If Honda issued a recall on a part only five days AFTER that part failed on my car, should they be liable for damages?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

Last month, my 1996 Honda Accord died. My mechanic says a "seal broke" and my camshaft snapped. After some investigation on my own, I found that American Honda recalled the "Balancer Shaft Seal" five days after my incident. So, to make a long story short, Honda said that it will only cover the seal itself, and not the engine that got ruined because the seal failed. Do I have a case against Honda? Honda said it is "not blaming me," but it is not rectifying the situation, either. -- Dawn

TOM: I'm sure that this is just an oversight by Honda, Dawn. I can't imagine that Honda officials would take such a position and risk having us tell 10 million potential Honda owners what jerks they are in our newspaper column. They wouldn't do that, would they?

RAY: No. Must be a mistake.

TOM: You have a very good case, Dawn. Honda made a faulty part. The part broke. And when that part broke, it ruined your engine. What could be clearer than that?

RAY: Besides, everybody in the business knows these seals are no good. We've been replacing them for years. And if I've known about the problem for years, I'm sure Honda has, too.

TOM: I think you should contact Honda's zone manager for your region and give them another chance to make a more appropriate response.

RAY: Honda might not want to pay for the whole engine, since it WAS four years old, and it might feel you had some responsibility to notice the oil leak before it became catastrophic. But it should still pay for at least part of your new engine, or pay for the cost of a used replacement engine.

TOM: As I said, we'd be surprised if Honda doesn't do the right thing. But if it doesn't, write back.

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