GM Faces a Class Action Lawsuit Over Alleged Oil-Consumption Problems with the Vortec V8 Engine

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GM Faces a Class Action Lawsuit Over Alleged Oil-Consumption Problems with the Vortec V8 Engine
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General Motors (GM) is facing a class action lawsuit over alleged oil consumption and monitoring problems in its fourth-generation 5.3 Liter Vortec V8 engines found in certain Chevrolet and GMC full-size trucks and SUVs.

The official complaint alleges that certain defects in the 5.3 Liter Vortec V8 engines not only cause excessive oil use that far outstrips industry standards, but also fails to effectively inform drivers until the engine has already suffered “insufficient lubricity levels, and corresponding internal engine component damage.”

The affected vehicles addressed in this lawsuit include certain Chevy and GMC trucks and SUVs for model years 2010-2014.

The lawsuit points to the acquisition of “Old GM” when the original company filed for bankruptcy in 2009 as the start of this problem. When new GM acquired the company’s assets, it continued to manufacture and sell Chevrolet and GMC vehicles equipped with this particular engine. Affected vehicles allegedly include the 2010-2014 models of the following vehicles:

  • Chevrolet Avalanche
  • Chevrolet Silverado
  • Chevrolet Suburban
  • Chevrolet Tahoe
  • GMC Sierra
  • GMC Yukon
  • GMC Yukon XL

This lawsuit points to a number of factors that might contribute to the “oil consumption defect”.

According to the official complaint, the primary cause of the oil consumption defect can be found in the piston rings. Allegedly, the piston rings in the 5.3 Liter Vortec V8 engines do not effectively maintain oil in the crankcase. For those who are less mechanically inclined, a piston ring is a type of split metallic ring with the primary job to seal the combustion chamber, or the area in the engine where fuel and air are mixed and ignited to provide energy that powers the crankshaft, which then provides power to the vehicle by spinning in a fast, cyclical motion. The piston ring is also supposed to seal and prevent loss of gases to the crankcase, where the crankshaft is located.

In regard to this lawsuit, the primary issue with the Vortec V8 engine seems to be that the defective piston rings fail to prevent the migration of oil past the crankcase and onto the body of the combustion chamber where it either burns or develops as carbon build-up. This waste of oil is further exacerbated by an allegedly flawed positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system that vacuums atomized oil into the intake system where it ultimately burns in the combustion chambers.

Aside from the issue of oil waste and damage to the engine, the oil migration which allegedly occurs due to this defect can also accumulate on spark plugs, producing weakened sparks or even no spark at all, resulting in engine misfires and even total shutdowns. Misfires and shutdowns can result in drivers stranded in the middle of traffic or in poor weather.

The complaint also alleges a defect with GM’s Oil Life Monitoring System.

Like many newer vehicles, the class of vehicles addressed in this lawsuit includes an engine monitoring system designed to alert drivers when a potential problem arises in their engine. GM’s Oil Life Monitoring System came under criticism in that, despite its name, it does not actually monitor the level of oil in the engine. Instead, it “...monitors engine conditions, such as revolutions and temperature, to calculate the expected deterioration in oil quality and thus the time for a recommended oil change.” This misrepresentation of this system has allegedly increased the damage caused by the defective piston rings, allowing drivers to travel thousands of miles while unaware that their engine is suffering from inadequate lubricity levels, wearing and damaging internal moving parts of the vehicle.

This class is seeking a jury trial in addition to actual and statutory damages to compensate for the harm caused by this defect.

It’s no secret that buying or leasing a car is one of the biggest expenses a person can face in these times. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit point out that had they been aware of this oil consumption defect, they would not have purchased the vehicle or would have done so for considerably less money. This loss in addition to the financial burden of fixing a defective vehicle has led the class to seek actual, statutory, and even punitive damages from GM. Punitive damages, although rarely awarded, are intended as a sort of punishment to deter a negligent party from engaging in the same conduct in the future. This is not the first class action lawsuit GM has faced this year, although some of the others have been dismissed.

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