FIAT Punto (1994 - 2003) Fault Guide


Year Change or development
1999 Revised Punto with new styling; Cabriolet dropped. Launched with 1.2 8v, 1.2 16v, 1.8, 1.9 diesel and 1.9 JTD turbo diesel engines with five speed manual or optional speedgear sequential auto on 1.2 16v ELX five-door and three-door sporting.
2000 Special edition three door Mia introduced with budget specification.
2001 1.2 Go model introduced, similar to base 1.2 but with electric front windows, twin airbags and central locking.
2002 Range rebadged. Active now base model, but with tacho, colour-coded bumpers and six speaker stereo. Active Sport replaced the Go model, Dynamic replaced ELX, Eleganza replaced HLX. Sporting and Eleganza got CD player and side airbags.
2003 Revised model launched with restyled front and rear ends. New 1.3 and 1.9 multijet diesel and 95 bhp 16v 1.4 engines introduced.
1994 Punto launched as 3 & 5-dr hatch with 1.1, 1.4 turbo and 1.7 TD engines. 1.2 75bhp engine, 1.2 Selecta automatic and 1.6 Cabriolet added later in the year.
1995 Immobiliser fitted as standard and 1.6 Sporting 3-dr launched.
1997 1.2/60bhp replaces 1.1/55bhp; styling, equipment and trim improvements.

Bodywork and External Checks

Area What to look for What it means What to do
Boot lid Open and close the boot lid. It may not close first time, but should with a firmer second attempt. The boot lids are notorious for not shutting first time. Accept the design fault, but check it is not too difficult to close the boot.
Doors (on three door cars) Check that the doors open and close properly. If they have to be lifted to get them to close properly, they have started to sink on their hinges. The doors on three door cars are very long and heavy so can sink on their hinges. You need new door hinges. Negotiate a £45 discount per door. Keep the door hinges greased (at service intervals) to prevent this reoccurring.

Engine Checks

Area What to look for What it means What to do
Hydraulic clutch slave cylinder leak Look for a leaking red oil in the engine bay and under the car after it has been parked. This means you need a new hydraulic clutch slave cylinder. Negotiate a £45 price reduction or the repair completed.
Slipping clutch/ clutch pressure plate Test drive the car and see if it accelerates smoothly or delays when you press the accelerator and then surges forward. This means that you need a new clutch. Negotiate a £175 price reduction or the repair completed.
Clutch pressure plate/ bearing noise Push the clutch down and listen for a clicking noise. This means that you need a new clutch. Negotiate a £175 price reduction or the repair completed.
Timing belt (cam belt) Look in the logbook and invoices to see whether the timing belt has been changed every 36,000 miles. (Mechanics recommend this period over the longer manufacturer recommendation). If the cam belt breaks on 1.4 MkI Puntos, 1.4 and 16V MkII Puntos it will cause significant damage to the engine (requiring a rebuild costing over £1,000). On 1.4 MkI Puntos, 1.4 and 16V MkII Puntos you must have the cam belt changed by a reputable garage before buying. On all others it's always a good idea to get timing belts changed if you cannot be certain it was done in the last 36,000 miles.
Water leaks/ head gasket Look under the car once it has been parked for 10 minutes to see if there are any water drops on the floor. Check the water reservoir. If there are leaks or the reservoir is low the head gasket is at risk because it has weak spots. This means that there is a water leak, and the head gasket will usually be damaged and need replacing. (Note: On cars with air conditioning, water can drain out onto the floor from the air conditioning. Test drive the car again but without air conditioning on if you suspect there is another leak.) Negotiate £160 price reduction or the repair completed.
Sumps rusting Check oil levels and look under the car after it has been parked for 10 minutes for oil drops. This means there is an oil leak, which may be the early signs of sump rusting. If there is a major leak or no oil reading on the dip-stick, then the sump may have rusted through. Negotiate a £165 discount or have the repair completed.
Emission gas sensor There is no way of checking the gas sensor during a test drive as it requires special equipment. It will be tested as part of an MOT. A car without long until the next MOT should be tested before purchase. A faulty gas sensor will cause the car to fail its MOT. Negotiate a £100 discount or have the repair completed.
Gearbox Listen for a whining noise when the engine is on idle. Push the clutch in and see if the whining stops. Release the clutch and see if the whining comes back. If the clutch movement changes the whining noise, the gearbox needs replacing. Negotiate a £700 discount or have the repair completed.
Ignition Coils Leave the engine on and listen for the engine misfiring (rather than the revs being constant when on idle and the engine making a consistent noise, it splutters and spits). The car may be in need of a service (check the paperwork) or may require new ignition coils. Insist that the misfiring is remedied. New ignition coils will cost £100.
Alternator Listen for a high pitch noise whilst the engine is running. Turn all the lights on, with the engine running, and leave the car for 10-15 minutes to see if the lights start to fade. A high pitch noise, or the electric losing power indicates that the battery is not being charged and the alternator is faulty. Negotiate a £125 discount or have the repair completed.

