The Chevy Equinox became one of GM’s best-selling models soon after it was introduced in 2005.
The small crossover is known for its affordable price, comfortable ride, practicality, and value for money.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the more common problems and issues Equinox owners have had over the years.
Table of Contents
1. Head Gasket Failure
The most common problem with the first generation Chevrolet Equinox is head gasket failures.
Head gasket problems affected all model years of the first generation Chevy Equinox equipped with the 3.4-liter V6 from 2005 to 2009, especially as they crossed the 100,000-mile mark.
This issue also occurs in the Pontiac Torrent which is just a rebranded Equinox.
The head gasket’s main function is to create a tight seal between the engine block and the cylinder head.
When it fails, coolant, oil, and combustion gasses will get into areas where they shouldn’t be mixing. The engine will also lose compression, which causes it to run rough.
Symptoms of head gasket failure in the Equinox include:
- Coolant loss
- White smoke from exhaust
- Bubbles in coolant reservoir
- Check engine light
- Oil looks light brown and milky
Here’s how a few owners on TerrainForum.net described their experience:
“I just had the head gaskets replaced on my 2005 Equinox due to overheating issue. I had the heads checked and cleaned and they said there was no cracks or warping. The car seems to be running good. The temp gauge stays between the quarter and half mark while driving. However at idle it creeps up to the halfway mark.”
“My daughters 2008 Equinox with the 3.4, started overheating a few days ago. First thing I did was change the thermostat, but that doesn’t seem to be the problem. I’ve burped it several times, only to find air in the system each time. One interesting note is that as the engine warms up, the reservoir antifreeze quantity increases, about 3″ higher before It starts getting too hot and I shut it down. I think I may have a bad head gasket, but this car has 170,000 miles on it.”
Another user on ChevroletForum.com had this to say:
“3.4L is notorious for head gasket failures. I had about 150k miles on my wife’s 07 Equinox when ours failed completely. Had a shop make the repair and it cost about $3000.00 to do the work. I had waited so long that the heads required welding to fix some small cracks and then needed to be machined.”
Replacing the head gasket is a pretty big job because you have to disassemble the top of the engine and take off the cylinder head. Most mechanics will usually charge around $1,500 to $3,000, but you can always shop around to get the best price since this is a fairly common repair.
If you keep running the truck while the engine is overheating, the cylinder heads can warp or crack due to the excess heat. So it’s best to get this issue addressed as soon as possible before you cause any more damage to the engine.
2. Excessive Oil Consumption
Early model years of the second gen Chevrolet Equinox equipped with the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine have widespread oil consumption problems.
Oil consumption is more common with the 2010 to 2013 model years of the second gen. The later model years have updated engines, but they can still suffer from oil burning issues, although at a lower rate.
The oil consumption or oil burning is caused by the Equinox’s faulty piston ring design which allowed oil to get into the combustion chamber where it gets burned up.
This problem also affects first generation GMC Terrains equipped with the same 2.4-liter engine.
According to GM, it’s normal for the engine to lose about 1 quart of oil every 2,000 miles, but many owners report losing a quart of oil every few weeks.
Here is how a few owners described their experience on TerrainForum.net:
“My 2011 2.4L failed the oil consumption test about 20-25k miles ago and was “fixed” under warranty. Now it has 99k miles on it and is consuming oil still. I finally got fed up with it and took it in again for a second test. It failed again!!”
“Couple years back I had my engine rebuilt by the dealer at about 65,000 miles due to excessive oil consumption. Now 2 years later and 133500 miles it’s starting again.”
“I have a 2014 2.4 and it eats a decent amount of oil.”
“It continues in the 2014, which I have now. 97K miles and started about 10K ago when my father in law owned it. He was the 2nd owner. He was startled about a year ago that it was suddenly 2 quarts down. I’m watching things closely now, using 5W30 synthetic dexos, and changing oil every 3K. You must change at 3K miles and it doesn’t matter what brand of oil you use. Carbon builds up and it must be changed out before it does damage circulating through the engine.”
Due to the number of complaints they received, GM extended the warranty of the 2010 to 2013 model years of the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain to 7.5 years or 120,000 miles.
