By on September 27, 2016


2009 Honda Civic. Image: Honda

Yaw A writes:


Second time caller, long time fan. I have a 2009 Civic EX five-speed sedan I bought about 18 months ago and am hoping to drive into dust. I bought it instead of the Si because the EX gets slightly better gas mileage, uses regular gas instead of premium, and isn’t as … extreme?

Yet, naturally, I threw all the EX’s comfort out the window and let my inner ricer take over.

I installed a cold air intake, and have coilovers on the way. The car just turned over 100,000 miles, so I’m filing all the parts upgrades under “maintenance.” A vibration has cropped up in my front brakes, so I’m looking to perform some “maintenance” on them as well.

It seems brake options are endless with the Civic, and I’m not quite sure how far to take it. My Civic’s engine is basically stock, which means ~160 horsepower, and I run decent, stock-sized Continental ExtremeContact DWS06 tires. Honda brake brackets are all interchangeable for the most part, so I can get nice brakes for cheap. There are people running new RL brakes on their little Civics. It’s nuts!

Should I stick with the stock components and just get better pads and rotors? Or would it be worth doing an OEM upgrade to TSX/Legend GS front brakes with bigger rotors and calipers? From what I understand, my Civic has self-calibrating electronic brake distribution, so the brake balance and ABS should retain functionality.

I might do 1-2 HPDEs per year, but the bulk of this car’s miles will be to and from work (admittedly, sometimes on back roads).

P.S.- Where the Vellum Venoms at? I am feeling like auto design has taken a huge step back for a lot of brands this go round. Audi and Hyundai are in design paralysis and Toyota/Lexus is doubling down on ugly. What are your thoughts?

Sajeev answers:

I’m down with getting a non-Si, stick-shifted Civic. I considered it until I decided a modest, five-speed compact truck was almost as fun but better for my needs. So I understand.

However, you don’t need to go bonkers with brake upgrades. Changing to a more aggressive pad (stock rotors, no cross drilled vanity nonsense please) is perfect for the street. Then again, I love swapping brake bits from other models from the same brand.

My Fox-body Cougar received the ultimate Ford four-lug upgrade back in the day: Mustang 11-inch front rotors, Lincoln Continental 73mm front calipers (overrated), and rear discs from a Thunderbird Turbo. Today, I’d get far more for less money, using parts based on the now-dirt-cheap SN-95 Mustang Cobras.

This thread discusses an upgrade that jibes with my habits, especially since it works with factory-sized wheels, possibly with non-Si wheels as previously discussed. The TSX calipers are about $40 each online, rotors $20 each, and installation looks like a piece of cake!

I suggest you do the TSX brake upgrade and consider track-friendly pads. With that, you’ll be set!

To your Venom Vellom query: I am continually dismayed with every automaker’s styling direction. You don’t want to be with me while I’m stuck in traffic on I-10, son. The biggest problem is the ever rising firewall/cowl for pedestrian safety, making everything below it taller, everything above shorter. A lower cowl would let the body side achieve sleekness while doing nothing, not to mention make for a front fascia with less frontal area and more taper for (probably) better aero. Don’t get me wrong, I saw a classmate fly over the bullet-shaped nose of a Chevy Beretta back in high school. Perhaps he’s lucky his head didn’t slam on the hood and against the 3.1-liter V6’s intake manifold. There is no right answer.

But tall cowls force designers to do something — anything — to keep the sides interesting.

That said, on Saturday I attended a manufacturer’s “ride and drive” experience (i.e. open to the public) and I took your question to heart. I will Vellum Venom this little beauty soon.

Vellum Venom Mazda MX-5 Miata Collage, Image: © Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars

[Image: Honda, © 2016 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars]

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32 Comments on “Piston Slap: TSX Brake Upgrade for the Eighth-generation Civic?...”

  • avatar

    First things first!

    U got a wing yet or no?!

    • 0 avatar

      Also needs giant stickers covering half the windshield and all of the backlight, mismatched hood, and manufacturer incorrect performance badging. Try “AMG” just to add some class.

