January 21, 2010
Seems our radio in our 2007 Honda Civic GX is broken. This error message was already on when I got into the car the day before but I wanted to check the long-term blogs to see if anyone mentioned it. No one did.
In any case the satellite radio doesn't work, neither does the CD player or the radio. I looked it up in the owner's manual since this thing seems to be asking for a code but the manual doesn't say anything about a special code or this issue. However, when I Googled it, I came across this: https://radio-navicode.honda.com/
Not sure how this happened in the first place but apparently the anti-theft light turns on when you replace the battery. Although I don't think anyone did that over the weekend.
POST EDIT: OK, that Web site didn't recognize the VIN but I did finally find a card with the code on it in the owner's package located in the glovebox. So that's fixed. Yay.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor
January 20, 2010
Why did I pick our 2007 Honda Civic, boring to drive as heck, over the snazzy 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS for my ride last night?
Because it was raining, I had to drive to West Hollywood and I didn't feel like dealing with a manual in rush-hour cross-town traffic amid Angeleno motorists afraid of a little downpour.
OK, let the name calling begin.
But I'll have you know, I wasn't the only one who made this same choice when presented with the same two cars. Editor Warren Clarke picked the Civic GX for his ride this past holiday weekend.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 37,015 miles
PS: In the end, it didn't rain after all and there was hardly any traffic (took me 20 minutes to get to West Hollywood from Santa Monica when it usually takes double that) since it appeared most Angelenos opted to stay in.
January 19, 2010
On my way back from a night at the movies with some friends on Friday, I spotted something at the 76 on La Cienega and Olympic: a CNG pump. Score! I was pretty stoked -- the station's just a couple of blocks from where I live, and the pump's presence meant I wouldn't have to drive all the way to Santa Monica to get the tank filled over the very rainy weekend.
The CNG pump is pretty new to that station. The attendant said it's been there for "less than two months." Nice to see more options being offered for drivers of CNG vehicles.
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 36,980 miles
December 14, 2009
I've got blowdown failure.
It's not fatal, but it does gets a little frustrating. It's been taking an extra 30 minutes or so to get the job done every night.
Seems like each time I hook the 2007 Civic GX up to the Phill home natural gas fueling system, a red error light pops on before I've walked the 20 feet to the door leading from garage to house.
The first two green lights on the fueling indicator display also light up when I go back and push and hold the Phill's "stop" button, as instructed in the service manual I got when the Phill was installed nearly two years and 2,000 operating hours ago.
The handy dandy Phill error decoder pages in the manual tell me that the problem is "blowdown failure," an apparent obstruction somewhere in the Phill's nozzle or fuel filler hose - or maybe the car's fuel filler inlet.
It's the first problem we've had with the fueling unit since it was installed on Feb. 28, 2008.
I've tried cleaning the visible parts with rubbing alcohol and a blast of compressed air, but so far no good. The light comes on and the fueling stops every time I pull into the garage and plug in with the Phill.
On the plus side, everything seems to work okay after I turn the thing off, wait about half an hour and restart- I've so far not been able to refill the GX's tank.
November 05, 2009
So after spending last weekend in our Mini E and jumping into our 2007 Honda Civic GX last night, I think I'm able to develop a quasi-educated opinion about our two green cars. As you already know the Honda is our natural gas long-termer, the Mini E our electric car.
Honda Civic GX
- Even though it has a small trunk at least you can carry three passengers.
- Awesome fuel range.
- Can fill at home with Phill
- Ours has a single occupant car-pool lane sticker. Woo!
- The limited availability of natural gas fueling stations makes it tricky for planning long road trips.
- Not fun to drive but at all.
- Still retains some of its gokartness.
- I find it easy to drive in stop-and-go traffic once I got used to taking my foot of the accelerator to slow down, etc.
- No gas required.
- Can charge it at home even without a specially installed wall charger.
- With only two seats and a tiny trunk, you can't haul much around.
- Takes a lonnnng time to recharge.
- Very limited driving range means you have to carefully plan your trips or take none at all.
- Would have to be your second car.
Which one do I prefer?
