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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Go back to COMG-The Cruze Owner's Maintenance Guide


Cabin odors in the Cruze have been the hardest to solve and longest running problems with our cars. Thanks in a large part to commutertg, (Banks Chevrolet, Concord, NH) and BigSkyMontana (City Motor Company, Great Falls, Montana), we have a series of solutions.

1) Coolant odor in the engine bay and outside the car. This odor may be pulled into the cabin through the cabin air intakes. There are a lot of possible sources for these odors ranging from leaky water pumps and hoses to a bad seal between the surge tank and surge cap to too much coolant in the system. If you have this issue, you will smell coolant odors in the engine bay and outside the car any time the engine has warmed to operating temperatures. If the engine cowl isn’t properly sealed, you may also smell coolant inside the car, regardless of heater setting.

a) PI-0762: Coolant Leak at Water Pump – (Jul 11, 2012) addresses leaks at the engine water pump and the mounting bolts. Update: http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-service-issues/20897-pi0762d-coolant-leak-water-pump-aug-1-2013-a.html

b) PI-0740 addresses most other sources of coolant odors in the engine bay, but it doesn’t provide a real solution unless it gets your service department to find and replace a leak in the engine bay. Part of this PI is to put a hose on the coolant surge tank that “reroutes” coolant vapors from the top to the bottom the engine. This reroute has yet to help anyone and although it doesn’t appear to compromise the integrity of the coolant system, it’s ugly and useless.

BigSkyMontana discovered that the engine cowling that is designed to block engine odors from reaching the cabin air intakes can be very difficult to completely seal. He used a light source to help his service department identify and seal leaks in this cowl.

CruzeCowlSealing_zps361ec4de.jpg

One part that no PI addresses in the engine bay is the coolant surge tank itself and its interface with the 20 PSI pressure cap. If the pressure cap doesn’t properly seal to the surge tank, you will get coolant odors anytime the engine heats up because the system pressure cannot be maintained and the coolant will boil at a lower temperature with the vapors leaking out through this faulty seal. Replacing the cap and/or the surge tank is the solution for this problem. In addition, dealerships apparently have no way to test this seal – they can test the cap by itself and pressure test the coolant system with the cap off, but are unable to test the integrity of the cap/tank seal integrity. You need to do a close visual and touch inspection of the surge tank’s upper lip and a visual inspection of the O-ring in the cap to determine if you have a problem at this interface. For more information on fixing this situation, see Blue Angel's http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-service-issues/110049-fix-coolant-odors-coolant-loss-reservoir.html thread.

capinfosm_zps3bd9fac6.jpg tankdefectsm_zps91d54d14.jpg

Finally, do NOT fill your coolant above the top of the arrow on the side of the surge tank. The top of the arrow is the “cold full” line for the engine coolant. Overfilling your coolant system is a guaranteed method for having major coolant odors in the engine bay and outside your car. Likewise and despite some members reporting the need to "under-fill" their coolant surge tanks to lower the pressure in the tank, I and the rest of the CruzeTalk Staff and Gearheads do not recommend doing this either because this will also lower the boiling point of the coolant mixture, with unknown impact on your engine's longevity.

NA Cruze Coolant Surge Tank Cold Full Line.jpg

2) "Coolant” odor inside the cabin, but not outside the car. There are two known sources for this problem.

a) The first is a leaky cabin heater core and appears to be predominately a 2011 model year problem. Replacing the cabin heater core and the floor mats and sound insulation will fix this problem. You must replace the floor mats and sound insulation to insure you don’t have left over odors after the repair is completed.

b) The second and more pervasive issue is the glycol based lubricant on the HVAC duct gearing and air redirection shutters. This issue occurs anytime you run the heater and may or may not occur through all the vent options. Because this lubricant and the DexCool engine anti-freeze are both glycol based the two odors are very, very similar, which is why many people smelling this odor think the problem is with anti-freeze fumes coming from the engine bay into the cabin. The key to identifying the HVAC box as the source is that you do NOT smell coolant odors outside the car.

PI-0935: Odor from HVAC system with Temperature Control Set on High Heat is the corrective action for HVAC sourced “coolant” odor. This is a 4.7 hour major surgery on your Cruze, so it correctly directs your dealership’s service department to PI-0740 to try do eliminate engine bay based odors and their ability to enter the cabin via the cabin air intake.

3) Other odors ranging from dirty socks to other earthy smells inside the car indicate the presence of mold and/or mildew in the HVAC system. This smell can appear anytime you run the blowers or even during forced air induction into the cabin while moving. It does NOT depend on engine temperature or cabin temperature settings. I am including this issue because it can mask and confuse the odors from the first two problems, making them that much harder to identify and resolve.

The resolution for this is to clean out the HVAC system using the GM mold/mildew kit, ensure the HVAC condensation drain is clear and draining, and turn on the HVAC after-blow to dry the system after you use it.

When correcting cabin odors, replace your cabin air filter at the same time. It will catch and hold glycol, mold, mildew, potentially causing a lingering smell that makes it appear the problem hasn't been corrected, only lessoned. Also, there will be some chemical smell after these fixes are done. This smell is distinct from any other smells and will dissipate over two weeks to a month.

