By on November 29, 2017

2017 Civic Type R (European Version), Image: Honda

The Honda Civic Type R finally showed up on our shores this year, packing polarizing styling and over 300 horsepower going to its front wheels. Demand has been high and dealers have taken advantage by adding ADM on top of the model’s MSRP. Many customers are happy to pay the premium.

We’ve had the Type R on the road and on the track and, while the opinions on styling vary, everyone seems to be impressed with the performance. However, while it keeps up with much more powerful cars on track, it hasn’t escaped the struggles of a first-year model.

Issues such as overheating, rev-match errors, and gear grinds have been reported by owners and journalists alike. Our own Bark M. experienced a few of these issues while taking the Type R from track to track across the Southeast, and I was there to see some of them and evaluate their impact.

I met up with Mark at Charlotte Motor Speedway on a hot August afternoon and hopped into the passenger seat of the Civic for a few laps around the Speedway. From my view, the car got around the track without a hitch and Mark appeared to be able to push it hard even in the complicated turns of the infield.

His skills played a huge role in how the car got around the track, but the rev-matching system surely played a big part as well — at least, until it broke. After my session, Mark took a few more passengers out for ride-alongs, but a few minutes later I saw him pulling in with the all-too-familiar “race car is broken” look on his face.

I joined Leo the Honda tech and driver and technician Jason Owens to find out why the Civic now showed “rev-match disabled” and “emission error” on the gauge cluster. After grabbing my portable code reader, we were able to deduce that the car had gone into a limp mode due to fuel starvation and a turbocharger underboost condition. The fuel starvation issue was quickly solved (we noticed there was less than a quarter tank of fuel left, and fuel had likely sloshed away from the pump as the car was on the banks of the Speedway).

The underboost condition was a mystery until Jason mentioned he had seen issues with the wiring for the boost control solenoid, which required harness replacement. We checked the plug for the solenoid and it appeared to have been repaired or replaced. The plug was pulled and reseated as Leo went off to refuel the car. The remaining sessions of the day didn’t present any issues.

After looking up the codes and checking the forums, the issue appeared to be pretty common for owners. According to a recently discovered Technical Service Bulletin, Honda has released a fix in the form of an updated engine harness. The TSB states that the original issue stems from the frequency of the engine, which causes the wires in the connector for the boost control solenoid to vibrate and break. The updated harness fixes this by doubling back on the harness and wrapping it in shrink wrap (along with two zip ties on top).

The updated part looks more like a quick fix that we would do at the race track than a factory part, but it may be the result of Honda trying to get the fix out as quickly as possible. The rev-match and emission errors were a direct result of this sensor losing signal, as both systems appear to use it as part of their functionality.

Mark made it down to Atlanta Motorsports Park the next morning and, although the earlier issues were gone, the car started to overheat after about 10 minutes on track. The Georgia summer temperatures surely didn’t help, but it appears that the car wasn’t getting enough cooling. They were able to do a few cool-down laps and get back on track for a few more sessions.

The same issue presented itself in another Type R loaned out by Honda when Matt Farah went out on track at Road Atlanta during a Gridlife event a few weeks later. Ambient temperatures were once again high and Matt told me he was able to make about two laps around the track before the temperature started creeping up. After the temperature spiked, he decided to turn on the heat in the cabin to bleed some of it off and was able to successfully run the car until it was almost out of fuel (with the gauge sitting at about 3/4 of the way to “hot”).

Honda hasn’t commented on the overheating issue, but aftermarket suppliers are already testing and coming up with solutions. The consensus seems to be that the radiator is large enough for the car but doesn’t get enough flow. Because oil temperatures stay hot, most are looking towards adding better oil cooling in order to bring overall engine temperatures down. A few owners have also taken matters into their own hands and figured out that temperatures will stay down if they remove the emblem and some of the plastic grille cover to get more airflow to the radiator.

The last issue that commonly pops up is a grind from the transmission when shifting from first to second gear. Jalopnik has noted a few cases where owners have complained, but Honda told them “there is no indication at this time of a specific mechanical problem within those transmissions.”

