Piston Slap: CRaV-ing A Fight?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

TTAC Commentator Windswords writes:

My co-worker told me the other day that her daughters brand new 2009 Honda CRV (11,000 miles) was making a noise. Her daughter described it as a “chirping” sound. Thinking it had something to do with the belts I told her to see the dealer about it. She later told me that the dealer found the car was low on oil. As a matter of fact the car was 2.5 qts low. The car has the 1.6L 4-pot motor which takes (according to her) 5 qts. The car had just had the oil changed at the same dealership. They gave it another (complimentary) oil change and made sure it was filled this time. The noise is gone. The engine light did not come on during this episode.

What concerns me is that the engine ran for a period of time with only half the oil capacity. Her daughter uses it to go to school, driving 30 miles round trip of mixed driving occasionally going 40-50 mph. By my estimation she put about 150 miles on the car in this condition. Two questions; 1) Did any long term damage occur and 2) what should my co-worker do about it? I suggested that she get the dealer to pay for an extended warranty to cover the engine after the manufacturer’s warranty ends and get rid of the vehicle after either warranty expires. What do you and the Best and Brightest think?

Sajeev Answers:

What should they do? They should get a gun and several lawyers on retainer. (Lose the gun and stick with the lawyers if you don’t live in Texas, pardner.) But on a more serious note: I’m quite pissed at this series of events. And so should your co-worker and her daughter.

Why is my answer to the second question so, uh, impassioned? Because I cannot give you fair answer on question numero uno. So I assume the worst. Perhaps that motor will develop valve lifter or timing chain rattle after crossing the next 80,000 miles or so? Or maybe nothing will happen.

But new cars aren’t cheap, and people aren’t supposed to play games with a motor’s lifespan. And what might be minor engine wear right now can be far, far worse 5+ years later. So an extended warranty is pointless if the car is a long-term family member. The only salvation is a new motor: I’d fight for a new HoMoCo longblock and nothing less. Tell the dealer what you want, then politely tell them you’re filing for arbitration at the courthouse immediately after their initial “go pound sand” remarks.

Moral of the story? Actions have consequences, but you may not realize the extent of damage until it’s far too late to do anything about it.

(Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com)

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2 of 41 comments
  • SherbornSean SherbornSean on May 11, 2010

    If it were me, and the dealer was trying to be good sports, I would document with them the incident, and move on. If/when an oil-related issue rears its head, you can deal with it then. But asking for a new engine or car because some damage might have occurred is not gonna happen, at least at the dealers I've dealt with. I know lots of folks have stories about how service stations have screwed up oil changes, but my guess is these guys make fewer mistakes than those of us who change our own oil. I change my oil in the warm months, but in January, am happy to let the guys at the local Valvoline do the work. They have such a regimented, disciplined process -- much better than my own -- if I'm being honest.

  • Willman Willman on May 11, 2010

    On a preventative/mechanical note, if it won't void the warranty, you could try throwing a can of liqui-moly MOS2 in the engine oil. MOS2 particles I think bind particularly well to hot bits, so that bearing/journal in the head that was chirping might potentially be helped. They sell it at many places, here's 1 example: http://matrixsyntheticoils.com/store/product152.html . -Also, don't overfill the oil. You may have to drain the .4 qts that the moly occupies if your oil is already topped up.

  • Arthur Dailey Any vehicle with a continental hump, even if vestigial, gets a thumbs up from me.
  • KOKing Actually a place called Sector111 in Temecula, CA was importing them for sale in the US starting around 2012. A friend had a shop right next door, and I recall seeing the very first one the owner imported for himself, and would bring it out to promote at various local events. Also shows this thing's been around for a while.
  • KevinB A $300 fine for me would be an "ouch". For someone else it may mean the electric bill doesn't get paid and there won't be enough gas to get to work.
  • SCE to AUX Historically, the Land Cruiser sold ~3000 units annually in the US for its last 15 years, so the answer is no.
  • Theflyersfan Oh boy - the sequential manual transmission. Otherwise known as "Your 16 year old driving stick the first time is smoother" transmission. I know automakers were trying new things out around this time and seeing what would stick (hint: the dual clutches won out), but even in testing, the Toyota engineers should have said いいえ、ジャンクです。(No. It's a piece of junk.) Is this seller going to get $8500? Doubt it. Way too much interior work is needed and it just looks worn out in there. St. Petersburg - salt air year round can do some wonders under the cover as well. But the exterior still looks good which makes me thing it was garage kept. So, for $8,500 - no chance. But for maybe $5,500 to $6,000 and the buyer doesn't mind some extra work to clean up the interior, maybe a decent top down sun down fun car. Just hope the transmission holds up.