By on January 31, 2018

Ah, a lack of reliability. No, we’re not talking about your friends or employees, but cars. Whether it’s a reliable Toyota or something German, if you’ve been driving for any extended period over a number of different vehicles, you’ve likely got a story about unreliability.

Today you get a chance to let it all out — tell us the tale of the most unreliable vehicle you’ve ever owned. We’ve got the tissues handy.

My tale of unreliability comes from a car I’ve mentioned before on these hallowed pages. Though I suspect I’m not unique in experiencing a first car which was unreliable, perhaps mine had different problems than yours (unless yours was also an Audi 5000 — I know you’re out there). My minimum wage job as a cashier at Kroger netted me the light blue rectangle from 1987 which graced my parent’s driveway and the street in front of their house in 2002. The very special 5000 was bestowed with excellent rustproofing, dark blue velour seats, and a myriad of issues.

Straight away after purchase my dad and I discovered a coolant leak due to a bad water pump. The prior owner (original owner, mind you) surely knew about it, and in a case of BHPH-at-home, failed to disclose. The replacement was not an especially fun job, but my dad was able to fix it and keep me out of an expensive repair shop. While we’re on the subject of things that were actually fixed, a few months down the road there was a slight problem with the radiator. The inlet of the radiator (plastic) suddenly disintegrated, leaving me with a smelly and hot ride home from school one early summer day. It was all one piece, so a new radiator was required. I think it was something over $600 for a replacement. That was about 125 hours of cashiering.

Somewhere between the water pump and the radiator blowout, one of the trigger door handles gave out. The 5000’s unique trigger handles were made of (many) relatively fragile parts inside, parts which wore out. Removing the inside of the door was no quick job, though at least a used replacement handle only ran $50 or so. Such a unique crunching sound those door triggers made as they broke! Bonus: Watch out for icy weather, where water gets in the trigger components, freezes, and can lead to failure.

The rest of the issues were never fixed, but instead received a “bang on it or jiggle wires” treatment. Door locks were vacuum actuated by a pump in the trunk, which would sometimes run and other times not. Often, the doors would lock and unlock one at a time — usually when you were away from the car overnight. Best not to leave any valuables in ye olde 5000. The GM-sourced climate control was not the pinnacle of reliability, and would sometimes cease to operate. A kick to the underside of the dash, or a reach for some loose wires to jiggle would often wake it back up from its slumber.

My particular 5000 did not enjoy the cold weather at all, really. In addition to the door handle problems caused by cold and freezing, the rear brakes would often stick on at the first stop of the morning on the way to school. It made for quite a nice smoke trail behind me as I arrived for class. The throttle (or something) got a bit sticky in similar weather, and there were a few instances of unintended acceleration when switching from park to drive, with erratic idling conditions. Just a lurch forward of a couple feet, then it would usually settle down. The ’93 Audi 90S which replaced it two years afterward was considerably better in all respects.

In fact, every other car I’ve had was more reliable than that Audi 5000, considering I had it for two years and maybe 4,000 miles. What’s your worst tale of automotive unreliability?

[Image: Murilee Martin / The Truth About Cars]

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243 Comments on “QOTD: What’s the Most Unreliable Car You’ve Ever Owned?...”

  • avatar

    Ive had pretty good luck with cars, even when I was younger driving used vehicles.

    Least reliable car I have owned was a 2011 Honda Odyssey.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Mine was an 05 Odyssey. I’ve told the story here before:

      -Power sliding door broke on Day 1.
      -Days 2-4: Turn signals failed, rear seat release cable came out, brake shudder, broken cup holder.
      -Power door broke 3x more in first year. Dealer service was horrible.
      -Lemon law settlement after 20 months.
      -Gleefully traded the car in 2007 for a used Caravan with 100k miles.

      Runner-up: 1980 Bobcat, but it was given to us for $1.

    • 0 avatar

      I really hope your issues were unique because I have a 2011 Odyssey EX-L. Owned for 8 months and reliable so far.

      • 0 avatar

        “I really hope your issues were unique…”

        My 2005 has been rock-solid for 13 years and 165,000 miles. I read online that people have issues with Odysseys but nobody I know who owns one has had any major problems.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Our 99 Oddy is still running strong with 134k miles. The original tranny gave out at 82k miles but was replaced for $1k on the class action warranty. The only other problems were coil packs and a power steering pump. Total non wear parts repair costs for the 18 years would be about $2k. I can live with that.

    • 0 avatar

      Funny. My least reliable by a long shot was a 2010 Odyssey and my list of cars includes 2 VWs, 4 Jeeps, and a BMW among others. Thank God it was a lease. 2CV joints, Torque converter, Passenger side strut retaining ring (plastic) broke, and drank oil at 1 quart per 1000 miles. In the 30k miles we owned it I went through 20 additional bottles of oil. Was like a Fiat. The above happened in under 30k miles in 30 months. Honda told me the oil consumption was normal and every other problem took days to figure out. You own a van because you need a van. They gave us a Civic to drive around in while they “figured it out”.

  • avatar

    Lincoln Mark VII.

    I only paid $1,100 for it so I suppose that was a contributing factor :-)
    Sold it for $1,000 through a “tote the note” lot. That’s low depreciation, but the maintenance made up for the savings on depreciation.

    Air Bags and associated computer AFU.
    Digital dash went out, had to “guess” how much fuel I had.
    Alternator went out.
    Final straw was the coil went out while I was doing 70 mph, the unburnt fuel caught fire in the catalytic converter. So I had to get all that fixed plus a new catalytic converter. Fortunate the car didn’t go up in flames.

    • 0 avatar

      Similar here. 1998 Mountaineer that we paid $1000 for. Wound up paying $1200 for a control arm. Only minor stuff otherwise, but some were annoying electrical gremlins. Drove it for a number of years, so I guess the overall deal was pretty good.

  • avatar


    glass transmission?

    • 0 avatar

      It actually had the 5 speed thankfully, was an EX-L. Problems with hardware (sliding doors mostly) but more troublesome was the cylinder deactivation. Very problematic in that Honda refused to do anything about it under the warranty because the spark plugs were considered wear items. It wasn’t the plugs, replaced and still misfiring.

      Thankfully a lease for my wife as I was ready to drive it through the dealership showroom window when we turned it in.

    • 0 avatar

      I think you were referring to the 6 speed available in the touring. As far as I know that was the problematic transmission Only Honda I have owned though so limited experience I suppose.

      • 0 avatar

        I believe it was the five speed which was problematic, MY00-05. All MY99s still carried the 4spd which continued with the Honda I4s through MY05 or 06.

        • 0 avatar

          As I recall, the 5 speed was the venerable, less expensive option in the 2011 Oddy. It was the first year for the six speed and beta testers weren’t happy but maybe I got it backwards. Thankfully, that wasnt an issue for me. I’ve been pretty blessed. Never left stranded by any car. Pretty remarkable when you consider I’ve driven the equivalent of about 20-25 times around the earth since age 16. A testament to just how good our cars are.

  • avatar

    2005 BMW 330i. By about 60,000 miles I had the entire cooling system replaced (bit by bit), new starter, suspension bushings, fuel pump (twice), and an idle control actuator. It had the ZHP package, so it was phenomenally fun to drive, but it stranded me so many times it made me feel like each turn of the key was a gamble.

    • 0 avatar

      My 96k mi used 2004 BMW 325i, except for a hard-to-track down vacuum leak / DISA valve issue – was actually quite reliable. I assume the previous owner had already replaced a lot of the problematic parts!

    • 0 avatar

      Based on my 10 years of E46 ownership and forum activity, most of those items are typical pain points for the E46 but certainly should not be failing at that mileage. Especially the starter, ICV and fuel pump.

      The cooling system is a notoriously sensitive part on the E46. The vast knowledge base on the internet for this specific item is a testament to that.
      Some people say if you’re replacing one part like the thermostat, you might as well go ahead and replace the pump, expansion tank and lines. I’d say 60k is on the early end of cooling system failure.

      Depending on who you ask, E46 suspension bushings could be considered regular maintenance items, especially the front control arm bushings. The FCABs come off relatively easily so it’s easy to assume BMW designed these as maintenance items.

      On my 2004 330i i’m at 185k with the original starter and ICV. Fuel pump replaced preventively at 160k. Cooling system replaced preventively at 100k. FCABs replaced at 120k, but were worn out since about 100k.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve been looking at used E46 convertibles and it seems like most well-maintained examples over 100k have had a cooling system overhaul done at some point, usually somewhat before 100k.

    • 0 avatar

      You aren’t the only one. I had a 2006 330i with MSport Performance Package.

      When I bought it I thought it was a true unicorn.. only available for one year, it had all the benefits of the e90 with all the benefits of the 330i. One of the most powerful, best balanced NA BMWs ever produced.

      But that stupid car cost me an average of $3000/yr to own.

      From failed CCC modules to batteries that couldn’t be replaced from any shop but the dealer… Alternator issues (2x alternators in 1 year!), Cooling system problems like your talking about, wheel bearings and bushings, fuel system problems, Whacky headlight problems and mirrors that would fold in at random times.

      I was so happy when I sold that POS… in retrospect it was SO fun to drive, and it was a “nice” car but maintenance was AWFUL.

      • 0 avatar

        sorry to hear that arach. i’ve come to realize it was a special car though, as it was the only year the e90 came in a high output n52 version, before the turbocharged n54 created the 335. apparently it managed that through a three-stage intake manifold, as opposed to the single-stage 325 and 328. to this day, swapping in that manifold (which can also be found in the 530, Z4, etc) apparently remains the best way to increase the output of the n52.

      • 0 avatar

        I had an 04 545i. Here’s the list:
        Battery safety terminal (caused error messages about passenger airbags)
        Water pump
        Water pump again
        Alternator rebuilt
        Leaked oil from vacuum pump (resealed) valve cover gaskets (never fixed) alternator bracket (n62 special) and oil pan.
        Active steering computer would freak out regularly; would make car REALLY hard to steer. Never figured that one out.
        Some sensor would occasionally tell me I have zero oil and that I should stop immediately. Checked dipstick, was fine. Never fixed.
        A front suspension spring cracked in half. Had to order whole new set; were none in town, car sat at shop for nearly two weeks waiting for them.
        Rear sunshade would go up but not down despite many lubrication attempts.
        Driveshaft flex disk shredded
        Dual mass flywheel damper failed, rattled terribly, shifts were harsh. Never fixed.
        Radiator leaked, replaced.
        CCC died outright, no used avaialble, was not repairable, $800 for a “new” one.

        The CCC was the last straw. I’ve never owned a bigger pile of shit and I don’t understand the enthusiasm for these cars. Sure when it worked it was fun to drive, but it wasn’t worth the headache.
        However, the guy I sold it to, emailed me the other day saying how happy he was about it. I’m sure he was happy, he got it for a song with a full set of winter wheels/tires.

        Fvck that car.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a 2007 335i with 78k miles, that I bought CPO at 29k miles. It’s had…

      VANOS solenoids, twice
      High Pressure Fuel Pump
      “Camshaft ledge”, whatever that is…some kind of bearing
      Transmission rear seal leak (automatic)
      Strut leaks
      Turbo lag induced by a software update intended to attenuate a rattling sound coming from the wastegate. I had them put it back to the old software as my wastegate didn’t rattle.
      Airbag recall

      ALL that was replaced under warranty, thankfully. This thing would’ve cost me a fortune otherwise. Since then it’s only needed a water pump and a thermostat, but that was $1100! Stupid electric water pump fails with no warning. You’re just driving along and boom- leaves you stranded. What an absurd way to get an extra 0.1 mpg.

      I LOVE LOVE LOVE driving this car, but there are so few opportunities to drive it to its limits, I’m replacing it with an Acura. Reliability is the most important luxury.

  • avatar

    Why would you get another AUDI after the first one was such a disaster?

    My worst? 1990 Nissan Sentra SE-R.
    A/C issues. Trunk mechanism/hinge jam up. On and on.
    Smallish car. Never got more than 25MPG.

    2nd worse? 2006 Land Rover LR-3. Brand new. Horn problems, Wipers, Toed in at the factory – chewed up tires in 5000 miles. Brand new mind you.

  • avatar

    I’ve always had good luck, but I’m also pretty anal about service. The best ones I ever had were an early BMW X5 and my 911 4S for reliability.

    Worst was probably a Mitsubishi Diamante I had when I was in college, but I attribute most of that to the fact that it was really beat up by the time I bought it and it was a high miler. Next is probably the Honda Pilot. It’s generally reliable, but always seems to be small issues popping up.

  • avatar

    ’07 Mazdaspeed6.

    The list of failures isn’t that long, but the time and cost of every repair was hideous. It ate brakes and tires, and liked to have some inaccessible $200 sensor fail a few times a year. I got a nice collection of specialty wrenches from owning it.

    The last straw was 6th gear violently failing. Every tooth stripped off. Not only was it the most painful transmission extraction the shop had ever done, but a week after it was complete the transfer case seized. I sold the car and a week later the buyer told me he’d downshifted on the freeway and thrown the timing chain.

    • 0 avatar

      I was hoping for another MS6 owner.

      I’ve gotten off pretty easy, but still needed a new battery at 12,000 miles, a turbo at 50,000 miles, injector seals at 60,000 miles, and a new engine at 88,000 miles. My power steering cooler rotted away last year (fixed ASAP), and now my power steering pump is on the fritz. My trans case leaks, my rear diff is noisy, my intake valves, EGR and headlights need periodic maintenance. Luckily my engine blew before I needed a VVT replacement. Parts are super expensive (if available at all) and the remaining speeds are held together with a hodgepodge of questionable parts via part outs and junkyards.

      I don’t have it as bad as some of the other owners, but this has been the least reliable car I’ve owned. With that said, I’d buy another Mazda in a heartbeat. Busted knuckles make the zoom-zoom worth it.

      • 0 avatar

        Oh, and let me not forget the horror of the keyless entry, the corrosion of the hood, and the underbody rust.

        Also, working on the car isn’t fun as something is always in your way. Everything takes 3 times longer in a MS6. Wanna change your spark plugs (which needs to be done every 15,000 miles)? Gotta remove your intercooler. Wanna change your oil? Gotta remove an underbody tray. And speaking of oil, it’s one of those damn cartridge filters that requires an extra drain, and two o-ring replacements. Again, all takes 3 ones as long as abnormal car. Plus, you are GUARANTEED to strip out a screw, or sheer off a bolt.

        I love my car… I really do, but writing this list out makes me question my life choices.

