Chevy Impala years to avoid — most common problems
Over the years, Chevrolet has made quite a lot of models that became classics, but the Impala is one of the rare ones that made it into the legend. With a production span of over 60 years, it’s a car that lovers of the old-school American car scene simply adore. It became an even more legendary model after the release of the SS-badged model in 1961, equipped with a 5.7-liter V8 engine.
While the Impala earned a status of a reliable ride, there are some Chevy Impala years to avoid because of the large number of complaints. Don’t worry – if you are planning on buying a used Impala, our team stands by your side with this guide on model years to steer away from.
Most common Chevy Impala problems
When it comes to the common issues that Impala had as a model, it’s difficult to grasp the bigger picture. The reason for this is the fact that 10 generations of Impala were made, so it’s impossible to rate the older models without taking the way previous owners treated the cars into consideration.
Still, we’ll do our best to deliver the most common problems that the Impala has had in a previous couple of generations. Among these, the eighth generation is considered the worst due to a vast amount of driver complaints about issues that plagued several consecutive Impala model years.
One of the most common problems of the Impala from this era is the frequent oil dripping onto the exhaust manifold. It caused a fire hazard and made it dangerous to drive a car if the issue wasn’t sorted out. On top of that, there are also other issues including the frequent symptoms of low coolant and rough gear shifts when it comes to Impala cars with an automatic transmission.
Besides, there were some issues with rear brake caliper pistons on a tenth-generation Impala, so there’s quite a lot that needs to be explained to potential buyers.
Oil dripping onto the exhaust manifold
It’s a fairly common complaint among Impala owners regarding the oil coming out of the exhaust. This is one of the major problems that Impala drivers have faced over the years and it’s often caused by leaking head gaskets and piston rings that got worn or went bad.
Of course, this is a dangerous problem that even triggered the recall in 2015 and it mostly involved 2000-2004 Impala models. Sometimes oil leaked onto the hot exhaust manifold, causing white smoke to occur and that represented a fire hazard. You can probably guess that this is a bad thing and a serious safety risk that pretty much got resolved with the second recall since the first one wasn’t so effective.
Problems with the engine cooling system
Another problem that often occurs for certain Impala models that could affect the engine operation is the cooling system issue. Drivers have reported coolant leak situations and several faulty components were behind the curtain at this point.
Most of the time, it required replacing the radiator hoses and this was the best-case scenario. Sometimes, these faults were caused by a faulty radiator or a faulty water pump. Because of this, it’s crucial to have a trusted mechanic check the Impala you wish to buy for coolant leaks before you make the purchase.
Otherwise, you may have to pay around $450 for radiator hose replacement, or up to $1200 for the radiator or water pump replacement.
Automatic transmission problems
Before the introduction of the tenth generation of Impala, owners of previous generation models reported symptoms of bad shift solenoid. This reflected the models with an automatic gearbox and because of the solenoid failure, drivers have experienced rough shifting and improper gear changes.
Once again, this problem could lead to expensive repairs usually ranging from $700 to $1000, so you can see why we advise you to skip the models with this issue. This was especially expressed in the eighth generation of the Impala equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission.
Braking system faults
Finally, we move on to the more recent Impala models that struggled with bad rear brake caliper pistons. Because of improper piston lubrication, air pockets often formed within the system and which caused low braking performance.
While it’s mostly associated with rear brakes only, this issue significantly affects driving safety and there was a recall in 2018 that dealt with this problem for 2018 and 2019 Impala models. Along with the caliper piston issues of the tenth generation, there’s also the reported parking brake problem with the ninth generation.
Which Chevy Impala years to avoid?
Back in the day, we had simpler times for the automotive industry when vehicle technology was limited only to essential components. So, the early generations didn’t have many reported problems, which changed drastically in the early 2000s.
That’s why we’ll start with the eighth generation of the Impala to discuss the most problematic model years.
