GM Volt Forum banner

1 - 20 of 20 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
4 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I apologize in advance for the length of this post. But I'm hoping somebody can help, if not, at least my story will be a word of warning for others.

I have a 2012 Volt with 110,000 miles. I’m a HUGE Volt enthusiast. I've convinced at least 12 other people to buy Volts, probably several more. Neeless to say I LOVE my car, and I planned to drive it into the ground in a few hundred more thousand miles. But I may have made a series of mistakes that has shortened the life of my Volt considerably. Here's my story, followed by my theories, followed by my questions.

My Story:
Let me start by saying due to some life changes I have NO spare money at all. I’m 2 months behind on my mortgage and my money I am earning is going to feeding my family and trying to catch up. So I can’t afford to have my out-of-warrantee car diagnosed properly as the fee starts at $150. An amount that used to be paltry, but is currently unsurmountable.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I noticed my Volt wasn't taking a charge. I assumed my the fuse had blown in my 220v Voltec charger (the curly cable POS one)… Again! I'd previously, over the years, replaced both fuses by soldering new removable fuses to the motherboard as described here. This time, I didn't have time open the charger and put in a new fuse or dig my 110v charger out of the trunk for a few days, so I just drove around on gas. During that time I tried to charge on a public 220V charger in a nearby mall. I was surprised to discover that the car didn't take a charge there either. (Chargepoint still charged me nearly $5 for my non charge. $1 for ten miles? What a rip-off even if it did work!)

When I got home that evening I plugged into my 110V charger, and it gave me the usual beep that it was charging, and I went to bed. Next morning, still no charge and my charger was blinking red. Weird. I kind of ignored it for a week or so, because I was neck deep in a tight deadline on a project. At some point during that week, I got the “Service High Voltage Charging System” error. Ah ha, easy fix. It’s just low coolant on the high voltage battery. I pulled the error codes (P1FFF System Isolation / Coolant Level Sensor Fault - Hybrid/EV Battery Charging System Disabled), (P1FFE Hybrid / EV Battery Pack Coolant Level Low), (P1E00 Hybrid Powertrain Control Module 2 Requested MIL Illumination) and 2 out of 3 of them did indeed mention the coolant system, and the third message is pretty generic as I understand it.

Eventually I found myself downtown with a couple of hours to kill so I stopped by a Chevy dealership and told them about the error, they agreed it was probably just the coolant needed refilling, not uncommon here as our winters are very dry and the coolant evaporates. I didn’t have time or money for a full diagnostic, so they just topped it off with the proper coolant/distilled water combo but they didn’t drain or vacuum fill the system. On the upside, they didn’t charge me anything, so that was good. However, they were unwilling to clear the errors because I didn’t have time or money to deal with any other issues should they come up and they wanted to avoid liability. So I used an ODB reader to clear the errors thinking that with full coolant and cleared errors, the car would start charging again.

I was wrong. Not only does the car not take a charge from any source 220 or 110, it also doesn’t regen. At one point we drove way to the top of a nearby mountain and then came back down. Usually when we do that drive we have a good 10-15 miles of range at the bottom, even if it was depleted at the top. This time we had 0 miles of range at the bottom and the engine ran off and on the whole time. Still no errors new though.

The next day I decided to replace the fuse in my 220v charger just to make sure I couldn’t get it to work. Lo an behold I discovered something inside that terrified me. The output wire was inside the Voltec crispy black and melted(!) (I can post the horror show pics if requested) also one of my soldered fuses had broken lose. The fuses were still good though. I don’t know how long it had been in this state.

My Theories:
1) Best case: Coolant has bubbles in it and is refusing to charge the battery until they are cleared via the recommended vacuum based recharge process. Charger meltdown was a coincidence. Reason this doesn’t make sense: no new coolant error messages.

2) Worse case: My soldered-on fuse broke loose at some point and all the energy flowed incorrectly through the single fuse and somehow sent an over current to the car and blew out the car’s charger. Reason this doesn’t make sense: the errors I did get (before I cleared them) seemed to be coolant related. Also, the previous mentioned drive up the mountain was steep enough that at the very end we got the "Reduced power mode" message. However, upon driving back down the mountain, even though no range was added, the that mode has not returned, even under aggressive in-city driving since then, which tells me the regen is putting some kind of buffer energy into the battery which leads me to believe it’s not blown. Although I’m not that familiar with the architecture, is regen a DC-DC system, that’s separate from AC input charging which I might have blown? If that’s the case, why would the car not at least regen during the drive down the mountain? I’m very confused.

As you can see my theories are opposing. But I’m certainly hoping #1 is the case.

My Questions:
3) Which do you think is my issue, #1 or #2 or something else?

