2021 Honda CR-V Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Faulty brakes, visibility, airbag, and engine issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The 2021 Honda CR-V is an SUV that has gained a lot of attention. While the automaker claims it is “engineered to take you farther,” an increasing number of owners are disillusioned because of recurring component failures. Complaints range from phantom braking and brake failure to engines that shut off and lose motive power. Airbags that don’t deploy in crashes, vehicles that randomly accelerate, windshields that crack without impact, and sunroofs that explode, also feature in complaints.

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

Most Common Problems

Without a doubt, the most common problems owners of the 2021 Honda CR-V are experiencing relate to the brakes. By March 2023, about 68% of complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) were related to brake failure or major problems with the collision mitigation braking system (CMBS).

A worry is that the CMBS problem is nothing new for Honda. It’s been an issue with Honda CR-V vehicles since 2017. In February 2022, the NHTSA launched an Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) into “inadvertent automatic emergency braking” after receiving hundreds of complaints from 2017-2019 Honda CR-V and 2018-2019 Honda Accord vehicles. According to NHTSA Action Number PE22003, “the complaints allege braking incidents, some with large speed changes, occurring with nothing obstructing the vehicle’s path of travel.” They also allege that the incidents occur randomly, without warning.

The ODI investigation summary acknowledges that “inadvertent or unexpected braking activation while driving can cause unexpected speed reductions that can lead to increased vulnerability to rear-end impact collisions.” The investigation was set up to determine the scope and severity of the potential problem and to fully assess the potential safety-related issues. It is still open.

Surprisingly, even though scores of 2020 and 2021 Honda CR-V owners are describing exactly the same issues, these models are not currently included in the investigation.

There are also complaints that describe how engines lose motive power and decelerate, as well as engines that randomly accelerate, sometimes crashing.

There is another open ODI investigation, NHTSA Action Number PE22011, that relates to a loss of motive power. Opened on November 28, 2022, it covers 2018-2022 Honda CR-V and HR-V vehicles (see below, ODI into Loss of Motive Power).

Other Common Problems

There are not nearly as many visibility or airbag problems, but they are, nonetheless, serious.

Visibility problems vary but include exploding sunroofs, windshields that crack, and headlights that malfunction. Several owners state that when their CR-Vs crashed, their airbags didn’t deploy. Only one of these complaints, from an owner in Pennsylvania, reports an injury. There were no passengers in the SUV, so only the driver was injured.

2021 Honda CR-V Complaint Summary

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

Problems with Automatic Braking System

Complaints about automatic emergency braking have been mounting up with the NHTSA since July 2021. By March 2023, there were 37 filed under Forward Collision Avoidance and 3 under Service Brakes. Although the issue described is common to all these complaints, owners report that incidents happen at different speeds, and often multiple times at specific speeds. These range from 20-25 mph to 35-45 mph and even 60-70 mph.

Despite the fact that there is an open ODI into the well-known collision mitigation braking system problem, dealer responses tend to lack concern. For example, an owner from Colorado states that the Honda dealership “did not seem worried about my initial report.” This described how the CR-V engaged automatic emergency braking while traveling at 55 mph on a highway. “Luckily, no cars were behind me or else I would have been rear-ended.” It was only after the same thing happened while going 5 mph in a grocery store parking lot that they said they would take a look.

An owner from New Jersey told a Honda dealer how the automatic emergency braking system engaged on 4 occasions after vehicles that were in front of the CR-V had turned right. The complaint states that it happens when using cruise control and traveling at between 35 and 45 mph. “That vehicle is no longer in front of my vehicle when my vehicle begins to brake. My vehicle was automatically maintaining distance and not accelerating.” The dealer maintained that “the car was responding correctly through the side sensors.”

However, according to some complaints, a few dealers do acknowledge that it is a known problem, but they can’t offer a solution.

