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Asinity 07-30-2013 08:28 AM

Looking to buy an Astra
Hey everyone, been a long time since I've been on here.

My previous car died and wasn't worth fixing so I'm shopping around and found an Astra that I am quite impressed with. Its a 2008 XE, 5 door automatic with 130000km. I've driven the car and really enjoy it quite a bit and am almost sold on it. When inspecting the car though I did notice the transmission fluid is a brownish colour - my understanding is auto fluid is supposed to be red, but I can't help but wonder if its actually supposed to be this colour? There isn't a burnt smell or anything to it and it shifts fairly smooth.

Also is there anything else I should look at/take into consideration while I'm looking at the car?

Thanks for any input!

Asinity 07-31-2013 10:25 PM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
Surprised nobody had anything to say.

I've had a frustrating week of shopping and have narrowed it down between the Astra and a Malibu on a lot down the street. Fully understanding these are two different classes of car, my wife loves the Astra and after reading up some more on it I have come to understand some of the concerns I had, for example I had no idea the transmission goes into neutral while stopped, and I thought there was something screwy as far as the acceleration lag when starting from a full stop.

I also looked into the fluid a little bit and apparently the Type I-V fluid commonly turns brown within a short period of a change; black fluid is the concern. Read this online, and my transmission mechanic confirmed.

All that said, we all love the panoramic roof, it's got enough space for my daughter in the back, and while the lack of armrests/cupholders up front is mildly irritating, it's not a deal breaker. The car is fun to throw around corners and is a great city car, yet very comfortable on the highway as well where most of my driving is done.

On the flip-side, I really like the Malibu that's priced very close to the Astra. It's also a 2008, 2.4L loaded with every toy, and has 105000km on it. It would make a great highway cruiser.

The Astra has been well maintained (I assume I'll be needing to do the timing belt service as the car was sold pretty much right when it was due for it) and the underside was undercoated; not a spot of rust anywhere on the car. The Malibu also seems to have been taken care of mechanically, however rust is starting to form in various spots.

I am completely torn at this point what direction I really want, I think I'd be happy with either car for a number of years, but the only thing holding me back on the Astra is hearing rumblings online of coolant leaks into the transmissions, coilpacks and knowing that i should probably have the belt changed which will add $1000 to the car.

Is it really that common for these cars to have their transmissions fail? Some sites really spread the fear.

smwalker 07-31-2013 11:12 PM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
[QUOTE]but the only thing holding me back on the Astra is hearing rumblings online of coolant leaks into the transmissions,...Is it really that common for these cars to have their transmissions fail? Some sites really spread the fear.[/QUOTE]

Remember we only got it for 2 years and the problem with the trans was discovered part way through the production run of the first year. Most have already been repaired by now I would guess. The UK guys got many more years with the problem before it was discovered so they are rightly pissed that their trans were failing big time.

So if the one you buy falls into the VIN cutoffs for the radiator problem definitely have it checked out to make sure it got the updated radiator (should show on the dealers records as a recall fix). If it does not fall into those VIN cutoffs then it got the good radiator and your trans should be safe from that problem. It is however subject to many other things that can kill off an automatic transmission, but we all take that risk.

And tell the seller you have to do the Timing belt soon so take 1k off the price, make it a negotiation point. Add up all the other maintenance that is due as well that they cannot prove was done and get it for a good deal!

Either car sounds like it will be a good fit though.

Good Luck!

Asinity 07-31-2013 11:35 PM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
Thanks. I assume local GM dealers would be able to tell me if this Astra has had the work done? Was that the only real concern for these transmissions other than the usual wear and tear issues?

They say they are a no haggle dealer so they won't budge on the price, however they do have a service dept so I'm likely going to ask if they could do it for me, or even go splits on the cost. Outside that it really is a solid little car.

Any other things to watch for with these cars?

smwalker 08-01-2013 12:09 AM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
[QUOTE=Asinity;1998134]Thanks. I assume local GM dealers would be able to tell me if this Astra has had the work done? [/QUOTE]

Yes they can. or email the VIN number to this guy and he can send you a GMVIS report: [email][/email]

[QUOTE]Was that the only real concern for these transmissions other than the usual wear and tear issues?[/QUOTE]

For the Autos yes. Try to get them to change the fluid for you as well.