4) If it’s #1, can I force it to reset (beyond just clearing the code) and re-enable the charging system, bubbles be damned, at least long enough to discover said bubbles and throw a new error? At least this way I know it’s not #2.

5) If you think it's #2, does anybody know how I can test this without paying a service department. Normally I would not try to DIY something like this, but again I’m completely broke…

6) If it does turn out to be #2, how catastrophically expensive would the repair be? Is it something a decent DIY’r could pull off if I can find the right part? If it’s expensive and and hard to repair, I’m going to have to bite the bullet and let the bank repo my baby because I’m already $12,000 upside down in it anyway. But I have ZERO desire to be Volt-less especially after all these years and all these converts I’ve brought over. It would be downright embarrassing to drive a noisy, vibrating, shifting, fume belcher again.

7) I’ve noticed that when I drive around (ICE on) the engine runs harder than usual (it feels more like mountain mode). So I’m one assumption is that the battery is VERY dead and the car isn’t using the battery as a buffer at all (mountain drive evidence above not withstanding). Again, it’s odd none of the errors returned after I cleared them. My question is, what happens if the battery gets too low? Isn’t thermal runoff a possibility. I would have to assume GM thought of this scenario and won’t let that happen, but since it’s possible the charger is completely blown, maybe the battery will drain below the danger point anyway. I REALLY don’t want to be the source of an actual real case of "Chevy Volt Burns Down House!" news article.

Lessons learned: Don’t buy the Voltec charger, it’s a POS. Don’t attempt to repair said charger. Don’t cheap out on refilling coolant. Don’t clear your errors without doing anything about them.

Advice (and donations (PM me)) for this long time Volt owner (first Volt in my state) welcome.

Best,
Jeremy
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,003 Posts
I am too tired to read the whole post. It is my understanding that the only way to re-enable the charging system after refilling the coolant is for the dealership to reset it.

Keith
 

·
Moderator
Joined
·
8,680 Posts
Something else. Read the threads about the coolant level sensor and Service High Voltage Charging System.

Apparently the sensor is unreliable and often falls. More importantly, the code cannot be reset by a standard code reader. Once it sets, you have to fix it with a dealer computer. My guess is that there's nothing wrong with your car except possibly a bad sensor (maybe not even that, if your coolant level really was low,) and the code is preventing charging.

The dealer has several things they are supposed to check if the coolant is low - important safety things, since it could be leaking into places where it can be dangerous.

http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?243625-Message-quot-Service-high-voltage-charging-system-quot
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,560 Posts
I guess I'm less concerned about the car and more concerned about being 2 months behind in the mortgage. So yes feeding the family comes first, but it should be followed by paying the mortgage, paying, the utility bills, then paying for transportation expenses before anything else. In 5th place comes paying minimums on any debt. Hopefully you are already doing these things.

Then life becomes scorched earth, you can do away with cable tv, sell any cars with any value and drive a hoopty, sell so much stuff on craigslist the kids and pets think they're next, and knock down your expenses until the life event subsides. Some places you can get money in the short term are to change your contributions to your 401k to $0 (temporarily until this storm ends), adjust your withholdings down if you usually get a big tax refund, and never see the inside of a restaurant unless you're working there in a 2nd/3rd job. If you are paying on a whole life policy, get a new term life policy in place, then cash out the whole life policy. Do not touch any retirement savings unless you are over 59 and a half - you don't want to get tattood with penalties plus your tax rate.

When I was told in Feb 2012 that my company was closing their local office and moving people to Dayton OH in June 2012, my total new expenditures (not counting fixed expenses like insurance, mortgage, utilities, etc) for March was a grand total of $300 when I was used to spending thousands per month. It was amazing just how much food we had in our pantry to live off of. We just stopped eating out cold turkey and I went through every account I had and every bill I had to shave any and all expenses to weather the impending onslaught. Luckily I found a new job in April and switched in May, and got a big pay increase as a result.

Unluckily, it happened again, the new company announced they were closing their office in April 2016, and moved to texas in Dec 2016. This time I had transformed my spending habits down where by the end of the year I had about $40k sitting in the bank in my war chest, and the separation package and end of year bonus added significantly to that war chest, then I found a new job which allowed me to pay a giant chunk off the mortgage. Losing two jobs in 5 years is the best thing that ever happened to me. I was fat, dumb, and happy spending as much as I made, not making much of a dent into my mortgage debt, and even buying new cars with payments because I could "afford" it.

