This little nippy city run-around has gained popularity with a number of people over the past years. Its retro styling combined with its short chassis give it a winning mix that’s perfect for the city. Yes, we’re talking about the Fiat 500 with its pastel colours and distinctive headlights.
As with any car it is not immune to problems. So what are the most common faults that you’re likely to discover when you’re taking one of these character filled little cars on a test drive on the road to a potential second hand purchase?
Buying your Fiat 500 off an urban dwelling city type? Be on the look-out for kerbed wheels where a chunk may have been bitten out of the alloy by scrapes and collisions with the concrete. The left-hand side front wheel is usually the first to go and should be the one to come under your initial scrutiny. Equally the centre caps on the alloys can be easily damaged from pressure washing, and these will need a little of your attention too.
Believe it or not the Fiat 500 is one of the more popular cars for use in driving schools. This means that the vehicle could have been driven fairly poorly so make sure you do extensive checks on both the service history and the bodywork and ask all the right questions. One of the biggest faults of amateur drivers is burning out the clutch, which may have left a tell-tale sweet smell in the car.
Oil in Engine
If the Fiat 500 you’re thinking of buying has only been used on the slightest of city jaunts throughout its lifespan then this could mean the engine’s oil has become contaminated with fuel, which may spell early failure in some parts. Also there have been reported problems with the 1.3 litre model where oil is known to leak into the coolant system. And finally the oil light can often malfunction in all models, requiring a reprogramming of the ECU and a complete oil change.
Diesel Head Gasket Failure
There was a widely-reported issue with the Fiat 500 in 2008 where dealers were required to replace the diesel head gasket. If your potential purchase was manufactured before this date, it may be worth having a detailed inspection of the service history to check this vital work was completed.
Another fault that caused a recall on the Fiat 500 was due to problems with the wiring under the steering column. In June of 2014 a recall of a number of vehicles occurred as this wiring was found to be prone to premature wear, which could cause electrical failure whilst out on the road. Again check service history documentation to see if your potential purchase was on this list.
One of the most famous faults suffered by any model of Fiat 500 is an issue that was reported with 2014 and 2015 1.6 litre models. These cars were featured on Watchdog as the engines would regularly fail to produce the power needed to effectively climb hills. Problems with the software were found to be the culprit.
Power Steering Loss
When you take the Fiat 500 out for a test drive, peel off into car park and make sure you go through a number of nice and slow reverse manoeuvres. Try to feel the standard of the steering and if the motion gets a little sticky or tight you could well be experiencing a known issue with the power steering motor.
Ultimately the Fiat 500 is a very good second hand purchase and even though there are issues, compared to some cars out on the road the numbers are relatively minor. It’s a great choice for the older motorist who doesn’t want to go on the long haul trips anymore, and the younger driver in the market for a cheap car that’s economical when it comes to running costs too.
For cheap replacement engines, gearboxes and more, see our new and used Fiat 500 parts page.