Citroen Concours of America's

10 Most Frequently Asked Questions

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1. Can I buy a new Citroen in the USA?
  2. Can I import a used Citroen into the USA?
  3. Can I use Dextron II instead of the Citroen LHM?
  4. What happens if I put brake fluid in my LHM system?
  5. Is the DS Citromatic transmission reliable?
  6. Are the timing chains on the SM prone to failure?
  7. Can I use a 2CV as a daily driver?
  8. Should I consider the automatic transmission on the SM?
  9. Can I push-start rather than crank-start an 11CV?
 10. I am thinking of buying a DS/ID, what year should I buy?

1. Can I buy a new Citroen in the USA?

No. Citroen sold its last new car in 1973 (a Citroen SM). However, several independent grey-market importers picked up the Citroen mantle and imported Citroens up until about 1995. Most notably, these companies were Target and Fournet (2CV importers until about 1989, Target imported them as kitcars and Fournet as refurbished cars), Trend Imports (CX Diesel importers until about 1982), EuroCar (CX IE importers until 1987) and CXA or CX Automotive (importers of the CX IE and XM V6 until 1995). Unfortunately, in the last several years, the DOT (the US Department of Transportation) and EPA (the automotive branch of the Environmental Protection Agency) have tightened their requirements to a point that it is no longer financially feasible for an independent importer to bring in cars.

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2. Can I import a Citroen into the USA?

Yes and no. No Citroens newer than 25 years old can be legally imported into the USA without going through a complicated and expensive compliance red-tape courtesy of the DOT and EPA (see question #1). But, any Citroen, 25 years or older, can be brought into the USA without having to be complied.

" Under 49 U.S.C. § 30112(b)(9) (formerly section 108(i) of the Act), "any motor vehicle that is at least 25 years old" is not subject to importation restrictions. All vehicles less than 25 years old must be determined eligible for importation by one of the following methods before the vehicle may be imported under contract with a Registered Importer as described in the Vehicle Importation Guidelines. "

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3. Can I use Dextron II instead of the Citroen LHM?

Yes and no. Dextron II, like any other mineral-based hydraulic oil, can be used as an emergency alternative to the Citroen LHM fluid. However, it is not recommended that Dextron II be used on a long-term basis. Dextron II differs from LHM in several ways. First, Dextron II is red instead of green - sounds minor, but you wouldn't believe how many mechanics assume it's brake fluid because of the oil's color. Second, Dextron II is a higher viscosity oil than LHM - this causes all your hydraulic components to react slower than the thinner LHM. Thirdly, Dextron II uses a lot of detergents that will react adversely with any rubber seals and o'rings in the Citroen hydraulic system. Finally, and most importantly, Dextron II is a very abrasive oil (put some between your fingers - it feels gritty) that will actually wear down moving metal components. Past experience has even shown us that any Citroen that has used Dextron II for more than 30,000 miles can not go back to LHM. The Dextron II will have worn down the Citroen's hydraulic system to a point that it will still function (barely) with the Dextron II (because of the oil's higher viscosity) but will have massive internal leakage when changed back to the thinner LHM.

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4. What happens if I put brake fluid in my LHM system?

Remember Chernobyl? The Citroen LHM hydraulic system will suffer an equally devastating meltdown. Even the smallest amount of the vegetable-based brake fluid could damage a Citroen LHM system to the tune of several thousand dollars. Although extensive flushing of the hydraulic system will lessen and slow down the damage, the brake fluid will attach itself to many of the larger seals and diaphrams (spheres and accumulators) and could cause further hydraulic deterioration for many coming years. Sometimes the only possible repair is to replace or reseal the entire hydraulic system. Solution? Make sure that only you or a qualified Citroen mechanic adds fluid to the hydraulic resevoir.

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5. Is the DS Citromatic transmission reliable?

Yes. The Citromatic DS uses basically the same transmission and clutch as the manual-shift DS (all internal parts are interchangeable). However, instead of a clutch pedal and mechanical linkage, the Citromatic uses an hydraulic brain and a myriad of other hydraulic components. Problems, if any, ensue when an enterprising mechanic or owner tries to make an adjustment without consulting the repair manual. There are 3 adjustments on the Citromatic and adjusting any one will affect the other 2. In addition to the manual transmission's adjustment of the clutch clearance, the Citromatic also has an adjustment for the clutch-drag speed (engagement from standstill - made on the centrifugal regulator) and clutch engagement speed (engagement speed between gears - made on the clutch-engagement control). The Citromatic can be as problem-free as the manual-shift DS and, in many ways, much more enjoyable to drive.

