The Chevrolet Traverse is a full-size family SUV that was first introduced for the 2009 model year. It’s based on the same platform as the GMC Acadia and the Buick Enclave known as the Lambda platform. The second generation of the Traverse came in 2018 and got its refresh in 2022. The Traverse is often ranked in the top 5 best US-made full-size SUVs, but that does not mean it’s free of faults.
In this article, we will go around all the common problems with the Chevrolet Traverse and tell you everything you need to know about it. As such, if you are interested in buying one, you’ve come to the right place. Before we dwell deeper into what makes a Traverse tick, here is a quick overview!
The Chevrolet Traverse tends to suffer from power steering issues, issues with the rack and pinion system, damaged gears in the power steering system, clunking noises while turning, tailgate issues, sunroof issues, frame rail issues, high oil consumption, spark plug issues, timing chain issues, issues with the shift indicator and a few issues related to transmission leaks.
Furthermore, the Traverse also suffers from transmission clutch wave problems, A/C issues, gauge cluster issues, and issues with the “shift into park” warning light.
This is but the tip of the iceberg as these issues are much more complex. We will now introduce you to all of these individually and tell you what it takes to fix them!
Steering System Issues
The first generation of the Traverse has gotten hundreds upon hundreds of complaints related to the car’s steering system. These problems include power steering issues, problems with the rack and pinion system, damaged power steering gears, and clunking noises while turning.
Power Steering Issues
The most common singular issue reported with the first-gen Traverse is one where the power steering system fails unexpectedly. These issues are common for 2009-2018 Traverse models and have often even led people to end up in an accident. Most owners said that the steering pump can fail suddenly and make the steering wheel either incredibly stiff to turn or even lock in place fully.
Some have said that you must check your power fluid reservoir when this happens as it can often be the culprit. However, the internet is filled with owners experiencing these issues even when the steering fluid is at its maximum capacity. Others pointed out that the steering needs special synthetic fluid and a proper refill if you want it to work again.
However, no one is 100% sure why this happens, and many owners are frustrated that Chevy didn’t recall the Traverse.
Rack and Pinion Issues
The rack and pinion system also seems to be a common issue with the Traverse, mostly the 2009-2018 model. The problem is that the system can leak on both older and newer Traverse models, which can completely seize up the steering wheel. A few owners said this issue is even associated with power steering system issues which can lead to problems with the rack and pinion system.
One owner of a 2015 Traverse said that the dealership quoted him $2,900 for a rank and pinion replacement and that the issue occurred with just 48,000 miles on the clock. One owner of a 2012 Traverse said that his rack and pinion system failure was followed by a really high-pitched squeal before the wheel completely failed.
Damaged Power Steering Gears
Some have reported that the 2021 Traverse suffers from an issue caused by a manufacturing defect where the factory installed damaged steering gears into the 2021 Chevy Traverse, the 2021 Blazer, and the 2021 Buick Enclave. GM vowed to fix these issues but has also said that these don’t present an immediate safety hazard.
GM has also said that the dealership is going to inspect the system to see if the vehicle has been affected. If so, the replacement parts and the entire ordeal will be free of charge. Be that as it may, no official recall has been issued thus far.
Clunking Noises While Turning
The last steering system-related issue we are going to talk about today is one where the steering can emit loud clunking noises while turning. These are mostly reported for 2018-2021 Traverse models and are likely due to a mispositioned, improperly torqued, or just a loose cradle brace. However, it is said that the issue could also be related to the car’s sway bars or even a loose strut.
To fix this issue, the cradle brace must be retorqued or replaced with new bolts. New fasteners should be put in place to stop the cradle brace from moving anymore.
The most common structural issues with the post-2009 Traverse include issues with the tailgate, the frame rail, and the sunroof.
Likely one of the more annoying issues with the Traverse is when the tailgate decides to close on its own as if you had pushed the button for it to close. Many owners of 2008-2012 Traverse models reported this which eventually led to a recall. The recall was issued in June 2015 (15V415000) for certain 2008-2012 Traverse models due to the liftgate struts failing prematurely and thus causing the tailgate to fall.
Frame Rail Issues
The 2020 Traverse is also prone to the engine compartment frame rail cracking either a little or a lot. This can cause the car not to be able to perform as intended if it ends up in a more serious accident. Therefore, GM recalled certain 2020 Chevy Traverse models in September 2019 (19V643000) due to the right-hand frame rail cracking and affecting the car’s crash performance.
The Chevrolet Traverse has a weird yet dangerous mixture of sunroof-related problems. Granted, these aren’t the most common issues in the world, but they can be extremely dangerous or costly to repair. The 2009-2017 Traverse sometimes tends to suffer from leaking sunroofs which can let in water after lots of rain. It is said that this issue is probably down to clogged sunroof drains.