Um. Hmmm. If I HAD to choose one, eeesh.....I guessssss, huh, I'd say the Mini. But remember, I'm a single city dweller who likes fun cars (the Mini for me is more fun to drive than the Civic) and who likes the idea of no gasoline. And for long road trips, I have the Edmunds/Inside Line fleet to choose from. Suffice it to say, not everyone will share my opinion. But then again, after two years in our fleet the Honda Civic GX has inspired only 55 posts. The Mini E after only four months? 70. Just sayin'.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 35,301 miles (2007 Honda Civic GX)
October 21, 2009
Besides the lower emissions our Civic GX enjoys, there's an added bonus -- the refueling experience is much cleaner compared to gasoline-powered cars. There are no liquids spilling at the pump and no ruined shoes. Also, the nozzle is easier to maneuver than the heavier, California-compliant gasoline ones. First-time fillers may feel a bit apprehensive with the different procedure, but it soon becomes as routine as with any other car. It's also convenient that CNG pumps feature a readout that displays how much more you have to fill. Yes, sometimes it'll take longer to refuel, but maybe that'll change someday.
Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 34,960 miles
October 02, 2009
Hopped in the long-term Civic GX this morning and noticed that the floormat was scooched up over the base of the pedal.
I wouldn't normally have noticed - it wasn't much of a scooch - but I'd just written a piece about that massive Toyota safety campaign and pending recall for scrunched-up floor mats that were jamming gas pedals, so the subject was on my mind.
The Honda's mat has a fairly elaborate securing system under the front edge of the driver's seat, and best I can figure it wasn't fastened after being cleaned at the car wash.
Fortunately, the Civic GX's pedal is floor mounted, so there's no gap between pedal and floor for the mat to slip into and cause a jam - the problem, apparently, with those 3.8 million Toyotas and Lexuses with pedals that hang down from the firewall and don't touch the floor.
Way to go, Honda!
An yeah, I drove all the way to the office - 54 miles on the freeway - before unscooching the mat and resecuring it.
July 28, 2009
There's not much new to say about the Civic GX - it still runs like a top, albeit one that's a bit slow to wind up; hasn't given us any trouble and except for a little body work after a fender-bender hasn't been in the shop other than for oil changes and one brake job (a problem with Civics).
The first major service isn't scheduled until 100,000 miles - that's about 67,000 miles from now - and I've every reason to believe it will get there just fine.
Not sure about its home fueling companion, though.
Our Phill is about 25 percent through its apparently artificial lifespan of 6,000 hours.
The installer pointed this out to me when he hung the unit on the garage wall: FuelMaker programmed the software to shut the system down at 6,000 hours to ensure that nothing bad would happen - and, probably, to make a little more money as the approved route was to ship it back to FuelMaker for a $2,000 rebuild.
FuelMaker's gone now, and a new company - Fuel System Solutions - has taken over, promising to continue making home units and repairing Phills.
We don't know yet how FSS is going to handle stuff, but we're hoping that its installers and repair people will be allowed to reprogram the thing so that it keeps running as long as its parts allow.
I ran the "hours of service" check this morning - for the first time - and found that our Phill has somewhere between 1,500 and 1,749 hours on its clock (instrumentation is minimal, just a set of lights that come on in a coded sequence to tell you the range of hours that the pump's been operating.
If anyone at Fuel System Solutions is listening: put a real clock on the new units, please, along with a gauge that records how much natural gas flows through. The lack of either is a big flaw on the present model.
Back to the Civic GX - I haven't been driving it much lately because I've been working from home for a bit and haven't been commuting.
But I'm headed to the airport in the morning and unlike the other 50,000 or so people who'll be crowding the freeway about then, I'm looking forward to the drive - CNG cars here in California are considered "Clean Air Cars" because of their very low emissions and for that reason get a single-occupancy carpool lane pass.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor
July 10, 2009
We've been left in an info vacuum about the future of the Phill home natural gas fueling device for our 2007 Honda Civic GX since FuelMaker Corp., the company that used to make and service it, when belly up.
