2021 Honda Civic Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Forward collision avoidance, brake, steering, and electrical system issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Editor: Rita Roberts | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The Civic is Honda’s best-selling vehicle ever, having sold more than 12.3 million units in the U.S. since it debuted in 1973. But 2021 Honda Civic owners who bought it because of its heritage and long-term reliability aren’t all happy. Many owners complain of faulty forward collision avoidance systems, malfunctioning brakes, steering problems, and ongoing electrical system issues. 

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019   2020   2022   2023

Most Common Problems

Forward collision avoidance problems are the most commonly reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in official complaints. These issues vary, ranging from brake issues and steering problems to stalling. Unsurprisingly, steering and brake problems are also very high on the list of NHTSA complaints, along with those that highlight electrical system problems.

Other components and systems that owners pinpoint as problematic in complaints include backover prevention, the Honda Civic’s engine, lane departure, powertrain, suspension, and vehicle speed control. More complaints concern the 2021 Honda Civic’s exterior lighting and seat belts. Additionally, some complaints, listed as visibility problems, report sunroofs that explode or shatter.

There is a recall that affects hydraulic service brakes on several Honda vehicles, including 2020-2021 Honda Civics. The problem is that the tie rod fastener that connects the brake booster and the brake master cylinder may not have been properly assembled when the car was manufactured. This error can cause the brake master cylinder to separate from the booster assembly, which could cause “a loss of brake function.” Basically, this means that the Civic could crash.

2021 Honda Civic Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
Service Brakes
Electrical System
Forward Collision Avoidance: Adaptive Cruise Control
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
Unknown Or Other
Vehicle Speed Control
Air Bags

Brake and Forward Collision Avoidance Problems

Strangely, there are more brake problems highlighted as forward collision avoidance problems than service brake problems. The owner of a 2021 Honda Civic from Mississippi describes his problem as “a false positive forward collision alert warning and subsequent, brief automatic emergency braking.” This issue occurred twice, but on three other occasions, he experienced the collision warning alert without the car braking automatically.

Another owner states, “I have taken those assist programs off as it almost killed me.” The auto brake system had activated multiple times, “almost causing an accident.”

A complaint from July 2023 explains how the car displays “BRAKE” on the dashboard, and then “automatically brakes without an object in front of [the] vehicle, causing vehicles to have to slam on their brakes to avoid collision.” The owner, who lives in California, states that it has happened multiple times, but the dealership can’t replicate the problem.

Another similar complaint states that the “Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system alerted and engaged emergency braking on a clear road,” when there was no obstacle in the path of the vehicle.

An owner from Virginia also reports the “BRAKE” warning followed by automatic braking for no valid reason. However, if a car passes at a faster speed, “the car won’t brake.”

An owner from Delaware states that the car’s camera “that utilizes Honda Sense safety tech keeps misreading certain traffic signals and inadvertently activates the phantom braking” system. It applies the emergency brakes even though there is nothing nearby. It also incorrectly identifies vehicles as moving into different traffic lanes. The Honda dealership allegedly told the owner that, “the manufacturer would have [to] issue a recall for the Honda Safety Sense since they do not have the hardware or software to resolve the matter in a timely fashion.”

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Problems with the Steering

Complaints about malfunctioning steering wheels are varied. The most common issue seems to be steering wheels sticking or feeling “sticky.”

An owner from Arizona describes how his steering wheel malfunctioned while accelerating on a multi-lane freeway. He states, “the dashboard speed suddenly indicated 0 mph and flashed warnings for power steering, emergency braking, suspension, and many other systems.” The driver couldn’t feel any resistance through the wheel, and the steering became “almost impossible to control.” The complaint describes “unpredictable jerky movements” as he tried to control the vehicle while exiting the freeway and stopping.

Another owner noticed there was something wrong when there was an automatic overcorrection. The complaint states that “when the vehicle is hot or warmed up it feels like the steering wheel is sticking. Then, when you finally get it to break free, you end up with a steering overcorrection or […] a swerve that you didn’t intend to cause.”

Other descriptions of braking problems, according to complaints, are:

  • The steering wheel felt “tight,” and the car drifted towards the left.
  • “I’m experiencing ‘sticky steering’. I feel momentary increases in steering effort while driving the vehicle at highway speeds. I fear that I may over-correct one day and cause an accident.”
  • The “car is constantly wandering and completely impossible to keep straight at highway speeds.”

Faulty Steering and Brakes Cause Crash

While driving down a highway at about 70 mph, one 2021 Honda Civic owner had a terrifying experience. Without any warning, “the brakes locked up, and the car began to slide and was completely unresponsive to any solution possible. The steering wheel was locked in place, and the brake pedal was so far to the floor I was not able to reach it.” The Civic collided with a propane delivery truck after the passenger-side airbags inflated, even though no one else was in the car. When the Civic stopped, there was an “unimaginable amount of smoke that came from the driver airbag in the steering wheel. I jumped out, not sure if it was on fire.”

When he discovered that smoke was “coming from the steering wheel,” he poured “bottles of water” over it to stop the smoke.

Problems with Electrical System

Some 2021 Honda Civic owners are forced to deal with glitches of the electrical system of a vehicle. There are all kinds of problems. Some affect the camera, and some affect the operation of the windows. Others result in all kinds of emergency warning signals.

One recurring problem relates to the soy-based insulation that Honda uses on the wiring of its new cars. An owner from Montana states: “Apparently rabbits are attracted to the soy-based insulation and will chew it. Honda knows about this problem. They have had class action lawsuits filed against them already because THOUSANDS of consumers have had their Hondas disabled when rodents chewed the insulation on the wiring harnesses. I had to have the Honda towed into the dealership here in Helena, Montana because it was COMPLETELY DISABLED — including no power steering. Notably, the service technician told me, ‘it’s a common problem — rodents like the soy insulation.’ The cost to repair the 18″ wire harness was $350.00!” — because it’s not covered under warranty.

An owner from Texas draws attention to the same problem. “The coating on the wiring harness is soy based and rodents chew the wires causing multiple electronic failures.” The failures included the power steering, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking system, and lane keeping assistance. “Vehicle is extremely unsafe!”

Another owner from Arizona parked their 2021 Honda Civic in their carport. When they came back, they found out that rodents had chewed through the main computer cable of the vehicle. “When I went to start [the] car it started, but immediately the warning lights on [the] dash began flashing that the road assist features, brakes and steering were not operating.” Honda replaced the main computer cable and reprogrammed the computer.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

If you think you may have bought a lemon, Lemberg Law will assess your problems free of charge. Every year auto manufacturers buy back, replace, or pay cash settlements to thousands of people who have bought “lemons.” And the law makes Honda pay the legal fees for lemon law cases, which is why we won’t charge you a cent.

All you have to do is call our Helpline or fill out a contact form to request a free evaluation of your problems.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones

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