John Evans is a long-time motoring journalist and editor from titles such as What Car?, AutoCar and Practical Caravan.
Ever since the Papa and Nicole television advertisements of the 1990s, the Renault Clio has had a special place in car buyers’ affections. Stylish and cheap to own, it is a popular runabout with motorists of all ages.
The model under the spotlight here is the Clio II that was launched in 1998 but more specifically, the facelifted version, known as the Phase 2. It ran from 2001 to 2005 and was available in a choice of three or five-door body styles.
While the Clio II was popular with undemanding motorists, the Phase 1 RS 172 hot-hatch version also won the model legions of performance fans.
The Phase 2 RS 172 and RS 182 that followed built on that success. The arrival of the range-topping Phase 1 3.0 V6 in 2000 and its Phase 2 follow-up in 2002, cemented the Clio’s reputation as a genuine performance car.
By the time the Phase 2 bowed out in 2005, there was a Clio for pretty much any type of driver, models ranging from a basic 1.0-litre petrol via a choice of efficient 1.2, 1.4 and 1.6 petrols and a frugal but punchy 1.5 diesel, all the way to a brace of sporty 2.0 and 3.0 petrols.
No wonder it continues to be a hit with used car buyers to this day.
Common problems with the Renault Clio II Phase 2
Popular it may be but Haynes engineers have identified a raft of problems with the Clio II Phase 2 that could make owning one a frustrating experience.
That said, many thousands were made and assuming your car has been well looked after, there’s no need to be too fearful.
Most problems are centred on the engine with starting and power loss issues being the most common. Diesel models bring their own unique set of troubles including a smoky exhaust.
One particular diesel version, the 1.5 dCi 100 with engine code number K9K-712, can have an issue involving difficult gear engagement. Meanwhile, the term ‘multiple electrical faults’ haunts most versions.
There have been only a handful of recalls, and most should have been attended to by now. Most versions were recalled for the same two faults although only the 3.0 V6 was recalled for an accelerator issue requiring reprograming of the injector computer. For information on official safety recalls, check the DVSA recall website here. Recalls are:
- Possible loss of brake servo assistance (Clio IIs built from 16/04/02 -27/06/02).
- Possible breakage of front suspension arm (Clio IIs built from 07/10/02 – 09/10/02).
- Actual engine speed can differ from speed requested by driver (Clio V6s built from 01/09/02 – 22/06/04)
Bizarrely, most petrol versions can suffer power loss followed by stalling. It’s caused by contaminant build up in the throttle body and the solution is a thorough clean.
Hesitation and stalling could be a faulty contact between the connector and the top dead centre sensor. Renew the TDC sensor.
Still with petrol engines, the engine going to limp home mode is likely to be trouble with the mass airflow meter, which may need renewing.
On the 1.2 petrol, and across most versions, power loss could also mean valve clearances require adjustment. A fluctuating idle speed from cold could be faulty software in the fuel injector unit.
Alternatively, the same problem from warm could be a faulty coolant temperature sensor. No change in engine speed when the accelerator is depressed is likely to be a poor contact in the accelerator pedal position sensor.
No start despite the engine turning could be zero connection between the body and the engine control units caused by damaged wiring.
The 1.4 petrol can suffer poor performance and a fluctuating idle speed caused by faulty ignition coils, while a squeaking noise from the engine compartment is likely to be a damaged alternator pulley. If the starter motor refuses to operate, check the engine management relays.
The 1.5 dCi diesel engines present their own litany of problems. First off is blue exhaust smoke following multiple turbocharger renewals. This could be caused by poor lubrication due to a loss of compression, with excessive crankcase pressure preventing oil return to the turbocharger.
Black exhaust smoke accompanied by a difficult engine start and a lumpy idle is likely to be a faulty injector. If the car stalls when you’re driving and cannot be restarted, check the air conditioning pressure switch isn’t causing a voltage drop.
At the same time, check the EGR valve position sensor isn't faulty (you’ll need a diagnostic tool for this).
Still with the diesel engines, intermittent power loss could be a faulty clutch pedal switch (renew it).
If the engine feels jerky, check the climate control system wiring loom isn’t chafing on an air-conditioning pipe, causing a short circuit. If the engine is making a knocking sound, use a diagnostic tool to check the engine control unit isn't faulty. If the engine stalls immediately after starting, check for faulty injectors.
The 3.0 V6 was the only version to experience a recall for a possible problem with the engine. It concerned models built from 1 September 2002 to 22 June 2004.
At issue was a faulty contact between the accelerator pedal position sensor and the injection computer. The solution was to reprogram the injection computer.
There’s only one notable problem recorded in this area and that’s a gear selection issue on the 1.5 dCi diesel, engine code K9K-712. In fact, the ’box jams as it tries to engage two gears simultaneously.
Check the gearbox for leaks and if necessary, open it up and follow the Haynes procedure for checking the operation of the gears.
Steering and suspension
One recall is the major feature of this area of the Clio. In fact, it applied only to Clios built from 7 to 9 October 2002 so most models are unaffected.
At issue was the possibility of the front right or left suspension arm breaking in an impact.
A loss of braking assistance on all versions was the subject of a recall affecting Clios built from 16 April to 27 June 2002. The problem was caused by incorrect positioning of the air pressure sensor in the inlet manifold.
Meanwhile, Haynes engineers have highlighted the fact that on 1.2 versions, the ABS warning light could illuminate due to faulty electrical connections affecting the wheel speed sensor. Check for corrosion.
Alarmingly, the 1.5 dCi can experience random engagement of the ABS system at low speeds, probably caused by a faulty wheel speed sensor ring. Renew it.
Exterior and interior
No problems reported
The Clio II Phase 2 was plagued by problems affecting the air conditioning system and climate control flap. In fact, the flap is at fault (it’s likely to be a damaged air flap shaft bearing). Renew the air flap actuator.
‘Multiple electrical faults’ doesn't sound good. We’re talking interior lights that don't operate, windscreen wipers that won’t work and problems with the central locking. The cause is likely to be faulty body control unit software. The solution is to update it.
Intermittent instrument panel problems on the 1.2 versions are likely to be a fault with the electrical connector located in the left-hand side of the engine compartment.
If the airbag warning light comes on, check for a poor contact in the airbag connectors located under the front seats.
On the 2.0 RS 172 and 3.0 V6 models, if the cruise control system plays up, check the wiring to the clutch pedal switch and renew if necessary, making sure you fit protection to it.