Most recent update to this page: 1st November 2022. Click here to go to that update.
In mid February of 2021 absolutely the last thing I was looking for was another car. I was acutely aware of the fact that I already had one more car than I had proper driveway space for and ideally really needed to be getting rid of one, much less gaining one. Having just spent quite a bit on getting come improvements made to the Invacar as well, I was really wanting to tighten the financial belt for a couple of months.
I really didn't need another car...Much less another PROJECT car! Never mind one which hasn't been on the road since 2011 (possibly earlier), is rare enough that finding parts is going to be challenging, and currently wasn't running.
Apparently fate heard me and decided that my life had been too simple of late.
I had known of this car for a few years through one of the forums I'm active on, the restoration of it had been getting picked away at bit by bit by a group of people since 2017. However the situation changed quite abruptly when the owner lost their storage. I stood back for a while as I fully expected people to be falling over themselves to take it on...However between the time of year and the restrictions on movement due to COVID, nobody was really able to at least without significant difficulties despite a lot of people wanting to, and it was looking like the future of the vehicle might be in jeopardy. A few people had said they were willing to step in if it became a matter of life or death - but with time ticking down I was getting worried that we were going to run out of time to shift it, so jumped in myself.
A couple of days later, I received a photo from the transport agent showing that she was on the way.
Note: Where they are available higher resolution versions of any images on this page can be accessed by clicking on them.
Not long later she had arrived at the overnight halt.
Then the following morning, bang on time she arrived outside my house. Right about the point the heavens opened, naturally.
Within minutes we were offloading...
Right...So let's have a look at what I've landed myself with. Time for a walk-round.
For a 38 year old Citroen, at first glance she looks in incredibly good shape.
Does anything scream 1980s quite so strongly as these graphics on the rear quarters?
Far from the only French car on the drive, with my 1996 Citroen Xantia Activa to keep her company.
The only actual damage of any note I can find is a couple of rust scabs on the offside door bottoms and one dent just forward of the nearside rear wheel - which I reckon is repairable.
She's obviously been sitting around for a while though!
The bonnet does a good job of showing how oxidised the paint is...Though it looks like it will come up lovely with a bit of elbow grease.
While a few things were obviously astray from the previous owners hunting down a running issue, the engine bay at a glance seemed to be surprisingly clear of bodges for a car of this age and mileage. Behold the mighty 1360cc heart of this very space-age looking car. A bit disappointing when it looks like it should really be powered by a fusion reactor or something. Well...maybe not so much now, but in 1983 this car must have looked like it had just landed from the future. Admittedly probably rather more so in white or silver than beige...
Speaking of the bonnet...That's worth a second look on the BX in itself as it's made of plastic. This represented quite a considerable saving in terms of weight in a way quite ahead of its time.
The metal grid towards the rear is there to act as a Faraday cage to help contain the inevitable RF interference generated by the ignition system. This would normally be irrelevant as the metal of the bonnet would do that job alone...but with plastic being used instead this was necessary. It's common to see BXs with bonnets which have warped over the years, so I was quite surprised to see that this one seems to sit pretty much perfectly level.
The interior compared to the rest of the car is a little sad and definitely needs some love. Though everything (save for a couple of bits of cloth) is there, and for an early BX there are surprisingly few broken bits of plastic. These cars had issues with brittle plastics from the day they left the factory, never mind after 38 years and 150K miles. The biggest thing which lets it down is that the seat cloth has deteriorated quite badly. Someone has obviously started the process of re-trimming the rear seats before abandoning it.
The slip covers on the front seats may have helped at some point many years ago, but they're mouldy and decomposing now to the point that the only place for those is the bin.
While the rear seats missing their covers *looks* dramatic...the first stage of re-trimming them (which honestly really is the only way forward due to how the fabric has separated from the backing) would have been to strip the covers off anyway...so I don't really see it as a big deal at all. The foam is in reasonably good condition compared to in a lot of cars I've seen from this era at least. So re-trimming the seats (and the matching door cards) is obviously on the cards, beyond those however the interior for a car of this age and mileage is in really good shape. Especially as the interiors of these Series 1 cars were never the hardest wearing (the Series 2 cars were far better in this regard).
While the seats are in quite a state, the headlining looks to have survived almost completely unscathed by the passage of time.
Ah, the interior of the Series 1 BX. I think it's fair to say that this was the last car where Citroen produced an interior which was still truly pure to their roots. The Series 2 BX and the later Xantia were toned down and featured far more conventional driver controls and instrumentation. While this made them far, far more attractive to the likes of the fleet market and is honestly probably a good move...it still makes me a bit sad. In a world where cars are getting more and more samey with each passing day I love that Citroen used to really do things their own way.