Its assets and technology were purchased earlier this year by Fuel Systems Solutions, the California-based company that also owns Impco Technologies, one of the world's largest manufacturers of OEM and aftermarket natural gas conversion systems.
Several requests for information from Fuel Systems spokespeople since then have been met with silence, leaving s to wonder if we now owned a museum piece. Having a GX and no Phill is like having bread but no butter.
But now, as a Phill owner (we bought one for the GX early last year), we've received an update from one of the company's distributors.
"You'll be pleased to know," the missive states (and we are, we definitely are), "that Fuel Systems...will continue to offer service and repairs for the FuelMaker HRA (Phill)."
The letter also says that Fuel Systems will announce later his year that it has begun producing new natural gas fueling systems at its Italian affiliate, BRC Gas Equipment.
There are about 600 Fuel Maker Phill units out there, and if you own one, or are thinking of getting one, the master distributor in California (and a shout-out to them for giving us the news) is Gas Equipment Systems Inc., in Rancho Cucamonga.
If you don't live in California, home to most of the Honda Civic GXs and about 80 percent of all the Phills, you can contact Paula Hebert at Impco's Texas office - 972 548 9221 - for information about Phill dealers and service facilities.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor
July 02, 2009
Yep, that's me chilling out while the Civic GX gets filled up with clean natural gas at our local station. With only a quarter tank remaining, it took 24 minutes before I finally gave up and stopped the pump. Before explaining that, lets go back a bit.
June 30, 2009
I've been hearing about the merits of the Civic GX for a few years now from my hairstylist Sue, who drives one from Lake Arrowhead to Pasadena nearly every day she works. Under the conditions she drives, I think the GX is a great choice...here's why.
Most of Sue's 70+ miles each way is on the highway, and in most cases traffic isn't nearly as snarled as it is near our Santa Monica offices. Even if traffic was bumper-to-bumper, she could make use of the HOV lanes as a single-occupant vehicle. She has a Phill station that she plugs into every night and she has another mode of transportation for longer trips into uncharted territory.
For the rest of the populace, the Civic may end up being more of a pricey novelty. Even though the Civic GX is has a short list of creature comforts, it is still one of the highest-priced Civics ever. The trunk is tiny, eaten up by large pressurized gas cylinder. It's slow to get up to speed...any speed, and the Phill station is expensive, even after any/all tax credits are applied.
But let's also remember that the GX is an adaptation of a Civic -- a car that was not originally designed as a CNG vehicle. I'd like to see a natural gas-specific vehicle someday -- one that offers the optional features we now expect of most cars and one with a proper trunk. I'm especially fond of CNG as an alternative because the infrastructure is already in place for many people to refill at home. Given the trend that technology eventually becomes inexpensive enough for the masses, perhaps the Phill stations will begin dropping in price after its popularity and demand increase. With legislation in the works that will likely be even more favorable to alternative-fueled vehicles, maybe we could expect even more savings in the near future. Let's hope so.
Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 32,665 miles
June 30, 2009
What can we tell you about the Honda Civic GX? Any questions?
Have any of you driven one? If so, write your review in the comments section. We look forward to reading what you have to say.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
June 28, 2009
There are definite disadvantages to driving a compressed natural gas Honda Civic. If you don't have a PHILL home refueling unit, where do you fill up? You need to know where you can get the stuff. Then there's how long it takes to fill up.
But then again, one of the great advantages is you get to drive in the carpool lane. In Southern California, that's a big plus. And you get to drive a Honda Civic. Nice car.
Oh, and I guess there is this thing about the environment or something.
Our Honda Civic GX is Car of the Week.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
June 11, 2009
Just a quick FYI for you Civic GX owners -- if at all possible, fuel up at the natural gas pumps that are rated at 3600 psi. Use the 3000 psi pumps and, as my colleague Mr. Clark suggested, you best not be in a hurry. I recently filled the GX twice in succession -- once at a 3600 psi pump (near LAX airport) and once at a 3000 psi pump (located near our office in Santa Monica).
In each instance, the GX's tank was down to about a quarter (five bars showing on the gauge). It took less than five minutes to fill it (19 bars -- though it reads to 20, that's the most we've ever seen) at the 3600 psi pump, where, after nearly 20 minutes at the 3000 psi pump, it still wasn't full.
