Car Owners Are Now Rethinking the Recall

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The Toronto Star

July 9, 2019

By Ellen Roseman

Matthew Foster has a problem with his 2013 Scion FR-S, a Toyota-owned brand. The car’s engine failed last May and he has to pay $7,000 to replace it.

Ironically, the failure happened shortly after he had taken his car in for repairs under a safety recall designed to head off a possible failure caused by faulty engine valve springs.

Last November, Transport Canada announced the recall of 3,051 Scion vehicles, whose engines were made by Subaru. It also recalled 19,164 Subaru vehicles (BRZ, Impreza and XV Crosstrek models) facing the same problem.

“The engine valve springs could fracture, causing an engine failure or a stall with the inability to restart,” Transport Canada said. “This could increase the risk of a crash, causing injury and/or damage to property. Dealers will replace the engine valve springs.”

Sounds frightening, right?

Foster’s experience might make you pause before jumping to comply with a safety recall.

“My engine failed while I was driving up north on the May long weekend,” he said. “I towed the car to the nearest dealership, which told me the engine failure was most likely related to the recall work.”

But when he towed the car back to his Toronto dealer, he found out the valve springs were still intact.

“I did some research online and found out there were many others reporting engine failure after the recall work was done,” he told me.

“It is suspected that the technicians aren’t sufficiently trained to reassemble the engine after the recall work is performed, causing failure of internal engine components.”

When the North American recall was announced last November, Subaru estimated that only 1% of the vehicles would have a failure of the valve springs.

Subaru also said the repair takes around 12 hours and requires the engine to be removed from the car and torn apart.

Is the recall causing more harm than the original issue itself?

Chris Tsui, a writer for the Drive magazine, posed the question after he took in his own 2013 Scion FR-S for the recall in February and watched it die on the side of the road two weeks later. Toyota Canada decided to cover the repair cost for Tsui’s car after it had left him stranded.

But not all owners are as fortunate.

Foster didn’t get anywhere with Toyota Canada. And he’s not keen to pay $7,000 to his dealer for a replacement engine.

“It will either have defective spring valves or will need the recall work, which may cause the engine to fail,” he said.

“I’m still on the hook for the $500 I spent on a rental car for the long weekend while we were stuck up north and all related towing fees.”

David Shum, a spokesperson for Toyota Canada, says the safety and security of customers is a priority.

Toyota continues to encourage owners on the recall list to take in their vehicles to a Toyota dealer for remedial repairs.

“We continue to investigate reports regarding issues involving certain Scion FR-S vehicles after the engine valve spring recall remedy was completed,” Shum said.

Subaru Canada spokesperson Julie Lychak said the company has focused on both the procedure and workmanship of the repair with its experience with the Subaru Boxer engine layout.

“We stand behind our product and customers in completing a proper repair,” she said.

Kirill Stepanchuk also had an engine failure with his 2013 Scion FR-S after doing the recall work in February.

He drove the car gently back to the dealer, avoiding towing costs, but he was quoted $6,500 for a compatible used engine.

“Many FR-S owners are declining the safety recall to avoid risking engine trouble they would need to fix at their own expense,” he said.

“Had I known that my car had a chance of engine failure, I would certainly have made the same decision.”

Consumer advocate George Iny, head of the Automobile Protection Association that compiles the popular annual Lemon-Aid car guides, gets the last word on this issue.

“There haven’t been any valve spring failures prior to performing the recall in Canada, to the APA’s knowledge,” Iny said. “It’s an expensive precaution for the two automakers (Subaru and Toyota) that use the engine.

“If your vehicle is covered, the best thing is to wait until there is more clarity around this situation.”

Copyright 2019 Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.

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