10 Surprisingly Unreliable Cars

There are some cars you buy, expecting a certain degree of mechanical fallibility. In some cars, it’s part of the character of owning one.  In others, it’s an inherent design issue that’s...
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There are some cars you buy, expecting a certain degree of mechanical fallibility. In some cars, it’s part of the character of owning one.  In others, it’s an inherent design issue that’s well known and you learn to work around it.  No one really buys an old Alfa Romeo expecting it’ll never have wiring issues.  People with a Citroen SM-Maserati didn’t purchase it for it’s Swiss Watch durability.  Only the truly misinformed expect an old RX-7 to spend more time on the road than making the lawn look pretty.

But some vehicles have an absolutely baffling reputation for reliability in the face of considerable evidence.  These are cars that people buy because their reputation leads them to believe they’ll enjoy a few years of trouble-free motoring, and it’s an unpleasant surprise when their wallet bleeds itself dry keeping them on the road.  Here are a few to keep an eye out for that you might not have been aware of.

BMW N54-powered vehicles

This was the original idea behind this post.  For those not well-versed in BMW-ese, the N54 is BMW’s 3.0L iron-block straight six, fitted with twin sequential turbochargers that is fitted to almost all of BMW”s range in various states of tune, including the 1, 3, 5, and 7 series, as well as the X5, X6, and Z4.  When it came out in 2006 as a replacement for the M54 3.0L engine, the automotive press and consumers alike were ecstatic.  The N54 made a ton of power (306bhp) with almost no discernible turbo lag, a silky straight-six roar, and returned respectable fuel economy.  Finally, the 3-series had the power to not get embarrassed by Infiniti G35′s!

Problems arose pretty quickly, though.  It shouldn’t have been surprising; the N54 was BMW’s first gas-turbo engine since the 745i in the mid-eighties with it’s 3.2L M102 straight six.  The issues weren’t really related to the turbochargers themselves, so much as the direct injection system and it’s high pressure fuel pump (HPFP) that supplies the ridiculously high fuel pressure needed to run the injection system.  No one really knows what exactly causes the high frequency of failures with the HPFP, but some third parties suggest it’s related to the low-pressure fuel sensor.  Regardless, since the motor came out in 2006 the fuel pump has been through 6 different designs in the last four years, and owners on BMW boards are still reporting pump failures after only a few thousand miles.

After a few years of dodging warranty claims and calling it user error or attributing it to regional gasoline quality (a trend we’ll see again), BMW issued a voluntary recall that covers 160,000 BMWs powered by the N54 engine.  Considering the failure of the fuel pump can lead to the engine stalling and the loss of power steering and power brakes, it’s a legitimate safety concern.  If your twin-turbo BMW is exhibiting symptoms like an unwillingness to crank over in cold weather, stalling or sputtering at idle, or a check engine light and limp-home mode, then your HPFP could be dying.  BMW is now covering this part with a 10-year, 120,000 mile warranty, so that helps.

Mercedes OM603 3.5L Turbodiesels

Mercedes-Benz turbodiesels from the 70′s and 80′s have rightly earned a reputation for longevity that rivals that of the cockroach.  Old Mercedes diesels are still clattering and sputtering along happily all around the world, from Africa to Oregon, belching fat clouds of black smoke and still accumulating hundreds of thousands of miles.  Chances are, though, that not many of those ancient Mercedes diesels have a 3.5L OM603 straight-six under the hood.

The OM603 was the replacement for the bulletproof OM617 5-cylinder engine found under the hood of the 240D, 300D, 300CD, etc.  There are a lot of nice things to say about the OM603 – it was much less agricultural than the five-cylinder OM617, and it had a very advanced design for the time.  It made more power and torque than the old engine, and got better fuel economy.  The normal 3.0L OM603 was not nearly as problematic as it’s bigger 3.5L brother, though.  It did have issues with the diesel particulate filter, which was mounted quite close to the block, becoming clogged and sending soot back into the turbocharger.  The aluminum cylinder heads of early 603′s (’86 and ’87) were prone to overheating and cracking because of the trap filter as well, although later revisions of the head solved the problem.

The 3.5L engine, found in the bigger 350SD and SDL, had other issues.  Since the bore was increased, the surface area of the head gasket was smaller, and the larger turbocharger caused increased heat and pressure.  The 3.5L was more prone to head gaskets eroding, which would cause a gradual and then rapid oil leak into the number 1 cylinder.  Although it would just burn the oil for a while, as the erosion continued it would leak faster, eventually hydro-locking the cylinder.  Which would then bend or break the connecting rod, and the bent rod would turn the cylinder into more of an oval, and your motor was toast.  Because of the wider bore of the 3.5L, it was not possible to bore the engine out, so a new block was needed at rather tremendous cost.

Motor mounts that went bad were a problem, too – when they were shot, the block would vibrate a lot more, working loose screws that held the windage tray in place.  These would block oil passages, starving the crank bearings of oil, and it would end up throwing a rod.  The failure rate on these engines was so high that Mercedes was voluntarily replacing some of these engines outside of warranty to keep up customer goodwill.  If you’ve got a hankering for an old Mercedes diesel, make sure it doesn’t have one of these.

Honda/Acura V6 Automatics

This isn’t so much for one car or engine in particular, but rather almost anything Honda with a big V6 mounted sideways, and an automatic transmission.  In most people’s heads, Honda = Reliability.  Still, every manufacturer has their weak spots, and for Honda it’s the combination of an automatic hooked up to a big engine in a heavy car.

Cars affected include 3.0 Accords, 3.2L Acura TL’s, Acura MDX’s, Honda Pilot/Odyssey/Ridgeline (which all use the same powertrain)… you get the picture.  The problem is related to heat buildup and transmission fluid leaks, which cause the transmission to slip and eventually wear out to the point it won’t shift, or won’t go into gear in the first place.  This usually occurs at relatively high mileage – hey, stuff wears out – but the overall pattern points to avoiding a V6 Honda with high mileage and a slushbox.  Of course, you were going to do that anyway.  Honda’s 3.0 V6 and 6-speed manual in the Accord (and it’s bigger 3.2L brother in the TL) is such a delicious combo that you weren’t considering an automatic in the first place.  Right?

