10 Most Common Cadillac ATS Problems

10 Most Common Cadillac ATS Problems [EXPLAINED]

10 Most Common Cadillac ATS Problems

Despite Cadillac discontinuing the ATS (Alpha Touring Sedan) model back in 2019, many people still turn to the American-made car as their vehicle of choice in the secondhand market.

However, like any used car that you buy, it’s very important to familiarize yourself with the common problems that you can run into while owning a Cadillac ATS, and we’ve created this article to help you with that very reason!

We’ll also be giving you possible solutions to such problems and even which Cadillac ATS model years are the best and worst to buy, so be sure to have a good read until the end!

What are the most common problems of the Cadillac ATS?

Common problems of the Cadillac ATS include engine misfires, oil and coolant leaks, transmission problems, brake power loss, drivetrain issues, overheating rear defogger, and CUE screen issues.

Other problems are accidental roof panel closing, power steering loss, and other electrical issues.

As you can see by the general summary above, the Cadillac ATS is prone to lots of different problems that concern both mechanical and electrical components.

Though it’s also important to mention that all of these problems don’t necessarily happen commonly across all model years, which is only one of several factors to consider.

For instance, some earlier model years are more prone to engine-related problems than newer ones, whereas other kinds of problems have been reported to occur over a broader model year range.

Thus, we’ll be enumerating and giving explanations for each of these common Cadillac ATS problems one at a time, and as promised, including possible solutions.

Also, do take note that some of these problems have already been resolved by the manufacturer itself via Technical Service Bulletins (TSB) or recalls.

If you’ve confirmed that your vehicle is affected by a certain recall, all you need to do is bring your car to the dealership to have the recalled component fixed or replaced.

Engine Misfires

Engine Misfires

We list engine-related problems at the top of every single one of our “common problems” articles for a reason, and this is because issues relating to the engine tend to be quite major and need the most immediate attention.

In the case of the 2013 to 2014 Cadillac ATS, instances of engine misfires have concerned a lot of owners about the reliability of their cars and their own safety.

The Cadillac ATS’s turbocharged 2-liter I4 engine (2.0T trim), in particular, has been the most prone to engine misfires based on reports from owners, which can actually be boiled down to a design flaw in the 2-liter engine itself.

Since the ATS’s 2-liter engine is turbocharged, after all, it generates more heat and higher compression compared to a naturally-aspirated engine, and the pistons have been known to get damaged because of the resulting misfiring from such conditions.

Furthermore, there are actually other symptoms that can come with engine misfires that you should also look out for.

Cadillac ATS Engine Misfiring Symptoms:
Check Engine Light (CEL) is turned on Engine idling or running rougherEngine stalling while driving Increase in oil consumption Potential DTC P0300 code upon diagnostic scan

To actually solve the misfiring issue itself, the people of Cadillac took it upon themselves to have every affected ATS model’s ECM (engine control module) reprogrammed for an updated spark control calibration.

To further prevent the misfiring condition from happening in the engine’s cylinders, a set of updated spark plugs with a colder heat range has also been fitted on affected Cadillac ATS models.

Engine Misfires

The service procedures mentioned above were offered for free until the 31st of December 2016, and Cadillac states that any related services performed after that will be subject to any applicable warranty left on the vehicle unit.

As for those that already have their pistons damaged as a result of the engine misfire, Cadillac has, unfortunately, not stated anything in the recall about covering the damages done to the piston or any other engine component.

Getting a new set of pistons for the Cadillac ATS costs an average of $780 on eBay, and this is assuming that you know your way around opening an engine up to install them in the first place.  

Oil and Coolant Leaking from the Engine

Oil and Coolant Leaking from the Engine

No list of common problems is complete without including some sort of leaking issue, and in the Cadillac ATS’s case, it happens to be oil and coolant leaking from the engine.

Such leaks are also quite common in the 2013 to 2014 model years of the Cadillac ATS, and they’ve been linked to, yet again, the turbocharged 2-liter I4 engine option’s tendency to use up too much oil.

However, this doesn’t exactly mean that all other engine options of the Cadillac ATS are safe from any sort of leaks, as even owners of non-turbo 2.5-liter I4 variants have had their fair share of oil puddles underneath their vehicles.

Oil Leaks (Leaking Timing Cover Gasket)

When it comes to oil leaks on the Cadillac ATS, the most common culprit of the problem was actually determined to be the timing cover gasket.

