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Discussion Starter #1
My 2012 Volt is having misfires for the third winter in a row. I run the ICE at least once a week all year round, but I only get the misfires once the temps dip below about -4C. The first winter it happened, I brought it to the dealer and they suspected the engine had buildup of gunk from ICE not running enough so they did the engine cleaning and it was good after that. The ICE ran in the spring, summer and fall with no issues. Second winter it goes below freezing and I get misfires again. I brought it back to the dealer and they cleaned it again, but when they gave it back to me they said if it happens again then it was going to be their recommendation to replace the cylinder head. This seems to be consistent with the PIP5201 service bulletin. I've done a bit of research on this issue and it seems I'm not the only Volt owner to experience this. Unfortunately mine is no longer under warranty and before I contemplate paying the dealer $$$$ to fix it (or selling/trading it) I'd like to try and pinpoint the problem a little better.

I'd like to also note that I have only used premium fuel and brought it to the dealer for maintenance whenever it was required. I just had the auxiliary heat pump replaced about two weeks ago, the check engine light blinked for a few seconds about 2 days before I brought it to the dealer for that repair so I asked them to check if there were any codes from that time frame and they reported that it was the P0300 misfire code. Now, the first winter I brought it in, it had also stored codes for some of the other cylinders as well (P0301 and another one - I don't recall exactly which one).

So here's my million dollar question - does anyone have any insight as to why the ICE runs fine with no misfires or check engine lights all year long but suddenly it becomes a problem when the temps go below -4C-ish? Is that indicative of a particular part causing the problem or is the dealer likely correct that it will need the cylinder head replaced?
 

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If it was me,I'd check the fuel pressure,then to rule out the cylinder head,I'd do a leak down test,it will tell you if the valves are sealing and the rings are still good.
Have the spark plugs ever been replaced?then its coils.
also pull a fuel sample,,make sure theres no water present.
 
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Discussion Starter #3
I'm fairly certain they checked the spark plugs last time I had it to the dealer, I'm trying to find my invoices from when I took it in before with this issue to see if they changed them or not (I can find all the invoices except those two of course). I wondered if moisture on the spark plugs is the cause somehow though. Even after I left it all weekend, it still started just fine (it was cold enough for ERDTT to kick in right after I started it) and it ran smoothly for the first minute or two of my trip and then the misfires started after. So if it was moisture it would have to be getting in to the spark plugs after it's running somehow?

If the weather doesn't warm up soon I might make an appointment for them to do the fuel pressure test and the leak down test as you suggest and see what happens. Thankfully I can avoid driving it right now but if we're going to have weeks and weeks of below zero temps outside then I'm going to have to formulate a plan B.
 

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Bentbiker has a good suggestion which should be followed. I suggest that a bottle of Techron be poured into the gas tank to attempt cleaning the injectors. Perhaps use Techron in two or three gas tank fill-ups.
My theory: I wonder if the the stumbling occurring with coolant temperature might be related to the stoichiometric goal. Below a certain coolant temperature, running "rich" is commanded. A weak or dirty injector might be tolerated under that condition. But, when running at the stoichiometric point, the injector doesn't squirt out enough gas and the cylinder misfires. I don't know if that scenario is possible, but, Techron seems to be a cheap stab in the dark.
 
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Jbakerjonathan I think your theory might have merit as it ran fine both times after the dealer did the "engine cleaning" in prior years. Maybe I'm just not driving it enough during the year to keep the fuel system from getting full of gunk. I'd estimate up until now I've gone through probably at least 5 or 6 tanks of gas over the course of the year, but I did have a stretch of 6 weeks in March/April where I was working from home due to covid where it didn't get driven much.

So basically, when the dealer does this "engine cleaning" maintenance, they're using the Techron? They charged me over $300 both times I had it in for misfires before and they cleaned it - but I was hoping to find my bill so I could see if they did anything else diagnostic that I can rule out. I'll definitely try the Techron first, though I'm not sure where I can find it locally. I see Amazon has it if all else fails.
 

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Have you changed the ignition coil? Where the little springs seat on the ignition coil tend to build corrosion over time. I had misfire issues and changed the coil and it solved most of that problem. Upon inspecting the old ignition coil, you can pull those boots off that hold the spring and see down into where they seat. probably a bunch of rust and corrosion. Mine got bad enough to kill my ignition coil. I did try to clean it up and put it back in, but it still was quite angry.

I also had a pcv valve in the valve cover go bad at the same time and the combination of sucking oil up and bad spark fouled up all my plugs, and would create the same symptoms again.

