New 2013 Volt owner with a few concerns
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Thread: New 2013 Volt owner with a few concerns

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2017

    Default New 2013 Volt owner with a few concerns


    I bought my Volt a little over a week ago, and I love it to death. It's a slick little car with a ton of fun features and capabilities that makes my ADHD tremble with excitement. I rent a house that I'm hoping to buy soon (this car note should help improve my credit score and reduce my interest rate), and I got permission from the current owner of the house to install a charging station in the back yard and pour a parking pad while I'm still renting, so win!

    I did some digging around in the forums and got partial answers to my initial questions, but some of my questions are too loosely formed to get good search terms out of them, so I beg your forgiveness if these questions have all been repeatedly answered at length elsewhere. Mea Culpa.

    First, I was concerned with my fuel economy. It has been cold, but not wretchedly cold since I first got my Volt. About 10 to 30 degrees Farenheit. I tend to keep my climate control on Eco and keep my preconditioning to 2-3 minutes, tops, and my temp at a nice comfortable 72F. My commute is just shy of 30 miles round-trip with 24 of those miles being freeway miles. It's a nearly perfect round-trip, though I can't plot it out anywhere like Google Maps because the southbound ramp I use to get back home was recently replaced and isn't on Google Maps yet, but it's basically Franklinton (Columbus, OH, USA) to Dublin (Columbus OH, USA) taking Interstate 70, then 270 for almost the entire trip going about 70 mph steady for the bulk of it.

    Under these conditions, the onboard computer measures my fuel economy at 28-26 mpg (probably not entirely accurate, from what I understand), and I'm at least partially to blame for it based on the following things I learned while lurking:

    1. I have been using Mountain Mode to maintain the battery (an apparently dumb thing that I will probably stop doing, which bleeds into my next question.) The dealer owes me battery maintenance equipment as part of a contract they signed to get my money and autograph, so we're good on that front once they do their part and I can get my backyard charging station installed. I notice that I crawl back up to 28 mpg pretty quickly when I turn off mountain mode, so hopefully I'm safe to stop using it entirely.

    2. My tires are inflated to 38, 37, 37, and 34 PSI (I think it's a combination of a leaky TPS valve on the 34, and an inaccurate gauge on the air pump for the other two) The dealer owes me a compressor anyway. It was part of the deal, too.

    3. The oil looks a bit darker than I'd like (I didn't press the dealer when they claimed to have changed it the week before I looked at it, I just wanted my Volt as soon as possible)

    4. I'm not used to driving a hybrid yet, so I don't get everything I could get out of regenerative braking (I haven't found the sweet spot yet that keeps the ball in the center and keeps me out of the middle of the intersection), and I have caught myself accelerating a bit too hard, though I'm used to driving a gigantic early 90's era van, so I'm not in the habit of driving aggressively anyway, making this an unlikely cause for the majority of my economy losses.

    5. I don't put premium in the car's fuel tank. Is this recommended? I didn't get a manual with the car, but I saw a few others saying they use 87 octane and still get 30-40+ mpg year 'round.

    6. I haven't measured my economy directly yet. (Top up, do a regular round trip, log the miles, top up again and measure the fuel added, divide, conquer.) I am aware that this makes me a bad person, and I intend to atone as soon as I can afford to do a round trip just for the joy of it.

    Which leads to my questions:

    Should I expect the estimate to be this low under these conditions?

    Is the estimate probably about right from a spitball, rough calculus point of view?

    Should I continue to drive in Mountain Mode from time to time on account of the blistering weather to keep my battery from turning inside out and summoning demons (at least until I can start charging it every night)?

    I don't know when the firmware was last updated, but it does shut itself off after 10 minutes of preconditioning, so the firmware can't be all that old. I will be taking it in to a dealership soon to grab some of those fresh baked bits straight from the oven.

    She's a base model 2013 with 60k miles, no nav, no backup camera, fabric seats, no seat heat. This Volt only has what Chevy naively sold as "bare-bones" (suckers)

    My battery range seems to be about 25 miles, but I've yet to get her fully charged up because I don't have my home plug yet and I'm nervous about breaking loitering laws or being a plug hog at my local establishments, so 65% is as far as I've gotten, and that was a 15 or 17 mile range, IIRC.

    Thank you for your kindness and tolerance of my noobness, or perhaps rather for your factually correct and not necessarily kind responses to set me straight. Whatever is warranted.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Des Plaines, IL.


    Welcome to the forum.

    I also drive a bare bones 2013.

    1. Stop using Mountain mode, you are wasting gas. Unless you are going to be driving long periods of time in the mountains.

    2. Tires should be inflated to 38 PSI. I inflate mine to 40 PSI.

    3. There is a oil life percent screen. use the wheel to on the dash, left of the steering wheel, to selected it. Some have suggested to let it get close to 10% or lower.

