Engine, powertrain, electrical system, and brake issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners
When it comes to finding a pickup truck, many consumers flock to the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500. Maybe it’s because the company claims it is the “strongest, most advanced,” or perhaps it’s just because there aren’t many options on the market. Either way, the Chevy Silverado 1500 is a disappointment in many people’s eyes. With complaints about the engine, electrical system, powertrain, brakes, and many other components and systems a lot could go wrong behind the wheel of this truck.
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Most Common Problems
Nearly half of the complaints about the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) between December 2020 and the end of February 2023 relate to the engine. Other components and systems that have elicited numerous complaints are the powertrains, electrical systems, and brakes. In many instances, two or three components are linked in single complaints.
But, many others are implicated too. They include airbags, backover prevention, exterior lighting, fuel and propulsion systems, seatbelts, steering, the structure of the vehicle, suspension, tires, vehicle speed control, visibility/wiper, and the wheels of the truck.
The most common issue is the lifters, which are an essential element of any internal combustion engine. Lifter problems are listed in complaints filed in the Engine, Powertrain, and Service Brake categories.
Lifter problems are common in many GM vehicles including 2019-2021 Chevrolet Silverados. Unfortunately, many owners who find themselves with faulty lifters in their vehicles are experiencing major engine failure as a result. Additionally, there is no evidence of any repair that will fix faulty lifters. Because of this, it’s not surprising that many owners are reporting engine failures as well.
Typical symptoms include shuddering, shaking, surging, and the engine misfiring. Many owners report that their engines make knocking sounds. Sometimes owners relate them to engine problems, sometimes to malfunctioning powertrains, and a few seem to assume that they are electrical system issues.
A number of the electrical system and brake complaints highlight issues with electronic stability control (ESC) and electronic brake control module (EBCM) malfunctions.
2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Complaint Summary
|Complaint Category||Number of Complaints|
|Unknown Or Other|
Accidents & Recalls
There are also complaints that describe horrific incidents where 2021 Silverado 1500s have caught fire and been destroyed suddenly, for no obvious reason. These are filed in the Unknown or Other, Engine and Engine Cooling, and Electrical categories.
There are 5 recalls for the 2021 Silverado 1500, but none are designed to fix any of the problems mentioned above. Instead, they relate to airbags, seat belts, and tires. The recall issues covered can increase the risk of a crash or risk of injury if the truck crashes.
Silverado 1500s That Catch Fire
Imagine your truck catching fire and exploding or blowing up in your driveway! These are both scenarios described by owners of 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500s.
Trucks Exploding & Blowing Up
An owner from Massachusetts says in a complaint that witnesses saw small flames and embers flying up from the truck bed … and then there was a “big explosion.” This car fire started at the rear of the cabin between the cabin’s rear window and the truck bed. It engulfed the area around and inside the fuel tank. “The fire engulfed the inside cabin within seconds and caused a total loss of the car.”
An owner from Michigan states in an NHTSA complaint that about 3 minutes after parking his Silverado 1500 in his driveway, a neighbor ran “to tell me my truck was on fire.” It then “blew up” and was “a complete loss.” He said there hadn’t been any issues while driving. But the fire department personnel who put the fire out told him it was the fourth 2021 Chevrolet Silverado that had burst into flames in the past 6 weeks! “The fire started in the engine compartment and quickly raged out of control. The hood and engine disintegrated from the heat.”
The complaint goes on to say that if the Chevy had been stuck in traffic, “I would have been in the vehicle and may not be here typing this report right now. It went up that fast. This is a major safety issue that needs to be thoroughly investigated before somebody loses their life.”
Fire Spells Destruction
An owner from Iowa had a similar experience. About 35 minutes after parking and turning the vehicle off he was notified that the vehicle had caught on fire. The fire department was called to the scene and (they) extinguished the flames. They also determined that the fire originated in the engine compartment. Like the truck that blew up, it was also destroyed.
Another truck caught fire while driving down the interstate in Florida. Passengers in the vehicle smelled smoke, “and within seconds the truck was on fire.” Investigations by General Motors and the insurance company didn’t reveal how the fire started. But, “it did come up from both sides of the cab, and very quickly.”
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Malfunctioning Lifter Problems
There are multiple complaints to the NHTSA about lifter failure. More often than not, these complaints are linked to other issues. When the lifter fails, vehicles commonly stall and lose power on the road. Ultimately, lifter failure can lead to substantial engine damage and sometimes complete engine failure.
An owner from Texas had lifter issues twice. Eventually, the dealer installed a new engine, and the owner was without the truck for about 6 months. A new complaint from the same owner states, “I have recently begun getting the check engine light along with sputtering sensation while the truck is on idle.”
“Strange loud random clicking sounds” alerted an owner from Florida that something was wrong with a 2021 Silverado RST, 5.3. It would lose power when taking off or when unsuccessfully accelerating. There were no check engine lights or other warnings displayed on the dash. The owner discovered loose, broken bolts in the engine compartment. But the Chevy dealership “acted like there was nothing wrong with it.” Convinced it was a lifter issue, the owner did some digging and discovered that lifters had already been replaced around 4,000 miles. Only when the dealership discovered multiple problems including misfiring, a rocker arm that wasn’t moving, and broken bolts in the cylinder heads did they agree to replace all the left and right side lifters.
