Hooniverse Asks- What's the Most Notorious Single-Model Endemic Failure?

Cluster

So we had a bit of a water cooler chat the other day, over here at the palatial Hooniverse Towers HQ, about the desirability of Volvo’s boxy but good 850 models. Those who had never owned one waxed misty eyed at the possibility of buying one, and how cheap they seemed to be. Others, who are – in the immortal words of Jimi Hendrix – “experienced” asked whether or not the prospective purchase had working A/C. Well, no it didn’t, but how hard could that be to fix?

As it turns out, these cars are notorious for dropping their A/C evaporator at a certain point in their life, and no one ever fixes them because it requires the extraction of the dash.  That’s a task that could potentially: A. break the dash, B. loosen the disparate dash elements enough to cause EVEN MORE rattles in what is already a notoriously jangle-ridden car, and C. costs more to do than the car will ever be worth. This is something for which these models are known.

What other single model catastrophes do you know of that have become legend? Oh sure there’s the old saw about Corvairs throwing their belts due to the weird angle they are asked to accommodate, and the rumor that the Edsel’s grille is a portal to Hell, but that last one is unsubstantiated. What I want today are the cars that – like the Volvo 850 – are tainted by a single fatal flaw, the notice of which should be emblazoned on their side, like a Surgeon General warning on a pack of Camels. What do you know to be a notorious single model failure? 

Image source: ExplorerForum

218 Comments

  1. Off the top of my head:
    Pontiac Grand Prix GXP transmissions
    Subaru SVX transmissions
    Chrysler minivan transmissions
    Toyota Tacoma rusty frames
    Ford Windstar rusty axles

    1. And to the Windstars (and Taurus/Sable cars) add 3.8l Essex V6 head and intake gaskets.

  2. The 1995-1999 Subaru Legacy Outbacks and Legacy GTs are a prime example. At 100,000-120,000 mi every single EJ25D engine started barfing oil. The OEM head gaskets deteriorated. So if you ever want to buy one, and it has less than ~150,000 mi, ask for some maintenance records.

    1. Plus, the little filter in the banjo bolt that feeds oil to the intercooler on '95 Lego GTs is prone to clogging. Better keep that oil fresh.

    2. The old 2.2 liter SOHC, basically the same block as the stupidly-gasketed 2.5, doesn't have this problem at all, and lasts like a volvo red block. The later SOHC 2.5 liter engine in the 2000-2003 models, however, also had a terrible head gasket that gives up the ghost early in life. The only good news is that once the job has been done with the modernized replacement head gaskets, there is virtually zero reoccurence of leaking– just pray that the guy who had the gaskets done on that beater you are thinking of buying didn't overheat the crap out of the engine before he realized what was going on.

    3. Heh. I was high relieved to find out, after calling all the dealers in a major city, that my EJ25D had gaskets, timing belt, and clutch done all at the same time by the previous owner.

      1. Or at least a dealer claimed to have done that work and charged the previous owner for it.
        /devil's advocate

  3. Not so much a single model, but the goddamn optispark distributor on LT1's (Camaro/Firebird/Vette/Caprice/Impala/Roadmaster/Fleetwood). Located behind the waterpump and balancer. Very sensitive to moisture, so when your waterpump inevitably leaks/fails, game over. Driving through a large puddle? You're taking chances..
    It's a knuckle busting experience to get that bastard out on the Fleetwood and it's massive engine bay. I never would've attempted it on my old Trans Am..
    <img src="http://www.afrashteh.com/guide/waterpump.jpg&quot; width="600">

      1. Yeah – I'm looking at the coil-on-plug conversions now for this motor.. It's too bad, LT1's rock but the opti gives it a bad rap.

  4. I'm going to throw out rusty rear wheel arches on the Mazda Protege5. Don't get me wrong, they're rust-prone brand in general, just nothing seems so common as the P5 (not even the sedan). It's probably not helped by how many Mazda sold in the Toronto area, and that they're very much the right age to be a common trade-in and beater.
    I'll nominate Chrysler transmission failures as well, because wasn't that really only a problem on the LH cars and the minivans? And honestly, it's easier to list the minivans (all companies) that don't have transmission problems than those that do.
    On a Chrysler tangent, the 2.7L V6 is treated as something that's waiting to self-destruct in every vehicle it was ever installed in – it's my understanding it was really only problematic in early second-gen LH's – two generations of Sebring and some very underpowered LX cars seem to be doing just fine.
    Oh, and even knowing about trouble-prone A/C, I'll still longingly look at Volvo 850s – my current car doesn't have A/C and the rear windows don't open, trapping a whole lot of hot air back there. The 850, by virtue of having theoretically opening rear windows, can only be a step up.

    1. I work for a water pump company, and I can attest to the fact that no 2.7L vehicle is immune to the oil sludge/8-mile-long timing chain issue. Not that I've ever lusted after any mid-00's Chrysler product, but I would NEVER own a car with the 2.7.

    2. My 850 was electrically fine aside from a reluctant sunroof. I wouldn't worry nearly so much about the A/C condenser (I'd never heard of that particular failure) than the ABS/TCS computer in cars with traction control.

  5. The A/C actually tied with one other thing on that car that made it rather unpleasant to drive – the front suspension was unnecessarily harsh. All impacts from imperfections in the road surface were seemingly directed straight into the dash with deafening results, like somebody hitting two wooden blocks together, to the point that you'd avoid certain roads because of potholes. Not a good thing for a nose heavy FWD car.
    Installing different types of shocks didn't really seem to do much, and 850 owners had different theories about underinflating versus overinflating the front tires.
    And that was just the base 850. I can only imagine how painful the suspension was in the T5R with its huge wheels and "sport" suspension.

    1. The front suspension does double duty in the 850, it also evens-out the engine imbalance. It's not really an excuse, but why they did it that way. And why they did it that was was partly because they never wanted another PRV debacle.

      1. It's funny, Volvo always used to say that IRS was unnecessary, and then they went to IRS. They said the FWD was unnecessary, then they went to FWD.

