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7 Common Problems Of A Honda Civic Hybrid

7 Common Problems Of A Honda Civic Hybrid

What kind of problems does a Honda Civic Hybrid usually have? In this blog, we’ve outlined all the most important things you should watch for when you’re in the market for a Civic Hybrid. However, let’s first start with a quick answer.

Most commonly, Civic hybrid owners had to deal with transmission issues which could result in a complete loss of acceleration power and lead to severe accidents. The airbag inflator rupture recall and airbag failures were experienced by 2003 through 2011 models. Abnormal tire wear was a significant issue in the 2006 to 2011 models, and IMA or battery failure was also a common issue for the Civic hybrid.  

That was the most straightforward answer possible. In the article below, we’ll discuss every problem in detail. This includes identifying it, fixing it, and how much it costs to fix. Read on!

1.  Air Bag Inflator Rupture

A common issue for Honda between 2005 and 2015 was the airbag inflator rupture, and so as one would imagine, it’s also a concern in the Civic Hybrid. The airbag inflator runs the risk of rupturing in case of a collision or crash, and the sharp metal fragments expelled from it can cause serious injuries or death. The root of the problem is the inflator’s susceptibility to moisture intrusion, making it defective.

This problem is found in Civic hybrid models of 2003 through 2011. The 2003 to 2005 models have one recall regarding this problem where the dealers will replace the defective inflator.

The 2006 to 2011 models have two recalls regarding this problem. The first recall replaces the defective inflator. The second recall is due to incorrectly installed inflators, and in this recall, the dealers will replace the frontal airbag module assembly altogether if necessary. 

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a Civic hybrid between 2003 and 2011, it’s best to check if the inflators have been replaced. This is particularly important because this problem is a severe safety risk, it’s also one where we’ve seen many complaints about unavailable replacement parts and thus long waits for replacement.

2. Transmission Issues

A problem plaguing the early civic hybrid was the faulty transmission. The defective continuously variable transmission (CVT) was responsible for numerous complaints in the 2003 to 2005 models. This issue resulted in conditions where the vehicle acceleration and deceleration would be unexpected, that is, more quickly or slowly than expected. There were many complaints about the loss of acceleration power that nearly led to severe accidents.

Many consumers were forced to spend a fortune on frequently replacing transmission fluids, burnishing procedures, and ‘band-aid’ solutions for a problem that was sure to return.

There were some troubling transmission problems in the 2014 and 2015 models as well. The faulty transmission software could damage the transmission drive pulley, which would result in a loss of acceleration or front wheels locking up. Fortunately, there has been a recall for this software issue where dealers will update the software free of charge.

If you’re looking to buy a Civic hybrid or already have one, it’s best to look out for transmission problems since they can be expensive to fix, and an early diagnosis could help the wallet. The Civic isn’t built for heavy towing, so making sure that the used car hasn’t been towing a travel trailer is also a good question.

Be on the lookout for issues like:

  • Delays with acceleration or deceleration
  • Slipping out of gears
  • Grinding noises
  • Shakes and vibrations

Fixing transmissions can cost you anywhere from $1500 to $4000!

Even though this guy makes the transmission rebuild look easy, it isn’t:

3. Voltage Converter fails

The failing voltage converter is another issue that troubles the 2006 and 2007 Honda Civic hybrid. There were complaints about headlights switching off and engines stalling along with vehicles that were left unable to restart in these two model years. These malfunctions greatly increased the risk of a crash or collision and were dealt with, with the help of a recall.

The recall required that the dealers replace the voltage converters free of charge. This converter is responsible for relaying power from the Integrated Motor Assist to the vehicle’s electrical components, and so a failure in such an important part can result in numerous electrical shutdowns and difficulties.

If you’re in the market for a 2006 or 2007 civic hybrid, which we wouldn’t recommend as these are some of its worst years, it’s best to ensure that the voltage converter has been replaced. According to NHTSA, the potential number of units affected by this problem is stated to be around 36,656.

4. Abnormal Tire Wear

Another common issue found in the Civic and Civic hybrids is abnormal tire wear. This issue was reported in the 2006 to 2011 models of the Civic hybrid. The tires would experience uneven and quick wearing out, which would result in dangerous braking issues. These worn-out tires would also cause vibrations and bad bearing noise at high speeds.

Civic and Civic hybrid owners claimed that defectively short rear upper control arms caused the issue. If you’re looking for Civic hybrids, there are a couple of things to consider. Honda offered two solutions for this problem, but the deadlines for filing the claims have passed.

At first, Honda offered to install a rear upper control arm kit and replace the flange bolts and worn tires. They also did a four-wheel alignment but only offered to pay a limited amount in these repairs based on mileage and a few qualifying conditions. 

Then in 2013, Honda agreed to replace the worn-out tires and defective suspension for 2006 to 2008 Civic hybrids. Therefore, if you’re going to buy a Civic hybrid, it’s best to check what, if any, replacements have been made regarding the problem. Replacing Civic tires on your own would cost around $525 to $725, so it’s best if the free replacement by Honda is already done when you buy your second-hand car.  