The first thing you'll almost inevitably notice when you open the door is the bizarre configuration of the controls in front of the driver. These bear a closer examination as the so called PRN controls are unlike anything you're likely to have ever seen on any other car (unless it's a Citroen!).
On the left we have this.
While this initially looks bizarre, with a few seconds of looking at it you can probably figure it out. This basically takes over the functions of the indicator stalk and lighting control (which quite commonly are combined on European cars). The rocker switch at the top controls the indicators (turn signals). The slider on the left hand control is the headlight control. The triangular section immediately next to it (which has the lighting switch position legends on it) is a button which when pressed (towards frame right) toggles between dipped headlights and main beam. The bottom section is a button which similarly when pressed toward frame right provides the ability to flash main beam as pulling the indicator stalk towards you would on most cars.
Now you've had the left hand cluster explained to you, the right hand one probably won't take you any time to decrypt, even with the more worn legends. The rocker switch at the top provides the controls for the wash/wipe functionality on the rear windscreen. The slider on the right hand side controls the windscreen wiper, with the triangular button adjacent to it when pressed towards frame left activating the windscreen washers. The lowest button is pressed towards frame left to activate the horn. The two buttons behind the main control cluster operate pretty much as it looks like they should, being for the rear windscreen demister and hazard flashers respectively.
The instrument cluster itself is a little strange as well.
The strangest thing mainly being the speedometer. Instead of a fixed face with a rotating needle, the needle on this is a fixed vertical marker, with the numbers printed on a drum which rotates behind it to display the relevant speed. In the close-up image below you can just see the marking for 10mph to the right - so if you were driving at 10mph that would have rotated around to be shown behind the marker. Hopefully once I get the car up and running I'll be able to get a helper to snap a couple of photos of it in action.
The rest of the instrumentation is more conventional, though the layout is a little unusual just due to the strange speedometer. Though for a 1983 car the BX is very well catered for where warning lights are concerned - even more so in that it gives the driver the ability to test the major ones at will - which is what the button with the eye symbol in does. When pressed that will light the hydraulic system low pressure, engine overheat, low coolant level, oil pressure warning lights and the "STOP" indicator which would come on with any of the above to aid in grabbing the attention of the driver to show that something needs their attention.
It's worth noting that the engine overheat light isn't shown in the example photo below - because that wasn't working at the time of writing this page. The light to the far left is the hydraulic system low pressure warning light.
The "stop" light continued into later models of Citroen, though it did shrink a bit (it's only double-size in the Xantia rather than triple width as in the early BX). Despite a plethora of warning lights one thing that strangely no variant of the Series 1 BX got was a temperature gauge. Though Citroen do get points for making this slightly less daft than on some cars where you just have a single warning light to come on to tell you that your engine is too hot, and by the way by the time you've had a chance to pull over somewhere safe it's too late. For a start there is a dedicated low coolant warning, which in itself should prevent about 80% of overheat incidents in the first place. Secondly the actual engine overheat light in this car is two-stage. Initially the light will flash to advise that something is amiss and you should look for somewhere safe to stop - before the light coming on solid at the point the normal engine overheat light on most cars would come on - that functional description being from the manual for a 1985 car - and one I hope I'll never see in real life! There's a contrast-enhanced photo of the main bank of warning lights below for those curious.
In addition, warning lights which weren't commonplace on cars in the 80s are an oil level warning light (which still isn't anywhere near as common as it should be) - second from the bottom on the right, and a brake pad wear indicator - top right. We'll get some better shots of that when I have the cluster out of the car for cleaning...no doubt a load of the illumination lamps will need changing too, may well just do a blanket replacement of all the lamps to be honest.
Right...Let's get stuck in to seeing what we've got to do. I'm not worrying too much about the underside right now as it's sopping wet outside and I've been advised that it's generally in good order despite some historic patches in the usual areas which seem to have been done to a decent standard. I will obviously have a proper look...but that's going to happen when the ground isn't sopping wet. Obviously in addition to looking for structural rust, there are a LOT of hydraulic lines underneath a BX which will need to be thoroughly checked before I even *think* about driving this car the few miles to the garage where I'll hopefully be putting it in for an MOT in the not too distant future.
Driving anywhere is a fair ways off though as when received the car didn't even run...so a bit of old school fault finding out need to happen first. Oh...and a new battery as the one in the car was dead.
