2008 Buick Enclave Long Term Road Test

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2008 Buick Enclave: 22,000 miles and Ticking

August 12, 2008

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Last night I pulled in my driveway after a pleasant drive home and watched the odometer on our long-term 2008 Buick Enclave click exactly 22,000 miles. Brought a tear to my eye. Not really, but I thought I'd give the haters out there something to comment on.

Anyway, the power steering problem, which as been the truck's only reliability hiccup, is fixed and everything on the vehicle seems to feel as new. Brakes, suspension, engine, transmission? It all feels good. Even the SUV's tires still look new.

And we're not finished yet. We've only had the Enclave since November first, which means there's still three full months left on this 12 month test. We'll keep you posted, meanwhile I'll continue my quest to acclimate to the Buick's fuzzy cloth seats. Who the hell ordered this thing without leather anyway?

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 22,008 miles

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2008 Buick Enclave CX: Power Steering Repair Redux

August 04, 2008

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Thursday July 24th I brought our Long-Term Buick Enclave back to Santa Monica Auto group to address the continued problems we've been having with the power steering. Late afternoon on Wednesday June 30, our Enclave was fixed and back in our hands.

The wait was expected, Santa Monica Buick called us late Friday to let us know that the problem had been diagnosed and that new parts had to be ordered. Parts included a new power steering pump, a new steering rack, and new hoses. The parts, they said, would be in on Tuesday and the job should be finished Wednesday. A rental car was offered but declined.

In a past life Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds (no relation) developed steering systems for a major manufacturer and, upon road testing the vehicle, said that when the first pump failed it had probably contaminated the fluid with pump-parts that were now lodged in the rack. Turns out he was correct, that was the exact diagnosis that GM came up with and remedied.

After the fix we were contacted by GM to discuss the situation. They let us know that replacing the pump first is standard operating procedure as contamination is not a guarantee. The dealership, however, should have road-tested the vehicle further, found the flaw, and replaced the rack on the first visit. None of this should ever have hit the consumer. They also made it very clear that errant dust from our dirt road trip had nothing to do with the pump's failure, though the high-rpm churning required to not get stuck may have exacerbated the issue. Bear in mind that the same amount of wheelspin and engine use will be required by every driver to keep momentum up in the snow-belt.

All-in-all it was a fine visit with a good amount of communication and information from the dealer level. And the best part is, the Buick is back and it feels just as solid as it did before.

Days out of service: 6

Cost: 0.00

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 21,638 miles.

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2008 Buick Enclave CX: Back to the dealer

July 24, 2008

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This morning I dropped the Buick Enclave back at Santa Monica Chevrolet Buick to fix the ailing power steering that's kept the big Buick sidelined for the past few days.

They said they'd have an idea of the problem by this afternoon. We'll keep you posted when we get any news.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 21,200 miles.

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2008 Buick Enclave: Dirt. Power Steering Failure. Coincidence?

July 23, 2008

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The power steering problems we've been having with our long term 2008 Buick Enclave have been well documented in this blog, but you still don't know the whole story. What we haven't told you is that the power steering trouble started soon after this little off road excurstion.

Now I'm not sure the two are definitely related, and we have no way of knowing if they are for sure, but it wasn't long (a week or two) after we drove the SUV through this silty dirt for several hours that the power steering got funky.

I'll also admit that the front-wheel drive Enclave isn't really geared up for such terrain. Although it never got stuck, it did struggle through some of the deeper sections. And it was clear and no surprise to its passengers that the Enclave wanted back on the highway as soon as possible.

Still, it isour job is to test a vehicle, and any SUV should be able to drive though some dirt without having major systems failure soon after. Again, I'm not saying this off road adventure (for sure) caused our power steering failure, but the timing is suspect.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

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2008 Buick Enclave CX: The real reason...

July 21, 2008

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There's been some discussion of late as to my reasons for removing the engine cover from our long term Buick Enclave. One commenter said, "I think it's silly the stuff he complains about." While another backed me up "I think it could make a nice plant potter or recycle bin filler. It has no reason to be in the engine bay." But nobody hit the real reason the engine cover now lives in the trunk of the Buick: After only a few minutes of driving, the cover gets far too hot to touch.

Well that's not a problem, right? I mean, with the oil filler and dipstick available without removing the cover, what's the problem?

The problem is the power steering. It's still not right and we've been monitoring the fluid for the past few weeks. After a proper bleeding procedure there was still some air in the fluid that had to work itself out. Now that the fluid is running clear and the level is correct, there's still a problem. The assist is notchy and all the boost is all over the place. It goes from far too over-boosted to nearly power-free in the span of a 30-degree rotation. There are no set "good" spots, assist will fluctuate mid-corner without changing steering angle. I hate to say this, but it feels exactly how our Aura felt before it went to the shop. Though thankfully there is no clunk.

It will be going back to the shop shortly.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 21,120 miles.

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2008 Buick Enclave CX: The Engine Cover and Oil Cap

July 10, 2008

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"I wouldn't take it down if I were you. That's a load-bearing poster." - Bart to Rod (or Todd)

Like the Krusty the Clown poster holding up the walls of the Flanderseses poorly rebuild home, the oil-filler cap has more responsibility in the Enclave's engine bay than a filler-tube cap should probably have.

See, in order to remove the engine cover (the thing that lets people pretend engines are neat, tidy, clean and sanitary; not smelly blocks of metal bursting with tangles of wires and, literally, full of devastating explosions) you have to unscrew the oil cap. The cover is sitting atop a few posts that are fairly secure, but the cap is the only thing that screws, latches, or clamps it in place. Not a big deal you say? It's a clever way to access the tube without removing the cover, you say? Well, yes, that's correct. Also though, with the cap located at the bottom of a shallow well, each time you open it small bits of sand and dust fall into the tube. I refuse to Hoover my engine before checking the oil. I don't know how much sand the Enclave can tolerate in its oil, but if it's more than none this is a pretty poor design element.

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2008 Buick Enclave CX: More Power Steering Fluid

June 16, 2008

The new power steering pump in our Buick Enclave continued to make noise through the weekend. I added a very small amount of fluid to the reservoir this morning which didn't seem to change anything -- the fluid level was slightly below the "low" indicator markon the dipstick. Noise from the pump is noticeable if you know what to listen for and when to listen. Otherwise, if it weren't for this failure making me paranoid, I'm not certain I'd notice... All this is to say it seems to be improving as air works its way out of the system.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 19,845 miles

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2008 Buick Enclave CX: Power Steering Repair.

June 12, 2008

Five days after our Long Term Buick Enclave CX was dropped of at Santa Monica Chevrolet Buick (click the link to rate this dealership) for a complete failure in the power steering system, the Buick's back in our garage.

As we suspected, the power steering pump was at fault and would have to be ordered. The majority of time spent at the dealership was waiting for the pump, their supplier was closed for inventory. vWhen I picked up the car yesterday the new pump had a familiar groan...

They hadn't properly bled the system. It's not a long or difficult process, but it should have been done before I picked the car up. I called them just to hear them out on the issue, the service advisor told me to drive it for a few days and the bubbles will work themselves out.

We're just going to bleed the system ourselves the right way (and add more fluid as the trapped bubbles leave the system -- volume you know) and call it a day.

Total Cost: 0.00
Days out of service: 5

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 19,495 miles.

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2008 Buick Enclave CX: Power Steering Failure

June 06, 2008

Yesterday, just as I made the left turn off of California's Highway 33 onto Cerro Noroeste road, our Buick Enclave's power steering began to show the first signs of failure. This is not good. Cerro Noroeste road runs maybe 25 miles through the San Emigdio Mountains and gains probably 2,500 feet in elevation. It's a classic driving road -- one of California's best...

Now I hadn't exactly planned on shredding it in the Buick, but the immanent deterioration of the power steering assist doomed any plans for remotely spirited driving.

The best part? The failure wasn't comprehensive. Around center there remained enough power assist to lure me into a corner with some enthusiasm, only to result in a complete lack of assist once the road began to truly bendand require more steering input. It was a deadly combination that caught me off guard on several occasions. And when the tires weren't rolling, steering was impossible.

There were no leaks and no significant noise from the pump -- just an utter lack of power assist when it was needed most.

We dumped the Enclave at the dealer this morning for a power-steering post mortem. More on this subject later.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor at about 19,500 miles.

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2008 Buick Enclave CX: The Joys and Minor Inconveniences of Checking the Oil

May 29, 2008



I fueled up our long-term 2008 Buick Enclave CX last night and decided to check the oil. When I released the hood's safety latch, it went right up, no prop rod needed, and there was the transverse-mounted V6 -- front and center, and within easy reach.

Then, I reached for the dipstick and it brought back memories of checking the oil in our Pontiac Solstice . It wasn't that bad, of course, since at least the Buick's dipstick is up front... But you still have to reach pretty far into the bay to retrieve it. I wasn't worried about getting my clothes dirty since I'd just come from the gym. But reinserting the dipstick proved difficult, because even under the bright lights at the gas station, shadows kept falling over the area. I didn't have a flashlight in the car, so it was a pain.

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