What problems do Cadillac Escalade owners usually tackle? In this blog, we’ve outlined everything you need to watch out for when you’re in the market for a Cadillac Escalade. First, let’s start with the short answer.
Owners had to deal with delaminating touchscreens on their infotainment systems in the 3rd and 4th generations. 3rd generation Escalade owners also experienced other issues, such as breaking door handles, StabiliTrak issues, and the Takata airbag recall. Faulty gauges were a problem in the 2007 to 2016 models. During summer, 4th generation Escalade owners had to worry about practically nonexistent A/C cooling.
That’s the gist of it. Let’s move to a more comprehensive answer where you’ll find everything you need to know about each problem. From identifying it to fixing it, to the cost of fixing it. Also, let this article not take away from the fact that Escalades typically last 215.000 miles. Let’s get started.
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1. Delaminating Touchscreens
Third and fourth-generation Escalades are plagued with poor CUE infotainment systems, an indispensable component of your vehicle that houses several important controls such as radio, navigation, and HVAC systems. Any problem with this system brings an enormous inconvenience to the owner, much less one that renders the system unresponsive and unusable.
The main problem with Escalade’s CUE infotainment system is that its touchscreen delaminates and cracks. Owners might notice bubbles, dead spots, and eventually spider cracks that give way to a completely unresponsive or impossible-to-use touchscreen.
Cadillac makes use of a capacitive touchscreen with multiple layers sandwiched together, layers that are believed to have poor bonding right from the get-go. This poor bonding allows the layers to eventually pull apart and as the gaps increase, the sensors lose their effectiveness resulting in an unreliable and mostly unresponsive touchscreen.
The problem is generally credited to manufacturing errors by owners and experts. It’s believed that the poor interlayer bonding is caused by improper cleansing and preparation of the glass surface, as well as irregular clamping forces during installation.
With so many complaints mounting, you’d expect a recall or service campaign by Cadillac to rectify the problem. Unfortunately, no such action was taken, and customers were met with four TSBs that did everything but solve the problem. The TSBs recommended an Integrated Center Stack (ICS) replacement for customers who had bubbled, cracked, or delaminating screens.
For starters, this left customers who were past their warranty period out in the cold. They had to pay around $1,200 to get the ICS replaced themselves or live with a horrible decoration piece that was once their infotainment system. For owners who were still covered by the warranty period, the replacement was only comparatively better. The ICS replacement only delayed the problem, the replacement was a new but equally defective system that would sooner or later showcase the same problems.
With all that’s happened, GM was hit with at least two class-action lawsuits that more or less make the same points. They demanded that GM takes responsibility for the problem and reimburses or fix the problem that’s been plaguing infotainment systems on the Escalade. They state that GM was well aware of the problem since at least 2014, when the first TSB was launched and that the in-warranty repairs did nothing to actually solve the problem. The cases are ongoing, with no resolution at the moment.
We’ve seen reports that some owners fixed the problem with an all-out ICS replacement done out of warranty. This, of course, was an expensive ordeal priced over $1,500. At the moment, this seems to be the only effective solution, but owners are hoping that the lawsuits will bring a better solution or reimbursement for these fixes.
With the third generation (2007 to 2014), owners had to deal with a problematic StabiliTrak, Cadillac’s electronics stability control system. The StabiliTrak system helps the driver maintain control over the vehicle by making minor adjustments to the brake or engine torque when necessary. It knows when to do this by drawing a comparison between the position of the steering wheel, with the help of a sensor, and the vehicle’s actual steering response.
According to our research, owners often complained that the service StabiliTrak light would switch on and off. This generally happens when there’s a problem with one of the sensors; the service StabiliTrak light will go off first and may be followed by a number of warning lights, including the traction control system, TRAC; anti-lock braking system, ABS; and another light for the StabiliTrak, STAB. These lights also indicate that the corresponding systems are disabled.
These systems offer safety and assistance in driving conditions that drivers often find themselves in, such as slippery roads or when they need to make tight or emergency turns. Without these systems, drivers have to be more careful on their everyday drives.
