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Militant EV driver!
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Discussion Starter #1
So I was refraining from posting this because I wanted to get the full details first...


On the 9th of July I was driving to work (30 miles on the motorway) when I heard a high pitch whine that at first I thought was coming through the stereo. The pitched varied a little with speed. I pressed on but as I got nearer to work, the noise got lower in pitch and louder. By the time I reached the main gate, it was loud enough to be heard outside as the security guard asked what I'd done to my car. Not good.

I parked up and returned an hour later to see whether it had gone, but turning the car on and depressing the accelerator caused the car to make the same noise, even before it had moved off the parking brake. The noise was not unlike a drill turning at low speed in a brick wall. As I was stationary but it was happening anyway, I thought this must be the motor spinning up the ring gear in the planetary gear box and was most likely a bearing failure on that axle.

Thinking that it needed urgent attention, I called the My Ampera line and reported that the car needed to be flat-bedded back to Bournemouth. This is when I was told that I had no breakdown cover and would need to cover it myself.

Now I reminded the nice lady that I was expecting a call back on some issues that were unresolved from the annual service over a month previously. Because of this, she agreed Vauxhall would cover the cost of the transport on this occasion, so I should get the car recovered.

I had a funeral the next day and was busy at work before this, so I called a local company who quoted £220 for 50 miles. Ridiculous. Then I called the Vauxhall breakdown line to see if I could reactivate it and get the car lifted, but that is just the AA. They put me back on to Vauxhall customer services who in turn put me back on to the My Ampera line! I explained about the £220 and was told to just go ahead and get that in the circumstances, but I thought I'd call the AA directly to see if I could join on the spot. They wanted £229 for a year's membership and to transport the car, so I went with that.

I asked the AA to send a flat bed and not bother with a patrol van, but of course a patrol van turned up anyway. He took one listen of the car and immediately called for a flat bed... That turned up an hour later and it was the original local company :roll:

It's not good having your car flat bedded at lunch time when everyone is around to see it...

I went home on the train.

Anyway, the car disappeared and I heard nothing further until after the funeral the next day. I would have thought that a courtesy call from the dealer to say it arrived would have been in order. FAIL 1.

On the Thursday I got a call out of the blue from my local Enterprise [car hire] branch to say a car was arranged for me. Could I get it that day? I said I could get back for 6pm but I was told if I got it that day it would be a Corsa 1.2. No way did I want one of them again, so I asked for an Astra at the very least.

I was on the train on the Friday, so I went in on Saturday morning to get the car. A dirty Astra 1.4 was waiting for me. The guy I was dealing with in the branch seemed to know all about my case (for some reason) and said that I was the second local Ampera owner they'd had in for a hire car in two weeks. Not sure why he needed to know this, seems like a breach of privacy. FAIL 2.

I was told that Vauxhall were covering the car but there was a £500 damage excess. I could cancel that for £9.99 a day. I didn't. I had the hire car for two days but at this point I had no idea how long the Ampera was in for. Why the hell should I have to cover the excess on a warranty courtesy car? FAIL 3. [BTW if I'd signed for that, I would have ended up being taken for over £200 in waiver fees...]

At this point I'd heard nothing more from the dealer and it occured to me that the Astra would go off-hire midday on Monday while I was at work, so I attempted to call the dealer to find out what was going on and if they could extend the hire. No one was there who could help. FAIL 4.

On Sunday I had to take the Astra to the SoCEV meet up. That went down well with the Leaf owners...

Monday came along and I got a call back to say they had no more news. My car was being stripped down. I called the My Ampera helpline to get the Astra hire extended.

Late Tuesday I called the dealer but got told the same story. A week had passed by now. I got the impression the guy was being shirty with me for calling again, but as I was having to call them I wanted to know what was going on because I was totally in the dark otherwise.

