Opel Vectra C with a Mileage: Weaknesses of the Body and Troubled Electrics


Looking ahead: the attempt to play in two classes at once, and even capture the audience of luxury cars, failed. Sales were very poor, the car fell to the fifth or sixth place in the class, although the last generation in some years was the sales leader and kept in the top three. It was not helped neither very spacious for this class cabin (in Insignia it is noticeably more cramped), nor good passive safety, nor an excellent choice of options, nor a huge range of engines. Even electrical problems have spoiled its reputation (we will tell about them below).


Structurally, the car is quite traditional for European manufacturers of these years. The body is made entirely of steel, except for the aluminum hood. The engines were transversely mounted with the drive on the front axle. The platform allowed to make all-wheel drive vehicles, but it didn’t go further than presentations. Suspension is McPherson in front, multilever in back. As an option – steerable shock absorbers EDC. Two variants of wheelbase – wagon and hatch Signum – received an increase of 130 mm, which are used to improve the living conditions for rear passengers.

Among the engines, in addition to in-line fours, there is a V6, and not only gasoline, but also diesel. Transmissions are 5- and 6-speed manual and 5-speed Aisin series AW55-5155-50 hydromechanical automatics, as well as a single-clutch robotized automatic transmission, the infamous EasyTronic. There was also a VT20 variator, but only in theory – to meet such a car on sale is unreal.

In general, there were a lot of variants, but the options were … strange. The weak motors did not have normal automatic transmission – only robotized. There were also no automatic transmissions for 2.0 turbo engines. As a result, those who wanted a car with an automatic had to choose between not very successful 2.2 engines and overpowering and expensive to operate 3.2 and 2.8 Turbo.

But the car was not badly saturated with electronics and was the first Opel project with full hub architecture and extensive use of multiplex wiring. It also had quite a few very nice options, including adaptive AFL lighting that could illuminate corners.


March 2002. The model is presented at the Geneva Motor Show.

April 2002. Start of sales in Germany, sedan body only. Motors are petrol 1.8 Z18XE 125 hp, 2.2 liter Z22SE 147 hp and 3.2 liter Z32SE 211 hp, and also diesel 2.0 DTI Y20DTH 100 hp and 2.2 DTI Y22DTR 125 hp. The 2.2 and 3.2 motors are available with 5-speed automatic transmission, the others only with manual transmission.

September 2002. Signum hatchback version goes on sale.

May 2003. This model with 2.0 turbo 170 hp engine. Z20NET with manual transmission (hatchback only).

October, 2003. Wagon and saloon variants with top of the range 3.0 Y30DT 177 hp diesel engine were introduced. 2.2 liters Z22YH with direct injection 155 hp engine was also introduced.

March 2004. Small facelift. Changed electronics, updated packages. The 2.0 diesel engines are replaced by new series 1.9 CDTI Z19DT 120 hp and Z19DTH 150 hp. The latter is available with automatic transmission. A robot is now available for the 1.8 petrol engines. The 2.2 liter Z22SE engine is no longer available.

September 2004. Exit of the most budget-friendly version of the car with the 1.6 Z16XE 100 hp engine. Only available in sedan and hatchback bodies.

June 2005. Restyling of the model. New headlights, interior’s design and equipment packages. Almost all engines are updated. The 1.6 engine is replaced by Z16XEP version with phasing unit with output of 105 hp. The 1.8 engine Z18XER also received a “phasic” and power increased to 140 hp. The 3.2 liter engine has been removed from production – it was replaced by a new 2.8 turbocharged engine Z28NEL/NET 230 hp, Z28NET 250/255 hp and Z28NET/Z28NEH 280 hp. The youngest 1.9 100 hp diesel has appeared. Z19DTL, and the 3-liter diesel was replaced by the Z30DT version with 184 hp. The 280-horsepower version of the Vectra OPC is presented with a sports version with a prepared suspension and a special color of the body and interior. There are also OPC-Line models, with OPC trim, but with conventional engines and slightly modified suspension and optics.

July 2008. End of production.

Body .

Exterior panels.

This is the case when proverbs about Opel don’t apply at all. Because the Vectra C rots really slowly – much slower than the Vectra A and Vectra B or some Mercedes-Benz W210. However, taking into account the age of the car, it will not do without problem places of a used copy. And the model has some sins.

The sill below is usually intact and suffers a lot only when the molding mounting holes are depressurized, there is a serious accumulation of dirt or the plug inside the rear arch has fallen out. There is still damage in the car service and tire shop, it mainly affects the lower rib and the sill reinforcement seam. The edge of the rear arch is another traditional headache. It rusts slowly but surely. The edge is not covered with anything: there is neither film, nor plastic liner, so that chipping occurs almost inevitably. The joint with the inner arch is literally a few centimeters on the inner surface, although moisture does not collect in the flap. If you touch up chips in time, there won’t be any problem, but most owners of cars don’t bother and wait until there is corrosion on the outer surface, the inner seam rots, and a layer of zinc “gets off” the entire wing panel. As a result of such “care” sooner or later the edge has to be welded.

