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Discussion Starter #1
Greetings list,

The last of the 164's must be over 10 years old at least now, my wife and I have a '91 12V auto model and to be honest it is starting to be more trouble than its worth. We paid $5000Aus for the car, and I reckon I've spent nearly as much in the last 2 years keeping it on the road. When we were in the market to buy a 164, looking at $10k cars seemed to be the same standard or worse than the one we ended up choosing.

Aside from some cosmetic issues (a recent car park knock on the bumper - I'm about to replace it with a bumper I bought off ebay), it is the little things that make it irritating to drive. I have replaced the indicator stalk once already, and the secondhand unit is already floppy again. Does anyone have a cure for this? I am reluctant to spend $400Aus on a NOS replacement. Every bump the car goes over, the indicator switch drops and turns it on. ANNOYING!

I recently had the engine mounts replaced, and this made a huge difference to the handling. They were absolutely shot. But the car still feels "loose" - it creaks and moans over speed bumps, and still clunks around a bit on rough surfaces. I plan on getting it on the hoist to check all the bushings shortly, but I'm getting concerned its actually the struts as well that are on their way out.

Then there's the engine. We had a lot of issues with stalling on idle which in the end traced back to the coil and the high tension lead between the distributor and the coil. Recently though, when starting cold the engine runs very rough for about 20 seconds until it settles down. Half the time it stalls while doing this. And just in the last week, I've noticed the car "stutters" a bit when taking off at the traffic lights. Not all the time, but it does it enough to be concerned about it. I'm starting to think it might be head gasket time, because its using a lot of coolant and it isn't leaking anywhere externally. The engine is also sounding rather "tappety" - adjustment of valve clearances is also on the agenda.

Aircon works well, but the climate control doesn't. The stepper gears have finally given up, so we've just installed a heater tap as a temporary fix. I'm NOT looking forward to taking the dashboard out to fix the stepper motors!

So I'm not sure what to do - persevere with the problems and get things fixed as and when I can or move on? My wife prefers auto, and I'm reluctant to replace it with a 4 cylinder auto. I'm tempted to look at a 156 selespeed with its semi auto box, but the $3000 actuator that often fails scares me! What to do? Move on, or buy something more modern? Either option is going to cost decent money. A new car isn't really an option for us just at the moment.

Just looking for some suggestions or ideas...

~Benjamin
 

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Hey Benjamin.

Interesting post - I'm kind of in a similar situation at the moment with my '89 164. It has now done over 280,000kms and just feels really loose and sloppy. One of the front struts recently did a seal so ideally I want to replace the struts all around but this is only the start of the list!

I had the auto tranny reco'd by ZF in Sydney about 2yr ago and with labour plus a few other parts ended up paying over $6K!! Plus the aircon has been next to useless after a conversion to R134a. It did a head gasket last summer, luckily it was the front head so was easy for me to remove and refit after getting it reco'd, did timing belt and water pump at the same time. Then the Motronic computer finally died after an intermittent earthing problem. Then I replaced the large engine mount myself after forking out over $400 for it... Hmmmmm.

Right now I have a new set of front end bushes to fit, plus the AlfaPro stepper gear set but I think its going to be easier to trade it in on something else very soon instead. Am very tempted by a 166 but really don't want another auto if I can help it. A nice 75 would be a lot of fun too!! Will have to wait and see what I can afford - the 156 has never appealed to me that much for some reasaon (apart from the GTA) - same with the 147.

Are you in Melbourne? Where do you get the car serviced?

Stu in Melb.
White '89 164 3.0
 

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G'Day Ben, Stu,

I have replaced the indicator stalk once already, and the secondhand unit is already floppy again. Does anyone have a cure for this? I am reluctant to spend $400Aus on a NOS replacement. Every bump the car goes over, the indicator switch drops and turns it on. ANNOYING!
Strange, the 164 stalk controls seen quite robust compared to that of the 75. Do you still have the old one? If so, undo the two screws holding the wipers stalk and slide it back slightly to disengage. Underneath you should see a (white) spring loaded 'pin' which holds the indicator stalk centered. Let us know what you find.