Both times, the pumps quickly filled up the tank to 80 percent or so (the fuel pump shows the percentage of fill) but where the higher pressure pump topped off the tank in short order, the lower pressure one took forever and still didn't fill it. Which brings up another FYI -- even though the pump shows "100 percent", the tank isn't really full until the "100" stops blinking. That sucker blinked for a quarter of an hour (while the pump gauge's "Gallon's Equivalent" numbers moved ever so slowly) before I had to abort the mission and get back to the office, the end result being 17 bars showing.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 32,250 miles
June 09, 2009
Argh! You guessed right with the Honda Civic GX.
But I did get you debating for a little while.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
May 28, 2009
There's nothing like the convenience of having a gas station on every corner. When you're driving a natural gas vehicle like the Civic GX, however, that kind of convenience is a luxury that simply isn't within your grasp, and this can sometimes be problematic. Case in point: I've had the car for the past few days. Was running low on gas, but figured, "No problem -- there's a station just a couple of blocks from work." Got to that station to do the deed, but found that the pumps weren't operational. Located another station, on the UCLA campus. Spent 45 minutes unsuccessfully trying to find said station -- no one I spoke to, not even the security guard, had any knowledge of it. By now the tank's running pretty low. I locate another station, this one near the airport. Get there, finally achieve a fill-up, and breathe a sigh of relief.
A friend of mine has a GX, and drives 10 miles to the nearest station to fill his tank. That's dedication, man. I couldn't imagine owning this car without having a (costly) Phill installed.
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 31,717 miles
April 06, 2009
The Civic GX takes its own sweet time getting things done. It starts at the pump. Compressed natural gas apparently takes a long time to inseminate fuel tanks. I only put about the equivalent of three gallons' worth of gas in the GX, yet the experience at the pump dragged on for what felt like an eternity. On the next go-round, I'll bring a novel to pass the time.
Honda's GX also follows its own clock when it comes to acceleration. There's just 113 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque on tap -- the car takes over 12 seconds to hustle from zero to sixty. This makes sudden maneuvers kinda challenging, as I found out while trying to change lanes on the freeway. Once up to speed, the GX does just fine.
Quickness isn't everything, though, and relative to other greenmobiles, the GX really is fun to drive. Ride quality is pretty impressive -- the car manages to feel solid and connected to the road without too much stiffness or harshness.
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 30, 595 miles
June 09, 2008
Our 2007 Honda Civic GX is the kind of car that doesn't generate much news. If gas prices go up the story is always the same: Hey, you can buy natural gas at the equivalent of $2.99 a gallon! If gas prices are down, the story is also the same: This thing doesn't have much power.
But this week something actually happened.
A pickup truck stopped short and we were two inches away from missing him. That's how far his trailer hitch punched into our front bumper. It also popped out the side of the bumper but one of our editors hammered it back into place. Boring? Well, we tried.
Now, back to gas prices.
The GX is usually driven by John O'Dell, editor of the Green Car Advisor, but since he was out of town, I took the wheel. I babied the car, drove during off hours, loved the car pool lanes and got a high of 34 mpg.
One morning, while filling up, another GX slid up beside me at the pump. This gentleman commutes 100 miles a day from Santa Monica, to Ontario, CA. He bought the GX for fuel prices and to get into the carpool lanes. With gas prices shooting up he is bursting with smugness over his decision.
I input the GX's fuel data and found that our lifetime average in this green vehicle is 30.1 mpg.
Philip Reed, Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor@ 17,702 miles
May 09, 2008
Hey, Hey! We Won't Pay! Home fuel unit has CNG cost down to $2.04 a gallon. After just over 16,000 miles -- hard plastic , intruding hand brake , pitifully poor acceleration and boring exterior notwithstanding -- the Civic GX is humming along quite nicely, and economically, thank you.
For sheer driving pleasure it's way down the queue, but as a daily commuter on Southern California's [insert colorful adjective of your choice here] freeways, it ranks way up at the top of my list of cars I want to keep using.