Honda never issued a recall, but they’ve been a lot better dealing with the customer service end of this issue.  The warranty on automatic trannys in 98-02 Accords, Odysseys, and MDX’s was extended to 8 years/80,000 miles, past the normal 3/36k warranty.  They deal with cases on an individual basis, although if you want a hand from Honda, hopefully you have proof of having followed the schedule maintenance and only used Honda ATF-Z1 transmission fluid.

Toyota 3.0L V6

Sludge.  Yikes.  This issue was half design flaw and half consumer error, but it still should’ve been avoided.  Oil sludge is what happens when oil gets overused and overheated, and it starts to gel up and leave deposits in oil passages.  Sludge can block these crucial oil passages, leading to bearing oil starvation and engine failure.  Unfortunately, fitting with the Toyota owner stereotype of “where’s the hood latch?”, Toyota reported many instances of vehicles coming off lease at 40,000 miles with sludge issues… and the original oil filter still screwed onto the block.  Hey, 40,000 miles without an oil and filter change will kill even the best of engines.

However, the issue is also a bit of a design flaw on Toyota’s part, although they’re reticent to admit it.  The issue centers around the PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) system.  If the car is only driven short distances, the oil never gets fully up to operating temperature, leaving a lot of moisture in the oil.  Over time, this becomes oil sludge, which will block the PCV valves, forcing crankcase gas through the intake.  Eventually, sludge will clog the oil pickup in the crankcase, starving the engine of oil flow and killing it.  The Toyota 1MZ-FE (3.0L) and 3MZ-FE (3.3L) used in cars like the Camry, Solara, Sienna, RX300/330, ES300/330 are the most frequently affected.  Bottom line?  If you want to avoid the “sludge monster”, change your oil and filter every 3,000 miles.  Don’t do repeated 1 mile trips that never allow the engine to get to operating temperature.  Don’t be a typical Toyota owner, and a Toyota V6 will last you for years.

BMW M60 V8

Another BMW engine snafu.  The M60 was BMW’s first modern V8 engine, which replaced the M30 “big six” in the 5 and 7 series lines.  It was quite a high-tech design for the time: aluminum block, aluminum chain-driven twin-cam 4-valve heads, forged crankshaft, magnesium valve covers, direct ignition, all the works.  Also new for the M60 V8 were Nikasil cylinder liners, which were made of a combination of Nickel, aluminum, and silicon rather than the traditional iron cylinder liners.  This proved to be an issue.

The Nikasil liners suffered significant corrosion when low-quality gas with high sulfur concentration was run through the engine, leading to cylinder liners failing near the top of the piston and allowing for significant compression loss.  Over time, it would literally cause the motor to not start at all.  Since Nikasil was a spray-in liner, it wasn’t possible to simply bore the block and sleeve it with iron liners, so the only solution was to replace it with a short block using the later Alusil lining, which didn’t suffer from the corrosion issues that Nikasil did.  Although the only regions that really suffered from this issue were America and Brazil, it still did not reflect well on BMW, who extended a 6-year 100,000 mile warranty to engines made with Nikasil liners.

VW/Audi 1.8T, longitudinal mount

For some reason, the transversely mounted 1.8T (In the GTI, Jetta, TT, A3, etc) doesn’t suffer nearly as many problems on the whole as the longitudinally mounted 1.8T in the (B5, B5.5) Passat and (B5, B6) Audi A4.  One failure all 1.8T’s seem to have in common, though, are the coil packs.  Early-build 1.8T’s (like the big-valve motor in the first A4′s) used Hitachi-branded coil packs that literally bolted to the cylinder head.  These almost never fail.  Later 1.8T motors switched to Bosch sourced coil packs, and these have an unusually high failure rate, which will lead to misfiring, stuttering, and the dreaded “limp home” mode.  Sometimes they just get pushed off the plug by vibration (of if you’re unlucky, blow-by) but more often they just go bad and need replacing.  Thankfully the on-board diagnostics will tell you which cylinder is misfiring, making diagnosis easier.  Most people with tuned 1.8T’s in their cars carry a spare coilpack or two in the trunk, as higher boost levels tend to kill them faster.

Of course, coil packs are a minor if annoying problem.  The real issue is oil sludging on Passat’s and A4′s.  Many have said that the 1.8T was designed with too small of an oil capacity.  Although 4 qts is normal for a 1.8L engine, one with an oil-cooled turbocharger (as well as an auxiliary oil cooler) generates a lot more heat, and more of the oil is circulating at any given time than a naturally aspirated engine of the same size.  So it’s the same story with a lot of the other sludge cars on this list; if you mostly do stop-and-go driving where the oil never gets all the way to temp, the oil will break down, sludge, and clog the pickups and channels.  Oil pumps also have a tendency to go bad early on these front-to-back 1.8T’s, which cause similar engine failures.

What to do?  Well, change your oil before the factory 5,000 mile interval.  Use API-certified 5w40 synthetic fluid.  Use the later-style higher capacity oil filter that lets you fit another half-quart in the system.  Don’t get into boost when the temp gauge hasn’t gotten up yet.  Don’t flog the snot out of it then shut it off.  It’s common sense.  With proper maintenance (and cam-belt and water pump changes at 60k!  5-valve aluminum heads aren’t cheap!) a 1.8T will go pretty much forever at high boost on stock equipment.  If only the same could be said of it’s bigger brother…

Audi 2.7T (B5 S4, allroad Quattro 2.7T, A6 2.7T)

This is what I call a bummer.  The 2.7T, you see, is an awesome engine.  Small all-aluminum V6, 5-valve heads, twin low-inertia Garrett turbochargers.  They make tons of torque stock, and have absolutely crazy aftermarket potential.  2.7T’s have been kicking ass and taking names since they came out.  But buyer beware: Audi’s twin-turbo wonder can suck your wallet dry with little warning.

You see, the 2.7T used two BorgWarner K03 turbochargers, one on each side.  These tiny little things are surprisingly robust on the 1.8T motor, but when they’re crammed in a B5 A4 engine bay between the manifolds and the shock towers, they get very hot.  The B5 S4 had perhaps the most crammed engine bay you could possibly imagine.  It makes a Passat W8 look easy to work on.  And with owner neglect (infrequent oil changes, low oil level, shutting the motor off and stopping oil flow when the turbos are still hot), an S4 will chew up a turbo or two pretty early on.  Dead turbos on an S4 at 60,000 miles are not an uncommon occurence, especially if the engine is modified and running higher boost levels (which they usually are.  Come on.  Who wants a stock S4?)

The problem isn’t as prevalent in the larger A6 and A6 allroad Quattro, since they have more room in the engine bay and generally aren’t beaten on like a red-headed stepchild.  If you’re thinking about buying a B5 S4: make sure it’s got receipts for oil changes, and it doesn’t sound like a dremel tool when hitting boost.  Or better yet, get an E36 M3.

Subaru SVX

“Subarus are like the AK-47′s of cars.  They’re cheap, unrefined, but they never break and they’re easy to fix when they do.”  Well, sort of.  Most Subarus will, with proper care and maintenance, give you a few hundred thousand miles of problem-free driving.  They’ll vibrate till the dashboard rattles, the windows clatter every time you close the door, and they sound like tractors, but they’re tough.

So when Subaru came out with a top-of-the-line luxury GT coupe in the early 90′s, Subaru buyers were expecting more of the same usual Subaru reliability.  The SVX had a big flat-six engine, four wheel drive, and swoopy bodywork (with weird split-windows) designed by Guigario.  It also had a ticking time-bomb of a transmission.  The SVX used the same Nissan-derived 4-speed automatic from the 4 cylinder Legacy sedan, only it was hooked up to an engine with two more cylinder, almost another liter of displacement, and about 100 more horsepower than the Legacy.  You see where this is going.

SVX and Transmission Failure are terms that seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly.  The problem is heat, although it’s exacerbated by a number of design flaws that Subaru continually addressed over the life of the car.  The SVX had a transmission cooler, but it wasn’t efficient enough to keep temperatures in a safe operating zone.  Fluid flow through the transmission was less than idea, with a small mesh filter installed in-line that would eventually clog and block flow.  The final drive ratio was unusually high, leading to torsional stress on bearings and more heat.  The gasket on the fluid pump failed frequently in earlier models, which would lead to incorrect line failure and overheating.  It’s just all bad.

How do you avoid the problems associated with the SVX transmission?  Well, some would say you should just avoid the SVX.  If you have your heart set on a funky split-window Subaru Coupe, then an auxiliary bypass transmission cooler will lengthen your tranny’s life significantly, as will an external transmission filter that’s replaceable.  Use only synthetic fluids and change them frequently.  But judging from personal experience (a friend of mine gave up on his SVX after it blew it’s second transmission in a year even with proper maintenance) you might just want to avoid one.  Or, hey!  Maybe it’s a good time for a big-turbo EJ257 and a six-speed.

3rd Generation Toyota Supra

It might be slightly unfair to categorize the 3rd generation Supra as entirely unreliable, but it does have one persistant, annoying problem: an insatiable hunger for head gaskets.  Of course it also had other smaller less important issues, mostly related to complicated and impossible to repair electronic components, but it was blown head gaskets that plagued the MKIII Supra from beginning to end.

The 7M was an iron-block straight six cylinder engine with a four-valve twin cam aluminum head, and it came in either naturally aspirated (7M-GE, Supra) or single-turbo (7M-GTE, Supra Turbo) form.  Both versions are equally likely to blow head gaskets, and a lot of Supra folks say it’s actually due to improper torque on the head bolts from the factory.  Of course, being an aluminum head, if the engine overheats and the gasket blows, the head and the block usually need to be machined to spec so a new gasket will fit.  It’s also suspected that the stock top-to-bottom torqued head bolts will stretch and loosen with age, speeding up head gasket failure.

Solution?  If your head gasket is fine now, make sure and tighten down the head bolts to perhaps 10lb-ft past factory specs.  If your head gasket has already blown, there’s a fool-proof way to make sure it’ll never happen again.  APEX-i sells a 1.2mm metal head gasket for the 7M that’s a lot tougher than the Felpro or OEM gaskets.  The head has to be milled to spec for it, so while you’ve got it torn apart, replacing the factory bolts with ARP studs and caps also lessens the chance of the top going pop.  Then crank the boost and enjoy your Supra.

Porsche 986/996 Boxster/911

And we reach the end of the list with one most people don’t know, or really even want to hear.  The fact of the matter is that early water-cooled Porsche Flat-six motors are pretty much junk, an expensive game of automotive Russian Roulette that most owners don’t even know they’re playing.  Problems are multiple, serious, and ugly.  TTAC’s Jack Baruth has spoken at length about how terrible the early waterboxers are, and even I found a lot of it to be a bit scary.

The 996 generation 911 was the first big change for the 911 since…  well, since 1964.  The Flat-six engine gained water passages and a radiator, much to the horror of the Porsche purists.  But the level of cheapness built into these engines was even worse than the “is this a Porsche?” driving feel.  Here’s a short outline of things that might have gone wrong with your brand new $75,000 911 back in 1999.  (Main points taken from a fantastic article by Total 911.  Fantastic read.)

  • Intermediate shaft failure.  This part runs under the block, driven off the crank.  It’s what turns the cams in both cylinder heads.  The sprocket on the end of this shaft is retained by a small stud, which will break and cause the bearing that the sprocket rides on to fail as well.  It’ll start out as a rattling noise and end up with the timing chains coming off, and both heads gathering a few expensive built valves.  Fix: rebuilt heads, new sprocket, new bearing, new stud.  Or a new engine!  $15,000.
  • Cracked cylinder heads.  Due to a design flaw in how the tappets bolt down, the heads might crack, allowing oil into the water jackets.  Which makes oil sludge.  Which kills the crank bearings.  Which means a new engine!  $15,000.
  • Cracked cylinder linings.  The cylinder linings start as two parts, and the aluminum block is cast around them.  The block itself is less rigid than the old air-cooled blocks, and under heavy load it can deform and will develop cracks in the cast-in liners.  This leads to coolant in the cylinders, and worst-case scenario, it causes the engine to hydro-lock, bending rods and breaking pistons and deforming the cylinders.  The 996 motor doesn’t have individual, replaceable cylinders like the 993 did, so the whole cylinder bank is ruined.  You’ll need a new engine!  $15,000.
  • PCV failures will suck oil through the intake, gumming up valves, sludging the oil… you know.  This might not require a new engine; breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Variocam (VVT) controller failure can lead to poor performance or a rough idle.  Thankfully this won’t kill your engine!

