2011 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Road Test - Maintenance

2011 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Road Test

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Cracked Shifter Fixed and Software Update

February 02, 2012


Last week, we took our long term 2011 Chevrolet Volt to fix its cracked shifter. There isn't a Chevrolet dealership in Santa Monica and the Infiniti dealer we usually go to (which used to be a Chevy dealer but still works on the cars) cannot perform warranty work. Our next option was to take it to a nearby Cadillac/GMC dealer that works on all GM models.

Our Volt was probably one of the first they had seen. I got a few "What's this car doing here?" looks from some of the employees and customers. While the service advisor was writing the repair order, he checked with his manager to verify if the cracked shifter would qualify for a warranty claim. The manager signed off on the repairs and the advisor said they would overnight the part.

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2011 Chevy Volt: Hard Boiled Broken Shifter

January 23, 2012

Broken Shifter.jpg

The Volt's shifter has had a crack in its plastic shifter casing since at least September, and its only gotten worse since I reported it back in October. Well, it got really bad on Friday.

I pulled the shifter back, rubbed my fingers across the rough, raised crack (oh dear, this is just asking for jokes). It felt worse than before, and admittedly, I picked at it slightly. With less force than you'd use to removed the shell from a hard-boiled egg, this was the result. A huge chunk is just clinging to dear life on the left side like a broken nail. And like a broken nail, it was hard not to play with it and no doubt rip it clean off. Although really, the only solution is to get it replaced.

I no longer think this is the result of someone dropping something on the shifter as I've heard other Volts have suffered from this problem. Recall that this is not the original shifter design for the Volt. It originally had this guy, which spanned the entire space in the center stack. However, I imagine someone realized that this design could potentially lead to fingers getting stuck between shifter and center stack space. That would probably be worse than a huge chunk breaking off, but neither situation is ideal.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 14,489 miles

This is what it looked like in September.

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2011 Chevy Volt: According to GM, It's a Creak

November 30, 2011

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Just before the 2011 L.A. Auto Show, I got an email from General Motors about a blog I'd written on a squeak in our Chevy Volt. They read the blog and then scoured their web of Volt owners to see if anyone else was having a similar experience. They weren't. This made us feel special. It made GM even more determined to get to the bottom of it.

Well, it just so happened that Jim Federico, Executive Director of mini and small cars and electric vehicles, would be flying into town for the show and, with our permission, would like to take a look at the car. They knew our office was in between the airport and the LA Show and asked if Jim could stop by on his way from one to the other.

We told them we couldn't let them fix it, but we'd be happy to have him by the office to inspect our Volt. Federico has worked as an engineer and executive with GM for 30 years and is responsible for the Opel Insignia, Chevy Silverado and Cadillac CTS.

Federico showed up fresh off the flight dressed in a sharper looking suit than I'll likely wear to my wedding and spent no time before tossing his briefcase to the floor and crouching under the car. Engineers.

He then hopped in the passenger seat and asked me if I could replicate the squeak and, approximately, how far we'd have to go to hear it. Luckily, the shroud over the IP makes the super annoying noise as well at 0 mph as it does at 20 -- you just have to coax it a little. Pushing down extremely lightly on the left corner produces the sound every time and with almost the exact same frequency as it does if you let the car wiggle it on a rough road.

I got one light squeak out and Jim slid out of the passenger seat and over to the driver seat where I was sitting.

"It's not a squeak."

I'm sure at this point I'm going to get some crazy PR spin here.

"It's a creak," he says with a grin. "We call this a creak."

Jim then spent a few minutes examining the rest of the car taking down the VIN, examining the brakes, looking under the car and trying his luck to get a creak out of any other interior panel.

His conclusion? Our Volt is a very early build (one of the first couple hundred to hit private hands) and the IP cover wasn't secured properly. As he left he said he'd look into it further and asked if we would follow up if we bring it to a dealer for this issue. Likely he'll ask them for documentaion of what exactly was happening in there to make this car different than all of the others.

GM cares about the Volt. Executives don't make mid-route pit stops if there's no get and finding a cause of one creak is apparently enough of a get on this one.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Calling the Volt Advisor

November 29, 2011


General Motors is offering skittish owners of the Chevrolet Volt loaner cars, while it sorts out what's going on with a couple of Volts that caught fire after crash testing. We thought we'd check the process out and see what some other Volt owners plan on doing.

