What is less clear is how many bad reports of one problem area (such as the fuel system) it would take to spoil that survey result. If all it takes is for, say, 1% to report a problem (a fair indicator of a real problem in a much larger sample), then a single report could spoil the rating of that area for that year's survey.
You can find part of the answer here: http://bit.ly/SrvScl
. Not sure if you have to be logged in.
First they explain that the “fuel system” rating includes: “Check engine light, sensors (includes O2 or oxygen sensor), emission control devices (includes EGR), engine computer, fuel cap, fuel gauge/sender, fuel injection system, fuel pump, fuel leaks, stalling or hesitation.”
Basically, the verdict of better or worse than average are against all cars for that model year, as I read it, so you are scoring the Ridgeline against every car rated that year. “Scores are based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported problems for that trouble spot, compared with the average model of that year.” For this reason, the Ridgeline would not seem to be disadvantaged in comparison to other cars or a tendency for people to report problems they experienced right away over those not.
They further state that, “Models that score a Much Worse than Average are not necessarily unreliable, but have a higher rate of problems than the average model. Similarly, models that score Much Better than Average are not necessarily problem-free, but had relatively few problems compared with other models.”
Finally: “Because problem rates in some trouble spots are very low, we do not assign a Much Worse than Average or a Worse than Average unless the model's problem rate exceeds 3 percent. If a problem rate is below 2 or 1 percent it will be assigned a Better than Average or a Much Better than Average respectively."