A quick scan around the engine bay immediately revealed a few of things amiss.
Firstly that the vacuum advance unit on the distributor wasn't attached to anything.
In addition the tail of line left there was absolutely mangled so would need to be replaced.
The fuel return line had been removed and was just sitting on the oil filter.
The previous owner confirmed that this was simply a result of their poking around trying to get it to run previously.
Initially I thought this was a vacuum line...but a bit of tracing revealed that it is actually attached to the fuel pump inlet...Have to assume they had been trying to feed it from a fuel can.
Beyond those everything looked all right. Few hose clips needed tightening up and few slightly crusty looking connectors, but nothing which should be an immediate problem.
Step one was replacing the vacuum line between the inlet manifold and distributor advance unit. Annoyingly I didn't have enough 3mm hose in stock to do this...and given the current lockdown situation I can't just go out and buy some. Cue some improvisation. I made two elbows from the 3mm line I did have, then joined them together with some copper brake pipe. Not pretty but it'll work fine until I've got some more hose in stock.
The engine bay is generally "rather grubby" though...Cleaning this up is going to be immensely satisfying when we get that far. That pile of aluminium oxide dust is about 1/4" thick.
The last two checks I made in the engine bay before I attempted a start were obviously oil and coolant. Oil is a little on the high side and smells of fuel (which given the previous owner had reported a persistent misfire I was expecting), and there is coolant in it...need to consult the manual to find out exactly what the max line is meant to be - but there was enough in the expansion bottle I was happy enough to run the car.
Unsurprisingly, she wouldn't start. A quick blast of brake cleaner down the carb proved we had spark so we weren't getting fuel. After a bit of faffing around I established that the fuel pump wasn't providing any meaningful pressure...Time to pull it apart, clean it and see if that helps.
It didn't...and I can still blow back through it. It is *better* but still not great. Time for a new one. Thankfully they're pretty readily available and aren't expensive.
As a temporary measure to allow me to get the car running while I wait for the new pump to arrive though, I borrowed the electric pump I've had fitted to the Invacar for the last year or so.
This did eventually work and I got the engine running...Sounding surprisingly sweet too.
Brief (20 second) video of that first run is over here on YouTube.
Something still wasn't right though. The horrible miss that I think folks have been talking about I believe is because the accelerator pump is completely inoperative, so if you give the engine any real throttle quickly it will die. Even with the electric pump though I was really struggling to get fuel into the float bowl.
This was huge progress as it allowed me to test quite a few things. Not least that the suspension would rise and lower properly, that the clutch and brakes work and that no horrible noises were present. Glad to report all of the above came back good - though there's a slight blow from the mid to rear exhaust joint which is going to drive my OCD absolutely mad until I sort it and stop the puffing noise from it.
The "bounce test" proved that both front suspension spheres appear to be fine, with plenty of very softly damped travel available. The rears...Not so much! There's about an inch of travel. Will be needing new rear spheres then. Not surprised looking at them, they've been there for a good number of years! Bet they'll be fun to remove.
At least with the engine running I was able to pull the car forward a few feet so the path was clear again and I wasn't getting into a fight with the rose bush every time I tried to walk to the garage. It was about that time at which I found a box in the boot containing several sets of BX wheel trims - though most importantly the correct ones for this car.
The only thing that needs doing with these (aside from a good clean) is that the indents need to be painted. On an early Series 1 car like this they would originally have been painted satin black. Back on the car though they have helped tidy things up a bit.
This was actually a couple of days after the car arrived on my drive, but it was the first time it had stopped raining long enough to take a proper look at it! Aside from the one obvious dent just forward of the nearside rear wheel the bodywork is in quite astonishingly good order for a 38 year old, 150K mile car.
If/when I get this car back on the road, I will probably have a chat with a body shop to see if this can be repaired. You can get at the reverse of the panel so hopefully the answer is yes.
Discovering that the front bumper is actually brown rather than beige was something of a surprise!
One of the first orders of business was to get rid of the horrible, mouldy, disintegrating slip covers on the front seats. The actual cloth under them isn't for the most part in *terrible* condition, but is really filthy and as is the norm in these cars has come away from the foam under it, leaving the seats looking very baggy.
With both covers removed and the supplied spares evicted from the back seat I gave the interior a very quick clean.
To be absolutely honest, with the exception of the aging and wear to the seats it scrubbed up far better than I expected. I like the little touches like even the gear lever and handbrake pull being colour coded.
