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Cadillac Timing Chain Problems

My 2009 Cadillac
My 2009 Cadillac SRX

Here and in the comments section we’ll talk about timing chain problems on the Cadillac SRX. We’ll also discuss special policy letters sent to GM customers and criteria required to gain assistance.

I’ve written about first generation Cadillac SRX problems on several occasions here on the auto repair information blog. Although I haven’t had any engine problems with my particular crossover it’s getting hard to ignore the issues others are having with identical cars.

The people that are screaming the loudest are the ones having timing chain problems. Vehicles with a 3.6 L engine have a complicated set up when it comes to the variable valve timing and four overhead camshafts that are all chain driven by the crankshaft. If you pulled the timing cover off a 3.6 L engine I think you would be either impressed or sickened by the complexity.

2004 Cadillac Timing chain problem
2004 Cadillac Timing chain problem

For me whenever I see one of these timing chain setups, I think to myself, there must be a simpler way of doing this. The second thought is, if you are going to employ a system with multiple chains and four separate camshafts the chain you use better be of the highest quality possible. Titanium comes to mind.

Below are a couple of videos providing an inside look at exactly what this article is talking about. In fact at the time of this writing there is a very skilled mechanic named Nugget that put together 30 minutes of videos, divided into three sections, walking you through the Cadillac timing chain replacement procedure on a 3.6 L. He’s done the repair several times and has learned a few tricks that can help remove some of the pain from the procedure. This is the best way to learn about the timing chain issue without getting dirty.

General Motors knows about This Problem

3.6L VVT engine picture
3.6L VVT engine picture

I probably should’ve done more research when looking for a car to purchase. When I bought my 09 SRX there were plenty of people screaming about the 04’s with multiple cases of timing chain failure. Some of these people have replaced the chain only to have it fail again. It seems like the worst part about this problem is the dealer might be installing the same chain or at least one that isn’t any better than the one that failed. In most cases when General Motors comes out with a recall or special policy, improved parts are installed to stop repeat failures.

A few months after I bought the 2009 Cadillac SRX, I received a recall notice. The campaign number was 10287. The letter said they would and I quote “to ensure that your vehicle will not experience this condition your Cadillac dealer will change the calibration of the engine control module including the engine oil life monitor which in most cases will recommend more frequent oil changes”.

In my opinion, they’re trying to say the problems are caused from dirty engine oil. They moved up the service interval so the oil would stasy cleaner. I wrote a story about just this 2009 Cadillac SRX recall you can read later. When I took the car into the dealer I wouldn’t say I had the best experience overall. They tried to sell me a lot of stuff I didn’t need or want.

Timing Chain Special Policy

This brings me to a letter I received a couple of months ago and again I quote “recently you took your vehicle to the dealer to have customer satisfaction program 10287 performed. Your dealer reprogrammed the engine control module to prevent premature wear of the timing chain and the illumination of the service engine soon light. Further analysis has shown the reprogramming may not fully correct this condition for all vehicles.

We therefore are providing you with additional protection for the timing chain on your 2009 model year Cadillac SRX vehicle equipped with a V-6 engine. The coverage will be extended to 10 years of the day your vehicle was originally placed in service or 120,000 miles whichever occurs first. This condition will be repaired for you at no charge.”

Cadillac Timing Chain Symptoms

2009 SRX Crossover
2009 SRX Crossover

It’s not often that Cadillac will send you a letter and say, hey we’re going to extend the warranty. At this point I decided to start checking into the issue and talking to other mechanics about it. A rattling sound especially on cold start-up is one of the early warning signs slack is developing.

If it rattles a little on start up and goes away quickly this might not mean there is a problem yet. The dealership can provide an opinion on this. If you hear this rattling sound all the time or on heavy acceleration I suggest that this problem is becoming worse. Another sign it has developed slack is a check engine light. There are several different codes that might set in the computer if your chains developed slack.

As an example, I will use code number P0008. This is a camshafts position error code. Meaning that the camshafts are not aligned exactly the way they should be. All of these camshafts are connected to each other by the chain in question. If enough slack develops this will allow the cams to wander up and back in their positioning.

GM V6 Timing Chain Set
GM V6 Timing Chain Set

The only way to solve a rattling condition or a check engine light problem like this is to replace the chains. There’s other things that can go wrong in this system and I have seen mechanics talking about cam actuators with chipped teeth and worn gears. This is on top of the stretched chain. In the end the timing cover will have to be removed and the system inspected for damage and wear.

In closing it’s nice to see General Motors and Cadillac stepping up with the additional coverage on the problem vehicles. Unfortunately, assistance starts at the dealership level. This leaves interpretation of the problem up to them. They will not perform the operation unless there is proof positive the timing chain is bad. This means a set trouble code or disassembling the front of the engine for verification.

In talking with a few Cadillac mechanics it is unclear whether they’re replacing parts and components with improved parts. It would be a travesty if they were pouring all of this money into customer satisfaction and still using poor quality parts. The preceding article is just my opinion as a master technician and owner of a Cadillac SRX with a 3.6 L VVT engine. You can find customers discussing this issue on the Cadillac customer Forum. If you would like to read additional articles here this next link will take you back to the auto repair information blog home page.