At last,here it is.
Alfa Spider 2.0 TS Buyers Guide
The Spider, closely related to the GTV and in essence its drop head sibling was introduced to the UK market in 1996.Initially it was available in just 150 bhp 2 litre form, with a choice of standard or Lusso specification. Lusso ads climate control, a power roof and momo leather interior.
1998 saw the introduction of the phase 2 model, which have different spoked alloy wheels, body colour side sills, an improved silver finish dash and a chrome grille insert. At the same time the engine was revised to give 155bhp.
The next main news was in the 2001 model year when the UK market at last gained the 3-litre V6 version. At the same time the 2.0 ts was again revised to comply with new Euro emissions, and to develop more low down torque which saw it being re rated to 150 bhp.
The 2003 model year has seen the biggest changes in the modelís long history with the advent of the phase 3,which gained traction control, revised, softer suspension, new lowerseats, upgrade ICE, new wheels and colour options and a new front end with bigger grille to tie it in with the new model range.
Generally the Spider is a fairly sound car, much better than Alfaís previous reputation would lead you to believe but with potentially a few niggly faults with which you need to be fully aware of before buying. A cherished car is worth having ,a neglected car will prove to be costly mistake.
As the Spider is basically a convertible version of the GTV, most of the following will also be of interest to potential GTV buyers. I have concentrated here on the 2.0 litre TS version as there are already sites catering for the GTV V6 and V6 versions.
The whole front end, including bonnet, bumper section and wings are plastic /composite up to the windscreen so are fairly resilient to minor dings, but can be susceptible to stonechips, but at least they wonít rust!
Check doors carefully, as they are large and unprotected by body mouldings so tend to pick up, dings from careless folk in car parks.
A cosmetic/S.M.A.R.T. repair specialist fairly cheaply (such as Chipsaway or Dentmaster ) can sort stone chips and minor dings, which havenít broken the paint, fairly cheaply, normally £30-50 per dent. Bear in mind areas, such as the rear ľ panel cannot be remedied in this way, as access cannot be gained to the, reverse of the panel.
Paint finish quality is not always great, and you may notice earlier Alfa red cars may have faded or tended to go ďpinkĒ with age,although my 3 year old Alfa red example has been fine. These are more cosmetic issues, than anything, but something you should be aware of.
The good news is that rust seems to be a thing of the past, with Alfas these days, but check carefully for even panel gaps, signs of over spray or signs of poorly executed accident repairs.
Power hoods on (Lusso version) can develop a fault whereby the cover into which the hood folds down will not open.
This can be down to several things, either the motor or the micro switches.
A new motor is expensive about £900, micro switches less so. There have also been reports that the cables can become slack. This latter problem is apparently quite an easy fix, whereby the cables are simply tightened.
The hood itself is quite durable but bear in mind replacement is very expensive, in excess of £2000 from a main dealer so check it thoroughly.
Also check that the hood is taut, as otherwise they can develop leaks.
Basically ask to raise and lower the hood yourself, to thoroughly check the operation.
The catches should require a little force to secure if properly tensioned.
Also the plastic rear screen can become scratched.
If severe, it costs £200 to replace the zip out section. If not too severe try a proprietary scratch remover like Renovo scratch remover.
Renovo also do a treatment for faded hoods to restore the colour.
The hood: check it carefully!
Provided that you keep on top of oil changes and maintenance, the engines are pretty reliable.
Ask owner how often they check the oil. TS especially use oil and the level needs checked every week.
There is a lot of talk about which oil is best. Most suggest Selenia 20k,but at the very least make sure itís a good semi synthetic.
Check cam belt has been replaced on cars with over 36k miles. (Alfa originally recommended 72k,but after experiences with premature failures the accepted wisdom within Alfa circles is 36k.) If car has less miles but is 5 years or older it will probably be as well to get it changed anyway, together with the tensioners.
Under the bonnet!
2.0 TS Cambelt replacement, breakdown of costs (at a main dealer)
Cambelt = 25.57
Cambelt Tensioner & Bearing = 85.57
Balance Shaft Belt = 58.13
Balance Shaft Tensioner = 32.82
Rocker Gasket = 17.57
Variator = 78.70
Labour = 230
Total Cost with VAT £621.18
An independent specialist, DTR in London advertises the cambelt change for £239 (incl VAT) but as far as I am aware this does not include the variators.
A rattly diesel noise indicates that the cam variators need replacing.
This useful advice is from Alfa 156 net.
ďThere have been quite a few issues with "diesel-noise" from the Twin Spark
engines. The "diesel-noise" will in the beginning last only a few seconds
after turning your key to start the engine. But it will last longer and
longer. The "diesel sound" does not have to be quite noticeable as it is the
first few seconds after turning the key. An ok engine should not have any
diesel sound at all, even at cold start!
It's a typical failure of the so-called "variator" that regulates the
camshaft timing over the full rpm-range. If damaged it means loss of
"top" power, even less power under 3000rpm and higher fuel consumption.