  6. GM Hub bearings throwing ABS codes. Silverado, Tahoe, Suburbans and their kissing cousins
    Lumina, mid 90's with disc brakes, always rusted up within 10K
    Ford 5.4L Triton and plugs that won't come out. The engineer in charge should be punished severely over that idea.
    Stab link rattle on the Trailvoy
    Focus springs cracking and breaking, same with the old Taurus from the mid 90's.
    Chrysler transmissions, previously mentioned
    4L60E valve body failures in the S/T series
    Idler arms on any GM truck built after about 95
    2.7L Chyrsler engine oil sludge and blow ups
    Timing gears on the Iron Duke 2.5, plastic was a bad idea
    valve seals on and SBC
    Neon's with everything failing, everything.
    Honda T-belt failure and valve damage because "you never have to fix anything on a Honda" BS.
    Honda upper ball joints on the Accord and Civics
    Ford Windstar rusting out the rear axle assembly
    Ford F-150 in the mid 90's and the stupid idea of putting a crappy slave cylinder inside the bell housing.
    Ford TFI modules from the 90's.
    Chevy Horizontal Dizzy caps in the 90's and 00's.
    Chevy lower intake gaskets leaking antifreeze on the 2.8L/3.1L/3.4L/5.7 engines, thanks Dexcool and crappy gaskets with 8lbs of torque
    Rusted up rear calipers on GM trucks in the 00's.
    OK….that is enough for now,

    1. With the 5.4l Tritons, first it was engines blowing out plugs (because not enough threads), then with the 3-valve engines, not being able to get them out (or out in one piece anyway) without it being a Federal case. And then the 5.4l engines the piston slap (the "slappers"). Now I hear that Ford buys a lot of parts from China – what could go wrong?

          1. I use mine for hauling construction material in the bed. It's seldom I'm towing anything as heavy as my 6000 lb capacity allows

          2. Makes sense. I tow my LeMons car at least twice a year. My truck is actually rated to tow over 9000 lbs. I doubt my car and trailer are over 5000, but with a bed full of tools/spares at the same time, the truck definitely gets a workout.

      1. The early 5.4s had issues with popping out plugs AND getting stuck in the heads and pulling the threads with them. The later ones would snap off in the heads.
        I have yet to change the plugs on my 2000 F150 with the 5.4L. It's got about 160K miles but the plugs were changed about 40K miles ago according to maintenance records. When it comes time to change them, there are specific procedures to keep them from pulling out the threads – loosen about 1/4 turn and then put penetrating oil into the threads and let them soak. I am NOT looking forward to it.

        1. I've done enough to know that even when you follow the procedure correctly you will likely still have one break. There is a excellent tool out to repair and remove them quickly. Every decent parts store will have the expensive OTC version or the cheap one. Buy the cheap one since both will be ruined after a set of 8 plug holes repaired.
          My usual quote is "$300 a hole and it may go up from there." That includes the plug, labor and a coil pack. If they don't want the coil packs I'll let them slide but explain they will be back soon enough with a misfire. Just covering my tail side.
          Over priced? Depends on the market you are in and the person. I've heard lower quoted and higher quoted. I just know how much time each hole may take. If it goes quicker and all come out fine then the customer gets a nice surprise of a lower bill.
          Still a good motor even with the stupid design.

          1. Good to know. I'll definitely research the hell out of this when it comes time to change the plugs and make sure I have the correct tools handy, or at least know where to get em.
            Why would you need new coil packs though? I can get new ones for $4 each so I'd probably change em anyway, but just wondering what the justification is.

          2. Actually, are you referring to the older 2V engines like I have? My understanding that the main danger with them is taking the threads with the plug. It's the newer trucks with the super long reach plugs that break.

          3. 3V triton 5.4L with the extremely long plug.
            I usually upsell the coil packs for the 5.4L because most I see in will have over 100K with the plugs never being changed. The coil packs have been heat soaked and will have tracking on them since the plugs usually are misfiring. The voltage is going somewhere and it usually isn't good. Also lots of water gets on the rear coils since the cab forward design causes issues.
            I normally put it as a "option" add on, I explain the reasoning, risk and reward. Lots skip the coils and just want the plugs. Then a few weeks, months later they'll come back and say "ever since you fixed my truck it misses" and I find a coil that is DOA.
            I'm just trying to prevent comebacks for something that isn't my fault and also keeping the overall costs low. If they come back at a later date with a DOA coilpack I will still get some labor for testing and verifying and then changing out the coilpack. If they had choose to do it when I did the plugs I had the coils off anyways, so no extra labor to swap coils on every cylinder.

        2. You do not want to use penetrating oil, carb cleaner is the recommended thing to use to dissolve the carbon. Penetrating oil will turn it into goo. However on the 2v the biggest thing is to make sure the engine is dead cold.

    2. My neglected 1993 Accord wagon suffered the t-belt failure. In my defense, I'd recently acquired it from my father, who had let it sit. I'd replaced all of the fluids and the serpentine belt, and the t-belt was on the list for replacement, but I didn't get to it quickly enough.
      It happened on the interstate, too, at about 80mph. Didn't just kill the head, it shattered a piston and scored the cylinder wall.
      I fuckin' loved that car, too, but I couldn't justify the expense of a new engine to the missus, so I sold it as a non-runner to someone who had an H22 he was itching to drop in.

    3. "Chevy lower intake gaskets leaking antifreeze on the 2.8L/3.1L/3.4L/5.7 engines, thanks Dexcool and crappy gaskets with 8lbs of torque"
      Yep, that crap sucked. I fixed my wife's Malibu in the apartment parking lot when this happened. I was unaware just how much was going to be involved- I spent a week worth of nights after work tearing that stupid engine apart so that I could change the gaskets. I got really pissed when I had to pull the pushrods to change the gasket- that was my first time opening up a 60 degree V engine that much, and that was an unwelcome surprise. Not all that big a deal, but sweating under a Missouri summer sun and any little surprise that adds time to a job starts to piss you off.

  7. The 3.8L/AXOD powertrain combo found in tons of Taurus and Windstar models has to be one of the worst combos ever. The engine blows head gaskets if you look at it wrong, and the transmission will start to slip no matter how nicely you drive it. I worked as a tech at a Ford dealer back in 2000 and I used to be able to R&I a Windstar transmission with my eyes closed.

