(CNN) - The Honda CR-V, one of the most popular vehicles in America, is plagued by a potentially dangerous engine problem that could cause the small SUVs to lose power or even stall, according to Consumer Reports magazine.
In some CR-Vs, gasoline can leak into the SUV's engine oil. That can eventually cause the engine to lose power or stall completely. Several Consumer Reports subscribers reported the issue which has also been the subject of of dozens of complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to the magazine. Many more owners have complained of the problem in online forums, Consumer Reports said.
Several CR-V owners have posted complaints with NHTSA reporting a strong smell of unburned gasoline as a result of fuel getting into the engine's lubricating oil.
A Honda spokesman took issue with Consumer Reports' contention that the problem is widespread, saying there are hundreds of thousands of CR-Vs on the road so a problem affecting even a tiny percentage of them could result in a fairly large number of complaints.
Honda's Chris Martin said the automaker is working to figure out a fix for the problem and hopes to have one ready by mid-November. Honda does not consider the problem to be a safety threat requiring a recall. Owners with concerns about the problem should visit a Honda dealer for an inspection. Any needed repairs will be covered under their warranty, the automaker said.
Consumer Reports counters that the issue is, indeed, safety related.
"There are many ways stalling can be a safety issue, so if these cars are stalling, they need to be recalled," said David Friedman, vice president for Advocacy at Consumer Reports and a former acting NHTSA director.
The problem occurs in 2017 and 2018 CR-Vs with Honda's new 1.5-liter turbocharged engine. Somehow, gasoline is getting into the car's lubricating oil which should not normally happen, Consumer Reports said. That dilutes the engine oil making it less effective at lubricating the engine. Over time, that can lead to engine damage and loss of power or stalling, especially on cold days or in heavy traffic.
Honda says the problem has occurred mostly in northern parts of the country during short drives in extreme cold weather. Consumer Reports said the problem had been reported to the magazine by CR-V owners as far south as Texas and New Mexico.
Honda spokesman Martin took issue with Consumer Reports' contention that the problem is geographically more widespread than the automaker says. Honda also pointed out that it is normal for small amounts of gasoline to find their way into the engine's oil but it usually burns away during continued driving.
"While others may easily complain online of experiencing something similar under other circumstances," Martin said in an email, "it is premature and a bit irresponsible to link them all together without physical inspections of the vehicles, which is what [Consumer Reports] has done here."
Honda has recalled CR-Vs in China for a similar issue. But, Honda said those vehicles do not have precisely the same engine used in CR-Vs sold in the United States,
When an automaker issues a safety recall in the United States, it is legally required to fix the problem, at no charge to the owner, in all potentially affected vehicles. Automakers frequently do other sorts of updates and fixes to vehicles, at their discretion, without necessarily fixing the problem in all vehicles.
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