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]