2012 Honda Pilot and Acura MDX fuel tank recall exposes flaws at NHTSA (Updated 2/24/2012 at 9:00 a.m. Central Time)

Possible fuel tank leaks caused Honda to recall 8,700 of its 2012 Pilot and Acura MDX sports utility vehicles in the U.S.  Honda said it would inspect and, if necessary, replace the fuel tank. Honda emphasized that no fires have yet o


In a tersely-worded, hard-to-find press release it was explained that “the “vent shut float (VSF) valve case in the fuel tank assembly does not meet the design specifications.” According to the press release (which is posted in an obscure location on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website and doesn’t say whether it was written by NHTSA, Honda, or by both of them as a joint press release): “As a result, fuel may leak from the tank, increasing the risk of fire.” (emphasis ours).

The press release also says “The safety recall is expected to begin on or about March 13, 2012.”  Passengers and occupants who burn to death between February 23 and March 13 were not mentioned by Honda or the NHTSA.

(Update Fri. 2/24/2012 at 9:00 a.m. Central Time): to find out if your vehicle has been recalled, see the web pages cited in the final paragraph of this article).

Prudent Honda Pilot and Acura MDX owners may want to call to find out if their car is safe before driving it. After all, the Pilot is the type of vehicle Honda markets to consumers to use for family vacations or for soccer moms who may travel with a load of children, . The press release appears to provide a solution: “Customers may contact the national highway traffic safety administration’s vehicle safety hotline at 1-888-327-4236.”

There are several problems with that statement, however. The first problem is that it isn’t true. The telephone number does not ring at the NHTSA “vehicle safety hotline,” but instead at Honda’s main automated telephone system. The phone number is not answered by a real person, but by an anonymous voice that gives you a menu of button selections to reach different departments.

I decided to call the telephone number in the press release to see what information I could get. I used the “Recorder” app for iPhone (which is a pretty nice free app). Below this paragraph I have posted a link to an MP3 file showing how the call went. You’ll have to wait until the 7 or 8 second mark because the iPhone Recorder app spends the first few seconds warning the other party they are being recorded, and you can’t hear that part on this audio file.


If you are a very patient, prudent Honda Pilot or Acura MDX owner, you might wait until you hear option 4, which deals with people who have received notice of recalls. After I pushed the “4” button, and a few more buttons, I was able to reach a real, live person who said he could tell me if a 2012 Honda Pilot had been recalled due to fuel tank links. It might help drivers who need the information to know that Honda’s recall campaign number is S25 and S26.

The February 23, 2012 press release about the Honda recall provides an alternate way to obtain information. It suggests that Honda owners may visit HTTP://WWW.SAFERCAR.GOV. One major problem with this suggestion is that there is absolutely no information on that page about the 2012 Honda and Acura MDX fuel tank recall. (See

screenshot below):

SaferCar.gov Home Page February 23, 2012

Making matters worse is the fact that you can search for “Honda Pilot

recall” in the search box at the top of the page, and the search results page says it can’t find any information about a Honda Pilot recall.

See the screenshot below:

Honda Pilot recall search at SaferCar.gov

"Honda Pilot Recall" search results at SaferCar.gov on 2-23-2012

This isn’t the only Honda

recall this week, and it isn’t the only failure of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) to fail in it’s duty to protect American consumers. The NHTSA apparently views its mission differently than those of us who believe the agency should protect American citizens.

UPDATE 2/24/2012 at 9:00 a.m. Central Time):

Honda owners who want to find out if their vehicle has been recalled can get their automobile’s 17 character Vehicle Identification Number (VIN number) and get recall information at Honda’s Owner Link site.  For help locating your vehicle’s VIN number, visit this Honda Help page.




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