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Renault Scenic Problems

No car is perfect, of course, there are far too many moving parts that wear out and go wrong, although the Scenic seems more reliable than most (see the Guestbook for ringing endorsements). Nevertheless, this page will build into a catalogue of real world problems (and possible solutions), discovered by other Scenic owners. I hope you find it useful.

Don't get the impression that the faults below are necessarily common. Most have only been reported in by a couple of people, unless stated otherwise. You can send in your own problem/solution by emailing me the details. If it's been confirmed as something other than a one-off, it'll get printed here. Thanks.

Below are general problems. Here is a dedicated page relating to the single most common fault, that of the air conditioning fan failing.

And here is another page, dedicated to the second most common complaint, that of water ingress into the passenger compartment (usually the footwells).

If this site has helped you or saved you money, then I'd really appreciate it if you helped keep it going, affraying server and admin costs - and maybe buying me a beer or two! To donate manually, go to PayPal, sending money to my registered email address of slitchfield@gmail.com. Any amount is welcome, from $2 or 2 upwards.  Or just use the button below:



In no particular order...

Noisy tickover, bouncing alternator drive belt
From David Crook: Hi, I have a Renault Scenic 1.9 DCI Diesel. It started to get very noisy on tick over and the alternator drive belt was bouncing violently on tick over, I researched this for some time on the internet and found conflicting results, two mainly, the first one being a faulty belt tensioner and the other was that it was the alternator pulley.
I favoured the belt tensioner as I could not work out how a pulley could cause the level of noise I was experiencing, so replaced the pulley and drive belt, and for good measure I changed the timing belt and pulleys as well, but that's a whole other story and not related to this one, however, to my horror the problem was still there.
Further research revealed that the alternator pulley is no ordinary pulley, it has a one way ratchet mechanism built into it and it is this that prevents the backlash seen when it fails when I say failed there is no apparent or visible failure, even when you remove the alternator, physical inspection reveals no sign of failure, the failure is seizure of the ratchet mechanism and it is this that causes the noise and bounce in the belt.
It is a bit difficult to test the pulley, as without a new one the old one looks and feels OK, with a new pulley fitted, you need to grip it tight and turn it as sharp as you can in both directions and you will feel the slip in one direction, it's not easy to detect.
A new pulley alone is around 100 inc vat from a dealer and you then need the special tool to remove and refit it, you can get this off Ebay for around 15, I actually found a new alternator complete with pulley on Ebay for 90.50 delivered next day, saved me 25 and a new alternator as well.
One final thing you need to know about is the tensioner setting, it is well advisable to replace the tensioner and pulley, as the bearing may be worn and as with mine there may be chips broken out of the pulley due to the violent jumping about, there are different spring tensioners fitted to the Renault, all of which need to be pre-loaded, a new tensioner comes pre-loaded with a bracket that is removable once the tensioner is fitted, fit the tensioner with the bolts loose, then adjust it as tight as you can by hand and secure the bolts, then using a small gemmy bar and a piece of wood you need to put enough pressure on the belt to release the pre-tensioning strap, once this is removed release the drive belt and it is then at the correct tension, a quick check of this is if you twist the belt between your finger and thumb you should only be able to twist it through 90'.
Following this my engine sounded great, unfortunately whilst doing this I had to remove the drivers side wheel to access the side of the engine and found I needed new brake disks and pads all round, my I wish I had bought a bus pass instead!

Fraying fan belt
From Lorraine Taylor: We have a 2001 scenic 1.9 dci rxe. When we purchased the car it needed a new engine as the cambelt had sheared. Having put a replacement engine in the car, we noticed that the fan belt was beginning to fray and was trying to ride off the pulleys, only a week or so after we had completed the work on it. This we think was the cause of the cam belt failure as it had only recently been changed on the previous engine. Having inspected the the old engine we realised that the old fan belt was only half its original width and was badly frayed and the cambelt inner cover had been worn away over a period of time. we found deposits of the fan belt wrapped around the lower cambelt pulley. This was caused by the spring tensioner doing up the belt too tight and the belt vibrating at certain engine speeds due to the spring. The solution was to make an aluminium bracket out of a flat bar to allow the fan belt to be set to a fixed tension. The problems seems to be solved and the fan belt is no longer fraying or vibrating.
Fan belt tensioner
Fan belt tensioner

Auxilliary belt jumps sideways
From Andy Britton: I had this problem with even though the belt was not that old. Replaced belt still doing the same. Stripped out belt tensioner, the self lubricating bearings were dirty and binding. Cleaned bearings and shaft with solvent, lubricated with a small amount of silicone grease. Problem solved. Basically the bearings had built up with a kind of varnish and were slowing the tensioner arm when the belt jumped, i.e. when the engine stops.

