GM 2.4 Ecotec Engine Problems

The 4 Most Common GM 2.4L Ecotec Engine Problems

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The GM 2.4L Ecotec engine made its debut in 2006 and remained in production through 2019. The engine offers a respectable 164-182 horsepower given its small NA design. It’s also an efficient engine that offers good fuel economy. However, no engine is perfect and there aren’t any exceptions here. In this article, we discuss a few common problems with the GM 2.4 Ecotec engines as well as overall reliability.

GM 2.4 Ecotec Engine Problems

4 Common 2.4 Ecotec Engine Problems

  • Timing chain
  • Oil consumption
  • Carbon build-up
  • Oil leaks

We’ll discuss these 2.4L Ecotec problems in-depth throughout this article. At the end, we’ll also wrap things up with overall thoughts on reliability.

If you would rather consume this content via a video, check out our GM 2.4L EcoTec Common Problems video below:

1) Timing Chain Failures

Timing chains are without question one of the most talked about problems with the GM 2.4 Ecotec engine. Keep in mind – the internet has a tendency to blow things out of proportion. That’s especially true when it comes to potentially costly issues. Timing chain failures are still a fairly common issue, though. It primarily affects earlier engines as GM eventually updated some parts. Chevrolet Equinox and Malibu models seem to be the most affected.

The main problem with 2.4L Ecotec timing chains are the tensioners and upper bolt. When the tensioner fails it allows the timing chain to develop slack. In turn, the timing chain can jump a few teeth. To make matters worse, the 2.4 Ecotec is an interference engine. This means there is an overlap in the travel of the valves and pistons.

When timing jumps it can cause the valves to actually contact the pistons. If this occurs it’s likely some valves will bend or break leading to costly repairs. It’s a good idea to check the GM 2.4L Ecotec timing chain for any marks/scuffing or slack. This will give you a good idea as to the health of the timing chain parts. Issues can occur sooner, but definitely keep an eye out above the 100,000-mile mark. Below is a quick video on the problem.

Timing Chain Symptoms

  • Engine fault codes
  • Rattling sounds
  • Misfires
  • Poor operation

Rattling sounds from the engine are usually one of the first symptoms. As the chain develops slack you’ll hear it rattling around at idle. If timing actually jumps some you’ll start to notice fault codes, misfires, and poor overall operation. In extreme cases where timing jumps too far off track you’ll notice even more symptoms. The 2.4L Ecotec valves and pistons could contact each other leading to further damage.

Timing Chain Replacement

Again, it’s a good idea to check the timing chain every so often. Popping off the valve cover is pretty quick and easy, and you can then inspect the chain. This may help you catch any 2.4 Ecotec timing chain problems early enough to prevent further damage.

A timing chain kit usually runs somewhere in the $150-300 ballpark, so it’s not terribly expensive for the DIY crowd. However, it is a lengthy repair so labor costs can quickly add another $500-800 to the bill.

In the worst case, you might end up with broken 2.4L valves, which will make for an expensive repair. Depending on the extent it could easily add up to a $1,500+ job between replacing valves and the timing chain.

2) High Oil Consumption

As with timing chain issues, high oil consumption seems to primarily affect Chevy Equinox and Malibu models. However, this is a potential issue in many different years and models. It’s a common and troubling enough issue that high oil consumption led to some lawsuits. Fortunately, GM did offer some extended warranties and fixes to remedy the problems.

Anyways, 2.4 Ecotec engines are prone to high oil consumption due to problems with the piston rings. Excess oil from piston oil spray nozzles is able to make its way past the piston rings and into the combustion chamber. It’s then burned off, which isn’t a huge issue by itself.

However, some oil consumption cases are excessive and can lead to owners not topping off on oil frequently enough. Piston ring wear may also cause the 2.4L Ecotec to have serious problems in the long term. If the rings wear and allow too large a gap you may also begin losing compression.

Anyways, today this is hopefully a non-issue for a vast majority of 2.4 Ecotec engines on the road. Most cases of excess oil consumption were caught and repaired under warranty. Some engines may have slipped through the cracks, though.