    4.Your electric mileage is based on the 5 T's. Temperature, terrain, tire pressure, technique, and ??? Can't remember the Fifth one. They all effect your range. In the summer, the best I have done is 58 miles and in winter it has been as low as 29. Most of my commute to work is on slight decline. Yah, I am driving up hill on my way home. I drive 66 miles round trip. I also have stopped driving like a mad man. I do the speed limit in the right lane.

    5. You can use lower octane gas, but it is not recommend. The manual recommend premium. There have been many discussions on this, on many posts.

    6. If you have an 110volt outlet that you can plug into, do it. The car will charge over night in 10 hr. you must select 12 amp charging every night on you center screen. 8 amps will do it in 13 hrs. I have an 110 Vac outlet but it is a distance from where I can charge. I use a 12ga extension cord (shutter the thought, it a big NO NO, many post on this too.) with no issues for over a year now. When I used a 14 ga cord, I did melt the cord plug. hence the big NO NO. But that took a 6 months to do that.

    There is an electronic version of the Manual online. One of the other forum member has a link in his signature. Best thing to do is get it and read it.

    Enjoy your Volt.
    ***2013 Black Volt***

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2016


    WOW, lots of questions, and congrats on the buy!

    First off, my personal experience is that running the engine while on the freeway at constant sustained speeds is probably a bit more efficient than running on battery, unless you can do your entire commute on battery only. I would personally avoid Mountain Mode (MM) unless your commute requires it since it keeps the engine revved higher than necessary to build the charge to about 40% if you're below that threshold when you turn it on. Maintaining a charge in the battery isn't entirely necessary and there are a number of fleet volts that used almost exclusively gas and never charged because gas is provided if its a company car but they won't pay for electricity.

    In response to your tire question, I personally maintain a fairly high pressure (44 all around) which does help a small amount with range and mileage. I use the tire pressure monitor screen in the DIC to monitor when I need to add air. The DIC can also give you an idea as to how long the oil has been in use since it has an oil life monitor included among the various settings.

    Range estimates are based on recent driving habits and patterns. If you are more aggressive it will show a decrease. It usually takes a few days to reflect your driving habits and conditions (temp as well as terrain). I find the estimates to be roughly right on target for what my real experience is.

    I suggest doing a search on google for an pdf copy of the owners manual. Chevy has it available for download (free). I would also suggest signing up with OnStar to get 3 free months of their full coverage as well as 3 years of their free plan which allows you to use your smartphone/computer to lock/unlock your car, etc. One last bit.....the 10 minute preconditioning timer is intentional, and no firmware/programming update will alter that to the best of my knowledge. However, it can be done twice for a total of 20 minutes before you are required to physically start the car with the power button.

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  6. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Omaha NE


    Welcome. Yes, most of those concerns have been discussed before, but most of us don't mind going over them again. There's always another bit of wizardry to uncover in these cars.

    Your range is perfectly normal. Mine tells me it's going to go 29 miles and then runs out of juice 22 miles later on a regular basis when the weather is 10 to 15 degrees. It comes right back up to 38 - 44 "real" miles when the temperature goes up in the summer. Poor range is just something that happens with cold temperatures and it's not unique to the Volt. All the other electric cars suffer the same problem to some extent.

    Running Mountain Mode is completely futile. There is no real reason to believe it will improve or protect anything. The computer already does a fabulous job of making sure you can't hurt the battery. Run it on zero for weeks burning gasoline only. It won't hurt a thing. If you want a little bit of battery life just so you can glide quietly into the neighborhood, maybe that would be a reason to run Mountain Mode? Really, it's okay to just drive the car. The engineers who designed it made it dummy proof.

    Pre-conditioning has always had a 10 minute timeout. It will allow you to run a second 10-minute session, but then you must actually get in the car and push the power button. You don't get a 3rd session until the car gets powered on turned off again. There was a recall about 2 years ago for "Unintentional Engine Running" that automatically turns the power off 10 minutes after you get out too. That's a completely separate issue intended to babysit people who can't remember to hit the power button when they are done driving. I explicitly did NOT allow that recall to be applied to my car because it also comes with a nice loud blast of the horn to remind you that you got out of the car without turning it off. I really don't want to wake up the whole neighborhood when I get out to pick up the newspaper before pulling into the garage.

    You didn't mention anything about the 120v charge cord that comes with the car. It sounds like you've only been charging at public charging stations when it's convenient and possibly installing a high power charging station (with a pad!) but it's not there yet. You should know that more than half of Volts NEVER get charged on 240v charging because the 120v trickle charger plugged into any standard outlet is fully capable of charging the car overnight.

