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Eric, Automotive Repair Shop Manager
Category: Car
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Experience:  Automotive Repair Shop Manager, Technician/JA Mentor
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n/a n/a: I have had the following discussion with an Expert

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I have had the following discussion with an Expert who is not aware of any specific safety or other issues in automotive engineering to date, affecting specific year, make and models. Could a different expert take a swipe at it?

I am interested in the state of automotive engineering at this time and what non-ordinary-wear-and-tear issues, particularly safety issues, car owners are experiencing . . . other than those on recall and covered by warranty. Are you able to provide a listing of the 5 issues most likely to require car owners to have repairs done, at owner cost, on a vehicle. I can't tell you the problem, make, model and year . . .that is what I want you to do. It's not out of thin air, but out of your expertise that you ail provide the information. If you do not know of any problems in the automotive world, just tell me. but if you do, I'd like you to tell me problem, make, model and year. Then I I will know more about the state of automotive engineering, because my expert informed me. This is why I have an unlimited subscription to Just Answer, i.e. to be able to ask questions and get answers, which I do once every couple months or so.

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From Mike S.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013 7:07 AM EST
Are you talking about things like when Firestone tires on vehicles were exploding years ago, when gas tanks on Ford Pintos would explode during a 5 mph bumper to bumper collision, odd things like that or just the state of the automotive engineering field in general? I haven't heard lately of anything like the Firestone Tires or Pinto gas tanks. I remember problems using Dex-Cool in engines was causing leaks.

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You replied
Tuesday, September 17, 2013 7:12 AM EST
Yes . . . odd things like that. Are you aware of any issues these days? Or is it your judgment that,as far as you know, there are no specific issues out there?

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From Mike S.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013 7:19 AM EST
No specific issues out there. I see you said you researched the NHSTA website. In case you didn't know, they did change the homepage to
You might also want to consider reading what Ralph Nader has or had to say about automotive safety.

Are you just wanting to know on USA sold vehicles, or worldwide which would literally be hundreds and hundreds of different makes and models?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Just USA

Ok, the only problems I see on new vehicles not covered by the new vehicle warranty is due to either customer neglect or customers voiding their own warranties by adding some snake oil product that supposedly increases gas mileage or horsepower.

It just seems that some consumers never learn that if something seems too good to be true, it is usually snake oil. I have seen more computers fried or engine pistons burnt on vehicles with less than 10,000 miles on them simply because the consumer installed some chip on it and then were upset and dumbfounded that the dealer would not warranty that they, the consumer, caused by adding some aftermarket product.

I also see many engines that are toast with less than 40,000 miles on them due to customer neglect of only having done 1 oil change ever on it and then wonder why it seized.

Engineering on today's vehicles is extraordinary, even compared to just 5 yrs ago. They are made safer, more efficient, and overall with less problems from years past.

It is not to say that there are occasional unexplained component failure at very early mileage, but the manufacturers never deny warranty on them unless there is a clearcase of owner neglect or adding on aftermarket parts.

Even the deal with the Toyotas a couple of years ago with sudden acceleration, Toyota wasted little time in issuing recalls and getting the vehicles back in and fixed.

I honestly am not aware of any current issues with any new models that are not covered by warranty or recall on them
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks Eric. Let me ask you this then. What component failures do you recall that are still giving owners headaches and are not covered. That is the sort of thing that happened with the BMW 328i where the locks failed and a 14-year old was trapped in the vehicle in California heat and died just last week. The locks could have failed previously, but the owner was perhaps able to jiggle the mechanism until it worked. Maybe the vehicle wasn't covered and the owner put off a needed repair. This time unfortunately, the locking mechanism couldn't be made to work. And there may be other issues which are not safety related, but don't get fixed early on and wind up costing the owner. I'm just interested in what you recall of such issues that are now showing up now in the repair shops. And I do agree with you that the engineering has improved markedly in the last few years, while competition has made effective warranty programs a must. But nagging problems continue, for example, I know someone with a Ford Mustang with a 3 valve engine. The spark plugs broke when a routine servicing was done. Turns out Ford doesn't pay because the warranty had run; but at the same time, the spark plugs were a two piece that had seizing problems in many vehicles due to sludge build up. That is the type of problem I am interested in knowing about, even though it is not strictly a safety problem.


How far back do you want go? I will say it needs to be reasonable, within last 3-5 yrs at most. any further back and it is just too much to go thru with the hundreds of models and engine/transmission configurations. The percentage I get from this question would not begin to cover the amount of hours involved.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I am not looking to burden you and I will provide additional remuneration for a good answer . . .no problem. I usually give a bonus. But five years is good, back to the 2008 model year. Let's see what you come up with. If you do spend time researching, let me know by all means.


Thank you.


give me a few hours to write everything out for issues I have seen that are now showing up under those conditions and then type them up here. I will go back to the 2007 and newer and add a couple of older ones such as the Honda transmission and the Chrysler 2.7L engine issues that although are older, we still see everyday.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you.


Ok, I am going to start with a couple of older issues so you can see the difference in the automotive manufacturer's approach to know issues

First, the 1998-2004 Honda/Acura Accord, Odyssey, TL, CL and MDX. They all had the same design automatic transmission with a design flaw of the transmission fluid filter being internal and not serviceable. This results in the debris from wear accumulating and clogging the transmission and causing internal failure. This became quite apparent by 2000 and Honda/Acura extended the warranty from 30m/36K miles to 84mo/107K miles. And even today with a customer's vehicle out of warranty, Honda/Acura continues to work with its customers to defray the cost of transmission replacement.

