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Old 08-22-2019, 11:27 AM   #1
spitoon
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Default Seeking advice

Great forums, thanks in advance for any advice.

I've spent a significant amount of time just browsing around, but it's time to reach out for help.

My daughter purchased a 2008 Astra hatchback (1.8L) about 3 years ago. About a year after she bought it, it started showing a camshaft sensor code and suffered from occasional weak acceleration. Those were easy to replace, but it didn't solve the problem. Since then we have been chasing problems/codes and while it has been better at times, it is currently very bad. Stalling randomly, running rough, poor starting, etc.

Here is the list of things I have done in the past 18 months or so:
- replaced 2 camshaft sensors (based on check engine code)
- replaced 2 VCT solenoids
- replaced 1 crankshaft sensor (based on check engine code)
- replaced both intake and exhaust camshaft phasers, timing belt, serpentine belt, and water pump
- replaced spark plugs and ignition coil
- replaced MAF sensor (this code showed up after doing the cam phaser work).

It was this past spring when I replaced the camshaft-phasers based on the fact that it was starting rough, lacking power, and sounding like a diesel at times. That improved things somewhat, but shortly after that I replaced the ignition coil and that helped the most of anything we have done (according to my daughter, who drives it every day).

This 'fix' seems to have worked for a few months but once again it is as bad as ever. It's just become unreliable to drive, and I worry about her safety (obviously).

The most recent code is again the crankshaft sensor. That part is probably around 18 months old (maybe 20,000miles). It's barely running these days and occasionally throws more codes including the main one P0017 (crankshaft sensor-related), and also P0365 (camshaft sensor-related), P0335 (crankshaft sensor-related), and C1555 (chassis error code 1-fuel air, 5-fuel composition sensor circuit, 5-cylinder 1 injector circuit low, 5-crankshaft sensor malfunction).

I feel like we are just chasing problems at this point...does it make sense to change the crankshaft sensor again? Are these other codes just a result of the engine running rough and/or quitting, and would be ironed out by fixing whatever the 'main issue' is? Could it be the main computer? I've read that changing the computer is difficult due to programming etc? Clearly I'm not afraid of the work...the camshaft-phasers were a great deal of work, but what about the programming? I assume this has to be done at the dealer.

My wife is pushing for my daughter to buy a new car...I just don't really want her to get into a loan situation at her young age and, this may be obvious, but when it runs well, it's a nice little car to drive. Unfortunately, the unreliability at this point is stressing me out.

Thanks again!

Last edited by spitoon; 08-22-2019 at 11:27 AM.. Reason: added info

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Old 08-22-2019, 03:19 PM   #2
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Default Re: Seeking advice

I agree, you may be chasing problems and not finding whatever's causing all the error codes. I tend to ask basic questions so an online perspective is made for anyone looking in, interested/further puzzled, to offer possible advice or solutions. What's mileage, maintenance done, parts replaced in addition to what's already mentioned? What's cold engine rpm? Warm idle rpm? What's engine temperature (needle position or actual numbers from a reader capable of displaying data)?

Mileage can suggest age related wear not considered in normal maintenance; fuel pump, fuel filter, catalytic converter, maf, map, xmission, etc.

With several parts replaced with some improvement, perhaps some diagnostics may help. What's fuel pressure? Borrow a gauge from Autozone or other store allowing loaners.

The best you can do for yourself is being informed especially as a diyer. Subscribe to alldata or Mitchell online for service manuals.

Personally, crankshaft sensors are all or nothing because they do only one thing - generate precise timing signals, known as pulse trains, to allow the engine computer (ECM or PCM) to operate the entire EFI system. It's providing the electronic heartbeat for the ecm to run otherwise a dead or intermittent sensor (when it fails intermittently) simply kills the engine - no fuel pump, no spark, no injector pulses. The crank sensor isn't the problem.

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Old 08-22-2019, 04:53 PM   #3
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Default Re: Seeking advice

Sorry to hear your daughter is having these car issues. The stalling randomly is dangerous. The tough to start and rough running may be related clues.

Maybe impossible to diagnose from the internet but the Astra has a few dozen rather common problems. The engine is very sensitive to proper voltage, proper fuel pressure, temperature, etc. A few ideas to get you started.