Except for two scheduled oil changes at 7,000 mile intervals, a recall to install a safety gasket and a round of tire adjustment when we discovered during Edmunds.com's Earth Day tire pressure project that inflation was high by about 2 pounds, or 6 percent, per tire, we've had no problems, although one might be developing.
We'll be making a service appointment because several of us have noticed a very slight and intermittent shiver or shudder when the car is idling. It's unpredictable, but most assuredly there. Feels like it might be caused by a clogged fuel injector nozzle.
It's not so significant that we're thinking of an immediate check up, but we'll be asking the service guys at the dealership to look at it during our next scheduled oil change, in about 5,000 miles.
Aside from that, things couldn't be better, especially since the home fueling unit was installed in my garage. That has ended the daily detour to find a retail CNG station and has lowered the GX's fuel bills considerably.
Regular gasoline is selling for $3.839 a gallon in my part of Southern California and CNG at the admittedly pricey Clean Energy pump near the office is going for $2.849. But $2.036 per gallon is what fuel from the natural gas pump in the garage cost during the past month.
That's a 46.8 percent savings over the cost of fuel for a conventional gasoline-burning Civic LX and is 28.5 percent cheaper than fuel from the Clean Energy outlet.
The per gallon cost for the GX for April also is down considerably from $2.53 per gallon we computed for March, largely because the April bill from the Southern California Gas Co. included a discount the utility offers households that have a home CNG fueling unit.
It cut the average price of natural gas to $1.11 per therm (that's equal to 0.784 gallon-equivalent when the gas is compressed and pumped into the car via the Phill fueling unit.
Add the Phill's share of the monthly meter fee from the gas company (about $4.50 in April) and a few bucks for electricity to run the pump (based on our five-year averaging method it was $7.29 for April) and you'll get a total of $53.93 for the CNG equivalent of 26.496 gallons of fuel.
The per-gallon price will bounce around a bit each month because of minor adjustments based on total household usage of both natural gas and electricity, but I'm expecting it to stick close to the $2 per gallon mark and will let you know if it gets off that mark by more than a dime on either side.
Meantime, fuel economy continues creeping up, thanks in large part to the increased density of fill we're getting with the home fueling unit. (A denser fill means more energy per gallon, thus better mileage.)
Overall average since we put the Civic GX into our longterm fleet last June is now is 29.96 mpg, up from 29.38 mpg the last time we figured it 2,385 miles ago and a 5 percent, or 1.5 mpg improvement, from the 28.4 miles per gallon average we recorded over the first 5,234 miles we drove the car.
Better yet, in the month since we computed the first home fueling bill, the Civic GX has averaged 31.16 mpg.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @ 16,171 miles.
May 07, 2008
The Civic GX NGV is pretty high tech - it runs on compressed natural gas. It's quite economical and has clean emissions, too (Senior Editor O'Dell has an upcoming summary). But this Civic NGV is too, uh, normal.
It drives and sounds just like most underpowered econoboxes, with hard, skinny tires that like to wander a bit down the Four-Oh-Five. Except for a small NGV (Natural Gas Vehicle) sticker on either side of it, and a small CNG sticker on the back, it looks just like any other Civic. Therein lies the problem: it doesn't look like a spaceship, nor does it emit electrical motor noises. It has no fancy power meter. It doesn't shout from the Vegan Co-op or Latte Shop on the mountaintop, "I'm doing my part to take down global climate change: Yes we can!" It just motors quietly along in the car pool lane. I'm not sure that's enough to carry it in this image-conscious segment.
Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 16,026 miles
April 17, 2008
Phill home CNG unit has cut fuel costs 30%, and best is yet to come.
When we posted our methodology for computing fuel economy in the natural gas Civic GX now that we're using a home CNG pump, several people wanted to know how much the fuel cost.
We didn't have an answer back then because we hadn't received our first home gas and electric bills and had no basis for figuring out a cost per gallon.
Well, the bills are in, we've done the conversions (one therm of natural gas is the equivalent of .784 gallons of gasoline) and the math and submitted our first expense report.
