Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel, Main Problems of The 1.2 PureTech Engine

Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel, Main Problems of The 1.2 PureTech Engine

The renowned triple-cylinder 1.2 PureTech engine, found under the hoods of numerous Peugeot, Citroën, DS, and Opel vehicles, has faced significant tribulations according to reports. According to Automotive analysts at Argus Research, this lightweight and efficient powerplant, though achieving respectable fuel efficiency and performance figures, contains some terminal design flaws that routinely plague the model.

Reports of premature belt drive system failures, worn high-pressure fuel injection components, and catastrophic internal engine damage from lean-burn auto-ignition events or excess lubricating oil consumption fill the repair dockets. It seems the 1.2L triple’s integrated design pushes the boundaries of modern downsized turbocharging a bit too far, resulting in an engine that is elegant in theory but fallible in the harsh realities of daily commutes.

Through meticulous data collection and forensic analysis of warranty claim patterns, the watchdogs at Argus have built an exhaustive dossier chronicling the beleaguered little engine’s Achilles’ heels. Though no doubt born from noble ambitions of fuel thriftiness, it is clear the 1.2 PureTech still has some refinement needed to live up to its namesake. Time will tell if engineers can fortify its weaknesses through updated components and calibrations, or if this trailblazing but trouble-prone triple will prematurely go down in automotive history as too clever by half.

Just as the lingering issues of the 1.2 PureTech seemed poised to fade, the engine has struck controversy once more. In late 2022, Citroën, DS, and Peugeot reluctantly launched another massive recall involving hundreds of thousands of vehicles worldwide featuring the ubiquitous triple-pot turbo mill.

As analysts had predicted, the core concern owes itself once more to premature wear of the toothed timing drive mechanism. Left unaddressed, fragments of worn plastic and rubber could potentially obstruct the critical vacuum pump that assists the brake booster – a failure point with obvious safety implications.

1.2 Puretech 3rd generation engine

To remedy the renewed worries, the brands have prescribed a software patch to better monitor belt wear indicators, with follow-up physical inspections planned should anomalies arise. Those found with excessively worn belts will undergo free-of-charge replacement under warranty.

While the proposed fixes mirror those from late 2020, the window of affected models is notably wider this time – ranging roughly from Spring 2017 through Autumn 2018 according to limited early records. Only time will tell if these proactive measures can finally conquer the 1.2L unit’s Achilles heel, or if more extensive redesigns remain on the distant horizon. For now, owners can only wait and watch for further news from the beleaguered little workhorse under their hood.

Proving a viable alternative to increasingly maligned diesel powertrains, the 1.2 PureTech three-cylinder engine has achieved significant commercial success for PSA Group brands since its 2013 launch. Particularly the turbocharged 110hp and 130hp variants effectively combine spirited performance with respectable fuel efficiency – attributes that have resonated well with Downsized yet spirited, the EB2 engine code’s popularity is indisputable. However, a review of technical service bulletins and quality reports indicates the platform has ongoing reliability concerns that warrant examination.

Argus’s analyses of the extensive documents provided to dealerships uncovered several innate design weaknesses. Issues like timing belt premature wear due to manufacturing variances, reputedly exacerbated by lesser grade components in earlier models, frequently resulted in costly repairs or catastrophic failures. Other persistently reported cases involved worn high-pressure fuel pumps triggering damaging auto-ignitions or excess lubricant consumption leading to internal part degradation.

To address these endemic problems, the automakers have issued software fixes to improve belt life monitoring and lubrication management. More seriously affected vehicles may receive new drive systems or internal engine replacements at the manufacturer’s discretion depending on individual usage parameters and service history reviews.

While demonstrating advantages in emissions and efficiency goals, the 1.2 PureTech’s production run has highlighted the need for continuous engineering assessment and quality control to provide drivers with a more robust and dependable long-term experience. Ongoing development will determine if design refinements can finally solve its Achilles’ heels.

What is the problem?

One of the chief customer pain points with this powerplant has been premature deterioration of the so-called “wet” timing belt located within the crankcase. This defect disproportionately impacts vehicles operated over short, stop-and-go trips that fail to reach adequate temperatures.

1.2 puretech variable distribution filters problem

Engineering evaluations revealed the true culprit – the phenomenon of oil dilution caused by fuel intrusion into the lower crankcase. As droplets of unleaded mix with the lubricating oil along the cylinder walls, it alters the oil’s composition, making it more abrasive over time. This accelerated wear has led to excess belt degradation far sooner than design expectations.

Beyond potential catastrophic engine failure, other serious drivability issues can arise. Tiny fragments of worn belt material risk clogging the critical vacuum pump assisting the brake booster. Should this occur, the pedal feel stiffens while braking distances lengthen – obvious safety problems. Oil pump screens and solenoid filter elements may also become fouled, setting the engine warning lamp.