The front edge of a roof over a windshield rots badly, there is neither zinc coating, nor big molding. Sandblasting often damages the paintwork, and the owners, again, don’t bother with cosmetic repairs.


The side and rear doors like to corrode with bugs on the outer panel. The reason is the specific aerodynamics and resulting chips, as well as corrosion of the inner seam, which in a good way should be anticorroded. Over time the zinc goes away, and the bugs get a lot. And also the door moldings are not made in the best way: the clips have little mobility, damaging the paintwork in the holes. So, traces of small corrosion are often seen under top molding near the glass.

On the trunk lid and tailgate of station wagons and hatchbacks, there is also often fine corrosion in the areas of contact of the linings with the metal. The aluminum hood also usually has a lot of chipping on the front edge, but otherwise no problems – its fittings and frame do not corrode.

Under the door handles are usually a lot of scratches – the paintwork in this area, alas, is only slightly thicker and stronger than in Japanese cars.

In general, the paint thickness is acceptable, the quality of the coating is also acceptable, so with proper care it can be preserved in good condition at the age of 15+.

From below

On the elevator assess the aforementioned inner seam of the rear arch, and at the same time, all the internal surfaces. The locks here are very conventional, the front wall is not properly protected, and the seams and the sill plug remain a very vulnerable part of the body.

You also need to inspect the shock absorber mount very carefully. Especially if there are signs of leakage of shock absorber itself – in this case the load on the body is greatly increased.

It is desirable to examine the cavity under the sill plates in the rear part – there accumulates dirt, and severe corrosion can develop. The linings are fastened on 12 pistons, it is unreal to take them out on a strange car, but exactly in the rear part you can carefully take off the threshold “toward you” under the back door edge and look into the gap. Quite good if there is a compressor to blow out the cavity to remove the dirt and assess the condition of the metal.

Front fender

In front, under the plastic, you can try to see the condition of the lower part of the front fender, there is also often an inconspicuous outward focus of corrosion.

The age of the car doesn’t influence much on the state of the thresholds, it is more important the presence or absence of anticorrosion and how often and thoroughly the car washed.

The underside of majority of cars is not damaged, but it is necessary to examine closely the area around drain plugs, they are evidently planted without additional treatment, so plugs get rotten all around.

Brake tubes are often all bloated by 10 years old, so brake fluid leaks are just a matter of time. Very rusty subframe brackets and heat shield mounting bolts are another feature of the model. On the last generation, the woes were similar.

Usually there’s a little more rust on the body surfaces in the fuel tank recess and along the edges of the wheel arches, as well as under the trunk panel – not much mastic here, but the rust is shallow, superficial. The oldest cars may have rotted seams of floor spars, especially at places of contact with ground and at undercarriages. But in general, the condition of a car is quite acceptable.

Since VIN here is on the floor panel under a front passenger seat, the interior inspection is obligatory. Wet floors are definitely a reason for serious inspection with carpets lifting. But even if they are dry, you should not relax. VIN itself rots quite often, if it was already cleaned once, and the seams of seats’ brackets and interior’s cross-cut often have corrosion even at cars with normal dry interior. The usual condensation and a little wetness in winter is enough to form the first points of rust, but thanks to the zinc, there is no badly rotten floors.

In the trunk of wagons and hatchbacks for the floors also need control, especially in humid regions – they often get wet after heavy rains, as the drains of the opening are not organized very well.

Body equipment

Disappointment in Opel quality usually comes from various trifles. There is a lot of these troubles, because the big car is actually rather budgetary by solutions. Inexpensive plastic, economy on fastenings and the manufacturer’s aim on simplicity of a design are felt.

Micro-switches in locks fail, motors fail with time (especially the motor drive tailgate and trunk lid), bumper skids are fragile as in the “French”, the wiper blade gets stuck easily and without any difficulty (they put bushes from Hover), gas stops last 10 years and begin to fail. The aluminum base of the mirrors corrodes, causing problems with mechanism jamming and simply losing their appearance.

Headlight mounts are weak (thankfully, there are repair ones). Lens modules on the pre-restyle are dead in literally all cars, on the restyle – in almost all cars. Fortunately, the disassembly of the headlight is not so difficult, and there are new glasses for it too. Headlight adjuster fails mainly because of weak body position sensors – they have zero tightness. Turn signal repeaters are leaky too, repeaters bulbs are fraying, there are problems with contacts and rear switching unit…

The tank mounting straps are rotting and tearing, surprises are possible after 10 years, especially when removing the tank.

It is necessary to change the antenna seals on the roof – through them water gets inside. Also at mileages over 200 (especially if the car is operated in the city) it is better to change not only the door limiters, but also the driver’s door seal.

