Gazza82's 1998 Alfa Romeo 156 TSpark 2.0



Yes it's hard to believe but after over 18 years and 210,000 miles, I have parted company with my 156. It was starting to suffer from rust in the floor pan (front near jacking points and not the usual rear footwells) and I don't weld and struggled to find the time to either learn or get a man in. Besides after 18 years I thhought it was time for something new and different. It won't be an Alfa as the Giulia was my first choice until I saw the pricing(!), so watch this site for more information about what is in the garage after March 1st 2017.
I worked out last night the 156 was handed over to me on 10th September 1998 with 32 miles on the clock and I sold it on 12th January 2017. That is 18 years, 3 months and 2 days.

I set up this web-site with the intention of assisting fellow Alfisti with their Alfa 156 TSpark.

The 156 has been in the family since new: August 1998. Originally serviced and looked after by SGT (while someone else was paying the bills), we have looked after her since 2001. It's now June 2016, and she has covered 210,053 miles. Not without problems ... but none fatal, although there have been a couple of 'major surgery' events where she was cared for by L & M in High Wycombe. I fitted a new headgasket in Dec 2015.

Like many 156 owners, I find I can't justify paying the inflated labour costs of dealers and specialists unless I feel the task is beyond me. So I regularly do it myself. I've always been pretty good mechanically, maintaining most of my cars throught the 70's and 80's starting with my grandfathers Ford Popular side-valve and then my first car .. a 1958 Austin A35 2-door with a 948cc A-series engine. In the 80's I rebuilt an MG Midget Mk II 1098cc for my wife. So some things aren't beyond me and I'm still maintaining the family fleet. Sitting in storage is that same 1958 Austin A35 awaiting restoration!! A project for when I'm less busy ... I'll just have to keep telling myself until it comes true!

I've invested in the AlfaDiag Diagnostic software and constructed an interface using Alan Whittaker's kit and there is some information on this site showing the kit and some of the output. I've also bought a VAG-COM KKL USB interface and have been looking at MultiEcuScan as well.
I've also got a Sealey code reader than doesn't work with the 156 but is useful with the rest of the family fleet!

In November 2009, my 156 was joined by a little sister, a MiTo Turismo in Silver. Only 1.4 litres and 98bhp, they look good sitting together in the warm of our garage. More on the MiTo as I get to grips with the mechanics, etc.

To try and help other 156 owners, I've been building up a library of "Hints & Tips" for the 156. Check under the "How-To's" tab for more information and PDFs.

2015: An eventful year for the 156

Due a cambelt change I decided this time I would attempt it. Picked up a pair of cam locks, one tensioner tool and a home-brewed DTI holder, I went for it as the cost of getting it done by someone else was probably more than the car is worth! It was on 200,589 miles! All was going fine until I tried to remmove the aux belt idler wheel and I could not get a spanner in or socket on the end of the bolt. Eventually I borrowed a cut-down 15mm socket and bought a shortish 3/8" breaker bar, and after an ominous crack sound, the bolt loosened. That same socket was useful in retentioning the belts later.

Lessons learned? 1) Remember to properly tighten the inlet cam mounting bolts before turning the engine over by hand or the cam slips and you have to do it again 2) make sure you have some long 7mm bolts to fix the cam locks or the head threads strip (as someone else has kindly found on my head!) 3) be patient!

Anyway after new belts and water pump all was back in place for that first start .. and it fired-up without a hitch!

One of the main reasons for doing the belts, apart from mileage, was I had a over-heating problem. The new water pump did not solve this so a few weeks of investigating why and continuously topping up the coolant resulted in yet more checks. Eventually I found out why. Removing the plugs and peering down each cylinder revealed a very wet piston in no 1 (next to thermostat). Yes, head gasket has gone. There was a slightly damp area there, which I did think might have been the thermostat, so replaced that and sealed the faces, but still lost coolant.

So stripping down the engine as I type this!

December 2015: Back on the road

Well it turns out is was the head gasket. The composite nature of this meant that it started to fail near a water jacket hole and finally was holed. The coolant was mainly leaking into no 1 plug (thermostat end).

So off came head. The exhaust manifold was fairly simple with several of the studs coming out with the nuts but the plastic intake was harder. I couldn't get at the nuts supporting this to the bracket at the back so I undid the two nuts that screw up vertically into the intake and took off the Clic-R clamps. I as then able to push it back far enough to lift the head and the alloy part of the intake off.

Following a good clean up of the head, pistons and block surface and everything else that I'd removed, I bought a complete head gasket set and new head bolts from AlfaShop, along with an assortment of other odds and ends .. studs, nuts, etc. And a new timing belt obviously.

Why the new head studs? Well this engine has been apart twice before and when I looked carefully at the original studs they did look like they had stretched in the threaded area. I didnt want to take any chances, so a new set of head bolts were a must.

Putting it all back was slow progress as I was taking my time but apart from the driver's side of the two vertical bolts holding the intake on it wasn't too bad. You just have to think about the order and make sure things like the metal coolant pipe is in place before other parts.

I ended up replacing the balance belt again as the white marks had gone after just a few months. This probably tested my patience the most, but eventually I got it all correctly lined up.

Then on Dec 21st 2015, I was able to turn the key and .. fire it up. Success! and off for a celebratory cold beer.

5th July 2016:

Disaster .. in the form of a badly failed MOT. Turns out the tin-worm has been working away under the underseal and I've two holes in the floor pan alongside the inner sills. More rust in the inner wings adjacent to the brake-pipe supports, which is double skinned and probably not easy to weld up. Chuck in a seized handbrake mechanism on the O/S/R caliper, and emissions that won't come down (could be blowing exhaust but we were beyond the point of trying gun-gum then), and this was not the best day in my life ... there have been worse, but this was pretty depressing after such a long relationship.

So it may not make it's 18th Birthday on 1st August 2016, but it did pass the 210,000 miles target

January 2017 It will live on! I have sold it on to someone who is hopefully going to fix the 156 up and get it back on the road with a few upgrades. So how many more miles can a 156 TS do? Wonder if we will ever find out??

1st March 2017 UPDATE! What found its way into my garage was a 2017 facelift-model SUBARU BRZ SE-LUX AUTO. And so far it hasn't failed to disappoint!

Hope you find the items here both informative and useful!