    • 0 avatar

      I owned a 2006 Mazdaspeed 6 GT for just under 100k miles. I drove that car like I stole it every day, everywhere. Hands down the most fun I have ever had in a car. Toward the end I think turbo seals were leaking, would lay a patch of smoke a mile long once in a while. It ate tires for sure but I think because it had pizza cutters considering the power and weight the tires had to cope with. Pretty sure I was on my 5th set of 4 tires when I sold it. I actually jumped on the tsb for clutch operation and got it replaced under warranty at like 30k miles. Really nothing wrong with the clutch except being difficult to operate, but hey, free new clutch, why not. That car definitely had some quirks but I loved it so and would happily but another Mazda.

  • avatar

    Ah, Corey’s (in)famous Audi 5000…between that and the “runaway car” story, that company’s lucky to still be in business here.

    I’ve had cars that broke down due to my youthful abuse or neglect, and I had a ’81 VW Rabbit that had quite a few items tha broke (including the door handles, which were the same ones found on Corey’s 5000), but I’ve never had a car that outright stranded me.

    Most remarkable reliability issue: I had a ’88 Mercury Tracer with a malfunctioning horn. It would go off in the middle of the night, particularly when it was cold. I was too broke to fix it at the time. Needless to say, this did not endear me to my neighbors.

    • 0 avatar

      “Ah, Corey’s (in)famous Audi 5000…between that and the “runaway car” story, that company’s lucky to still be in business here.”

      Between the unintended acceleration deal that was proven to be BS, and a random guy’s problems with a 15-year-old car when he was a teenager…Audi is lucky to be in business in America?

      Corey swings a pretty big hammer in the car industry, yes?

      • 0 avatar

        Why not ask your girlfriend how big the hammer Corey swings happens to be? :D

        Yes, I am in fact 12.

      • 0 avatar

        Unfortunately, Fordson, Corey’s hammer is right on target with this car. His experience with an Audi of that vintage was not unique. My family had one, and it was crap. My girlfriend’s family had one, and it was also crap with the extra added bonus of driver-stranding reliability problems.

        Everyone I knew who had one back then lived to regret it. The only people who liked Audis back then worked for Car and Driver, and they never actually bought the f**king things.

        Not exactly a good way to build your brand, you know?

    • 0 avatar

      I had a beater Yugo that I used as a commuter car in Atlanta. I had the opposite problem of FreedMike, as the temperatures got hotter, the springs in the horn button would relax and the horn would sound.

      In my case, it was easy to fix. Just remove the horn button from the steering wheel and wait for the temps to cool off.

    • 0 avatar

      My Camry had a similar horn issue, weather seemingly unrelated. I pulled the fuse. If only that was the extent of its issues.

  • avatar

    1991 lumina z34, was one of the first. In 35000 miles it only stranded me twice but they were whoppers. Constant misalignment, bad paint too.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Let me guess. The 3.4 DOHC became a problem.

      • 0 avatar

        Even my 3.1 non-z34 had piles of problems. Had a fuel pressure regulator go, which filled the engine airways with gasoline. Luckily I left my headlights on that day, or the top of the engine could have exploded. Plus they mounted the battery under an electrical box, under the washer reservoir, under a body brace. For all its faults, it was the comfiest highway cruiser I’ve taken on a long trip.

        • 0 avatar

          My 1998 3.1L always had issues. Fix one thing, then another breaks. The most fun was inop brake lamps due to a module located deep inside the (metal, unable to be disassembled) steering column. Had to remove the column and reach down in it and feel for the bolts.

      • 0 avatar

        The engine was fine but probably only because I only had the car for 35k miles. I had so much trouble in warranty that I didn’t want to experience out of warranty.

        Given your name you will appreciate the z34s replacement – a 94 v8 cougar. She gave me some trouble too sadly.

    • 0 avatar

      I bought a used 1994 Lumina Z34 for my daughter to take to college. I sold it in 2007 with about 110,000 miles. I replaced two alternators. I could not do these myself because it was mounted low at the rear of engine. Required removal of a front wheel and axle assembly so it was done by a repair shop. I also replaced the timing belt twice on the 3.4 at no small expense. There were oil leaks and issues with the AC. It seemed to need something every month. When I traded it in on a new Impala, the transmission was slipping and about done for.

  • avatar

    It’s a toss-up between my 1999 VW Passat GLS 1.8T and my 2005 Mazda RX-8.

    Admittedly, some of the RX-8’s problems have been caused by me.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Brand new 1978 Ford T-Bird.

    I believe that it was trying to kill me. Multiple random ‘no starts’ usually late at night, during cold weather, in the worst neighbourhoods or out in the country. Would also stall at highway speeds. Numerous other, smaller but still nasty surprises.

    Kept it for 12 months.

  • avatar

    I m at the age where I dont care what others think. I m going for the best product per dollar spent. GM makes some good CUV and SUVs. But, i will NOT buy a car with start stop that cannot be turned off. So, GM is off my list.

    So, the only way to go is Japanese. Price, features, repair rate, resale value. Make it simple. Dont over think your second biggest purchase.

    I am shocked at how good my new Forester is. There is some talk here on TTAC on Subaru ‘s agrarian style engines. This car is a lot smoother than my 2012 Equinox (2.0 Ecotech). Power seems to be ‘right there’ when i need it.

    31.5 MPG on my Atlanta – Montgomery AL – Atlanta trip to a customer yesterday (cruise control locked on 74MPH). There have been comments about bad MPG on Subies too. I dont get it. (mileage calculated — Miles driven/ gallons in the tank. Trip computers LIE)

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I have a had a couple of real turds, though I will admit the first one was a 100% self inflicted wound due mostly to teenage arrogance/stupidity.

    My 2nd car I ever owned: 83 Mustang GT. This car was beat to death when I acquired it with a bad motor and rear end swap from a 4 cylinder. I put a motor in it and seemingly replaced every other part on the car: brakes, rear end, heater core, electrical switches on and on. Once it was reasonably sorted, I drove it in an ice storm (brilliant) and drove it head on into a telephone pole. Rinse and repeat; new front clip on and on. Just stupid.
    I can’t say this is the car was a lemon, as it was pure malaise era trash that had 100k on it when I acquired it. It was technically junk yard fodder the day I got it, insert arrogance and stupidity of ‘I can fix it’ while needing it to get to school and work every day.

    2nd worst: 89′ Isuzu pick up. garbage all the way through. Bad head that cracked and was impossible to source, bad brakes, so on and so forth. Had zero options new: no ac, no radio, crank windows so at least the electric stuff worked. Which consisted of the head light switch and windshield wiper switch. This was after the Mustang, so in comparison this thing was Camry reliable.

    3rd worst: Subaru WRX. Bought new and traded at 9k miles. Too many repairs for a new car: turbo, rear end gear. Not good.

    4th worst: The Morgan Plus 8 (87′) that I inherited from my dad after his dementia diagnosis. I grew up with the car so fortunately for my old man even in H.S. I could wrench on it for him and try to figure out what those pesky brits were thinking. I can’t say if was unreliable, just temperamental. I will concede that this may just be a part of the ownership experience for a car like this, though I have never owned anything similar since; quasi exotic that is.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      While reading some of the comments Corey, perhaps in the future put a qualifier for dollar amount of purchase. Reading some of the comments, like mine, a lot of us due to being young and unknowingly poor bought turds because even if it broke down once a week, that meant we had six days of not walking. Which was better than before, 7 days walking all the time.

      Might be interesting to have a the Sub $1500 version, the new car version, and late model used version of the biggest pile ever bought.
      Could even do a Best in class sub $2k too….Crown Vic Wagon FTW!

    • 0 avatar

      I take it when you said wrench you meant spanner. :-)

  • avatar

    I was the second owner of a 2004 Mazda RX-8 for 6 years. In the grander scheme of things I got off pretty easy. The only unscheduled repair came when the couplings on the oil cooler lines rusted out and the car started leaking oil on my wife’s precious driveway. I never flooded the car, but the dealership and body shop managed to. But near the end of my time with the car, I think the engine was starting to go soft. At times it would struggle for power, or stall. One time it conked out at a busy intersection near the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor. Some dude in a clapped out Tempo opened his window and hollered at me “that’s what ya get for buyin’ foreign!”

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t realize in modern times people still said things like that.

      • 0 avatar

        They do in the Windsor/Detroit area!

        • 0 avatar

          My Dad would still do that.

          But in the heart of the Midwest surrounded by suppliers and Big 3 auto plants you’d expect that.

        • 0 avatar

          Here in the Shwa maybe 10 years ago you might heard something to that effect.. Not these days though.

          • 0 avatar

            “Some dude in a clapped out Tempo opened his window and hollered at me “that’s what ya get for buyin’ foreign!”

            I laughed hard at this.

            I was driving my old Jetta through Pennsylvania once… some town outside Pittsburg, can’t remember. I suddenly found myself in the left-turn lane while meaning to go straight. I gamed the lights, leaving early as crosstraffic turned yellow and noone was speeding through the intersection. This allowed me to make a non-aggressive merge in front of the line where I needed to be. In between a modest old car, plates from the midwest, and raising a “i’m sorry” hand to the driver behind me, i figured i’d be fine.

            What i didn’t account for was the guy in the pick up truck. belching smoke, he’s coming after me. I slowed down moving to the right, when he does too, and shouts at me: “LEARN HOW TO DRIVE, A**HOOOOOOOLEEEEEEEEEEE!

            To this day, I am happy I didn’t get shot in Pennsylvania that day.

            Corey, there’s a QOTD idea somewhere in there.

          • 0 avatar

            There’s another QOTD: What was one time you thought someone was going to murder you in a driving-related rage incident?

            I have one.

            (Just saw your last line edit!)

    • 0 avatar

      “But near the end of my time with the car, I think the engine was starting to go soft. At times it would struggle for power, or stall.”

      Guessing this was around 65k miles – ?

  • avatar

    2004 Subaru Forester XT.

    I had to put a quart of oil in it every time I filled up.
    I replaced the turbo both years I owned it because if completely failed on the highway both times.
    It got 19mpg if I babied it.

    I hated that car. It got replaced with a 2003 Acura RSX that ran flawlessly for 3 years for me.

  • avatar

    Late 1970s Lada Niva– big surprise, eh? But that’s basically a ringer for this question. Otherwise, 1987 Subaru GL wagon. It was very reliable ’til it wasn’t, but once the engine issues started, they cascaded on each other for a few months until it had to be towed off to the junkyard.

    • 0 avatar

      1986 Yugo.

      Same genetics; same mispropigating – in a government orphanage/factory.

      The problems were obvious – electrical engineering/development by patch-ins at the factory. The reason for the problems were just as obvious, but seldom stated: how many QC inspectors did they have, and what did the factory commissar do when he found too many flaws?

      What was the engineering/product development at VAZ or Zastava?

      Who did dissatisfied buyers complain to, and what would the KGB or Yugoslavian Thought Police do to complaining buyers, so unappreciative of their privilege to buy the Glorious State Industry motorcar?

      • 0 avatar

        My Niva’s nickname was Leonid (for Brezhnev) because whenever you stepped on the brake pedal it dove left. Lots of electrical/mechanical gremlins, very shoddy assembly, and I honestly believe it came out of the factory with a bent frame. Only once did it break all the way down to undriveable, though.

        • 0 avatar

          My father had a ’75 Cadillac Coupe DeVille that with a bent frame as standard equipment. For real.

          • 0 avatar

            Bent in shipping, would be my guess.

            Twenty years in railroading, most of it on a line and with a railroad that did a LOT of new-car shipping…it’s opened my eyes.

            First, as you can imagine, those tall Trailer-Train auto-racks…have their cargo chained down. As high up as the third level is, you do NOT want even the sidewall-flexing of tires to shift weight in curves or when going through turnouts, crossing from one track to the parallel track.

            They get knocked about quite a bit, also. Freight trains are not as smooth-riding as Amtrak. There’s two inches of play in each coupler…four inches back and forth between every freight car. One hundred cars…400 inches. PLUS the three feet of in-and-out slack on auto-rack cushioned drawbars.

            Your engineman starts his train up…nice and gentle…but if he’s not careful, or is on a hill, he can have the head end moving at five to eight miles an hour before the rear starts moving.

            Going from 0 to 8 miles an hour, instantaneously.

            The autos on the rack, are chained down; and the yank on the tie-down points is just tremendous. Those chains are strong enough to hold those cars suspended – and that’s happened in yard accidents, where auto-racks have tipped over. The wreckers tip it back up; the yard crew takes it to the rip tracks…where the rail company and the FRA spend a LOT of time making sure THE RAILCAR is okay and fit to return to use.

            GM or Ford or whoever, is only given notice of delay. Only if there’s severe smashing or evidence of lading damage, does the rail company call the shippers.

            That may well be what happened with your father’s car. And those were in the dark days of American railroading, when the Penn Central was bankrupt, the Illinois Central falling apart…railroads all across the country had decomposing lines and properties.

        • 0 avatar

          “I honestly believe it came out of the factory with a bent frame.”

          That would truly be odd, since Nivas are unibody vehicles.

      • 0 avatar

        The engineers working on the Niva should be commended for really coming up with a clever and innovative vehicle using very limited resources (the Lada parts bin, basically). What came out of it was arguably the world’s first road-oriented modern SUV/crossover: unibody with a nice riding all-coil-sprung suspension with independent front end, full-time 4wd with locking center diff and low-range t-case. It was a quantum leap from the very traditional and brutal UAZ which followed the classic body on frame with solid axles on leaf springs front and rear.

  • avatar

    The most unreliable car I have ever owned was probably our 1992 Chrysler Le Baron.

    Truth be told though, it had 101,000 miles when I bought it in 1999. I believe the engine was allowed to overheat at some point and a crack or cracks developed somewhere in the block or cylinder head, for I always had cooling issues, but also a myriad of other niggling stuff that drove me crazy.

    Such a shame, for it was a beautiful car and had class.

    It finally died for good in 2007.

  • avatar

    EVERYBODY has a different definition of “reliability.” You’d think a term like that would be black and white, but it really is very subjective.

    For example, I have owned cars that many people would consider reliable because I maintain or over maintain them. However, many have needed repairs that were the result of a wearing part that hadn’t gone out yet. If I have a vehicle that goes through many such parts, I weigh that against its age, condition otherwise and the the frequency of replacement.

