Blog : The Safrane – update the first

Jemma Hawtry

Would you believe it, its been just over two years since I bought my Renault Safrane for £500 and there have been a few (expensive) visits to the garage. Stuff just starts to wear out after 15 years.

The car’s had new brake discs and pads – a new brake line and various sundries, not to mention a new centre exhaust and alternator (with associated tensioner). Admittedly some of the problems weren’t the car’s fault – like the rear suspension arm that snapped in half after some bright spark decided to tow something with a rope round said component. Why he didnt use the blindingly obvious towing cleat bulging like William Hague’s eye out of the rear bumper, is a question for the Darwin Award judges to answer. That guy’s stupidity almost killed me – if the arm had snapped at motorway speeds I wouldn’t be here.

Recently I have had two problems. The first a refusal to start or a sudden cut-out that was very intermittent – and as of two days ago a Kamikaze speedometer sensor (which takes out the fuel computer and mileometer).

After the car refused to start and stranded me in a supermarket carpark and then at my parents house I called out the AA. Long story short it was the relay controlling the fuel system was having age inspired blonde moments and switching the fuel pump off at random. He swapped it over with its partner and normal service was resumed.

However the location of these relays seems to indicate that Renault are again playing the great game…

Of Silly Buggers.

To get to them you have to take the ECU box and open it. Then you have to lever the ECU out – nestled in their own little cubbyhole are two five-pin 25A relays. Even the AA man couldnt find them after 20 minutes. If you didnt know they were there you would never find them.

Given that I knew one was suspect and I needed a replacement I asked at the local Renault dealer. Over £22 each. I went to the local electrical experts, T&M, and it was just over a tenner for two!  I’ve gotten other parts for the car – a centre exhaust section from Poland £40, Renault wanted £140 + VAT. The brake parts averaged out at 55% cheaper and the majority were in Renault original parts boxes. The tensioner was £180 + VAT from Renault, £70 from a factor.

Why do we seem in this country to accept outright theft as long as its a company doing it?  try to do a little honest thieving outside big business and/or government and you are on a hiding to a body bag.

Why are we, on the one hand, bewailing the state of the environment – whilst allowing scrappage schemes and manufacturers to turn vehicles into modern one ton iPhones. One component breaks, its either stupidly expensive (aka cost of manufacture + 420%) or its been ‘retired’.

A lot of people enjoy classic-ish cars like the 75 and Safrane or maybe an Alfa 164. Every single classic used as a daily driver means less pollution & resources wasted because one new car doesnt need to be made. I’ve met people who bought an Austin 16 in the 1930s and have driven it as their only car until recently. Is that going to happen with our modern cars? Unless we do something about it, no.

We are being gouged on fuel taxes to the tune of 70+% of pump prices. We are being gouged on spares to the tune of 300/400%. We pay a road tax yet the roads at the moment would have the driver of a Tiger II worrying about his suspension the potholes are so big – so of them are so large here they generate their own gravity. Insurance goes up 40% a year ‘cos we feel like it’ and the driver does….?


That of course is up to you but remember; every single penny gouged out of you with your tacit consent is money that won’t go into your savings, or towards your kid’s health, pleasure and welfare. Want a holiday? Not this year, you cannot afford it!

Still feel so happy about doing nothing…?

Keith Adams


  1. I’m rather impressed that Renault still could offer you all the parts you needed from stock on a 20 year old executive barge.

  2. how simple my v8 sd1 with twin stromberg carbs and no engine management systems and plentiful parts supply. good old leyland!! and rimmers…

  3. Our parts all come direct from Rimmers
    Without them life would be much grimmer
    From bodywork to engine trimmings

    Sorry, can’t carry on ripping off Red Dwarf anymore.

    PSA cut off support at 10 years, seemingly. XM bits are remarkably hard to find! Most Japanese firms are great though.

  4. I agree. I am just old enough to remember when cars rotted away bodily and it was a shame the old Cortina had to be scrapped although it was running well. Now, they are undoubtedly better made but are scrapped because an electronic box that you could fit in a small suit case that is worth more than the value of the car has failed. I really do not know how we put up with this either. I have got a 6 year old Renault Scenic. I like it but am looking to get rid soon. It just feels so fragile electronically. It is already acting unpredictably at times, and there are too many horror stories out there about this model for some or even most of it not to be true. There seems to be an abundance of mark 2 Scenics on the roads presently probably due to cheap prices when new. But I would say they will disappear off the roads very quickly over the coming few years. Of course, new ones will have to be made to replace them.

  5. There is quite a nice looking Safrane round the corner from me, a P reg, that seems to get used regularly.

    Otherwise, they seem to be a rare sight these days- not that they were ever common, since buying one new made very little sense unless it was the company’s money.

  6. Honda are usually good at sourcing parts, especially for a 13 year old rare US captive import car that they sold for 2 and a half years.

