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4 Most Common Honda VTEC Engine Problems, Solutions & Reliability

Ever since Honda came up with their VTEC system, discussions have been stirred in the automotive industry, both in a positive and negative direction.

The Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control system is definitely innovative to the field, being specific to Honda cars which are well-known for their power.

This internal combustion monster is not lacking problems though. As strong as it may be, anyone should be aware of the Honda VTEC engine problems raised below.


What Is The Honda VTEC Engine?

Simply put, VTEC is the engine system that Honda developed a few years back.

To be exact, it translates into Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control, which speaks for itself in terms of mechanic used.

The history of the VTEC engine dates back as far as 1983 when its first-ever version appeared as a successor of the famous REV.

Other common versions of the VTEC include the DOHC, SOHC, VTEC-E, the 3-Stage VTEC, the i-VTEC, as well as the K and R series.

It took quite a long time to get to the VTEC used today, but it is now a popular engine that you’ll find on most Honda cars.

Features of the Honda VTEC engine

Here’s a list of Honda VTEC engine features:

  • It has a high RPM power and a low RPM torque
  • It is a preponderantly mechanical engine
  • It features a completely new approach to valve operation regulation
  • Its main innovation is that it opens the valves less at low engine spends and more as engine speed increases
  • The latest VTEC have turbocharged versions of 1.0-2.0L, with 192 to 295 lb-ft of torque and 192 to 306 hp (with an emphasis on Honda Civic Type R engines)

Honda VTEC Engine Reliability

The automotive world welcomed VTEC engines with open arms a few decades back.

The mechanics of this engine system improved exponentially as time went by, not to mention the amazing popularity it gained in the industry.

There’s no doubt when saying that Honda’s VTEC engines are reliable, especially when taking into account their longevity on the market and the constant demand.

VTEC engines are heavily used on Civics and CRX vehicles, all of them much appreciated in the light of Honda’s reputation.

There are, of course, a few Honda VTEC Engine Problems that are worth discussing, but it’s important to focus on the engine’s reliability level first.

Would it be a good investment in the long run? Are people happy with how the engine performs considering its latest improvements? Let’s dig in.

The main reason why we can state that Honda VTEC engines are truly reliable and worth buying is their proven efficiency.

Considering that the VTEC is a naturally aspirated engine, with 4 or 6 cylinders respectively, you wouldn’t expect a very high horsepower.

But here’s where VTEC surprises automotive lovers and comes in with impressive horsepower numbers.

Even so, a VTEC engine has to be properly maintained in good condition by consistent oil changes. It is an extraordinarily powerful engine, with a complex mechanic, giving out tremendous efficiency.

People who have second thoughts when it comes to whether to purchase a VTEC engine-powered vehicle or not should know that this concept was worked on for years and years until finally being perfected.

There are little to no chances of failure, and it comes with many factors that really differentiate this engine type from others available out there.

As it was being developed, what shocked people most about VTEC compared to conventional engines at that time, is the amount of horsepower it could produce per liter.

In the 80s, thinking of an engine that could produce 100 hp per liter was the biggest goal, the holy grail of the automotive world.

A few years later, we’d see the VTEC Integra engine goals set for no less than 160 pm at 8,000 rpm, pushing the bar even higher.

Time passed and bringing those numbers to reality became clearer and clearer, all that while not compromising one single aspect of the regular 15-year quality assurance process.

The small changes and improvements in time brough VTEC engines so close to perfection today.

There are also negative opinions and theories, as there’s no way Honda VTEC engine problems are inexistent.

In fact, people question whether Honda’s VTEC engines are much better than their pre-VTEC series.

They were using almost the same mechanic, yet without the valve train, so what did really change? Well, it’s all about efficiency and reliability.

The improvements and small changes happening as Honda specialists worked on the VTEC are what brought it its fame, so it’s all about how strong these offices really are in the long run.

4 Common Honda VTEC Engine Problems

Despite its extreme popularity, many people are interested in finding out what the Honda VTEC engine problems are and whether they are solvable or not.

It is known that there are some Honda car models that are notorious for their failing transmissions or the need for replacing the exhaust manifold often.

Luckily, VTEC engine problems are not as severe and there’s no major aspect to worry about.

Even so, it’s important to get informed about what might happen after years and years of usage and how can you prevent these potential issues from occurring.

01. Short drive belt live span

Since there are so many VTEC engine examples, let’s take just one specific model as an example.

The R18 series, especially the A and Z engines, are known for producing a certain knocking sound.

The reason behind this sound is a valve that has to be adjusted in terms of clearance every now and then to avert it from getting worse in time.

Another problem would be that these models specifically have a short drive belt life span. It would take only around 100,000 kilometers of driving before it gets faulty.

02. Engine vibrations

This model of VTEC might also worry its owners with some heavy vibrations. If not used in proper conditions, the engine might start vibrating, with the left engine mount being at risk of damage.

The lifespan of these engine models is around 300,000 kilometers, so quite reasonable but not shockingly efficient either.