    On the other hand, I had a SAAB 900 I bought with a bad idle. Fixed it, baselined it and drove it 40 miles, during which the radiator exploded and puked up half of its coolant, forcing me to nurse it home from the middle of the country. I’d consider that unreliable because it couldn’t be relied upon after that, which was as much a shortcoming on my part as it was the car – even though I replaced the radiator afterward, obviously.

    Luckily, I’ve taken such good care of my cars, and exercise good common sense, that I’ve never really been stranded by one. I don’t take it very far until its mechanical condition is up to my strict standards. That, and being proactive on maintenance, has kept me from being “unlucky.” I think there aren’t really any unreliable cars; just car with bad engineering, bad maintenance history or bad owners.

  • avatar

    2008 CTS – i had it for 12 months, it was in the shop 6 times totalling at least a full month. It developed misfires twice, the timing chain went, the gear shift would miss drive and throw codes at least once a month, both exterior door handles died in the middle of the winter which meant i could only enter the car by opening the rear doors, the remote start stopped working, the hideaway head unit screen wouldn’t always pop up, it had issues with satellite radio that would cause the screen to not turn on at all.

    In the meantime, i got to drive brand new cars through their loaner program, an xts, 2 cts’s and 3 ats’s. I figured it that if you put your cell phone on the passenger seat, it can generate enough heat to make the car so the airbag warning light (happened with 3 of the cars). I also had an ats with 600 miles on it go into like mode right as i was passing my last chance to avoid getting on the expressway. I had to pull a questionable turn to not get on going 30 miles/hr. It then completely died a quarter mile later. After getting that car back to the dealer (i was on my way home from work in the evening) the service guy casually says, yeah it’s just something you have to deal with sometimes. I just started at him in disbelief. No, i have to deal with MY car being an unreliable turd. I absolutely shouldn’t be dealing with the dealerships brand new loaners being unreliable garbage. That was the sixth time my cts was in the shop and i got rid of it within a week or 2 after. I really hope Cadillac succeeds, but they won’t be getting a dime from me any time soon.

    Edit: my cts had 50k miles on it and full warranty. All this nonsense thankfully only cost me a few hundred in warranty deductible ($300 i think) so at least it wasn’t the most expensive lesson to learn.

  • avatar

    2008 Mini Cooper S. Cooling system, oil leaks, voracious appetite for oil. Timing chain, unreadable dipstick, cracked head so losing coolant, and finally ate a spark plugs tip about the same time. Those were just the major issues. Got a Mini piece of junk mail yesterday. Showed it to my wife and said: “I wonder if it’s an apology?”

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah that Prince engine was a real turd – oil usage problems with mine, and during cold weather it sound really, really bad as if the valves are slamming into the piston.

      But it keeps running. My mechanic swears there is nothing wrong with the timing chain and what I’m hearing is the direct injection. Ah well, it’s in beater car status right now so I drive it hard and pray.

    • 0 avatar

      My wife had a 2007 Mini Cooper S. Same issues that you list, except the car received 2 timing chains after it left the factory (one settled under the class-action lawsuit). We were lucky to not have a cracked head or the spark plug tip issue. Our coolant leaks stemmed from the fragile, over-engineered medusa-like T-stat housing that failed. Add to that, PCV issues that required replacement of the entire valve cover, leaking sunroof, and overall chintzy switchgear. I admit the car was a blast to drive, but even with just 50K miles on the clock, a dealer offered us $2500 on trade-in. We took it. I probably would have given it away to avoid the rigors of a private/Craigslist sales experience.

  • avatar

    I’ve never really had an unreliable vehicle. My B-bodies, panthers and full-size trucks have all been good to me. I will however never purchase non-oem ignition wires ever again.

  • avatar

    My 1995 thunderbird. Had to get it towed to the shop three times because it just would not start…

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I’ve never had a problem where it would not run with my 95 LX with the 4.6. Normal maintenance keeps it going. The priciest repair was the EGR valve because it’s buried between the rear of the engine and the firewall.

      • 0 avatar

        I went through two transmissions in my ’96 4.6 Thunderbird. The 1st one got it from 6k to 84k miles when it started slipping clutches, & the 2nd one went out at 135k with a 2nd-gear mechanical diode failure. (I still have it, nearing 200k miles… getting quite rusty in the rocker panels though.)

      • 0 avatar

        First time was something in the fuel system, second time was the fuel pump itself, third time was the crank position sensor.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          Plus I’m still running the original alternator at 135k. I kind of wait for it to go.
          I’ve replaced the battery every few years as a precaution, even if its still ok. The last one I bought was from Ford, it’s actually better and less costly than the ones from chain auto parts stores.

  • avatar

    Worst for me have been GM products.
    – 77 Camaro. Loved that car but EVERYTHING broke on it. I’ve never spent so much time upside down under the dash, under the car, or under the hood. My roommate did me a favor by wrecking it.
    – 68 Chevelle. Loved the look, but it was ragged out when I bought it. Again, lots of time under the hood and under the car fixing things. Dumped the car back to the used car lot I got it from.
    – 00 Grand Prix. Repeat of all above. Sold it as a ‘mechanic special’.

  • avatar

    1973 Ford Gran Torino w/302W that had its guts pulled out by towing a 5000# travel trailer several times a year for about 7 years. Timing chain stretched, needed valve job, ended up swapping for a 351W at which point an idler pulley on the AC would rip the compressor belt, stripping the other two belts to water pump and alternator.

  • avatar

    #1 on my list? 1985 Audi 4000S (bought in 1990). It looked SO good in metallic gold with black leather. But the trans failed. Then there were electrical issues. Then the oil leak. It finally crapped out on me on I-24 as I was (ironically) going to look at a rather nice 1985 Honda Prelude. Funny, the dealership didn’t want to deal with me on a car that had to be towed to the dealership. Car was junked and I bought a Mazda B2000 to tool around in the last year or two of college in with narry an issue.

  • avatar

    2008 Saturn Aura XE w/3.5l V6

    Bought ‘nearly new’ in 2009 with only 2200kms on the clock. It still had that new car smell. It was a sweet deal at the time and I was impressed with the power (rare 3.5 litre pushrod V6) and internal design/layout.

    However, the fragility of every mechanical part was amazing. Every year a fairly major part had to be replaced. It started with the front-right A arm, then the entire steering system had to be replaced ($2200). By 2013 I noticed that the spray of the windshield wiper fluid was getting weak. Turns out it was cracks in the tiny plastic elbows where the hose from the reservoir meets the spray nozzle at the underside of the hood. Can’t just replace the 50-cent elbows, no. It cost $350 to get a whole new hose system installed. This has never happened on any other vehicle I have owned nor have I ever heard of this happening to anyone else. An indication of the poor quality of the parts. A front wheel bearing was replaced around 50000kms, along with the brakes.

    By then we were wearying of the yearly ‘surprises’ on a car that was very lightly used (under 10000kms per year). After the coolant hoses were replaced in the spring of 2016 ($600) and the continuting drips on the driveway indicated that the transmission hoses also needed to be replaced ($800) I knew it was time to stop the bleeding.

    I wanted to believe that GM could produce world-class cars and this Opel-derived Saturn hinted at a slightly upscale ride. But the amazing fragility of this car was disappointing. A certain amount of “wear and tear” is to be expected, but this bordered on “disintegration”. When I got rid of it after only 88000kms the car had no rust, a solid engine and transmission that would have provided another decade of service, and yet it was almost worthless.

    I purchased a 2017 Kia Sportage (zippy!) and will steer clear of any GM product for the rest of my life.

    • 0 avatar

      I have an MY08 W-body and while I haven’t had all those issues I have had to replace things which should not have failed early on in the car’s life (master cylinder, steering rack, shocks at 51K and 3y old etc). I believe this is because GM knew it was going bankrupt by about 2005 based on auction rumors I remember. Because of this, I believe orders went out to suppliers to cheapen everything to save ten cents a unit or something to this effect. My 2002 Saturns have literally needed none of this, and one of which is still on mostly factory suspension and undercarriage parts.

    • 0 avatar

      Sounds like my 97 Volvo. They engineered a nice chassis, brakes and engine block, after that, they ran out of money and cheaped-out on every single other part/system.

  • avatar

    Not a very fair example given my first car, a 1968 Firebird, has been heavily abused before I got it. Most of the problems were just age related.

    Coolant leak from the heater core, which would scald your feet anytime you took a corner. Poor teenager solution? Bypass the heater core! Just great for driving in Michigan winters.

    Leaking transmission – Powerglide! – fluid. Had to run new lines to-from the cooler. My friend did a sloppy hack job of it but the fix worked.

    Throttle cable snapped while driving. One of my friend’s dad drove over and put a temporary fix that got me back home but left the engine idling at 4000 rpm. That was a difficult fix since I didn’t have the right tools to crimp the cable end.

    Electrical issue that I never solved: turning the wipers on would make the car lose power, and no wiper action. I replaced the wiper motor out of a junkyard ’74 Firebird but that made the problem even worse!

    Also the rear quarters were rust, the black vinyl top had turned gray and no amount of Armor All seemed to help, there was a crunched front quarter panel, and the windshield leaked when raining, dumping water into the center console. My original Social Security card, which I still have, as a water mark from that car.

    • 0 avatar

      runner-ups: two higher mileage Honda Accords, a 1986 LXi and a 1987 DX – snapped transmission cable, door chime that wouldn’t turn off, rust issues at the gas door, power windows that didn’t roll down, stalling while driving in the rain.

      Also a 2001 Accord V6 coupe with really bad paint peel on the roof, a transmission that was sluggish and, on hard throttle, would feel like it was slipping. Exhaust gasket leak.

      I’ve sworn of Hondas since, unlike every one else, I seem to have really bad luck with them.

      • 0 avatar

        Think the 2001 was that terrible 4-speed automatic that failed all the time (why were they still offering a 4-speed automatic for that car in 2001 – ?), and the paint was that early generation of water-based paint. Not a particular Honda fan, but those failures were quite uncharacteristic for Hondas. I would not hold that against them nowadays…just the horrible new Civic styling.

        • 0 avatar

          FWIW, 4-speed automatics still were the industry norm for Camcordibus in 2001. Accord, Camry, Altima, and Malibu all had 4-speeds in ’01, per Wikipedia.

          • 0 avatar

            As did Taurus, Chrysler LH cars, the Stratus/Sebring, hell it would be easier to name mainstream cars that didn’t have a 4 speed at the time. It was definitely the most common.

  • avatar

    By far, a 1983 Chevy S-10 I bought new. The clutch pressure plate would break, yes, break, not wear out, at 20,000 miles. After 45,000 miles the engine leaked oil from multiple places. Starter issues, A/C problems, interior pieces falling off… it was a real piece of crap.

  • avatar

    To be honest Corey that 5000 really doesn’t sound too bad. With easier access to parts and info in the more mature state of the internet these days, an aftermarket radiator is $85 from rockauto, the loose wiring on the climate control sounds like it needed just a bit of investigation and messing with, the rear brakes and throttle likewise just needed some investigation and fettling with by someone even somewhat mechanically inclined. On a 15 year old car, that’s not bad at all IMO. A more modern 2000s Audi with a stretched timing chain, oil burning, and laundry list of DTCs would really send you running for the hills.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The Citation.

    • 0 avatar

      The A-body owners I know all thank you, bumpy ii, for participating in the beta testing program. Your sacrifice was not in vain. ;-)

      Seriously though, I knew five A-body owners. Apart from a Century wagon’s going through two or three alternators in the decade my friend’s parents had it, all were remarkably reliable.

      The same witch doctor who oversaw the HT-4100 to 4.5 and 4.9 transition must have worked on the X-body to A-body project.

      • 0 avatar

        My A-body was a turd but most of it can be attributed to things that you would expect to wear out on a car built in 1982 with over 100,000 miles on it.

        I haven’t commented here because almost everything I’ve had go wrong on a vehicle could have been attributed to its status as used + age + mileage + deferred maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Don’t thank me, thank my grandparents for buying that pile in 1979. I’m convinced the X-body engineers came to work drunk and did not go home sober.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Wife’s ’76 Mustang V8. First four years of its life it stalled several times and would not start. After getting towed to a repair shop it would always start up. The mechanic would usually replace the fuel filter. Finally in 1980 I bit the bullet and spent $70 (seemed like a lot of money at the time) on a new electronic ignition module. Problem solved. To this day I still laugh at those who claim that breaker points are not reliable.

  • avatar

    I had a 1992 Corolla where it seemed like the only things I never needed to replace were the engine and transmission. It was a beater gotten for free, so it gets a pass.

    My 1997 Suburban ground it’s transmission to bits and was always needing something from suspension to brakes, and didn’t like to start if left sitting for more than a week or so. It was near the end of it’s usable life by that point so it gets a pass.

    The 1989 Corsica I had was a real POS, the transmission slipped badly going into 3rd, but never got worse in the 2 years I had it. It never really let me down after the initial purging of demons when I got it.

    So really, typical old car BS. All of the whips I’ve had since new have been really good.

  • avatar

    Oddly, aside from the Yugo, above, I never was really cursed with lemons. My car purchases come down to two groups: Beaters, worked to excrement by previous owners, which I bought for three-figure prices; and new cars, of which many had flaws or were not satisfactory but all of them did the basics well.

    The smogged-carburetor era was gone by then. We tend to forget how far we’ve come – the era of the Rambler Borg-Warner Mickey-Mouse transmission or Ford Y-Block overheating, or other generational hair-pulling experiences, is long gone.

  • avatar

    1971 Ford Bronco, you know, one of the originals. I bought it used.
    Floor pans rusted out and had to be fiberglassed. New clutch every 30000
    miles; starter would randomly kick in even with engine running; miserable
    brakes – I mean miserable. But I kept it for 8 years – it took me places
    I wanted to go way off the road. 2nd worst – two VW Beetles. Have had
    excellent luck with Ford and GM trucks, Chrysler sedans (older Dodge
    Darts with the slant 6 engine), a Honda Accord and a Nissan Xterra.

  • avatar

    When I was young and naive, I purchased a 1995 Mitsubishi Galant when I was stationed in Japan. I bought the car from a guy who was leaving to go to a new duty station. This was circa 2002 if memory serves correctly.

    At the time, I was infatuated with a Japanese gal and we entertained the idea of marriage. My teenage brain deduced that I needed my own transportation to ferry us on dates, etc.

    I was so proud of my new wheels that I went down to Yellow Hat which is like a Japanese Pep Boys and bought a new single DIN stereo head unit that I installed in the parking lot of my barracks.

