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Renaultsport Clio 172 | Shed of the Week

Brilliant hot hatches are not often available to the Shed shopper these days. The Clio is the exception...

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, October 04, 2019

Shed is constantly amazed by the number of solid sporting Clios that are still running around the place. Here's another tempter, a near-17 year old Phase 2 with low miles (115k) and clean-looking bodywork.

The MOT on this one is due in February. It failed last time round on a dodgy headlamp aim. Looking at the car's lights now, you might be inclined to worry more about the transparency of the lenses, but they've been on the advisory list since 2014. If cloudy lenses and slightly chipped alloys are your only worries then life isn't so bad.

Advisories for slight or non-excessive oil leaks have been popping up since 2014 too. There are quite a few places where oil can escape from the F4R engine - head gasket (not so likely), sump plug washer, oil filter seal, oil filler cap, cam cover bolts (all more likely). The plan there is to whip the front bumper off, give the whole engine a degrease and try and locate the source. Imagine how you'll laugh if it turns out to be not an oil stain on your drive at all, but a water stain from a cracked windscreen washer bottle. That happens.

2014 is an interesting year in this car's history. It was 11 years old by then, but had only covered 30,000 miles - a remarkable example of self-restraint on the part of what we presume to be the first owner. Again guessing, but given that there have been just two owners, a glance at the MOT history suggests that owner no 2 has had it for the last six years or so and has been making up for lost time by racking up between 16,000 and 18,000 miles a year.

No doubt most if not all of those were enjoyable, as these are fantastic little skates to wazz around in on a 'rag it till it squeaks' basis. Hard to tell if this one has the jellified steering wheel for which these cars are rightly renowned, but it looks sort of OK from here. Exhausts rot (both mounts and pipework), engine mountings go and airbag lights come on when the under seat wiring decides it's had enough of being shunted back and forth.

With reasonable maintenance these 2.0 engines are strong and reliable. As we all know however the big snafu on these is the dephaser system that is Renault's version of variable valve timing. Over time the phase shifter pulley for the inlet camshaft develops play, which causes a rattly/dieselly noise below 1800rpm on a warm engine. If you don't have any paperwork to indicate that this work has been done within the last 36,000 miles or 5 years, you'll have to assume it hasn't. Your choice then is to think 'ah, it's only a noise' and ignore it. You might get away with that, in fact, as actual failures are rare, but the cambelts do snap and you just might not be able to live with that dephaser noise, in which case you will want to think seriously about getting it sorted.

If you fancy your chances of doing it yourself, the kit of parts for this job - timing and aux belts, water pump, tensioner pulley, two guide pulleys and a crank bolt - normally costs at least £200. You'll need the special Renault locking tools as well though, and the knowledge to do the job right. Get the timing wrong - there are no timing marks on the F4R engine, and no margin for error - and you'll wish you'd never started because firing it up will result in top end damage. Not might, will.

You could cut costs by buying the special tools and then selling them on to some other braveheart, but there are some very dodgy tools about that will bring their own element of risk. Best to engage a specialist, really. They will charge you a bit more for the parts. If you do your research you should be able to get a quote for labour of between £200 and £300. Let's call it £500-£600 all in.

A sound, reasonably low mileage 172 at just under £1500 makes sense, as it will give you many hours of joy, but if that same car needs the dephaser setup renewing it starts to look less attractive at over £2k. It might need new suspension too, depending on how it was driven by the last owner, who apparently was a 'lady'. Not sure what difference that makes. Shed's known some 'ladies' - Mrs Shed included, but don't tell her - that he wouldn't want to meet down a dark alleyway. If you own a sensible head, now's the time to put it on. Otherwise, fill your boots.

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