Tips on buying a used Fiat Uno in India

Fiat India may have a had a hard time surviving in India in their early innings. The second innings are also not too far away from that stage with about 5000 of Puntos and Lineas selling each month. Forget the sales of the Palio Stile and the Fiat 500. The company, earlier on had a coalition with Premier Automobiles Limited and then moved onto manufacturing and marketing cars on their own. The Fiat Uno was the first car in their portfolio which actually won over the Indian hearts. It was a small car which was launched way in 1997, in India, to counter the growing popularity of the Maruti 800. Needless to say, it locked horns even with the much more expensive Maruti Zen. Its looks were also inspired from both the Zen and the 800. Also it was priced slightly higher than the M800 but just short of the Zen benchmark. Finding a used Fiat Uno in the market isn’t a big task and there are many examples around. However, the key is in finding a good example of a second hand Fiat Uno. A few years after it was launched, however, Fiat decided to leave the country with their bag and baggage. Here are a few tips for those readers who may be interested in buying a second hand Fiat Uno.

Bodies of well maintained Fiat cars rarely have the rust factor seeping in however, the earlier Fiat Uno cars were an exception. No wonder how beautifully one was maintained, there would always be the factor of rust creeping in at the pivotal joints and stuff. Do check for this but then this shouldn’t be a deal breaker. All the cars would, at some point or the other, have the rust factor creeping into them. Never mind the thing that the Uno in 1984, was voted the “Car of the Year” award. The head lamp casing have been known to be dark for the earlier Unos and this not only looks bad but also signals that the plastic casing has to be cleaned. Outside rear view mirror was available both in body colored option as also black plastic. Most of the earlier Unos were available with only the right side mirror. Sourcing a left hand side mirrors costs Rs 1250. Yes, you read it right. Spares are on the expensive side and mostly because they are elusive. Either one has to order them from the Tata Fiat alliance show rooms and wait for 1-2 months or else source them from the grey market. There was no fog lamp provision given in the Fiat Uno however lot many used examples can be found with Hella add-on lights. As for the tyres, they are of the 13 inch type, however can be upgraded to a maximum of 14-15 size. The stock tyres used to last for around 50k kms, which is a high number given that most of the modern day cars also don’t upto that limit. The tail lamps were pretty simple units and signs of tail pipes rusting is also a common sight. The door handles are also crude and there are complaints that they often get jammed and require more than firm shove to open. Putting in a little grease or industrial oil would help sort out the door handle problem.

As for the interiors, they are bare basic and expect to see lots of wires and connections dangling, however, a simple nip and tuck job would enable them to be pushed behind the front passenger’s footwell and out of sight. The speedometer cable which costs around Rs 230 used to go kaput on a lot of cars. The steering wheel unit, though largely a trouble free unit, needed that its ball joints be taken care of and also play adjusted properly. Though most of the second hand Fiat Uno cars would come with a manual steering, there was one variant, which was called the S and carried a diesel engine, which used to come with a power steering and one which was hydraulic in nature. At every service, this steering unit requires that its fluid be either replaced or topped up. If the car you are looking at has racked in more than 60k kms, then its time to change or either replace the tie-rod ends and also the joints of the steering ball. Over a certain period of time, this either wear out of develop a play which leads to a slack in the steering response. If the Uno you are test driving over a not so smooth surface of road, puts out a sort of thudding sound, especially when the steering is counter steered, then it means that the there is excessive play in the ball joints. Sometimes, the bush columns would also have to replaced. This requires that the entire steering assembly be removed and then the bushes can be changed.

At every service, the rubber boots of the hydraulic steering need to be checked. After extensive use, this develop leaks, thus leading to reduced assistance from the car’s steering wheel. The Fiat Uno is a bit more spacious than the Maruti 800 and also the Maruti Zen. This ensured that it had its fair share of success. This car, by the way, is the largest selling car for Fiat all over the world. Its demise in India means that Indians wouldn’t get a new Uno. As of late, there have been rumors floating around in the net about a resurrected Uno on the cards by Fiat India, but then, no concrete details were confirmed by Fiat India. Fiat Uno cars which have been sparingly used or rather not used for a long time, have a problem of their brakes jamming against the wheel. This results in decreased performance and a slag in pickup. The brake pads also tend to wear out prematurely due to this. The brake drum used to bind up with the rear brake shoes and this was due to the fact that the cams had lots of play. The cam was the one which aided in the movement of the brake shoes over the brake drums. The only way to get rid of this problem is to drive your Uno regularly and for the first time, the drums would have to be removed, the brake shoes unjammed and applying some lubricants on the brake shoes so that they operate freely. The parking brake of the Uno also had some problems with it requiring adjustment at every service. The parking brake applies to the rear wheels and hence when the jamming occurrence happens, then the parking brake also gets affected.