While these systems are offline, some owners also reported other distressing problems, such as reduced engine power, poor MPGs, and a hesitating transmission. This, of course, only works to make your drive more difficult and inconvenient.
Unfortunately, once again, General Motors has not been of much help. GM’s recommendation is to try and reset the StabiliTrak system yourself by switching off the engine, waiting for at least 15 seconds, then starting it back up. That doesn’t do much for the problematic sensor or sensors causing the problem deep inside.
We found that the sensors usually responsible are:
- Steering wheel position sensor
- O2 sensor
- Bank 1 sensor 2 – Range performance
- Park assist sensor
With GM’s disappointing response to the problem, you’ll have to get these repairs done yourself to solve the problem and get your systems back online reliably. The repair costs are going to set you back anywhere from $250 to $500 per sensor. If you´re experiencing this problem, the below posted video can help out as well.
3. Air Conditioning Issues
A/C complaints piled up nationwide for the 4th generation Escalade. So much so that in summer, there’s often a nationwide backorder on repair parts. The air conditioning on this huge luxury vehicle is far from perfect. It’s got a trusty condenser leak that renders it useless when you need it most. The A/C simply fails to provide any cooling whatsoever because of its leaky condenser.
Air conditioning systems require adequate sealing that prevents the refrigerant from leaking out and air from leaking in to function properly. In Escalade’s case, the condensers are allegedly defective and allow air to leak in; that’s where the problem starts. Water vapor in the air freezes and restricts coolant flow which in turn results in an increase in internal pressure. All of this forces essential refrigerant out of the system, leaving your A/C increasingly ineffective.
General Motors had a much more helpful response this time around. GM mailed owners in November 2017 stating that the condensers may have a condition where thermal cycling on its components creates a crack that allows the refrigerant to escape. Their solution for this was extended warranty protection for some vehicles. Fortunately, this included the Cadillac Escalade, which got 6 years or a 72,000 miles warranty extension.
A/C problems on the Escalade can also be traced back to a problematic rubber hose. This hose, connecting the compressor to the condenser, is fitted to aluminum discharge tubes that often flex. This flexing takes a toll on the rubber tube and will eventually cause it to crack or dislodge.
General Motors tackled this issue with a service bulletin that asked technicians to replace the faulty line and install a bracket to minimize flexing and unnecessary movement. For owners who had this problem while their vehicles were under warranty, the repairs will be done free of cost. Owners who are hit with the problem after their warranty period will have to suffer through the repair costs alone, which start from $150 all the way to $700.
A number of owners voiced their concerns on this problem, criticizing GM for waiting for the problem to happen, whereas a simple “$7.00 part” could prevent it from happening altogether. All GM had to do was warn the owners responsibly.
4. Door Handles Breaking
3rd generation Escalade owners often complain about poor-quality door handles, both on the inside and outside. Of course, broken door handles are more than just annoying; they’re a serious hindrance in your day-to-day drive, especially if it’s the driver’s side door, which is often the first one to go. However, it’s infuriating when it’s a common problem on a flagship SUV that is otherwise known for its luxury and comfort.
Cadillac opted for plastic handles on its Escalade that snap around the 96,000-mile mark, which is somewhat late in the vehicle’s life, but it’s still concerning and unexpected for a luxury vehicle. For the 3rd generation Escalade, it generally costs between $200 and $350 for each repair, particularly problematic if more than one of your handles gives out.
5. Faulty Gauges In The Instrument Panel
Some owners complained about the instrument panels on their Escalades, the complaints were generally limited to 2000 – 2016 models. This includes the 3rd generation and the first few model years of the fourth generation. Gauges were the main concern in these troubling instrument panels.
At first, owners usually noticed the gauges displayed incorrect values, one common example was the speedometer gauge displaying a value of 0mph or 140mph. Over time the gauges stopped working completely and stripped you of vital input for your drive. One owner decided to move forward without a working speedometer gauge, a dangerous decision, to say the very least, and one we wouldn’t recommend.
