The Honda CR-V was one of the first compact SUVs to be built on a car chassis, which proved to be a very popular formula.
First introduced in 1997, the CR-V continues to be one of the best-selling and most highly-rated SUVs on the market.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of its typical problems and issues.
Table of Contents
1. Engine Oil Dilution
Many early fifth gen CR-Vs with the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine suffered from oil dilution issues where some gas would mix with the oil.
It’s the most reported engine issue on the Car Complaints website, which is dedicated to tracking owner complaints.
The 2017 to 2018 model years tend to have it worse than newer model years, but the issue isn’t really too bad or noticeable in most vehicles.
When gas mixes with the oil, you may notice the following:
- Oil levels too high when checking dipstick or doing an oil change
- Fuel smell around the car and inside the cabin
- Check engine light
- Heaters don’t work well in cold weather
- Engine stalling
- Hesitates to accelerate
- Lower fuel economy
However, even if an engine has oil dilution issues, there’s really no proof that it can cause severe engine damage after several years. Of course, if the oil has some gas in it, it will likely affect the lubrication properties it was originally designed to have, which leaves a lot of CR-V owners worried.
Here is how some CR-V owners described their problem:
“My Honda CR-V 1.5t turbo engine has an oil dilution problem. Dipstick indicates over 1/2 inch over full. The oil on the dipstick smells like gas and it is black in color after 2000 miles since last oil change.”
“Have excess oil dilution in 1.5L engine. After 7,500 miles, oil level increased by 1.2 quarts to 4.5 quarts for a 3.3 qt. capacity engine. Afraid oil dilution is changing the oil viscosity and will cause undue wear. Had the Honda product update, doesn’t help.”
“We have an ‘18 CRV that has had the reflash completed to address the oil dilution, however it has not corrected the frequent gasoline smell in the cabin and outside of the vehicle at times.”
Honda released a software update in late 2018 to address the oil dilution complaints. The company also extended the warranty for any affected vehicles to 6 years and an unlimited number of miles.
However, many owners who have the oil dilution issue say that not much has changed after getting the updated software.
In a lot of cases, owners are just advised to check and change their oil more frequently to make sure the car always has good oil in it.
To avoid excessive oil dilution, it’s also recommended to avoid taking too many short trips as it doesn’t give the engine enough time to heat up and burn off the gas that’s stuck in the walls of the combustion chamber.
2. Fuel Injector Issues
The 2017 model of the fifth-gen CR-V had lots of complaints of early fuel injector failures.
This issue typically only affects the 1.5-liter turbo engines of the 2017 CR-V because it was the first model year of the fifth gen and newer model years switched to an updated part.
Classic symptoms of a faulty fuel injector in early fifth gen CRVs include:
- Car goes into limp mode
- Check engine light
- Lots of random dashboard warning lights
- Misfire trouble codes such as P0172
In a lot of cases, the car can still be driven normally even with all the warning lights turning on at random.
Here is how one CR-V owner described their experience:
“All my safety features lights turned on and they stopped working, I took it to the dealer and they told me it was the fuel injectors. The SUV is a 2017 with 80,000 miles on it.”
Fuel injectors in this generation of the CR-V can be tricky to diagnose because it can seem like an electrical issue at first. Random warning lights can also be caused by a weak battery so it’s a good idea to check that first.
If the issue persists, it’s best to take it to a Honda dealer or a mechanic who specializes in diagnostics to figure out if the fuel injectors are the real cause and not anything else.
Replacing a set of fuel injectors in this model year of the CR-V typically costs around $1,500 at the dealer.
3. Air Conditioning Problems
Some generations of the CR-V are more prone to A/C problems that can be very expensive to fix when they do go wrong.
Early second gen CR-Vs from 2002 to 2004 can suffer from sudden compressor failures that result in grease and other debris ruining the A/C lines.
This problem is also often referred to as the ‘black death’.
Third gen CR-Vs from 2007 to 2011 often end up with A/C compressor clutch failures at some point in their life.
Modern CR-Vs, such as early fifth gen CR-Vs from 2017 to 2018, can also develop leaks coming from the compressor, condenser or A/C lines way before the 100,000-mile mark.
Here is how a few unhappy owners described their experience:
“I bought a 2002 LX and had to pay $3100 to fix the compressor which amounted to ripping out the entire A/C system and installing new.”
“2018 CRV EXL. AC not blowing very cold. Turned out to be a leaky condenser. Would have been $600 total if not covered by warranty.”
“A Honda CR-V with 54,000 miles on it and the A/C compressor is being replaced NOT under any warranty. 2200 dollars! What a waste of money.”
Honda started using a new A/C compressor in later second gen CRVs. If you’re still using the older version, you can upgrade it before it causes any damage to the A/C system.
The third gen CR-V’s compressor clutch can be easily replaced for a few hundred dollars.
It’s safe to just let it run until you start experiencing cooling issues.
Though many clutches have had early failures, there are also lots that have lasted over 100,000 miles.
A/C leaks in the fifth gen CR-V are usually caused by broken compressor seals which require replacing the entire unit.
