In issuing a new recall Monday, Honda is tackling anew a familiar problem: faulty ingnition-lock systems that allow drivers to shut off the engine and remove their keys without ever putting their vehicle into park.
The result has been at least 28 complaints and 11 instances where the cars started rolling and crashed, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Department report. One incident involved a minor injury, Honda said in a statement.
The Honda recall announced Monday involve nearly 400,000 cars in the United States: some 197,000 Accords and 117,000 Civics from the 2003 model year as well as roughly 69,000 Honda Elements from the 2003-04 model years. Similar problems prompted the automaker to issue recalls in 2003 and again in 2005 to fix earlier versions of Honda Accords, Odysseys, Acuras, and Preludes.
If you own one of the vehicles in the latest recall, the company expects to mail a recall notice in late September. By Sept. 20, Honda owners can also visit the company's recall website (www.recalls.honda.com) or call its recall center (800-999-1009, select option 4) to see if their vehicle is involved. Because of a change during the model year, not all the Accords, Civics, and Elements have the defective part. The fix is free.
If you suspect you already have a problem, you can try this test once you've reached a parking spot, says Chris Martin, a Honda spokesman.With the car still in drive, turn off the engine. If you can remove the key without first putting the car in park, then you have a defective ignition interlock.
"People who are really concerned could go to see a dealer," says Mr. Martin. But at this point, dealers don't yet have the replacement part for the defective ignition lock.
Instead, use extra caution until the car can be fixed, he suggests. Make doubly sure you put the car in park before leaving it. Also, put on the hand brake for extra protection. (The ideal procedure is to shift into neutral, engage the hand brake, then shift into park, and take your foot off the brake. That reduces strain on the transmission.)
Although there are nearly 400,000 Hondas that need the ignition lock system replaced, it's not a time-consuming procedure. "It's a fairly simple repair," Martin says.
Perhaps with this recall, Honda will have put its ignition-lock problems behind it.