Buick Enclave Reliability: A Lux Crossover That’s Easy To Live With?

by Conner Mckay

Buick occupies a special spot in the line-up of brands General Motors currently hold. Buick sits above the GMC and Chevrolet brands in the premium brands, but just below Cadillac. The Enclave is one of the most important models from the brand. So, Buick Enclave reliability is easily the most talked-about subject on Buick forums. Let us dig into it a bit.

Built on the Lambda platform from GM, the Enclave shares bits of its internals with other GM products. This inter-brand fraternity consists of the GMC Acadia, Chevy Traverse, and the Outlook from the now-defunct Saturn brand. Hence, Buick Enclave reliability is almost like the reliability offered by these run-of-the-mill crossovers.

History Of Buick Enclave

Buick is one of the oldest running automotive nameplates in the world. With such a heritage, Buick occupies a prominent position in the expansive GM-line up of brands.

Buick’s importance becomes clear when we learn the fact that the luxury brand even survived the Great Recession of 2008. GM did not touch the brand even when they had to pull the plug on a bunch of their brands. In the present age, Buick sits at a peculiar position. It poses as a premium offering, compared to the similar Chevy models. But, it is not a full-blown luxury offering, like the Cadillacs.

Buick, despite its relevance in the portfolio, is not supposed to be a huge volume seller like the affordable alternatives from their family like Chevrolet. In this crossover-crazy world, if you need to rack up some numbers, it is imperative to have a high-riding vehicle in the line-up. This is where the Buick Enclave shows up. Now, Buick only has crossovers in its lineup. This has time and again proven to be the magic formula for making a profit in the modern-day car market.

First Generation (2008 – 2017)

Buick Enclave entered the brand’s model line-up when the Great Recession was constricting the world. With the right monocoque crossover formula, the Enclave replaced a bunch of Buick offerings.

With the inception of the Buick Enclave went out Buick Rendezvous, Rainier SUVs as well as the Terraza minivan. The seven-seater crossover came with an option of a second-row bench seat to accommodate an eighth passenger.

The first iteration of the Buick Enclave came with a V6 engine displacing 3.5-liters and churning out 275 hp. This power travels to either the front wheels or all four wheels. This engine went up in power to 288 hp, later in 2009.

The first-gen Enclave featured a rounded-out design, monocoque construction, and a well-put-together interior. The latter was one of the biggest selling points of the Enclave.


The Buick Enclave’s first generation was facelifted in 2013, giving it a sharper design. Though it retained the curvy language, the design added more crispness to it. More premium materials went into the Enclave, so did more technology.

First Generation Buick Enclave Reliability

To start with the talk on Buick enclave reliability, it would be a nice idea to initiate with the very first generation. Being a platform-mate to other GM models, the Buick Enclave reliability in these years was comparable to its siblings.

The first-generation Buick Enclave reliability is the worst of the bunch. It threw a bunch of problems at its users that hampered its reputation. Especially the very first year it went into production, 2008, was the worst. This model year shows the greatest number of complaints, at 258, as per carcomplaints.com.

The very first lot of Buick Enclaves develops the most issues. This is obvious as most new vehicles go through this phase. As years go on, manufacturers sand out these rough edges. This is exactly what Buick did.

Though not comparable to Japanese offerings, the Buick Enclave reliability improved in its later years, especially after 2012.

To dive deep into Buick Enclave reliability, let us have a look at the number of problems Enclave owners face. This can give us a fair idea about what can go wrong in an Enclave if you are picking up one from the used car market.

First Generation Buick Enclave Problems

The major issues that hamper the first-generation Buick Enclave reliability include some grave issues with its transmission, timing chain, power steering, and more. Let us kickstart this discussion on Buick Enclave reliability with perhaps the most critical of them.

1. Transmission Issues

In the Buick Enclave reliability forums discussing the early models, this problem topped the list. The transmission problems of the Buick Enclave pop up at an average mileage of 92,050 miles, as per carcomplaints.com.

