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Before buying your first Aston Martin (second part)

2014-06-04 Read: 3 851x

  • Aston Martin Specialist

Here we ask the views of an independent expert who has dealt with Aston Martin for many years, charting a large number of changes and improvements; while also knowing their quirks and faults.

  • An introduction

“We have worked on Aston Martin since the era of DB7 i6 (which dates back to 1995) right through to the very latest models. We specialize in the later models of Aston Martin cars from the DB7 Vantage and Vanquish through to the V8 Vantage, DB9 and DBS, including the 4-door Rapide and V12 Vantage.

The DB7 has a special place in our hearts, as the car’s design and successful production saved Aston Martin, paving the way for the new generation. The first generation Vanquish also looks simply stunning and it will always be very special car. But if you compare either model with the latest era VH-chassis range they are worlds apart: the new generation offers much better reliability and handling along with reduce repair and service costs”.

  • The specialist’s Tips

We look at most common faults the specialist encounters and their tips on spotting them. The last section covered many things you need to look out for and what can go wrong; here we offer a distilled list of key problems, weak point and quirks – issues the specialists encounters the most. They also add their own additional points, which are well worth considering: “Overall modern Astons are extremely reliable but they do suffer from what we would term as “niggles,” which we will cover in more detail later! A mix of ownership profiles means that we do see both extremes of usage, with low-mileage little-used cars on one side and daily drivers on the other. In fact we even service hire cars which can exceed 30.000 miles per year! It is interesting to note that even though some of very high mileage cars are driven to the extreme, and not cared for as an Aston should be, they still only have standard servicing plus general wear and tear part replacements. Expensive failures are rare on the new generation of cars, even with hard use”!

  • Engine

Engine faults are few and far between; but the V8 and V12 engine do burn some oil and if not kept to the correct levels this can cause engine damage. Any knocks and rattles (although rare) would need to be investigated properly, as engine repairs are expensive.

The V8 can suffer with belt noise: usually on cold start up and during slow speed manoeuvring. Out of warranty rectification is not expensive and from a specialist such as ourselves would cost around Ł150.00.

The V8 can also 60-70 mph. If the temperature is sitting down near the mark, rather than in middle as normal, suspect a faulty thermostat. This cause the car to use more petrol, affect performance and reduce the efficiency of the heater. It would cost around Ł200.00 to rectify.

On the DB9 we do also see the odd coil pack failing, causing a misfire. On the DB7 it was necessary to replace all twelve coils (at much expense!) but this is not necessary on the newer cars and only the failed coil will normally require replacement.

  • Brakes, Wheels & Tyres

Brakes are prone to squealing and this can be difficult to rectify: anti-squeal material can be fitted to the pads and chamfering can also help, as can a bit of aggressive braking to clean any glazing!

The brakes on the V8 and DB9 last around the same amount of time, approximately 20 to 30k for the front pads and 15 to 25k for the rears. The rears wear more quickly as the traction control works on the rear brakes. Discs usually last at least two sets of pads.

There been a problem with vibrations on the ceramic discs of the DBS and as I write this a rectification is underway. The ceramic pads should be ok for 40.000 miles plus, with the potential for the discs to last the lifetime of the car. If they do need replacing they are very expensive with a full brake disc and pad replacement costing in excess of Ł14.000.!

A DSC fault can be triggered by a faulty pressure switch and this is quite a common problem, rectification is quick and relatively inexpensive.

  • Bodyshell

There can be issues with corrosion; the places to check are around door handles; the bottom of the doors; the bonnet edges, and just above the rear screen. If you do find any corrosion do ensure this is checked by a main dealer to see if it is covered by the 10 year anticorrosion warranty. Although most spots are deemed paint faults, which are only covered under the original three year warranty!

Stone chipping can also be a problem on the rear quarter panels, as can scuffs under the front lower valance.

The headlamps on all current models do have a tendency to fog, this is simply a design characteristic and it should clear very quickly once the lamps have been turned on. There has been limited success in resolving this issue by fitting gel packs, but this is only a temporary solution. It is also worth asking the owner if they pressure wash their car, as if the rear lights are subjected to the jet-spray, water can gain access and cause premature failure of the lamps; and these cost around Ł500.00 each! The lamps can be modified to reduce water ingress but that water is not already in there.

The door handles on some cars do not return to their proper position flush with the doors and this can cause problems with locking, this is quite easy to rectify. Also check the door handle LED’s are working on 2007MY (or younger) cars, as these can occasionally fail.

  • Electronics & Interior

Rattles and squeaks can be annoying; fortunately these are usually an easy fix on the modern Astons. Common areas affected are around the satellite navigation display and the door area, with Roadsters/Volantes suffering more than coupes.

Doors not locking or unlocking correctly can be an issue; in many cases a simple reprogramming of the door modules is required. The actual latches may also be a problem on the earlier cars, causing either one or both doors not to lock. The interior door handle release cable can also become detached, not allowing the door to open from the inside, this problem only takes five minutes to rectify. The LED door handle lights, standard from the 2007MY, are also worth checking to see that they are illuminating ok, as these can fail.

