|NOTE From the editors of the TOV: You are reading a user-submitted article. This article is very thorough and is being presented in its entirety in unedited form. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the TOV nor its editorial staff. We would like to extend our thanks to Dan Acosta for taking the time to write this informative article and sharing it with the TOV community.|
Did Somebody Order Lemon-Aid?It's commonly accepted that the first year (or more) of a major model change like the 06 Civic is going to have some bugs. Even a mature model can have gremlins. I bought a 95 Sable thinking the outgoing model would have fewer problems than the major model change Ford made with the 96; boy was I wrong! I had two trouble-free Fords before the 95 Sable, but that one bad experience has kept me out of the Ford camp ever since.
While Hondas are susceptible to the same first-year bugs as everyone else, their track record seems to be generally better. When Honda does have a quality problem, they are usually pretty quick and forthright about fixing it. My 02 Odyssey (60,000 miles) and 04 Accord (44,000 miles) have both been virtually flawless vehicles. The first 05 Odyssey we took on the 160-mile loop had a wind noise and alignment problem, so we said no thanks to that one. The second 05 Odyssey we took on the loop had no problems, so we took that one home. Since then our 05 Odyssey has been the subject of two recalls (front impact sensor and door handle freezing) and a few service bulletins, the most serious being front disc noise issues. Thus, the 05 Odyssey has been a little more problematic than my other Hondas. Its problems, however, have been relatively minor and, more importantly, were handled very well by both my dealer and American Honda.
Based on my years of good experience with Honda, I wasn't too nervous about buying one of the first 06 Civics. The two I test drove seemed flawless, so I eagerly picked out a unit equipped exactly the way I wanted (EX sedan auto) that was due into my dealership within a couple weeks.
The car arrived and was prepped for delivery. I left on my usual 160-mile test loop and immediately discovered a problem: there was a hissing wind noise from what seemed like the left front triangle window area. The noise started around 35 MPH and got progressively louder with speed. I pulled over and checked for obvious causes, but everything about the door, moldings, etc. looked pristine.
Now I was faced with a dilemma: the two 06 Civics I test drove did not have this noise, and there was nothing obviously wrong that would cause the noise on the car I ordered. Since this was early October 2005, I couldn't go back to the dealer and swap out for another Civic like we did when our first 05 Odyssey had issues we didn't like. It would be several weeks if not longer before another 06 Civic equipped just how I ordered would arrive.
I decided to complete the 160-mile loop to see if there were any other problems and make a determination from there. Everything else on the car was perfect, and the drive through the mountains was even more enjoyable than I had anticipated. But the noise was still there.
Based on all my previous good experience with Honda I went ahead and took delivery. I was sure my trusty service department would be able to quickly fix this wind noise, especially since I knew (or thought) this problem wasn't endemic since I had personally driven two other 06 Civics with no wind noise whatsoever. I couldn't have been more wrong!
Over the next 5 months and 14,000 miles, my Civic underwent 21 repairs. One of those repairs was for a leaking shock; the other 20 were all for or related to the wind noise.
I soon learned that others were having the same problem. Edmunds' report said:
|More than once we found ourselves checking to be sure the driver-side windows were all the way up at speed thanks to some unnerving wind noise. The sound was inconsistent enough that we never nailed down its source, but the windows were never down when we heard it.|
My service manager confirmed he heard the noise on other 06 Civics, and that Honda knew there was a problem but didn't have a fix. This was one of those classic first-year bugs you would rather read about after it has been solved, but I had placed myself right in the middle of it by taking delivery of the vehicle even though I knew it had an unacceptable wind noise.
The list of parts replaced includes two triangle windows, seven pieces of trim around various windows, two moldings, one door hinge, and one outside mirror. At various times there were seven different custom modifications made to my vehicle trying to eliminate the wind noise. One example of this customization was trying to seal up all possible air leaks on the inside of the door panel. Similar modifications were made to various door seals, pieces of trim, and the outside mirror. Each repair would change the noise, and some almost eliminated it. Mysteriously, water and cold temperatures made the noise worse.
I became very frustrated and began to lose faith with Honda. On two occasions, the dealer kept my car for multiple days and put me in a loaner while they experimented and replaced various parts. I finally lost patience and started talking lemon law with American Honda. Their response was that the wind noise and air leak did not detract from the value and enjoyment of the vehicle because it is not a safety concern, and therefore the owner should just live with it. Honda suggested that all vehicles have some wind noise, and the noise I was complaining about was just a characteristic of the Civic.
