The Honda Clarity was first launched in 2008 as a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle in very limited numbers.
In 2016, the second generation Clarity added plug-in hybrid and all-electric variants to the range which significantly widened its appeal.
In this article we’ll take a look at the common problems and issues Honda Clarity owners have had to deal with.
1. High RPM Issue
A lot of Honda Clarity owners have complained about the car’s engine because, in certain situations, it will rev really high and make lots of noise even if you’re barely stepping on the accelerator.
This usually happens when you’re driving uphill in HV (Hybrid Vehicle) mode because the engine is trying to charge the battery while also helping the electric motor power the car forward at the same time, which results in higher than normal engine RPMs.
However, the engine can still rev abnormally high even when the car is in EV or Eco mode, especially when the battery is at 50% or lower.
Other situations where the engine RPMs go up include:
- When the A/C or heater is on full blast
- Ambient temperatures are too hot or too cold
- The car is running a system check
Here is how a few Honda Clarity owners described their experience:
“I keep the car in EV Econ mode and I find that the car will occasionally shift into HV mode at low speeds at a near-full charge on flat residential streets. After a few minutes, it will usually move back into EV mode.”
“Car revs up when driving down the highway but drops speed to 10 mph.”
“When vehicle is in any mode that requires the internal combustion engine, it gets stuck in a high rev, high RPM state. This causes power fluctuations and extreme engine noise.”
“I’ve noticed when first starting up, the engine can rev very loudly. When I get going, even if lightly pressing on the accelerator, the engine sounds like it’s revving to at least 5-6k RPMs.”
The Clarity PHEV is equipped with a small 1.5-liter engine which normally acts as a generator or charger for the EV powertrain.
When it’s charging the battery and powering the wheels at the same time, it’s going to run at higher engine speeds because it’s trying to do two things at the same time.
Although the engine’s high revving nature is part of the vehicle’s design, many owners have found that turning the HV mode on and off reduces the engine noise because the target charge level is lowered. Pulling over and restarting the car also has the same effect. This technique is often called the ‘HV Reset’ on the Honda Clarity forums.
Some owners have also found that using cruise control reduces the engine RPMs because the car will automatically regulate the hybrid system’s power output.
2. 12-Volt Battery Issues
A lot of Honda Clarity owners have had issues with the 12-volt battery going flat if the car is not used for a long time.
Other Clarity owners also notice that they’ve had to replace their 12-volt battery much sooner than in their other vehicles — usually after around 2 or 3 years.
Signs of a weak or failing 12-volt battery include:
- Car won’t start
- Errors and warning lights on the dash
- Doors won’t unlock
Here is how a few owners described their experience:
“I had an issue with the 12 volt battery going dead if the car sat there for 10 -12 days.”
“If you leave the car in the garage for 3 weeks or more, the 12V battery will die. Happened to me 3 times already.”
“I went out today to turn my car on for the first time in a month and the battery was completely drained. I had to get it jumped. Now all the codes on the dash are lighting up when I turn the car on.”
The Honda Clarity does not have an alternator and instead uses the high voltage battery to recharge the 12-volt battery.
Even if the car is plugged into a wall charger, the 12-volt battery will stop charging once the high voltage battery is fully charged up.
To avoid getting stuck on the side of the road with a dead battery and a car that won’t turn on, it’s a good idea to keep a portable jump pack handy at all times.
After jump starting the car, it will normally still have lots of errors on the dash. But these should eventually go away after driving the car for some time and once the battery gets charged back up.
A lot of owners also use a trickle charger, also known as a battery tender, to make sure the battery is always topped up if they’re not going to be using the car for a few weeks.
If you only use the car for short trips, you can periodically charge up the 12-volt battery by turning on the car and putting it into its ‘Ready’ mode for around 30 minutes.
3. Leaking A/C Condenser
Air conditioner issues where the vents don’t blow cold air anymore are a fairly common problem with the second generation Honda Clarity.
This problem can occur in the 2018 to 2021 models, but it’s most prevalent in the 2018 model year.
