Blog : A Spanish Citroën Xantia finally has a glow of confidence!

Mike Humble has packed his tools away for 2011 but one last job was undertaken, but this time, not on a Rover…  But he wishes it was!

A Spanish registered French car for Swiss Mike to mend but not without hassle.

As I have mentioned before, Swiss Towers is situated in a deathly quiet cul-de-sac on the extreme outskirts of leafy Horsham, most of us know each other either by speaking or doffing ones forelock so to speak. Our opposite residents had their retired parents over from abroad over the festive period of which I noted by their well used and faded Spanish registered Citroën Xantia parked over the road in the parking bay.

Just before we packed the Golf with goodies bound for our relatives in the North, I was washing the project 75 when an elderly Gentleman came wandering over from over the road and started making praises of the Rover. I somehow just knew there would be another reason than my 75 for his straying onto my driveway as I am well trained to spot the ulterior motive, but being the reasonably affable chap I am, I partook in the normal pleasantries and quietly awaited what I somehow knew was coming – and guessed it would be something to do with a French car.

Sure as the sunrise, he had a problem with his car, and his daughter Julie had suggested he came and had a word with me while he was over here in England. It transpired that ever since he got here he had been having trouble starting the car and after some probing, it turns out his Xantia is a pre HDi 1.9-litre Turbo Diesel of 2000 vintage.

After he told me that they live on the Southern tip of Spain, I kind of guessed the glow plugs were stuffed and after he demonstrated how his car was starting, it was more than obvious this was the cause of his worries. We have recently had a few frosty mornings and he was most alarmed at what he called the “clart” or black smoke (he’s a fellow Northerner) upon that first start.

Arrangements were made for my services upon my return from the North and I gave him the address of my trusted motor factors a short drive away but he seemed puzzled as to why it should need new glow plugs so soon. I asked him if they had been recently replaced to which he nodded and said they were replaced… five years ago!

Visible just to the right of the hose clip - The awful access to the No:1 glow plug

My experience tells me that plugs last around three-five years as a rule, so after explaining this he seemed more than happy with my diagnosis. Fast forward to today, and I am now more convinced than ever and know well why even though I adore the way Citroëns drive and feel, as car to own, I avoid like the plague.

This is not due to any sinister reason or hatred for the product, for this is not so and I prefer Citroëns over the other French marques, but I like simplicity and ease of repair. Complicated cars don’t scare me one iota, I have owned three Saabs for example, but French cars so often, like Rovers, display classic shows of fragility and unlike most Rover cars, can take considerable time and in some cases, skill to put right.

Knocking on the door the morning after I returned home, I relieved Joe of his keys and set about replacing those dicky glow plugs. Living where he does, the climate is far milder than here in blighty which explains why his Xantia was protesting and smoking like a Gresley Pacific locomotive one he reached the white cliffs of Dover.

Forgetting how awkward the glow plugs are to reach on the XUD engine when fitted with the Bosch fuel pump, I could have burst into tears upon seeing the access (or rather lack of it) to numbers one and two cylinders. After a quick tab and a tea, the job could be stalled no longer and the various pipes, tubes and intercooler hoses were taken out along with the easy to reach glow plugs of cylinders three and four… and then the fun began.

Cylinder two took a little time but the bugger came out, but then I hit the wall… the glow plug for number one. Thanks to the height of the injector pump, there was no way I could get an 8mm socket and knuckle joint onto the wiring nut let alone the 12mm required for the plug itself. An open-ended spanner was all I could find to offer any sort of reach onto the glow plug which is well and truly buried not only behind the pump, but also by the injector pipes requiring the hands and wrists of Ian Dury to writhe your way onto the nut.

Works Supervisor Stella Cat inspects the ultra high and reliable XUD Diesel unit approvingly

Beforehand, I had sprayed the glow plugs with some superb ‘spanner in a can’ as used by DAF trucks from their TRP consumable range – so good is this stuff that some say it even released Terry Waite from prison besides shifting stubborn nuts and bolts. This meant that all the glow plugs could be spun out using fingers once the torque had been overcome, but the plug that was buried required a spanner right to the last bit of thread – and I had a good idea why.