It is worth to speak separately about a design of window lifters. They are lever here, thorough. But cars with the broken glass guide and its warp are often found. The motor is powerful, and if the guide clears, it simply crushes the levers. The trouble is that the mechanism is riveted to the door, so it is a non-trivial task to disassemble and remove it. Even to change a guide is difficult, it demands skills of proctologist with dremel, as a result the penny problem is solved long and expensive, so check operation of window lifters from the front.

All in all, there will be plenty of problems on the small equipment side. Almost all of them are inexpensive, but may riddles your nerves.


Interior of the Vectra C is very spacious, especially by the standards of the D-class of the early 00’s. Quality of finishing thus is not bad – with runings up to 200 thousand the interior keeps quite exemplary look, giving out age only by shine of a steering wheel and door handles. The cover of a gearbox lever of machines with manual transmission is still noticeably aged. The floor carpet is almost always greasy, it does not like mud here. On the versions with combined upholstery the sides of a driver’s seat are wiped out strongly. If armchairs are solid fabric, the seams of driver’s seat on the left side and edge of backrest roll start to give up only under the heaviest drivers with mileages over 200.

Unfortunately, again, there are enough small typical breakdowns. For example, a broken armrest lock. CID and GID displays are not distinguished by the longevity of backlighting – surrenders miniature fluorescent tube of very rare (and expensive) size, as well as display plumes and soldering the original magnets on the buttons. Multimedia system firmware regularly flies off, and, inconveniently, all work is tied to the code carpass, which will have to order from the dealer if the last owner does not know it, or pull out of the display / stereo / dashboard with the programmer.

It is also possible to refer the breakdowns of control unit for climate control, both manual and automatic. First of all, it is a failure of the central button, it stops working or responding to rotation. It is cured usually by soldering of a board, for one (or several at once) of 5 contacts of multiswitch-encoder is unsoldered. The switch itself rarely breaks. The left switch also fails quite often, there are also problems with soldering. Similarly often the resonator at 4 MHz fails, and “climate” in this case simply does not work. Interestingly, the climate units on the restyling and prestyling are not compatible, but their problems are quite the same.

In addition to purely electrical problems, the air conditioner tubes corrode to the point of fistulas (it looks like they saved on material). It’s especially common with the lower tube under the condenser. And also a fan motor likes to “call out”. Once in a while the control unit fails, but this is usually a secondary problem, when the motor is already jammed. The problem is eliminated by replacing the transistor in the block.

Breakages of the steering wheel controllers are tied to CIM, and therefore it is more logical to consider them in the next section.


Quite a few complaints about the electronics of cars produced before 2004 on later years have been eliminated. But if you get an early car, there may be nuances of block failures with overheated ECU on motors 1.6 / 1.8, the rear REC fuse block – most often the inoperative “lights” and backlight associated with failures in it.

Failures of CIM – block of dashboard and steering wheel switches commutation – are also probable. In this case, car “loses” its keys, won’t start, malfunctions of airbags, steering wheel sensor, related systems malfunctions, dashboard crashes, confusing readings… In short, there are chances of being left in a freezing car in the winter in the woods.

Over the years, CIM-modules became more reliable, at the same time they learned how to bind used ones, not only new ones, which radically reduced the severity of the problem. While for some inexplicable reason on the right-hand English cars (under the brand name Vauxhall) are better blocks, they almost never have problems.

2002-2003 cars with CIM version XR (version of block can be seen on its end, just turn the wheel and look in the slot between the steering wheel and the column, at the upper left) should be avoided, or immediately put in the budget $ 150-300 for a replacement block. Or, if you want reliable solution, $300-500 at once for replacement on the block from restyling with accompanying replacement of steering wheel, radio, screen, climate unit and wiring harness.


If you leave CIM in brackets, in the list of typical problems are breakage of overrunning clutch and voltage regulator (at mileages over 150), capricious wiring to EGM, poor sealing of all connectors, as well as the cabin and rear fuse boxes. Also the keys themselves are not very reliable, but now they have learned how to pick up new and re-solder chips with immobilizer code.

GM diagnostic software is mediocre, and even the “dealer” Tech-2 scanner (most services that specialize on the brand, and many fans have it) is not particularly user-friendly. The GM community is smaller than the VW community, so less firmware and coding available.

Bottom line

The cars body is welded and painted quite well and, with the exception of a couple of weaknesses mentioned above, fairly unproblematic. It’s just a pity that the car is not a premium, the residual value is not so high, which makes the investment not always justified. As a consequence – most of the Vectra’s body problems are due to a lack of adequate maintenance. As for the electrics, it will be more reliable not to mess with prestyling cars, or diagnose them very carefully. And in any case, have some money reserve for repairs. In the next part we will consider the running gear, transmission and engines.

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