Now, it’s estimated that these failures only affect about 5-10% of early 996 (and 986 Boxster) production.  Which doesn’t sound too bad – but if you knew your $75,000 Porsche had a 1 in 10 chance of needing a new engine at huge expense, how interested would you be?  What’s worse is that Porsche spent more effort trying to pin the failures on owner neglect or abuse than trying to restore customer goodwill.  When the problems are clearly due to design flaws, the best strategy is not to insult your customers and assume they’re stupid.  There are ways to avoid these problems, mostly aftermarket or updated OEM parts from later cars.  A better way?  Get a GT3 or a 996 Turbo.  For one thing, they’re awesome.  But they also use the older 911 GT1-derived block that’s not a split case, and these motors are almost bulletproof.

So next time you’re car shopping, keep in mind that just because a car has a reputable badge on the hood doesn’t mean it won’t give you problems of some sort.  Do your research first, so you don’t have to learn of a problem the hard (read: expensive) way.  Until next time, friends!

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  • http://www.salguod.net salguod

    On the Honda transmissions, the issue was that one of the gears didn’t get enough oil. Honda did recall some and add an oil jet to attempt to remedy it, but it wasn’t all that successful (a friend’s TL coughed up a transmission weeks after the jet was installed).

    I think the issue is primarily limited to the ’99-’04 date range, or thereabouts.

  • Austin

    Maybe I got a Ridgeline that is exempt from that problem, cause mine is running really really good!!

    • http://www.saabsnaab.com James

      Give it a year or two.

  • james

    the only soultion to honda tranny problems is an external oil cooler and changing the oil every 40,000 kms , we have had some trannys go at just over 120,000 kms and the oil pump gears were worn so it wouldnt get proper pressure at low rpm , thus getting a flare in the shift , and causing heat and slippage which = failed tranny, when oil is changed regularly with proper honda trans fluid , we were able to get over 375,000 kms out of a original trans , we had over 30 , 2003-& 04-05 civics , for a security company ,and they all were driven very hard (multiple drivers and driven 24 hrs a day) the only tranny failures were when the the fluid was not changed , the failures happend at just over 120,000 kms!

    • http://www.saabsnaab.com James



      2) Thanks for the info, man! This is the kind of participation we love here. It’s greatly appreciated.

    • Dbx

      The Civics were fine – the tranny issue plagued the vehicles with a V6 engine. My Odyssey’s transmission failed despite having had fresh transmission fluid every 10K miles and driven without abuse (no towing, no hard acceleration).

      • ga

        ….The Civics were fine….

        No they weren’t. Had one that ground the gears to a metal pulp at just 60,000 miles.

        Honda was less than helpful, by the way.

  • Matt

    Most of the Civics that had this problem were CVT cars from the late 90s into the early 2000 model years. Seen more than a few of those go in 20-30k miles

  • Landeira Young

    I own a 2008 VW GTI 6-speed manual transmission. Today at about 4pm I was going take my son to his basketball at 5pm and on the way my car slipping out of gear for a few seconds and back in while already in gear. The transmission light was blinking while it was doing this. After the game it did the same thing but the transmission stays so stopped at Autozone and got 2 or 3 quarts of Valveline dura blend synthetic blend 80w-90 tomorrow to see if it is just low on gear oil?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2734772 James

      not sure if you mean the shifter itself was bumping back into neutral – that’d be an issue with the gear synchros – or if it was just free revving. If it’s synchros, fresh gear oil will help but not fix it. If it was just free revving in gear, your clutch is done. Contact me at james@carthrottle.com if you have more questions. Doesn’t sound good.

  • M60

    That engine pictured for the BMW M60 is actually an M62.

    For the record, my M60 Nikasil is still running strong on the original block.

    • Chris

      The problem was also present in the M52 and S52, the 6-cilinder engines from the same era. Because of this, BMW used a special version of de M52/S52 for the US-market, not with aluminium cylinders with Nikasil-coating, but with more traditional cast-iron cylinders.

      Other than that, these engines are quite bullet proof.

      One thing though, almost all Vanos-engines from the M50, M52, M54 and M64 and S50 and S52 family’s suffer from Vanos-failing at some point in their life, generally after about 150.000km or 100.000 miles. The rubber seals start to deteriorate, resulting in a decline in performance at low rpm’s . The engine can get very old with this, but it takes away the incredible smoothness for which the BMW 6-cylinder engines are renowned for.
      But Beisan Systems can supply a excellent replacement kit for these seals.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2734772 James Mackintosh

        Chris – I’m fairly sure the M52 in my car (at 181k) has no more oil pressure in the VANOS system, it’s a slug below 3k rpm.

        Beisan Systems is about 5 minutes from my house, oddly enough (in Raleigh.) I’ve just yet to get around to fixing it.

        -James (author)

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  • Sauce

    The 2.7 t engine in the Audi is actually cast iron and the valve covers are aluminum, also the engine is not the usual problem on the allroad its the air suspension the gives the owner trouble. And lastly the cars reliability depends on the owners maintinence, or at least it’s that way with Audi and Vw

    • Zachariah

      Wow, did not realize that. That maybe explains why my 2002 Audi allroad quattro has 182k with a GIAC X tune…and still pulls very strong. However, those airbags are another story all in itself.

  • Alex

    As long as you have a 3.0L OM603 and do all the maintenance, it will go forever as much as the older diesels go. I’ve got 250K on my 300SDL I bought and everything I’ve fixed has been lack-of-maintenance related, and not failure due to design (outside of the trap oxidizer issue)

  • Pun

    Right, back in the early 90s, I had a ’92 Subaru SVX. The transmission failed at 59,000 miles. Fortunately, that was 1994 when it failed, so it was still under warranty. The SVX was stuck in 2nd gear, and I drove 20 miles straight to the dealer. Got the new transmission. The wheel bearing also failed at the same time. Otherwise, everything else worked like a charm. The EG33 flat-six engine produced no torque steer; and when it’s not failing, the auto transmission (no factory manual transmission offered) produced very smooth shifts. Comfortable highway and city cruiser, not so much a fast car. When the roads were covered with snow, it was fun to drive. Too bad the auto transmission wasn’t reliable, and no turbo was offered back then. How to avoid SVX auto transmission troubles? I’ve seen some people swapped the auto for 5-speed manual transmissions sourced from other models…! somewhere on the net..

    manual transmission installation here..

