I bought a '96 1.7 16v 146 Boxer last November 06. (6 prev owners!).
I convinced myself that I needed a bigger car as I had just become a father and I thought I needed a bigger boot for the prams etc. lol. (I also own a Suzuki Ignis which the missus drives but it is a really small car).
I am a biker most of the time and ride every day to work, and with yet another cold UK wet winter approaching I began scanning the press and Autotrader, etc. for a bargain. I was looking for an old Audi, VW, or a reliable Japanese car.
I just happened to spot the Alfa in a lay-by near my house. It had a full years MOT and only 60k on the clock and it looked very clean. It just so happend that a guy on my street owned it and although it had electric windows issues and stereo problems, no service history, the airbag warning light lit, and only one key, after a test drive I thought, what the hell? Its a cheap winter hack and it might do me a year at least. It was selling for £675 and I bought it for £500.00. Happy Days, or so i thought! I think I didnt haggle over the price enough.
After about six weeks it started overheating as the head gasket had went. I asked around and no local mechanics would touch it as they all said Alfas were a nightmare to work on and were too much bother. Not a good start. I finally found a local mechanic who was willing as he said he had had fixed a head gasket on a 146 once before. He quoted me £368, worst case scenario to fix the gasket and to replace the timing belts. He said that if the job was done quickly it would be a lot less. Famous last words - cough!
He 'fixed' the gasket, then he informed me that there was a problem with the cams and the keyway spinning? I was told the engine needed a new head and because the 146 is a rare car in Northern ireland it took 12 weeks
to find a replacement at a scrap merchants. Total Cost £450 which i bargained down to £410. He also replaced the battery, oil and filter. Not a good start and i had to ride my bike through the winter after all as no second car to fall back on.
The car was running a little better for a week or two, until i took it for an 80 mile run then the injector light came on. A diagnostic check £30 later revealed that I now need a Lambda Sensor, and possibly an Oxygen sensor, and some sort or Rev sensor, in order for the engine to run smoothly, (poss MAF prob?), as it now sounds like a cross between a Volkswagon Beetle, a V8, a tractor, and a badly oiled sherman tank! growl, squeak, squeak, rumble, drone, growl, etc. I know Boxer engines are noisy but this takes the biscuit. The knackered Lambda probe also screws up the air/fuel mix and it runs rough from cold. (Are these cars meant to be fast in comparison to todays modern engines?) 129bhp? My 1.3 Ignis is quicker off the mark! heh heh. very reliable it is too.
All in all, after all the hassle, the expense, the wasted time, money, tax and insurance, I still love the car! How weird is that? There must be something about Alfas.
I just hope that I can find a replacement Lambda sensor that is dirt cheap, fix the sticking, work sometimes rear windows & also the drivers window. Bloody air bag light
that stays on most of the time. Everyone I know tells me to get rid of it but i dont want to for some reason. I am obviously mad and I hope you can all help me with my large list of annoyances.
My wife is afraid to drive the damn thing in case it breaks down with the child in the car, so it serves no purpose other than being an expensive additional motor/toy that i try to drive in between tearing up the road on my oh so reliable KAWASAKI.
Oh how i laughed when Top Gear reviewed some new expensive Alfa and there was a problem with the electric windows, and that car came straight from the factory. ha ha. What is it with Italians and bad electrics?
Phew, I am glad to get that off my chest! Dont get me wrong I enjoy the car and i think i have been unlucky to start with but i would love to drive a good example of a 146 Boxer to see what i am missing, although once mine gets going its a nice drive.
(Alfa Dealer garage in Belfast - 'Just' £70 an hour to look at it, yeah right!).
Are there any other boxer engined 146 owners out there in Northern Ireland? I have only seen one red 146 in bangor, but it might have been a later T.Spark.