Wise words from a wise man...(New Owner Information) - Pontiac Solstice Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-18-2014, 12:27 PM Thread Starter
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Wise words from a wise man...(New Owner Information)

So I saw allllll of this information posted by another user and asked his permission to move it to another thread and place it all together in one big helpful article.. So here goes!

(This is all from Rob the Elder)

K Here is my standard list of stuff for the new owner. Pardon the length.

The vast majority of the deployed fleet of Kappaís have had little or no issues at all. The owners take them home, have the dealers do maintenance, put gas into them and drive them until they want something new or the car is damaged beyond economic repair.

A tiny minority of cars have issues. And a much smaller minority of that subset have serious problems. To my knowledge, there have been on the order of 12 owners with major issues, like engine failures or differential failures.

NA cars - that is the 2.4 L normally aspirated cars - are going for 100k, 200k and approaching 300kl miles with few problems. The problems are "normal" failures like water pumps, clogged catalytic converters etc. Some of the early cars had issues with the differential. Several were replaced under warranty. There was a recall for all 06 and 07 MY cars that addressed the rear end. Some cars have rear end wine and some have a "clunk" when making significant throttle changes. I have yet to see a failure resulting from these symptoms. The only failures I am aware of were loss of lubrication or just a mechanical failure . Again we are talking less than 10?

The GXP cars are also pretty much bullet proof. A small - very tiny minority have had significant electrical problems that have been traced back to manufacturing errors. One Sky - GS Stage1 on the Sky forum had major issues that resulted in over a year of problems. In the end he got taken care of by GM, new engine, partial remanufacturing of his car . ..
Should GM Buy Back My Car? - Saturn Sky Forums: Saturn Sky Forum

One GXP coupe had a series of undiagnosed electrical problems that GM chose to not address but they bought the car back from the Oregon owner and made him good.

GXPs have had some water pump failures, beginning as early as 25k miles with a cluster in the 50k region. All were repaired under warranty. There are several threads that cover this information,
waterpump woes

Some automatic cars have had hard downshifting issues. It appears that these are related to cam position servo failures that cause the transmission control module to go into protection mode intermittently.
Auto transmission suckage

There have been issues with the tops early on due to improper adjustment of the top mechanism and / or the door windows. Some cars were built without the acoustic liner and are noisier. Some early cars were built with plastic ball end joints which failed in some cases are resulted in a redesign. Putting the top up without opening the doors or lowering the windows will cause issues over time. Failure to lubricate the side hinges over the windows can result in sticking.

top ripping/pinching fix

There are cables that actuate the trunk release and the buttress releases. The plastic retention balls on the ends can fail and make it impossible to open the trunk normally.

Trunk won't open

Get a GM record pulled to verify the in service date and warranty remaining. Any GM dealer can do this for you.

You want to start with the local car because the Sky and Sol are highly susceptible to damage when lifted improperly. The front fenders crack frequently due to road vibration and are easily crushed if lifted with a floor jack. If there is damage you want to identify it before sale and with a dealer you can push to get them to repair the damage as part of the sale. There are basically no available right side factory fenders anymore and few left side fenders. They are repairable and there are aftermarket replacements available from DDM but you need to know if the fenders are cracked as this can be up to a $1k swinger on the retail price.

You also want to take a good look at the bottom front. Because of the configuration of the car nearly every new owner rams them into curbs one to several times and they get damaged. At the very least there will be scrapes on the bottom of the bumper cover that you can use to get a lower price or commitment to repair from a dealer that you probably will not get from a private party seller.

You also want to take a hard look at the top. More than a few cars have had problems with the folding mechanism that has damaged the canvas where it folds over the windows and / or damage to the canvas when it rubs against an improperly adjusted side window. The top is also susceptible to damage from the hold down feet mounted on the trunk lid. The rubber feet come off, fail or even twist allowing direct contact between the mounting structure and the top canvas while the top is in the trunk. I have seen more than one car that has holes in the top due to this. The canvas is $1600 plus installation which at a dealer can run into several hundred dollars. And to the best of my knowledge while there are plenty of replacement canvas parts available, there are no more top assemblies in stock.