    5-speed manual conversion kit here…

  • John

    My Porsche Boxster has covered 186,000 miles with just normal oil changes and tune up’s. I did upgrade the IMS bearing once I learned about this possible issue, had Porsche done this they would have avoided bad press. I would avoid any Porsche water cooled engine pre 2000 models as a large number of blocks fail. Don’t let a low mileage garage queen fool you, they are the biggest risk.

  • issa bendeck

    i knew that i was never wrong when i sayed and postted many times before in every forum and people sayed tha im american cars fan boy only , and that ainnt right am just a really car entuciast , coz a really car entuciast doent just beliave any thing the propaganda say or better yet fall for a famous brand name and just let him self beliave that his car is trouble free we have to learn to know that not everything is what it loocks like and its so funny to me how some costummers report that the jap cars are the most reliable ,and in some others inernet pagges the toyota corolla apears to be in the list of the worst car to buy as second hand ,, which to me thats more beliavle coz this car has some severe engine oil burnning problem lol now you are not knowing what to beliave any more too many contradictions ore mabe points of vew what ever but no one is gonna make me thinck that the jap cars are the most reliable neder are the europeans , im not saying that the americans are the most reliable , but im into engines that is my main subject and to me reliable means engine longevity and durability and or course there is no better engine builders in the world than the americands specialy the GM ones , points are no engine burnning issues, sa happens in the jap cars and some europeans , lol and some keep saying that the americans build engines from the stoneage just coz the still are push rod this is so fuunny how the europeans and the japs are so much ahead than the americans on modernism and tecnologies and still the are making sothing but some sophidticated garbage , like duo over head camms 4 camms and stuf 4 valves per cilinder and the great and best v8 ever made still uses 2 valves per cil ans still delivers the best fuel economy ever delivered by a v8 durability at its best, light and small dimencions engine. its just amaising and best of all is that is really cheap , and that goes for those who thinck that when thigs are expencive then they are best.

  • http://upshiftblog.com Nick

    Nice list! That photo isn’t an OM603 turbodiesel though….

  • issabendeck

    how come no one jap crap and german crap lover havent read this article lol now i want to hear something like that out of a ford dodge or even a GM product , american cars dont burn oil , they burn gas lol , some funny guy posted a little crapy article based on consumers reports and general forum, you cant relay on that , can you ? this are not best cars , but peoples tastes , and dont have anything to do with been reliable, he says that the civc and the corolla are the most reliable cars out ther ,now can yuo actually beliave that???,then i read a pst that titles: THE 10 WORST CARS TO BYU USED , and guess what ? the corolla was one of them,so WHO THA HELL ARE WE GONNA BELIAVE ??? i ll tell you my reader : america makes the best engines you can ever beat on BELIAVE ME, and i you care to know : I WAS BORN IN HONDURAS , NO REAZON TO DEFEND THE USA , but i have owned every car that you can thinck of , im 47 years old , and dont drive 55, and no jap car can live under my right foot, coz every time i hit the road 90mph its a regulas thing , do you thinck a jap car can last a bit under every day 90 miles per hour drive , ??? when we talk reliable what you have rea is my concern, thats why i drive american v8 chevy engines , they are the only ones that last under my driveing .

    • Turtle

      Wow. I diagnose all makes/models of car. This article is excellent and informative as it discusses cars that you would not expect to be regularly and repeatedly unreliable. In my experience and opinion, there are no American cars on this list because they are EXPECTED to be unreliable. On an unrelated note, actually several, your distinct lack of a grasp of the English language or numerous typos do not help your case when you spew racism against car manufacturers…I’m not even sure that is possible, not only because a car manufacturer does not have an ethnicity but also because many “jap” cars are made right here in the good ol’ USA in Kentucky and Ohio and more. There is a “german crap” manufacturer building cars in Tennessee. My suggestion to you is to shut your damn mouth.

      • shanem46

        Ditto. I live in Metro Detroit, where a Ford Fusion made in Mexico is an “American car”, while Hondas made 100 miles south of Detroit are “foreign”, despite the fact that it has 75% North American content, which is higher than the Fusion. Plus, do you think Japanese are going to ship parts across the Pacific? Their parts suppliers’ built factories near the Honda factory, employing many Americans. How many Americans are in Mexico putting Fusions together? Or working in the Mexican factories that supply parts for Ford?

        • Turtle

          Hit the nail on the head. With a fairly big exception. Toyota DOES ship batteries or battery materials across the Pacific from Canada and whole Prius’ back to the US. With all of the emissions from the cargo ships there goes ANY benefit the Prius may have provided. That doesn’t take into account the toxicity of the battery when the car has reached it’s end life. :-( Sorry, different ignorance rant.

          • shanem46

            To Turtle: I stand corrected. The only new Toyota I ever bought (1986 GTS) had a Panasonic battery that was toast after 9 months.
            I think most people buy a Prius for the MPH; lower emissions are a bonus. Of course, some people have taken on saving the world and the Prius is their go-to car.

        • TimothyOnline

          Glad to hear some sanity come out of Detroit.

          While the Fusion can go toe-to-toe with the Accord and the Camry and is now built in Flat Rock, Michigan (due to Mazda pulling out), there is still a long list of “American” cars that aren’t even made on U.S. soil. Also, I doubt the Fusion has the high U.S./Canadian parts content that the Accord and Camry have.

          Let’s not forget the plant expansion GM did on Mexican soil while financed by the U.S. taxpayers.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Issa-Antonio-Bendeck-Salame/100000634075282 Issa Antonio Bendeck Salame

        i wont argue with some piece of crap dead minded like you , lol lol , here you go ; in my experience and opinion lol , tanks god , lol its only in your experience lol and opinion lol, you only say that coz , you most be another sorry american that dont like his own products , i dont blame you this shit happens every where in the world , this is ancient thing , jesus crist saied to his folowers , to send his massage to all the world coz here in my hometown no one accept or beliave in me , and they kill me by crucifieng me, same thing in your contry , you even hate american beautiful blonds , and yoy rather go with ugly spanish woman from here central america, coz you are boring from your own people ,but this has nothing to do with what is best , and if your crapy jap engines are so good , why arent been used in all europe like they do with the great small block chevy engine , some out of a kind engine , full of haters and lovers as well, and for some reazon, check my you tube channel and see how many european supercars are been built with the great LS from gm , and you are gonna want to crylol, lamborgini is going to have a big block chevy prity soon , how about that lol, arent you cring all ready, the engine ll be the 572ci bb twin turbo 2000 hp , i went thru all google , and i still havent find a really supercar using any crapy toyota engine yet, and when i do ill call you right, you are in dipers my friend , and dont tell me that every one knows that american cars are crapy coz thats only in AMERICAN minds, coz there is where they are made, for your info , china is one of the greatest american and european car importers , why? coz they are boring of their oriental jap cars around, same thing what happens to you , now give me some statistics about what cars have the most durable tranny rear ends and engines around , but not rely on tastes and preferences , but really statistics ans ill be with you , if you are right , and dont come up with that kelly book bul, coz that is costumers crap, you better do a research, of what supercars builders use the most to build their supercars , and that will give you some clues

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Issa-Antonio-Bendeck-Salame/100000634075282 Issa Antonio Bendeck Salame

          ptritty soon you will find a post about ” CARS THAT SURPRISINGLY ARE RELIABLE LOL AND ALL OF THEM WILL BE AMERICAN ” coz this is way it really is but i repeat , no one wants his own products,but im neutral coz we dont make cars here , so i dont go with or against nothing , coz i have nothing to defend here, i had a chevy s10, and i never put a single quater of oil between changes , and i put 300k miles on it with out a single oil burn and doing alot of 90 hi way miles p h driving durind 5 years and some guy in google reported 1000000 miles on a silverado, with out a tuch on the engine than simple oil changes , some jap crap lovers clame 1000000miles but there have been an engine rebuilt , and thats not the reliability im talking about, so if you want to know my concern , this what im talking about , when i speack abou been a reliable car , not reliability , and then adding quaters of oil every a week or so like jap crap cars do , and its silly to talk about my writing , at least i speack 4 different langueges , and what else do you speak besides indian inglish?

          • Adrian

            Everyone I know would say american, french or italian cars are bad, and german cars are among the most reliable.
            American cars really are expected to be bad. And in my opinion they’re not only bad because of their reliability, but because of that really bad taste for design, especially interior, and their poor engines: big size, poor performance, poor technology, high fuel consumption.
            Let’s just admit that americans don’t do cars. Period.

          • issabendeck1

            its your money you are trashing , not my go for you crappy weak jap cars

      • issabendeck1

        who dont know all of your crapp talk , every stupet shity american talk the same way , and thats coz you know shit , i sayed it once and i ll say it againg , no one wants its own shit , i have seen jap people in the usa driving chevys and they love it , and i try to ask them how do you feel about jap cars , and they go are you joking me , i would rather walk than driving a toyota , lol who undestand people , people just go for what they love, not for what is really best this artiicle is a surprise , why a surprise coz this is right, and is something you refuse to beliave coz you fall in love with toyota lol and you cant beliave this is happening, what is this about my suggestionto you is to shut your damn mouth, _????? what is all this about , do you own any jap car company , or am i making bad publisity to your company ???? racism my ass , i just live reality , i dont fool my self , yea jap cars are made in the USA coz americans what to keep the good name , in this jap brands coz they love it so much, and at least i know some english , and you havent even got out of the USA coz you think that there arent any more contryes than jap and germany , coz they make cars,and english is probably the only lenguage you know lol

    • k knowles

      Im unsure why the intro in the audi 2.7t says it uses twin Garrett turbos, but then switches to b/w which in fact is what it has. The block is iron, not aluminum. The part that really gets me is the final statement to get an e36 m3…. that is a completely moronic statement. The e36 m3 is (no offense bmw fanboys) a complete dog. They are low torque, low power, and are hardly even in the same class as an s4, more so when buying used as most s4 are at least chipped making 320bhp. And the quattro awd is unstoppable. Sorry but a 318ti with a 2.5 swap outruns a e36 m3…

      • LOLWUT

        Not about outrunning but the total package. An M3 will always top any Audi. Audis are slow and heavy

        • Spark

          Wait.. what? I own a E36 325i and it is NOT faster than my E36 M3. Not even close. Even before it was chipped and some larger injectors thrown its way. Audi’s also have understeering issues, the S4 especially. S4 also looks like shit. It’s just… so boring to look at. M3 with $600 in mods makes 330bhp. And a M3 has totally different suspension setups. Good luck beating a stock M3 around a track with a “318ti with a 2.5 swap”. Which is… oh right, BMW already did that, they called it a 325i.

    • matt houston

      Dude, i grew up in the U.S. and ALL of our cars totally suck. In a year or two they start falling apart and they DO leak oil and break down waaay more than the Japanese cars.

      • issabendeck1

        put 500k miles in a toyota with out engine oil burn and i will be with you man

        • matt houston

          I flipped the odometer on a Mitsubishi Might Max and went all the way to 200K after I flipped the OD before I sold it. It was in an accident at 50K after flipping the OD and drove slanted but it still drove… So, 500K ain’t nothing if you change the oil and do proper maintenance.

          • issabendeck1

            mitsu ,lol lol lol those are the worst , stay a way form those cars , i had a mirage , what a piece of shit car , , hey man i dont do girls driving , i put about 180miles a day in my everyday driving , my mitsu used a quart of oli a week , i dont know what tipe of reliability you are talking about here , im talking about using alot the car and driving 90mph every day , for 180miles a day , if a car last under my foot , i thinck it past the exam , in the USA there is a speed limit , we dont have that here , if you drive 55 ,your jap crap will last for ever , but those little high reving engines die fast at many consecutive hours at 80 to 90 mph drive and i am 48 man i have had them all ,ENDURANCE american engines were built for long distances happy driving at any speeds , and if this isnt enough , go and check what the dealerships and junckyards owners drive and ask them some questions.

          • matt houston

            Apparently you do not know what a Might Max is. Nobody drives a truck 90mph every day. The stupidity of your comment is unbelievable. You are classified as an abusive drive, as well as one that doesn’t mind breaking laws…and you expect cars to last.

            Tell you what, drive your American car in the city (harder on the engine) and highway 65-70 mph, flip the OD, then add on 500K additional with no leaks, then come back and talk trash.

