A proposed class action filed this week claims the Earth Dreams 1.5L direct injection engine found in certain 2019-2021 Honda CR-V and Civic vehicles and 2018-2021 Accord vehicles is plagued by a defect that causes the engine oil to become contaminated with gasoline.
The 129-page lawsuit explains that diluted oil can cause a host of problems for a car, including premature wear and tear on the engine and its components, higher maintenance costs, engine stalling and “other dangerous situations” that present a significant safety hazard for drivers and others on the road.
As the case tells it, engine oil that’s contaminated with gasoline loses its viscosity and can no longer perform its principal function—namely, lubricating the many moving parts of the engine.
“This can result in contact between metal surfaces within the engine, leading to rapid wear of internal bearings, the rotating assembly and other internal parts that rely on lubrication to function correctly,” the complaint explains.
According to the suit, defendants American Honda Motor Co., Inc. and Honda Motor Company, Ltd. have “long been aware” of the apparent engine oil defect yet have failed to warn buyers and lessees and properly repair the affected vehicles at no cost to drivers.
The case contends that consumers who purchased the affected CR-V, Civic and Accord vehicles would not have bought or leased the cars – or would have paid “substantially less” for them – had they known about the alleged engine oil defect.
The Earth Dreams engine
The suit explains that Honda’s latest-generation “Earth Dream” technology was designed to increase fuel efficiency and reduce environmental impact by implementing features such as variable timing control, direct injection technology, the Atkinson cycle and “extensive friction reduction measures.”
Essentially, the lawsuit relays that the gasoline direct injection process used by the Earth Dreams engine—which involves injecting fuel at a high pressure directly into the engine’s combustion chamber instead of through the intake manifold—causes some of the fuel in the combustion chamber to remain unburned. Unburned gasoline and air are then pulled down into the engine’s crankcase, where the fuel can “significantly contaminate” the engine oil in the oil pan, the case says.
Per the suit, this event is known as “blow-by” and can cause a car’s engine oil to lose its lubricity and viscosity, which in turn can damage the engine bearings, valve train, fuel injectors and cylinder walls.
Though a positive crankshaft ventilation (PCV) system was invented to help reduce the risk of crankcase contamination, the PVC system in the affected CR-V, Civic and Accord vehicles is “simply inadequate” to prevent contamination of the engine oil, the lawsuit alleges.
According to the case, an increased oil level or oil that smells like gasoline are signs that a car’s oil has been diluted.
Honda’s response to the alleged engine oil defect
The lawsuit claims Honda has known about the apparent engine oil defect for years due to customer complaints and pre-sale testing yet has effectively done nothing to address the issue.
According to the case, Honda in early 2018 attempted to recall 350,000 CR-Vs and Civics sold in China following reports of high engine oil levels and strong gasoline odors, but the automaker’s recall plan was reportedly rejected by a Chinese watchdog agency, who said the proposals were “not enough.”
Then, in June 2019, Honda extended the factory warranty on over one million 2017-2018 CR-Vs and 2016-2018 Civics in the U.S. due to reports of gasoline contaminating the engine oil. Consumer Reports noted that the complaints “raised concerns about the durability of the 1.5-liter turbo engine and about the vehicles potentially stalling, especially in cold weather.” The warranty extension provided owners with an extra year of coverage for certain powertrain components with no mileage limitations, according to the suit.
As the case tells it, Honda has nevertheless refused to acknowledge the apparent defect to drivers and lessees of the affected CR-Vs, Civics and Accords, or warned them that they could experience “catastrophic engine failure” while driving and be exposed to an increased risk of injury.
Moreover, when owners and lessees attempt to have their cars repaired, Honda either refuses to repair them, insisting that the vehicles are operating properly or, in the event that the apparent defect manifests while the car is still under warranty, admonishes drivers “for not driving the [affected vehicles] for longer distances,” the lawsuit says.
In some cases, Honda instructs owners and lessees to continue driving their vehicles and “simply change the engine oil more frequently,” according to the complaint. The case notes, however, that cars whose oil has been diluted will also require replacement of damaged spark plugs and possibly fuel injectors, not to mention repairs to the camshaft, rocker-arm assembly or the engine itself. Per the suit, drivers of the affected CR-V, Civic and Accord vehicles may experience an unexpected increase in maintenance costs, and the frequent disposal of contaminated engine oil also has a greater impact on the environment, the complaint adds.
Who does the lawsuit look to cover?
The proposed class action looks to represent anyone in the U.S. who is a current or former owner or lessee of a 2019-2021 Honda CR-V, 2019-2021 Honda Civic or 2018-2021 Honda Accord equipped with an Earth Dreams 1.5L direct injection engine.
How do I know if my car has a 1.5-liter engine?
The case explains that for the 2019 Honda CR-V, the EX, EX-L and Touring trim levels came standard with the 1.5L Earth Dreams engine, but the LX trim came standard with a 2.4L Earth Dreams engine. For the 2020-2021 model years, the EX, EX-L, Touring and LX trim levels all came standard with the 1.5L Earth Dreams engine.
For the 2019-2021 Honda Civic, the EX, EX-L, Touring and Sport Touring trim levels came standard with a 1.5L Earth Dreams engine, while the LX and Sport trims came standard with the 2.0L Earth Dreams engine.
For the 2018-2021 Honda Accord, the LX 1.5T, Sport 1.5T, EX 1.5T and EX-L 1.5T trim levels came standard with the 1.5L Earth Dreams engine, while the Sport 2.0T, EX-L 2.0T and Touring 2.0T trims came standard with the 2.0L Earth Dreams engine.
How do I join the lawsuit?
There’s usually nothing you need to do to join or be considered part of a proposed class action lawsuit when it’s first filed. If the case moves forward and settles, those affected, called class members, should receive notice of the settlement with instructions on how to claim their share.
In the meantime, one of the best things you can do is to stay informed. Check back here for updates, but keep in mind that it can often take months or even years for a lawsuit to be resolved.
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