You want to visually inspect the cup holders. The front one is notorious for failing and they cost upwards of $100 for replacement parts plus installation labor. The rear one between the seats is much more robust however they can and do get so full of dust and dirt that they will no longer deploy. If treated well they are fine but you do not know till you try to pull the things out.

Another area that I recommend you inspect is the center console. If the previous drivers did like me and leaned on them hard while driving and used them as a support while getting in and out of the car, they all will crack right down the center. I have had mine replaced under the warranty but you are probably out of warranty. The cover is easy to replace but again is in the range of $100 for a replacement part from GM. There are several threads that cover reinforcing below the cover so it will not crack again and DDM has a replacement that is much stonger and includes two cup holders but again that is in the same cost plus shipping and you get to install it.

If you are by chance looking at a 2008 RL, one factor is the production run for the first 6 or 8 months deleted the electronic vacuum pump that provided motive force for the brakes immediately after start up. The issue presents itself on some cars as high brake pedal force required and / or pulsing of the brake pedal for the first few seconds to the first couple of minutes upon cold start after sitting for an extended period or at high altitude. The issue is that the turbo car does not generate much vacuum (its boosted) and as a result once the vacume accumulator leaks down, there is no vacuum for the power brakes when you start. And when you start the factory tune, it is set to heat up the catalytic converter and not optimized for creating vacuum. There was a big safety investigation made and a lot of people had problems with this about mid-way through 2008 calendar year. My wife's car falls in this group and about once or twice a year we get the symptoms but it works fine through it and within about 30 seconds there is normal brake feel. The factory has a software update that if asked they will install on cars with this complaint and in extreme cases there is a retro fit kit that adds back on the electronic vacuum pump. But again, you cannot tell if the car you are looking at falls into this group or not unless you physically check for the pumps presence on the left side of the engine block, and unless you drive the car from a cold start. If you are buying from a dealer you could make the software update part of the deal and get a promise to do the pump retro fit under warranty because GM normally pays for it.

You want to cycle the driverís seat up and down because a lot of cars have never had their electric adjusters cycled and they need to be freed up and lubricated before they work correctly. In fact, I did a test last year and out of 40 cars and 80 drivers only 5 knew that the driverís seat went up and down with the switch! Servicing the seat is no big deal but it will be half an hour of labor and some parts allowance so its in the $100 range. If you buy from a dealer you are much more likely to have this addressed as part of the deal than if you buy from a private party. And if you do not have access to the car its difficult to verify operation.

Many, maybe most of the key fobs for 2006 through 2008 at least have a known manufacturing problem. The metal tab / connector that holds the battery in place has a cold solder joint. The fob starts to work intermittently and eventually stops working. If you are good with a solder iron you can easily fix it as many of us have done, but if not, then the dealer will charge you around $100 for a replacement fob and programming it with the car. Potentially times two. If you have access to the fobs, you can pop them open and inspect the condition of the at risk part and know if you are good to go or not. If not, again you are much more likely to get the fob replaced as part of the deal by a dealer.

The door sills have an aluminum insert that is glued to the plastic part. Unfortunately as a result of the attachment method and the difference in coefficient of thermal expansion between the aluminum trim insert and the plastic door sills, the aluminum part will almost always bow up around .25 inches in the middle during cold weather. In some instances drivers will drag their heels across the door sills and can catch the trim plate and bend the crap out of it. They are relatively cheap - around $25 plus labor to install, but if you find it after the fact then itís your $25 and not the sellers.

If you are getting a GXP, put an OBD2 reader on it and pull any codes. There can be codes that are not displayed but that can indicate incipient problems.

Have the selling dealer pull the outlet air tube from the turbo at the turbo and check for oil. A little oil is normal. If there is a lot of oil there then have the breather valve checked. When they fail, and if the car is driven moderately hard they pump oil out of the valve cover into the intake at the turbo. If there is a LOT of oil there, have them check the drain on the intercooler to verify that it is not holding pooled oil there.

