My Fiat Panda came with a service book full of stamps that indicated, at the very least, it had received fresh oil and a new oil filter on an annual basis.
However, few other details were mentioned in its history; for example, there was no explicit record of the cabin filter, air filter or spark plugs being replaced. These, according to the handbook, needed to be changed at a maximum of two years or 18,000 miles.
This didn’t bother me particularly, as the car had evidently been looked after – it had fresh front discs, near-new brake pads, perfect fluids and matching Continental tyres of the original specification. Consequently, despite no specific mention of the aforementioned parts in its service book, it seemed probable that everything required had been done as and when needed.
I wasn’t going to let facets such as an unchanged cabin filter or similar put me off buying what was an otherwise perfect example of a Trekking, back when I first looked at the car, either. Even if some minor parts hadn't been renewed, they would be cheap to buy and hopefully easy to replace.
Having subsequently racked up a few thousand miles in the Panda, and with the odometer creeping up on 60,000 miles, I decided to freshen it up; aside from routine fluid checks, I’d change the plugs, the panel filter and the cabin filter. As well as granting peace of mind, doing so would mean I’d know what had gone into it and when – so there would be no question marks in the future.
First up was the air filter, which resides in a compartment within the engine cover. Removing the cover takes only a minute or two but you will need a tool that can release and refit the special clamp – called a Clic-R – that attaches the turbocharger's intake pipe to the air filter assembly in the cover. I use a Draper Clic and Clic-R clamp tool, part number 89791, which can be bought for around £15.
After you’ve taken the engine cover off, you can then unscrew the underlying filter housing and remove the old air filter. Mine wasn’t particularly filthy but, particularly given that the pictured Bosch S0378 filter cost just £8.59, it made sense to replace it while everything was apart.
Changing the spark plugs, all two of them, was similarly straightforward; the coil packs are only held in by one bolt and their connectors unclip easily, allowing you to quickly get the packs out of the way. You will need a long thin-walled spark plug socket to remove the plugs, though, as they sit in deep recesses in the TwinAir’s cylinder head. The Laser 3682 magnetic plug socket, yours for £14.99, does the job perfectly.
The plugs I took out appeared in good order, aside from some otherwise harmless corona stain around the base of each plug’s ceramic insulator. This cosmetic oddity is the result of oil and dirt particles, charged up by ionisation from the spark plug, adhering to the surface of the insulator.
I did notice that the plugs were Fiat Powertrain Technologies-branded NGKs, however, which made me idly wonder if they were original – in part because the last few services hadn’t been at a Fiat garage. Anyway, I duly replaced them with two NGK Laser Iridium ILKR9G8 plugs, which cost £22.80.
The cabin filter, on the other hand, transpired to be a royal pain to refresh. The housing for the filter element is to the left of the steering column, in the driver’s footwell, and a considerable degree of fiddling is required to get the cover off and the old filter out.
Annoyingly, the £13 UFI 54.248.00 charcoal filter I bought as a replacement was far stiffer than the filter I removed; to get it in required depressing the clutch pedal with one hand and then carefully squeezing the filter past the column and into the housing without tearing the new element apart in the process.
It’s one of those jobs that should take just a few minutes but, because of the poxy housing and poor access, it’ll take you far longer the first time around. The old filter I yanked out was fairly dirty, fortunately, so it wasn’t a wasted effort.
That aside, I was pleased to find the Fiat easy work on. As a result, if you own a Panda that's out of warranty – or if you're thinking about buying an older used example – I’d recommend investing in the few tools you might need to maintain it.
There’s a lot to be said for servicing a used car yourself, after all, if you’re so inclined and in a position to do so; you’ll know the exact parts and fluids used, for one thing, and you’ll also save some money in the process.
Facts at a glance
Model: 2016 Fiat Panda Trekking TwinAir
Engine: 875cc, two cylinders, turbocharged
0-62mph: 11.5 seconds
Top speed: 106mph
Fuel economy: 61.4mpg – achieving 44.4mpg (calculated)