Slow, no power, glow plug light permanently lit (all diesels)
From Dave Mears: I've just bought a Scenic 1.9 diesel auto and on the second day I started it and it just cut out, so I started it again and selected drive and off I went but it seemed slow and gave out a bit of smoke , well i just made it back to the garage where I bought it, there is no power at all and the glow plug light is on all the time and d3 has lit up twice. I turned out it was the ERV valve - this had broken, one repaired valve later and the car runs as good as new.

Starting problems
From Tony Brown: Twice now my Scenic has been a pain to start, especially if by accident you press the accelerator pedal before starting it. Turned out it was the Top Dead Centre (TDC) Sensor each time. Apparently on the Scenic and other Renaults, the sensor collects fragments of metal/filings on the sensor (must be magnetic) which, if not cleaned away, leads to starting problems (sometimes up to 20 attempts before it does start !) It is bolted to the engine by two bolts and is easily removed for a clean up - I used a wire brush, a rag soaked in WD40 and rebolted it back in and the problem went away. It took 12 months to return but a repeat clean up sorted the problem again. A friend took his to a local car repairer and they charged him 60 to sort - they tried to say they had replaced the TDC but hadn't, just cleaned it like I did. See also here on the Renault Forums.
From Darren Aldrich: Sometimes my Scenic will start first turn of key and other times it can take up to 8 turns of the key. [Later] Turned out to be the petrol pump relay.

Starting problems after very damp and cold conditions
From Phil Senior:  Had appalling problems getting my Scenic to start recently. Apparently water leaks (from the sunroof) into the lamp-box above windscreen and the moisture travels down the wiring to the  ECU, housed in the offside wing. Solution was having the ECU replaced.