We pumped the GNG equivalent of 51.888 gasoline gallons through the Phill home unit during March, and figure that electricity to run the pump cost $40.29 while the natural gas itself cost $91.69, for total cost of $131.46, or $2.53 per gallon.
That's $1.18 less than the prevailing price of unleaded regular gasoline in our part of Southern California, and anywhere from 7-cents to 32- cents a gallon-equivalent less than the various retail GNG pumps in the area are charging for their natural gas. (The range is so great because one pump is operated by a city and is priced pretty much at cost -- it was $2.60 a gallon when we checked two days ago).
But that's just the first step.
We have just received authorization from our natural gas utility for a home refuling unit discount that should drop the cost of fillling up with the Phill to well below $2 per gallon.
We're expecting the first bill that reflects the discount to arrive at the end of the month and we'll let you know what the new cost-per-gallon is as soon as we crunch the numbers.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor @ 15,147 miles.
April 02, 2008
When I bought the 2007 Honda Civic GX for the long term fleet last year I remembered hearing that one of the advantages of this car, besides low pollution and low fuel costs, was that you could go a long time between oil changes. The Honda brochure said that the natural gas it runs on is less corrosive than gasoline so the oil remains uncontaminated longer. And, since it has a maintenance minder, it just tells you when you need service.
When I got into the car I noticed the little wrench light icon and a "B1" in the odometer window. Looking in the manual, I saw that this called for an oil and filter change, a tire rotation, check fluids and various inspections. I emailed my local Honda service department to ask if they could work on the GX and what this would cost. They replied that the B1 service was $104 but that they also recommended two other filter changes that would run $165 so the total would be $269.95. There was nothing in the manual about these other filter changes so I decided to skip it for now.
As consumer advice editor, I'm going to be beefing up our "how to" section, so I decided to tackle this modest mechanical task myself and call it research. I was also inspired by reading Dan Edmunds' excellent post about performing a similar service on the 2008 Scion xB. I used to really enjoy working on cars so I cheerfully headed to the dealership for supplies. I purchased a Honda oil filter, four quarts of 5W-20 oil and a special wrench for removing the filter. Total after tax was $31.89 (oil from an auto parts store would have been much cheaper but I didn't want to make two stops).
The only tricky part was getting access to the filter and oil pan drain plug. The clearance is low and there wasn't room to simply silde under there. I had to jack up the car, put it on a jack stand and remove the filter and drain plug, then lower the car to make sure it drained properly. That was a hassle, but I had to rotate the tires too, so it wasn't wasted motion. I also did the inspections and checked all the fluids. The old oil I put into containers provided by the City of Long Beach to be picked up along with my recycling stuff.
I'm puzzled about whether this is the first or the second oil change. At 14,411 miles, that would be an awfully long time. But there were no records in the maintenance book or posts about an earlier oil change. I'll check further and report any findings.
It took an hour and a half to do all the work which doesn't break any records. And with the expensive dealership oil and the special wrench I didn't save a lot of money -- this time. Next time around it will be faster and I'll trim the costs down even further. Still, the best part of it was actually working my own work on a car. There's precious little chance to do that these days.
Philip Reed, Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor @14,411 miles
March 28, 2008
In the previous post, I laid out how we were going to be computing fuel economy in the 2007 Honda Civic GX now that we're using a home fueling unit that doesn't provide a way of measuring the amount of compressed natural gas being pumped.
After a lot of calculating, estimating and talking to Honda engineers, we decided to assign a value of .368 gallon-equivalent to each bar on the Civic GX's fuel gauge. Thus, if we were down 10 bars and refilled overnight, we'd figure we'd pumped 3.68 gallons.
To double check, I ran the tank down by 12 bars this morning and pulled into the neighborhood Clean Energy retail CNG pump to fill it back up on a pump that does measure gallonage.
At our assigned value of .038 gallon per bar, I expected to pump 4.416 gallons
The readout on the pump said we got 4.471 gallons when the tank registered full.
So our "best guesstimate" method of figuring fuel use was off by just fifty-five thousandths of a gallon (0.055 gallon, to be precise).
