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Your Next GM Car Could Alert You Before it Breaks Down

Maker developing “active, preventive maintenance system.”

by on Nov.14, 2014

The next version of the Chevy Impala may alert you to a possible mechanical problem before it happens.

If you haven’t just gotten your driver’s license last week, odds are you’ve faced that mysterious and inexplicable “Check Engine” light at least once or twice, leaving you the choice of heading to the dealer or ignoring the indicator, hoping the bulb might burn out.  Then again, you might have gotten no warning whatsoever when your battery died or a water pump failed.

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General Motors is developing an “active, preventive maintenance” system that could avoid such headaches by giving a motorist a detailed alert before something on the vehicle breaks, says the maker’s global product development chief.

“We’re testing the system now with our employees,” noted Mark Reuss, during a lunchtime interview.

The preventive maintenance system would rely on not only the numerous sensors built into today’s typical car, truck or crossover, but would also have access to a cloud-based database that would compile service records from similar vehicles. So, even if your engine seemed to be running smoothly at 48,000 miles, the system would know that particular V-6 turbo was likely to need a new oil filter at 50,000 miles, or that your battery only had a few more months of life left before facing what could be a tough winter.

(Fuel economy gains grind to a halt as American buyers switch back to big trucks. Click Here for the latest.)

The system would aim to avoid breakdowns, but it would also avoid the sort of false alarms that are associated with traditional “idiot lights,” like the Check Engine alert. And that could increase the likelihood a motorist would ignore a real problem until it became much serious.

A critical part of the preventive maintenance system is the OnStar communications technology now installed in virtually every GM vehicle, noted Reuss. That system can perform a wide range of functions, such as remotely unlocking a vehicle’s door should a motorist inadvertently lock their keys inside.  In an accident severe enough to trigger a vehicle’s airbags, authorities can receive an automatic call.

OnStar operators can program in a destination and, with the right subscription, handle a variety of concierge-style services.

The system also would be used to alert a motorist to a mechanical problem, whether by calling the vehicle or by displaying a message on the infotainment screen or the LCD display in the gauge cluster on many new vehicles.

GM is still working to ensure the accuracy of the alert system, and to decide how best to make it work. The maker also is trying to decide whether it would be a standard feature or require an OnStar subscription. The basic communications system is already installed on most of the vehicles the maker sells in the U.S., even if an owner doesn’t subscribe.

Reuss said he’s not sure how soon GM plans to roll out the preventive maintenance system, but the company appears likely to launch the technology in the relatively near future as both a safety feature and a potential competitive advantage.

(Mercedes has most satisfied shoppers, says new JD Power survey. Click Here for details.)

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7 Responses to “Your Next GM Car Could Alert You Before it Breaks Down”

  1. hi rt says:

    As I read this, GM is trying to sell you more reasons to buy their On-Star system and direct you to their dealers for more over charged repairs.

    Why not put the check engine lights in English with the different reasons why you may be having that issue.

    Plus give me back the battery and oil pressure gauges. Transmission temp. gauge would be of help.

    A test button to check that all my lights are working on the exterior of the auto, would be helpful.
    A screen to tell me how all my different systems are working on my autos, could give me heads up on any auto problems that I may be having.

    I DO NOT NEED OR WANT ALL THESE APPS or anything else that you have to use with a phone, period.
    I do not want to have to buy a data plan to be able to use my auto.

    It should be ready to be drive off the lot without any other supplemental systems, necessary.

    How about a locking gas door on all vehicles since the caps are disappearing.?

    Give me things I can use, without ripping me off.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      One significant detail, RT, is that GM may not charge for the alert system. Reuss suggested it will be available to all owners, not just OnStar subscribers. And if it provides clear details of what problem you might be facing, rather than some inscrutable diagnostic code or alert only a GM technician can read, then it should be even more useful than traditional gauges…while still giving an owner the choice of where to go for service.

      Paul A. Eisenstein
      Publisher, TheDetroitBureau.com

  2. nobsartist says:

    Reuss is an idiot and those dealerships are going to be noisy.

  3. Jorge says:

    Nothing is free so it’s built into the sticker price.

    That being said for years the auto industry has been trying to figure out how to predict when maintenance is required before things fail. It’s a very difficult goal to achieve and when you start adding sensors and logic controls, there is a significant cost added to the vehicle.

    • Outsider says:

      Then, which will be more expensive for the customer: to let it fail and fix it, or the advance warning system? I’d think there is not much room for adding the price of the vehicle with something whose value to the customer may not be obvious. Meaning that the vehicle price increase cannot be very big or people won’t buy it. My guess is that they aren’t adding that many new sensors but rather exploiting the existing ones further with more sophisticated software.

    • nobsartist says:

      They have the failure modes down quite well. That’s why most American junks are rotted out in 10 years OR the crap aisin transmissions that they all use self destruct upon leaving the stealership.

      Tip- NEVER buy a new car and steer clear of most American cars, especially fords. don’t consider gm products because they will not be around in 5 years.

      • Steve says:

        what about Chrysler Products?