8 Most Common Chevrolet Cruze Problems (Explained)

The Chevy Cruze is an extremely affordable and practical sedan that was sold from 2011 to 2019.

Despite its low price, people love it because it delivers fuel economy, a comfortable ride and decent handling.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the most common issues and complaints Chevy Cruze owners have had over the years, so you can decide whether it’s worth your hard earned money.

1. Cooling System Leaks

The first generation Chevy Cruze’s 1.4-liter turbo engine has a notoriously unreliable cooling system which has a tendency to develop leaks and have frequent parts failures.

These problems are quite common in the 2011 to early 2016 model years of the Chevy Cruze.

The following cooling system parts are known to leak and break prematurely:

  • Water Pump
  • Thermostat housing
  • Water Outlet
  • Hoses 
  • Reservoir and cap
  • Radiator end tanks
  • Temperature sensor

All these parts are considered regular maintenance items, so they can also fail on the 1.8-liter engine after many years of use. The reason why they break so often in the 1.4-liter turbo engine is because it runs hotter which causes the plastic and seals to break down and crack at a much faster rate.  

Aside from losing coolant and possible overheating problems, many owners complain of a strong coolant smell whenever they drive the car.

Other common symptoms of cooling system problems include:

  • White smoke from exhaust
  • Gurgling sound on right side
  • Heater doesn’t work properly
  • Engine temperature reads too low
  • Error message for ‘AC Off Due to High Engine Temperature’ 

If the overheating issue isn’t fixed immediately, it can eventually lead to more expensive problems like head gasket failures and cracked cylinder heads.  

Here is how one owner on the CruzeTalk.com forums described their experience:

“I have a 2016 Cruze gen-1 that will not stop overheating. I have replaced the water outlet and put a new thermostat in it. I have bled the air out from the radiator valve. It will idle all day and not overheat. When I take it for a drive I can go 1/2 a mile and the needle starts jumping up.” 

Other Chevy Cruze owners on the CarComplaints.com website had this to say:

“I’ve had to replace the water pump multiple times and Chevy tells me that there’s nothing they can do except continue to replace it… while charging me an arm and a leg. It also leaks coolant/burns it so I have to refill it once in a while.”

“I am afraid to drive my car because I get ominous messages about the car overheating. This last incident happened on the coldest day in January at – 35 degrees Celsius. I barely made it home from a funeral only to discover again – no coolant in my system. I have now had the coolant system replaced 5 times over the period of May 2013 and January 2018.” 

Due to the number of reported failures, GM extended the warranty of the water pump to 10 years or 150,000 miles. Most Chevy Cruze owners also just replace the cooling system parts as they break as they’re usually not that expensive. 

When replacing the cooling system parts, you should avoid using cheap replacements because they’re not as durable. However, many Cruze owners also recommend using an aftermarket thermostat which is made of aluminum and is significantly more reliable.   

2. PCV System Issues

The first gen Chevy Cruze’s 1.4-liter engine also has a flaw with its PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) system which eventually causes oil leaks, misfires and rough idling.

The PCV system recirculates blow-by gasses back into the engine so that it can be burned off.

When the PCV valve fails, it creates excess pressure inside the engine which can lead to symptoms like:

  • Oil leaks
  • Blue smoke out of exhaust
  • Brown milky residue on oil cap
  • Misfires
  • Trouble codes for P0171 or P0106
  • Check engine light
  • Rough Idle
  • Hissing sound from dipstick tube

Here’s how a few owners described their issues on CruzeTalk.com:

“I’ve had several issues with our Chevy Cruze Eco ’11. The Check Engine Light + Service Stabilitrak came on. I checked the PCV and it is sucking in air and whistling quite loudly. We have strange noises at idle and sluggish acceleration.”

“2012 chevy cruze 1.4 turbo – got P0171 code check light on – car was running rougher idling. Then rpm going nuts when idle or even park acting like it was going to die. That next day replaced PCV valve cover which many recommended to me.  Drove it not far next day, ran muuuuch better.” 

Due to the number of complaints GM received, they extended the warranty for the PCV system in the 2015 to 2016 model years of the Chevy Cruze equipped with the 1.4-liter engine.

In a lot of cases, replacing the valve cover usually fixes the issue. You might also have to replace the intake manifold which contains one of the three PCV check valves. 

GM didn’t update the Chevy Cruze’s intake manifold so the PCV system can still go bad, even after you’ve replaced it. However, you can replace the intake manifold with upgraded aftermarket units from companies like Dorman which are supposed to last longer or get a PCV fix kit from CruzeKits.com to make the system significantly more reliable.   

3. Turbo Issues

The first generation Chevy Cruze has had a lot of reports of turbo failures over the years.

Symptoms of possible turbo failures include:

  • Hesitation
  • Reduced acceleration
  • Trouble code for P0299 or underboost 
  • Cracks on the wastegate port

Here is how a few owners described their issues:

“I have a 2013 Chevy Cruze, completely paid off. Its at 183xxx miles. The past few weeks I’ve gotten a check engine light for PO299 code, but then it goes away. So I took it in today for new spark plugs & coils and asked them to check exhaust system. Turns out the turbo has failed and the bearings are breaking apart so they’d like to fix it for ~$2157.”

“Had the same thing happen to me a few months back around 28k miles. Kept getting the P0299 (Turbo underboost) and the dealer replaced the entire turbo assembly.”

Most dealers will simply replace the turbocharger, which cost around $1,000, once they see the P0299 code or tiny cracks around the wastegate port. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need to replace the turbos.

The underboost codes could be caused by a vacuum leak which can be traced back to a faulty PCV system or a leaking charge pipe. So make sure there aren’t any other vacuum leaks that could be causing the underboost condition.

Most turbo failures are caused by a faulty wastegate. Since the Cruze has an internal wastegate, you’ll need to replace the turbo itself to fix it.

4. Throttle Lag

Many people have complained about the first gen Chevy Cruze’s noticeable throttle lag because the car doesn’t immediately respond when they step on the accelerator.

This is really only an issue for people who are driving the Cruze for the first time because most owners are already used to it.

The Chevy Cruze uses throttle-by-wire which means that the accelerator isn’t connected to a cable. Instead, it uses a sensor to measure the position of the gas pedal and sends a signal to the engine computer. Unfortunately, the car’s computer needs a moment or two to check that all the parameters it needs checks out before it commands the engine to respond.

Here is how a few people described their experience:

“I just purchased a 2011 Chevy Cruze LTZ RS. I’ve noticed that on take off the car hesitates a second before it goes. Example: pulling into traffic is very dangerous because when I floor it the hesitation sucks.”

“I’ve been thinking of buying a Cruze, so I took one for a test drive the other day. I loved everything about it except, it had a terrible delay between the time you press the gas pedal and the time it actually responds. For example, I cruised along at 25-30 mph, then pressed the gas and it literally took about 2 seconds before it even started accelerating.”

“I have a 2018 Cruze with the 1.4 turbo.  Very satisfied after 2+ years.  I did notice more throttle lag than my 2010 Malibu which also has the drive by wire throttle.  I decided to try 89 octane gas instead of 87 and most of the throttle lag went away.”

One can say that the Cruze is performing exactly as designed because it is primarily marketed and positioned as an economical commuter vehicle. 

If you want to make your Cruze more responsive, you can install a device called a Pedal Commander or get an aftermarket tune to get rid of the noticeable throttle lag. Using higher octane or premium fuel also improves the car’s responsiveness.

Related: 9 Best & Worst Chevrolet Cruze Years (With Facts & Stats)

5. Timing Belt Not Optimal

Although the first generation Chevy Cruze’s 1.8-liter has had less issues overall, it uses a timing belt instead of a more durable timing chain like the one used in the 1.4-liter turbo engine.

Since the 1.8-liter is an interference engine, a snapped or broken timing belt will cause a lot of engine damage, so you have to make sure the belt is always in good condition.

This means that you’ll have to replace the timing belt every 100,000 miles to avoid major engine problems. 

If you’re buying a used Chevy Cruze that’s already past 100,000 miles, you should replace the timing belt right away if you don’t have any service records to prove that it’s already been replaced.

6. Engine Misfires

The Chevy Cruze’s coil packs will eventually become corroded over time and introduce weird engine problems like misfires and knocking.

Here is how a few owners described their experience on the CruzeTalk.com forum:

“My Cruze only has 63k and have been in and out the local shop for almost a month. Mechanic said they couldn’t find the part to fix it at first to they couldn’t find whats wrong with it at all and its not electrical either cuz they have it checked. The only thing it fixed everytime is replace ignition coil pack and spark plugs.”

“2014 Cruze 1.4T. Cylinder 1 keeps missing. Have swapped out two packs already and replace the spark plugs. First time it happens I chalked it to normal wear and tear. 85k miles in car. Been driving perfectly fine for almost 3 weeks, and again started missing on cylinder 1. Looks like the pack burned up again.”

“I had similar symptoms in my 2014 1.4T. Replaced the factory coils – which, btw, were like new in appearance – with the MSD 82363. Best $100 I have spent in the car. It not only eliminated the problem, but it improved the idling and performance all around.”