John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @14,192 miles
March 03, 2008
The Phill has been installed.
After waiting almost two months from the time we placed the order for the home fueling device at the end of December, I pumped the first made-at-home CNG into our long-term 2007 Civic GX on Friday evening, after the electrician did his thing and hooked the machine up to a 240-volt circuit.
Dr. Drain, aka Michael Fossler, the only Phill installer in my area of Southern California, had delivered, unpacked and hung the nifty little natural gas compressor/pump unit on the garage wall on Thursday.
February 22, 2008
The Civic GX works fine, but there are some frustrations when you're driving a car that requires specially trained repair people and special fueling equipment that comes from a sole source.
Mostly it boils down to time time spent waiting.
Two cases in point are the ongoing saga of our Phill home natural gas fueling unit, and a recent recall to install a thermal insulator between the fuel tank and the back seat.
We ordered, and paid for, the Phill just before the end of the year and were told by the Canadian manufacturer, FuelMaker Corp., that holiday season delays meant it would be a few weeks before work would start on the unit.
On Jan. 31 we got an e-mail letting us know that the Phill finally was being shipped to the only installer in our area, a Southern California plumbing company called Dr. Drain.
It was supposed to take five to seven working days to get the unit from FuelMaker to the good doctor. That should have had the Pill arriving by Feb. 12, so installation was tentatively set for Feb. 15. Dr. Drain told us on Feb. 19 that the thing had just landed at his shop.
We're still waiting, with Feb. 26 the new tentative installation date.
As for the recall, well, we got the notice back on Dec. 17, nicely worded so as not to scare us, but basically cautioning that if we had a big fire in the rear seating area of the GX, the heat could cause the fuel tank to make like a rocket.
We couldn't do anything right away, though, because Honda told us that the part needed to fix things wasn't available yet.
A letter arrived in mid January telling us the fix-it part was now available. (Good thing no one tried to have a backseat barbecue in the interim).
Mike Magrath, Edmunds' vehicle testing assistant, called a local Honda dealer to order the part.
Then we waited.
About two weeks later, the dealer's parts department called to say the part had arrived. So Magrath called the service department to schedule an appointment and was told that, sorry, that dealership wasn't authorized to work on the GX fuel system, which required specially trained service personnel.
No explanation was offered as to why they didn't tell us that when we ordered the part, Magrath says, adding that he encountered the same disconnect between parts and service (yes, we can order the part, no, we can't install it) at another area dealership before being told there was only one in all of the sprawling Los Angeles-Orange County area authorized to do the repair.
We finally got the fix done on Feb.8 and are happy to report that a) the work was done quickly and, so far as we know, properly, and b) the fuel tank is still attached to the car.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @ 11,822 miles
February 19, 2008
Took the Civic GX just named greenest vehicle sold in the U.S. on a 611-mile weekend trip. It takes a little planning when your fuel isn't the easiest to find, but all went well.
Part of the reason for taking the GX, usually just a commuter car, was to see if we could stand sitting in it for hours on end. Part was to see how difficult it would be to find the compressed natural gas it needs once we got out of the greater Los Angeles area.
Neither proved problematic, although figuring out the fueling logistics is a bit like planning a treasure hunt. And when you get to some of the stops, you find that CNG pumps aren't often in spots you really want to hang around in after dark.
Before departing, we plugged our starting point and destination into the mapping function of the federal Energy Department's alternative fuels site.
Following the instructions provided a nice map that located 30 compressed natural gas stations on two possible routes from Southern California up to the central coast resort town of Cambria, about 6 miles south of Hearst Castle.
Each station was indicated by an interactive red triangle that, when moused and clicked, opened to give precise details including the station's hours, the types of credit cards accepted, driving directions and whether the station was open to the public many aren't.
After picking out five that would suit our needs, I printed out the specifics and for extra insurance loaded the addresses into our portable GPS navigation system.
The whole exercise took about 20 minutes and left me feeling assured that we'd not run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere.
To be doubly sure, I earmarked stations that were about 100 miles or a little less than half a tank apart.