Whistling noise in line with engine speed
More from Tony Brown: You have a note on your site about alternator belt and pulley failures but did you know that a failure of the alternator belt or pulley can lead to a shredded/snapped belt that can get caught up in the cambelt/crankshaft pulley, causing the cambelt to jump or stretch causing top end failure ?
I only found this out after visiting my Renault dealer for them to examine my engine which was making a whistling noise which rose and fell in line with the engine speed (sounded a bit like the interference you used to get on car radios which didn't have suppression). Renault thought it might be the power steering pump bearing or alternator bearings failing and suggested I took off the alternator belt and spin the pulleys on the aforementioned to determine which was the problem.
I then accidently chipped the alternator tensioner pulley belt wheel meaning I had to order new ones from Renault. I took the tensioner pulley wheels off so I had them with me to take to Renault and noticed that when you spun the tensioner pulley wheel it made a noise like an old roller skate wheel !. This must have been the cause of the whistling noise. The power steering pump and alternator pulleys spun cleanly without noise so presumably are ok. Owners should be very wary of belt, tensioner or pulley failure due to the potential disasterous consequences.
Owners should check for signs of wear and cracking, especially across the grooves which run longitudinally, signs of fraying and if there are any noises eminating from the belt area get them checked out. In addition Renault advised me that pulleys on certain alternators fail and can become undone or shear causing similar failures. I also understand that the crankshaft pulleys on certain engines are made in two halfs with a rubber insert and that they can fail too.
My problem turned out to be a relatively cheap fix compared with the cost of replacing the engine. Renault were very helpful and informed me that they had the pulley tensioner kit in stock for about 37 plus VAT. The kit contains the sprung tensioner unit and pulley wheel, the idler pulley wheel and a Renault alternator belt. (out of interest - the tensioner and pulley wheel on its own without belt and idler pulley costs 98 plus VAT ! The parts chap who served me couldn't explain why but knew of many similar strange pricing policies on Renault Parts!)
Not sure if you are interested in the steps required to replace the tensioner, pulleys and belt but...... Firstly if your belt is still on the car, make a drawing to record the route the belt takes around the various pulleys. After you remove the belt (I cut through mine but be careful as the tensioner will spring back at speed - keep your hands clear) you can remove the old pulley wheels using a 13mm spanner on the bolts that pass through them - it is difficult to get a socket in as they sit tight against the chassis leg. The tensioner pulley unit itself is held on by two more 13mm bolts. Again it is hard to get a socket in to remove them and I took off the inner plastic wing liner to get better access - it is fastened by three plastic push fasterners and 2 screws into the outer wing lip. You can then just about undo the 2x 13mm bolts which hold the tensioner unit to the engine and it simply drops down. You have to be really careful when refitting the new tensioner unit as it is pre-sprung to allow you to refit the new belt over the pulleys. It has a pin inserted to keep the spring under tension and if it gets knocked it can come loose and give you one hell of a crack whilst you refit it. Tighten it up carefully avoiding hitting the pin. Refit the new idler pulley wheel againt being careful not to hit the pin on the tensioner unit. You can now fit the new belt, which has longtitudinal grooves which line up with the grooves in the pulleys (the idler and tensioner pulley are plastic and not grooved). Make sure the belt is perfectly lined up on the pulleys and not overhanging the side. I managed to refit the belt on my own but it would be easier with someone to help you. Watch you don't catch your hand or finger in the belt or pulleys (ouch). With some dexterity you can relieve the pressure from the spring in the tension using a 13mm spanner turning it clockwise whilst at the same time pulling the pin out using pliars - watch your hand as the pulley wheel bangs down hard under the tension of the spring. Check the belt is cleanly on the grooves and that it is under pressure fro the tensioner. Double check that all the bolts are tight and give the engine a quick turnover. If everything is ok then refit the inner wing and take it for a test drive. Tools used - big screwdriver, 13mm ring and open spanners, 13mm socket and slim drive ratchet and pliers. The whistling noise on my Scenic is no more. Time taken - about 45 mins to strip down everything ready to fit the new parts and approx 45 minutes to refit everything.

Poor power on acceleration (all turbocharged diesels?)
From Mike Sullivan: I'm experiencing loss of engine power with the 1.9 dci diesel. My glo-plug heater light comes on and stays on now and there is a complete lack of power from the engine, it just wo'nt pull. There is no over heating of the engine, and the exhaust emissions appear to be fine. This has just happened suddenly. [later] I finally got to the root cause. After much time spent checking out the engine timing, exhaust system, fuel system and gving the engine a flush out with fuel and oil treatments, I put the car onto a diagnostic test system, this revealed several faults in the electrics (various codes) but they all pointed to the turbocharger. Turns out the turbo is defective. A costly repair with what Renault are asking for the turbo and the garage to fit it as I don't have the facilities to do this job.

Turbo seal trouble (all dTi models)
Two owners wrote in about this: "there are 1 of 2 possible turbos you may have on your vehicle: a ''kkk'' or ''garret''. The latter being the best turbo and it's important to change your oil every 6000 miles. I think you should give people fair warning that there is a possible design fault. Engine oil flows through the turbo to lubricate it, the turbo is there to pump air at pressure into the inlet manifold, and a seal inside prevents the oil from leaking into the air inlet. If this seal leaks, oil is allowed to flow into the engine combustion chamber, then we have a problem because a diesel engine will run fast on oil, because its like giving a child chocolate - they love it. Constant oil monitoring and listening to the turbo is needed. Thanks for your time"

Jerky transmission from standing start (all models)
This is caused by a leak in the transmission oil system and is especially noticeable when the engine is cold (lower oil pressure).

