Problem-Plagued Used Cars

Consumer Reports’ reliability information on almost 250 models identifies the most likely problems.

Consumer Reports’ engineers find the new BMW 3 Series is great to drive, but its surveys show some older models aren’t aging well. For example, the BMW 335i from 2007 through 2010 tends to have fuel pump and fuel injection troubles.

And there are other popular used cars that can wind up in the shop. Consumer Reports’ reliability information on almost 250 models identifies the most likely problems.

Car problems don’t happen randomly. From the millions of car problems Consumer Reports’ subscribers report each year, Consumer Reports identifies key trouble areas. For instance, the Ford Focus 2003 through 2006 shows problems with the alternator, ignition switch, and battery. And owners of Dodge Grand Caravans from 2003 through 2006 complain about the power steering, tie rods, water pump, and air conditioning.

Even Toyota and Honda, which tend to be more reliable, have model years that are trouble-prone. The V6 Honda Accords from 2003 and 2004 have a high rate of transmission failure. And many Accords from 2008 through 2010 experience brake problems. And the 4-cylinder Toyota Camry from 2008 suffers excessive brake wear.

Of the 17 trouble spots Consumer Reports engineers look at, brakes are the biggest problem with used cars beyond normal wear and tear. Brakes are definitely something you should check carefully before you buy. And whatever used car you’re considering, Consumer Reports says always get it checked by an independent mechanic.

Consumer Reports identifies the best and worst used cars. Among the best for under $10,000—the 2009 Pontiac Vibe, the 2008 4-cylinder Hyundai Sonata, and the 2004 Acura TSX and Toyota RAV4.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website.

Statements from companies mentioned in the story:

Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc’s Safety and Quality Communications Manager Brian R. Lyons said:
“Consumer Reports rated the 2008 Camry 4cyl. as better than average for reliability, while noting only minor shortcomings. It also predicts the entire 2013 Camry model line-up (4cyl, V6, and Hybrid) as much better than average for reliability, its highest rating.”

Audrey Morris, a Ford spokeswoman said: “Ford is absolutely committed to top quality and customer satisfaction. We recommend that customers with any questions on our products either contact their dealer directly or our Owner Support team by visiting our website or calling 1-800-392-3673.”

Matthew Russell, a spokesman for BMW of North America, LLC said: “BMW discovered that certain 2007-2010 model year vehicles could experience partial failure of the engine High-Pressure Fuel Pump (HPFP) which is part of the direct fuel injection system on certain BMW 1 Series, 3 Series, 5 Series, X6, and Z4 models. Specifically, vehicles powered by the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine (internally dubbed “N54”) were affected. Symptoms included long engine starting times and sometimes the illumination of the Service Engine Soon lamp in the instrument cluster, possibly accompanied by reduced engine performance in Safe Mode operation. BMW issued a voluntary emissions recall, and owners of affected vehicles were notified in a letter sent by first-class mail. Affected vehicles received a software update to reprogram the engine management and/or an updated HPFP, depending on vehicle service history. Before the recall, BMW had previously extended the emissions warranty coverage period to 10 years or 120,000 miles, whichever comes first, on affected vehicles in all 50 States.
There have been no reports of injuries related to this issue.”

The Chrysler Group said: “ For those in the market for an affordable used car, Chrysler Group recommends shoppers look at Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles (CPOV), which undergo a rigorous 125-point inspection plus warranty protection, CARFAX history report, roadside assistance and car rental allowance. Chrysler Group is the only automaker to offer an optional, factory-backed Available Lifetime Upgrade Plan for CPOV Chrysler, Jeep®, Dodge and Ram vehicles to cover the CPOV vehicle as long as the customer owns it.”

Chris Naughton, Honda’s Northeast Regional Manager of Public Relations said: “Regarding Consumer Reports concern with 2003-2004 Accord transmissions, Honda conducted a recall on certain 2003 and 2004 Accord V6 transmissions to improve transmission fluid flow over the 2nd gear. This recall was originally initiated in November of 2004 after we saw a few higher mileage 2003 models begin to have issues with the 2nd gear. If a vehicle has been repaired under this recall, it should no longer be in danger of experiencing this issue. Any customer or potential buyer can check to see if a vehicle has had this recall work completed by visiting and entering the VIN.

Regarding "brake problems" with 2008-2010 Accords, there are no recalls for the brakes of these vehicles, but Honda did offer an updated brake pad and "V" spring for certain 2008-2010 Accord models if they experienced excessive brake noise or a "judder" feel when braking while the vehicles were under warranty. Please note that very few vehicles will experience these symptoms requiring the updated pad and "V" spring, and the same symptoms can be caused by certain driving styles and conditions on any vehicle. If a customer is experiencing that sort of issue or any other brake issue, they can have their vehicle inspected by a Honda dealer. Since most, if not all of these vehicles are now out of warranty, that inspection and any needed repair would likely be at the owner's expense, but most vehicles that would benefit from the updated pad and "V"spring should have experienced the concern and received the repair during the warranty period of 3 years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first.”

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