Common SUV Problems: 7 Known Issues (Explained)

Sports Utility Vehicles, popularly known as SUVs, are pretty popular in the US and across the globe.

SUVs have plenty of space, super-powerful performance, great handling, and great off-road abilities, and the good part? You don’t have to break the bank to own one.

However, these sturdy companions are not without problems. These vehicles have issues that every buyer should know before buying.

From worn-out brake pads, faulty engines, electrical wiring flaws, and troublesome transmission systems, here are the most common SUV problems.

1. Problems With Falcon Wing doors

Well, Tesla is one of the VERY popular SUVs in the States right now and (by far!) the most popular electric SUV. So, let’s start by looking at Tesla.

When we talk about falcon wings in an SUV, you’ve already guessed which vehicle we’re talking about the Model X. While gullwing doors or falcon wing doors have been with us since the 1950s, they have become a major topic lately among Tesla Model X owners.

The major complaint is that the falcon and back trunk doors don’t have enough sensors to detect things when locking and can bonk your head or pinch your fingers when closing.

Here you can see them in action:

While they technically stop if they hit something, the harm is already there if they hit your head.

In other complaints, people have reported that their doors don’t open all the way while others open and close on their own. One door may close properly while the other stays open.

There are many reasons why falcon wing doors can misbehave, with the main one being insensitive sensors.

The other common causes include worn out or damaged rubber on the door seals or misaligned doors caused by closing with too much force.

Tesla responded to the complaints and sued the door manufacturer. The automaker also issued a software upgrade to boost the less sensitive sensors.

However, users still complain the problem is still there, which makes the vehicle dangerous for family use.

We have a full article dedicated to the most-common problems with Tesla model X here.

2. Too High Servicing Costs

One of the most common disadvantages of owning an SUV is maintenance costs. The average SUV has greater maintenance costs than the average sedan, and this has nothing to do with the increased fuel cost. SUVs are expensive to maintain due to their large sizes.

Most of them are fitted with complex systems and features that require expert mechanics to operate and fix them. Also, the cost of servicing depends a lot on your car brand.

Brands like Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, and BMW are known for high service and maintenance costs. Whether you drive on the highways or rough roads, your vehicle still needs regular maintenance.

Changing tires can be quite expensive due to the extra work involved.

3. Electrical Wiring Flaws

As the SUV industry competes for high-end electrical systems, there are bound to be a few defects in the lot.

The most common culprits are electric SUVs, but they can also be found in gas-powered SUVs.

If you want to avoid electrical wiring flaws, avoid the Chevy Transverse, 2016-2018 Tesla Model X, 2019 Audi E-Tron, and 2020 Tesla Model Y.

If you suspect your SUV has wiring issues, watch out for the following signs:

  • The engine fails to crank properly
  • You have battery problems
  • Headlights and other SUV lights are not working correctly
  • The fuses keep blowing out
  • There’s a distinct plastic-burning smell

Check more about specific problems with the Toyota SUVs.

4. Problems With the Braking System

The last thing you want your new SUV to have is a faulty braking system. While it’s not quite common, it’s more notorious in some SUVs.

Your SUV is designed meticulously to ensure it operates as the automaker desires. However, faulty parts and system failures can cause some systems to break down-mainly the braking system.

One great example is the “do not drive” advisory given to Mercedes Benz ML, GL, and R-Class SUV owners between 2006 and 2012.

The automaker advised owners to stop driving their vehicles until they resolved the cause of the power brake system.

The brake boosters that provide power assistance to the brake can rust over an extended period, especially when exposed to water and cause air to leak into the system, weakening the brakes.

As a result, drivers will have to use a lot of force to bring the vehicle to a stop.

5. Corrosion on Various Parts

SUVs are built to handle ruggedness while keeping you comfortable. However, like any other vehicle, they are not immune to rust.

The main reason why it’s a common issue in SUVs is because you can drive them around wet, muddy, sandy, and snowy areas, which can easily lead to rust.

Therefore, it’s not uncommon to encounter a rust problem on your SUV, especially if you live in very cold regions where roads are de-iced using salt.

It’s also worth noting that some car brands are more susceptible to rust than others, depending on the materials used to make parts and components. That means rust cases are more popular in some vehicles than others.

The most affected SUVs include the 2002 to 2004 Chevy Tahoe, the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder, the 2013-2016 Toyota RAV4, 2007 to 2011 Jeep Compass.

6. Transmission Problems

This has been an issue for a long time among Ford SUVs.

Transmission problems can be quite expensive, and not every repair shop can tackle this job properly. For this reason, you may want to avoid getting an SUV with transmission issues.

While automakers are working tirelessly to produce efficient, consistent, and fuel-efficient vehicles, problems can arise, and that’s what happened to the Dodge Journey and many other SUVs.

The 2018 Dodge problems revolve around drive systems and transmission systems. The carmaker issued five recalls for the 2018 models, but the problem has been persistent.

Nissan also experienced the same issue with most of its SUVs with Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT).

The most affected models include the 2015–2021 Nissan Murano, the 2015-2017 Nissan Rogue, and the 2018-2021 Pathfinder.

There have been multiple consumer complaints and lawsuits due to a recurring problem with transmission fluid leaking.

CVTs can be pretty difficult to repair, are prone to overheating, and don’t last long compared to conventional transmissions.