The alarm sounders have a rechargeable backup battery that is incorporated into the unit these can fail at about four years.

The “emissions service required” warning displayed on the instrument panel can be a regular annoyance, although it does not usually signify a serious fault. Common causes of the warning are: not fully securing the cap properly, or a change in driving style or driver. EOBD code readers from sources such as Ebay and Amazon can be sourced for around Ł25.00 to Ł50.00; they can read fault code saving time and worry if your car is regularly afflicted by warnings!

If you do any research on the modern Astons you will come across many references to fuse 22! This fuse controls two flaps in the rear exhaust box and the flaps open at around 4.000rpm when there is a discernable change in the tone and volume of the exhaust. Removing the fuse disables this system so that the noise is heard as soon as you accelerate; removing the fuse does store a code in the engine management system but does not flag a warning; the only negative effect of doing this is a slight loss of low end torque, which the majority will not notice.

  • Suspension

With both the DB9 and V8 Vantage I have seen broken coil springs and leaking shock absorbers; this is not common but will require checking prior to a purchase.

The Sports Pack is highly sort after it improves handling and for the spirited driver I would consider it a necessity, it can also be retrofitted to cars that do not have it fitted as standard.

  • Transmission

The V8 Vantage 4.3 had an issue with cold gear selection – mostly first and second gear. Most car affected will have had rectification work under warranty, but there are still some that have not had the modification. Simply changing the transaxle oil and adding additive can vastly improve the gear selection, but some cars may require the full modification.

The clutch in the V8 Vantage could be deemed as its weak point if used incorrectly; for example resting your foot on the clutch pedal will severely reduce the life of the clutch: one hire car’s failed in 7.000 miles! I also have customers who are still on their original clutches at 50.000 miles plus, despite the fact that they are “spirited drivers” who attend a few track days.

The sport shift cars should be allowed a “clutch learn” as often as possible to enable the best possible clutch life. This is a simple procedure of starting the car from cold and just letting it tick over in neutral for about 10 seconds. Replacing the clutch will cost over Ł2500.00!

The DB9 Touchtronic2 (auto) had the potential for leaks from the gearbox cooler pipes on the earlier cars; there is later oil cooler and pipes that can be retrofitted to fix this issue.

  • Early vs Never

The later cars have had most, if not all, of the issues found on earlier models ironed out in production. Any issues with an earlier car should also have been rectified under the warranty system. Reliability for all the modern Astons is fantastic and servicing (whether the car does 2000 miles or 10000 miles a year) costs are reasonable regardless of age. I do not consider older high mileage cars an issue, as expensive failures are rare.

Changes in specification, like the new seats and console, the addition of Bluetooth and iPod integration (etc), are purely a matter of taste and budget. The DB9 Volante is one car that has seen major improvements in handling over the earlier cars and the 4.7 Vantage offers a nice power increase!

  • Common Consumables and Servicing Cost Comparison

Service costs vary with the schedule year to year. The V8 Vantage is the cheapest to maintain with an average of around Ł500.00 per year; whereas the DB9, DBS, Rapide and V12 Vantage will costs around Ł700.00 per year on average. The pricing estimates shown include genuine parts labour and VAT, dealer pricing does vary, so for accurate and current prices, contact you intend to use.

Beyond servicing common consumables are tyres and brakes/pads, but wear does vary depending on usage.

It also worth making provision for a clutch replacement on the V8 Vantage, although not a common consumable such it is the most common of more expensive costs involved with running the cars.

  • The Specialist’s Pick

Our personal all round favourite is 4.3 Vantage. This awesome car may be the lowest powered of the modern era, and it does get referred to as the baby Aston, but it ticks so many boxes and does everything well. It handles superbly, will transport you hundreds of miles in comfort and can be used as a daily driver. You can also modify it to suit a particular style or usage and the V8 has best soundtrack of the range, in my opinion. The 4.7 Vantage has more power and torque than 4.3 and benefits from all the plus points detailed above. The DB9/S and Vanquish are fantastic GT’s and the Rapide a GT with four useable seats. The V12 Vantage is an animal, which commands respect and is suited to the spirited driver.

  • Overall summary

The modern Aston Martin range has proven itself to be reliable: with reasonable servicing and repair costs; relatively few common faults and most that occur, easily rectified. Whether the car is used once a month or twice a day it is likely to handle all you throw at it and is truly a testament to the design team and build technicians at Aston Martin. Although you should check the oil regularly and ensure the car is serviced according to the recommended schedules. They can also be tailored to your individual taste and usage, with many official upgrades: like N400 sills, clear lights, new wheels, carbon splitters and diffusers, suspension/handling packages, power upgrades and interior trim changes. Ultimately a fantastic range of cars.

  • Extended Warranty

For peace of mind, once the standard three year warranty runs out, you can purchase an official extended warranty package for your used Aston Martin. In order to purchase a 12 or 24 month package your car must first pass a 140-point inspection, adding to the appeal of having a privately purchased Aston inspected by an official dealer. There are two levels of cover and both also insure track-day use, providing it is an officially organized and supported Aston Martin event.

