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Some Civic Type Rs are overheating on track
Date: August 18, 2017 01:11
Last week, a Youtube video was posted which showed a stock Civic Type R setting a 2:03.3 at Buttonwillow, which is a pretty impressive time. Unfortunately, under the duress of setting that time, that particular Civic Type R overheated.
Shortly following the release of this video, other new Civic Type R owners started chiming in online with stories of their own, including Jason Owens of United Speed Racing out of Cumming, GA.
Jason Owens was testing the United Speed Racing's Civic Type R at Atlanta Motorsports Park in late June when he started encountering relatively high coolant temperatures (in the 230F range). I happened to be at the track that day, but I wasn't aware that they had encountered any heat issues. At that time, their car was bone stock.
We've been testing a Civic Type R for the past week (and LOVING it), and after hearing some of these reports, track time with the CTR seemed even more imperative. Fortunately, there was a Track Night In America event last night at Atlanta Motorsports Park, and the organizers of the event graciously allowed us to test the Civic Type R. The event itself was superb - for $150 (less than the price of a speeding ticket) you can run your car in three 20-minute sessions.
Since I had only driven on AMP one prior time for a limited number of laps, I entered in the Intermediate class. I was unable to run any clean laps during these Intermediate sessions (the Civic Type R is a BEAST at AMP, btw), but we did run one session in the Advanced group and by luck we had clear air for the entire session.
While we were in the northern part of Georgia, where there's generally a tiny bit of a respite from the summer heat, it was still pretty warm just west of Dawsonville last night, with temps north of 90F and high humidity numbers to go along with it.
During the first intermediate session, we had no noticeable heat issues from a performance perspective, but the water temp gauge did nudge up to around the 3/4 mark, maybe a little above that. In the one Advanced session, everything seemed to be going well until we were about 4 laps into the session. To that point, the water temp needle had been gradually inching towards the top of its range, and then we suddenly hit that max point, a warning message flashed on the dash display, and the car cut power. After about a half lap cool-down the needle on the water temp gauge settled back down to a more normal range, and it seemed to be full go. But it only lasted another lap or maybe a lap and a half, and again the needle was pretty much pegged, but by this point the session had ended. Unfortunately, the OBD2 scantool that was installed was not functioning properly during this session so we did not successfully log the Engine Coolant Temperature (ECT) readings.
For the final session of the night, we went back out with the Intermediate group. Again, traffic was an issue for nearly the entire session, which kept the water temps down, relatively speaking (but have a good look at the graph below, they're still a bit too warm for comfort). Towards the very end of the session, we had made our way through a good chunk of the traffic and had a little bit of clear air for approximately 1/2 of a lap. At the very end of that lap, and at the fastest portion of the track, we caught up with a bit more traffic but at that exact moment the Civic Type R once again flashed a brief message on the dashboard and cut power. This time the power cut was pretty brief, and a few hundred feet later we would cross the start/finish line with the checkered flag indicating the end of our final session of the night.
Jason Owens was also there last night with United Speed Racing's Civic Type R, and since we last saw the car, their Civic Type R has benefitted from a few mods, including a custom downpipe and some other minor underhood stuff. They also had drained the factory coolant and were running a blend of distilled water and Motul MoCool. They had also swapped the stock 20" wheels for a set of 18x9 Sparco Pro Corsas fitted with Maxxis tires. Once again, their car registered high temps. Jason told me he noticed the engine coolant temps hitting somewhere in the 240s.
The graph below shows the final session which we successfully datalogged with the OBD2 scantool. According to the logfiles, the ECT peaked at 251.6F, and spent much of the time above 230F. Keep in mind, this was logged during a session where we were held up by slower traffic for the majority of the time.
Click to enlarge the above chart. The axis on the left represents the coolant temps, while everything else on the graph uses the right axis.
Upon hearing these reports from last weekend (and prior to taking our test Civic Type R to Atlanta Motorsports Park), we pinged American Honda on Monday, August 14th. We discussed the issue by telephone with Honda spokesman Chris Martin for roughly 20 minutes. Mr. Martin indicated that Honda was aware of these developments via their social media channels, and at that moment their belief was that these reports were likely "somewhat isolated". He did not deny that there was a problem with the cars that were reported, but he also stressed that the Civic Type R had been extensively tested in extreme environments, and that it should not be overheating under any sort of "track day" scenarios.
Mr. Martin reinforced these beliefs and stated that these observations were not consistent with their own experience based upon internal testing of a pair of Civic Type Rs at high temperatures (over 100F) at Buttonwillow.
Mr. Martin stressed that for any Civic Type R owner who experiences this sort of overheating situation, the best course of action is to take the car into the dealership so the service department can log the issue. This will be the best and fastest way for Honda to resolve the issue. For those who are worried about warranty issues, Mr. Martin also stressed the fact that there is no worry about any warranty issues as long as the car is not being used for sanctioned competitive racing events. The Civic Type R was designed and built for track days, and to be enjoyed on the track. If the dealer is pushing back for any reason, then call Honda customer service at 1-800-999-1009.
Now the real question is whether or not this is something MAJOR with respect to the design of the cooling circuit of the 306hp K20C1, or is this simply some sort of manufacturing defect or component defect? We are hopeful that it is the latter.
The good news is that the Civic Type R is still impressively fast despite the apparent heat issues that we and others have observed. When Honda fixes the issue with the affected cars, there will be more consistent power and it should be even quicker around your favorite circuit.