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Citroen DS

Published: 19th Dec 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Citroen DS
Citroen DS
Citroen DS
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Do you drive this great classic or are thinking of buying one? Here’s how to ensure that you get the best out of your car for years to come

When Citroën took the wraps off the DS at the Paris Motor Show in 1955, it stunned all who saw it. Looking like something from the far-flung future with its space-age styling and some impressive technological advancements. Today, the DS is a highly regarded, valuable classic. Don’t let its reputation for complexity put you off – it’s one of the finest classic cars money can buy.

Best Mods

  • MOD Modding isn’t that common on the DS. That said, a good place to start is with standard methods such as a porting and polishing the cylinder head and improved induction and exhaust. It should yield a noticeable increase in power of around 10-15bhp. For those with a bigger budget, companies like Peacock Engineering in Norfolk offers a 2.5-litre engine, which uses a CX block as well as parts from the 2.3 DS lump
  • MEND Be wary of high-mileage engines. The DS can suffer from head gasket failure in later life. The engine uses wet liners, which can sink. The only solution is to replace the head entirely. Unlike other engines, it cannot be skimmed. Look for the obvious signs of oil and water mixed together. Should the car require a new head, this is a good time to fi t hardened valve seats. A heavy smoking engine could indicate worn piston rings.
  • MOD The DS was originally intended to feature an air-cooled fl at six but limited coffers meant it had to use what was to hand. This means although not easy, it is possible to slot another engine into the slender engine bay, modders have installed V6 and V8s. For those looking to some originality, larger 2175 or 2347cc from the later DS can be installed, increasing power from 75bhp of the 1911cc to a more respectable 141bhp, should the later fuel-injected package from the DS23 be chosen
  • MEND Whichever DS you opt for, with proper care, this engine should be largely reliable and trouble-free. Remember at its core it’s a simple beast and most repairs are within the scope of the DIYer. Oil leaks can often be traced to leaking camshaft seal, which is fi xable, however, it will require the gearbox to be removed. Noisy tappets could be poor adjustment or a worn camshaft. Timing chains can become noisy, check for play. If it requires replacement it’s a major job as the engine will need removal
  • MOD A new, uprated steering rack is available from Citroën Classics for £950. While pretty expensive, it does come with a two-year, unlimited mileage warranty and features new seals and bearings. The company describes it as ‘better than what the Citroën made’. It’s correctly set up for the DS’s fl uid pressure as well, and is a ‘fi t and forget’ item that will greatly improve the feel of your DS. A full range of uprated seals and clips, made from longer lasting, modern materials, is also available.
  • MEND Listen out for any knocks or bangs when the steering is at full lock. This indicates the driveshaft joints are worn. Also ensure the balljoints have been greased regularly. Reconditioned steering racks are available, but expect to pay £600 for one, or £500 exchange. The power steering system can leak fl uid. The same fl uid that fi lls the suspension also powers the steering, so check that neither leak. To check, turn from lock to lock. If the pump continues to work; it means the system is leaking.
  • MOD When starting the car check that it rises to the correct suspension height. Listen carefully to hear the suspension pump click when it starts up and switches off. The system is complex, but can be mastered. Spheres can require recharging and despite the system’s relative complexity, are not too tough to replace. Thankfully, all the parts required to repair any faults are available. Spheres are around the £100 mark while a height corrector will cost around double that.
  • MEND The hydraulic suspension works well but problems with the system can be expensive to repair. The fl uid in the suspension should be replaced every couple of years. Should one of the suspension spheres fail the cheapest option for replacement is to source one from the later CX. Expect to pay around £50-60 for a replacement. Look for debris in the fl uid as an indication of whether or not it needs changing. Fluid comes in two fl avours, red (Dextron II) and green (LHM). It’s vital that you replace it on a like-for-like basis.