*With all those codes and issues, I would start looking at the battery and condition of the major power connections. Low voltage would trigger lots of codes, poor starting and poor running, so this is my first step. Low voltage will fluctuate and impact only some of the systems some of the time so is tricky.

-- Batteries typically last 3-5 years so that is suspect. Get the battery load tested at an Interstate battery etc.

- Get the alternator tested also as it is getting long in the tooth (also for the auto transmission cars, GM revised the alternator pulley from the lousy stamped steel to a fancy clutch pulley which would reduce strain on the alternator).

-- You should also do a voltage drop test to find corrosion/contact issues at battery, at IEC, at alternator, at starter, at major grounds. I posted some links on voltage drop testing to get you started.

--Clean the battery contacts and clamps regardless. Clean alternator, starter, ground terminals all over the place. Try voltage drop test after cleaning. I also posted where some of the main grounds are located. The grounds on these cars corrode too easily so if car was in salty or wet environment this may be an issue.

* Check all the wiring related to the cam sensors/solenoids and the camshaft sensor. Some of those plugs are delicate so remove, clean, reattach solidly. Check the wiring for damage. Not popular problems but a few people here have broken the clips and I found a wire wearing out that needed to be repaired. I think GM recommended in a service note to remove the orange filters for the cam actuators but don't remember the details. Search here for more details.

* Check for vacuum leaks with smoke. The PCV valve tends to fail as does the valve cover gasket. You can't really replace the PCV valve so I bought a kit with valve cover, integrated PCV valve and gasket for $60. You can search my recent posts for tips on identifying these leaks and the easy replacement.

* The underhood IEC box is near the battery. That tends to get wet somehow and throw lots of codes although the most popular relates to throttle position. Worth looking at regardless. There are post here on how to remove the main board, inspect dry and properly replace. Very easy.

* Astra is very sensitive to dirty throttle body. On a cool morning you can clean that without removing from engine. Just have someone depress the accelerator to open the butterfly. Don't move butterfly from under hood. Caution - butterfly can cut your fingers off.

* If you have an oiled air filter replace with dry air filter; the oiled filters tend to foul the MAF on the Astra.

* I have seen a few UK and US owners replace computer modules. That is rare.

What is mileage of car and what states has it been driven in?

Did it have maintenance records from original owner?

What was type and gap of spark plug?

What was brand of coil pack? I have purchased chinese coil packs that only lasted a few thousand miles.

Sometimes the MAF go out of range for a few days after major service. Replacements frequently are junk so that could be a bad MAF. If you have the OEM clean it with special MAF cleaner and reuse. If not, clean replacement MAF and consider replacing with OEM in the future if you get everything sorted.

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Old 08-23-2019, 10:11 AM   #4
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Default Re: Seeking advice

Thank you for the replies.

I forgot to mention that we replaced the battery this spring as well. I will take a look at the connections you mentioned. One of the codes it had when we replaced the MAF was "MAF Sensor voltage out of range". I've measured the alternator voltage and it sits around 13.7v. That's a little lower than I've seen on some older vehicles that I've worked on in the past, but it seemed to be 'in range' for this vehicle according to my research.

It's a Canadian car and has been driven in Alberta as far as I know. I don't have any maintenance records. It has ~180,000km (~112,000miles) on it.

Not sure if this bit of information would make someone think anything new: we recently went on vacation for 3 weeks and her car sat in her parkade while we were away. Previous to this, it had been giving her problems but was 'drivable'. It started (roughly) when we returned, but as soon as you put it into gear it stalls. It hasn't moved in the week since we returned.

For what it's worth, my Dad (who is also very good with cars), is convinced that it is something to do with the fuel system. From what I've been able to find there is no serviceable fuel filter on these cars? I've not really gone down that path too far as we haven't really been seeing codes related to the fuel system aside from that recent C-1555 that does mention fuel.

I'm not completely averse to dropping it off at the dealer and seeing what they come up with. I just don't have good experiences there and I feel like they may just 'chase problems' as well. Spending up to $1200 or $1500 on it to make it safe, while not great, is still a better option than her looking at a new vehicle if you ask me...(don't ask my wife ).