On Wednesday I chased the news via the My Ampera helpline. Eventually the dealer called and I was told that it was a bearing (only a week since I said I thought it was that) and it was going to be at least 7 days to fix. I called back My Ampera to say that I had been given an update. I asked for an Ampera if this was going to take a while, but was told that as all courtesy cars are done through Enterprise and they have no Amperas, this isn't possible. Well, Grant Thomas had just the day before had an Ampera for a 4 day test drive and that was 3 miles up the road and just finished. "Sorry but we can't." FAIL 5.

I mentioned that it was costing me £14 in petrol a day and was told that they would cover the petrol.

On the Friday I was called and told they'd ordered the bearing in but needed an O ring. Still another 7 days. Later that night we went to the cinema to see The World's End. That was just rubbing salt in the wounds. They can spare dozens of cars for ridiculous product placement but not for their own customers. FAIL 6.

On Tuesday I was called to say they had the bearing fitted but "technical [in Germany] won't let us reassemble it without the O ring". I should hope so too! There's two 400 Volt motors in there which could get very wet in the rain... At least another 5 days for the O ring. FAIL 7.

Later that week I was told that the car would be ready on Monday. I sent an email to My Ampera reminding them of the other things left over from the service in May. This meant that the car would now be ready on the following Wednesday.

I was away during that week, so I finally got the car back on the Friday. That was over 3 weeks since it was sent to the garage. A week to diagnose the issue and then a week's delay to order a second component that I think should have been ordered in parallel. FAIL 8.

I asked the service manager if he could give me the failed part or at least photos of the damage, because I wanted assurance that this would not happen again. I was told that this wasn't possible, but in fact the new bearing that was sent was a different design to the original. That suggests GM knows the original design has an issue.

When the car did come back I noticed a divergence between the lifetime MPG and the "Trip A" MPG, that I have run from the start, of over 3 MPG. I am not sure what has caused this.

There is still the issue of DAB switching to FM if you turn the car off and on within a few minutes (petrol station, cash machine timescale). That was a bug I'd asked to get fixed but clearly the latest software that was loaded last week doesn't fix it. FAIL 9.

My first trip was to drive to Cornwall. There is now more mechanical whine that is coming from the drivetrain during slow down or regen. It's not as bad as when it failed before, but it is like that which I heard at the start of the fateful journey. I'm monitoring it and hope it lasts for the 250 miles back to home. FAIL 10.


Overall I'm not impressed. It's clear that the My Ampera line is not as good as when Trevor was in charge (what happened to him?). I would expect to get informed regularly on what is going on with something like this, rather than having to chase it myself.

I am also concerned that if I can have a big mechanical failure at 19,000 miles, will this happen again? Will it happen out of warranty, because I imagine that this was not cheap for Vauxhall to fix. What was the other car off the road for, I wonder? As this was the second unscheduled visit to the garage since I got the car, I'm starting to wonder about reliability big time...
 

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There has been quite a bit of discussion about motor bearing failures on gm-volt.com. e.g. see http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php ... ng-failure
One of the posts in that thread (from March this year) lists 17 motor bearing failures reported by users of the forum.
Hopefully sometime soon GM will issue a recall for all the potentially affected cars, but they seem to be taking their time over it.

*Edit:*
Found a more recent post. Someone has had two bearing failures so GM are going to replace the whole drive unit on their Volt.
http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php ... or+bearing
Ouch.
 

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Ampera aka IGOR
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Mistakes/failures can occur but it is how a company handles it is the important thing. I think you could have been treated better by the dealership and kept updated on the progress. With regards to the Enterprise car out for another Ampera it could well just be the situation that it is as a courtesy car while the owner's car is in for servicing. I had this with my current Corsa, it was Enterprise that supplied the courtesy car and again it could have been cleaner but although they were pleasant and polite I got the impression the supply of courtesy cars was not their top priority.
 

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Militant EV driver!
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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks Duncan. That's a worrying thread. Especially

The problem is with a plastic ball spacer ring in the bearing. The replacement ball spacer ring is brass.

Torque and acceleration have little to do with it. The plastic part will eventually fail and need replacement in all of the Volt's that have them.
 

