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LAST UPDATED:  March 5, 2021

Chevrolet Volt Reliability

The fire risk was disproven.

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PUBLISHED ON March 5, 2021

A see-through Chevrolet Volt graphic.
Chevy

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Before Chevrolet launched the Bolt, General Motors’ first mass-production fully electric vehicle, it had the Volt, a plug-in hybrid hatchback built to compete against cars the likes of the Toyota Prius. It managed two generations within the span of a decade before it was discontinued following the 2019 model year, as GM pushed more resources into battery-electric vehicles. 

The first model year of the Chevrolet Volt is celebrating its 10th birthday in 2021, which means there are now plenty of used Volts with hybrid systems and battery packs that have gone through the paces. 

The thought of used cars with these complicated inner workings might be intimidating, but allow us to remind you: all cars are complicated. Hybrid cars are not necessarily inherently more or less reliable than cars with internal combustion engines, but it is even more important to understand your vehicle and take care of its needs. Battery packs, electric motors, and hybrid electronics can be serviced, they just require significant knowledge on the topic and careful attention to detail.

Our point is, do not exclude or discount the Volt just because you think hybrids are scary. The Volt, with its solid electric-only range and utility-minded hatchback, will likely go down as an extremely important, if not significantly underrated car. Learn more about the Volt and its history of reliability below.

What Makes a Reliable Brand? (H2)

Reliability depends on a host of variables, but the two biggest structural supports are the development and manufacturing of a vehicle. When auto manufacturers spend the time and money developing a car and its manufacturing line, a car tends to last longer. Hastily designed, poorly manufactured, and cheaply constructed materials will all reduce a car’s longevity and reliability.

There’s also a work ethic variable that cannot be ignored. Honda and Toyota’s cultures of reliability-over-all embody that ethic and have thus kept each’s legendary reliability in the minds of consumers for decades. Lexus spent 15 years creating the perfect paint, for goodness’ sake. Add longer-than-normal warranties and good customer service, and it’s easy to see why these Japanese companies have enjoyed their strong standings for so long.

Yet, once a car leaves the dealership lot, outside factors impact a car’s durability.

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What Impacts a Car’s Reliability? (H2)

Short answer: you. The longer answer is that a car’s reliability and longevity are inextricably tied to how you take care of your vehicle, your maintenance schedule (if you have one), your conservative or brash driving habits, and whether or not you live in climates where extreme weather could affect the car’s construction.

Preemptive maintenance like regular oil changes, fluid flushes, tire rotation, and fuel system cleaners, along with keeping the exterior and underside of your car clean, will all increase the life expectancy of your car. Keeping it out of the harsh desert or tropical sun, as well as away from the rust-inducing salted roadways of winter, will also extend its life.

And lastly, keeping the Mario Andretti driving antics to a minimum will keep your brakes, engine, tires, and chassis under-stressed and happy for far longer compared to hitting every trip to the grocery store like it’s the Indy 500. 

A Chevrolet Volt charging at the beach in California.
Chevy

The first-gen Volt featured blockier styling.

Chevrolet Volt Specs

Vehicle Type: Hatchback
Doors: 4
Hybrid system: 1.4-1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, 1-2 electric motors
Battery-electric-only range: 35-53 miles, depending on year
Total hybrid range: 380-420

Is the Chevrolet Volt Reliable?

Reliability is generally something that depends on the person, the car, and the situation, so we cannot make a definitive statement that the Volt is reliable or unreliable. However, we have assembled several data points from numerous sources to present you with as much information as possible. Let’s start with common problems, as told by comments listed in the Volt’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) archives.

Common Chevrolet Volt Problems and Repair Costs (H2)

As with other car brands, not all of Chevrolet’s models are built to the same exacting standards. Here’s a quick rundown of problematic Volt offerings, including the issues, customer complaints, and repair costs that will help you make the best decision when purchasing your next car.

Electrical Issues

Average Estimated Repair Costs: $1,300, according to CarComplaints.com

Customer Complaints

“I returned home from vacation. My car had been sitting in the garage. When I started it up and put in reverse the backup camera was black, the back up lights failed to come on. I checked online and several other people had experienced the same thing that was caused by a short in the driver's side visor that is on the same fuse as the back up camera and lights. I took if to the dealer, when they replaced the fuse, it blew immediately. They ran diagnostics then replaced the visor. The diagnostics cost over $350, the new visor $80. The car had 38000 miles on it. This is a known defect in this vehicle and because of the design of the car, the back up camera is critical to driving safely. this should be a recall item.” - 2015 model

“Instrument cluster, which displays speed, odometer and fuel lever among other safety information, started to glitch towards that end of a trip of about two hours. at first the screen would flicker but would eventually reboot and the information was available shortly after. Next morning the screen would turn on slowly at first, but then it went out again and never started again ever since.” - 2011 model

“The driver's info screen (speed, odometer, remaining fuel, warning lights, turn signals, safety messages, etc.) went blank while IO was driving. It intermittently comes back on, but goes blank again.” - 2012 model

A blue Chevrolet Volt on the street.
Chevrolet

The second-gen Chevrolet Volt had European styling.