Additional threads, in no particular order, about these issues (I have "unstuck" and closed these threads):
http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-service-issues/7736-pi0762-coolant-leak-water-pump-jul-11-2012-a.html
http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-service-issues/11407-coolant-smell-resolution.html
http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-service-issues/12369-pi0935-odor-hvac-system-temperature-control-set-high-heat-engine.html
http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-service-issues/11235-antifreeze-smell-thread-v-2-a.html
http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-service-issues/5843-antifreeze-smell-thread.html

In addition to BigSkyMontana, commutertg and their dealerships, I’d also like to thank Blue Angel, robby and other CruzeTalk members for their efforts in both resolving these problems and in educating me on how the Cruze’s coolant system operates. I’d also like to thank my service advisor, Jeff and his boss Jeremy at Ed Bozarth Chevrolet Park Meadows, Lone Tree, Colorado for listening to the symptoms as I reported to them about the cabin smells in my ECO MT and getting them fixed without trying to second guess my observations. Having a service department that listens to the driver’s observations is critical to correctly identifying and fixing problems with any car.

All pictures are courtesy Blue Angel.
 

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Thank you for simplifying this process and compiling all the information into one thread. This is great information for others to easily access if they ever need the information or hopefully answering some, if not most of their questions.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Yesterday I talked to the tech who did the HVAC replacement for me. He told me that the new HVAC part came with new insulation for the firewall, heater core, and HVAC system. Apparently the old lubricant can rub off on multiple absorbent parts inside the dash.
 

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Yesterday I talked to the tech who did the HVAC replacement for me. He told me that the new HVAC part came with new insulation for the firewall, heater core, and HVAC system. Apparently the old lubricant can rub off on multiple absorbent parts inside the dash.
Yes, that was my understanding when my HVAC case assembly was R/R. I have a picture of the additional parts used for the procedure, I just didn't post them with my other pictures of the R/R process. Thanks for sharing this info.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I just closed all the referenced threads. This thread will remain open and heavily moderated. The same rules apply here as did in the Anti-Freeze v.2 thread.
 

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Ive been a long time reader, and a big fan of this site, but just signed up today as I am really struggling. Where do you turn when the dealership will not acknowledge that there is an issue with your cruze? All of the items above are great, but what about when they say there is nothing wrong with your car, and refuse to acknowledge the smell? My dealership and district rep have flat out told me there is nothing wrong with my car and they will not perform any additional service on it. So far they have replaced the water pump, thermostat, the thing where they stick the hose and 3m tape on the overflow tank. They refuse to even discuss the lubricant thing because they say they cant confirm the smell, which is absolutely unbearable when the heat is on. I drive two hours a day, and it is just overbearing. I'm not trying to break any forum rules or anything, this is a genuine question as I am at a loss.

2012 Chevy Cruze Eco
20k Miles
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Ive been a long time reader, and a big fan of this site, but just signed up today as I am really struggling. Where do you turn when the dealership will not acknowledge that there is an issue with your cruze? All of the items above are great, but what about when they say there is nothing wrong with your car, and refuse to acknowledge the smell? My dealership and district rep have flat out told me there is nothing wrong with my car and they will not perform any additional service on it. So far they have replaced the water pump, thermostat, the thing where they stick the hose and 3m tape on the overflow tank. They refuse to even discuss the lubricant thing because they say they cant confirm the smell, which is absolutely unbearable when the heat is on. I drive two hours a day, and it is just overbearing. I'm not trying to break any forum rules or anything, this is a genuine question as I am at a loss.

2012 Chevy Cruze Eco
20k Miles
Drive it around with the heater running full tilt until the odor is really noticeable, then have your service manager ride with you. That's what I did. One of the problems dealership service departments and techs have is they hear, see, and smell so many different things that they don't notice small abnormalities. Large abnormalities they will notice, especially if they are wheezing from the smell.
 

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Do the operators of this forum have a contact at GM to confirm that all fixes listed here, including using a different lubricant, have been implemented for the 2014 Cruze?
 

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My dealership and district rep have flat out told me there is nothing wrong with my car and they will not perform any additional service on it. They refuse to even discuss the lubricant thing because they say they cant confirm the smell, which is absolutely unbearable when the heat is on.
There are a few different avenues you can take to get some support. First, it is wise to open a case with Chevy Customer Assistance Center if you have not done so. You can either email them at Chevy.com under Contact Us or call them at 800-222-1020. My personal experience is when I have emailed them they have contacted me by both phone and email within 24 hours. Second, you may want to revisit your service manager and express your frustration and concerns. Configure your Cruze to duplicate the problem (as you know how) and invite your service manager to join you in your Cruze. After this, if you think you are still at a roadblock you may want to elevate your frustrations and concerns to the general manager at your dealership and invite your service manager to join you and the general manager. In the meantime Chevy Customer Assistance Center have probably already contacted your dealership to help process your request and get the status of what your dealership is doing to help you resolve this issue. There are Chevy service reps that monitor this forum. They will most likely see your post and ask you to contact them for further assistance. Lastly, if you are in an area where there is more then one dealership, you may want to think about visiting another dealership to help you. Hopefully, something will work out for you to resolve this issue ASAP.
 

