Strange but reliable: repair and maintenance of Opel Astra J GTC

A bit of history

Opel Astra J was first shown in 2009 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. This car came to replace the previous generation of the Astra H, and in Russia they began selling it in 2010. For our market it was built at the General Motors plant in Shushary.

Externally, the Astra J was very different from its predecessor. It became similar to the older model Opel Insignia, and the coupe GTC, which appeared in early 2011, journalists even dubbed “the sexiest Opel”.

“Sexy” Opel is built on a fairly masculine platform GM Delta II, and its closest relative is, for example, Chevrolet Cruze or Chevrolet Lacetti. But, unlike them, the Astra J, especially GTC, looks much more interesting. Mainly, certainly, externally.

Internal, more precisely, technical differences of the Astra are also enough. For example, very progressive and modern supercharged motors A14NET, A14NEL and A16LET have appeared here. In addition, you can find here a six-speed automatic GM 6T30/40/45 series, and with two-liter diesel – more successful Aisin TF81SC. The turbocharged engines are certainly fun, but they are not the most successful here. We had a car with an atmospheric motor at the inspection, so we won’t talk about the turbocharged ones today.

The atmospheric A14XER, A16XER, A18XER in the Astra J are the same as, for example, in the Astra H and Zafira B. The engines are not the newest, but they are quite reliable. There are weak points, of course, but there are not so many of them. We are going to look at what exactly they are.

The engine .

Not so long ago we had an Opel Mokka with the same engine A18XER at our examination, that is why we shall have to repeat ourselves in part. Anyway, here we go. And let’s start again with an oil change.

You can replace it yourself, but you have to decide two questions: where to get the tools and what kind of oil to choose. Let’s start with the second question.

The original oil is Dexos 2 5w-30. But the problem is that it is not the best, and it would be nice to change to any other quality oil. The situation is aggravated by the service regulations, which suggest changing the oil every 15 thousand kilometers. The ideal, according to the expert with whom we examined the car, is to change the oil every 7,5 thousand. Then it is also possible to drive with Dexos. Well, and if you want to do maintenance less frequently, at least once in 10 thousand, it is better to refuse from branded oil in favor of more decent one.

The second difficulty is a set of tools for change of a filter. There is a filtering element, and it is necessary to pull it out from the body. You’ll need a Torx T45 wrench, a 24 socket head, a screwdriver, and a swivel extension. If you plan to do self-service on a regular basis, it is worth thinking about buying a good tool. And the more items there are, the better. We have a 110-piece kit, and that’s enough to take apart the SpaceX. With an Opel, of course, everything will be easier.


There is no timing belt – the engine is a chain. Theoretically, the chain should last the entire life of the engine. This, of course, does not happen, so if there is a strange sound from the chain, it should be checked. But it is necessary to change the supplements’ belt.

Now let’s move on to a typical sore of this motor – to an ignition module. This detail has two disadvantages: capriciousness and steep price for original spare part. A pony price is up to 36,000 (but you can find it cheaper). Therefore, if anything, it is better to look for an analogue.

As for capriciousness, this is the case. This module simply does not tolerate bad spark plugs or other malfunctions in the ignition system. But usually, of course, it is the spark plugs that fail. If they’re in non-ideal condition, it’s better to replace them right away. It will at least be cheaper. The regulations prescribe change of plugs every second service, and check them every time you change oil.

Another problem is a leaking heat exchanger. Our car was built in 2012, and this trouble is a bit less common than in cars made before 2011, but it is not excluded completely. Good thing that in our case it is all right.

And one more remark. The layout under the hood is very tight, the radiators are close to each other, and all this can sometimes overheat. To avoid this you have to keep the engine and radiator package clean. It is desirable to wash them periodically, and then you can count on the practical trouble-free operation of this motor. It usually does not need intervention of service station staff until the mileage of 150 thousand kilometers, but if it is monitored well and not to kill it with abnormal maintenance schedule, the engine can easily go 200 and 300 thousand kilometers without significant investments.

Transmission and brakes

Here is what the Astra has really had no luck with – it is with gearboxes. I will not make fear here once again and with stories about “horror – horror, they all will die”, but the situation is not really best. The worst box is the F17 manual, which usually goes with atmospheric engines. Slightly better is the M32 box, which is put with turbocharged 1.4-1.6L engines and diesels up to two liters. Well and one successful box is the F40, which stands with two-liter engines. We will not tell about these boxes in detail, because our car is equipped with GM 6T40 automatic. And this box, unfortunately, is not better than the manual F17. The problems with it can start before 100 thousand run. But as we have practice, we speak only about what we see. At the mileage of 49 thousand miles (and this is really the real mileage on our 2012 car) there are no problems with the box.

