Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

How Many Vehicles Get A Bad Rep...due to operator negligence or outright Abuse?

This thought has been occupying my mind more so than usual lately…Not sure why. But I thought it would make good fodder for discussion.

How many vehicles / engines get a bad rap all due to operator negligence…rather than poor engineering or part defects? Methinks the number could be very high. Not including known part defects, recalls or failures…Im talking about otherwise normal running proper vehicles and such…

Why am I thinking about this? Seems for whatever reason, of late I have had a lot of discussions with people who were asking me about repairs or engines and in the process of me counter questioning what their preventive maintenance has been…and or oil change intervals etc… I have walked away from more of these conversations shaking my head and thinking… Jeezoo…that machine doesn’t stand a chance in hell.

How widespread do you guys think this is? I think the real stats (which no one seems to want to divulge) would support my theory of “Abuse” more often than not.

I dunno… It just has my gears turning… what do you guys think? Personally…I think “Abuse” whether intentional or unintentional is rampant…


I think you hit the nail on the head Honda.

I’ve too had people complain about brand X tranny…then you find that in the 140,000 miles that they had it…they never did any maintenance. Now that it’s toast, they blame the manufacturer.
Just popping the hood on some cars makes me cringe.

Same with engines, tires, battery’s, etc. etc…


Yosemite: Most of that you have to blame on the manufacturer. By that I mean the maintenance schedule on automatic transmissions. Most recommend zero maintenance, no fluid change, nothing. That’s fine if you are going to dump the car when it reaches 100k, but otherwise no.

Yes I agree with you on the manufacturers maintenance schedule.

That’s why they claim "it’s a no maintenance tranny . Because by the time the tranny goes belly up the warranty period is over.


Agree! When Japanese cars stated selling here, they came with very elaborate maintenance instructions, such as changing the differential fluid very 10,000 miles and other unfamiliar tasks. The owners of large V8 Detroit iron simply ignored all these and the results were “flimsy” Japanese cars.

I had a co-worker who had a large Ford Station wagon which saw little or no maintenance. He was getting paid mileage in a new position and planned to buy an early 80s Honda Accord. When he asked me about how good they were, I explained they were a “piece of precision equipment” and he needed to follow the maintenance to the letter.

He actually did this and the first repair was a new battery at 70,000 miles; other wise everything was OK.

On other occasions I’ve actually heard owners brag how little maintenance they did and the car was still running at 100,000 miles. There is a general understanding that not changing the oil and filter, just topping up, will get a car to 60,000 or more miles before the engine seizes up.

I never thought about what @BillRussell stated about the maintenance schedule. Most people think their owners manual is some sort of obscure and ancient textbook that never sees the light of day…

But I never thought about those who actually read the manual for maintenance advice and see that there IS no maintenance recommended ! That just sorta blew my mind right there… It reminds me of the “lifetime” gear oil that I supposedly have in my VW GTi… Of course I changed mine when it crossed 100K …the oil was a bit expensive but… It got done I can assure you.

They even used these Seriously Wacky drain and fill bolt interfaces… It uses a “Triple Square” type of tool to manipulate the drain and fill… To make matters even worse…not only is the bolt Triple Square…but it is also a “Security Triple Square” meaning it has a peg or post in the center…so only a tool with the female side of this peg will work… Most people dont even know what a Triple Square is…let alone a Security version.

Hmmm… Maybe Operators arent the only ones to blame here?


I’ve owned both foreign and domestic in my 40+ years of driving. I saw very little difference in the maintenance schedule between the 2.

Our newer vehicles have much longer maintenance schedules - like 10k oil change intervals. I still change my oil very 5k.

Honda Blackbird, you are dead on the money with your comments. I have also gotten involved in discussions with people who trash their car and want to point their finger at whoever manufactured it. Many of those discussions ended with a what can you do shoulder shrug because the person who is involved in the discussion simply doesn’t want to hear it nor will they ever believe a word you’re saying.

I’m also very familiar with the Triple Square tools and the Security Triple Square.

One of my biggest Triple Square aggravations involved being halfway through a VW Golf manual transmission diassembly and discovering 5 deeply countersunk 5.5 MM Triple Square fasteners and no factory specialty tool to remove them with.
Jesus Christ; at least keep it a common size.

My interest has been the predictability of being stranded. In other words, every time I see a car waiting for a tow truck, I wonder if they neglected some warnings (CEL, bearing noise, low tire pressure, etc) for a while. I know a few co-workers who would ask me about their car problems. I go into detail and explain what should be done. I usually follow up with them in a few weeks and most of the time the answer I get is they were too busy to get around to it.