Phantom Braking

An owner from Ohio states that the 2021 Honda CR-V often brakes “at full capacity on its own for cars in the next lane of traffic.” It had happened 3 times, always going at 60-70 mph on a highway. Each time, “BRAKE” flashes in big letters on the screen, the complaint states. “There are no obstructions in front of me only in the lane next to me. (The) dealer informed me it is a known problem and there is no fix except to disable the safety features.”

A Rhode Island resident experienced the same problem while driving at about 35 mph on a straight, flat road with no other cars around. “If I had my dogs in the car, they would have been launched forward. If I or anyone else in the vehicle was not belted in and facing forward, there for sure would have been injuries. If there was someone behind me, there would have been impact. I am grateful none of these things happened, but I remain fearful of driving this vehicle if it were to happen again.”

The dealer’s service manager also acknowledged that it was a known issue with CR-Vs. Although unaware of a solution, he said the problem was caused by the radar on the front of the SUV that controls the anti-lock braking systems (ABS). Like the dealer in Ohio, his suggestion was to turn off the ABS and lane keeping assist system (LKAS) – “the very safety features that I purchased this car for, and paid extra for.”

After experiencing the problem 3 times while traveling at 60-65 mph, an owner from New Jersey asked the Honda dealer to adjust the system. “But I was given no help.”

Safety Feature Causing Problems

A Tennessee owner states that the word “brake” flashes on the instrument cluster for no reason. “This has happened 40-50 times. However, there are 4 occasions where the car actually braked suddenly and once to a complete stop and nearly caused a horrible accident.” Now he wants to turn this feature off. “It was a big selling point for me to buy the car, so to have it actually cause safety issues instead of solving them is irritating to say the least.”

Other drivers complain that they have crashed or come close to crashing. An owner from South Carolina was changing lanes on a 60 mph highway when the brakes auto-engaged and the SUV stopped. “The driver coming from behind had to swerve into a ditch to avoid rear-ending my car. Thank God nobody was injured this time.”

An owner from Nevada describes how after multiple phantom braking episodes, the car was pulled into a curb, popping a back tire and ruining a front tire. “This is a huge safety issue because if there was anyone in front of or behind the car could’ve caused a major collision.” The complaint goes on to say, “The fact that my life was put in danger due to a malfunction with the forward collision warning is absolutely ridiculous.”

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Brake Failure Problems

Other brake issues range from the brake pads sticking to the calipers to brakes failing and SUVs crashing as a result. Several drivers were faced with a warning to “BRAKE” written in black capital letters in a red rectangular box.

An owner from Ohio describes how while trying to park, the brakes didn’t work. The engine accelerated without pressing the gasoline pedal and crashed into a wall. There were no warning lights or symptoms prior to the failure. All the dealer did was refer the owner to a body shop!

An owner from Florida also crashed after the brakes failed. The SUV rear-ended another vehicle and then accelerated and drove forward over a gully, the sidewalk, and a shopping center sidewalk. It eventually stopped on a pile of dirt. Even though the airbags didn’t deploy, the driver wasn’t injured. She did, though, need medical attention for high blood pressure.

One of the people who got the brake warning called the dealer who said it wasn’t a problem. Searching the message online, the owner noted that when this happens it’s important to “bring your car to a dealer. To continue driving could well be dangerous!” After 9 days with the dealer, they said they couldn’t find anything wrong.

Problems with the Engine

Complaints refer to various issues including a loss of motive power and deceleration. There is also a complaint from an owner in Illinois that is listed as being an engine and fuel/propulsion issue, that states the consumption of the SUV is, at best, 25 mpg. The vehicle, the complaint states, is advertised as averaging 36 mpg on the highway and 40 mpg in the city. The dealer drove around in the car for a few minutes and said there was “no problem” and “nothing they could do.”