          • issabendeck1

            if you dont do 90mph in any car you are no driver , how nerves or unexperienced driver might you be that cant do 90mph in any car , lol are you some 15 year old kid, abuse driver my ass , i beat that if you ride with me , i will have to put a sing in my car , go to the rest room before riding in my car , if not the my car will be shitted all over lol there are no driving laws in honduras , leaks ? all cars leak i m not talking bout leaks , im talking bout ENGINE OIL BURNING GOT THAT ask some mecanic .let him rule you

          • matt houston

            I guess I am no driver then Mr. Speed Racer. Enjoy your indestructible car while it lasts.

          • issabendeck1

            what ever man , any time soon i ll post a you tube video driving down town 70mph doing betweens in mild traffic , i know its unbeiebable but i have done it, and check some SAUDY ARABIAN drivers there are some stupidly crazy videos , im nothing dude cars in 2 wheels from sides and drifting in the middle of heavy traffic the world is full of surprises

          • matt houston

            yes, i’m sure those saudis driving on 2 wheels have less mechanical issues than people who drive their cars like normal people….whatever dude.

          • issabendeck1

            cool man , you are an egry person , get over with , im showing you how talent they are , their cars last nothing , this people change cars like we change undewear lol

          • matt houston

            Why should anyone be angry over a ridiculous issue such as this? You are trying to justify how awesome your car is by showing off you manly driving habits? Who is being totally illogical here?

          • Zack

            I have read all of your comments issabendeck1 and all I have to say to you is this. The fit and finish on American cars are CRAP. Why? Because they’re built in your part of the world and everything is half-assed. Further, the LS series of engine is the only series of engine Chevy has produced in a long time worth a damn. Ford’s are coming up a bit, but not much. When put American cars class to class with Toyota, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Honda, BMW, Mercedes, and other manufacturers that you call crap, they lose every time. You asked about a super car that uses a Toyota engine before. How about a hyper car that uses a Toyota V10? Your claim that Lamborghini will use a Chevy engine is retarded. They produce some of the most powerful V8′s, V10′s and V12′s on the planet, why go with an American V8 that produces the same power as a V6? Further, I don’t know of any street legal Ford or Chevy that you can drive to the track, run for four hours and drive home. I can list cars form several Japanese and German manufacturers that you can do that with. Oh, and your precious American V8′s barely produce the same power as 20 year old Japanese inline 6′s. Both stock and modified. Clearly you don’t know about cars like you think you do. Oh and you want a car that runs 90mph every day for a 100+ drive? Toyota Supra, Toyota Camry, Toyota MR2 have all done it for me personally for over a year at a time. And I raced and drifted them and generally abused them for fun. Oh, and the Supra took me to 170mph before I had to let out and it had 160,000 miles on it or so. My brothers 1980 Toyota truck has been abused and used on and offroad for the last 30 years and has 562,287 miles on it and still racking them up on stock everything. So, perhaps you need to learn about cars and understand them a bit more before you talk trash. We have a half ton farm truck that we’ve loaded with 1.75 tons and never had an issue. Towed 4.5 tons with it without issue. It has 250,000 or so on it. I picked up a Chevy camaro with a fresh engine in it. Broke it in properly for 1000 miles. Got on it hard once and blew the bearings. Drove a dodge dynasty for six months before the whole suspension fell out of it. Had a jeep comanche that started knocking when I changed the oil. K5 Blazer that blew two transmissions in a year. Ford mustang that blew out the rings before 120,000 miles. Dodge neon, 3 clutches in a year. Seriously, learn about cars before talking crap. You clearly know nothing.

          • issabendeck1

            no excuses i put 300kmiles in 5 concecutive years in avery day driving half street stop and go and half high speed open road in a 98 s10 chevy 2.2 liter those engines last as long as you wish , with a good maintenance, jap ones no matter what you do they will burn engine oil afrer some 100k miles thats for sure, of course hit the road every day 80 to 90 miles per hour drive, and you have no car after 2 driving years, but under slow driving lol any car will last longer, 50 mph highway that is soft for any car .

  • sixeight86

    The 2.7tt Audi BEL motor is one of the finest motors I have come across, especially in the larger engine bay of an A6. It is absolutely a mega sketchy car to buy used because it is so difficult for anyone NOT to drive these cars fast. Buying a performance automobile used is always a risky business because the original owner probably bought it to go fast too – and 1 out of 5000 owners no little to nothing about cars, maintenance, and turbos.

    After investing a little over a grand in maintaining the engine at 100k miles the BEL 2.7t and the Audi A6 c5 chassis are the most comfortable, reliable, and fun cars I have ever driven.

    I also really loved my 3rd generation turbo, inline-6 Toyota Supra. Just replaced the head gasket, transmission, clutch, and several other things which took 3 months in a shop only to be t-boned and have the car totaled 3 days later – one of the saddest car stories ever. The 3rd generation 5-speed turbo-charged Supra was an absolute blast with its RWD and pure power… Almost as fun as dipping out in the A6 during a blizzard.
    A Nissan Maxima over a Lincoln LS all day every day in regards to the post below. I work at Chrysler and let me tell you – quality is just a sign on the walls.

  • luxuries4millionaire

    What about the new Mercedes Benz CLA engine ? Should it be ok ? I am a bit scared since it is a new car, but what about the engine ? Thank you.

  • N54LoveHate

    You’re dead on with the N54 engine issues. I bought a 2008 535i and have had problems since pretty much day one. Oil leaks, water pump.

    • n54tx

      I just had an oil filter housing gasket fail on a n54. The coolant and oil are separated by a single piece of gasket that allows coolant and oil to mix when it fails. Sheesh. That was 1k$. Then the valve cover gasket started leaking 2weeks later. And thats min 6.5 labor hrs for a 50$ part.

  • Ben

    I have a BMW E34 540i with a M60 with 230000km and in great shape when the mech inspected the block recently. Good Aussie petrol didn’t really cause much damage here. Though another big issue is the “lifetime fill” advice on the automatic transmission fluid, so many ZF 5HP30 trannys killed around 150-200000km. Which is crazy since it was way overspecced, it was used in the 490nM/320hp RR Seraph and the 540nM/420hp DB7 V12. It should last nearly forever in a 400nM/280hp 4L V8… with a duh fred maintenance program of ATF changes every 100 thou km! Jaguar also used Nikasil in some of their engines BTW.