Lost Power Steering

Average Estimated Repair Costs: $3,300, according to CarComplaints.com

Customer Complaint:

“The contact owns a 2013 chevrolet volt. The contact stated that while driving 55 mph, the power steering assist malfunctioned sporadically without warning. The contact mentioned that the steering wheel would become stiff for several seconds and before returning to normal function. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. the vehicle was not repaired. the vin was not available. The failure and current mileage was 18,000.” - 2013 model

“My volt steering wheel sticks in the center position after driving in straight line. It then requires some force to "break out". After this breakout it operates normally. this is concerning while driving on the highway. It is also a known issue and gm issued bulletin 14232a to address it. However my despite my vehicle suffering the same problem as the campaign, my vin was not included in the campaign. Please update the campaign vins to include my vin so gm will repair it.” - 2014 model

“Sticking steering. Temporary locking feeling steering while driving freeway speeds as well.” - 2014 model

Transmission Failure

Average Estimated Repair Costs: $7,700, according to CarComplaints.com

Customer Complaint:

“When parking the car there's a chance for the error "shift to park" to occur when trying to turn off the car. This is due to a defective switch that wears out within the shifter assembly. The error starts to become more and more common as time go on. It is too easy to accidentally leave the car "on" when shifting the car to park and stepping out of the car and using the push to stop. The only known workaround is to flick the shifter button until the car registers that the car is now shifted to park. This is a recurring and well known issue in the chevy volt community. it's predicted that all 2016+ chevy volts will eventually develop this issue due to the defective design of this switch. i have another volt in the family that's already had the shifter replaced because of this same issue.” - 2016 model

“After putting the shift lever in park, then powering the vehicle off the dashboard would advise to shift the vehicle in park. Could not lock vehicle, lights would remain on. This could be worked around by pressing the shifter knob a few times to clear the message.

“Brought vehicle in for regular service, was advised there was a short in the wiring harness related to the shifter knob. harness was replaced, issue has not repeated. It has been noted online that this is a common issue with generation 2 volts, I wanted to add my vehicle to the list of those affected.” - 2016 model

“Vehicle will not turn off on a regular basis.. receive a message that reads: action required. shift to park. When this occurs, the vehicle can not be turned off or locked. Researched this problem on the internet and discovered that it is a very common problem that affects nearly all 2016, 2017 and 2018 chevrolet volts. A recall should be implemented!” - 2018 model

“Had shift to park appear and car would not shut off. if you play with it it might shut off but will not allow it to restart. gm is aware of this and has put multiple tsb's out to fix it and now they have a new one. It affects all gen 2 volts and other models. It can strand you if it happens. This should be a recall no one wants to be stranded in the dark anywhere.” - 2019 model

Transmission Whine

A GM technical service bulletin stated, “Some customers may comment on a whistle, scrape or

whine type noise while driving that may be more noticeable during regenerative braking. Technicians may find this noise emanating from the left side of the drive unit (transmission). The tech may also state that the vehicle has a current or history code P0A46.”

Average Estimated Repair Costs: $1,200, according to CarComplaints.com

Customer Complaint

“End of september 2019, the vehicle had limited brake power (check engine light on and traction control disabled). When braking, the car makes very loud (system noise) and skids while braking. After nearly crashing the car couple of times in the highway (due to very poor braking), car was turned into chevy dgdg and problem was confirmed. Car was returned back second week of October and initial issues went away.

“First week of december 2019 -- more brake problems / risk to drivers.

“Brake issue had returned (limited brake power; skids while braking, makes loud beeping noise, check engine light on/traction control off). I bought it back to the same dealership, after nearly rear ending few cars due to the malfunction of the brake. Issue was confirmed and was in the shop for over 70days+. Car was returned after replacing the brake system.” - 2019 model

“After diagnosing an audible tick/click sound that occurs whether the car is powered on or off but stops momentarily when the brake pedal is applied, I was told the electric brake booster is bad and must be replaced. But gm has no parts available. I was told to drive the car and if the part fails completely, I will have no brakes at all. It has been over 3 weeks and there is no eta on parts.” - 2017 model

Chevrolet Volt Fire Investigation by the NHTSA

In the Volt’s early years, it was scrutinized after a vehicle that had been crashed, transported, tested, and dormant for days, caught fire. This was investigated by the NHTSA and it was determined that the circumstances that occurred and caused the fire were specific to the testing process and would not occur in real-life situations. A clip of the statement is below: 

Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed its safety defect investigation into the potential risk of fire in Chevy Volts that have been involved in a serious crash. Opened on November 25, the agency’s investigation has concluded that no discernible defect trend exists and that the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts.

NHTSA remains unaware of any real-world crashes that have resulted in a battery-related fire involving the Chevy Volt or any other electric vehicle. NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles show great promise as a safe and fuel-efficient option for American drivers. However, as the reports released in conjunction with the closure of the investigation today indicate, fires following NHTSA crash tests of the vehicle and its battery components — and the innovative nature of this emerging technology — led the agency to take the unusual step of opening a safety defect investigation in the absence of data from real-world incidents.

Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles.

Read the full report on NHTSA.

