2012 GMC Terrain Problems – Should You Still Consider Buying A GMC

by Conner Mckay

The GMC Terrain crossover SUV was first launched in 2010. It soon offered a similar option to the Chevy Equinox. According to consumer reports, the first GMC terrain received a report, calling it a “decent enough offering.” Overall the GMC terrain in the first 4 years between 2010 and 2013, suffered many reliability issues. Can the same be said about the 2012 GMC Terrain? What are the 2012 GMC Terrain problems?

The General Motors Company is known for its futuristic styles and power. GMC is also known for producing really reliable SUVs. It is safe to say GMC contains a rich history, after all, it has been since 1908.

By the end of the first-gen in 2018, the GMC Terrain had been deemed a success. Even though it started off in a rough patch, the GMC Terrain pulled itself back together. They finished the next 4 years strong, keeping the GMC Terrain relevant.

In reality, GMC can never outrun its initial problems. The problems were many and spread out. What made it worse is that repairs aren’t that affordable either. Even the smallest repairs cost a lot in the GMC Terrain. Ultimately the 2012 GMC Terrain problems might plague the GMC for quite a few years to come.

GMC Terrain

The GMC Terrain was introduced by the General Motors Company as they ditched the Pontiac brand in 2010. Ever since its introduction, the Terrain has seen consistent sales. This allowed Terrain to be a legit contender in the crossover market.

Production for the Terrain began on August 10, 2009. Word of this new crossover was released during the 2009 New York International Auto Show. This was made to take the place of the Pontiac Torrent, becoming the smallest SUV in GMC’s lineup. Since then the GMC Terrain has only gone through 2 generations.

First Generation

The first generation of the SUV spans from 2010 to 2018. In the initial year of release, it was available in 4 trims. The SLE-1, SLE-2, SLT-1, and SLT-2. These were available with the standard 2.4 L 4-cylinder engine capable of producing 182 hp.

The high-end Denali trim became an option in the 2013 model year. This added elevating features like a more detailed chrome and updated interior and safety technology. The trim also featured a more powerful engine. The 3.0L V6 engine produced 264 hp.

Both the engines were coupled with a 6-speed automatic transmission, maximizing efficiency. The choice between either a front-wheel or an all-wheel-drive system was given to the customer.

Standard safety features were included in all the trims. These safety features include four-wheel anti-lock brakes with electronic stability and traction control. It also came equipped with 6 airbags.

The long list of electronic features also made the first-generation GMC Terrain one of the best SUVs in the market.

Second Generation

The GMC terrain entered its second and latest generation in 2018. Updates to the model included a rounder style. The bulky wheel arches were also removed, giving the new generation a more aggressive look. The Terrain was introduced at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show as a sleeker option rather than the boxy first generation.

There were plenty of updates under the hood as well. The base engine is a turbocharged 1.5L 4-cylinder with 170 hp. The optional 2.0L upgrade is capable of producing 252 hp. Both engines are coupled with a 9-speed automatic transmission. The 4-wheel drive option is also available along with the standard front-wheel drive. The 2.0L engine along with the 4-wheel drive allows you to tow up to 3500 lbs.

The safety features do not have any major updates from the first-gen. Although there are a number of added features that you can get.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems

The GMC Terrain has encountered a variety of problems, in the years that it has been on the road. There were a total of 131 complaints made to the NHTSA about the 2012 GMC Terrain. Though this is not the total number of problematic GMC terrains, the data gathered through these extensive reports allows us to find out what issues are more frequent.

These 131 complaints were received from a group of 1000 GMC terrains. Looking at the numbers the GMC terrain cannot be deemed unreliable. Other than the number of complaints, another factor that should be considered is the extent of the damage caused by the said problem.

Here are the most common 2012 GMC Terrain problems.

1. Engine Related Problems

The highest number of complaints received was regarding the engine. The 2012 GMC Terrain was available in 2 different engine trims. The 2.4L 4-cylinder engine and the 3.0L V6.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #1: Oil Consumption

Excessive oil consumption has been a problem that the early GMC Terrains faced. Especially the 2010 model. The 2012 model also shares the complaint. This was the root cause that led to many more engine problems. A lot of different issues reported can be linked to excessive oil consumption.