I also live in the extreme cold. Right now in February, my engine runs everyday because of the cold. But it still is angry until it warms up a few minutes. I have wondered if going to a hotter running spark plug during the winter would solve some of the fouling issues. I haven't tried that yet.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I found my invoices from my previous two visits to the dealer with this issue. Here are the tech comments.

February 8, 2018: "check cause of ses light on -- P0300 stored -- found misfires on #2, 3 and 4 cylinders -- found tracking on plugs -- recommend new plugs and induction service"
Qty. 4 55585534 - Spark plug
Qty. 1 2926 map fuel ind kit
BG Fuel Induction Service

January 30, 2019: "check cause of ses light on -- P0300 stored -- misfires on cyl 2, 3 and 4 ran gm cleaner through injectors as per bulletin -- cleared codes and added fuel treatment put outside for cold start -- drove through warmup and let sit overnight again -- road tested again fri am --- no codes set and no misfires recorded -- if this condition persists the cyl head may have to be replaced"
Qty. 1 88865598 - cleaner, fuel system treatment gasoline A

So spark plugs are the only thing the dealer replaced, for whatever reason they did not run any other diagnostics or suggest replacing the ignition coil. Is it just a coincidence that cylinder #1 is the only one that didn't misfire both times?
 

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I found my invoices from my previous two visits to the dealer with this issue. Here are the tech comments.

February 8, 2018: "check cause of ses light on -- P0300 stored -- found misfires on #2, 3 and 4 cylinders -- found tracking on plugs -- recommend new plugs and induction service"
Qty. 4 55585534 - Spark plug
Qty. 1 2926 map fuel ind kit
BG Fuel Induction Service

January 30, 2019: "check cause of ses light on -- P0300 stored -- misfires on cyl 2, 3 and 4 ran gm cleaner through injectors as per bulletin -- cleared codes and added fuel treatment put outside for cold start -- drove through warmup and let sit overnight again -- road tested again fri am --- no codes set and no misfires recorded -- if this condition persists the cyl head may have to be replaced"
Qty. 1 88865598 - cleaner, fuel system treatment gasoline A

So spark plugs are the only thing the dealer replaced, for whatever reason they did not run any other diagnostics or suggest replacing the ignition coil. Is it just a coincidence that cylinder #1 is the only one that didn't misfire both times?
Well, it seems that cleaning the injectors corrects the problem (temporarily, at least). I’m not sure what the dealer had in mind when suggesting that replacing the head would resolve the issue. Does anyone else have a clue? I’m always eager to learn 8^)

I would buy the six pack from Amazon and go through as many tank-fulls as needed to correct the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
If the bulletin that the tech referred to is No. PIP5201 Cold Start Misfires MIL P0300 it does say at the very bottom "If the condition persists, replace the cylinder head assembly and retest". But they didn't do any of the other diagnostics the bulletin lists before that other than check the spark plugs. So either they know something I don't know (and aren't telling me) or they're just being lazy and/or want to sell me a really expensive service now that it's not under warranty. I'm glad this forum exists so I can explore the alternatives first - unfortunately I have not done much DIY engine maintenance over the years but at this point I'm willing to give it a shot.

I did order the Techron from Amazon, expected delivery isn't until next week but as soon as I get my hands on it I'll give it a go.
 

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I don't know if you want to take the intake off.but you may want to put a camera/bore scope down and see if its all gunked up.again,before doing a cylinder head,,get a leak down test done.it will tell you condition of cylinder head.
 

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The Feb 8, 2018 invoice notes that they "found tracking on plugs." If this was the case it would indicate that the spark ran down the side of the plugs causing a misfire. This will usually also cause carbon tracking inside the spark plug boot. This could easily cause your repetitive problem.

The car does not have a separate ignition coil. Instead they use a single assembly consisting of 4 coil-on-plug units. This is a relatively easy item to remove and should be checked to see if there is carbon tracking inside the boots. A replacement assembly is available from many sources at a modest cost. (Rock Auto, etc.)
 

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The Feb 8, 2018 invoice notes that they "found tracking on plugs." If this was the case it would indicate that the spark ran down the side of the plugs causing a misfire. This will usually also cause carbon tracking inside the spark plug boot. This could easily cause your repetitive problem.

The car does not have a separate ignition coil. Instead they use a single assembly consisting of 4 coil-on-plug units. This is a relatively easy item to remove and should be checked to see if there is carbon tracking inside the boots. A replacement assembly is available from many sources at a modest cost. (Rock Auto, etc.)

