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2011 Honda CRV needs new brake system for $3800!

Honda dealer has informed me that I need a new brake system after brake fluid has been contaminated. They believe that a petroleum product has been added to the brake fluid and has deteriorated all the seals in the braking system. I have had no brake service and 2 oil changes: the last at the Honda dealership in Jul 2012 (evening express service), the first at a quick change in Jan 2012. The dealer’s mechanics are indicating that they believe the contamination is recent (last few days) and believe that this led to the brake failure. They believe that someone “topped off” the brake fluid with something other than brake fluid. I have checked with multiple brake shops, including another Honda dealer, and they believe it could take months for the contamination to lead to brake failure. The Honda dealer has indicated they will cover the charges since they were the last place to service the vehicle, if it can be proven that it could take months to lead to brake failure after contamination. Any insight you can share would be appreciated. Is it possible that whatever the fluid is has been there since manufacture and has taken a year for brake failure? The dealer has told me that they sent the fluid in for analysis.

It is possible that the fast lube place put something improper in your brake system back in January 2012. The “techs” there are often undertrained and poorly educated. And they always mess with all the fluids, just looking for more work to do (read: revenue to generate).

And yes, the wrong product could damage seals. And it would not need to get all the way through the system to do so. All it would need to do is damage a rubber seal in the master cylinder. However, January having been 10 months ago it could have worked its way through the system.

Post back and let us know what the fluid analysis shows.

And be glad the Honda dealershipp has agreed to cover the damages.

Now don’t go to those fast-lube places anymore.

The dealership has NOT agreed to cover the damages. They believe it has happened in the last few days and could not have been them in Jul, too long ago. The quick lube receipt indicates that the brake fluid was FULL during their inspection in Jan.

Apologies. I misunderstood.

That being the case, the price is way too high. If the fluid analysis cannot determine fault, my suggestion would be to call some independant shops and get quotes. Doing so now might save you some aggrivation later.

Exactly what was the failure that caused the car to be in the shop in the first place?

No way would I take any car, let alone a new car to a quick lube place. My BIL related that he was in a hurry and needed an oil change so went to one. He caught the kid just in time starting to put transmission fluid in the engine instead of oil. These kids are half asleep most of time and may not be able to read English. Anything is possible. It would be interesting what the analysis comes up with but you should also get your own sample. Seems like if it was contamination, then either the dealer or the quick lube is on the hook but may take some effort to prove it. (Sure no one in your family poured washer fluid in by mistake then didn’t say anything about it?)

A small amount of, say, power steering fluid, added to the brake fluid reservoir would indeed take weeks to cause a failure of first the master cylinder, then the ABS unit and much later, the wheel calipers…Chances are, the contaminated fluid has not reached the calipers yet…So a new master cylinder and ABS pump/control valve…should restore your brakes…

What is exactly happening to the brakes? Leaks all over?

The wrong fluid could indeed damage all the seals in all four wheels, the calipers. I’ve never done the experiment, but there isn’t much fluid that is transfered on each application of the brake pedal. My guess is that it would take several weeks at least for the wrong fluid to work it’s way from the master cylinder to the calipers and damage the seals. If all the caliper seals are indeed damaged, it may have been something wrong added to the brake fluid, but a while ago.

It seems like it will be difficult to determine who did what though. It seems like the dealership wouldn’t be willing to accept responsibility for something they didn’t do. You can see that, right?

Maybe the best thing to do is take the car to an independent mechanic and get another perspective. Maybe there is a less costly alternative to getting your car back on the road.

Warranty is warranty don’t let them buffalo you you did nothing wrong.

The quick lube place likely screwed up. Those guys are morons.

What you know is one thing…What you can PROVE is something else…Warranties don’t cover SOMEONE contaminating the brake fluid…

I think we are not helping. The car is under warranty, the brakes are failing and the dealer is blaming it on “something” that was added to the fluid. I am not sure why everybody is taking the dealer’s side. That is why I am asking to see what the failure is. But, nonetheless, the paperwork from the oil change place does not show anything being added. The Honda dealership has two choices, one is to prove that there is really something added by someone other than Honda causing the failure, two is to fix it under warranty.

At this point seems like their position is “we are just so good that our brakes don’t fail, no errors in the factory fluid fill or during our maintenance routine could have happened”. They need to come up with some evidence to make their case.

For $3800, they can have a sample of the fluid analyzed.

The dealer is doing the right thing by having a fluid analysis done considering the situation. If the test shows fluid contamination exists then any discussion of factory warranty is a moot point.

I do have a question though. Did you buy this car brand new (as in 4 or 5 miles on it) or was it a dealer demo or very low miles lease return? My assumption is brand new but just wonderin’.

“Warranty is warranty don’t let them buffalo you you did nothing wrong.”

Not in this case, IMHO!

“Warranties don’t cover SOMEONE contaminating the brake fluid.”

