Cadillac is one of the few powerhouses in the car manufacturing industry. However, that does not mean their cars don’t have any problems. Talking about the Cadillac CTS, in this article, we’ll be going through some of the most common problems that have plagued Cadillac CTS users from the year 2008 to 2019. Read more here about how many miles a CTS typically lasts.
The most common problem in the Cadillac CTS since 2008 has been timing chain failure. The earlier models (2008 – 2012) also had severe transmission issues, such as shuddering and transmission failure. The next few models (2013 – 2015) had regular problems with water seeping into the floor of the driver and passenger. A loud clunking sound from the braking vacuum pump plagued the 2016 to 2019 models
In addition to this short summary that takes you through how the car’s troubles have transformed over the years, we’ve also come up with an in-depth look into each problem, its symptoms, how to fix it, and the cost that you’ll have to bear to fix it. So, without any further ado, let’s get straight into the first problem.
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1. Timing Chain Failure
The most common issue reported by users from the year 2008 to 2014, especially, has been the timing chain failure that can even lead to the entire engine seizing unexpectedly. Timing chains undergo wear and tear almost all the time while a car is running, so figuring out the exact problem that causes it to fail can oftentimes be pretty difficult.
Fortunately for most users, the timing chain failing is such a problem that the car notifies you right away if it detects anything by turning on and flashing the check engine light. It’s your duty then to turn the car off right away and contact your mechanic as soon as possible before the car seizes otherwise, you might have to get it towed.
Other symptoms that present themselves when the car undergoes a timing chain failure are bent valves or damaged pistons as the timing chain connects the entire crankshaft to the camshaft, which includes plenty of pistons and valves.
The root cause of a timing chain failure can be really difficult to diagnose, regardless of your experience. However, some common causes include irregular maintenance of the engine in particular and delaying an oil change.
This problem can be fixed easily but will cost you a hefty sum of $1800-$2000. Regular car service will drastically reduce the chances of this problem.
2. Water Leaking into the Passenger’s Side Floor
A strange problem that a multitude of users reported around the 2014-2016 period was that water was leaking into the floor and side floor of the passenger side whenever the rain was a little too heavy.
In some models, though, the situation can get pretty bad, and water can even start leaking into the driver’s side as well. Detecting it, in that case, is pretty easy.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix available for this problem as a water leakage issue screams manufacturing default, and even though no Cadillacs have been recalled so far, plenty of individuals have bought another car altogether or had their existing one replaced.
Now, supposedly the water can leak into the car in plenty of ways which include through an open window, a gap in the windshield, or due to your air conditioning drain tube being clogged. However, in the Cadillac CTS especially, the root cause most of the time is a leaky sunroof.
The cost that you’ll have to bear if you actually go through with repairing your sunroof would be around $295 and $325.
3. Dead Transfer Box
It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that a dead transfer box is probably the most frequent problem to occur in the Cadillac CTS, especially since the 2008 model came out. Cars that had barely been taken out of the garage and driven more than 30,000 miles had to have their transfer box replaced, which really pissed off some owners.
Like the timing chain failure, a dead transfer box is a catastrophic problem that can result in your car coming to a dead stop or failing to change gears in the middle of the road. Where the only option you’re left with is to replace the entire transmission system of the car.
If severe enough, a dead transfer box can even strip your entire spindle and render it useless, thereby forcing you to get it replaced as well.
A dead transfer box issue is pretty specific and is almost always related to how hard the transmission output shaft is. Thus, from how frequently the problem showed up, we can assume that GM did not do a good job of properly hardening the transmission output shaft of all these cars.
Most of the time, you’ll have to change the entire transmission system to get rid of the problem, which could cost around $3000 to $4500.
4. Transmission Failure
As we just touched on in the intro of our article, the Cadillac CTS hasn’t run into many problems during its time on the open market. However, the issues it has run into have been recurring ones that just can’t seem to get fixed, even in the subsequent models that have come out since the problem was first discovered all the way back in 2009.