On the official Volt blog, many owners are deciding to forgo the loaner and remain confident that their vehicle is safe to drive. "Thanks for offering to loan me another vehicle," says Greg Hendrick, a commenter on the blog, "but frankly I would be far more concerned with the gasoline tank exploding in the loaner car than the battery in my Volt."

We're going to keep driving our Volt, but we were curious to see what sort of loaner was being offered.

When we called in, the advisor first assured us that the Volt was still safe to drive and that those fires were isolated incidents. He then said that the loaner would most likely be a Chevy Cruze or Malibu, based on availability. If the local dealership had an in-house rental service like an Enterprise outlet, you would likely get a vehicle from that fleet. Our Volt advisor added that if a consumer had a special request, it would be taken into consideration. If a person chooses to take the loaner, they would have it for about 30 days or until GM resolves the issue.

Is a Cruze or Malibu an acceptable replacement for the Volt? What would you request?

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate

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2011 Chevy Volt: Battery Fires Prompt Chevy To Offer Loaners, Should We Get One?

November 28, 2011


For those of you who have been under a rock that shields you from automotive news, there's been a bit of a dust-up lately with the Chevy Volt and some minor fires that have occurred after crash testing. First there was a crash test that resulted in a battery fire three weeks later, and then just last week NHTSA intentionally damaged a few Volt Battery packs causing two fires. Nothing's quite as good for the environment as exploding batteries, right?

As you'd expect, GM is acting quite quickly to ensure customers that the Volt is safe but understands that people who are driving the cars every day (Mark Reuss is a Volt owner, BTW) may be concerned and have taken steps to console nervous drivers.

"Even though there have been no customer incidents, we're taking steps to ensure your peace of mind. If you are in any way uncomfortable driving your Volt as a result of this information, we want to make it right. We will provide you a GM vehicle to drive until this issue is resolved. Contact your Volt Advisor to make arrangements or to answer your questions. If you are not aware of your specific Volt Advisor, the contact information is: phone: 877-4-VOLT-INFO (877-486-5846) email: Voltda101@gmexpert.com. " said Mark Reuss in a statement. (Full transrcipt after the jump.)

We've got a line out to GM for the specifics on the program and will update this when we hear back, but for now the question is: Should we? Would you?

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line

November 28, 2011

Dear Volt Owner,

You may have seen the recent news articles regarding the NHTSA's (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) safety investigation of the Chevrolet Volt. I’m writing you today with more details that, I think, will put things in perspective and make you feel better about your Volt.

First and foremost, I want to assure you of one very important thing: the Volt is a safe car. The Volt continues to have a 5-star overall vehicle score for safety in NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program. It was also given a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

There are good reasons the Volt is safe. Our team has put more than one million miles into making the Chevrolet Volt as safe as it is remarkable. After all, our families, neighbors, co-workers and friends are among those who own the cars we’re tasked with designing, engineering and manufacturing.

Here are the facts behind the most recent news articles. In May, the NHTSA ran one of its most-severe crash tests at a test facility in Wisconsin. The Volt battery was damaged and the coolant line was ruptured. Three weeks later, an electrical fire involving the test vehicle occurred.

NHSTA, working with GM engineers, has been running a program of severe impact and intrusion tests on Volt battery assemblies as part of its effort to understand and replicate the May 2011 incident. Thanksgiving night, NHTSA told us that one of the batteries tested was involved in an electrical fire similar to the one that took place in Wisconsin. As a result NHTSA has begun a preliminary investigation of Chevrolet Volt battery assemblies.

We are aware of no real-world consumer incidents that have produced a similar result. These recent tests show a very rare set of circumstances: A severe impact resulting in the battery and coolant lines being compromised. And then the passing of a significant amount of time before an electrical fire may take place.

The Volt is as safe as conventional vehicles for its occupants – before, during and immediately after a crash. When electrical energy is left in a battery after a severe crash it can be similar to leaving gasoline in a leaking fuel tank after severe damage. It’s important to drain the energy from the battery after a crash that compromises the battery’s integrity. GM and NHTSA's focus and research continue to be on battery performance, handling, storage and disposal after a crash.