Contrast that with Chrysler and their problems with the 1998-2007 2.7L engine which is plagued by several design faults that result in oil sludging and engine seizure. The design faults are a water pump housing that leaks coolant back into the crankcase, improper pcv valve design that results in improper crankcase pressure and engine block oil passages that are too small. Chrysler absolutely refuses to acknowledge these and as a result, there is one of the larges class action suits filed against an automaker.

Ok, now with safety issues, primarily the SRS (supplemental restraint systems). In all cases for manufacturers, when there is a known problem, they issue recalls or service bulletins immediately and handle them. I have yet to see one deny an issue that is wide spread. What we see are airbag failures because the customer had an airbag/srs warning light on and ignored it. In each and every case of non-deployment when the recorded data indicated that they should deploy, or where an airbag deployed while just driving down the road, it has been a case of the customer ignoring the warning light. When I question customers, the number one response has been, "its just an idiot light designed by the auto manufacturer to take your money." There simply is too much widespread misperception about warning lights, mostly perpetuated by various carclub and complaint forums.

This also applies to the check engine light. Most people view them as an idiot light designed to take their money for needless repairs. Maybe 1% know that there are literally over 500 fault codes that can set the check engine light.

Ok, now to specific makes:

2004-2010 Ford F series trucks, expeditions and mustangs with the 4.6 or 5.4L engine have issues with spark plugs blowing out or stripping out the cylinder heads due to threads being too short in the cylinder heads. Ford did come out with a repair kit to resolve this issue

2004-2011 Chrysler/Jeep Suvs and trucks all have a very high incidence of ac evaporator failure, due to poorly welded evaporator joints. Aftermarket replacement evaporators are much more reliable than factory. Since 2011, I have not seen near the amount of evaporator failures as before.

2004-2009 toyota Echo and Corollas with 4cyl engines have had many, many issues with engine sludging and damage. Toyota settled out of court on this and to resolve a class action suit.

2005-2010 Jeep Grand Cherokees have a very high rate of window regulator failure, usually with all of them failing in a couple of years. No updated part for these years has been produced.

2005-2011 GMs with the 3.6 engine are notorious for timing chain failure, starting at around 60K miles. GM did a small recall and updated the timing chains and guides, but I am even seeing these fail in around 60K miles. Timing chains should last until about 200K to 250K miles, so this is very poor performance

2007-2011 Nissan Pathfinders and Xterras had an issue with the transmission cooler lines inside the radiator failing and the results contaminating the transmission. They have updated the part, but this is an issue that sometimes cannot be discerned which is the cause - the design or customer neglect, especially in severe climate areas of the country. The coolant should be flushed every 2yrs and if not, electrolysis sets in and rots the inside the radiator.

2004-2010 Chrysler/Jeep 3.7 and 4.7 engines are known for headgasket failure and heads warping a relatively low mileage. It is a design issue, but because this also occurs when engine runs hot, sometimes it is difficult to discern which.

2009-2012 Chrysler products with antitheft systems, have a higher rate of antitheft control module failure than other makes, and this always results in no start conditions. To date, no updated parts.

2009-2011 Nissan SUVs and trucks all had a design flaw in the fuel tank vent valve setting fault codes and the fuel being hard to put in. This results in the fuel tank having to be replaced as the valve is not replaceable by itself. This has since been resolved with a new design.

All classes of Mercedes from 2006-2011 with electronic suspension have a very high rate of control module and complete failure, to the tune of almost $4000 per repair. The design has since been changed.

BMWs from 2007 on, have high failure rates of the vanos(part of the engine timing components). The design is still the same essentially. They did extend some of their warranties for this.

Everything else I see is just a result of normal wear and tear, customer neglect, or customers not being educated on the meaning of the various warning lights.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Eric--are you saying s to each issue that owners are likely to be paying for a significant % of the repairs?


Unfortunately, yes. With the exception of the dealer offering what we call a "goodwill warranty", which is the dealer absorbing 100% of the cost of repair when the repair is out of warranty, which only happens occasionally for long standing loyal customers, all of the above issues the customer pays either a substantial percentage of the repairs or all of it.

Honda with the transmission issues is the only company I have seen that have been willing to pay 50% or more of the cost of repair when the failure is past the warranty. I just had a customer with a 98 Accord and 85,000miles on it have Honda pay 75% of the repair bill on her transmission replacement, even though it was 8yrs past the extended warranty time.

But Honda is the exception to the rule. This is why Honda has the largest repeat customers of any manufacturer and why they consistently rate at the top of all surveys.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Eric--concerning the ac evaporator and the joint welding, how pervasive is the issue as to the welding? Is it only certain plants? All plants? All SUV's and truck models? Etc?


It is with every Chrysler/Jeep Suv and truck - Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, Commander, Liberty, Wrangler, Ram trucks and vans, Caravan, Town and Country, Voyager

I have seen them all with this issue

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
And what is the approximate repair cost?

Depending upon the model, from $700 to $1200 as the whole dash has to come off to access the hvac housing and remove it and then take it apart to replace the evaporator
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Do I understand that it's the difficulty of removing and replacing the dash boards of different models that accounts for the different costs, but that hac unit is the same in all cases?

correct. For example the Wrangler dash is pretty basic and not many individual trim pieces or electronics that need to come of to pull the dash, but the Grand Cherokee has a ton of pieces to remove before the dash can be pulled.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Eric . . . question:

how does the consumer/owner describes the problem?


Is it that the gas pump continuously and repeatedly shuts off during the refueling process because the station’s pump incorrectly senses that the tank is full ?




Sorry for the delay, had to take a horse into the vet, she was attacked this morning by a mountain lion. She is doing good, but I just got back

I assume you are referring to the Nissans - usually it will be a combination of the check engine light being on and telling me that the gas pump nozzle clicks off every few seconds. There can be other causes, but pulling the fault code will tell me if this is a vent valve issue or another evaporative emissions issue

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