Monday, July 07, 2008

Honda Civic fuel door

I had a rather nasty surprise last night at the gas station. I pulled up in my 2005 Honda Civic to get a fill. I press the fuel door release button inside the car and ... nothing happens??! Say what??

The trunk and hood latches still work but I couldn't open the fuel door any more. So I'm pretty much stranded at the gas station. Thank you Honda.

Anyway I had a sliver of fuel left, maybe enough to get to a dealer. I took the car home and tried to open the fuel door myself. I got the cover off the floor button you press. It was pushing the lever, but the door wasn't opening. For whatever reason there's no way to bypass the inside switch and just open the fuel door manually on the outside.

I was very alarmed about facing an expensive repair. I'd resigned myself to this and calling the dealer first thing this morning (wasting a vacation day, thank you Honda.) Then just before I called I thought to check if there was anything on the Web I could find out about it. It turns out there is

[Honda fuel door problems 1]
[Honda fuel door problems 2]
[Honda fuel door problems 3]
[Honda fuel door problems 4]

What I got out of that was this is a known defect in the Civic. Basically caused by bad Honda engineering. For no good reason they make the fuel door controlled by a flimsy inside latch. Then they put the latch mechanism on the drivers side floor where it is exposed to constant dirt, salt, water and ice. This buys a short life for the latch mechanism.

Worse still than the failure prone latch mechanism is that there is no obvious fallback to work around the frequent failures. With say an 8-10+ year old car [although my Civic is less than 3 years old] if the trunk latch gives out no big deal; walk around back put the key in and open it by hand.

The poor Honda design has no such fallback for a failure in the switch. Which is stupid since there's no good reason to even be locking the stupid gas cap door in the first place. Luckily from the sites above I found out enough to peel back the trunk lining and I was able to find the solenoid and reach in and switch it manually and yay the door popped open and I was able to get a fill.

Now that I have a work around I'm not keen to go to the dealer and pay them off for their poor design - note also this is a known and unfixed issue tracing back to at least 2001. I hear this is not cheap to repair. Like with the o2 sensor, stuff seems to break right after warranty expires. What's the point of fixing it anyway? It already broke within less than three years, it would likely just break again in 30 months.

I'm annoyed about this. There's no good reason to make the gas cap door a single point of failure to driving the car. In addition to making an unnecessary single point of failure they put in a flimsy mechanism prone to breakdown and failed to put in an obvious emergency release for when the switch fails.

On a five year initial loan this car costs over $400 a month on average just for payments. Shoddy glitches like this are not appreciated. I suspect this may well be my first and last Honda. Three years or less and I'll be glad it's paid off.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad to know I'm not the only one with this problem. I was totally on empty when I couldn't get mine open so I popped the door open with a screwdriver and now it won't close, and what a coincidence, mine is 2005 too!!!