Vectra-C swirl valves (more Vectra-C troubles)

Another few months go by, another thing gets broken. From all cars I’ve owned there has been none so troublesome as the Vectra-C, this time a swirl valve problem appeared. But first, how I came to diagnose this failure…
Some time ago I noticed that going high on revs and then setting the car in neutral gave me intake air leak fault messages. They disappeared again by their own after some minutes driving. Some time later this behavior no longer happened, but introducing new troubles: performance loss and lots of black smoke when tapping the gas. The performance loss could best be described as when you step down the gas pedal, the car would unevenly produce power, then hold back, then produce power again, then hold back again, etc…. and all this in the single event of going from 1500rpm tp 3500rpm. By opening the hood my eyes more or less by accident fell on the swirl valves control bar just laying loose, uncoupled from the swirl valves. Aha!

As I mentioned before, the intake manifold comes with swirl valves which allows to have more swirl in the intake air whenever there is a low amount of air entering the engine. Adding more swirl adds to improve burning the fuel and to lower the emissions. Whenever the engine load goes upwards there is however a higher need of air and then you want as much air inside the engine as needed. In this case there is no longer a need to add more swirl. Now take a look at how this effect is accomplished inside the Vectra-C intake manifold:


On the far right side intake air enters the intake manifold. This air is a combination of compressed air coming from the turbo and exhaust gas re-entering the engine through the EGR system. Both streams of air get mixed inside the intake manifold and is next distributed to each engine cylinder. On the picture above you may notice 8 instead of 4 exhaust holes, and this because we have 2 exhaust holes per cylinder. One of them describes a direct path to the engine cylinder, the other one a more indirect path which makes sure a certain amount of swirl is added to the intake air. The swirl valves are placed inside the more direct pathway and will either block air (when more swirled is needed at low engine load) or allow air to travel through (when a high airflow is needed at high engine load). Also seen in the picture is how each valve is connected to each other by a control bar, so moving only one valve will move all 4. Valve 3 starting from left (when you stand in front of the car facing the engine) is the one which actually is controlled by an actuator. The actuator on its turn is controlled by the ECU. A lot of good information can also be found here

As I said earlier, the control bar on my car had come loose, the ball joints had worn out. There was also a lot of carbon around some of the valve ball joints indicating that some carbon from the EGR system has also build up against the swirl valves.

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I checked the functioning of each valve by moving the ball joints with a screwdriver and there seem to be no issue with them. However, because I’m already at 230k+ km I wanted to have a look inside the manifold to check its state. Is there not too much carbon build up against the valves causing the valves to malfunction and trowing errors codes like the one I saw earlier? So I began working my way down to the point where I could eventually remove the intake manifold. However…! There is so much stuff placed around the intake manifold that you have to remove first: oil seperator, EGR valve, common rail, coolant pipes (yes you have to drain the engine coolant), vacuum lines, air hoses, vacuum box, fuel pump, … And is far as I could see, you also have to remove the toothed belt. That’s not really a trivial task if you ask me. Because I didn’t want to do anything wrong with removing the toothed belt I aborted the plan of removing the intake manifold. The toothed belt needs a replacement anyway in some months from now and so there is still a chance to replace the intake manifold. For now I replaced everything and just glued the ball joints to the control bar and so far it seem to function as expected:

Fingers crossed for how long it holds… Notice (I found it afterwards) that there is also a good description from Opel/Vauxhall TIS that leads you through the entire process of replacing the intake manifold: here.


Vectra C, another tale of misfiring injector 3

My recent change of  job to a company nearby, on cycling distance, caused the Vectra to be a lot less used. But that did not hold back for causing more problems. First there was an ice storm (in the f****** middle of the summer!!!) destroying the roof, hood, front left light, and front window, and than 2 days later there was suddenly this problem with injector 3. The actually problem goes like this: the engine sound is different, you hear it doesn’t run like it should, and when you drive the car it shakes and stutters and it has no power at all. Almost like driving a tractor. I took it to the garage for a readout and there they told me “injector 3 problem”. Costs to fix it: approx. € 450 for a new injector not counting the administration costs and loan of the mechanic…

