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"Vauxhall", August 1, 2013

Vauxtech: Q&A

All your tech questions answered by our experts

How to turn a Mk3 Astra into a track car, that can still be used daily?

TRACK TIME

@ I’m halfway through rebuilding my long term Mk3 Astra GSi and I’ve decided I want to use it for some track days too. I’m not too fussy about going proper hardcore with a cage and so on as it’ll be my road car, but I was just wondering what your thoughts were on ditching the power steering and how I’d go about doing it? Also, is it worth poly bushing the lower arms and the rear beam or will it be too hard for the road? Appreciate the advice guys.

Connor via email

A Building a track car that is good on the road and vice versa is always going to come down to a compromise. For the track you want it very stiff with little play in the components and a firm suspension setup so it’s handles well, but in turn, it’ll be horrible on the roads and in the same respect, a standard road car will wallow around on track. Poly bush wise, assuming you don’t go for the stiffest ‘race’ spec bushes then it should provide a nice balance between handling and comfort but, regardless, if the bushes are old and worn then you need to replace them even if it’s just with new GM items.

As for removing the power steering, again it’ll be better on track and give much more feedback on the limit, and if you opt for a quick rack, then it’ll improve matters again. But, the downside is that it’ll be bloody heavy on the road. Fine for a weekend toy but as a daily, you’ll have arms like Popeye in no time. Removing the system is easy enough – ditch the pump, tensioner and lines and you’ll need to fit an adjustable bracket on the alternator. Then either run an early XE or 8v pulley and belt or source a suitable length multi-ribbed belt. Rack wise, use an early Merit item or try Quaife if you have deep pockets. Or, keep the power steering and use a late spec Calibra rack which is 2.7 turns lock to lock. Every little helps.

POORLY ASTRA

@ Hi chaps. I’ve just bought a Mk4 Astra Coupe 16v (1.8 16v) for the girlfriend. It’s standard for the time being, aside from an exhaust of unknown origin and a set of lowering springs. I’ve heeded your advice and given it a full service, replaced the timing belt and water pump, cleaned the brakes and sorted a weird surging/lack of power issue with a new air flow meter. Or so I thought. Last week it started running hotter and won’t rev out properly and it smells really hot. It seems worse at speed too. I’ve checked the head gasket, coolant temp sensors and so on and they’re all fine. I’m now struggling.

Steve

A As usual, it’s never easy to pinpoint issues without seeing a car and carrying out a few basic checks. With modern cars, if there’s anything amiss then the ECU should detect this and pop the EML on and log a fault code, which you can then check – this should give you an idea of where to start. If you have no EML on and no obvious reasons as to why you have an issue, then you need to go back to basics. First, did the fault happen after you went tinkering? If so, what have you done or perhaps not done? Any hoses left loose, or wires knocked off? Check and then check again. If all seems well, then it’s time to start digging a bit deeper.

Did you make sure the timing was spot on and have you checked the belt tension? A slack belt will cause all sorts of running issues and ultimately could skip teeth and, well, then it’s goodnight Vienna. Next, breathing. A car needs air in and also air out and any restrictions will, in effect strangle the engine.

Blocked catalysts aren’t uncommon and nor are blocked exhausts especially on old/cheap systems where the packing collapses inside. This would certainly give the sort of symptoms you’re describing. You could unbolt it at the downpipe and give it a good rev, see if it revs out or not. Beyond that, you might want to start thinking about burnt valves by which point, it’d be worth seeking some hands-on help from a trained professional. Good luck.

OIL BE BACK

@ I’ve just spent the past month rebuilding the V6 engine in my beloved Omega Elite after it consumed a head gasket at 70mph. I did it all in situ and had the head skimmed and the block checked, plus I used a genuine Elring gasket set and made sure I flushed the coolant and renewed the oil but, despite this, having driven it for about 100 miles I’m noticing oil deposits coming back up into the header tank. Any thoughts?

Geoff

A Some oily deposits aren’t uncommon after doing a job like this. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never get the internal galleries spotless and as soon as 100deg coolant is introduced, you will get some crap getting dislodged. Try another coolant flush and oil change and see how it goes before you go jumping back in at the deep end, that is assuming there are no obvious signs of failure – a misfire, excess pressure or coolant usage.

If you do have one of these symptoms then go back and double check everything. Is everything tight? Did you use new seals and gaskets throughout? Are there any cracks and how well did you flush the system? Another thing to consider – and this applies to all V6 engines – is the oil cooler. It sits immersed in the water gallery between the heads and is prone to corrosion, especially if the coolant mix has been weak (see, anti-freeze is your friend!) and thus oil (at higher pressure) can be forced into the cooling system. Replacements are around £100 and it’s a bit of a pain to do, but that would be our number one suspect. Try the guys at Autovaux, for parts.

SWIRLY CORSA

@ Hello, I’ve just gone and treated myself to a lovely little Corsa D 1.4 SXi with the Vauxhall styling pack and I love it! Sadly, the previous owner didn’t, so the wheels are all kerbed and the paintwork looks really bad in the sunlight. The dealer I bought it from took it back and machine polished it but it looks worse now. I bought some polish that’s meant to make the marks go away, but it hasn’t really done anything? My boyfriend thinks it’ll need a respray but the garage won’t pay and I can’t afford it. Help me sort my baby!

Ally

A Welcome to the world of Vauxhalls, hopefully you’ll be staying for a while. Great choice of car too, the Corsa D is pretty decent in standard guise and the modification potential is huge. No point doing that if your paintwork is crap though, but fear not, we don’t think you’ll need full respray.

These days, some very clever people can achieve minor miracles with a machine polisher and some fancy compounds, polishes and waxes. Forget the dealership, they probably let the bored valeter loose with an industrial grade polisher and some cutting compound which, on a black car and in the wrong hands will end in disaster. But disasters can be sorted.

If off-the-shelf products haven’t helped and let’s be honest, most only ‘fill’ the swirls and hide them rather than remove them, you’ll need to find somebody skilled in the art of detailing, which is basically car cleaning taken to the next level. A full body correction can stand you in excess of £250, but a respray could be ten times that, so actually, in terms of value for money, it’ll be worth it. It’s not really something for a novice unless you attend a detailing day to learn the basics, but there are countless firms around the UK ready and waiting to transform neglected and tired paintwork.

Have a look on Detailing World or speak to the guys on www.Corsa-D.co.uk, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

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