Kerbsidemotors! guide to buying the Vauxhall Vectra.
This guide focuses on the older version of the Vauxhall Vectra
Vauxhalls Vectras are a great purchase for 2 main reasons. 1. The car its self is a spacious family car with engines from 1600 to 2600 petrol or 1700 to 2200 diesel and turbo diesel available in saloon, hatchback and estate. Being a modern car it has the now commonplace ABS, Airbags, seatbelt pretensioners. And 2. There are loads of them! Which means sensible prices, massive choice of sources from the coveted one owner pensioner-mobile to the intergalactic miled repmobile.
Anyway. Here are the common faults and things to watch out for and what ones to go for!
Noise from Timing belt area.
The 1800 and 2000 Ecotec engine's timing belt rollers are plastic coated. If neglected the plastic falls off and makes the timing belt do the same! Budget £2000 for broken timing belt repairs on these cars. Could also be the water pump. So if changing the timing belt get new rollers, a tensioner and a water pump. Best to remove all doubt in this area as this is this cars biggest weak spot. Later 1800 models (X18XE1 engines) can suffer the impeller falling off the water pump, causing a ticking noise and overheating in traffic. V6 engines (2500 and 2600) are more reliable in this area although replacing the timing belt is tricky as there are 3 seperate tensioners. Check the crankshaft outer pulley for seperating on the V6.
Ticking from front or rear of engine.
2 engines are susceptible to this, the earlier 1800 Ecotec and the 2500 V6. The 1800 water pipe take-off on the front of the cylinder head leaks when hot at high revs, this causes the exhaust manifold to blow on the O/S of the engine. Simple enough to change but be careful when unbolting the manifold as the studs are not the strongest. Give them a spray daily for about a week before doing this job if you don't want your mates to see you cry! The 2500 has a pipe round the back of the engine on the O/S feeding the EGR system from the exhaust. The pipe is convoluted like a drinks straw but tends to be a bit more fragile! You will need a 24mm crowsfoot socket to remove/refit it.
Not idling/idling erratically. Back to the Ecotec. The 1800 and 2000 idle air control has a solenoid that slides back and forth on a plastic coated rod. When oil enters the valve from the breather system the plastic falls off and the valve sticks. Vauxhall supply a condenser box to limit oil entering here for about a tenner but this won't fix the valve if its already sticking. If you are buying a new valve, save up and buy a genuine Vauxhall one. I have yet to find a reliable aftermarket valve! If you are going to get one from the scrapyard, get one off a mega high mileage one as the valve will have stayed cleaner being thrashed up and down the motorway all day. Or one off a 2 litre Vauxhall Omega. For some reason they do not go wrong as much. While the bonnet is up, get some thinners or similar and clean out the throttle body. Pay particular attention to where the butterfly rests. Also, take off the thin breather pipe round the back of the throttle body and clean it out too.
Later 1800 (X18XE1 & Z18XE) can suffer similar problems but this is easier to remedy. Simply remove the air intake and clean the throttle body out paying particular attention to the edge of the butterfly and where it rests in the housing.
Camshaft/Crank sensors. Yes, the Ecotec engines again! The sensors fail, when one fails, the other will not be far away. If it were my money, when one fails get the other replaced too.
Turbo no worky! The 2000 and 2200 diesels are bad for vacuum leaks. If the system is leaking the turbo wastegate will not have the power to open and your car will drive very slowly. Check all the pipes visually then check each vacuum operated device individually. Remember the heater controls and egr system are vacuum operated on these cars too.
Mass air flow sensor. If you have one of the above diesels and dont change the air filter when you should (About every 10,000 miles) or you like driving through big puddles you will burn out the mass air flow sensor which in turn can confuse the ECU and cause it to vacuum too much and cause the above fault!
Everything pretty reliable except the seal washers on the steering rack and the steering column coupling. Steering seal washers will leak ATF all over union at the steering rack. Costs about £1 to fix. If ignored it will leak all your fluid away and cause the pump to overheat. Not good, not £1 to fix. The steering column couplings begin to knock with higher mileage. Have a look under the dash, if the coupling is a big square thing it is the old type and these wear faster than designer trainers. The later type is a splined sliding thing which are far more reliable. They can be fitted to all models.
Given Vauxhalls reputation, the Vectra range has quite good brakes. Later 2 litre and above cars have massive front discs which can be pricey but are relatively hard wearing. The only real problem these cars have are the rear parking brake. On rear disc brake models the handbrake shoes can stick on. Unlike most other Vauxhalls the parking brake is very good on these so if it sticks on the car will drag the wheel until the linings fall off the shoes! The adjuster for the shoes sticks if not regularly adjusted too.
Quite good too. Basically a front wheel drive copy of the suspension used on the E36 and E46 BMWs. A grating noise can be heard when going over bumps slowly. Most people confuse this with worn strut top bearings but in actual fact it is the front wheel bearing. Later 1800 are bad for this. Rear upper and lower bushes usually wear out about the 80,000 mile mark leaving you with a clunk on rough ground. Jack the car up and shake the wheel top to bottom. If it moves the bushes have had it. They are tricky to remove without the special tool as they are not rubber. They are actual bearings. I would recommend buying the tool to change them if you have to. Motor factors who sell Laser tools sell one for about £10.
Dashboard displays segments disappear with age and the only way to fix it is to replace the unit. Dash bulbs tend to go all at the same time so if one is out change the lot. Later 1800 can whistle when cruising between 30 and 40mph. This is caused by the tube running through the inner wing on the drivers side to the charcoal filter under the wing. The tube is convoluted which is what causes the noise. Replace it with straight plain tube and the noise will disappear.
Don't be put off buying an ex-fleet car. They may have been thrashed and unloved but leasing companies always stick to the manufacturers service schedule and replace everything as it needs replaced. Besides being thrashed up and down the motorway for years keeps the injectors, throttle body, idle air control all free of carbon. These cars were built for the fleet market so they are genuinely hard wearing. The cheapest way to get a Vectra is to visit one of the car auctions disposing of large fleets.
Ex police cars being the best buys as these are serviced more frequently and are repaired before they need it! Ex CID cars have uprated suspension and brakes.
The only Vectras to avoid really are Ex-taxis. The bodywork will have been drilled for aerials, as will the dashboard. Every repair will have been done for as little as possible only when the car absolutely needed it. Not good. The engines don't like to be left idling for long periods so carbon will have built up on everything. Not good.
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