GM 2.4 Oil Consumption Fix

Some oil consumption is natural in all engines. If you’re noticing excess consumption (1+ quarts every 1,000 to 2,000 miles) then it’s something to look further into. The problem could be with the piston rings, which is not a cheap fix.

Fortunately, GM is aware of these problems with the 2.4L Ecotec engine. If the ultimate diagnosis is due to piston ring wear you may be able to work with GM to have the failure resolved.

3) Carbon Build-Up Problems

Carbon build-up on the 2.4 Ecotec is a problem that mostly affects the LAF, LEA, and LUK engines. All engines naturally produce some oil blow-by that makes its way through the intake tract. It can then stick to intake valves and ports and form carbon deposits.

Early GM 2.4L Ecotec engines use port fuel injection. Fuel is sprayed into the intake ports, which helps wash away any oil deposits. However, the later direct injection engines don’t have that benefit. Fuel is sprayed directly into the cylinder thereby allowing carbon deposits to form on the back of intake valves.

It’s usually not a major problem, and some GM 2.4 Ecotec engines will go their whole lives without any intake valve cleaning. Though, in some cases, carbon build-up can cause annoying symptoms and drivability issues. It’s also possible for chunks of carbon to break off and cause damage to valves and other parts – this is extremely unlikely, though.

Look for excess carbon build-up to become a potential issue around 80,000 to 120,000 miles. Again, it’s not an urgent problem but the engine may run a lot worse if the carbon deposits are bad enough.

Ecotec Carbon Build-up Symptoms

  • Misfires
  • Rough idle
  • Stuttering/hesitation
  • Power loss

As carbon build-up on the 2.4L valves, it restricts airflow into the engine. It can also cause uneven air flow to different cylinders, so you’ll start to get misfires and a rough idle. You might also notice stuttering or hesitation while accelerating. Finally, power loss occurs but it can be very hard to notice. Carbon deposits form over time meaning power loss is gradual.

Carbon Build-Up Fix

First off, there are a few ways to help limit carbon build-up. You can try various products in the intake tract for every oil change and install an oil catch can. However, walnut blasting remains the most effective way of getting rid of carbon once its there.

Walnut blasting requires walnut media shells and shop vac. The media shells are cheap, but labor can be pretty expensive at a shop. The intake manifold must come off to access the valves, and then the cleaning process takes an hour or two. Expect to pay about $400-600 in labor to have the 2.4 Ecotec valves walnut blasted.

4) Engine Oil Leaks

Alright, we’ll be fairly quick on this section. Almost all engines are prone to oil leaks, and most will run into one or two over the course of their lives. Things like valve cover gaskets, oil pan gaskets, main seals, etc are prone to cracking with age and mileage. Oil leaks on the 2.4 Ecotec don’t appear to be due to any major design flaws or problems.

The 2.4L Ecotec can run into oil leaks at any point, but it’s not really common until 10+ years and 100,000+ miles. As such, we don’t really think its fair to chalk it up as a true problem. It’s something to be aware of, though. This is especially true for those looking to buy or own an older, higher mileage engine.

Oil Leak Fix

Again, look for some common areas of oil leaks including the valve cover gasket, oil pan gasket, and main seals. These are all very cheap parts for the GM 2.4L engine. However, labor on oil leaks can add up to quite a bit.

Valve cover gaskets are simple repairs that should only run $200-400. However, main seals and oil pan leaks can add up to a lot in labor. Fortunately, it’s all cheap for the DIY crowd willing to spend an afternoon in the garage.

2.4L Ecotec Reliability

Is the GM 2.4L Ecotec engine reliable? We’ll give this engine average remarks for reliability. It’s certainly not the most reliable engine out there, but it’s also far from the worst. 2010-2013 Chevrolet Equinox models seem to be the most susceptible to running into timing chain and high oil consumption problems.

Otherwise, later models are prone to carbon build-up. However, it’s simply a downside to direct injection so we don’t consider it a true issue. Oil leaks also probably don’t qualify as a true problem on the 2.4 Ecotec. It’s mostly age and mileage related rather than any specific design flaws.

Some reliability simply comes down to how well you maintain the 2.4 Ecotec, and some luck of the draw. Use high-quality oils, change fluids on time, and repair issues when they pop up. Do this and chances are you’ll have a good, reliable experience with this engine.