Some garages or mechanics with less scruples than others, tend to miss out fitting a glow plug which is awkward to reach, opting to leave the offending item in situ reckoning that three good plugs out of four will be sufficient to start the engine, but still charge in both parts and labour for doing all four – I have seen this so many times before. Well, after much swearing and cursing, my patience paid off and I was holding a set of life-expired glow plugs of two different makes.

Putting the new ones in was just as traumatic as taking the old ones out, but I got there in the end and the tired-looking but still fit Xantia barked into life just like an XUD should do. My eagle eye spotted a split turbo vacuum pipe which I threw away and replaced with some off cut I had laying about, so after refitting the intercooler pipes I sauntered over the road for Joe to try out and road test.

He came back after 10 minutes beaming from ear to ear celebrating the cars new found power thanks to the new pipe. And that concluded my last spannering job for 2011, the problem with spilt pipes or tired glow plugs is that the performance tails off so gradually that some people only notice an issue when the car finally refuses to start.

With the exception of the time a glow plug once sheared off flush to the head on a Montego I once worked on, causing me to almost pee myself, the Xantia was worst of this type of fix – but a worthwhile job too, further cementing those all important neighbour relationships!

Have A Very Happy New Year!

Mike Humble

Mike Humble


  1. My first experience replacing glow plugs was on a 1.9D Seat Ibiza. One of them – the one nearest the clutch – came out along with a small-but-important-looking bit of cylinder head.

    I’ve never been comfortable changing them since, despite having done an XUD or two, a couple of I-don’t-think-they-were-Isuzu GM diesels and a Mitsubishi 2800 Delica.

  2. Had a couple of XUD ZXs. One in particular needed glow plugs on consecutive winters. The 2nd change the mechanic showed me the same – 3 plugs of Bosch (from last winter) and an old worn out one that was obviously never replaced.

    Great engines otherwise, though repumping after a fuel filter change was a bit of a pain!

    Had a 1.8 Xantia, great quality car compared to earlier Citroen offerings, typically comfortable, petrol engine a bit thirstier than the diesels (though still returned 40mpg) but didn’t trust the new HDis (a later 406 confirmed my suspicions).
    The XUD would be the one to go for in the Xantias.

  3. The xantia was quite easily
    The worst car I have ever owned, quickest way to bankruptcy it was so unreliable.
    I gave up on mine when the fuel pump gave up.

  4. PSA cars are all a bloody nightmare to work on. I have had several citroens and Pugs over the years and the only one that was nice to work on was the 205 Gti…

    You think a Xantia is bad you should try a CX for Gallic duplicity!

    I have NEVER carried out a task on a Citroen without cutting myself at least once – every edge out of public view is sharpened to razor like edges before the car leaves the factory to ensure that the amature mechanic will lacerate himself when reparing it.

  5. Didn’t find my Citroens too bad, all servicable items were easy enough to get at.

    On the 406 even a gearbox oil change was ridiculously easy (the breather could be taken off and a funnel inserted and 1.9 litres poured down.

  6. This is exactly why I sold my 2.1 TD XM Exclusive, glow plug failure in november. At the time I was leaving for work at 6:30 and getting home at 5 and that year it was COLD so I parked it up bought an Audi quattro 20v coupé and waited till april to sell it. Again no access to 2 of the glow plugs

    It’s also why I will never touch a deisel again, when the cold start system fails you can’t start it, unlike a petrol engine

  7. HDis don’t rely on the glow plugs as much, I think they have a bit of a pre-heat mechanism.
    Still a few turns to start in -13 degrees last winter. And they’re no patch on the XUD for reliability.

  8. Just changed two glow plugs on a Rover 25 (L series).  You can’t access one because the injector pump is in the way and one had what looked liked someone had plugged the hole with weld.  There was certainly no glow plug living there.  Even the “easy” access ones were a fight… 

    I think the original L series only had two glow plugs and this engine has only ever had 3 so it should be OK for the forthcoming cold snap….

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