Tin Snail Site
2CV Buyer's Guide (Part 4)
You've found the car you think you want.
This checklist should help you identify any problem
points, and find a good 'un.
This is the 'backbone' of a 2cv, or
"A-series" vehicle, and for this reason, its
condition is very important in holding the whole car
together. However, it is also prone to corrosion,
especially on later (1980s) 2cvs.
Pay attention to:
Front and rear chassis 'legs'.
Rear legs are usually most vulnerable to
The welded seams along the sides
of the chassis. These corrode from the inside
out, causing the seams to bulge.
The top and bottom plates rot
through from the inside. Patches and plates on
the bottom of the chassis suggest it is on its
The front and rear axle tubes are
bolted to the chassis, and these highly stressed
areas are particularly liable to be affected by
Serious corrosion can cause the
chassis to sag or distort, causing symptoms such
as stiff steering, difficult gearchanges and a
poorly fitting bonnet and side panels.
Many 2cvs will already have a
replacement chassis fitted These often represent
a good buy as are usually made of thicker metal
than original chassis. It still pays to check the
condition and quality.
Remember, though, that the end of
the chassis needn't mean the end of the car. If
the bodywork is good, the chassis can be
replaced, bringing it
a new lease of life. To this end,
it may be viable to buy a generally good vehicle
with a rotten chassis fairly cheaply, and fit a
Most of the strength is in the chassis,
and the bodywork serves to hold the occupants in (and
keep the weather out). However, it does have some
structural importance. Although most parts can be
repaired or replaced easily, it pays to find one in good
condition. Look for evidence of good rustproofing as well
as filler, bodge repairs etc.
Floorpans (either side of chassis)
are prone to rust, but repairs here are common,
and the floorpans can be patched or replaced.
Pull back mats and check.
Bulkhead (firewall) is a double
skinned box section which can collect water and
rust through. Often rusts at the base with the
chassis (and should be repaired when the chassis
is replaced). Severe corrosion here may cause the
body to 'sag'. Check below dashboard.
Sills are prone to rusting at the
ends (where front wings bolt on) and around the
centre post and front seat belt mountings. Behind
the back seat, inner rear wings and boot floor (important
for seatbelt mounting) are prone to rot, through
splash from rear wheels. Check also the condition
of the rear lighting panel, and sweeping curves
around the back of the car. Repairs are more
The area around the windscreen
can be repaired, but this often requires
windscreen replacement. Rust in the vent flap
below the windscreen is very common, but this can
be replaced easily.
Front and rear wings bolt on and
can be replaced very easily. Check, though, for
siezed fixing bolts, rust around the front
indicators and at the bottom of front or rear
Doors, bonnet (hood) and bootlid
(trunk) are also easy to replace, but check for
rust around the bottom of the doors, and at the
base of the rear windows.
Check the overall condition of
the canvas roof, as a replacement costs around
100. Check for perishing, splits and holes,
and the condition of the wires along the edges of
the roof (these hold it down at speed).
Engine & Transmission:
The 2cv engine should be rugged and
reliable, and extremely durable. However, it does rely on
regular servicing, and being kept properly adjusted. Look
for some evidence of this.
The engine should be free from any major
oil leaks. A blue 'purflux' oil filter (the only type
suitable for a 2cv) is a good sign. Check for white
"mayonnaise" under the oil filler, a bit is
normal but large deposits suggest a worn engine or
A cold engine should start quickly on
full choke and settle down to a smooth tickover. Check
that the oil pressure light comes on with the Ignition,
then off shortly after starting. Check for exhaust leaks;
smell for fumes through the heater and listen for
'chuffing' (a loose air filter lid can sound like an
exhaust leak). Once the engine is warm, it should rev
fairly freely without spitting or misfiring (this can be
caused by badly adjusted timing). 'Blue' exhaust can
point to worn piston rings or valve guides. A bit of
tappett noise is normal. With the ignition off, turn the
engine on the starting hande; there should be definite
resistance on each rotation (compression stroke).
With the engine warm, it should be
possible to pull away on a flat road in 2nd gear without
any problems. The car should just be able to accelerate
from 30m.p.h. in 4th.
2cv gearboxes are usually fairly noisy,
and will whine in all gears, especially 1st, 2nd and
reverse. 1st has no synchromesh, so is difficult to
engage when moving. Check for severe whining in 3rd, or
any grinding sounds from the gearbox.
Steering, Brakes and Suspension:
Check the front wheels for excess play in
wheel bearings, kingpins or track rod ends. Kingpins
often show play (pull top of front wheel back and forth),
especially if not well greased, and cost about £60 to
replace. Track rod ends should not show much play. When
driving, the steering is often heavy on corners, but
should not feel stiff, or shudder (often a sign of worn
kingpins or track rod ends).
Brakes are fairly heavy (no servo) but
very effective. Drum brakes may feel a little 'wooden'. A
bit of squeaking is normal on brakes which are not used
often, but any severe squealing or grating will be due to
severely worn or contaminated pads or discs/drums. The
steering should not pull in one direction (a slight pull
is normal on cambered roads) under heavy braking. This,
again, suggests contaminated pads/shoes. Front brakes are
mounted on transmission, and are easy to access/check for
Handbrake works on front wheels, and may
require adjustment. A small amount of movement when the
car is held on the handbrake is due to a bit of play in
driveshafts but is normal.
Suspension should be soft, but should not
bounce excessively. A bit of squeaking from either side
is normal, and can be easily cured. Check that the
vehicle stands fairly square without leaning. A severe
'nose down' attitude may suggest a bad chassis.