Forward collision avoidance, brake, steering, and electrical system issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners
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 of them are complaining that the forward collision avoidance system is faulty, the brakes malfunction, there are problems with the steering, and the electrical system is an ongoing issue.
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Most Common Problems
Forward collision avoidance problems rank as the most common of those reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in official complaints. But they are varied, ranging from brake issues and steering problems to stalling. Unsurprisingly, steering and brake problems are also high on the list of NHTSA complaints along with complaints that highlight problems with the electrical system.
Other components and systems that owners pinpoint as problematic in complaints include backover prevention, the engine of the Honda Civic, exterior lighting, lane departure, powertrain, seat belts, suspension, and vehicle speed control. There are also a couple of complaints listed as visibility problems that report sunroofs that have exploded or shattered.
There is a recall that affects hydraulic service brakes on several Honda vehicles including 2020-2021 Civic cars. 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.” What that means is that the Civic could crash.
2021 Honda Civic Complaint Summary
|Number of Complaints
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
|Unknown Or Other
|Vehicle Speed Control
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Adaptive Cruise Control
|Lane Departure: Lane Keep: Steering Assist
Brake and Forward Collision Avoidance Problems
Strangely, there are more brake problems highlighted as forward collision avoidance problems than service brake problems. An owner from Mississippi describes his problem as “a false positive forward collision alert warning and subsequent, brief automatic emergency braking.” While this happened twice, 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.” That was after the auto brake system activated multiple times, “almost causing an accident.”
A recent July 2023 example tells 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, from California states that it’s 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 owner states that he was told by the Honda dealership 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. But the most common issue seems to be steering wheels sticking or feeling “sticky.”
An owner from Arizona describes how, while accelerating on a multi-lane freeway, “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 coming to a stop.
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 like a swerve that you didn’t intend to cause.”
Other descriptions of braking problems are that:
- 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, the owner of a 2021 Civic had an horrendous 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
No one wants to deal with glitches to the electrical system of a vehicle, but some 2021 Civic owners are forced to. There are all kinds of problems, some of which affect the camera, some that affect the operation of the windows, and others that 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.” Failures included the power steering, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking system, and lane keeping assistance. “Vehicle is extremely unsafe!”
Rodents chewed through the main computer cable of a 2021 Civic owned by someone in Arizona. At the time, the car was parked in their carport. “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.
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