Even though there have been no customer incidents, we're taking steps to ensure your peace of mind. If you are in any way uncomfortable driving your Volt as a result of this information, we want to make it right. We will provide you a GM vehicle to drive until this issue is resolved. Contact your Volt Advisor to make arrangements or to answer your questions. If you are not aware of your specific Volt Advisor, the contact information is: phone: 877-4-VOLT-INFO (877-486-5846) email: Voltda101@gmexpert.com.

We take enormous pride in Volt and what it represents—a new era of electric vehicles that can reduce dependence on gas, reduce air pollution, and more. Ongoing collaboration between the government, manufacturers and other stakeholders will enhance post-crash protocols and accelerate acceptance of electric vehicles.

There is nothing more important to us at General Motors than the safety of our customers. We will continue to aid the NHTSA investigation in every way possible.

We stand 100% behind the quality and safety of the Chevrolet Volt - now and always.

Thank you for being a Volt owner. By the way I am also a Volt owner; my daughter drives it every day and she will continue to do so.

Mark Reuss

President GM North America and Volt Owner (#1457)

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2011 Chevrolet Volt Owners, Are You Concerned About Fire?

November 10, 2011


Last month's fire in North Carolina involving a 2011 Chevrolet Volt incited the gas/electricity company, Duke Electric, to ask its customers with electric cars to stop using their homes' charging stations, at least while the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

"'Because the early report said the fire started somewhere in the vicinity of the charging station, we suggested they [customers] may not want to use them out of an abundance of caution,' said Duke Energy spokesperson Paige Layne." -- from Green Car Reports.

However, fire investigators aren't quick to blame the Volt and instead point to possible faulty wiring leading up to the charging station.

Back in April, the Volt was wrongly accused of causing a garage fire in Connecticut, but then was cleared of blame, even though the true cause was inconclusive.

After these remote fires, I can't help but wonder if it makes Volt/electric car owners a little nervous about charging at home. Anyone care to chime in?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Airdam is Broken, and Fixed

November 01, 2011


We already made our point that the front airdam on our 2011 Chevrolet Volt is too low. Just in case we needed more supporting evidence, take a look at the picture. No matter how sharp of an angle we entered the driveway and no matter how slowly we went over speed bumps, this was inevitable.

The center portion of the 3-piece airdam popped out. Almost as if Chevy expected this to happen, the exposed tab tucks right back into place with minimal effort. All it cost to repair was a couple of minutes and little dust on my collar. Sure it was easy, but it was also annoying.

Well, it is fixed, until the next time.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 11,729 miles

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2011 Chevy Volt: squeaksqueaksqueak

October 19, 2011

Volt squeak.jpg

This is the IP housing for our 2011 Chevy Volt. After some 11,000 miles, it has started to squeak like a trapped mouse every time the car rolls over any rough pavement. So, in LA, all the time.

You can hold down the left side (pictured here) and make it stop for a little while, but within a few minutes of letting go the squeak returns.

Traditionally for little things like this we wait until the car needs service, but our Volt's oil change schedule is something like every 24 months. I'm thinking of making a special trip for this. We'll see if anyone else is as bothered by it as I am.

If it was yours: Wait or take it in?

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line @ 11,388 miles

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2011 Chevy Volt: The Shifter is Cracked

October 11, 2011

Chevy Volt Cracked Shifter.jpg

The plastic trim piece that covers our Volt's shifter is cracked. It's pretty significant too, since the lower side of the crack is slightly higher than the other creating an edge. It looks like a fault. I'm not sure what caused it, but I see two possibilities: 1) Some sort of weird heat/cold expansion situation or 2) Someone accidentally dropped something heavy on the shifter. Do we have any bowlers?

If it's the latter, they would've had to do it with the car in gear since when in park the shifter is tucked into its cave under the center stack.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 11,160 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: 10,000-mile Recap

September 09, 2011

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We recently broke the 10,000-mile barrier in our 2011 Chevrolet Volt. What's happened so far? A faulty charging cable sent us to the dealer and Chevy announced it was lowering the price of new Volts. That's it. Oh, unless you consider it's fuel economy noteworthy...

