Some early (2002) trucks with the six-cylinder engine had faulty cylinder sleeves. At best, affected engines will tick or knock until fully warmed up; at worst, the problem causes severe internal engine damage.

Watch out for a bad radiator fan clutch. This is the device that allows the fan to freewheel when it’s not needed, thereby reducing drag on the engine and saving fuel. The problem when the clutches is that the bearings appear to be prone to failure. You’ll see many mentions of fan clutches in the “OEM Issues” section at TrailVoy.com.

Used Vehicle Review: GMC Envoy, 2002 2009 used car reviews gmc
Used Vehicle Review: GMC Envoy, 2002 2009 used car reviews gmc
2003 GMC Envoy XL (top); 2006 Saab 9-7X (bottom). Click image to enlarge

A technical service bulletin (TSB) was issued in the U.S. to address “poor A/C cooling efficiency” in low-speed driving or while the engine is idling at a stop, especially in very hot weather. Discussion in the TrailVoy.com forums is divided; many members feel this is a common occurrence in many automotive air conditioning systems, while others think the Trailblazer/Envoy and relatives are particularly bad in this regard.

Consumer Reports also notes complaints of interior squeaks and rattles, and problems with electrical accessories in these trucks.

Check out the lengthy list of recalls affecting these trucks. Note that the majority apply to just about all variants of this platform.

Crash safety in early models was questionable, at least according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). They gave the Trailblazer/Envoy/Rainier/Bravada “marginal” ratings in both frontal offset and side impact tests (the latter of which was conducted on a truck with the optional side airbags installed).

Changes to the trucks’ structure, seat belts and front airbags helped improve frontal offset results to “acceptable” for 2005 and newer models.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had a somewhat different opinion of this SUV’s crash safety performance. That organization gave the trucks a middling rating of three stars apiece for driver and front passenger protection in frontal impact tests, but handed out stellar five-star ratings for front and rear seat occupant protection in side impact testing.

Used Vehicle Review: GMC Envoy, 2002 2009 used car reviews gmc
2003 GMC Envoy XL. Click image to enlarge

Pricing is a complicated matter simply because there are so many models to talk about. As a baseline, Canadian Black Book values for the Trailblazer range from $10,125 for a 2002 LS 4WD model to $32,000 for a loaded 2009 LT 4WD model. The Envoy, being a more upscale model, will be more expensive than a comparable Trailblazer.

The Buick Rainier is worth anywhere from $12,900 for a 2004 to $24,175 for a loaded 2007. Olds Bravada values range from $8,700 for a 2002 to $11,800 for a loaded 2004, while the Saab 9-7X carries values of $16,350 for a 2005 base Linear model, to $38,325 for a 2009 Aero version.

Mechanically-speaking, the Toyota 4Runner and Nissan Pathfinder are the closest import competitors to the GM trucks, while the Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee are domestic alternatives.

None of the GM SUVs domestic competitors have done much better in terms of long-term reliability, so if that’s your primary criteria, I’d look at a Toyota 4Runner first, followed by the Nissan Pathfinder. Be advised that to find either of these trucks for the same price as a comparable Trailblazer/Envoy/etcetera, you’ll have to shop for an older model, particular in the 4Runner’s case.

Still, on paper, the GM trucks certainly look like great candidates for towing duty, particularly with the optional V8. Shop carefully, and have any truck you like checked over by a trusted mechanic before buying.

Pricing

Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) December 2009:

Year
Model
Price today
Price new
2009
Trailblazer LT 4×4
$28,800
$39,795
2008
Trailblazer LT 4×4
$25,400
$39,695
2007
Trailblazer LT 4×4
$21,600
$41,150
2006
Trailblazer LT 4×4
$18,695
$42,820
2005
Trailblazer LT 4×4
$16,575
$43,990
2004
Trailblazer LT 4×4
$14,950
$42,830
2003
Trailblazer LS 4×4
$13,925
$41,975
2002
Trailblazer LS 4×4
$11,825
$41,185

Online resources
  • Go to TrailVoy.com first. This is a great resource, and while it only claims to cater to owners of Chevrolet and GMC models, mechanical similarities mean that much of the information here applies to the other variants. The Technical discussion sections here are where the real meat is to be found. There’s a 9-7X section at SaabCentral.com; it’s not as busy as TrailVoy.com, but this site will cover issues specific to the 9-7X, which was offered with certain features not found in the domestic-branded variants.