Even though Honda denies the issue is widespread, multiple owners on the CivicX forums have received replacement transmission and at least one noted that Honda plans to send his grinding transmission back to engineering for investigation.

The wiring fix was a good first step to making the Civic Type R reliable on the road and on track, but Honda will need to address the overheating and gear grinding issues if they expect the car to live up to its aggressive looks.

[Image: Honda]

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30 Comments on “All the Issues With the Civic Type R and How Honda Is Fixing (One of) Them...”

  • avatar

    The only issue it really has cannot be fixed.

    Once beaten with the ugly tree, it cannot be un-beaten.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Don’t let this distract you from the fact that on July 29, 1983 Clark W. Griswold and his son, Rusty went to Lou Glutz Motors in Chicago, IL to pick up the brand-new Antarctic Blue Sport wagon that Clark had special ordered prior to the family’s long planned road trip out west.

    Upon arriving Clark was shown to his new vehicle which was in fact not the Antarctic blue sport wagon, but rather a green Family Truckster by Wagon Queen. Clark, though agitated remained rational and decided he would simply take his car and leave only to be informed that the dealership had crushed it.

    With no vehicle and not wanting to disappoint his family, Clark went ahead and made a deal on the Family Truckster in spite of the terrible, and frankly borderline criminal service he received at Lou Glutz Motors.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Honda has lost the plot.

  • avatar

    Honda seems to be using owners as beta-testers, like GM was so well known for doing.

    I’m thrilled with my boring little VW Jetta, after a half dozen Hondas, and unless something untoward happens, we’ll be dumping another Honda on a VW next year.

    • 0 avatar

      Damn it! I wanted to be the first in with the “grumble grumble beta tester or something another ” comment.

    • 0 avatar

      Should be “Honda continues using owners as beta-testers”.

      Eons ago, we bought an Odyssey with Honda’s first power doors. 16 service visits (the last time for entire door replacements on both sides) and all was fine!

      They did give us $1,500 towards our next Honda, so it wasn’t all bad, since my wife ended up falling in love with the new at the time Element (there is no explaining love).

    • 0 avatar

      The R is a gearhead/trackrat special. Built for people presumably more attuned to their cars, and the effects hard driving and high states of tune can have on them.

      If they didn’t push it far enough to risk it requiring a bit more attention than a regular Civic, they would be leaving too much on the table. The Si is the the one for those who want a bit more sport, without sacrificing the traditional Honda ownership experience.

  • avatar

    I wish more TSBs were just published to the public…

  • avatar

    Zip ties as an official fix? That is some weak sauce! What is next… recommending duct tape?

    Overheating on track is common especially on boosted rides, an aftermarket oil cooler is the standard recommendation here. Given how blocked off that fake grill near the fog lights is I’d bet Honda was a little conservative on cooling in favor of slightly better mileage. Since removing some stupid plastic trim and the logo makes things better seems clear Honda did some obvious over styling, going after form over function.

    • 0 avatar

      Its sorta (ok, very) hilarious that a car with so much fake cooling styling is suffering heat issues in its native habitat. If not on the Type R, where else would it make sense to a) have the fake vents in place and b) open some of it up!

  • avatar

    Interesting write-up. Good to see that Honda is addressing some of it, though I think their hands are tied on the radiator issue. Airflow often seems to be an issue for street cars.

    How about a write-up on all the issues that plague the Focus RS? Surely, the failing headgaskets and overheating RDUs would be as news worthy as the Honda’s issues.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s my belief that RDU issues were at least part of Ford’s rationale for discontinuing the RS. With all the testing, they had to know of the overheating issue but it was just too expensive to redesign.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford’s breaking is not new. Honda’s on the other hand, they have a good rep for a reason so any bad news is actually noteworthy.

    • 0 avatar

      American news blog, American car – they want to support their own. Understandable.

    • 0 avatar

      Overheating is bound to be an issue in any regular everyday/economy car hopped up for 300+hp Georgia summer trackday duty. Regular cars are optimized for interior space. Hence have tight room even for small regular engines and their attendant radiators/plumbing and air flow channels. Stuff a bigger engine, bigger turbos etc. in the same space and, absent a complete redesign, there is no way around having cooling issues in extreme situations.