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Do the operators of this forum have a contact at GM to confirm that all fixes listed here, including using a different lubricant, have been implemented for the 2014 Cruze?
To the best of my knowledge, some of the last 2013s have the new HVAC duct box with the new lubricant, so hopefully Lordstown has completed this change.
 

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There are a few different avenues you can take to get some support. First, it is wise to open a case with Chevy Customer Assistance Center if you have not done so. You can either email them at Chevy.com under Contact Us or call them at 800-222-1020. My personal experience is when I have emailed them they have contacted me by both phone and email within 24 hours. Second, you may want to revisit your service manager and express your frustration and concerns. Configure your Cruze to duplicate the problem (as you know how) and invite your service manager to join you in your Cruze. After this, if you think you are still at a roadblock you may want to elevate your frustrations and concerns to the general manager at your dealership and invite your service manager to join you and the general manager. In the meantime Chevy Customer Assistance Center have probably already contacted your dealership to help process your request and get the status of what your dealership is doing to help you resolve this issue. There are Chevy service reps that monitor this forum. They will most likely see your post and ask you to contact them for further assistance. Lastly, if you are in an area where there is more then one dealership, you may want to think about visiting another dealership to help you. Hopefully, something will work out for you to resolve this issue ASAP.
Yes BigSkyMontata is correct A12Cruze. You can also send us a private message with all the details and your VIN, full name and current mileage and we will assist you right here on the forum. I apologize for your frustration and the issue that you are experiencing. Please provide this information to my message box and I will assist you.

Jackie
Chevrolet Customer Care
 

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Hey guys, just wanted to note that we haven't heard of any new coolant/antifreeze/Glycol based lubricant smell issues lately, which is a good thing, but I'm guessing it's more to do with it being summer now and the heater isn't being used which usually seemed to escalate the problem.

With that said, I was wondering if any of the current 2013 Cruze owners here who either ordered their Cruze from the factory just prior to the beginning of the 2014 Cruzes being built or just those who have a late production 2013 Cruze are having any coolant smell issues? Also are any current 2014 Diesel and/or gas Cruze owners having any coolant smell issues?

Would anyone with a late 2013 Cruze or a 2014 Cruze be willing to go on a drive and run their heat (if it gets cool at night where you live) for a while and see if anything happens?
 

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Hey guys, just wanted to note that we haven't heard of any new coolant/antifreeze/Glycol based lubricant smell issues lately, which is a good thing, but I'm guessing it's more to do with it being summer now and the heater isn't being used which usually seemed to escalate the problem.

With that said, I was wondering if any of the current 2013 Cruze owners here who either ordered their Cruze from the factory just prior to the beginning of the 2014 Cruzes being built or just those who have a late production 2013 Cruze are having any coolant smell issues? Also are any current 2014 Diesel and/or gas Cruze owners having any coolant smell issues?

Would anyone with a late 2013 Cruze or a 2014 Cruze be willing to go on a drive and run their heat (if it gets cool at night where you live) for a while and see if anything happens?
Drive with heat on all the time in the AM and didn't have any "new" smells or feeling of discomfort. Windows are frosted up some mornings when I leave work so I end up fighting the heat vs cooler temp setting work best. Heat works well but as said before after you drive it a bit. This morning when I used it, I forgot I even turned the heat on till about 8 minutes down the road. The thing I do like with this car is you can roll the windows down and shed 85-90% if the frost/condensation.

Build date 5-13-13

Sent from AutoGuide.com Free App
 

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Coolant smelled has returned inside of cabin. Parked the Cruze in my garage for approximately two weeks while on vacation. Returned home and coolant smell still in cabin after being garaged for two weeks. My service manager gave me a bottle of dye to drop in. I will drive for a week or two with dye. Will have them check again for leaks. Checked carpet and surrounding areas around heater core. Appear to be dry. Not sure what's up this time since I've already had the HVAC box R/R'd and cowl areas sealed.
 

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Coolant smelled has returned inside of cabin. Parked the Cruze in my garage for approximately two weeks while on vacation. Returned home and coolant smell still in cabin after being garaged for two weeks. My service manager gave me a bottle of dye to drop in. I will drive for a week or two with dye. Will have them check again for leaks. Checked carpet and surrounding areas around heater core. Appear to be dry. Not sure what's up this time since I've already had the HVAC box R/R'd and cowl areas sealed.
Not good news! SMH! Hope you get it all figured out and fixed! Keep us posted.
 

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Bummer... does the garage smell like coolant or is it just inside the cabin?
Yes, the engine compartment has had a heavier coolant smell. I have been parking in the driveway after arriving home and not pulling in the garage because of the smell. After the engine cools down I pull it in later so the smell is not so heavy. I am also still losing coolant in the reservoir, but it is slow and drops about a mark a month. If I have a leak it is possibly small and maybe evaporating at this time. Hopefully the dye will reveal something next week.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I bet that's the source of your cabin smell as well. You definitely have a leak I the engine compartment. Sitting in your garage allowed the odor to seep into the cabin from the garage as a whole.
 
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