Alfa Romeo GT (Type 937: 2003-2010)

Used, red Alfa Romeo GT on OEM alloy wheels.

 

Reliability & common problems

This section covers the potential reliability issues that you might have with the Alfa Romeo GT. Click on the buttons below to read more about the typical problems that fall outside the scope of routine maintenance.

Fragile suspension

Watch out for suspension noises (knocking and squeaking) when buying an Alfa Romeo GT. The suspension is relatively fragile in this car and other Alfa Romeos from that era. When it’s worn out or out of alignment, the car likes to eat the tyres quickly (tyre wear on the inner edge).

The suspension in the Alfa Romeo GT will likely need refreshing every 50k miles or so. If you happen to drive on bad roads or use cheap suspension parts, take 50% off this number.

When buying an Alfa Romeo GT, take it for a test drive on some rough road and some speed bumps. Listen for any suspension noises. Also, check if the tyres are worn evenly.

Red paint & stone chips

The “Alfa Red” aka “Rosso Alfa” paint is noticeably weaker in terms of resistance to chipping than other colours.

This seems to affect all Alfa Romeo cars made a few years before 2010. The problem was noticed by Alfa Romeo as they’ve temporarily stopped selling red Mitos and Giuliettas in 2010. Many cars had body panels resprayed as part of the manufacturer’s warranty due to stone chips.

It looks like they’ve managed to improve their red paint after 2010.

The red paint problem is not limited to Alfa Romeo. Other manufacturers were also having problems with red paint around that time. I believe it had something to do with environmental restrictions on paint formulas.

By the way, this reminds me of the problems Mercedes-Benz had with corrosion and water-based paint in the late-1990s.

If you want to buy a red Alfa Romeo GT, inspect the paint more thoroughly than you normally would. If you find a lot of stone chips, try to negotiate a discount. The body parts that are affected the most are the wheel arches, the front bumper and the bonnet.

Selespeed transmission failure

The Selespeed transmission is an automated manual transmission, which means that the car has a manual transmission and a Selespeed robotic unit attached to it. The robot does the gear shifting for you, you lazy bastard.

You might have also heard about Fiat’s Dualogic transmission. Fiat’s Dualogic and Alfa Romeo’s Selespeed are pretty much the same thing.

Let me very briefly explain the basics of this transmission. The Selespeed robot is a complex hydraulic device, made up of solenoid valves, sensors and actuators. It is powered by a little hydraulic pump, and it has its own hydraulic fluid circuit.

The oil is pressurized by the pump and then stored in a hydraulic accumulator. The accumulator has a rubber diaphragm inside and compressed nitrogen gas behind the diaphragm. Therefore, there is compressed gas on one side of the diaphragm and hydraulic fluid on the other.

The diaphragm can deflect to store energy (oil pressure) because nitrogen gas is compressible, while the oil isn’t. This stored energy is then used to do the mechanical work – changing gears and operating the clutch, which is what the actuators do.

Because there is no torque converter, the Selespeed can be as efficient as a manual gearbox. However, it’s not as smooth as a traditional automatic transmission, and in my opinion, not as reliable.

The problem is that it is a relatively advanced piece of machinery and a failure of an individual component, like a £20 sensor or a £5 seal, means that you may have to replace the entire Selespeed unit, which is very expensive.

You may be able to replace an individual part that failed if you can find someone capable of doing it, but it will take some effort and time as there aren’t that many places that can fix Selespeed robots.

I am fairly confident that if you simply go to the dealership with a faulty Selespeed gearbox and the problem is not something obvious or easy to replace like an accumulator or a hydraulic pump, they will try to replace the entire unit for £2,000.

 

My recommendation is to avoid Selespeed transmissions when buying a used car. However, if you are still determined to buy one, here are the symptoms of Selespeed malfunction:

  • dropping into neutral on its own (this can happen at motorway speeds)

  • jerky gear changes

  • transmission warning messages on the dashboard

  • inability to select gears or missing gears

When the Selespeed transmission stops working, the first thing to check is the accumulator. Over time, the membrane inside can rupture and the accumulator will stop storing pressure. Even if the membrane is still fine and you don’t drive the car much, the nitrogen gas will eventually escape, just like air escapes from a seemingly airtight balloon.

It’s the same story as with the nitrogen spheres used in Citroën’s hydro-pneumatic suspension and Mercedes-Benz’ ABC. Because it could take a decade, the odds are that the membrane will fail before the gas disappears from the sphere.

