Piston Slap: How Reliable Are Reliability Indexes?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap how reliable are reliability indexes
Brian writes:Hi there — I’ve been doing a lot of research (Googling) as of late to truly understand car reliability. I’ve been reading through sites like Carcomplaints.com, Truedelta.com, Consumer Reports, JD Power, specific car model forums, etc. What I really want to is, how accurate is this information? For example, you can look on Car Complaints and see that some models have awful reliability, but then you dig into it and realize it’s only five reported incidences of the same problem. And then you look at other websites that barely mention this particular problem.So what gives? Even if it is a major problem, what are the chances you would end it up with it if you bought that particular model and year?Sajeev answers:I hope the accuracy you desire from reliability indexes isn’t expected in my response!Remember, vehicles are not a typical widget rated as a single element. They are Russian Nesting Doll widgets with more layers than a skyscraper packed with croissants. The sheer number of fail points (triggering a customer concern) is mind-numbing. And not every “skyscraper” is the same: mid-cycle improvements, part number changes/upgrades, trim level changes, software updates, etc. mean it’s physically impossible to get this right.Then again, faith shall be restored when these data sources go into a reliability index:
  • Manufacturer recall and TSB data
  • Short Term Customer Satisfaction data from third party information sources (like JD Power)
  • In-warranty repair and part number interchange and supersession data from manufacturers. (Honda, Toyota, Nissan, GM, Ford, etc)
  • Post-warranty repair data from all franchised dealerships and independent repair facilities. (Sears Auto, Goodyear, Firestone, etc)
  • Inventory churn rate from major auto parts manufacturers (Bosch, BWD, Denso, etc) and auto recyclers. (Car-Part.com, LKQ)
  • Keyword density or Word Cloud analytics on all automobile forums and major social media websites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
There’s the full spectrum, literally from cradle to grave. With months of tech geek labor to get these databases talking to each other, and countless formulas filtering all this data into a single year/make/model, you can see the lifetime repair cost of any vehicle. Maybe Watson‘s up for the gig.Getting all that data, especially from car and component manufacturers? Not likely.What say you, Best and Brightest?Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. [Image: Shutterstock user welcomia]
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  • WRC555 WRC555 on Jan 24, 2017

    My True Delta garage had only uncommon vehicles. WRX, 92-X, Accord Hybrid V6. So I get multiple hounding Emails. Now I have added a Forester XT, I am doing my part making the results less skewed toward the enthusiast side.

  • APaGttH APaGttH on Jan 25, 2017

    The data doesn't matter, we saw that in the G8 GT story. Because the Piston Slap writer and Bark responding to the question had bad experiences with the G8 GT, the car must be a piece of crap. When it was presented that JD Power long term, True Delta, and Consumer Reports all indicate the 09 G8 GT has almost top of the pile reliability from all three surveys, the response was, "LOLZ." Literally. So let your personal bias fly, that's what matters. VWs are as reliable as a rock, if you believe that replacing ignition coils at 30K miles is standard maintenance and if burning enough oil to almost be a diesel engine from new are marks of reliability. GM is hopelessly lousy for reliability because a GM will run badly than most vehicles will run at all. Honda's are of course perfect, if you ignore seat belts that don't let you out, self-destructing 5-speed automatics, airbags that kill you, and a litany of issues with recent product releases like the Civic. Hey man, it's a Honda. Nothing beats BMW reliability if you believe replacing the entire front suspension of a vehicle is normal maintenance (well admittedly at SOME POINT it is) and exploding fuel pumps are normal. You can go on and on. We live in a universe of #alternatefacts and none of these sources know what you're talking about. So ask your friend, ask your neighbor, and don't dare do any real objective research which might go against your bias. LOLZ

  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. https://insideevs.com/news/598046/toyota-global-leader-solid-state-batery-patents/Of course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.
  • Pickles69 They have a point. All things (or engines/propulsion) to all people. Yet, when the analogy of being, “a department store,” of options is used, I shudder. Department stores are failing faster than any other retail. Just something to chew on.