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8 Common GMC Sierra Failures: Problems, Cons & More

With one of the highest resale values ​​of any full-size truck, the GMC Sierra is one of the most popular in America. Plus, the availability of four-door models that will comfortably seat six adults makes the Sierra as comfortable as a sedan or SUV. However, even the best truck can have problems, and here are the common GMC Sierra failures.

The GMC Sierra 1500 is one of the best full-size trucks on the market, it’s safe and reliable, and you can buy a two-door or a four-door. Even so, it is good to keep in mind the main problems that have been reported with this truck.

Common GMC Sierra Faults

With a GMC Sierra, you can haul a load like no other can. But if you overdo it, you can lose 37 percent of its value in the first five years. The following are the most common problems with this vehicle.

1. Transfer Case Position Sensor Problems

Transfer case, position sensor issue, and faulty selector switches are the biggest complaints with the GMC Sierra. If any of these parts fail, you’ll have a hard time telling if the truck is in 4×4 mode or not.

Failure of the transfer case position sensor or selector switch sends trouble codes from the transmission case control module. With this data, a technician can determine the problem with the transfer case.

This issue has appeared on model years 1991-2013 and 2015, and 2016. Even cars with less than 5000 miles have developed issues with these parts. However, the average mileage for a Sierra with a faulty transfer case, position sensor, or selector switch is around 148,000 miles.

This failure can be costly if not diagnosed before the switch or sensor fails. Diagnosis can cost more than $100. However, the full repair for a replacement can be close to $900 (may vary depending on which country you are in).

2. Heating and cooling temperature fluctuations

Heat and air conditioning failures are the next most common problem with the Sierra. This fault also appears in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon .

The problem is due to a broken actuator. An actuator is a switch that opens and closes the doors in the vents of the heating and air conditioning system. If one fails, the air coming out of the vents can be very hot or very cold.

The function of the actuator is to open and close the doors (wings) of the air conditioning and heating ducts. Its openings and closures mix hot and cold air, and by mixing the air, the desired temperature is achieved in the passenger compartment.

The cost to diagnose the problem of faulty actuators in your GMC’s air conditioning system is between $50 and $70. This occurrence has happened on almost new cars and those with over 300,000 miles. The average mileage for a Sierra with this problem is about 126,000 miles.

3. Problems with the fuel level sensor

The fuel level sensor is the third most common failure with the Sierra on some models and years. Not knowing how much fuel is in the vehicle is a nuisance and could be a safety issue under the right conditions.

The fuel level sensor is located in the gas tank, so it takes a bit of work to get to it. The average cost to repair the fuel level sensor is $322, most of which is labor cost.

Many mechanics will suggest replacing the fuel pump while the sensor is being replaced. It will cost a little more. However, since they have to go into the tank to change the sensor, they can change the pump as well.

In the end it is more economical to change the fuel level sensor and the fuel pump at the same time.

The fuel sensor problem occurred on Sierras between 1999 and 2014. The average occurrence is at 127,000 miles. However, it has happened to cars that are new and with over 250,000 miles.

4. GMC Sierra Steering Clunk

The noises that come from the steering wheel of a car can be terrifying. The Sierra has had a few instances of a clunking sound from the steering wheel. The culprit is the upper intermediate steering shaft. Although there was never a recall for this bug, several published bulletins describe the problem.

GM’s solution was a steering stem lubrication kit that calmed him down. However, some Sierra owners have replaced the steering column, as suggested by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

This problem has been found on models from 1999 to 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017.

It’s likely that there has never been a recall because it hasn’t affected many Sierras. There have been management issues that have led to withdrawals, but this case is not one of them.

5. The set of indicators becomes erratic

Another problem that affects knowing how much fuel is in the truck is a faulty gauge cluster.

The Sierra’s gauge cluster can become erratic. As a result, the speedometer will give a false reading, as will the other gauges, including the fuel gauge. The solution to this problem is the replacement of the indicator group.

Due to ongoing issues, GMC has extended the gauge cluster warranty on some vehicles to seven years.

Dash gauges keep you abreast of the car’s temperature, oil pressure, speed and RPM, and give you other information regarding the vehicle’s systems. A malfunctioning dashboard can cause you to go at high speed when it thinks you aren’t, which can lead to a ticket.

Although the gauge cluster has not been recalled, GM has offered discounts for its replacement. See your local GM dealer or mechanic if you have a problem with bad gauges.

Diagnosis for this repair can cost upwards of $100, and replacement of the gauge assembly can cost upwards of $800 for the assembly and installation.

6. Broken door handles

Door handles breaking inside and out on the Sierra is a problem that affects some models. On some early GMC models, the door handles are chrome.

Due to exposure to the sun and weather, the chrome on the door handles would blister and crack. This split the chrome plating creating a sharp edge, and many truck owners cut their fingers on the door handles.

Other Sierra models have had problems with the handles breaking inside and out . Door handles breaking is a safety issue to worry about when they fail.

The problem with the door handles on the Sierras began in 1999. As a result, it affects trucks from 1999 to 2008 and 2010 to 2013 model years.

Like other problems with the Sierra, door handle failure can occur at 40,000 miles or 250,000 miles. It is one of the least expensive fixes for any problem on this list.

7. Daytime Running Lights Burn Out Fast

Some models of the Sierra have had a problem with the daytime running lights burning out prematurely. Additionally, some units have shown signs of heat damage, and GM recommends using genuine replacement parts for the various lamps on the truck.

The cost of repairing a headlight bulb can range from $85 to $103 per bulb. This problem affects models manufactured between 1999 and 2009.

As one of the least expensive problems you can have with your GMC, it may be one you can fix yourself.

8. Does not start because the fuel pump fails

There are many reasons why a vehicle won’t start, and a damaged fuel pump is one of them. With no fuel in the engine, you’re going nowhere.

A Sierra’s fuel pump is electric and is mounted inside the fuel tank. Fuel pump replacement is one of the most costly problems Sierra owners can have with their truck.

This problem has come up with newer trucks and those with over 230,000 miles. On average, a Sierra’s fuel pump will fail around 150,000 miles.

The good and the bad of the GMC Sierra

Every vehicle has good and bad characteristics, after reading about common GMC Sierra failures it’s good to know about the good. The GMC Sierra is no different, and overall better than many vehicles on the market.

  • Best-in-class towing capacity
  • Increased cargo bed volume
  • Available with the world’s first six-function tailgate
  • Above average reliability
  • Various trim levels
  • two or four doors
  • The Sierra Denali Ultimate is the most luxurious truck in its class.
  • It drives like a truck and is less refined than its competitors.
  • Interior design needs to be improved
  • The quality of the materials inside the cabin in some models is inferior to that of its competitors.
  • The Sierra’s center console is huge and gets in the way.
  • Cabin space on two-door models is tight.

What do the reviews say about the GMC Sierra?

Reviews and opinions about this car are generally positive, some of them say:

“The Sierra is essentially a Chevrolet Silverado. Power delivery is smooth and responsive. Fuel economy is 17 mpg overall for the crew cab four-wheel-drive version with the 5.3-liter V8.”

“The GMC Sierra 1500 is a full-size pickup truck and one of the most popular vehicles in America. Like all modern trucks, the Sierra 1500 is as good for hauling a family as a bed of gravel.”


“Excellent engine selection, lots of cutting-edge technology, the Denali name finally qualifies as luxurious.”

Final thoughts

None of the GMC Sierra’s problems are excessive. Complaints about most of these problems are rare, and your local GM dealer or certified mechanic can help you with such issues.

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