  • MOD Modding the gearbox is a good way to improve drive-ability and fuel economy without fear of affecting the car’s value. As standard the DS has something of a low-ratio unit. Increasing the ratio of the fi nal drive and top gears can help to lower the strain on the engine, reduce noise, increase mpg and result in a more serene driving experience – much more in keeping with the DS’s style and ride. The later fi ve-speed manual ‘box can be fitted to early, four-speed examples.
  • MEND The DS launched with a four-speed manual or a three-speed automatic. Manual changes were handled via a column-shift and from 1970, the DS was offered with a fi ve-speed manual gearbox. With a manual, pay particular attention to the change from 2nd to 3rd. When the synchro begins to wear on a DS gearbox, it’s the change between 2nd and 3rd that is affected fi rst. The transmission should be smooth and quiet. Noise can indicate worn bearings. Synchro rings are around £100 a piece, while an input shaft comes in at around £250.
  • MOD Spheres can be replaced at around £110 each, exchanged. Give the back end a bounce to check the car is adequately damped. If there is little or no movement, that indicates a problem at the rear. Check that the pump is working correctly, it should activate twice in a minute. Listen carefully to ensure it does. If it doesn’t, the system could be leaking or an accumulator may need replacing.
  • MEND Check for signs of fl uid leaking from the car’s belly as the pipes that feed that impressive suspension system can degrade over time. Raise the car to its maximum height and look thoroughly for any signs of escaping liquid. Check that the balljoints have been greased regularly. Pay particular attention to the rear suspension cylinders. The brackets can rust and split, leaving the spheres hanging loose from the body.
  • MOD The standard brakes are good and the rear drums hard-wearing. Scope for modifying is limited, however uprated pads are available, as are drilled and grooved discs. In all honesty though there is little need to really modify the car’s brakes – the money would be better spent ensuring that the standard components are in good order; don’t use cheap pads. Check the handbrake works properly – it uses separate pads for the handbrake and are non-adjustable.
  • MEND The DS was one of the fi rst, if not the fi rst, car to feature a servo. The discs are inboard and can be more than awkward to replace. The DS features a warning system to alert the driver to failing pads, however this system can fail, so allowing them to run too thin. Pads can be checked for wear by looking behind the radiator’s air duct. Pads are inexpensive at around £50. Expect to pay around £60 for front discs. The expense will come with the labour of fitting them.
  • MOD Given the DS’s sheer beauty, bodywork mods are rare. However, a full-length Webasto sunroof can add bags of Summer-time appeal without affecting the character of the car. For around £100 a periodstyle ‘Gradulux’ rear blind can be fi tted, giving a touch more retro chic to the DS, with the added bonus of keeping the inside cooler during hot weather, as well as protecting the rear shelf from sun damage.
  • MEND As with any car from the 50s, the DS is susceptible to tin-worm. Check for rust in the door bottoms, bootlid corners, wings, and around the windscreen. Companies such as Citroën Classics (www.,carries a wide variety of body repair panels. The DS is almost modular in construction, meaning most panels bolt or screw on, offering a tremendous advantage to home restorers. Replacements can be very hard to source
  • MOD A variety of alloy wheels can be fitted to the DS to suit a range of budgets. The original wheels are 15 inch, so consider the size of your wheel and tyre combination before fi tting them. Fatter rubber will improve grip and road holding and since the DS (except for the ID) uses power steering the extra weight of the bigger wheels and tyres will have little negative effect on the car.
  • MEND Replacement, original-spec steel wheels are available at around £120 a corner, again on an exchange basis. Wheel trims have been remanufactured too, and cost around the £60 mark. For those looking to keep things strictly original, tyre inner tubes can still be had from Michelin for around £15 a go. More modern rubber can be fi tted to those wheels should you wish to keep things more in-line with the saloon’s original appearance. Or try CX or SM rims?

Top Tips

The DS is one of the most distinctive cars of the 20th Century. On top of that fantastic styling it boasted some excellent innovations which even now impress yet shouldn’t strike fear with the home mechanic. The trick is to do what you can to keep on top of things and enlist a DS expert as and when needed – delving into things you don’t know will only make matters worse! And keep the chassis sound and rust-free.

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