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Are there new problems with GM V-8 engine lifters lurking?

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General Motors V-8 engines are no stranger to lifter problems. Owners of GM V-8 engines with Active Fuel Management (AFM) have dealt with stuck and collapsed lifters for years. But it seems a new round of lifter woes are hitting GM truck engines with relatively low mileage.

The GM lifter problems affect both the 2019-2021 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups as well as their GMT T1XX platform SUV siblings, the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade.

“On the older trucks, you would see issues around the 50-100k range, whereas a lot of the new trucks’ failures are in the 4-digit mileage range,” said a dealership technician who wishes to remain anonymous. “We are seeing about one every other week, and just last week had three towed in on one day.”

What is a lifter?

For those who aren’t technical, let’s back up a moment and talk about what a lifter does. In its simplest terms, it helps open the valves in the engine. Each valve in an engine has a separate lifter, and in vehicles with active fuel management (AFM) or dynamic fuel management (DFM), which deactivate cylinders when they aren’t in use, lifters will collapse when the cylinder is deactivated so the camshaft won’t open the valve.

Understanding this, it’s not difficult to see how a problem could occur. And if you want more detailed information on a what a lifter is and does, this J.D. Power article is a great resource.

Signs of GM lifter problems

The GM lifter problems seem to be most prevalent in the L84 5.3-V-8 and L87 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V-8 engines with build dates between September 2020 and March 2021. These engines are the newer variable displacement design, which uses DFM rather than the older AFM system. The vehicles seem to be failing with less than 10,000 miles on the odometer.
Drivers report that the issue can manifest simply as a check engine light, be as dramatic as engine shuddering/rough running, or as sudden as complete engine shutdown. Unfortunately, once the “Check Engine Light” comes on, the damage has likely already been done. The engine may make a ticking or knocking noise, which may or may not vary with engine RPM.

What went wrong?

Signs so far point to a batch of bad lifters used during engine assembly.

“They shear the locking pin inside and then they either don’t lock in a fixed position or they come out in two pieces,” our anonymous dealership technician said.

If the lifter gets stuck in the wrong position, a bent pushrod can be the result.

GM’s fix

GM is advising technicians to diagnose the misfire condition first. Identifying any engine trouble codes that may be set (typically P050D, P0300, P0301, P0302, P0303, P0304, P0305, P0306, P0307, or P0308) first. Once an affected cylinder is identified, the technician can disassemble the necessary portion of the engine for confirmation.

Once a collapsed lifter or bent pushrod has been identified, the current fix is to replace only the affected cylinder head bank components. Damaged lifters are to be replaced across the entire cylinder bank, while undamaged pushrods are reused. Frustratingly, some owners report having one cylinder bank of lifters replaced, only to have the other cylinder bank fail soon after.
Parts availability has been an issue though.

“Lifters have been backordered, as well as head gaskets, and the dealers that have the parts are reluctant to sell them off to other dealers,” the anonymous dealership technician said.

Parts scarcity has been a common theme in the automotive world for the past few months due to pandemic-related supply chain issues. Dealerships are in a tough spot deciding how much stock they need to keep on hand to service their own customers versus selling parts wholesale to other dealerships.

We called one local GM dealership which did not have any lifters in stock, while a different nearby GM dealer had hundreds on hand.

The bottom line on GM lifter problems

Current owners of affected vehicles have no choice but to wait and see if they will fall victim to faulty lifters problem. Unfortunately, the GM lifter problems are currently being handled on an “as-needed” basis, so owners will have to wait and see if problems manifest on their own vehicle.

So, far GM has not issued any national recalls. Luckily, it seems that the lifters problem does have a fix that is working.

“When we can get the parts, it’s a relatively quick repair and it’s a one-and-done fix,” the anonymous dealership technician said. “I have not seen any of the new trucks having the lifters replaced and then coming back 6,000 miles with lifter failure again.”

In cruising through many online forums, I found some owners are choosing to deactivate DFM with aftermarket computer tunes and physical parts replacements. Those who choose this route should research carefully, however, as such changes may void their vehicle’s warranty. And deactivating the system may not ensure stopping a failure, as only time will tell.

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Brian Medford

With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.

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7 Comments

  1. DAY December 27, 2021

    The Custom silverado model has problems with the back up camera and the dealers won’t acknowledge the problem. It gets stuck in a Fisheye mode making it almost worthless. I’m done with Chevrolet.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous January 1, 2022

      My ram did this to I took it apart and clean connections inside tailgate problem fixed

      Reply
  2. Bill January 1, 2022

    I just had my 2021 Silverado come out of the dealer service department for this issue. I have a truck that was built 11/20 and upon my purchase I knew this problem existed. With that being said I bought a DFM disabler and still did not help my lifter failure at 4400 miles,
    My truck was dropped off on Monday had it back on Friday with no issues no scratches no dents and In the same condition it was when I gave it to them. Let’s just hope I get another 60k of trouble free miles before I trade up as I usually do.

    Reply
    1. Ken January 3, 2022

      Do you know of any owners being successful at getting both banks of lifters replaced even if the failure so far was found only on one side? My 2021 Yukon XL is in the shop now with the lifter problem, but the service team says they can only replace the one side. I have 11,000 miles on it, so it is past the 8000 mile cut off where they could have replaced both banks of lifters (according to what I read here). But I was wondering if there is a way I could push to have both banks replaced.

      Also, does anyone know about how much it would cost for me to pay for the other bank of lifters to be replaced if I wanted to do that? If the dealer is not allowed to do it yet under warranty, I am curious what it might cost if I offered to pay for it so they can do it at the same time they replace the faulty bank. Thanks

      Reply
      1. Brandon January 9, 2022

        They have to pull apart the top of engine and remove the intake manifold. Have them quote you parts and labor while the head is exposed for the other bank. Lifter bank, gaskets + labor for tear down and assembly of that one side. Without the other teardown labor.

        Reply
  3. curtis guyer January 5, 2022

    Brian, I think you may find lifter problems for other vehicles also if you research -I’m looking for an older set for a small block chevy I’m putting together- some guys are sayin you have a 50/50 chance of the new lifters (coming from China?) failing for the sbc-its either the metal they’re using or their QC sucks -And I’m finding more and more I have to modify a NEW part to make it work on a repair -not being able to find quality parts is getting real old

    Reply
  4. Anonymous January 9, 2022

    Good read on poor Chevrolet design. Great research.

    Reply

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