    1. Is it my imagination, or did RWD cars with the 3.8 (like Mustangs) not have as many problems with them than the FWD cars/vans?

      1. They did (as evidenced by the blown head gasket on the first '85 LTD I owned) but not as much. Maybe it had something to do with cooling or airflow in a RWD package vs FWD.

    2. this doesnt exactly count as a 'one model' problem. dont forget to add the mustangs, t-birds, and cougars with the 3.8. Ford bought installed a new long block for me at 80k in my mustang.

      1. True, but I was talking about the powertrain combo as a whole, which was only found on Taurus/Sable/Windstar (since they're all the same platform).

    3. The 3.0L Vulcan with the AXOD-E was no better. Three transmission failures basically killed a very nice '91 Taurus wagon for us.

  8. – Dodge/Plymouth Neon rear main seals (SOHC cars only)
    – Subaru EJ25 head gasket problems (already noted)
    – Cadillac Northstar head bolts/studs stripping out because DexCool rotted the head gaskets
    – Dex Cool
    – Daimler/Chrysler-era MBZ rust issues
    – Mazda rust issues (esp. MPV, Pro & Pro5)
    – Audis/VWs
    – GM 'clapping' wipers that never park correctly
    – Mercury and Pontiac 'running light grilles' that are never fully illuminated
    – Ford truck ball joints
    – Toyota truck frames that dissolve

  9. BMWs with the M60 V-8 with Nikasil cylinders. If the engine wasn't replaced under warranty, run away. At least in the US.

    1. Yeah, I was going for Nikasil as well. Spent too much time thinking and you beat me though.

  10. In 1998 Jeep changed the head casting. Then, in mid-2000 they changed the exhaust manifolds from a six-into-one to two three-into-one manifolds to accomodate additional catalytic converters to meet 2001 emissions requirements. It seems that the manifold change, or possibly a batch of bad castings, has led to a rash of cracked cylinder heads between the #3 and #4 exhaust ports.

    1. Bad castings. They had it fixed by mid-01. I don't know what they changed, but there are specific casting numbers to stay away from.

    2. It's just the cylinder heads. The exhaust manifold change didn't cause the head crack. They changed the exhaust port shape in late 1999 (for the 2000 models) as part of meeting the 2001 emissions standards. They re-did the casting for this, and ended up thinning the top of the head so it would crack on top at the base of the #4 exhaust spring boss and leak coolant into the oil. They fixed it mid-2002.
      Ask me how I know.
      <img src="http://i.imgur.com/8OLVo.jpg"&gt;
      Pair this with the crappy cooling system, and you have a head that cracks the first time you mildly overheat the engine (which might happen if you, oh, have your crappy radiator clog, spawn a leak or any number of other issues they tend to develop regularly). The fun part: the Jeep will slowly drink the coolant and run great, until the coolant in the oil eats away at the bearings and you spin a rod or a main and have to rebuild the engine…
      OTOH, the 3-into-2 headers fixed another notorious problem on the 4.0. The six-into-one headers were setup so that the #1 and #6 pipes formed the main Y, and the other four cylinders welded onto either the #6 or #1 pipe. This meant that the main Y near the middle of the engine had two pipes of maximum length feeding into the weld, and temperature expansion is proportional to both temperature and size of the object, so you'd get a huge amount of stress at that joint and the six-into-one exhaust, and they crack regularly. It's one of the first warnings I see on Jeep Forum on the "Hai Guys! I just bought a 1997-9 Jeep TJ!" threads.
      I love my 3-into-2s. The AMC I-6 is NOT a cross flow design, so to compound the above, the exhaust manifold is *under* the intake manifold, and they SHARE BOLTS. There's a couple blind bolts in the center of the engine between the two manifolds that are very difficult to get at. Just swapping the exhaust header is a bit of a pain in the butt.

      1. Tell me about it. My wife's 02 had the intake manidfold crack. Just up and cracked, 45,000 miles, I'd never touched it and I assume the guy who owned it before me never had either. Woohoo, that's a fun $300 at the dealer. And even more fun- having to drop the y pipe (doesn't everyone love cutting through rusted exhaust bolts while trying not to destroy the collector?) in order to access all the bolts. And then having to support the engine with a jack and a 2×4 and remove the driver's side motor mount so that you can perform the proper torque sequence on all the bolts that are simultaneously holding the intake and the exhause manifold on, because you can get a normal wrench in there to get it all off, but you can't fit a socket wrench (or a torque wrench) without pulling the motor mount.
        Damn, my wife needs to stop having issues with the intakes on her cars. There's another post in this thread from me about the fun I had when dexcool ate the intake gasket on her Malibu.

        1. If you are removing the cylinder head as well, and you have a hoist, there's another trick. You can do everything but remove the intake and exhaust manifolds from the cylinder head, and then pull the head bolts and use the hoist to take the head and manifolds off as one unit (the 4.0 head weighs 80#, you have to be in good shape to do it alone without a hoist). This makes it much easier to get at the bolts, and the manifolds make a convenient lever for breaking the head gasket seal. Installation is the reverse of removal…
          (I was juuuuust able to get my torque wrench in when I replaced my head, so I didn't have to futz with the motor mount, but I can see where that could start to look reasonable…)

  11. Crappy stepper motors in GM truck dashes from the 2000s. Finally replaced the ones in the Trailblazer. I was down to only the tach and fuel gauge working. An easy and cheap job if you don't mind soldering on a circuit board or can find someone that can.

  12. XJ Cherokees suffered the same AC problem as the Volvo, and was nigh on impossible to trace with dye. I drove mine without AC for four years (a masochistic thing, here in KC).

      1. I have had 3 of the four on the Town Cow replaced once already, and two of those are beginning to malfunction again.

          1. You are definitely on the lucky side as it is pretty common for them to fail.

    1. Even when they're still functioning, Panther power windows take an embarrassingly long time to go up/down. I haven't had any problems with mine yet, but I always get a few laughs when I have friends in the car and it takes a good minute and a half to roll all the windows up before stepping out of the car.

