December 27

2013 Chevy Volt, No Oil Pressure

Chevrolet, Podcast


Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, Producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and Video Series, and we're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Vancouver's Best Automotive Experience. 19-time winners, of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. How are you this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: We're going into the land of electricity today a little bit, dipping our toe in. We're talking about a 2013 Chevrolet Volt. What was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: This vehicle was brought to our shop, driven in. The electric motor works fine, but what would happen with this vehicle, as soon as the gas motor would run, within a few seconds the low oil pressure warning light would come on, and the engine itself definitely sounded noisy. Basically, there was no oil pressure in the gasoline engine.

Mark: Okay, that's not a good sign. What tests and diagnosis did you need to do?

Bernie: Well, this one was pretty simple. The owner had changed his own oil and filter and had mentioned, by the way, there was no oil. He said, "There's no oil in the filter." Which we pulled off and verified that was, in fact, the case.

Normally, when there's an oil pressure problem, we would often do a test and verify with a gauge, but it's very apparent when you start an engine, the little oil warning light comes on. You can hear the timing chain rattling that there is, in fact, no oil pressure in the engine. From there, it was just time to do exploratory ...I was gonna say surgery. Exploratory dismantling and find out what had actually happened. We suspected probably the oil pump had come apart for some reason, but that's where we figured, so we started by removing the oil pan.

Mark: You did some disassembly. What did you find?

Bernie: The first thing we started with was removing the oil pan. It was the simplest and first logical step, and once we removed the oil pan, the oil pickup assembly is actually integrated with the oil pan. It's kind of a smart idea. Usually, it's a separate metal tube. Inside the pickup, there's a little screen to protect large particles from getting into the oil pump, and sitting on top of that screen, is kind of a V-shaped screen, was a piece of what looked like an impeller blade from the oil pump.

So, we figured, "Hey, it's got to be the pump that's come apart." So, from there, we removed the timing chain cover and discovered that the oil pump was, in fact, I'd say blown to bits would be a good word. But, kind of broken to pieces. So, why don't we just have a look at a picture of that right now?

2013 Chevy Volt, No Oil Pressure

So here's our oil pump. This is the timing chain cover over here. And the crank shaft goes right through here, and the oil pump sits here and there's a little ... It's a bit elongated, or sort of a couple of flat spots in the circular area that rub against, that attach to the crank shaft and that drives the oil pump.

You can see that the red arrow here points to a very large crack, but you can see this whole rotor here is completely broken apart in several sections. One, two, three, four. These are the little impeller blades. As I mentioned, one of these was found inside the screen. Once we removed all this, we found the other ... how many more are we missing? Two more, lodged in behind the pump.

Pretty important to find that stuff. You don't want that floating around inside the engine and ... So, anyways, we found all the missing bits and pieces. Now, this is an interesting oil pump. It's a variable displacement pump. Pretty common in a lot of modern engines.

You know, with any gasoline engine, they're looking for maximum efficiency. Excuse me. And one way to get that, is to vary the displacement of the oil pump. The oil pump draws energy to pump the oil through the engine, so if ... and it's doesn't always need the maximum amount of flow and volume, so by varying the displacement of the oil pump, you can save fuel and still provide the proper amount of lubrication. So, that's what this big spring here is part of, and this whole section here will rotate and vary the displacement of the oil pump so it'll pump lesser or more volume depending on what position this is in. And this is common to a lot of, I say, a lot of modern car engines.

Mark: So, this is a very involved job. How does the fact that this ... Does it affect anything, that this is an electric vehicle, as well?

Bernie: Well, it does to a certain degree. I mean, the gasoline motor's separate on the passenger side of the vehicle, but there are some common shared components with the electrical system, the electric drive system, such as the air conditioner. And so, these components need to be de-energized before we disconnect wires. It adds a little bit of extra work to the job. You don't wanna have your hands anywhere ... The voltages are very high, and potentially deadly.

So, you have to de-energize a few components, but other than that, it's pretty much like any other gasoline engine Chevy vehicle would be.

Mark: Was there any other damage from those parts floating around, from the oil pump failure?

Bernie: Well, no damage from the parts floating around, but of course, one serious issue is when you have no oil pressure in an engine, it can damage it pretty quickly. The owner said he never ran it for more than a minute, once the light came on, and of course, changed his oil and started it and found it wasn't working.

We ourselves ran it a couple of times for a few seconds, which is not a lot of time. As part of our service, we removed one of the connecting rod bearing caps, inspected the bearing; looked perfect, as good as brand new. So, that's sort of one of the highest wear items in the engine, the connecting rod bearings, due to the forces and there's nothing that we found. So, figure it'll be ... We haven't actually put the vehicle back together yet. It's actually ... It's waiting for parts. It takes about a week to get the oil pump, which is part of the timing chain cover, and once that's back together, I'm quite confident it'll all work just fine.

Mark: So, how are Chevy Volts for reliability?

Bernie: Well, to be honest, we haven't ... we don't work on a lot of them. There's not a lot of them around. We're more than happy to do so, but the ... you know, as far as I know, the reliability is pretty good with them. I did a little online research just to see if there's any complaints. There's a few for a variety of things, and they seem to say this, 2017 models might be among the worst.

But, of course, these'll all be covered under warranty 'cause they're near new. But I'd say, you know, I do know a couple people who own them, they've been pretty reliable vehicles, so again, there's a lot of complexity with this vehicle because you've got electric plus a gasoline motor, and it's interesting how, again, the failure with this vehicle is on the gasoline motor side of things.

Mark: And this is ... the gas motor charges the battery, which drives the electric motor, is that ...That's how this, if I remember right, that's how this vehicle works?

Bernie: It does exactly. It's a plug-in hybrid, so you ... Not a plug-in hybrid. It's a plug-in electric vehicle. So, you plug it in, and then it has the gasoline motor as a backup. Which is actually an excellent combination, when you consider, you know, you can really take this vehicle anywhere you wanna go and never worry about running out of either electricity or gas.

I don't think the range is fantastic compared to, well, certainly nothing compared to a Tesla. But it's got good enough range to ... for most daily commutes, and you might never, almost never run the gasoline engine. But if you do, decide to go out of town and you want to keep driving, you can just keep putting gas in it. And it's a pretty efficient gasoline engine, so ... But, yes, that's exactly what happens. The gasoline engine charges the batteries.

Mark: All right! So, there you go. If you're looking for service for your Chevy Volt, Bolt, whatever they happen to be making next, 'cause the Volt is now discontinued in 2019, as are all sedans in North America by Chevy, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. You can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You must book ahead, they're busy! Or you can check out their website, We have hundreds of videos on YouTube, Pawlik Auto Repair, on all makes and models of cars, all kinds of repairs. And of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast. Thanks, Bernie!

Bernie: Thanks, Mark! Thanks for watching and thanks for listening. We really appreciate it.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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