Typical problems in the Mk1 Fiat Ducato/Talbot Express - Practical motorhome (2023)

Get expert advice from practical camper Nigel Donnelly on the Fiat Ducato Mk1 and Talbot Express so you know what to look for when buying

Typical problems in the Mk1 Fiat Ducato/Talbot Express - Practical motorhome (2)

The Talbot Express and Fiat Ducato Mk1 models are generally quite robust vehicles with few major faults or weaknesses. However, this does not mean that you should not be careful when buying. Some parts are rare and repairs can be expensive, so follow our guide to buy the best.


Even the newest models of these vehicles are now 20 years old, more than enough time for rust to set in. Pay particular attention to the windshield frame and the structural fasteners below it. As with many vans, the threshold area is susceptible to corrosion, and if a van is rebuilt, the threshold to the threshold is also susceptible to corrosion. Front wheel arch and fender corrosion is usually cosmetic but may indicate an MOT failure. The rear doors and cabin doors rust happily, so be vigilant and budget for repairs. The availability of panels is also not very good, so unless you are a skilled welder or wealthy enough to finance unwanted repairs, avoid very rusty pieces.


Despite the relative lack of drive, the petrol engine is generally superior to the diesel engine. It's a simple pushrod, carbureted overhead valve design, and despite a few weaknesses, has relatively few issues to watch out for.

The biggest issue to watch out for is uneven operation. Check the normal service items first, but if everything is fine, the fuel pump may be the culprit. It's a strange design, similar to that used on diesel models, and it pumps fuel in and out of the fuel tank. Many owners have cured rough work by cutting off the return pipe to the tank and plugging both ends of the cut pipe. This means that all the pumping effort is spent burning the carbs with fuel instead of pushing fuel back into the tank unnecessarily.

Diesel engines suffer if they are not well maintained. These are primitive designs by modern standards, but this simplicity does not mean cheap or simple fixes. Hard starting can indicate problems with the injectors or mechanical diesel pump, but glow plugs are the cheapest first thing to check. Head gasket failures are quite common, manifested by overheating and loss of water. This overheating can also twist the head, and replacement parts are expensive if available. Don't be put off if the engine looks a little greasy - they all do.

Failure of the exhaust manifolds on both petrol and diesel models is very common and the cause is most likely caused by a fault in the rear engine mount. The parts to fix the problem are cheap, but the painstaking work means labor costs can be high.

Gearbox and clutch

You're unlikely to find anything other than a five-speed manual gearbox on any vehicle of British origin. The gearbox itself is generally quite serviceable, but is sensitive to keeping the oil level. If the level drops, fifth gear lubrication suffers, and fifth gear failures are quite common. There is an oil dipstick on top of the gearbox and through this hole you can top up the level.

The main complaint is the lack of gear selection. There are several reasons for this, but one that is easily overlooked is the failure or softening of the engine mounts. The rear mount in particular has a working cutout to support the full weight of the rear of the engine and transmission. As a result, it can wear out and fail. This allows the motor to shift on the remaining brackets and changes the shift geometry. The new mounts are available for around £40 each.

For right-hand drive models, another culprit is the complex shifting mechanism, which wears and adjusts poorly. An improvement can be achieved by replacing the bushing that fits around the selector shaft as it enters the gearbox. If the gear selector rattles, this will indicate that the gear selector is slipping. Bushings can be hard to find, but a friendly parts counter at your local big box retailer can get you the part. Alternatively, the bushing is essentially an o-ring housing, so messing around in the parts basket can provide a cheap solution. Let us know if so!

Symptoms of this include the inability to select a gear (usually reverse) and the gear lever hitting the dashboard when selecting first and third gears. Mechanically oriented types can self-adjust the joint, but due to wear and tear, the necessary adjustment varies from case to case. A good garage with patient staff will be able to get this tuned out, but few of these vehicles have positive shifts. There used to be a company in Dorset called Delfin Designs that offered a rebuilt link but went out of business in 2011. To update components for improved shifting today,JKTower's website has many regenerated and modernized components.

If the clutch pedal is too heavy, check that the cable is not stuck under the hood. If accompanied by a wobbly speedometer needle, make sure the two cables have not been tied together to clean up under the hood. Both symptoms are caused by bent cables. A clutch pedal out of alignment with the brake pedal can be brought back into alignment, making the ride much more enjoyable.

Brakes, suspension and chassis

The basic basics are quite primitive and not a problem for a home mechanic. Tie rods, rubbers and tie rod ends are readily available and failure of any of them will lead to MOT failure, accompanied by knocking noises from the front and interesting handling. It's hard to find new rear springs, but if you notice that the rear end of your van is a bit limp, your best bet is to have the leaf springs re-hardened by a spring specialist. Alternatively, you can invest in a pair of Grayston spring assistants if the rear of the van is sagging but not very worn.

The brakes on all models are discs at the front and drums at the rear. They are all masculine enough for the job, with the MAXI versions (3,500 kg) having larger discs and wheels than the lighter chassis. If the rear brakes continue to lock, the brake compensator valve may be faulty. Replacements are available from No1Gear. The availability of discs, pads and brake shoes is good.

Other problems

A common MOT fault point on these vehicles is the headlights. The reflectors degrade and peel off inside the sealed unit, leading to poor performance and lack of brightness. Replacements used to be rare, but are now available.

Another common problem is the failure of the mechanism for lifting the side windows. The plate that holds the glass down corrodes and the window may go down and not go up or not work at all. The caddy is available as a refurbished part.

Useful contacts

Service items are still available from major car companies and parts suppliers, but some of the more specialized parts can be difficult to track down. Here are some useful contacts:

  • Equipment No. 1are based in Devon and stock a range of very hard to find items including headlights and some remanufactured items.
  • Based in Dorset Karol i Synhas a huge stock of new vintage motorhome items built on the Mk1 Ducato and Talbot, but is particularly well stocked with items for Autohome's models.
  • In case of switching problems on Ducato and Talbot Express,JK towersbest used to solve owner problems.
  • For owners seeking technical knowledge,Talbot Express Owners Club Forumit is a must visit for the great breadth of knowledge and experience.
Even the newest models are 20 years old, more than enough time for rust to set in

Typical problems in the Mk1 Fiat Ducato/Talbot Express - Practical motorhome (3)

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