Maintenance tips: Honda Civic

All you need to know about this model, plus how to keep it running strong
by TopGear.com.ph | A day ago
PHOTO: Top Gear PH

The Honda Civic is an interesting study in model evolution. From its student-car beginnings, it slowly shed its street-racer roots and morphed into a plush sedan for the general populace. 

Exterior

The 9th generation of the Civic, the car that gave my generation its first taste of Honda, hews closely to its successful predecessor. The main difference is in the face and the taillights. The thrust of the nose is more pronounced, and some of the balance in the rear has been lost because the taillights have been scrunched to the corners. 

This top 2.0 EL variant has ceded the student market to its City and Jazz siblings, and it now has the size, comfort and presence to vie for junior-executive car plans. What climbing the proverbial corporate ladder gets yuppies are auto-leveling HID headlights, gorgeous 17-inch wheels, fog lamps, black leather seats and steering wheel, automatic climate control and tweeters. 

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If not for what I’m driving, I would have said the Civic 2.0 EL looks good. But my demo unit is equipped with a Modulo body kit. It has an upgraded chin, extended side skirts, modified rear bumper, and a trunk spoiler that’s just right. Just right for who, you may ask. Surely the spoiler’s size is a matter of taste? Of course it is; anything bigger than this Modulo accessory on any Civic is bad taste. 

The result of the visual upgrade is dramatic. The body kits flare out the Honda’s dimensions for a welcome bit of menace. The double-spoke wheels look as if they found their soulmate. They say that your car looks good if you look back for one more glance while walking away. I found myself doing that several times throughout this Civic’s extended loan period. While I’m sure many owners will still install aftermarket options for this car—this is a Honda after all—I think these factory upgrades are more than enough for most people. 

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And I can definitely say that practicality was not sacrificed for aesthetics. My route from home to work includes some streets and curbs that are hostile toward vehicles with low clearances. But the Modulo kits were able to avoid being scraped by parking barriers and uneven streets.

Interior

The cabin has been spared from additional accessories, but it’s probably because none were necessary. Metal accents and black leather adorned the seats and surfaces, and while some red stitching would have been nice, there’s nothing to complain about regarding the interior. The dark theme manages to complement the sporty exterior nicely enough. Fit and finish everywhere is superb. Nothing squeaks or rattles on the road. 

A highlight of this car is the continuation of the driver-centric layout started in the eighth-gen model. The multi-colored tachometer is squarely behind the leather steering wheel, and the digital speedometer is on top.

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Engine, Performance and Driving Impressions

The fuel consumption registered by the computer hovered at the 7-8km/L range. I did my own measurement by filling up the 57L tank after I zeroed the trip odometer, and I arrived at 7.41km/L in mostly city driving. Close enough.

I also noticed that the car became more responsive after filling up with high-octane fuel. But if you want to save more gas, press the green Eco Assist Button located left of the tiller. This alters the driving behavior by making?the transmission—automatic only in this 2.0 EL flavor—less aggressive. Eco Assist even decreases the power of the A/C; cabin temperature went up in this mode.

Beyond wanting to enjoy Honda’s famous cooling ability, you will want to leave Eco Assist off because there’s still a lot of street-racer spirit present in the Civic. It’s disappointingly far from quick off the line, but the chassis is still beautifully balanced and the feedback from the steering wheel is encouraging—albeit a bit numb. The 153hp from the 2.0-liter mill has enough power for those quick maneuvers to get past AUVs and regular vehicles.

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During a media drive last year, I was even able to test this car’s handling at triple-digit provincial speeds. It can take corners confidently without unpleasant surprises. I fervently wish for a manual gearbox option, though. It’s just hard to squeeze excitement out of the AT.

Verdict

In the past I liked saying that the Civic is like your college girlfriend. It was perfect for that time in your life when you wanted something low-maintenance and fun, but you knew you were going to move on to something better. Now the Honda compact has grown up as well. It’s not the tossable school service you cut class with anymore. It has composure, power and space that’s ideal for you and your small family.

But for those times when you want to have a little bit of fun on the way home, the Civic—especially in this dashing Modulo guise—can still make you feel like a teen again. (Dinzo Tabamo)

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Recommended maintenance schedule

Most modern cars are very reliable these days, with some being more idiot-proof than others. A fellow enthusiast likes to call such cars as “gas n’ go.” You put gas in the car, and you go. No doubts about whether the car will start the first time. No fears that a warning light will suddenly pop up. The ideal daily driver is essentially an appliance that you can use for many years until you get tired of the look or it finally falls to pieces (unlikely). If you follow the maintenance schedule, and if you have a basic sense of car maintenance, you can reasonably expect your car to run perfectly fine for many, many miles. Here are 10 quick tips to keep your ride in tip-top shape:

1) Check the fluids every week.

Coolant, water reservoir, oil, brake fluid, power steering, automatic transmission fluid (if applicable), and the windshield washer. There should be no significant loss in any of these except the washer fluid on a week-to-week basis. If there is (for example, from full a week ago to half-full), this could indicate a leak somewhere.

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Check the ground underneath the car for any telltale leaks or puddles and trace the origin (a few drops of condensation from the A/C system is normal, though). If everything’s good, you should only need to top up the washer fluid and water reservoir.

2) Follow the 5,000-7,500km maintenance schedule.

Depending on your car’s make and model, the service interval is important to your car’s wellbeing. The primary service is the oil and filter change, but this may also include several other services such as cleaning the A/C filter, recharging the freon, and changing the transmission fluid, and any other fluids and filters. Spark plugs are also replaced every year.

3) Check tire pressure every week.

Tires gradually lose tire pressure after several days, but they also gain a few psi as road and tire temperature increase. These have a recommended tire pressure, taking into account your average passenger and cargo load. You’d do well to follow these guidelines (it’s usually printed on the driver’s side door panel), but one or two psi above/below the recommended won’t hurt the car and will let you tailor the ride quality to your preference.

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If one full tank of gas lasts you a week, get the tire pressure checked right after you gas up, preferably while your tires are still cold in the morning. Watch out for noticeably soft tires (say, 5-10 psi below the usual), indicating a slow leak somewhere. Inspect the tire but don’t pull out the foreign object, which is usually a nail or bolt. The tire will quickly deflate if you do, and you don’t want to ruin it by running flat. Bring it to a vulcanizing shop so they can patch it up and save the tire.

4) Mind the tire rotation, alignment, and balance.

Have your tires rotated every six months or 10,000km to maintain even tread wear. When you do this, that’s when you’ll need to have them balanced and/or aligned.

5) Find out if you really need to have it rust-proofed.

Some casas may try to sell you on a four-figure “paint protection” service. Unless you park right by the sea or live in a snowy climate, you don’t need this. The shell of the car already has several layers of primer and paint to protect the metal from rust.

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6) Check your battery.

Depending on your usage, the battery will last anywhere from a year to two. A telltale sign that the battery is about to die is hesitation to turn over on startup. When in doubt, bring it over to a battery shop so they can check it for you.

7) Do not ignore your timing belt/chain.

This is probably the most critical item in your service manual that you don’t ever want to ignore. When this breaks, your engine will freeze and you’ll be stuck with an overhaul. The recommended replacement schedule is somewhere between 60,000-70,000km, depending on the car.

8) Know when you need a transmission overhaul/clutch replacement.

“Overhaul” is a scary word, but it’s just a routine service if you’re talking about the transmission. When your car’s gears begin to slip or refuse to engage, that’s a sign that the clutch is worn out and needs replacement. Don’t ever let a service advisor tell you that the entire transmission needs to be replaced, especially if it’s less than 100,000km old!

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9) Know if you really need 95- or 98-octane gasoline.

Not really, but it helps. Unless it’s a luxury/sports car, most daily driver gasoline engines do okay with regular unleaded (93-octane), but some run better with higher grade gasoline. However, if you have a minor engine mod like an aftermarket ECU chip, some knocking may occur with 93 Octane (especially during the summer when temperatures are higher). In that case, spending several hundred pesos more for 98-octane will result in smoother operation and peace of mind.

10) Have the Italian tune-up.

Metro Manila traffic is hell on an automobile and qualifies as “extreme road conditions” because of the incessant stop-and-go that’s hard on the transmission, and the fumes ingested by the air intake. Once a week, or at least once a month, take your car to a longer drive where you can gently work the upper ranges of the gears and blow out any crud from the pipes. (Andy Leuterio)

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PHOTO: Top Gear PH
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