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“Service Vehicle Soon” (SVS) – Fault finding in Vauxhall Astra – Part One

One of the curious things that modern vehicles insist on doing is alerting you to the many and various things that might be wrong, or about to go wrong, with your pride and joy.

This could be incredibly useful, save you money, keep you safe, and aid advanced fault-finding, you might think…

However….

In the case of this particular 2012 Astra, the message “Service Vehicle Soon” appears front and centre on the dashboard’s display.

“Ok then”, you think, “the car is telling me that it needs an oil and filters change” … But, hang on a minute, it has just been serviced…. What is it trying to tell me??

It seems that Vauxhall/Opel are using this kind of message as a catch-all “Something isn’t 100% correct with the sensor readings the central computer is receiving. Please hand over some cash to your local dealer.”

This initially unconcerning message appeared on the Astra’s display right from my first drives of the car. As mentioned above, I assumed that the service indicator needed a reset and all would be well, after all, the car was running well!

The “Remaining Oil Life” display in the menu seemed like a good place to start… It sounded like the closest to a service indicator that I could easily get at! I followed the reset instruction (pressing the SET/CLR button on the end of the left hand steering wheel stalk) and sat back, reassured by the display that the new oil had 100% of its life remaining. Problem solved.

However, you’ve guessed it, the “Service Vehicle Soon” (SVS) message appeared as soon as I went to drive the car. Problem NOT solved!

Next was the OBD fault code reading using a cheap (under £20) code reader… Nothing very exciting there, minor fault codes cleared and didn’t reappear… but the SVS persisted…

A good bit of googling round the subject came up with quite a few suggestions for faults, many helpful and realistic, quite a few really not at all helpful, often pointing out the worst and most expensive issues that Vauxhall have to offer! I started to suspect that some owners use internet forums to vent their anger at car manufacturers!

My theory is usually to work on the simplest solution first… Don’t replace the whole engine if tightening one bolt will solve the problem.

After sifting through the suggestions, one idea struck home… The SVS message often (but not always) appeared soon after, or even at, the start of the engine, particularly when the engine was cold. It is obvious when you look back, but the suggestion was that it was a faulty glow plug that was causing the error.

At the next sensible opportunity, I tested the glow plugs with a multi-meter switched to a low resistance range and, connecting the black probe to a good clean earth point in the engine bay, and (having removed the plugs leads with no ease) the red probe to the centre pin of each glow plug, one at a time.

As it turned out, one of the plugs had a significantly higher reading than the others (good readings low, under 1 OHM, bad one much higher, over 5 OHMs) so this seemed like a good place to start to make changes, glow plugs being nice and cheap, and therefore well fitting into my “simplest and cheapest first” method.

Of course, this was not quite as cheap as I expected…

ME: “Glow plugs are about £20 each, right?”

Moneypit: “Ah, not for that engine I’m afraid, £120”…. It has a sensor built in!

Shopping around I found Euro Car Parts on a good day and, using a generous discount code, got this price down to £80…. Still enough for a full set of glow plugs for any other engine choice!

Having read, and re-read the warnings about taking the old plugs out carefully (so as to not break the most delicate bit that’ll end up deep in the engine, far outside your reach) I slowly unscrewed the faulty plug… and it came out really easily… and the new one went in just as easily… All plugged in, battery re-connected, and car started happily first time… as it always had before… and NO SVS message…

Of course, the message not immediately showing didn’t mean all was well, but I was happy that I certainly hadn’t made a problem worse!

It didn’t take long to discover that the SVS warning wasn’t keen on being a stranger, and, it started to appear again, but at completely different times to before!

I was happy that, by changing the glow plug, I had sorted out one of the issues the car was trying to tell me about… but now it was telling me something else…

The hunt was on for the next fault…

CONTINUED… SEE PART TWO!

2012 Astra 1.7 cdti 131 s/s
Engine type: A17DTF
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