      1. That's true, it takes maybe half an hour and all you need is a pair of pliers and a couple of sockets.

  13. Yeah, it's not a car, but I have experience with these. The Vespa ET series has a truly horrifyingly unreliable fuel petcock. They leak, they clog, they generally stop functioning. Sometimes that means gas in the engine oil, gas on the floor or no gas to the carb. So I've taken to ordering them in pairs (they're only about 25 bucks each) to have one on hand at all times for our two ETs. It's gotten so bad, I've considered just changing them out at each oil change (or yearly for the two-stroker).

    1. It's actually a problem on a lot of scooters with the change to ethanolized gas. When people let the sit over the winter, waxes and water (that the alcohol mixes with) conspire to make all of those little parts stick solid. I used to work at a motorcycle/scooter repair shop, and in the spring there was always a rash of those.

      1. Stupid ethanol. It's been a huge headache for small engines, too, like lawn mowers. That's why quart cans of 100% gasoline (at $8 a pop!) have hit the market. The guys at the local lawn mower shop (I have a 2002 Honda Masters) tell me to only run premium, add Sta-Bil to the gas, and use it up within 60 days.

  14. Second generation Honda Odysseys with the 4-speed auto were notorious for transmission woes, to the point that Honda extended the warranty on them to 109k miles.
    I don't know if it has gotten the same attention that the transmission failures received, but I personally know at least three folks with second gen Honda CR-Vs who have had to replace the entire A/C system, one of them more than once.

    1. Honda AC in general is not that reliable they are pretty prone to leaking though frequently it is just the valve cores.

    2. It wasn't just the Odyssey or just the 4 speed autos, all Honda V6 auto combinations were bad in the '00s. I don't think I know anyone with a Honda or Acura from that era, especially with an Odyssey, that hasn't had issues.
      My '99 Odyssey had a new trans at 40K under the certified warranty and another at 120K under Honda's good will warranty. At 200k it was showing signs of going again.

  15. Jaguar X-Type AWD transmission failures. If you had an X-Type AWD, you were basically guaranteed to have at least one catastrophic transmission failure before 100k miles. I don't know if I've ever seen one with the original trans.
    Any Jaguar V8 made from 1997-2001 had an issue with the secondary timing tensioners. To save literally 3 ounces of weight Jaguar went with a plastic bodied tensioner that was basically guaranteed to fail unless replaced before 120,000 miles. If you were lucky when it failed, the chain only skipped 1 or 2 teeth when it went, and you'd just have to replace the tensioners and re-time it. If you weren't lucky, it grenaded the engine. In 2001 they started using a metal bodied tensioner that didn't have this problem.

  16. 850 AC failing is just a continuation of a long-standing Volvo tradition of hardening it's drivers to elements. 240 series blower fan replacement, anyone? Another "Feature, not fault" is the insatiable appetite for front end suspension bits. New end links, new subframe bushings and new engine mounts, and those things might start to feel a bit more civilized. Of course, since 850's sell now for less than 240's there's a good chance that unless they were owned by an OCD elderly person or non-sterotypical semi-classic Volvo enthusiast (= not broke), they're going to be in pretty rough shape.
    I'd like to nominate the first gen S80 T6 as a collection of multiple red flags. 30 thousand mile disposable transmissions, ETM's that were bad enough for a class-action lawsuit, the usual fall-apart suspension, and top it off with the weak interior materials from Volvo's poverty era.

    1. I was gonna say '240 blower motor', actually. You nailed it. And yes, the entire S80…

    1. As an RX-8 owner I laugh at the suckers with apex seal issues.
      And then kick myself in the head when I recall that ignition coils are "supposed" to last @43,000km but two of mine went at 32,000km. And the whole engine will most likely not last much past 90,000km. At least I don't have the early engine mounts that cook with the extreme temps a rotary creates, and then snap.

    2. *shrug* I had a friend in high school with an FC RX-7 on the original NA 13B, with 150k+ miles on it. He just dumped a bunch of premix into the gas tank at every fillup to keep everything vigorously lubricated.

      1. Like I said the NA rotaries are tough little engines. A friend in college bought a 85 GSL-SE with the NA 13B with 140k on the clock, and he quickly made that more than 160k, and nary a problem besides some new plug wires when a squirrel decided to build a nest under his hood while he was on a 6 month co-op. The problems seem to crop up when boost comes into the picture. I think it was most pronounced on the FD because of cooling. The FC TIIs didn't seem to have a problem making it to 100k fairly easily even if they weren't good for much beyond that. But the FC has a bigger, more open engine bay and cools a lot better, so I think that was the deciding factor.

  17. VW 096/097/098 and 01M/01N/01P automatic transmissions. Used in everything transverse from 1993 to 2002ish, and some transverse stuff through 2006 (as well as some in 1990-1992), as well as some mid 1990s longitudinal stuff.
    Mk4 power window regulators. *pop* *BANG*. And Murphy's Law says they're most likely to let go in the rain, too.
    Pretty much all VW dual mass flywheels.
    Anything VW with a timing chain.
    Mk5/6 common rail TDI intercooler icing.
    Mk5/6 common rail TDI high pressure fuel pump failures. (VW's been fixing them, even on cars out of warranty, but people have had to call VW Customer Care to get out of a $6-11k bill.)

    1. I was about to say "Late '90s to '00s VW/Audi: Everything."
      Working at a parts supplier has taught me to steer clear of them.

      1. Eh, a manual transmission, manual windows 2.0 gas engine car can actually be fairly cost effective.And the older TDIs are fine, if a bit expensive to keep going (and completely intolerant of deferred maintenance).

      2. Depends on the model and year. Really Audi cratered 2003-2006.. but even there you watch for the affected models and insist on service histories when you look at used cars. No timing belt replacements? No sale.
        The C4 A6/S4/S6 was built for the ages, though. Electrics may fail on you but the engine & transmission put up with a lot fo abuse. The only reason we don't seem them around more is that Audi sold so few cars in the US 1987-96.

  18. Oh, and second generation Dakota/Durango ball joints. If you buy one, you're basically signing up to change ball joints every 60-80k miles.

