C#1: You should definitely take this up the organizational chart at GM - starting with the local dealer (as you did) is a good start but you usually (in my experience, anyways) can not stop there. I would speak with someone in the dealer's management, not about the light problem, but to get the name, telephone numbers, mail address and email address of the district management. Then contact the district management and layout your case just as you have here with all the details. No satisfaction there? Go up one more level. Letters, emails, phone calls - keep pounding at it.
C#2: After you install the new replacement module, tear apart the old one and poke around and see if you can see what the problem is. Ditto with any other modules you can find to play with.
C#3: Do a web search for similar complaints. You'll probably find many. Integrate all that into your search. At least you can find some grim satisfaction in pursuing this!
I just completed a somewhat similar search for problems with a Maytag dishwasher - a fairly consistent and high failure rate in the controller module. Unfortunately Maytag has been swallowed up by Whirlpool and no one seems to care anymore but, from a web search, we did discern the basic problem (i.e. corrosion of the contacts on the connector) and fixed the problem with a new controller (next time we'll clean the contacts!).
On another more automotive related case (more than a few years ago), we had purchased a new car and we went back to the dealer to buy a few standard spare parts 'just in case' (e.g. points (so you know this was a long time ago!!)). Well, the parts manager said 'We don't have any and we can't get any'. So we got mad, marched down to the manager's office and said 'we need the name and phone number of the district manager'. Then we called the district manager and complained mightly. A week later, we got a letter from the district manager saying we should go back to the dealer - if they still wouldn't order the parts, go to the dealer's manager and ask him to call so and so in the district office. Well, when we trotted back to the dealer and the parts guy again said no parts and so we trotted down to the managers office and laid the letter on his desk. He excused him self and came back 5 minutes later saying 'The parts are on order - they will be here in 5 days'.
Now your part is 5 years old and probably you won't get any joy in taking it to the 'man' but, hey, at least you can say you tried!
Sorry to say it but this is typical GM and par for the course. I got badly burned by that company back in 1988 and never owned another GM product again. When a company is going to install a tail light that cost $223 to replace, it better be sure it's never going to need replacing.
To be fair though, I had a run in with Toyota last year that made me think I may look elsewhere for my next vehicle.
A center-mount taillight is a federal safety requirement. All cars and light trucks have been required to have them since the mid 1980's. They were required to give drivers advance warning of brake application one or more vehicles ahead, thus reducing the liklihood of tail-end crashes.
Failure of this indicator is, in my opinion, safety related. All such failures should be reprted to NHTSA. Without customer complaints, they cannot react. Check their web site for similar complaints. That is another way to apply pressure to get your faulty light replaced.
Overall I have been very happy with my GM trucks (1989 Chevy 1500, replaced with a 2002 Avalanche). The one problem I have had with the 2002 Avalanche is that the interior lights burn out. Radio, trip computer, power window indicators (drivers front, passenger front, passenger rear). All of these use the small grain of wheat bulbs, and are soldered to circuit cards. I spent about 6 hours recently replacing all of the burned out ones. The bulbs are very inexpensive, but require labor to replace them. The ones in the power window switches are difficult. The back side of the CCA is covered by the enclosure they are in. I used side cutters to actually cut/break the light bulb so that I could unsolder from the component side to replace. searching the web it is obvious that these bulbs burn out quite frequently. GMs solution is to replace the radio, switch assy, etc.
Take it apart and do a post mortem on it. Did a resistor burn out? They probably aren't using a fancy current regulator...or THAT would burn out. Is the circuit board cracked from temperature cycling? Is one LED in a string bad? For 200 bucks, it's worth fixing it. To make fools of GM, definitely!
The people voted GM out of business for a reason. Corvair, Olds diesel, a V6 that required motor mount removal for new spark plugs, the list is almost endless. It requires a lot of hard work to design and manufacture a serviceable qualtiy product. Who over rode the decision of the marketplace ?
Although my first car was a '55 Chevy and I loved it (they were so simple then) my first encounter with GM and their "we don't give a damn once we've sold it" attitude was with my 67 Pontiac Sprint (OHC 6-cyl). Ever since delivery, it had zero oil pressure until engine speed reached some 2,000 RPM. The dealer's response, as well as the famed "district office" after several complaints to the dealer, was "it's covered by warranty if it stops running". They couldn't have cared less. It still gripes me when I know they spend far more money on "feel good" public relations ads than they do for some decent engineering. I've never ever considered buying a GM product - and discourage all my friends, too. Companies this big should be allowed to sink of their own weight (and ignorance in GM's case). Sorry for the workers, but Ford and others will take up the slack! Oh yes, the cost of replacement parts is truly an outrage ... for cars, appliances, virtually anything these days. Curiously, we haven't heard from a single person from GM trying to explain this LED problem ... they're likely under some GM gag order!
In my experience GM isn't alone in their lack of concern after the sale. I've had 3 Fords in succession and presently own 2 at the moment. Last year my 2004 Escape with only 22K miles died on the road with what was found to be a defective fuel pump. This is a $600. repair and seemed to me an unreasonable failure at such low milage. I made my way up through Ford in Detroit and their final answer was basically "sorry we're not interested". In my opinion my wife's Crown Vic with 3 times the milage was the last reliable car Ford made.
I agree that the best thing would be to open the assembly and find the problem, and then repair it. My guess is that it is a poor quality LED that is opening up the series string. Bright red LEDs are widely available from many sources, so getting a replacement will not be that hard. The important part of th task will be setting the current to the correct value. Since efficiency is not the main goal, using dropping resistors would be the best choice.
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