If you own a Nissan SUV, watch out for these signs of transmission failure:

  • Strange shifting noises
  • Terrible fuel economy
  • Engine revving
  • Vehicle stalling
  • Flash engine light
  • Transmission overheating
  • Delayed acceleration
  • Burning smells
  • Jerking and lurching

That said, I personally know a guy who owns three Nissan Patrol SUVs that he still uses. They are from 1998 (!), 2002, and 2005. The one from 2002 has driven more than 310,000 miles and remember, it’s a work horse and a pulling machine – so those are not equivalent to 320,000 miles on a sedan driven on highways. 

7. Leak Refrigerant System

Any vehicle can experience a refrigerant leak, which is easy to fix, especially if you know what is causing the leak.

While it’s also not an alarming problem as you can make adjustments, everyone wants to drive comfortably throughout the year, especially if you live in a hot climate.

Unlike gasoline and oil, refrigerant is colorless and odorless, making it difficult to spot a leak. However, if you notice a greasy, thin liquid dripping from beneath the car, your vehicle may be leaking refrigerant.

The biggest major sign is when your air conditioning system fails to blow cold air.

You may also notice clicking sounds when you turn the AC on or see an illuminated check engine light.

Most people tend to repair their refrigerant leaks and move on, but more complaints were raised for the 2019 Mazda CX-3.

General Pros and Cons of SUVs

Before purchasing your SUV, you may want to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of SUVs. Here are the common pros and cons of SUVs.


Comfortable and spacious cabins: 

There’s no doubt that SUVs are spacious and cozy to drive. Manufacturers pay attention to detail to boost everything that makes you comfortable, such as heated, perforated, and massaging seats.

More legroom and headroom allow families to travel and enjoy rides together without feeling tired.

Relatively affordable:

The competitive market makes it much easier for buyers to afford SUVs, unlike decades ago when they were viewed as big expensive vehicles. Today, you can get a subcompact, compact, mid-sized, or large SUV, depending on your needs, budget, and lifestyle.


SUVs can take you to work, vacation, and occasional drives to other difficult-to-access areas. They can handle different terrains and have towing capabilities in case you need to take your boat, trailer, or caravan.

Good ground clearance:

SUVs can drive through deeper waters than sedans without damaging the engine. They also handle sand, snow, and slippery surfaces well, which helps prevent you from getting stuck in unknown places.

We have a list here of electric SUVs and cars with high ground clearance.

Great for rugged terrains:

SUVs are made of sturdy frames that provide a stable foundation that enables power and durability. If you enjoy the outdoors, you can get an SUV to take you anywhere without worrying about getting stuck.

Good grip and handling:

Wet and slippery conditions in winter shouldn’t prevent you from having fun or getting where you need to be. Four-wheel drive SUVs can drive well on uneven ground.


  • Problems with Falcon Wing doors
  • Corrosion
  • Too high servicing costs
  • Electrical wiring flaws
  • Problems with the braking system
  • Transmission problems
  • Leak refrigerant system

What Do the Reviews Say

The SUV market is lucrative and will probably stay this way for a long time.

That’s because SUVs offer their users exactly what they need; the space, comfort, and performance they need to get where they want to be.

“Though off-road enthusiasts may snub these car-based SUVs (also known as crossovers), consumers have embraced them in huge numbers thanks to their combination of a commanding seating position and pleasant, car-like driving dynamics.”

SUVs have come a long way, with automakers striving to improve them every day.

While they may never fit in the shoes of off-road enthusiasts, SUVs do a great job balancing work and play.

That’s why the SUV market has blossomed and is likely to remain this way.

“SUVs are the Swiss Army Knife of cars; you can drive them on good roads, bad roads, or in the absence of roads, and they’ll take it all pretty much in stride. The popularity of SUVs helps make them a better purchase, too, as more manufacturers angle for a slice of the increasingly meaty pie. This means more competition and better prices as a result.”

SUVs are too popular, which makes it easy for automakers to produce affordable models as everyone struggles to get a share of the market.

What’s the Resale Value On SUVs

Model Year Mileage Price
Tesla Model Y 2021 13,596 61,500
Hyundai Palisade 2022 14,078 $43,447
Toyota Highlander 2017 42,636 $27,500
BMW X5 2022 7,916 $60,000
Mazda CX5 2019 71,068 $20,776
Volkswagen Tiguan 2019 52,095 $16,995
Honda CR-V 2019 17,809 $29,000
Porsche Macan 2021 24,630 $66,988
Mercedes- AMG GLSClass 2022 2,653 $71,375
Genesis GV70 2020 32,898 $39,545
Volvo XC90 2013 104,427 $14,498
Audi SQ7 2020 8,818 $81,441
Ford Explorer 2020 76,996 $37,498
Kia Telluride 2022 8,996 $54,000
Jeep Grand Cherokee 2020 83,352 $21,000
Chevrolet Equinox 2018 41,407 $23,000
GMC Yukon 2020 32,299 $62,997
Dodge Journey 2019 105,038 $12,585
Nissan Rogue 2019 77,799 $21,000
Mitsubishi Outlander 2022 1,263 $33,997
Lexus RX-450H 2021 17,065 $52,232

For a more in-depth analysis of the GLS, take a look at our article on the best and worst years of the Mercedes-Benz GLS.

Lexus RX450

Final Thoughts

An SUV can be an excellent addition to your vehicle collection. However, with their increasing demand, we should expect more problems.

That also means doing your due diligence to ensure the vehicle you buy has no major issues. Most SUVs are well-made with minor issues, but a section of them can be a headache if you don’t pay attention.

Be sure to clean, service, and drive your vehicle well, and it will serve you for the longest time.


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