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6. Are the timing chains on the SM prone to failure?

A more accurate question might be 'are you and your mechanic in sync with the SM's maintenance requirements?' The SM has an undeserved reputation for timing-chain failure - mostly due to the ignorance of owners and mechanics. Most, if not all, of SM chain failures are a result of the chains being improperly adjusted or ignored. The cam chains have to be manually adjusted every 6,000 miles and are typically replaced every 30,000 miles. Although I won't go into detail as to how the chains should be adjusted, mechanics frequently make the mistake of not removing the valve covers when they are doing the adjustments. The covers HAVE to be removed to check the chains' tightness and the camshafts top-dead marks, to prevent and check for accidental chain jumps and to ensure the chains haven't reached the end of their adjustments. Overtightening can also cause problems as it will result in too much tension on the camshafts and possible chain breakage under load. Solution: follow the recommended maintenance intervals and adjustment procedures.

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7. Can I use a 2CV as a daily driver?

Yes, millions of Frenchmen and other 2CV lovers have done so for over 50 years. Many Americans cite the greater distances one must travel in the USA as a concern when considering a 2CV purchase. To anyone considering the 2CV as anything other than a city or second car, I would certainly recommend the 602cc-powered version over its smaller-engined brethren. A 1982-1990 2CV6 is capable of doing 75 mph on the freeway and, despite a lack of power windows, locks and air conditioning, is a very practical daily driver. Ask any 2CV owner - he/she will swear it's the most fun you can have on your daily commute.

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8. Should I consider the automatic transmission on the SM?

Yes and no. To a potential SM buyer, I will recommend, in most cases, to avoid the automatic version - they are underpowered (especially the 1972 2.7L version), problematic (most are improperly maintained or repaired), and less likely to retain their value. However, some buyers, for whatever reason, will only consider an automatic. To those buyers I suggest they only consider the 1973 3.0L version with either very low mileage and well documented maintenance records or an otherwise good car with a bad transmission. Many upgrades and improvements can be done when rebuilding the transmission to make it a more-practical long-term car and an enjoyable driver. Care must exercised when choosing a garage to undertake the rebuild as most are unfamiliar with the transmission's requirements.

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9. Can I push-start rather than crank-start an 11CV?

Never. The transmission case is unable to take the stress of 'bump' starting and consequently will crack or break.

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10. I am thinking of buying a DS/ID, what year should I buy?

Although choosing a DS or ID is mostly weighed by personal preference - do you prefer the early thin-bumpered single-headlight model, the later version single headlight car, or the 1968-on dual-headlight car? -or- do you want air-conditioning? (practical only on the 1970-on models) -or- do you want a Citromatic rather than a manual shift? -or- simplicity (ID and D Special) over luxury (DS19 and DS21)? Keeping that in mind, there are several other important considerations.

If you want a car that's easy to maintain, consider a 1970-on D-Special. They have less hydraulic hardware than the Citromatic DS, the small Solex carburator is thrifty and fairly dependable, and parts are easier to get than pre-1966 models.

If you are unsure of your or your mechanic's ability to maintain the hydraulics then go with a LHM car (in the USA, 1969 1/2-on) rather than an earlier LHS2 car. If badly maintained by its previous owner, a LHS2 car (due to the fluid's propensity to attract water) could be a maintenance nightmare.

Do you want power rather than economy? Then you definitely want a 1966 or later model (with the later-version 5-main bearing engine) and DS21, or DS23 if you can find one, rather than an ID or D-Special. Also you might consider a manual-shift DS21 rather than a Citromatic as some power is lost through the Citroen's clutchless shifting.

Do you want ease of parts access? Again, consider a 1966-on model and preferably even a 1970-on model as new trim items are getting hard to find for the older cars and some mechanical components are impossible to find.

But, all things considered, if you are a typical classic car buyer, you buy with your heart and not your head and, although some of the above might of be of some consideration, you will buy a certain DS or ID because that's the look you want and will deal with the consequences later. Good luck.

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