One big lesson learned from my adventures is that you need an emergency fund. During this crisis fight tooth and nail to save up a baby $1000 emergency fund that you just don't touch except for an emergency (car breaking down counts as an emergency.) When the storm is over, increase this emergency fund to 3-6 months of expenses before turning your 401k back on

Life throws you curve balls, and you will be stronger as a result of clawing and fighting to get out. PM me if you want to talk more about this without broadcasting the details to the world. We're all cheering for you.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,429 Posts
If I were you I'd leave it alone until you can afford to have it properly diagnosed. As long as it's functioning as an ICE car you should just drive it that way. Normally a car with 110K on it is at the end of it's life but because it's a Volt the engine and brakes only have half that number of miles on them so you should be able to drive it for a few more years.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
307 Posts
When these codes are set, sometimes you can clear the codes but most of the time you have to reprogram the Battery Energy Control Module and the Hybrid Powertrain Control Module to get the system to clear all faults. Even if these modules are up to date on there software, you still have to do this.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4 Posts
Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Thanks!

Thank you for all the advice, including the financial. It's looking like it's a simple matter of having the dealer do a proper coolant reset. That's a relief. I guess I was just really spooked by the melted output wire to the car. If it melted the wire going to the car, what did it melt inside the car? Hopefully nothing.
h tt p://imgur.c om/hZ7A3B6 (remove spaces, and copy paste to see the horror show)

And yes I do appreciate the financial advice llninja, a lot of that I knew and have done or doesn't apply, but some certainly does and I'll take it to heart. Thank you. My story is somewhat similar to yours, three years ago I left a business I co-founded in 2000 where I was making almost six digits so that I could spend more time with my two young boys, we are home/life schooling them, and I needed the time to do that. Plus the stress of making payroll every two weeks was taking a toll on my health. It's stressful to not have enough money for my family, but less stressful than worrying about 2 dozen family's pay checks. But yes, to be honest it's been rough, but I wouldn't give up the extra time I've had with my boys for that money. Since then I've been doing freelance media production, all things video production, motion graphics, also dvd/blu-ray authoring, technical writing, web and app development, (anyone need any of these?), and it's been famine / and less famine these three years. My wife has become an impressive wedding photographer, but it's the slow season for that right now. We are getting by, barely. A client check arrived this morning and I just made a mortgage payment and now we are only 30 something days late. :) And I dropped $25 into the Volt diagnosis/cooling reset fund. Thanks for the advice everyone.

bjroesn - Yeah, I plan to drive this car for at least 300k miles, hopefully more. Which is why I'm not too concerned about being so far upside-down on the loan. And since I'm running about 60% EV (off the solar panels on our home), the gas engine will only be at 120k, which seems about right. My last car (Toyota MR2) went for 250k before finally having too many issues to repair. Curious, does anybody know if the way the Volt uses it's engine is more or less wearing on it than a regular ICE vehicle? Seems like it's got less "drag" on the engine, but it does run pretty high RPM at times. We often go up the mountain canyons and it can really struggle to keep up sometimes.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,784 Posts
I guess I was just really spooked by the melted output wire to the car. If it melted the wire going to the car, what did it melt inside the car? Hopefully nothing.
The damage in your photo is undoubtedly caused by a loose connection right there on that terminal block. They may have been tight at some point, but with changes in climate and the wire itself heating and cooling, the connection at those terminals got loose and caused the excessive heat. You may need to replace the terminals and hopefully there is enough black wire there that you can cut off the end and reattach it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,728 Posts
While the replacement of the factory sensor with the WOT's coolant level sensor would certainly provide future-proofing for this issue, unfortunately if the DTC clearing won't turn off the "Service High Voltage Charging System" message there isn't much recourse other than to have a dealer confirm there's no leak then use the "reprogram HPCM2" process to clear the message and reinitiate charging operation.
Only AFTER that is done, would I recommend self-installation of the SHVCS Bypass device.

WOT
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,447 Posts
While the replacement of the factory sensor with the WOT's coolant level sensor would certainly provide future-proofing for this issue, unfortunately if the DTC clearing won't turn off the "Service High Voltage Charging System" message there isn't much recourse other than to have a dealer confirm there's no leak then use the "reprogram HPCM2" process to clear the message and reinitiate charging operation.
Only AFTER that is done, would I recommend self-installation of the SHVCS Bypass device.

WOT
Absolutely, WOT. I was counting on the OP reading through the thread where he would have found this caveat. My thought was to direct him to the explanation of his problem, and what he could do AFTER the visit to the dealer for the "reprogram HPCM2".