Warranties cover “defects in materials and workmanship” of a vehicle, based on the way that it left the factory. Negligence and vandalism are never covered, as those acts are not the fault of the folks who built the car. In this case, someone was negligent, but–unfortunately–proving WHO was negligent will be difficult or–more likely–impossible.

It really sucks to be in this type of situation, but unfortunately, I don’t think that the OP is going to get any financial assistance from either the mfr or the dealership.

What happened here? Either the brake fluid was bad from the factory? The Quick change oil place added incorrect fluid at 1st oil change? The dealer added incorrect fluid at the 2nd oil change? The owner added the incorrect fluid by mistake? Someone intentionally added the wrong fluid as an act of sabatoge?

Very unlikely that the fluid was improper from the factory.

Quite possible that quick change place topped off the fluid with the wrong stuff. It would be most likely power steering fluid. Just too weird to put motor oil into the small brake fluid reservoir. Washer fluid is about the only other fluid possible and not likely, same as motor oil. An analysis will tell the contaminant. The paperwork from the quick change shop is suspect. It is a checklist and not carefully filled out by the personnel. Very easy for one person to add fluid and another to look at the reservoir and check off that it is full. This checklist is completed after the service is done, so it isn’t that the reservoir was full at the start of service, but that it was full at the end of the service. The quick change shop could have made a mistake.

The dealer personnel who do the quick oil changes at the dealership are not much different or better than the people at the quickie oil change shops. The dealer will use a less trained and less experienced new or jr mechanic to do this work. The dealer could have added the wrong fluid too. Not much different than the quickie oil change place.

The owner claims to not have added any fluid to the brakes, and there is no reason to doubt that claim.

Could someone have done this intentionally? Yes, a disgruntled worker at the Honda factory, the quick change oil place, or the dealer would have access to the car and fluids. If the analysis shows power steering fluid, it is just a mistake and the question is who made it? If the fluid is something really strange (not usually found in a typical oil change bay), like benzene, gasoline, lighter fluid, etc. that leads toward intentional action. The analysis results could be revealing.

I feel the speed of the destruction of the brakes depends on the fluid contaminant. Some will mix faster or slower with brake fluid than others. Some is more caustic to rubber and plastic than others. Power steering fluid is used in a hydralic system with lots of rubber and plastic so I see how it would impact brake performance, but not that it would deteriorate rubber and plastic seals, at least not quickly. Benzene I believe would do much more damage quickly, but how would it get in there in the first place?

If I was the OP I would consider getting my own sample of the brake fluid tested. I’d start looking for a lawyer, and I might consider getting a “automotive investigation” firm looking into just what happened here before evidence starts to disappear.

This situation reinforces the benefit of having your vehicle serviced at ONLY ONE reputable shop. This could be the dealers shop or an independent shop. Then there is no argument as to who did what and when. You have an unbroken chain of service orders documenting all the work performed at a single shop…It’s either that or you do all the oil changes and fluid checks yourself.

The dealer gets paid by the company for warrenty work they do. I would get all my information together and find a “friend” at Honda America, customer service, and start from there. The dealer is under no obligation to you, the car company is. Get on the phone to them, now, and get to the dealer from the back door. You are looking for money to do the repair.

The proof of wrong doing on their part is much greater for the dealer. They are not the ones who will ultimately pay you for work that may need to be done. Argue your case with the company and their technicians, not a dealer.
I have found that working this way gives me a much better chance of getting results I want. Besides, I have also found that the company technicians are much more knowledgable in these " special" circumstances.

Just curious about a couple of things.
Assuming this problem is due to contaminated fluid (odds of a factory screwup are about nil) then how is this a factory obligation if a fast lube or even the dealer was the one responsible for any screwup?

Second question. Who are these factory technicians? There are factory service reps but very, very few of them have ever turned wrenches for a living and the majority that I’ve known had pretty limited mechanical expertise.

I’ve been watching this hoping the OP would explain what they experienced with the brakes. Why did the OP take it to the dealer for the brakes, but so far no explanation has been forthcoming. There are a couple of things here that just don’t add up.

In my used oil containers, oil products always float on brake fluid, so I would not expect any oil product to get into the brake system, just float on top of the master cylinder reservoir. To test this, I put some brake fluid into a clear plastic bottle and added some ATF, they did not mix. When I shook the bottle, they separated immediately after I stopped.

The second thing that doesn’t add up is why would anyone need to add anything to the brake system of a vehicle that is only two oil change cycles old. If the OP had 30k miles on his vehicle, I could see that happening, but not on the first or second oil change. If it needed fluid on the first or second oil change, something was already wrong with the brakes.

Third thing is, rubber is used to seal against oil. Rubber does not deteriorate in oil so an oil based product should not have done any permanent damage, a flush should be all the system needs.

I think the dealer is pulling a fast one here. First, is there anything actually wrong with the brake system or is this something made up problem by the dealership? If something is really wrong, is the dealer planning on denying warrantee work to the customer and charging the customer, then turn around and submit it to Honda as a warranty repair. And last, is the dealer just going to flush the system and charge for a complete replacement?