  • matt houston

    The N54 High Pressure Fuel Pump did go out on my 335i and was replaced…but other than that, the engine is a tank. I would not equate the HPFP to the engine though. Bosch is spotty as we all know and they have parts in all many makes and models in many countries. After the Bosch HPFP was replaced, no issues at all.

    - zero.

    • n54tx

      See my post above.

  • Matt

    Most of these engines are spot on, except the two Audi engines. These engines will not break at all if properly cared for as the factory intended. Owners are at fault if something breaks, not the engineering. Turbo replacement is also a maintenance item not a weak point in design.

  • Jay

    Seems as if this listing was biased more towards European vehicles.

    • Chase

      Yea, because these are cars that you think are reliable. No one expects an american car to be reliable.

  • Mike Svitek

    I’m seeing a trend in most of these: Problems with 6-cylinder (specifically straight-six). Maybe its just bad luck to make a straight-six?

    • Evan Repavich

      tell that to an r34 ;)

      • Mike Svitek

        r34 is a god in the form of a car. Luck doesn’t apply to it. ;)

  • Jason

    Have to disagree on the B5 S4s. I have one and its one of the most reliable vehicles I’ve ever had and it’s at 200k miles on stock turbos and stock clutch. No joke. Also running higher boost levels as I’m stage 2+

    The Toyota 7m motors have also been very reliable for me as a race car (7 24 hours of Lemons races on two motors, never blown a HG and only swapped motors to go turbo)

    • Jason

      And to add to that, How the hell is the Mitsu 6G72 motor not on here? Those cars are also a PITA to work on and are not very reliable.

  • Gabriel

    Any Honda/Acura with an automatic transmission WILL give you headaches. Trust me.

  • Auto worker

    Volkswagen 1,4 petrol is among the companys biggest fails , had one with 140 000 kms which burned through 2 litres of oil in 2000 kms , and sounded like a cement mixer afterwards , these engines are a sad story for VW. Car is now gone .
    Least reliable cars from my knowledge are Renaults , probably made to keep the workshops busy . Most dependable cars at least from my knowledge is older VW / Mercedes and Toyotas , cars like this will if maintained last forever .
    Basically a newer car will never last as long due to all the electronics and a totally different strategy of how the cars are desgined these days , they are not designed to last 10-15 years , maybe like 5 and that`s good enough for them . A sad fact but that`s the truth .
    Happy holidays every one .

    • ricko

      That’s not true about cars lasting only 5 years. I see cars at my dealership with 200k all the time. I had a Lexus in here with 315,000 miles and everything worked and it ran like a dream.

  • Volvota

    Ford Transit TDCI from 2006 and onwards , a car full of problems sadly and it`s woefully unreliable as well .

  • iKnowEverything

    Let me give everyone a golden tip: Buy 80′s-90′s good branded cars, and keep those and fix them. talking about Volvo (240, 242 etc) Nissan’s, suzuki, and more “JDMS”, mercedes, bmw.
    these cars are pretty much tanks, but will not break down that easy, and are easy to fix for yourself. Yes, there might be rust, but if you keep that in mind and treath your car with it (anti rust) then its not a big deal, especially the old volvo’s. Never buy new V6′s engines, or EcoBullshit’s.
    Like my facebook page for overall car info. facebookdotcomslashOnlyEpicCars

  • Ricko

    v-6 Accords and Acura’s are garbage. I’m a car dealer in FL and I can tell you, I wouldn’t touch one of those cars for my customers no matter how cheap I could buy it.It’s not just trannys, there is a myriad of problems with those cars. Caveat Emptor

  • John Smith

    Whatever else this article is or isn’t, it’s a poor read full of misplaced apostrophes. It reads like an unnecessarily long ramble that was idly bashed out without being subbed, which is the sort of oversight that lets a brand down. It could have been a lot more interesting than it turned out. Must do better.

  • LOU Montana

    I am on my second Subaru SVX and still love the cars. I have had the usual problems like wheel bearings, sunroof sticks but pops up with a push of a finger and a broken master window switch. I have never had a transmission go out.

    One tip that I can give people is to look at the person you are buying the car from. Don’t touch a car unless is has a complete service history and never buy a car from anyone younger than 45 years of age. NEVER BUY A MODIFIED CAR FROM A KID (18 to 35 years).
    Both of my Subaru’s came from persons that were 60 years plus and professionals. One came from Vermont and the other came from Los Angles. Both cars ran flawlessly with only minor repairs.

  • Kiwi BMW

    I bought a 1998 V6 Accord at 90,000 km and the transmission was unusable by 98,000. Dealer asked $8,500 for a new ‘box (bless the stealers), but an independent replaced clutch plates for $3,300. He said they’d last another 100,000 km if used carefully! What a shame – I kept it to 165,000 and absolutely nothing else had gone wrong. Great transport ruined by one weak link. The inde guy said the next series (arrived 2002/03) made up for it with a truly industrial strength auto box.

  • Zach Mayock

    I hate lists like this. There is no such thing as “10 Surprising Unreliable Cars”. However, “Unreliable idiotic drivers” do exist.
    Any car will be reliable if it is taken care of properly. The N54 is a great engine; stop changing the oil every 15k miles!!!!! Who cares if that’s what BMW recommends!
    I own an 08 535i and my n54 engine has been beyond phenomenal.
    I personally change the oil every 8,000-12,000 miles despite the fact BMW recommends an oil change every 15,000 miles.
    -Only issues have been 1 HPFP failure (covered under warranty until 10 years or 120,000 miles), and 1 water pump failure. I expected the Water Pump to break so that is not a big deal at all. YOU HAVE TO PAY TO PLAY!!!!
    —BMW’s water pumps use composite impellers which are prone to breaking, so I would never buy a BMW without expecting the Water Pump to break before 100k miles. When it breaks, replace it with an aftermarket pump with a METAL impeller which will last much much longer.

    If you want a twin-turbo car capable of pushing down 500+ hp you HAVE TO BE WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE.
    I push my car to the limit which also makes it more reliable. The turbos need to be run hard sometimes! Its a BMW, “the ultimate driving machine”, not “the ultimate cheap/reliable machine”. If you baby it around constantly and keep the revs under 4k, you’re simply asking for future problems.

    There would be no reason to have lists like this if everyone understood ALL European cars are expensive to maintain and people actually took proper care of their cars!


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