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

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.

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2018    2019    2020    2022

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NHTSA Complaints for the 2021 GMC Terrain

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Electrical System
Power Train
Service Brakes
Unknown Or Other

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.

Most Common Problems with the 2021 GMC Terrain

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 Powertrain Problems

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.

2021 GMC Terrain 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.

2021 GMC Terrain Brake Problems

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.

Complaint Data

CategoryElectrical System, Suspension, Visibility/wiper
DateFeb 14, 2023
Just purchased this vehicle has about 64500 miles on it. When accelerating between 40-55 (hard acceleration) my vehicle wobbles really bad, seems like a tire issue. Have had the front end looked at, and tires all balanced and inspected. Noting out of the ordinary. Then all of a sudden my rear view back up camera works, but my back up assist symbols are not showing/working. I checked the settings and they are turned on. To top off the cake, when the weather is cold outside my windshield wiper fluid will not spray from the front windshield or rear, then when it warms up or is parked in a garage it works again. I have made sure the correct wiper fluid is added as well so it does not freeze. But apparently it is getting stuck somewhere......
CategoryElectrical System, Service Brakes
DateOct 20, 2022
Recently I have noticed that the back brakes squeak and sound like they are grinding when backing up. Also every now and then the information screen will go black for a while then turn back on could be a few seconds or several minutes. 23,900 on car
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateAug 09, 2022
There is a rattle in the b pillar/roof area. They have attempted to fix it 4 or more times by adding adhesive between layers of metal. The fix that other dealerships have done per reading online involves cutting through metal. This would affect the integrity of the body/ frame of the car.
CategoryPower Train
DateMar 21, 2022
The contact owns 2021 gmc terrain. The contact stated upon starting the vehicle and attempting to shift the vehicle to drive, the vehicle inadvertently reversed. The contact depressed the brake pedal. There were no warning lights illuminated. The contact stated that the gear shift selector was stuck in park(p) position while the instrument panel was displaying that the vehicle was in neutral. The vehicle was towed to the dealer who informed the contact that they could not replicate the failure; however, the vehicle remained under observation at the dealer. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure but did not provide any assistance. The failure mileage was unknown. The vin was not available.
CategoryElectrical System
DateJan 18, 2022
While driving my vehicle and talking on the phone, the radio screen went black. Bluetooth or nothing in connection to it was working. After about 2 hours it came back on. I was told to bring to dealership to be checkout, but it came back on. I'm going to take it to the dealership. My vehicle has 13,000 miles on it.
CategoryElectrical System
DateDec 01, 2021
I dropped my son off at school and he mistakenly took my car keys into school with him, and somehow I was able to drive all the way home, 4. 5 miles, with no key in the car and no warning to stating the remote wasn't in the car. The issue with this is if I'd driven further, perhaps to another state, or even driven somewhere at night, I would have been stranded once I turned the car off. There was no indication that the remote wasn't in the car, and the car never cut off. I only knew the remote was gone once I arrived home and turned off the ignition. That's when the message displayed that the remote wasn't in the car. I had to call an uber to go back to my son's school to get the key. 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 someone occupied my car and driven off in it. They could have gotten as far as they wanted (or gas would allow) before the car shut-off as long as they didn't turn off the car. I stopped at stop lights and stop signs and the car just kept going. The issue should be looked into and addressed immediately. This just occurred yesterday. The vehicle has not been inspected and this was the first time anything like that has happened. I normally receive a warning message if my remote isn't in the car even if it's just in the house. This is clearly a defect that needs to be fixed.
CategoryPower Train
DateSep 27, 2021
My 2021 gmc terrain with 6000 miles on odometer. When driving up hill or going around corner transmission shudders so bad that it feels like front tires are coming off. I contacted the dealer and gm and was told there is a tsb for this complaint. Gm and dealer acknowledged there was a problem but they didn't have a fix or known cause of problem
CategoryService Brakes
DateSep 07, 2021
I was going to my sons home which is located on a steep dowhill street with several turns, one of ther almost 90 degrees. As I started to desend the hill and gain speed, I depressed the foot brake. It did not respond at all. As I continued to gain speed and coming up on the sharp curve, I continued to pump and apply brake . The brakes did not work. I continued to gain speed and go around 2 other turns. At the end of the street I had a choice to contine straight ahead and hit a house, turn right and continue down another steep street until I hit a home at the end of the street or try to turnleft andgo up hill. I turne left up the hill and finally got stopped befor I could put the vehicle in park or apply the brake I begainto roll backwards on the steep incline . I rolled by andhit a curb, jumped into the yard and hit a bush,small tree and an electric ground transformer, coming to reset about 4 feet of the ground on top of the trnsforer.. The utility workers said that I was lucky not to get eectrocuted. This vehicle waspurchased about 7 day prior to the accident, the brakes simply failed addid not work at all
CategoryPower Train
DateJul 20, 2021
When driving car starting from a red light/getting on freeway or after making turn from a stop light when accelerating between 45 and 60 car shakes when shifting. Problem is getting worse. Car only has 6000 miles on it. I reported it to 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 out for several models that customers have reported same problem

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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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