Several Cadillac CTS owners faced their worst nightmare in the form of a transmission failure. A transmission failure is when the gearbox of your car stops working, and the car stops shifting gears and instead starts idling when started. GM even had to recall models 2009-2010 due to a surplus of complaints from experienced Cadillac CTS users.
The engine surging or stalling when you’re trying to shift gears is also a pretty common symptom of an all-out transmission failure.
An issue that’s pretty much been the root of the transmission failure issue in Cadillacs especially has been a dead transfer box which, if left unchecked, corrupts the entire transmission system.
Unfortunately, there’s no other way to put it; if you or one of your friends’ Cadillacs suffer an out-and-out transmission failure, then the only choice you or they have is to get the transmission system of the car replaced. Which’ll cost you around $3000 to $4500.
5. Paint Coat Coming Off
Taking a break from some of the heavier stuff on this list, we’ve decided to include an issue that has persisted in the Cadillac CTS for over 5 years from 2013 to the 2019 model but can be easily rectifiable without spending the big bucks. We’re talking about the complaint that users have been making about the paint coat coming off after just a few months of use.
Since it has to do with the actual look of the car itself, the coming off of a fresh coat of paint can leave the body of the car exposed to rust and oxidation, which can even hurt the skeleton of the car itself.
A much bigger problem than this – when it comes to the user’s perspective, is how bad the car looks when the paint starts wearing off. And after paying full price for the car, this is not something any customer expects or settles for.
Poor paint jobs are the expected culprits most of the time when this occurs, as the paint should be strong enough to sustain itself for at least a couple of years. But prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can also be a common cause for the paint wearing off suddenly.
To solve the problem, you’ll probably have to repaint that section of the car, which can cost around $300-$1000, depending on the area that needs to be repainted.
6. Transmission Shudders
In the Cadillac’s short history, the number of different transmission problems that have popped up is quite concerning indeed. The only saving grace for GM, though is that the transmission shuddering is not that common or big of a problem.
We still won’t leave the problem alone, though, as it’s incredibly important for potential Cadillac buyers to know the exact extent of the problems they could be dealing with.
Obviously, as the name states, transmission shuddering causes your car to shudder whenever you change gears which even though is barely noticeable when it first starts. After a while, if not put in check, it can sometimes cause complete transmission failure.
Further minor effects of a shuddering transmission include slower gear changes, slower pick-up, and even a stalling engine.
This is one such issue that GM has been happy enough to rectify for most of its customers by refilling the transmission fluid and sometimes even replacing the entire transmission system.
The overall cost of fixing the shuddering issue is one that you can go about in multiple ways. If you opt for the short-term option of changing the fluid, it’ll probably cost you around $331. However, if you go for the long-term solution of changing the entire system, then it’ll probably cost you around $3000 to $4500.
7. Vehicle’s Cue Screen Freezing
The next few problems on this list are pretty minor ones when you compare them to the serious transmission problems before them. That doesn’t mean they aren’t annoying, especially this specific problem of the vehicle’s cue screen freezing from time to time.
Considering how this problem has seemed to persist in the Cadillac CTS for a couple of years, it’s incredibly imperative that you know the full extent of it before you make your purchase.
For those who’ve used a touch screen before, a freeze usually signifies a complete breakdown or halting of the system. Well, that’s exactly what happens to this Cadillac’s cue screen from time to time as it stops responding to touches. Rebooting is also not an option, as the screen just stops responding entirely.
Prolonged exposure to the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun is said to be one of the causes of a screen freeze, and unfortunately, at that point, the only thing you can do is get it replaced because even if it starts working after a while, it will never be the same.
Spilling of water or any other liquid can also sometimes cause a fault to happen in the screen, in which case you would definitely have to invest in another screen.
Opting to buy another screen to replace your existing one shouldn’t set you too far back in terms of investment. On average, what you’ll have to pay to get a new screen would have to be around $1500.