  7. I have to agree every Renault I’ve come into contact with has had rubbish electrics. My Dad’s Mk.1 Scenic had a pile of immobiliser and then fuel injection issues once it was over 7 years old, then he got a 2006 Modus, which already has had two ECUs replaced under warranty. Warned him to go back to owning a Ford again none of which gave any bother electrically…but wouldn’t listen!

  8. As an aside a friend who worked in the automotive OEM business once told me that components supplied to manufacturers for fitting to new cars are sold at cost, or even a loss – the real profits are made by selling spares at huge markups. It is the Hewlett-Packard printer model applied to cars effectively – sell the machine at an attractive price, then screw the consumer on servicing and consumables. And it isn’t just consumer durables…..another friend who once worked for Otis (the lift manufacturer) said that they frequently installed the elevators and escalators into new buildings at cost, and then tied the owners into lucrative maintenance contracts that lasted for 25 years!

    Who drives this then?

    Us the consumer of course – we want everything cheap and readily available at the point of initial acquisition, and in short the market drives “price erosion” which means the gap needs to be plugged elsewhere. Simple economics folks!

  9. As Kevin (#10) says, it’s no different from cheap printers and expensive cartridges or Gillette making their money from razor blades rather than the razors.

    That said, I’m prepared to pay a small premium for OEM parts and service; my experience with ‘generalist’ garages and tenth-rate aftermarket parts has been pretty poor, hence why my 24-year-old 205XS is now back to being serviced by Peugeot – with no parts availability problems at all.

  10. “Warned him to go back to owning a Ford again none of which gave any bother electrically…but wouldn’t listen!”

    Worst car I owed for electrics issues was a Ford Orion – ate fuseboxes and on one long drive decided to take half the electrics with it – driving the tyne tunnel with no headlights and a single sidelight wasn’t fun!

  11. Update the First – Part the Second.

    Went to water my parents garden again today – since I had the hose I sprayed the brakes on the car to clean them all out of any garbage/dust since they’d had new discs/pads recently.
    All goes well until the rear drivers side wheel. Spray wheel, clouds of steam. Took it to the garage, the caliper followers are seized. Renault list the part for special purchase (ie pay for it before it even gets ordered and dont get a refund even if the dealer has ordered the wrong bit..) at an eye watering, wait for it, £244.71 + VAT which assuming we are still on 17.5 VAT is £12.50 shy of £300 for a single caliper! which is non refundable.

    @1. actually alot of the parts for my car are no longer available. I got the last rear suspension arm in the country when mine decided to snap. So far as I know there are none left in France either.

  12. @ Kevin

    I know the scenic diesels and everything that used the G series diesel engines were known for every problem under the sun – eating turbos, gaskets, injectors. They’ve a horrible reputation. Hearing one start without glowplugs at 3am in December is not a sound for the mechanically faint hearted – it sounds like someone has put a bucket of bolts in a cement mixer, switched it on, and started beating the daylights out of it with a lump hammer.
    Havent heard that many horror stories about the petrol versions but Renault electrics are notorious during the 92-00 period mostly because of bad connectors and wire damage/fraying.

    Incidentally my neighbour just bought a KV6 Freelander. It sounds like its firing on 5, clatters on idle, eats water and the oil filler cap is full of oil jelly, not to mention its ‘just been serviced’ and what oil it does have doesnt reach the dipstick and resembles chocolate syrup – am I right in thinking its well on its way to knackerdom? He’s just exported it to Africa of all places – I have a bad feeling about this…

  13. We’ve been on 20% VAT for a while. So you’re almost up to that full £300, no change for a packet of Hobnobs.

  14. @Magnus.

    The thing that annoyed me a little when I had the brakes done for the MOT was 90% of the parts came in the yellow & gray RenaultPart boxes – they were original Renault bits with the part numbers and everything. I dont mind paying a little extra for something but quadrupling the price is not ‘a little extra’.


    I suspected as much but I wasnt sure. The only option that is remotely affordable for me is the rebuild kit for the brake caliper followers at £42.95. Another “pre-order it and hard luck if it doesnt work” special part, although they are Lucas parts I think.

  15. @ Will M

    At least a Ford Orion fusebox is a darned sight cheaper than modern Renault ECUs which cost £100s (and sometimes £1000s!!) In my Dad’s case, half the time even the main dealer didn’t have a scooby what he was doing….they just kept replacing modules until they found the one that was duff. Doesn’t exactly make for piece of mind. The only consolation was that it was under warranty.

    Whatever happened to the “simple” car. The latest cars with their multiplex, CAN-BUS electrical systems are basically computer networks on wheels.

    @ Jemma

    My Dad’s Modus has the 1.5dCI engine – notorious for eating their EGR valves. Sooner or later you will see a Clio, Megane or Laguna limping along the inside lane spewing more black smoke than the Bruncefield oil depot…the valves clog up with carbon then all the turbo boost is dumped down the exhaust pipe – eventually ruining the cat. Apparently Renault garages are replacing them like they are going out of fashion according to a pal who works in the trade.