Speaking of nice original touches inside...Really happy to see that the original radio is still here. When did you last see a car with an AM only radio?
The following day it was time to start getting serious about dealing with the exterior grime...so it was time to get the pressure washer involved.
I honestly hadn't realised *quite* how much gunk there was on the front bumper until I started cleaning it.
The engine bay was nearly as bad so was given the same treatment. Still far from actually clean, but it's a huge improvement!
You couldn't even really tell that the LHM reservoir was green originally!
A lot of people seem to get terrified by the idea of getting anywhere near an engine bay with a pressure washer...but with a bit of common sense applied it really isn't a problem.
I left the car set to a fast idle for half an hour or so while I got other things checked off or jobs done to dry off. No drama, no headaches, which also allowed me to confirm that the cooling fan does indeed work.
I did unfortunately spot one area where I'll need to get the welder out to fix. Looks like there's a water trap where the bottom seal kicks up slightly on the rear doors. Annoying, but shouldn't be too big a problem to fix.
Just a decent wash made a huge difference to the exterior!
The persistent issue of struggling to get fuel into the float bowl in the carb required some attention. I knew that the fuel pump itself was very weak, but even with a substitute electric pump fitted I was still struggling to get fuel into it, so there was obviously something amiss with the carb itself too. Time to pull the carb and have a closer look. Getting the carb off is honestly a ten minute job.
Once I removed the needle and seat from the top plate of the carb (they're a combined assembly on this carb) it was pretty obvious why I was having fuelling issues.
If it's not immediately obvious what's amiss there, the fact that this dropped out when turned back over gives a clue.
That little metal ball definitely shouldn't be there. With gravity holding that in place on the fuel inlet port on the needle and seat assembly it was effectively acting as a check valve...pointing the wrong direction! A little bit of consultation of some exploded diagrams of the carb and more than a little head scratching eventually revealed that the ball actually belongs behind the choke control arm - it presses against it to provide drag to keep the choke where you set it.
While this resolved the initial fuel delivery issue it didn't do anything about the fact that the accelerator pump didn't work - and it felt like the whole thing was jammed up. The moment that I removed the cover plate from the pump assembly it was pretty obvious that it wasn't going to work without some attention.
That spring is the return spring which should push the diaphragm outward (frame up, the carb is on its side in this photo)...The spring is on completely the wrong side of the diaphragm - no wonder the accelerator pump wasn't working.
Sadly correcting this didn't restore it to operation - I still can't get fuel from the float bowl through into the accelerator pump cavity. As far as I can tell there's a hard blockage in whatever passage between the float bowl and the pump should carry fuel. So far all attempts to clear this have been unsuccessful...We'll see what an overnight soak and long stint in the ultrasonic cleaner does - but I'm not holding my breath. I'll come back to this issue at a later date.
Just after I was finished putting things back together from the exploratory carburettor surgery a package arrived with a nice shiny new fuel pump in.
Replacing this has to be one of the easiest jobs I've done on a car in a long while - it took me just under seven minutes from starting to having the engine running happily after I was finished.
Getting rid of a lot of the Jubilee clips on the fuel lines and crusty old worm drive clips in the engine bay is definitely a job which will have to happen at some point too. Everything is back together in the engine bay for now though.
At this point I decided that it was probably a good idea to put another couple of gallons of fuel in, as I had no idea how close to empty the tank probably was given the fuel gauge is currently on the list of broken things. That went fine until about 2/3rds of the way through the second can when this happened.
Initially I thought this was something I was doing wrong until I looked closer...
No...I wasn't doing anything wrong, we didn't have a breather issue or anything...the tank is just full! That's a first for me. Not ideal though as I've no idea how old the fuel in there is, so it may well end up having to be drained anyway. Hopefully it's old enough to predate the appearance of ethanol in our fuel here at least. Does mean that I need to further investigate this however.
I did track down two further issues that afternoon. The first being where the bulk of my water ingress issues seemed to be stemming from - into the passenger footwell (which was by far the wettest area of the car) from a failed seal between the bulkhead and the nearside fresh air vent, dripping down onto the fuse box.
At least that should be pretty easy to get sealed from the looks of it.
The second issue was something I'll need to address before the MOT I believe. The nearside front suspension strut gaiter has basically disintegrated.
I've changed these on a Xantia (albeit about 15 years ago) and don't recall it being massively difficult. I'm assuming that the procedure is pretty similar on the BX...Guess we'll see when I go to change it! That was where we left things on that day.
