Alfa 156 Cam Belts
Alfa 156 airflow meter
Alfa 156 upper wishbone
Alfa 156 rear suspension arm bushes
Alfa 156 rear hub bushes
First, read this: General car buying advice
When looking at a used Alfa 156, check the panel gaps to make sure they are all even as accident damage can show up in the poor fit of panels. Check the trims around windows and doors for overspray as this is also an area where accident damage will show up. Another telltale sign is paint chipped off various panel fastenings or nuts and bolts. It is also advisable to check the colour match between panels as this is yet another area that garages make mistakes. Once you have established if the has been involved in an accident it is up to you if you buy the car.
The Alfa 156 is a reliable car if serviced well, however, as with all vehicles, there are a number of points to be aware of when purchasing. The engines in Alfa Romeos use oil and if when you check the oil there is little or none in the sump this is an indication that the car has been neglected and it is probably best to walk away.
Originally Alfa Romeo said the cam belts (Cam Belt Change Offer) should be replaced at the 72,000 mile service, however from 13/11/06 they recommend that the belts should be replaced at 36,000 miles intervals. There can sometimes be a rattle from the 4 cylinder engines that makes them sound like a diesel, this is the cam variator and should be replaced when doing the cambelt. The diesel engines are very reliable with no real weak points. The V6 engines should also have had their cambelt changed at 72,000 (although we recommend 60,000 miles in this case) and it is advisable to replace the water pump while doing this as the impellers are made of plastic and have a tendency to crack. The spark plugs last 60,000 miles but cost around £10 each; remember a twin spark has 8 spark plugs so this can add up on the 60,000 mile service.
clutch and gearboxes are very reliable, a worn clutch will tend to bite at the top of its travel and, as they are self-adjusting, a high biting point signifies that a new clutch will be needed soon. Gear boxes are generally trouble free but do check that all gears engage smoothly without crunching.
Suspension has a number of areas to check these are the upper wishbone (Upper Wishbone Replacement Guide) which can have play at either end and may manifest itself as a creak coming from behind the dash these cost about £30 each, the rear suspension rear arm bushes (Rear Radius Arm Replacement Guide) wear as do the bushes in the rear hub), again these are not expensive the bush costs £5 and the arm costs £27.
With Alfa Romeo 156s there are no real issues with rust as the cars have all been galvanised from the factory however it is worth checking the floor pan on all cars over 10 years old. All of the interior trim is very hard wearing and lasts well. The only slightly annoying fault is the fuse box cover falling off; on later cars this has been modified with a screw fitment and many of the older cars may well have been modified by their owners. The interior electrics are also generally very reliable but it is worth checking that everything works when you test the car, i.e. check fan, electric mirrors, electric windows, lighter, radio, climate control, windscreen wipers, windscreen washers, lights, sunroof, boot release, petrol flap release. It is also important to check that the various electronic systems on the car are in good working order, when you start the car three important systems are checked by the car these all have a warning light that illuminates on startup going out a few seconds later if the light does NOT come on or stays on there is a fault with that system that needs to be repaired. These systems are airbag, ABS and engine management. The airbag light is a little man with a large balloon in front of him that is situated on the bottom left between the rev counter and speedo. The ABS light is a circle with ABS written in the centre which is again between the two instruments and the fuel injection light is in the top right of the rev counter and looks like a fuel injector spraying fuel, remember they come on for a few seconds and then switch off anything else signifies a faulty system.
This is a basic guide to buying an Alfa 156 and once you have got this far, it is worth getting a specialist on the marque to check the car over for you. Most of the UK specialists will do this for a very reasonable fee, especially if you can get the vendor to take the car to them.
I hope you enjoy your new purchase and it gives you many years of trouble-free motoring.