You'll find this guide helpful if you want to buy a 205 GTI. It tells you what goes wrong with these cars and how can you spot a bad example not worth buying.
Engines are good for well over 100,000 miles, as long as they have had good regular service and been driven fairly sensibly. The body work was painted to last although are light and thin (but that’s just another reason it’s so fast). Have you ever seen a rusty 205?
Buying a second hand GTi is something that should not be taken lightly. First off, don’t think that a GTi is just a standard car with a larger engine and bigger brakes than the lower models. The car is quite capable of being put through it's paces on a race track. It has been specially designed to cope with the immense forces that are put on it when cornering at high speeds, braking and accelerating, so paying for repairs and parts don’t always come cheap. As with any second hand sports car, it’s very unlikely that it’s never been taken for a thrashing so you’ve got to be careful what you buy.
Why is the car being sold?
You’d be lucky to buy any second hand car that is in perfect working order. Everybody who has bought a second hand car has always bought a second hand problem. Don’t let that put you off though. Buying a second hand car and paying for the odd repair is still cheaper than shelling out four or five times the initial outlay for a new car.
If the car’s got a HPI Certificate, make sure that the numbers correspond, if they do you are guaranteed for the value of car should it be realised that it is stolen or has out standing finance.
Obviously if it doesn't have a full service history the mileage can’t be proven. A car can look like it’s never been out in the open, but that doesn’t say anything for the mechanical condition. It’s easy to T-Cut a car for a sale, but not easy to make up for years of bad servicing and over enthusiastic driving.
The best thing to do is to phone up the AA or someone similar and get them to do a check for you. For about £35 they will check details of the car against their national database. It will confirm the last recorded mileage, accidents that the car may have been involved in, whether there is any HP outstanding, whether it's stolen, if its been re-sprayed, verify the VIN (vehicle identification number) and list all the previous owners. For a bit more (about £100) the AA man will do a full check of the car too and establish any mechanical faults or other problems.
How to detect an accident?
If the car has been in an accident, it isn’t the end so long as it’s been repaired by professionals and not been done on the cheap by a rookie mechanic. Look through the history, ask the owners, its worth contacting the owner prior to the current one (address available off the DVLA form) and asking them why it was sold and if they know of any accidents or problems with the car.
You don’t see many GTi’s in scrap yards because most of them are fixed up and sold on to unsuspecting buyers. This has become big business with the availability of parts, so beware, you don’t want to buy a bad example. There are still many fine ones about if you know what to look for.
An attentive examination of the body will make possible to detect traces of accidents:
1. Frame straightening: try to locate any print of frame straightener on the body close to lifting points.
2. Towing eye located on the left front bumper: after an accident, the towing eye is often missing or damaged.
3. Cracks on the body, close to the rear side windows, in the small groove: a much important crack that shows that the body has suffered from an accident or the shock absorbers are too hard. The original groove should not be filled with cement.
4. Traces of painting on window seals and shock absorbers: seals are not usually removed (in order to shorten time of painting job).
5. Cracks on the body between lower body and rear bumper.
6. Look carefully at the whole body paint under the sun in order to see any sanded down areas under the paint.
Checking the mileage:
It’s quite common to find 205 with "renovated" meters. But it’s very difficult to check the mileage.
Ask for as many maintenance invoices as possible and study them carefully. A 205 GTI with 62,000 miles must be in perfect condition.
The instrument panel should not present any trace of disassembling. When holding firmly the instrument panel, it should not shake. Check the torque screw by the small hole at the left of the instrument cluster: if the screw is missing or has been replaced by another kind of screw, the instrument cluster has been removed. Try to locate any fingerprint inside the instrument cluster.
