2017 Chevrolet Volt Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Propulsion, powertrain and electrical systems issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

The Chevrolet Volt was touted as the first mass-produced electric car – but was it really? Since its introduction in 2011, the futuristic automobile has carried a gasoline generator (aka engine) onboard to charge the batteries when depleted. On earlier models, that happens as soon as the car has covered 35 miles. So, first and foremost, the Chevy hybrid (that’s what it truly is) is misleading. To add insult to injury, it’s also highly unreliable. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), key problem areas for the 2017 Volt are the propulsion, powertrain and electrical systems. All three cover the same concern – a lack of acceleration, following by warning lights and stalling.

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Propulsion, powertrain and electrical system concerns

On the freeway, you need to keep up with traffic to avoid being seriously hurt. But the 2017 Chevy Volt has a hard time making that happen. According to many owners, the hybrid vehicle will randomly exhibit a lack of power, often at the most inopportune times. This symptom is almost always accompanied by a  “Propulsion Power is Reduced” message on the dash and eventual stalling.

Customer complains start rolling in

There are dozens of “propulsion” complaints from Volt owners on the NHTSA website.

One from Altadena, CA, writes, “Like others, including the incident in Rancho Cucamonga, I was driving on the highway at high speed. I was in the carpool lane on the 210 freeway. I think I was also told to put the car in park. I lost the ability to accelerate at a very dangerous time, while I was the furthest to the left in the late afternoon.”

Another states, “I was driving on the Freeway at 65 mph, then all of a sudden, I got a check engine light and message “Action required, shift to park.” I noticed the door unlocked by itself and the car started losing propulsion. I glided off the freeway and stopped at the end of the off ramp.”

A parent from Cedar Park, TX, writes in, “While driving my 3 year old son to school, my Volt lost propulsion while slowing down for a red light. The car displayed a “Loss of Propulsion” warning and within three seconds, my car had no power and was dead in the road.”

GM issues first round of technical service bulletins

There’s obviously a major problem with the Volt, and General Motors (GM) knowsit. At first, the automaker didn’t issue a recall, just a technical service bulletin (TSB). The first TSB (16-NA-400) designed  to address the concern, was released in December 2016. In it, dealers are instructed to reprogram three different computers, referred to as modules, within the hybrid system.

Apparently, that didn’t take, because, in October 2017, another TSB (PIC6275A) was released. This time around, the GM directs dealers to check for a poor connection in the fuse box and repair as needed.

Service campaigns are released

After enough complaints piled up, GM finally issued a customer satisfaction campaign (16185). It reads:

“Certain 2016 and 2017 model year Chevrolet Volt vehicles, equipped with an automatic transmission (RPO MKV), may exhibit a condition where the driver notices a “Propulsion Power is Reduced” message in the driver information center. This condition is sometimes accompanied by the diagnostic trouble code P0A7F or a significant decrease in actual electric vehicle range. The driver may also notice the engine running at consistently higher power than normal to propel the vehicle and acceleration is slower than expected.”

To remedy the concern, dealers are instructed to “reprogram the hybrid powertrain control module 2”.

There’s also a second, closely related service campaign (16185) that was issued shortly after the first. It states:

“On certain 2017 model year Chevrolet Volt vehicles, the high voltage interlock connector behind the high voltage battery disconnect relay fuse block cover may be susceptible to becoming recessed back into the high voltage battery disconnect relay assembly. This may cause an electrical disconnect which could result in a loss of vehicle propulsion and/or a no start condition. The malfunction indicator lamp may be illuminated and DTC P0A0C – “high voltage system inter-lock circuit low” may be set. A “Shift To Park” message may also be displayed.  Additionally, a subset of these vehicles may have a condition in which the 15A fuse in the high voltage battery disconnect relay may prematurely open. The open fuse may prevent the low voltage battery from being charged by the 14v DC power module. If this were to occur, the vehicle will provide warning to the driver and eventually lose electrical power. Once power is drained from the 12 volt battery, the vehicle may lose propulsion and will not start.”

The fix, dealers are told, is to replace the high-voltage disconnect relay. This component is used to isolate the hybrid battery from the rest of the carwhen needed. If it fails, it will quickly disable the vehicle.

There are a total of three service campaigns issued for this “lack of propulsion” problem. Whether or not the latest remedy will hold has yet to be seen.

Yet another round of technical service bulletins

By this point, you’d think GM engineers wouldhave gotten to the bottom of the concern. But instead, it looks like they’re still trying out potential fixes and gambling with consumer’s safety.

