The Chevrolet Cruze was Chevy’s replacement for the Cobalt in the compact car market. Chevrolet needed a small car with good gas mileage to replace the Cobalt in its vehicle lineup. Unfortunately, the Cruze did not hit the mark.
In fact, the Cruze is rated by some automotive experts as the least reliable compact car ever made. That’s not a great title to hold, but was the Cruze really that bad? The first-generation Cruze was loaded with problems, and the second-generation model may have been even worse. If you are considering purchasing a Cruze, make sure you read this article first. We’ll give you details about some of the problems you might experience, and we’ll also tell you which model years to avoid completely.
7 Most Common Chevy Cruze Problems
There are some issues that owners have reported over and over again. Sadly, some of the problems are quite significant. Here are the most common problems reported by Cruze owners.
— Engine Problems
Just over half of all Chevy Cruze complaints are the result of engine problems. The problems range from sputtering to stalling. Some owners report that their engine stalls when coming to a stop, and others report an engine stall when taking off from a stop. The frustrating thing is that dealerships have had trouble finding the cause of the issue. Once the car gets towed to the dealership, it starts and runs like normal. There is no check engine light and no trouble codes stored in the computer. Diagnosis could take several days or even weeks, so you might be without your car for quite some time.
Another common engine problem with the Cruze is faulty engine sensors. It seems that the sensor problems are more confined to the diesel engine, but they sometimes happen on the gasoline engine as well. Finally, valve cover issues are a big problem on the Cruze engines. This problem will usually illuminate the check engine light, and a rebuild of the cover assembly is usually required.
— Electrical Problems
You probably already know that electrical issues can be hard to track down, and Cruze drivers have reported some wild issues with their electrical systems. One of the most common complaints with the electrical system is the fact that gauges do not work at all. Imagine none of the gauges on your dashboard working! There have also been problems reported about the radio and air conditioning displays. Sometimes the displays work, and other times they do not. Turn signals are sometimes very faint, and some drivers have big problems with their headlights. Even after bulb swaps and other repairs, the headlights would switch back and forth between the bright and dim settings without warning.
If the problems above weren’t bad enough, some Cruze owners reported that their entire electrical system would shut down and cause their vehicles to shut off. This sometimes occurs when stopped at a traffic light. The car would not respond at all for about five minutes even though all the warning lights on the dash might be illuminated (including the Chevy Cruze Service Stabilitrak light). After a few minutes, it would start back up like normal. This might sound like an alternator problem, but dealerships have had a hard time diagnosing the cause of these problems. Loose battery cables were sometimes the cause of the issue, but not always. You could spend a lot of time and money having a mechanic attempt to track down these electrical problems, so many people put off trying to fix them unless their car is under warranty.
— Automatic Transmission Issues
Many Cruze models were plagued with major transmission issues, and these problems are expensive to fix. On the simple end of things, the transmissions were extremely prone to leaks. Axle seals, torque converter seals, transmission cooling lines, and other parts of the transmission often leaked and needed repair. Unfortunately, leaks aren’t the only problems with the transmission.
Hard shifts and jerky shifts have been a problem with the Cruze transmissions as well. Some drivers also noticed that their engine RPMs would spike, yet the car would not move. Contaminated transmission fluid was the culprit in some cases, and a faulty shift solenoid was the problem in other cases. However, owners with those problems turned out to be the lucky ones! Many reported total transmission failures. In those cases, a transmission rebuild or a total transmission replacement was required.
— Bad Water Pump
You probably already know that your water pump is a crucial part of your car’s cooling system. The water pump cycles coolant through the engine and radiator to keep the engine running at the proper temperature. Unfortunately, premature water pump replacement is a common issue across nearly every Cruze model. There are many cases out there of owners replacing the water pump multiple times on the same car.
Nobody seems to know for sure why the Cruze water pumps continue to fail. Perhaps there is a design flaw, or maybe the quality of the pumps is not as high as it should be. Whatever the reason, replacing the water pump over and over again is quite a nuisance.
— Coolant Leaks
Coolant leaks have been another very common Chevrolet Cruze problem. Leaking antifreeze is a big deal, as it could lead to your Chevy Cruze motor overheating. Unfortunately, there is not just one issue when it comes to coolant leaks. The leaks seem to be widespread, and they can occur in the radiator, radiator hose connections, thermostat housing, head gaskets, and other places. Many drivers also report the smell of antifreeze inside the cabin of their vehicle. This smell is almost always the result of a coolant leak, and there is usually a leak in the heater core when the smell makes it inside the car.
Not only do many parts of the cooling system leak, but some of them fail prematurely. The thermostat is known to fail regularly, and many owners report that they have replaced their thermostats many times – some almost needed replacement at every oil change! This is not normal, and it is definitely a problem with the Chevy Cruze.