To date we've driven 3,946 miles on electricity and 6,054 on gasoline. For the sake of argument, let's call that a 40/60 split. At just 40 percent, our utility factor is low.

According to the SAE, a vehicle with a projected electric range of 35 miles should be spending closer to 58 percent of the time on electricity. We drive the Volt like a normal car. So a handful of long distance, gasoline-only trips to Las Vegas and San Francisco have influenced this factor adversely.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: New Charge Cord

July 29, 2011


This afternoon I picked up the replacement charge cord that had been previously ordered for our 2011 Chevrolet Volt by the friendly folks at Guaranty Chevrolet.

Contrary to expectations, is looks pretty much like the old cord -- except of course the strain relief isn't broken. The material seems just as squishy and pliable, but I think I count nine segments instead of eight.

Like the old one, the business end of the cord emerges from the housing and starts wrapping around it immediately, putting the strain relief under strain right out of the gate. I hope this one's up to it. Time will tell.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Sorry About That, Socket

July 26, 2011


Our 2011 Chevrolet Volt no longer has a charge cord because, well, the friendly folks at Guaranty Chevrolet wouldn't give it back to me after I brought our Volt in for service this afternoon. "Too dangerous to use," they said.

Our poor Kill-A-Watt socket agrees. I do, too, but I'm a little disappointed because I was looking forward to free airport EV parking tomorrow.

There's nothing wrong with the car itself, so I'm still driving it on gasoline. Turns out the strain relief disentegrated on the Volt's standard charge cord, exposing wires inside and stoppping a recent charge attempt dead in its tracks.

We first noticed this after an overnight charge resulted in just 5 miles of electric driving range -- the charge system had shut itself down overnight, but not before our little friend here got scorched. It seems the wall outlet itself would have been the thing that overheated if I hadn't had this handy kWh measuring device sandwiched in between.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Silly Airdam

June 29, 2011

Volt front end lead.jpg

It's been said before, but I'm saying it again: The Volt's front airdam is ridiculously low. Heck, it may very well be the lowest airdam of any car we've tested, including tuners and exotics.

There are some minor, minor speed bumps near our office. And even if you're going slowly, the Volt's airdam smashes down on the pavement as you drive off the bump. Every time.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Motor Oil Longevity

June 14, 2011


How long does the oil last in a 2011 Chevrolet Volt? Turns out it's difficult to say.

After 6,489 miles, the original factory-installed oil in our Chevy Volt's engine retains 78 percent of its life. Put another way, only 22 percent of its life is currently used up. A bit of quick math reveals that our Volt isn't likely to need its first oil change until the odometer reads 29,495 miles.

Huh? Doc Brown explains: "This sucker's electrical."

Well, sometimes it is, anyway.

So far our Volt has an average Utility Factor of 42 percent. If the UF stays at that level, 12,388 of those miles will have been pure battery-electric miles with the engine dormant and its oil on hiatus.

However, this also means the other miles, 17,107 of them, will have been gasoline-derived ones with the engine and its oil at work. At first glance that seems like a long oil change interval indeed, even considering that the recommended oil is Dexos-1 certified 5W-30, a blended synthetic.

But we must not forget that the Volt's engine isn't revving up and down nearly as much as that of a normal car. Operating mostly as a generator, its load is relatively constant and it never revs terribly fast. Perhaps that magnitude of oil change interval isn't such a stretch after all.

In reality we have no real basis for comparison. As a plug-in hybrid, the Volt's engine has a unique duty cycle that makes it hard to know if 17,000 miles is worthy of a dual eyebrow-raising or not -- maybe just the one.

It's probably best to key off the oil life monitor because the Volt doesn't have a dedicated odometer that keeps track of engine-powered miles and we're guessing most Volt owners aren't geekily parsing electric miles and gasoline miles like we are.

At the end of the day, none of this hand wringing really matters because the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is also programmed to ask for new oil and a new filter when the clock strikes two years, at which point the oil life monitor will march down to zero no matter what the odometer says.

It's quite possible that our Volt will turn two years old before its engine oil accumulates a fatal number of miles, and that will be even more likely for Volt owners that achieve a greater overall percentage of electric miles, a higher Utility Factor, than we have to this point.

