The Vauxhall Ampera was an innovative plug-in hybrid electric vehicle sold in the UK between 2012 and 2015. With its advanced electric drive system coupled with a petrol range extender, the Ampera offers drivers excellent fuel efficiency and low emissions without range anxiety. However, Vauxhall Ampera problems did stem from the complex vehicle technology.
In this article, I provide a comprehensive guide to the most common Vauxhall Ampera problems, causes, and how to properly diagnose and fix them. I also offer tips on optimal maintenance procedures to enhance reliability and maximise the lifespan of these advanced hybrid vehicles.
Battery Pack Issues
The battery is an integral part of any electric or hybrid vehicle. However, batteries lose power over time which can cause problems.
Ampera owners often report that the battery does not charge fully or loses charge quickly. This is usually because of issues with the individual parts inside the battery. Testing each part may be needed to find the problem. Sometimes, replacing the whole battery is the only solution, which will be an expensive job if you’re not under warranty.
Software issues can also stop the battery from waking up properly. Restarting the software can usually fix this. Regular software updates from Vauxhall are key to maximising battery life and efficiency.
Good maintenance is important to make the Ampera’s battery last longer. Avoid draining or overcharging the battery. Keep the charge between 50 to 80% when not driving.
Electric Drive Motor Problems
A common problem is too much noise or shaking coming from the electric motor, especially when accelerating hard. This usually happens because the bearings inside the motor are worn out. Unfortunately, the only way to fix this is to replace the whole drive motor, which costs a lot.
It’s important to listen for signs of motor problems like a high-pitched whining from the front of the car or strong vibrations through the chassis when accelerating. Noticing bearing wear early gives the best chance of avoiding big problems later.
I recommend having the electric drive motor checked each year as part of routine servicing. Lubricating the internal bearings, cleaning parts, and checking for belt wear can help make the motor last longer. Look out for any new vibrations, resistance, or changes in the normal sounds.
Charging System Issues
The Ampera relies on its electric system, so issues with charging can be very inconvenient. Faulty charging ports are one of the most common problems reported.
Signs of a bad charging port are:
- Being unable to start charging when plugged in
- The charger cutting out right away or stopping soon after starting
- Charging taking much longer than normal
Inspecting the port closely for any dirt or damage, checking the connections, and cleaning the contacts may fix these types of intermittent problems.
However, when charging does not work at all, the parts and wires inside the charging port unit could be broken or faulty. This can mean replacing the whole charging port. Only genuine Vauxhall parts should be used to ensure everything works properly and safely.
Ampera owners should carefully protect the charging port from any water or damage when not charging. Do not yank the charging cable out quickly when unplugging, as this can wear out the port over time. Keep the contacts clean, the port’s rubber seal lubricated, and use weather protection caps when not charging.
Software Bugs and Updates
As an advanced hybrid vehicle, the Vauxhall Ampera relies heavily on software to control its systems.
Problems such as the engine failing to start, sudden warning lights appearing or error messages showing are often caused by faults in the software. While annoying, many can be resolved by resetting the software or installing an update.
Vauxhall has released numerous software updates over the Ampera’s lifespan to fix issues and improve performance. It is essential for owners to keep the vehicle’s software up to date.
Owners can download the latest software onto a USB stick from Vauxhall’s website and install it themselves. Keeping up-to-date with the latest software helps to maximise reliability.
Heating and Cooling System Problems
Maintaining comfortable cabin temperature can help maximise battery efficiency in the Ampera. Problems with the heating and air conditioning systems need to be addressed promptly.
The Ampera uses an electrical system to heat and cool the cabin. Common issues include loss of heating or cooling, strange smells from the vents, foggy windows and water leaks.
Diagnosing heating and cooling faults in the Ampera requires a mechanic’s expertise, as the system is quite complex with many parts. Refrigerant leaks, electrical problems in the control unit, blocked pipes, blower motor failure, and stuck valves or flaps are common issues.
Regular servicing helps prevent many problems. Experts recommend changing the cabin air filter annually and checking the coolant level regularly to maintain ideal air conditioning. Look out for new noises, smells or changes in temperature control and see a mechanic promptly.
Braking System Problems
The Ampera uses regenerative braking to recapture energy, which adds complexity that can potentially lead to issues.
Indications of problems include increased braking distance, vibrations felt through the brake pedal, or warning lights on the dashboard signalling electronic brake failure.
Faults are commonly due to worn brake pads or regeneration actuators. The intricate electronic sensors can also be prone to malfunctions.
Biannual brake inspections by a specialist are advised. Monitoring brake fluid and replacing pads when worn maximises safety.
Range Anxiety Concerns
A common concern for any electric vehicle is range anxiety – worry that the battery charge will run out before reaching your destination.
The Ampera’s actual electric range is around 30-50km depending on how you drive and the conditions. Understanding what limits the range can help reduce anxiety.
Fast acceleration, high speeds, cold weather, and using things like headlights all reduce range. Carefully planning trips and driving at a steady speed can increase range.
Also, make sure to keep tyres properly inflated and get regular battery checks. Knowing where charging points are along your route can give reassurance.
With experience, you can learn an electric vehicle’s abilities and limits.
It is essential to service the Vauxhall Ampera regularly to ensure reliability and maximise its lifespan.
It is advised to frequently check the battery, brakes, tyres, coolant system, and other parts.
Consider an extended warranty to limit high repair costs later. Only use trained technicians with hybrid experience for major work.
Basic jobs like checking fluids, replacing wipers, cleaning the cabin air filter, and hoovering air vents can be done yourself to save on costs. But avoid complicated repairs or dismantling parts yourself.
Well-serviced Amperas will provide many years of dependable, economical driving. However, neglecting your Ampera can lead to major failures and breakdowns over time.
What are the most common Vauxhall Ampera problems?
The most common Vauxhall Ampera problems include issues with the battery pack like reduced capacity or failing to charge fully, electric motor problems like noise and vibration, faulty charging ports, software glitches, heating and cooling system faults, and problems with the brakes and regenerative braking system.
Why does my Vauxhall Ampera have poor battery life?
Poor battery life in the Vauxhall Ampera is usually caused by individual battery cell modules degrading or failing over time. Extensive battery discharge cycles, excessive heat, and age can contribute to cell deterioration. A faulty battery cooling system can also reduce battery life.
How can I improve the reliability of my Vauxhall Ampera?
To improve the reliability of the Vauxhall Ampera, be diligent about scheduled maintenance, promptly install all software updates, avoid excessive discharge of the battery, use OEM approved parts for repairs, protect the vehicle from harsh weather when parked, and address any issues with the battery, motor, or brakes right away.
What should I do if my Vauxhall Ampera won’t charge properly?
If your Ampera fails to charge properly, first inspect the charge port for any debris or damage and check all connections. Try charging with multiple cords. If problems persist, the internal charging components may be faulty and need replacement by a professional. Contact Vauxhall for diagnostics on charge system issues.
Why is my Vauxhall Ampera losing power?
If your Ampera is losing power, it could stem from battery failure, electric motor problems, or a software malfunction. Diagnosing the specific cause requires an expert technician. Avoid continued driving until the loss of power issue can be properly repaired.
What are the most common reliability problems with the Ampera?
Common Vauxhall Ampera reliability problems include premature battery degradation, electric motor failures, faulty charging systems, buggy software that causes drivability issues, and failures of sensors and electronics that are costly to repair.