GM 2.4 Ecotec Engine Problems Summary

Chevy/GM 2.4L Ecotec engines offer a good balance of performance and efficiency. The power definitely isn’t impressive by modern standards, but it’s plenty for smaller vehicles to get from A to B and then some. Regardless, no engine is perfect and that applies to the GM 2.4 Ecotec engine.

Earlier models, especially the Chevy Equinox and Malibu, were prone to some serious flaws with the timing chains and piston rings. Direct-injected models with the LAF, LEA, and LUK engines are prone to carbon build-up. It’s simply a trade-off to direct injection, which offers many other benefits. Lastly, as the 2.4 Ecotec engines age they’re prone to occasional oil leaks – as with just about any engine.

2.4 Ecotec engines certainly aren’t the most reliable engines around, but they’re still pretty solid. Maintain the engine well and hope you have a bit of luck on your side. These engines can hold up to 200,000+ miles with proper maintenance and a little good fortune.

What’s your experience with the GM 2.4L Ecotec? Are you considering one?

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32 Comments

  1. Also note the problem of the PCV orifice getting plugged up. This can prevent proper PCV airflow. Moisture in the upper hose can freeze in the winter. Crankcase pressure builds and blows out the rear engine seal (crankshaft).

      1. My 2015 2.4 equinox pvc has a much larger hole than l thought it would l can slip a coat hanger through the hole no problem. I put a oil catch can on my vehicle, but it has very little oil collected even after 2000 miles. Guess my rings are ok. But l always use synthetic mobile one with dextos and the system mobile one oil filter and if the oil level is even slightly down l top it off even if it only needs 200 millilitres. The key is to never let the oil level drop. And change it often. If you let the oil level drop it will run hotter and you will stretch the chain and wear out the tensioner.

    1. I add a pcv to oil fill cap & put a t connector to the same destination of original pcv hose.or blow by hose. I scrapped original pcv vent in valve cover and this helpped crankcase ventilation but when running with oil fill cap off there was still alot of pressure so i sdded the pcv in cap hopefully this will work. Matt

  2. This article is spot on about maintaining your oil levels between changes. I have an LEA 2.4 and I add about 8 oz. every 1,000 miles. The engine has 130k, and I have owned it since it was at 75k. I have had no issues of any sort. It does not rattle at all during cold startup. As far as leaks are concerned, the engine looks like new and not even a film of oil anywhere.

  3. This article represents the 2013 Malibu perfectly. Bought my 2013 in 2016. Had 35000 miles. Has 80k now. At About 60k started having excessive oil consumption. 1 qt every 1k-1.5k mi. If you check the oil every 1000 miles and keep it topped off, it will run forever. But if it gets 2 quarts low, just bank on putting a new timing chain in it. Cost me $850. Dealers say charge oil at 3k miles. It’s not because the oil is bad, it’s because of oil consumption. If you wait till 5000 miles to change your oil or to check it, a timing chain will be in your future.

    1. 2015 Chevy Equinox 1LT. 2.4L I’ve been changing my Dextos Full Synthetic Oil every 4K miles no more!! so far no oil loss at 58K miles. But it does rattle rarely on in off at stop lights first 5 minutes, I had mechanic check all issues on this engine PCV valves and checked for carbon built seem fine but I’m gonna trade it in regardless cause I will get $14000 trade as I have a rare Equinox color chrome package, 18” wheels plus….

  4. HHR 2LT bought new in 2011
    47k miles
    No oil consumption
    No rattling on start up
    Full synthetic @4k miles