Check the intake clamps for condition. The factory clamps are basically radiator screw clamps and have been known to fail and allow leakage which can cause tuning issues under boost
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-18-2014, 12:27 PM Thread Starter
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There are a number of proven effective tunes on the market for our cars.

Here are a couple of threads on the GMPP tune written by a GM power train engineer about the time it first came out




Some other tuning info


And in the catagory of more than you ever wanted to know

There is a very lengthy post on this subject. Westers did a write up on the GMPP tune and what it does and does not do to the car.
The way the code is written in the ECM, the 2.0 is torque managed. The factory tune manages the engine parameters to produce 260 ft pounds of torque. The horse power is a result of achieving that torque value.
If you add hardware that is capable of producing torque values (and resultant HP) above the 260 ft pounds target, the ECM will "learn down" to achieve 260 ft pounds.
Basically, there are a set of data tables that are fixed. And there is memory that is controlled by the ECM. The fixed parameters cover all the possible variables, timing, fuel, air, boost, cam timing etc. Itís more complicated than that but conceptually you get the idea.
The ECM is constantly looking at all the sensors it has available. It is constantly "learning up and learning down" the various parameters it can control to maintain what it believes to be the settings that produce 260 ft pounds of torque.
Itís not strictly learning down because the ECM is constantly varying in real time the engine parameters it controls. What is really happening is the ECM is choosing specific settings from the pre-programmed tables for timing, fuel, air, boost, cam timing etc. based on near real time calculations. The calculations include throttle pedal setting, ambient temperature, air flow rates, O2 sensor readings etc.
The ECM "remembers" where it is at in each of the data tables. It "learns" where it is in each of the tables as it changes its mind on where to pull the settings from the tables based on current sensor readings. It does not create data per se, it uses the data it has in the tables but changes where it pulls the data in the tables based on a set of rules programmed into the ECM operating system.
Since the ECM can react faster than the mechanical systems it is managing, there is a built in time constraint on how much it can change its entry points into each of the data tables. The time constraint is a real time - mille seconds for some setting changes and key cycles for others.
Typically when you are running an unmodified car, when you start the car it "remembers" where it was when it was shut down and begins with that location as the current setting. It looks at the MAF to update air density and watches the O2 sensors to make sure itís managing the settings. But it does not make any big changes when you start the car. It is making small "make play" environmental changes to optimize the startup and initial running experience. It may make small changes during that run cycle but is constrained to making small changes per run cycle.
If you bolt on a piece of hardware that can produce 10+ hp, the ECM makes small adjustments per its constraints, but it will experience an increase in torque measured because of the hardware update. It will adjust the engine parameters to avoid damage - that is crank up the fuel to avoid lean runs and vary the timing to avoid knock. So you may see the 10 hp increase for that cycle.

When you shut the car off and restart it - executing one key cycle - the ECM will recognize that it is producing MORE than the target of 260 ft. pounds and will crank down the parameters it controls as much as it can in that key cycle. Over the course of 5-6 key cycles, the ECM will be incrementally adjusting the engine parameters to get back to the ideal 260 ft pounds. After 5-6 key cycles, with each cycle resulting in the maximum "learn down" allowed, the car will be producing 260 ft pounds of torque. Again the HP is a product of producing the value that results from the ECM setting parameters.

The GMPP tune provides a new set of data tables and a new entry point in those tables. The new tables allow more growth in torque (much higher limit for "learn down") and they change the baseline starting point in the tables to the settings that are predicted to produce 340 ft pounds of torque. At that baseline torque, the resultant HP is about 290. There is some variability in HP measured for different cars because there are detail differences in the hardware across the sample set.

All tunes do basically the same thing. They change some of the values in the existing data tables. No tune will support unlimited HP growth because the physical size of the data tables is limited. All have an "edge" somewhere that forms the practical limit for power growth. The GMPP tune and the Westers tune all change the key parameter values in the tables to produce the desired result.