Interior Checks

Area What to look for What it means What to do
Interior heater matrix Check for a smell of sweets when the heater is turned on full. Also look for green dust below the radio and heater controls. This means that the heater matrix needs replacing. Negotiate a £300 - £700 price reduction or the repair completed.
Bonnet release mechanism When you pull the lever to open the bonnet, it may appear to be broken. This means the lever may be broken but in most cases they push back into place and work again. N/A
Red key If the car is post 1995 and fitted with an immobiliser, you should be given three keys. Two blue and one red. Start the engine with the red key. The engine management light (at the top right hand corner of the instrument panel) should come on for a second then go out. Switch the engine off (keeping the key in) and switch on again. The light should stay on. If the light works as described then you have the master key. Without the master key, should the battery have to be disconnected in the future, the ECU won’t let the car start again even once the battery is re-connected. This means you need a new set of locks, new ignition and new ECU. Negotiate £800 price reduction or the repair completed. Alternatively, ECUs can be uncoded by some companies for £160, removing the need for a red key. Only advisable on old cars, where they are worth less than £1,000.
Brake Pedal Brake pedals are often spongy on first application, when the car is cold. This is normal. N/A
Sunroof/Aerial Look around the sun roof edge, the rear-view mirror and on the floor and seats for signs of water damage. The sunroof can leak. The aerial can also become loose and allow water in which usually appears around the driver's mirror. Negotiate a £50 discount or have the repair completed.

Wheels, Brakes and Suspension Checks

Area What to look for What it means What to do
Stop-frame bush Drive the car over bumps/ speed humps and listen for a knocking sound at the rear of the car. This means that the stop-frame bush on the sub-frame needs replacing. Or it may mean the rear suspension arm is close to failure (see the Rear suspension arm check). Negotiate a £40 price reduction or the repair completed
Rear suspension arm Look at the back of the car to see if the rear wheels are splayed out. This means that the rear suspension arms need replacing. Negotiate a £220 price reduction or the repair completed. Alternatively re-conditioned parts can be cheaper.
Shock absorbers Test drive the car and look for the nose diving heavily when you brake. Also be aware if there is a noisy, jarring ride. The shock absorbers need replacing. Negotiate a £200 discount or have the repair completed.


Date Model Recall
01 Jan 1998 MkI built March '97-Nov '97 Faulty seatbelt pre-tensioner.
01 Aug 2001 77,166 Mk 1 built 1/1/1993 to 31/12/1996 (VINs ending 0010087 to 6023643) Recalled to check for corroded brake pipe, replace as necessary and apply corrosion protection to remaining pipes.
17 Aug 2001 3,055 Mk 1 built 1/1/1994 to 31/12/1995 Water ingress to driver and passenger airbag ECU can set them off. Water protection fitted to ECU.
01 Jan 2004 2016 MkII (VINs 51420 to 201384 4005830-41829005000094-5055134) Fuel Vapour re-circulation pipe may fall foul against air conditioning compressor resulting in damage and risk of fire.
30 May 1995 Built: 01/03/1994 - 31/03/1995 Some vehicles with alloy wheels may have been supplied with an unsuitable space saver spare wheel. If fitted, this spare wheel could cause interference with braking system components. VINs: ZAR17600006001149 to ZAR17600006010175.
31 May 2001 Built: 01/02/2001 - 28/05/2001 The steering column upper support bearing may be cracked. This could ultimately affect the directional control of the vehicle. VINs: ZFA188000000299008 to ZFA18800000359182 ZFA18800004273056 to ZFA18800004337762 ZFA18800005090823 to ZFA18800005112105 ZFA18800002200901 to ZFA18800002272327
01 Aug 2001 Built: 01/01/1993 - 31/12/1997 Prolonged exposure to the effects of road salt corrosion may result in perforation of the metal brake pipes and a consequential loss of braking efficiency. VINs: ZFA17600000010087 to ZFA17600006023643.

Recommended Garages

Name Phone Address Website
MOT ANGEL (Nationwide) 0800 131 0030 3 The Minster, Portman Road, Reading, RG30 1EA.