To fix the oil consumption problem, dealers will replace the pistons and piston rings with updated parts that are less prone to fail. Unfortunately, several owners who have had their cars repaired under warranty eventually start losing oil again after a few years.
This is also a fairly expensive repair since mechanics will basically have to completely rebuild the engine.
Many Equinox owners recommend replacing the oil more frequently using high quality synthetic oil if you want to avoid oil consumption issues. This ensures that the oil is always fresh and clean which prevents the piston rings from getting stuck. Waiting for the Oil Life Monitor to tell you when to change the oil will eventually cause more problems in the future.
3. Leaky Rear Main Seal
The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder Ecotec engine in the second generation Chevy has had many reports of rear main seal failures.
This issue is more common in the 2010 to 2014 model years of the Equinox, but it can also affect newer model years.
When the rear main seal breaks, it causes oil to leak out of the engine. If you see oil on the back of the oil pan near the transmission, it usually means you have to replace the rear main seal.
Problems associated with a leaking rear main seal include:
- Clattering or noisy engine
- Engine pressure warning light
- Noticeable drop in oil levels
Here is how a few Equinox owners described their experience:
“I have a 2012 LS Equinox 2.4L, and just found out that the rear main seal is leaking badly.”
“I have a 2017 Chevy Equinox, it has less than 65,000 miles on it. 2 days ago while on the highway the rear main seal blew.”
“My daughter’s 2017 Equinox has experienced a blown rear seal twice. Both times during extreme cold weather. The issue is due to frozen water in the air cleaner housing where the PCV hose connects. The water freezes and causes excess pressure to build up thus blowing the rear seal.
Early failures of the rear main seal are often caused by a blocked PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) hose.
The PCV system improves the vehicle’s emissions by recirculating blowby gasses back into the engine so it can get burned up.
When the PCV hose gets blocked, pressure builds up in the bottom of the engine (crankcase), which pushes out the rear main seal.
GM extended the warranty of the PCV system and rear main seal on the 2010 to 2014 model years of the Chevy Equinox equipped with the 2.4-liter engine to 10 years or 120,000 miles.
Repairing these problems out of warranty can be quite expensive since the engine needs to be taken out of the vehicle to replace the rear main seal. The intake manifold also has to be removed to clean out and unblock the PCV system.
4. Stretched Timing Chains
Timing chain problems are a very common problem with the second generation Chevy Equinox.
The timing chain is responsible for keeping the camshaft, pistons and valves synchronized. When it stretches or becomes loose, the valves will it to pistons and get damaged.
Both 4-cylinder and V6 engines of the second gen Equinox can suffer from premature timing chain problems and some owners have reported that they’ve had to replace their timing more than once.
Timing chain problems are more common with the second gen Equinox’s 2.4-liter engine. Early 2010 models with the V6 also suffered from early timing chain failures because the chains used were particularly weak and the recommended oil interval made the issue worse.
The 3.6-liter engine in the first generation Equinox Sport also had lots of reports of stretched timing chains.
Common symptoms of timing chain issues in the Equinox include:
- Rattling from the engine
- Check engine light
- Car shakes or vibrates excessively
- Engine shuts down, stalling
- Rough idle
- P0011, P0016 or P0017 trouble code
Here is how a few Equinox owners described their issues:
“I took my 2010 Equinox in today for rattling noise and oil change, they told me they needed to replace my timing chain. The car only has 43,000 miles.”
“I developed the P0017 code on my 2010 Equinox 3.0 with 79,000 miles back in 2015 resulting in replacement of the camshaft actuator, and actuator solenoid which did not fix the issue. All 3 timing chains were then changed with the tensioners which did cure the issue. Now 2018, the same P0017 code, and once again, timing chain replacement to the tune of over $2,000. Most people don’t ever need to replace their timing chain, twice in 3 years for me seems crazy.”
“We have a 2010 Equinox LT. The engine just spun down to a halt while driving a city speed 2 days ago. Towed to Chevy dealer who opened up the engine and found all the timing chain guides are destroyed, the chain is stretched, and it skipped teeth. It appears numerous valves are bent and could be damage to some of the piston heads, they have not torn into it that far. The car has 68K miles.”
