2008 Saturn VUE explosion


Asked by Aug 08, 2015 at 01:10 PM about the 2008 Saturn VUE

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Being out of town 2 weeks ago I was attempting to back up my 2008 Saturn VUE with 61,200 miles and it would not go into reverse with no previous issues or emergency lights coming on. Several mechanics on the scene checked it and drove it stating it was also jerking on occasion but if I let up on the throttle at that time it would return to normal driving conditions. They checked all fluids, etc. and thought I could drive it home (58 mi.). Drove approx. 20 mi. when a loud humming noise occurred and then I lost power. Able to get to the shoulder when it exploded, smoke poured out and metal fragments+oil pan were recovered on the highway. Able to get my husband and myself out of the car and a passerby fireman stopped with an extinguisher, put out the fire & called 911. Emergency help arrived in droves. Very traumatic experience. Being Sunday my car was only able to be towed to nearest salvage yard but not to my home town. Called insurance the next day and they sent an adjustor with initial report "no fire but lots of residue from extinguisher and needed to be moved to a dealership nearby to be cleaned in order to see what all was damaged. After that occurred ($385 incl. towing) "initial cost would be $4500-5000 to put in rebuilt engine to drive it and see what else was damaged." After numerous phone calls I decided to have it towed to a dealership in our home town as my family has business relations with them. It is not a GM dealer or who I purchased it from. Same response "has to be cleaned up and new engine, etc. costing $6,000-6500. They saw a hole in the engine and oil pan, etc. was damaged of what they could see." I have mentioned to everyone about the wave plate possibly cracked (as I did get a notice in the mail in March regarding that possibility but it also stated NOT TO TAKE IT TO A DEALER UNLESS HAVING ISSUES which I never had) which could have caused the transmission to go causing the engine to explode. Cannot get an answer again "because it can't be driven". The adjustor will not total it, no insurance will cover as it was a mechanical problem, and the dealership will only give me $2500 on a new car trade in. I had no previous warning or problems and my car was in excellent condition. Suggestions would be greatly appreciated as to what route I should now take.

10 Answers

Tom Demyan

I looked up the issue with the wave plate and it is a $20 part and the letter in the mail stated it was a TSB or Technical Service Bulletin. Lots of complaints and issue. One of the main complaints was the transmission not going into reverse as the start of the failure. I read that others had a similar issue as yours and even trans failure and the GM dealership would not help. Seems you did the normal course of action. You can try contacting the local GM rep and or your attorney, but I'm sure it will long and drawn out.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
Tom Demyan

I personally wouldn't put $5K into a 2008 Vue at this point as it's worth only $7K in running condition. The insurance agent is right, it was a mechanical issue and not covered. I'd go the route of insisting that GM give you more than $2500 on a new vehicle.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Hmm, a $20 part caused this problem? A TSB that's not made it's way to everyone? You've got to ask, why are you surprised that Saturn cars got discontinued? Sounds like the Chevrolet Cobalt and the $15 ignition switch they didn't want to fix, doesn't it. Is there a pattern here with domestic car manufacturers just concerned about the bottom line, theirs, , and not in your best interests. I would definitely recommend losing this car as quickly as possible. Go find an Asian car.


Bob, I hope you're reading this thread and take note. This is why people don't have complete confidence in American cars, especially ones that are discontinued. And, the myriad of name changes of cars and models in their product line designed to obfuscate the issues and keep consumers guessing about what model has substance. When you have a new and improved model getting introduced every five years or so just to erase the bad image of the previous iteration, that's a sign that there's a glaring problem. Just look at the Ford Aerostar, Windstar and Freestar etc. and the ever changing models in the Dodge line of cars! Even your MKZ was previously called the Zephyr. Do you see where I'm going here? The Saturn cars were not well regarded and cheaply made as well. They also were discontinued for a reason. Detroit just makes these missteps and screws thing up for their own reputation. So, I hope that geenez will take note here as well and look for an Asian car to replace this POS.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
Tom Demyan

Mark, no need to bash domestics. All cars have some issues. Some more than others. They are all made of metal. rubber, plastic and wiring. I had a Saturn SL2 for 7 years and it required minimal maintenance, and traded it in for a nice price. I also have had good luck with my Fords. Just saying.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Tom, I understand, didn't mean to offend anyone. It's just amazing to me that the GM fiasco with the Cobalt, Corvair ( some 50 years ago ), Saturn, Edsel, etc. and the almost burn down of the auto industry save a government bailout which was a good idea. I guess I really have a problem with car manufacturers that just keep changing the names of their respective models just to run and hide from previous problem cars and issue a new version instead of building a decent car in the first place or correcting issues. Name a Dodge or Chrysler car today that has been around as long as the Toyota Camry, Corolla or Honda Civic or Accord, Subaru Legacy, Outback, etc. You can't. I have to say the Ford Thunderbird to its credit was around 45 years and it was a very decent car. So, the car's that have maintained a name image are much better and given more attention to detail. That's all.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Look, I've had several American cars, and my Ford Thunderbird and Oldsmobile Cutlass were pretty good cars, but, my Asian cars leave them in the dust. Same goes for the German cars I've had, they were problem cars. I'll never again consider a VW.

Gene Desjardins

Well that is scary! I own a Saturn Vue XR 2008 and had my transmission checked by the GM dealership. They assured me my transmission has no wave plate problems. In my opinion they should of changed the defective wave plates. Many times I've heard it mostly begins with not being able to back up anymore with vehicle. Thanks for sharing your experience, because now I know what to not do.

Bob Beaman

@ Mark,Well there are no perfect cars out there anywhere. Even your beloved Subarus consume oil and require engine replacements. The machine is not perfect. Saturn was supposed to be a lower priced vehicle for the masses, but it turned into another piece of crap GM product. I hope the OP gets his Saturn problem resolved, but a 2008 Saturn out of warranty that needs an engine will be a big problem. It would have been better if it had burned to the ground cause then the insurance company would have settled on it.

I received a letter from GM stating that if the wave plates fail they will repair my transmission at their cost.

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