As the weather was being a little...How best to put it...Shall we say "erratic" I decided to crack on with a couple of jobs I could do which largely involved being inside the car. One of the most obvious of these was a near complete lack of any instrument or switchgear lighting. The only evidence of life I had managed to coax out of anything in that department was the illumination for the rear window demister switch.
For no particular reason beyond it being the first thing I came to, I decided to start out with the hazard switch. It turns out that the switchgear in these cars is actually really well thought out from a maintenance perspective. You unclip one piece, remove two screws then the whole lot just pulls apart. Carefully! I seriously don't want to end up breaking any of the switchgear here...It's rare and expensive enough to find for any Series 1 BX...Never mind in such a fetching shade of coffee brown rather than the far more common grey.
Upon checking I found that the bulb in the hazard light switch (it can be accessed from the back of the switch once it's out of the dash without needing to pull the switch further apart) was indeed blown. With that replaced this restored the illumination of this switch. These two switches are actually the only illumination on the task that's tied into the headlights - everything else just comes on with the ignition.
Sorting the instrument panel lighting was doing to be a little more involved though, so it was pulled out of the car and brought inside to the workbench. While removing the instrument panel though my suspicion that the odometer/speedometer didn't work was confirmed though (the mileage shown is exactly the same as at the last MOT this car saw back in 2010), because the speedometer cable wasn't attached to the back of the cluster. It is quite a faff to get on so I'm guessing whoever was last in here (what where they up to?) just gave in trying to reattach it.
Yes, my desk is about as tidy as my garage. Sorry.
It never instils confidence with things like instrument panels when you immediately spot evidence of prior repairs. Pretty sure that little blue and white striped wire shouldn't be there...
After a fair amount of time of cleaning what felt like about three thousand lamp holders and contact pads we were able to hook the illumination circuit up and do a bench test of the illumination.
Now we're getting somewhere! I didn't realise until this point that the Citroen logo (that's where the rev counter would be on higher trim level cars) and little car diagram were lit. The camera does make this look a good deal brighter than it really is (especially the speedometer), it's really much more gentle as you would expect for night time illumination of a car instrument panel.
This will need to come out again and be stripped down fully so that I can clean it properly, plus there is something amiss with the clock which appears to be missing its permanent 12V feed so it resets to 0:00 every time you turn the ignition off. For now though it should get everything we actually need working. With it back in the car we were able to test things.
First up the lighting cluster - previously we had been missing the indicator lights for sidelights, rear fog lights and main beam. Dip beam and the handbrake lights were the only ones over here working.
The dipped headlights and rear fog lights cannot be used at the same time as main beam - though that's now working too.
This had also got the engine overheat warning light working so it appears when the self test button is pressed.
Sadly this didn't sort the actual dash illumination, that was still resolutely dead. At this point my thoughts turned to either a wiring fault or problem with the dash lighting rheostat. Though I didn't think I had one...There was just a hole in the steering column shroud where I would have expected it to be. I figured this was just due to the car being in a relatively low trim level. It seemed worthy of investigation though. Having a peek down inside the lower cowling I could see a connector floating around not attached to anything (highlighted in the photo below).
The wires running to it are green and green with a purple tracer...Having a peek at the schematics showed that these colours matched what should be hooked up to the illumination rheostat. Conclusion: Someone has nicked the rheostat!
Where simple components like this are concerned PSA used to be one of those companies who wouldn't change components like this from year to year if they could avoid it (to save costs), so I had a hunch that a Xantia one was likely to fit. After a quick rummage around in my boxes of bits of Xantia I found one.
The big question though was whether with this connected the dash lighting would work?
That will be a yes! It's hard to tell because this was taken in daylight, but if you compare to the photos above you can clearly see that the speedometer is now lit.
As I had kind of expected the Xantia rheostat did slot perfectly into the cut out in the cowling so was a proper drop-in replacement.
While putting things back together I suddenly remembered spotting this in the box of bits in the boot.
This is the piece of trim which was previously missing to fill the gap between the ignition barrel and steering column shroud. Having that fitted and the rheostat now filling the other hole that was previously visible has tidied that area up a bit.
The lighting rheostat is the control just below the ignition barrel. The small knob just to the right is the choke. A control that many readers here have probably never seen given how long fuel injection has been the norm!
Of course with the illumination working, I had to get a proper brochure style dash at night photo.
