Automotive Questions – Honda CR-V Problems

OK, I need the helps of folks that understand automotive systems better than I. My wife has a 2002 Honda CR-V with something like 130K miles on it. She had the check engine light come on yesterday, and took it to the dealer today. The verdict seems to be that the catalytic converter has died. We can supposedly wait to fix it until we need to smog the beast, but that’s still an over $1,700 repair (just for the part!). So, a few questions:

  1. I always thought there was a lifetime warranty on emissions system components in California. My wife says the dealer told her that it was only 100K miles. Does anyone know, such that they can provide a pointer to the reference? UPDATE: It looks like the warranty is 7 yrs/70K miles
  2. We’ve had a series of engine problems with this car, some of which go back to repairs that were fully or partially covered under warranty. The problems started in 2006, when the check engine light came on due to a bad valve or piston. After that dealer opened the head, they replace a valve retainer, and we still get the check engine light. That time it turned out to be a bad exhaust valve. We talked American Honda into covering half of the bill. Fast forward to Fall 2009, when the check engine light came on again. This time, the dealer (a different one from the first problem) diagnosed the problem as worn spark plug, the intake system having a buildup of carbon, and the intake and exhaust valves being tight. They adjusted the vales and performed a decarbon service, and replaced the spark plugs. A month later, the check engine light came on again. This time the diagnosis was a blown head gasket that resulted in a warped head. Another expensive repair with the head being remachined.

    My question is this: given this history, I’m of the belief that the original 2006 engine problems, which probably relate to defective manufacturing, were the root of the problem. The repair work then lead to the head gasket problems, which then created enough gunk to pollute the catalytic converter and cause it to fail. Given this, we might be able to pressure American Honda to cover some percentage of the repair. However, I’m not an expert enough on cars to know if this gut feeling is correct, nor to be able to translate the gut feeling into language to persuade American Honda. I’ll note that I do have service records to show the car was regularly maintained — the problem was not maintenance negligence on our part.

  3. Lastly, does anyone have access to CR-V Service Bulletins. Is there a CR-V Service Bulletin related to this history that our dealer is conveniently not telling us about. I’m getting to the point I’m trusting this dealer less and less.

Automotive Woes

My wife’s car (2002 Honda CRV) is back in the shop. About a month ago, the check engine light came on and it was running rough, so she brought it into our local dealer (we use the dealer ever since the car had a broken valve retainer many years ago). The dealer diagnosed the problem as worn spark plug, the intake system having a buildup of carbon, and the intake and exhaust valves being tight. They adjusted the vales and performed a decarbon service, and replaced the spark plugs. We thought we were fine… until the end of last week, when the check engine light came on again. This time the diagnosis was a blown head gasket… and today we learned it warped the head. I’m surprised because we had no warning of this, and they didn’t detect the problem. From listening to Car Talk, usually there are signs the head gasket is going — temperature problems, leaks, smoke, something. I’m not looking forward to this bill.

This has just been a bad quarter for cars, as in late August we had a $1,300 repair on my car: tires, combined with replacing a key and key fob… and in July, the aforementioned CRV had a 120,000 mile service that totaled to a bit over $700.00 (included replacing brakes and the control arm bushings).


Unnatural Attactions

My wife’s cars seem to have an unnatural attraction to other cars. When I met her, it was a 1981 Golf that kept getting hit. The 1982 Stanza did pretty good, and the problems with the 1992 Sable were more Fords making. The 1996 Camry gave its life protecting my wife.

Today, according to what my wife tells me, our 2002 Honda CRV got rear-ended, when stopped at a light in front of the Northridge Auto Club office (handy that). Evidently, someone hit the Avalon behind her and took off, after pushing the Avalon into my wife’s car. There’s rear-end damage to the car (repairable, she thinks), and she’s shaken up (she’s seeing the doctor tomorrow). We’ve already made the arrangements with our insurance company for the repairs; that’s easy when the accident happens in front of your insurer. My wife is also seeing the doctors to make sure she gets repaired. I’m sure I’ll learn more when I get home tomorrow. I think this is the 2nd or 3rd accident of that type in this car.


Of DVD-R and CR-Vs, Of Cabbages and Kings…

Folks may recall my previous post about problems we were having with our DVD Recorder and the repairs on my wife’s car. Both are now resolved, reasonably happily.

The DVD Recorder Saga. A few months ago, I purchased a Toshiba D-R4 DVD Recorder at Best Buy. The goal was to move our older Samsung player into the media room, and use the DVD Recorder to offload stuff from the DirecTivo. At the same time I bought the recorder, I bought a spindle of Fuji 16x DVD-R media. Earlier this week, I tried to record on that media. Although it would record just fine, when I attempted to finalize the disk I would receive an Err-14, “DVD disc access error detected”. I tried the suggestion of Toshiba of unplugging the machine for at least 3 minutes, and trying again… still no luck. So, we started a quest for the recommended DVD-R media for the device: Either Maxell or TDK 4x DVD-R.

Resolution: At Frys, my wife picked up a spindle of Maxell 1x-8x DVD-R media. This media is working like a charm. I’ll see if I can get some more of the same. Perhaps it is just reading the manufacturer block, and rejecting it if it isn’t Maxell or TDK. The 8x media also has an opaque top (yellow), as opposed to a silvery top — this might help the reflectivity part of the equation.