      The cars’ econo/everyday car origins, is also why cranking the cabin heater tends to work so well (for keeping them from overheating, not for making hard racing in Georgia summers comfortable for the driver….): The heater core for the cabin heater vents is generously sized in relation to the main radiator, as a quick heating cabin is important to regular car buyers. On a massive radiator HD diesel pickup, whether you run the cabin heater or not, has no discernible effect on cooling the engine, but on economy/regular cars, hopped up or not, it does.

      The upside is, most people who buy the tuner specials, use them for the occasional stoplight drag, onramp blast, canyon run or looking fast stuck in traffic. They’re not pro or semi pro auto journos nor club racers. And for those uses, things are fine. But for those wanting to use their car for full on racecar duty, a more purpose built racecar is definitely a more appropriate way to go about it.

  • avatar

    Excellent write-up. Factual, easily understood, non-judgemental. More, please. Thanks Bozi!

  • avatar

    Press Release: Honda, deeply ashamed, announces they will make up for these shortcomings by offering a hatchback, non-ugly version with 50 series tires next year.

    Of which they could sell around a million to guys and gals over 35 years of age.

    • 0 avatar
      cimarron typeR

      I’d be interested in this drivetrain in a TSX , call it the integra

    • 0 avatar

      “Press Release: Honda, deeply ashamed, announces they will make up for these shortcomings by offering a hatchback, non-ugly version with 50 series tires next year.

      Of which they could sell around a million to guys and gals over 35 years of age.”

      If they’re smart, they’ll do exactly that–and sell them at the Acura store, complete with the DSG.

      And if it’s a hatchback, it’d be time to restore the RSX nameplate.

  • avatar

    Funny, kids used to buy body kits to make their cars look “racier”. Now they buy body kits to make their cars look better. This and the new Camry both fell down the ugly tree from way up top.

    Too bad on this car as it sounds like it is a good driver.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe Honda and Toyota have fallen victim to the new-fangled Bangle virus.

      After mysteriously emerging from the Bavarian forests, where it was reportedly spawned by an American émigré, it found its way to Korea, where, by an act of imitative mutation, it found its way across the Sea of Japan.

      Hope is that it will soon burn itself out, like Ebola, before it infects the rest of the automotive globe, as its ghastly effects are inevitably terminal for the unfortunate host.

  • avatar

    The car actually looks better with the plastic grille trim piece and emblem removed.

  • avatar

    “Over time, this can cause one or both of the connector wires to break, causing a short.”

    Technical writer isn’t very technical. That’s an open circuit, not a short. It’s an important distinction.

  • avatar

    I have the FK2. It has been absolutely the worst experience I have ever made with a car and I have over 30years of driving fast experience on anything with wheels. I started with under 4000km on the clock. They have replaced all shocks… Essentially all of the driver rain and it still creaks and more scarily the front wheel clunk and creak all the time now. Tight bends in the Alps slow and the whole chassis creaks as it twists. All tires wear asymmetrically. It has never seen a track nor kissed a curb. The air con is already rotting. The sat nav crashes every time I try and use it. The audio player randomly looses USB and then after days finds it. The panel gaps actually move; kept measurements. The Championship White has yellowed differently on the panels in one summer. After the first 7000km I stopped driving it fast as it had been for repair for more than three months in the year I had owned it at the time. The last Honda dealer I took it took it said all the creaks clunk’s and groans are due to the asymmetrically worn out tires. Official Honda Germany answer. I have approached Honda directly and I received a letter, and injunction that I can only go via partners. Each time I take it to get fixed they break something else. It is without a doubt the absolute worst experience I have ever had with a car, the manufacturer and the dealer network. And I have had everything from a Golf 2 GTI to a BMW M235i Mperformance full tune Xdive and a Porsche. I know what PROBLEM cars are. This is your worst nightmare. Essentially the chassis is off. And they won’t take it back. And in Germany, if I sell it and someone else kisses a tree I am liable even after going to court, my lawyer informs me. What else can I say than never ever ever…. Ever buy Honda. Merry Christmas.

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