It was quite interesting to me to find that (whether by design or happenstance is less clear!) that Citroen seemed to have achieved an illumination effect that didn't really become the norm until a good 20 years later. While the legends for the heater controls are backlit, the sliders themselves aren't. To ensure that they're visible Citroen have mounted a small green tinted lamp above the controls shining down on them. This also provides a gentle background light to the whole centre console and area down around the gear lever - particularly useful as there's a cubby hole down there. The first car I ever saw which featured general background illumination to the cabin beyond the instruments and such was around 2000, in a Skoda Superb, which had a couple of little red LEDs mounted up by the rear view mirror. It's pretty commonplace now, but seeing it in a car from 1983 was a bit of a surprise. ...Though most likely it was just a cheap solution to lighting the heater sliders!
Of course I spotted immediately after getting these photos in the dark that the lamp behind the fuel gauge had packed in again! I'm ignoring that until we get to the "the car has an MOT and is roadworthy snagging list" for now. The whole instrument panel will be coming apart to be cleaned at some point anyway, so I'll deal with it then.
Yes, my Xantia does sit slightly off-level. We haven't had a chance to do a proper levelling session since the front suspension was apart to replace the control arm bushes yet.
A couple of days passed with little opportunity to get any work done on the car, not least due to the weather being horrible (not all that unsurprising in February in England) but we finally got a couple of clear days forecast so it was time to start trying to clean up the car a bit.
This badge had been on the boot lid for a fair number of years and had left quite obvious rusty marks - obviously from the badge not the boot lid as that's plastic on a BX.
While I did have a brief shot at cleaning around it, unsurprisingly it fell off pretty much as soon as I touched it - albeit leaving quite a mess behind.
Well at least this made making the decision of whether to remove it or leave it be because it's part of the story of the car really simple. I will keep it in a box though as it's obviously been on there for a number of years. Sadly the adhesive has etched into the paint a little so there was a bit of a mark left by it, not that you would really notice though unless you were actively looking for it. It definitely looks better than having a rusty badge there anyway I reckon.
I was even more torn about the Stirling Motor Group vinyls. Though I was leaning towards removing them as they were in quite poor condition, especially the one on the bonnet.
I'm also never a fan of stickers and extra badges on cars at the best of times, and these really did stick out like a sore thumb given how clean and un-fussy the styling of the BX is. So I was leaning towards removing them pretty much from the start. If a future owner wished to replaced them it wouldn't be hard to get some replicas made up.
There was a good "small world" moment though when I saw these because there's still a shadow from where an identical sticker lived for several years on the boot of my Xantia.
I've no idea how big a concern that Stirling Motor Group are (or if they even still exist), but it just seemed like quite a coincidence to me when I saw those stickers when I was considering whether to get involved with the car.
They pretty much immediately started to come to bits once I started polishing though, so that made the decision to remove them easier. I think it was the right call given how much this cleaned up the look of the rear of the car.
The removal of the front one also gave us our first sneak peak of what the paint on the bonnet would look like once polished up. Sorry about the shadows, the sun was low in the sky which made getting any useful photos a nightmare.
Given how flat the paint was I was really surprised how well it started to come up with a bit of elbow grease and patience.
The difference between polished and not was especially apparent when the bonnet was half done - the disappearing reflection trick showed it very well I think as can be seen in this really brief video clip.
Given how sorry for herself she looked when arriving on my driveway the transformation that a bit of polish and wax has made is quite remarkable. Beige is one of those colours which absolutely needs to have a really good shine to it to look good, like white if it's flat it just looks awful.
While I had got the carburettor back into something resembling a working state it still wasn't happy. Aside from the non-functional accelerator pump I could tell that the settings were a mile off as she was idling far too fast and I could smell from fifty feet away was running stinking rich.
It turned out that the cause for quite a few of our issues at this point were all linked. Someone had screwed the idle mixture screw all the way in, closing that needle valve hard against its seat. The only reason the engine was idling at all is because the idle speed screw had been wound out so far that it was holding the throttle open. The idle circuit in the carb was doing absolutely nothing, the car was running purely on the main jet.
Opening the idle mixture screw up and backing the idle speed screw off (as the idle immediately shot up to about 3500rpm once I touched the mixture) and a bit of back and forth adjustment got us a far, far smoother idle at a sensible speed and without the car smelling horribly rich. This video clip was taken seconds after I'd got things to a vaguely sensible configuration.
This also shows that opening up that idle mixture screw also got the accelerator pump working again. I have to assume it's fed from a drilling in the carb which was blocked off when that was seated.
Unfortunately my fun was cut short at that point as the weather decided to dump rain on me again.
