GMC Sierra Common Problems and Maintenance
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
There are many things to look forward to if you are choosing to be the proud owner of a GMC Sierra or Silverado. You can bet that the Service Tire Pressure Monitoring System dash warning light will come on at some point. You'll need to change the spark plugs and spark plug cables as well as change the oil. You likely need to know how to remove the tailgate as well as keep your tailgate from being stolen as they are really quick and easy to remove. Steering wheel replacement and possibly even steering column replacement. There's a chance that at some point you'll need to know how to remove or and least disconnect and re-connect the drive shaft. You'll need to know how to reset the change oil soon dash warning as well as what some of the common error codes are.
Service Tire Monitor System Dash Warning-What to do about it
This warning is telling you that at least one of your Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) sensors are faulty. These sensors are located inside the tires and cannot be replaced without removing the tire from the rim. If one of them are bad, then the others are sure to follow. The batteries go bad on them and need to be replaced. Best time to do it is when you get new tires. It would be advisable to get all 4 changed at the same time rather than just change one or two. What is likely to happen is that the remaining sensors are likely to go bad not too long after you get one or two replaced resulting in having to look at the error message for another length of time. It's kind of a scam b/c I've been told by quite a few automotive mechanics that they design these sensors to fail right around the 10 year mark. The unfortunate part is that this adds a few hundred buck to your already expensive tire replacement. It been mandated by law that all vehicles must have them now.
When this first happened to me I checked and double checked my tire pressure on all four tires and even inflated them towards the upper PSI limit thinking that this would make the "Service Tire Monitoring System" warning disappear but it did not.
One way to possibly save a little money when getting these things changed are to order the sensors yourself and then providing them to the automotive garage or business that you have changing your tires because many times tire centers will charge you extra for these sensors (as with many parts) as this is a way for them to make a small profit and also they DO need to be paid for their effort and time, after all, they are the ones ordering your parts. Be sure you order the correct sensors for your make, model, and year of vehicle. RockAuto.com is a good place to order parts from. I have had many friends who are motor heads order numerous parts from them and all have good things to say about them. I've ordered my TMPS sensors from them and it was really easy. They sent me the correct parts at a decent price.
How to Remove a Tailgate in Seconds
Simple and quick demonstration on How to Remove GMC Chevrolet Truck Tailgate. Step one: Lift handle on tailgate and open to about 50%-75% open. This will allow for some slack to be left in the attaching cables. Step two: Depress the clip (outboard towards inboard) on the cable end where it attaches to the truck. Slide clip off trucks' metal dowel . This is most easily done with a flathead screwdriver. Step three: Line up lower bottom insertion slot on tailgate to where opening on slot allows for removal and pull it off. After doing this one time, you can have one off in about 3 seconds. While convenient for us it is also convenient for tailgate thieves. It's a good idea to look into tailgate locks available on Amazon.
I'll post the link below but also you can use hose clamps as I demonstrate here: https://youtu.be/gMA4zabc_ps
Amazon link to Tailgate keeper: https://amzn.to/2TBqcCJ
Error Code P0521-What it means and what to do
Error Code P0521 for a GMC Sierra/Silverado Circa 2010 Model means that is it simply low on oil. For about an hour I was absolutely beside myself after having purchased a new pre-owned GMC Sierra when the check engine light came on. I felt like I was about ready just to drive it right back to the dealership, toss them the keys and walk away. I stopped by my local auto parts store and had them read the error code out for me on their code reader and it just meant that the geniuses at the dealership did not check the oil or change it. So I bought some oil there while at the auto parts store, topped it off a little just to see if that was in fact the case. Sure enough it was.
Drive Shaft Removal Procedure
The first thing I did was jack up the track and place jack stands under it so I didn't get crushed. Secondly, I disconnected it at the rear differential joint. This was easily removed by loosening the 4 bolts shown using a 7/16" socket. Before completely removing them I made sure to tie up the drive shaft so it didn't smack me in the face. I used a flathead screwdriver to pop off the little clips around the universal joint and the retaining rings. Once these are removed the drive shaft comes right out. Pretty simple. I did end up buying a new universal joint as the old one was a little rusty. It was fairly inexpensive at auto zone.
Steering Wheel Removal
The first thing to do is to remove the airbag. There's a little hole in the side of the steering column that I inserted a long Allen wrench into. This will release the airbag. Then I loosened the nut I the center with a socket and ratchet. It has standard threads so lefty loosey. Once the nut was removed I just had to give it a little bump on the back with a rubber mallet to help it come off. Simple.
How to Replace the Steering Column for $100
This was a lot easier than I thought. I picked up a steering column of a Tahoe from the junk yard. The truck that this was being replaced in is a 2002 GMC Sierra. I had never replaced one of these before, I hadn't watched any videos on it, and really just dove in and went for it. I did, however, have some reassurance from some gearhead buddies of mine that even a non-automotive mechanic type such as myself can do it and that most idiots can do it. I'm not exactly sure what they were trying to tell me. Don't be intimidated by this if you've never done it before. It's a piece of cake if you're willing to put a tiny bit of turning some wrenches and disconnecting and reconnecting a few electrical connections.