    1. Same for late model Rangers. The seals fail at 30k. Once crud gets in there, they start to deteriorate. A shop would insist changing them at that point. Mine managed over 180k miles but those last 30k were squeaky.

  19. There was the carbon build-up in a range of VW 2.0L engines, that's the only thing that jumps to mind not mentioned already.

    1. That included the turbo cars too. My 2002 A4 had a lifetime warranty against sludge- as long as I had the oil changed at the dealer.

      1. Yup, on a whole range of them. Even with, what was it call, SFI? Just thought of another one, wasserboxer leaks and corrosion.

    1. Yeah, what a drag. You either gotta pin the sprockets to the cams (good), or weld them (better).

  20. One more from my storehouse of water pump-related info: There is a plastic radiator hose junction on the 4-cylinder Contour/Mystiques that slowly breaks down over time, sending a slurry of glass fibers rushing through the cooling system. Even if you replace the hose before it wipes out the rest of the system, you have to flush several times to get all that abrasive gunk out.

  21. Cadillac Allante and its wiring ghosts. There are 8 (i believe that was the number?) computers in the car, the fuse panel is located UNDER the ashtray (and the most logical place to hold your drink), and the wiring harness was resourced form an old jaguar (apparently). Fix one electrical problem, car starts up and runs fine. next day – push car – repeat cycle.

  22. 80's VW doorhandles… also found on Audi and Porsches.
    Made of pot metal, dissolve when wet.

  23. Timing flaws stick out in my head, because another one that comes to mind is the notorius timing belt on the 85+ 32V 928s. The belt is almost 7' long, has a tensioner that fails regularly, and again, interference design; crashing expensive German pistons into expensive German valves.

      1. Hey, if there was ever a crowd of folks who might be suckered in by Italjets and Crosleys, it's the guys here.

    1. Yeah, I'm noticing that the power steering fluid on my girlfriend's '06 base Cooper gradually disappears…but as of yet I haven't pinpointed where…

    1. I made the mistake of running it in my '95 F-150 for awhile (because I didn't like the silicates in the green stuff and what it does to water pumps), and it caused one of the tank-to-core o-rings on the aluminum radiator to fail. Fortunately it was an aftermarket Modine, so it had a lifetime warranty. I switched to the Ford G-05 (yellow) coolant after that, but I'm convinced the Dex-Cool was the reason my timing cover gasket started leaking coolant (slow leak).

      1. GM started using it in 1996, the same year they came out with the 5.7L Vortec motor. Great motor–more horsepower and better mileage than the previous 350, using the same short block with new heads and intake manifold.
        But the new intake mani gaskets were silicon, in a nylon frame. Turns out DexCool eats both.
        By the time the leak on my 96 Silverado got bad enough I had to change them (read that as "had to add a half gallon of water for every fifty miles driven"), probably 8 inches of nylon were *completely* gone, and all the silicon was a gummy, viscous mess.
        Replaced them with all-metal gaskets. And plain old green coolant. Better the problems you know than the problems you don't.

    2. Wait… I've never heard of this one… Could you please elaborate or link?
      Crap, as if I wasn't paranoid enough with this car…

      1. On the early models with dexcool (first 5-8 years or so, starting in 96), the dexcool would eat away some of the seals and gaskets, most notably the intake manifold gasket. I don't konw what you have, but if it's new, I wouldn't worry about it, apparently they've changed the make up of the seals and gasket so the dexcool doesn't eat them. If it's older, I would stop running dexcool. Do a really really good flush and go with regular ol' prestone, peak, or whatever. I'm sure google will tell you much more, just search for dexcool problems, you'll find plenty.

        1. Okay, good to know. Thanks! My Dex-Cool running vehicle would be my 2006 GTO. Since I hadn't heard of these problems until now, hopefully that's new enough. The only coolant related issue I've had thus far is the cheap plastic radiator end tank bursting…

          1. As far as I know you're in the clear with that, but I know pretty much nothing about GTOs in particular. If you're active, or at least peruse any GTO forums I'm sure you would have heard about it if it was still a problem. The two vehicles I've had first hand experience with have both been 99s- one with a 7.4 and one with a 3.1.

          2. That's new enough. The other thing about Dexcool is that it can grow sludge if it gets a constant supply of fresh air that can be entrained into the hot parts. That depends on the design of the cooling system. Pressurized tanks (sounds like the GTO has one) take care of it, as does locating an unpressurized tank such that its bottom outlet is still higher than the rest of the system. The sludge is fairly benign if it's not allowed to grow thick, but it's yucky and it must affect system performance.
            My Park Avenue has an unpressurized tank down at radiator level. It was sludged when I got it as a three-year-old car, so I flushed out the Dexcool.

  24. Here's another one, a possible winner:
    Airbag suspension failures:
    1.) Audi AllRoad (they ALL will fail eventually. Not IF but WHEN)
    2.) Any Range Rover
    3.) Lincoln Continentals/Mark VII & VIII

    1. Also a big issue on W220 Mercedes Benzes and previous-gen Escalades/Yukons/H2s/Etc. with Autoride.

    2. On the Lincolns the straight bags are usually just the O-rings (all around on VII rear in the VIII) for the valve $8 and 15 minutes each. The air-over shocks (front VIII) and struts (all around on Conti) do like to eat themselves up from the road debris that gets ground into them where they ride on the shock/strut body and those aren't cheap though the aftermarket is much less than factory.

    1. yes indeed sir, automakers fail pretty well because it's engineered into the cars. it's what they do best!

  25. Mid to late 1980s GM A-bodies (Century, Celebrity, 6000) ate CV joints like they were cotton candy. Everyone I know who had them long-term went through at least three or four sets.

  26. Cadillac V8-6-4.
    HT4100
    /facepalm
    Sure, these were used in different models under the Cadillac umbrella, but they were all, to a large degree, quite similar.
    Mercedes 4.2L timing tensioner…plastic. Thanks, geniuses.
    Speaking of Mercedes, W124's between 1992-1995 (I know it was 94-95, but think it went back to 92) with a plastic (!) reverse piston in the trans, which requires transmission removal to fix.
    I had no reverse for two years…wasn't about to fix that.
    Those same cars had biodegradable wiring harness insulation, too.