This did however give me an excellent excuse to grab a bunch of photos of water beading nicely on my recently polished and waxed paintwork. It would have been rude not to really wouldn't it?
Having finally received the replacement oil filter (nowhere locally had the correct type in stock) in the post I was finally able to get an oil and filter change carried out. Really glad to be rid of the horrible rusty oil filter in the engine bay...It's just one of those things which screams neglect to me when I see a really scabby, rusty filter. Having a nice fresh one in place makes quite a visual difference.
It wasn't the most stuck filter I've ever had to deal with but it wasn't far off. I ended up with a three foot breaker bar involved before it eventually decided to shift. Not really surprising given that it's most likely been on there for ten years or more. Likewise getting the oil filler cap (which is just a friction fit on this engine) out took no small amount of persuasion as it had obviously not moved in a long while. I wasn't particularly surprised to find quite a lot of evidence of condensation in the filler neck as it stands out so far from the engine. This will be by far the coolest point on the engine so condensation will always be encouraged at that spot even in spite of the foam lagging Citroen fitted around it. Especially when like this one, the car hasn't had a good run in forever. While it looks quite dramatic, I'm not worrying about this so long as the oil in the sump remains uncontaminated, hopefully after the car has a decent run it will clear up a bit too.
It's worth noting when doing an oil change on any Suitcase engined PSA vehicle that due to the gearbox-in-sump design that they hold quite a bit of oil. The rated capacity for this is a full five litres. So you need to make sure both that you've bought in enough to refill it properly - AND that your drain pan is large enough! Five litres is quite a common size for them, so you're likely to make quite a mess if you're unprepared for that.
A friend of mine was good enough to drop off a pair of spare rear spheres to help me get this car into a drivable condition along with a loan of the correct sphere removal tool to help with getting them changed.
These aren't quite the exact ones for a BX, instead being specified for the rear of an early, non-Hydractive equipped Xantia. The specification is very close though and they will do more than well enough to get the car mobile. Once she's got an MOT I'll make sure to get the correct ones ordered and fitted. The ones on the front and the accumulator are all a bit tired as well, so a full set will go on then. As it was, the rear suspension was completely solid due to the state of the fitted spheres on there. I was quite expecting a battle of truly biblical proportions to get the ones off the car as the rears on BXs and Xantias have a tendency to pretty much weld themselves in place after a couple of years...and these had plainly been there for "quite a while" judging from the looks of things.
Somewhat to my surprise (understatement of the year right there), after ten minutes I had these sitting in front of me.
They just unscrewed from the struts as though they were fitted yesterday. I was utterly shocked to be honest. It was just a matter of cleaning things up, fitting the new seals from the replacement spheres and reassembling. If you were curious, here's what a BX rear suspension strut looks like without a sphere fitted.
It's very important to ensure that no dirt is allowed to drop into the strut itself when doing this work as it will scratch the bore and quickly destroy the strut. Changing that is precisely as much of an involved job as you would expect.
New spheres should only be done up hand tight, there really is no need to go any further. If you have a leak at that point it's because something is wrong (either the seal isn't seated properly or there's dirt/corrosion under it). Just over-tightening the sphere is only going to cause you headaches further down the road.
While this did restore the bounce to the rear suspension of the car, it did highlight that we have an LHM leak on the nearside rear. This isn't actually anything to do with the new spheres being fitted, it's just the scrutiny of the area following fitment of the sphere which has brought it to light.
For those not familiar with Citroens, LHM is the green mineral oil which is used by the hydraulic system on the older models. I believe the C5 was the first since the 70s to use a new formulation of fluid. This is where the term "green blooded" that you might hear the cars with the oleopneumatic systems referred to, as this green fluid runs the suspension, brakes and (where fitted) power steering on these cars.
In this case the leak doesn't actually appear to be anything to do with the suspension as the fluid only appears when the brakes are applied. The leak is currently hidden from direct view but appears to be coming from up above the suspension arm.
The most likely candidate for this in my mind is where the brake line passes through a plastic clip on the top of the suspension arm. Looking at the layout in the manuals this strikes me as being a really obvious water trap. Just hoping that this is indeed the line which has failed as it's an order of magnitude easier to replace than most of the other lines in the area - several of which require the rear suspension subframe to be dropped to allow for replacement due to access problems.
While it's a bit annoying to find an LHM leak right after a job I'd expected to be horrible went swimmingly well, it really isn't expected. This car hasn't been on the road in a LONG time, so there were bound to be issues like this needing to be addressed...It's actually entirely possible that this is the problem which originally took the car off the road...as we've no knowledge of its history we just don't know.
