Radio illumination

With the possibility of LEDs everyhere, even in all the switches, the radio cannot be left out. The buttons have LED illumination orginally, as well as the red theft deterrent warning light but the display background is provided by tungsten bulbs. But even with the LEDs, they are of a yellowish-greenish tint and rather dim, as technology two decades ago allowed. Besides, if you have part of your illumination burnt out, you'll need to repair it, anyway. So, let's see how it can be done.

Multiplex network

Circuit layouts already universally adopted in computers finally made their way into contemporary cars. Although their functioning might be frighteningly complex for people used to traditional circuits, they actually make the cabling very simple and the addition of component interactions possible in ways never experienced before.

Conventionally, cars used individual wires connecting the various elements—steadily increasing in number—on board. The huge amount of wires, connectors, wiring harnesses were a constant source of connection problems. The various circuits were largely independent (sharing only the feed and the ground), although some components had to interact (for instance, fog lights should work only when the headlights are switched on), necessitating connections between the various components (usually using some kind of a switching logic, relays for simpler tasks and small electronic modules for more complicated ones).

As various subsystems (engine management, suspension, ABS, etc.) came from different manufacturers, some functions were even built in parallel. Several subsystems might rely on the signal sent by a coolant temperature or a vehicle speed sensor but it was simpler for the manufacturers to fit two or three such sensors into various places, using every one of them only by their respective subsystem, than to find ways to share the sensors, introducing interconnecting wires and the danger of one failing subsystem to influence the others.

The multiplex wiring first seen on late XMs and later used on newer models like the Xsara Picasso or the C5 introduces a radically different concept: just like in the computer used to read this book, there is a central backbone circuit called bus which goes around the whole car—actually, there are four of them, a Controller Area Network (CAN) and three Vehicle Area Networks (VANs), dealing with different areas: the CAN is only responsible for the connection between the central unit and the engine, gearbox and suspension computers, the VANs for the rest of the systems: the first serves the safety systems like the airbag, the second the various doors (including the sunroof) and the anti-theft system, the third everything else: the instrumentation and the comfort gadgets.

Using a Multimeter

A rather simple, basic multimeter is enough to check and troubleshoot the electrical parts of the car. Such multimeters can be purchased at hardware or electronics stores. The picture shows a genuine noname multimeter although I saw the very same unit under many brand names and disguises. Noname meters may not be safe if used to measure higher voltages but in the 12 V network of the car there are hardly other risks than blowing some fuses.

Anti-lock Braking System

Models with higher performance level came fitted with ABS.

The principle of operation is the same as on cars with conventional braking systems but the layout is much simpler as all we need to control the operating pressure of the brakes are a few electro-valves.


DIRAVI Steering

Another gem of engineering, the DIRAVI steering, made its debut on the SM, excelled in many CXs and the flagship, V6 XMs (left hand only, the small amount sold in the UK never justified the expenses of the conversion to RHD).

The DIRAVI (Direction Rappel Asservi, Steering with Limiting Counterforce) steering is as unique as the hydropneumatic suspension—it was never used by any other manufacturer, although its excellence over conventional power assisted systems speaks for itself.

As usual, it has some quirks confusing the average driver during their first meeting. First of all, it is geared very high: it only took two turns of the steering wheel from lock to lock (one turn for each side) to steer on the SM. Later models, the CX and the XM retained this feature although the number of turns was larger (2.5 and 3.3). The gear ratio could have been much higher, the engineers themselves insisted on a single turn lock to lock for the SM (which would, interestingly, void the need for a circular steering wheel completely). The final solution was a compromise to reduce the initial strangeness of the steering for the drivers already accustomed to traditional systems.

Certainly, making the gearing so high is not a complicated feat in itself but a conventional (even power assisted) system with such rapid a response would be unusable. As the car obviously has to have a similar turning circle as other cars, too responsive a steering would mean that even the slightest movement of the steering wheel would induce excessive deviation of the car from the straight line. To avoid this, it uses an opposing force, increasing with the vehicle speed. With this setup, in spite of the very high gearing, it is very easy to use it during parking, yet it offers exceptional stability at high speeds: it actually runs like a train on its rails, requiring a sensible amount of force on the steering wheel to deviate it from the straight line. And an additional feature: the steering wheel (and the roadwheels, naturally) center themselves even if the car is stationary.

Power Assisted Steering

The PAS steering (DIRASS, Direction Assistée) used on Citroëns is not radically different from similar systems on other cars. Naturally, having a high pressure hydraulic system at disposal influences the layout.

The fluid requirements of the various hydraulics subsystems differ significantly: while the brakes require only a very little amount of LHM and the suspension somewhat more, the power steering cannot work without large amounts of mineral fluid provided at a moment’s notice. A flow distributor built into the first hydraulic circuit—that of the hydraulic pump, the main accumulator and the pressure regulator—controls the hydraulic pressure between the steering circuit and the suspension-brake circuits on PAS cars.

The rest is rather simple. A hydraulic ram cylinder is mounted on the rack of a traditional rack-and-pinion steering gear unit. The pressure of the hydraulic fluid supplied to assist the driver in turning the steering wheel is controlled by the flow distributor and a control valve. The flow distributor has the following components:

Hydractive Summary

Although every aspect of the functioning of the Hydractive systems was described in the previous chapters, considering the number or factors influencing the suspension and the amount of rules and decisions made by the computer, it is not easy to grasp the actual behavior of the car, including the differences in the various Hydractive generations. To make it easier, we summarize how the various Hydractive systems work in real life.

Anti-sink system

Many contemporary Citroëns—including both regular hydropneumatic and Hydractive Xantiae and XMs—have an anti-sink system (SC/MAC) fitted, to keep the car from lowering when not used. The system does not interfere with the normal functioning while in use. It attempts to minimize leaks inside the system by having only one element that can leak, the anti-sink valve itself.

The introduction of this anti-sink valve coincided with the appearance 6+2 piston high pressure pump. As the suspension is fed from the smaller, two-piston side of the pump, pumping the car up from the low position would require a lot of time (although its performance is perfectly sufficient for the normal operation once the car is already running).

To avoid this scenario, the anti-sink valves fitted for each axle between the height corrector system and the suspension struts (or the hydraulic control block on Hydractive systems) keeps the car body from lowering when the engine is switched off. The valves operate on the pressure differences in the system, without any electrical control: when there is significant pressure in their control circuit, they keep their work circuit constantly open.

Hydractive 2

The second incarnation of the hydractive suspension appeared at February 1, 1993 (ORGA 5929). It was designed to overcome the biggest problem of the previous system, the very uncomfortable hard mode.

Switching to Sport does not mean sticking to a hard, uncomfortable ride any more. On the Hydractive II, the relation between suspension modes and dashboard switch settings became more complicated: in both settings—Normal (the new name of Comfort) and Sport—the computer can switch to both hard and soft mode as it finds it necessary, however, when set to Sport, the suspension becomes more sensitive and will sooner and more often switch to the hard mode.

Many models were also fitted with an anti-sink system that locks the system when the car is not running, using yet another sphere. Its only purpose is to keep the car from sinking when not used, it does not influence the functioning of the suspension system in any way.