Diesel problems.....maybe

Hi. I’m clutching at straws here, but I’m hoping someone will have a solution to my problem.
I have a house in North Creuse and a Citroen Berlingo van on a 57 plate.
Whenever I visit my house my van is fine while I’m in France, but when I get home I always have problems and it runs like a bag of s###!
Sometimes it’s several weeks later before the issues begin, this most recent time it was as soon as I got home. My previous van was also a Berlingo and I had the same problems. I’ve mostly managed to sort with diesel additives, but one year it was so bad I had to have the fuel system stripped down, as the van just packed in completely. Over the years I’ve assumed that it was dirty French Gazole, but this year I used Total Excellium in an attempt to avoid problems. It was fine for the 3 weeks I was in France, but started playing up as soon as I got home.
As Im planning to move out there in a couple of years, I’m becoming really concerned about the implications for daily running of the van and for emissions tests for controle technique. Any suggestions anyone?

All I can say is, I have a Berlingo of a similar age and it has none of the problems you describe.
But don’t talk to me about power steering, grrr

Sorry - not quite clear, does it run OK at home and then always develop problems after a trip to France?

Does the problem clear itself spontaneously or always require intervention?

I can’t see the Gazole being any dirtier than UK diesel - besides, that’s what fuel filters are for.

Maybe it’s different biofuel percentages.

Yes that’s exactly right. Runs perfectly at home and while Im in France, but as soon as I get home it starts playing up. No one seems to know what the problem is. I paid more to use Excellium this time, but it started again when I got home. I usually have to treat it with some kind of diesel cleaner or it coughs and splitters for weeks afterwards.

Sorry Anna can’t help with the power steering I’m afraid, other than to say I had a problem with heavy steering and when I checked the reservoir was low. I bought some power steering fluid and it kept it going until I could get it to a garage. One of the lines had sprung a leak. Took a bit of finding though apparently.

The only possible reason that occurs to me is if you fill up at the same fuel station near the port, which may have contaminated fuel, before embarking to the UK

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It’s a pity you are as far South as the Creuse otherwise you might be able to try a trip where you do it all on UK fuel.

I can see why you might think it was the change in fuel - we’ve never had problems in a whole range of diesel vehicles.

It could be the very long run - how much use does the Berlingo get in the UK - regular long runs or shorter ones.

Hi Roy, thanks for that, but no I don’t. I fill up before I leave my French house and that gets me all the way home. It’s very frustrating, especially because I had the same problems with my old van.

Hi Elaine

Do you fill the tank right up, squeezing every last drop into the tank, before the journey home… 'cos folk who do that can mess up the carbon filter and cause the engine to run poorly… :zipper_mouth_face:

So often while waiting our turn, we see folk fill right to the brim, carefully bypassing the automatic stop mechanism on the pump… ooops

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You’ll all call me barmy, but I tend to think that cars, like other so-called inanimate objects, share consciousness with all other inanimate objects, and with us.

There’s no proof to the contrary. Indeed, there are no definitive definitions of consciousness, and no-one has ever demonstrated how it came about that we are aware, and aware of being aware.

So give it a go. Let you car know you love it, and are grateful for how it hauls you around in comfort, with hardly a complaint; and puts up with your ill-mannered jibes when it is suffering, for example, when you over fill it’s tank.

Even foie-gras geese get dealt a better hand.

Having ‘owned’ a couple of Renault’s including a very classy and ladylike 1970s silver Renault 7GTL hatchback (what sophistication!), I understand how much this particular marque appreciates a touch of old-fashioned gallantry, and an occasional douceur à l’oreille or whatever passes for one chez lui.

I kid you not, it works for me, always has, and I ignore it at my peril. :hugs::smiley::fr:


Peter, you could be right there. I had a VW beetle which would run like the clappers on BP but coughed spluttered and emitted all sorts of atrocities from the “peashooters” when i fed her Aral fuel. Texaco would run OK but jeez did she like a drop or two of the BP. The Ducati i have is similar with its running characteristics. It only runs well on Excellium from Total, before in Germany it was Shell V power.

