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Just signed up & for my first post I thought I would tell a short story which might help other Alfa owners possibly save some money.

This is the second 156 I have owned, its 4 years old now & it has been a fantastic car & up until recently it has proved ultra reliable.

Last September I started to get VDC failures on initial start up in the morning – not always but usually once a week . In it went to Arnold Clark in Aberdeen, who put it on the examiner – recalibrated the sensors and all seemed fine for a week. It then started again ( now the funny thing was – it only occurred on the first start up – If I restarted the engine all was fine)

So back it went to Arnold who then said that the sensors would need replacing. It was due it’s MOT in December – so I decided to leave it until then

Well in October I got the dreaded ‘Motor Control system Failure’ ( why does this always happen on a Saturday night/Sunday when everything is closed). Anyway back to Arnold, back on the examiner –“ Ah that will be a new Lambda sensor please”

OK I thought – get it replaced & it will be all sorted, and for a week it was, until one night coming back from Tesco’s I got the “Motor control system failure” again.

So back she went to Arnold – back on the examiner – two days later Arnold called to say that they couldn’t find anything wrong, they reset the ECU (relieving me of £100 in the process) and handed me back the car.

Well guess what another week later “Motor Control System Failure”. Back to Arnold.
“We’ve found the fault – it’s another Lambda sensor” - so that one was replaced. More money to Arnold – but at that stage the wife was getting a bit p**ed off

Great all sorted – or so I thought. You guessed it, within another week – BING – “Motor Control system failure”

Again back to Arnold, now I am trying to be really nice about this – you know , Italian car – Italian electrics, now I bought the Alfa knowing that this is always a possibility., but my mood is not helped when the Service Manager at Arnold in Aberdeen come out with the comment of “ Well you would by an Alfa – what else do you expect” – It wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t the only Alfa dealer in Aberdeen!

Anyway, I get a call a day later from Arnold saying that – It’s the ECU – you need a new ECU - £500 please.

At this stage, the wife goes ballistic ( not helped by the fact that our other car – a thirty year old Landrover had just passed it’s MOT for the third time in a row – without anything needing done.

Right I thought – time to find a second opinion, Got her booked into CP Garages in Dundee, spoke to Euan (great bloke). Got her MOT done at the same time, and Euan gave me a 146 as a courtesy car (Great fun) – by the way “courtesy car and Arnold Clark – don’t even go there.

So Got a phone call from Euan on the Monday morning to say that the car sailed through it’s MOT. But what about the ‘Motor Control System Failure” - Well Euan had deduced that the Battery was on the way out.

Got the battery replaced – clean voltage now going to the ECU – no more Motor control system failure – no more VDC failures – it’s been six weeks since the battery has been replaced & no nasty error messages.

What’s more Euan had spotted that one of the Lambda sensors, which had been replaced by Arnold, had had the wiring too close to the exhaust & the wiring was starting to melt.

Guess where all my servicing will now be done (also quoted me a good price for getting the Cambelt changed).

Did I really need the 2 new Lambda sensors, who knows. Would replacing the ECU have resolved my issue – Nope – but it would have put more money in Arnold’s pockets.

Now Arnold probably did everything by the manual – but you do wonder If they replaced the ECU and then found out it was the battery , whether thy would have refunded the cost of the ECU.

Hope this story & the moral it encompasses might be of help to other ALFA owners
 

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Thankls for that Ian. My car gets the "Motor Control System Failure" every now and then but it goes right away.
It always seems to do it when I am in a high gear, going slow, and I am too lazy to change down so I just push down on the accelerator. The revs pick up and then the car will jerk slightly, "beep beep beep" and the message ppears for a split second. The car then accelerates as normal and the message is gone.
Do you think thyat this could be a battery issue as I believe that the one on the cvar is the original (2002 car)?.
On another note I also get the oil warning on start up. I know the oil is fine as I check it often and it is still at a safe level. Sometimes it will say my oil is full, sometimes 2 bars, sometimes 1 bar and then then sometimes it says no oil at all.
Is this a sensor issue per-chance?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
First - I'm no mechanic - so take anything I say witha pinch of salt. Take anything that Arnold Clark says with a pillar of salt!

From reading lots of forum s it does seem to me at least that ALFAs do need a good steady voltage or weird things start happening.

If your car is 5 years old & is still on the original battery - then it's done pretty well.

Do you have a good relationship with your garage - if so can they check that your getting a good steady voltage. Its a small price to pay if you do need a new battery.

The oil pressure issue - to be honest I don't know - my best advice is to find a good independant Alfa garage - I know I now sleep better at night.
 

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Thanks Ian.
Well i normally go to FAST in Stockton but they tend to get quite busy at times.
Regarding the oil - I think it is just an oil level check rather than pressure so it is either the sensor playing up or as you say above, the battery.
I will see if I can get to a local auto electrician and get them to check voltages for me.
 

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My son has had the same problem with his 2001 GTV.
 

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My 156 recently had the same warnings along with a total lack of power - finally it refused to restart. I called out the RAC who immediately identified the vehicle battery as the problem! They replaced the battery at the roadside and I've had no problems since - apart from struggling to replace a blown front side light !!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
So simple a fix that a main Alfa dealer didn't spot it - unless they did & saw a money making opportunity.
 

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Just signed up & for my first post I thought I would tell a short story which might help other Alfa owners possibly save some money.

This is the second 156 I have owned, its 4 years old now & it has been a fantastic car & up until recently it has proved ultra reliable.

Last September I started to get VDC failures on initial start up in the morning – not always but usually once a week . In it went to Arnold Clark in Aberdeen, who put it on the examiner – recalibrated the sensors and all seemed fine for a week. It then started again ( now the funny thing was – it only occurred on the first start up – If I restarted the engine all was fine)

So back it went to Arnold who then said that the sensors would need replacing. It was due it’s MOT in December – so I decided to leave it until then

Well in October I got the dreaded ‘Motor Control system Failure’ ( why does this always happen on a Saturday night/Sunday when everything is closed). Anyway back to Arnold, back on the examiner –“ Ah that will be a new Lambda sensor please”

OK I thought – get it replaced & it will be all sorted, and for a week it was, until one night coming back from Tesco’s I got the “Motor control system failure” again.

So back she went to Arnold – back on the examiner – two days later Arnold called to say that they couldn’t find anything wrong, they reset the ECU (relieving me of £100 in the process) and handed me back the car.

Well guess what another week later “Motor Control System Failure”. Back to Arnold.
“We’ve found the fault – it’s another Lambda sensor” - so that one was replaced. More money to Arnold – but at that stage the wife was getting a bit p**ed off

Great all sorted – or so I thought. You guessed it, within another week – BING – “Motor Control system failure”

Again back to Arnold, now I am trying to be really nice about this – you know , Italian car – Italian electrics, now I bought the Alfa knowing that this is always a possibility., but my mood is not helped when the Service Manager at Arnold in Aberdeen come out with the comment of “ Well you would by an Alfa – what else do you expect” – It wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t the only Alfa dealer in Aberdeen!

Anyway, I get a call a day later from Arnold saying that – It’s the ECU – you need a new ECU - £500 please.

At this stage, the wife goes ballistic ( not helped by the fact that our other car – a thirty year old Landrover had just passed it’s MOT for the third time in a row – without anything needing done.

Right I thought – time to find a second opinion, Got her booked into CP Garages in Dundee, spoke to Euan (great bloke). Got her MOT done at the same time, and Euan gave me a 146 as a courtesy car (Great fun) – by the way “courtesy car and Arnold Clark – don’t even go there.

So Got a phone call from Euan on the Monday morning to say that the car sailed through it’s MOT. But what about the ‘Motor Control System Failure” - Well Euan had deduced that the Battery was on the way out.

Got the battery replaced – clean voltage now going to the ECU – no more Motor control system failure – no more VDC failures – it’s been six weeks since the battery has been replaced & no nasty error messages.

What’s more Euan had spotted that one of the Lambda sensors, which had been replaced by Arnold, had had the wiring too close to the exhaust & the wiring was starting to melt.

Guess where all my servicing will now be done (also quoted me a good price for getting the Cambelt changed).

Did I really need the 2 new Lambda sensors, who knows. Would replacing the ECU have resolved my issue – Nope – but it would have put more money in Arnold’s pockets.

Now Arnold probably did everything by the manual – but you do wonder If they replaced the ECU and then found out it was the battery , whether thy would have refunded the cost of the ECU.

Hope this story & the moral it encompasses might be of help to other ALFA owners
Ian just out of interest how much cash did arnold relieve you of for the diagnosis and new lambda?
My 156 has recently started giving it's "motor control system failure, go to dealer" alarm too.
Mine seems to be intermittant although its on more often than off.
I was thinking of taking it to arnold when i get home from offshore but having read your post i'm not so sure now
 

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Discussion Starter #10
MJ

Arnold 'took' over £150 for a job that was probably not needed, even when they replaced the Lambda sensor they fitted it so badly that the wiring would have burnt out in the near future.
I'm not a fan, I will not use them again. The fact that they blamed me for buying an Alfa in the first place also really got my goat. I love my Alfa - it's my second one & I on the whole it has been really reliable - but I have no confidence that if it does go wrong - that Arnold Clark can fix it.
I bought this Alfa from Arnold & the Sales guy - Ian Bibby was really good, in fact when the service department said they could not give us a courtesy car - Ian came out & gave me one of his new 147's whilst mine was in being looked at.
I see that Arnold looks like they have lost the dealership for Alfa in Aberdeen - but retained the servicing - which is a shame.
If you are looking to get work done on your Alfa I would highly recommend CP Garages in Dundee. It's only an hour away from Aberdeen, & these guys have the experiance & enthusism in looking after Alfa's ( it makes handing over cash much more palatable) - their cheaper than Arnold as well. The other fun part going to CP Garages is that they restore old Alfa's - Euan showed me some of the cars they were working on.