Both the engine models were known to burn oil. But the oil problem was more severe in the 4-cylinder engine. This is because it also suffered due to oil leaks.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems

When the engine frequently runs out of oil, replacing oil when it is running low becomes hard. This causes an engine to run dry. Without oil, it is just a matter of time before the engine suffers major damage. Most of the engine-related problems in the 2012 Terrain can be routed to its excess oil consumption.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #2: Engine Stalling

Though this was not a common issue as the oil consumption, it still prevails as a 2012 GMC Terrain problem. The engine was known to stall at low speeds or while backing up continuously. There were also reports that at certain speeds the vehicle lost its acceleration.

The problem is often caused due to camshaft sensors. Replacing the sensor could be solved when the sensor is replaced. This problem is not known to occur in the early stages of the SUV. It occurs after 100,000-plus miles driven.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #3: Chattering Noises From The Engine

This was another issue with the 2012 model. The probability of it happening increases with age and mileage. The engine produces rough noises similar to chattering noise while starting g the engine. Usually, the noise gradually decreases, and in about 10 or 15 seconds, after the engine heats up the sound disappears.

2. Transmission Problems

The GMC Terrain is equipped with a 6T45 transmission. It can be manufactured either stateside or in Korea.  It is also considered a fill-for-life transmission. Meaning you won’t need to change the transmission fluid. But if you are using the SUV for towing or any other heavy-duty work, you would need to replace the gearbox oil after some time.

The 6-speed automatic transmission is relatively trouble-free.  But in the case of the Terrain, there were a few common problems.

Almost all the problems related to this transmission can be traced down to the solenoids. The transmission entirely depends on a computer to operate. The computer uses the shift solenoids to operate. When one of these solenids fails, the whole system goes haywire.

Here are a few 2012 GMC terrain problems related to the transmission.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #4: Failure To Downshift

This is a problem that happens when one or more shift solenoids are stuck. This is because the transmission cannot flow through the solenoids. Without the transmission fluid, the transmission cannot make the next move. This is a common problem with 6T45 transmission. Ultimately, it is stuck doing what it was doing when the solenoid failed.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #5: Delayed Shifting

If the gear shifts are delayed or you sense a longer than-usual pause before the gear shifts, it can be caused by a faulty solenoid. Without a functioning solenoid, the transmission takes a long time to select a suitable gear and engage on it. And the shifting won’t be smooth anymore if your solenoid isn’t functioning.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #6: Inconsistent Shifting

Often when a shift solenoid goes bad in the 6T45E, it’ll cause a lot of erratic shift behavior. The transmission often skips a gear upsetting the whole rhythm. The transmission will find it hard to select the right gear. It will cause a lot of frequent shifts, as the transmission cannot settle on a particular gear.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #7: Stuck In Neutral

In the case of a complete shift solenoid failure, you will not be able to start the car at all. Without the shift solenoid, the transmission cannot shift gears. So when you start your car from a parked state the transmission will not be able to shift from neutral.

These are the common problems that you could face with a 2012 GMC transmission. All these are caused due to a failed or failing solenoid.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems

3. Why Does The Solenoid Fail?

Whenever something goes wrong the primary suspect is the coil wire going bad in some way. If it ain’t that it could be caused by the plunger getting stuck. Here is how these problems occur.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #8: Broken Solenoid Coil

If the solenoid coil wire breaks, the solenoid will no longer be able to create a magnetic field. Often the cause for a broken solenoid coil is harsh vibrations. Another cause for a coil wire to break is high voltage passing through the wire. This is not that common, but in abnormal cases, this can and has caused the solenoid coil to break.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #9: Melted Solenoid Coil Wire

Whether your solenoid coil wire is broken or melted, the result is the same. Your solenoid will not be able to create a magnetic field, ultimately causing a solenoid failure. The only difference is how it happens. Though harsh vibrations cannot cause your solenoid wire to melt, extreme heat can. It is often caused due to the transmission reaching excess heat. Another way is that your solenoid coil might melt is high voltage passing through the coil.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #10: Plunger Stuck

Unlike when the shift solenoids are melted or broken, a stuck plunger can be repaired. Shift solenoids are relatively cheap. So if you can afford it you might consider replacing it when necessary. This will make sure that you do not fall into the same hole again.

A stuck plunger is the cause of dirty transmission fluid. The debris gets stuck resulting in a plunger stuck. You will have to change the transmission fluid in this case. It is best to go a bit further and change the transmission fluid filter as well. This will ensure your transmission fluid is clean for a while.

That wraps up the transmission problems in the 2012 GMC Terrain and how they are caused.

4. Wiper Visibility

This is an issue unique to the 2012 GMC Terrain. Though this is a frequent problem with the 2012 Terrain it isn’t as devastating as engine or transmission. Frequency and the severity of a problem make a car unreliable. Even though this was a frequent problem it doesn’t cost a lot to fix.

The cheap fix doesn’t make it any less of a problem though. It might not affect the functionality of the car, but it can be a hazard to the driver.  The ball that connects the wiper motor arm to the wipers themselves has a high failure rate.

When the weather demands wipers, you cannot drive without wipers. Though you can manage to slow down and come stop if the wipers fail, it still has the potential to cause an accident.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems

The frequency of the problem needed a recall. So even though it is not as mortifying as the 2 previous problems, you need to put thought into this problem.

These are the most common 2012 GMC Terrain problems. There are definitely many more problems with the model, but they aren’t as serious or frequent as the above. These combined hold more than half the problems associated with the 2012 GMC Terrain.

5. Electrical Issues

The 2012 GMC Terrain is not immune to electrical glitches. Some of these issues are more of a nuisance, while others can significantly impact the driving experience.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #11: Malfunctioning Infotainment System

Several owners have reported issues with the Terrain’s infotainment system. These include the touch screen freezing, Bluetooth connectivity problems, and unresponsive controls. Such glitches can be frustrating, especially during long drives when you rely on the system for navigation and entertainment.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #12: Instrument Cluster Failures

Some users have noticed irregularities with the dashboard instrument cluster. Gauges can sometimes give inaccurate readings or fail altogether. While this doesn’t directly impact the vehicle’s operation, driving without vital information like speed or fuel level can be risky.

6. Braking System Concerns

While not as rampant as other issues, the 2012 GMC Terrain has had its share of braking problems.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #13: Brake Pad Wear

A few owners have reported premature wear of brake pads. While brake pads naturally wear out over time, some Terrains have needed replacements sooner than expected. Regular brake checks can help ensure they’re in good shape.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #14: Squeaky Brakes

An unsettling squeaking noise sometimes emerges when applying the brakes. This can be due to various reasons, including the need for lubrication or the presence of foreign materials between the brake pad and rotor.

7. Suspension and Steering

The 2012 Terrain’s suspension and steering components, essential for a smooth ride, have also shown vulnerabilities.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #15: Power Steering Malfunction

In some instances, the power steering can fail, making the wheel harder to turn. This is not just an inconvenience but a safety concern, especially when maneuvering at high speeds.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #16: Suspension Noises

Another issue faced by some Terrain owners is a knocking or clunking noise coming from the suspension. This usually points to worn-out struts or other suspension components.

8. Air Conditioning and Heating Issues

Cabin comfort is paramount, but some Terrains have faltered in this area.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #17: AC Not Blowing Cold Air

A common grievance among some owners is the AC not blowing sufficiently cold air. This is often due to a refrigerant leak or issues with the compressor.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #18: Heater Malfunctions

On the flip side, during colder months, the heating system might not warm up the cabin effectively. This can be attributed to a faulty thermostat or issues with the heating core.

9. Exterior Lighting Concerns

Proper visibility is vital for safe driving, and lighting plays a crucial role in this.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #19: Flickering Headlights

A few Terrains have reported issues with the headlights flickering or not turning on. This could be due to wiring problems, a malfunctioning switch, or bulb issues.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems #20: Tail Light Failures

In some cases, the tail lights can malfunction, which is a significant safety hazard, especially at night or in low-visibility conditions. Regularly checking and ensuring all lights are functional can prevent potential mishaps.

