Doctor Diesel

Old Renaults never die!

RenaultHello Doc, I’m Bill (still) in Poland. I wrote to you some time ago about the experiences I’d had with winter tyres, and I still maintain that, if you’re going to do bad weather road testing, then you really have to do this with winter tyres fitted – otherwise you’re just comparing the different tyres, not the cars themselves, what with all the new-fangled anti-slip devices fitted.

But that’s not the main reason for my e-mail. I’ve been looking around for a while now to find an old car that I can put some time and effort into and make it good again. Finally I’ve found what I wanted – a Renault Avantime (A what? Shock, horror. Did somebody actually buy a new one in Poland? Maybe it was Lech Walesa’s state car? Doc). However, as a diesel car buyer for more years than I care to remember, this Avantime with the 2.2-litre dCi engine was never sold in the UK, although I guess this engine was available on other Renault models (It was available in the Vel Satis, Ed). I haven’t driven the car much as yet but, on taking delivery, I had to drive it some 150 kilometres, mainly on a motorway. This has given me my first project as, while the car drives alright after doing 170,000 kilometres, it doesn’t have quite the performance that I’m used to. My daily drive at present is an original Ford Kuga, with the least powerful diesel engine, and I was surprised to find that the Avantime is actually a bit heavier than the Kuga. It also has a slightly more powerful engine on paper, so you might expect a pretty similar driving experience, but it isn’t even close. So my question is simply whether you can give me some advice on where to start in improving the sluggish acceleration that I’m experiencing. Being as lazy as the next person, and hunting through the adverts in your magazine, I found a couple of adverts that claim to restore the engine power and clean the turbo. But then when you start searching around on the internet, you get all sorts of conflicting advice. If you can help at all with any suggestions, I’ll let you know in time if I have had any success! Thanks,
Bill Cargill

Thanks for your letter Bill. You could start nowhere better than by finding some good diesel additive, like Millers Diesel Power EcoMax, or a local equivalent if you can find something that looks fairly genuine, and do a double dosage on a full tankful of fuel. Second thoughts – how good is the diesel fuel quality out there? Poland is in the EC, so in theory it should meet EC standards, but it might be best to use a big brand name rather than some local brew made from cabbages and potatoes! Failing that, various respectable companies (although I’m obviously thinking in UK terms) that you’ve seen in Diesel Car do offer engine restorers of varying effect. They go from something like the Millers fuel additive for a one-shot tankful clean out, to special turbo cleaning kits that help shift all the rubbish from a gummed up turbocharger. I’m saying all of this because there’s no point in thinking about tuning the engine until you know it is running alright. The Avantime was based on the Espace, and assuming a similar weight, the 2.2-litre dCi engine of 148bhp/236lb ft torque should give a 0-62mph figure of 11.5 seconds, so whilst the power isn’t too bad, the torque is quite weak for the weight. After 170,000 kilometres, the engine could either be (a) knackered, if it hasn’t been well maintained, or (b) in pretty good shape, if it has had regular servicing or (c) somewhere in between! It’s not a great mileage at all for a robust engine that’s had regular servicing, but if things like fuel injectors haven’t been replaced or kept clean, the power output could be suffering. But fuel consumption could give you some clues. Driven what I call “normally”, I would hope for 35 to 40mpg (official test figure was 38mpg, and they didn’t lie as much with the EC figures back then), so if you’re able to get that sort of figure, it isn’t in bad shape. 

I don’t know if you speak the local lingo, but if you can find a good hands-on local garage that knows Renaults, then you might well pick up some useful information and help in finding out what shape she is in. Hope this helps a bit – but do let me know how you go on. Best regards,

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