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A class action lawsuit filed back in 2016 against General Motors has finally come to a verdict, and it is not good news for the automaker. GM is ordered to pay $102.6 million after being found guilty of hiding its knowledge of engine defects with its 5.3-liter V8 truck engines. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of GMC and Chevrolet trucks equipped with the Generation IV Vortec 5300 LC9 V8s. 

The lawsuit alleges these engines had bad piston rings, leading to a raft of issues around low oil levels. The affected trucks were built between 2010 and 2014 in California, North Carolina, and Idaho, according to Business Wire. Low oil levels can cause minor issues all the way up to catastrophic engine failures. 

Why was GM negligent?

Promo photo of General Motors most recent hybrid pickup truck, the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado.
2012 Chevrolet Silverado | General Motors

The trial firm of DiCello Levitt argued for the plaintiffs in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The class action lawsuit was brought as Raul Siqueiros, et al. v General Motors LLC. It argued that GM knew almost immediately after production began that the piston rings were defective. 

According to the lawsuit, the first action GM took was in 2010. It recommended dealers “clean the pistons” in 2010. When that didn’t stop reports of excessive oil consumption, GM engineers suggested redesigning the piston rings. Instead, GM went through a series of ineffective design changes it thought might stop the leaking rings. 

Finally, it stopped manufacturing the 5.3-liter V8 after 2014. From the verdict, “The jury found that GM violated the breach of implied warranty of merchantability to California plaintiffs, the breach of implied warranty of merchantability to North Carolina vehicle owners, and breached the provisions of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act.”

Were there other causes for the GM 5.3-liter oil burning?

GM 5.3-liter
GM 5.3-liter V8 engine | GM

In December 2019, another lawsuit was filed almost identical to the 2016 suit. It also mentions another reason for the excessive oil consumption was because the positive crankcase ventilation system sucks engine oil out of the valvetrain and into the intake. Oil burns and becomes part of the exhaust. 

Another issue claimed in the lawsuit was over the fuel management system spraying too much oil onto the piston skirts which are located at the bottom of each piston, thus bypassing the piston rings. 

How much will each plaintiff receive?

2011 GMC Sierra
2011 GMC Sierra 1500 | GM

Though the amount awarded seems large, it comes nowhere close to matching the profit GM made from the sale of 5.3-liter-equipped Silverado and Sierra trucks. With 38,000 participating in the class action lawsuit, the awarded amount means they will receive around $2,500. 

Most of the affected trucks were under warranty, so the owners paid nothing. Still, $2,500 doesn’t seem like much for the added costs, inconvenience, and time without the use of the truck while dealership techs tried in vain to cure the engine issue.