Buying a used…Renault Master

Date: Monday, November 5, 2012

Steve Banner highlights the potential pitfalls to look out for when scouring the market for a front-wheel drive, pre-2010 Renault Master, and how much you should pay for one at auction.
Unlike today’s offering, the old-style pre-2010 Renault Master was front-wheel drive only – the latest model can be specified with rear-wheel drive – and was not available at gross weights above 3.5 tonnes. It also boasted less cargo space. Whereas the new Master goes up to 17.0m3, its immediate ancestor could muster no more than 13.9m3 in a line-up that began at 8.0m3. With gross weights starting at 2.8 tonnes, payload capabilities ran from just over a tonne to upwards of 1.6 tonnes.
Power came courtesy of a 2.5-litre diesel available at 100hp, 120hp and 150hp and married to a six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed automated manual was on offer, too, under the Quickshift6 banner, which, while easy enough to use, disliked being rushed. By the time it disappeared from the Renault line-up, the old Master had become something of an also-ran.
In a 2008 road test, What Van? said: “Renault’s Master offers respectable performance, handles well and comes with a roomy cab and a practical cargo area, although on the downside the ride can be choppy at times and noise levels could stand to be better suppressed.
“While vision ahead and to each side is good and there’s ample head and shoulder room, the cab interior…could really do with restyling.
 “Our view of Master is that… simple competence is not enough in today’s hotly fought market. It really needs a radical revamp.”
But could the old Master nevertheless represent a sensible used buy for an operator on a budget?

If you are tempted by one, the first thing to do is check that the side cargo door (or doors) slides back and forth easily and locks into position correctly. That’s the advice proffered by website Used Van Expert. If the door moves awkwardly then the runners and rollers will probably need replacing as they are relatively weak, it says. Press the vendor for a £70 to £200 discount per affected door, it advises.
Road-test the van and drive it over some rough surfaces or speed bumps. As you do so, listen for a knocking noise emanating from the front suspension, says Used Van Expert. Odds are that a bush or ball joint needs replacing, it advises, adding that it is worth noting that ball joints are unlikely to wear out before a Master has clocked up 60,000 miles. Push the seller for a £50 to £200 cut in the asking price suggests the site.
The clutch pedal on Masters of this vintage can sometimes feel heavy, according to owners, and occasionally refuses to return properly when changing gear, flopping uselessly to the floor instead. If that is the case with the vehicle you are sampling, then a worn-out slave cylinder may be the culprit and will have to be replaced.
Old-style Masters can also suffer from starting problems and the engine may cut out unexpectedly while you are under way. It may be that a new set of injectors is needed, while a flat refusal to fire up could mean that a new ECU is required, so budget for a £250 to £350 bill.

How much second-hand?

Auctioneer Manheim recently disposed of a 120hp LM35D – LWB medium-roof 3.5-tonner – dating back to 2008 on a 58-plate and with 57,818 miles recorded for £6100. Big mileages can make a big difference to the price. With a hefty 195,447 miles to its name, a 120hp LH35D – H denotes a high roof – on a 57-plate and going back to 2007 was sold for just £2500. A 120hp 3.5-tonner with a 14ft alloy Luton body, 2009 on a 58-plate, was knocked down for £14,450 – it had done just under 8000 miles, a remarkably low total – Manheim reports.

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