I am a Honda man.
Have been for over 20 years now. Literally took two Accords into the equivalent of what would have been their centenarian years if they were human.
The wife and I currently have a Civic and a Fit. It is the Fit at the heart of today’s tale because alas…while computers and robotics make up a decent chunk of automobile manufacturing there is still human…”intervention.”
The Fit was recalled. The recall letter was not pretty:
“Honda has decided that a defect, which relates to motor vehicle safety, exists in certain 2009 and 2010 model year Fit vehicles. There is a potential for one or more of the four spring assemblies on the engine’s variable valve timing and lift electronic control (VTEC) system to fail which may cause the engine to stall and prevent it from being restarted. An engine stall will increase the risk of a crash.”
Even in our era of “red state” and “blue state” I think voters can reach a majority consensus if you are going 65 miles per hour and your engine stalls out, your risk of a crash will increase.
Therefore, the relatively new Fit was not as fit as hoped…and yesterday was my day at the dealership. While refreshing it was not going to cost anything to effect any necessary repairs, I did have trepidation about the engine being “inspected.” Just exactly were these springs and how much tinkering would be done to our relatively brand-new vehicle?
My Honda dealership has been for the most part spot-on over the many years I have worked with them. They recently expanded their facility and have just about the roomiest, nicest wait area you can imagine. Desks, power outlets, beverages. Seats with actual cushions. The works. Yet, I did wonder just how long I’d be in there awaiting the fitness test on the Fit.
The service advisor greeted me and indicated the wait would be “awhile.” I needed to nail that down just a tad further considering the last service provider who used the word “awhile” was our HVAC people and that turned into the next day…so I started asking specifics about the exam itself.
It turned out the engine truly had to be dismantled to some extent in order to ascertain if the spring assemblies in question were questionable. Having a background in supply chain/production management, I queried the service advisor as to why the recall was so broad and involved so many cars. Why was there no tighter traceability on these parts? Being springs, I knew they were treated as a “commodity” item at the manufacturing level, meaning large quantities are stored and consumed without any markings or any way of knowing which batch or batches of springs purchased or made would be in specific cars. Like using rubber bands in your office out of a large container that may have come from multiple boxes emptied into it, for example.
Nonetheless, since the ENGINE is involved perhaps any part should be deemed a CRITICAL one and there always has to be a better way (in my mind at least) to narrow the search when these recalls are called for. I get into animated philosophical arguments over the traceability and “status” of items all the time…even if we are talking springs if you don’t have ’em it’s a critical part…you can’t make anything…and if you get bad ones…what you are making isn’t gonna work…and that’s critical also.
Unfortunately, the advisor advised they really had no way of knowing if my car was one of the autos affected without “digging in.” So I dug in…and waited…
Three hours and several levels of “Angry Birds” completed, the work was also. And yes, it turned out my Fit required replacement work so stalling was not one of the “featured options” going forward…when going forward.
As I was walking out to my “new” car to head for my next destination, I looked in detail at the description of the work done.
“Disassemble & reassemble the engine, replacing the 4 lost motion springs.”
I guess I had readied myself for seeing in print the words “disassemble” and “reassemble” my Fit’s engine to find these rogue parts but nobody said anything about the springs being LOST. LOST? Did that mean I was driving around with NO springs – the truth being they never installed them in the first place? Was LOST just an acronym for the name of the springs? Were they made around the time LOST went off the air?
Shaking my head at the “fine print” I continued to the car…got in…and fired it up.
Now clearly, at the top of the priority list was listening to and evaluating the performance of the engine as I drove away to make sure nothing was LOST in putting it all back together.
As I powered my way onto the road and began my evaluation…the skies opened up. Torrential rain. Problem 1…very difficult to monitor engine sound with wipers on and deluge in play.
Several miles down the road, I had managed to pull away from the rain and restarted my consideration of the car’s condition…only to immediately find myself behind a bulldozer the size and girth of which must get Presidential pardons to be driven out on highways. Problem 2…very difficult to monitor engine sound with bulldozer driving in front of engine.
A couple of miles later, the bulldozer finally turned off the road I was on. At this point, albeit going slower than I would have liked the performance of the engine seemed fine. All I wanted to do now…once and for all…was hear it.
Cue the ambulance in full emergency mode approaching in the opposite direction. Problem 3…very difficult to monitor engine sound with ambulance in full emergency mode nearby.
Fortunately, the saying has always held true for me everything happens in but three’s…so there were no further interruptions and the engine sounded fine. I think the Fit has come through the recall process fine and that fact finds me this morning with an extra spring in my step.
I only hope there is the required amount of fully functional springs in the engine…no more, no less.