Agreed that pulling the coils wouldn’t be such a big job. I believe that the large cover is held down by two screw bolts. The rail holding the four coils is probably held down with two bolts. Then it is just a matter of pulling – wiggling – up the assembly. That’s how I picture it.

Looking down into the wells to see the plugs using a flashlight would show…something. Removing the spark plugs to examine the plugs would be the next step. Blowing out the wells with compressed air before plug removal would be smart.
 

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If the bulletin that the tech referred to is No. PIP5201 Cold Start Misfires MIL P0300 it does say at the very bottom "If the condition persists, replace the cylinder head assembly and retest". But they didn't do any of the other diagnostics the bulletin lists before that other than check the spark plugs. So either they know something I don't know (and aren't telling me) or they're just being lazy and/or want to sell me a really expensive service now that it's not under warranty. I'm glad this forum exists so I can explore the alternatives first - unfortunately I have not done much DIY engine maintenance over the years but at this point I'm willing to give it a shot.

I did order the Techron from Amazon, expected delivery isn't until next week but as soon as I get my hands on it I'll give it a go.
Hummm...I can't think of why the head would come into play unless the thought was a cracked head. But, how that would cause the problem I can't see.
 

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Rereading this list doesn't reveal the gas octane you are burning. I hope that it is 91 octane minimum from a Top Tier provider.
 

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Rereading this list doesn't reveal the gas octane you are burning. I hope that it is 91 octane minimum from a Top Tier provider.
I've owned the car since it was new so I can say with 100% certainty that it's only seen premium fuel since the day I drove it off the lot. If I remember correctly premium was labelled 91 octane when I last fueled up. The dealer asked me where I usually get gas and they seemed satisfied when I told them that I only go to either Petro Canada or Ultramar. And the Ultramar was just recently built, so I could rule it out as the cause since the misfires started back in 2018 and it didn't exist in my area then. So... still waiting for the Amazon person to bring my the Techron but the recent snow may cause delays.
 

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I've owned the car since it was new so I can say with 100% certainty that it's only seen premium fuel since the day I drove it off the lot. If I remember correctly premium was labelled 91 octane when I last fueled up. The dealer asked me where I usually get gas and they seemed satisfied when I told them that I only go to either Petro Canada or Ultramar. And the Ultramar was just recently built, so I could rule it out as the cause since the misfires started back in 2018 and it didn't exist in my area then. So... still waiting for the Amazon person to bring my the Techron but the recent snow may cause delays.
So, we can cross off incorrect octane. That's good. I hope that the Techron treatment will do the trick for you. If you don't mind, please let us know whether or not it worked. Good luck.
 

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Amazon guy delivered my Techron on Friday. I didn't have time to take the car out until Sunday but I did pull it out of the garage on Saturday and let it run for about 20 minutes with the hood open. I was in the garage the whole time and it did run a lot less smoothly until it warmed up but nothing else unusual. Sunday I did the same and it started up ok but after about a minute or two I could tell by the sound of the engine (I was standing outside) that it was misfiring again. I checked the dash and the ses light was blinking but the misfires only lasted maybe a minute before the engine smoothed out again. I gave it another few minutes then shut it off and put the bottle of Techron in. I had previously filled up the tank and it was only 1 bar down so I decided to run the engine again for another 15-20 minutes and then I drove it to the Petro Canada and was able to put a few dollar's worth of 94 octane. Sidenote: The Ultramar I filled up at has 91 octane as their highest grade but from now on I'll just go to the Petro Canada and get the 94 octane.

So I drove it around town and down some county roads until the battery was down to 1/2 and then I put on the mountain mode, the ses did blink again at one point early in my hour-long journey but the engine wasn't jerky so I just kept it steady and it smoothed out again on it's own. All that driving though, and I'm not even down an 1/8th of a tank so it'll take me a bit to burn through the whole tank even if I don't charge it.

I'm torn though if I should keep charging it and just do the mountain mode for my work commute, I estimate that my battery will deplete enough for mountain mode to trigger the engine when I'm about 7-8 minutes from home so at that rate it might take a few weeks to burn a significant amount of gas. It should stay warm enough for the next week or two that I won't get ERDTT too often, but I'd hate to get caught out somewhere with no battery if the ICE has another episode.

I wish there was a way to trigger the engine to run when the battery was full, that way I could run the gas all the time but still have battery in reserve in case I need it.
 

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pop the hood to the safety latch if your driving around town or tie a rope to keep it closed on the safety latch
 
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