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Militant EV driver!
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Discussion Starter #5
Having read through that entire thread, it's clear that there is a serious potential latent issue with the 2012 model (at least). Several Volt owners have had the same issue in the US.

This is exactly the noise I heard by the time I reached work:



GM has issued a bulletin to dealers about it, but the replacement bearings are causing more high pitch noise like that which I heard just before the main failure and what I am hearing now during regen. The only successful, silent replacement has been a replacement of the entire bearing and rotor assembly. The estimate for this work was $6000. That's gonna hurt if you or the next owner are out of warranty.

Highly recommend that everyone reads that entire thread.
 

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Bad news David, I'll have a read of that thread. I suppose it's not that unusual for new, complex cars to throw up a weak design issue like this after a couple of years on the market, all manufacturers have examples. It's really up to them and their dealers to fess up and handle it right for their customers, and yours is an unfortunately common story. Bit worrying as I'm probably going to have to deal with Bournemouth for my servicing too.. I'd hoped to hear better.
 

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Thx for the heads-up David.

I have read the entire thread now and yes it is worrying but I take a small amount of comfort in the fact that so far only a small percentage of the 40-50,000 Volts/Amperas (is that fig correct btw?) have had the failure.

As hopbackguy says, these kinds of issues are not uncommon. What is paramount though is how they are handled and that is actually more worrying for me than the thought of the failure itself strangely enough. If I get it then I get it and there isn't much anyone can do about it (short of a model recall to pre-empt the failures) so providing it is handled correctly then personally I won't be troubled too much. However, it sounds like Vauxhall could do a lot more to make things easier for owners if it happens and that is what I would like Vauxhall to concentrate on.

I used to own and run a computer shop and when I had things beyond my control go wrong I saw it as an opportunity to show my customers exactly why they buy from me. I aimed to turn a bad situation for the customer into a good one for both the customer and us by making sure that our response was swift and recognised the customer was the aggrieved party and by alleviating their inconvenience as much as possible. Fortunately it didn't happen very often but on the few occasions it did it cost me but I am sure that by keeping their custom and by them saying to their friends and family that we do the right thing if things go wrong I got all I spent back and then some... and I felt good because I treated them the way I would have like to be treated had it happened to me. I have no idea why car manufacturers in general don't see things that way too and treat us more like customers instead of taking us for granted as is often the case.
 

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Militant EV driver!
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Discussion Starter #8
Here are pictures of the failed part: http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php ... post204400


This is the start of the long thread that is worth a read: http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php ... ning-Noise


Yes there are over 50,000 cars out there. That milestone was reached in early July I believe, but GM never publicised it widely.


I should add that later during the repair period (after week 2), what I think was a more senior manager in the Bournemouth service department was calling me and apart from playing "voicemail tennis" (partly due to me being in a no mobile phones area) was better at keeping me informed.


One other thing: This car and particularly the transmission really isn't that complicated. An automatic or a DSG gearbox is way more complex. All the magic is in the drivetrain power electronics, which so far, touch wood, have been solid. The problem here is that someone saw fit to use a plastic part in a bearing which sees high rpm and sudden reversal of loads, just to save a dollar.
 

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Militant EV driver!
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Discussion Starter #9
Well, I've just been out for a 20 mile drive and unfortunately the "saw" noise is back. Not just the high pitch whine like I've been hearing during the 500 or so miles since it's return last Friday, but the regen-related grinding.

The car drives ok, it's just that horrid noise which started quite enough that you needed the windows down and is now audible in the cabin.
 

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dpeilow said:
Well, I've just been out for a 20 mile drive and unfortunately the "saw" noise is back. Not just the high pitch whine like I've been hearing during the 500 or so miles since it's return last Friday, but the regen-related grinding.

The car drives ok, it's just that horrid noise which started quite enough that you needed the windows down and is now audible in the cabin.
Something is wearing down again isn't it? Smacks of not being reassembled properly....how depressing.
 