Don’t worry about the accumulator though. It’s easy to replace. It’s just everything else that should worry you – the solenoids, the seals and sensors inside the Selespeed robotic unit.

V6 Busso (GTA) – timing belt replacement interval

According to the manufacturer, the timing belt in this engine needs to be replaced every 72,000 miles or 5 years, whichever comes first.

In my opinion, this is too optimistic as there have been cases of the timing belt breaking earlier than that. I recommend getting it replaced not later than 60,000 miles.

Better safe than sorry.

Twin Spark engines – sensitive to poor maintenance

The Twin Spark is a dual ignition engine, which means that there are two spark plugs per cylinder (8 in total). The idea behind it is that igniting the air/fuel mixture in two places makes it burn quicker, thus improving efficiency and emissions. The dual ignition was dropped in later Alfa Romeo engines, probably because its benefits were too small.

Fun fact: dual ignition is still commonly used in aircraft engines for redundancy (the entire ignition system is duplicated, not just the spark plugs).

The Twin Spark engines are sensitive to poor maintenance.

 

Crankshaft bearings

First of all, a low oil level will kill the crankshaft bearings very quickly in these engines. For this reason, the oil needs to be changed regularly and oil level checked religiously to make sure it’s not low. Many old Twin Spark engines consume more engine oil than an average car. This usually isn’t a problem as long as the oil level is maintained.

The oil level in a Twin Spark engine should be checked monthly if not weekly (seriously).

 

Timing belt

Second, the timing belt in these engines isn’t very strong. It is very important to replace it every 36,000 miles or every three years, whichever comes first. This has to be done without fail as these belts are known to snap without warning. The belt replacement interval was only revised to 36k miles after many engines suffered timing belt failure (initially, the interval was 72k miles).

Avoid engines that had the top end recently rebuilt after the timing belt had snapped. In this engine, a timing belt failure is sometimes followed by crankshaft bearings failure, which may get damaged when the valves hit the pistons when the timing belt breaks.

The bottom line is that these engines can be reliable as long as they are maintained well. Ideally, buy the car from an Alfa Romeo enthusiast.

Twin Spark engines – short-lived variators

All 16-valve Twin Spark engines (except the 105 PS 1.6L) are equipped with a device called the variator that adjusts the timing of the inlet camshaft (variable valve timing). The variator in the Twin Spark engine is not very durable and tends to wear out fairly quickly. A worn out variator makes the engine sound like a diesel.

Initially, the sound only appears after a cold start – before the oil gets pumped to the top of the engine. The clatter gradually gets more persistent. If your car sounds like a London taxi – get the variator replaced immediately.

The variator in the TS engines can fail as early as 40,000 miles. It makes sense to have it replaced with every timing belt job. The timing belt needs to be removed to replace the variator anyway.

2.0 JTS – injection system problems

The 2.0 JTS is Alfa Romeo’s first direct injection engine. JTS stands for “Jet Thrust Stoichiometric“. This engine is based on the 2.0 Twin Spark and shares the same problems plus a couple new ones.

 

Carbon build-up on the intake valves

The early JTS engines suffer from carbon build-up on the inlet valves, which doesn’t surprise me. It’s a common problem for many early direct injection petrol engines as the fuel is no longer injected into the intake manifold where it has a chance to wash away any carbon build-up from the intake valves.

In 2004, the 2.0 JTS was updated to reduce the build-up of carbon on the inlet valves (updated ECU and different intake camshaft). From late-2004, the 2.0 JTS became less susceptible to carbon build-up.

The main symptom of coked-up valves is reduced power at high RPM due to restricted airflow into the engine.

 

Worn-out injectors

Unlike fuel injectors in port-injected engines, the JTS injectors have a limited lifespan. The typical symptoms of injector problems are rough idle when the engine is cold and engine misfires. If not fixed, the injected fuel does not burn well and dilutes the engine oil, which accelerates the wear on the engine.

Just like the Twin Spark engine, the 2.0 JTS is very sensitive to regular oil changes. I’d like to stress that’s it’s even more important in the JTS because of the direct gasoline injection, which is inherently harder on the engine oil due to the higher degree of oil dilution.

So, if you’re planning to buy an Alfa Romeo GT with the 2.0 JTS engine, get a 2005 or newer model.

Better yet, don’t buy the 2.0 JTS.