    The car drove fine for a few months. One day, I picked up my girlfriend at her domicile. Prior to reaching our destination, the car overheated. I popped the hood and didn’t see any steam coming from the radiator. Odd, I thought. So, I get a rag and open the filler cap. Lo and behold, there’s no fluid visible in the radiator. I bought a couple bottles of water, emptied them into the radiator and limped the car back to base.

    Eventually, I took the car over to the auto hobby shop on the base and found out that the radiator had actually rusted through at the bottom. I carried jugs of water around for a few more days until I took it to the Mitsubishi dealership out in town.

    I utilized my broken Japanese to try and explain to the service advisor what was wrong. He finally had to hand me the parts catalog. I pointed at the radiator and asked him how much. Parts and labor were obscene for someone at my pay grade. I thanked him for his time and took the car home. I proceeded to gate office on base and processed a scrap request for the car. It was cheaper to scrap it than replace the radiator.

    In the end, I came to the realization that Japan has excellent public transportation.

  • avatar

    Honda Accord. I think it was a 1996. It was such as piece of junk. Flipped it right away, made tons of money. Lots of eager buyers who buy nothing but Honda and Toyota. The sale experience was “interesting.” The buyers were very different from other makes. People who buy VW, or SAAB, or Subaru, or Mercedes want to know the maintenance history, the rust, the condition, if the tires are worn, if it is inspected, etc. Honda buyers did not care about any of that stuff. They wanted to know if it had a sunroof — that was the most common question.

    • 0 avatar

      My easiest car sale ever was a 97 Impreza L wagon, with wheel covers and lots of dents.

      People calling me and following up after looking at it, sold in two days.

      One guy called a couple days later to ask if I sold it, after he passed on making an offer.

      “Yes, I did.”
      “I figured that, well crap.”


      • 0 avatar

        That was such a good car. My parents had a 1994 Impreza L Wagon. It is so weird how that car had a 1.8l 110hp engine that was just wonderful and felt really fast and effortless. At the same time, my in-laws’ current Nissan Versa 1.8l 122hp feels slow, buzzy, loud and overtaxed. Really an amazing difference.

        The 1997 Impreza had the 2.2l, I know.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve seen this at the auction. Once some Accord goes through the line, the bidding goes crazy. The illusion begins. Prices go to the point where you can negotiate better at the dealer. I remember one particular instance where a beautiful 5-6 years old Maxima with 105K was going for around 5-6K. And bids were hard to come. But right after this someone was winning on 130K Accord at around $7 grand. And that was exactly that same generation as ’96 you had. Oh, I remember the black chick was jumping as if she won the lottery. That day, I modestly purchased some Sentra with manual. And 3 month later cashed $1,500 when sold it.

    • 0 avatar

      The fifth -gen Accord, I must’ve looked at a ton of these before getting my ’94. It’s amazing how many owners ignore the super cheap HVAC knobs, the rust, the empty fluids (in in case an EX had been empty of oil), the crappy ECUs (many abs/srs lights).

      I picked up a 94, and while I found it reliable it did go through coolant, and it had an annoying quirk on every cold start. It would rev up and hold at around 2k on its own for almost a minute. That probably wasn’t good for the engine!

      • 0 avatar

        “crappy ECUs (many abs/srs lights)”

        FWIW ECU has nothing to do with either of those systems. I would guess the culprit for ABS was more likely than not something closer to the wheel hub: speed sensor or tone ring on the axle going bad from rust.

        “and it had an annoying quirk on every cold start. It would rev up and hold at around 2k on its own for almost a minute. That probably wasn’t good for the engine!”

        That’s a very standard warm-up procedure on I think every single car I can think of, the Honda’s 4 cyl going to 2k might just be more noticeable.

        • 0 avatar

          It is the ECUs in most cases, the soldering gets old and they throw a code. Luckily my LX was spared of ABS so I didnt get any nagging lights.

          “That’s a very standard warm-up procedure on I think every single car I can think of”
          I’ve yet to own another car with a pulsating idle each cold start.

          • 0 avatar

            “I’ve yet to own another car with a pulsating idle each cold start.”

            No but you have owned cars where it will run an elevated idle at start up to help heat up the cats to lower emissions, that is absolutely standard across the board on anything fuel injected with catalytic converters.

            First it was a complaint about revving up and sitting at 2krpm for a minute (normal, especially in the cold). Now it’s a pulsing idle. Which is it?

          • 0 avatar

            My 2017 Mazda6 has pulsating tach. It goes up on cold start as usual. Then goes down. At that moment it goes a bit up or down (couple millimeters or 25 rpm), then its stabilizes. I refuse to worry. I bought car to enjoy and not other way around

          • 0 avatar

            It was inconsistent, sometimes it’d hold and sometimes it’d pulsate.

            Unlike most of my other cars this one had a “Fast Idle Throttle Valve” that typically wears out, the valve gets stuck and causes weird cold start symptoms. Unlike previous F22 iterations this ones buried deep within the engine, however its a one year only thing thankfully.

            Even then the biggest issue with that car was the rust around windshield frame. I should’ve paid more attention when I was car shopping!

    • 0 avatar

      See, they know something you don’t know…that nothing ever goes wrong with Toyotas and Hondas. Educate yourself.

  • avatar

    My two worst cars were VWs.

    The first was a 1981 Dasher diesel. Mercifully, I lived across the street from a good German repair shop whose mechanic I befriended, which saved me from insolvency. The car didn’t produce enough HP to support the AC, which caused the car wagon to stall out when the lever was shifted to blue. Erratic fusebox meant sometimes the car would not start, only to cooperate minutes later. When it rained the passenger floorwell filled with water. The fuel tank grew algae and clogged the injection- removed the tank twice for cleaning only to have it recur. It was cinnamon red and I loved that car anyway.
    Twenty years later I bought a 2003 Passat 1.8T as a starter for my son. That car was a true failure in every respect- the leather seats were shot, the control arms were replaced twice, the heater core was clogged, the sunroof leaked, the oil pump leaked. I finally traded it in for $1200.
    In spite of all this, I’d still consider another VAG car, maybe a GTI. Hope springs eternal.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t you know that heater cores are considered regular maintenance items by VW? All you have to do is remove the entire interior and dashboard (check out Audi B5 gen instructions)

  • avatar

    2002 Mini Cooper S. Oh let me count the ways. 1) Passenger side curtain airbag connector failed at connecting, 2) keyless entry receiver failed at receiving, 3) driver’s side seatbelt sensor connector, 4) crank position sensor 5) CV joint boot split, 6) broke 4 sway bar links (all OEM), 7) a shift cable broke, but first was loose allowing me to only engage odd-numbered gears, 8) ABS control module needed replacing, 9) sunroof leaked, 10) drivers side power window motor failed 11) heated seats wouldn’t heat (I live in WI), 12) rust around rear tail light, 13) top plates of the suspension struts deformed, 14) flywheel cracked, 15) coolant leak from a cracked inlet hose connection, 16) OIL LEAKS!

    But damn if that Iron-Man repulser sound coming from the screaming supercharger wasn’t intoxicating.

    • 0 avatar

      My wife – bless her soul – is still daily driving a 2003 Mini Cooper S. It’s leaving a nice oil slick on my driveway (bad oil pan gasket). She swears she is going to bring it in “soon” to have it fixed. It’s her “baby” and her money, but I’m the one who ends up having to check/add extra oil so the engine won’t go.

      Still a fun car to drive – as you said, that supercharger whine is addicting.

      Ours was bought used and came with a very thick stack of repair receipts. The car has actually, minus the eating of wheel sensors, been reliable. It always starts and gets you there (all while leaving a trail of oil so you can find your way home.)

      Hoping to replace it but she won’t budge.

    • 0 avatar

      My neighbor has a Mini Cooper convertible and she would love nothing more than to roll a grenade under it. It has been nothing but trouble for her.

  • avatar

    1999 Dodge Caravan.

    Everything seemed to break on that thing after 100k kms. Before it was written off in an accident (blessing in disguise) it used to quit randomly at stop signs. Usually it quit after driving on the highway for a half hour and stopping at the end of an off ram. No one could figure out why.

    I dumped so much money into that van, I should have just sold it and put the money into a payment on a new van instead.

    The Mazda MPV that replaced it was much more reliable. Well, except for it being a rust magnet.

  • avatar

    1. 1987 Chrysler Le Baron. That thing was breaking monthly. I just had to sell it because I couldn’t take it anymore.

    2. 1987 Mercury Sable. Engine and transmission worked fine. But everything else that was mechanical and was attached to the engine or body, every pump and cylinder, was broken or leaked.

  • avatar

    2004 Passat 1.8T automatic

    Bought CPO at 33k, sold at 166k. Between those miles, we experienced the following:

    1. backlight on the HVAC dials worked intermittently
    2. the car developed a stutter under load going up hills on the highway. we never attempted to resolve the issue because it was so intermittent.
    3. rear window regulator crapped out
    4. oil filter coolant flange failed, mixing and ultimately puking a sludgy oil/coolant mixture on the highway
    5. the next day after the expensive repair for #4, the ET sprung a leak and emptied itself at the gas station.
    6. after the subsequent ET repair in #5, the car was still losing coolant VERY slowly. Turns out the coolant flange at the back of the engine was leaking. $20 part, a full weekend of DIY to replace. Never again!
    7. the infamous coil packs. They went out one by one. The dealer took care of it, but would only replace the coil pack that failed. Replace bad coil pack, wait for next coil pack to fail, go to dealer, repeat. Frustrating!
    8. the window would rattle in the door frame on cold days when standing at idle.

    Annoying but not reliability issues:
    -removing the belly pan to change the oil and the oil filter location were a total hassle
    -if you put the car in park with the engine running, removed your seat belt, opened the trunk and got out, you were greeted with a trio of shrill warning chimes.

    Other than all that – it was a great car!

    • 0 avatar

      Hahaha! Love the VAG picture at the top. So appropriate.

      My most unreliable car was a 2004 VW passat 2.8. Among the many unplanned failures were;

      (1) 2 alternators crapping out in 50,000 miles. Replacing them is a PITA.
      (2) Many A/C system equipment failures (viscous coupling, modules, etc)
      (3) The infamous cam chain tensioner seals – all leaking at 50K miles.
      (4) Needing to replace that stupid timing belt/water pump every 60K miles for $1100+, unless you felt like spending all day taking the front of the car off – which I did.
      (5) The front suspension, which aggravates me so much that I’m probably going to turn into a large centipede out of rage.
      (6) window regulators….
      (7) catalytic converters grenading spontaneously at 70,000
      (8) coolant temp sensor going bad at 50K – not too bad though.

      Other than that it was a fun car to drive.

      I dumped the car on an unsuspecting sucker a few months ago. So happy that I don’t need to worry about the next $1000 part grenading.

  • avatar

    I know that my friend would definitely claim that recently mentioned Honda Passport was the worst ever

  • avatar

    83 Escort. Yes it was used, but it put a hurting on my early college age Bank account. And it was truly “unreliable”, not today’s “unreliable” that’s an interpretation of a survey regarding Infotainment user friendliness. With that car it was always a crap shoot if it would start, then how long would it continue to run after you started it, and if you shut it off would it start again? Car let me down so many times. Bought a same model year Civic with 100k on it, and drove it another 105k on nothing but gas, oil changes, tires, a timing belt and water pump, and 2 or 3 mufflers.

  • avatar

    2006 Nissan Frontier. Every time I turn the key I wonder if it’s going to start. I want to get rid of it yesterday, but I keep having to buy parts and fix things that would make it difficult to sell.

  • avatar

    I had to think back on this and it’s probably the 1993 Taurus I had. Got it for a song from my dad’s company (he used it as a company car from new) and it seemed like a good deal…145,000 miles, but virtually all highway, and all maintenance done on time as required because my dad is delightfully anal.

    Between 145k and the 190k it had on it when I sold it, I had to replace an engine mount, the radiator (which split on the street), and a piece of the rear suspension that physically sheared and stared banging around corners (looking at diagrams, I think it was a tension strut. I also lost the water pump while 500 miles from home and had to have that and the belt tensioner replaced before I could start home. That one also cost me and extra night in a hotel room and I was pretty broke at the time. Also went through numerous headlight bulbs on that one. Sold it to a guy for $800 or so and he used it as a rural commuter and ran it up to 225k before it exploded road side and was hauled off.

    However, the one that pisses me off the most was my 2009 MKZ. Grenaded the AC compressor and spent nearly $1,100 to have the entire system replaced, then a few months later lost the water pump and traded it rather than saying yes to the nearly $2,000 estimate the dealer drew up. So much for the Fusion/MKZ reputation for reliability.

    • 0 avatar

      I hate to be predictive, but in 190k, a radiator, water pump, strut and engine mount isn’t bad.

      I was honestly expecting to hear of a 3.8L blowing head gaskets every two years, while the transmission failed the years the head gasket didn’t. There were plenty that were total junk, usually because of that engine and the weak trans it was attached to. I’d say you got by pretty well. The issues you had wouldn’t be unusual on any car of the same/similar mileage (145k-190k).

      My 1993 had some issues, but it had ~300k on it when I sold it. It had the 3.0L, like my 1995. The 1995 now has over 230k, still going strong. Yes, the water pump has been replaced, and I just replaced a motor mount a couple of weeks ago, along with some other similar stuff like subframe mounts, which weren’t necessarily broken, but were quite aged and easy to change while doing other work, as well as pretty cheap. Changed out the factory front struts/springs last year, just got the rear set that I’m going to do here real soon. Again, nothing catastrophic, nor unusual considering its age and mileage.

  • avatar

    2001 SAAB 9-3 Aero
    My love for Saab cars lead me to swap my somewhat expensive to run 2008 Turbo X for a smart Aero Convertible (EU model, you know, the one with the big Viggen bumpers…). I must recognize it was not the best idea I had…
    Shortly after the purchase, I had to replace all the sparks plus ignition cassette in order the car to run smoothly. Every week or so, the check engine light came on, due to some air leaks in the intake circuit. Minor issue, yes, but after a few visits to the dealer for an OBD reset, I gave up…and the light was most of the time on… After this, there were some hiccups at idle or when the cruise control was on. After a proper diagnosis at the dealer, they found that it was caused by the electronic throttle unit. The repair was a little south of $1000… Never fixed it…
    Minor oil leaks everywhere on the engine? Well, besides the fact the car smelled like an old tractor when hot, it was not something to worry about… And it prevented the car to rust…
    But the epitome of all of this happened when the oil pump chain broke… Not knowing what happened, I drove to my house a few miles ahead…and towed the Saab to the dealer. Up there, the engine was disassembled, all the parts stored in the trunk and the car parked far, far away on the dealer lot (near the old cars about to be sold at wholesale…). The dealer was sorry about my situation, and had no solution but replacing the engine…
    So I decided to DIY the repairs…Timing chain: Done. Oil pump chain: Done. Parts damaged by the broken chain: Done. Turbocharger: Done, too… Unbelievably, the car worked again after this, and I quickly sold it as a trade-in for a few bucks… It was my second and last Saab…

  • avatar

    To answer this I have to go way back and break the rules. The most reliable car I ever owned was a 1964ish Pontiac Executive, which I think was a kind of Bonneville. It was a beautiful car, started easily, ran well, and it was my first car that had an actual interior. Also, without fail, the starter would fail, every three months. I got extremely good at replacing them. Once I even let a mechanic put one in and adjust the shims. Still, three months. I still don’t know why it happened.