Secondly, a few owners of the 2018 and the 2019 Traverse reported issues where the sunroof shatters after hearing a loud bang. There aren’t too many reports on this issue online, but they sure are extremely dangerous and equally expensive to fix.
Engine issues are known to be some of the worst issues any car can suffer from, and sadly the Chevrolet Traverse also suffers from various engine problems. These include high oil consumption, spark plug problems, and timing chain problems.
High Oil Consumption
High oil consumption levels are reported mostly for 2009-2012 Traverse models, but these tend to pop up on virtually all generations of the Traverse. The 2009 Traverse is likely the worst as many owners noted this as an extremely common issue. Understandably, a lack of oil can cause hefty engine damage, so oil changes can’t be ignored.
We also need to mention that not a small number of owners complained about high oil pressure. Either way, it is said that this is a common design flaw across multiple brands and models and that the only way to “fix” it is to always be alert to how much oil your car has at any given moment.
Spark Plug Issues
The 2009 Chevrolet Traverse and a few other 1st gen model years have also been reported to suffer from certain spark-plug-related issues. If a spark plug fails, you will be able to notice symptoms such as a check engine light, subpar acceleration, engine misfiring, and worse fuel economy. However, be sure to go through the ignition system while taking care of spark plug issues.
Understandably, to fix this, you need new spark plugs which tend to cost around $277 with included labor.
Timing Chain Issues
The 2009-2012 Chevrolet Traverse seems to be suffering from timing chain issues which typically start with poor engine acceleration, engine misfiring, and engine rattling, and can later lead to the inability to start the engine and contaminated engine oil with metal shavings in it.
These can easily lead to complete engine failure, which means you need to replace all the worn parts to prevent that.
The Chevy Traverse has a few transmission issues we need to discuss. These include transmission clutch wave plate problems, issues with the shift lever indicator, and transmission leaks.
Transmission Clutch Wave Plate Problem
Complete transmission failures aren’t common with the Chevrolet Traverse in general, but they do seem to happen occasionally for the 2009 model. This issue is usually associated with a failed clutch wave plate covered by Chevy’s 14404B service bulletin.
If you don’t repair this, it could very well lead to a complete transmission failure, costing you between $3,000 and $4,000 to fix.
Shift Indicator Issues
The 2009 Traverse also suffers from a faulty transmission shift indicator that can fail to show your car’s real gear. This means that you can place the transmission in park and exit the vehicle, but the car might not be in park which could cause it to roll away.
Chevrolet recalled certain 2009 Traverse models in March 2009 (09V073000) because of this issue. The recall comprised changing the faulty adjustment cable free of charge. The same issue happened for the 2014 Traverse and resulted in a recall (14V092000) back in February 2014.
As it so happens, transmission leaks are not a huge surprise for an older car, but the key takeaway here is that the two problems we will discuss are reported for the newest (2018 and later) Chevrolet Traverse. The first one is due to missing bolts on the start/stop accumulator endcap which can cause a leak and even lead to a fire. Because of this, Chevy recalled certain 2018-2020 Traverse models (20V668000) to replace the bolts.
The other issue that can cause a transmission leak is an inner wheel-plastic shroud that can chafe against the transmission case and possibly cause a leak. This also prompted Chevy to do a recall on 2020-2021 Traverse models (21V817000) back in October 2021 to replace the associated parts.
It’s difficult to find a car these days that does not suffer from electrical issues at some point in its life. Modern-day cars have become so complex that some of these systems are bound to fail eventually. These issues include A/C issues, the gauge cluster, and the common shift in park warning light.
Issues with the air conditioner are habitual across the 2012-2015 Traverse but are also reported for both older and newer models. While it’s not every Chevy vehicle, there are several from this manufacturer that commonly have A/C issues including Silverado 1500 and the Suburban.
The most problematic component is the air compressor which can fail even on cars with few miles on the clock. Other issues include A/C leaks, thermostat failures, and a dirty oil filter.
It’s not fun to drive without A/C but on the bright side, you may end up saving a few bucks on gas as a result!
Gauge Cluster Problems
A fair number of 2013-2014 owners reported issues with the gauge cluster either failing completely or not showing correct information. This led to Chevy recalling certain 2013-2014 Traverse models in April 2014 (14V223000) due to engine control module issues that can cause the gauge cluster to go haywire.
Shift In Park Warning Light
The “shift in park” warning light only seems to affect 2018 and 2019 Traverse models, and the problem here is that even though you shifted the car in park, the car will still not let you turn it off and thus can also deplete your battery. As it so happens, the issue was traced down to a small metal strip that fails to make the proper connection with the car’s sensor.
Marko´s interest in cars runs in the family. His father was a car trader and regularly took him to car dealerships when he was younger.
These days, when he isn´t watching Drivetribe or Doug DeMuro videos, he´s building up quite a resume as an automotive writer since he´s also a regular contributor on Cararc.com, Tirehungry.com, and Luxurycarsa2z.com.