Editor's note: This investigation was closed on October 6, 2015. See updated details below.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a new defect investigation affecting an estimated 373,000 model year 2013-2014 Honda Accord vehicles.
NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) says that it has identified a total of 24 unique Vehicle Owners' Questionnaires (VOQs) that allege sudden loss of power steering and/or a sudden increase in steering effort in model year 2013 Honda Accords. Four of the complaints allege that the failures resulted in crashes, which all occurred at speeds less than 30 mph.
ODI has also identified related information in Early Warning Reporting field report data submitted by Honda. Just over half of the VOQs indicated observing a power steering warning message as the failure occurred. Some of the VOQs reported that the condition was corrected by turning the vehicle off and then restarting it. However, several noted that the condition returned again after the restart.
A Preliminary Evaluation (PE) has been opened by ODI to assess the scope, frequency, and potential safety-related consequences of the alleged defect.
This investigation could eventually lead to a safety recall of all affected Honda Accord vehicles.
Update: This investigation has been closed due to a low failure rate in the subject vehicles and a declining trend indicating that failures are rare.
NHTSA says that analysis of service data for the original 24 complaints and 33 additional complaints received after the investigation into this issue was originally opened found that 85 percent of the Honda Accord vehicles with diagnostic trouble codes available to identify the faulty component had a code indicating torque sensor failure (DTC 53). In its response to ODI's request for information relating to the investigation, Honda identified two manufacturing process conditions that may have affected the quality of some early production torque sensors.
According to ODI, analysis of warranty returns and manufacturing processes determined that a relatively small number of torque sensors were potentially affected by the conditions, which were corrected by the supplier (Bourns) relatively early in production. Further analysis of warranty data indicated that both conditions were early-life failure concerns and most of the affected sensors have already failed, resulting in a cumulative failure rate of less than 0.2 percent. ODI's analysis identified 2 minor crashes with no injuries that may have been related to torque sensor failure in the subject vehicles.