    I could also mention my 2005 Jaguar S-Type, but then I would have to talk about the unreliable dealer, which now that I think about them, were a lot like that starter.

  • avatar

    My first 2 VWs were great, my 3rd one was disastrous. Later on in my life as I learned more, I started to wonder if it was a really well cleaned flood car or something. The most random electrical faults, and it would be a different fault every day it seemed like. Some examples: it would die like the fuel pump was going, but then be electrically dead. The alternator light would come on, but it would test as perfect. The lights would flicker and dim but the battery was new. A few times it just shut off as if I turned the key off. But in all of these examples it would restart later so I could never track it down.

  • avatar

    My 1973 Fiat 128SL

    I see a lot of people complaining about the reliability of cars that were well-used by the time they bought them. Let me tell you about a car that I bought brand new, straight from the show room. It happened many, many years ago, but it was a car I’ll never forget – a 1973 Fiat 128SL. What a love/hate affair!

    The good: The Fiat was fun to drive, looked sporty, and got great gas mileage.

    The bad: Front brake pads wore out at 7,000 miles. Clutch cable snapped every 15,000 miles. Transmission locked out of gear and wheel bearings wore out around 35,000 miles. Wheel jack scraped the body of the car. Door locks froze in the winter. Stitching on the seats popped open, not only in the front seat, but also the rear where nobody ever sat.

    And it’s best trick of all: the engine would conk out for no apparent reason, making it necessary to push the car off to the side of the road. It would do this at random, and then restart after about an hour of waiting. This happened three or four times. One time, it did it on the Pulaski Skyway in New Jersey – not a fun place to stall. Nobody could figure it out.

    After 42,000 miles and 3 years of ownership, I traded it in on a new Buick (!) that gave me 190,000 relatively trouble-free miles.

  • avatar

    Hands down, my ’78 Audi Fox. Bought new in September, 1978, it made it four months before it needed a new warm-up regulator, thermo-time switch, and fuel pressure regulator (Bosch K-Jet injection). It spent five weeks in the shop then, because the tow truck (back in ye olden days before flatbed wreckers) towed it from the back, destroying the automatic transaxle, which had to be replaced by a new one air freighted from West Germany. This set the towing company’s insurance back $2500 (1979 dollars).

    A little more than a year after that it was a new fuel distributor ($300 for a dealer reman part in 1980 dollars), and also later a fuel pump (~$120, also in 1980 dollars), and various electrical problems like repairs behind the fuse block, and other issues. I owned it for a little over three years and 49,000 miles, and was happy to get rid of it.

  • avatar

    It never left me stranded, but the worst new car I ever had was a 1996 Pontiac Sunfire. It was the second model year for this car and the bugs still had not been worked out.

    – All plastics inside broke at one time or another
    – The horn didn’t work the day I drove it off the lot
    – The passenger mirror would not stay in its adjusted space
    – The motor continuous produced carbon that would cause engine knock
    – The gauge cluster died
    – The bumpers on the trunk lid stripped the paint due to poor finish causing rust to start after year 1
    – The manual transmission failed to shift into 3 most of the time
    – The door design was not friendly to cold Canadian winters causing me to be stuck inside and forcing me to shoulder check the door so that I could exit the vehicle
    – The seat fabric wore out on the driver seat after 1 year and 20000 KM
    – The headlights would turn on individually at separate times when I flipped the headlight switch

    yeah I guess this was not near as bad as most people… but for a new car I think this was terrible.

    • 0 avatar

      oh and not to mention the numerous rattles and squeaks, continuous vehicle recalls, and minor electrical gremlins….. this car was a hot mess. Broke the lease with 9 months left to go.

  • avatar

    It was a surprise, but our 2015 Honda Fit. We bought it brand-new primarily due the Honda promise of reliability and resale, and it disappointed us in so many ways.

    In the 18 months and 5k miles we owned it, it went to the shop over 12 times. Most of the issues were trim (the rear hatch trim broke off, the bumpers would sag, a sagging headliner, and the taillights filled with water), some were quite comical (the fuel gauge that couldn’t keep track of…well…the fuel level), some were annoying (a creaking clutch pedal that, despite numerous visits to the dealer, wouldn’t keep quiet), and some couldn’t be repaired (rattles in the hatch and driver’s door). It also had to be towed away in the first month after a defective alternator.

    Basically, a miserable little car with quality that would shame a Soviet era car. We’re very gentle on our cars and this one still had defects. Luckily, the Honda resale came through, and we sold it with very little loss.

    Second honors go to the 1995 Ford Aspire that I had in college and bought in 2000. To be fair to that car, it must’ve had a pretty hard life with its original owner. Despite looking very tidy and in good shape, the last owner must’ve abused it and the engine in it was a replacement with unknown miles. It was continually in the shop almost every month for a mechanical issue

  • avatar

    1976 Alfa Romeo, Alfetta GT. A great car to drive, but something would fail on a weekly basis.

  • avatar

    It is a tie between my ’99 Saab 9-3 and a 2002 Buick Regal GS.

    The Saab had the usual DI Cassette issues, but I just learned to keep an extra one in the trunk, along with rusted out power steering hoses, all kinds of electrical gremlins, dying dot-matrix screens, etc. It was fun when it was running and was a beast in New England winters with Bilzzaks on it.

    The Regal had the usual 3800 issues with intake manifold gaskets, but also blew the head gasket and the transmission simultaneously while coming up an on-ramp.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    That 2011 BMW X5. I can’t find the service records, but it went to the dealership in excess of 25 times across the four months I owned it. I had almost worked through BMW’s entire contemporary portfolio of products…as service loaners.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Corey, some of the other posters are correct, this could be severed into multiple questions.

    Most unreliable new car. Nearly new car. Beater.
    Then reliability may also be subjective. For people like my mother, who only buy new and would never open their own hood, it would mean number of times it had to go to the shop/experienced recalls. For others it would mean the amount of repairs required. For others the number of times that it left them stranded.

    A couple of weeks of QOTD?

  • avatar

    Easy and by a long shot….

    1977 Mercury Grand Marquis. (car was about 8-9 years old when purchased), 77K miles when purchased

    First car I ever purchased.. First two were family leftovers, still own one “leftover”

    Purchase price: $2K, sold four years later: $750. Total miles driven: approximately 10K

    Replaced during Owner suffer-ship:

    Heads (on old engine)
    Rear Axle
    A/C System
    Carburetor (at least 4 times)
    Exhaust System (3-4 times due to backfires)
    Coil Springs & Shocks
    Motor Mounts (several times)
    Transmission Mount (at least twice)
    Alternator (1-2 times)
    Electrical issues
    And I’m sure I’m missing some…


    Would consume almost a 1/4 tank (not leak) in a 20 mile trip. (460ci)

    Spent 6 months of the four years sitting trying to replace engine.

    Spent in excess of $5,000 just to keep running.

    Running joke was… “Flip a coin, heads it won’t make it there, Tails it won’t make it back”

    AND BEFORE YOU SAY IT, it was never raced or horsed on. I was too afraid it would break.

    It fit the Ford motto:

    “Fix Or Repair Daily”
    “Found On the Road Dead”

  • avatar

    1980 Chevette, a complete and totally uninspired dog cart.

    Close behind was a 1992 Ford Mustang LX 5.0 litre convertible – I actually filed a lemon-law case against Ford and won.

  • avatar

    2004 TDI Golf. I don’t think it was especially unreliable on the spectrum of unreliability, but just required the most repairs over the course of the 11 years I owned it. The radio died, and I got to the dealership with 10 miles left on my warranty, so it was replaced. Loads of recalls over the years. The moonroof drainage system leaked into my passenger-side footwell, and would never dry out. Luckily, I was friends with my mechanic and he took care of it for a case of beer. The biggest problem was when the turbo blew in the middle of a road trip, and I couldn’t get above 60 mph until I reached my destination and put it in the shop. They rebuilt it to the tune of about $700, but I had to rent an HHR for a few days, and I felt incredibly embarrassed as I drove it to my new job.

    • 0 avatar

      Over 11 years and untold miles, the radio went, sunroof drains clogged up and it lost its turbo – ?

      I dunno…? Depending upon mileage, that ranges anywhere from about average to pretty good.

  • avatar

    Friends, drivers, enthusiasts, give me your ears. I have come here to bury C3, not to praise him.

    My C3 Audi 100 was actually quite reliable until electrical gremlins started to infest the fuel delivery systems (oh and the bomb light kept going on). Never left me stranded, even the time the alternator belt broke while driving and I slowly saw the interior lights dim as I drained the battery and sped home beating the total drain. For $1,000 and never being legally inspected, I thought four years was good for it. I miss her. One day…

    My 5.0 Townie was reliable from the drivetrain standpoint, it just left me car poor being an otherwise POS.

    Come to think of it, I’ve never owned a truly unreliable car in terms of starts and drives. Closest was the Volvo which broke down four times in about eight weeks, but a camshaft pos sensor and she never failed again. Well till the motor had issues and I had to dump her… although she still started and drove just noisily.

    Even the POS Dodge Shadow I had in 1998 started and drove, it just fell apart while driving.

    • 0 avatar

      You had a 240 right? What happened with the engine?

      With my 240s it was always interior parts breaking or falling off on a weekly basis.
      And yet my most untrustworthy Volvo was a 740 turbo.

      Much piston slap, suspension knocking, interior falling apart (headliner, glovebox), steam boiler noises from behind the dash. It did get me to and from but at 197k it was just done (Maybe 300k if I put 3k into it).

      • 0 avatar

        Motor blew, I can’t recall exactly what happened at the moment. I think it was a piston. Most disappointed. Needed too much recon which was not worth doing given its valuation and my use in the new job. Sad day.

  • avatar

    Great blog, as we love to kick certain brand names in the face. Repeatedly, now against VW and GM. But this story is aged, in the malaise era. Concerning the 1977 1st generation VW Golf and an early generation of the Buick Regal GNX, the carbureted, non-intercooled version from 1983. Both easily the worst I’ve ever had. Both died early, passed on to other family members who also suffered relentless ills like me. The Golf died when it puked up all it’s water, and the Regal T-Type died from engine failure when being given to my nephew.

    Thank the lord that era is over, as my next GM car was one of the best ever, a front driver “A” body. Purchased cheap at a fleet auction after driving the brood as a company car.

    Won’t EVER go back to the VW group, though. Too many memories to overcome without the opportunity of a good experience to lead the way.

  • avatar

    My 89 Chevy Beretta:
    1. Door fell off
    2. Driver’s seat broke
    3. Paint flaked off
    4. Random stalling problem
    Granted all were fixed under warranty or “silent” recall – but it still was a lot.
    Final straw was when one of the head gaskets in the V6 went. I sold it to a Cash for Cars place.

    And yet – I still liked the car – crazy.

  • avatar

    Clearly an age-based demographic here: where are the Fiats?

    Mine was a two year old 1975 128. In less than 20 months, under 25k miles total on car:

    1) 2 clutch cables
    2) windshield water leak leaving a goldfish bowl on the shelf just under the dash
    3) ruptured fuel line to the carb (at 2 years of age, hidden under the air cleaner. How I avoided vehicular BBQ is entirely unclear
    4) 2 rotted rear wheel cylinders
    5) seals blown in master brake cylinder, requiring replacement
    6) fuel filler hose to tank leaking
    7) At least 1 CV joint and wheel bearing (don’t recall offhand if I had to do a second, probably not).
    8) Near dead synchronizer between 2nd and 3d in 4 speed manual (not replaced)

    And undoubtedly stuff I’m forgetting…

  • avatar

    1955 VW Bug. what a POS.

  • avatar
    Rob Cupples

    1. Fiat Strada (78??) owned in early 80’s. My dad bought it and it was the first car ever registered in my name. I learned a lot about crawling through junkyards to find spare parts and realized I loved driving but I was never going to be a mechanic. Apparently Fiat didn’t warehouse any spare parts in the USA back then for when I really needed something I couldn’t find in the junkyard it had to get ordered from Italy. A few years later the Yugo came out and I was astonished. It was basically the same car selling for new for a few thousand less.

    2. Nissan Juke (2012). A recall over the timing chain spooked me. The AC stopped working early on. A pin hole leak. It sat in the shop for days. The entire dash had to be removed to get at it. The dealer damaged the dash so bad with tool marks they agreed to replace the dash which had it sitting in the shop for 3 more days. I will save the rest of it but it currently reeks of gas from time to time coming through the vents but the dealer can’t find anything wrong with it. I’m contemplating giving up and trading it in.

  • avatar

    Backed in 1974 I traded I traded a base model 70 Camaro 307 cu. in. automatic for a 69 Mercury Marquis 2 door, 429 4bbl. At one point I had to take a bank loan out to pay for repairs. That would be the very worst vehicle I ever owned .

    Second place would need to go to the 89 S15 4×4 Long box… I saved up O.T. money and paid cash. Brand new with 6 KLM’s on the odometer .

    Paint delamination set in within a year. Sway bar mount / bushings were next, followed by the transmission. The list goes on. I drove it for nine years and hated it more everyday .

    Third place would be a used 2000 Firebird convertible. I bought it because I knew how good the 3800 engine could be. The 3800 was excellent, the rest of the car was piece of $hit.


  • avatar

    I had several but two of the worst were BMW’s…

    I was intoxicated by the looks of the blue 2002 Z 3 with matching blue hardtop. I had just sold my 06 Corvette purchased new, but sold it 6 years later for seed money for a detached garage. But the Sports Car bug already had me in it’s grasp, so I immediately began looking for a cheap replacement. The Z 3 fit the bill for me, even though it had 90 K miles on the clock. My wife had owned a 2005 E 46 325i Sport and it had been perfect for 5 years before selling it, so I had some BMW ownership experience.

