A solid ride with near luxury-sedan noise levels at speed, good relative fuel mileage, and a smooth, powerful, and highly refined powertrain.
Running new engines, new drivetrain technologies, an all-new platform, and a great new look, this generation of GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado hit the road in 2013 with a mandated intent of raising the bar in the pickup truck segment. When launched, they were all-new from hood to hitch, and touted as the most-refined and well-engineered GM pickups yet. GM has announced a new generation of Silverado and Sierra for model year 2019, meaning the third-generation models are set to transition fully into used vehicle territory.
A multitude of trim grades, options packages, powertrains, and special editions were offered through the years, and numerous cabin and box combinations added plenty of selection. From a basic work truck to a posh towing rig, the Silverado and Sierra had shoppers covered with selection to spare.
Features included the MyLink connectivity system, OnStar, Navigation, premium audio, climate-controlled seats, wireless smartphone charging, a full driver computer, a household power outlet, automatic lights and wipers, remote start, and loads more.
Later in this generation, the GM pickups also began offering advanced safety equipment, like intelligent high-beams, lane-keep assist, and more.
Powerplant displacements are familiar, though all engines from this generation are new, and built under the high-efficiency EcoTec3 moniker. A 4.3-litre V6, the popular 5.3-litre V8, or the mighty 6.2-litre V8 were all on offer. All engines featured lightweight construction, variable valve timing (VVT) and direct injection (DI) for optimized performance and fuel efficiency. Cylinder deactivation technology, which turns off selected cylinders to save fuel in certain situations, was also fitted to each engine.
Silverado offered a 5,443 kilogram (12,000-pound) maximum available trailer weight rating based on SAE J2807 Recommended Practices, though towing capacity will depend on the specific model and equipment in question.
Look for six- or eight-speed automatic transmissions, depending on the year and model.
What Owners Like
Most owners report a solid ride with near luxury-sedan noise levels at speed, good relative fuel mileage, and a smooth, powerful, and highly refined powertrain. Heaps of storage, handy charging points and loads of flexibility are also appreciated. Finally, as most pickup owners do, Silverado and Sierra owners from this generation report feeling secure, safe, and well backed-up for any sort of driving that comes their way.
What Owners Dislike
Common complaints include a busy and jouncy ride on rougher surfaces in some models, typical pickup-truck parking difficulty for novice owners, and weak performance from the high-beams on certain models.
The Test Drive
First, assume that the model you’re considering is overdue for all fluid changes (including the transmission and differential), needs new set of tires and brakes, a new set of spark plugs, all filters, and a tune-up, until you see service records proving otherwise. Maintenance is key in reducing potential problems as pickup trucks age, and buying a used pickup with a sketchy or unknown maintenance history is a bad idea.
If you find a smoking deal on a used GM pickup with no service history, budget to give it some TLC, using the maintenance suggestions above as a guideline. Note that stretching or skipping service intervals and maintenance schedules can compromise any remaining warranty.
Pro tip: If the seller is unable to provide all service records, the dealer or shop who serviced the vehicle should be able to pull up all service records upon request.
Check the unit you’re considering for proper 4x4 system operation (if equipped), by engaging all 4x4 drive modes as outlined in the owner’s manual. Ensure that each mode can be engaged and disengaged without any unwelcome sounds, delays, or warning / error messages. Switch between the various 4x4 modes several times on your test drive, and don’t take the seller’s word that the system works properly, as this can be a costly mistake if they’re trying to pass off an upcoming repair.
An on-the-hoist inspection of the undercarriage of the unit you’re considering, by a trained technician, should be considered mandatory. In quick order and on the cheap, this can reveal numerous problems that may have nasty plans for your wallet, including corrosion, damage, leaks, worn components, and more. The cost of this inspection is trivial, even more so if it reveals $1,400 in repair work in the vehicle’s immediate future.
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A diagnostic scan is also an excellent idea, whether or not a Check Engine light is illuminated. In seconds, this scan can reveal one or more of hundreds of possible problems with the Silverado or Sierra’s engine and driveline. An OBD scan is your number-one secret weapon against buying a used pickup with potentially hidden electronic or sensor-related problems within its driveline.
Next, move to the advanced feature content – running the central touchscreen interface, navigation, Bluetooth, motorized memory seats, and OnStar system through their paces. If any of the vehicle’s advanced electronic features aren’t working properly, you’re best to know about it before you buy. Put simply, try everything in the truck that runs on electricity, several times, to confirm proper operation.