— Power Steering Loss
A power steering problem has been reported by some owners, and the problem appears to occur mostly in the 2014 Cruze model. Some report a total loss of power steering, and the problem sometimes occurs at highway speeds. In some cases, the power steering goes away and then comes back a few moments later. When the power steering returns, it will often jerk the steering wheel. This could create a very dangerous situation for the occupants of the vehicle as well as others on the road. It is unknown exactly what causes this problem, although it is likely related to the power steering pump and the Cruze’s power-assisted steering.
— Bad Ignition Coils
Faulty ignition coils were a big problem for the first-generation Cruze models. The faulty coils would result in engine misfires, and sometimes they could lead to fouled spark plugs. The misfires would typically cause warning lights on the dash, and they would sometimes lead to rough idling or decreased engine performance. The reduced engine performance caused by the bad coils would also lead to reduced fuel economy in most cases. Replacement of the coils will typically fix the problem, although some owners reported a need to replace the coils more than once. Most owners also incur the cost of spark plug replacement as well because it is wise to replace the plugs along with the coils.
Chevrolet Cruze Year Models To Avoid
Now that you know what types of problems to expect with the Chevrolet Cruze, which model years should you avoid? Some years had many more problems than others. If you are looking for a used car and considering a Chevy Cruze, you should definitely avoid the years with the most issues. Most people agree that you should avoid buying a 2011 to 2015 Cruze. In fact, the 2011 model seems to have the most issues of any Cruze model.
The Cruze got a redesign in 2016, and there seem to be far fewer issues with the newer Cruze models. The newer models get better ratings from Consumer Reports, and there are fewer issues reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If you must purchase an older compact car, you should likely consider the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla instead of purchasing a 2011 – 2015 Cruze.
Cost To Repair Common Chevy Cruze Problems
While General Motors has released some service bulletins that apply to the Cruze, you will likely be paying for your own repairs unless your car is still under warranty. Unfortunately, many of the problems with the Cruze are quite expensive to repair. First, let’s consider the engine repairs that might be necessary. While it might only cost you a few hundred dollars to repair an oil leak, the cost to rebuild an engine usually runs from $2,500 to $4,000. Some owners even needed a total engine replacement. Replacing your engine could cost $4,000 to $6,000.
The cost of transmission repairs is high as well. Rebuilding a transmission could set you back $1,500 to $3,500, while total transmission replacement will usually run $3,000 to $5,000. If you have a turbo or turbo diesel engine, you might need to replace the turbocharger on your Cruze. Replacing a turbo will usually cost $1,000 to $2,000. As you can see, many Cruze repairs will really hurt your wallet!
Finally, Chevy Cruze coolant leaks are not as expensive to repair as most of the other repairs on this list. Fixing a coolant leak will usually cost you less than $500 in most cases. Replacing a radiator hose or the thermostat will typically only cost you $300 or less. If you own a Cruze, you should probably go ahead and prepare for at least some of these bills. Given the number of problems reported by Cruze owners, you will probably be facing some of these issues at some point.
The Bottom Line
The Chevrolet Cruze has its fair share of problems, and some experts even call it the least reliable compact car out there. The problems with the Cruze aren’t just minor inconveniences either. Some of the problems are huge issues, like engine or transmission failure. If those problems weren’t bad enough, the Cruze also has issues with coolant leaks, power steering failures, and bad ignition coils. Given all the issues across Cruze models, most people suggest avoiding them altogether. However, you should absolutely avoid the 2011 to 2015 models at all costs. These models have the most problems, and the 2011 model is the worst one of them all.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the Chevy Cruze have a lot of problems?
The Chevy Cruze tends to have more problems than most compact cars in its class. The 2011 Cruze model was riddled with problems, and those issues continued through 2015. However, the redesign of the Cruze in 2016 improved many of the issues. Newer Cruze models tend to have fewer problems and complaints.
Is the Chevy Cruze a reliable car?
Let’s be honest – Chevy Cruze reliability is not great. In fact, some people believe that the Cruze is the least reliable compact car ever made. That may be a bold claim, but some model years had a lot of problems. When it comes to reliability, the 2011 through 2015 Cruze models rank low. The reliability of these models is not good, and you should stay away from them on the used car market. However, the 2016 and newer Cruze models have greatly improved. While the reliability of the newer Cruze is still below that of Honda or Toyota, it is a fairly reliable vehicle.
What year was the worst Chevy Cruze?
The worst year for the Chevy Cruze was 2011. Most experts agree that you should avoid the 2011 Chevy Cruze at all costs. These vehicles had both engine and transmission problems. In addition, they had electrical problems, coolant leaks, and other issues. While the problems improved slightly in the following years, the 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 models were not a whole lot better. The redesign in 2016 seemed to eliminate many of the issues, and the 2016 and newer models have far fewer problems.
What is the most common Chevy Cruze problem?
The most common Chevrolet Cruze problem is engine trouble. The engines in these vehicles are known for sputtering, loss of power, oil leaks, and total failure. Just over half of all problems reported with the Cruze are related to engine issues. Unfortunately, this is not a cheap problem. Many owners needed to either rebuild or replace their engines. At a minimum, the repair is likely to cost $2,500. Total engine replacement will exceed $4,000 in most cases.