    First thing I noticed after shelling out 8600 dollars cash was an oil leak the previous owner said he had fixed. It got so bad I couldn’t drive it without the embarrassing myself at stop lights with the odor of burning oil coming off the exhaust. Finally, I traced the leak to the valve cover, seemingly coming from the lower rear part of the cover. I ordered new parts, including oil filter, oil, gasket and seal assembly, nearly 300 dollars worth of stuff, and changed out the gasket and seals. Thought I had it licked, but only a couple hundred miles later, the same odor struck my nostrils. Thinking perhaps I had screwed up getting the gasket straight, I tore into it again just to see, but nope, gasket had sealed. Replaced the gasket again, inspected the plastic valve cover for cracks, and having found none with the naked eye, put it back together. Same issue…replaced oil pan gasket, same issue. Took it to a friend’s shop who suggested doing a “smoke” test. Smoke test showed a hairline crack in the valve cover. 500 dollars later I had a new valve cover, and oil leak was fixed….but then other issues ensued…fuel delivery, air intake, alternator, right seat air bag glitch, battery replacement, and tires, all within less than 10,000 miles of driving. Had to call AAA twice due to electrical and fuel issue. Had fuel, just wouldn’t pump, so fuel pump replaced. In two years, I barely put 10 K miles on the car, and spent over 2000. I sold it after all was fixed for 7 K dollars. I loved the looks, but my wife and my wallet hated that car.

    I sold that car to young man in Murray, KY, and delivered it to him on a trailer from Dallas area. I ate the costs of delivery. While I was delivering that car in KY, I was going to look at a 2009 JCW Mini Cooper with only 64 K miles. Made that trip to Chattanooga pulling my empty trailer. Talked to the older gentleman who owned the car, test drove it, looked it over carefully, made the deal, and loaded it onto the trailer and headed for Dallas. Total trip was right at 2000 miles. Cost of trip, including motel, was approximately 600 dollars. Unfortunately, that Mini Cooper proved to be my second worst ever car…

    I sold it after 3 years ownership and driving it less that 5000 miles.I made a trip to Lexington, KY with it a week or so after I bought it, after looking it over, changing the oil and filter, and purchasing new Continental DW performance tires for it. Drove very well on the 940 mile trip, and the subsequent 250 miles after I got there. On the way back to Dallas just as I was exiting I 40 onto I 430 bypass, the check engine light flashed on. I got off at the next exit, and could smell coolant. I went inside the Shell gas station I had pulled into and purchased a gallon of coolant. After it cooled a bit, removed the filler cap and to my surprise, it only took less than a quart to fill it. Fired it up, and the CEL was off…for about 5 miles. Pulled off again after getting on to I 30, again sat there and allowed it to cool for 40 minutes, again topped off with coolant, less than half quart this time, and made it to the Walmart parking lot another 10 miles away, when the CEL had appeared again. I had a tool box with me, so I found my DRB tool, hooked it to the connector and the code was indeed overheating, but did not give me a specific. I assumed it had a failed water pump or worse, head gasket issue, so I called AAA to see how much further they would haul my car. They agreed to take me approximately 120 miles further west to Texarkana. I called a friend, at 8 PM, who agreed to drive 30 miles from his home to mine, pick up my truck and trailer, and make the 200 plus mile trip to pick me up. At midnight we were loading the car onto the trailer, and headed home. Thank God for good friends.

    The problem turned out to be not so much of a problem at all. With the proper DRB, it showed the coolant temp sending unit was bad. So I could have driven it home safely enough I suppose. I wish I could say that was the only issues I had with that car, but again, oil leaks, and many mechanical issues later, plus a couple thousand dollars in repairs, it was finally a worthy car. Worthy enough that I sold it to a friend who is still driving it without issues. Given the 9500 I paid for it, and the upwards of 4000 dollars in repairs, some of it maintenance, I got out of it just a few dollars over half of what I paid and spent on it in two years. I had driven it less than 6000 miles in 2.5 years…

    I went to my local Ford dealer shortly thereafter and purchased a new 2017 Focus ST base…loving it so far…

  • avatar

    97 Volvo 850GLE. It seemed like every system was doomed to failure – PCV, HVAC, lighting, instruments, seats. The HVAC system even had a fault-code indicator light on the dash, which really indicated how little faith Volvo itself had in the car. My Toyotas have been reliable, but I have to qualify that – my 90 Cressida was phenomenal, but it had the 7MGE engine with the faulty head gasket (twice on my car). My Lexus GS400 is stone reliable, yet, needs a starter every 2-3 years and the front suspension parts don’t seem to last. I think I will stay with Lexus, but will choose which models carefully.

    • 0 avatar

      Front suspension was an area that caused trouble for Lexus during the Toyota cost-cutting era. The first LS460s all had weak front control arm bushings (on no fewer than 8 arms) that usually failed within a few years, even at low mileage. They addressed the issue for 2011 and I spent quite a lot of money putting the 2011+ parts on my 2008, which had failed bushings at only 44k miles.

      Other than those bushings, I’ve only had to do routine maintenance (fluid changes, rear brakes, and a water pump).

    • 0 avatar

      I hear yah on the Volvo 850, mine was reliable I suppose but the CEL light seemed to be permanently on (many garage trips to a Euro-specialist could not cure it), the interior was trash, the only good thing on the car was the sturdy body.

      What makes the 850 even better is just how many basic things Volvo screwed up, door stops? Those break often! Headliner/Interior? Straight outta 1980-era GM. Heck even the dipsticks had a knack for separating at the handle and the stick! Oh yes, then theres the T5 rims that like to break, yes Volvo goofed up an invention as old as the wheel!

      Frankly I think a Saab would’ve been a better choice over my 850.

    • 0 avatar

      My parents had a ’99 S70 for 140K miles (it was totaled). We never had ETM or HVAC issues like every other 850/x70, but the radio “froze” after the car was parked at BOS’s economy lot a few days one winter, with the power, volume, and tuning buttons non-functional, leaving it blaring marching band music at 1 AM from whatever college radio station it was set to. Fortunately it reset itself. Also, I remember the driver’s door sensor wearing out, causing the interior lights to turn on and the door chime to blast going around corners. It used some oil at the end as well. Other than that, it was fairly reliable, but many (most?) weren’t.

  • avatar

    I have to add in my 2009 MINI Clubman – which is still in my fleet but is now in beater status. Bought two years ago for $8200 with only 56k miles on the clock. I thought I was getting a super deal.

    – water leak from the roof There is a rubber hose connector from the sunscreen drain down to a metal line that got bumped off, A 2 cent zip tie would have kept it in place but no, just pressure fitted. That water got into the fuse box causing a whole bunch of Lucas inspired trouble – dimming headlights, interior lights that randomly flashed off and on, random turn signals). I fixed it myself with a 2 cent ziptie.

    .”loose” spark plugs
    .water pump needed replacement at 60k miles
    .1.6L Prince engine consumes a quart of oil every 1000 miles – and the low oil light will only go off when there is nearly no oil at all in the system.
    .random power loss that just went away on its own. Bad tank of gas?
    .windshield cracked due to a pothole

    Amazingly I haven’t had to replace the timing chain. I assume the previous owner had it done – based on the CarFax there was a long time spent at the nearby BMW dealership.

    I would love to get rid of it – but I wouldn’t get its worth versus what remains on the loan and I already have another loan out there on a third vehicle. So it mostly sits – as a reminder of my own folly.

  • avatar

    2007 BMW X5 Straight-Six on a three year lease.
    Electronic Gremlins with the dozens of computers and miles of wiring in it. Multiple instances of the car popping out of gear and/or dying while driving. I’m not sure of the exact failure because my Wife drove it. Multiple electronics replaced and it stopped happening… but I don’t trust Bavarian electronics. Every old american and japanese car I drove was trustworthy and dependable.

  • avatar

    1998 Ford Contour SE V6 with 6MT. First new car. A blast to drive. Everything engine/electrical/electronic was broken ALL the time. Paid extra for ABS. Module failed after 4 years. They wanted $2k to replace in 2002, with car worth $3500. Went from a CR recommended model to a CR “used car to avoid” in 6 years.

  • avatar

    2013 Ford Fiesta

    Powershift transmission……need I say more. Actually, that’s the only thing I had go wrong with it

    Purchased used with 10K miles on it, Trans started slipping at 20K. Dealer replaced the seal that goes bad on them. 25K miles, the recently repaired Trans starts grinding inside of it. Dealer replaces recently repaired transmission.

    At 29K the new transmission starts grinding itself to death, dealer says needs another trans.

    Traded in to Carmax for my wife’s 2014 Encore, which isn’t the picture of reliabliy.

  • avatar

    First Place: 1998 Pontiac TranSport Montana
    Second Place: 1993 Subaru Legacy L

  • avatar

    My 1989 Taurus SHO. Bought in questionable condition with 68k miles, (I later found out) on its fourth clutch. I’m bullheaded enough that I kept it for nearly seven years and 100,000 miles. During that time:

    – A manual transmission failed (a rare occurrence).
    – Every single engine accessory failed, several twice.
    – Power window switches were eaten like candy (oddly, no regulators failed).
    – The clutch survived fine (still proud of this as they are notoriously weak).

  • avatar

    If this includes used cars, then my namesake vehicle (87 AMC Jeep Grand Wagoneer) easily takes the cake. Something would go wrong every.single.week. The powertrain was solid; that’s about it. The good news was that I could fix damn near everything with just a screwdriver and a 1/2″ wrench. The bad news was being a regular roadside fixture while making all these repairs. More good news: unloaded it at a profit when I’d finally had enough.

    New vehicles: the pair of Saturns (94 & 95 SL1’s), hands down. Both had catastrophic powertrain failures within 30K. And I took a bath unloading these dogs. SAD!

  • avatar

    I kind of wish you had specified new vs. old or something like that.

    I hear folk’s apocryphal stories about their cars being total junk and then find out these are used cars that are 10 years old and have 200K on them. At that point, you’re totally held hostage by the previous owners’ habits. It’s a roll of the dice.

    For me, I will stick to new cars that I was paying a note on. My 1980 Mercury Capri RS turbo, 1983 Pontiac Trans Am WS6, 1985 Mercury Capri RS 5.0L and my 2004 Pontiac Aztek Rally were unreliable and expensive cars to own. I had a 1987 Dodge Lancer ES turbo and a Dodge Dakota SLT that both left me stranded, but both were due to an ignition module puking.
    Otherwise those cars were fine to average reliability.

    I’m not mentioning other new cars that I bought that were average, at worst.

  • avatar

    Brand new 1978 Triumph Spitfire.
    After owning numerous used sports cars, VWs, etc. I decided on a new Spitfire. Things started going wrong soon. Lights failed, shocks leaked, paint flaked off, trim pieces fell off, upholstery fell apart, battery failed, window crank came off, and more I am forgetting. It all came to an end at about 22,000 miles when part of the smog control caught fire and burned the car. Sigh.

  • avatar

    ’83 Buick Century coupe, bought at 8 years old and 65,000 miles from the proverbial little old lady. Sunroof leaked and nobody was able to fix it, gas mileage was abysmal despite the car being grossly underpowered and slow. At 79,000 miles the transmission went, but the car was in fine shape otherwise so I got it replaced. Then a month later the engine went at 80,000.

    • 0 avatar

      My folks got an ’83 Century T-type sedan new when I was a toddler. With the 3.0 Buick V6 it was okay-ish for performance considering the era, but I remember engine #1 going out when I was in grade school & #2 was toast almost exactly when I started freshman year of high school in 1995. I always thought it would have been better off with the corporate 2.8 or the Buick 3.8 instead of having a weird camshaft-eating variant of the 3.8.

  • avatar

    The least reliable so far has been my 2006 Ranger that I bought in 2010 and I still have it. Nothing catastrophic yet, but multiple small things that add up.

    I had to replace the blower fan’s resistors and its wiring harness, blend door actuator and now the blower motor itself is making noises, probably on its way out.

    Had to replace some O2 sensors.

    Had to replace some interior trim parts because screws disappeared. The headliner sags in many places.

    Replaced the tailgate handle. Why do they make such handles in PLASTIC ? The door handles are also made this way and I fear breaking them every time I have to pull hard to open the door like after an icestorm which is common here.

    Replaced front shocks and link kits. One link kit disappeared at some time. Handling is already so bad I didn’t notice it until seasonal tires change.

    Wheel seal (don’t know the exact name for this part) failed, leading to an oily rear drum brake.

    Diff seal failed.

    Transmission : there was a shudder when the transmission engaged, or got out of, 5th gear. Fixed (or masked) with an additive. Right now, 6 months later, I have a transmission leak.

    Paint peels in some places.

    Despite being 12 years old, this is my most recent vehicle out of 3 we own and it looks the most tired and worn out despite being just over 60,000 miles and receiving the same level of maintenance as the others.

  • avatar

    I was unable to decide which was worse, so… I am including both.

    Earlier in life, I had a 2004 Mini Cooper, manual. Literally broke down on the side of the road 6x in 1.5 years, all for different reasons. The back hatch leaked. The sunroof never lined up properly. The climate controls would stop working randomly. Everything rattled. At least it was under warranty. See next.

    BUT, if I had to choose which was the worst of my two choices it would be my now (thankfully) sold 2002 Mercedes G500. First year of the US models. 120K miles, and literally every computer is dying, which makes each of the other computers go crazy. I could not reliably drive the car anywhere. Flat bed tows were becoming a routine. So, I replaced the trans computer, engine management computers, and still it would occasionally randomly go into limp mode for no reason. I loved the truck, and if it was reliable I would have been the happiest guy. But, good riddance. $6000 in computers, and… bye!

  • avatar

    1995 Alfa 164 Quadrifoglio. Clearcoat came off, steering rack ($400), electronic struts ($600 per), catalytic converter (Unobtanium), Oil Pressure sensor. And finally, cam drive belt sheared off teeth, jumped timing, and bent 24 valves. $6,800 engine rebuild. That car shit all over me.

    But damn, I loved her. The sound of that engine at full song was pure….sex.

    Hence my still-Alfa avatar. I’d buy a Giulia Quad in a heartbeat.

  • avatar

    My first car was, indeed, an Audi 5000! I had a 1986 5000 CS model with a stick shift. I only owned it 2 years (from 1991 through 1993) and 20k miles and got away without too much trouble. I think it had about 65k miles when I bought. I really liked that car, actually. It had the leather seats with suede (alcantara?) inserts. The 5 speed manual had decent feel, was very easy to drive, and bestowed at least a modicum of acceleration and fuel economy (compared to the 3-speed slushbox without lockup).

    I think I paid $5k and got out for $2.5k. (I overpaid originally, for sure.) The only problem requiring fixing was a leaky master cylinder for the brake ($400). I also added new tires (cheap because of their basic size). I think the electronics of the climate control (red LED readout!) had some sort of issue but still worked. I replaced a fiddly metal part in the sunroof to keep that working, the driver side sunshade stayed in the closed position just fine with the application of a rubber band. And I think that was about it!

    No problems with snow. I live in silicon valley.

    Ah… that’s right. I was going to report on fuel economy, but the odometer broke when I was the owner. On one Thanksgiving round-trip from silicon valley to Sacramento, I filled the tank the day before and the day after. Calculated 30 MPG, which is pretty impressive considering that the trip out to Sacramento took 3.5 hours to travel 120 miles in severe traffic.

  • avatar

    A brand new 1981 VW Jetta… a gas burner built in Germany, no less.

    Two words… “Electrical system”.

    Then the electronics in the dash display went on “vacation”… and I couldn’t keep batteries nor alternators in this damn thing!

    No more Euro “imports” and never ever another VW car after that one!!!

  • avatar

    1975 VW Beetle

    Bought as a non-running project car sometime in the 2000s, once it ran it’d stall frequently and refuse to start back up, turns out that whoever removed the fuel injection system left its computer, we bypassed that and the car was okay despite its age.

    Rust was nasty, in VWs wisdom they added rear window vents which scoop up moisture and cause ugly rust bubbles to form up. Replacement parts were a hassle, things like the antennae struggled to fit correctly.

    It wasnt a bad car though, just quite old. At least the interior (as basic as it was) held up, the seats werent torn up like whatever Volvo stuck in my cars as “leather” in the 90s.

    After that I’ve had plenty of other cheap cars, European, American, Japanese, all of them were fairly reliable. Only my beat up Dodge Omni had a major repair with the transmission going out.

  • avatar

    My first car, a 1974 International Scout that I bought for $500. Everything but the drivetrain broke constantly, and I just usually removed the feature from the car.

    A/C leak? Remove the A/C.
    Radio blows fuses constantly? Remove the radio.
    Electric choke problems constantly? Put in a manual choke cable.

    I ended up selling the thing for $2800 though, so I made quite the profit.

  • avatar

    This QOTD is a 5-way or 6-way tie between a raft of German cars owned by me personally or owned within my family.

    1. 1993 VW Passat GLX 2.8L VR6. Where do I begin. At about 40,000 miles the dealer discovered a bit of metal in the oil. Recommended full synthetic. I followed their recommendation. Didn’t matter. Piston rings ate into the cylinder wall. Engine failed at 84,000 miles. Heater core failed and anti-freeze went all over driver side footwell. Transmission problem prevented the transmission from shifting into overdrive. Total nightmare.

    2. 2001 VW GTI GLS 1.8T. Armrest console handle broke the night I got it home. Window actuator failed 2 times in two years of ownership. Coil packs were replaced under warranty after the cars started running roughly. Left rear shock tower would never stay torqued properly. Constantly creaked and groaned when it traveled. I got rid of it as soon as the warranty was out.

    Nuclear/Extended Family Vehicles.

    3. 1999 VW Beetle GLS 2.0 I4. Excessive NVH on every set of tires it ever had. Sunroof rattled out of spec on numerous occasions. Check engine lights constantly. Anti-theft device failure which basically rendered the vehicle inoperative and led to huge repair bills. Interior flaking and peeling on VW new rubberized soft-touch surfaces. Total joke of a car.

    4. 2007 VW Eos 2.0T FSI. Direct injection problems starting at around 50,000 miles. Then the vehicle developed a ridiculous engine management problem that caused it to lurch during coast, and it would occasionally shut off particularly when executing a 1-2mph “California stop”. Nightmare. VW found a way to weasel out of the powertrain warranty because electronic problems are not powertrain. Never mind the damn car won’t drive.

    5. 2009 Mercedes E350 V6. Parasitic electrical losses started about 2 years into ownership. They were never repaired or even correctly diagnosed by dealer. If the car sat longer than about a weak, the battery was toast. Every 2 years the battery would give up the ghost, requiring $800 for new trunk-mounted battery. Turn signals constantly faulted. Maintenance clock never worked properly. It was always making phantom maintenance demands of the routine and emergency genre, though nothing was wrong. Significant black leather seat discoloration caused by sunlight after 3 years of ownership. Post-Chrysler-merger Mercedes yuppie scrap.

    • 0 avatar

      hmmmmm…. do you think the name VW had anything to do with it?

    • 0 avatar

      $800 for the Mercedes battery? Sorry, man, but you got scammed. My parents had a 2004 W211 E320, and the big battery in the trunk was about $300 from the dealer or $200 from Sears. I believe it was an AGM battery. The small motorcycle-type battery under the hood (IIRC, they got rid of it around 2007) was about $150 from the dealer and probably cheaper elsewhere.

  • avatar

    I have owned sixteen Oldsmobiles, five Cadillacs, two Pontiacs (the 2003 Bonneville SLE is on its way to me next week!) and nine Buicks so I have never had an unreliable vehicle!
    Since I only lease newer Rams, Dodges and Chryslers, I never keep them over three years.
    Simple: NO IMPORTS

  • avatar

    Clearly, 1995 Ford Windstar. Got where I knew the tow truck drivers in the area. On a every other year schedule either a head gasket would blow or the transmission would fail. Highlight was when it was parked on our driveway slope due to lack of reverse a UPS truck backed into it–resulting insurance claim paid for that year’s transmission repair!

    Second place 2002 VW Eurovan. Great van up to 100K miles. 100-150K began replacing components regularly, >150K no need for a map light as check engine light was always on for some reason or another = emissions fail in VA.

    • 0 avatar

      All Windstar/Freestar/Montery minivans (and the GM u body minivans) deserve nothing but to be crushed.

      If I was Ford, I’d offer all current (1+ years) owners $5k/off a new Flex or Explorer (+ any other applicable discounts/rebates/incentives), and crush everyone that got traded in.

      • 0 avatar

        This past weekend I was in a Buick Terraza once again.

        That is probably the worst minivan I’ve ever been in.

      • 0 avatar

        “If I was Ford, I’d offer all current (1+ years) owners $5k/off a new Flex or Explorer (+ any other applicable discounts/rebates/incentives), and crush everyone that got traded in.”

        I don’t think you’d have too many takers… the kinds of folks still driving one of those vans is unfortunately most likely not in a position to be buying a $30k+ crossover.

  • avatar

    Worst by far was a 2001 Beetle TDI, but in fairness it was abused by the previous owner. I thought I was getting a good enough deal on it that I could afford to make some repairs and drive it profitably. Not the case.

    Honorable mention has to go to the brand new 2012 GT500 that left me stranded with a bad fuel pump on the second day I owned it.

  • avatar

    My first car: 1988 1/2 Ford Escort LX

    Went through 3 batteries in 2 years ( one blew up)
    Transmission issues that were “fixed” at the dealer but never really addressed
    Random times the engine would cut off on highway speeds( turned out to be a faulty harness in the ECU)
    *side note: learned to work on cars because of that POS

    1999 Ford Ranger XLT extended cab 4×4
    Premature rust everywhere.
    Electrical gremlins from day 1
    Transmission made from glass ( didn’t fail but was well on its way)
    Paint designed to pull away from the body in large sheets
    3.0 engine was generally reliable but surrounding parts not

    A shame because I had a bulletproof ’97 Ranger (2.3l 5 speed) that was ahoy to own and have a 2010 Ranger that is quite nice for what it is.

  • avatar

    Considering their age and mileage (as well as how many miles I got out of them), the most problematic cars I had (in no particular order) were the Chrysler Concorde, Isuzu Hombre (Chevy S10 clone), Chevy Lumina, Oldsmobile Achieva, Toyota Camry and Toyota Tercel.

    The Tercel and Camry left me walking more than once, the rest had their issues but at least got me home (to its credit, the Concorde’s engine died in the driveway as I was pulling in, LMAO). Cars with over 200k are pretty well exempt, because at that mileage, you should expect issues. All listed were far below that point.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh yeah, and a Mazda B2000 Sundowner that sucked my wallet dry and I got 0 use out of. Total pile of garbage.

    • 0 avatar

      What happened with the Camry and Turdcel?

      I had a Tercel myself, I didnt like it much but it was at least reliable once I fixed an electrical drain issue (PO had badly wired up speakers in the back that werent held down by anything).

      • 0 avatar

        It was a 4wd wagon. It refused to start many times, often after stalling (which led to long walks home in the days before cell phones), and finally the 4wd locked in (on its own) once and caused me to lose control and smash it into a rock. That was the second time it had done that, the first I just spun around and brushed a guard rail (a couple days before).

        The Camry would stall and refuse to start, Toyota dealer couldn’t figure it out (left me walking). Neutral start safety switch failed twice (left me walking), the second time I by-passed it. The trans developed a hard 2-3 shift, and it had other little problems that was enough to aggravate me to no end. Once, it broke down in town, I was able to get it to a park-n-ride and had a buddy come pick me up. The next day, someone had tried to steal it, but it wouldn’t start for them (lol) so they just busted the windows out and stole my CDs instead. (The CD player had already been stolen in an unrelated incident.)

        I had used windows put in it and traded it in on a 1990 Ford Festiva (only car out of over 120 I’ve had that I traded in at a dealer), which served me very well, though I ended up relocating and elected not to take it with me, so I sold it to a co-worker for his son-in-law.

        Actually, the first day I had the Festiva, it did stall on me in a heavy rain storm, but the problem was easy and simple, a couple of the plug wires were cracked and $13 later, it was good to go.

        I would still consider a 1990s Tercel as a commuter, preferably a coupe with a manual. I’d even rock a 4 speed stick with vinyl seats lol. Also, the first gen I like too, the ones from 1982 and before (same engine as my ’83, but no 4wd and better styling IMO).

        • 0 avatar

          Just to note, the Camry had the hard 2-3 shift before I bypassed the NSS. The switch was absurdly expensive for that car, as were most parts.

        • 0 avatar

          What you want is a Paseo, basically a pseudo sports-coupe Tercel with wider factory tires and better styling.

          “The switch was absurdly expensive for that car, as were most parts.”

          Thats surprising, I thought they’d be in the middle between domestic and Euro-luxury.

          Was the much praised interior as nice as they say?

    • 0 avatar

      I bought a new Concorde back in 93…one of the best cars I ever had. Other people I knew who had the 3.5 engine, same as mine, had issues. I never did in the 80 K miles we owned it…good all around car for me. I drove it from KY to Florida on vacation a week after buying it…being a completely new design, it garnered a lot of attention…and the black paint shined like a new dime…

  • avatar

    An interesting side question: Did you love it anyway?

    Mine was my first car that could turn, rather than just point in a different direction – a 1984 GTi in white. Original everything, bought with around 19k miles (I was the second owner in 1989 and lived in a pretty small town, hence the low miles).

    That thing was a HOOT to drive, but left me afoot multiple times. Struts froze, the fenders rusted, interior bits just fell off, the A/C did nothing, and the fuel-injection seals blew out. This resulted in a drive across Missouri, in summer, at ~20 miles an hour, as it would only idle in second gear (but bless its heart it did keep running). No cell phone, no cash, roadtrip with my girlfriend, no net.

    As a college car it excelled – excellent in the snow, good mpg, and the Rabbit body held everything I owned plus a full aquarium on the floor. I sold it down to my little brother for his freshman year. He also took it to college…in TEXAS. The insanity. His first car had been an X1/9, so it probably seemed like a Corolla by comparison.

    Each time I see a “MkI GTi Test Drive” on a car site I am AMAZED they have one that still runs and is mostly not rust. I still miss it.

    • 0 avatar

      “excellent in the snow” – I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a movie, but last year’s THE SNOWMAN had a neat-for-enthusiasts flashback snippet where a MK1 Golf police car drives on a snow-covered, rural highway in Norway. No problems whatsoever.

  • avatar

    Saturn ION followed closely by Chevrolet Malibu Maxx. Ion was rattletrap with badly shifting tranny, fall-down headliner and misfiring engine (was declared lemon and returned for refund). Maxx had numerous suspension glitches, front and rear: stuck with it 5 years until switch to Subarus.

  • avatar

    1998 Ford Contour V6 M5.
    Pleasant to drive back then, when it was working.
    No wonder they made the Jaguar X-Type out of that same Mondeo platform…

  • avatar

    I’ve had mixed reliability and I’ve owned several VWs. I think the most unreliable VW I’ve had was my 2003 Jetta TDI, which I bought new.

    The injection pump failed catastrophically after 6 year and just over 100K miles, and cost about $1100 to replace. I think the next year is when the blower motor died during the summer and only fan speed 4 worked for A/C. I sold it in 2011 to a guy and did okay for the sale price since fuel was expensive back then.

    My current Sportwagen has had the exhaust flap fail (replaced for free under a service bulletin) and the driver’s side seat cover is beat to hell and cracking like crazy. It’s already been replaced once under warranty. When it’s cold there’s a really loud noise coming from the engine bay, but I don’t know or care what it is since I’m dumping the car this summer and it quiets down when the engine is warm.

    My wife’s 2014 Jetta had the alternator replaced last summer via a “Goodwill gesture” from VW since the car was 7 months out of the B2B warranty time window, but still 3000 miles below the mileage window. So yes, her alternator failed at around 33000 miles. That’s the power of German engineering.

  • avatar

    1979 VW Dasher. The only car ever to leave me stranded…….twice! Bought it new , liked a lot of things about it. , but the electronics was awful.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      My dad had a bad experience with a 74 Dasher. It was a decent car to drive however: A fuse block and harness became loose to a point where nothing on the car worked. Duct tape fixed that. Then the syncros in the transmission started to go.
      I helped him change the transmission with a junkyard one. That lasted a year until he decided to sell it. Both of us have sworn off of VW’s since. Though in a weird way I have been tempted to buy VAG.

