Electrical system, engine, steering, and brake issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners
Among full-size, light-duty pickup trucks, the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 stands out as a more luxury-minded model. It is, according to the automaker, the “most luxurious, advanced, and capable Sierra 1500 lineup” ever. But what’s the point of luxury when engines fail, the steering seizes, and vehicles catch on fire spontaneously?
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Most Common Issues
Engine problems top the list of complaints issued by owners of the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other reliable sources. These include complaints we have received directly from owners. The most common problems relate to engine lifter failures that can cause complete engine failure. Symptoms include knocking noises and shaking when the car accelerates and moves. There are also issues with the oil filter and several cases of trucks catching fire.
There are also a lot of electrical system problems, many of which are reported along with engine problems. Steering is another issue that recurs in complaints, with owners reporting that it seizes or stops working. Some complaints state that the power brakes and steering fail together, with most complaints combined with steering and/or the electrical system.
Additionally, there are four recalls that affect the 2021 Sierra 2500. Two relate to tires, and two to the seat belts.
The tire issues are:
- The tires may have been over-cured, which can result in sudden air loss or a belt edge separation that leads to partial or full tread/belt loss. Whatever happens, the risk of a crash is increased.
- The spare tire may be incompatible with the accessory wheels and may not function properly — also increasing the risk of a crash.
The seat belt issues are:
- The front center seat belts may not be secured. This can result in the risk of injury if there is a crash.
- In 470 cases, the incorrect bolts may have been used to attach the seat belts. This, too, can increase the risk of injury if the truck crashes.
There was also an investigation into airbags between April 2021 and August 2023. This resulted from instances of the airbag malfunction indicator light (MIL) illuminating and the potential for front airbags not deploying. There were very few occurrences, and no reports of crashes, fires, injuries, or fatalities. So, the investigation was closed. But, the NHTSA’s Office of Defects (ODI) “reserves the right to take additional action if warranted by new circumstances.”
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2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Complaint Summary
|Number of Complaints
|Unknown Or Other
|Lane Departure: Assist
Problems with Fires
All the fire incidents are registered under Engine in NHTSA complaints.
The wife of an owner from Missouri tells how less than five minutes after her husband had parked the car and brought their two children inside, a neighbor rang the doorbell to tell them something was on fire in the driveway. “We ran to the back to find his truck engulfed in flames coming from the engine. We quickly called 911 and exited the house/property. The truck continued to burn with 20-25 foot flames and very black smoke for about 40 minutes until the fire department was able to control the fire. The fire was hot enough that the entire engine was significantly burnt, the seats and steering wheel were gone, the glass shattered and melted, and the tires exploded and melted.” No cause was recorded.
An owner from New York had a similar experience. After returning from shopping, his wife noticed smoke coming from under the hood. This was followed by flames. Within five minutes “the entire front end of the truck was engulfed in flames.” The fire department investigators determined that the fire started at the back of the engine compartment near the battery.
A 2021 Sierra belonging to someone from South Carolina states that while driving at 60 mph, there was a noise under the hood, and then the vehicle exploded. The flames appeared next to the rear wheel on the driver’s side. He was able to extinguish the flames with a fire extinguisher. In this case, the dealership determined that the engine was faulty and it would be repaired (or replaced) under warranty.
Engine Lifter Failure
While many NHTSA complaints state the engine lifter malfunctions, there are many more that describe “bad” lifter symptoms without identifying the problem. For example, they talk about the truck shaking and/or vibrating, shuddering, or making loud knocking noises.
An owner from Virginia describes how the truck started making a loud noise and there was shuddering in the engine while traveling on the highway. The service manager drove the Sierra “briefly” and said he suspected the engine lifters were faulty. He “says this is a known issue with this truck and they currently have 3 other trucks in the shop with this same problem. He said parts are a 3-4 month wait and (the) vehicle is not driveable.” The service manager told the owner it would break down, “but couldn’t say when – could be 10 minutes, an hour, or a day.”
An owner from Pennsylvania reported that eight lifters in his vehicle had to be replaced. This complaint also states that there is a shortage of parts because this is a nationwide problem. Symptoms included a knocking noise, shaking, and a lack of power.
An owner from Michigan heard a loud bang and had to pull off the highway. It was lifter failure that resulted in major engine damage.
“It seems that this is a known issue with GM. I was told by the dealership that there were two other trucks ahead of me with the same issue. Also, because this is such a prevalent issue with GM, they cannot keep up with the demand for parts. My dealership is waiting for a head gasket. GM has known about the faulty parts for approximately two years, and they are only replacing some of the faulty, poorly made parts, hoping the other side of the engine will not develop issues and fail.”
Electrical System Problems
Electrical system problems rank number two on the list of complaints to the NHTSA. They are very varied, even though many are seen as being linked to engine issues, and a few to steering problems. Other than that, there are issues with blank or black screens, dead batteries, rodents eating the soy-based wiring, and all sorts of error warnings.
An owner from Florida states that after driving three miles, there was suddenly an “ESC” (electronic stability control) warning, a parking brake warning, and a degraded power steering warning all at the same time. “My steering wheel started vibrating vigorously, a clanking sound started under the hood somewhere, and none of my safety features worked after.”
An owner from Texas had a main control computer system problem. When pulling a trailer with electric brakes with their vehicle, a warning light stating to check the trailer would illuminate on their instrument panel. The warning light would also state that the electric brakes had disconnected — and then reconnected shortly after. The failure occurred on a consistent basis. The dealer “confirmed that the computer system was known to have an issue due to the interference between the electric brakes and the LAD lights on the vehicle. However, there was no recall.”
Many of the complaints about steering problems mention a warning message, “service power steering with care.” Others just state that the steering wheel stopped working or it got stuck. Some say that the steering wheel “seized.”
An owner from California states that he lost the power steering while driving out of a parking lot. “A message appeared on the screen saying: Service Power Steering Drive with Care and an ESC message. A light also appeared. I was not able to steer at all and had to turn the truck off. I tried multiple times. After 5 minutes the message cleared as did the light.” This happened again the next day — also in the parking lot! “THIS IS VERY DANGEROUS. I have an appointment with the dealer. When looking up this problem it appears there are multiple recalls on other 2021 models but not the Sierra though.”
While driving, an owner from Massachusetts experienced backfiring. “The ESC light came on and the car engine seemed to become erratic as well as steering and braking error messages and the check engine started blinking. Very scary before I got it pulled over and very thankful I wasn’t on the highway.”
Brake problems are also varied, even though many are combined with engine, electrical system, and/or steering issues. For example, the trailer brake controller fails, brake rotors are warped, and when the noise brake system failed, an owner had to have it replaced.
The grandson of an owner “was driving in stop-and-go traffic, the braking system suddenly malfunctioned causing the vehicle to crash into the rear of a second vehicle.” He was driving at about 10 mph when, while pressing the brake pedal to stop, the message “brake failure” displayed just before the vehicle crashed into the rear of the second vehicle. Luckily no-one was injured. The local dealer replaced the master cylinder and brake booster.
Your Lemon Law Legal Rights
If your 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 has recurring problems that affect its use and/or value, you might have bought a lemon. If you’d like some free legal advice, contact Lemberg Law and we’ll assess your problems.
The law makes GMC pay legal fees, and e every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners. . Call our Helpline or fill out a contact form and we’ll get back to you.