But the car still feels "loose" - it creaks and moans over speed bumps, and still clunks around a bit on rough surfaces. I plan on getting it on the hoist to check all the bushings shortly, but I'm getting concerned its actually the struts as well that are on their way out.
Check the lower control arm bushes. Mine are soft (ie: can move the control arm fore/aft with not much force and it leads to the car feeling a bit twitchy at speed.

Then there's the engine. We had a lot of issues with stalling on idle which in the end traced back to the coil and the high tension lead between the distributor and the coil. Recently though, when starting cold the engine runs very rough for about 20 seconds until it settles down. Half the time it stalls while doing this. And just in the last week, I've noticed the car "stutters" a bit when taking off at the traffic lights. Not all the time, but it does it enough to be concerned about it.
Check the distributor cap, can be picked up from the US for around US$40 verses around $200 locally.


Right now I have a new set of front end bushes to fit,
Must be the season, I was playing with the control arm bushes on a spare control arm off a SAAB this morning but had to give up, will do it at work where I have access to a vise and presses.



Now be careful guys, you're heading for Camry country ;)
 

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Check out the idle air controller behind the intake plenum. If you remove it and give it a good solvent wash (I used brake cleaner), it will commonly start working again. It's not a complex and fault prone item, as far as I know. The looseness is a problem I understand, as is the A/T vulnerability. I checked with a U.S. supplier for rebuild parts for the ZF HP18Q (I think that's right) tranny. The pair of commonly needed rebuild sets are available for a net of about US$500 and the other "steel clutch" set adds about half that much again. Under US$1k for rebuild parts if you do it yourself. I'm interested in trying after my other projects conclude, as the A/T I just swapped in for the broken 160k mile one has ~130k miles on it....

I hope this helps somehow. You might be able to use one of the "Bar's Leak" products on the coolant loss. Your call on that one. The stuttering might be an air leak if (for instance) the AFM hose bellows is cracked. That's what I always look for. But you might also check your upper "torque rod" mount. If the lower mount was broken, it often overstresses the upper one.

Michael
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I lookes at the idle control valve about 12 months ago, but I'll take it off and give it a good clean shortly. Thanks for the tips on the indicator switch, I still have the old one so I'll pull it apart and see if I can tight it up.

The mechanical work on the car doesn't phase me, its just the time to do it and access to a hoist. I don't have a large garage to do the work which doesn't help either. I've never opened up an auto transmission, and hopefully I'll never have to go there. I won't be spending $5k on a rebuild if the trans in my 164 starts playing up!

I drove my parent's recently aquired late model Ford Fairmont Ghia yesterday for the first time - it is a very nice car, but the suspension feels too soft and floaty for my liking and gearbox is a bit clunky, the 164 transmission feels a lot smoother. But it will probably go forever unlike the 164.

Maybe I can convince my wife to drive manual and we can replace the 164 with a 156 or a 147 twinspark... maybe even a 166. In the mean time, its back to fiddling with the 164's various issues...

~Benjamin
 

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Think Long Term

The 164's are currently in the "old car" stage, where the problems become more important than the long term goal of keeping these cars on the road. I purchased my first Duetto in a similar stage when it was only an "old sports car" needing a lot of repairs that were not "econmically feasible." Buy by keeping this car, it is now worth serious money. I'm not saying that the current prices being seen by Duetto's will be seen in the 164's, and I don't purchase cars to see them appreicate in value, but the fewer 164's there are on the road, the more rare they will be and the more expensive they will be in the future.

I'm not the one paying the bills, and I'm not the one experiencing the frustrations of having a car that does not work. But I do have a 164Q that recently let me down by having the clutch petal drop to the floor when I just wanted to move it in my driveway. I do know that I could just say "screw it" and let it sit for the winter and not fix it, and then be pissed off when the good weather appeared and I wanted to drive it. I decided to purchase the part (it wasn't that expensive) and replace it myself (even though it is getting pretty cold in the garage and I have lot's of other things that I could also spend my precious time on)! It is my little gift to the Alfa community and myself, so in spring, I can hop in the car and enjoy it for what it is.

So I guess the ultimate question is, did you buy this car to have a reliable daily driver, or did you purchase it because it was fun to drive and would probably require the normal maintainance for a 12+ year old car of any make?

The choice is yours! But before giving up on the car, be sure to list it on this BB to find a buyer that would enjoy the car for what it is!
 

