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So this car was my wife's car till this January when I inherited it. When it was about 2 years old, the gas mileage suddenly decreased from ~50mpg range to ~40mpg. I took it to a few shops but nobody could tell me what was going on. One Honda dealership said my air filter was clogged (they showed me a filter that was completely black with soot, a condition that didn't comport with my wife's almost total highway driving in rural Maine with no dirt roads ever traveled). I was hopeful that that was the problem but the gas mileage didn't budge from ~42mpg subsequently.
When I took over the car I began to try to figure the fuel consumption problem out in earnest. Another air filter change didn't do anything (again) and I tried increasing the tire pressure a bit to 35psi, but still nada. But about 2 months ago I noticed that the parking brake light would come on sometimes even if the lever was all the way down. Jiggling it made the light go off, but the fact that it happened at all got my attention. Shortly after that happened a few times I noted a brake smell when parking after a short local trip, so I took it to my local mechanic who said the parking brake calipers were hanging up. He loosened them but I told him I'd take it to a Honda dealer because I have an extended warranty.
Srue enough, yesterday I took it to the dealership where my wife got her new CRV in January, and their service dept confirmed that the parking brake calipers on both sides were hanging up and causing the pads to drag on the rotors slightly, and since it was a separate mechanical component from the hydraulic brakes, it was covered under our Platinum warranty. Great, right?
But here's where it gets interesting: I filled up with gas just before the service appointment yesterday so my gas mileage display was reset on Trip A just before I got to the shop. Prior to the fill-up the mileage for the entire 78k+ miles on the care was, as I noted, ~40 mpg (mixed hwy and town), 17.5% below the advertised city/hwy mileage on the sticker. The gas station was about 4 miles from the dealership and the display was showing 30.1 mpg when I pulled in. The dealership is about 50 highway miles from our house (same elevation, for any pedants out there!) and when I got home, Trip A now displayed 47.3 mpg, better than what the sticker mileage promised for highway mpg! (And it would have been higher if not for the low mpg from the first 4 miles prior to the repair!)
See attached photos of the displays, incontrovertible proof that the parking brake problem was the cause of our decreased mileage for the last 2 years. QED, as the math-geeks say.
Good for us, right? Well sure, but here's the thing: as I was researching our fuel consumption problem the last few months, I discovered that it's not at all an unusual thing in Honda Accord Hybrids to have similar, significantly reduced mpg from the advertised mpg. After my experience, especially with multiple shops not being able to figure out what the problem was (and after reading countless blogs about Accord Hybrid owners facing the same, inexplicable conundrum), I have a pretty good hunch that defective parking brakes may be at the bottom of this model's fairly common gas mileage problem.
The big picture: should there be a parking brake recall in response to this? That would be a huge thing for Honda to have to swallow, since it's a labor-intensive fix and the parts are not cheap. The bill to the Extended Warranty company yesterday for my parking brake caliper replacements was over $600, and that was using after market parts which were about 1/2 the cost of Honda parts. And that's without the cable system being touched - which I am withholding judgement about for now, till I see if my mileage decreases after continued parking brake use.
I also wonder about a class action suit being appropriate for the lost mileage, if the parking brake issue is indeed a pervasive problem with Accord Hybrids (and other cars, maybe that have the same type of parking brake?). In our case, a decrease of 17.5% from the average 47 mpg over 33k miles, at $2.50.gallon comes to more than $300. Oh, and in our case, that same dealership that fixed the parking brake yesterday also replaced the rear brakes and rotors on the same car at 52,000 miles, undoubtedly because of the parking brake issue they didn't catch at the time. They also advised me yesterday that the brake fluid should be changed out because of the overheating that was caused by the parking brake hanging up. IOW, we're out about $1,000 because of this factory defect.
That is all for now. As mentioned I will be monitoring mpg very carefully going forward to see if the parking brake linkage and cables also may need replacing. If my mileage goes back down after using the parking brake from now on, I will know that that's also part of the problem.
- Bruce C.,