In conclusion, while the 2012 GMC Terrain has had its fair share of problems, it’s crucial for owners to be vigilant. Regular maintenance and checks can mitigate many of these issues and ensure the vehicle remains reliable for years to come.

GMC Terrain Recalls

The 2012 GMC Terrain problems escalated in some cases, enough to have recalls. There were 3 major recalls for the GMC Terrain. The reasons for the recall varied through a range of problems.

Here are the 3 recalls of the 2012 GMC Terrain:

Recall 1

General Motors recalled 2012 models both the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, manufactured from July 18, 2011, through September 6, 2011. This recall was due to federal motor vehicle safety standard number 138. The problem was with the “tire pressure monitor system” or “TPMS”.

The tire pressure monitor system is set to illuminate the warning light when the pressure in a tire is 25% below the recommended cold tire pressure. In these vehicles, the light did illuminate until the pressure was well below 25% of the recommendation.

Underinflated tires can result in tire overloading and overheating. Underinflated tires will cause irregular wear. This will result in poor handling and reduced fuel economy. In severe cases, overloading or overheating on an underinflated tire will cause it to blow out. If the tire blows out at high speeds, a crash could be imminent.

The recall campaign started on October 24, 2011. A total of 33,964 cars were affected. GM updated the body control module free of charge.

Recall 2

The 2nd recall for the 2012 GMC Terrain, was accompanied by half a dozen GM models in 2011 and 2012. Among these vehicles is also the Chevy Equinox. All GM vehicles from 2011 and 2012 that were equipped with power height-adjustable driver and passenger seats were called in.

The problem was with the bolt holding the seat. The bolt could fail and suddenly cause the driver’s and passenger’s power front seat height adjuster to fall out. When this happens the seat immediately falls to the lowest possible vertical position.

These unexpected drops can cause a distraction if the driver’s seat height is altered. This increases the risk of the driver losing control and crashing.

The campaign started on August 22, 2014. All GMC Terrains manufactured between April 25th, 2011, and August 31st, 2011 were called in. A total of 414,333 cars equipped with that bolt required a replacement.

Recall 3

The 3rd recall for the 2012 GMC Terrain was on August 4th, 2016. 2011 to 2013 GMC Terrain models along with a few other GM vehicles were called in. The reason for the recall was the electronic park lock lever may allow the ignition key to be removed without the transmission being in a parked state.  The GMC Terrains were serviced with similar defective park locks.

This failed to comply with the federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) number 114, “theft protection and rollaway prevention.”

If the key is removed while the passengers are exiting the vehicle, without the transmission in park, it could result in the SUV rolling away. This could cause injuries to the passengers. It could also damage the car if it rolls into a crash.

The key cylinder lock housing was replaced if deemed necessary during the recall. A total of 8,367 GM vehicles were affected along with a number of 2012 GMC Terrains.

If you do decide on buying a used 2012 GMC Terrain, make sure to ask about the recalls, if it were taken to the dealership, the problems would have been solved. If not you would be buying a GMC Terrain with a real risk of facing all 3 of the above problems.

GMC Terrain Reliability

When it comes to the GMC Terrain the newer the car gets the more reliable it becomes. GMC did a good job correcting the issues they found from previous versions when they released an updated SUV every year.

The first generation is known to have some major issues including but not limited to the transmission and engine. Excessive oil consumption is also a problem that a lot of first-gen Terrains face. The 2nd generation seems to have solved most of these issues.

But you do not need to spend a huge sum to buy a new 2nd generation GMC. If you can see evidence of these issues being rectified and there’s no sign of them, you can commit to a first-gen Terrain. Even a 2012 GMC Terrain should be fine. Just make sure to have a test drive first.

With proper maintenance, any car can last a long time. Especially the GMC Terrain. If you are buying a used GMC look for maintenance records. If the car looks to be maintained properly, and if you do your part in maintaining the car after purchasing, your GMC should be good to go for at least 300,000 miles.

GMC Terrain Years To Avoid

According to car complaints, the 2011 GMC Terrain is the worst model year for the SUV. It has the worst record for faults and complaints. The early first-generation models tend to be bad when it comes to reliability.

Even though the 2012 GMC terrain is not as bad as the 2011 model, it still has a lot of complaints. So without proper maintenance, the 2012 GMC Terrain problems might get the best of you.

The 2011 model has been deemed the worst due to its excessive oil consumption. This ended up causing a lot of engine damage. And engine damages aren’t cheap to fix.

Best Year For GMC Terrain

The best years of the GMC Terrain are definitely the newer models. According to the numbers, the GMC Terrain has shown drastic development since 2015. 2016 and newer models have far fewer complaints and problems.

So if you are looking to buy a GMC Terrain always shop for newer options, just to be on the safe side.

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is something that we all have an eye out for when it comes to shopping for cars. The 2012 GMC Terrain is not the best when it comes to fuel economy. That might also be considered another 2012 GMC Terrain problem. In fact, most first-generation Terrains face this problem.

A 2012 GMC Terrain can go about 20-22 miles per gallon in the city. On the highway, you might get up to 29 miles per gallon. These numbers are for the 2.4L 4-cylinder engine. The bigger engine is a bit thirstier. The fuel efficiency with that trim is slightly lower.

On the other hand, the 2nd gen Terrains are better. They can get up to 28 mpg in the city, and 39 mpg on the highway.

Facts about the 2012 GMC Terrain:

  1. The 2012 Terrain is an average-sized compact SUV with an excellent passenger room.
  2. The 2012 Terrain costs $9,888 – 11,366, which is too expensive given the frequent mechanical failures.
  3. Reliability ratings for the 2012 Terrain are poor, and there are widespread engine problems.
  4. The 2012 Terrain has serious problems, including engine issues, water leaks, and cracked transfer cases.
  5. A 2012 Terrain should last around 150,000 miles with proper maintenance.
  6. Regular annual maintenance costs are higher than average at $575 per year, according to Repair Pal.
  7. Kelley Blue Book prices on the Terrain range from $9,888 – 11,366, making it more affordable than a CR-V or RAV4.
  8. There are four different models of the Terrain available, with technology that was last updated in 2010.
  9. The base engine is a relatively weak 2.4L 4-cylinder with 182 horsepower.
  10. The 2012 Terrain has smaller cargo space than its rivals, and the steering feel is very loose.

2012 GMC Terrain Problems: In Conclusion…

The 2012 GMC Terrain suffers from excessive oil consumption, transmission issues, and a windshield wiper malfunction. These are the problems that plague the 2012 model. To be more precise most of these problems are seen in the first 4 years of GMC Terrains that were produced, not only the 2012 model.

Credit where credit is due, as the years progressed the GMC Terrain, got better and better. They learn from the mistakes they make in earlier years and they solve the problems they come up with. So if you decide to buy a GMC Terrain the newer the better.

Buying a 2012 GMC Terrain is not a bad idea. But if you find one that has over 100,000 miles on the odometer, check for maintenance records. And if the above-mentioned 2012 GMC Terrain problems are addressed, it might not be a bad deal.

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Jacqui jacqui 05/27/2022 - 12:46 am

I have a 2012 Terrain and it has just started stalling on me and using oil…
I love my car and want to get it fixed right away so I wont be plaqued with Engine & Transmission problems… I just went over a 100.000 miles so I guess what I’m reading here is that I can expect problems…

donald l morris 07/04/2022 - 2:34 pm

i have a 2012 2.4 l. 166.300 miles today the engine as gone into half power mode how can i fix the problem. i replace the camshale censes….what more can i do…

Paul Hadley 07/11/2022 - 6:21 am

What error codes are showing?

Pam Stinson 09/23/2022 - 3:30 pm

I have a 2012 Terrain with 83.000 miles had sensors replaced last year now they have to replace timing chain listens and whatever else at the tune of 5500.00. I had no warning signs till it was to late! I haven’t even put 10000 miles on it since I bought it in 2020. I love the car but this is ridiculous that price is over half the price I paid for the car I feel I should get some compensation for this problem please contact me. Thank You


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