In our case though things were a bit different. The only car we have had that needed to be towed (4 times) was a Dodge Caravan. Once the fuel pump went right behind the red light, no warnings. Another time a wheel cylinder started leaking, then the relatively new radiator’s transmission line burst, and then again the brake master cylinder went out.

I’m more impressed with vehicles that seem to thrive on inattention. 80’s and early 90’s F-150’s with the 300 I6 , Crown Vics, GM H Body’s with the 3.8L V6, Toyota pickups with the 22R/22R-E I4, the MB W123 diesels, etc.

But yeah, I think some cars do get a bad reputation that mainly stems from a lack of maintence. Hyundai and Kia’s from the early 2000’s come to mind; true they weren’t outstanding cars, but they were bought mainly by people who wanted something cheap that got acceptable fuel economy, and everything else was an afterthought. Luxury cars that are on the 2nd and 3rd owners are also prime examples. People buy these cars after they’ve taken a big deprecation hit. $8500 for a 10 year old Benz or $8500 for a 7 year old Accord? The MB is the cooler car no doubt. But what many people don’t realize is that upkeep costs for a 10 year luxury car aren’t that far off the upkeep costs for a 10 month old luxury car. Parts and labor rates are always more than they would be on an Accord or Camry. And when something breaks, the people bought the Benz/BMW/Audi/Jag for what appeared to be a song, really can’t afford to fix anything when it breaks, so repairs aren’t done. Soon the price of the accumulated repairs needed, exceeds the value of the car, and it gets junked.

I had to look up “Triple Square”. Learn something new every day. Although I’ve probably seen the fasteners, just didn’t know what the name is. Rate this on the level of Whitworth.

all because BAD publicity spreads like wild fire.
Virtually Nobody writes a letter to commend a product. ( not just cars )
But boy-howdy when somthin’ aint right they race to the mailbox ( now email ) and fire off a scathing negative blast.
THIS is why it only SEEMS like any product may seem bad since the only reviews they have to print are bad ones.

Agree! The Ford Pinto was a much better car than the Chevy Vega, but the gas tank location virtually condemned it. Pintos were fun to drive as well.

I don’t think the younger generation understands how a car functions and therefore doesn’t understand about maintenance requirements. This is true of appliances as well.

This is true of appliances as well

Ding Ding Ding, I think we have a winner! Most people think of cars as appliances. As long as the light goes on when you open the door and it starts…Drive it! That’s why, IMHO, manufacturers have these “no maintenance” items in their owners manuals that WE all think of as normal maintenance.

Or THEY will do all the maintenance on expensive cars during the warranty period because lease customers just won’t and most expensive cars are leased. They don’t want to wreck a reputation of quality because their lessors don’t care. It does allow them to do updates and warranty fixes without inconveniencing their customers or affecting their JD Power quality ratings.

The used car market price exposes this myth, though, don’t they?

I am thinking it is a mix, some cars are prone to problems and some driver are prone to neglect, to the result of the old adage, a stitch in time saves nine. Lack of oil changes and sludgeing or other issues first thought.

My children don’t understand how a car works, but they get the maintenance done per the owner’s manual. Mrs JT tought them about frugality and I impressed on them that their cars can last a very long time and not need repairs if they will just maintain them properly.

As to the original premise, I think that the inverse is true. People that want a reliable car are willing to do the maintenance required by the manufacturer for as long as they own the car. They look for new cars with excellent reliability reputations, and then enhance the reputation by taking exquisite care of it.

I had written a long reply… but then I read Jt’s response and realized he’d nailed it. His last paragraph says it all.

I think owners are becoming more reluctant to bring their car in for routine maintenance for fear the shop will discover something super-expensive needs to be fixed, or the shop will misdiagnose and break something that was otherwise working, due to new car complexity. We hear problems like this from time to time here, where the shop forgot to tighten the oil plug or the differential drain plug or messed up a routine timing belt change and bent all the valves.

In days of yore, 1950’s and 60’s, 70’s car designs, about the worse that would happen is they’d forget to install the ignition rotor when doing a tune-up and couldn’t get it to start. But eventually they’d figure the reason. Now, the owner fears the car may never start again or they’ll run out of money figuring out why if they take it in for servicing.

I think this happens with a lot of the little econobox commuter cars. People buy 'em 'cause they’re cheap, and they run the hexx out of them with little to no maintenance, they think of them as throwaway cars, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Or they scrap it over an $800 repair because they won’t spend $800 repairing a car that only has a $900 book value. Not realizing, $800 once or even twice a year is way cheaper than $400 or more every month in a car payment. . .