The Worst 1996-2020 Express Problems

  1. 5.3L Vortec 5300 Engine Oil Consumption

    From 2010-2014 GM's Vortec 5300 engine had multiple design flaws that led to an excessive oil consumption responsible for soiled spark plugs, bent pushrods, and timing chain wear to name a few. The problem was compounded by an inadequate oi…

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  2. Passlock Security

    One of Chevrolet’s solutions for stopping thieves from driving away with a car is, coincidently, doing the same thing to the actual owner.

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What Owners Complain About

Sometimes it helps just to tally up the complaints and see where the biggest stacks are. Use this information to learn about troublespots or to run for the hills.

What Breaks

Years to Avoid

1st Generation Express Key Numbers

  1. 18 model years

    Grouping all models by their year can reveal some baddies.

  2. 74 complaints

    Running tally of owner grievances filed to CarComplaints.com.

  3. 15th in reliability

    Overall reliability rank out of 80 eligible generations.

Recent 1st Generation Express News

There's a lot of news out there, but not all of it matters. We try to boil down it to the most important bits about things that actually help you with your car problem. Interested in getting these stories in an email? Signup for free email alerts over at CarComplaints.com.

  1. GM is urging owners of the 2021 Express to park outside and away from anything that could burn until the vans get repaired.

    Late last year they said the van's batteries could drain when the positive battery cable accidently came in contact with the fuse block assembly. Now they're saying it's less drain, more flame—as in at least four vans have gone up in smoke due to the batteries short-circuiting.…

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  2. A new class-action is accusing General Motors of knowingly selling vehicles that consume abnormally high quantities of oil.

    It's not the first time GM has been sued for oil issues in the Vortec engine. Specifically (and stick with me here) the Generation IV 5.3L V8 Vortec 5300 LC9 engine.

    As with previous lawsuits, the plaintiffs say low-tension piston rings, oil spray from the Active Fuel Management (AFM) system, and agressive vacuuming from the engine's positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system are to blame.…

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  3. f you crank the heat in certain GM vans, you might get more than you bargained for due to an electrical short.* If the temperature is set to maximum heat or the mode knob is set to maximum floor vent and an electrical short occurs, components inside the modules may overheat and catch fire.

    Any potential fires will start in the headliner. I like the cabin toasty on a cold winter day, but that’s a bit too much. GM doesn’t know when the recall will begin, so keep the heat down in the meantime.

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  4. There’s a problem with the power window switches in more than 200,000 Express and GMC Savana vans.

    GM says liquid can enter the switch and corrode it, leading to high electrical resistance. The resistance can cause the switch to overheat, smoke, melt and cause a fire, although the automaker isn't exactly sure what is causing the corrosion.

    Spill a coffee, get a fire. That’s a really bad day.

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  5. GM owners are still trying to convince a judge that Vortec 5300 engines have oil consumption problems and don’t give owners adequate warnings when oil levels are dangerously low.

    According to the lawsuit, the Vortec 5300 engines in the vehicles consume extreme levels of oil because of defects in the oil rings that allow oil to invade the combustion chambers … The plaintiffs claim the oil pressure warnings can fail to activate in time to prevent engine damage, something GM has allegedly known is a problem with the Vortec engines.

    The judge had previously dismissed the lawsuit and doesn't seem too interested in complaints about fires, oil rings, or inadequate warnings.

    The plaintiffs have a small, uphill chance if they can amend their complaints.

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  6. There's something funky going on inside GM's 5.3L Vortec 5300 engine causing it to use a higher-than-normal amount of oil.

    Some might even say it's excessive. A lawsuit filed in Minnesota says the problem is multi-faceted.

    1. GM used low-tension piston rings that allow oil to leak out of the crankcase and into the combustion chamber.
    2. The rings, which are already leaking, are then overloaded by a spray of pressurized oil from the Active Fuel Management (AFM) system.
    3. Even more oil is being burned off after being sucked into the intake by the engine's positive crankcase ventilation (PCV).

    That's a recipe for disaster, but the cherry on top is the somewhat useless oil monitoring system. Instead of measuring the volume of oil left in the crankcase, the system measures environmetal variables to determine the quality of the oil.

    Sure, there's only a pint of oil left in the engine but don't worry ... the oil quality is great.

    The lawsuit mentions GM has tried to improve the situation by updating the vehicle's crankcase ventilation and active fuel management system, but it never really helped. Eventually GM just updated the Generation IV Vortec 5300 engine and replaced it with a redesigned Generation V Vortec 5300 that stopped using low-tension oil rings and reintriduced an oil level sensor.

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