The transmission issues in the Buick Enclave include shaking or clunking noises, staying put at an rpm and not upshifting, staying in a gear, and not coming out until tapping the brakes, and more. More issues including leaks, vehicle rolling back on slopes, etc were also reported.

Some owners hooked up their Enclaves to OBD scanners. They were surprised to see that relatively new crossover threw a bunch of transmission codes at them.

Many even complain that they had to pay for the new transmission. Even worse, one owner says that the dealership fitted his Enclave with a used transmission, that sadly, failed again.

Buick Enclave Reliability

The cost for a new transmission unit will be around $3,570, as per carcomplaints.com. But one customer reports an even higher cost, $4,200 including labor. This is not a small cheque that you can sign without a heavy heart.

The transmission issues affect the Buick Enclave reliability badly. The issue occurs mostly in the early models, especially the first model year, 2008. Since then, the number of complaints has reduced. This makes it evident that Buick made changes back then to rectify it.

The effort made by Buick to keep this issue at bay has worked. This led to a drop in the number of complaints in the next years. The 2008 Enclave racked up 112 complaints about the transmission issue alone. But the 2009 model showed a massive drop, at just twenty complaints.

Is The 2009 Buick Enclave A Good Deal?

So, if you are looking out for a premium crossover from the late 2000s, a 2008 Buick Enclave may not be a great idea. The transmission problems are bad enough to scare most buyers away.

The 2009 model may look like a better deal, in contrast to the problem-ridden 2008. But it is not the best deal you can get.

Over the next years, Buick kept on improving the Buick Enclave reliability which is why we recommend Enclaves after 2012. These were the years that Buick finally managed to smoothen most of the rough edges in the crossover.

The 2009 Buick Enclave reliability may shine standing close to the dull 2008 model, but you can do better. Moreover, the price difference between the 2009 models and the later models is not that huge. So, it is a wiser decision to spend some more bucks for a massive leap in Buick Enclave reliability.

Another reason for not suggesting 2009, or a 2010 model may come clear when we discuss the next problem.

2. Stretched Timing Chain

This is another issue that brought down Buick Enclave reliability. Especially found in the 2009 and 2010 models, this is as scary as the previous problem.

The timing chain is a chain that is stretched around the camshaft and crankshaft. This aligns the timings of both these shafts, harmonizing the motion between them. The timing chain is relatively a maintenance-free system, compared to timing belts that need regular replacements.

But timing chains will eventually wear out too. But this occurs far into the life of the vehicle. The wear of timing chains usually happens at 150,000 or 200,000 miles. This happening after the standard timeframe cannot hamper Buick Enclave reliability in any way. But this is where things take a turn, for the worse.

Buick Enclave Reliability

Buick Enclave owners report stretching of timing chains, as early as 40,000 miles. If such premature stretching happens, it can throw off the timing of the engine. This can have a dreadful effect on the engine.

The first sign of a stretched timing chain can be a check engine light. Once the sensors detect the issue, they will throw that light at you. So, if you have an early Buick Enclave with an engine light on, you know what to check first.

The other signals given out by the Enclave will be excessive rattling, vibrations, or metal shavings in the oil.

Repairpal reports that the average price to replace the stretched timing chain is between $1,703 and $2,051. But this requires serious levels of labor just to reach the timing chain. This can only shoot up the closing price.

Another component that can create even larger bills is the amount of damage caused to the engine. Depending on the damage inside your mill, the bill can grow to stratospheric proportions.

Other Engine Issues

Owners also report other minor engine issues. Though they do not reduce the Buick Enclave reliability by a lot, it is still good to know.

Several customers have complained about the check engine light staying on. This can be triggered by the timing chain issue, but it can be other problems as well.

We are not short of issues that can light up that magic warning lamp, so this can be an issue to worry about.

Others complain about reduced engine power while driving. A customer who faced this issue and got it repaired. But two weeks later, the dreaded transmission issue came up. Talk about bad luck.