Resistor pack

Key no longer turns off car immobliser (1998, RT)
As an alternative to buying a new key, from Jamie Ford: I have found a solution, It can be used all the time but does take a few moments to perfect. What the owner needs to do is find out the 4 Digit code for the immobiliser from the dealer. They usually complain and say this number does not exist but it does. Depending on the dealer there may be a charge for this number (no more than 30). When you have the number, you turn on the ignition. The red light on the dash should flash rapidly, press in the lock button on the dash and the light should slow down. You need to count the number of flashes to correspond with the first digit of the code, then release the button pressing it in again for the second number and so on. When all numbers have been entered in this way the button should be released and the light will stay illuminated for about 10 seconds - when the light goes out the immobiliser is turned off and you can start the car.... It sounds a little long winded but when you get the hang of it it takes about 30 sec to complete and saves the owner about 150 quid on a new key....

Loose front air dam moulding (1997-1999)
Original Scenics had a stapled-on(!) extra section on the bottom of the front air dam moulding. It's not unknown for these to start falling off, but don't worry, they're not really needed. If it starts coming away, just lever it off completely and throw it away. Car performance and economy isn't significantly impaired.

Water leak from the engine
From Alan Graystone: "I have tracked it down to where the bottom hose (metal part) goes into the pump housing. Managed to fix the water leak myself. There is an o-ring around the pipe where it goes into the block. Single screw holds the pipe, and it pulls out. The o-ring was worn away around half of the circumferance. Fitted a new one and no more leaks. 50p o-ring is a bit cheaper than the 75+ Renault were asking."

Rough engine sound, lower power (1999-2003, petrol models only)
Many owners find that one or more of the ignition coils fail. If this does happen, it's definitely worth having them all replaced, to avoid them failing one by one. Typical symptoms are "misfiring, smelling hot and losing power at times...". Complain to Renault about these - apparently they acknowledge that it's a design fault and they fit a newly designed replacement part free of charge. Or get a Diesel model, like me 8-)

Water in the body cavities (2000-2003)
After heavy rain, water does tend to collect in small pockets at the top of the engine bay, underneath the windscreen and then you can hear it sloshing around on cornering for a mile or two until it's all found a way out to the ground. Annoying, but don't worry about it.

Water in side sills (just 1997-1999 models?)
Should you ever hear a swooshing(!) sound when braking, it'll be water that has somehow found its way into the side sills. The cure is to remove one of the rubber plugs on the sill underside, to let the water out. It's not entirely clear how the water gets in there in the first place, but leaving the plug out certainly makes sure it doesn't hang around and cause rust problems.

Brake discs going rusty (all models)
To be fair, this probably applies to all cars to some extent, but the Scenic doesn't like being left to stand, unused (as if!) for long periods. If you're not going to use it regularly, at least give 10 miles every week, using the brakes a lot to try and keep rust from developing on the discs.

Electric window fails on the driver's door (1997-1999?)
The regulator for this window has been known to fail.

Pool of water under engine on hot days (models with air-con)
This isn't unique to Scenics but is worth noting. On very hot days, significant condensation builds up on the air conditioning compressor unit. Once parked, you'll find water dripping down onto the road. It's water from the air though, don't worry, your Scenic isn't losing fluid!

Alternator belt keeps jumping pulley (1997-1999)
One owner with a 1997 1.9 dti had this, went through several belts and tensioners. One day whilst buying yet another belt, he asked a Renault mechanic about it and he remembered something about it on an internal memo - it turns out there was a modified alternator pulley that solves the problem.

Have to lock the car, unlock it again before it will start (1997-1999)
You haven't been reading your manual properly. This is a design (security) feature. You have to switch on the ignition within 30 seconds of unlocking the car. If it takes you longer than this to settle the children, etc, why not put the key in the ignition and turn it on without actually starting up? Then, a few minutes later when you're ready, just advance the key and start up for real.

Corroded wiper linkage (1997-1999)
From Robert West: Wipers..... one knuckle of the linkage gets water and road salt running onto it. This then corrodes and falls off. This has been corrected in the new linkage by a bellow cover to keep the water off. You can no longer buy the plastic fittings, the whole linkage must be replaced. Advice: if you don't have the extra bellow cover modification, grease up the linkage before it falls off.