O Deus

Googling around however revealed that the injector problem is actually very common for the Vectra C. Actually, it’s always injector 3 that goes first! The tale goes that because of poor ventilation on injector 3 and the process of it heating up / cooling down causes the connector to not be so tight anymore which on its own turn causes a bad contact with the injector itself. And we all know what happens when you run current through connectors that do not connect so good anymore… Here is a picture that shows you the straight difference between connectors 2 and 3:

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As you can see, there is a lot more dirt around connector 3 which is on the right side (always start counting connectors/injectors from left to right). To fix it I removed the pink plastic cover surrounding the electric contacts of the connector and next take a screwdriver and press the contacts at both sides together so that they tighten again around the electric contacts inside the injector plug. Probable a short term solution as the problem will most probable return very soon already, but it’s a one minute job so it is okay to get you back on the road again. On Ebay you can find injector wiring remedy kits nowadays for £ 15, not so bad compared to the € 450+ that my car dealer first told me to pay for installing a new injector (which is not faulty at all). Vectra C injector fault remedy kit:


And this brings me again to the question: why is it so hard to display fault codes on the f****** display of the car? Reading out the car is € 25 for a 2 minute job, smells like easy money…

Opel/vauxhall Vectra C 1.9 CDTI (Z19DTH) engine overview part 2

Continuing on what I wrote few days ago, here is part 2 of the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra C 1.9 CDTI (Z19DTH) engine overview. Some of the most common things were already pointed out, in this article I’ll add a few more.

For starters, the glow plugs:

z19dth-position-drallklappen-1804311767020540345The glow plugs makes sure that the fuel burns when starting the engine, afterwards they’re no longer needed with diesel engines. Here is a more closed up shot:

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Be carefull if you’re thinking of replacing them, they can snap quite easily. It’s good to already add some lubricant few days before you’re going to remove them. The biggest part of the glow plug is however hidden inside the engine and is not visable on the pictures above. In total, they look like this:

uvy7y8u7The big iron tube you see on top of the engine is the common rail:

Commen Rail schematics:


In the following video there is a good explanation about the common rail system in modern diesel engines:

In this video they also mention the swirl flaps. These flaps are located inside the intake manifold, but can sometimes be a source of error. Since using the EGR system involves reusing exhaust gas, the EGR valve and intake manifold’s swirl flaps might block or get damaged because of dust particles that stick around. A good tip is to check the EGR valve once in a time and clean it (does not take a lot of time since it is easily reachable). Alternatives is to block of the EGR valve so that no exhaust gasses are used anymore. On the internet you’ll probable find some blanking plates, but you can also make one yourself:

camerapics001Aside of this you also might want to check the boost (MAP) sensor as it is also located in the intake manifold and so it will take a lot of dust too. The boost sensor sits close to the EGR valve:

P1020135The sensor itself might have a lot of dirt on it, so cleaning is advised:

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The boost sensor, also known as MAP (manifold absolute pressure) sensor, measures the air mass flow rate. The ECU can then take the exact fuel amount to make a optimum combustion.

On the front of the car there is also the MAF sensor, located just next to the intake air filtering box:


The MAF (mass airflow) sensor senses the mass airflow of air being brought to the turbo. It may also be a source of problematic engine behavior, although it occurs less than malfunctioning EGR valves for example.

Opel/vauxhall Vectra C 1.9 CDTI (Z19DTH) engine overview

My previous article teached you something about modern car emission control systems. In this article I will explain you through a series of pictures how these are implemented in the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra C 1.9 CDTI with Z19DTH engine code.

For starters let’s have a look at the front of the car with radiator, intercooler and airco heat exchanger removed:

304793_422653101109945_310353594_nThe engine block itself can easily be noticed central in this picture. The air intake is at the left side in this picture next to the front light, from there on the air flows into the air filter and back out into the turbo which is the brownish rusty thing also at the center of the picture. The turbo uses the exhaust gas to spin up and so it is fixed onto the exhaust gas manifold. The exhaust gas manifolds collects all the exhaust gas that has been created inside the engine due to the burning of air and fuel. It collects it and brings it to together and then runs the exhaust gas to the turbo which will spin up at the exhaust side and at the air intake side (because both compressor wheels are physically connected). And so the intake air will get compressed which allow for more air inside the engine and so more fuel to burn which increases the engine performance in general. Another shot of the front of the engine:

z19dth-front-3034240990127979278Here is another shot of the turbo mounted onto the exhaust manifold:

9840143-origpic-ccd6f1The EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) system for the Z19DTH engine takes exhaust gas from the exhaust manifold. In the above picture you can clearly see the bigger hole on the right side where some of the exhaust gas will be collected. The picture before also has an indication where this hole is located. So, some of the exhaust gas will be used to drive the turbo, other remaining exhaust gas will be reused in the EGR system. From that particular hole that I just described, the exhaust gas flows through the EGR cooler and back into the air intake system. The EGR cooler is cooled be the same water that cools the engine, and looks as following:


From exhaust manifold to intake manifold:


In real life:


In the above picture, the thing next to the EGR cooler is the EGR valve. The black part of the valve is the electronics to drive it. Inside the iron housing there is more or less a small iron bar which will control the valve and make it possible for exhaust gas to either be mixed with the compressed intake air or not used at all. The EGR valve sits on the back of the engine where there is the intake manifold.

2013070510608AR_-TOP-Turbodiesel-Motor-Z19DTH-OPEL-ASTRA-H-2006-19-CDTi-110kw-104000km_b5The intake manifold is where both EGR’ed exhaust gas and compressed intake air flow together. The intake manifold will guide the mixture inside the engine where it is used for burning fuel. Another view at the back of the engine:

da607d7b652edacaHere is what the intake manifold looks like separately:


In real life:


And so air travels inside the inside, helps burning the fuel and leaves the engine again through the exhaust manifold, to either be reused again for driving the turbo or for the EGR system. For today that’s enough details, more later!

On dust particle filters and exhaust gas recirculation

Modern Diesel cars come with a lot of tricks to either boost the car performance or suppress the car emissions to meet the norms. There is the turbo for example which simply increases the amount of air inside the engine by compressing it, and thus increasing performance. But there is also the dust particle filter (DPF)  which filters the exhaust gases which results in lower exhaust dust particles and the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) technique which reduces nitrogen oxide emissions. However, there is a few concerns about using the latter, and since every new diesel car comes with such exhaust filter it is best to inform you what consequences it will bring before acquiring a new car.

For starters there is the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) technique which is used to reduce NOx emissions. The system works as following: 

In any normal turbo driven engine the intake air is being compressed by a turbo lader. The compressed air is optionally being cooled by an intercooler and then used inside the engine to burn fuel and make the engine run. The exhaust gases (that are being created by combustion of fuel and air) leave the engine block through the exhaust manifold where afterwards it will be lead back to the turbo lader. This will bring the turbo lader to a spin and so the intake compressor wheel of the turbo is also being moved which will result in compressed air, more air inside the engine and thus higher performance. In the end the heated exhaust gases will flow through the exhaust pipe back out of the car.
With the EGR technique, the exhaust gases will be used again, not only to drive the turbo but also as intake air. Notice in the picture above how in between the turbo lader and engine block (exhaust manofild) the hot (red) air is also flowing back inside a EGR cooling pipe (notice the recirculation gas tag) and then back to the engine. The reason this is being done is because the engine produces quite some nitrogen oxide (NOx). Bringing the low oxygen exhaust gases back to the car reduces the combustion temperature which on its turn reduces NOx (and also a little bit of performance) because NOx is created at higher temperatures.
From a environmental point of view, this is a good thing, since now a lot less NOx is left, however the technique has some mayor drawbacks and for diesel engines this also led to a higher need for a dust particle filter. Aside of lowering NOx emissions, EGR also lowers the combustion efficiency leaving more fuel not to burn, and creating more carbon and particle matter. Because of the extra carbon emission, a DPF comes to help.

The dust particle filter itself is not so different from any other filters: it catches the particle matter from leaving the car. The pressure sensor notices when the filter get clogged up, once a certain target percentage of pressure loss is met the car will regenerate the DPF by burning the clogged up carbon that is left inside the DPF, effectively cleaning it again. One of the reasons why diesel engine or not fitted for small trips is because the DPF never gets the chance to properly clean itself because regeneration sometimes takes up to 15 minutes, and only starts when the exhaust gas has reached a certain temperature.

The DPF should not be mistaken by the intake air filter which is positioned in front of the car, and looks like this:

The DPF looks more like the following picture and is positioned beneath the car, nearer to the exhaust pipe:

Some helpful information can be found for example in this small article: