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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all, I just turned twenty, I’m ready to step up to the plate and buy my first used car from a dealership. I’ve been drawn to the ATS since it came out, and since it comes with optional AWD, I figured it would be a good choice, since I live in the rust belt. I’ve been seeing recently that the 2013 and 2014 models have been going for really cheap recently, cheap as in sub $15k. I guess it’s just that luxury car depreciation, but it’s at a reasonable enough price for me to finance. What I am worried about is the engine and transmission. I’m just curious as what some common failure points are, what to look for when going to see these cars. I’ve been warned numerous times about the 3.6 and timing chains, so I’ve been looking at mostly 2.0T models. I’m coming out of a 23 year old V8 BMW, reliability and ease of repair are my goals.
 

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2014 ATS 2.0T 6spd manual Performance RWD
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I'll start by saying if reliability and ease of repair are the priorities, then you should be looking at Toyota/Lexus, Honda/Acura, etc. ATS's are not expensive to buy but [any] luxury performance car is not typically inexpensive to maintain. Like buying an e38 7-series for $3500 and then having to shell out $4k for the OEM replacement suspension, I'll never forget the kid on my Accord forum that went through that. That's an extreme example, but it's the same principle. So just know what you are getting into with an upper tier car. If you can wrench on the car yourself that will save you some money. Also don't forget an AWD car is more expensive to maintain than a FWD or RWD car.

That said, here's the deal with the ATS. Quality control was inconsistent so if you get a bad car you'll have all kinds of ridiculous issues but if you get a good one it seems to be a pretty solid car. So I usually recommend that people get a certified pre-owned example so they can find out what type of experience they are going to have while still under the protection of a warranty. I believe the timing chain stretch is a thing with pre-ATS 3.6 motors but I'll let more knowledgeable V6 owners speak to that. I have seen a handful of 3.6 motors go out, but it's generally more common to see issues with the 2.0T. GM gave early 2.0T's a lean tune and the wrong spark plugs, which did result in some blown motors. But it's all relative, you have to keep in mind there were more 2.0T's made, and most people don't go on the internet to talk about how great their car is doing. Personally, I believe if you use 93 octane fuel, use low ash full synthetic 5W-30, Don't lug the motor, follow good FI driving methods like not getting into boost until the car is at operating temperature, perhaps run catch cans, etc. the 2.0T will be fine. 2.0's from Audi, Subaru, and other carmakers have had the same issue, and the problem is the average consumer isn't in tune with what a turbo motor needs to last. So many instances of 2.0 issues could be owners not using 93 octane fuel, or the wrong oil, etc.

So what are the undeniable things these cars are known for in terms of issues? Rear axle seals leaking, CUE screen delaminating, Cam solenoids failing, and the autos have torque converter issues. Though it seems more common with the 8spd auto, and I believe reflashing the trans tune and changing the fluid is supposed to have fixed that (there was/is actually a lawsuit against GM for it). There was an issue with the steering rack bolts but that's free to fix under the recall. That's kind of it for major stuff. But the CUE screen issue is so widely known now that there are many aftermarket solutions out there so with under $200 and an hour or two of your time you can replace your CUE screen yourself. The cam solenoids are not expensive to buy and they are very easy to get to and replace, so neither of those are that bad. The 2.0T timing cover is known to display "seepage", but it is not really an issue it seems as almost any one you look at has it and dealers usually don't reseal it unless it's visibly dripping.

My ATS is a 2014 2.0T 6spd manual Performance trim, I bought it CPO at 26k miles, it has 46k miles and it has been a great car. I did have to get the axle seals replaced once. Other than that it's been just oil changes and tire rotations. I was able to get the timing cover resealed which I was thrilled about haha, but it was not causing an issue prior. My powertrain warranty ends this May, but I plan to keep the car because I love it and there's nothing else I really want that offers everything the ATS does at this price point. The cars are plentiful enough that parts are not hard to find nor afford. Finding a RWD sport sedan with a manual transmission is really challenging these days too. I also have to say I love that the ATS is on the rarer side than say, a 3 Series or C-class, for better or worse. I like driving a car you don't see constantly everywhere.

Perhaps you know this, but GM benchmarked the E46 3-Series for the chassis and handling dynamics of the ATS. The ATS is widely known and praised for its handling, near 50/50 weight distribution, good steering, and light weight. And it's cramped back seat haha.

Also the aftermarket for the 2.0 is pretty healthy, if you plan to modify the car at all.
 

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2014 ATS 3.6 Premium RWD, 2016 Corvette Z06, 2018 GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD Diesel
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The 3.6L timing chain issue was primarily a CTS issue (and other GM lines of the same 2008-2012 time frame, year depending upon 3.6L model year revision by line) and was corrected during the production life of the second gen CTS. GM revised the timing chain tensioners and also addressed a major contributing factor prior to the hardware redesign, an OLM system calibration that resulted in excessively long oil change intervals. When the direct injection version of the 3.6L was introduced for CTS model year 2008, the OLM could go into the 20,000 mile range before a recommended change (another example of GM trying to imitate BMW which was doing the same at the time with equally sludgy results as the miles racked up).

I bought a 2008 CTS and always changed the oil at around the 65 and 35 percent points before changing again when it hit 0% and then resetting the OLM. The OLM calibration update resulting in the OLM suggesting very close intervals to what I had been doing. OLM suggested changes are based upon operating conditions and not just mileage but it seems the original 3.6L cal was largely mileage biased and the engine definitely ate timing chains and tensioners with degraded oil.

Rodger
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I actually work for a company that remans and warehouses GM gauge clusters and radios, I’m well aware of the CUE issue, if everybody posted their VIN I could probably pull up exactly how much the dealer charges you and you can see how much they screwed you over in labor. The pattern I see is every two years, but thank you for the information, I’ll have to further look into all of this to decide what I want to do. All I know is one thing, I can’t keep driving this e39 540, it’s gonna brake my bank soon.
 

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What's been happening with your 540? I heavily shopped 2001-2003 e39 M5's and 2003 540i Msports before I decided it wasn't the right time for a car that had such needs. But I felt like it wasn't too bad if you knew what you were getting into, all the issues are well documented like valve cover gaskets, timing chain guides, trailing arms, seat twist, gauge pixel outages, headlight adjuster failure, coolant system issues, and the oh so common broken cupholder. Despite all that I still want one someday haha, but it would be a second car so not a huge deal if it is out of commission for a bit. Though sites like ECS Tuning, forums, etc make replacing all that more a matter of your own time than cost.

Has your '97 (I presume) 540 been one thing after another? Thought those were supposed to be simpler because no VANOS, etc...? I feel like they aren't bad cars if you can wrench on them yourself, but you go to a dealer they are very expensive. If I couldn't do the work myself I would have a good indie mechanic to take it to for sure.
 

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Hello all, I just turned twenty, I’m ready to step up to the plate and buy my first used car from a dealership. I’ve been drawn to the ATS since it came out, and since it comes with optional AWD, I figured it would be a good choice, since I live in the rust belt. I’ve been seeing recently that the 2013 and 2014 models have been going for really cheap recently, cheap as in sub $15k. I guess it’s just that luxury car depreciation, but it’s at a reasonable enough price for me to finance. What I am worried about is the engine and transmission. I’m just curious as what some common failure points are, what to look for when going to see these cars. I’ve been warned numerous times about the 3.6 and timing chains, so I’ve been looking at mostly 2.0T models. I’m coming out of a 23 year old V8 BMW, reliability and ease of repair are my goals.
I didn't have any major issues with my 2013 3.6 during the time I had it 75k miles best I can remember. It was not AWD. I got mine certified pre-owned with a warranty and I'm glad I did because the CUE screen went bad and that would have been over a grand to replace had it not been under warranty. The rear diff is going out on ATS but I was lucky on that one too, my dealer caught a bad seal and replaced it before mine went bad. Might want to consider getting one with a warranty or buying a warranty when you buy the car.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
What's been happening with your 540? I heavily shopped 2001-2003 e39 M5's and 2003 540i Msports before I decided it wasn't the right time for a car that had such needs. But I felt like it wasn't too bad if you knew what you were getting into, all the issues are well documented like valve cover gaskets, timing chain guides, trailing arms, seat twist, gauge pixel outages, headlight adjuster failure, coolant system issues, and the oh so common broken cupholder. Despite all that I still want one someday haha, but it would be a second car so not a huge deal if it is out of commission for a bit. Though sites like ECS Tuning, forums, etc make replacing all that more a matter of your own time than cost.

Has your '97 (I presume) 540 been one thing after another? Thought those were supposed to be simpler because no VANOS, etc...? I feel like they aren't bad cars if you can wrench on them yourself, but you go to a dealer they are very expensive. If I couldn't do the work myself I would have a good indie mechanic to take it to for sure.
Well, it’s a 97, no Vanos but they still have timing chain guide issues, that’s the black cloud looming over my head, the engine HAS to come out of the car for that, the transmission is failing, it has a mysterious vibration at 50 miles an hour that comes and goes with the wind, the SRS module took a dump out of nowhere, the steering wheel controls have never worked and I’ve never been able to use cruise, the transmission won’t shift out of third gear unless the engine is at operating temperature, for whatever reason the alarm goes off everytime I unlock the car so I never lock it, and the neutral safety switch went out of nowhere, that set me back almost a grand, the usual pixel failure and garbage cup holders, and then there’s the headache of the 9 quart oil change this monster needs, and then at the end of the day I get 16.8 MPG on an engine that requires 93 or better and it has the same horsepower as that 2.0T. I’m tired of paying BMW prices for bs little things, at least with GM products they have platforms and the prices are significantly lower for modules and such because it’s shared across the platform. I’m glad that I was warned about the ATS quality control issues, if I can find one with a warranty or one where they will sell me a warranty with it, I’ll probably jump on that so that at least the initial issues are covered
 

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Prev: 2004+2007 CTS 3.6 - 2016 ATS 2.0T AWD Lux. Now: 2018 ATS 2.0T AWD Luxury
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ATS is probably no worse for problems than other similar sporty cars.

There are 4 trims, which will affect the options and price. Base, Luxury(most abundant),
Performance(only added touring stuff and signature lights) and Premium(most options).

In 2015, the 2.0 got more torque 260 to 295. In 2016 it got the 8 speed trans.
 

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Rear axle seals and CUE here, both fixed under warranty. I've put 9k on it since early July, changed the oil every 3k, and gotten 30 MPG with every tank of 93 octane. Car runs great with no issues. Good luck!
 

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When I was 20 I had something that was somewhat reliable and got great mileage. If you need AWD, get a Crosstrek or a WRX if you prefer fun over reliability. This is my daily but it's also my 4th car and there is a bus route near my house and work.
I cannot recommend this vehicle to anyone that actually needs to use it.
 

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I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, but I got my first Cadillac after falling in love with the CTS in The Matrix: Reloaded. Talk about great marketing! I had a 2003 CTS Performance w/5MT that I'd still be driving today if it had not been for a deer hit at 150k miles. It was very reliable, but it had it's quirks. Never left me stranded and I had enough small fixes to keep me vested. Maybe I'm a little different, but small things that you can fix gave me more "pride in my ride". Window regulator, wiper module, sunroof switch housing were all small items (other than routine maintenance) I tackled. Major repairs included a timing belt done proactively (yeah the 3.2L had one of those) and a drive shaft. Forced back into the market out of necessity, I quickly landed on an ATS. I liked their proportions much better than the other sedans in the Cadillac line up. The only hiccup to date has been the driver's side door check - again a small fix that I enjoyed tackling. Since I want to keep this car as long or longer (I'm cheap like that) I'm always lurking on this forum looking for what others are reporting.
 

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CUE issues, but it's usually the touch screen, DIY repair under $150. Axle seals, but that might be problem with clogged vents, keep it clean. 8 speeds across GM product lines have lots of reports of torque converter shudder. Latest fix is a flush with a specific ATF which may be a fix, or just enough to get past drive train warranty & it's your problem after that. I can only remember one member reporting torque converter shudder with the 6 auto.

My 13 with the 3.6 & 6 auto has been great so far, I keep up on the maintenance so hopefully stays good. Good luck with your search.
 

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CUE issues, but it's usually the touch screen, DIY repair under $150. Axle seals, but that might be problem with clogged vents, keep it clean. 8 speeds across GM product lines have lots of reports of torque converter shudder. Latest fix is a flush with a specific ATF which may be a fix, or just enough to get past drive train warranty & it's your problem after that. I can only remember one member reporting torque converter shudder with the 6 auto.

My 13 with the 3.6 & 6 auto has been great so far, I keep up on the maintenance so hopefully stays good. Good luck with your search.
You are the second person I've seen talk about clogged vents on the diff, do you have more info on this? Where they are, if I can clean them in my garage, etc. Someone else told me there is a theory that the vents clog, which makes the fluid look for the next exit, which is pushing past the seals, which is what causes the fluid to leak down onto the diff. I would love to know more on this.
 

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Read this thread for info on vents, pics:

 

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all I can say man if you are getting an early 2013-2014 get a 3.6 V6 you wont have any problems with those. they are a solid well thought out engine. the 2.0T in those early models have a huge failure rate. I had to replace mine (2013) with only 80k miles on it. piston let go. regular driving. never tracked or raced. if I could do it all over again I would definitely get a 3.6L
 

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Insist on prior maintenance records if the dealer will do it. I love CARFAX. I bought used (34K miles) and found all the maintenance records from delivery date of first owner. Was a great help.
 

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I agree with Jeff but even with a clean Carfax a thorough check and test prior to purchase is important.

Carfax won't catch every accident or repair because it depends upon businesses reporting information. They can also be a nightmare for sellers when they get something wrong. Four years ago a friend got hit by that with a 2012 CTS he was trying to sell and Carfax flagged it as potentially having the odometer turned back. He had the oil changed while on a trip and the mom and pop garage in Florida reported the mileage but transposed two numbers so it was off by around 30,000 miles and when the GM dealer later reported the correct mileage at the next service it got flagged by Carfax. It should have been simple to straighten out given a detailed documented mileage history with one outlier reading but it wasn't, hopefully they have improved since then but they really should be under the same sort of scrutiny as credit reporting bureaus because they have a lot of potential for causing consumer damage. At the time he had to work with the garage that misreported the mileage and they didn't want to change it because they felt their records were correct and he had to resort to an attorney to get the situation corrected because that red flag on the report killed the market value of a pristine low mileage CTS.

Rodger
 

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2016 ATS Premium 6-spd MT
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You are the second person I've seen talk about clogged vents on the diff, do you have more info on this? Where they are, if I can clean them in my garage, etc. Someone else told me there is a theory that the vents clog, which makes the fluid look for the next exit, which is pushing past the seals, which is what causes the fluid to leak down onto the diff. I would love to know more on this.
I've posted on this before. Not sure where I heard about it, but it makes sense. As air in the diff heats up, it expands and needs to escape thru the vent tube otherwise pressure builds up forcing air (and fluid) past the seals. It would seem that an adequate vent would save GM a lot of money and customers a lot of grief. When my seals were replaced, I did not explicitly ask about the vent tube. Did they replace it? I dunno. Is there some way to service it ourselves to keep it open? Again, I dunno. I would like to learn more if anyone can shed further light on this.
 

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This is what it looks like, you can replace it but I just unscrew it and clean it once a year: ACDelco® 23156298 - GM Original Equipment™ Rear Straight Axle Vent Tube

Basically a complex piece of non-functional low quality c**p that replaces the simple vent tube used on most axle applications.

Note with a clogged vent tube, not only will it vent fluid through a seal when hot (pressure is going to find a spot to vent) it will also draw air and any other stuff built up around the compromised seal area when it cools. A vent tube is intended to keep the axle breathing point where it won't normally suck in water and road grit which a small hose extending slightly above the axle does admirably as it has done for decades.

Rodger
 
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