There are two ways to extend the life of this automatic transmission. The first is to drive slowly, without sudden starts. The second way is to change oil more often. More often is at least once in 60,000 km. For replacement you will need to buy Dexron VI and oil filter. It goes without saying, not many people change oil in automatic device by themselves, therefore they will have to postpone still for work. I will not stir up religious disputes about the method of oil replacement.

CV joints and driveshafts live a long time, they are in good order on our car too.

This Astra is not very lucky with the brakes either. They work well, but the calipers really like to stick. Especially the rear ones. And in our car we see a typical picture: the remaining rear pads on the left – about 20%, on the right – no more than 5%. In addition, the outer and inner pads are worn unevenly. The right rear caliper is definitely sour, and judging by the wear on the left rear disc, the left caliper is also far from perfect. At best, you can get by with servicing the calipers when replacing the pads, but it’s better to think about a repair kit right away. For example, a good Frenkit will cost within a thousand rubles. And note: in a decent service when replacing the pads calipers necessarily serve. Yes, they will take more expensive (in our case – 900 rubles per axle), but it is worth it.

In theory, you can do it yourself. The only difficulty is to somehow suspend the car, but you can use a good jack for this. Four-point design of such jack will not let it to fall through the ground, and the car is much more reliable, than a usual “rhombus”. I will not even talk about convenience of use – it is clear that it is much easier to use, but I don’t want to overcompensate with advertising too. Even if I speak sincerely (and I speak sincerely about the jack, because I used it myself).

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And here is where things got messy. Once we brought a bucket of mushrooms to the engineers and asked them: come up with some suspension to put it on Opel Astra J GTC! And they did. There were enough mushrooms for both front and rear suspension.

At the front is a suspension with the brand name HiperStrut and separate knuckles. A similar suspension was on the Ford Focus RS or Renault Megane RS. However, unlike the latter, the strut is attached to the arm through a silent block, not through a ball bearing. The knuckle is attached to the rack via ball bearings.

The rear suspension is also funny: there is a semi-independent beam with Watt mechanism. But the most interesting is that all these wonders of technics not only work very well, but also do not exhaust money from owners. Yes, something can be a little bit more expensive in case of repair (we are speaking about front suspension), but a resource of both suspensions is very good. And if anything… Yes, it will be a little sadder. For example, the original suspension arm is almost 16,000, if you’re lucky it’s about 10,000. Replacement is 2200 per side. The upper ball bearing – up to 12 thousand for the original! True, the analogue costs about two thousand. Replacement – another 1400 rubles.

The cost of the original hub bearings does not please either. They ask up to 11 thou for the front one in some stores, and they unscrupulously charge 13 thou for the rear ones. But it is also possible to find something at a reasonable price (about 3 thou). In general, if you have to repair GTC suspension (sedans have usual McFerson at the front), you will need to look for spare parts very carefully. Buying original ones is to hate Opel half your life.

Body and Interior

Finally we get to the nicest things! What’s nice about the Astra is both the body and the interior.

The body is well designed, assembled, and painted. Corrosion does not threaten it yet, so you can do with seasonal treatment of seals with silicone grease. It is especially useful before frosts: rubber will not crack, and the main thing – the doors will not freeze.

But there is at least one weak spot in equipment. It is a sensor of body position, which is on cars with a system of adaptive light AFL. The sensor fastening eye usually breaks, and it is more often resorted to “kolhozing”. A rear sensor costs about 7 thousand, the front one is more expensive, so the lug is soldered and glued, reinforcing the connection with any suitable hardware (paper clips and other stuff). Not very nice, but do not give for it seven thousand, right?

And the traditional advice: it is desirable to treat the windshield with antidazzle. It will bring especially appreciable benefit on Astra: the angle of slope of a glass is big, and at speed the raindrops will simply crawl upwards. And it saves “antifreeze”.

The interior of the Astra is another reason to be proud. It looks rich, and the materials in it are not bad. At the mileage of 50,000 it looks new at all. True, it is necessary to take care of the leather. There are special products for this purpose, which will keep the leather from cracking. But before using them, read the instructions: it is not recommended to clean the alcantara with such products.

What’s the bottom line?

If it were not for capricious transmissions, the Astra J would be a very interesting offer in the secondary market. However, the cars after 2012 are free from some sorenesses of transmissions (both mechanical and automatic). They haven’t become good at all, but they don’t fall apart at low mileages either. In addition, the Astra has another advantage over the same third Focuses: for some reason they were not liked by cab drivers, so it’s much harder to run into a car after a taxi. And in the case of the GTC it’s impossible at all. And if you choose the car wisely, it can please you. In addition, exactly GTC not only looks good, but also it steers very well. So if you want something more interesting than Kia Rio, why not? But it is necessary to understand that the race car and the Astra are different things. The race after turbocharged motors will lead more likely to superfluous expenses for maintenance, than to regular emission of adrenaline. However, I will not dissuade from these motors: they are not so bad too. If you know what you are running for, they will not disappoint you. The main thing is that the gearbox should hold out.

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