    1. Another cheap part necessitating a painful, labor intensive fix for the W126 & W123 Mercedes is the vacuum controlled flap for the center dashboard vent. It's a $20 part and probably $400 to $800 in labor depending on how greedy your mechanic is. Vacuum: why on earth did they think that Rube Goldberg solution for moving flaps was a good idea?
      +1 for mentioning the rotten wiring harnesses on the W124's.
      <img src="http://www.benzworld.org/forums/attachments/w126-s-se-sec-sel-sd/371715d1303682754t-center-vent-vacuum-pod-020.jpg"&gt;

  27. Lexus GS – front suspension is junk
    Cressida – Toyota improperly torqued the cyl head

    1. That Cressida issue is really only on the 7M-GE engine, shared between the MX83 (final gen) Cressida and the MKIII Supra. Earlier models like mine have the 5M-GE, who's biggest issues are sporadic oil leaks from the crank seal or oil pan.

    2. Ah yes, the 7M head gasket. I experienced that one myself with a MkIII Supra NA I picked up for almost free. Ran like a champ for about 1000 miles before puking its head gasket. Thought it was going to be a big deal to get it fixed. Found out you can basically throw a headgasket from the turbo model on there and then the only problem is the torquing procedure. That it wasn't a problem with the gasket or the head or anything, just the torque procedure. That a problem I heard about for years could be fixed by taking the head loose and properly retorquing it. It's insane to me that Toyota didn't jump on that sooner.

  28. Oil sludge in late '90s Volkswagen 1.8Ts … Pretty sure there was a class action lawsuit over that. Our '99 Passat needed a new oil pump/pan early in its life, thanks to sludge. Then the timing belt went …

  29. The E46 BMW 323i is know for dropping reverse gear in the transmission despite BMW using two different suppliers during the model run, GM and ZF. Wish I had known about it before I let my parents buy one.

    1. I've read the issue was actually with a plastic (!) impeller inside the transmission. That little plastic piece would break and grenade the innards.

      1. Are you thinking of the water pump? In the ZF trans a ring gear would break and require a costly replacement and the GM trans would have a solenoid go bad.

  30. What is it with every, EVERY GM pickup/Tahoe/Suburban that has one inoperable daytime running light? It seems to have affected them all, regardless of treatment.

  31. Oh, where to start…
    Lean-burning, self-destructive middle pistons in two-stroke SAABs.
    Deteriorating 'fibre' timing gears in SAAB V4s.
    Broken KV Mini 1 plastic exterior door handles.
    Fender damage in HMV Freeways from interference with the front suspension.
    Unobtainable hydragas displacers for MG Metros, prone to catastrophic rupture in traffic.
    Failing speedometer sending units, unique to the Austin Maestro Vanden Plas digital dash.
    Why didn't anyone warn me?!?

  32. BMW E46 (99-06 3 series) subframe failure… The rear subframe mounting points had a tendency to separate from the sheet metal. This was also a problem for the E36 and Z3 (possibly a few other models as well…) but the E46 is the one that got the most attention. So much so, BMW got sued over it, and were forced to fix it (mine included) for free.
    Here is a good example picture of the fuckery courtesy of our friends at Turner Motorsport. My '00 323ci looked about the same.
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/w1TBhpm.jpg&quot; width="500">

    1. Well documented…Turner also manufactures braces you can install to reinforce the trunk area if I remember correctly. It's also not easy to detect in a PPI from what I've read. The cooling systems on the E46s (remote resevoir and water pump) are also notoriously bad on these cars.

      1. Yup, I had those issues too… For the time that I drove it, I had more than my fair share of problems.

    2. The early A4s were prone to tearing the rear subframe if you used anything stiffer than a stock antiroll bar.

  33. Not exactly a one-model problem, but since I'm presently dealing with this issue myself, I'll vote for the leakomatic all-plastic intake manifold on 1996-2001 Panthers, as well as a few other vehicles with the 4.6 SOHC V8. When faced with abusive police and taxi use, these would typically blow up at the coolant crossover and require replacement before 100K, leading to a half-assed class action settlement that basically covered the fleet customers and left everyone else hanging. But even if the coolant crossover doesn't give out, it's very typical for the intake to develop hairline cracks at the thermostat housing, and especially the heater core nipple, leaking coolant into the #4 spark plug well at a rate that's easily-missed, yet enough to short out the ignition coil and cause irritating misfiring problems without throwing a CEL for many, many miles.
    <img src="http://www.agcoauto.com/content/images/engine/ford_4.6L_intake_problem_areas.jpg"&gt;

    1. Whoa, talk about timely.
      The misfire thing is *exactly* what's happening to mine right now. I'll go and check tonight.

      1. At least the Dorman replacement intakes don't have the issue. Also fun is when you have to do an intake because the heater core nipple snapped off when replacing a rubber hose.

  34. Late 90's Ford "forever" ball joints. Having owned a 97 Crown Victoria and a 98 Explorer I can recognize the creak from a mile away.

  35. This is a 1997 Saab 900S convertible.
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/rit0wG2.jpg&quot; width="600">
    (tarp is because my cheapass girlfriend won't buy a $24 bottle of top conditioner to stop it soaking through during heavy rains)
    It, like pretty much every other NG900 Saab convertible, has a top that can't go down.
    Why? Because for some reason, Saab abandoned the perfectly working hydraulic setup that the '93 and earlier 900 convertibles used, and replaced them with electric motors and far too many microswitches/potentiometers. For the most part, the transmissions for the motors strip (under-engineered and over-stressed,) eventually stranding you with the top jammed halfway down.
    The microswitches that act as limit switches can also fail from wear/corrosion, and cause the top control module to error out and disable the top. Even if you replace them (which isn't hard, they're all off-the-shelf switches,) you need to have someone with Saab TechII tools reprogram the top to get it to work again.