Some owners report that a lot of sludge has built up on the turbocharger side of where the timing cover is located in as little as 45,000 miles (72,000 km) on the odometer, and some of the sludge even leaked into the nearby alternator.

If not remedied right away, the oil leak and sludge buildup can cause the engine to overheat, produce smoke from the hood, and even stall as you’re driving down the road.

Cadillac actually names the scenario we’ve described above as “seepage”, which does start off from the timing cover gasket and affects neighboring components.

But despite this, the manufacturer actually does not include seepage problems under the standard Cadillac warranty, meaning that you would have to pay out of pocket to get a relatively low-mileage but potentially troublesome issue fixed.

While buying a new timing cover gasket is relatively inexpensive at $30 to $60 in parts, the associated labor costs should you choose to have a mechanic do the dirty work can total up to over $1,000.

Oil Leaks (Leaking Timing Cover Gasket)

Coolant Leaks (Loose or Damaged Cooling System Components)

As far as coolant leaks on the Cadillac ATS are concerned, there are three common places under the hood that are most likely to leak the essential fluid for your car.

All three of these places are, of course, parts of the car’s coolant system, and these are the radiator, the water pump, and the various hoses of the system.

Coolant Leaks (Loose or Damaged Cooling System Components)

According to data from RepairPal, about 50% of reported coolant leaks on the Cadillac ATS actually come from different hoses in the coolant system, whereas the remaining 50% are shared equally between either a broken radiator or a failed water pump.

Damage to the Cadillac ATS’s coolant or radiator hoses can be a result of natural wear and tear or oil leaks from the engine that we’ve previously discussed.

Moving on to the radiator, it can also eventually fail or break due to the degradation of its materials over time, resulting in coolant leaking from the cracks made.

It’s also important to remember that when coolant leaks from the radiator, you will notice a puddle in front of the engine instead of directly underneath it.

Coolant leaks from the water pump, on the other hand, do leave puddles directly underneath the engine, which is a very common symptom that the water pump or water pump gasket has already failed.

Total estimated costs (parts + labor) to replace the Cadillac ATS’s cooling system components are $380 to $412 for the hoses, $1,322 to $1,574 for the radiator, and $1,167 to $1,242 for the water pump.

Transmission Problems

Aside from engine-related problems, another general category of problems of the Cadillac ATS that can lead to a costly repair bill relates to its transmission system.

The Cadillac ATS has been known to exhibit shaky or shuddering transmission shifts resulting in a high risk of rollaway, as well as the transmission shift cable getting detached from its brackets.

Shaky/Shuddering Transmission 

One of the most commonly associated problems with the Cadillac ATS’s transmission is that it tends to shake or shudder a lot during acceleration and in between shifts.

While this phenomenon has been reported to occur in models as old as 2013 to as new as 2017, one commonality that they have is that they are all equipped with the 8-speed 8L45 Hydra-Matic automatic transmission.

Shaky/Shuddering Transmission 

Some owners complain of the shuddering happening while accelerating from a dead stop, while others even experience it happening at higher speeds of about 50 mph.

Due to how widespread this transmission problem became, Cadillac went ahead and issued a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB #18-NA-355) to address it, though the bulletin only covers 2016 to 2019 models.

The manufacturer states that the shuddering feeling might be due to the shuddering of the torque converter clutch (TCC) itself, and the appropriate fluid exchange procedure is required in order to remedy the issue.

Thus, if you own or plan to buy a Cadillac ATS from the 2016 to 2019 model years, it’s also worth knowing if it has already undergone the fluid exchange procedure for its torque converter clutch.

Shift Cable Gets Detached (Risk of Rollaway)

Shift Cable Gets Detached (Risk of Rollaway)

Another transmission-related issue that’s not as prevalent as the last one but still worthy of a recall (14179B) is the Cadillac ATS’s shift cable getting detached from its brackets.

The transmission shift cable is a very important component of the transmission in that it actually links the shifter (or gear selector) that you control by hand to the transmission itself.

Hence, a shift cable suddenly disconnecting from its proper position on the transmission or shifter brackets can result in a mismatch between the gear you’ve inputted and the actual gear selected.

The manufacturer itself mentions such a scenario in the recall, wherein selecting “PARK” may not actually put the vehicle in park, which puts the vehicle at high risk of rolling away.

