1989 Holden Berlina VN from Australia and New Zealand


Expensive to run and not reliable


Power mirrors stopped working the day after I bought it.

Power windows weren't working.

Upright part of seat seems to always be further back than where I put it every time I get in car.

Door seals all fell off within a week of buying car, have been re-stuck and are coming off again.

Hoses are full of a rusty residue and are blocking up.

Overheating problems lead to a new radiator being put it, and a week later it is still over heating. No idea what the problem is now.

Very heavy on fuel.

Transmission fluid always needs topping up.

Leaks oil like a sieve.

General Comments:

Would never buy another one. Has pretty much put me off ever owning another holden... even though my last car was a holden. All I seem to do is have my hand in my pocket handing over money to fix everything that is going wrong with car.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 22nd February, 2006

22nd Feb 2006, 15:18

Sounds pretty normal for a 16 year old car which hasn't been looked after...

11th May 2007, 00:44

NO that doesn't sound normal, I guess that's just how the vn commodore goes.

1989 Holden Berlina VN 3.8 V6 from Australia and New Zealand


Powerful, good on highway, cheap to buy, but getting old and worn out


Electric fuel pump in tank failed not long after I bought car (am told some cars are running their 3rd or 4th pump). (I often worry that an electric motor is running inside 68 liters of petrol, but I guess Holden know what they were doing?) If this happens to you in the middle of nowhere, thump the bottom of the tank hard with your fist, this should get the pump going... till the next time you stop.

Speedo sensor on Automatic transmission box failed at about 270,000.

Harmonic Balancer failed at the 280,000 mark. Symptom is clunking noise coming from it while idling, but noise goes away when off idle. Cost about $300 to replace.

Replaced all 4 shocks as the car used to wallow on the highway. Rears are easy, but fronts more difficult as they are inside the struts. (it is a 15 year old car after all)

Short Coolant hose at rear of motor near thermostat burst (this one is hard to get at).

Replaced Timing chain and tensioner at 300,000 as the rattling was driving me nuts. Dramatic improvement afterwards, restored power and better fuel economy. Any V6 with over 200,000 will probably need this replaced. All parts, including replacement chain and gears, tensioner, gaskets, oil, etc will cost about $250.

Like all the other reviews say, the door trims fall off, and plastic parts break as they get old and brittle. Always keep a tube of glue in the glovebox handy.

Hood lining drops (mines a stationwagon). The velcro pads inside the roof no longer hold, Araldite fixes this.

Usual stuff replaced...plugs, leads, filters, fluids, exhaust, brake pads etc.

Paint goes off (especially lighter metalic colours) Had the bonnet and roof resprayed for $800.

Upper panhard rod bush was very worn. Mid corner the rear would suddenly change direction! Very dangerous. Replaced bush when I found out it was the culprit.

Auto transmission sump leaks a lot, replaced gasket and filter.

Engine leaks from sump, rear mains, front crank seal, rocker covers and rear of inlet manifold. Replaced front crank seal when did timing chain. Tightened sump bolts (You can't get to half of them due to the crossmember. To replace the sump gasket you have to remove the engine!) Tighten rocker covers and inlet manifold nuts, makes a difference.

Power steer hoses leak. Replace them.

Auto trans fluid leaks where they go into the radiator for cooling, tighten the clamps.

The radiator fan fuse blew. Then the fan doesn't work and your car overheats at idle. This is because the wire going to the fuse is too thin, causing resistance and heat. Put in a inline fuse and thicker wire. The VN's are notorious for cooling system problems, use good coolant or it will corrode in no time. Don't use the cheap green coloured cordial stuff.

Ventilation fan only works on one speed (3rd in my case). Replace the resistor for it located near the wiper motor.

Some surface rust at bottom of door sills. Spray lots of fish oil on these and inside the doors, tailgate (or boot), etc.

The serpentine belt tensioner bearing fails or just gets wobbly (sorry for the untechnical word). $29 for new one, comes with new pulley. Apparently this is a common fault.

General Comments:

Parts are cheap and as I used to be a mechanic that saves me a lot on labour. But this car would be a financial headache for anyone with no mechanical skills.

These cars are easy to work on.

I love the performance, and I like the handling.

Poor brakes, in fact they are bordering on dangerous. I replaced the PBR brake booster on mine for a PBR twin diaphragm one off a VP. MUCH better. Also replaced the 15/16 master cylinder with a 1 inch one off a V8...even better.

Plenty of room for 5 people.

It's true what the other reviewers say, use premium petrol and get much better fuel economy.

Get a series II VN, they are better than series I. Change over date was August 1989.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 10th September, 2004

21st Sep 2006, 03:30

I just bought a VN series one and have found the same problems timing chain etc. I am also a mechanic so I will save in labour as well, but definitely a nightmare for someone who is not in the trade.

It's a manual and has noise in the box; just bearings and for around $200 for the parts it's not too bad to do, for someone not in the trade it would be around 550 fitted.

6th Oct 2006, 21:41

I was wondering what the orange exclamation mark meant when it lights up in my Holden. I do not have the owners manual so if anyone knows can they please tell me.

13th Feb 2008, 17:23

But if you like performance stick to series 1 VN as they have been tuned for better response. the series 2 was tuned to take off a bit softer.

30th Aug 2010, 22:20

I have a Holden Berlina and there is a warning light that keeps reappearing on the dash which is orange.

Any ideas what it is or I need to do?

16th Sep 2010, 09:34

Wow. It seems there are a lot of VN problems out there. Mine has done about 365,000 kms, I think it had a basic re-build at around 100-150k not sure, but the old girl has had a hard life.

I only use "the plough" for work, so, to learn, I do all the work on the car myself unless it's way over the top for me. So it hasn't seen a mechanic for about 100,000 kms.

I have done 2 coil packs and a power steering hose in the 10 or 12 years I have had the car. and that hose at the back of the engine, including the thermostat.

One thing I have learnt is that weekly checks are a must.

It never uses a drop of oil, but I change it every 7 or so thousand kms. I top up the power steering a little every month, although I cannot find a leak. I change the coolant yearly before it gets into warm summer weather.

So far so good, and changing the fuel filter every 40 to 50 k is a good idea too, they only cost $30.