I do not know of any limitation on the boost value that is displayed on the DIC. It is I believe the result of a measurement in near real time and has no practical upper limit that is hard coded into the system. There is no reason to do so. I suppose if you exceeded the allowable digits it would truncate the number but the motor would be a pile of parts long before that limit is reached.

And if your head has not yet exploded, read on . . . and on . .. and on . ..

Here is what I think I know about the GMPP tune:
The GMPP tune loads a new set of FIXED data tables. The ECM operating system still operates in fundamentally the same manner, but when it enters a particular data table it pulls out data that is different. The new data tables are designed to produce 340 ft pounds of torque with the stock hardware. The resultant horsepower is said to be 290 HP but itís again just a product of the new data tables.
The biggest change in the new ECM software is that it NO LONGER is constrained to the fixed torque rating of 340 ft pounds. It can go higher than the level because the data in the tables allows it to go higher.
There really is NOT a learn down feature.
There are constraints on the allowable settings in the factory tune and the GMPP tune. In the factory tune, the constraints result in the ECM always modifying its entry points into the tables to produce 260 ft pounds. In the GMPP tune, the constraints are higher because there is "room" in the tables for the ECM to "learn up" to a higher torque (and resultant HP) value. If you hit the edge of one of the data tables, then you are through "learning up". So itís not really a learning constraint, itís the combination of the data tables are fixed and constrained to max values, and the ECM has built in code that predicts what the turbo will do in the near future and will not allow any combination of settings that is predicted to over speed, over heat or over boost the turbo.
So there is not any real learning going on as I understand the system.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-18-2014, 12:28 PM Thread Starter
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New owners information part two

1) Run a CARFAX report to check for any issues on record

2) Go to the GM dealer with the VIN and pull a report from the GM maintenance database, it will provide a lot of useful info on maintenance, failures, mileage, and recalls applied or outstanding

3) Early 08s had the electric vacuum brake booster pump deleted. Some have had issues due to this. There are two fixes, one software one adds the pump back to the car as a "kit"

4) 09s had the center double cup holder deleted. Many find this a problem and some have had the dealer install one. See threads on this subject

5) 2010 MY has updated engine management software and is not compatible with the GMPP tune.

6) Check the front cup holder to see if itís there and functional.

7) Visually inspect the differential for seeping / leaking and operation. Some 07s had noise issues and there was a recall to install a special additive to address issues.

8) Visually inspect the undercarriage. Look for damage due to lifting in the area of the front fenders and the front lift points. Put a torque wrench on the bolts that retain the wheels on the inside as there are a few cases of these coming loose. Check the shocks for leakage, there are a few instances of them failing prematurely.

9) Visually inspect the "chin" for damage, many have been run into curbs and need repair. Itís a place where you can easily get it fixed but could negotiate the fix into the purchase price.

10) Cycle the tops several times for proper operation and look for any wear on the sides where the trunk hold down feet contact the fabric. Some scuffing is ok but the unwary owner has often had the top holed in this area. Visually inspect the trunk lid to make sure the rubber portion of the hold down feet are intact and properly aligned. Check the top for proper deployment and any sticking as well as general alignment. Make sure the twin flaps move freely and smoothly. Verify that both buttresses release easily and completely. Check the condition of the trunk hinges and the torsion bars. If the trunk has popped open when in motion, the hinges can be damaged and the torsion bars are known to fail occasionally. The fix is to pull the rear bumper cover and while itís not difficult, it can be a significant labor charge to get it done.

11) Visually inspect the center console. Many have failed due to their design. If the previous owner put any significant weight on the center console cover, it is most likely cracked. The cracking starts at the curved rear portion on the driverís side and progresses up through the center of the console cover. Often you can press down on the cover and see it flexing abnormally in this area and determine that it is unsound. Itís an easy fix, but if out of the bumper to bumper warranty, it will cost about $100 for a new part. If in doubt, pull up on the rear of the console cover and it will pop up so you can visually inspect the underside.

12) Visually inspect the tire pump assembly in the trunk. Itís about $50 to replace and its all you have on the road.

