2009 Saturn Outlook RECALLS

We have a 2009 Saturn Outlook with an HFV6 engine, which currently has 180K miles on it. Recently the car suddenly failed, showing the following messages:
“Service Stabilitrak”
“Service Traction Control”
“Service Brake System”
“Stabilitrack Off”
“Traction Control Off”
“Engine Power Reduced”
The car is not drivable due to the engine losing power, gradually slowing it to a stop.

We received a diagnosis and estimate from the dealership service center who indicated that the timing chain needed to be replaced, which will cost almost $3,000.
Upon looking up the diagnosis online, we found that in February 2010 there was a “Customer Satisfaction Program” (quasi-recall) to reprogram the Engine Control Module (ECM), so there would not be premature wear to the timing chain.

No letters were sent to us regarding this issue, but we had taken it to the dealership a number of times in 2011 and 2012 for other recalls.
If it really is the timing chain, the dealership should have addressed this issue due to the "quasi-recall” (they did the work for other issues with the same “quasi-recall” status even though we were in for totally different reasons), but for some reason they never did reprogram the ECM. Instead, they ended up “marking it complete/closed” in October 2012, four months before the program was scheduled to terminate (oddly, they “completed/closed” the file for our car when our car wasn’t even in the shop).

Our questions:
Would the ECM really cause the timing chain to fail prematurely? The “quasi-recall” suggests the timing chain wears prematurely if the ECM is not reprogrammed. If so, would $3000 be a reasonable cost?
Do you think the symptoms and problems we have experienced are a result of a failed ECM, which should have been reprogrammed back in 2011 under the “quasi-recall”? The numerous warnings received from the car cause us to wonder if the timing chain is really the issue.

(Note to self: other issues at Liability of sludge in engine)

All of those warnings came from the stability control/ABS computer and were sent to the driver’s info center. NONE of them have anything to do with the timing chain or the ECU that controls the engine. They do communicate with the engine computer and have told it really bed stuff has happened and to reduce engine power so you don’t hurt yourself. I’d guess the stability control/ABS computer has failed. Most of those warnings can happen with a failed wheel speed sensor and you may have one or more with this many miles. It may also be a failed ABS modulator. A scan should tell the mechanic where to look. Why didn’t the dealer mention anything about this? Or is THAT the ECM, not the engine ECM, being replaced?

I’m not saying your timing chain does not need replacing, I can’t check it over the internet. But at 180K, the chain and the chain guides could easily need replacing. I can’t see how the ECM would have much affect on chain wear.

Given this many miles, why would you expect GM to cover the cost?

1 Like

I too question the timing chain as being the cause of the Stabilitrak and brake system warnings. Does the engine start and run?

Also, how do you know that the ECM has not been done?

The ECM update did address timing chain failure. Specifically, the lower timing gear on early 3.6 engines was wearing prematurely due to weak metal composition of the gear combined with lack of proper lubrication from extended oil change intervals. The ECM update changed the algorithm for the Oil Life Monitor to call for more frequent oil changes.

However, at 180,000 miles your car and engine are far beyond any warranty. The timing chains could just as easily been worn out by this time whether any update were performed or not. It’s not unusual for to replace a chain set at this mileage.

I’d need to see a detailed estimate to see if the price is reasonable.


Good post @asemaster Now I know how and ECM can affect timing chain life, interesting.

It would seem reasonable to just flash a new interval to the ECU to fix that but maybe it’s hard coded in the firmware and this ECM can’t be updated.

Do you have a sunroof?
Is there water on the driver’s floor?

This comment is worth emphasizing. While in this case the too-long oil change interval was specified by the manufacturer, and the 180K is considered high mileage, lack of maintaining fresh oil or allowing the level to run low can and does contribute to timing chain wear, and expensive problem to have to get fixed. It’s a good point to keep in mind for future reference.

Engine ECM…

That is why we’re asking… it doesn’t seem like timing chain would be the issue, yet they claim the diagnostic codes point towards timing chain.

If it IS the timing chain, we are now outside the apparently extended warranty (extended because of the recall).

If GM should have reprogrammed the ECM to (“prevent premature timing chain wear”) and didn’t (they had the car multiple times in 2011 and 2012 and their system showed the reprogram being an OPEN service ticket, but never mentioned this to us nor did they do the work), then they should do *something to help us." With so many miles, we expect repairs from time to time…but not repairs due to recalls never reworked by the dealer although they had the car repeatedly.

However the warning messages seem a bit strange for timing chain repair.

Thank you for your comments!!

