About Me

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I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I've Never had any Issues with my Car

People are a strange breed; they too often make decisions based upon emotion instead of data. I'm guilty of this myself, although I like to think that I research most of my decisions carefully, and review quality and reliability data. Especially when it comes to my vehicles.

I'm a big fan of Toyota, both because of my long history with the brand, and because of what the data says with respect to reliability of vehicles. I did find, a few years ago while researching a reliability presentation, a set of data published by Consumer Reports on 14 million cars. That data said very clearly that domestic cars aren't (or perhaps weren't at that time) as reliable as Honda, Toyota, VW, Hyundai, or other imports. In fact, there were no domestics in the top ten most reliable car brands. Trucks were not part of that data set.

I have several friends who are die-hard Ford fans. They swear up and down that their cars never gave them any issues at all, and they have had numerous fords, owned any given one for hundreds of thousands of miles, and never, ever had any issues.

One tried to talk me into buying a ford truck instead of my tundra. His argument was that there was at that time a recall on the tundra, and I should not get that vehicle for that reason. The recall: a floor mat was slipping forward and interfering with the break. He said that I should buy a ford F150.

Never mind that there was also a recall on the ford F150 at the time where those trucks were bursting into fire spontaneously because of an electrical fault in the cruise control circuitry. He was ok with trucks bursting into fire, but had a problem with a floor mat that could be simply removed. I just don't understand.

I was talking to that same friend the other day, and I had heard that his 2-year-old Ford F150 had been in the garage for some work, so I asked about it. Turns out that it had a defective transmission, which needed replacement. The vehicle was 53,000 miles old (or so). But to him, it was not a problem, since it was being repaired under warranty.

The warranty must be 60k miles, I asked.
Well, said he, he had bought the extended warranty, so it was 7 years and 150,000 miles.
Good thing he bought that warranty; what provoked him to do such a thing?
Turns out that his wife's Expedition had transmission problems early, though out of warranty, and they figured that if history repeated itself, they'd rather be ready for it.

Is this not a pattern? To him, it was not an issue, as it was under warranty, but to me it's an issue: the damn things break early.

I also learned (from talking to his wife) that his wife got rid of her Expedition in favor of a Nissan Armada because she was sick of the Expedition breaking down all the time. She said that she had been having troubles with it practically from day 1. HE said it was never an issue.


I'm reminded of a fellow who, years ago, was trying to get me to buy his GMC Pick Up. He too told that he never had any issues. Although in his next breath he told that he did all his own work. He had changed the struts, the springs, a tie-rod, and one or two other components that had failed.

No issues?

This makes me think that the definition of a "problem" changes from person to person. My observation is that these guys who claim to have no issues despite having to do a seemingly endless amount of repair work on their vehicles are all mechanically inclined people who do their own work. It's like how a master chef might tell you that it's 'no problem' to whip up a batch of Tartine croissants.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather have a car that didn't have anything break on it in the first few years than one that, if anything *were* to break, would be covered by a warranty. I think that reliability is more value than a warranty. Of course, no car manufacturer is without error; at the end of the day it's a statistics game and for me, I lean towards the manufacturer who has the fewest issues and the longest history of corporate quality and reliability, PLUS, I factor in my personal experience.

As for Toyota's sudden acceleration problem, Toyota was thrown under the proverbial bus. All modern vehicles experience this issue, as is reported on the Sudden Acceleration website (Here). I personally am of the belief that it's caused by one electronic system interfering with the electronic speed control system of modern vehicles, although that's extremely hard to demonstrate positively.

Be sure to read this recent and informative article too.

For me, I like to consult Consumer Reports when I face making any significant purchase; being of Irish decent, I sprinkle in a bit of salt too. :)


  1. Good points! Incidentally, I have a Honda CRV (12 years old now) and hubby has a Toyota Yaris (6 years old) -- and we're not sorry. :)

  2. We seem to be hung up on Chrysler products. We had our PT cruiser for 11 years and then sold/gave it away to a young friend who is also enjoying it. It did have issues. We did a lot of driving when we first got it over bumpy country roads and the tie rods gave out (twice). They are a light weight in the car species and aren't intended for the kind of punishment we were giving it. Once we stopped the long trips we stopped having problems. Still had its original muffler system when we gave it up for a new Chrysler 200. Here's hoping she holds up as well.

  3. I had a ford taurus wagon, which we bought at 27,000 miles. Before long, the shifter cable snapped, which we had replaced under warranty.

    Shortly there after (around 67,000) the transmission blew. We replaced it, and had a HELL of a time finding the right transmission for it. Odd you'd think, just look it up right? That's what the mechanic though... However, it didn't fit. We went through 3.

    As it turns out, the engine was not the original engine... so someone put in one of those engines that could burn corn gas, AND replaced the transmission BEFORE we bought it at 27,000 miles.

    After we got it back, within another few thousand miles, the power steering (like, WHOLE system) needed to be replaced.

    At some point, it began leaking oil. The oil pan was pitted and wore through. We didn't have the cash to fix it right then, so we just kept filling it. After about a month, you could see where we'd been all over the city, cause there was a line of oil from us, just about everywhere in the city...

    within a year of that, the starter began to die, so we decided we'd trade it in... We tapped the starter a few times, and got it going figuring we'd trade it before it completely died... on the way to the dealership, we stopped at Walmart, and it wouldn't start again after that. Had to have it towed, get a new start... $300, just to go from the mechanic to the dealership to trade in a working car.

    We went with a Hyundai Accent, which was RIDICULOUSLY small... My knee kept bumping the dash, turning on and off the AC. We drove that for a while, traded it back in for an Elantra, which I loved, but had a major accident in... 4,000 miles on it, did $7,000 dollars in damage, which was re-adjusted after the repairs started to $11,000. It was never quite the same after the repairs. I miss that car...

    Now we're driving a Chevy Uplander, and all in all, I'm happy enough with it. Hasn't needed any big work, just the typical maintenance stuff, breaks, tires, fluids, etc. After flipping all the loans, I think we'll be done paying it off in just another 2 years, so here's hoping it lasts!

  4. Damn, sorry, didn't mean to completely hijack your comments thread! I should have just made a blog post and linked it! lol

  5. Haha! No worries; I hope you Chevy treats you well.

    My very first car was a carolla, which I had for 11 years or New England driving and replaced brakes, exhaust, and one ball joint. 150k with the original clutch!

    Still, some folks really do have good luck with their domestic vehicles.

  6. My first non-beater car was a Corolla 5 speed. First year, no problems. Second year, constant electrical problems- that never ever ended until I sold it (to the mechanic, for parts). Then had a Blazer (Chevy) 260k miles, 7 years, no troubles. Then a Gran Torino, one thing after another. Then a Mercury Capri, that ran like a dream until it died at 320k miles. I don't think the stats are reliable on what are the 'best' of anything. It's the luck of the draw, like love. ;)

  7. There is a truth that it seems like some folks legitimately never have an issue, no matter the car manufacturer, and I'll also expand on a point that I made when I said that every manufacturer is bound to have an issue or two; I'll state also that every manufacturer is bound to produce some number of cars that are legitimately highly reliable. Wouldst that all cars could be highly reliable!