    1. Oh, and there's this little hose that I wrangled with yesterday.:
      <img src="http://www.thesaabsite.com/catimages/Saab-Vacuum-Hose-4467189-OES.jpg&quot; width="600">
      That's the brake booster vacuum hose, with a check valve molded in. If the check valve gets stuck closed, the brake booster won't work (hard pedal.) In rarer cases of it getting stuck open, the brakes can SLOWLY APPLY THEMSELVES as the booster sucks in engine oil from the crankcase breather on the intake.

      1. Thanks for warning me of that one. I was going to say 'you know, my '96 NG900 five-door has a perfectly operable sunroof', but now I'm humbled again.

        1. It's easy to fix if you take it off and spray carb/intake cleaner down each end, then blow it out using compressed air down the brake booster end of the hose. vs a new one for $25-30.

    2. Why haven't you bought that $24 bottle and fixed it? I feel compelled to and I don't even know the girl.

    3. And don't forget the headlamp wiper motors that corrode and fail leaving the wiper in the up position just like your photo. I removed mine and plugged the washer fluid line. Since I live in the South these aren't necessary so I didn't bother with tearing them down and cleaning them. I would, however, like to find a molded plug that fits the small hole where the wiper arm shaft pokes through.

      1. I don't know whether mine work. I assume they don't, because some previous owner cracked someone in the ass, such that my beige four-cylinder car now has a grille with a V6 badge and a gloss black front bumper.
        They're parked where they're meant to be parked, at least.

    4. Does her car have a bunch of dead pixels on the info display? I believe that was more of a problem with OG9-3s, but my 900's missing a couple. The ribbon cable's solder joints fail over time, apparently.

      1. Yeah, the SID looks like crap. Currently the speaker in it doesn't work either, so there's no blinker noise and (thankfully) it can't make any warning chimes.

    1. Well, it has a hot starting problem and a carburetor icing problem. The solution is obvious: swap the starter and carburetor into each others's locations. Now you'll have a warm carburetor and a cool starter. This solution was brought to you by BL (don't call us British Leyland).

  36. The definition of a single model car problem: 04-06 Pontiac GTO high pressure a/c line. There is a line (#35 in this pic) that goes from the a/c receiver dryer around to the firewall behind the motor. This line is no problem on its Holden counterpart. On the American GTO, there's a steering column there… It likes to rub through the thin line and make my summer miserable or expensive…
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/LP0C2C1.jpg&quot; width="500">

    1. This is a separate issue from the fuel line that gets rubbed by the engine cover and drips onto the exhaust, right?

      1. Heh, yeah… I'm pretty sure that's a problem with most of the LS engine covers, but don't quote me on that…
        For those who don't know, the plastic engine covers on the LS2 were not notched to accommodate the main rubber fuel line leading to the fuel rails. This had a lovely tendency to rub through, and of course, start fires…
        Here's a pic of mine. I didn't move that sticker. That's where the plastic was starting to rub through.
        <img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-SpRVCkdxwHI/TvFtMXidRuI/AAAAAAAABPo/reb6RsmXTjw/s550/IMG_20111220_210947.jpg"&gt;
        I just leave mine off now. I could get a braided line, or notch the covers myself, but I really don't care enough.

  37. Head gaskets on the Toyota 3.0 V6 (1989-1995)
    Nearly all early model RX8's have had a warranty replaced engine
    The VW TipTronics from '99-'04
    Dissolving floor pans in first gen Toyota pickups

    1. Dissolving everything on early Toyota pickups, really. The 22R/RE would happily shove half a pickup down the road after two decades, though.

  38. '98 Ford Windstars would break the front coil springs Every single one I know had this happen, including my parents' oddly reliable one that suffered absolutely none of the other issues that the van was famous for.

  39. Just add to the list: 5-speed automatic tranny is early 00s V6 Hondas/Acuras was going often.
    And from personal experience – a friend of mine sold off his Saab 9000 for about $400 at one point because it required a clutch change which iirc required pulling the engine or something similarly obscene.

    1. That's because the 9000 had the clutch in a completely unnatural location for a Saab. And the engine goes the wrong way too.

      1. Wrong! The 9000 used a standard transverse setup, like any other normal FWD car. You're thinking of the OG900. The clutch job on an OG900 is easy — an afternoon procedure and you don't even need to get under the car.
        The 9000 was lucky to have a folding subframe that made transmission removal for a clutch job especially easy.
        Maybe your friend got bad advice?

        1. Sorry, I was being a bit cheeky there and implying that what the definition of "normal" is for the rest of the industry is not the same for SAAB.

  40. MBZ 350SD/350SDL (W126)
    flexing con rods eventually lead to engine failure. the black sheep of the W126 family.

  41. Front ends on 2001-2007 Chrysler minivans. Tie rod ends, sway bar links and bushings, and strut mounts, all pretty much biodegradable. I had a 2003 and currently have a 2006 (I know, I'm a glutton for punishment, but they're cheap and spacious), and there generally are fewer times when I don't have a rattle or a creak in the front end than when I do. OEM or aftermarket parts, it doesn't matter. They all die.

  42. I actually learned to drive on an 850 and although I didn't own it I would consider it my first car. I was lucky because the AC was never actually a problem in it, however the rest of the electrics were complete crap. Service lights (that would prove to be it's demise) electric windows, the radio; none of them worked properly. Still though I loved that car to pieces and I miss it very much. I've considered getting another one on my own dime but I already have one car that doesn't have AC.

    1. Not the window regulators themselves but the switch located right under the flimsy cup holders. Check engine light and abs light are the most common and the abs is a $100 fix or you could do it yourself by removing the cover on the abs module(not fun) and resoldering the main power connections(IIRC). As for the CEL mine was o2 sensors, replaced the cheap ones with the proper bosch one and cured the reoccuring CEL. I had a badly squeaking dash and when I took it appart to change the bulbs in the cluster I realised that it was done before as the vin plate rivets and all where never put back. I cured the squeak by hitting every broken tab with a bunch of silicone adhesive and dropping the dash back together while it was still soggy.

  43. 1st generation Durango….
    evaporator core failure
    blend door failure (requiring discharge and removal of the whole box)
    plenum gasket failure on the 5.9 motor
    Chrysler 4.7 liter V-8 !!!

