Electric Power Steering (EPS) Problems in the Honda Civic and Accord
Many owners of a newer Honda Civic or Accord have had problems with diagnosing what it means when the EPS light lights up suddenly on the dash. The problem seems to be more random in the 2012-13 models. Many have filed complaints with Honda and the Federal government.
In many cases, the car’s power steering stopped working (EPS) without warning, startling the driver by how difficult it was to steer (like cars made before the 1980’s). Some claimed they could not steer at all, while others said that turning was most difficult. These incidents have occurred at under 50,000 miles and at much higher mileage.
Some owners have intermittent EPS problems, meaning, their power steering still functioned fine but the EPS light went on, and either went out later or went out after they turned their car off.
So far, Honda has NOT recalled cars for this problem because there have not been high numbers of incidents to warrant it.
Things That Trigger the EPS Light
The EPS light will go on in several circumstances:
- Suddenly hitting the brake while moving more than 12 MPH with the engine going more than 2000 RPM for 5 seconds.
- Turning the steering wheel for 20 seconds when the car's speed is 2 MPH or less and the engine RPM is 2000+ (this is hard to do).
- The car’s RPM is less than 500 but the car's speed is 6 MPH.
- The car is barely moving or stopped, but the engine is at 2000+RPM for 30 seconds.
The EPS triggers are extremes. The last two will trigger the EPS light to go on but this normal and will go out.
What to Do if the EPS Fails
If you do lose all power steering during driving, stay calm. Try not to turn. Pull over to a safe spot and turn off the engine. Wait at least one minute. The system should reset but may come on again until the issue is dealt with. Try to remember if the light came on while turning, while you were at a certain speed, etc. The Honda dealer will want to know.
Troubleshooting the EPS System and Light
The EPS light goes on when the ignition key is ON and goes off when the engine starts. If the EPS remains lit after started, you may or may not lose electronic power steering. In my case, the EPS comes on and off randomly at times. It remains off for a considerable time, then comes back on again. Yet, I did not lose the power steering function. That indicated an intermittent problem with an engine speed sensor signal, a torque sensor, or the EPS control unit itself. It is not a serious issue for now. This Diagnostic Code is 22. It may be just an anomaly.
The EPS light does not come on when you use extreme steering force back and forth when stopped. But to protect the system, it reduces the electric current to the controller, and so steering becomes more difficult although you do not lose it.
There are two possible causes of the EPS light coming on:
- The EPS controller and sensors (the electronic part of the system),
- or a mechanical issue with the rack and pinion steering.
If you can disconnect the EPS controller module (located behind the passenger side kick panel area), the steering will be driven by the mechanical system only. The steering as you drive should NOT pull to the left or right. Any mechanical issues with the steering unit should be investigated by putting the car on a lift.
If the car has been in a front end collision, the steering rack and pinion should be checked for damage. There could be a cracked housing. The EPS steering rack in Hondas is a pain to get to, and the subframe must be removed to investigate, because damage cannot be seen if the steering rack remains in the car. However, if there IS damage to the steering rack and pinion, there usually is an odd sound and rough steering a driver can hear and feel. This usually occurs when turning.
Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC)
If the car's CPU can't be activated when the EPS light comes on, the DTC is not memorized. If the code is not memorized, the EPS light stays on. Codes memorized cannot be erased by disconnecting the battery. Codes 22, 23, 64, and 66 will remain memorized after the ignition is turned off and the EPS turned off. Thus, if the fault is a Torque Sensor, for example, you cannot clear it simply by turning off the engine.
Here is a way to try to remove the code that is stored in the system. You can turn the steering wheel 45 degrees to the left from a straight position. Then turn the ignition to ON. The EPS light should come on for 4 seconds and then go off. Immediately, when the EPS light comes off, return to the straight position. The EPS should come on again. Immediately, turn the wheel 45 degrees to the left, and the EPS should go off after 4 seconds. Immediately, return the wheel to the straight position, and after 4 seconds the EPS light should blink twice. If there is no blinking, that means the code remains.
Honda EPS Fault Codes
11-xx Ignition Terminal Voltage
12-xx Battery Voltage
21-xx Car speed or engine speed signal
22-xx Engine Speed Signal
31-01 Torque Sensor in Neutral Position. This indicates the car sensor cannot recognize the straight-ahead position of the front wheels, which will turn on the EPS light. This code can be triggered with a wheel alignment or steering-suspension repairs. The sensor simply needs to relearn straight front wheel position. If not corrected, the car will wander or pull to one side.
32-xx thru 34-xx There is a problem with the EPS control unit.
50-xx to 51-xx Torque sensor bad
61-xx Motor Circuit
71-xx Motor Angle Sensor bad
Losing your power steering is shocking, but a driver should still able to steer the car with more physical strength. If you are able to pull over, turn off the engine, and wait a few minutes, the EPS should restore until next time. If you have a minor, intermittent issue with speed or torque sensors, you may elect to wait to see if the problem rectifies itself, especially if you still have power steering. In this case, the issue is more minor.
The EPS controller unit costs around $400 new. In 2017, there was a new Honda software update for the EPS system in certain models. This is a worthwhile investment.
Honda did extend the mileage and warranty on certain Honda models for EPS controllers to 100,000 miles or 5 years.