A car with this engine that can end up as a money pit when you buy a bad one. Additionally, some owners had their 2.0 JTS engines tested on a rolling road and found that their cars produced about 145 PS instead of the quoted 165 PS.

Better get that sweet-sounding V6.

1.9 JTDm 16v – timing belt & water pump

According to the manufacturer, the timing belt in this engine needs to be replaced every 72,000 miles or 5 years, whichever comes first. In my opinion, this is too optimistic. I recommend getting it replaced not later than 60,000 miles.

The water pump must be replaced at the same time as the timing belt, otherwise, it can seize and cause the timing belt to snap. It’s actually the water pump that is the weak point in the timing belt drive and the first part to fail.

1.9 JTDm 16v – swirl flaps

From late-2005, the 1.9 JTDm 16-valve engines became fitted with swirl flaps in the intake manifold in order to improve emissions.

Two types of intake manifolds were used in the Alfa Romeo GT. Here’s a brief description of the manifolds and how they can fail:

From late-2006: plastic manifold with spot-welded, stainless steel swirl flaps

Failure mode: the main cause of flap failure is increased friction in the flap mechanism from the carbon build-up in the intake manifold. Carbon build-up is a byproduct of the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR), which is there to improve emissions.

The metal swirl flaps often keep working without any indication of a problem until the spot welds give up and a flap gets detached. It can then enter the engine causing severe damage. An ingested flap can take out valves, a piston, damage the cylinder walls and even the turbocharger.

 

Between late-2005 and late-2006: aluminium alloy manifold with plastic swirl flaps

Failure mode: the flap bearings can wear out from increased friction when the carbon build-up in the intake manifold becomes severe. Once the bearings are worn, they may develop an air leak, allowing the boost pressure to escape. Also, the flaps can simply get stuck before the bearings wear out. These plastic flaps are the lesser evil as they don’t break off.

 

On one hand, the metal swirl flaps are stronger and can handle a bit more carbon build-up, on the other hand, they will make you cry if they fail. For this reason, I don’t recommend buying a 2006+ Alfa Romeo GT JTD, unless you are planning to do something about the swirl flaps.

If you already have one of these cars or you are planning to buy one, I think that it’s important to establish the condition of the flaps in your engine. Unfortunately, it’s quite a big job to get to them, but you can do it when replacing the timing belt to save some money.

Once the intake manifold is removed from the car, you will have three options:

  • Clean the intake manifold and put it back on the car if the flaps are in good condition. You will be surprised how dirty they get.

  • Replace the intake manifold with a new one if the flaps don’t look so good. This is a safer option than just cleaning the manifold, albeit a more expensive one.

  • Get rid of the flaps and plug the holes left in the manifold. You can buy a swirl flap delete kit or get the holes welded up as the swirl flap housing is made out of aluminium. This is a permanent fix, albeit an illegal one in most countries. The swirl flaps are not essential for the engine to run – they are there to improve emissions and removing them has virtually no impact on engine performance.

As for the plastic swirl flaps in 2005-2006 cars, they rarely fall off. They can, however, get stuck or develop air leaks.

Stuck or leaking swirl flaps manifest as:

  • Rough engine running

  • Reduced fuel economy

  • Reduced power

  • The “Check engine” light may turn on as well

Just like with the metal ones, a new intake manifold is required to fix broken swirl flaps, however, swirl flap removal kits also exist.

Summary or problems & additional information

  • As this is an Alfa Romeo, I must address the main question. Is the Alfa Romeo GT reliable? Actually, it can be reliable apart from the fragile suspension and not-so-great 4-cylinder, petrol engines. Keep in mind that Alfa Romeo cars are performance oriented and not as robust and forgiving as Japanese cars when it comes to poor maintenance.

  • I don’t recommend buying a used Alfa Romeo GT with the Selespeed transmission. It’s not something you want to own outside of warranty.

  • The Alfa Romeo GT is based on the 156 model, just like the 147 model. Despite the different looks, both the 147 and the GT are very similar cars.

  • The “Alfa Red” aka “Rosso Alfa” paint is the weakest colour in terms of resistance to stone chips. The difference from other colours is noticeable, especially if you do a lot of motorway driving.

  • All engines in the Alfa Romeo GT have timing belts. I think that the original timing belt replacement intervals are too optimistic. Follow this link to learn more about cambelts and why it’s important to replace them on time.

  • If you’d like to buy an Alfa Romeo GT with a Twin Spark engine, find one with a documented service history. The Twin Spark engine is a delicate flower – it needs correct maintenance to last. I think that the V6 is a better choice.

