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Civic leaks prod Honda to upgrade its warranty

Old 29-Sep-2010, 11:36 PM
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Arrow Civic leaks prod Honda to upgrade its warranty

A pattern of coolant leaks in the Honda Civic has led the automaker to take the unusual step of extending the vehicle's warranty to eight years and for unlimited mileage to address the defect.

The warranty extension affects 845,000 vehicles sold as 2006 to 2009 models. That represents about two-thirds of the Civics sold those years. This includes vehicles assembled in East Liberty.

"The big thing we wanted to avoid is to have consumers experience this outside the warranty," said Honda spokesman Chris Martin.

The defect, a faulty seam on the rear of the engine block, would cost several thousand dollars to repair in each case. Ordinarily, the Civic comes with a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty on the engine block.

Honda dealers have noticed an unusual number of problems with coolant leaks. Martin declined to specify how many, other than to say it was "a very small number."

Honda does a few warranty extensions per year. What is unusual is that this extension is for unlimited mileage, something that Honda has never done, Martin said.

This is not a safety recall because the problem will lead to, at worst, engine overheating, which the company does not consider hazardous.

That reasoning doesn't make much sense to Mike Omotoso, senior manager of powertrain forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates.

"If the engine overheats to the extreme, then, basically, it would shut down and that would be a safety issue in extreme cases," he said.

He wonders if Honda is trying to avoid the bad publicity of a recall. Over the past year, Toyota was rocked with a series of safety-related recalls, and Honda is among the other automakers that also have had to recall vehicles to address problems.

Even so, Omotoso said he thinks Honda's approach - the warranty extension - is probably an acceptable solution to most customers.

Honda also is offering to reimburse customers who paid to replace the engine block. This applies even if the customer no longer owns the car, which is another unusual detail in this unusual move.

Affected customers are being contacted through the mail. Customers with questions can call Honda at 1-800-999-1009.
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