As you can imagine, ignoring this issue can easily cause an accident that can harm both the vehicle’s occupants and any nearby bystanders as well.

Cadillac has urged dealerships to inspect the shift cable connections on the brackets of affected Cadillac ATS models from 2013 to 2014 to ensure that they are properly attached, so be sure to get your unit checked if it ever falls under the recall.

Loss of Braking Power (Bracket Defect)

Loss of Braking Power (Bracket Defect)

The brakes are another major component of the Cadillac ATS that are known to not work as they are intended to, which can put you in countless unimaginably dangerous situations while you’re going down the highway.

The difference between this issue and the other ones we’ve already discussed, though, is that it didn’t take numerous complaints to actually have Cadillac (General Motors) issue a recall (NHTSA Recall 15V358000) for the brakes.

As covered in the recall, the most likely models that will be affected by this brake issue are all 2015 Cadillac ATS and Cadillac CTS vehicles.

According to an article by CarComplaints, the manufacturer was testing one of its vehicles (did not specify if it was an ATS or CTS model) when it suddenly lost all power to the brakes, with only the emergency brake as the sole option of stopping the car.

The whole incident has been traced to a manufacturing defect on the bracket in between the brake pad assembly and the brake actuator rod.

The manufacturer further explains in the recall that if the bracket were to fracture or break, the brake pedal will become unresponsive to all inputs from the driver, which can result in an accident.

Due to this possibility, General Motors has notified owners of affected models about the recall to have any defective brake brackets replaced at no cost.

In case you bought your 2015 Cadillac ATS (or CTS) secondhand and would like to check if it has undergone the bracket recall, we recommend contacting Cadillac’s customer service number at 1-800-458-8006 and state the recall number (15352).  

Drivetrain Issues 

2015 models of the Cadillac ATS have been reported to run into specific issues with their drivetrains, namely axle seal failures and broken drive axles.

Axle Seal Failure

Axle Seal Failure

Axle seals, on average, are supposed to last anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 miles (80,000 to 161,000 km), so you could imagine the disappointment of some Cadillac ATS owners after discovering that theirs lasted nowhere near that long.

Owners of 2015 Cadillac ATS models have experienced their rear axle seals prematurely failing at the 27,000-mile mark, while leaks from the component have also been observed to happen in as little as 17,000 miles of driving.

The failure of the axle seals also causes other symptoms such as audible groaning noises from the differential when in reverse and lower fluid levels (due to the leaking).

The good news is that since the axle seals are part of Cadillac’s powertrain warranty, which lasts for 6 years or 70,000 miles, newer models that exhibit this kind of failure can still have their axle seals replaced free of charge.

Broken Drive Axle

Broken Drive Axle

The drive axle breaking on the Cadillac ATS may not be as common of an occurrence as the axle seals failing, but it can still cause safety hazards and expensive repair bills, as some owners have had the misfortune of experiencing.

As one owner describes it, a “popping” sound can be heard as you’re steering into a turn from a stoplight, which can result in a loss of steering control and the back end of the car spinning out, even for a 4-wheel drive car.

After inspecting the car up on jack stands, it was found out that the strut tower also broke, which actually broke the drive axle and other drivetrain components in the process.

Another separate incident shares that the drive axle problem first started with leaks from the axle seals we’ve previously discussed, and upon late discovery of the dealership, the drive axle was already in need of critical repair due to the leaks.

Due to the rarity of broken drive axles on the Cadillac ATS, it’s difficult to assume that these incidents are just because of leaky axle seals.

Nonetheless, it’s still worth having your drivetrain components regularly checked and maintained, such as changing the rear axle fluid at the 45,000, 90,000, and 135,000-mile marks, according to the Cadillac ATS maintenance schedule.

CUE Screen Issues

CUE Screen Issues

The Cadillac ATS, like many other vehicles we’ve covered, has its own set of interior problems, but the most prevalent of them all is non-other than the CUE screen (short for Cadillac User Experience).

The two most common problems of the Cadillac ATS CUE screen are its tendency to become unresponsive or faulty and the cracking or delaminating of the screen itself, and these have been commonly observed in 2013 and 2014 models.

CUE Screen Stops Working/Responding

The CUE screen houses the radio, HVAC, and many other infotainment controls, so it’s easy to imagine how much of an annoyance it can be when you lose control of all of them at once.

In some cases, the CUE screen even performs random tasks without being touched, such as switching radio stations and changing the display.