    I'm one of the guys who doesn't believe that a car with low compression really needs premium fuel for any reason other than having it keep longer. Petroleum chemistry does not support the call for premium fuel if you are going to burn it soon. If you expect to buy gas once every 8 months, then premium fuel is the better choice. I know many who will disagree with my opinion.
    2013 Crystal Red WATT GAS

    Stock EVSE converted to L1/L2 auto-switching

  7. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Philadelphia, PA


    Welcome, Churusaa to the Volt forum. I bought a 2013 Volt in September of 2015 and it's been a wonderful car. I recommend you get an owner's manual and look it over, it'll fill you in on operating the car. You can visit the website and download the 2013 Volt owner's manual as a PDF at no charge. The manual will tell you to use premium fuel from a Top Tier gasoline dealer. Search Top Tier for a listing of the brands that have qualified for Top Tier status. Others on the forum use lesser grades of gas and seem to get away with it but I follow the manual's instructions. I share your concern about the oil on the dipstick being darkened, fresh oil should be nearly invisible on it. What does the oil life monitor say? As far as the battery range, 25 miles on the guess-o-meter is about right for our climate this time of the year. Over the summer mine was as high as 44 miles, now I'm seeing 25-27 miles on full charges. Keep in mind that as you are learning about the car, the car is also learning about you and it'll factor in your driving habits to improve its estimates. Best of luck with your new ride.
    2013 Crystal Red Premium, black leather trim, both packages, Bose speakers, navigation.

  8. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    New Joisey


    One other thing -- if you're pre-conditioning on 120V and then heading out right away, you're definitely losing a few EV miles before you even leave the driveway. The 120V cannot keep up with the HVAC draw. I've found it takes about 20 minutes or so of charging on level 1 (12 amps) to recharge after pre-conditioning. Sometimes, you're better off just putting it into hold mode right away and using the gas to warm up the cabin if you're going to burn some gas anyway.

    It doesn't sound like you're plugging in regularly yet, so maybe not a concern, but just know that you really need Level 2 charging to almost keep it even (even then, you'll want to wait a few minutes to let it recharge if you still want "full" battery when leaving)
    ***2013 Black Volt, Leather with Ceramic White Accents***
    ***17" Sport Wheels, Nav, Bose, SP1***

  9. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    kettle falls, wa


    Welcome to the forum! I second most other poster's opinions, especially regarding MM and getting an owner's manual. I got an online one off this forum. You should see if you can squeeze one out of the dealer you bought it from. Volts are supposed to use synthetic oil due to the long change interval and nature of the engine's operation. A darkening of oil is normal and occurs rather rapidly. It's not a cause for concern. But I'd want to know what oil is in the engine, when it was changed, and whether the oil life monitor was reset. I'm an Amsoil fan, so I use their Signature series 5w-30. The manual does not suggest premium fuel. It requires it. So I use it. I didn't engineer the car and guys a lot smarter than me say use premium. My 2 cents. But when you're routinely getting from 90-250 mpg and going 1200 miles on 8 gallons (I manage this routinely in Spring thru Fall), what's an extra couple bucks for a tank of premium? Enjoy your Volt!
    2013 White Diamond, "Hal" Black leather w/white accents, Bose

  10. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Fighting Illini country surrounded by bean fields


    Some things to add to the great suggestions above (and that you've been doing most things wrong)

    1. Don't try to maximize regen. Try to minimize it. Normal D while coasting like crazy without hitting the brakes unless you absolutely have to, and maintaining your momentum gets you the most EV miles.

    2. Don't worry about the battery, it is designed to not charge all the way up or all the way down, so you don't have to worry about it. I'm not sure what you mean by the dealer owes you battery maintenance equipment. What equipment is that?

    3. As for accelerating too much, live a little. I used to drive like a grandpa trying to eek out every last EV mile. It's a fund game, but then I came to my senses. Working that hard to get to 85-90 MPG when instead, I could drive like Jeff Gordon and take on any and all muscle cars, and will get 75 MPG on my commute. I'm still blowing away any Prius hybrid (except for the Prius prime, where it's kind of close)

    4. Definitely get yourself a level 2 EVSE, the. Do a precondition cycle about 20-25 minutes before you leave so the preconditioning is dne and the L2 has had a chance to fully top off your battery.
    LLninja (greenback troll #1)
    2013 Volt G1 white diamond tricoat

    If I can get the guy in the mirror under control I can be skinny and rich.
    If you don't have the money, don't buy it. Debt is hazardous to your wealth
    Hidden Content Originally Posted by doctorq Hidden Content
    "what kind of mental problem do you have? you should really get yourself checked out, are you on any type of psychotropic medications?
    R:IQ $2.2M, at $1.7M proj $4.8M

  11. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Southern Illinois


    I owned two Gen I Volt's before buying a 17. Concur with what everyone else has said. If you had purchased your Volt in March or April you'd be saying, HOLY COW I get more miles from a charge than GM/EPA rating.

    So hang on, once winter is over you'll be getting 40 to 50 miles per charge.
    Tom aka Accidental Electronaut
    USAF Retired
    My garage
    2017 GMC Acadia Denali w/ACC
    2017 Volt Premier w/ACC

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  13. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    18603, PA, USA


    These are all questions I'm working on getting answers to myself - and the answers and their additional info are of great use to me! I was planning on getting a Volt last fall, but remodeled the kitchen in our new house instead. Now tax + company bonus time is around the corner and I'm angling to get one by March...

    This is making me reconsider cutting my search off at 2014 and newer, and making think a 2013 wouldn't be so bad...

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