My wife has really enjoyed her first five months with the CR-V EX. She has logged 3,700 miles. She likes the turbo acceleration, the 26-mpg, the back-up camera, the comfortable seats, the handling – she says it really hugs the road just like her old Subaru, and she likes some of the safety features. Her only complaint is that it doesn’t have as much cargo space as the Subaru. I would love to say we couldn’t be happier with our selection but that would be a lie.
When we were looking to replace her Subaru Outback last year we looked at twenty-eight different SUV’s represented by fifteen different manufacturers. While we did not actually test-drive every single one we did those that we didn’t immediately reject and several were worth consideration. In the end we placed the Honda at the top of our list. After purchasing our CR-V in August 2018 I visited various car sites and owner reports from Canada and the US of an oil contamination could not be ignored. In addition to reporting over-filled diluted oil pans some experienced a strong odor of gasoline inside the car and others having the car’s check-engine light come on, sometimes with stalling.
Honda Canada acknowledged the issue and said Honda was developing countermeasures to cure the problem. Honda’s public relations programed kicked in claiming there was no actual damage to the engine and suggested the oil issue was limited to short trips in very cold weather. However, it became immediately clear to me that simply was not true. When I checked our oil level in mid-November our dipstick registered above the full mark by 0.25” and smelled of gasoline. I went on record with a letter to both the dealership and to Corporate Honda about my oil problem but did not receive a response from either.
Between the 2017 and 2018 there were 756,908 of the new 5th generation CR-V models sold in the US.
Honda Canada announced a recall and stated dealers would upload new software, change the engine oil (but not the filter), and, in certain vehicles, replace the air conditioning control unit. To ensure customer confidence, Honda Canada provided a warranty extension on certain engine components for up to six years from the original date of purchase, with no mileage limit. It struck me as really odd Honda or anyone would want to risk continue using a gasoline diluted oil filter to save $8 plus some additional oil.
The similar Honda USA program may not have even happened were it not for a headline from Consumers Report in October drawing national attention to the issue. Rather than initiating a full recall and without any press releases Honda USA began a so-called regional product update with a two-part roll out plan starting in December for what Honda estimated to be about 25,000 vehicles. Letters sent to owners in the lucky states did not mention of oil contamination nor any warranty extension. Instead Honda threatened that the repairs must be done to ensure warranty coverage and that failure to do so could be determined a lack of proper maintenance. In the meantime my oil contamination issue has gotten worse. The amount of overfill has now doubled and it registers 0.50” above full in just 1,400 miles since I first discovered it. My best estimate is I currently have 23 ounces of gasoline contamination.
No additional plans for the remaining states have been announced. A handful of owners in southern states on good terms with their dealer have had a goodwill fix; others have been turned away and told everything is normal. Guess it doesn’t get cold in Colorado. Even more disturbing is owners who had the oil issue before and who still had it after the fix are being told it is normal and nothing more can be done.
Lack of sufficient cabin heat is a serious issue for many, especially in Canada where extreme lows like -20° can be a winter norm. It has been suggested the engine runs cold far too long in a rich condition thus injecting excess gas into the engine resulting in gas in the oil accompanied with a lack of heat. Who knows? But a cold cabin is a big issue for northern owners. Many owners report it takes an unusually long time to heat up. Owners in very cold climates find using the remote start useless; it actually makes things worse by blowing ice-cold air on the windshield for the full ten minutes. Two other very noticeable areas of cabin heat loss are when the car is at idle or when it is going down a long extended hill. As a example of the idle issue, after a 20 minute drive one owner’s measurements showed a 30° drop at the heat vent in just two minutes! In frigid Canadian temperatures with*-35°F there are reports of ice buildup on the inside the windows. Something I have not experienced since driving a very leaky 1962 Triumph Spitfire in the winter.
To date we have been spared the cabin lack of heat issue. Ironically, at least two very credible sources report on Facebook they had no heat issues until doing the fix! Instead of heating up in 3 to 5 minutes it now takes 10 to 15 minutes of driving and heat drops noticeably when at idle in town, something they did not have before the fix.
An advisor at a Canadian dealership acknowledged Honda’s fix is trying to keep more temperature in the engine rather than the heat core in order to combat the oil dilution; unfortunately it can be at the expense of cabin comfort.
Before taking our car in for the required fix I plan to document the heat using a standard cooking thermometer placed in the heat vent along with noting the outside air temperature. In general the minimum on a warmed up car should be at least 125°F from the duct in a warmed up car. I will attempt to do the same test in similar outside temperatures conditions after the fix. Saying, "The car doesn't get warm enough" without having any hard numbers I am sure I will be told it is just a personal opinion.
Does the fix work? Sadly, early feedback is mixed. The majority who had the fix report either no change or a slight improvement in heat. The same is true for the oil issue.
Forums like the CR-V owners club and the owners groups on Facebook constantly discuss how Honda has handled the issues and many owners are wondering if they made a mistake, including myself.
Seeking relief is not easy. NCDS is Honda’s dispute resolution process and would be the place to start after exhausting the dealership. The NHTSA, the US Government’s dispute process is likely a waste of time unless there are deaths involved. CMVAP is Canada’s lemon law mediation process. In the US lemon laws differ by each individual state. For example, Michigan’s is written in favor of the manufacturer (surprise, surprise) whereas Indiana favors the consumer. Also, there are a couple class action lawsuits seeking owners. As best I can tell only .001% of CR-V owners have officially gone on record using resources such as those. Consumers Report set up a site for member stories. To date it is 10 pages long with over 100 owners venting. Clearly not enough numbers to push Honda into a real lasting fix.
Does that mean only small portions of owners have the problem? I think not. When my dealership contacted me to set up an appointment the dealer said he had 500 owners to contact. I was his 362nd contact and he stated most had never heard of the oil problem. The only reason I became aware of the problem was visiting Internet sites, something only a handful of new owners are likely to do. The 7,600 owners register on Facebook represent less than 0.01% of the total US sales. The dealership certainly is not going to tell you the issue when doing a routine oil change.
Expert advice claims the oil dilution many of us are experiencing is not good for an engine long term. If these experts are correct, then once these engines start failing it will tank the resale value of everyone's CR-V and not just the ones who know of the issue. Having the fix would seem to be in everyone's best interest unless Honda comes up with scientific literature supporting the claim that fuel in oil is a non-issue. On the other hand it may take 10 years for engine wear to show itself.
We really have no choice but to have the fix. If we end up with a cold cabin in return for the fix I will be more than a little upset.*We bought the extended warranty because today’s cars are really computers on wheels but we didn’t plan on having these issues.
If faced with the question, “Would you buy this vehicle if you had to do it over again? That is really hard to answer; most likely no. I would certainly consider looking at the base model, the LX with the 2.4L normal engine in lieu of the turbo.