GM extended the warranty for the 2010 to 2011 Equinox’s 2.4-liter engine to 10 years or 120,000 miles to deal with the timing chain failures. Unfortunately, this doesn’t cover newer model years which can also suffer from timing chain issues.
Replacing the timing chain is a fairly big job and dealers might charge you up to $2,000. Independent shops and experienced mechanics will usually give you a much lower quote.
If you want to avoid major engine problems caused by timing chain issues, you can change your oil more frequently and make sure to use high quality synthetic oil. You should also have your mechanic check timing chain, guides and tensioners at least once a year.
5. Exhaust Manifold Cracks
The second generation Equinox’s 2.4-liter engine tends to develop cracks in the middle of the exhaust manifold.
The exhaust manifold directs exhaust gasses from the engine into the exhaust piping. It can get really hot during normal operation which is the main reason why it cracks.
Symptoms of a cracked exhaust manifold include:
- Noisy exhaust on cold start
- Exhaust smell
- Rattle from front end
Thankfully, a cracked exhaust manifold doesn’t lead to drivability problems or severe engine issues. However, exhaust fumes getting into the cabin isn’t very good for your health.
Many Equinox owners have also reported that they’ve had to replace the exhaust manifold several times during the course of their ownership.
Here’s how a few owners described their experience:
“I’ve changed my cast iron manifold once by the dealer during warranty, then twice myself and once with an engine change.”
“When I start the engine it sounds like a motorboat. As it warms up the noise slowly diminishes. Occasionally I can smell exhaust fumes come into the car. This is the third time the exhaust manifold has cracked.”
“I bought my Equinox March 2014, and within 2 months later when it was in the dealer because they had to re-build the transmission, they told me I had a leaky exhaust manifold and they replaced it because it was covered under factory warranty. But less than a year later it was in the shop for fuel injector service they told me again I had a leaky exhaust manifold.”
“I bought my Equinox brand new in 2014. At that time I opted for the 4 cylinder, due to gas mileage and all that. They have this issue with the exhaust manifold, whereby it decides to crack, straight down the center. Very expensive fix (had mine done about 8 month ago), almost $900, that includes replacing of the O2 sensor, by default they happen to seize in the exhaust manifold.”
OEM and aftermarket exhaust manifolds cost around $100 to $200. With labor, it might cost you around $500 at a shop. It’s not a very difficult job and you can easily do it in your driveway if you go the DIY route.
In addition to replacing the exhaust manifold, you should also check your engine mounts. If they’re already worn out, the engine will vibrate more which can make the manifold develop cracks much quicker.
6. VVT Solenoid Failure
The VVT (Variable Valve Timing) solenoids on the second generation Chevy Equinox are a common cause of drivability problems and strange engine issues.
VVT solenoid issues are more common on the 4-cylinder but it can also affect the V6 engines.
The VVT solenoid adjusts the timing of the camshaft to balance the engine’s fuel economy and performance when necessary.
With such an important role, a faulty VVT solenoid can cause issues like:
- Jerky acceleration
- Surging RPMs
- Rough idling
- Hard starting
- Excessive oil consumption
- Check engine light
- P0010, P0011, P0014 or P0024 trouble codes
Here’s how a few owners described their experience with faulty VVT solenoids:
“I just dealt with this problem with my wife’s 2013 Chevy Equinox. It would idle hard, and stall a lot when going into reverse. For the longest time, no check engine/codes, but after a long road trip, we finally triggered a code (P0011). Previously I cleaned the throttle body which seemed to help, but it came back. Turned out to be the Engine Variable Valve Timing Solenoid (intake). $50 part at the auto store and it’s running great now.”
“No more crazy oil consumption on my 15 Nox after I replaced the VVT solenoids.”
“I have a 2011 Nox 2.4. When I started my car the light came on and it stalled when I was backing out the driveway. I had this issue before and my gas cap was on properly. This time I am trying it and at 1/2 tank of gas it is still stalling randomly. I brought it to an auto parts store and they say it is a variable valve timing solenoid.”
Fortunately, new VVT solenoids only cost around $50 a piece and you can easily swap them out. All you need to do is remove the plastic engine cover and the old solenoids can be pulled out and disconnected quite easily.