[QUOTE]Any other things to watch for with these cars?[/QUOTE]

Spark Plugs are not 100K mile interval like other GM products. every 30K. Have them put in a fresh batch for you. That is what will save your coil from burning out.

Asinity 08-06-2013 04:40 PM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
The following is the only posts on the GMVIS;

Looks like it was built later in the MY2008, so I might be in the clear for the radiator issue? I asked my local dealership and they really had no info or couldn't give me an answer about it so I'm at a loss at this point.

Thanks for the help smwalker.

Transaction History
View Details

Job Card Date
Job Card Number
Transaction Type
Transaction Adjustment
Labour Operation
Odometer Reading

ZSCT----Service Contracts
E0722 - Tire Pressure Indicator Sensor Replacement
92,839 KM

ZREG----Regular Vehicle Transaction
Z8028 - Roadside Service (Light Service) - Canada
92,000 KM

ZSCT----Service Contracts
J6372 - Heated Oxygen Sensor Replacement - Sensor 1
90,104 KM

ZREG----Regular Vehicle Transaction
J6354 - Powertrain Control Module Engine Reprogramming with SPS
53,712 KM

ZREG----Regular Vehicle Transaction
L1020 - Fuel Tank Filler Cap Replacement
53,712 KM

ZREG----Regular Vehicle Transaction
N6607 - Cooling System Wiring and/or Connector Repair or Replacement
44,445 KM

ZREG----Regular Vehicle Transaction
J6368 - Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor Replacement
39,537 KM

ZREG----Regular Vehicle Transaction
E2321 - Bearing And Hub Assembly, Front Wheel - Left - Replace
39,157 KM

ZFAT----Field Action Recall
V2029 - 08335 Reprogram ECM and TCM and Replace TCM if Required
11,069 KM

ZPDI----Pre-Delivery Inspection
Z7000 - Pre-Delivery Inspection - Base Time
0 KM

Vehicle Information

VIN: W08AR671785119036
Model: ZAR48-2008 ASTRA XE

Service Contract: Yes
Branded Title: No
Warranty Block: No
PDI Status: No

Order Type: 70 - RETAIL - STOCK

Field Actions: 0 Open

Vehicle Build

Model: ZAR48-2008 ASTRA XE
Order Number: K21582

Gross Vehicle Weight: 0
Build Date: 06/09/2008

Build Plant: 5

smwalker 08-06-2013 07:25 PM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
Here is the text from the recall:
" Retailers are to inspect and, if necessary, replace the radiator.
Vehicles Involved: Involved are certain 2008 model year Saturn ASTRA vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission (RPO MNF) and built within these VIN breakpoints: 85000056 - 85042013"

So yours at 85119036 is well out side that. good to go. Have you asked them to perform some of the services? Don't buy that no hassle stuff, tell them you want a hassle with a side of haggiling Tell them to leave the no hassiling to the ladies, men got to wheel and deal to feel good about a purchase!

Asinity 08-06-2013 08:02 PM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
I left them on the hook for all of last week, letting them know I'm interested, but they need to do something for me.

They took $1000 off the price, doing a transmission drain and fill, and new rotors and pads at every corner. As well as fixing up a small tear in the rear seat and some other minor blemishes that won't take them much to fix up.

I'll be doing the plugs myself when I receive the vehicle, and am looking at getting the timing belt/tensioner/water pump done at my mechanic in the next couple of weeks. Aside from that, everything looks pretty good to me and I'm pleased that I was able to get them to budge.

I pick it up Thursday night, really looking forward to getting into a Saturn again, especially an Astra. I'm looking forward to many years of service and miles out of this car... no doubt it's still quite early to tell, but it sounds like these engines/transmissions can get quite a few miles on them when cared for.