The most common cause of the A/C issues is a leaking condenser which eventually lets all the refrigerant out of the system. In some cases, it can also be caused by a leaky evaporator.
Here is how two Honda Clarity owners described their problem:
“I started having issues where A/C wasn’t blowing cold air. Took it into the same dealership that I got the car from. Said it was an issue with the condenser.”
“Drove through a hot area for an hour today (102f) and noticed that with the temp set to lowest, and air set to recirculate, the cabin gradually felt warmer and warmer as our drive went on. I was not in Econ mode.”
Honda released a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) in 2021 that extended the warranty of the condenser to 10 years and an unlimited number of miles because they discovered that the problem was due to a manufacturing defect.
Replacing the condenser should only take an hour or two because it’s located just behind the front bumper.
Some Honda Clarity owners have also installed an aftermarket screen called the ClarityScreen to protect the condenser from rocks and debris.
A faulty evaporator is much more difficult to fix because it’s behind the dashboard and it requires a lot of disassembly.
Honda dealerships will typically charge $2,000 to $3,000 to fix the evaporator if the car is outside the 3-year warranty.
4. Interior Rattles
Rattles are not uncommon in the Honda Clarity especially since it’s really quiet when driving in EV mode which makes any strange noises more noticeable.
The earlier 2018 to 2019 models have more issues with rattles but even the latest model years are still not completely rattle-free.
Rattles are fairly common in many other Honda vehicles because they’re not luxury vehicles and they use a lot of plastic trim pieces.
Some rattles show up as soon as they leave the showroom floor, but other strange noises only start showing up after a couple of years of use.
The most common rattle people complain about comes from the dashboard and A-pillar areas.
Here is how a few owners described their rattle problems:
“I have one small recurring rattle coming from what sounds like the right side of the dashboard when driving around 30-50mph.”
“I’ve been hearing this rattling noise for about 5 months. I can hear it in EV and low speed HV. It comes from driver and maybe passenger side.”
To get rid of the A-pillar rattle, you can stick some padding or foam between where the A-pillars and dashboard meet.
The A-pillar tweeters are also known to rattle around so a lot of people put some foam around the speaker to make it fit snugly inside its enclosure.
Another common source of rattles in early model years is a defective HVAC blower motor which will be a bit more expensive to fix since it needs to be completely replaced.
5. Reduced EV Range
A lot of Honda Clarity owners have complained about noticing a significant reduction in their EV range.
In normal conditions, the Clarity’s estimated EV range is around 40 to 50 miles. During the winter, this can go down to around 30 miles or even less. But range estimates can also fluctuate even in fair weather conditions.
Here is how a few owners described their range issues:
“I have a new to me 2018 Clarity with around 50K miles. I’m only getting 25 miles per full charge.”
“I live in Ontario, Canada, where it’s been hovering around zero degrees for a while now. I’m getting 40 – 45 km to a charge right now, which is 25-28 miles.”
Reduced range usually occurs when winter hits because the battery’s chemical reactions slow down and can’t produce the same amount of energy. Another factor is the extra load of the heater and other electronics.
This is where the gas engine comes into play because it helps extend the car’s usable range in all sorts of weather conditions.
The range estimate that’s displayed on the dash is also not very accurate. It’s often called a ‘Guess-O-Meter’ because it’s not entirely based on the battery’s remaining capacity, but rather your driving habits.
In some cases, the estimated EV range can go up to 60 or 70 miles, but this is not really an accurate or reliable metric.
6. Electrical Wiring Issues
The Honda Clarity uses soy-based insulation for all its electrical wiring which can be easily chewed and destroyed by rodents and other small animals.
This is a common problem in lots of modern cars. It’s not really a new problem since older cars also suffered from wiring damage caused by rodents even if they used rubber or plastic insulation.
But since the Clarity uses a lot of electronics and computer systems, even minor wiring damage can create lots of errors and make the car undrivable.
Here is how two Clarity owners described their experience:
“Our 2020 PHEV has been showing an emission or exhaust warning for about a year. The dealer can’t ID the source. This car was charged outside for its first 10 months and was severely damaged by squirrels. They chewed up wiring harnesses both in front and back.”