But quite often, dealerships will only replace one of the defective lifter banks. Also, there appears to be a shortage of parts. For instance, an owner from Alaska’s #3 Cylinder failed in July 2022. The complaint states that an all-new lifter kit needed to be installed. The “truck was knocking violently and died.” But the parts were on back order nationwide and the dealership had “no clue when replacement parts will arrive.”
Dealers Often Replace Just One of the Lifter Banks
An owner from Oregon experienced engine valve lifter failure at 20,000 miles. There was also “engine hesitation and power loss,” as well as problems with the parking brake and electronic stability control (ESC). Chevrolet was to replace the damaged lifters, “but refused to replace both banks of defective lifters.” As a result of the malfunction, the owner was stranded 1,200 miles from home and for more than 2 weeks waiting for the Silverado 1500 to be repaired.
There are lots of complaints that the dealer would only replace one bank. Another example comes from an owner in Pennsylvania who states that “a lifter went bad. GM will not replace all of the lifters, just one side of the engine, due to the vehicle having over 8000 miles. Mine currently has 12,500. I no longer feel safe knowing that GM is replacing only half of the known defect with new parts that have the same issue.” This is what he was told at the repair facility. His concern is that the engine of the vehicle could fail again, resulting in a loss of acceleration.
An owner from Georgia also had only the lifters on one side of the engine replaced. This was done after “the truck began to cut out, shake, and misfire. My dash began to flash and state I had a parking brake failure. I had no choice but to be towed.” The diagnosis was 2 lifters and 1 rod failure. So, “they replaced the rod and all lifters on one side of the engine. I took the truck home for one night and it broke down again. The dealership stated it was fixed for a second time. When I picked it up again, I made it 1 mile down the road before the truck had the exact same symptoms with shuddering and misfiring. It is at the dealership for a third time.”
Stability and Brake Control Problems
Most of the electronic stability control (ESC) and electronic brake control (EBSM) problems are regarded as being either related to issues with the electrical system, brakes, or powertrain of the truck. Sometimes the automatic braking system (ABS) is also mentioned. Basically, the EBSM software has the ability to disable the ABS and ESC systems, which may result in ABS and/or ESC warning lights flashing. They may also be a symptom of lifter failure.
Both the ABS and ESC are vital for the stability of vehicles, and if they malfunction, there will always be an increased risk of crashing. EBCM software issues can also lead to brakes wearing prematurely and drivers having to use more effort to brake. In these cases, the check engine light also comes on quite often.
A typical example comes from an owner in South Carolina who describes how “the whole truck started shaking and check engine light, service ESC light and service parking brake light came on. Thankfully I was near an exit ramp and got off as I had almost no power. I limped my truck back to the dealership where they diagnosed it as lifter failure and (they) replaced both banks of lifters. This is a known problem with General Motors and (it) is simply a matter of time before a terrible accident occurs.”
An owner from Tennessee who had only 72 miles on the odometer, reports a warning light stating “service brake assist.” The dealer confirmed that the brake control module was faulty, but said that the vehicle was safe to drive until the new part arrived. The owner submitted the complaint “because of previous significant vehicle recalls on record for the same issue in 2018-2020.”
Shuddering & Shaking Issues
Despite the fact that there aren’t any recalls for these dysfunctional trucks, there are lots of manufacturer communications. These include technical service bulletins (TSBs) that guide dealerships that are faced with customers needing problems fixed on their 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 vehicles.
For example, there have been several TSBs between March 2022 and January 2023 that try to address complaints about shudders and surges. From the start, GM said that these may be caused by various transmission and engine concerns! Clearly, they aren’t sure what the problem is. But what has become clear is that many Chevrolets and GMC vehicles, including 2015-2022 Silverado 1500 models, are affected.
Then there are also several TSBs that deal with chirping noises that go back to 2019 Silverado models. At first, dealers were told not to try and repair vehicles until a solution had been found. An owner from Michigan indicates in a complaint that the dealer said they couldn’t repair the truck because of this instruction. It states that there “is a huge population at risk for possible loss of control and/or loss of steering to be supported by a simple GM comment. There must be a fix.” But there wasn’t!
A year later, GM told dealers there was a fix, but that the necessary parts were out of stock. They said that it didn’t matter because it wouldn’t affect the “durability” of vehicles.
By 2022, GM’s instructions changed, stating that the problem wouldn’t affect the durability or operation of the vehicle but may be annoying! They also warned dealers that the new repair was “different than previous repair attempts.” Furthermore, “any vehicle that has had a previous repair attempt and the condition repeat before 1/27/2022 should have this repair performed.”
What to do if your 2021 Silverado is a Lemon?
If you think you have a lemon that doesn’t mean you need to be stuck with it. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace, or pay cash settlements to thousands of people who have bought lemons. Don’t worry about legal fees because, when it comes to lemon law, the law makes Chevrolet pay the legal fees.
Lemberg Law will assess your problems free of charge and help you determine whether you have a claim against Chevrolet for a 2021 Silverado 1500 lemon. All you have to do is call our Helpline or fill out a contact form right here.