In June of 2018, the automaker issued yet another TSB (18-NA-186). It reads:

“Some customers may comment on a loss of propulsion and/or a no start with the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) illuminated.”

This time around, GM claims the problem is with the transmission wiring harness. The supposed “fix” is for dealers to replace it.

Has GM really solved the problem?

You could give GM The benefit of the doubt and say, maybe, the problems outlined in its service bulletins and campaigns are separate issues. Or, perhaps, the General doesn’t know the real cause of the “low propulsion” concern is, and it’s just taking shots in the dark. Either way, there is a legitimate problem and it’s a threat to Volt owners across North America.

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

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  • Robert

    I looked at a 2017 Volt last year.

    Price was only $17500 (Can) so I was tempted. Drove well and only had 50,000kms on it.
    The Carfax showed it had been seen at dealership for electrical issues which worried me. Sales guy claimed he could not get full service records which was a red red flag for me.

    I have driven a Nissan LEAF for 7 years without any issues, so I know that battery only EVs can be very reliable. I suspect that the combination of gas power plus battery is just too complicated and results in many issues that are hard to diagnose.

    Anyhow despite the attraction of the car’s range etc I am happy we bought another LEAF. Now waiting for EVs with longer range to come down in price on used car market. I have a friend who has had a VOLT since new and really baby’s it. But I wonder about longer run issues for him too.

  • Julie

    As soon as it switches to gas, the car starts driving roughly. It feels like it is idling too high. When trying to accelerate, the engine sounds like it is having a hard time getting going like it isn’t connecting. It drives great when using the battery. I hate driving it when the battery runs out. I deliver food for a job so battery runs out quickly and the rest of the time I get irritated and frustrated.

  • James W

    2017 Chevy volt experienced battery charged 0 miles range fully charged. Had to open hood so car started on gas engine. Check engine light on drove 10 miles to air force base when getting off freeway low propulsion error on display. Would not start. Disconnected 12 volt battery. Got it started again.

  • Trushar

    2017 Chevy Volt. Same problem. Had it towed to Chevy dealer. Only 38000 miles. Bought year ago. They found transmission gone bad. Ordered new transmission. Lucky me it’s covered under warranty. Waiting on transmission getting replaced. Week already. They told me I should get my car back next week. Hope this takes care of the issue.

  • Luke

    My car has been to dealear 3times there replaced valve bolts key fobs reprogrammed the software and it’s at 50,000km got extended warranty last time it died got the shift to park and check engine light and car wouldnt start until I turned off opened door and restarted dealear har car for 2 days also just got a tab that a hose on the ac will chafe another hose and power steering will fail

  • Jonathan A

    My 2012 Volt started giving me low propulsion messages 3 years ago. Each time I took it to the dealer, they diagnosed a different repair needed, and each time, the repair didn’t fix the problem. Finally, once it was out of warranty, they diagnosed a failing transmission, and I paid several thousand dollars to replace that. That didn’t do it either. In fact, after that I had an incident where the car needed to be pulled over immediately in a location where it would have been extremely dangerous to stop, and in continuing to drive the car to a safe shoulder, I blew the head gasket. Several thousand more dollars to fix the engine block and the problem is still going. Now it’s gotten to a point where it’s in low propulsion mode most of the time, even if the battery is fully charged (although by “fully”, I mean its current maximum, which has dropped to about 20 miles — half of the original amount). The dealers want between $150 to $200 to diagnose again, and presumably I’m on the hook for whatever they want to charge for the repair since it’s now out of warranty. As you can imagine, I don’t have a lot of faith in their ability to fix the real problem, but I’ve already sunk over $12,000 into repairs.

  • Mike

    2017 Volt was involved in a minor accident, under warranty, dealer took around a month to be reset after the body shop completed its work with many problems after that! Volt generator (engine) many problems loss of power and trembling, was never fixed, even after multiple requests, and attempts by GM dealer!!

  • Lisa

    2107 Volt 32,000 miles. Broke down July 19th … shift to park… 2 hours to wait to have towed to dealer.. in 90 degree heat….dealer just told me harness for transmission. Need to be replaced..Should have part tomorrow. Car should be done by tomorrow or Wednesday… Have had a strut replaced in front end already and it is making same noise again! Love the car, but that scared me …had no power. Luckily made it off to the side of road and luckily an officer did end up showing up and stayed until car was towed…very busy highway…

  • Granville

    My Volt just passed 41000 miles and is experiencing the shift to park issue when I turn it off . This looks like a design flaw. Why do we see a common failure at this mileage. Should be a recall issue

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