“My 2018 Clarity hybrid broke down because while parked at the airport for about a week, a rodent chewed some electrical wires.”
Parking the vehicle inside a garage reduces the chances of rodents and pests getting into your car’s engine bay and its other nooks and crannies.
It’s also a good idea to keep food, such as pet food and bird seed, away from the car so that rodents aren’t tempted to take up residence inside the engine bay.
You can also use traps and other deterrents to keep the rodent and pest population around your parking area to a minimum.
7. Charging Issues
Some early models of the Honda Clarity had charging issues where it would not charge at all when plugged in or it would stop charging before the battery reached full capacity.
Charging issues are more common in the 2018 models, but even newer model years can run into similar problems.
Sometimes, charging problems can be caused by faulty chargers or a problem with the electrical circuit that it’s hooked up to. But if the problem persists when other chargers are used, there could be a problem with the car itself.
Owners have also noticed that the Clarity can be picky with some charging stations and not work at all even though other vehicles can use it with no issue.
Here is how a few owners described their charging issues:
“When I plug in I get the usual blink of green on the charger LED then nothing. Then I tried a neighborhood level 2 and the same.”
“I’ve had my Clarity stop charging mid-charge at some Chargepoint stations but not others.”
“A level 2 charger near my home worked fine for about 3 months. Then it started giving charging interrupted notifications after a few minutes of charging.”
Honda released a software update to fix the charging issues when using public chargers in the 2018 models.
In some cases, the software update doesn’t fully fix the issue, but once the car is plugged into an OEM charger it will start working with public charging stations again.
A lot of charging problems are also caused by the scheduled charging feature in the HondaLink app. Making sure that there aren’t any special settings enabled in the app is a good first step if you’re encountering charging issues.
Honda Clarity Pros and Cons
If you’re considering a Honda Clarity as your next car you might be wondering what its strengths and weaknesses are…
- Spacious and elegant cabin
- Decent EV range
- Very quiet when driving in EV mode
- Affordable price
- Plug-in variant offers lots of usable range
- Laggy infotainment
- Limited availability
- Love it or hate it styling
Related: 17 Best & Worst Toyota Prius Years (With Facts & Stats)
Reliability of Similar Cars
There was no reliability data available for the Honda Clarity from Consumer Reports, however below is how similar cars were ranked.
|Make & Model||Consumer Reports|
|Toyota Prius Prime||88|
Source: Consumer Reports
Honda Clarity Used Value
We’ve taken a look on Car Gurus to gauge the resale value of a Honda Clarity, below are typical asking prices for each model year.
According to Car Edge, a Honda Clarity will depreciate 19% after 5 years and have a 5 year resale value of $29,489.
Note: Used model prices will vary depending on trim level.
|Model Year||Mileage (miles)||Resale Price|
Source: Car Gurus
What Do Owners Like and Dislike About the Honda Clarity?
Based on owner feedback from the Kelley Blue Book site here are what real-life owners love and hate about the Honda Clarity.
- Superior mileage
- Fun to drive
- Classy design
- Loud engine
- Not enough trunk space
- Air conditioning concerns
- Inconvenient charging stations
“Great EV powerful car! I regularly get 45-47 miles per charge. Additional gas tank is small so not much $ to fill up during this gas price hike. Very comfortable, safe, good navigation system and alter system.”
Source: Kelley Blue Book
“I am extremely happy with my Clarity for many reasons. The ride is incredibly smooth and quiet. The engineering that Honda put in this vehicle is amazing – there are about 9 different drive modes from ECON to SPORT to HV each handles slightly differently. I mostly drive in ECON and it has more than enough power for my needs including merging onto the highway…”
“My wife and I love this car. Drives and handles wonderfully. Especially now with gasoline prices rising dramatically the savings are enormous. highly recommend this car, if you can find one.”
How Reliable Are Honda Cars?
According to a recent report from Consumer Reports, Honda are ranked the 6th most reliable car manufacturer out of 28 brands, with a score of 66/100.
Source: Consumer Reports