How often do you get the failure - What fuel do you use
 

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Just a quick note to say thanks to those who have posted with regards the above problems - Motor control system failure and VDC system failure.

I started suffering VDC failure a couple of months ago, but after a restart the fault cleared. Then just recently I started getting Motor control system failure. I was fourtunate to look on this great forum and found a possible answer. So on Friday I checked my battery and decided to change it. Its only been four days but I haven't had a fault yet !

Thanks guys !
 

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Sounds like another story of a dealer knowing next to nothing about car electrics. I'm sure a lot of people like you have paid for work that wasn't needed. And when they get stuck the most common thing they say is the ECU is fried.

I guess some of the problem could be resolved if ALfa documented the correct way to diagnose common faults.

During engine start, if the battery is weak or else if the earth strap is poor then the voltage can drop down very low and this leads to false ECU warnings.

But it is pathetic that they wanted to replace the ECU and as you said you would probably not have got your money back.
 

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MJ

Arnold 'took' over £150 for a job that was probably not needed, even when they replaced the Lambda sensor they fitted it so badly that the wiring would have burnt out in the near future.
I'm not a fan, I will not use them again. The fact that they blamed me for buying an Alfa in the first place also really got my goat. I love my Alfa - it's my second one & I on the whole it has been really reliable - but I have no confidence that if it does go wrong - that Arnold Clark can fix it.
I bought this Alfa from Arnold & the Sales guy - Ian Bibby was really good, in fact when the service department said they could not give us a courtesy car - Ian came out & gave me one of his new 147's whilst mine was in being looked at.
I see that Arnold looks like they have lost the dealership for Alfa in Aberdeen - but retained the servicing - which is a shame.
If you are looking to get work done on your Alfa I would highly recommend CP Garages in Dundee. It's only an hour away from Aberdeen, & these guys have the experiance & enthusism in looking after Alfa's ( it makes handing over cash much more palatable) - their cheaper than Arnold as well. The other fun part going to CP Garages is that they restore old Alfa's - Euan showed me some of the cars they were working on.

How often do you get the failure - What fuel do you use
Ian
I use either optimax or BP ultra, although the last time i was home it ran fine for a week, it has now become a constant warning, my car sits around a lot while i'm offshore, sometimes for up to a month at a time between starts so i think the battery is a definate possibility.
I presume any decent garage could check it for consistent output?
I think i read somewhere that leaving it too long between starts can also affect the lambda sensors as they begin to degrade or something so i'm hoping for the best.
I am concerned about the length of the drive to Dundee with that warning on and/or in low power "get you home mode".

Mike
 

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I wonder if we got the same problem. Since we bought our 156 SW JTS Selespeed we've been to the garage say 50 times, sometimes as often as twice a week. It's always the Motor control system failure, but the error code is either regarding the lambda1, the throttle potentiometer or something like that. They have changed one lambda sensor, the throttle housing (if that's the correct word in english) and the peddle. Last time they checked lambda sensor efficency with an Examiner, while reving it, and found that lambda 1 didn't work as much as lambda 2, which released the lambda sensor error code. One minute later they were working simultanously. The phrase "Change the ECU" came up, and I really hope it won't have to come to that. I shall ask if they've checked the battery? Or does it sound like something else.
 
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It could be any number of sensors/ wires/ controllers/ electric gizmos Joapi.

Pretty much the same thing happened on mine and it was found to be the turbo boost sensor and accelerator housing. Well it's worked for 2 days now, their last fix worked for 4 days before the light came on again! Some people have trouble with the throttle potentiometer, some people say it's the MAF, some people the Lambda sensor, some people say a battery change fixed it.

The trouble with modern cars, you really can't tell without diagnostic equipment ... and half the time, neither can Alfa
 

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Good to know, so that I don't get my hopes up for no reason. What kind of diagnostic equipment do one need, that our garage don't have appearntly? The Examiner can tell a lot, but not what's actually causing the problem. When the MCSF-lamp in on, and it's conserning the lambda, there are almost no bad effects, but when it's the throttle, it gets slow and powerless, brakes and gears are different, etc. Is that what you call limp-home mode?
 

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I’ve had this problem intermittently on my 2003 JTS (I think the letters “JTS” are pretty important here) since new and in most cases it has been a false alarm. A restart generally clears the “safe mode” and I’ve discovered that disconnecting the battery for 15mins clears the alarm itself. I'll check the battery just to see if it might be the root of the problem. BTW, remember that the system is German so the Italians can’t take all the blame!

WRT AC Aberdeen, I agree with the views expressed completely! They are the epitome of the dreadful Alfa dealer and I really can’t stand the sanctimonious “Service” Manager. I’m glad they’ve lost the sales franchise but I can’t understand how they’ve retained the service side.
 

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my alfa 147 recently started getting a motor control system error message , whilst getting a new back box and middle pipe fitted i asked the mechanic about it and he said that my alfa was only running on 3 cylinders and the ignition coil was a issue , ive no idea about this problem but its going in on friday for a full check up , any words of advice would be great , thanks
 
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