3. Steering Issues

Buick Enclave reliability across the crossover’s first few years was fatally shot down by this issue as well. The power steering issues of the Buick Enclave were omnipresent across the first few model years.

Owners complain that the power steering in these Enclaves suddenly becomes hard to turn. Though this is the most noted after effect, there are more. The power steering may also start making squeaking noises, or start to click at turns, or even vibrate while driving. A loud noise may also come from the power steering pump, all amounting to an unpleasant driving experience.

The power steering problems of the Buick Enclave are reported as early as 79,000 miles into the lifespan of the vehicle. These occur mostly in the 2009,2010, and 2011 models but the problem-ridden 2008 is not out of the list.

The typical repair cost for the power steering issue as per carcomplaints.com is $1,880. The money from your pocket will have to settle this bill as Enclaves from these model years are already out of their warranty periods.

If you are picking up an Enclave from these years, quiz the previous owner on when the pump was replaced. A vehicle with more than 80,000 miles on the odo and no pump replacement done in the immediate past is not a good choice. The Buick Enclave reliability is not going to be the best in these cases.

First Generation Buick Enclave Recalls

Another important aspect that determines the Buick Enclave reliability is the number of recalls. If you sift through the NHTSA website, you can find a bunch of them.

The first few model years are recalled for airbag inflators that may explode. This is due to a manufacturing defect. An explosion like this can send metal shrapnel flying through the air, capable of harming or even killing the occupants. The Takata airbag recall, the largest recall ever in automotive history, was triggered by one such issue.

The recall resolved the airbag issue as the dealers were instructed to replace the complete airbag module. This recall affected the Buick Enclaves from 2008 till 2017, i.e., all first-generation years. This affected the Buick Enclave reliability of course but it also affected its platform-mate. The Chevy Traverse was also a part of this recall.

The other recalls of the first-generation Buick Enclave include liftgate strut failure, failure of side airbags, a short circuit in the windshield washer module, and malfunctioning wiper washer system (to learn more, check out our article on how to replace windshield wipers). The failure of the liftgate struts can make the tailgate fall and can potentially injure someone.

If the side airbags fail, it is obvious that the protection provided by them will not be available. The windshield washer module houses a fire risk, in the form of a possible short circuit while the malfunctioning wiper washer system can cause other electrical systems to fail as well.

The issues slightly reduce the Buick Enclave reliability. But if you are buying a used Enclave, make sure that these recalls are all performed in the prescribed manner. Else, stay away from buying a headache.

Second Generation Buick Enclave (2018 – Present)

Buick Enclave went into its second generation, 10 years after it was first introduced. The new generation of the crossover poses as an even more upmarket model. This sleek model lock horns with other premium offerings like Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60, and more.

The second-generation Buick Enclave was a massive departure from the original. And everyone liked it. The egg-shaped first generation was never a looker. Though many users loved it for its interior quality, most were not fans of its design. The second generation hoped to change this status quo.

Just like its previous avatar, the second-gen model also shared its bones with the Chevy Traverse, albeit the new one this time. Both vehicles share GM’s C1XX chassis for their underpinnings.

With a sharper design, starting with the three-dimensional front grille, a lowered roofline, and a sleeker silhouette, the second-gen Buick Enclave does look better.

Under the hood of the new Buick Enclave, sits a 3.6-liter V6 engine. This motor powers the crossover with 310 hp and 266 lb. Ft of torque. There is also a new nine-speed transmission for the power handling duties.

The second-generation Buick Enclave reliability is way better than the previous one. With far fewer complaints and zero recalls yet, the second-gen Enclave does look like a sweet deal. But that does not mean that the new Enclave is all trouble-free. Some customer complaints have been reported. Let us have a glance at those.

1. Transmission Slipping Out Of Gear

Yep. Here is yet another transmission issue. But unlike the grave transmission problems that affect the 2008 model, this does not bring down the Buick Enclave reliability that much. Some owners highlight this issue, and report “stuttering” in 2nd or 3rd gears.