When I have time I'll get the nearside rear wheel off which will give us a proper look at the pipework between the brake caliper and the rear axle unions, and hopefully a clear view of the offending area. Precisely where on the line the leak is is pretty immaterial though as due to the high pressure the hydraulic system on these cars works at the pipes should really be replaced as whole lengths with the correct unions, using normal brake pipe flare joints is generally frowned upon beyond as emergency fixes based on what I've read. Most likely if the pipe has rusted through in one area though the whole thing will probably be past its best anyway though - hoping that they're not all in the same state though as there are a lot of hydraulic lines on these cars, several of which are a royal pain to get to.
Will have to wait and see what I find when I pull the wheel off. Watch this space.
18th March 2021:
Time to have a closer look to see if I can see if I can actually see the failed hydraulic line with the wheel off. Turned out that *getting* the wheel off was a half hour ordeal which required me near enough jumping on the end of a six foot breaker bar to shift the wheel bolts. Thankfully they are bolts rather than studs or there's definitely a good chance I'd have wound up snapping one I reckon.
Unfortunately with the wheel off it doesn't really let you see anything useful. The lines pretty much immediately just disappear above the rear axle beam or out of view. We know the leak is on the brake circuit though, which means that it's this line we're interested in.
While I can't actually *see* the point where the pipe has failed, there's a fine mist of LHM being blasted at the floor immediately above this area whenever the brake pedal is pressed, so this line is definitely the culprit.
NOTE: It is VERY important that you're not tempted to stick your hand in there to see if you can feel where the leak is when the system is pressurised. The hydraulic system on these cars works at a very high pressure (>150 bar), and the resulting spray from a fractured line could be more than intense enough to effectively inject the fluid straight under your skin - quite possibly without you even being aware it had happened.
While I couldn't see exactly where the failure lays, it's obviously on the line which runs from the central union on the rear axle on to the wheel (rather than on the "car side" of that union) which is all I really needed to confirm. Pre-made replacements for this bit of pipework are available from a few different suppliers, so I'll get one ordered.
Logic suggests that the one on the other side isn't likely to be in much better condition so I'll probably order lines for both sides - they're only around £30, so hardly the end of the world. Only real gripe is just how awkward to get at some areas are which will make getting the existing pipe out and the new one into position a fun geometry puzzle I'm sure.
While in the area it gave me an opportunity to have a look at the areas immediately around the wheel arch too. The rear of the nearside sill looks to be in good shape, and there were absolutely no unnerving creaking or crunching noises while the car was being jacked up.
Looking towards the rear of the car there have clearly previously been repairs made to the boot floor and immediately surrounding area (a very common area for rust issues on a BX), though everything seems solid so no reason for alarm.
This will all be cleaned up, given a thorough going over with Vactan to treat any rust before the area gets slathered in Dinitrol, should be fine for a good few years going forward then.
Probably be a bit of a pause for a bit while I wait for the replacement pipework to arrive. Once that's fitted though we'll be starting to get close to the point where final MOT prep starts to happen.
1st November 2022:
It turned out that it wasn't the central axle to wheel line which had failed - I discovered this of course AFTER I replaced the aforementioned line.
Some somewhat unpleasant things may have been said at that point. It turns out that the line which has actually failed is the one that runs TO the centre union on the rear axle from the brake control valve up at the front of the car. This line is pretty much completely inaccessible without dropping the subframe.
This isn't the worst job in the world if you have the car on a lift. It's a bit time consuming, but not really all that difficult. However it isn't a job that I was even vaguely interested in getting involved with when laying on my back on my driveway while being eaten alive by the omnipresent Milton Keynes ant population.
My main intention for this car had been to save it from an uncertain fate and do what I could to make sure it had a future. If it had been a relatively easy route to an MOT and roadworthiness I'd have completed that - but I wasn't about to get involved in dropping subframes on my drive.
Helpfully a new owner wasn't that hard to find, turning up to view the car in a similarly interesting vehicle also with PSA connections.
A deal was done and a couple of weeks later the BX was collected and whisked off to its new home.
Which brings to a close my story with this car. Well almost. I've left a standing request with the new owner that once she's back on the road that they come back over here at some point so I can see properly what this car is like to drive for more than six feed backwards and forwards on my driveway. If and when that happens I'll report it in here.
This page created on: 1st November 2022.
Page last updated: 11th June 2023: Minor formatting changes to improve readability on mobile devices and some background coding improvements.