5. Integrated Motor Assist

A problem that particularly worries Civic hybrid owners and those interested in getting secondhand Civic hybrids is the Integrated Motor Assist failure. The integrated motor assist is an electric motor between the engine and transmission that assists the engine while accelerating. The IMA failure is basically a hybrid battery failure, and without it, your vehicle is inoperable.

Many Civic hybrid owners have complained that the hybrid batteries have to be replaced much earlier than expected. This is quite troublesome considering the high cost of new or even refurbished batteries.

Honda states that the leading cause of premature battery failure is undercharging due to frequent stop-and-go driving. Honda’s solution for this issue was an IMA software update that detunes the system to utilize ‘assist’ less often. This improved the hybrid battery life, but some drawbacks included slower acceleration and worse fuel economy.

The IMA indicator lights come on when the system detects an issue with the IMA. This means that the IMA needs maintenance or replacement. Replacing the hybrid battery with a new one costs $3000 to $4000, and replacing it with a refurbished one costs $2200.

6. MPG Problems

Although there’s no defect to point at for this ‘problem’. It’s worthwhile to mention. Many civic hybrid owners felt that they were being deceived by the unattainable mpg estimates Honda gave.

Honda gave mpg estimates of 45-50 for its civic hybrids, whereas many consumers stated that their attained mpg was under 30.  This was shockingly below Honda’s estimates, but it was also below hybrids in general.

Therefore, if you’re a new Civic hybrid owner or a prospective owner, it’s best to manage your expectations regarding the hybrid’s fuel efficiency. However, the fuel efficiency is still impressive as you can see here:

7. Soy-Coated Wiring

Soy-Coated wiring has become a common issue for most brands, including Honda. Most automakers switched to soy-based coating for their wiring because it was more biodegradable and so more eco-friendly. Although it’s better for the environment, it’s also better for the automaker as these soy-based coatings are cheaper than their plastic counterparts.

The problem with these soy-based coatings is that they attract rodents which then like to chew on them and use them as nesting material. This could cause an array of problems, any system that utilizes wires accessible to these rodents is at risk of failing. This has become quite the problem since there is no easy solution, and it’s a problem found in most vehicles by most automakers.

There are some simple steps to include into your routine to try and catch these rodents before they cause an expensive problem. This includes regularly opening the hood and looking for signs of rodent activity, looking for shredded pieces of wire where you park your cars, and cleaning out all the food in your car.

Honda does offer an interesting fix for this rodent problem. An electric tape treated with capsaicin, a substance found in hot peppers that can keep rodents away. The tape costs around $36 for a 20m roll, and you can get it at your dealership.

What’s The Worst Year Of The Honda Civic Hybrid?

Honda Civic hybrids, just like Honda Civics, are reliable cars. Like most hybrids, they have an expected battery life of 6 to 10 years; unfortunately, some earlier civic hybrids tend to have battery lives on the lower end of the expected range. This was one of their main drawbacks. We want to give you an idea of what years were the best and worst for the Civic Hybrid.

From the year 2003 to 2005, the early Civic Hybrids tend to have a bad reputation due to their transmission problems, but we’d have to say that the worst years of the Civic hybrid are 2006 to 2010. These were the years when the hybrids worst difficulties surfaced.

This includes their battery or IMA issues which made many owners regret buying a hybrid in the first place as it drained their wallets instead of saving them money. The abnormal tire wear issues, which were difficult and expensive to fix, were also a significant concern for these model years.

The best years of the Civic hybrid would have to be between 2012 and 2015. These models lack the significant issues faced by their predecessors, such as airbag inflator rupture, IMA issues, and abnormal tire wear.

A much-needed improvement was on the IMA front; these newer models lasted longer and didn’t have the same battery failure issues as their older models. They had some minor problems, such as the transmission software issue, but even this was fixed with a recall. All in all, they were great cars.

Are There Differences In Common Problems Between 1.3L and 1.5L Hybrid Engines?

Yes, there are differences in common problems between the 1.3L and 1.5L Honda Civic Hybrid engines. The 1.3L, used in earlier models, frequently faced IMA battery and transmission issues. The 1.5L, in later models, saw improvements in transmission but still had occasional battery concerns. Both had airbag-related issues, though efforts were made to address them.

Closing Thoughts

The Honda Civic Hybrid, like any vehicle, comes with its set of challenges but it’s still relevantly easy to maintain, as is the case with most Honda vehicles.

Notably, transmission issues are prevalent, leading to potential acceleration power loss and heightened risks on the road. Airbag malfunctions have been a concern, especially in models from 2003 to 2011. Both of these issues have been seen not only in the Hybrid line but also in the sporty civic models.

Additionally, 2006 to 2011 models often saw abnormal tire wear, and battery failures weren’t uncommon. Awareness of these problems is essential for potential buyers or current owners, ensuring proactive care and safe driving. Just like you need to know your Civic’s lug pattern and preferred fuel, you need to know what you can expect as you get into the deeper mileage.

Always prioritize regular check-ups and be attuned to your car’s performance, addressing any concerns promptly.


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