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Holden VE Commodore 5 most common repairs

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Updated 11 Oct 2019Joel Ilton
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The VE series of the Holden Commodore, introduced in late 2006, was the first Commodore to be developed from the ground up by Holden Australia. Known as the ‘Billion Dollar Baby’ project, a completely new suspension and chassis setup was developed with Australia’s harsh climate in mind.

3.4 million kilometres of testing were carried out to ensure the new Commodore could handle everything thrown at it by the Australian public, and 350,000 VE variants were built before the VF model update was introduced in mid-2013.

With so many of these vehicles on the road, many travelling hundreds of thousands of kilometres in their lifetimes, mechanical issues are always going to occur. So, what are the most common issues that affect this generation of Commodore? Utilising the repairs and servicing information captured here at AutoGuru, we have compiled a list of the 5 most commonly requested repair items for the VE Commodore in all its variants, including Berlina, Calais, SS and Statesman.

Note: This list does not include normal wear and tear items such as tyres and brakes or servicing costs, as these are applicable no matter which vehicle you drive. If you are interested in the annual running costs of the Commodore, you can click here.

1. Timing Chain Replacement

A problem that has been well documented, especially on early model VE Commodores fitted with the V6 engine, is stretched timing chains.

The timing chains fitted to these early vehicles could suffer from chain elongation.

Telltale signs that the timing chains have stretched are the engine light appearing on the dashboard and certain diagnostic trouble codes stored in the engine control module (ECU) - mainly P0008, P0009, P0017, P0018 and P0019, which all indicate the engine camshafts and crankshaft are out of alignment.

Unfortunately, replacement of the timing chains, guides and tensioners is the only rectification for this problem, and pricing for this repair can rocket into the thousands depending on the condition of the engine and if any other components need replacing.

While not a guaranteed way to avoid timing chain issues, servicing your vehicle on time and using the correct oil will give the timing chains the best chance to lead a long and trouble-free life.

2. Alternator Replacement

Other problems identified on earlier model VE Commodores were failing alternators and flat battery woes. A number of software updates were needed on early models to prevent excessive battery drain when the vehicle is off, as well as alternator charging rates.

The VE Commodore uses the Engine Control Unit (ECU) and Body Control Module (BCM) to accurately control the amount of charge the alternator is producing. This control allows for less drag on the engine when the battery is fully charged or when there is not much electrical load on the charging system, increasing fuel efficiency.

Unfortunately, this can put more stress on the alternator when a full charge is needed and can lead to failure. Correct diagnosis is imperative to ensure it is not just a software update that is needed to rectify the issue. Fluid leaks from the engine can also cause premature failure of the alternator as it is susceptible to fluid ingress. Alternator replacement is common to both the V6 and V8 VE/WM Commodore range.

3. Radiator Replacement

The cooling system is one of the hardest working systems fitted to the modern day vehicle, dealing with extreme temperatures and pressures to keep everything operating as it should.

The V6 and V8 VE Commodore is fitted with a large radiator in the front of the vehicle, which features an aluminium core with plastic end tanks. These are the main point of failure, as the plastic can become brittle over many heat cycles, leading to leaking top end tanks and top outlets breaking off the radiator.

The only option is replacement when these issues occur.

4. Water Pump Replacement

Another part of the cooling system that can fail, especially on the V6 variants of the VE Commodore, is the water pump.

The water pump is located on the front cover of the engine and is driven by a serpentine belt which provides drive from the crankshaft to the accessories on the engine.

They can leak from the gasket that seals the water pump to the front cover, and replacement is the only option. It is also worthwhile having the inlet seals on the top water outlet replaced at the same time, as they are made of rubber and can become brittle and leak, and a flush performed to remove any debris in the cooling system prior to filling with the correct coolant.

5. Fuel Pump Replacement

An issue on early V6 and V8 powered VE Commodores is a failure of the fuel pump. This can come without warning and is usually followed with a flashing X on the dashboard and a ‘Contact Dealer’ message.

The VE Commodore was the first Commodore to be fitted with a saddle-style fuel tank and has a separate fuel sender and fuel pump assembly.

The fuel filter is integrated into this pump assembly and replacement is the only option when the fuel pump fails. The rear subframe has to be lowered at the front to allow removal of the fuel tank, so replacement can be quite labour intensive.

As a true Australian-designed and built car, the VE Commodore is a vehicle of which we should be pretty proud.

It was big, comfortable, powerful and it looked good too - there are still plenty of them about and they do not look dated at all. As with all cars, it had its issues but as a symbol of what could be done when Australia’s automotive industry put its mind to a task, it was a winner.

Sadly, the shifting of public taste away from the big sedans would see the Commodore last just one more incarnation - the VF I and II - as an Aussie-built icon. The current Commodore, the ZB, is a rebadged Opel Insignia imported from Europe.

Should you be having any trouble with your VE Commodore, help is at hand and an AutoGuru technician will be able to provide quotes to repair your VE if you notice any problems rear their ugly head.

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Written ByJoel Ilton

Finding a passion for cars from a young age, Joel carried out work experience as a mechanic whilst at school before starting an apprenticeship after finishing year 12.

After almost 10 years on the tools and in customer service, he moved into the IT realm as a Data Analyst and In-House mechanic at AutoGuru.