By Christopher Judd Email: email@example.com and other contributors
First, a few general comments...
If youre in the market for an X1/9, remember to buy the nicest car you can afford. X1/9s are very inexpensive to purchase, so try to get the nicest one you can find. Unless youre a professional mechanic and youre really good at welding sheet metal, it doesnt make much sense to go out and buy the newly rewired $200 rustbucket that doesnt run. It makes much more sense to save your pennies and go buy the running, reliable, and clean car for $2,000. Your spouse, family, or significant other will appreciate your better judgement, too. Remember, also, that youre buying an old car - the newest ones are over 10 years old. When, not if, something goes wrong, fix it ASAP and dont get too worked up. Dont expect perfection unless youre paying quite a bit - think of what $2,000--$4,000 will get you elsewhere!
What to look for in an X1/9:
Put simply, rust is the single largest problem an X1/9 can have. It can occur anywhere on the car, but is nastier in some places than others. Major problem areas include the front and rear shock towers, floors, battery box, windshield frame, rear cross member, rockers, doors, front and rear quarters. It can also occur on the engine cover and the front luggage compartment lid. X1/9s are unitbody cars, so significant rust will affect the structural integrity of the car. Make sure the drain holes in the rear fenders arent plugged - if theyre clogged, rust can settle in quickly and some electronics on later cars can be ruined. RUN AWAY from a rusty car!! Also, X1/9s can be hard to straighten out if hit hard enough - stay away from a car thats been clobbered.
Mechanically, the X1/9 isnt as bad as many people think it is. If you keep fresh oil in the crankcase, the engine in good tune, and the valves adjusted, it will be quite reliable. If you buy an X1/9, change the timing belt and tensioner bearing immediately if you dont know when, or if , this was done last. This needs to be done every 30,000 miles or the belt WILL beak . Also, keep an eye on the condition of the fuel lines and the coolant lines. It gets hot in the engine room and these bits do deteriorate. Their untimely demise can really make a mess of your car and will ruin your day. Fiat transmissions arent the most robust units in the world, but if you keep the proper fuid (GL1) in them and treat them with a modicum of respect, theyll last a long time. The clutch hydraulics can deteriorate with age, but parts are readily available.
The suspensions are generally free from defect unless theyre bent, the bushings are bad, or the struts are tired. Youll know if theres a problem because an X1/9 handles wonderfully when all is well and REALLY poorly if something is wrong. The brakes are very simple and quite effective. Changing pads and rotors borders on the trivial -theresno excuse for these to be in poor shape - just make sure the caliper seals, the rubber lines, the steel lines, and the master cylinder are OK. Change the fluid every two years to keep everything clean. The same goes for brake hydraulics as went for the clutch hydraulics.