2018 Buick Encore Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Vehicle structure, stability control and powertrain issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

By Brian Jones | Updated on

By Brian Jones | Updated on

The 2018 Buick Encore is a compact SUV meant to bring luxury into the family vehicle. The company claims that the modern lineup is “crafted with purpose,” but unless that purpose is to head to the junkyard, the automaker missed the mark. This SUV has a faulty powertrain, poorly-built structure, malfunctioning air bags and a troublesome electronic stability control system.

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Problems with the Transmission

The main part of any powertrain is the transmission. With this vital component not working correctly, the entire ride becomes rough and unenjoyable.

That’s exactly what this Edmunds review discusses. “Rented the vehicle for a trip to Southern California. It couldn’t keep up with highway speeds. Acceleration was inconsistent, the transmission was a nightmare because it wouldn’t shift until the accelerator was nearly at the floor and then it would downshift twice before providing a tepid amount of power.”

It turns out that Buick is dealing with a long list of transmission issues. Even Service Bulletin #16NA019 talks about low-speed harsh shifts, flares and slips. The Encore acts like a bucking bronco on the road, which could be quite a sight to see.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Buick Encore Powertrain Problems

TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2018 BUICK ENCORE. WHILE THE VEHICLE WAS PARKED AND UNOCCUPIED, IT INADVERTENTLY ROLLED AWAY AND CRASHED INTO ANOTHER VEHICLE. A POLICE REPORT WAS FILED. THERE WERE NO INJURIES. THE VEHICLE WAS TAKEN TO A DEALER WHERE IT WAS AWAITING TO BE DIAGNOSED AND REPAIRED. THE MANUFACTURER WAS MADE AWARE OF THE FAILURE. THE FAILURE MILEAGE WAS 5,200.

Problems with the Vehicle Structure

What’s worse is all of the structure-related issues that have been brought to light with the 2018 Buick Encore.

Another Edmunds review states, “There was one glaring problem: the driver’s side and center rear seat belts were partially missing.  We thought the missing parts were simply down beneath the seats, but extensive efforts to find them were fruitless.  We reported the problem to the rental car company when we returned it.  The car had only 700 miles on it when we rented it and was otherwise was fine, except the rear doors sometimes required a second hard slam to close them.”

Missing seatbelts is a major defective that should never occur. Aside from that, the automaker has been forthcoming about several other structural concerns. One communication, Service Bulletin #PI0281G even discusses underbody component corrosion. Instead of teaching techs how to repair the problem and increase customer satisfaction, the bulletin was released solely to teach the dealership how to address customers. One part of this is to explain what is considered “Acceptable Corrosion.” As it is written in the communication, “General Motors has determined that the performance of some components is not affected by surface corrosion and no longer takes preventative steps on these parts.” In short, this luxury SUV doesn’t have complete corrosion protection, because some parts simply don’t matter.

Problems with the Air Bags

The one system that is specifically designed to keep occupants safe during an accident is the air bag. Modern vehicles are equipped with multiple air bags for maximum safety, but these do no good if they don’t deploy during a crash.

That’s what happened to this NHTSA user. “Airbags did not deploy upon auto accident. Impact area was front corner fender on passenger side. Possible gas released into passenger side of the cabin, smelled electrical and smoke filled passenger footboard area. No loss of coolant from car to explain smoke. Airbag warning light remains on dashboard display. Car was traveling at normal highway speed 30-35 mph, brakes applied, then crashed into a turning car in front – turning from passenger to driver direction.”

As of now, Buick has nothing to say about air bag defects. Instead GM has chosen to remain quiet on this essential system. After all, it’s difficult to tell people that this vehicle is “crafted with purpose,” unless the purpose is to put people in danger. In that case, the Encore was perfectly crafted.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Buick Encore Air Bag Problems

AIR BAGS DID NOT DEPLOY WHEN VEICHLE WAS HIT FROM BEHIND. 2 PEOPLE WHERE INJURED.

Problems with the Electronic Stability Control

The electronic stability control was put on modern vehicles to help retain traction and stay safe, but if the system fails, all bets are off.

One NHTSA complaint discusses ESC issues. “When it rains most of the time the vehicle OnStar sets off alerts for my antilock brakes and stability to be checked. Dealer said it is normal and not concerning but checked at the 1 year inspection for me. NPF. A month later a rainy day, alerts, and the vehicle wouldn’t start. All the lights came on. Press Brake to Start. Appeared but pressing brake did not start it. After an hour of trying various tricks it started with the remote started. A week later same thing.Rain, alerts, and no start. This time 2 hours of trying various tricks (Emergency brake on off/park pushed all the way up, wheels forward, remote start attempts, OnStar diagnostics etc. I had to have it towed. The mechanics from AAA tried and nothing, we towed an hour back to dealership and he tried once more, nothing. Next morning the dealership report NPF. I am picking it up tomorrow but expect to report this happening again soon.”