To address concerned customers, manufacturers have issued extended warranties and recall programs focused on proactively inspecting high-mileage engines. Ongoing refinement aims to reduce fuel dilution through revised piston rings and coated bores. But for many early adopters, pricey belt replacements served as frustrating reminders of the 1.2L’s ongoing maturation in the real world.

What technical solutions?

PSA 1.2 Puretech oil pump problem
The oil pump strainer may also become clogged with belt debris, requiring cleaning or replacement.

In January 2021, a huge 220,000 vehicle recall was issued from 2013 to 2017 to address vacuum pump clogging concerns linked to worn timing belt debris. However, technical guidance updated in July 2022 warned these issues could persist even in post-2017 models.

Workshops are now instructed to thoroughly inspect for additional defects if brake assistance loss or oil pressure warnings manifest. Specifically, oil filters for the vacuum pump, pump strainer, and solenoid-actuated cam phasing units must be checked for contaminants.

Depending on each component’s condition, simple cleaning of the strainer and solenoid filters may rectify symptoms in mild cases. But more involved repairs are sometimes necessary such as new vacuum pumps, oil pumps with updated solenoids, lower crankcases, or, in severe instances, full engine replacement.

Even the No.4 cam bearing receives close attention as sludge entry points. The scope of potential damage underscores the 1.2L’s proclivity for variable timing hardware fouling. While extensive recalls aim to prevent brake failures, many owners face complex diagnostics and pricey repairs before root causes are fully resolved. Continuous refinement of filtration and lubrication management remains critical to improving long-term durability.

timing belt control 1.2 Puretech
Workshops now check the width of the belt during each maintenance and recommend an annual service for small drivers (reinforced maintenance).

The belt replacement interval has also been changed. 

In recognition of premature belt wear issues, manufacturer warranty terms have been revised upwards for the 1.2 PureTech. The replacement intervals have been reduced significantly from the original 10 years/175,000km down to just 6 years/100,000km.

Additionally, the periodic services now mandate belt inspection every time by workshops utilizing precision measuring techniques. Any belts outside of tight-width specifications must be proactively replaced.

Frequent oil changes are also strongly advised to combat the deleterious effects of oil dilution on this design. Specifically, those covering less than 15,000km annually and with average daily trips below 10km are instructed to change oil yearly, rather than every other year.

These extensive new maintenance guidelines underscore the engine’s sensitivity to difficult short-trip driving cycles – acknowledging where design weaknesses have emerged earlier than projected lifespan targets. While helping support affected customers, the patches also draw attention to the 1.2L’s ongoing development needs to better suit real-world usage patterns across a variety of driving routines.

Which vehicles are affected?

Since its 2013 inception, 1.2 PureTech’s timing belt design has undergone numerous revisions to address wear issues. The most recent changes implemented in June 2022 aim to better fortify the component for the future. Only time will tell if vehicles produced afterward can avoid the afflictions of earlier models.

Looking further ahead, the forthcoming third generation of PSA’s ubiquitous EB engine promises to sidestep the vulnerability completely with an innovative chain-driven variable timing system. However, this retooled powerplant is not expected to reach production lines for some time yet.

Initially, it will likely be paired exclusively with new mild-hybrid powertrains utilizing a dual-clutch transmission developed jointly with Punch Powertrain. This specialized application of emerging electrified technology stands to differentiate the updated engine family from its predecessors battling questionable reputations in today’s more stringent reliability climate.

Whether through refined conventional designs or evolutionary hybrid platforms, it is clear PSA has more to prove to restore confidence in the long-term dependability of their critically important 1.2L engine for years of customer satisfaction to come.

What support?

For owners dealing with belt issues outside the original warranty window, PSA brands offer an expanded protection program to provide assurance. Specifically, vehicles meeting either of two criteria qualify for full coverage of all replacement components and labor costs associated with premature belt wear:

The vehicle must be less than 6 years old from the date of initial registration.

The odometer reading must be below 100,000km at the time of repair.

It’s important to note strict adherence to prescribed maintenance intervals is required for warranty consideration. Technicians carefully validate that service records match the scheduled plan. Any deviations, no matter how minor, risk denying the claim.

Aftersales representatives emphasize meticulous following of the specified inspection and parts replacement schedule. Their goal is to ensure only genuine premature failures are repaired, not neglect or deferred maintenance.

This follow-the-plan policy aims to balance fairness for conscientious owners with fiscal responsibility. But it also spotlights the engine’s intolerance for anything but ideal ownership habits under harsh real-world driving conditions.

Self-ignition before sparking (rumble)

What is the problem?