  • avatar

    TWO Audi 5000’s, both bought new. A 5000s in 1979 and a Turbo 5000 in 1986. Both were hangar queens. Each had a saving grace though. The dealer I bought the ’79 from a dealer (Cadillac, Porsche+Audi) who provided a loaner car when it was in for repair. Something was always broken so whenever I was going on a long trip I put the Audi in. Really kept the mileage down…. With that experience I bought the ’86 Turbo I also paid $1,000 for an extended warranty. Best money ever spent. $8,000 worth of shop warranty repairs in five years! Great cars for highway use though. Never felt “right” until above 80mph. The Turbo once got 31mpg on a mostly 85mph trip covering 600 miles in 8 hours flat (avg 75mph) on a single tank of gas. Amazing. I loved tyem both.

  • avatar

    The real prize winner in our family was my dad’s ’67 Mercedes 250SE. For the first six months it was perfect, taking us thorugh Europe and wowing the German relatives. Apparently the car didn’t like Southern California. Car would overheat every time the A/C was running in rush hour traffic. Every single time. Left my dad stranded so often the AAA tow truck driver knew him by first name. “Marti,” he beamed cheerfully, “I should’ve known that was your white Mercedes.” If dad’s looks could kill…

    Left us stranded in San Diego on a Friday morning, at the beginning of a three day weekend. Took the German relatives to Palm Springs for a weekend jaunt. Rear axle failed… had to be towed to the nearest dealer in 29 Palms. Went Skiing up on Mt. Baldy. No reverse when we tried to go home. Icing on the cake… same AAA tow truck driver. “Holy crap, it didn’t occur to me it was the same white Mercedes!”

    Later on, we took other German relatives to Las Vegas, then on to Zion National Park and Bryce, Ut. Other relatives met us in Vegas, and we caravaned from there. Mom put her foot down this time “I’m not going to be stuck with that car in the middle of nowhere. We’re taking my car!” Good call, since the Marquis was comfier for a group anyways. At Bryce, whether it was the -17F temp or the altitude, my aunt’s… wait for it… 250SE Coupe wouldn’t start. Had to be flat-carted to Las Vegas. Mom’s Marquis started the way it always did- first twist of the key. So did Uncle Fred’s Electra.

    The most unbelievable part of the story is dad bought a 280SE in ’70 to replace the car from hell. I would’ve run screaming from the brand at that point.

  • avatar

    The least reliable car I ever encountered was a 2015 Audi S6 that died right on the showroom floor. I let it become someone elses problem.
    The least reliable I ever owned was my ’93 Thunderbird LX, thanks to nagging electrical problems (though most electrical problems I suspect were the result of of a botched service job by garage I took it to.) and an engine head gasket manufactured exclusively out of nightmares.

  • avatar

    I had a1974 Vega that I junked in 1977 while still owing $700! While driving, saw white smoke in the rear view mirror , and the car promptly spit the crankshaft on the road. Car had rust hole s after 3 years and a new engine was more than the cars value, so I scrapped it.

    • 0 avatar

      I had one of those too! Replaced with a ’69 Malibu a year later. The Vega had already gone through two motors at that point. Fortunately the Malibu was rock solid.

  • avatar

    My 94 DSM Galant GS. What an unreliable POS. Its final straw was blowing a fusible link in traffic the morning of when I was to pick up its replacement BMW. Which, despite it being a BMW, was orders of magnitude more reliable even after putting twice the miles and years on it.

  • avatar

    ’08 Volvo C30. Everyone tells you Volvo’s never fail… wrong. This car shared parts with many Fords and Mazdas, but the Volvo parts kept breaking. Keep in mind we also had an ’00 VW Passat (B5) which is the poster child for problems, so having a vehicle that is worst then that is saying something.

    The C30’s main drawback was it was rare so parts were expensive, thus anything that went wrong (no matter how minor) meant weeks in the shop followed by a huge bill. Some random examples (because I can’t remember them all): Xenon headlights bulbs burned out every 6 months like clock work, clutch pedal would not spring back ($2000 to fix), steering column locked up ($800 to fix), CV joints that I swear were made from cardboard (based on the number of times we fixed them), a rear sway bar bolt just fell off one day, the motor mounts went bad, we lost 3 headlight washer nozzles covers in 4 years, the rear tailgate handle snapped off in my hand. We put about 40K miles on this car and I think the longest time between shop visits was about 8 months. There were times in which it only made it 2 weeks before something broke that required a return visit to the garage. When we traded it they claimed the engine had sludge yet I gave it nothing but synthetic oil every 5K. My wife ran the numbers and it averaged something like $200 a month in repairs over our ownership period. As a further insult it got pathetic mileage of only 22 MPG despite being a small hatchback with a turbo. In comparison my wife’s current 330 HP V6 gets that. Overall worst vehicle experience ever… sad since it was a sleek and sexy little European semi-luxury vehicle from respected brand. The interior was brilliant and the seats lovely. It ticked all the right boxes: hatchback, turbo, safe, quick, stylish and smooth however the darn thing was just terrible in terms of reliability since every 6 months your fears of yet another breakdown came true.

  • avatar

    Can I just point out that Land Rover is clearly making reliable cars as no one mentioned them and I think Jaguar has barely had a mention. Interestingly the early MINI had a couple of mentions but then was it Chrysler or PSA who made the engine for it?

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      Nobody around here is stupid enough to buy a Land Rover.

    • 0 avatar

      Most of what I read re Mini issues were the 2007 and up, Prince engine models. The Chrysler based engine used in the pre 07 models was mentioned a couple of times. My Grandson received a 2002 S model for Christmas 3 years ago, with only 38 K miles. He has driven it nearly 20 K miles without any issues, and will be driving it to college after graduation this spring. Makes me wish I had purchased the earlier model S rather than the 09 that gave me so many problems, not to mention the money I spent to keep it up…

  • avatar

    Ford Explorer 2003,It’s now a Lawn ornament at our cottage.

  • avatar

    Ford Aerostar…! POC.

  • avatar

    1979 Fiat X1/9- bought it in 1986 with 28,000 miles, looked brand new inside and out. Sold 5 months later with 29,500 miles. Electrical, clutch, carb, oil consumption, and throttle/clutch/shifter linkage problems. Left me stranded more times than ALL the cars I’ve had since combined- and I’ve driven some real beaters.

  • avatar

    2004 BMW 545i. Just thinking about it makes me cringe. Initially I had an E39 540 that was a wonderful car ran great, fast, reliable, solid.

    Naturally I thought the 545i would be an improvement because it was newer and had more power! Wrong. The 545 went through at least three computers in the six months that I owned it, furthermore it was plagued by bad valve seals from the factory which were made out of a bad rubber compound- out of warranty. You would think it was a diesel with the smoke it made. The day I got rid of it and took a $3,000 loss was a wonderful day. I have not looked at BMWs again since then.

  • avatar

    A Volvo 164E. Well, that’s not quire fair, it really was pretty reliable. I could rely on it to crap out at the most inopportune moments, and damn, did that steaming pile of crap eat alternators. The Bosch L-Jetronic f.i. would just stop working with no warning and like magic after sitting for a bit it would just come back to life. That turd fueled a lifelong hatred for anything and everything Volvo.

  • avatar

    1988 Eagle Premier with the 3.0L PRV V6. This was my dad’s car. He hoped for something a little more fun than the 1981 LeSabre that he used to drive, and it broke his heart so many times.

    Mostly, the computer for the engine was garbage, though the engine also flaked out repeatedly, too. Bonus, since the engine had a Renault computer on it, all the read outs were in French, and repairs were stupidly expensive for how much the vehicle cost.

  • avatar

    I won’t bore you with my Audi stories, I’m sure you know them all too well. New ’04 A4…

    My second least reliable vehicle, bought new, was a ’86 Toyota LE Van. I believe it was the first year of the stronger motor (my ’84 had no issues), but it was not reliable to say the least.

    In the first 80K, the fuse box behind the glove compartment melted, the rear A/C developed a leak which left unrepaired over a winter caused, essentially, the whole system front and rear to have to be replaced. Later the ice maker failed, apparently due to moisture that got into the lines while the rear A/C was broken.

    Multiple power steering leaks and a persistent valve cover leak.

    Random cooling hoses would burst or leak, which made for very expensive repairs because you couldn’t reach them (the engine was under the seat in a tiny space).

    The alternator had to be replaced multiple times, the dealer said that the alternator was not really strong enough to run the two air conditioners as well as the four headlight (and two inner fog lights) while running the wipers. Maybe this is true?

    Brake master cylinder failure and repeated front brake caliper issues – possibly caused by the dealer replacing the OE calipers at the first pad change with reman’d ones.

    The first (lifetime) transmission rebuild was at 80K. The second was at 86K. The third was at 90K. Obviously, that particular Mr. Transmission was not a good place to get your transmission rebuilt. At about 92K we went back to the dealer and got a new transmission, then the A/C compressor grenaded itself again – another $2,600 (in 1990 dollars) to clear and replace the affected lines as well as the compressor.

    Right around 100K, the engine developed a knock on deceleration. It ran fine, but I figured it was nearing the end of its life, despite being fed Amsoil for as long as I was aware of its existence. At around 115K the transmission stopped shifting out of first when it was cold – the Toyota transmission warranty had expired and I was getting pretty tired of missing events due to my car failures. I got it hot and traded it in – got top dollar for it too.

    A couple of side notes: From the time it was new, it would never idle correctly after a hot start. Sometimes it would stall, other times it would buck and surge, occasionally backfiring through the intake if you put it in gear and tried to drive. After it ran for a minute or so, it would be fine. The dealer said it was a vapor-lock type issue, but that never made sense due to the fuel injection. Later they said it was an air temperature sensor that was out of range and could not deal with the high ambient temps combined with the engine being under the seat. This also didn’t make much sense.

    The dealer acknowledged multiple times that the ’86 vans were very unreliable, and that the Corolla FX16 and AWD tercels were just as bad.

  • avatar

    2002 Dodge Stratus purchased new. Fuel pump went out after less than two months, stranding me on the side of the freeway in rush hour and 116 degree heat. I was not amused. The AC was notoriously flaky and didn’t work that well even when it worked. After a year we traded that POS for a used, 3 year old Wrangler and it never gave me any problems in 8 years, even though I abused the heck out of it.

  • avatar

    1979 Ford fairmont sedan

    Shot rear end that left me stranded at school
    Oil leak and power steering pump that leaked oil and caused a fire under hood
    Failed window slide that let window fall into door during a Winter storm
    Failed ball joint and tie rod that left tire partially off car
    Numerous electrical problems that kept rear brake lights from working and car from passing inspection
    Failed ignition module that stranded me
    Failed alternator that stranded me
    Failed starter that stranded me. Failed because of all the oil leaking onto it.

    And this is what I could remember seeing as it was during the 1986-88 time period. Brought new meaning to Found On Road Dead.

    I obtained the car from my parents with 62K miles on it and had it until around 72K. It was driven normally and never beat on and serviced at regular intervals. By year 6 the body was getting pretty rusty.

  • avatar

    1998 Ford Contour SVT. Bought new. Within a few years of ownership…

    Sunroof motor ‘forgot’ its indexing and would stop in random places, but never when the sunroof was actually closed or open all the way.

    Trunk would turn into a fish tank when it rained. They could never fix it.

    Throttle cable frayed and would stick in the housing, causing the pedal to stay depressed and the throttle to stick open for several seconds.

    Flap in fuel tank filler neck seized and car couldn’t be fueled.

    Electrical problems of all stripes, constant rattling and squeaking from everywhere.

    And that’s just the stuff I can remember, I know there was a lot more that I’ve put out of memory. All within about 20k miles. What a pool of stool.

    Honorable mention goes to its replacement, a 2000 Taco. Also new. Promptly sheared the crank pulley and stranded me on the side of the road. One of three Toyotas I’ve owned, two were utter crap.

  • avatar

    1963 MGB. Owned 6 months after which the front brake pads fell out on Peachtree Hillls in Atl. Oh, it had 1st or reverse gears by that time.

  • avatar

    Easy, my 1998 Chevy Malibu… the thing ate brake pads every few months, no matter what brand. The trunk was always full of water, it liked to eat Oxygen sensors on a regular basis, you could time your watch by when the tail light bulbs would burn out, I would have to leave for anything 15 minutes early because the TheftLock would inevitably prevent me from starting the car first time around, and strut mounts, strut mounts, strut mounts.. I will never understand that car’s hunger for strut mounts. The quarter panel and rocker panel were completely rusted out by the time I got rid of it, despite regular washes. It constantly left me at the side of the road because the gas gauge would either cease to function or just read incorrectly. It was 10 years old when I bought it from a little old lady and to this day I have no idea what she did to that poor car prior to my ownership to make it that unreliable. By contrast my 2006 Volvo XC90 has been the pinnacle of reliability, except for the Driver’s Door Module (actuator in non-Volvo speak) the thing hasn’t cost me a dime outside of regular maintenance.

  • avatar

    A 2005 Audi A4 2.0T. This was a real POS; the biggest POS I’ve ever owned in fact. That includes some of the scary brands like Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Porsche, and even a 45-year-old Benz.

    It leaked every fluid it contained. Paint peeled for all four corners. Window regulators would break monthly. The trunk might or might not open, depending on its mood. It sounded like a Singer sewing machine when it idled, and it left me on the side of the road (hell, even in the middle of I75 in downtown Atlanta rush hour) more times than I care to count. Whether it was the intermittent fuel pump operation or a cooling system part disintegrating, I pity the person who purchased this car after my trade-in… for a Lexus IS350, which has never failed.

    I will never purchase another VW, I mean Audi.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged Miata Man

    My second car, a ’92 Geo Storm. It had aftermarket A/C and the installer managed to bend an attachment bracket so that the accessory belt driving the compressor was slightly out of alignment. This would inevitably cause the belt to shred within about 10,000-15,000 miles.

    It took four trips to the Galles Chevrolet service department before someone finally snapped to the cause of the problem, and they “mostly” fixed it. That belt lasted 30,000 miles before it, too, snapped during a road trip in Ogallala, NE during one of the hottest summers on record at the time.

    After driving home overnight to avoid the worst of the heat, I finally dumped the Storm for one of the best cars I’ve ever owned, a ’92 Accord.

  • avatar

    2002 Jetta GL. Purchased new in December 2001. April of 2002 could barely get up to 2000RPM in any gear. Engine and transmission replaced under warranty by dealer after flying in a tech from VW North American HQ to see how/why it happened. The explanation given: shrug.

    2006 Range Rover Autobiography. Suspension x3, and every other problem associated with Land Rover. Never even made it to 90k miles.

  • avatar

    Late to reply here.

    ’73 Austin Marina

    Purchased new, stopped at the mall to get groceries on the way home from the dealer, it wouldn’t go into Reverse.

    Pretty much went downhill from there.

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