If you want to keep the repair costs down, you can always shop around for cheaper aftermarket or used parts.
4. Battery Drain Problems
Some modern CR-Vs have battery drain problems where the battery goes flat if the car isn’t used for a few days.
Looking at CarComplaints.com, excessive battery drain is the most commonly reported electrical problem in the fourth gen CR-Vs from 2012 to 2016 and in the 2017 to 2019 model years of the fifth gen.
Newer CR-Vs are typically spec’d with smaller and lighter batteries from the factory.
Combine this with all the electronics that the vehicle has and you can easily drain the battery if you only drive the car for very short distances and not give it enough time to charge back up.
But aside from small battery issues, excessive drain can also be caused by faulty electronics or alternator problems.
Early fifth gen CR-Vs, for example, had issues with their VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) software which made the car randomly turn on some electronics and cause parasitic drain.
Here is how a few CR-V owners describe their issues:
“My 2014 Honda CR-V cannot have a battery last for more than a year. There appears to be some sort of parasitic draw that just randomly drains the battery.”
“Bought 2019 Honda CRV about 2 weeks ago. Go out to start the car and the battery is dead. Had to get it jumped. Next week the same thing. Motorworld looked at the car and the battery was bad, so they replaced it. A few weeks later, it does it again. Had it towed and the battery was dead again.”.
Honda released a software update for fifth gen CR-Vs to keep the VSA modulator from turning on while the vehicle is parked.
Some fifth gen owners also report that their dealers eventually found that their BCM (Body Control Module) was faulty and caused random electronics to turn on.
For the fourth gen CR-V, Honda released a TSB that recommended replacing a faulty A/C relay that had a tendency to stay on even after the car is turned off.
Other workarounds for battery drain issues that are hard to figure out include:
- Install a larger battery
- Use a battery tender when parked
- Install a battery disconnect switch
- Take longer trips to charge the battery
- Keep a jump pack or jumper cables in the car
5. VTC Rattle
Some Honda CR-Vs produce a loud engine noise on startup which sounds like a quick grinding or whirring sound.
In the third and fourth CR-V, it’s usually the VTC actuator that’s making the quick rattling sound. These cars were sold from 2007 to 2016.
The VTC actuator is part of of the VTC (Variable Timing Control) system which helps make the car run more efficiently.
The VTC actuator noise can cause severe engine damage if left unchecked for a long time since it’s part of the timing system.
But you can still drive the car for quite a while until it becomes more frequent.
Here is how a few owners described their issue:
“VTC actuator makes horrible noises on starting car. The problem started last winter, and went away when the weather warmed up. Same thing this year BUT the problem DID NOT go away when Spring arrived. The car always starts but the noise is more frequent.”
“I have a 2012 Honda CRV the VCT Actuator was replaced in 2012 , 2014 and 2016. The noise is back again since cold weather is here.”
Honda released a TSB to address VTC actuator issues in the 2013 to 2015 CR-V but other model years with the same problem were not included.
Replacing the VTC actuator costs around $500 for parts and labor at the dealership. It can also be done much cheaper at any competent repair shop.
Some owners have complained that while replacing the VTC actuator does remove the noise, it eventually comes back after a year or two.
6. Vibration at Idle
Some years of the fourth gen CR-V have noticeable vibration issues when the car is sitting idle.
On CarComplaints.com, it’s the most reported problem for the 2015 to 2016 model years.
The excessive vibration is normally caused by the car’s engine mode software and how some parts and mounting hardware amplify the regular vibrations that the powertrain makes.
It doesn’t cause any drivability issues or long-term damage, but it can be annoying to live with.
Here is how some CR-V owners described their issues:
“I bought a new 2015 CR-V EX. I noticed the aggressive vibration but only when the car is idling in D, and only when the engine is idling at about 600 rpm. Putting any load on the engine (turning the headlights on etc) increases the idle speed and diminishes the vibration.”
“Our 2015 CR-V began to experience the vibration symptoms at around 7000 miles, at idle and at approximately 1500 RPM. The vibration was intermittent but quite noticeable when it occurred.”
Honda released a TSB that recommends different ways to get rid of the excessive vibrations in early fourth gen models.
One of the first steps is to update the car’s software to help smooth out the way the car idles. Depending on the symptoms, additional fixes could include replacing the transmission mounts, radiator support cushions, or the rear tailgate damper, among a few other things.
The vibrations typically get worse when ‘Eco’ mode is turned on. A simple way to get rid of the vibrations is to avoid using in ‘Eco’.
7. Power Door Lock Issues
The third-gen CRV’s power door locks are a common weak point on a lot of early model year cars.
On Car Complaints, door lock issues are the most reported problem for the 2007 to 2009 model years.
Symptoms of a faulty door actuator include:
- Locks or unlocks by itself
- Not fully unlocking
- Buzzing noise
Usually, it’s the driver side door actuator that is faulty and causes the other door locks to do strange things.
Here is how owners described their issue:
“While driving my front passenger door lock will start unlocking and relocking on my 2008 Honda CR-V. I have been told the door locking actuator has failed.”
