Staff Car Report: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Reliability Takes a Dive, Becomes Haunted for Halloween

Back in 2013, the Gordon-Bloomfield family made a decision to purchase a brand-new 2013 Chevrolet Volt as their second car, replacing a 2008 Toyota Prius hybrid and 2012 Renault Twizy quadricycle. Since then, it has been used to carry out a variety of duties alongside the family’s other car, a 2011 Nissan LEAF, ranging from daily commutes to school runs, shopping trips and the occasional longer-distance trip.

Like the 2011 Nissan LEAF, the 2013 Chevrolet Volt has become one of the official Transport Evolved staff cars, alongside Mark’s 2011 Nissan LEAF; Michael’s 2010 Tesla Roadster, 2012 Mitsubishi i-Miev and 2014 BMW i3; and Kate’s 2009 Mitsubishi i-Miev and 2005 Toyota Prius.

Our staff Chevrolet Volt (left) and a local sibling, a Vauxhall Ampera (right)

Our staff Chevrolet Volt (left) and a local sibling, a Vauxhall Ampera (right)

When we last talked about the Chevrolet Volt in September, we reported that reliability had, for the most part, remained pretty good since the car first came to us back in August 2013, with only two trips to the dealers for warranty repair. But since then, our Chevrolet Volt has taken a downhill dive, developing a plethora of problems which challenge its previous reliability record.

Aside from the resurfacing of a problem with the car’s keyless entry system that we first had repaired under warranty earlier this year, our Chevrolet Volt, with just over 22,000 miles on the clock, has taken on a bit of a dual personality. Problems have included a misbehaving pre-heating system, broken thermostat, lost charge port cover, stuck entertainment system, interior rust and most annoyingly, an intermittent alarm problem.

It’s almost as if the car has become possessed, or perhaps decided to enter into the Halloween spirit a few weeks early. Either way, we were faced with a two-week wait for the car to be looked at, and a wait of ten days while the car was fixed under warranty.

Heating first. Shortly after picking up our Volt from its last trip to the dealer in September, a round-trip of 140 miles, we noted that the car’s pre-conditioning system — activated only by remote control in Europe due to an absence of OnStar — would not always let the car heat itself in the morning. In fact, on occasion, activating the pre-condition system seemed to cause the car to trip out whichever charging point it was connected to, be it a dedicated J1772 charging station or a portable EVSE ‘brick.’ Most noticeable if there was significant moisture in the air, the pre-conditioning system has yet again been examined by Chevrolet for problems.

Our car's touch-screen display has failed to operate properly, locking us out of key infotainment functions.

Our car’s touch-screen display has failed to operate properly, locking us out of key infotainment functions.

When driving, the Volt also developed a disconnect between the cabin temperature when powered by electricity versus gasoline. In electric mode, the car failed to heat the cabin adequately, requiring the driver to either force the thermostat to the highest setting or turn on the gasoline engine.

Both problems appear to now have been traced to a faulty water pump, which Chevrolet has replaced under warranty.

Next comes the most bizarre problem, one which hasn’t affected the functioning of the vehicle but has affected it cosmetically. The charge port door — colored the same as the car itself, mysteriously vanished one day, leaving behind the plastic charge port door mechanism. We’re not sure if this was the result of someone trying to force the charge port door open or just a part falling off, but we note that the charge port door was replaced back in September under warranty after the car failed to charge correctly from any power source.

At the start of October, we also experienced for the first time a common problem for Volts: a crashed infotainment system. One morning, during a family school run, the car’s touch-screen display and infotainment buttons stopped responding to button presses. Beeping in acknowledgement of each press but refusing to do anything, even a shut-down of the car’s ignition did not turn the system off. Even after exiting the powered-down vehicle, the system remained operational and only reset itself on a chance opening of the rear hatch.

Our Staff car has just received a replacement water pump under warranty.

Our Staff car has just received a replacement water pump under warranty.

It was during this particular fault that we discovered something else that made us question the Volt’s build quality: rust on the interior subframe on which the dashboard is bolted to the car body.

On opening up the fuse-box cover on the right-hand side of the dash, we were faced with surface rust liberally spread along the interior dashboard frame. Inside rather than outside the car, we flagged this with Chevrolet service and were told that some surface rust is perfectly normal for an 18-month old car, especially since the interior frame itself is comprised of bare, untreated metal. On its latest service-call, the Volt’s rust has been treated and repaired.

Interior rust was an unexpected discovery.

Interior rust was an unexpected discovery.

Now we come to the most frustrating quirk our staff Volt has developed — and one which we’ve yet to get to the bottom of. The Volt, despite having a well-charged 12-volt battery and two fully-charged key fobs, started to ignore any remote control functionality for two weeks at the start of October.

The attacks — intermittent in nature — ranged from not being able to remotely turn on climate control or unlock the car to being unable to turn off the car alarm on entering the vehicle. Even the Volt’s ‘secret’ keyfob slot — reserved for use when the keyfob battery pack has died — failed on occasion to silence the alarm, and only a power cycle of the car itself would quieten the system.

On other occasions, the Volt’s alarm would suddenly activate, with no warning or just cause, usually early in the morning when no-one was near the car.

As mysteriously as this particular problem started however it has since gone away again, leaving both ourselves and Chevrolet’s service team a little stuck as to its cause.

