Mystery Vibrations and Wind Buffeting in GM's Full Size Trucks and SUVs

Key Points

  • 2014-2016 full-size GM vehicles suffer from strong vibrations and wind buffeting above 35mph.
  • The motion and excess noise is causing some drivers to feel sick.
  • There are investigations underway to determine if a class-action lawsuit is neccessary.
A blurry image of a Silverado that looks like it's bouncing up and down.
Posted on
Author
Scott McCracken
Tagged
#body #drivetrain #suspension #lawsuit

The problem affects GM’s 2014-2016 lineup of full size vehicles using the K2XX platform[1]. This includes the Chevy Silverado, Suburban, and Tahoe, as well as the GMC Sierra, Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade.

GM Vibrations and Wind Buffeting Issues

The Chevy Shake, as it is not-so-affectionately known, is most notable at speeds above 35mph or so. It’s a combo punch of awfulness:

  1. The vehicles vibrate so strongly that mirrors shake and cups rattle in their holders.
  2. Owners are audibly slapped by strong wind buffeting noise

It’s believed that the issue is most pronounced when the engine switches to V4 mode, where cylinders have been deactivated as part of the engine’s active fuel management (AFM).

The problem gets worse the faster you drive.

What is wind buffeting or body pressure booming?

Wind buffeting is that terrible noise and pressure you feel when someone cracks open a single window while driving down the highway. Except in this case, all the windows are closed and there's nothing you can do about it.

GM also refers to this issue as body pressure booming.

Beyond the annoyance, there is legitimate concern about the dangers of being exposed to wind buffeting for prolonged periods of time. Many owners say it makes them feel nauseous or dizzy, neither of which are good when you’re trying to safely pilot a 5,500lbs[2] hunk of steel and glass down the road.

GM’s Preliminary Information Bulletins and Repairs

GM certainly can’t deny they know about the problem. The automaker has released a series of vibration and noise related preliminary information bulletins to help give dealership technicians something to look for when owners come in with complaints.

Is the roof not properly bonded to the frame?

In PIT5318C GM says the vibration and buffeting issue may be due to bonding issues between the sheet metal roof and the roof bows.

GM recommends technicians remove the headliner and repair any disconnected bonds between the roof bows (crossbars) and sheet metal roof. In some cases Dynamat, a special sound damping foam, is installed.

However, the bulletin acknowledges this doesn’t always work.

In some cases, correcting the roof bows may not eliminate the body pressure booming issue due to the fact that the roof is being excited by some other input(s). These other areas will need to be addressed if the body pressure booming is still present at the completion of this PI[3].

Is active fuel management creating vibrations at certain RPMs?

In PIP5228B GM talks about the possibility that active fuel management is to blame for vibrations when the engine is between 1200-1400 RPMs.

A resonance, or buffeting, can also accompany the vibration.

Technicians are advised to use a vibration analysis tool to measure the frequency of the vibration to narrow down where it may be coming from.

Potential solutions include lifting or shifting the cab body, checking alignment, look at body mount positions, etc.

What about the tires? The exhaust? The axles?

From there, GM continues to go down the rabbit hole of try anything just to make the owners leave us alone, including:

  • Inspect, balance, and potentially replace the wheels to reduce road vibrations in line with PIT1354H.
  • Check for exhaust back pressure valve issues which have been known to cause buffeting issues outlined in PIT5405D.
  • Look for pitch line runout issues with the rear axle and potentially replace the entire assembly

Did GM find a fix for newer model years?

According to AutoGuide.com, GM believes it addressed the issue at the end of the 2015 model year.

“This was an issue that was fixed in production at the end of the 2015 model year. In addition, there is a service bulletin for repair for the field,” said Michelle Malcho with GM communication.

Try telling that to 2016 owners.

The law firm of Migliaccio & Rathod LLP is investigating claims of the vibrating cabins. Since the platform of the vehicles itself may be at fault, solutions to this problem may run deeper than a few service appointments.

As part of their on-going investigation, Migliaccio & Rathod LLP is looking for qualifying vehicle owners who have experienced this defect. To get in touch with them, please visit this page & fill out the contact form for more information.


  1. GMT K2XX article on wikipedia. ↩︎

  2. Curb weight of a 2019 Suburban ranged from 5,586 lbs to 5,808 lbs. ↩︎

  3. From PIT #5318C – Wind Buffeting Drone Type Noise And/Or Body Pressure Booming And/Or Water Leak ↩︎


Image adpated from Rjluna2's 2016 Silverado image on wikimedia

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Chevrolet generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

  1. 3rd Generation Silverado 1500

    Years
    2014–2018
    Reliability
    77th out of 80
    PainRank
    39.88
    Complaints
    586
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Silverado 1500
  2. 3rd Generation Silverado 2500

    Years
    2014–2019
    Reliability
    30th out of 80
    PainRank
    3.59
    Complaints
    34
    Continue
  3. 3rd Generation Silverado 3500

    Years
    2014–2019
    Reliability
    9th out of 80
    PainRank
    1.02
    Complaints
    9
    Continue
  4. 10th Generation Suburban

    Years
    2007–2014
    Reliability
    50th out of 80
    PainRank
    10.7
    Complaints
    563
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Suburban
  5. 11th Generation Suburban

    Years
    2015–2020
    Reliability
    43rd out of 80
    PainRank
    7.89
    Complaints
    120
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Suburban
  6. 3rd Generation Tahoe

    Years
    2007–2014
    Reliability
    45th out of 80
    PainRank
    8.9
    Complaints
    443
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Tahoe
  7. 4th Generation Tahoe

    Years
    2015–2020
    Reliability
    51st out of 80
    PainRank
    10.77
    Complaints
    231
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Tahoe

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA