2016 Honda Civic: Rain-Sense Nonsense
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on January 2, 2017
A very predictable thing happened on a recent 2,000-mile round trip to Oregon in our 2016 Honda Civic: It rained. A lot.
Not all at once, mind you. Sure, the rain came down in buckets at times. But it also sprinkled, splattered and sprayed at intermittent intervals. It turned out to be the perfect real-world environment in which to test our Civic Touring's automatic rain-sensing wipers.
Except they didn't work.
The auto setting only ever triggered the single initial wipe that's intended to tell the driver that the system is armed and ready. No amount of sprinkling could coax the wipers into real action. This was especially maddening because there's no standard intermittent setting to fall back on. The Civic Touring's rain-sensing system entirely replaces the familiar intermittent wiper setup found on "lesser" Civics.
Bottom line: I drove the entire trip with 1970s-era two-speed wipers: low or high.
What went wrong? I eventually traced it back to a windshield replacement some months ago. It seems there are numerous ways for a glass installer to screw this up. First, you've got to use the correct windshield, one that is built to accommodate the rain-sensing sensor. We checked this box, as it turns out, but only by accident. Our efforts to ensure we got the right windshield for the adaptive cruise control system's camera was also the right move for the wipers because adaptive cruise and automatic wipers come bundled together on the 2016 Civic Touring.
But there's more to this rain-sensing business than the right windshield. The sensor, which is a little bigger than a postage stamp, is supposed to fit tight against the new glass, with a thin silicon sheet sandwiched in between. Several things have to be done correctly here for the rain-sensing sensor to sense rain.
Honda says the stamp-sized silicon sheet must be replaced along with the windshield. Moreover, the new sheet (P/N 38972-T0A-003) must make full contact with the new windshield with no air bubbles in between, and it must be properly aligned to fully cover the sensor. As for the sensor itself, it must be firmly snapped into its fixture in order to apply the proper amount of pressure.
I didn't know any of this while I was cursing at our wipers. I only learned the score after I got home. It turns out that inoperative 2016 Honda Civic Touring rain-sensing wiper complaints are common enough that NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) and Honda have issued a repair bulletin (Honda A1-6060B) that underlines these very points.
With bulletin in hand, I marched downstairs to examine our Civic. Right away it was clear that the silicon sheet was improperly seated. Radiating pressure waves show that it's not in full contact with the glass, and I can't tell if they installed a new silicon sheet or reused the old one. Our next step is to reach out to the glass installer and have the installer make it right. We'll update you once we get a response.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 15,393 miles