball which sits within the track rod end, and the ball wears oval. If the steering wobbles as you drive over a bump, a new arm is needed at £80 per side.
  • The Citroen engine relies on its oil to keep cool. The oil cooler that’s positioned behind the engine-driven fan has to be kept clean, but its location ensures it gets filthy – guaranteeing it’ll run hot. In a bad case, one piston can partially seize as a result.
  • The oil should have been changed every 3000 miles and the filter every 6,000 miles. CitroÎn later changed the schedule to 6000, but with no changes to the engine. If this is adhered to the unit will cover 200,000 miles with ease, even if it’s not whisper quiet!
  • A small amount of oil weeping is okay, but if there are large pools of lubricant beneath the car it’s bad news. It’s usual for the engine to sound clattery, as the tappets aren‘t set tightly – but don’t confuse this with rattles or knocking from worn out bearings, although the main bearings are huge for the power output and rarely go. More likely is piston slap.
  • The transmission has an easy time, but it doesn’t last forever. The first thing to give trouble is normally third gear synchromesh, which will crunch as you change up from second gear – especially if you’re really revving the engine as you do so.
  • Once the car is up to cruising speed, leave it in third gear and listen for howling from the gearbox. If it’s making a racket the gearbox will need to be rebuilt because the mainshaft’s rear bearing has had it.
  • The driveshafts and clutch don’t usually give any trouble, as long as the latter has been adjusted to give 20mm of free play at the pedal. Depending on which way the adjustment’s out, it’ll either not release properly, or slip.
  • If the gearchange is uncomfortably stiff, it’s probably because the bushes at the base of the gearlever have been greased; but the bushes should be sprinkled with talcum powder to reduce friction! Slop and excess movement can be due to the bushes on the link between the two levers – it’s easy to fix and cheap at less than a tenner.
  • All old Citroens can rust – badly! First port of call is the top of the rear wings, which rot along the seam; look for rust stains here..You can buy a new galvanised chassis for around £400. By now most 1980s cars will have had a new chassis fitted; pre-1980 vehicles generally last longer.

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User Comments

This review has 2 comments

  • It's not a car it's a way of life!!!

    And that says it all appreciating and economical classic, check,
    fun to drive, check

    great UK club and abundant spares network, check.

    In Europe, there many clubs and events and you can travel thru France and the locals will smile and wave, and Japanese tourists [and others!]

    will clamour to have their pictures taken with this French classic

    ...roof back, dreamy tree lined French roads, sunshine, great wine cheese paradise!

    Comment by: Geoffrey Wulff     Posted on: 10 Dec 2011 at 07:25 PM

  • I've been driving a 2CV for 15 years. Very comfortable ride, easy to handle and you can repair everything yourself.
    The design goes back to the 1930's and it makes me feel very special when I drive it (or even when I look at it).
    The roll-back roof makes it a perfect choice for the summer (which is quite long in Greece where I live) and it makes you a part of a wide community of classic enthusiasts.
    Overall a great classic!

    Comment by: marantonio     Posted on: 26 Dec 2011 at 09:56 PM

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