03. Replacing the timing belt

SOHC VTEC engines are also usually equipped with a timing belt, and this required often replacement.

It’s important to get informed about the maintenance schedule which is pretty specific for Honda vehicles.

The timing belt usually has a lifespan of approximately 150,000 km, but this really depends on the conditions in which the engine was used.

The temperature would matter the most in this case – the hotter the conditions, the faster the belt will have to be changed.

In order to avoid Honda VTEC engine problems, you must make sure you follow the correct maintenance steps.

04. Frequent oil changes

As previously mentioned, frequent oil changes are mandatory for VTEC engines, regardless of the Honda model they are on.

This engine type is very sensitive to overheating, so you might want to check the water pump, which is responsible for preventing the engine from high temperatures.

Keep an eye on the coolant factor here, as it will determine the conditions in which you will be using the car.

Without controlling its temperature, you risk damage even though you’re not driving in harsh environments. The engine itself will start getting hot because the parts are not working properly or are not maintained properly.

Potential Solutions of Honda VTEC Engine Problems

Listing all Honda VTEC engine problems will only lead to one big conclusion – respecting maintenance is absolutely mandatory.

Honda cars are super reliable, and so are the VTEC engines, but there’s a small price to pay: careful attention to all maintenance steps and timings.

By following all maintenance advice carefully, there’s nothing to worry about in terms of engine problems.

It’s also paramount to mention that no warranty claims were filed in for one of Honda’s VTEC systems. Isn’t that the supreme reliability proof?

01. Proper maintenance

What’s also mandatory to note here is that despite the engine itself being close to “bulletproof” if used in correct conditions, there are still parts of the engine that might fail.

For instance, you can expect bearings, gaskets, or other parts of the engine to fail in time, just as they would with any engine out there.

This doesn’t have anything to do with the system per se, but with normal usage and the damage that comes with kilometers of driving.

You can’t put this on Honda’s shoulders though – it’s just a normal occurrence with all engines out there.

02. Replacing parts regularly when required

Of course, there are some aspects like vibrations and noise that you can’t necessarily control through your way of driving.

As mentioned before, you need to control the heat of your engine. Make sure that the water pump and the overall coolant system works fine and try not to abuse your car.

The same goes for valve adjustments. These are done to avoid getting a noisier engine in the future, as well as to keep vibrations within limits.

We can’t reinforce enough the extra attention being directed towards oil changes. Oil is the very life of a VTEC system, so give it the attention it deserves in order to extent its lifespan.

People Also Ask For

How does VTEC work?

VTEC stands for Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control. This engine system was built by Honda and what it does is changing between cam profiles.

For instance, at a high speed, the profile opens the valves more, letting more air into the engine and therefore allowing for more power.

At a slower speed, the cam profile allows less air in the engine through valve control. The camshaft timing shifts through increased oil pressure, hence the highlight on oil changes.

Which Honda VTEC engine is the best?

Any newer variant of VTEC will most likely perform better than its successor, but to name some of the best VTEC engines:

– the i-VTEC and the entire K series

– the i-VTEC that uses VCM (usually met on the 2005 Hondas, especially the Odyssey model)

– the famous VTEC Turbo that you can find on 2017 and newer Civics

Can you swap to a VTEC engine?

No. To make it clear, VTEC is not a system that you can simply add to any engine out there. VTEC is a system that was built especially for Honda’s engines.

To put it simply, VTEC is the engine itself, so it cannot be added to a separate, non-Honda engine.

However, VTEC engines can be bought as a whole and added to a vehicle.

But this means tuning and it involves electronic adjustments in order to work as well, which is definitely a niche rather than just an upgrade you can do on a regular car.

How long would a Honda VTEC engine last?

The durability of a VTEC engine is directly proportional to the conditions in which it will be used, but – generally – VTECs are very reliable engines.

They last quite a lot, but they do start to burn a lot of oil as time goes by. If the first 250,000 km it will work perfectly fine, after that, you might notice an increase in oil consumption.

There are cases in which VTEC engines lasted no less than an astonishing distance driven of 650,000 km, which is absolutely shocking for any vehicle, be it Honda or not.

All in all, it is a durable engine, but your driving style and conditions might alter the numbers you get.

Can you solve the Honda VTEC engine problems?

There’s nothing to specifically solve, but to prevent. The accent falls on maintenance and respecting all the official advice that Honda gives on treating a VTEC system.

If the engine does indeed encounter problems, they will not be different in any way from issues that are generally seen with automotive engines, be them VTEC or not.

In that case, the best shot would be to see a specialized auto repair shop and get the problem fixed by someone who knows how to handle it professionally.

Final Words

As you probably can tell yourself, the VTEC engine is for sure one to consider.

Even though it might feature some potential issues here and there, it is an overall reliable product and it deserves the fame it gained.

Honda produced and perfected its VTEC engines over the last decades, so it’s only natural for their breakthrough system to maintain its popularity.