NHTSA — Power Train: Driveline: Differential Unit Problems


fairly significant
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
19,930 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Cadillac CTS drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Cadillac CTS Owner Comments

problem #7

Oct 092007

CTS 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10 miles


Inner differential bearing noises are getting progressively worse. With so many complaints why is the cost to repair/replace not covered by GM/Cadillac. I am afraid to drive the car now that it is leaking.

- Cypress, TX, USA

problem #6

Mar 112005

CTS 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 18,698 miles
Have 2003 Cadillac Cts, had the differential replaced because it was howling & getting worse (this is common complaint by owners of 2003 - 2005 Cts models - see Cadillac users group, Cts forum). Picked up car after differential was replaced. Drove approximately 2 miles from dealer when differential locked up at 50 mph. Managed to control slide/skid and slide off four-lane road surface without hitting other vehicles, but had it happened a mile further down the road, I'd have been on I-85 in heavy interstate traffic at 70 mph... dealer replaced failed rear end with another new one which, thus far (500 miles or so) is trouble-free, but in view of the problems I & others have experienced with these units, I have little confidence that the basic problem has been resolved. Uncomfortable at thought of depending on vehicle from both safety & basic Transport aspect - reluctant to contemplate a long distance trip for these reasons. Called Cadillac & they sent a warranty rider extending coverage of the differential/carrier assembly to 2010 or 100,000 miles, which is useful. However, GM mindset seems to be that it is cheaper to replace these units as they fail with new units with the same flaw, than it is to determine why they are failing, correct the flaw & provide owners with redesigned, safe units. I may be off a bit on the actual date of the incident involving failure of differential as my dealer, classic Cadillac in montgomery, al, has not as of yet provided me a copy of the paperwork documenting the incident & installation of the third differential. I called my service rep yesterday & he apologized for the "oversight" & said they'd mail me the documentation. The differential that seized is not available - I told them I wanted to see it, but was informed that they had to send it back in order to get another replacement.

- Prattville, AL, USA

problem #5

Apr 162005

CTS 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 26,000 miles
There needs to be an in-depth investigation regarding the number of Cts and Cts-V rear differentials that have been replaced. I have now been through 2 personally, and an online poll of 65 Cts-V owners showed this: 26% have had 1 replacement, 5% have had 2 or more replaced, and 8% have had 3 or more replaced. The link for this poll is: cadillacforums.com/forums/showthread.php?P=305662&posted=1#post305662. Please contact me regarding any information learned. Thank you.!

- La Quinta, CA, USA

problem #4

Nov 222004

CTS 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,300 miles


Noticed a high-pitched whine coming from rear at 50000 miles. Stopped by the dealership, the service manager drove the vehicle and stated it was the tires causing the noise. Continued to drive the vehicle, sound became more pronounced. A check engine light appeared, so needed to service the car. This repair was unrelated to the whine, an emission control valve had failed. While at the dealership requested they check, again, the whine from the rear. Was notified that indeed it was the differential that needed replacing. Have not taken possession of the vehicle, but am concerned about driving it now. Much concerned about the reliability of the vehicle.

- Granbury, TX, USA

problem #3

May 212003


  • miles
My vehicle developed a humming noise coming from the rear differential at 30,000 miles. The dealership found that my rear differential was full of metal and stated that the whole differential must be replaced since the metal churning through the gears ruins the whole unit. 7,000 miles later the noise returned. The dealer again found metal in the differential, but this time Cadillac told them to simply put some special lubricant in it! all this, after they told me last time that this type of problem requires replacement, and nothing less. I was told to drive my car for a few weeks and shockingly enough, the magic lube did nothing for the problem. After reading several reports from people who had the rear differential of this car sieze up(even causing accidents), I approached the dealership for a loaner. I was denied a loaner, and the manager had the nerve to tell me the noise was normal. Why on earth they fixed a "normal" car the first time is beyond me. When I asked them to show me another car on the lot that makes the same noise, they backed down. Please help with this issue. I am afraid to drive my car!

- Columbus, OH, USA

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problem #2

May 192003

(reported on)


  • 5,000 miles
When pulling from a light there was a clunk noise coming from somewhere on vehicle. Took to mechanic and the bolts for the differential were loose and caused a leak.

- Valley Stream, NY, USA

problem #1

Feb 042003

CTS 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 17,500 miles
The differential in my 03 Cadillac Cts developed a serious leak. The defect required (3) trips to the dealer to repair. The last repair, (appears to be the right one) was the replacement of the differential. This type of defect can lead to loss of differential fluid resulting in failure of the unit and possible accident. I have found this leak on several other "03" Cts.

- Auburn, MA, USA

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