According to them, it can be reprogrammed.
It’s not a one-time programmable module.

Yes, we have a moonroof
No water on the floor though

Engine starts and runs.
We just won’t drive it because if the timing chains are an issue and they break… ugh!

The ECM was not reprogrammed. There was no ticket pulled for it. It remained open for our car until it was arbitrarily closed by the dealership in October 2013, although our car wasn’t in the shop. They don’t know who or why it was closed (essentially deemed “complete”).

The car wasn’t there when it was supposedly completed. We never signed off on the work. They don’t have any service ticket for it either. They have said the work wasn’t ever done and have questioned why it was closed.

Our frustration and question is that if they never did the work, but signed off on it as though it was completed, did the non-repair contribute to the timing chain wear?

Perhaps we should check duration between oil changes…

Thank you for replying.

perhaps you could list the oil change intervals for your car? ie, actual mileage/dates?

If it was work that was supposed to be done and wasn’t, then the dealer, if not GM, is still on the hook for the repair and any associated damage. Like the timing chain, for instance. You might have to deal with GM directly to get this straightened out. You should get the repairs IMO and who pays for it isn’t your concern. GM can determine whether they do or the dealer does. If th dealer can produce paper that shows you signed a document waiving the ECM repair, then you are stuck. If they can’t, and I doubt they can based on your description, then you should get the late repair due to their negligence.

1 Like

You may wish to read this thread.

There’s different kind of bulletins issued for vehicles, recalls, customer interest, and technical service bulletins (TSB’s) are the three most common. TSB’s are information resources to make it easier for shops to diagnose & fix hard to diagnose problems that other owners have had, but the owner still has to pay for the work. Recalls are usually done gratis as long as they are done in time. Customer interest, how those are handled by the manufacturer varies bulletin to bulletin. So how much culpability the dealership has – if any – depends on the wording of that particular bulletin. Suggest to secure a copy, then you’ll know. I think the dealership will be happy to provide you a copy. If not, most inde shops purchase access to that information.

edit: oh, most of those dash displays are there b/c the computer has probably put the engine in “limp mode”, b/c it thinks there’s some kind of mechanical problem so it uses limp mode to minimize further damage. When limp mode is turned on, those other modes are automatically turned off, but they usually don’t have much to do w/the reason limp mode is turned on. In other words when the problem causing the limp mode is fixed, those other messages will automatically go away by themselves.

The ECM calibration update campaign wasn’t available until April, 2012, it wasn’t possible for the dealer to perform this in 2011 or early 2012.

The campaign expired Oct. 31, 2012 but the update could have been performed after that date upon request. When it expired the manufacture closes the campaign records, it is unlikely the dealer sorted though VIN numbers looking for incomplete campaigns to close.

Campaign 10287C;

What You Should Do: The sooner your vehicle receives this new calibration, the more effective it will be, and so we recommend that you contact your GM dealer as soon as possible to schedule an appointment for this repair. Failure to complete this repair by October 31, 2012, may affect your eligibility for future repair coverage for the timing chain.

Where did you get your information from? The bulletin I read said the following:
“The CIDR will be available February 11, 2011, for the
Cadillac vehicles…”


In any case, it doesn’t matter because the car was at the dealership in August 2012.

How did you find the info that closed it on October 31, 2012? The dealership didn’t even know when it expired and the letter I read said Feb. 2013.
I assumed perhaps someone errantly closed ours, perhaps a similar VIN number or something… if you have a link to a letter, I’d love to see it.

Thank you!

This is a link to the customer letter for campaign 10287C;


Edit, I found the GM internal document online with the expiration date of Feb. 28, 2013 but it appears that was superceded by 10287C and the dates have changed more than once;

_ This bulletin has been revised to include later built 2009 model year vehicles. The bulletin expiration date for these additional vehicles is October 31, 2012. Since this program is being extended, the expiration date for the original population will also be extended from May 31, 2012 to October 31, 2012. Please discard all copies of bulletin 10287B, issued February 2011._

Well, apparently the dealership we went to has had shady dealings in the past and a judgment from the state (back in 2002) because of dishonest dealings with consumers.

Having been given the “run around” by the dealership about this issue and noting the work was never completed when it should have been (on the occasions we took it in when the recall was still “open”) the attorney general has stepped in on our behalf. The dealership called today and it appears they will be doing some work on our vehicle for “cost of parts.”

(My original information came from here: http://www.acadiaforum.net/index.php?topic=10632.0 )

Glad to hear that calling in the big guns will result in some action, on your behalf


Thank you everyone, :slight_smile: