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So my spouse saved hard for over 20 years of working life, and bought a Renault Clio mark 2 outright back in the year 2000. Brilliant car we still have it. Got issues, but workarounds, worst is honestly the sunroof resealing.

Fast Forward to 2015 wife decides to invest in a new Renault, went for the mark 4 which has the same machinery as here on Captur, same problems, and this seems a more useful and informed forum, hence I am here. All the problems we have had, are here on this forum - Renault Tce 90 turbo 3-cylinder engine. So, we were Renault happy customers when wife bought the mk 4...no axe to grind...

The misfitting front body panel I did not even mention to my spouse, I was not going to spoil the party for that. The two issues that have been hammering nails in the Tce 90 coffin for us, are as titled and here’s what I know...

ONE - the loss of coolant
This creeps over you, it is slow at first, and turns out to be weather-affected. Worst in COLD weather. Expert mechanic I trust - that makes a total of ONE in 58 years - found it was a warped plastic-moulded casing, lots of coolant pipes go there I think, and if warped, it leaks, traces of green and ‘salt’ deposits down the engine, around the gasket etc. Not talking much about this, I avoided dealing with it by simply topping-up and more or less hid it from spouse, until costing a litre of coolant a week, such is my concern at the stress trying to get a dealer to do anything would cause.

You know the score, you take it, they say they will have a look, they find nothing the first two times but do hold on to it for a couple of days each time, then it gets less convenient and more difficult to work from there. We are only 5 miles from the dealer, but the practicalities are a killer when you all work or are busy with appointments college etc. So, I avoided all this and minimised stress by waiting until it was so bad it could be actually found, from the coolant deposits.

To round that out, I have heard of people being told their dealer had removed and replaced the cylinder head under warranty to fix this self-same issue. Patently, I don’t believe that story, and think it was a bit of PR by a dealer who did the same £250 fix my expert mechanic did, and I bet saw dozens of them. No matter, we know this fault, and I think it’s recurring about 18 months later. So - warped moulding, a consumable?!

TWO - Clutch Judder

This has people really in knots on the internet, because it involves something called a Dual-Mass Flywheel. It turns out I know exactly what this is, but the name is about as baffling a description as you could dream up. I see this, as the clutch plate assembly, simply with the central smaller diameter ‘core’ of the round clutch plate, able to rotate a small amount eg one eighth of a turn or less, and then they put spring-loading into that. So that if you try to rotate the centre of the clutch plate assy by hand, while holding the outer part, the friction part, it is far too hard to do IE VERY strong springs like valve springs.

The engine drives the centre of the clutch assembly - the ‘core’ part - and the outer part is the bit that makes contact with a polished ring surface in the transmission to drive the gearbox/wheels etc. So, obviously if you ‘dump the clutch’ the outer part jams up on the friction surface as intended, and the inner part gets powered by the engine, and you get that 1/8 turn of the outer part of the clutch which is making contact with the engine flywheel, where the central ‘core’ of the clutch plate assembly is not wanting to move much, resisted by the wheels of the car not yet turning much.

That gives you a rocking of the outer part of the clutch, against spring force, compared to the inner part. This reaches the limit of movement when the springs are totally compressed/collapsed - about an inch maybe of squashing of the springs which are arranged a bit like the outer edges of a 50p piece - and of course wants to ‘spring back’.

Now imagine that the engine is also a bit bouncy, and when this ‘spring back effect’ occurs, the engine is already reacting to being resisted by rocking on its mountings.

Voila - the engine ends up rocking back and forth, the Dual Mass Flywheel (spring-loaded clutch plate assembly) that started the rocking is now bounced back the other way, then the whole thing gets out of hand. The rocking back-and-forth outer part of the clutch assembly attached to the now-rocking engine, the core of the assembly now also rocking back and forth as the tyres flex a bit, then there’s the gears with a bit of slop (backlash)...and so it goes.

That is the clutch judder. Other stuff can ‘join in’ but that’s the basic physics. The engine mountings are meant to resist this rocking, DAMPEN it a little, and of course, damping is what is MISSING from the Dual Mass Flywheel concept - if the springs of this clutch assembly, had little shock absorber/dampers like suspension does, this would not occur, in all probability. No car can drive legally with knackered shocks failing to damp the spring motion of the suspension, yet Renault and others have produced a DMF clutch system, that has NO DAMPENER/SHOCKER for exactly that problem.

That is why it is an issue, but it is not entirely fixed by a NON Dual Mass Flywheel system I am afraid. There is still all that slop in the gears/transmission and the tyres still ‘wind up’ a bit, and so on. Hence, non-DMF clutches don’t necessarily fix the issue.

THE CAR ‘KANGAROOS’ IS WHAT IT PHYSICALLY MANIFESTS ITSELF AS.

The other issues that ‘join in’ are anything that is unable to maintain a STEADYING effect on the whole rocking mess. Sadly, the engine management will join in, because the engine sensing load/no load, is what the engine computer sees, and it will try and compensate only just ‘getting going’ in a split second, before the state of load changes into no-load, or vice versa. Hence, it is possible for the engine management to make the issue worse.

You do not have a direct cable to the fuel/air intake of the car any more, so the engine ignores the fact your accelerator pedal is steady and static, sadly, and instead, ping-pongs from one over-reaction (adding fuel and air to fight the load), right into the cutting-off of fuel and air, as it suddenly finds no-load, as the springing back and forth DMF/transmission/engine rocking, puts it into the same sort of frenzy the stock market sometimes does, when a bad day happens.

IE the engine management, just makes matters worse - it is exactly like you have the kangaroo-take-off underway, then decide to alternately stamp on the accelerator and let it off totally, which anybody knows will exacerbate the kangaroo-start situation.

Long-winded, but that’s what this clutch judder problem comes down to. Better fuel, better slower-reacting engine management, less slop in the gears or driveshafts or tyres, all of that might help attenuate this undamped system. But it cannot change the fact that the source of the issue, is a set of undamped springs, right in the heart of the transmission, the DMF (so-called) clutch design.

So I am here to explain that, but also to point out I am just another Renault customer (or the husband of one) that has had their experience marred by two critical elements of the design of this engine and transmission failing to operate properly.

Once the engine wis warm, it is more controllable - steady - and you don’t have to race-start with a revving engine like a Learner, but can ‘feather’ it initially ate very low rpm, until the car is moving, then drive as normal. These three-cylinder 900cc engines have a known torque issue low down - there isn’t any. an electric motor stuck on the end like Honda have done, would fix this, but instead we have turbo, which takes no effect until 2000rpm at least.

FUNDAMENTAL FLAWED DESIGN

Flawed design, deep in the heart of the engine & transmission. Poorly designed or wrong material used on the moulded coolant casing. That’s our experience.

If the vehicle was an EV, neither of these two issues would apply in all likelihood. Clutches usually don’t feature in Electric Vehicles and the coolant situation, will use different design for feeding around the electric motor.

So I cannot say I wouldn’t buy a Renault Zoe. I can say I would not buy another internal combustion engined vehicle, unless it cannot be avoided.

There is a question though simply to validate this thread - how many customers are Renault willing to hang out to dry, with these major costs and flawed design issues, they did not mention in the sales information?

Why not retrofit a different design of moulding, and offer to inspect the vehicles to at least minimise the kangaroo-starts issue? They could admit it’s a poor do and go halfway, if it takes a replacement DMF clutch to fix the juddering. We could swallow a £500 charge, for our 5-year old car to have a new clutch fitted, and call it ‘betterment’.

After all, it would be a new clutch and this one is going to be fried in probably 75,000 miles due to these flaws. Our Clio mk 2, had one clutch at 85,000 miles, lots of stop-start driving, did not noticeably judder (just was not a thing) and it now has 140,000 miles, and after the front suspension is done I expect to maybe not get another clutch before it finally dies a death at perhaps 160,000 miles? But if it still runs and we have not bought an EV, perhaps it will get a second engine removal and clutch fitted.

I managed the cambelt myself, not fast though, around 108k miles, but it is only the 8-valve, and seemed not to need it. I would be tempted to leave the present belt in place therefore, until the car dies. I estimate, it would last 60k miles to 80k miles without issue - the 16-valvers are another matter entirely. Again, an EV has no such tech weaknesses/maintenance.

Would we have bought the mk 4 Tce 90 if we had known of the issues? No, definitely not. We bought it because we had a great experience with the mk 2 1049cc Grande model. We now face over a grand of repairs in the next 12 months, to a car we have had since new 5 years ago, with only 40,000 miles on the clock, and the problems could leave you at the roadside stranded, and were that serious, after just 3 years and 25,000 miles. The kangaroo-hop is embarrassing and probably damaging (one guy had driveshaft joint breakage) and the coolant can literally disappear in a hundred-mile journey, ie halfway to Scotland for us.

No, nowhere near enough effort by Renault and no pro-active help. They are willing for my spouse to be left stranded. We don’t have a grand to do the work, and I am no spring chicken, or it would be done already. A foolish way for a major conventional car-maker to behave. They are on the cusp of needing people like us to buy into the new eV models they must produce within the next five years say. Why leave us high and dry, to figure these catastrophic problems out for ourselves, and worry about it, is a question for them.
 

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Thank you for sharing that Sleekitwan, I hope it was a cathartic exercise writing that post! I am a fellow TCE90 owner who had the clutch judder (still do) and coolant leak issue. The latter however came down to Renault choosing to use cheap plastic to make the thermostat housing, which is where the leak started and gradually worsened to, much like you, requiring a ridiculous amount of topping up per week before I bit the bullet and took it to my local trusted mechanic. The housing had to be replaced.
The clutch judder explanation, for someone who doesn't have a mechanical background like me, was very informative, and I now understand what the bloody **** is going on on those cold mornings when I go from car driver to hopping Australian animal impersonator!
The less than perfect fit of the front bumper to the wheel arch trim is another bug bear of mine.
All that said, I owned a Peugeot 106 before this, which went to the scrapman at 160,000 miles. It was a solid car, but the Captur is a much better and more pleasurable drive. For my purposes, the Captur is ideal, but, had Renault designed out the aforementioned faults, it would have been even better still.
My only conclusion is that car manufacturers care less about finish and reliability these days and parts are simply not made to last. Ultimately it is us, the owners, who end up picking up the bill.
 
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