  16. I really wish they still made the Mk2 Polo (Breadvan) maybe with the addition of fuel injection, i’d buy one in a heartbeat. It was the most reliable, practical and well built little thing but was incredibly basic too. I loved the undisguised LED warning lights!

  17. Re the caliper followers (I don’t know what they are tbh apart from being a ‘brake part’)- are these parts ever relatively ‘generic’- ie the same basic design sold to different manufacturers? And are there other Renaults that use the same parts, eg Trafic or Espace? Is there a convenient way to reference these online without going through the parts desk at the local Renault outlet?

  18. @ Kevin

    Thats the one, they did bigger versions of it as well including the 1.9dci in the Laguna and others, its actually based off the F series engines, not the G – that was the 2188cc engine used in the Safrane & Master vans which are very good generally.

    @ Chris

    I dont know their official name, thats my best description for them. They’re like a secondary piston that helps in the withdrawal of the pad away from the disc, but dont ask me how. If you can get renault part numbers (generally starting with 7701 xxx xxx you can usually find a pattern part. Quinton Hazell do alot of Renault pattern parts including front and rear calipers at about half the price Renault will charge you (plus you get a rebate if you send them your old bit to rebuild). Most Renault dealers will give you part numbers without too much problem. You may also find that repair kits and the like are interchangeable – anything with a 60mm lucas disc brake will take the relevant lucas repair kit for example. Alot of interior parts are interchangeable too – my bootlight switch was liberated from a scrapped Megane.

  19. @ Jemma – ironically the most reliable Renault my Dad had was a ’92 R19 with the E7J petrol engine; with single point injection. Never missed a beat, it was also a fully loaded RXE version with all the toys which didn’t give any trouble. It was rust that killed it in the end. Proof they aren’t all bad I guess.

  20. Is there any cross polination with the Laguna?
    The new Latitude is a Renault-Samsung model but may share parts with Infinitis (which are as rare as Safranes).

    Citroen parts used to be easy – a lot of my ZX parts came from 306s, the Xantia got parts from 406s (including 406 clear side repeaters)

  21. Hi
    Have a 2004 renault megane 1.9dci estate,owned it for 2.5 years without a problem,lovely motor.
    In april this year wife had it at work when suddenly “steering fault” comes up on dashboard, to cut long story short had it recovered by RAC to local Halfords garage to find that power steering/column had expired, upshot only available from renault at cost of £1110 inc vat & fitting, had it done but we were gutted.

  22. Theres some parts in common, engines and gearboxes, some light parts (the front wing side repeaters are common or lesser spotted Renault 19) – a good improvement is to get clear repeaters to replace the yellow ones, matches much better. Series II safrane headlights will not interchange with S I – unless you change the front clip.
    I dont think the body parts are interchangeable.
    Some brake parts are common to both from what I can tell – not sure about suspension parts but I think there might be some crossover.

  23. @ Paul

    I would suggest in future trying to get part numbers and getting the pattern parts.. or ordering the parts and taking them to a garage you trust to have it fitted.
    Also check for a recall – Renault are, like Mercedes, very good at not mentioning recalls on their models and then charging you for something that is a known fault/problem. Merc tried that with my dad when his current C320D ate its turbo, intake, intake gaskets and various other expensive parts (to the tune of over £3000+VAT if it hadnt been a recall) and this was after less than 30000 miles.
    Contrast that with a 2.5 litre Safrane II that we did 100,000 miles in within 3 years and didnt have a problem once (bar the retard I went to school with driving into it, he hadnt quite got the concept that a car stopped indicating right meant it was a bad idea to over take on the right..).

  24. There’s a lot to be said for using the correct franchasied dealers. My missus just got Mini to replace her power steering motor on her 10 year old Cooper for free – they agreed because it’s always been serviced by them. I’m generally not impressed with BMW and their shoddy tactics but very impressed by this.

  25. @ Paul Simpson. The steering on my Scenic clonks like an old b*st*rd when you turn the wheel to the right. Noticed it soon after i got the car at 35000 miles, now at 81000 it might be slightly worse. It is obviously the universal joint on the inside of the car at the bottom of the column. (there is one ouside too). this means a new column which means new steering motor (electric PAS) too, and I would imagine all sorts of nightmares with the electronic box that controls the whole sorry thing. I will have traded it in before that has to be done……….

  26. The caliper that has sized, is this the typical ‘floating’ type that blights modern cars? (single piston that slided on two pins an carrier blited to the hub?) if so judging by the steam you mention it is probably the pins that hold it to the mounting that has siezed and not the caliper itselft. I have had thios on a few cars and had found application of heat (in the form of Oxy Acetylene, blow lamp not hot enough) round where the pin enters the carrier till its glowing red hot will enable you to free the pins off. Then clean them up and grease them

  27. French cars are only viable under warranty, they are made cheaply from cheap components, this is why they only last for 3 years.

    Why cause yourself so much hastle, buy a reliable Japanese car.

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