Japanese cars are synonymous with being both a value buy and reliable as the rising of the sun (see what I did there?) When the American car buying market discovered that you can buy an affordable car that won’t break down on you, they scooped them up as fast as they could make them. But are there a couple of anomalies that aren’t your typical picture of Japanese reliability? Absolutely!
A member of Reddit’s /r/cars subreddit asked: “What are the most unreliable Japanese cars?” Although there were more than 500 responses and counting, here are the top 10!
10. Isuzu Rodeo’s– Making its debut in Japan in 1989, these Japanese imports were first branded as Isuzu Amigos before becoming Isuzu Rodeo’s (and Honda Passports.) Apparently, they are unreliable having made this list. Burning oil seemed to be a standard feature. It’s poor safety cage and the amount of movement from crash dummies in a 40 MPH test crash branded these Rodeo’s as unsafe as well!
9. Nissan/Alfa Arna’s– Unbeknownst to most American motorists, there was a period of time when Nissan and Alfa Romeo had a partnership to share parts. Europe imposed import quotas on Japan, especially when it came to cars. Japan used a loophole and stuffed Alfa engines in their Nissan Pulsar chassis and named it the Alfa Arna. You can imagine just how reliable Italian engines in a Japanese chassis turned out.
8. Acura RSX– By itself, the Acura RSX was reliable. But as they say, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. It was Honda’s manual transmission (GASP!) in these Acura RSX’s that were notorious for popping out and being unreliable. If you weren’t keeping up with MT fluid changes like you should, they’d treat you wrong.
7. Toyota AE-86’s– What? The beloved car of Initial D fandom is unreliable? Well according to /r/cars, yes! Many AE86 owners chalk it up to rust issues and engine gremlins for just being an old car. Did you know that most AE86’s are 30 years old already? Perhaps it’s because new owners rev that little 4AGE twin cam to high-heavens each every time they leave the driveway that they suffer engine issues.
6. The first gen Honda Civic– An unreliable Civic? Impossible! Well, if you owned a 1970’s Honda Civic, you found out that they had rust issues the hard way. It was so bad that Honda issued a recall on more than one million Civics. Rust would often affect suspension components as well which deemed these Civics not only rusty but downright unsafe. Since then, Honda has improved the Civic (obviously) and people have all but forgot this “typical Honda Rust.”
5. Second gen Mitsubishi Eclipse– Google “crankwalk” and literally a picture of a second generation pops up. Eclipses with the turbocharged 4G63 were notorious for spinning bearings due to bearing play in the crankshaft, seizing cranks and subsequently seizing engines. The most reliable way to fix this issue was to swap an older engine into it.
4. Nissans in general– This one’s a bit of a stretch but supposedly Nissan’s are a notch down on reliability when compared to Hondas and Toyotas. There doesn’t seem to be a specific Nissan model but it seems the mid-2000 Nissan was plagued with electronic issues, quality control on body panels and wonky engines. The jury’s still out on this one, but it’s made the list.
3. Second generation Honda Odyssey– Honda’s automatic transmissions in the late 90’s and early 2000’s were essentially flawed from the factory. Honda thought that switching from a screen filter to a fiber style filter in a plastic housing was better. On paper it was.
Technically, the fiber style filter…filtered out dirt and debris better than the screen, but they oftentimes got plugged up. When that happened, their automatics were susceptible to premature failure. With the old screen filter, you could clean the screens and do a drain and refill and all the old crud would come out, not affecting the transmission. But if you’re the typical Honda owner who won’t think about ATF cleanliness, you’d end up with plugged ATF filters and a shot transmission in no time.
This one hits close to home having swapped in a used automatic in my 1999 Honda Civic 87,000 miles ago.
2. Mazda’s Rotary– Mazda’s RX-7, RX-8, and anything they stuck a Wankel in was great when it worked, but once you started burning excessive oil, you knew you’ve blown your apex seals on your rotary. It wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when.” Typically, this happens a tick over 100,000 miles.
1. Honda-McLaren F1 car- You can’t buy this F1 car at a showroom obviously, but given the recent news of Honda-Mclaren splitting up, this choice was upvoted for obvious reasons.
We cheered, we cried, and we shed tears for Senna when McLaren stuffed Honda engines into their chassis back in 2014. The ‘ol combo was back, but this new Honda engine was terrible. Honda could never figure out the issue with their power unit. It was always a mid-pack finisher, oftentimes didn’t finish its race, and was a headache to both Vandoorne, Alonso and the entire Mclaren-Honda team. As you know, they’ve broken up for 2018. Good riddance, Honda.
So if you’re in the market for a reliable car, stay away from this lot or don’t partner with Honda to power your F1 team.