The drum brakes of a used Fiat Uno, if used judiciously, can last upto a class leading 60k kms. The discs upfront however have a shorter life span of 40k kms. Most of the times, a regular polishing of the drum pads is all what it takes while the discs have to be cleaned to remove all the dust settling in it and thus hampering its free movement. An additional rubber kit comes into picture with the rear drums. This need to be replaced alongwith the drum brake pads. The car should have a progressive braking action, while on a test drive. As for the suspension, control arms with lower track and McPherson struts in the front and coil springs with tubular strut consisting of a transverse link complete the rear package. Fiat, even now, provides the best suspension seen on an Indian car. This suspension setup was more on the stiffer side, however, its beauty lay in the fact that it rarely let the road imperfections filter into the cabin. The front suspension can go as far as 60k kms without the need for even a look into it whereas the rear one would soldier on till the golden mark of 80k kms without any major overhaul. Regarding the clutch, it was of the diaphragm type and hence was considered a sturdy unit. A used Fiat Uno would be available with a 5 speed gearbox. The clutch unit was a hydraulic one and power was transmitted to the front tyres. The clutch fork moving slave cylinder was known to give troubles. Rubber pieces are a notorious piece of suspect for any Italian car’s internals and here also, the slave cylinder’s piston had a rubber beading which goes kaput very soon. This further causes the leaking of the hydraulic liquid thus making the clutch redundant. When reviewing a second hand Fiat Uno, always check out if the clutch pedal offers some resistance. If it doesn’t then it means that the slave cylinder kit needs to be replaced. It is rated anywhere between Rs 2.5 to 3k. Moreover just changing the rubber would solve the problem temporarily and is a job costing only Rs 400, but then it would become a repeat job and hence the entire assembly is recommended to be changed.

The engine options in the Uno were a 1.0 liter carburetor unit, a 1.2 liter Mpfi and a 1.7 liter diesel unit. All this engines were equally fuel efficient and performance kings in their own way. The earlier lot of 1.0 liter engines got a Weber carburetor assigned to them. This was a down draught single barrel unit and hence used to demonstrate a bit of flat spot when moving off idle. It was like depressing the throttle and waiting for  the steam to build up before you made any progress. Avoid this models or the solution would be to source the Mikuni carburetor, which was available later on, after 2 years of introduction of Fiat Uno in India. The Mikuni carburetor had a bigger jet which promised better lower down poke and good acceleration figures coupled with that all important fuel efficiency. Many enthusiasts have fit in bigger jetted carburetor. This technique resulted in the loss of jerkiness from the Weber unit but also brought in lesser fuel efficiency. For the Mpfi unit, there were no troubles reported. It was a free revving engine with its electronic system taking care of the breathing characteristics. The diesel engine was introduced with the promise of better lower down poke in traffic conditions plus decent top speed. It had enough of lugging power in its portfolio to warrant pulling heavy  loads, even with the airconditioner working in full swing. The diesel, needless to say, requires more maintenance and especially a used one all the more. The Fiat Uno was considered as a hot hatch way back then and even now, its considered as one with enthusiasts slapping on big spoilers and also after market exhaust systems. Even in its stock form, a Fiat Uno had engines which loved to be revved.

Electricals work just fine however the jutting of the wires from here and there means that cutting up of wires happens more than often. As discussed before, the best option is to take it to a mechanic and get all the wires dangled under the footwell of the passenger dashboard. The aircon unit of a used Fiat Uno would need servicing every 15k kms. Its throw is good but then reliability is an issue with many niggling things like the blower going kaput and stuff. But then the solid build quality of the Uno means that there wouldn’t be any squeaks or rattles coming your way for a long time.

Now, the best part. The second hand Fiat Uno price would range from as low as Rs 15k to as high as Rs 65k. Yes, this includes the diesel engined variant also. Fiat cars are low on resale value plus the earlier callous attitude of the Fiat service personnel led to the early demise of the Fiat cars in India. Most of the second hand car buyers would buy this cars and immediately modify them to be Italian racing stallions. Sales and service is now ably handled by the Tata-Fiat alliance and this means a sort of peace of mind.

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