  • avatar

    Calling the 5 speed civic a fun car is quite a stretch (I had one). I think a big brake kit is nonsense for a Civic, it’s already quite light and has little power. My only advice for trying to make the car fun: strip all of the seats and sound insulation out…and the trunk floor and spare tire of course, maybe leave the headliner.

    • 0 avatar

      I was going Tk say weight reduction and stay away from oversized tires. I thought the OP mention he chose this car for better fuel economy. Allot of contradiction.

      • 0 avatar

        Apparently Yaw A is a human who wants his cake and eat it too. Don’t we all. Who here has not pined to date a PhD grad with the wild fun streak of a coke addict, all the while having the body of a Olympic track athlete with a devil may care attitude to diet?

      • 0 avatar

        “Allot of contradiction.”

        I allot that to his inescapable urge to spice up the months of no bike. They can be gruelling.

    • 0 avatar

      I owned the arguably even more diluted 9th gen in LX guise, and yes they are fun in their own way. It’s not the kidney rattling doublewishbone-equipped tin can it once was, but the fantastic shifter, smooth and willing motors, and light weight still make them fun to wring out. Even the seating position and overall ergonomics still have that old Honda magic (IMO).

  • avatar

    Excuse the aside, but what’s the deal with these cold air intakes? Every test I’ve ever read indicates they’re useless, but for so many guys, this is the first mod they do.

    I’m totally down with better springs/shocks and possibly roll bars, and better brake pads are a must for track use, along with flushing the brake fluid and coolant. I’d also like to put it a big plug for corner balancing the car as well. But, engine mods, not so much. If you really wanted more zip, the Si would have been the way to go.

    • 0 avatar

      Back in the day I bought a 4yo 1997 Altima. And installed a cold air intake. One drive around the block I went back to the factory setup.

      The CAI was noisier for sure and made the car sound like it had an exhaust leak. Power? Couldn’t tell a difference by seat of my pants. Of course 1-2 hp gain or loss wouldn’t make that much of a difference either way.

    • 0 avatar

      It all depends on the intake and the engine. For a number of cars there is no available intake that will actually improve performance, I think that is where the truism comes from. For others you will see dyno gains until the engine bay gets hot. This is where the burned customers come from that spread said truism with the fervor of a born again. There are, however, plenty of applications and products that do provide performance benefits, but it’s always going to be minor.

      I think a good intake can dramatically change the character of a car, far more so than a cat back exhaust. It’s worth remembering that one emissions strategy on na motors is to raise intake temps. Also that the manufacturer’s goal on a base non turbo motor isn’t to make a loud exciting engine. So there usually is room for increased flow and density, the question then becomes, do you need supporting mods to see the gains?

    • 0 avatar

      On a larger displacement engine they do make a difference at WOT, especially if you have a low restriction air filter.

    • 0 avatar

      I think cold air intakes are more about the sound than anything. Sort of like exhaust kits, how much hp do they really add on the dyno? Most would probably have a “faster” car taking the spare tire out.

      I do think though that “back in the day” these upgrades represented some easy horsepower. There were some horrible exhaust systems and intakes on cars from the factory.

    • 0 avatar

      Aftermarket intakes are not really for performance. They increase intake noise under power but, unlike a performance exhaust, they aren’t noisy during normal, subdued driving conditions. So they’re actually a fairly practical way to get some information from the engine in these days of isolating vehicles.

      I thought they were silly at one time, but had a revelation thanks to an RX-8.

      Stiffer springs/shocks are typically not what I would consider “better”, due to the terrible northern roads I drive on!

      As for the rotors, I’ve had good luck with the slotted ATE ones in warpage/pulsation-prone vehicles. There shouldn’t be any need to redesign the system. Some good DOT4 or DOT5.1 fluid (again, I like ATE, and miss the blue fluid) is a must for track use. Performance pads may be necessary if you experience any fade even with proper fluid.

    • 0 avatar

      The answer to this is “it depends”

      Not that this civic is one, but K-series performance hondas have left a good amount of power on the table that can be picked up with an intake and tune. If you go to hondata’s site or read up on ClubRSX (if it still exists), at least early K20s could see dyno proven gains of 10-12hp from just an intake, 20 at peak, and 25-30hp in the midrange with both. For zero loss in drivability and only $600 for both, it’s not a bad bang for your buck.