Plan to test drive the Silverado or Sierra you’re considering on various surfaces, and at various speeds, and be on the lookout for unwanted vibrations, pulsations, or shimmying from the vehicle. Here’s a nearly 800-page-long discussion in a popular owner’s forum where many owners express frustration with a hard-to-track-down vibration that may be felt through the floor, the steering, or the vehicle front- or rear-end. Owners have had varying degrees of success in having dealers fix the problem with rebalanced tires, replacement driveshafts and differentials, and more.
Here’s another vibration-related discussion, outlining a possible wiggle or wobble experienced as the vehicle is slowing to a stop, perhaps detectable around 40 km/h. It’s unclear if the two vibration issues above are related, though it’s noted that the vibrations could be caused by a combination of one or more problems.
In the second case of mystery vibrations, owners advise determining whether the vibration only happens while the vehicle is in Drive. If the vibration consistently fails to appear while the vehicle is in neutral, the issue could be within the transmission and may be remedied with performance of a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) or software update. On the topic of transmissions, ensuring the fluid has been changed on time, every time, can go a long way to preventing issues including unwanted vibrations.
Some owners report vibration problems, and some don’t. If you detect any on your test drive, the dealer is the best place to have them analyzed. Depending on the cause, required repairs may be covered by warranty. Note that vibrations like those mentioned above may also be caused by failure of past owners to properly maintain the vehicle’s suspension, front-end, and transmission, and that these typically aren’t warranty-applicable.
Here’s a thread outlining even more useful information, as well as information on how GM dealers may work to address and solve the issue, if present.
Here’s some information on a widespread power-steering-related recall that used Silverado and Sierra shoppers should be aware of. Because of a potential risk of malfunction in the power steering, GM recalled hundreds of thousands of 2014 models to apply a fix. As this recall work is free and intended to prevent an accident, shoppers are advised to be 200 percent certain that it’s been completed, if the unit they’re considering qualifies for it.
Once you’ve set up your preferred seating position, be sure to wiggle vigorously in the seat, and then be on the lookout for any movement of the seat as you drive. Some owners have reported seats that feel loose, or that may “wiggle” when the vehicle steers or brakes. As this is a safety concern, a recall was eventually issued to correct it, with dealers making adjustments to the seat assembly to quell the problem. Note that, like the power-steering recall, this one also affects only earlier models.
A few other notes. First, the most common complaint of earlier copies of these trucks seems to be the performance of the headlight system, and especially during rain. Many owners have upgraded the lighting system with HID bulbs or additional auxiliary lighting. If you drive frequently at night, be sure to budget for a lighting system upgrade if you’re after an earlier Silverado or Sierra from this generation.
Second, inspect all chrome and painted surfaces for rust. Note that small dot-like rust freckles, if detected, may not be corrosion from the vehicle, but rather environmental corrosion like steel dust that lands on it and corrodes. This is more likely if the vehicle was, say, frequently parked at a jobsite. If the rust dots can be picked off with your fingernail and reveal a clean surface beneath, it’s likely that their total removal is possible with the proper cleaning product.
Third, as all of the Silverado and Sierra models from this generation run a direct-injected (DI) engine, shoppers are advised to confirm that spark plugs have been changed not a moment later than specified in the owner’s manual, and to confirm that the vehicle has only been fuelled with Top Tier gasoline, which is available in multiple octane levels at major fuel retailers. Running quality gas and keeping the spark plugs fresh can help fend off the harmful accumulation of valve gunk possible in this type of engine. Oil changes, further, should be performed at (or preferably well before) the oil life warning system requests it, using only factory prescribed engine oil type and weight.
And, a final note: when deciding on which used GM pickup to purchase from this generation, be aware of the wheel and tire size. Some models offered factory wheels at 20-inches diameter or higher. These look great, but replacement tires (or winter tires) will be very pricey.
Here’s a massive list of recalls for shoppers to be aware of. Work with your local dealer to see which, if any, the model you’re considering qualifies for, noting that the bulk of the recalls apply to 2014 and 2015 models.
Note that the information above is largely sourced from the “problems” section of a well-attended online forum of GM pickup owners. This forum is dedicated to complaints, and for every member posting a problem, there may be a dozen more who don’t post, because they don’t experience one. Some Silverado and Sierra owners have issues with their trucks, and some do not. Still, given the research, we’d advise shoppers to shop a 2016 or newer unit where possible – as these get an upgraded lighting system (addressing a common complaint), and are subject to fewer recalls.