Look carefully along the panels for bends or signs of over spray. A damaged or repaired panel should be fairly easy to spot due to the 205’s very chiselled shape. They should be consistent all the way along the car when viewed from end to end. The panels on Peugeot’s tend to very thin so it’s easy to see if perhaps the car has been damaged in some way because the panels will have become disturbed. Due to the shape of the panels, front-end damage seems to cause the rear panels to bend around or below the petrol filler cap level if the damage is heavy. Bent front wings are often replaced with pattern parts, which seldom fit quite right. More seriously a replacement wing might not have had the obligatory dose of seam sealer between it and the inner wing. If this is missing, water and muck get in and rust soon follows. If the outer wing is bubbling, it’s probably not original to the car. Checking the bolt holes (under the bonnet) for matching and correctly painted bolts is a good idea too.
Check above the rear windows for any cracks or body repairs. This area is very weak (i.e. if its been backed into a tree or another car) and easily damaged. It can also be damaged by a messed up rear suspension.
The main rot-spots are in and above the seam between the sill and lower rear wing. Sometimes this is surface rust creeping under the paint, but the area just ahead of the wheel can rot through from the inside if the seam sealer (of which the 205 has rather a lot) has failed. Feel behind the sill by the petrol tank too as its a mud and moisture trap.
Doors, sills, welds...
Check that the door clearance around the panels is even all the way around. Look for any rust on the upper sills below the door (on the inside of the car), where perhaps the door has scraped. Where the door mounts, look from inside the car for weld seams, you shouldn’t be able to see any, just a panel overlap to the sill, no bubbly welds. The doors should at least go onto latch or shut completely when gently pushed to close. If they don’t it is incorrectly adjusted - maybe because of an accident.
The rear panel weld to the sill below the door latch is a bad area for corrosion as the water runs down this part. The original weld will be of a hole in the top panel and then spot welded onto the sill. Between the rear window and the front window check for cracking of paint. This might indicate a bit of a bash. Tap all the panels with your knuckles to try and find out if there is any filler hiding dents etc. Check the wings bolt under the bonnet and look at the all the bolts. You should be able to read the make. They should all be the same, with paint on and should not be scratched or chipped.
The inner wings, check everything lines up correctly, again there aren't any real places that look like the have been welded, it’s a very tidy job (if it’s original). Open the boot and pull off a bit of the rubber seals. It might still be glued down, if so, just a bit won’t hurt. The panels should join up here perfectly with no rust. Do the same with the all the rubber seals (door, windows). Untidy welding is indicative of a repair job. Looking under the rear mat/soundproofing in the boot is also recommended.
View the car in full daylight as the sun helps reveals any dents. Try to view it in another light as well as different shades of paint can be difficult to see when it’s gleaming. Look for any paint around the sunroof glide rails / bodykit etc (indicative of a re-spray).
The interiors tend to be on the rattley / squeaky side. The plastic is fairly cheap, but its one reason why the car is so light. If you fit speakers to the parcel shelf it gets a bit noisy on the bumps, as it tends to bounce around. The padding on the drivers seat side wings tend to slip, this is something that happens to all of the seats. It’s a good sign of how much the car’s been sat in and how much mileage it would have clocked.
The cloth seat coverings of early 1.6s become worn quite easily and replacements are difficult to find. Owners either have the seats re-trimmed by a specialist, or find a set of half leather seats from a crashed 1.9 GTi. Some later GTIs came as a special edition with full leather trim, plus the popular options of power steering, full length glass sunroof, electric windows and central locking. These last two items were standard on 1.9s.
The sunroof is opened by releasing the handle. A rubber pipe under the glass de-pressurises allowing the sunroof to glide back. Look under the rubber for rust and check that the sunroof glides back easily. When the handle is raised the rubber seal will become full of air again (engine running) holding the glass in place.
The car should start instantly, the injection system really is quite good, and if it doesn’t start straight away there must be a problem with something somewhere. Getting an injection problem fixed is a job for a dealer as it must be wired up to a machine for diagnostics.
Check to make sure that the car doesn’t kick out a load of blue or black smoke when started, if it’s warm weather you shouldn’t really see any exhaust gases. In the cold you’ll see quite a bit of white smoke but no different from any other cars on the road.