Haps 08-06-2013 10:01 PM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
[QUOTE=Asinity;1999469]I pick it up Thursday night, really looking forward to getting into a Saturn again[/QUOTE]

Then you'll be quite disappointed... Won't remind you of Saturn at all.

Asinity 08-07-2013 12:02 AM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
[QUOTE=Haps;1999487]Then you'll be quite disappointed... Won't remind you of Saturn at all.[/QUOTE]

You're quite right, it doesn't remind me at all of my SC or ION of years past, what with the nicer fit and finish of the whole car, and it simply drives better. I suppose the similarities end at the Saturn badges.

End of the day, I don't think I'll be disappointed at all - unless the whole car spontaneously combusts, of course.

Asinity 08-15-2013 10:00 PM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
So I've had the Astra for a week now, and am quite pleased with the purchase. I've put on 400km's, and just topped up the tank tonight with a modest 34L of regular at a price of $43... that's a far cry better than the 50L of premium fuel my GTP would have swallowed to the tune of $70... can't complain with a fuel savings like that!

Tonight I checked my fluids and was irritated to find that they seem to have overfilled the engine oil and transmission fluid when they did the service before I picked it up. I'll be dealing with that myself rather than having them work on it again; can't say I trust a service department who can't verify their own work. When I pull the drain plug on the transmission, should I expect about half of the 4.2L capacity to come out? I'll be using Mobil 3309.

When I deal with that issue, I think I will also do the plugs while I'm under the hood, local stores only seem to carry the gimmicky plugs that I don't care to spend the money on. I also don't want to get ripped off for OEM's, but it's hard to get part numbers for anything in the local stores. Which aftermarket plugs work well and are reasonably priced? I'd like to stick with copper plugs and just change them at their planned interval.

Got some quotes for the timing belt job and it's not a cheap job, local dealer quoted over $1000 for it, the shop I usually go to quoted me $850. Better safe than sorry with this though so I'll be getting it done soon.

smwalker 08-15-2013 11:49 PM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
[QUOTE]When I pull the drain plug on the transmission, should I expect about half of the 4.2L capacity to come out?[/QUOTE]

No you should get close to 4 Liters if you drain it. 4.2 Liters is the drain and fill capacity. total capacity is close to 8L like 7.6 if I remember correctly. Are you checking it when it is Hot and engine running? That is the most accurate way to check it. Mine fluctuated pretty wildly when cold and idling for a long time.

Asinity 08-16-2013 10:18 PM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
Thanks smwalker, you've been a great help.

I checked the GM dealer beside my work and they gave me a price of $20 per ACDelco spark plug... umm... no thanks.

I've been trying to get information on NGK plugs, I don't want anything fancy, I just want something that will work sans gimmicks, something comparable to OEM is fine as long as it's not $20 a shot. Any suggestions?

NGK's US website lists just one, IFR6W-7G which is a Laser Iridium plug. NGK Canada lists ZFR5F V-Power, ZFR5FGP G-Power, ZFR5FIX-11 Iridium, and PZFR5F Laser Iridium. I don't understand the inconsistencies and I don't see a point in going to an iridium or even platinum plug, my understanding is the OEM plug is copper, so I'd like to stick with that.

I should have pushed a little harder to get some more out of them, but overall I'm happy with what I got for the price.

Astra La Vista! 08-16-2013 10:40 PM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
For regular coppers, try NGK 7558. <$5 per plug.

I wrote up an in-depth [URL=""]how-to[/URL] regarding the timing belt replacement procedure on our cars. If you're going to get a shop to do it, you might want them to read up on it first. They will need to fabricate a special "tool" to lock the camshafts in place when replacing the belt, which can be easily crafted from some 3/16" steel bar stock.

Asinity 08-16-2013 10:46 PM

Re: Looking to buy an Astra
Thanks! 7558 I guess is the ZFR5F that noone around here can seem to get. I'll use that number next time I'm trying to get then. You've had good results with yours?

I liked your write up on the timing belt and in all honesty it made me want to try it myself, but I know I wouldn't be comfortable doing it, I'd likely end up being too scared to fire it up... lol.

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