My Chevy pickup
I used to drive a 2005 2WD Chevrolet Colorado Pickup with
an I4 (4 cylinder fuel-injected, variable valve timing) engine.
Chapter 0: How to buy a new truck
I bought this truck from Hall Chevrolet in Milwaukee, after they searched
the Chevy database and found this was one of only three trucks at dealers
in the upper midwest that fit my criteria for a replacement truck (I was replacing
the greatest vehicle I will ever have owned.) My
criteria were as follows:
I did not care about:
- Gas mileage equal or better to my last vehicle, a 1986 Toyota pickup
- Crew cab (for my wife and kids to be able to ride along).
A comprehensive search online gave me the following options:
- type of seats
The last Chevrolet I owned was a 1981 Citation that caught fire with me
in it. Let's give Chevrolet another try.
- Buy a used Toyota pickup truck, crew cab model, or
- Buy a rare Chevrolet Colorado with 4 cylinder engine and 5-speed manual
Chapter 1: The Honeymoon
The first 30,000 miles have been nothing but smooth sailing. The truck does not
quite get 27MPG, but close to that. I installed some oversize wheel guards and
a trailer hitch, and away I go. An oxygen sensor failed, and there was a
factory recall for the brake light relay, both handled by the dealer at no cost
Since I moved from a 1986 model to a 2005 model, I expected to see some
technology improvements that 19 years makes possible. There are a few big ones:
the remote keyless entry is nice, the MP3 CD player is nice, and the ignition is
automatic, so I don't have to think about how long to hold the key in "crank".
The logic programmed into the headlights and door locks is unobtrusive, unlike
some rental cars I have had that really annoyed me. So far... so good.
Chapter 2: Maximum Utility
Because the engine is "just" a 4 cylinder model, my truck does not have the
same power that is very common for American drivers to expect.
Here's my truck towing a fairly large trailer with a backhoe. It's not
something I would do every day with this truck, but it's more than capable of
doing this once in a while.
Chapter 3: The Honeymoon Ends
Three years later, so the factory-installed battery died. No problem
except that GM decided only to allow the dealer to supply direct
replacements. Guess what? The default model battery is REALLY expensive.
So my dealer
offers a cheaper alternative: a battery that is the same function,
made for the same truck, but
manufactured in Korea instead of US. OK, I had to
get out the plastic cutters to install it, but I did:
It seems a bit silly to have to modify the battery cover just to
install a battery.
Chapter 4: Things Start to Go Wrong
At about 45K, the truck starts having fairly intense vibrations. I
also start having intermittent speedometer failures where the
speedometer just goes to zero, the cruise control then cuts out if it
was on. This is pretty annoying. Finally, the blower motor stops
working for low speed settings.
The dealer ends up replacing a driveshaft U-joint which had failed
- that cured the vibrations. The speedometer sensor was fouled,
perhaps as a result of the agitation of the transfer case from the
vibration? The dealer cleaned it off and re-installed it. All this
costs me more than $100.
Chapter 5: I Smell Lemons
Not so old, yet, but my truck is starting to show some age. What
surprises me are the design flaws that this vehicle has... let's walk
though a few.
The Blower Motor
I'm not the only one to have seen this:
The wire harness to the blower motor dangles down into the passenger
side foot area (left, above). The plug is pretty easy to jostle with
your foot, and fits loosely in the socket (right, above). But it gets
better! This is the harness for the resistor that allows the blower
to run at different speeds. By kicking at the harness, I can usually
get the blower to come on. This seemed lame, so I removed the
resistor to examine the situation more closely, and here is what I
The resistor assembly (left, above) sticks into the airstream to cool
it down, because it gets hot when the blower is used in slow speeds.
But the plug (second and third from left, above) and the resistor
socket (right, above)
are burned because the connector is not rated for either the current
or the heat of this application. This is why when you jiggle the
connector (movie clip) the fan turns
on and off. It's truly amazing how loose the connector is.
The Front Disc Brakes
The front disc brake pads got corroded and started sticking in the
calipers. The result is that the barakes drag, overheat, and fail to
operate properly. I had to have the rotors turned by the dealer and
new pads installed for this, and it
cost me more than $100. Many other accounts of this design flaw can
be found on the 'net... once again I am not the only one to have this
safety-threatening issue. The new pads seized in the calipers also, and I finally
realized that I had to re-manufacture them in my shop, by grinding down the brake pad
tabs to remove 0.5mm or so of matetial, then coat the tabs with anti-seize
compound to make them work properly.
The Parking Brake
The parking brake cable is routed so that it dangles down below the
frame (below, left). In many places it rubs against the frame,
causing wear (below, center). Near the rear wheels there are boots
intended to keep the outer part of the cable protected against
rubbing, but these boots are made of cheap material and they rot away (below,
Finally, there are no return springs on the parking brake cable... so
the brakes tend to remain engaged after release, only fully releasing
when the cables work their way back as the vehicle vibrates. This is
a serious safety flaw in the design of the rear brakes.
After the dragging rear brakes became unbearable, I did more
troubleshooting and found the root cause:
On the left, the parking brake cable assembly removed from the vehicle (top)
has a spot on the casing which is completely worn away by contact with a frame
edge that it routes next to, with no tang or grommet provided to secure the
cable from rubbing against the frame. The cable inside the casing is rusted
and cannot move any longer. The new part from GM (bottom) has an additional
pathetic plastic sheath which will certainly wear away in time as well, but it
might take a little bit longer. On the right, my additional fix: a metal
sheath added around the pathetic plastic one. The picture shows it installed
so you can also see the frame edge that rubs and causes the wear in the first
Blinking Brake Lights
I noticed that the left-hand turn signal was sometimes blinking very
fast compared to right hand turns. Then, after 5K miles, the left
signal started turning on solid when the brake pedal is depressed.
Back to the dealer... more money to fix, not sure exactly what issue this time.
Chapter 6: The End
At 65,500mi I am now ready to part with this vehicle. It's not a
bad truck, and it does do what I wanted it to in terms of hauling
and mileage, but it is sucking up my time and that's not what I want from a
"new" vehicle. And... as an engineer I just can't be happy in something with
this many fundamental design flaws. I think that GM owners might not know
there's a better life, or they enjoy getting to know their dealer service
department, but it just is not for me.
I sold the truck for $8200 on eBay - that means for the 5 years I drove it, I paid
about $2500/year for it. In other words, more than the cost of
the greatest vehicle I have ever owned each year.
Evidentally, the GM life is just not a match for me. My
last Chevy and I parted ways when it
caught on fire in the junkyard driveway. So, on
to the next vehicle... Toyota redux.