Since there is no recall issued for the CUE screen at all, then you should hope that whatever Cadillac ATS model year you have is still within the 6-year or 70,000-mile warranty for the screen to have it replaced for free.

However, if you’re already way past that point, then expect to pay $1,500 upfront for a replacement unit.

CUE Screen Delaminates or Cracks

CUE Screen Delaminates or Cracks

Another widespread problem that Cadillac ATS owners have had to deal with on their CUE screens is that it is prone to cracking or delamination.

The CUE screen is so prone to this issue that even owners that have had their units already replaced under warranty started experiencing the same thing again later on.

While General Motors (GM) has already released multiple TSBs (PIC6055, PIC6055A, PIC6055B, PIC6055C) since 2014 regarding this issue, they did little to no effect on actually resolving the cracking and delaminating of the CUE screen for good.

As a result, two class-action lawsuits have been filed against GM to fix or reimburse the owners of affected Cadillac models and their CUE screen systems.

Overheating Rear Defogger System

Overheating Rear Defogger System

A vehicle’s defogger or defroster is tasked to remove any condensation from water, ice, or mist forming on your windows, but in the case of the Cadillac ATS, it has been known to overheat and even start a fire.

More specifically, the 2013 to 2016 model years of the Cadillac ATS have actually undergone a recall (GM Recall #15299) for their rear defogger system, which happens to have a coil antenna module that is prone to overheating.

The recall states that the coil antenna module generates too much heat as a result of either being used for extended periods of time or excessive cycling of the module itself.

The module overheats so much that General Motors (GM) has even received 4 different reports of fires breaking out from where the defroster module is mounted on the driver’s side rear pillar.

To prevent this, GM had 121,000 units of its 2013 to 2016 Cadilac ATS models receive updates to their electronic climate control (ECC) module in order to remove the “ON” or “Continuous ON” function of the automatic rear defogger.

This will ensure that the defogger’s coil antenna module will not go through excessive cycling once the rear window has already been defogged, thereby preventing the overheating issue.

Accidental Roof Panel Closing Due to Non-Recessed Switches

Accidental Roof Panel Closing Due to Non-Recessed Switches

One annoying issue that has happened over and over for some Cadillac ATS owners is that the switches for the sunroof are very easy to accidentally press, which can result in the automatic closing of the roof panel and the risk of injury.

The root cause of the problem lies in the fact that the switches are not recessed enough, meaning they do not sit deep enough into the overhead console where they’re located.

Since the amount of recess did not pass federal standards, the manufacturer issued a recall to have the switch trim plate replaced in affected Cadillac ATS models from 2013 to 2016 at no charge.

Accidental Roof Panel Closing Due to Non-Recessed Switches

Power Steering Loss/Issues

Power Steering Loss/Issues

Loss of power steering and other related issues have also been reported to occur in the Cadillac ATS, specifically models from 2013, 2016, and 2017.

Since multiple model years of the Cadillac ATS exhibit this power steering issue, it’s also worth mentioning that the exact symptoms and causes may vary depending on which model year you have.

In the case of the 2013 Cadillac ATS models, loss of power steering was linked to a low voltage condition on the battery, which was observed when first starting the engine.

You may also receive a “no power steering” notification on the dashboard, as other 2013 model owners have reported.

On the other hand, the power steering loss on later models from 2016 to 2017 was actually due to an issue with the power steering gear assembly, and unlike the 2013 models, this can randomly disable the power steering at any given time.

While the 2013 ATS models simply needed a reprogrammed power steering control module, the 2016 to 2017 models underwent a recall to replace multiple components of their power steering gear assembly at no charge.

Various Electrical/Electronic Failures (Bad Battery)

Various Electrical/Electronic Failures (Bad Battery)

Some other electronic issues of the 2013 to 2014 Cadillac ATS that are worth being aware of are the radio and steering wheel features not working and the random popping up of notifications when starting the car.

In addition, you may even be greeted by multiple lights on the dashboard illuminating, as some owners have complained.

If this sounds like an issue with the battery for you, then you would be right on the money, as these are all symptoms that point to a bad battery on the Cadillac ATS.

The Cadillac ATS’s OEM battery can prematurely fail in as short as 6 months, which is far from the average Cadillac battery lifespan of about 4 to 5 years.

Depending on the shop and specific battery model, a new Cadillac replacement battery can range between $200 and $450 in cost.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)