Honda, Recalls, and the Car Guys

For 35 years over three million people listened to NPR’s Car Talk every Saturday morning. It was hosted by two ‘mechanics,’ Click and Clack aka the Tappet Brothers. They were hysterically funny and diagnosed car issues better than House ever did diseases.

They – their real names were Tom and Ray Magliozzi – quickly became the most trusted mechanics in the country.

Click and Clack would and did talk about everything, but they had one rule – they would not recommend cars. In the late ‘90s and for about five or six years, they broke that rule: they sang the praises of Honda, especially the Accord.

This was just as cars were becoming more and more reliant on computers and manufacturers were becoming more reliant on suppliers and sub-suppliers for parts.


Hondas are still great cars but they’re not the Tappet Brothers’ Hondas. Honda now has twelve manufacturing plants in the U.S., vehicles are completely dependent on computers, the average car has 30,000 parts, many – if not most – are provided by suppliers and their suppliers.

All this explains why Honda, like every auto manufacturer, has recalls. Two days ago, Honda was in the news for a recall involving a serious seat belt defect – the result, in Honda’s words, ‘of issues one of its suppliers had with one of their suppliers.’

Honda, of course, isn’t alone. In the first half of 2020, as the effects of COVID restrictions were first being felt across the country, 13 million cars in the U.S. were recalled. In 2019, Volvo recalled every car it had produced in 2018 and 2019.

Recalls are common. It’s something we should be thankful for; they help keep our highways safe. Recalls are issued by car manufacturers when they and/or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have identified a vehicle defect that may be a safety hazard.

A recall might be for a specific model from a specific year; for vehicles produced at one factory; all models that share a critical part from a supplier; a design flaw; among others. The current Honda recall, for example, is for “Honda Accord (2021), CR-V (2021-2022), Insight (2022) and Ridgeline (2021) vehicles in the United States.”

Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, recalls should always be taken seriously. Take the vehicle to the dealership as soon as possible – even if you haven’t noticed anything ‘off’ while driving. Even if you’ve been taking the vehicle into the dealership for other reoccurring repairs. Even if you suspect that the vehicle is a lemon but has not qualified as one . . . yet.

The natural reaction/question everyone has when they open the recall letter is ‘does this make my car a lemon?’

The simple answer: a recall notice for a vehicle you have not been having issues with does not automatically make the vehicle a lemon.

Remember, a car could be considered a lemon if you own or lease it; it’s under a manufacturer’s warranty; has an ongoing problem or problems that the dealer hasn’t been able to fix over multiple repair visits; or, has been ‘in the shop’ more than 30 cumulative days.

A recall notice is not enough.

But, if the dealer does not repair the recall defect, that may count as a repair attempt. The time the vehicle is at the dealership for recall repairs may count toward that 30 day cumulative.

In some cases, the recall defect is just another problem a driver has been having with the car. Or the recall came after many attempts to fix the recall defect involving weeks in the shop that has already convinced you the car is a lemon.

Car Talk went off the air in 2012. It’s just as well. While Click and Clack were great mechanics, and MIT grads, they weren’t IT guys. Car Talk today would be all about technology because cars are all about technology; all the systems are integrated.

So, even when your car is recalled, and the issue is fixed it may have an effect on other systems resulting in new problems. Think of a string of Christmas lights with one bulb out – it’s enough to knock all the lights out. Trying to address those issues could well qualify the car as a lemon.

Recalls and lemon law can be complicated. When in doubt, call a lemon law attorney.

As we write this, Honda just issued another, bigger, recall for “2019 Passports, 2016-19 Pilot, and 2017-2020 Ridgeline vehicles in the United States” for a defective hood that could “problem that could result in “unexpected hood opening while driving, increasing the risk of a crash.”

Another 750,000 Honda customers will be receiving ‘the letter’ shortly and will think the same thought: “is my car a lemon.”

It’s complicated, but they don’t have to go it alone – that’s why we’re here.

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