Since this list of problems started to amass, the Transport Evolved editorial team has joked that our staff Chevrolet Volt must have been a “Friday car:” a car made at the end of a shift when staff and quality control might not have been up to par. But with our local dealer still 70 miles away — and still only three dealerships in the entire UK trained to work on the Volt despite many more approved to work on its identical European sibling, the Vauxhall Ampera — owning the Chevrolet Volt has become something of a chore rather than a pleasure.


Earlier this year, the Volt's remote climate control stopped working. It was repaired under warranty, but has since required further attention.

Earlier this year, the Volt’s remote climate control stopped working. It was repaired under warranty, but has since required further attention.

Every car has its problems, and we’re aware that every make and model of car will have one particular vehicle with more faults than others that reflects the brand badly. But with so many challenges to ownership, we’re falling out of love with the Chevrolet Volt a little too quickly. And with other, more capable range-extended electric cars on the market in the UK with better dealer support, we’re reaching the verdict that Volt ownership — like any car no-longer sold or well-supported — isn’t’ for the faint of heart.

Do you have a Chevrolet Volt? Have you suffered some of the same problems we have had with our staff car? Or has your car operated perfectly in every way? Do you think the problems experience by the Transport Evolved Chevy Volt are down to bad luck, unusual flaws, bad design or unfortunate service?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Parax

    My Ampera has had problems ranging from the standard coolant level issue (twice) to a burnt out charge port. Fortunately I’ve not had any of these issues aside from the shockingly poor infotainment system glitches…nMaybe you have some sort of radio interference (or someone deliberately blocking car remotes) in your area.

  • Joe

    I live in the Detroit metro area where most people drive a GM or Ford product. I have owned two of each over the years and have had mixed impressions of both brands, but nothing particularly positive. (My wife’s 2012 Ford Escape was especially terrible!) My 2005 Toyota Prius, however, went 180,500 miles before it needed any major work, and by major, I mean only a water pump and a rear window heating element repair. I want to drive electric, so I’ve been toying with “upgrading” from the old Prius to a Volt so I’ll fit in better with my pro-American brand peers, but I just can’t bring myself to do it after seeing so many descriptions of problems like Nikki’s. Of course Tesla is also American, so perhaps the Prius will hold on for another two or three years! 🙂

  • bobbleheadguru

    I am on my second Chevy Volt (traded in a 2012 for a 2014). Both have been excellent. No major issues after almost 50,000 miles of combined mileage.nnnI believe the “Would buy again” ratings from Consumer Reports, which to me is the best proxy for Satisfaction. Chevy Volt was the highest rated in 2011, 2012, 2013 for ANY car less than $55K, not just EVs, ANY car.

  • Haunted u2026 or Gremlins!n actual issues encountered, it is hard to tell if design/build issues unless sampling a larger selection of same model. The added complexity of a PHEV doesn’t neccessary mean increased issues over a vehicle’s life cycle.

  • Esl1999 .

    People will swear off certain car brands because of troublesome cars they’ve purchased. I am driving my last GM car until I hear that they are TRULY putting quality and reliability back into their vehicles. As a Californian, I’m hoping Tesla doesn’t screw this up as it could make the entire American car manufacturing industry look like they’re all thumbs when it comes to putting long-term reliability into vehicles.

  • Andrew

    We’ve covered 28,000 miles in our 2013 Volt with no other problems apart from a sticking charge door. We are delighted with it.

  • Duncan Booth

    I got my Volt in July 2012.nnIn February 2013 the battery failed and was replaced. Since then I’ve had an issue that any time I get to the end of the battery range it is very likely to go into Propulsion Power Reduced mode for a mile or so (most recent time that happened was on the A34 this evening): Chevrolet took the car away for two months a year ago to look into this but eventually declared that there was nothing wrong.nnI’ve also had a couple of the door handles replaced because the switches failed. The charge port door got quite sticky last winter but I never bothered to get them to do anything about it (except in very cold/wet weather it seems ok, I’ll see how it goes this winter). Also the rubber strip on the frame of the driver’s door needs replacing, but I’m trying not to visit the dealer in Grove too often in case they think I’ve taken up residence.nnI also have a problem with the touch display: sometimes (mostly when cold or wet I think) any attempt to use the touch screen just displays the clock set screen. The ‘buttons’ on the centre console that aren’t part of the screen still work so I can still do almost anything I need that way (except that essential feature of turning off the auto air recycle) but the only way to clear it is to leave the car switched off for a while.nnEdit: oh, nearly forgot, the 13amp EVSE also failed a few months after I got the car but Cambridge Chevrolet posted me a replacement the next day.

  • Tom Stacey

    I recently bought a 2013MY Ampera (same as the Volt essentially). I have the same issue with a rusty metal crossmember in the fuse compartment and a slight rattle from the top of the dashboard. I’ve applied some light oil to the rust to keep it at bay for now but will mention it, and the rattle at service time unless it continues to annoy too much.

    • N22TANGO

      Is your rattle possibly located on the right side of your dash? nnMy 2012 Volt was exceedingly quite and my 2015 Volt has this annoying noise that is unique and as I sit behind the steering wheel, I can tell that this noise (more of a “thud” than a rattle) seems to come from about the 1 to 2 o:clock position and I’m thinking I might have a noisy strut, or an object is chattering from the dash.