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Red Flag Before Buying This Planned Obsolescence GM Model

Looking to buy a used GM car? Here is one easy red flag you should never overlook that can tell you a lot about this GM model’s condition and a simple test to confirm your worst suspicion.

The 7 Common Problems of Used Car Shopping

Shopping for a used car has its inherent problems. Seven common problems you can expect to face include:

  1. Uncertainty about the car's history: Has it been in an accident? Have there been any major repairs or are there some hidden problems that are not immediately apparent?
  2. Reliability concerns: Reliability can be based on two factors―One, is this a model that has reliability issues due to its design or manufacture? Two, has it been maintained well by its previous owner(s)?
  3. Limited warranty coverage: Unlike new cars, which often come with warranties that cover repairs for several years, used cars may have limited or no warranty coverage at all.
  4. Stress from researching and comparing options: It is essential to gather as much information as possible about each vehicle you're considering toward making an informed decision. However, this will take a lot of time and energy.
  5. Stress from dealing with private sellers: Buying from a private seller is often risky. Private sellers may not disclose all issues with the car, and there's little recourse if something goes wrong afterward.
  6. Price Negotiations: Negotiating the price of a used car can be difficult―especially if you're dealing with a private seller or a dealership that's not willing to budge on the price.
  7. Potential for scams or fraud: Sellers (both private and at dealerships) often try to scam buyers by misrepresenting the condition of the car by withholding important information. It's your responsibility to have any used car for sale thoroughly inspected by an experienced mechanic.

The 8th Common Problem of Used Car Shopping

In truth there is an 8th common problem/consideration when it comes to used car shopping: Planned Obsolescence.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica on the History of Industrial Design with respect to the term “Planned Obsolescence”:

During the war the country (United Sates) had established a reputation for large industrial production, and afterward its wartime factories were adapted for the civilian consumer economy. With this great output capability, most probably, came a tendency toward planned obsolescence. This term was supposedly coined after World War II by American industrial designers and writers to indicate industry’s desire to produce consumer items that would be replaced even before their actual utility expired. Although the concept is often linked with the second half of the 20th century, it is likely that American industrialists saw this profit-making opportunity well before then.

In other words, planned obsolescence has been around for quite a while, but in the automotive industry it has turned especially heinous the past few decades with what many argue why the trend toward using plastic parts in modern cars exists is more about profit coming out of the pockets of the consumer than it is about improving gas mileage, vehicle safety, sustainability, etc.

(For more about this debatable issue here is an interesting blog post from the Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair Stack Exchange that addresses the increasing use of plastics in car design.)

The point to this 8th Common Problem being listed is that used car shoppers must take into consideration what the life expectancy for any used car model is reasonable to expect and believe.

And a good example is that of a 2014 Chevy Impala.

Using All of Your Senses

Despite these challenges and hurdles, it is possible to shop successfully for a decent used car that will give you many miles and few headaches. However, it helps if you follow some common sense…as well as your sense of smell.

That was the message in a recent Scotty Kilmer YouTube channel episode where Scotty points out that the smell of gasoline from a used car could be a sign that serious and expensive repairs are in your near future should you buy a used car with an odor problem.

In this example, the used car is a 2014 Chevy Impala with over 200,000 miles on it―that aside from the odor of gasoline leaking somewhere―looks and runs fine. While there are a number of sources for a gasoline leak (some of which can be an easy fix), there are sources that can mean big bucks in repairs to take care of the problem.

Related article: When Smelling Gasoline Around Your Car is an Immediate Problem

Because the leak was not visible, Scotty used a UV dye that you can pour into your gas tank to try to detect the source of the slow leak. After driving the car for a short while, a UV light shone on the underside of the vehicle revealed a telltale green glow that identified the leak coming from the vehicle’s fuel injector system.

Not good.

The GM Car Engine Built with “Planned Obsolescence” in Mind

Follow Scotty for the first 10 minutes of the video posted below to discover what the problem is and why this would be a bad used car to buy. From the video you will learn that:

  • GM cars with the GM 2.5-liter Ecotech high pressure GDI engine are part of the “planned obsolescence” problem with auto manufacturers today.
  • The combination of a high-pressure fuel delivery system consisting of mostly plastic parts is a recipe for disaster as the used car ages and plastic parts and rubber seals become brittle and begin to crack.
  • There is no sense toward attempting to replace a single fuel injector that has cracked―getting to the fuel rail is likely to result in other plastic parts breaking during the disassembly. Essentially the entire fuel delivery injector rail system will need to be replaced at a cost of over $2,000!
  • It’s just a rat’s nest when these cars with the GDI system start to break down,” admits Scotty who strongly discourages putting this kind of money into an aging car that otherwise runs fine…for now.

3 Things You Need to Check Before Buying a Car



Checking online there are a large number of automotive fluid leak dye detection kits; Going over numerous products and reviews, it can be difficult to find one that is guaranteed to do the job. Checking some of the chain auto parts stores, reviews are few and most of their products are focused on AC system leaks. Those that included automotive fluids tended to be overpriced.

However, here are two I chose because one is Scotty-recommended and the other is from Summit Racing Equipment which I have personally found provides excellent service when it comes to returns and refunds whenever a product is less than stellar.

Scotty’s Recommendation: Mastercool 53351-B Professional UV Leak Detector Kit with 50W Mini Light, Black ($71.52 on Amazon). Best features:

  1. The kit includes multiple dyes for different automotive fluid types.
  2. Strong UV light that connects to the car battery for power.
  3. Everything you need in one-stop shopping.

Summit Racing Equipment: ACDelco 4-in-1 Fluorescent Dyes 89022219. Best features:

  1. Inexpensive ($4.99 per bottle). Please note that you will need to buy the special glasses and a UV light separately from another vendor. I recommend a small longnecked portable UV light for reaching into tight spaces around the engine.
  2. One dye for all fluids that includes gasoline and diesel engine oil, power steering fluid, and automatic transmission fluid.
  3. Good return policy.

For more advice about what to look out for when shopping for a used car, here are some additional articles for your consideration:

Timothy Boyer is an automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on  “Zen and the Art of DIY Car Repair” website, the Zen Mechanic blog and on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites  and Facebook for daily news and topics related to new and used cars and trucks.

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