      If you watch Matt Farrah’s most recent one-take, they have a ’15 Si that is seeing similar power gains from a downpipe, intake, and tune.

  • avatar

    My sister purchased her 8th gen Civic new in 2006, it has been rock solid for her since day one. Daily NYC commutes in bumper to bumper traffic and trips upstate on the weekends. In 100k miles I have replaced for her; engine oil, battery, front & rear brake pads, bank 1 O2 sensor 1, & that’s it. I want to drain and fill the auto but have not found the time.

    Having said that it is bulletproof, I can’t imagine bothering with R18 bolt-ons of any sort, it is just way too underpowered to be fun IMO. Granted, a 5 speed may be slightly more entertaining.

    If it were me, would sell the EX and buy an Si. Check out Drag Cartel for their 400hp N/A K-series long block! Now that’s fun! :-)

  • avatar

    Letter writer here…

    I am going to sell the Civic next year. My other ride is a motorcycle and I just beat on the Civic too hard when I can’t ride. I’m getting an engine replacement for the Civic now after spinning a bearing from a misshift. I think in the interim I will get more aggressive pads for the stock setup, but eventually I’m going to move into something faster and mis-shift proof like an automatic G37/335i/IS350. If I want to throw money at something I will get a much bigger ROI on the motorcycle.

    • 0 avatar

      No rev limiter on the Honda? I’ve stretched the I6 on my departed BMW 325i several times (that engine was addictive to redline) and the computer just kills power before any damage is done.

      • 0 avatar

        Depending on how the shift is missed, the rev limiter may not save you. If you’re at redline in fourth and go for fifth, if you actually get neutral, then the rev limiter helps. But, it’s more likely you accidentally got third, and once you let out the clutch, your engine is gone.

      • 0 avatar

        He didn’t over-rev by keeping his foot planted on upshift…the limiter would have taken care of that – he missed a downshift – got second instead of fourth at 75 mph, probably, and spun it to 8,500.

        The brake question…should he upgrade the brake components on this or any other Honda product driven in anger?

        Ummmmmm…yes. Not close.

      • 0 avatar

        Rev limiter doesn’t protect you from a mechanical over-rev.

    • 0 avatar

      Used TL type S is a thing… available with a manual. Sure it’s overpriced used, but it’s a great sounding engine lightly modded and a much better drivers car than a new acura.

      Alternatively there’s other civics, Mazdas and engine swap f–kery you could get into. After hearing you talk about your civics for a while I just can’t imagine you in an automatic heavy barge. You were right about the weight and nimbleness of your car!

  • avatar

    Since when does an almost stock R18 make “~160 horsepower?”

    Truly the “inner ricer” taking over here folks :p

  • avatar

    160HP? I think those had 140HP when new.

    • 0 avatar

      140 hp @ 6300 & 128 ft-lbs at 4300. I’m pretty sure you could stop that Flintstones style. I’d also like to meet the cold air intake that nets you an extra 20 hp on a NA engine. Go buy a late model 1st gen TSX- you’ll get the brakes and have a better engine thrown in for free.

  • avatar

    The best brake upgrade is a new set of pands, and a less wreckless driving style, til then leave the car stock and get a TSX.

    And throw away the cold air intake.

  • avatar

    I’d like to see a Vellum Vignette on the new Civic hatchback, assuming there is some beauty there that I have been unable to perceive.

  • avatar

    Unless you do more tracking better pads will be enough I bet. Racing fluid is a must. One thing to watch is wheel / rim clearance with the oversized brakes. I did the G37S Akebono swap on my 350Z and the stock 18″s clear those monster rotors and calipers with just millimeters to spare. The great thing about these swaps is the upgrade is OEM so rotors and pads are way more affordable (and available) then going with some aftermarket BBK upgrade.

  • avatar

    Honda is notorious for undersized brakes. However, that really only applies to track use… For the street, stick with stock. They are lighter and cheaper. Even 1 or 2 track days would be fine, just make sure you have fresh fluid and newish pads before that.

  • avatar

    Before upgrading the calipers, especially if considering a big brake kit, I suggest reading this. It could reduce your braking performance instead of increasing it.

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