Vauxhall Viva – Common Faults

Main Faults and Problems with the Vauxhall Viva

Bodywork corrosion was a real fault with most cars of the era. The front wings and sills of the Viva were particularly vulnerable and, although undersealing helped, the problem never really went away.

Engine wise, I think we wre just unlucky with our Viva as it is generally said that it was a mechanically reliable vehicle.
The main reported common fault was starting. Once started, it ran well. After much head scratching by many mechanics it was discovered that the weights that advanced and retarded the ignition sometimes stuck. Regular cleaning and lubricating prevents this issue. A further issue with the distributor was that owners didn’t realise that it was necessary to add a few drops of engine oil to the felt pad under the rotor arm inside the distributor to keep the shaft lubricated. This lack of lubrication sometimes causes the bearings to sieze and the rotor arm shaft snaps. When that happens, the engine has to be dismantled to shift it.
With the 1300 engine, heavy oil consumption was cited as a problem. In fact it wasn’t. The pistons were undersize which allowed oil to seep past the rings to lubricate the cylinder when the engine was still cold. When it warmed up to operating temperature, the pistons expanded sufficiently to seal the bore and all was well. So it was only really those who habitually made short journeys that suffered from this. A second perceived fault was the creamy sludge that built up in the breather pipe and under the rocker cover. That usually indicated a blown head gasket but with the Vauxhall engine, it just happened as the engine was always colder at the top than the bottom so water vapour condensed with the oil in that area of the engine. There was nothing wrong with the head gasket and it just needed the breather pipe and rocker cover to be cleaned periodically. Alternatively, fitting a thermostat that allows the engine to run a bit warmer helps immensely.

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