Common Reliability Issues With Popular Used Cars

One advantage of a used car is that you can learn from other owners about reliability. Even some of most popular used cars out there have small issues you should know about. Today we’re looking at four of the most popular used cars in America, and issues you should watch out for. If you need repairs or preventative maintenance, contact Fast Lube Plus today so we can help you!

Ford Escape

The Ford Escape (and its platform-mate, the Mazda Tribute) are popular choices for their interior room and car-like driving experience. Their biggest issue is shuddering above 40mph, almost always caused by poor transmission maintenance. If you don’t have this problem yet and have never changed your transmission fluid, now is the time!

The platform has a smattering of other, smaller problems. A dirty idle air control valve can cause sputtering in 2001-2006 models, and in irregularly shaped coolant tank can cause the warning light to come on even when you aren’t low. Have a shop check your wheel bearings too, as they’re an important safety feature that Escapes are known to wear out.

Chevrolet Impala

A popular fleet vehicle, Chevrolet Impalas are easy to buy used. Their prices are low and they are generally reliable.

2000-2005 models have a particularly annoying issue with servos in the gauge cluster. These little gizmos can die early, causing inaccurate readings or jumpy needles. They were also the subject of a class action settlement regarding an intake manifold gasket.

Newer models (2006-2013) often experience failed rear door locks. This is due to a poorly made actuator. Be prepared for this one, as the part can be pretty expensive.

Honda Accord

Hondas have a reputation for reliability, and rightfully so. However, they put out some unfortunately bad automatic transmissions in the early 2000s. Some of these ended up in the Accord, and are particularly notorious on the more powerful V6 model. If you haven’t changed your transmission fluid yet, make sure you do so as soon as possible. This problem is most noticeable before model year 2004.

You can also expect an oxygen sensor failure around 80,000 miles, and new spark plugs around 110,000. Both are relatively minor repairs.

Ford F-150

The F-150 has been the best-selling new vehicle in America year after year, and it maintains dominance in the used market. The trucks are available in a wide array of configurations for just about anyone’s needs.

They’re pretty solid trucks, with a few notable exceptions. The 2004 – 2008 years, popular on the used market, may exhibit an ugly idling sound. This issue only applies to the 5.4L V8, and is caused by wearing cam phasers. While your engine is safe, the noise will only get worse over time, so you should fix it.

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FLP_Webslider4_aWhen money and time are tight, it can be tempting to put off car maintenance. After all, it’s still running, right? Who cares if there’s a little rattle, or a check engine light that won’t go off?

Unfortunately, this can be an expensive and dangerous mistake! To give you an idea of just how important maintenance is, we’ve collected some “worst case scenarios” for skipping key maintenance procedures. We’ve also gathered some average maintenance costs from the RepairPal app (available for iOS and Android) for an average priced car (a 2008 Ford Focus.)

What if you never changed your oil?

Oil picks up grime from combustion and any dirt that gets sucked in your engine. Naturally, it gets pretty nasty. If you avoid changing the oil, it stops lubricating your engine and turns this grime into thick deposits. This can cause overheating, worse gas mileage, or complete engine failure. Here’s a photo example from a BMW 3-series. Worst case scenarios include:

  • Head gasket failure ($1538+)
  • Oil pump failure ($713+)
  • Oil pan replacement ($294+)

What if you don’t change your timing belt on time?

A timing belt keeps all those moving bits in your engine from crashing into each other. Some cars have chains, which are maintenance free. If you have a belt, it typically has to be replaced every 60,000 – 100,000 miles. Most cars also have interference engines, which means if this belt snaps, your engine is done. Usually, this means you have to buy a new car.

A timing belt repair usually costs around $600 – $1000, so it’s not cheap. It’s still cheaper than buying a new car, so save up for it!

What if you don’t get an alignment?

As your car drives over bumps and potholes, the suspension gradually gets a little crooked. You’ll notice this if you’re going straight and your steering wheel veers left or right. An alignment fixes this problem, and ensures your tires and suspension wear evenly. Avoiding an alignment can mean:

  • New tires ($350+)
  • Axle replacement ($485+)
  • Wheel bearing replacement ($620+)

What if you ignore those squealing brakes?

The importance of your car’s brakes is obvious. The brake pads are the most frequently replaced brake part. But once these pads wear down, it’s not just a safety issue: the rest of your brake assembly wears down much quicker. If you don’t replace pads on time, you might also pay for:

  • New calipers ($305+)
  • New rotors ($276+)

As you can see, maintenance is an annoying but necessary expense. When you buy a car, make sure you budget ahead for its maintenance! It’s an investment that protects your valuable purchase.