Cadillac CTS years to avoid — most common problems
Discover the crucial years to steer clear of when considering a Cadillac CTS.
Over the years, Cadillac has been known as the American premium brand due to all the luxury cars produced by the brand. As one such car, the Cadillac CTS was quite popular for 17 production years and three generations. The model reached its peak with the third-gen CTS that got an impressively modern and luxurious interior, as well as a sharp sporty exterior.
On top of that, there’s the famous CTS-V version that also reached its peak with the third-gen V model equipped with a supercharged 6.2-liter V8. Still, while it all sounds impressive, there are some Cadillac CTS years to avoid and we’ll give you a hand by going through those.
Most common Cadillac CTS problems
Having in mind that the CTS was produced for 17 years, the model has proved to be quite reliable and there weren’t many recalls. Of course, some problems are common for the model and the only way to avoid having to deal with those is to stay away from the plagued model years.
One of the main problems with CTS is premature timing chain failure which is pretty expensive to repair and requires a complete change of the timing chain. Also, there are some issues with the steering and suspension, as well as some braking system problems that caused delayed braking.
There were some minor issues as well including bad wiring and short-circuit situations that led to fire hazards reported by drivers. Still, the crucial thing is to avoid the models that are troubled by the failing timing chain and other problems that may affect driving safety.
Timing chain problems
One of the worst things that could happen with a used CTS is the timing chain failure. In essence, the timing chain controls the inlet and outlet valves of the engine and ensures the proper timing cycle for the combustion. Some of the bad timing chain symptoms include misfires, rattling noises from the engine, and contaminated engine oil.
Timing chain failure mostly happened with the CTS models powered by the 3.6-liter V6 engine, and it costs from $1500 to $2000 to fix and replace. So, it’s one of the main things you should have in mind when thinking about purchasing this model, and it may be best to avoid this engine altogether.
While the timing chain problem can be bad for engine operation, suspension-related issues could be dangerous in terms of vehicle control. One of the main suspension-related issues is the matter of loose rear suspension bolts. Because of this, loose bolts may affect the driver’s ability to keep control over the vehicle.
It also triggers all sorts of weird noises and the wheel may even turn inbound or in the opposite direction depending on the situation. Also, drivers have complained about the symptoms of bad CV joints, as well as rear axle fluid leaks. The problem was mostly caused by a bad pinion seal that got replaced on most vehicles during a 2007 recall for the previous CTS model years.
Problems with the steering
Another common issue with the first-gen Cadillac CTS is the steering problem caused by bad control arm ball studs and linkages. Because of this problem, the control arm may separate from the knuckle and that causes a huge problem, making it impossible to control the vehicle.
The thing is – if this happens on a CTS, it causes the wheel to turn outbound and the car may slide in the direction of the busted wheel. There’s no reason to point out the aftermath of this problem, especially while driving at high speed. So, if you are planning on buying a first-gen CTS, it’s worth knowing about this problem and checking if the car has been through a recall before.
Braking system faults
The first generation of the CTS was arguably the worst one based on reliability ratings, and there’s another confirmation of this – the braking system problem. Namely, drivers have reported that the brake hose tube may be affected by road salts and degrade over time.
In case this happens, it results in reduced braking power and efficiency, and a longer stopping distance for the car. Needless to say is that this problem can grow into a more serious safety threat, and there was luckily a recall by Cadillac in 2010 to help deal with the issue.
Which Cadillac CTS years to avoid?
Well, now you are familiar with all the main drawbacks and known failures related to the CTS as a model, but that’s still not enough to make a proper buying decision. Our team wanted to help you out by giving you an overview of the worst model years that you should avoid.
Overall, the worst years for the CTS include 2003, 2004, and 2009 CTS, but here’s what it all looks like by generation:
First-generation Cadillac CTS (2003-2004 and 2006 model years)
The first generation of the CTS is sadly the worst one and it received the most complaints by far. Not only is the design of the first-gen CTS a bit outdated by today’s standards, but the mechanical systems of the car are also no better.
We already mentioned the situation with steering and linkages, along with axle fluid leaks and other suspension-related faults. However, drivers also complained about the sunroof water leaks, bad seat anchor tabs, and even some airbag issues that triggered the SRS light. Because of all these issues, the first generation had more recalls than the other two generations combined, so it’s best to avoid 2003, 2004, and 2006 model years.
Second-generation Cadillac CTS (2008-2009 and 2012 model years)
The second generation CTS was a big improvement over the first one, but it still had a few issues that drivers gladly avoided by dodging the affected model years. These problems were mostly affecting the suspension of the car, as well as the electrical system.
However, there’s also the problem with a 3.6-liter V6 engine with a premature timing chain failure, and that one called for expensive repairs. It can’t be helped since it’s simply the construction of the engine and while timing chains should be more reliable than timing belts, this one simply didn’t see its glory days.
Overall, it’s also important to pay attention to the airbag problem which later on got sorted out during the 2010 recall.
Third-generation Cadillac CTS (2014 model year)
The third and most reliable generation of the CTS launched in 2014, and sadly that model year was deemed the worst in this generation. The bright side is – all the other third-gen CTS models were quite durable and reliable.
Even though the 2019 models are still pretty much recent, they don’t fall behind in terms of reliability when compared with the new CT5 that replaced the CTS. The main issue of the third-gen CTS is within the electrical connections, but these rarely caused serious problems. Ultimately, teh third generation is the safest one to buy a used CTS.
Best Cadillac CTS years
You may know all the essentials on the worst CTS years and main problems, but that’s still not enough for making an educated guess on the most reliable model. The final piece of the puzzle is figuring out the most reliable model years that drivers have filed the least complaints on. Luckily, we went the extra step to provide you with this list, so you don’t have to bother researching:
- 2005 Cadillac CTS
- 2010 Cadillac CTS
- 2011 Cadillac CTS
- 2015 Cadillac CTS
- 2016 Cadillac CTS
- 2017 Cadillac CTS
- 2018 Cadillac CTS
- 2019 Cadillac CTS
Even the first generation of the CTS has one decent model year and that’s the 2005′ model which received the least complaints out of the bunch. However, it’s best to avoid this generation and head for the second-gen or third-gen CTS if you can afford one.
Among these, we recommend the 2010 and 2011 models for the second-gen, and the 2018 model year for the third-gen CTS. You won’t make a mistake by going with any of these, since they mostly require regular maintenance.
Is the Cadillac CTS worth buying?
Our final verdict is – yes, the Cadillac CTS is worth buying. Still, there’s one major “but” and that’s the problematic first generation which required owners to do much more than just regular servicing. So, in case you can avoid the first generation or at least settle with a 2005 model, you should be fine buying a used CTS.
For an even better insight into the reliable models, simply follow our guide and our team hopes that it will suffice on your road to buying the best possible CTS. We admire this car, especially in the CTS-V trim and especially in the third generation because of the sharp design and interior luxury, so don’t simply rely on pure luck that could ruin your pleasure when buying one.
What year CTS is most reliable?
The 2018 CTS is the most reliable based on the driver reports and complaints, as well as NHTSA reports.
What year did Cadillacs stay away from?
You should stay away from the 2003, 2004, and 2009 Cadillac CTS due to their reliability issues.
Is Cadillac CTS a reliable car?
Cadillac CTS is a moderately reliable car because of the problematic first generation that pulls down the reliability scores. However, the second generation got better and the third one is the best one yet including the latest CT5 model with slim to no reliability complaints.
What is the best used Cadillac to buy?
The best used Cadillac to buy is a 2018 Cadillac CTS because of its fair market price and low account of driver complaints.