My 2021 GMC Denali’s Transmission Woes



By Suzanne Henderson
LETTER 126 – July 2023 | Sick Truck Owner

Dear Suzanne, 

When we made the down payment for the 2021 GMC Denali, we had no idea we were paying for a car we wouldn’t be able to use. It’s been a case of in and out of the repair shop like a sick patient going in and out of a hospital. 

You wouldn’t expect a brand new truck with 6,800 miles to spend a month at the GMC dealership. That wasn’t even the first, but the third time we had to take it in. They were for a couple of different issues which eventually pointed to one conclusion: A faulty transmission.

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This Transmission Stinks!

The first time we took the truck in, it only had between 2000 to 3000 miles on it. We noticed a burning smell coming from what appeared to be the transmission, and the truck kept on backfiring. When we reported it to the dealership, they dismissed it saying they couldn’t detect any smell. So we took the truck and left. 

For a while the smell seemed less noticeable, but about a thousand miles later the burning smell returned. When we took it in it was the same thing as before, they couldn’t replicate the smell. So once again we left without any resolution to the issue.

This happened on and off until finally we took it in and the dealership also noticed the smell. But to my surprise they said they couldn’t do anything about it. Why they couldn’t was beyond my understanding, but I was less than satisfied when we left the dealership. It would take smoke billowing from the hood for them to take action.

Wrong Day To Invite The Pastor

One late afternoon we were returning from a church program. We were friends with our pastor and asked if he’d like to visit. He said he’d be happy to, so we all piled into the truck and left. Halfway home we noticed the smell, but it was pretty normal to us by that point.

The pastor asked about it and we explained the whole situation to him, explaining our predicament with the dealership. We also told him how nonchalant they seem and claim it’s nothing to worry about. 

My Transmission Is A Smoker

We had hardly finished explaining this when smoke began to billow out from the hood. We knew it was high time we told the dealership to do something about this. We pulled over, I called a cab for our pastor and I while my husband called a tow company and went with them to the dealership. 

The dealership knew they couldn’t avoid making any repairs so they seemed much more attentive this time. After looking it over and taking the history of issues so far, they finally decided to replace the whole transmission. This was when the truck stayed with them for over a month. At this point, the car just passed the 6000-mile mark. 

So there you have it, these are the issues we’ve dealt with for a truck that is not even up to 7,000 miles old. We did a lot of research and put a lot of money down for this truck. At the end of the day I’d like to be able to walk away from the truck and be back at square one, but I’m not sure if that’s possible.

If you think Lemon Law could be a way out of this, please let me know. Thanks for reading my story and hopefully there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for us.

Sick Truck Owner

Watch: Expert Insights: Navigating the GMC Lemon Law Buyback Process


Your 2021 GMC Denali Smells Like A Lemon

Dear Sick Truck Owner, 

I’m so sorry to hear about everything you’ve been through with your 2021 GMC Denali. Having the transmission replaced at 6,000 miles says a lot about the lack of care that went into manufacturing.

It’s also unfortunate you invited the pastor when the transmission decided to put on a smoke show. At least I’m sure he’s forgiving in that aspect, and hopefully we can get you into a new ride that will make it all the way home next time.

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Lemon Law Qualifications 

That said, here’s how lemon law works. In California you need a minimum of two repairs at the dealership for the same issue while under the manufacturer’s warranty. You may also be eligible if you had three visits for different issues or spent at least 30 days at the dealership. 

Note that for any of this to count, they must have all occurred while your vehicle was still under the manufacturer’s warranty. In general, you have 3 years or 36,000 miles for the basic warranty which covers anything bumper-to-bumper. You also have 5 years or 60,000 miles for the powertrain warranty covering anything engine and transmission. 

Types Of Compensation

Now once you qualify for lemon law you have access to a couple of options. One involves receiving money for the issues you’ve dealt with and another gets rid of the vehicle. 

The first option is the cash and keep. With this option, you get to keep the vehicle while receiving cash as compensation for the issues you experienced. With this, you do not have to worry about your warranty being voided or canceled. You are also not required to disclose the lemon status when reselling the vehicle. 

The amount you receive depends on certain factors like the time you took the car in, how long it stayed at the dealership, and the severity of the issues. Your lawyer will fight for the maximum you are allowed, but having all the proper documents helps.

The second option is the buyback option. This is where the automakers buy back the vehicle from you and reimburse you for all the expenses paid on your vehicle. This should include your monthly payments, down payment, taxes, and any interest accrued. If you took out a loan on your vehicle, then the manufacturers would have to pay off the loan financing company. As a result, your credit goes up. Read more about the GMC Lemon Law buyback process here.

Deductions and Fees

The only thing the manufacturers can deduct from the settlement is called the mileage offset. This is where the automakers charge you for the period you used the car with no defects. It is usually based on the mileage listed on your repair order during your first visit to the dealer. Since your 2021 Denali had so few miles when you first took it in, any deductions would be negligible. In fact, your attorney would likely have this waved altogether. 

As for the payment of attorney fees, you have nothing to worry about. This is because you purchased your vehicle in California, a state heavy on consumer rights. Here in California, all lemon law cases are taken on full contingency. This means that you are not going to get charged for any attorney fees or costs, as the legal fees are completely covered by the manufacturers. As such, they are more or less paying your attorney to work for you. With this, the original settlement amount won goes straight to you. 

Don’t deal with that Denali another day! If you have any questions about the process or how to get started, contact a lemon law attorney. They will qualify you and walk you through the entire process. Best of luck!



PS. The GMC brand is owned by the General Motors Company (GM). Additional details on the General Motors Lemon Law process, how it operates, qualification standards, models included, persistent vehicle defects reported, and Lemon Law case examples.

Talk to a GMC Lemon Law Attorney today to start your claim.
We offer a FREE no-obligations consultation.
Book a call or dial (323) 553-7525 right now to find out if you have a case.


Free Legal Advice About Your 2021 GMC Denali Lemon Law Claim

Dear reader, are your vehicle problems ruining your life? Confused about what legal route to take? We’re here to help! Find information about California’s lemon law protections here, fill out the form on this page, or give us a call at (323) 553-7525 to discuss your situation with someone who understands how frustrating it can be to have a lemon car, and what to do about it.

DEAR SUZANNE is a weekly column written by Suzanne Henderson and published in LemonLawyers.ORG. If you have a defective lemon vehicle and have questions about California Lemon Lawyer or how to file a claim in California, please write to While not guaranteed, we will try to feature your letter in this column to provide you the answers you need, as well as enlighten other consumers who may have lemon problems similar to yours.

DisclaimerSuzanne Henderson is not a lawyer and the points discussed here are intended for general information and reference purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice. Please consult a CA Lemon Law Attorney to get proper legal advice about your lemon law claim.

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