Premium cover is available for cars up to five years old, offering unlimited mileage cover and unlimited total claim value up to the value of the car.

Plus cover is for cars between five and ten years old, with a limit of 85.000 miles (136.000 km), there is a Ł10.000 (or local currency equivalent) individual claim limit, but unlimited total claims (up to the car’s value).

Factory backed extended warranty is not available in the USA, but near identical cover is still offered by A.M. dealers.

  • After-marked modifications

Be wary of any after-marked modifications, unless they are Aston’s own, or the Prodrive upgrades. While a sport exhaust and upgraded induction system may be ok, anything else (engine modifications, ECU chips, body kits etc.) could cause headaches. Aston are best purchased, and retain best value, in their original condition. Some modifications can actually reduce the car’s value and narrow its re-sale potential. For example: some tuners have introduced a supercharger conversion that vastly increases power output, but its reliability is not proven in long term and large power upgrades will also require chassis and brake changes. Standard cars are very well balanced between power, handling, braking and reliability; they have also been engineered with daily driving in mind. Modified cars may improve performance, but some also offer less refinement, narrow power bands or flat spots, more powerful brakes that squeal and need high heat levels to work effectively; or rock hard suspension only suitable for smooth race track. Certain cosmetic additions can also ruin the cars looks and potentially invalidate Aston’s 10 year bodyshell warranty. There is also the issue of reliability and whether the modified items are of high quality and under warranty. If you do have problems and A.M. discover the car is modified, don’t expect a sympathetic response to any issues.

There are far less modified Aston Martin than Porsches, for example, but it is becoming more popular to “tweak” the 4.3 Vantage, particularly the earlier cheaper models, there are also more in the USA where “mod’s” are popular. As demand has grown a few companies now specialize in modifying Astons. Sports exhausts/cat’s are a common addition, but be sure to check you are happy with the volume levels at all revs and that the owner still has the original system, as official Aston Martin dealers usually require this for resale. Fitting larger 20-inch wheels to the DB9/Vantage is also gaining popularity (particularly in the US) but although there may be no issues in normal driving there is likely to be under more demanding conditions. To illustrate this we reproduce an interesting A.M. Engineer’s report on potential problems causes by fitting wider 19-inch alloys/tyres from the V12 Vantage on standard V8 Vantage: [Rear tyres will potentially foul on: rear springs in rebound (damper travel reduction & rear spring change for V12V)- Fuel filler neck during compression travel. (fuel filler re-engineered for V12V) – Rear wheel arch liner during compression (arch liners changed on V12V) – DMTL bracket during compression (DTML moved on V12V) Front tyres will potentially foul on: Front wheel arch liner during compression (arch liners changed on V12V) – Lover control arm on steering rack lock in rebound travel. (rack travel restricted for V12V). “Under no circumstances would we advise the fitting of V12 Vantage wheels to a V8 Vantage, as also the geometry and breaking system, together with the items above, are engineered specifically for each model”.] Having sounded a note of caution, good quality sensibly modified cars can offer great value on the used marked, as most of the money spend on unofficial upgrades will be lost come resale! But before buying, ensure that you are happy with the car’s handling, ride quality, power delivery, fit/finish etc. Also research the supplier and the quality of the products used and ensure the car is inspected by expert. Be aware that the running and insurance cost will also be higher. I certainly wouldn’t recommend paying a premium for a modified car; it is better to invest in a newer or higher specification original car.

  • Track Days

In these days of speed cameras and ever greater restrictions on road, track days are proving more and more popular. These are many reputable organizations specializing in days for Aston owners, including official events for AMOC (the Aston Martin Owner’s Club). I wouldn’t be too concerned if the owner goes to the occasional event. Astons are generally very robust and can take a good trashing without ill effect. But regular track usage will rapidly take its toll on a car’s suspension, brakes, engine and tyres, ageing it well beyond its registered mileage.

If the car has been used regularly on track, be sure to point this out to whoever is inspecting the vehicle, ensuring they take a closer look at all areas for excessive wear and tear, plus potential accident damage. We have come across track damaged repaired cars that aren’t registered on any insurance claim database. After damaging their cars on track, the owners had to pay for their own repairs and so the work was officially invisible. Low mileage tyre, pad and disc changes can point to regular track use, as can excess stone chips.

  • Summary

Armed with the information from this guide you should now know exactly which Aston Martin model and what specification best suits your requirements. You should also be able to determine the car’s origins, condition, options and likely running costs.

The V8 and V12 Vantage, DB9, Virage, DBS, new Vanquish and 4-door Rapide are truly thoroughbred sports cars and there is something for every type of driver: from grand tourer thorough to hard-core track-day enthusiast. Don’t expect to get your perfect specification, but there is usually a good selection of cars available, so don’t compromise on quality.

If you are buying privately, be sure to get an accurate trade value on the car you are considering (via an official A.M. centre buyer or independent dealer), before you begin negotiations. This will ensure you don’t pay over the odds for your chosen car.

Be warned, once you have the Aston bug it’s a slippery slope: you start off with an early Vantage and end up with a DBS on the drive!

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