Loss of Motive Power

One of the complaints filed as an electrical system and engine problem states that the SUV “shut off” suddenly causing the driver to lose control of the steering. The CR-V crashed into rocks and rolled several times. The owner, from California, injured his leg, head, and chest, while the front passenger sustained a neck injury. A child in the rear passenger seat suffered a head injury. They all required medical attention and the car was deemed “destroyed.”

According to the complaint, the same failure had occurred twice before. Though he took the vehicle to the dealer, they weren’t able to identify the problem.

An owner from Virginia reports losing motive power when the cruise control was activated. The check engine light was also illuminated. Again, the dealer was unable to identify the problem. There was also no reference to the ODI that was announced several weeks before.

Another Virginia resident had a similar experience while accelerating to merge onto a highway at about 50 mph. The SUV decelerated rapidly and the check engine light came on and the engine made clattering noises. It wouldn’t go any faster than 15 mph. He managed to drive home at this speed. Later, the dealer did a scan and said the engine had misfired. However, he wasn’t able to recreate the incident. Yet, 6 days later, it happened again on the highway, slowing down to 6 mph. At the time of the complaint, the dealer had had the car for about 10 days.

“Having no ability to accelerate, and having the vehicle go into limp mode — having no control — on a busy highway is extremely dangerous and frightening.”

ODI Looking into Loss of Motive Power

Even though the ODI into a loss of motive power includes the 2021 Honda CR-V, for some reason, the documents aren’t filed under this model on the NHTSA website. It’s probably just an oversight. Nevertheless, the ODI focuses on “rear differential seizure.” It states that “field reports allege that the loss of motive power occurs at highway speed with no warning.” The cause is thought to be differential seal leaks that result in “rear differential lock-up,” causing the loss of motive power.

They are currently determining the scope and severity of the potential problem as well as fully assessing the potential safety-related issues.

What to do if your 2021 CR-V is a Lemon?

If you think you have bought a lemon, you can sit back and let the experts work out your lemon case at no cost to you. After all, the law makes Honda pay legal fees.

Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace, or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners. So, if you have problems with your 2021 Honda CR-V that keep recurring and impact your use and the value of the vehicle, contact Lemberg Law. We have helped countless consumers get recompense.

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
  • denise s

    I would like to know how moms 2017 honda crv ex-i rolled over in a slow speed vehicle accident? was only hit in passenger side front tire. you can see the dent in picture I have. thought these crvs were safe for elderly people on the roads? after accidently going thru red light. her scapula was shattered and she had a minor brain bleed, she was on blood thinners and had a quick reversal. spent 4 weeks in hospital and 3 weeks at her home, died in bed 11/27/23…. under investigation from coroner

  • Eleanor E

    I’ve had problems with the brakes failing twice with with our CR-V Hybrid. My husband had the first problem with this. This was shortly after we bought it. He was suffering from mild dementia, so we figured that was the problem. He stopped driving. At 21000 miles and 2 years later, it happened again. I know my foot was on the brake but the car kept accelerating as I was parking. Consequently we tried to climb the hill in front of me. Bags didn’t deploy. What do I do now.

  • Patrick M

    2021 Honda CRV EX-L. I purchased new from the Ames, IA Honda dealership. I’ve been a life long Honda owner since highschool, I’m 45 now. Major oil dilution problems from the start. You can see, and smell it in the oil. I religiously change at every 4k, as soon after the oil becomes very concerning. The best fuel mileage I’ve ever got is 26.2 mpg. This is way below what they advertise. My Accord V6 that I sadly traded in for this CRV got 34 hwy or more. Every time I get the oil changed the techs say how dark and runny the oil is. I tell them I just changed less than 4k miles ago. Also had to change the air filter already as it was dark and oily. Very strange for hwy use! I’m at 15,990 miles now. The lemon is babied, well maintained, and for what! I think I have basically 5k equity about now, and be interesting to see what developes. Very disappointed

  • Antonio G

    Need help to sue Honda and have them rebuy and compensate me for the lemon they sold me on May 15, 2019 with a low milage of 1000 miles.

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