The Honda CR-V Saga. This is a more involved saga. The Thursday before we left on vacation 3 weeks ago, my wife was driving to my cousin’s house to help her with her son’s Bar Mitzvah preparations. As she was getting on US 101, the “Check Engine” light came on, the engine misfired, and the car died. It wouldn’t restart right away. AAA was called, and the car was trucked to Keyes Woodland Hills Honda. They initially attempted to diagnose the problem, but every time they read the computer, they got a different result. We throught it was a computer problem. After a week of working on it, they diagnosed the problem as a valve problem, and sent the engine out to the machine shop for major rework. Time passed. More time passed. Everytime we called them, we were told the engine wasn’t back. They kept slipping the promise date. When we got back home, we were fed up, plus we felt this was an engine defect. So my wife called American Honda. They opened a case. After some more calling, the car finally got back to the dealer. The ultimate problem was a broken valve retainer, leading to the valve problems. At the dealer they started it up… and got another “Check Engine” light. This time it was an exhaust valve. We were getting pretty pissed at this point.

Resolution: The car is back, the problems are fixed, and it is running like a charm. Further, we didn’t have to pay the full over $2,200 bill: American Honda is paying half of the bill, even though the car has just under 82,000 miles and is thus out of warranty. Good for them!

So, what have we learned from this, kiddies:

  • Problems eventually do get resolved.
  • They get resolved faster if you have gf_guruilla working your case.
  • You don’t want an angry gf_guruilla. Had the car not been ready today, she would have (a) left a substantial amount of blood on the service drive of the dealership, (b) been in the showroom all Labor Day Sales weekend loudly making a scene about the “so-called service” at said dealership, and (c) filed complaints with the B.A.R., AAA, the LA County District Attorney’s Fraud Unit and whomever else she could think of. Don’t believe me? Just ask Morrie Sage about the time in 1981 when they left a screw in the engine of her new Nissan Stanza! She raised a stink in the showroom.

Yet another reason I love my wife. A grand mess, and I didn’t have to deal with it (except for paying the much-reduced bill). On top of that, she got batteries in my watches and picked up a prescription for my trip before I could even get to the drugstore!


More Grrrrssss….

  • It seems the DVD-R is really finicky. It just won’t finalize the Fuji DVD-R 16x media. I’m going to have to find some 4x DVD-R media, preferably TDK or Maxell. I’m beginning to think I have an expensive DVD player, and that DVD Recording technology just isn’t there yet, at least for personal use.
  • gf_guruilla‘s car is even more of a grrrrr… After 3 weeks and a diagnosis of two bad valves , caused by a bad valve retainer (which should have been caught during initial engine assembly), they take apart the engine, supposedly fix the valves, put it back together… and get a different “Check Engine” code. The car only has about 85K miles on it. The Guruilla is in a take-no-prisoner’s mode. She’s going to yell at American Honda tomorrow, and then see if we can get the car transferred to a dealer that might know what they are doing. She’s also going to see if we can get Honda to spring for a loaner. This is ridiculous, and is really lowering my opinion of at least this Honda dealer. Next step will be the District Attorney, the Bureau of Automotive Repair, and AAA. Expect a full rant when everything is said and done.

Take Me For A Ride With My Car-Car

This hasn’t been our summer for car problems. Back in June you’ll recall a number of posts about how my car (a 1999 Honda Civic DX Hatchback) was tipped on its side, resulting in sufficient damage that our insurance company totalled the car. We ended up replacing it at the beginning of July with a 2006 Toyota Matrix XR.

I think the other car was jealous.

Just before vacation, while my wife was getting on the freeway, the check engine light came on and the car died. They were able to get the car started sufficiently to get it on the tow truck, and they towed it to the closest Honda dealer (Keyes Honda, Woodland Hills). After four days of diagnosing things (because the engine computer kept giving inconsistent answers), they came up with a verdict: the car toasted a valve or piston (I don’t recall which), and they are going to have to open the head to fix it. It looks like this has happened before on CR-Vs.

This afternoon we debated whether to have the dealer repair the problem ($1400 est.), or towing it to our favorite Honda repair shop and having them do it (a diagnosis fee to Keyes+towing+$800 est.). We have more confidence in our favorite shop (experiential assurance, no EAL). However, given the diagnosis cost, towing cost, and then repair, we’re letting Keyes do it. It should be done Friday.


Take Me For A Ride In Your Car-Car

(Anyone get the reference in the subject line?)

This looks to be a month for car expenses… all normal maintenance, just “youch”. We brought in both cars over the last two days to our favorite service guy, Aron, at Nippon Automotive. I’ll note that we never go to the dealer unless is it warranty or safety work that requires a dealer. We’ve been going to Aron for over 15 years now, and highly recommend him if you have a foreign car and are in the valley. End commercial.

In any case, the cars went in for the normal milage-based maintenance. However, it turned out my tires (I have a 1977 1999 Honda Civic) were just about gone, so gf_guruilla trudged over to get new tires. Not a surprise: I got 50K miles out of those tires! The car rides much better, but still needs to be smogged (I had forgotten to tell her that). We’re also investigating getting the seat belt tensioners tightened (that’s warranty work), and potentially replacing the hatchback hydraulic lifts (although, at $85 each plus labor, I may wait on that and let the door just fall on my head in cold weather—it can’t damage much!).

With the rain today, my wife had to go get new blades. As she was by the dealer (she drives a 2001 Honda CRV, like the one pictured in the userpic), she picked them up there. They were doing free battery checks. She needs a new battery (not a surprise after 60K miles).

Haven’t seen the charge invoices yet, but I’m not looking forward to them. I’m guessing around $600 when all is said and done. So it goes. This doesn’t happen that often.

Update: Aron replaced my wife’s battery… but now her radio doesn’t work because we don’t have the magic code. Hopefully, we’ll find it at home; otherwise, they’ll need to tear down the dash to get to the radio. Grrrr. This is where theft protection gets you. Much easier to have a removable faceplate.

Update 2: We found the code… on the front of the owner’s manual!