The first man I knew who had GMC truck with a 5.3L Vortec engine was a farmer in the Red River Valley of Minnesota. He loved it, and over the years modified it heavily. It got to be well known around the Breckenridge, MN and Wahpeton, ND area. After all, a farmer’s truck is more than just a work vehicle. It’s a statement!
I haven’t lived up north for quite some time, but not a day goes by that I drive without seeing a GMC Sierra or a Chevy Silverado with a 5.3L Vortec engine in it. The 5.3L has had strong results and thus GMC has used it in a lot more than just pickups. In 2008, for example, the 5.3L engine was used in the GMC Envoy, Buick Rainier, Chevy Avalanche, Chevy Tahoe, Saab 9-7X, Sierra, Silverado, Suburban, and Trailblazer.
In other words, the 5.3L is one of the most common engines on the road in America.
There have been no major recalls on the engine that we are aware of. Further, problems unique to the engine are rare. Sure, it has “problems” that other engines have that could be classified as maintenance issues.
I like to browse car forums to see what problems folks are having, and it seems like a lot of folks don’t keep their throttle bodies clean. I suggest you clean your throttle body at about 60,000 miles with approved cleaner to prevent throttle body sticking. This to rough idling and stalling out. This is an issue on almost any vehicle today though.
A recurring problem with many GM engines is the plastic intake manifolds. Plastic intake manifolds cause a problem because they don’t dissipate heat as well. This leads to a sort of drying effect on the intake manifold gasket, which can lead to the gasket not doing its job. Oil and water can mix when this gasket fails, reducing effectiveness of the cooling and lubrication of the engine. More commonly on the 5.3, you will see coolant leak outwards instead of mixing with the oil. Again, both are possible, but an outward leak (coolant loss) is more likely. Anytime I replace a GM engine, I always use an aftermarket gasket of higher quality than the OEM part.
So what do you do if your Vortec engine has failed?
Several weeks ago, an elderly gentleman from Louisiana called us asking for a price on a 5.3L engine for his 2005 Silverado. His local dealership charged him $2800 to pull his engine apart to diagnose the specific problem with his engine. This was bad business by the dealership, and cost them a customer for life (and his kids, grandchildren, and extended family, who had all bought from the dealership in the past). You see, they didn’t need to take that engine apart. They knew it was bad from the get go. Don’t let any shop rack up billable hours on you. If an engine is bad, competent shops can diagnose it in under 4 hours. Tops. There can be extenuating circumstances if an engine is having electronic problems (which aren’t really an engine problem per se), but a shop would have to be pretty convincing.
This dealership then proceeded to tell the man they would fix his engine for $7,200 – leaving his total bill right at around $10,000 + tax.
When I quote this man $1,400 on an almost new engine (we had a real deal at the time!) with under 4,000 miles, he sounded like he was ready to cry. You see, he knew that he could have just replaced the entire engine for less than he was charged for diagnosis.
So if your Vortec engine is having issues and you’re not a mechanic, go through this procedure:
- Find an HONEST mechanic who is accredited by the BBB, who has a fair hourly shop rate, and who has been in business for some time.
- Determine if your problem is the engine itself, peripheral to the engine, or an electronics problem.
- If you need an engine (and I hope you don’t), please call us at (800) 709-9233.
We can help you save money, time, and heartache.