  44. Any Saturn S-series. 500 miles to burn through a quart of oil. But that isn't really a part failure. Upper motor mounts and engine coolant temp. sensors are, though, and they go through them regularly.

    1. My brothers 98 sl2 had the oil issue, turns out if he drove the thing easy it wouldnt burn the oil. He didnt and just added the oil every 500 miles. His work pretty good and was a fun slightly used car when he got it in 99. In early 2000 he blew the dif pin through the side of the trans, he said it was a common issue if the cars where driven hard, which his was.

  45. Rear pumpkin on the 1999-2003 Suzuki Grand Vitara.
    Personally, I had four fail…before 75K miles. I know of at least three others who had similar 'luck'.
    When you start having to expand your salvage yard hunt because you've purchased all of the parts from the ones nearby, yeah, there's a problem.
    Oh, and each of them failed differently. Broken ring gear on the first one, cracked pinion on the second…actually, it was cracked pinion on the third, too, I don't remember what the fourth one was, but they started failing at 55K miles, that trucklet was gone by 75K.
    I owned it since mile 40, too, first…only…and likely last, new car.

  46. The IMS bearing on Porsche M96 engines fitted to the 996 & Boxster
    Sudenly there is a loss of drive, and power, and a lot of oil and eventualy a ginormous bill and a letter of denial from the Fatherland

    1. I'm going to agree, any BMW built after the E36, possibly most notoriously the E38, has what many call a 'disposable' cooling system. Many enthusiasts recommend replacing the entire system (rad, hoses, thermostat, fan clutch, etc.) every 3 years as preventative maintenance!

  47. Ford Focus:
    – eats front left headlight bulbs 3x faster than on the rhs
    – Speed sensor (hall-effect in the tranny) gets old. Not a big issue, the speedo needle will just drop occasionally, and often recover, but: EFI will be fooled, leading to engine stalls at any speed you open the clutch. Wrong diagnosis (focused on stalling, nobody sees the connection between speedo and EFI) will have you change many other things but the speed sensor.
    – heat exchanger of the AC as the core of the dash is a classic – here, too.
    Mercedes W124 – they rust rather badly for a Merc, ok, but what's worse: at totally different places than W123.
    W123: the needles of the gauges bleach out – yep, that's the worst I can think of 🙂

    1. The W210s were even more rust-prone. Shockingly so, for a German luxury car.
      Don't forget the Escort motor in the early base-model Focus dropping valve seats. Guaranteed.

  48. Lancia Gamma, the power steering pump is driven off one of the camshafts, with a cold engine hold the steering at full lock for more than a few seconds and the load will strip teeth off the timing belt with predictably expensive consequences.

    1. If only that was the only fault with these cars. Add to that Automatic transmissions unique to the model apparently made out of chocolate. Almost all now converted to manual, or not used. And a thermostat right next to the waterpump so that all flow to the radiator is stopped when they fail, leading to head gasket failure, which to be honest are liable to fail anyway – worse than Rover K series. And all the problems that would be expected of a car handmade by Italian communist workers in the 70s, i.e. Rust ,Italian electrics,somewhat approximate panel fit, collapsing/seizing switchgear and locks , waterleaks, rust, rust, and rust. And one of the best ride/handling/steering balances of any car,and sublime looks in the Coupe that make you overlook all of that. I will never sell mine

  49. On Volvo 850s, beside the AC problem, all cars over 10-15 years strip a tooth on gear inside the odometer machanism…

    1. 240s and 740s are even worse for this – the cheap plastic deteriorates. You can buy a new solid metal gear online.

  50. I think somebody already mentioned the Grand Prix transaxles. Mine grenaded at 31K miles. 3800.00 to replace at the dealer; 2400.00 for a reman unit. Aamco rebuilt mine for 1400.00; I immediately traded the car in on a Dodge Ram.
    It ran perfectly…. right up until it disintegrated.

  51. FWD continental with dohc 4.6l perfectly positioned the rear cyl head under the lip of the cowl. very large gasket on the lip to seal off rain and airflow. didn't work out.. water runoff flows right down into the sparkplug well and shorts ignition xfmrs and corrodes the sparkplug wells.
    any vac powered blend doors in hvac from gm and chrysler.
    2001~2007 Mercedes benz parts with any thing to do with electrons or photons. well engineered but made with the absolute cheapest third world manufactured crap circuitry I have ever seen. The accountants must have been pleased.
    not a car but…Lockheed aircraft brake systems and their penchant to use swiveling banjo fittings on the hydraulic line fittings at the landing gear trunion and torque link areas, a zero tolerance leak area. guaranteed to leak in cold weather. Mind you, everyone else has the smarts to use some armored flex hose in those spots, but that just wouldn't look cool, now would it?

  52. Nissan 300z turbo engine auto oil change out system. you know, the incessant oil leaks past the valve cover gaskets. getting the oil leaks fixed causes fratricide of the intake manifold seals which causes coolant leaks under the intake manifold. this engine bay was engineered and packaged with black magic and origami.
    any car you have to pull the dashboard out to service anything. I would rather take it to the crusher than to take out the dash board.

  53. Next time you're in traffic for a while, count the number of VW Jetta's you see with a failed taillight and/or brake light. My experience is usually 2-3 out of every 10 have a current (no pun intended) failure.

  54. When I bought my Audi 5000, the owner gave me a very expensive can of green hydraulic fluid with instructions to occasionally check the power steering pump and to use ONLY this magic green money-juice. I religiously topped it off (and bought $15 per litre cans of the stuff) until one day when I found myself hundreds of miles from an Audi/VW dealer with a dry pump. I figured regular P/S fluid was better than nothing, right? WRONG! Every seal and hose leaked like a sieve from then onward. The car resented the insult and was never the same. It took revenge with breaking door handles, a climate control freakout, a sticking sunroof and a mystery short that required I reach back under the seat to disconnect the battery every time I parked for more than an hour.
    The Lincoln suspension comment made me laugh. Every time I see one of those sagging down the road it reminds me of a dog "scooching" his dirty butt through the grass.

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