Elaine, is it more humid in the Creuse or when you get back home ? Do you notice the problem developing after driving through the rain, for example ? Some diesel engines from various manufacturers have had faulty injectors over the years and perhaps your Berlingo is one of them. I had a Renault Trafic which had something similar to what you describe - it even completely broke down in the pouring rain a couple of times requiring rescue. It turned out that 2 of the 4 initial injectors had a hairline crack in them, and thus let in humid air, which causes a blockage, stuttered combustion, and eventually failure. Fortunately for me, these were original parts put in when the van was build, so covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

It could be like Alex has said, the injectors. The problem sounds more like a Diesel particle filter unit choking up. Causes more problems than it eliminates particles. Driving long distances is good for the diesel engine, it reaches proper temperatures, ie. Hot. Your drive across France from the uk burns it clean and then it will run like a dream, same goes for the return journey, then when in the uk it does the home to shop routine, never getting hot enough and then chokes up within weeks or even days because it isn’t driven hard and for long periods. Its all to do with the driving technique, low RPM and high gear doesn’t do anything only cause problems, higher RPM and one gear lower is much better for the engine and the Diesel particle filter. That’s why I drive a gas guzzling petrol engine.

Hi there maybe a link to the problem i refilling after a log journey i.e. taking the tank to near empty, diesel is known for sediment i the tank usually due to (microbiological growth)MPG caused by damp atmosphere which will block up fuel filters,

I cannot understand why you are worried about running your vehicle when you move to France, from what you have written it appears that it runs perfectly when it is there. Unless you have been amazingly unlucky and have filled in one of the very few filling stations that might have had ‘dirty’ diesel in their tanks, and that’s possible in any country, you cannot blame French diesel. There have too many diesel vehicles driving too many kilometres for too many years to suggest that French diesel is somehow inferior. Quite simply it is not. Your common factor seems to be your drive home on one tank of fuel. How low on fuel do you get before you reach home? If your tank is fairly low you could well have some foreign material at the bottom your fuel tank which at that stage is being pumped through the injectors causing the problem. The only time any of my engines run badly is when an outboard motor has water in the tank. Draining the carburettor float bowl to remove the immediate problem cures it straight away.
Personally I think that you would be better talking to a local Diesel engine specialist than people on a general forum. They would know if it was worth draining and cleaning the tank as well as checking the filters and the injectors themselves.


Dan I agree, it is more likely to be the right foot combined with the wallet which is the problem. As the poster didnt mention the remedies after having it dealt with by the mechanics, it is difficult to put the digit on the problem.

You may recall some years ago there was a specific problem with shitty supermarket fuel and lambda sensors - I seem to remember succumbing to this issue and getting compo from Tesco…
Symptoms of a Faulty Lambda Sensor

  • Poor Mileage. …
  • Unusual Lurching Or Hesitation. …
  • Catalytic Converter Failure. …
  • Dashboard Indicator Light. …
  • Smell. …
  • Decreasing Engine Power at Cruising Speed. …
  • Emissions Test Failure.

Yes very much so, knackered my Saab 9000 on that one and i got no compensation. So Tesco fuel even today is a big no no for my vehicles.

Not used every day as I only live a short distance from work. I try not to do short journeys because of the particulate filter, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. I only do about 4k a year though, unless I visit France and then it’s about 6k. It’s about 500 miles each way to my French house, but it’s only when I get back that the problems start. I did 500 miles in one day since I’ve been home and it never put a foot wrong.
I’m totally confused, but it seems everyone else is too :thinking:

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Welcome to the forum.

My word, you have given us something to ponder on… and many of us have given you words of advice (which may or may not be pertinent).

However, it is clear that we have insufficient info to give more than a gentle nudge to your brain cells… only you know what habits (good and bad) etc etc might be affecting the car.

Best of luck with getting this sorted… and hope to see you getting involved in more topics on the forum, as and when you feel inclined. :hugs: