2021 GMC Terrain Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Vehicle speed control, electrical system and powertrain issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

The GMC Terrain is a relatively small, 5-passenger, crossover SUV that entered the market in 2010. Manufactured by General Motors (GM), it was introduced as a replacement for the Pontiac Torrent after the company stopped producing the Pontiac brand.

Manufactured in Ontario, it was launched with much fanfare. But the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) records tell a story of ongoing complaints. The first was made in February 2010 and the most recent in January 2022. A total of 271 in all.

Interestingly, only 16 of these complaints were made in 2010. This is largely because issues don’t always show up when vehicles are brand new. Problems simply keep coming!

There have also been 3 recalls for this first model. All of these stem from the risk of a crash and jointly affect as many as 1,213,945 vehicles.

From day 1, the rollover rating for the Terrain has been 4 out of 5 stars. It still is.

So far, consumer complaints to NHTSA about the 2021 GMC Terrain total 6. There has been 1 recall that affects tire tread that may separate and result in a loss of vehicle control. Up to 9,597 vehicles are affected by this.

GM does notify dealers about faults, malfunctions, and other issues that relate to their vehicles. By law, since 2012 they have been required to provide copies of this correspondence, known as manufacturer communications, to NHTSA.

There are currently 162 manufacturer communications for the 2021 GMC Terrain. Equipment tops the list followed by the electrical system and powertrain. They don’t necessarily correspond with consumer complaints even though the two top complaint categories do coincide with communication categories.

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019    2020    2022

Most Common Problems

The first 6 complaints received by NHTSA about the 2021 GMC Terrain are about the powertrain, the electrical system, and the SUV’s brakes. So, we’re going to look at these more closely.

2021 GMC Terrain Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Electrical System
Power Train
Service Brakes
Air Bags
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
Fuel System, Gasoline
Lane Departure: Blind Spot Detection

Problems with the Powertrain

The 3 powertrain issues have similarities, but they are not the same. Dealers acknowledge the problems experienced in 2 of the complaints but don’t seem to have solutions.

One complaint states the powertrain problem starts after stopping at a red light and getting onto a freeway or making a turn after stopping. The car starts to shift between 45 and 60 mph. And the “problem is getting worse.”

The car has 6,000 miles on the clock. “I reported it to (the) local GMC dealer and I was told GM is aware of the problem and they do not have a solution. They mentioned there is a TB (technical bulletin) out for several models that customers have reported.” All these have the same problem.

The second says that when driving uphill or going around corners, the transmission shudders so badly “it feels like (the) front tires are coming off. I contacted the dealer and GM and was told there is a TSB (technical service bulletin) for this complaint. GM and (the) dealer acknowledged there was a problem but they didn’t have a fix or known cause of (the) problem.”

The most recent complaint states that while starting and trying to shift the vehicle into drive, it reverses. When this happened, the driver “depressed the brake pedal.” While there were no warning lights, the gear-shift lever was stuck in park. But the instrument panel showed it was in neutral.

The vehicle was towed to the dealer who couldn’t replicate the failure. At the time of the complaint, no assistance had been given to the owner.

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Electrical System Problems

Some people may feel that the first of the 2 electrical system problems was a blessing in disguise. Others are likely horrified.

The son of the car’s owner went to school with the SUV’s keys by mistake. However, the parent was able to drive home, 4.5 miles, without keys. There was also no warning that the remote wasn’t in the car. This message only displayed when “I arrived home and turned off the ignition.”

“This could have been a disaster had I driven further or not had the funds to get back to my son’s school. Not to mention if a car thief had occupied my car and driven off in it.”

“This is clearly a defect that needs to be fixed.”

The other complaint describes how the radio screen went black when the driver was talking on the phone.

If either of these issues continues to recur it may indicate that one or other of these two cars may be lemons.

Problems with the Brake

There is only 1 complaint that relates to brake failure, and it resulted in a crash 7 days after the car was purchased.

While driving down a steep hill, the brakes didn’t respond. The driver realized there were a couple of choices, both of which would have resulted in hitting somebody’s house. The driver managed to stop the car but “before I could put the vehicle in park or apply the brake, I began to roll backwards.”

The car “hit a curb, jumped into the yard and hit a bush, (a) small tree, and an electric ground transformer.” According to the complaint, “the utility workers said that I was lucky not to get electrocuted.”

What to do if your 2021 GMC Terrain is a lemon? Your Lemon Rights

If your GMC Terrain problems recur, you may have a case against GM. And if you think you may have bought a lemon, it’s a good idea to have an experienced lemon law lawyer on your side.

Lemberg Law has many years of lemon law experience. As such, we have negotiated many settlement deals for our clients.

It’s not going to cost you anything because the law says General Motors must pay the legal fees of lemon law cases. So, call our Helpline and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 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.

See more posts from Brian Jones

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