No matter how old your car is, it is always a "hidden fault". Under
the consumer protection laws valid in Europe it will remain guarantee
for many years.
There should be no problem driving with this, you will not damage
anything, but it should eventually be fixed.
The reason for this is many cold starts and driving short distances.
This is because the variator need oil to get its work done, but after
a cold start it takes some time to get the oil in this variator. This is
a poorly constructed part and has been replaced by a new part with
the part number: 60666199
All new Alfa's since April 2000 have this new variator. The "old" one came
from 2 sub suppliers of which 1 made a bad product. Anyway, your dealer
should know; was one of there nightmares in 1999/2000.
You can also give your variator a better life if you change oil at least
every 10.000 km (which is recommended anyway).Ē
Spark plugs are expensive and are required at 60k service, and for TS cost £21 from a main dealer, (although cheaper alternatives are available) and donít forget you need 8!
The oil drain plug can strip its plug very easily, and may require a helicoil insert and a stronger plug. Check for leaks around the drain plug.
The oil sump also sits low and can be easily damaged and costs about £100 to replace
The costs below are based on main franchised dealer prices. Many owners will use independent specialists once the car is out of its manufacturers warranty period. Normally these are charge about half the labour rates of a main dealer and are often much more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Alfas.
36,000-mile service (Main Dealer, October 2003)
Labour 3.10 @ 63.00 195.30
Oil Filter 1 @ 7.04 7.04
Sealing Gasket 1 @ 0.66 0.66
Selenia 20k 5 @ 5.99 29.95
Tutela Top 4 2 @ 7.52 15.04
Brake Cleaner Spray 1 @ 2.94 2.94
Screen Wash 1 @ 1.50 1.50
24,000-mile service (Main Dealer, January 2003)
Labour 1.75 @ 59.00 103.25
Oil Filter 7.04
Sealing Gasket 0.60
Air Filter 20.70
Oil Change (Main Dealer, July 2003)
Labour 0.5 @ 63.00 31.50
Oil 5 @ 5.99 29.95
Oil Filter 1 @ 7.04 7.04
DIY Service kit
Engine service: parts prices
Champion plugs RC6YCC (big plugs) RG4HC (small plugs)
(not meant to last as long as NGK, but less than half the price eek!)
Set of 8 = £48.00
Belt Stretcher 60620443 £28.00
Tensioner 60607962 £69.00
Variator 60666199 £65.00
Cam Belt Dayco 168SHPN240H £17.00
Cam cover gaskets £7.00
Balancer Shaft Belt Dayco 130SLDD150H £23.00
Oil Filter 46808398 £7.04
Air Filter 46481588 £8.76
Fuel Filter 60811904 £8.51
Wipers 5901373 £14.33
Selenia 20K 5 litres £24.55
All prices + VAT. (E.B.Spares)
My own experience is that they are as long lasting as on any other car. When it comes to replacement, there is huge variety of replacements, including standard O.E. system from Alfa or sports systems from Autodelta or CSC Marmitte, which are often not much more and can give you a fruitier note and a slight increase in power.
ďOk Iíve had my exhaust done recently for my 2L GTV:
I went for the budget option - got a replacement mild steel middle and rear section for 185 quid including fitting and vat from National Tyres.
Pretty pleased with it really - looks a lot better to the original (small black round pipe one.) with a chrome look large oval rear section - sound and performance is pretty much the same - maybe a tab louder...
Its guaranteed for 3 years I think it was through National Tyres and I even got Tesco club card points - bonus!!
I had to take it back once as they'd not aligned it probably or something at the back and as a result it was vibrating against the rear bodywork - but they bent it a bit and all fits fine now.
So recommended option if you're on a budget.Ē
Ive, Alfaowner, forum
The GTV and Spider are notorious for suspension bush problems. This normally effects earlier cars, but has been experienced on cars showing as little as 10k miles.
(The V6 has uprated rear suspension and isnít so prone.)
Get under the car and check very carefully all rear suspension bushes for play. One owner paid £573 including parts and labour at main dealer, which is steep enough but if not caught early, it can lead to wear on sub frame and a £1000 bill!
Front lower wishbone bushes on my own Spider started to wear at 3years and 14k miles.The easiest way to get this fixed was for a local specialist to fit complete uprated new wishbone arms at a cost of £400.
Cost of parts,lower wishbone arms £180
Labour to fit £160
Another symptom of this problem is clonking noises from the suspension so keep your ears open when you are test-driving the car. One alternative is to fit uprated Powerflex polyurethane bushes and get an independent or local garage to fit as follows:
Powerflex bushes for rear swing arm
ď I can comment on the suspension bushes - had mine done last month - after being quoted 600 pounds + for Alfa replacement arms + bushes and labour I went for the PowerFlex bushes from EB spares and had the following costs:
Swinging arms £68.00 set
Trailing arm bush set £48.00 set + vat
- I didn't bother with the upper ones as these looked ok.
Labour to fit - used a local MOT garage who charge 35 quid an hr.
So total was about 270 pounds for the lot.
My car is a V reg '99 GTV with 36k miles on the clock.
I'd definitely recommend this route - much cheaper than replacing the whole arms and you have the benefit of the bushes lasting (supposedly) for 100K or so instead of having the same problem and big cost with the Alfa arms + bushes in another 36k miles or so. It also stiffens the rear end a fair bit which I personally like from a handling point of view.Ē
For more on suspension bush replacement look here:Spider drivers bush replacement guide (Powerflex Bush replacement (Incl Pictures))
Ive (Alfaowner forum)
Front pads £35 (approx £60 fitted)
Rear pads £25
Other Main points are:
Airbag warning light can come on but can normally be reset, by a specialist.
Electric aerials jam if not regularly cleaned and lubricated.
Check wiper mechanism works OK. Wiper motors quite often wear and require replacement.
Make sure seller has master (brown) key and code tag. Without his you will not be able to get replacement keys made, and the immobiliser will be inoperable.
Buy on condition and service history rather than age/price. Buy the best you can afford rather than being tempted by a cheap car. An uncared for car will cost more in the long run.
Check door seals and that window drops when opening/closing doors.
Get a Lusso if you can as they have climate control, leather and the powered hood.
Post 1998,Phase 2 cars have body coloured lower sills, nicer seat trim, wheels and the much classier aluminium look dash.
Check inside edges of tyres. Wheel Alignment goes out very easily but could also point to worn suspension. Decent tyres, eg Goodyear Eagles, etc are normally £100 each.
If you can, get an AA or RAC inspection.
Try to buy from someone who is obviously an Alfa enthusiast, to whom regular servicing and oil top ups are second nature.
The all-important master key (left) and code tag!
ďJust don't believe what people say about the handling. Itís actually good. Most corners you can fly round. And pull away from most cars on b road long corners. It sticks really well. Also the raw feeling is there. You can feel exactly what all four wheels are doing, more so than any other cars I've driven. (i.e. most if not all the Alfa range + loads of others).
I lend the car to my friends some times, and they all comment on the sharpness of the steering and how it handles compared to there cars. (And how they almost drove round a corner and went into parked cars)
It really rocks. And in the summer roof down doing 80mph round a long long sweeper just rocks. its flies across and round roundabouts (much to my misses scowls)
As for the scuttle shake. !!!!!!!! to it. It gives the car character and a unique feeling. I drive mine hard. And I have never felt like it not working right, or I know what the entire car is doing.
I hammer mine everyday down the motorway up to 100mph and it just sits there. No buffeting from the wind or lorries.
Take it out for a spin. A proper spin...Ē Joe 90
ďFirst of all donít believe all you hear about the Spider being a poor handling car. The suspension is actually quite sophisticated, (even if the design is getting on for 10 years old). The rear actually allows a degree of rear wheel steer, which means the handling, is actually quite sharp and entertaining.
Yes I wonít dispute that the car suffers from scuttle shake, but this only really affects the handling of the car if you are driving fast down a badly surfaced road.
In comparison tests at the time of its launch the Spider did quite well, and was quite competive in lap times around a circuit with the competition.
On good roads the handling is fine, and basically the car has a good balance.
I would even go as far as to say you will find the Spider more involving than the 147 or a 156 because it has a lower driving position which make you feel more a part of the car. The steering is much nicer than other current Alfas too, (probably the best of any fwd car Iíve driven) as you have more feel and it is not made quick and direct artificially, to cover for a lack of real feel.
Absolutely no torque steer with the 2.0 litre TS either. Gearbox change quality is fantastic too.
It is the relationship with all the controls gearshift, steering which are all really sweet and satisfying, and the character of the TS engine, which really make the Spider for me.
The Spider generally has a more organic, rawer feel to it compared to contemporary Alfas, although it can still feel quite refined for long distance cruising.
Although the figures say otherwise you will always feel as though you are driving faster in the Spider, (comparing a say 2.0 ts with a 2.0 ts 147 or 156) which means you can also have more fun at lower speeds too.
At high speeds, especially on motorways I find the Spider to be very stable.
The faster you drive it, the more it feels as though it is pulling itself on to the road.
The areas where the Spider will suffer most in comparison with the newer Alfas is the feeling of solidity and build quality, especially the interior.
The interior, whilst stylish with cowled gauges, is looking a bit dated in areas and a lot of the minor controls arenít exactly logical!
However drop the roof, rev that motor and all will be forgiven.
Driving a Spider doesnít make a whole lot of sense sometimes, but driving one really gives you a "sense of occasion that" you just donít get with a 147 or 156,which will seem a bit sterile by comparison. Basically itís a "true" Alfa.
One time in your life you should have a daft, impractical 2-seater convertible!
Thereís lots of time for driving sensible cars the day you become a "sensible" family man like me...Ē
for parts by mail order
tuning parts and servicing
car sales and servicing
hood cleaning/refinishing products
site dedicated to Spider with history, technical info and tuning info.
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Many thanks to the following, from the Alfaowner forum for their input:
If you need to know anything else, please feel free to ask and good luck, in your search.