2011 Chevrolet Cruze Long Term Road Test - Maintenance

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Long Term Road Test

2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ: Will It Last Forever?

October 07, 2011


Here's a little factoid for you. General Motors went CSI on the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze and had its corrosion engineer, Christa Cooper, analyze "Cruze test vehicles subjected to extreme durability testing representing 10 years of wear, tear and elements." The tested cars are then disassembled with every piece carefully looked over for any sign of rust.

The point? To come up with ways to prevent rust thus aiding in the longevity of the car's body.

From the General Motors site:

"While Cruze was under development, Cooper and her team uncovered corrosion where the inner panel of the rear door is joined to the safety beam. The team recommended switching out an uncoated steel bracket with a rust-resistant coated steel stamping. The change eliminated corrosion in that area."

I'm not sure how different this is from what other automakers do with their cars but this should make Cruze buyers feel a bit more secure about their purchases, no?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: 20,000-mile Service

August 12, 2011


(Photo by Glenn Paulina)

We anticipated that our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze would be due for service soon. As if we planned it, the service reminder illuminated on the IP. A visit to the local dealer set us back $53 for the oil change, tire rotation and various inspections.

We typically test our long-term cars for 12 months and 20,000 miles. After just 10 months the Cruze has eclipsed that milestone. Maybe we'll reach 25k before it's time for the auction block.

Total Cost: $52.93

Days out of Service: None

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager 20,112 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: 15,000-mile Recap

July 20, 2011

Thumbnail image for Milestone_graphic.jpg Cruze_Rhyonight4_1600.jpg

After 9 months with the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze we finally reached the 15,000-mile mark. Let's recap the notable moments in our test to-date. Take the jump, this is not a short list...

- transmission reflash
- lube strut assembly
- affix new VIN label
- improper steering shaft installation
- detachable steering wheel

Additional problems:
- trunk leak
- radio freakout
- shifter gasket slipping

Routine maintenance:
- service at 5,000 miles
- service at 10,000 miles
- back to the dealer for Dexos oil do-over

- lost to the Ford Focus in a comparison test

Draw your own conclusions from the lengthy maintenance list. But if nothing else the Cruze is certainly keeping busy.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 15,000 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: Liberated Gasket

July 14, 2011


Take a look at the shifter on our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. We tried to fix it by tucking the gasket back in. Of course, that was just wishful thinking. We'll add this to the list next time the Cruze visits the dealer.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 13,800 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: Dexos Do Over

June 14, 2011


The last service on our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze included an oil change. Chevrolet Santa Monica performed this oil change using a non-Dexos blessed oil. A quick flip of the owner's manual told us that was a big, potentially warranty voiding, no-no.

Upon realizing the mistake, we called the dealer and asked them to drain the poser Dexos for the real thing. "We don't have any," began our advisor, "We've always used a blend supplied to us by GM. But the Dexos oil is on the way. I'll call you when it arrives."

It arrived. We dropped the Cruze off in the morning and it was ready in the afternoon. Old oil was drained and new oil added at no cost to us. Whew, that was close.

Total Cost: None

Total Days out of Service: None

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 10,711 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: The Dexose Oil Specification

May 23, 2011

Cruze Owners Manual.jpg

The recent oil change on our Chevrolet Cruze sparked some debate as to whether or not it needed synthetic oil. It was difficult to get a clear answer on this, but after some extensive research, I was able to find something. The GM branded Dexos oil that will be used in the dealer bulk tanks and sold over the parts counter is a synthetic blend. But if purchased from another manufacturer, it can also be a full synthetic. Sound confusing? Let me explain.

The photo above was taken from the owner's manual. The manual only says that the oil needs to be Dexos certified 5W30. In fact, there is no mention of the word "synthetic" anywhere in the owner's manual. The official "about Dexos" page didn't mention synthetic either.

Dexos is an oil certification standard created by GM to consolidate its recommended oils. It is comparable to the upcoming ILSAC GF-5 standard -- the one to which the entire oil industry will have to adhere. According to GM, the Dexos1 oil specification will decrease harmful piston deposits by up to 28 percent and improve fuel efficiency by up to 0.3 percent compared to the ILSAC GF-4 specifications. Dexos compliant oil is higher quality oil, but it isn't always fully synthetic. GM licenses the Dexos certification to motor oil manufacturers that can then choose to offer a full-synthetic variation, as long as it meets the requirements. All 2011 GM models and newer will use Dexos1 branded oil. Dexos2 is for diesel vehicles.

In the link that sodaguy posted, Mobil1 full synthetic is listed as one of the alternates that can be used in the event that Dexos1 is not available. While they haven't been formally tested, fully-synthetic, non-Dexos oil is listed because it meets and may exceed the Dexos requirements.

Tom Read, a GM powertrain technology representative, says that the term "synthetic," has different meanings depending on the oil marketer. "The use of the term "synthetic" with engine oil is used broadly and not standardized in the industry. However, Dexos would certainly qualify in the commonly understood definition of a synthetic blend oil," says Read.

If you go to the Dexos licensed brands page, you'll find that both non-synthetic and synthetic oils are listed. Now take a look at the second line, and you'll see "ACDelco Dexos1 SAE 5W30," which is supplied by General Motors. This is the oil that will be supplied to the dealers.

Read says that GM is in the process of distributing and educating its dealers about this new oil standard. But it takes time to get the message out. I found this out for myself when I called the parts departments of a few local Chevy dealerships. Most of them had never heard of Dexos and couldn't tell us whether or not Dexos was a synthetic oil. The ones who had heard of it said that it cost about $7 per quart -- a far cry from the $2.50 per quart on our recent bill. When I called the parts department of the dealer that had performed our oil change, it did not even have the oil in stock. I then knew for sure that our Cruze was not filled with Dexos oil.

I told our service advisor that we had reason to believe that our Cruze was not filled with the proper oil and showed him the Dexos page from the owner's manual. And as fate would have it, an internal dealer memo about Dexos was sitting on his desk. The service advisor referred to Dexos as a synthetic blend. He told me that the dealership had recently ordered a batch of Dexos oil and that the service department would replace our oil as soon as Dexos was in stock. He assured us that since it was that dealership's policy to fill all cars with a synthetic blend, we would be OK in the meantime and that our warranty would not be compromised.

These mix-ups are bound to happen when well-established standards change. We suspect that this kind of thing might have happened at Toyota dealerships, too. That company is slowly phasing in full-synthetic oil in many of its models.

On a final note, we asked Read what would happen if a person used a conventional 5W30 oil with the API starburst symbol (as per the owner's manual) for an entire oil interval:

"If a customer uses a non-licensed engine oil that is simply ILSAC GF-5 quality, they will not enjoy the benefits of using a Dexos licensed product. Those benefits could include better low temperature performance, cleaner pistons, better aeration performance, etc. This could be especially important as the engine oil ages. Furthermore, with the extensive licensing and quality monitoring program in place, the customer can be sure that the Dexos licensed product they are using actually meets that performance level."

If you own a 2011 or newer GM vehicle, I suggest checking with your dealer to make sure they give you the proper oil.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 10,175 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: Recall and an Oil Change

May 19, 2011

Cruze First Service.jpg

The maintenance light in our Chevrolet Cruze came on shortly after 10,000 miles. We took the car to our local dealership for its first oil change and a tire rotation. While we were there, our service advisor reminded us of the steering shaft recall after an incident in which the steering wheel detached on the road.

The warranty service consisted of inspecting the intermediate steering shaft pinch bolt. The Cruze's bolt was already at proper specifications, so it didn't need further repair.

Next up was the oil change. While the Cruze didn't beat the Pontiac G8's 13,000 mile record between oil changes, 10,000 miles is still an impressive number for a car using non-synthetic oil. Lastly, the dealer gave us a tire rotation on the house.

The dealership completed the scheduled maintenance in the same day and it cost us $41.76.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 10,017 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: 10K Milestone

May 18, 2011

Thumbnail image for Milestone_graphic.jpg Cruze 10K Miles.jpg

Our long term Chevrolet Cruze just crossed the 10,000 mile mark. The only major issues since we bought the car have been the watery trunk and the transmission, which needed a reflash. It has been solid ever since. In honor of this milestone, we will be taking the car in for its first service. We'll have more on that later.

The Cruze is currently averaging 25 mpg. The EPA ratings for the Cruze are 24 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. We're coming up a bit short on the combined rating, but we have another 10,000 miles to lighten our lead feet.

-Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: Spare Tire vs Tire Repair Kit

May 17, 2011

Cruze Spare Tire.jpg

I wrote an article on spare tires recently, and the research I did for it made me more aware of the spare tires -- or the lack thereof-- in cars today. Our long term Chevrolet Cruze came with this temporary spare. But it's not a standard feature. All Cruzes come with a tire repair kit, unless you opt for the $100 temporary spare (as we did).