    Recalls

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004045; Units affected: 28,986

    2002-2003: On certain vehicles, water may seep into the windshield wiper module. If this were to happen, it could result in windshield wipers that will not turn on, cease operation while driving, fail to turn off, turn on by themselves, and/or continuous windshield washer pump operation. Improper operation of the windshield wiper system in a severe weather situation could reduce the driver’s visibility, resulting in a possible vehicle crash without prior warning. Correction: Dealer will install a Gore-Tex patch over the windshield wiper module vent-hole. The wiper motor, circuit board, and electrical connector will be inspected for signs of water intrusion and/or corrosion and replaced as required.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001226; Units affected: 64

    2002: Certain 4WD vehicles were built with a range shift collar in the transmission transfer case that contains cracks. This condition could result in a complete fracture of the range shift collar and subsequent loss of vehicle forward and reverse gears, and the inability to maintain “park” position. This increases the risk of a vehicle crash resulting from unintended movement of a parked vehicle. Correction: Dealers will replace the transfer cases and update the control module calibration.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001252; Units affected: 1,068

    2002: Certain sport utility vehicles Trailblazer and GMC Envoy (4 wheel-drive). The calibration of the automatic transfer case control module or a range shift collar that was not machined properly may cause insufficient high speed gear engagement. If the gear is not engaged, the vehicle can roll when the transmission is in “Park” and a crash could result without warning. Correction: Dealers are to perform a “clean neutral” test, as described in the bulletin and if the ratcheting noise is detected during the test, the dealers are to replace the transfer case.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001253; Units affected: 4,631

    2002: Certain (4 wheel-drive) Trailblazer and GMC Envoy vehicles. The calibration of the active transfer case control module may cause insufficient high speed gear engagement. If the gear is not engaged, the vehicle can roll when the transmission is in “Park” and a crash could result without warning. Correction: dealers are to reprogram the active transfer case control module (ATCM) calibration to increase gear engagement.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2002070; Units affected: 5,462

    2002: Certain vehicles may have a fuel filter fitting which becomes disconnected. This could result in a fire or engine stalling. Correction: Dealers will replace the fuel filter quick-connect retainers.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2002151; Units affected: 14,654

    2002-2003: Certain vehicles may have a driver’s side airbag inflator that could fracture at a weld during a deployment. Pieces of the inflator could strike and injure vehicle occupants and the airbag cushion would not inflate fully, reducing the capacity of the bag to protect the driver. Correction: Dealers are to inspect and if necessary replace the driver side airbag module assembly.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004390; Units affected: 38,598

    2002-2004: On certain vehicles, vibration and heat may cause the tail lamp/stop lamp bulb to loosen in its socket. If this occurs, the bulb may flicker and eventually become inoperative. The loss of one or both of the tail lamps/stop lamps could reduce the vehicle’s visibility to following drivers and fail to warn others that the vehicle is braking and/or is stopped, which could lead to a vehicle crash. Correction: Dealers will inspect the tail lamp/stop lamp assemblies and, if necessary, replace them.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004158; Units affected: 10,976

    2002: Certain vehicles fail to conform to CMVSS 209, seat belt assemblies. These vehicles have a condition where one or two sensors in the driver’s and front seat passenger’s seat belt retractors may be inoperative. The seat belt retractors will lock when the belt webbing is extracted during a crash; however the mechanism that locks the seat belt retractor when the vehicle decelerates quickly, such as during heavy braking, may not restrain the occupant as intended during a crash, and could result in injury to the occupant. Correction: Dealers will inspect the seat belt assemblies to determine proper vehicle sensor function, and replace them if necessary.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003048; Units affected: 24,685

