NHTSA Investigates Honda Over Sticky Steering Allegations, 13 Crashes Reported Thus Far

Honda Civic 13 photos
Photo: Honda / edited
2022 Honda Civic Hatchback2022 Honda Civic Hatchback2022 Honda Civic Hatchback2022 Honda Civic Hatchback2022 Honda Civic Hatchback2022 Honda Civic Hatchback2022 Honda Civic Sedan2022 Honda Civic Sedan2022 Honda Civic Sedan2022 Honda Civic Sedan2022 Honda Civic Sedan2022 Honda Civic Sedan
As per documents published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 532,535 cars and utility vehicles sold under the Honda and Acura brands for the 2022 – 2023 model years may be recalled in the near future. The federal watchdog is aware of a whopping 1,324 complaints alleging sticky steering, a condition that resulted in 13 crashes and 3 injuries.
Sticky steering is another way of describing the momentary increase in steering effort. According to the complaints published on the agency's website, sticky steering usually occurs at highway speeds after driving for a certain amount of time. Said complaints were received in the past 2 years from owners of vehicles (i.e., the Honda Civic, Honda CR-V, and Acura Integra) with relatively few miles.

Filed on November 21, 2023, complaint number 11556368 reads that the steering of a 2022 model year Honda Civic locked up and became very tight while driving at 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour). The owner explained that he had to turn the wheel hard to get it to unlock. But curiously enough, the wheel locked again immediately after that, sending the car into a slide. Thankfully for said owner, he was able to regain control and stop on the emergency lane of Highway I-10 in Pensacola.

Back in May 2022, the gentleman who filed complaint number 11464979 reported that the wheel jerked when trying to do small corrections. He further noticed a clunk coming from the electronic power steering system. That being said, what's actually the root cause for this potential defect?

Headed by general engineer Stefanie Oldenburg, engineering analysis EA23003 will eventually get to the bottom of this mystery. Although we're still months from a verdict, the NHTSA believes that the annealing and component conditioning processes of the worm wheel may be key to elucidating said incidents.

2022 Honda Civic Hatchback
Photo: Honda
More specifically, annealing and component conditioning caused internal stress/strain within the worm wheel. Slowly released over the first months of the vehicle's life, the internal stress/strain causes the worm wheel's teeth to deform. In turn, the worm gear may catch on the worm wheel due to the deformed teeth, thus explaining the increased steering effort.

The NHTSA also understands that the manufacturing process of the steering gear didn't guarantee consistent grease application. Too little grease also contributes to momentary increases in steering effort. The plot grows thicker, though, because American Honda Motor Co. released a service bulletin addressing these very conditions back in July 2023.

Attached below, TSB 23-037 covers the 2022 to 2023 model year Honda Civic (except the Civic Type R). The corrective action is a replacement EPS gearbox assembly, with Honda instructing dealers nationwide to retain the original EPS motor and control unit.

As you're well aware, this kind of issue should've been addressed by means of a recall instead of a service bulletin. The NHTSA expanded the scope of this engineering analysis to the CR-V and Integra because they're technically similar to the Civic.

If you know anyone who experienced sticky steering in a vehicle similar to the aforementioned, please advise them to file a complaint with the NHTSA to help the investigators solve this worrying issue.
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 Download: Honda sticky steering investigation and service bulletin (PDF)

About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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