8. Spider Crack on Touch Screen
Another touch screen-related issue that’s more naturally occurring than human error is a spider crack forming on the touch screen inside the car. Now just like the touch screen freezing up, this is another problem that’s more annoying than serious as it doesn’t take much to replace a touch screen, but it does become a source of your anger for the manufacturers.
Apart from looking at the huge crack on your cue screen, there’s not much that you can do when a spider crack appears on the screen. In some special cases, your touch screen could freeze up in addition to the crack appearing, but that’s highly unlikely most of the time.
However, you might have to deal with some parts of the screen becoming unresponsive as the sensors behind those sections of the screen could simply turn off.
Just like the screen freezing up, the reason the spider crack appears on the screen could be because of prolonged exposure to the sun which can be quite harmful if the screen takes in excess ultraviolet rays from it. Thus, make sure you keep your car in the shade as much as possible to protect it from heating up.
The only option you’ll be left with once you see the spider crack appear is to replace the screen with another for around $1500.
9. Engine Keeps Running Even After Car Is Turned Off
Formally known as dieseling, a minor problem but one that could turn into a major one in the future is when the engine of the Cadillac CTS stays running for a few minutes even after the car is turned off. Now, even though it isn’t that much of a huge problem, it can be pretty difficult to diagnose the root of the problem.
A problem that shouldn’t occur in the fuel-injected engine of a Cadillac CTS the engine running even after you’ve turned the car off can turn ugly if it actually starts going into leaping convulsions. This, most of the time, means that there’s something hot enough in the engine combustion chamber to keep it running and consuming fuel.
In case you forget to check up on it after you’ve turned it off, a ‘dieseling’ engine can eat up most of your fuel overnight, which will obviously be a huge loss to you, considering the global inflation at the moment.
There are two faulty components of the car that could be causing this phenomenon. The ignition switch element and the main power relay. After diagnosing the problem, you’ll probably need to replace one of them, which will probably cost around $114 to $167.
10. Clunk from Drive Train
After that model was recalled, the problem of clunk coming out from the drivetrain did cease to exist for the next subsequent models. But because it was such a common problem back in the day, we believe you deserve to know all the ins and outs of it.
An unusual clunk sound for your drivetrain usually means there’s a problem with your vacuum pump, which could lead to problems in your braking system and emissions system. If it gets too severe, it can also sometimes cause catastrophic engine failure by affecting your engine’s camshaft.
Most of the time, inefficient internal components used in the making of the vacuum pump are to blame for that loud clunking sound when gassing your car. Although, it could also be due to the substandard design of the vacuum pump itself.
The only way to go about fixing the problem is by replacing the vacuum pump altogether and opting for one that has a shear pin that doesn’t destroy your engine’s camshaft. The total cost of replacing the vacuum can be around $336 to $340.
The NHTSA campaign number for this recall is: 15V358000
For a full guide on how to fix this issue, we recommend having a look at this video by Dan Dunham:
What Are The Worst Years for the Cadillac CTS?
The Cadillac CTS continues to be one of the fittest cars in the world as the number of problems in the car has steadily decreased with time. This excellent motor vehicle should give you around 250,000 to 350,000 miles before it needs any serious repairs or tuning.
With that said, though, the years from 2008 to 2009 were the worst for the Cadillac CTS as it was plagued with numerous transmission, engine, and drivetrain issues that almost made them undrivable for the layman. One problem in particular that almost halted the growth of the car altogether was the failure of the timing chain, which is an integral part of the car’s transmission system.
The second worst years would have to be the period from 2009 to 2012 as the vehicle was still marred with engine stalling and dieseling problems. If you’re in the market for a Cadillac CTS, we would suggest skipping models 2008-2012 and opting for the newer models for greater reliability.
His interests in cars, motorcycles, and machines led him to the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore where he is currently a mechanical engineering sophomore.
His future aims include the development of an energy-efficient prototype vehicle for the Shell Eco-Marathon competition and getting a Master’s Degree in Automotive Engineering from Germany.