General Motors covered all repair costs for the faulty gauges and instrument panels within the warranty period. If you got stuck with this problem after the warranty period, that’s exactly what you were, stuck with it. Your only recourse was to pay in full to get the problem fixed, a task that would cost you between $300 and $1000.
6. Takata Airbag Recall
The enormous Takata airbag recall also affects the Cadillac Escalade. The Takata recall is the largest recall ever issued and affected countless vehicles, including 2007 to 2011 Cadillac Escalades.
The recall was issued for airbags that had flawed inflators; these inflators are susceptible to moisture and may rupture when the airbag is deployed. If the inflator ruptures, it will send out sharp metal fragments at high speeds through the cabin, which can very well be fatal.
As part of the recall, the dealers will replace the airbag inflator free of charge. The NHTSA campaign number for this recall is 21V050000
Perhaps the worst part of this recall, one that’s troubling to this day, is the lack of parts for repairs. The huge number of vehicles affected resulted in a serious shortage of parts resulting in unbelievably long waits for repairs. The long waits meant some owners moved on without getting the repairs done so it’s important to check if a replacement was made on any prospective used car.
7. Transmission Problems
Transmission problems are always a handful, they usually leave you completely stranded and, more often than not, cost a whole lot to fix. Transmission problems should be looked into as soon as possible as they can quickly escalate into complete failure, at which point an expensive transmission rebuild or replacement is required.
According to forums, including cadillacforms.com, the 2021 Escalade develops transmission issues quite early on. They can show up as early as 2000 miles on the odometer, these complete failures generally hit Escalades with 2,000 to 20,000 miles on them.
Although the failures are extensive and leave you stranded, they occur early in the life of the Escalade and are typically covered under warranty. Most owners reported that the dealership was helpful and replaced the entire transmission free of cost, some owners had to wait for parts but the problems were resolved with minimal costs.
It’s daunting to have to deal with such an issue so early in the life of a new luxury SUV, but that’s what it is with the 2021 Escalade.
8. Soy-Coated Wiring
Soy-Coated wiring has become a common issue for most brands, including Cadillac. Most automakers switched to soy-based coating for their wiring because it was more biodegradable and so more eco-friendly. Although it’s better for the environment, it’s also better for the automaker as these soy-based coatings are cheaper than their plastic counterparts.
The problem with these soy-based coatings is that they attract rodents, who then like to chew on them and use them as nesting material. This could cause an array of problems, any system that utilizes wires that are accessible to these rodents is at risk of failing. This has become quite the problem since there is no easy solution, and it’s a problem found in most vehicles by most automakers.
There are some simple steps to include in your routine to try and catch these rodents before they cause an expensive problem. This includes regularly opening the hood and looking for signs of rodent activity, looking for shredded pieces of wire where you park your cars, and cleaning out all the food in your car.
What’s The Worst Year For A Cadillac Escalade?
The Cadillac Escalade should last you 200,000 to 230,000 miles with proper maintenance and service. That being said, some Escalade model years fare better than others; we’d like to leave you with a guide as to which model years are best avoided.
The worst years of the Escalade would have to be 2007, 2015, and 2016. Although overall, the third generation is relatively troublesome. In the third-generation Escalades, you’re bound to find painstaking problems such as StabiliTrak issues, faulty gauges, and delaminating touchscreens. You’ll also have to deal with broken door handles later in the life of these vehicles, the stage at which you’ll likely be buying these used cars. The troublesome Takata airbag recall also mostly affected vehicles from the third generation. Among the third-generation Escalades, the 2007 model takes the spot for the highest recorded complaints making it particularly off-putting.
Here’s what 1A Auto had to say about this particular generation:
The fourth-generation and fifth-generation Escalades are generally better options, with the exception of 2015 and 2016. With the 2021 model, you may have to deal with transmission problems, but at least it’s taken care of under warranty. Overall these models have fewer complaints and recall to deal with. They also have fewer serious or worrying problems to deal with. Any one of these Escalade models should treat you well.
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.