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Militant EV driver!
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Discussion Starter #11
The news from America is that having the noise come back in a few hundred miles is par for the course. The think that it is too difficult for the mechanics to align this bearing properly by hand. The only two cars that have been fixed right first time had the whole M/G B replaced or the entire drive unit (motors, gears, etc).
 

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If it is an alignment problem that at least gives hope to the rest of us that it isn't an inevitable failure waiting down the line. Not much compensation for you though.
 

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Hello again everyone,

While mentioning to a UK Volt owner this website I came across some of the problems other members are having.

The main bearing failure is a known problem in a very small percentage of the US Volt cars. And most of what is said on this forum has been correct. The quick fix some dealers are doing has led to the failure of the bearing a second time. So the solution appears even over on this side of the pond to depend on the competency of the dealer's service department. This is a weak link in the process I'm afraid. It would be helpful if GM told us what serial numbers had this failure happening to so others might anticipate a future problem.

One thing that did surprise me was the suggestion made by a member is that the warranty period was only 3 years for the Ampera . Here in the USA the drive train is warrantied for 8 years or 100,000 miles and in California 10 years or 150,000 miles. Is this different in the EU? The other parts of the car are warrantied for 3 years but that is pretty standard with most cars of all companies here in the USA.

Was this a misstatement by a member or a misunderstanding of the drive train warranty?

Ross
 

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If I remember correctly... In the UK our EV drive train and battery are warrantied for 8 years or 100,000 miles but the rest of the car has a lifetime warranty to the first owner only providing the service schedule is carried out correctly and the warranty registered and renewed each year.

If I have that wrong someone please shout :)
 

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The warranty is one area where the Volt and Ampera differ. The UK warranty for the Volt is:

3 years or 60,000 mile comprehensive warranty
8 year or 100,000 mile battery warranty
6 year anti-perforation corrosion warranty with no mileage restriction, at no cost to you.
1 years Chevrolet Roadside Assistance (provided by the AA), at no cost to you

I don't know how much of the drive train the battery warranty covers (I'll have to check), but I also paid them a flat amount to cover the first 3 years servicing, extend roadside assistance to 3 years, and extend the basic warranty from 3 to 5 years. The Volt warranty (and prepaid servicing) is transferable should I sell the car before the 5 years are up.
 

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Militant EV driver!
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Discussion Starter #16
The Ampera warranty is similar, but there is a caveat:

Vauxhall 'lifetime' warranty for the first owner only, up to 100,000 miles.
60,000 mile, 3 year warranty for subsequent owners.
8 year, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery.
1 year breakdown cover through the AA.


So you may have a warranty at year 4, but if you sell it then the warranty is cancelled. If a failure turns into an epidemic, this must be a consideration for second hand prices.
 

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dpeilow said:
If a failure turns into an epidemic, this must be a consideration for second hand prices.
Very true... however, 2nd hand prices right now are ridiculously low. I couldn't imagine them being much worse! The problem with 2nd hand is that there are no buyers at almost any price. People just aren't buying them in sufficient numbers for there to be a proper market. I am sure this will change with time and I suspect that right now is possibly the very worse they will ever be.
 

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On Autotrader there are 11 cars for sale and in my opinion the prices for 1 year old cars are about right, bearing in mind they will not have the benefit of the proper lifetime warranty (the approved warranty has contribution costs, etc.) and the current incentives that Vauxhall are offering.

A 1 year old Ampera is selling for approx 70% of new price. On Autotrader I found a 1 year, 8K miles Audi A4 with auto box, sat nav and other options for £19K. I think that car could be close to £30K and is therefore selling at 65% of new.

With the new Congestion charging rules in London I think that sales of used models will increase as commuters outside the M25 look for something affordable that doesn't have the range anxiety of a BEV.
 

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I must admit to not having done too much research. I was just judging my comment on what I was offered by the dealer as a trade-in. £14K

It looks like I could get a sensible price then... I was hoping for £20k as a trade-in. Anyway, it is no longer relevent to us as we have decided now to keep the Ampera. We do still love it in spite of its niggles :)
 
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