The first step was calling the junk yard and telling them what I need. They let me know that it's the same for a Chevy Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban, or GMC Sierra. I took a leap of faith. After all they were only charging me $100 which was about 10X cheaper than if I took it to the dealer to have this done. I went and picked it up, took it home, and got to work. In a nutshell, it was all just plug and play sort of speak. Secondly, I had to remove all of the surrounding plastics. Then it was just remove all of the electrical connections and unbolt the securing nuts and bolts. I will say, you are going to have to tap into your socket extension supply. I didn't have a long socket extension so I put about 10 small ones together and it did the trick. I probably had the old one out within a couple hours. If I had to do it again I could probably do it in half the time or better. The airbag will need to be disconnected when you do this. The new steering column did not come with an air bag. Likely because it had deployed on the vehicle it came out of. The air bag needed to be disconnected from the old one and reinstalled on the new one. It was totally easy.
All you really need to do is slide a couple long Allen wrenches in the holes visible along the steering column and push them in. This disengages the airbag. All you need to do then is unhook the two electrical connectors and it's out. Then plug them back into the new steering column.
Now after unbolting everything and unplugging all of the electrical connections, slap the new one in and reverse the process. Snap all the plastics back in place and you are almost good to go.
You will need to override the anti theft function though.
All you need to do to get your new steering column functioning properly is to place your ignition in the "On" position for an hour. Be sure to have a fresh battery for this or maybe place a battery charger on the battery while doing this. After an hour it'll crank over and stay on rather than it killing the motor after a couple seconds.
How to Remove and Install the Steering Wheel Airbag
This airbag removal and re-installation was performed on a 2002 GMC Sierra. It came out of a 2002 GMC Sierra Steering Column and re-installed on a Chevy Tahoe steering column. It was super easy to remove from the Sierra and install in the Tahoe. This was actually part of a steering column replacement on the Sierra.
Spark Plug and Spark Plug Wire Change Out Procedure
Tutorial Style Video on DIY Spark Plug and Spark Plug Wire Change Out-GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado. It needed to be done so I figured I'd make a video while I did it. Saved quite a bit of money by doing it myself rather than take it into a dealer or automotive garage.
How to Change the Oil and Filter
Oil change on circa 2010 Model Chevy Silverados, GMC Sierra, Suburbans, etc. Save labor costs and DIY. After getting your oil and filter (PF4BE ACDelco) from the store grab your oil pan, oil filter wrench, socket and ratchet (or open ended/box end wrench). Make sure the truck is sitting on a flat surface and is chocked properly so it won't move. Crawl under it and loosen the oil pan plug with your wrench. Make sure your oil pan is underneath the plug and loosen it all the way allowing the oil to come out. Then loosened the oil filter and finish draining all of the oil, remove filter. It may be a good idea to crack the cap under the hood where the oil comes it so as to allow the oil to flow out better. Drain the filter into the oil pan. Keep your face out of the way so you don't get oil in the eyes. Always a good idea to have safety glasses on as well. It's also easier to do this if you have car ramps to elevate the front end a little bit so it's easier to crawl under. Once oil is drained, lubricate the new filter gasket with a light coat of oil and install new filter nice and snug hand tight or snug with the oil wrench. Install the oil pan plug nice and tight. Always a good idea to use rubber gloves too so you don't get oil all over your hands. I used an engine oil additive on this oil change (Lucas). Add the correct amount of oil. This will be shown on the dipstick. Don't overfill.
Truck Tailgate Theft Prevention Trick
Installation of a couple hose clamps can make the difference between keeping your tailgate or losing it to theft. These clamps remove it from the easy target list and maybe make the dirtbags move onto another truck. This demo was performed on a Silverado.
Amazon link to gate keeper: https://amzn.to/2TBqcCJ
Reset the "Change Oil Soon" Dash Warning
After you change your oil is super simple. to reset the "CHANGE ENGINE OIL SOON" warning on your dash display. It will not reset itself. All you do is watch the three simple steps in the video and it will be gone immediately. Those steps are, turn the key to the ON position (without starting vehicle) to where the warning lights are displayed. The vehicle should be beeping at this point. Then press on the accelerator three times slowly all within 5 seconds, then turn the key off. The dash warning light will be gone when you turn it back on. If this doesn't work the first time, repeat the steps. It's possible you pushed the accelerator too fast or too slow.
Remove and Install Ignition Key Lock Cylinder
The first step of replacing the key lock cylinder is to disconnect the battery and remove the steering column covers. The reason I replaced this one is because it has broken plastic and the cylinder will not turn past the "ON" position. I went down to auto zone and picked on up for $50. One thing to realize is that now the door lock key will be different than the ignition key. To get this thing in and out, there is a little hole in which to insert something to depress the latch that allows the key lock to be inserted in and out. I used a scratch awl because it was the first thing I grabbed out of my toolbox that I found to fit but I'm sure there is a specially made tool out there just for this. The trick is that the key must be in the "Start" position for it to be slid in and out. Another thing to use is a sports ball inflation needle. Many of us have these laying around as well. Insert it into the hole and the key lock cylinder will easily slide in and out. Good to go. I initially thought the problem was the key cylinder. I ended up replacing the whole steering column.
GMC Dashboard Gauge Panel-What's inside?
This came out of a 2002 GMC Sierra and was initially planning on getting it replaced but ended up reassembling it and reinstalling it.
Vehicle Anti Theft System Reset Override Technique
After replacing the steering column in the truck it was necessary to replace the Vehicle Anti Theft System Reset Override because it would only start for a couple seconds and then die. I was initially going to try to bypass it, however, a quick call to the chevy dealer (thank you!) revealed a simple sequence of operations on how to reset it. The trick is to turn the key to the "ON" position, leave it for 1 hour like this, then start it up. You must ensure you have a nice fresh battery in order to do this or even place a battery charger on your battery will you do it so it won't go dead. It should fire right up.