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2003 Honda Civic Problems

RepairPal has identified the most common problems with the 2003 Honda Civic based on complaints from actual vehicle owners. We'll tell you what the problem is and what it'll take to fix it.

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27
Known Problems

The airbag warning light (SRS) may illuminate due to a defective occupant position sensor. Honda has a recall campaign to replace defective sensors on affected cars.

On Certain models a faulty power window switch can cause the power windows to work or not work intermittently.

The shift control solenoid externally mounted on the automatic transmission (non CVT) can fail and causes a harsh 1-2 shift. Replacing the shift solenoid and flushing the transmission with genuine Honda automatic transmission fluid may eliminate harsh shifting characteristics. A broken internal spring can cause the same issue. If the shift control solenoid does not repair the problem, the transmission will have to be replaced. 

Cracked exhaust is common on both exhaust manifolds and manifold/catalytic converter combination. Replacing the cracked component will repair the problem.

Worn door locks (tumblers) can cause the lock not to work. Removing the lock and replacing the worn parts (tumblers) is needed to get the lock working again.

Worn engine mounts can lead to unwanted engine vibrations being transmitted to the body, most commonly with the engine idling and the transmission in reverse. Replacing the worn mount(s) should correct this concern.

The 1990-2005 Honda Civic commonly have issues with radiator leaks due to normal operation. The leak usually starts small with the engine running slightly warmer than normal, but may/will eventually cause:

  • Coolant puddling under vehicle
  • Engine overheating
  • Unexplained coolant loss (only at first)
  • Vehicle in “limp mode”; loss of power
  • Cylinder head or head gasket failure
  • The coolant leaking can have a severe effect on your vehicle if left in disrepair. If the radiator is diagnosed as the leaky part, it will need to be replaced, or resealed if that is an option.

    Note: coolant is toxic to animals, but tastes sweet. Any coolant spills should be cleaned to protect animals and children.

    On some models the hood release cable breaks at the hood release handle.

    Damaged engine mounts can lead to vibration and roughness felt in the steering wheel. A rattle in the dash and engine area may also be heard. Replacement of damaged mounts will commonly correct these issues.

    On certain models the windshield wipers will not park in the proper place or won't shut off. The wiper motor must be replaced to repair this issue.

    The 1993-2005 Honda Civic commonly has problems with the EVAP canister vent solenoid. It stops responding to commands to open and close, and the following occurs:

  • Illumination of the check engine light
  • OBD trouble code P1457 is stored
  • Engine takes longer than usual to start
  • Fuel mileage decreases noticeably
  • The valve is located on the charcoal canister, and is meant to open and close upon command. It fails due to corrosion breaking one of two internal seals, which allows air to escape the system, signaling the OBD trouble code P1457.

    Correcting the problem can be done by replacing the vent valve, or, in some cases, cleaning and resealing the vent valve has been successful. You can get an estimate for this repair here.

    A worn, missing, or loose gas cap can cause the same issues.

    The camshaft seal, located at the end of the cylinder head, has a reputation for failure on the 1990-2005 Honda Civic.

    This seal wraps around the camshaft to prevent engine oil from leaking where the camshaft exits the cylinder head.

    Replacing the leaky seal requires timing belt removal, so timing belt and water pump may be recommended if your vehicle is near the service interval.

    The 1990-2005 Honda Civic has a known issue with engine oil leaking from the ignition distributor shaft seal.

    Leakage from the shaft seal coats the electrical components of the distributor with engine oil causing:

  • Failure to start 
  • Engine randomly misfires 
  • OBD Trouble code(s) P0300, P0301, P0302, P0303, P0304, P1336, P1337 
  • Engine vibrations  
  • Hesitation or stalling 
  • Cleaning the distributor cap and rotor can help or resolve driveability issues temporarily, but the mentioned issues will return shortly.

    Once this issue is diagnosed, the ignition distributor shaft seal must be replaced, and the distributor shaft bearing must be inspected.

    Front compliance bushings may crack and break. Damaged bushing should be replaced before damaged is done to suspension components.

    The front brake rotors can warp and cause a vibration when braking. The rotors will need to be machined or in cases where they are worn to thin, replaced to correct this issue.