BTW, the OAT has just about reached the point where it will be comfortable to swap mine. 8^) I'm going to do it without disconnecting the 12 V battery. I plan to keep the fobs in a mylar envelope well away from the car. Wish me luck!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,396 Posts
If you're ok to take on the risk yourself, you can purchase a day pass to get the software to reprogram HPCM2, but you'll still need the proper cable interface.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,560 Posts
Thank you for all the advice, including the financial. It's looking like it's a simple matter of having the dealer do a proper coolant reset. That's a relief. I guess I was just really spooked by the melted output wire to the car. If it melted the wire going to the car, what did it melt inside the car? Hopefully nothing.
h tt p://imgur.c om/hZ7A3B6 (remove spaces, and copy paste to see the horror show)

And yes I do appreciate the financial advice llninja, a lot of that I knew and have done or doesn't apply, but some certainly does and I'll take it to heart. Thank you. My story is somewhat similar to yours, three years ago I left a business I co-founded in 2000 where I was making almost six digits so that I could spend more time with my two young boys, we are home/life schooling them, and I needed the time to do that. Plus the stress of making payroll every two weeks was taking a toll on my health. It's stressful to not have enough money for my family, but less stressful than worrying about 2 dozen family's pay checks. But yes, to be honest it's been rough, but I wouldn't give up the extra time I've had with my boys for that money. Since then I've been doing freelance media production, all things video production, motion graphics, also dvd/blu-ray authoring, technical writing, web and app development, (anyone need any of these?), and it's been famine / and less famine these three years. My wife has become an impressive wedding photographer, but it's the slow season for that right now. We are getting by, barely. A client check arrived this morning and I just made a mortgage payment and now we are only 30 something days late. :) And I dropped $25 into the Volt diagnosis/cooling reset fund. Thanks for the advice everyone.

bjroesn - Yeah, I plan to drive this car for at least 300k miles, hopefully more. Which is why I'm not too concerned about being so far upside-down on the loan. And since I'm running about 60% EV (off the solar panels on our home), the gas engine will only be at 120k, which seems about right. My last car (Toyota MR2) went for 250k before finally having too many issues to repair. Curious, does anybody know if the way the Volt uses it's engine is more or less wearing on it than a regular ICE vehicle? Seems like it's got less "drag" on the engine, but it does run pretty high RPM at times. We often go up the mountain canyons and it can really struggle to keep up sometimes.
Having started my own little LLC last year, I feel your pain. If I didnt' find a full time job, I'm not sure I'd be able to make a living with the few clients I found. On the other hand I have learned a ton about the tax portion of schedule C as a result. An ex coworker pointed me to a close friend of his who quit a great tech job with Amazon to strike it out on his own. He ended up spending far less time commuting, working less, and making more as a result. It was all about working to service a larger scale rather than a single client at a time. This book has inspired me to not find clients, but write software for the masses. I have two ideas brewing, just need to get off my butt and work on a project during nights and weekends

He also wrote a book about his adventure. Best 99 cents I ever spent

https://www.amazon.com/Self-Employment-Building-Achieving-Financial-Lifestyle-ebook/dp/B00YHWBKQ0/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?_encoding=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
87 Posts
Normally a car with 110K on it is at the end of it's life but because it's a Volt the engine and brakes only have half that number of miles on them so you should be able to drive it for a few more years.
Maybe in the 70-80's??? Over the last 10-15 years, I've had over 200K on every car I've had. Although, I will say that most of these cars have been a Honda.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,396 Posts
Maybe in the 70-80's??? Over the last 10-15 years, I've had over 200K on every car I've had. Although, I will say that most of these cars have been a Honda.
Some cars may last longer, but once a car has hit 200k (in km), I say it's had a good life and I'm not too concerned with keeping it.
If it lasts double that, bonus. But I'm not expecting much out of it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,539 Posts
Even if your charred charge point sent some bad currents to your charger, the charger should still cope with it. It's not like you can inadvertently sent 1000V to it or something.

Even if you did damage your charger, it should have no impact on the driveability of the car. The charger is completely 'out of the loop' during driving.

Re-set the car, and re-evaluate. If the dealer could actually pour coolant in, then presumably it was low. Chances are your level sensor tripped. End of.

You mention something bizarre, that your winters somehow cause coolant to evaporate. No idea what that means, but definitely not from the battery or inverter circuits. These should really stay rock solid on level. I think 'we' here collectively decided that it did seem to drop by around 1 to 2mm per year, which is what I have noticed too. Should be no more than that.
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
20,107 Posts
I invested <$30 in a WOT coolant sensor to prevent the OP's issue from visiting me. I highly recommend that Gen 1 Volt owners do this before they are in the OP's shoes and require a $125-$200 or so dealer service call.

On the other hand, perhaps the OP and others who rarely check their fluid levels are not a good candidate for the WOT sensor. Instead, pay the dealer to fix the issue if you are adverse to opening the hood once a month to do a visual inspection?
 
1 - 20 of 20 Posts
Top