The first fill was supposed to be at a local station near home, but it was out of order (the DOE info has phone numbers and advises calling in advance to make sure the stations are open and functioning, but that takes all the fun out of it).
January 11, 2008
It's like a second Christmas.
Mike, or Dr. Drain, as his business card identifies him, showed up at noon Thursday to rough-in the mounts and run the gas line for the Phill natural gas fueling unit we're installing in my garage.
If you drive a Civic GX, the home unit would seem to be a reasonable thing to lust after.
Without it, you stop every 175-200 miles to fill up, and natural gas stations aren't quite as plentiful as the regular kind.
For me, with a 116-mile round trip commute, that 's meant a stop every other day at least.
There happen to be five natural gas pump locations on my route -- Southern Caliofrnia along the 405 Freeway corridor from Santa Monica to Orange County apparently is a pretty gassy place -- but using them requires detours off the freeway and delays my arrivals at home or office.
December 17, 2007
We received a letter in the mail from Honda today regarding an open safety recall on 1998-2007 Civic GX compressed natural gas vehicles. A faulty fuel tank heat insulator is to blame.
In the event of a severe interior fire in the area of the rear seat, the CNG tank may be heated unevenly, preventing the pressure relief device from venting the contents of the tank properly. This could result in a tank rupture, or its ejection from the vehicle.
This situation was discovered after studying an act of arson on a Civic GX earlier this year.
Parts are not yet available, but a secondary notice will be sent once they are.
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Coordinator @ 6,800 miles
September 25, 2007
I had the long-term Civic GX for the past week, or at least its keys. I got to see how it performed in a variety of driving conditions, taking it on different errands -- daily commute, trip to Universal City for a press event, taking me to an excellent Editors concert at the Wiltern, and an airport venture that included four days parked while I was in Toronto. Here are some of the things I learned over this period of time.
September 13, 2007
This would have made sense had I done a lot of acid back then, but the 70s for me were a pretty clean decade.
Why then, was I having this weird flashback? A gas line. In 2007?
It wasn't a hallucination, though.
I really did spend almost 20 minute the other morning, sitting in line with our longterm 2007 Honda Civic GX, waiting for the guys ahead of me to fill their cars and vans so I could gas up and hit the road.
This time, though, the problem wasn't a gas shortage. When you've driving a car that uses compressed natural gas, the problem is a pump shortage. I'd pulled into the pump (yes, the singular is intentional) in Garden Grove, just off the 22 Freeway, about the same time half the taxis in central Orange County had decided it was time to fill up.
It's not like this all the time, the cabbie behind me said as I sat there alternately glancing at my watch and watching the guy in the big Yellow Cab van sloooowly fill his tank. But it can get bad when we’re all trying to fill up at the same time.
In retrospect, a line with four cars wasn't quite like the 50- and 60-car lines common during the '73 gasoline shortage.
But it made me realize that, in Southern California at least, a whole lot of taxis use natural gas, as do myriad school and transit buses, short-haul delivery trucks and other commercial vehicles. That's because CNG usually costs a lot less than gasoline and cuts down on engine maintenance because it burns far cleaner.
And that made me wonder why, if we're so concerned about air quality, auto emissions and the price of gas, there isn't a whole lot more effort by state and federal governments and private businesses to boost the use of natural gas as a vehicle fuel.
Then, maybe, the stations that dispensed it would be closer together and more conveniently located, and a group of cabbies who lose money every minute their cabs are sitting idle would have to answer questions from a nosy reporter intrigued by the fact that you can still find gas lines in 2007.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor, @ 2,689 miles.
August 31, 2007
How far are you willing to go to save the environment?
What kind of compromises will you have to make in order to 1) reduce emissions, 2) lower fuel costs, 3) get into the coveted car pool lanes?
We're going to find out. We've added a Honda Civic GX to our long-term fleet. It runs on compressed natural gas (CNG).
We have a CNG station near our offices in Santa Monica, but there aren't many around.
The Civic GX only has a range of about 200 miles on a good day, so long trips could be awkward. So, we're also planning to install a PHILL home refueling unit, which should make refueling more convenient and help reduce costs.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor