Alfa Romeo Spider series 2 engine bay
Alfa Romeo Spider with series 2 silver central console
Alfa Spider boot is limited, replace spare with puncture kit
Alfa Spider lower front wishbone wear
Alfa Spider lower spring pan
Alfa Spider rear bush wear can effect subframe
First: General car buying advice
When looking at the 916 series Alfa Romeo Spider, in fact, any car, 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 tell tail 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 another area that garages can make mistakes, If you establish the car has been involved in an accident it is up to you if you buy the car.
Alfa Romeo Spiders are reliable cars if serviced well, we have some Spiders 2.0l with 180,000 miles on the clock, 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 it is probably best to walk away at this point. The cam belts (Cam Belt Change Offer) should have been replaced as part of the 72,000-mile service, however, since 13th November 2006 Alfa Romeo recommend that the belts should be replaced at 36,000 miles (or 3 years) on the 2.0l engines, and this significantly improved the reliability. There can sometimes be a rattle from the 2.0l engines that makes them sound like a diesel, this is the cam variator and should be replaced when doing the cam belt, the V6 engines should also have had their cambelt changed at 72,000 (although we recommend 60,000 miles in this case too). 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. When road testing any of the cars if you feel it lacks power it may need an air flow meter (MAF Fault Diagnosis Guide) these cost at least £120 each. On the 3.0l it is worth checking the condition of the oil cooler pipes as they tend to corrode and it is about £400 to replace them, you will end up replacing both pipes and the cooler radiator and they are quite difficult to fit.
Clutches 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 the 3.0 clutch is a pull-type clutch and can get quite heavy as the diaphragm work hardens the cover does not then exert enough pressure on the friction plate and this may then slip, gearboxes are generally trouble-free but do check that all gears engage smoothly without crunching, occasionally the nut comes loose on 5th gear and this can make 5th gear difficult to engage, however, the nut only usually needs tightening which can be done with the gearbox in situ
The brakes are generally trouble-free but the front disks on 3.0l cars may warp and this will show up as a vibration through the steering when braking from speed and the disks are over £70 each.
The suspension has a number of areas to check these are the lower front wishbone (Spider lower wishbone replacement guide) which can have play at either end and this can cause excessive wear on the inner edge of the front tyres, however, the front tyres do have a tendency to wear on the inner edge even with the suspension in perfect condition so do not take uneven tyre wear as a guarantee of suspension wear. The suspension arm costs about £50 and takes just over an hour to fit. The rear suspension on Spiders does have a number of weak points and these vary depending on whether you are buying a 2.0l or a 3.0 l. On a 2.0l the bushes are made of rubber with a steel insert in it, this insert can wear into the Aluminium subframe especially on the rear arm where the shock absorber mounts and this can, in extreme cases, necessitate the replacement of the subframe, this, however, is very rare. The arms are very easy to fit. The front arm that supports the spring is however a lot more expensive at around £200 however it does not tend to fail as regularly, with all these arms it is possible to fit power flex bushes which will reduce the cost. On the 3.0l the bushes are spherical joints, not rubber bushes so you don't get the problem with the insert wearing into the subframe, however, the bushes can squeak and you will have to replace the spring pan arm because of this at about £200
The Spider can be fitted with either a manual or electric hood always check the operation of the hood, the manual hood is simple to operate, first, you undo the catches along the top of the windscreen, then the hood is released from the body of the car using a switch behind the driver's seat, the hood then pulls up, the second switch is then operated which releases the hood cover, this then folds backwards allowing the hood to fold tidily away. With the electric hood, you have to unclip the two catches from the top of the windscreen and then press the button in the rear of the centre console, this should first wind down the front windows and then go through the process in the same way a manual hood would. The electric hood is computer controlled and a fault with this is shown by a flashing LED next to the operating switch, it is also wise to check the hydraulic operating rams for leaks as they can be expensive to replace.
With Alfa Romeo Spiders we are now seeing issues with rust as the cars are now becoming classics, the car was galvanised from the factory and that limited the extent of corrosion they suffer from. The places to look for corrosion are the rear panel just in front of the wheel and around the rear jacking point, although all of the sills can corrode especially under the sill cover. All the interior trim is very hard-wearing, it is however worth noting that the spider can suffer from creaks and groans not shared with its Spider sibling the most common of these is cured by putting a tiny amount of grease on the locating dowels between the hood and the windscreen top rail . the interior electrics are also generally very reliable but it is worth checking that everything works when you test the car, i.e. check the fan, electric mirrors, electric windows, lighter, radio, climate control, windscreen wipers, windscreen washers, lights, sunroof, boot release which is in the glove box, petrol flap release, if the air conditioning does not work it could need a new radiator which can be quite expensive. 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 Spider it is worth once you have got this far 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