“My wife’s 2009 CR-V started making a loud buzzing when locked. It makes the noise whether you use the power lock button or manually flip the lock toggle. It also starts buzzing when the car auto-locks after you begin driving.”
The 2007 to 2009 model years of the Honda CR-V were recalled in 2015 to replace the defective door lock actuators.
If you want to avoid paying dealer rates, new door actuators start at around $50 and you can easily replace it yourself in under an hour if you’re comfortable with taking the door panels apart.
8. Valve Adjustments
First generation CR-Vs need regular valve adjustments every 30,000 miles to make sure the exhaust valves don’t get burned up and that the engine lasts a long time.
All first gen CR-Vs from 1997 to 2001 can develop ‘burnt valves’ if valve adjustments are not done regularly.
If left unchecked, the exhaust valves may eventually start breaking apart because of the excessive heat that they’re being exposed to.
Signs that you might need a valve adjustment include:
- Reduced power
- Check engine light
- Poor fuel economy
- Misfire trouble codes
- Ticking or rattling noise
- Loss of compression
Here is how one CR-V owner described their experience:
“My CRV began having problems. My independent mechanic estimated $1500 for a valve job. Honda dealership estimated $3500 for new head.”
The normal fix for ‘burnt valve’ problems is to replace the cylinder head or send it to a machine shop for a rebuild.
In a lot of cases, it’s much cheaper and less work to just swap in a used engine or cylinder head.
If you have some mechanical skills, you can check the valve adjustment yourself with minimal tools. There are lots of videos and tutorials online that can walk you through it step by step.
9. Phantom Braking Issues
Many fifth gen CRV owners have complained about the automatic braking or CMBS (Collision Mitigation Braking System) activating on its own even when the road is clear.
On Car Complaints, the 2017 and 2018 model years have the most number of automatic braking issues.
In early 2022, the NHTSA also launched an investigation after receiving hundreds of reports for the CR-V and Accord.
At the time of writing, there have been no official results from the investigation.
Here is how owners described their experience:
“While driving around 40 mph my car suddenly applied the brakes throwing me forward. Luckily there was no other cars around me.”
“Three times in the last year my front end collision mitigation has braked without anything being in front of me. None of them have been at high speed.”
Honda has not released any fixes for the CR-V’s phantom braking issue yet. Newer models don’t seem to have as many incidences of phantom braking so the earlier cars probably have older parts or software that need to be updated.
Automatic braking problems are also hard to diagnose since they don’t occur very frequently.
Most owners who are bothered by the feature simply turn off the automatic braking every time they start the vehicle.
If you’re constantly getting false alarms, it’s best to have the dealer take a look at it because it might be caused by faulty hardware like the cameras.
Honda CR-V Model Years With the Most Problems
To get a better idea of which Honda CR-V has the most problems the fairest way is to compare models based on the number of vehicles sold in relation to the number of reported problems.
We’re using Car Complaints PPMY index which means problems reported per thousand vehicles per Year.
For example, newer cars will have fewer complaints simply because they’ve been around for less time.
Based on this index, the most problematic years are:
- 2017 – 1.14 PPMY
- 2018 – 0.87 PPMY
- 2019 – 0.55 PPMY
And the least problematic years are:
- 2000, 2001 – 0.06 PPMY
- 2009 – 0.17 PPMY
- 2012, 2013 – 0.18 PPMY
|Model Year||Problems||Sales||Vehicle Age||PPMY Index|
Source: Car Problem Zoo
Honda CR-V Pros and Cons
If you’re considering a Honda CR-V as your next car you might be wondering what its strengths and weaknesses are…
- Spacious interior
- Lots of cargo space
- Good fuel economy
- Excellent reliability
- Great resale value
- Average engine power
- Outdated infotainment
- Lack of features in base model
Honda CR-V Reliability Compared to Similar Cars
Consumer Reports ranks the Honda CR-V in 8th place with a score of 80/100.
|Make & Model||Consumer Reports|
Source: Consumer Reports
Honda CR-V Used Value
We’ve taken a look on Car Gurus to gauge the resale value of a Honda CR-V, below are typical asking prices for each model year.
According to Car Edge, a Honda CR-V will depreciate 18% after 5 years and have a 5 year resale value of $32,907.
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 CR-V?
Based on owner feedback from the Kelley Blue Book site here are what real-life owners love and hate about the Honda CR-V.
- Fuel economy
- Exterior design
- Drives like a truck
- Interior quality
- Not good in snow
“Great gas mileage, very spacious car with decent styling. However a year after buying the vehicle the 1.5 engine was having issues. Luckily Honda covered the factory problems…”
Source: Kelley Blue Book
“I have always driven Honda CRVs and bought a new one a week ago. Love the ride, it’s smooth, comfortable and I like all the features. No one can compete with the quality even with the fancy features that you see in new cars these days”
“Great comfort, driver-friendly cockpit and controls, smooth ride, spacious interior, great gas mileage and plenty of power on demand from turbo 4cyl.”
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