    Runs perfect

  5. All of the problems listed are a result of poor quality oil, filters, low quality, low octane gas, long drain intervals using the Oil Life Monitor., and poor maintenance. The timing chain issue is from GDI. It dumps fuel and abrasive soot into oil, cause oil to loose viscosity, and soot wears away at the chains. The soot, sloudge, varnish cauaed by low grafe oil and log OCIs clogs the small oil ports for the tensioners, and soot wears the chains causing them to elongate, slip anf fail. Same for oil consumption. Fuel, soot and carbon clogs up and wears the cylinders and rings, causing more blow by and oil consumption. The oil leaks from the rear seal is caused by poor oil, soot, sludge.and hard carbon that blocks the, internal. PCV orifice. With worn rings, high blow by, creating more oil vapor and water in the winter clogs the other half of the PCV system. Rear seals damaged by years of fuel dilution and becoming hard, aling with sub zero temps, the high pressure caused by the clogged PCV, blows out the rear seal, which can destroy the engine. In 2020 the OEMs and Oil companies came out with API SP to start to address the wear problems and soot caused by GDI systems. They new about the wear and soot for many years but all the OEMs just want ti blame it on poor choice in rings, or a tensioner, etc. Why? Simple, GDI problems plague nearly all oems and many different engines. They will never admit to the provlem being GDI, poor oil, andstupid oil life monitors. That would indicate a systemic problem instead of an isolated issues, and cost them far more. In the end thank politicians, lobbists, and those that think the world will end in 10 years, for the insane CAFE and emmussion standards that drive oems to use this problematic GDI technology.

  6. The 1st Generation Ecotec 2.0, 2.2 and 2.4l were far more reliable because they were port fuel injected. No excess fuel or damaging soot. I have 500 oil samples from both generations provided by a major engine oil anaysis lab. The 2nd Gen Ecotec 2.4l has more than double the iron wear rate, 3-5 times the fuel dilution and significant viscosity shearing long before the OLM says to change, compared to 1st Generation. Iron is from the timing chains and cylinder walls. Thise owners who used high quality full synthetic oil and changed every 3k have seen very few problems listed your top four list.

      1. Joe – the 2.4L Ecotec uses 4.7L / 5 quarts of oil. SAE 5w-30 synthetic oil is recommended. The GM specified oil change interval is every 7,500 miles or every 12 months, however, we always recommend changing oil every 5,000 miles.

  7. Bought my 2007 HHR new. As of today I have 294,680 miles. I am just now running into some compression problems in one cylinder at 140 psi. Even though I have maintained it through the years, it seems time for this to happen. I must have one of those rare ones. I never expected mine to go this far with no problems with this many miles. A new or rebuilt engine would be the way to go.

    1. I purchased my 2006 HHR over 10 years ago with 55k miles. Now at close to 240k. I am getting low compression from one cylinder, however, it is not noticeable at all while driving. Still feels solid and gets the job done. The water pump is the pain in the you know what! Had to have the dealership fix that…

  8. I just replaced my timing chain 6 mo ago at a garage . Anyways car was running beautiful I get in it to go somewhere it starts to rap on psng side I give it gas it stalls so to keep it running I got to feather the gas. I try to drive it it’s like the same way before I replaced the timing chain.

  9. I have a 2015 Terrain with over 280,000 miles on it. This vehicle has been one of the most reliable vehicles I have ever owned.

  10. 2007 hhr 2.4 LT 245k miles uses 2 qts every 1k miles. Going to swap in a donor with 150k. Hopefully it will go another 100k.

  11. I have the 2006 Cobalt SS with 350000 on her with Mobile1 and always premium petrol. Like many comments, I have added a 1/4 of a quart of oil if, when needed. I bought mine with 52k on her in 2010 and just hit the 350K mark last month. I am going to get this engine professionaly rebuilt and cant wait to see her timing assy and compression components. Absolutely love this car! It did have a crack on the factory cast iron exhaust header. Way expensive so put on an aftermarket stainless header with new downpipe (to also clear any catalytic troubles) That in turn opened her up to breath at just over 300 thousand miles. Still all original except the exhaust, spark plugs at each 100k mark and with original factory injectors, hoses, everything! I’m having local guy Carl Ross rebuild mine and looking forward to another 300 thousand miles.