If you’re experiencing misfires and can’t rev the engine properly, you might need new coil packs. When replacing the ignition coils and spark plugs, make sure you don’t tear the rubber boots as this can cause strange electrical issues.

If you’re still having misfiring issues, check for codes and make sure the PCV system isn’t causing the engine to misfire and run rough.

7. Power Steering Issues

Early model years of the Chevy Cruze are more prone to suffer from sticky or notchy power steering problems.

This problem doesn’t necessarily affect the car’s overall drivability, but it can make steering a bit harder in certain situations.

It usually only occurs when there’s a significant change in temperature such as when it ges really hot in the summer or cold in the winter.

Here is how two Chevy Cruze owners described their experience:

“I have a 2012 with 6,000km on it that just developed a steering problem. At highway speeds it will start to drift to the left. When I go to give it a slight correction it feels like the steering wheel sticks and that the steering has disengaged. With a bit more pressure the steering engages. Last night it happened 12 times in a 20 minute trip.”

“I’ve been having power steering issues with my Gen 1 2016 chevy cruze limited lt. my original symptom was “service power steering” with steering loss during operation. My rack and pinion was diagnosed and replaced. I’m still having issues in that power steering comes and goes.” 

GM extended the warranty for the 2012 Chevy Cruze’s electric power steering rack to 10 years or 150,000 miles. However, many owners of different model have also reported similar issues. 

Newer model years of the Chevy Cruze have an updated steering rack and any notchiness can usually be fixed by a software update.

Fixing the sticking or notchy power steering usually requires a new power steering rack. In some cases, the faulty power steering was caused by a weak 12-volt battery or a faulty negative battery cable.

Related: Chevrolet Cruze Alarm Going Off? (11 Main Causes)

8. Cracked Pistons

The second generation Chevrolet Cruze has had less issues overall compared to its predecessor, but they  still had a tendency to suffer from cracked pistons which required major rebuilds or complete engine replacements.

The 1.4-liter engine in the second gen Cruze can also suffer from coolant leaks

Here is how a few owners on CruzeTalk.com described their issue:

“I have a 2019 Cruze 1.4 liter turbo engine with only 10,600 miles on it. The engine light came on so I took it to the dealer and according to them a piston is bad.”  

“My 2017 Cruze with 8k miles—check engine light came on along with “service stabilitrak message”. I was just told yesterday they have to replace the pistons.” 

If you’re already out of warranty, a new engine can cost around $4,000. You could also just have an experienced mechanic or shop install a used engine which typically costs around $500 to get your Cruze on the road again.

Although GM says that you don’t need to use premium fuel in the Chevy Cruze, many owners agree that using higher octane premium fuel will significantly reduce the chances of piston cracking and early engine failures.

Using premium is pretty much standard for every other turbocharged engine, so it shouldn’t be any different for the Chevy Cruze. In addition, many Cruze owners report that using premium fuel improves the car’s responsiveness and fuel economy. 

Chevy Cruze Pros & Cons


  • Very affordable
  • Good fuel economy
  • Sporty handling
  • Decent amount of tech and features
  • Comfortable ride 
  • Good rear legroom


  • Cooling system problems
  • Poor resale
  • Lower reliability compared to rivals 

What Do The Reviews Say?

“The Cruze’s performance appeal will largely depend on your commute. Lackluster acceleration makes this sedan less than ideal for city dwellers. But those who typically traverse twisty roads will be impressed by its excellent handling.”

“Given the relative lack of seat adjustments and the forward-angled headrest, it might take some fiddling to feel truly comfortable behind the wheel. The ride is pleasant, even with our tester’s 18-inch wheels (the largest the Cruze offers). The engine stop-start system is far from seamless.”

“The Cruze might be classified as a compact car, but few will find the cabin confining. There’s plenty of shoulder room for all outboard passengers. The raised center tunnel limits the usefulness of the narrow middle seat. The controls and gauges are mostly easy to get along with.”

“The new Chevrolet Infotainment 3 interface is attractive, uncluttered and, most important, easy to learn and operate. Standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is a major plus.”

“Chevrolet hopes a fresh new look will entice buyers to take a look at the 2019 Cruze. It has features that buyers in the compact class want, such as smartphone mirroring through a fast-acting 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, solid crash test scores and enjoyable handling. The Cruze is also available as a sedan or a hatchback and can be fitted with a fuel-efficient diesel engine, which is distinctive for this class of car.”

2019 Chevrolet Cruze | Edmunds

What’s the Resale Value of a Chevy Cruze?

Here’s a quick look at used car pricing on Edmunds at the time of writing.


Related: How Long Do Chevy Cruze Last? (12 Important Facts)


  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...