  • The 2.0 JTS is Alfa Romeo’s first direct injection engine. It is based on the 2.0 Twin Spark and shares the same problems plus a couple new ones. Again, the V6 is a much better choice.

  • The V6 “Busso” doesn’t have any major flaws. Great sound too. Just watch the oil consumption. The factory spec oil is fairly thick because this engine has its origins in the 1970s, so it’s not a “modern” design. The 3.2L may use more oil than it’s smaller siblings due to smaller oil control rings.

  • The Alfa Romeo GT is one of the last Alfa Romeo cars that you can buy with the famous “Busso” engine. The production of this V6 unit ended in 2005. The designer of this engine, Giuseppe Busso, died three days after the production stopped.

  • Fiat’s JTDm engines are great but have one significant flaw. From late-2005, they were fitted with swirl flaps in the intake manifold. Initially, the intake manifolds were metal with plastic flaps inside (the safer kind). From late-2006, the intake manifolds became plastic with stainless steel flaps inside. These may break off and wreck your engine.

  • The Alfa Romeo GT JTDm cars sold in the UK did not have diesel particulate filters (DPF). However, the DPF was initially optional and became mandatory from 2007 in some markets. If you’d like to know if a particular car has a DPF, you should decode the vehicle identification number (VIN) to find out.

  • Follow this link for an article that might help you decide if a modern diesel engine, like the JTDm, is the right choice for you.

 

Alfa Romeo GT specifications

This section contains Alfa Romeo GT specifications. You will also find technical information regarding the engines used in these cars. Press the buttons below to display the specs and engine technical details.

Petrol engines – specs & performance figures

ModelDisplacementPowerTorqueComments
1.8 Twin Spark 16v1747 cm³ / 106.6 cu in140 PS / 103 kW163 Nm / 120 lbf⋅ft
2.0 JTS 16v1970 cm³ / 120.2 cu in165 PS / 121 kW206 Nm / 152 lbf⋅ft
3.2 V6 24v3179 cm³ / 194 cu in240 PS / 177 kW300 Nm / 221 lbf⋅ftUntil 2007

Diesel engines – specs & performance figures

ModelDisplacementPowerTorqueComments
1.9 JTDm 16v1910 cm³ / 116.6 cu in150 PS / 110 kW305 Nm / 225 lbf⋅ft
1.9 JTDm 16v Q21910 cm³ / 116.6 cu in170 PS / 125 kW330 Nm / 243 lbf⋅ftFrom 2007

Petrol engines – technical details

EngineEngine config.Forced inductionValve timingFuel deliveryDMFInlet flaps
Legend:DOHC - Double Overhead Camshaft
VVT - Variable Valve Timing
EFI - Electronic Fuel Injection
JTS - "Jet Stoichiometric Thrust"
DMF - Dual-mass Flywheel (does not apply to auto. transmissions with torque converters)
VLIM - Variable Length Intake Manifold
1.8 Twin SparkInline-4, 16 valvesNoTiming belt, DOHC, VVTPort injection (EFI)YesVLIM
2.0 JTSInline-4, 16 valvesNoTiming belt, DOHC, VVTDirect injection (JTS)YesVLIM
3.2 V6 24v "Busso"V6, 24 valvesNoTiming belt, DOHCPort injection (EFI)YesNo

Diesel engines – technical details

EngineEngine config.Forced inductionValve timingInjection systemDMFDPFSwirl flaps
Legend:DOHC - Double Overhead Camshaft
DPF - Diesel Particulate Filter
DMF - Dual-mass Flywheel (does not apply to auto. transmissions with torque converters)
1.9 JTD M-Jet 16vInline-4, 16 valvesTurboTiming belt, DOHCCommon Rail (2nd gen, "MultiJet")YesOptionalFrom mid-2005

 

Alfa Romeo GT wheel sizes

Press the button below to see the original equipment manufactuer (OEM) rim & tyres sizes for the Alfa Romeo GT. These are the original wheel sizes that were fitted by the manufacturer.

TyresRims Centre BoreBolt PatternComments
205/55 R167Jx16 ET3558.1 mm5x98
215/45 R177JX17 ET3558.1 mm5x98
225/45 R177.5JX17 ET3558.1 mm5x98for 3.2 V6 24v
225/40 R188Jx18 ET3258.1 mm5x98fits all GT models

 

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