Eighth-generation Chevy Impala (2000-2004 model years)
While the seventh generation of the Impala was pretty reliable, yet unfavored by drivers due to the drastic design change, things got much worse with the following generation. The eighth generation picked up where the previous one has left things in terms of design, but not when it comes to reliability.
Drivers have reported various issues that reflected the 2000 to 2004 models, so it’s best to avoid these altogether. If you plan on buying an eighth-gen Impala, it’s best to go with the 2005 model year, although it also received some complaints.
The main problem of the eighth-gen Impala was a bad shift solenoid that led to rough shifting. Other problems included the speedometer not working along with the rest of the instrument cluster gauges, and 3.4-liter V6 engine issues. Frequent engine overheating also led to numerous complaints so it’s best to avoid this engine and this generation of the Impala, if possible.
Ninth-generation Chevy Impala (2008-2009 model years)
As mentioned, the eighth generation received quite a lot of critics and driver complaints, but things got better with the following generation. The ninth-gen Impala got seriously improved mechanically, and it was a completely different car in terms of the transmission and the engine. You could go with the 6-speed automatic transmission that didn’t have as many problems with rough shifting as the 4-speed one.
Even so, there were some complaints about the 2008 and 2009 production years including the key being stuck due to the failed shifter, and power steering hose leaks. Also, this was when Chevy struggled with engine oil leaks onto the exhaust manifold a problem that continued after the eighth generation. When it comes to the tenth generation, the only major problem was unlubricated caliper pistons that got resolved with the recall.
Best Chevy Impala years
While there were some pretty bad Chevy Impala years mostly in the 2000 to 2004 period, this model is overall highly regarded among automotive experts. There are some bulletproof engines like the 3.9-liter V6 introduced with the ninth generation that lasted quite a long time without many repairs going on.
Also, the old 5.7-liter V8 engines were well-known among Chevy fans and you can still find a model with a stock engine without any problems. Overall, here’s our list of the best production years for the Impala:
- 1994 Chevy Impala
- 1995 Chevy Impala
- 1996 Chevy Impala
- 1997 Chevy Impala
- 1998 Chevy Impala
- 1999 Chevy Impala
- 2006 Chevy Impala
- 2010 Chevy Impala
- 2011 Chevy Impala
- 2012 Chevy Impala
- 2013 Chevy Impala
- 2015 Chevy Impala
- 2016 Chevy Impala
- 2017 Chevy Impala
- 2018 Chevy Impala
- 2019 Chevy Impala
- 2020 Chevy Impala
Overall the major transmission and engine cooling problems got sorted out with the latest models of the ninth generation and the tenth-gen Impala. The final generation was also the best-looking one among modern Impala models from the seventh generation, and it was an objectively good car.
You can still find low-mileage tenth-gen models that pack quite some equipment and modern features along with a great design and a low number of complaints. If you are after a classic model, we recommend the SS Impala which still packs incredible performance and driving experience, especially with the rare 6.7-liter V8.
Is the Chevy Impala worth buying?
If you ask any Chevy fan, the Impala probably holds a special place in the driver’s heart. It’s simply a special model and one of the Chevy models that were in production for the longest time. In terms of reliability, it’s a model that’s worth buying, especially if you can afford a low-mileage used tenth-gen Impala.
It’s a great family car and the older coupe models are still genuinely good muscle cars with an old-school American V8 under the hood. You should only beware of the mentioned problematic years that made many fans step away from the Impala, but we hope that you won’t have to after reading this guide.
What year Impala is most desirable?
The most desirable Chevy Impala is a 2018 model which faced the least driver complaints, and it’s also one of the models from the final years of production with plenty of modern equipment.
What year Impala has had transmission problems?
The 2000 to 2004 Impala had transmission problems with the bad shift solenoid that caused rough shifting, and the problem continued for some ninth-gen models with a 4-speed automatic.
Are Chevy Impalas easy to fix?
Yes, Chevy Impalas are mostly easy to work on, especially with the 3.9-liter V6 which proved to be reliable and simple to work on.