Ultimately, wear and tear won't force our Volt's first oil change, time will. Going back to our original question, the most likely answer seems to be "Two years."

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 6,489 miles

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2011 Chevy Volt: 5,000 Miles Already

April 14, 2011

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We've only been driving our long-term 2011 Chevy Volt for three months and it has already covered 5,000 miles. Remember our long-term Mini E only covered 7,700 miles in 12 months.

And the Volt has been dead reliable. No issues, problems or busted stuff to report.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 5,056 miles

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2011 Chevy Volt: L.A. to S.F. and Back

April 13, 2011


Today I'm driving our long-term 2011 Chevy Volt from Los Angeles to San Francisco. And tomorrow I'll drive it back. Along the way it should reach 5,000 miles on its odometer. I'll let you know how the Volt does as a road tripper on Friday.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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2011 Chevolet Volt: Keeps the Pressure On

February 21, 2011

Volt Tire Pressure.jpg

I checked our long term 2011 Chevrolet Volt's tire pressure recently and found both front tires at 32.5 psi, while the rear tires were at 34 and 34.5 psi. The little sticker in the driver's door frame says all four tires should be at 35 psi.

Now although proper tire pressure is important in any vehicle, it's doubly so when you're driving a car with a primary purpose of conserving transportation energy.

I was actually pretty sure the tire pressure was low before I checked it, as steering response and bump reaction in the front felt a bit wallowy compared to the Volt I drove at the press conference in Detroit last October (note: the closest I come to having a Jedi force power is being able to detect low or unever tire pressure).

My portable air compressor had all four tires back up to 35 psi in about 5 minutes, and the Volt did feel a tad sharper afterwards, though we're talking very subtle shades of gray with these kinds of pressure changes.

As with our past Prius long-term car, or any future alternative energy vehicles we pick up (yup, another one is about to arrive in the fleet), we'll work hard to keep the tire pressures at factory spec. When you're talking maximum energy efficiency, this is critical.

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor at Large

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Spoiler Update

February 16, 2011


A few weeks ago I posted photos of our 2011 Chevrolet Volt and its perilously low front spoiler. It scrapes if you even look at a driveway; that's just the way it is.

Yesterday I noticed the three segment spoiler had begun to unhinged itself, with Tab A coming unstuck from Slot B like a badly-assembled Hot Wheels track. The good news is it snaps back together like Hot Wheels track segments, too -- at least for now.

I bet we'll be doing this a lot because I measured the ground clearance ( 3.125 inches) and the overhang (28.5 inches) at the forwardmost low point and calculated an approach angle of just 6.25 degrees. It makes me wonder how a Murcielago would compare, but I'm fresh out of Lambo keys right now.

Lest you still think this is a fluke, here's the joint on the other side of the car.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Spoiler Alert!

January 24, 2011


Racers know them by many names: chin spoilers, air dams, air deflectors. Whatever you call 'em, they're intended to encourage air to flow around or over the car--anywhere but underneath. Track-day enthusiasts and racers want them because they can increase top speed and reduce aerodynamic lift, but there's also a benefit, theoretically speaking, for those seeking additional fuel efficiency.

But the typical track-day aero mod will drag on every parking curb and driveway in sight, so the deepest, most effective ones never make their way onto production cars, no matter how tempting the tiny fuel economy benefit may be to automakers and their CAFE averages.

Except, it turns out, for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Breaking in the Engine

January 19, 2011


So how do you break in the engine on your new 2011 Chevrolet Volt? According to the owner's manual, "The vehicle does not require a break-in period. Vehicle break-in is performed during manufacturing." But we are creatures of habit.

For the past week we've been running the Volt on the gasoline engine only. We depleted the battery fully and hit the road. It still isn't only running the engine, though. In some situations, such as accelerating from a stop, the batteries kick in to get you going before the gas engine takes the reins again. At this point, you're finally putting miles on the engine.

Speaking of the engine, you'll know when it's running because the 1.4-liter 4-cylinder is loud. But after a couple of tanks averaging about 39 mpg, it also seems to be efficient. More to come on tracking our fuel economy later.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 712 miles

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