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The 164's are currently in the "old car" stage, where the problems become more important than the long term goal of keeping these cars on the road.
Very good points in this post!

I was out visiting a specialist the other day and I happened to mention that while my 164 was driving pretty well, the inlet valve seals/guides were giving puffs of smoke every now and then, and there were multiple oil leaks that would need the engine out to solve, plus the heavy clutch. I said I just wasn't sure if it was worthwhile doing all this work.

Then we noticed a smart but not exceptional 1969 FIAT 125 saloon sitting in the driveway. It was fully-functional and being enjoyed by its owner as quite an unusual classic with a throaty twin-cam and five-speed gearbox. I realised that when it was 16 years old in 1985 (and possibly earlier), someone was faced with the dilemma that I have now; shall we do this major work, or shall we leave it?

Someone took the initiative and as a result, 22 years later, the 125 is still around to be enjoyed. Perhaps it's time we started thinking about preserving the 164s as well.

Meanwhile, and to provide transport when my 164 is to be off the road, today I've just bought a distant cousin of the 164, twice-removed - a 2001 FIAT Punto Sporting, in bright yellow. 1242cc of power (85bhp) and a CVT transmission. This could pass as a new car in most eyes yet cost only a fifth of the new-car price (about AUS$4200). You get your usual catalytic convertors/ABS/airbags/air conditioning as well. It's a genuine FIAT too - nippy and bouncy with handling that rewards being driven hard (it's disconcertingly unstable when cruised gently like I would drive my 164!)

So I guess what I'm saying is that if you want a newer car, buy something cheap like I did, and then appreciate the 164 even more ;)

-Alex
 

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Very good points in this post!

I was out visiting a specialist the other day and I happened to mention that while my 164 was driving pretty well, the inlet valve seals/guides were giving puffs of smoke every now and then, and there were multiple oil leaks that would need the engine out to solve, plus the heavy clutch. I said I just wasn't sure if it was worthwhile doing all this work.

Then we noticed a smart but not exceptional 1969 FIAT 125 saloon sitting in the driveway. It was fully-functional and being enjoyed by its owner as quite an unusual classic with a throaty twin-cam and five-speed gearbox. I realised that when it was 16 years old in 1985 (and possibly earlier), someone was faced with the dilemma that I have now; shall we do this major work, or shall we leave it?

Someone took the initiative and as a result, 22 years later, the 125 is still around to be enjoyed. Perhaps it's time we started thinking about preserving the 164s as well.

Meanwhile, and to provide transport when my 164 is to be off the road, today I've just bought a distant cousin of the 164, twice-removed - a 2001 FIAT Punto Sporting, in bright yellow. 1242cc of power (85bhp) and a CVT transmission. This could pass as a new car in most eyes yet cost only a fifth of the new-car price (about AUS$4200). You get your usual catalytic convertors/ABS/airbags/air conditioning as well. It's a genuine FIAT too - nippy and bouncy with handling that rewards being driven hard (it's disconcertingly unstable when cruised gently like I would drive my 164!)

So I guess what I'm saying is that if you want a newer car, buy something cheap like I did, and then appreciate the 164 even more ;)

-Alex
Sounds like a great scoot about. If only we had some newer Fiats to buy in the USA like that would be nice.

I am lucky in that I have two really nice 164B models as daily drivers 190,000 and 150,000 miles. I used to drive only Fiat 131 and later Brava injected models as well as 124 and 2000 model injected Spiders plus an 87 Bertone injected X1/9. Those were fun cars to drive and fairly easy to maintain. I let all that stuff go in 94-95 when I had to move for a job transfer and just kept 164 and wife's 90 Acura Integra 2.0L pocket rocket hatchback. We sold it in 98 and got a 96 Jeep Grand Cherokee which now has 215,000 miles and may need to be replaced someday.

I really don't know what pocket rocket I could buy used that would be a good one but since I have my 94 Ford Ranger 4.0L w/5-speed as my back up and hauler I wil just drive what I have.

I think I would like another Jeep GC with 4.7L V-8 or a Mazda 6 Sport Wagon (2008 last year for wagon version I understand). I can see one of these rebadged as an Alfa by yours truly. MazdaUSA - Wireless Tour
 
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