  12. In 2021 I bought a used 2012 Holden Captiva 5 with the ecotec LEA9 probably the same as Chevy Captiva Sport but my engine may be Daewoo manufactured in Korea. The piston ring manufacturers in 2012 made out-of-round rings and this contributed to massive blow-by problems that contaminated the oil, plus oil dilution. The contaminated oil stuffed up the cam-chain tensioner and wore the timing chains out and blocked the screen filters to the valve-modulators that operated the variable valve timing. Added to the massive blow-by problem is the use of an orifice in place of the normal PCV. This clogs up.
    Had I known any of this I would never have bought this HOS. At least in the USA the owners got a 10 year warranty on the motor after a class action in the USA court. In Australia GMH Holden fled the country before the Aussie non-whinger victims could get enough anger up to take Holden for a class action over this Craptiva SUV and other similar but not so bad lemons they sold.
    This Captiva 5 does not indicate ANY low oil-levels in the engine and drinks oil like a fish. I’m continually flushing the oil ways of black smelly contaminated oil at every 500-600 mile oil change. Yes it turns clean oil into runny smelly tar in only that distance. All down to crappy rings and a useless crankcase blobby scavenger system.

  13. Have a 2011 Buick regal 2.4L… have had the engine replaced but still having problems starting and continue running. Reduced Engine Power light comes/stays on. Replaced high pressure fuel pump, MAF sensor, fuel pressure sensor, and cleaned throttle body…
    What I not doing to get this vehicle running again!!!

  14. I have a Buick Verano 2016 with 180000 kms or about 111600 miles. What is said above is now a reality for me as I have now an engine leak.

    1. Hi Patrick,

      The 2016 GMC Terrain with the 2.4 Ecotec LEA engine is a solid SUV all-around. However, the small inline-4 only delivers 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque which can definitely feel a little sluggish in the Terrain. Good fuel economy is the upside to the small, less powerful 2.4 Ecotec so that aspect simply depends on your needs and preferences.

      As we discussed in this article, the GM 2.4L engine isn’t the most reliable engine around but it’s also far from bad. The LEA uses direct injection which is prone to carbon build-up with age and higher mileage. It isn’t a serious issue but it can cause drivability problems and sap some power which the 2.4L engine doesn’t have much of in the first place. Ultimately, your best bet is to take the GMC Terrain for a test drive and see if it’s a good fit. Best of luck on your car search.

      Best Regards,
      Zach

  15. So I have a 2013 gmc terrain 2.4 LEA, but what I seem to be running into is the vehicle will run great at start up and while driving however when we stop at a light or stop sign i get a service stabilitrack and a reduce engine power. When we shut the vehicle off and turn it back on both lights are off and show no codes.

  16. I have a 2016 Buick Verano with the 2.4. Timing chain slipped on me at 75,000 KM (which is far below the 100,000 mile mark) and it’s $6700 to rebuild engine with no guarantee it will work, $10,000 to get a salvaged engine with 88,000 KM on it or $13,500 to replace with a rebuilt engine at 160,000 KM. I’ve put full synthetic oil in, kept up with oil changes with the oil life monitor and never had it burning oil. I’m choosing not to fix it with the timing chain issue and I probably won’t get an GM vehicle since there was class action lawsuit for Terrains and Equinoxs but not for other vehicles with this issue.

  17. Cleaning the orifice on a 2.4 liter engine does not require removing the intake manifold ( a 4 hour job for experienced mechanics). There are several Youtube videos that show the easy way to clean the metering hole. For example, link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZA6QEMst-1s

    My 2013 Terrain with 2.4 ecotec has 205000 km (133000miles). It got the free GMC Canada replacement catalytic converter due to a recall a few years ago. Since then I have worried about excess oil consumption. The major change I have made is to take off the air intake whenever I see yellow scum in the pcv hose, and dump out all the water that is collected in the PCV “box” in the air intake plastic ducting. I also drilled a 3 mm hole in the oil filler cap when I noticed overpressure would send it flying if not screwed in.
    I plan to install a Rulline catch can that I just got, to reduce carbon buildup on the valves.
    Freezing weather and bad piston rings are the major problems with this engine. It runs smoothly, but needs careful monitoring or it can blow out the rear main seal or head gasket very suddenly.
    Check your oil dipstick every day, and allow nice warmup on cold days.
    I find that the hole in the oil filler cap does not produce any fumes that I can smell, so I doubt that it is even a minor pollution source. Anyway, the exhaust doesnt smoke or smell at all, and oil consumption is under a liter (quart) for 1000 miles. To save the rings, accelerate smoothly and it will reduce blow-by and ring wear.

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