Owners may notice an unsettling jerk or vibration emerging while driving, accompanied by the malfunctioning indicator lamp. This predicament stems from an unwanted auto-ignition phenomenon known as dieseling in the industry.

Dieseling occurs when uncontrolled pre-ignition of the air-fuel mixture transpires before the commanded spark event from the coil pack. High in-cylinder pressures and temperatures facilitate combustion without the spark plug initiating it intentionally.

This anomalous condition is typically caused by a buildup of carbon deposits fouling the combustion chamber over time. As residues accumulate on the crown and walls of the head, their proximity to the glowing exhaust valve and residual exhaust gases can spontaneously trigger detonation.

The detonation stresses components and throws off the precise ignition timing integrated into the engine control scheme. Drivers feel the misfire through the car’s structure as a jerk. Repeated dieseling can potentially damage components if left unaddressed over the long term.

What technical solutions?

When customers report dieseling symptoms, technicians have a rigorous process to thoroughly diagnose the root cause. First, cylinder compression tests are run to check for leaks or damage from pre-ignition events.

Intake components like the PCV valve oil separator and intercooler are then inspected for oil intrusion or blockages that could promote combustion anomalies. Carbon fouling inside intake ports and valves is carefully examined as a potential ignition source.

Depending on the findings, a variety of repairs may be prescribed. Mild issues could be addressed with an oil/filter service to flush contaminants. More extensive cleaning of head intake tracts is common, and a new PCV valve may be needed.

Major deposit buildup may necessitate the replacement of components like the fuel tank sending complex, fuel injectors, or charcoal canister if leaking vapors. Engines exhibiting compressed pressure loss or advanced damage often require full replacement due to the risks of continued operation.

By thoroughly diagnosing each complaint, technicians work to pinpoint the precise culprit and precisely remedy each case, whether through minor maintenance or larger component swaps if warranted. The goal is a lasting fix to eliminate the dying condition.

PSA 1.2 Puretech intake duct cleaning
To resolve the shocks caused by a self-ignition phenomenon, manufacturers notably clean the cylinder head intake ducts by injecting micro-balls.

Which vehicles are affected?

  • Any vehicle equipped with the 1.2 Liter PureTech 3-cylinder turbocharged engine could potentially be impacted.
  • This includes various Peugeot, Citroën, DS, and Opel/Vauxhall models produced between 2013 and to present day. Popular models include the Peugeot 208, 308, 2008, Citroen C3 and C4.
  • The issue does not seem to be specific to any single model line. Instead, it affects all applications of the 1.2 PureTech engine over multiple model years and brands.
  • Earlier versions from 2013-2017 may be more susceptible, but the problem has persisted even in newer versions, according to technical bulletins.
  • No definitive fix has been implemented in factory-built engines yet, so in theory, all 1.2 PureTech vehicles could experience the dieseling/preignition under specific operating conditions over the long term.
  • However, not all owners necessarily encounter the problem. Maintenance practices, driving cycles, fuel quality, and individual operating conditions can vary the odds of it occurring in any single vehicle.

What support?

  • Partial warranty coverage up to 5 years/150,000km is available for autoignition/dieseling issues.
  • Coverage requires strict adherence to the scheduled maintenance plan, with no gaps greater than 3,000km or 3 months.
  • Warranty work can also be denied if non-recommended oils were used, such as those not meeting minimum specifications.
  • Technicians are instructed to inspect injectors for signs of ethanol fuel contamination from E85 use.
  • Running E85 with this engine, even in minor blended amounts, risks voiding warranty claims as it is not an approved fuel.
  • Proper gasoline/ethanol blended fuels per recommendations must be used to qualify for repairs under the extended coverage program.
  • Maintenance records will be thoroughly examined for any deviations from schedules, soil types, or fuel quality guidelines before repairs are approved.

Overconsumption of oil

What is the problem?

  • Owners report needing to frequently top up engine oil levels between scheduled changes.
  • This is due to worn or faulty piston rings that have lost the ability to adequately seal the combustion chamber.
  • As a result, combustion gases and pressure can leak past the rings into the crankcase, diluting the oil with fuel/gas.
  • At the same time, the oil vapor separator or PCV valve intended to route such vapors back to the intake can begin to clog or fail prematurely.
  • With the bypass no longer functional, oil becomes contaminated with fuel and causes the oil level sensor to falsely trigger low-level warnings under 6,000km since the last service.
  • Both ring and PCV issues must be remedied, as the PCV alone will not stop oil consumption if the rings are at fault due to blowby pressures entering the sump.
  • Ring and/or engine replacement may ultimately be needed to fully resolve excessive oil use if cleaning and PCV changes do not mitigate consumption.