My service manager and I knew better, though, because on a few occasions my wind noise was almost totally gone. Plus, the first two 06 Civics I test drove had no noise, so there were quiet Civics out there somewhere. Could American Honda be right in that quiet Civics are the exception and noisy ones like mine are the rule? In the grand scheme of things, Honda's assertion that a wind noise is not as serious as a major engine/transmission/etc. problem did have merit. However, my past experience with quality Hondas made me expect the same from my new Civic.
Honda sent a technical engineer out to spend a few days experimenting with my vehicle. He basically repeated a lot of the same work, parts replacements, and customizations the dealer had already done, but was still unable to eliminate the wind noise. He confessed that Honda had replaced an entire driver's door on another Civic sedan with the wind noise, and even that didn't solve the problem. It is worth noting this wind noise problem is only on sedans, as the coupe has a different mirror design and no triangle window.
At this point, I started to more actively pursue lemon law relief, as well as seek help from my dealer in finding another Civic to swap in to. I also did some experimenting on my vehicle myself and, along with the help of my diligent service manager, stumbled upon the solution.
I discovered the answer through a day of driving around and taping up various parts of my driver's door until the noise went away. There were times I had the door so taped up that I had to go in the passenger door, lift my head up through the open sunroof, and crawl into the driver's seat. Once the noise was gone, I started removing tape until I got to the smallest piece of tape that would still make the noise go away, as shown in the photo. This resulted in a quiet car, but is obviously not a permanent solution because it looks tacky, and you can't roll the window down without messing the up the tape job.
It turns out the wind noise is caused by the little gap at the front edge of the rubber trim and molding that runs along the base of the driver's door window. On the right front door, it is a tight gap. On the left door, there is a production inconsistency resulting in various gap widths. The size of the gap determines how much noise you get. Realize we're talking about variations of a fraction of a millimeter, but the size of that gap makes a difference in the wind noise. Taping over the gap eliminates the wind noise.
The door mirror creates a high-pressure area that tries to resolve by air rushing into this little gap. The proof was when I checked three other new Civic sedans on the dealer's lot. I could look at the gap in the molding and then accurately predict how much wind noise there would be. One of the other new Civics had a tight gap, similar to the right door, and no noise; the other two had a gap like mine and they, too, had the irritating noise.
The problem is there is no play in the installation of the molding, so you're stuck with whatever you get from the factory. My experience from checking other new Civics on my dealer's lot is that the right front door has a consistently tight gap and no noise, but the left door is inconsistent in its production tolerance and thus randomly has the noise.
My creative service manger came up with a more permanent and aesthetically pleasing solution than tape. Until Honda fixes the production inconsistency in the molding, the fix is to install a small piece of foam to fill the gap at the front bottom corner of the glass.
Left side with foam insert sealing "big" gap
Right side with tight gap from factory
The left photos show the large gap on the driver's door and the piece of foam inserted to fill in the gap. Realize when I say a large gap I'm only talking about millimeters, but that's a lot to high-pressure airflow. The extra piece of foam is about an inch long to give you perspective. The right photos show the tight gap from the factory on the right front door. This last photo is a close-up of the gap on the left side with the foam insert filling the hole.
With the foam in place, I've had my vehicle up to 117 MPH with no noise. Without the foam filling the gap on the left side, the irritating wind noise starts at 35 MPH. Understand that at 117 there is "normal" wind noise from other areas of the windshield, etc. The difference is that at 55 without the foam insert there is more wind noise from the front-left window area than at 117 with the insert. It still amazes me how much noise a tiny little gap will make.
Experiment with tape and/or a foam insert on your own car if you have a similar noise. My request, though, would be to document and get this "fixed" by your dealer's service department. Tell your dealer to contact Honda tech-line, as this problem is very well documented by now. If enough people complain about this, Honda will eventually issue a TSB to retrofit problem cars with a tighter molding. For now, I'm glad my car is finally quiet, even though it took what most would call a jury-rig repair to fix it.
I've learned my lesson: I will never take delivery of a vehicle again unless it is perfect, even if it's a Honda. I set myself up taking the car home knowing it had a wind noise that shouldn't be there, never thinking it would be such a nightmare to fix. In hindsight the solution is amazingly simple, so hopefully my aggravation will save a lot of frustration for other Civic owners with the ominous wind noise.