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Old 08-23-2019, 10:16 AM   #5
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Default Re: Seeking advice

Well the salty roads in Alberta will take a toll on the major exposed electrical points.

A bad alternator can kill a battery quickly so I still think you should start the simple electrical steps outlined above.

Another thing to try is disconnect the battery for a few hours. That will erase volitile memory of system for a simple reset.

Hope it works out.

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Old 08-23-2019, 10:27 AM   #6
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Default Re: Seeking advice

I am looking for your post regarding the main ground connector locations...is that in your long thread about the 45K service?

Thanks!

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Old 08-23-2019, 01:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: Seeking advice

Below are some of the major grounds I cleaned:

Quote:
Originally Posted by AstraFasta View Post
Removed following grounds from frame, cleaned posts and wire connectors:

** G101 & G110 (under hood near fuse box/hood strut- needed to remove fuse box to access)

** G103, G105, G109 (under battery- needed to remove plastic battery tray. I think G103 was very heavy-duty.

** I cleaned battery terminals and nearby connectors in October

** I removed alternator and cleaned terminals and connectors last spring
I also cleaned contacts for starter motor and the engine ground near the fusebox.

Your public library may provide free access to professional repair manuals that will walk you through all the ground locations with diagrams. That is how I identified the above by name.

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Old 08-23-2019, 01:49 PM   #8
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Default Re: Seeking advice

spitoon, old school knowledge gained from practical experience can help tremendously. As you may or may not know, engines need air, fuel and spark to run. Assuming air isn't choked off from the intake system leaves fuel and spark to diagnose. Both are relatively easy to test. A borrowed fuel pressure gauge from AutoZone or other store allowing loaner tools makes for testing without buying equipment. Simply screw on to the fuel test valve on the fuel rail supplying fuel to injectors and turn on ignition. Pressure should register immediately. The fuel pump runs for two seconds or so, enough to pressurize fuel lines to the engine. A slight hum/hiss sound may be heard. Once timed out, pressure should remain high for as much as a minute or more to indicate injectors aren't open. Bleeding off pressures shouldn't occur for several minutes. Pressures can be anywhere from as low as 35 psi to as high as 65 psi. Spark testing may be a little more involved.

If you have a one piece coil over plugs unit, it will have to be removed along with spark plugs. If plugs weren't changed, this may be the time to replace them. Anyway, a spark test requires all plugs inserted into each coil boot, plug bottoms wired to engine ground, coil pack connected to wiring, either the fuel pump fuse or pump relay removed to prevent pump operation. Have sometime turn the key to start; without plugs in the engine, zero compression allows the engine to spin up quickly with less strain on the starter and battery while you observe for spark across all four spark plugs. Either you see spark or not. Only a few seconds of starting is needed to see spark.

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Old 09-23-2019, 12:01 AM   #9
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Default Re: Seeking advice

I thought I would provide an update in case it can help anyone else.

I did clean all the grounds I could find and that didn't make any difference. The car was still suffering from inconsistent starting and random stalling.

We had already purchased a new crankshaft sensor, despite it being replaced (by the dealer) about 18 months ago. The check engine codes were consistently indicating a problem with this sensor. I put it off for quite some time because I knew it was a difficult job (the reason I took it to the dealer the first time). About 3 weeks ago, with the help of my Dad, we tackled it. It was hard work, with much of it blind and in cramped spaces, but we were able to successfully replace the part in about 4 hours.

Following that repair, the car has run well. There was one code that showed up initially regarding the exhaust camshaft sensor circuit. I swapped the intake and exhaust sensors and the error code moved to the intake side so I am confident that the camshaft sensor is failing, which is an easy fix. I looked back at my parts invoices and, for some reason, I only changed one of those camshaft sensors very early on. I will replace the second one asap.

Having said that, the code has since gone away and the vehicle has been driven for about 3 weeks without any MIL codes/lights.

Thanks for all the advice!

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Old 09-24-2019, 08:27 PM   #10
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Default Re: Seeking advice

I've done that crank sensor replacement. It's a bear of a job, unless you have a lift and/or want to remove the axle, which is not something most DIY'ers will tackle.

Glad you got it resolved.

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