Chevrolet Volt Enhancements Announced in 2012

After the NHTSA closed its investigation, Chevy still had to do damage control, despite coming out clean. In 2012, Chevrolet announced it was adding extra protection to the Volt to “further protect the battery from the possibility of an electrical fire occurring days or weeks after a severe crash.” 

Modifications include: 

  • “Strengthen an existing portion of the Volt’s vehicle safety structure to further protect the battery pack in a severe side collision.”
  • “Add a sensor in the reservoir of the battery coolant system to monitor coolant levels.”
  • “Add a tamper-resistant bracket to the top of the battery coolant reservoir to help prevent potential coolant overfill.”

They are shown in the video below: 

Chevrolet Volt Warranty Information

The Chevy Volt has a lithium-ion battery warranty that lasts eight years or 100,000 miles.

Ol’ Sparkie

A person named Erik Belmer once drove a Chevrolet Volt named Ol’ Sparkie until it died at 476,820 miles. Shoutout Ol’ Sparkie.

The Chevrolet Volt’s NHTSA History

As collected by the NHTSA, these are the Volt’s issues throughout the years.

2019

Recall 1: Rear Seat Belt Retractor Might Not Lock

Recall 2: Insufficient Coating on Rear Brake Caliper Pistons

Complaints: 4

2018

Recall 1: Rear Seat Belt Retractor Might Not Lock

Recall 2: Insufficient Coating on Rear Brake Caliper Pistons

Complaints: 38

2017

Recalls: None

Complaints: 203

A Chevrolet Volt's plug.
Chevrolet

The Chevrolet Volt needs to be regularly recharged.

2016

Recall 1: Improper Air Bag Inflation

Complaints: 52

2015

Recall 1: Steering Gear Not Tightened To Specification

Complaints: 28

2014

Recalls: None

Complaints: 64

2013

Recall 1: Loss of Propulsion Power in Low Voltage Condition

Recall 2: On, But Unattended, Vehicle May Cause Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Investigation 1: Passenger Sensing System Malfunction (open)

Complaints: 219

2012

Recall 1: On, but unattended, Vehicle May Cause Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Recall 2: Brakes May Lock Up

Investigation 1: Passenger Sensing System Malfunction (open)

Investigation 2: Post-Crash EV Fire Hazard (resolved, disproven)

Complaints: 192

2011

Recalls 1: On, But Unattended, Vehicle May Cause Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Investigation 1: Post-Crash EV Fire Hazard (resolved, disproven)

Complaints: 38

A Chevy Volt's interior front cabin.
Chevrolet

The Chevrolet Volt's updated second-gen interior.

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

According to JD Power, this score, “Measures the level of defects, malfunctions and design flaws experienced by vehicle owners. Covers the entire vehicle from engine to infotainment system. A higher rating means fewer problems.” 

2019: 77/100

2018: 69/100

2017: 72/100

2016 (new generation): 78/100

2015: 81/100

2014: 80/100

2013: 82/100

2012: 84/100

2011: 89/100

EXTENDED WARRANTY COVERAGE MORE … FOR LESS

Endurance

Save $350 on an Endurance warranty plan with coupon code: DRIVE350

Going with a factory extended warranty is a good option for basic protection, but you can get more and save more with Endurance, ranked the top extended warranty provider by Consumer Advocates, Consumer Affairs, and Retirement Living.

Get a Free Quote

Save $350 with coupon code: DRIVE350

EXTENDED WARRANTY COVERAGE MORE … FOR LESS

CarShield

CarShield — USA’s #1 Auto Protection Provider

CarShield pays claims directly to a US or Canadian ASE-Certified® repair facility of your choice. Our contracts have low or no deductibles to prevent stress to your wallet at a critical time. Never worry about being stranded somewhere after a breakdown. All of our vehicle repair contracts include towing services to transport you and your vehicle to a safe repair facility.

Get a Free Quote

EXTENDED WARRANTY COVERAGE MORE … FOR LESS

Carchex

Nationwide coverage for cars new and old

CARCHEX has something for everyone. Have an old car? No problem. Live in California? Not an issue. CARCHEX 's plethora of warranty plans includes options for cars up to twenty years old with up to 250,000 miles, regardless of any existing or expired warranties. Click below or call 1-877-207-3304 for a free quote.

Get a Free Quote

FAQs About Chevrolet Volt Reliability

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!

Q. Is It Worth Buying a Chevy Volt?

A. That depends entirely on what you want in a vehicle. If you want a versatile hatchback with good gas mileage and a plug-in hybrid powertrain, then the Volt is for you.

Q. Why Did Chevy Kill the Volt?

A. To focus on fully electric vehicles like the Bolt hatchback and the all-new Bolt EUV.

Q. Are Chevy Volts Still Made?

A. No, Chevrolet no longer produces the Chevrolet Volt.

Q. How Much Does It Cost To Replace a Volt Battery?

A. According to Bozi Tatarevic on Autoblog, the retail cost is more than $10,000, but refurbished or junkyard packs can be sourced for roughly $1,000-4,000, before labor.

Video (H2)

Watch the video below to better understand how the Volt works.