Of course, before you go out and buy new solenoids, it’s best to scan for codes first so you can narrow down the cause of your problems further. If you suspect that the VVT solenoids are causing your issues, you can pull them out and clean them first.
7. Faulty HVAC Blend Door
Lot of second generation Chevy Equinox owners have encountered HVAC blend door actuator failures.
Blend door failures can also occur in the first gen Equinox, but this is a common problem on lots of older vehicles.
The blend door directs air toward the heater core when you turn on the heat and towards the AC evaporator when you switch on the air conditioner.
When the blend door fails in the Equinox, you’ll often get cold air coming out of the vents when you turn up the heat or hot air when turning on the AC.
You’ll also often hear clicking sounds behind the dash when changing the HVAC temperatures once the blend door starts giving out. If you don’t hear any electric motor noises when switching temperatures, the blend door might have stopped working altogether.
Here is how a few owners described their issues:
“When I picked up my used 2010 Equinox LT AWD it already suffered from a blend door adjustment issue – I could either get full hot or full cold temps. Finally last spring the temperature adjustment only gave me COLD air.”
“I just bought a used 2011 Chevy Equinox with 102,000 kms on it. When I turn on the heat or defrost I get blowing cold air. I have once turned on the AC and got heat but that happened once. Yesterday, I had heat when I turned on the heat. Also, when switching from AC to heat, I hear about 4 to 5 clicking sounds coming from the passenger side dashboard.”
Replacing the HVAC blend door actuator in the Equinox is a fairly difficult job because it’s buried deep behind the dashboard. It’s not uncommon for shops to charge $1,000 to $2,000 to do the job because it takes a lot of time to do.
If you’re fairly handy, you can take out the dashboard yourself. Some Equinox owners have also resorted to cutting out parts of the dashboard to get to the blend door actuator without removing the dash.
8. ‘Engine Power is Reduced’ Error Message
A fairly common issue that affects the second generation Chevy Equinox is the ‘Engine Power is Reduced’ error message.
This message can appear on both the 4-cylinder and V6 variants of the Equinox. It has also been reported in the first generation Equinox.
Aside from the error message, other common symptoms include:
- Service Stabilitrak light comes on
- Car goes into limp mode
- Check engine light
- P2135 or P2138 trouble codes
Here is how a few owners described their issue on TerrainForum.net:
“I have a 2012 Equinox with 68,000. So I received the “Engine Power is Reduced” and “Stabilitrak” lights today and my car is driving dangerously slow, 15-20 mph.”
“I just went through the same issues with my 2011 nox. Dealer said it could be several things before they even looked at it. 1. throttle body 2. accelerator pedal 3. wiring for the throttle body circuit. After they diagnosed it, it turned out to be issues with the wiring coming out of the ECM for the throttle body circuit.”
“I too had my 2015 Equinox service stabilitrak and check engine light came on, and after some research, one of the easier repair causes was the throttle body was dirty. I removed the Mass Air Flow Sensor, used the Mass Air Flow cleaner, whether it needed it or not. I removed the air outlet duct to have access to the throttle body, and spray inside the throttle body with the throttle body cleaner spray. By the time I put all back together, cleared the engine code, started the engine, and immediately the engine ran smoothly and to this date no more stabilitrak light.”
The ‘Engine Power is Reduced’ error message is usually caused by an issue with the sensors in throttle body or the accelerator pedal.
All generations of the Equinox have a fly-by-wire throttle body, which means the throttle is electronically controlled and not connected to a mechanical cable.
In some cases, restarting the car can make the error go away and take the car out of limp mode, but it can easily come back again.
Cleaning out the throttle body makes the error go away and resolves all the drivability issues. You can also just replace the throttle body which should only cost around $150.
If replacing the throttle body doesn’t work, check the electrical wiring and connectors on the throttle body, accelerator pedal and ECU. In some cases, the error comes up when the wiring gets damaged by corrosion or rodents.
9. Transmission Failures
The 6-speed transmission in the first generation Chevy Equinox Sport was prone to early failures.
The Equinox Sport was only sold from 2008 to 2009 and had a slightly larger 3.6-liter engine. The Pontiac Torrent GXP, which had the same engine and transmission, also had similar issues.
When the 6-speed transmission fails, it usually won’t be able to shift into 3rd gear or reverse.