13) Visually inspect the intercooler for damage or defects. Many have been run into curbs and damaged, they are subject to foreign object damage on the road and unless you give them a good look you may not discover it until you have a problem. In rare instances, GMPP equipped GXPs have experienced splitting of the IC can on the outlet side. It is hidden by the plastic shroud but you can infer damage if there are codes thrown regularly or on cold start you listen up front near the ground you can hear a sucking sound.

14) Manually inspect the hose clamps for tightness. Give the air cleaner a quick look. If its full of tons of junk, that may be an indicator of the attention that the car received from the current owner and be a subject for triggering a more detailed inspection of the car by a trusted tech.

15) Check the condition of the MAF sensor where it mates with the intake tubing up front. Some have been broken off and glued back on as an expedient repair. This is not necessarily bad but is another indicator of the level of attention the current owner gave to the car.

16) Check for heavy uneven wear in the tires. If they were rotated as required, they should be evenly worn. If they are not, then that is another indicator.

17) Pull up the passenger side carpet and give the BCM a quick look. Is the cover in place? Does it show signs of having been removed frequently? Are there any signs of modification or tampering?

18) Inspect the fuse / relay box on the left side of the engine bay at the firewall. Look for any signs of problems, excessive handling or modifications.

19) Visually inspect the turbo for any signs of external cracking, oil leaking, or ďmodificationsĒ to the actuation rod. The locktite should be intact with no signs of the nut having been turned.

20) Check the coolant level and color. If there is any question or anomaly, have it tested for specific gravity.

21) Have a person sit in the passenger seat to verify the proper operation of the seat airbag sensor. Several have failed and its relatively expensive to have them repaired out of warranty.

22) Check for proper operation of the driverís seat lift motor. Many are never used and need to be lubricated to free them up properly.

23) Road test the car. Make sure all systems are functional. Check the DIC for all displays and the presence of any codes or warnings.

24) Visually inspect all the rubber seals Ė they are hard to find and some are very expensive.

25) Visually inspect the condition of the headlight and tail light assemblies. They are expensive and difficult to find. Some light pitting can be polished out but cracks are a problem.

26) For automatic cars, drive the car in low speed conditions an check for smooth upshifts and downshifts. Some cars are experiencing very hard 3-2 and 2-1 downshifts apparently due to undiagnosed camshaft position sensor failures.

Once again, thank you Rob the Elder

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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-18-2014, 12:29 PM Thread Starter
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If anyone has anything to add, post it here and I'll add it in! Or just leave it and make it look pretty

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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-17-2014, 08:45 AM
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What...No kick the tires?

2008 Pontiac Solstice GXP
Bone stock...
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-19-2016, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Burkyy View Post
If anyone has anything to add, post it here and I'll add it in! Or just leave it and make it look pretty

I want to put in a good word for EpicVIN.com Of all the VIN number checks I tried they gave me the most complete report and it was only $8.99

Winter Solstice, Tucson AZ - '09 NA Automatic Cool Silver Coupe; DDM Supercharger, MagnaFlow cat and exhaust, ESTuned; GXP sway bars, DDM chassis kit; Stoptech brakes; Michelin PSS tires; Pioneer radio w/ NAV and b/u camera. Plate SOL N AZ

Summer Solstice, Cleveland Heights OH - '09 NA Auto Mysterious Black Coupe; DDM Supercharger, MagnaFlow, DDM chassis kit, Hawk brake pads, Conti EC Sport tires on Black ASA wheels, Advent radio w/ NAV and b/u camera. Plate SOL 4 OH
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-19-2016, 10:14 AM
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What other companies did you use to check the vin ? .

My experience is that epicvin vinchecker is pretty useless because it does not provided any maintenance and service data at all. Therefore I would not recommend it to anyone. They also list fake data like InvoicePrice, which is just a standard incorrect number, not at all based on the actual car. For my car that number was 35% too low.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-19-2016, 11:29 AM
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Wow, the Bible on my Solstice, just what I wanted for Christmas! I copied it all and put it in a Word doc on my Mac in case the Ruskies hack this forum! HA!
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