When idling from cold, the oil pressure gauge will probably be about 75%, upon warming up the pressure will most ideally be around half, any less and either the wrong oil has been added, or there could be heavy wear to the engine bores, bearings etc.
Petrol models tend to get a bit smoky with age, but there are no real problems otherwise. Cambelts need replacing at 48,000m intervals. Look out for signs of head gasket problems on 1.9 models. With 5,000m oil changes and 50,000m cambelt changes, the diesels will go on forever. Distributors wear on the GTi's, particularly the 1.9 can lead to a lumpy idling or even stalling and cold starting can be a problem.
Check that the engine will idle properly when there’s a heavy electrical load (cooling fan, headlights, heated rear window etc). Idling and stalling problems can be due to an air leak, sludge blockage in the sealed breather tubing or it maybe a bad throttle body or poor electrical connections. If you’re unlucky, you’ll need a new airflow meter (about £280 for a new one, £170 for a reconditioned unit). Some throttle snatch is normal, but if the system is set up correctly it shouldn’t be unbearable. Cheap pattern ignition parts will cause hesitation under load.
Get someone to rev the car up through the whole rev range slowly and then quickly, while watching the exhaust for signs of smoke. Listen to the engine for unusual bangs, rattling or tapping. The rev curve should be very smooth, with a powerful sound.
Gearbox and clutch:
Clutch cables can get stiff, making for a heavy clutch action, and the gear linkage will not take too much heavy use.
Gear changes are slightly stiff when the car is cold. Make sure that you can change up all the gears, down all the gears, and then down skipping one.
Any wobbling in the steering wheel when driving, or cornering indicates wear to the suspension. If you put the car on full lock and drive slowly there should be no noise heard, if there is, it’s likely the CV joints are worn. The steering is pretty stiff at slow speeds (normal). Check for perished drive shaft gaiters, and play in the steering rack.
The car will stop dead upon pressing the brake pedal, the servo is very responsive. When braking at high speeds there should be no pulling to one side, or a feeling that the back end is trying to keep on going. It’s very easy to lock the wheels up at high speeds.
Check the brake pipes for corrosion, and ensure that they are replaced with copper (which doesn't rust) if required - it's well worth the slight extra cost.
The tyres don’t come cheap. Worn, mismatched or cheap tyres will change the handling of the car dramatically. Check all the tyres for signs of wear all over. Wearing to one side of the tyre indicates either some bad tracking or unaligned suspension.
The front suspension is very hard. You have to push down hard to make it move. When it does there should be no squeaks or knocks. Hollow knocking noises can mean joints or bushes in need of replacement. After any suspension work, get the tracking checked.
A knocking noise, like a worn CV joint but which doesn’t change as you steer, could mean a differential in a state of bearing collapse. This needs fixing quickly, because it can jam and split the gearbox casing. Knocks from the front suspension are common in 205s whose owners have enjoyed the car’s cornering abilities. The cause is usually either worn wish bone bushes and bottom ball joints (buy a complete new wishbone for £57.50), or a duff anti-roll bar drop link (£34). The steering rack has a hard life, too, because the steering is heavy at parking speeds. An exchange rack is £41.Creaks and cracks from the rear trailing arm bearings are bad news (a £600 dealer bill is typical), but the parts to do both sides cost £125 from specialists.
The car has been designed to absorb hard cornering and fast acceleration, so if you are asked to be gentle, it’s not really a fair test of it’s capabilities and what sort of condition it’s in. Drive it slow until you’ve picked up how it handles, you can also listen for noises, but make sure you drive it fast to make sure it’s not about to give up.
The spare wheel lives underneath the boot floor and is an easy target for thieves, so check that it is still there. The 1.9 alloys are easily damaged by road kerbs particularly if the wrong tyres are fitted (the right ones have a protruding ridge on the side wall which is designed to hit the kerb before the wheel does).
That's it! I hope this guide will help you buy a really good example of a 205 GTI instead of a bad one!