Thank you for contacting the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) about your Chevrolet Camaro or Pontiac Firebird.
Most owners of Camaros and Firebirds need no reminder of how miserable they have become because of defects in their cars. CAS still gets hundreds of consumer complaints each year, with engine and transmission defects topping the list. Until redesigned in 1993, the J.D. Power Survey, a famous analysis of automobile quality, ranked the Camaro/Firebird as the worst car in America, despite nearly a decade of production to work out the bugs. Consumer Reports has consistently selected the Camaro and Firebird as among the least reliable cars sold in the US with 1991-99 Camaro/Firebird selected as used cars to avoid.
These cars have some potentially dangerous defects that have been investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Seat belt defects have led to five recalls on most 1982-91's. The 1987-92's have GM's poorly designed, door mounted "automatic belt system" that may not prevent occupant ejection if a door opens in a crash. When equipped with airbags, these cars have relatively good crashworthiness but very high fatality rates because they are muscle cars which are marketed to younger drivers with higher crash rates. NHTSA investigated all 1985-88s with 5.0/5.7L engines for sudden acceleration but failed to order a recall.
Paint peel or delamination has been widespread on 1985-93 models. In 1993 at CAS' request, GM agreed to pay for complete repainting for paint peel or delamination through six years and unlimited mileage. In March 1995, GM secretly cut the policy to 5 years, but if pushed, will honor the 6-year policy and even pays beyond 6 years if sued in small claims court.
You'll find information on these and other Camaro/Firebird defects below and what you can do about them plus a complaint box. Your information will help us build a strong case against GM on the defects we know about and help us spot new ones.
We need you to support the Center for Auto Safety in our fight for consumer rights and against poorly designed and unsafe cars. Your contribution is tax-deductible and entitles your to our quarterly newsletter, Lemon Times. Please submit the membership form along with your contribution and complaint. If you contribute $35 or more, we will send you the current edition of The Ultimate Car Book, by Jack Gillis. Every home should have this invaluable consumer guide.
Clarence M. Ditlow
GM CAMARO/FIREBIRD FACT
(Unless indicated information below applies to all Camaro and Firebirds; Technical Service Bulletins (TSB's) listed in brackets.
Brakes: NHTSA conducted rare, highest-level investigation of rear disk brake failures on 1982-88s [C90-001] but GM recalled only 1984-86s. Rear disc brake moan 1987-91 C (91-309-5, 88-162-5); Disc brake noise 1982-88 (88-340-5); Light brake drag - Brake switch adjustment 1980-89 (89-262-5); Front brake pulsation 1982-95 (43-50-09); Parking brake lever slip on apply 1990-92 (92-119-5); Uneven/taper wear on rear brake pads 1993-96 (53-50-20); Parking brake handle release button rattle/buzz 1993-97 (73-50-14).
Electrical: Cruise control intermittent drop-out/fail 1988-92 (92-107-8A); Erratic operation of headlights or T/signals 1997-98 (73-82-12); P/door locks inoperative 1991-97 (63-10-41B); P/door locks & P/windows inoperative 1993-97 (73-81-33); Theft alarm sounds when car wet 1996-98 (73-81-34); Tail/stop light bulbs burn out 1995-97 (73-82-06); Fuel gauge responds slowly after fueling 1996-97 (73-83-15).
Engine: 2.5L-4cyl: Block cracks, 5yr/100,000 mile extended warranty, FREE REPAIR 1984 (84-261). 2.8L-V6: Chattering/Grinding - "may be necessary to replace engine" 1987 (87-88); Stall/hesitation after cold start 1987-89 (89-196-6E); Intermittent stalling 1985-87 (87-109). 3.1L-V6: Oil odor - replace rear main bearing seal 1990-95 (87-60-02A). 3.8L-V6: Idle spark knock 1995-96 (77-65-22); Oil leak at rear near flywheel cover 1995-97 (77-61-16A). 5.0L-V8: Metallic buzz/rattle 1991-92 (92-162-10). 5.7L-V8: Intake manifold/block interface oil leak 1993-97 (77-61-17). 5.0/5.7L-V8: Coolant loss 1987-88 FREE REPAIR (88-174-6); Tailpipe smoke on startup 1987-88 (88-403-6); Accessory drive belt wear 1993-94 (476201). All engines: Damage to wiring terminal on engine sensors 1985-88 (88-101-8A); Starter grinds/clashes on cranking 1985-88 (88-305-6D)/1990-91 (91-218-61); Cooling system leaks 1982-88 (88-245-6B); Water pump/seal leaks 1987-88 (88-265-6B). Rear underbody buzz - Catalytic converters shield 1988-91 (91-163-10); Engine miss/hesitation/roughness 1980-93 (93-35-6D); Oil pressure gauge flutters/reads high 1990-91 (91-451A-8C).
Paint: Paint peels due to omission of primer layer; GM extended warranty to 6 years, then reduced it to 5. For more information, go to GM-Paint.
Steering/Suspension: Steering lead/pull to right 1995-96 (53-32-13); Reduced P/S assist at low temps, 1980-91 (91-208-3B); Crack in P/S pump pulley 1987-89 (89-81-3B); Steering stop crunch noise 1990-91 (91-490-313); Steering column pop 1992-93 (333210A); Intermittent steering column snap/click on turns 1994-96 (56-32-02B); Vibration at highway speed from drive axle 1993-96 (67-41-01).
Transmission: GM has issued dozens of bulletins on the 700-R4 [4L60] automatic overdrive transmission. For more information, go to GM-RWD Transmission.
MAJOR SAFETY RECALLS
Copies of recalls may be obtained from NHTSA's Technical Reference Division at 202-366-2768.
Brakes: 30,868 1984 - Hoses separate (84V-093); 177,704 1984-86 - Parking brake fails (91V-055); 69 1999 - Clutch does not disengage (99V-239).
Fuel System: 24,455 1982 - Fuel sprays out when filler neck opened (82V-076); 10,297 1990 & 29,331 1989-90 - Engine fuel hoses break & leak (90V-114 & 90V-115); 6,807 1994 - Engine fuel lines damaged by heat & leak (93V-199); 232,988 1991-92 - Fuel filler neck cracks (94V-077).
Seat Belts: 172,863 1982 - Belt anchorages weak (82V-089); 738,485 1983-85 - Shoulder belt doesn't retract (85V-169); 34 1989 Camaro - Webbing on buckle too long (88V-191); 1,500,000 1984-90 - Sunlight weakens plastic buckle components (90V-105); 40,696 1991 - Metal latch plate won't engage buckle (91V-067); 1,573 1997 - Retractor locks on slopes (96V-219).
Other: 4,393 1983 Camaro Z-28 - Hood buckles (83V-049); 1,000+ 1984 - Seat back inertia lock fails (84V-011); 2,687 1984-85 - Wheel hub fractures (85V-018); 1986 - Headlight switch (86V-056); 43,413 1992 - Automatic transmission fails to engage in park (92V-154); 362 1995 - Loss of steering (95V-046.