Broken driver's door electric window mechanism (all models)
From Paul Swift: "I am now on my second 2000(V) model Sport Alize 1600 (first was written off - tail-ended by a 52-seater) and have experienced the same fault with both. We also have a friend with one of the earliest of the new model (2003 to date) who now has the same fault, so it doesn't look as though the new ones are any better. In each case the nylon plastic wire guide at the top of the driver's door window slider broke away from the metal part of the slider. This then de-tensioned the cable causing it to wind itself messily round the motor spiral.
In the short-term, a quick solution was the usual block of wood once the entire mechanism was removed from the door, but for a longer-term answer...
Solutions: 1. Have the entire window winder mechanism replaced by Renault (230+VAT+fitting). You can't just get the plastic guide bit! 300 hurts too much when all that's broken is a bit of plastic?
2. You could try to get a window mechanism from a scrappy, though Scenics seem pretty rare.
3. Conveniently. the guide already has a small hole through it meaning a short metal plate can be bolted to it then stuck to the window slider guide using Evo-stik liquid metal. I used one of the small steel joining plates available from B&Q etc though I'm sure there's something in a Meccano set that will do. Left to cure for a day and the bond is pretty strong. Make sure you glue it to the side away from where the glass attaches and that the bolt comes through from the glass side. The winder motor then needs to be removed from its housing (3x star drive bolts) and the cable runs tidied. Each cable attaches to opposite sides of the spiral and runs from there via the top and bottom wire guides on the slider and into the sliding centre block. Wind each cable around the spiral towards the other one until there's just one empty groove. Reassemble motor and spiral into housing. There's a tensioning mechanism on the housing at each side of the spiral which will allow you to 'stretch' the cable over the last guide. You should by this point have a motor with two cables running to the slider block in from opposite ends of the slider track all nicely tensioned and with the slider in the middle of the slider track and the empty groove in the middle of the spiral. Back to the door panel and plug in the motor power cable. Test that you've put the cables right way round i.e. switch up = window up and correct if wrong by disconnecting the cables from the slider and recabling the correct way round. (I've made this mistake once and failed to test before reassembling the door!).
Reattach the motor and slide to the door after removing your temporary block of wood. Getting the top end into position is a bit fiddly but not too bad. Slide the window down until it reaches the slider and pop it over the lug. Put the lock clip back into place on the other side of the glass.
Reattach the door panel ensuring you have a) passed the opening mechanism through the appropriate hole, b) reconnected the window motor connector, c) reconnected the electric mirrors connector (I've forgotten to do this once too!) and d) ensured the speaker wire is accessible through the speaker mounting hole. Reattach the speaker and clip the cover back into place and you're done. Run the window up and down through its full range to ensure the electrickery knows where the top and bottom are and to ensure it's running freely on the spiral. Total time taken - about 30 minutes to get the mechanism out of the door, about 1 hour messing with bolts and plates and liquid metal, 24 hours curing then about 2 hours messing with the cables and spiral before reattaching to the door - another 30 minutes. Total cost - 8 most of which was the liquid metal cartridge. "

Dashboard dims, blinks and then goes blank
From Leslie: I have a 04 Renault Megane with 47500 miles on it. The dash started dimming & blinking, then went completely blank. Renault wanted 450 a new one plus 170 for the labour! After lots of searching, I found a solution online "intermittent fault with dashboard on renault scenic: 150 + 8.25 for UK next day postage", Renault Megane or Scenic digital dash clocks repaired for a fraction of the 620 Renault quoted me! With a longer warranty also! If you've also been messed about by Renault over your faulty dashboard, then give these guys a call: 07599 159222 (direct line to 'Ian') Told him how I'd been treated by Renault and got his permission to give out his personal number. He said they can usually have dashboards for Megane or Scenics back with the customer within 48Hrs after receiving them. I posted mine on a Monday & had it back repaired on the Wednesday! They were very helpful, I even got to speak to the engineer who actually repaired my instrument cluster... He gave me instructions on how to remove my instrument panel from the dash, took me around 10 minutes and about 15 to refit it. Renault said they would be charging me 2hrs labour for this. UPDATE (thanks to I Whyte): Renault UK have now officially acknowledged this problem and apparently will fit a replacement dash cluster for 100 all-in.

More problems here soon...


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