What technical solutions?

  • Inspect for any external oil leaks that could explain high usage. Repair leaks if found.
  • Top up the oil level and advise the customer to track consumption over several fill-ups.
  • Significant consumption above 1L/1000km indicates internal issues like ring wear.
  • Cleaning and inspection of the PCV system including the vapor separator is done. Replace if clogged.
  • Driving profile monitored – short trips may require additional engine warmup tests.
  • If consumption persists after PCV service, a compression and leakage test of cylinders is required.
  • Low compression or visible blowby confirms worn rings causing combustion gases to enter the oil.
  • Ring and potentially full engine replacement would be necessary fixes in this case.
  • Isolated PCV faults can usually be resolved with cleaner and new separator components.
  • Consumption and compression tests help pinpoint the root cause for effective repair planning.
PSA 1.2 Puretech oil separator problem
Checking the pressure relief valve or the non-return valve (3) of the oil vapor dealer (1) is necessary before a possible complete change of this part.

Which vehicles are affected?

  • As there is no permanent fix implemented at the factory yet, all vehicles equipped with the 1.2L PureTech engine could potentially encounter this problem over time.
  • It affects various Peugeot, Citroën, DS, and Opel/Vauxhall models produced since the engine’s debut in 2013.
  • Popular applications include the Peugeot 208, 308, 2008. Citroen C3 and C4 as well.
  • Early versions from 2013-2017 may exhibit higher incidence rates based on age and mileage.
  • However, even newer examples post-2017 are still susceptible if driven in harsh conditions.
  • The oil vapor separator (PCV valve) design was updated in November 2021, so this may help curb issues but not entirely prevent them.
  • Ring wear leading to blow-by is ultimately a long-term durability concern as an engine nears higher mileages/kilometers.

What support?

  • If excessive oil consumption is validated through diagnostic testing and the maintenance schedule is followed, full coverage of parts and labor is provided up to 100,000km or 5 years, whichever comes first.
  • Between 5-8 years or 100,000-150,000km, partial warranty coverage is available to cover replacement parts only in oil overconsumption repairs. Labor costs are no longer included.
  • Strict adherence to scheduled oil changes and services is required to qualify for any warranty support consideration.
  • Proper oil quality and specifications must also be used at all times.
  • Issues reported and repaired within these mileage/time thresholds will see 100% of repair expenses covered for up to 5 years and partial coverage of just parts beyond that window up to 8 years/150,000km.

Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel.  The main problems of the 1.2 PureTech engine

Engine calculator

What is the problem?

The diagnostic light comes on.

What technical solutions?

If fault codes P1337, P1338 or P1339 are present, the engine control computer must be reprogrammed.

Which vehicles are affected?

All Euro 6.3 (Euro 6.D) models until 1/3/2021. From this date, there has been an upgrade of the software.

What support?

Manufacturers provide full coverage for up to 5 years of the vehicle, with no mileage limit.

Problems without planned support

Power loss

Power loss or the check engine light could indicate an issue with the high-pressure fuel pump. This pump operates around 2,000 bars to precisely inject fuel into the cylinders.

Technicians first read any stored fault codes that may point to low fuel delivery. They then check the low-pressure supply side for restrictions inhibiting the pump.

The high-pressure pump itself and its fuel supply line connector are inspected. Disassembly allows for examining the pump for excessive wear.

If the codes and inspections implicate the high-pressure pump, replacement is often needed. This repair requires 40-50 minutes of labor to access, remove, and install the new pump.

Manufacturers attempted to address pump failures through a 2015 factory modification, then another update in July 2021 depending on the exact engine version and configuration.

Diagnostic light on

PSA 1.2 Puretech cylinder head porosity problem
The presence of engine coolant (a) or growth (b) in the spark plug well indicates a porous cylinder head.
  • Until June 2015, it could also be the oil pump solenoid valve requiring replacement. This repair takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  • Until August 2017, the engine speed sensor may need to be replaced, requiring around 1 hour 15 minutes of labor.
  • Across all production years, cylinder head porosity is a possibility and must be checked via codes and visual inspection for coolant or deposits.
  • If the head needs replacing due to porosity, expect a major job around 7 hours due to its complexity. This is unfortunately quite costly.
  • Before February 2021, faulty spark plugs could trigger codes. A new plug type was introduced from that date onward.

Thoroughly checking codes and conducting relevant component tests is crucial to properly diagnose the root problem. As you point out, the high-pressure fuel pump is just one of several potential culprits that technicians must consider and rule out.

PSA 1.2 Puretech Citroën C3 workshop
In naturally aspirated or turbocharged version, the 1.2 PureTech has been installed under countless hoods, from city cars to seven-seater SUVs.