We are going to start seeing more of this in the coming years, as automakers seek ways to reduce weight in vehicles. Over the past two years, there has been an increase of 30 vehicles that come standard with tire repair kits. Both the spare and the tire repair kits have their pros and cons, but if it was my car, I'd want the temporary spare.

Would you pay the extra $100 to get a spare? Would you mind using an inflator kit? Or would you just call roadside assistance?

-Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 10,014 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: Recall for Steering Shaft

May 05, 2011


Yup, yesterday General Motors announced another recall (the previous one being the detached steering wheel issue) for the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. Apparently the steering shaft on some of the Cruzes was improperly installed, an issue discovered when "a customer lost steering control in a parking lot" but, didn't get in an accident. Also, the cars with automatic transmissions will be checked for proper installation of transmission shift linkage.

Analysts guess that this recall won't impact the Cruze's sales. April was a big month for the Chevy, wonder how May will look.
In any case, if you have a Cruze a visit to the dealership should only take about an hour; the fix doesn't require parts.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: Radio Reboot

April 25, 2011

chevy cruze radio.jpg

In honor of Earth Day weekend, the radio in the Chevy Cruze decided to save some energy and resources by broadcasting static instead of, you know, actual radio programming. Tried restarting the radio as a fix but that didn't do it.

Turns out what was needed was a full system reboot -- the problem happened twice over the weekend and in both cases, turning the engine off and then back on again did the trick. Our Keepers of the Keys have been notified.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 9,051 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: Video of a Detached Steering Wheel

April 13, 2011


On Monday, Chevrolet recalled 2,100 2011 Chevrolet Cruzes because of a detachable steering wheel issue. We Photoshopped our own example of what that must look like but there's nothing like seeing a video of it. Eesh!

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: Recalled for Detachable Steering Wheel

April 11, 2011


(Photo courtesy of the talented Mark Takahashi)

General Motors is recalling 2,100 2011 Chevrolet Cruze sedans because the steering wheel can detach from the steering column, according to the NHTSA. Details here.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: Service Complete

January 28, 2011


We picked up the Cruze today after having three recalls performed, the most important of which was the transmission reflash.

We'll let you know if it feels any different after driving it this weekend. Stay tuned.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ: Service

January 27, 2011


We dropped the Cruze off this morning at Santa Monica Auto Group to take care of the transmission reflash. In a previous post Mark described what was wrong.

While I was there, the service advisor told me there were two other outstanding recalls. They seem like small things. He estimated this would take a day and a half. Hopefully, we'll have our Cruze back in time for the weekend.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 5,656 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ: Trunk Snafu Fix

November 22, 2010

Long Term Chevrolet Cruze.jpg

I helped arrange the purchase of our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ and after it was delivered to our offices I breathed my normal sigh of relief at having secured yet another long term test car. But over the weekend I got an alarming email that the trunk was leaking. On Monday morning, I called the dealership and told them we wanted to return the Cruze. We had signed contracts and I knew that, short of us suing them, they weren't legally bound to exchange the car. Still, the dealer could, at his discretion, take the car back and make us happy.

I called Ara Mikailian, our salesman at Allen Gwynn Chevrolet, in Glendale, CA, where we had purchased the Cruze. He returned my call quickly and said he would discuss our request for an exchange with his boss. In the mean time, he said to bring the car into their service department. Glendale is a long way from our Santa Monica offices, so I wanted to see for myself the extent of the trunk leak.

I ran the car through the car wash, parked it on a side street, and opened the trunk. At first, nothing. But then I saw little streams of water trickling down the inside of the spare tire well. After a short time, a small puddle of water gathered in a low area. Now I had the motivation I needed and headed for Glendale and Allen Gwynn Chevrolet.

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2011 Chevy Cruze LTZ: Leaky Trunk

November 21, 2010

Cruze sized 1.jpg

Please note that this took place a couple of weeks back. Before the track tested, before the photoshoot, before anyone had sat it in even.

Every new car entering our fleet gets a thorough check-in. This consists of a visual inspection, fluid checks, noting the break-in period, torquing down the lug nuts (you'd be surprised how often these are loose) and checking tire pressures. This includes checking that the spare tire is present, inflated and that all of the tools are supplied.

Everything was checking in just fine on our 2011 Chevy Cruze -- although the tires had been set 6 psi high from the dealer -- until I got to the trunk.

Pulling back the trunk liner, I grabbed the satchel of tools to find that it was damp at the top and sopping wet on the bottom. Same went for the liner over the actual spare tire and the spare itself. When everything was out there was, +/- half an inch of water standing in the bottom of the trunk. The top layer was dry, but everything else had water in/on it.

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Past Long-Term Road Tests