This was also a common problem on lots of other GM vehicles that used the same 6-speed transmission such as the Chevy Malibu, Chevy Traverse, Buick Enclave, Pontiac G6, GMC Acadia and Saturn VUE.
GM eventually extended the transmission’s warranty of the Equinox Sport to 10 years or 120,000 miles. The issue was caused by premature failures of the clutch wave plates for 3rd, 5th and reverse gears.
To get this fixed out of warranty, you’ll have to get the transmission rebuilt which can easily cost several thousand dollars.
10. Turbo Issues
Early model years of the third generation Chevy Equinox have had a few reports of early turbo issues and failures.
These problems are more likely to occur in the 2018 to 2019 model years of the Equinox with the 1.5-liter gas engine. It also usually only affects vehicles used in really cold temperatures.
The same turbo issues can also affect other GM models like the Chevy Cruze, Chevy Malibu, Chevy Trax, GMC Terrain and Buick Encore.
Some of the more common symptoms include:
- ‘Engine Power is Reduced’ error message
- Check engine light
- P0234, P0299, P2227 or P0300 trouble code
- Oil leaks
Here is how a few Equinox owners described their experience:
“Our 2018 sent a warning “engine power reduced”. Chevy service said we need to replace the turbo.”
“My 2020 has been to the dealership 2x now with turbo issues they’re telling me. I know nothing about these motors, and dealer told me it’s a “known problem” with an “unknown solution” of condensation build up and then freezing in our Northern Ontario Winter Temps. Oil on the ground.”
Turbo issues Equinox are often caused by condensation getting into the turbo intercooler which eventually freezes up and causes the airflow to get blocked. The condensation can also get to the turbocharger and freeze the wastegate.
GM eventually updated the intercooler and charge pipe design in newer models of the Equinox to address the condensation issue. Early on, dealers would also often replace the turbocharger to get the car running properly again.
A newer TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) now suggests that removing and cleaning the turbo wastegate regulator solenoid valve can fix the drivability and turbo issues.
11. Weak Four-Cylinder Engine
The Equinox is currently only available with a turbocharged 1.5-liter, 16-valve inline-4, direct fuel injection engine.
Sadly the engine is fairly weak willed, so if you want a quick vehicle the Equinox should be avoided.
The more powerful, optional turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine was been dropped from the lineup in 2021.
Chevy Equinox Pros & Cons
- Affordable used prices
- Good fuel economy
- Decent handling
- Lots of tech and features
- Roomy cabin
- Comfortable ride
- Available all-wheel drive
- Some engines have many issues
- Poor resale
- Interior materials
What Do The Reviews Say?
“The Equinox has impressive handling abilities on a twisty road. Steering effort is what we expect from an SUV, with low effort at parking speeds and more weighting at highway speeds. The only downside is the big turning radius that affects U-turns and parking.”
“The Equinox gets a decent score for comfort. The compliant suspension absorbs most ruts and bumps and doesn’t transmit much harshness into the cabin, which is especially impressive when you consider how well the Equinox handles. The front seats are well-shaped for long hours on the road, though the lumbar adjustment is set a bit too low. The rear seats offer good thigh support.”
“The Equinox gets high marks for its technology systems. It has plenty of features that are standard throughout the lineup (including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a Wi-Fi hotspot), and the Premier trim has a whopping six USB ports and a wireless charging pad.”
“Our tester, with the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and front-wheel drive, has an EPA estimate of 25 mpg combined (22 city/29 highway). We easily achieved 34.3 mpg on our mixed-driving evaluation loop and averaged 25.3 mpg overall. These are strong results, but keep in mind that premium fuel is recommended for the 2.0-liter engine.”
“The bottom line is important for compact SUVs, and the Equinox is quite a bit more expensive than others. The base L model is special-order only; the next-level LS costs hundreds to thousands more than rivals. Top-trim models are also pricier than other small crossovers, but we do give credit to the Equinox’s available diesel and high-performance four-cylinder engines. But the materials quality is disappointing for the class, especially considering the premium price tag.”
What’s the Resale Value of a Chevrolet Equinox?
Here’s a quick look at used car pricing on Edmunds at the time of writing.