    2002-2003: Certain vehicles fail to conform to CMVSS 114 – Theft Protection. These vehicles are equipped with a mechanical override that could allow the ignition key to be removed with the shift lever in a position other than Park. In addition, these vehicles have an override that can allow the transmission to be shifted out of Park with the ignition in the ‘off’ position. These overrides are not permitted unless the vehicle has a locking steering column and the overrides have covers that can only be removed with a screwdriver or other tool. Correction: Dealers are to eliminate these conditions by disabling the overrides.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001098; Units affected: 1,016

    2002: On certain vehicles, either front lower control arm brackets may fracture, which could result in separation of the front lower control arm from the frame. This could result in loss of vehicle control, and a crash without prior warning. Correction: Dealers will replace the left and right front lower control arm brackets.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003037; Units affected: 28

    2003: On certain vehicles, the driver’s side air bag may not deploy as designed, resulting in reduced capability of the air bag to protect the driver. In addition, the air bag inflator may fracture. If this were to occur, pieces of the inflator could strike and injure the vehicle occupants. Correction: Dealer will inspect, and if necessary, install a new driver’s air bag.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003098; Units affected: 2,015

    2003: On certain vehicles, the left front brake pipe may have a circumferential score at a random location along the length of the pipe as a result of an incomplete cutting/processing operation. If the brake pipe at the scoring location corroded to the point that the brake pipe wall became very thin, and application of the brake developed enough pressure to partially or fully fracture the brake pipe, brake pedal travel would immediately increase and front brake performance would be reduced. Correction: Dealer will replace the left front brake pipe.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003172; Units affected: 54,634

    2003: Certain vehicles do not comply with CMVSS 225 and 210.2. The Owner’s Manual does not include the location symbols for the Lower Universal Anchorage System for Restraint Systems and Booster Cushions and an explanation of the meaning of the symbols. Correction: Owner’s will receive an Owner’s Manual supplement.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005131; Units affected: 9,289

    2003-2004: On certain vehicles, the directional/hazard signals may not operate as designed. Actuation of the turn signal or hazard lights will cause them to illuminate and remain illuminated (not flash as intended). Drivers may not be able to clearly signal their intentions to turn, change travel lanes or potentially warn others of an impaired vehicle operating condition. Correction: Dealers will replace the turn signal/hazard flasher module.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005031; Units affected: 499

    2005: Certain vehicles do not comply with the requirements of CMVSS 212 – Windshield Mounting. The windshield urethane bead may not have adhered to the body in certain areas during the cure process. As a result, the windshield may not be retained during a vehicle crash. Correction: Dealers will replace the windshield.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005296; Units affected: 6,487

    2006: Certain vehicles may have been built with a power steering hose that is not to specification. Under extreme steering manoeuvres, such as turning the steering wheel fully to the left or right while braking, the hose may fracture and leak fluid. If this were to occur, power steering assist would be lost and increased steering effort would be required. On vehicles equipped with hydro-boost power brakes, it could also result in loss of power brake assist and increase braking effort would be required. If power steering fluid were to spray onto hot engine parts, an engine compartment fire could occur. Correction: Dealers will inspect the power steering hose(s) for two suspect date codes and replace them if required.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005328; Units affected: 5,238

    2002-2003: Certain vehicles located in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador have a rear side door latch that may not latch or not unlatch due to corrosion caused by road splash, such as water and road salt. If the door is not latched properly and goes unnoticed, it could open while the vehicle is in motion. Correction: Dealers will install a seal along the lower part of the rocker panel to prevent intrusion of corrosive material, and inspect the door latch. Functional latches will be cleaned and lubricated. Non-functioning latches will be replaced.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004045; Units affected: 28,986

    2002-2003: On certain vehicles, water may seep into the windshield wiper module. If this were to happen, it could result in windshield wipers that will not turn on, cease operation while driving, fail to turn off, turn on by themselves, and/or continuous windshield washer pump operation. Improper operation of the windshield wiper system in a severe weather situation could reduce the driver’s visibility, resulting in a possible vehicle crash without prior warning. Correction: Dealer will install a Gore-Tex patch over the windshield wiper module vent-hole. The wiper motor, circuit board, and electrical connector will be inspected for signs of water intrusion and/or corrosion and replaced as required.

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

    Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

    For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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