Again, there are no communications discussing the issues with the electronic stability control. Instead, Buick has left users in the dark, attempting to troubleshoot issues on their own. This Encore was surely “crafted with purpose.” Its purpose is to become the poster child for lemon cars.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Buick Encore ESC Problems

CAR SERVICE FOR ROUGH IDLE AND LACK OF POWER, SERVICE STABILITRAK LIGHT ON AND CHECK ENGINE LIGHT ON WITH AN ERROR CODE OF P0171

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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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10 COMMENTS
  • Carey

    Bought my encore brand new. It is a 2018. Recently my air conditioner or so I thought has been making a hissing sound. Brought it to a mechanic. He said it needed freon. Well the hissing was still happening. On June 28, 2022 I was in a drive thru after work and the temperature shot up and said overheating. So I parked and turned off the car. Checked the coolant resourvoir and it was empty. Waited till it cooled off then hurried to an auto parts store. Let the car cool down while I done some shopping . Went buy some coolant, poured it into the resourvoir and was able to make it home. Checked coolant empty again. Put more in it after it cooled down. Checked in the morning, it was still there. Took the car for a ride, all the coolant went away. Made an appointment w a mechanic. He said I should bring it to the dealer because it looks like it is leaking near the intake and near the turbo. I have 73000 miles. It is not under warranty anymore. Why would it be leaking already? I am still paying on the car. Seems like alot of people with issues with the turbo. Help please. I can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars.

  • JD F

    Just got my Wife a 2018 Encore with 47000 miles, three days AC stopped getting cold. Took to dealership, gave us a hard time about fixing it, said it had a bad seal. Finally got them to fix it, here we are a week later and the AC is blowing hot again. Is this a common issue?

  • Jordan

    My boyfriend recently hit a deer on the expressway, air bags never went off even though the front passenger side was completely obliterated.

  • Joyce

    I purchased my Buick Encore last year it was a leased vehicle it was running ok and then all of sudden it did a little pull I got the transmission flush on Monday 4th and now it’s jerking and dealership saying it’s not there fault I’m confused and it’s warranty but they act if they did nothing wrong

  • Spenny

    I have a 2018 Buick encore preferred its so far been good just feels like it so could do with more power

  • MN7

    Bulletin 16-NA-405, it freezes in states that have temps below zero. If it is past the manufacturers warranty GM will only partially pay for it if you fight for it. otherwise they pay nothing. I bought my encore new at a MN Buick/ GM dealership. I don’t think they should be allowed to sell cars that shouldn’t be in cold climates and should have to pay for the after GM revision. I have an extra warranty that I purchased at the dealership but it will only pay for the exhaust manifold replacement because the rest of the parts aren’t the original parts, and it won’t replace the original parts because it won’t fix the problem.

  • Farrah B

    Car wouldn’t start. Thought it was key fob. I was wrong. Thought it was the battery. Nope not that either. Would let it run while I ran errands so I didn’t have to keep jumping it. Next day had to jump it twice once in the morning and once in the evening. When I parked it I could smell a foul smell. Pop the hood and the battery was smoking. Getting it towed to dealership today. Gm dealer didn’t even see it yet and they are saying it’s a leaking battery. I personally think I have a lemon. Reason why is because my screen went completely black and I could control the radio at all. Battery was over charged from jumping too many times.

  • Patty B

    I am not sure if I got a lemon but the car was a leased vehicle with only 23,800 miles on it. I bought it January 12, 2021.about a month ago I had to put a new battery in it. Now the sensor has to be replaced. I have only put about 4,000 miles on it. I love the car. I just hope I don’t have any more issues. It’s a 2017 Buick Encore. I paid cash for it so there is not warranty. I really do not want to sue, but I need some info about this car. Thank You!

  • Rebecca H

    I own a 2018 Buick Encore that has ongoing starting issues for over 1 year. Car hard to start and Check Engine Light came on. Took car to local GM Certified Repair Shop replaced the battery (2020). Problem persisted. Car hard to start and Check Engine Light comes on. Returned to local GM Certified Repair Shop and was told the Check Engine Light Code stated that the car needed to be driven more. Drove car more. Problem persisted. Car hard to start and Check Engine Light on again. Returned to same local GM Certified Repair Shop. Was once again told Check Engine Light Code read that the Car needs to be driven more. Drove the car even more (15 -20 miles a day) Problem persisted. Returned to same local GM Certified Repair Shop. Told my Car was getting old. Problem persisted. Returned to same local GM Certified Repair Shop. Told to let my car run for an hour each day in the driveway. Did not follow that advice. Took my Car to a GM Certified Repair Shop 40+ miles from home. Replaced Battery Cable. Problem persisted. Returned to same out of town GM Certified Repair Shop. Replaced Battery. Problem persisted. Now I am driving the car twice daily for 15 miles each time. I am sick and tired of having to leave my car run in the parking lot when I need to go grocery shopping or run errands. I am sick and tired of paying each month for a car I do not trust to even start.

  • Cassandra

    I bought my 2018 buick encore 10/10/20. i purchased it from kia of Cleveland,recently i had it serviced and and the coolant was bone dry and I didn’t even know it! Car wasnt running hot or anything. Well i told them to do what they needed to fix it and they also told me tht i needed an alignment because the driver side tire was already wore out! So they fixed all tht and I thought it would be ok to drive to Montana… on my way I was hit in the rear and my air bags did not deploy, I was almost to my destination when the traction light came on and the my vehicle lost power and check engine light came on. Had it checked and its reading p0299 which is the turbo. It’s under an extended warranty but have to wait til monday to even take it to a dealership out here! So now I’m going to have to rent me a vehicle and hope we can fix it!!!

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