Most owners complain about the complacency of the dealers who did not do any work the first time. In the second visit to the dealership, some customers were issued a loaner car till their vehicle was repaired. After repairs, the problem vanished for some users but not for all.

Despite being a potentially critical issue, these transmission problems did not cause that big a headache to most owners. This was because most second-generation Buick Enclaves are still quite new and covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. This helped the users cover the repair expenses under warranty.

But despite the convenience of a valid warranty, the users are still concerned about the longevity of the vehicle. If a critical issue like this can crop up on a new vehicle, how will it be later in its life? Especially when the Enclave is out of its warranty period.

The new 9-speed transmission is supposed to improve the Buick Enclave reliability, but these problems do not look speak the same language.

2. Warm Air From AC

Though not a rampant issue that brings down Buick Enclave reliability, this issue is discussed on some user forums. The air conditioning system of a few Enclaves blows warm, humid air into the cabin instead of cool air.

Users say that this issue is accompanied by adamant fan speed that refuses to go below medium speed and loud hissing noise from behind the dashboard. The problem persists irrespective of the temperature set for the air conditioning system.

This is not an issue that a premium crossover like Buick Enclave should have. Buick Enclave reliability does not take a significant hit with this issue but for a user, a minor issue like this can be frustrating. Especially when it happens quite early in the vehicle’s lifecycle.

The average mileage at which this issue can occur is four thousand miles, according to carcomplaints.com. This is an almost brand-new vehicle that we are talking about here. But as a positive aspect, most second-gen Buick Enclaves still have valid warranties.

3. Engine Droning Noise

Yet another rare issue that does not bring down the Buick Enclave reliability by much. But this can also be a nuisance to a major inconvenience depending on how big the issue is. Few users report that their Buick Enclaves start to drone during idling when their foot is on the brake.

But fret not, this is no ear-numbing noise. A user who complained about the issue also notes that it is not a very significant sound. He also says that the sound goes away when you take your foot off the brake.

Though it is hard to pinpoint the issue without proper diagnosis, it is safe to assume that this is no critical issue. This will not reduce the Buick Enclave reliability as a simple repair under warranty may suffice.

Second Generation Buick Enclave Recalls

Well, here is a list of nothing. While the first generation of the crossover had a bunch of recalls, the second-gen model has none, yet. This is a big boost to the Buick Enclave reliability. The users can live in peace knowing that there is no potential threat in their car.

The absence of any recall can also be because the second-gen model is quite new. So, the current null set does not mean that it will not have any more recalls at all in the future.

How Good Is Buick Enclave Reliability? Should I Buy One?

As per this article, it must be abundantly clear to you that the early model years were the problematic ones. Especially, 2008, 2009, and 2010, with the worst being 2008.

But if you are in the market for a plush, upmarket family crossover, the Buick Enclave is definitely a good bet. But keep a cautious attitude as you tread through that path. Make sure that you pick a model year from 2012 or later. These had the least issues.

Also, ensure that your Enclave of choice has gone through all the applicable recall procedures. This can ensure some healthy years of motoring without worrying much about Buick Enclave reliability.

Buick Enclave: Years to Avoid – Facts

  • The Buick Enclave is a midsize luxury SUV, but it has had reliability issues.
  • The 2008 Buick Enclave is the debut year and the most problematic version of the SUV.
  • The Buick Enclave models from 2009 and up have fewer transmission problems.
  • All Buick Enclave models are prone to check engine light problems.
  • Timing chain issues are common, and they often go out at around 40,000 miles.
  • Power steering problems have the most complaints on the 2009-2011 models.
  • The cost of repairing the transmission system may cost as much as $3,500.
  • The average price to repair a stretched timing belt is $1,700 and $2,050.
  • If your Buick Enclave has seen about 80,000 miles, you can expect to pay $1,700 to get your power steering fixed.
  • From 2012 models and up, the Buick Enclave gets fewer complaints, and it is considered more reliable.

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