Honda Civic (2002) 7th Gen Electric Power Steering Issues & Fixes

Honda Civic (2002) 7th Gen Electric Power Steering Issues & Fixes

This comprehensive guide addresses the electric power steering (EPS) issues experienced in a 2002 7th gen Honda Civic, helping you diagnose and fix the problem.

Technical Insights into the Steering Issue

The 2002 Civic uses an electric steering rack, which integrates an electric motor positioned atop the rack. Unlike hydraulic systems, the EPS receives power directly from the vehicle’s electrical system.

Typically, when the vehicle is turned off, a battery voltage around 12.5 volts indicates that the electrical system is likely functioning correctly, suggesting that the steering problem might not be due to an electrical fault.

However, diagnostics have shown that the problem does not seem to be tied to one particular component failure but might be a result of multiple interacting issues, including possible mechanical restrictions or misalignments within the steering system itself.

Causes of Steering Malfunction

  1. Mechanical Binding or Damage: The steering rack installed might have suffered internal damage, such as bent gears or a warped frame, particularly if the rack was sourced from a vehicle involved in a collision. Mechanical binding could also occur in the steering column or associated joints, which might mislead the EPS torque sensor into providing continual assistance in one direction.
  2. Improper Installation or Adjustment: Misalignment of the steering rack during installation, incorrect positioning of the steering column, or inadequate adjustment of the rack guide can lead to steering issues. These components require precise setup to function correctly, and any deviation can lead to significant steering problems.
  3. Component Wear and Tear: Over time, components like tie rods, control arms, and bushings undergo wear and could contribute to steering issues if not appropriately addressed.


The car exhibits the following symptoms:

  • Lack of self-centering after turning corners.
  • Difficulty turning the steering wheel, especially when returning from a turn.
  • EPS warning light stays illuminated.

Important Note:

  • The 2002 North American 7th gen Civic uses a hydraulic power steering system, not EPS. This guide may not apply directly to your car. However, the troubleshooting steps can provide valuable insights nonetheless.

Possible Causes:

  • Misdiagnosis: The issue might not be related to the EPS system but could be caused by:
    • Tire wear or improper alignment
    • Faulty suspension components
  • Used Rack Issue: The replacement used rack might be defective due to:
    • Internal damage from a previous accident
    • Improper installation (clocking the swivel joint incorrectly)
  • Steering System Binding: Binding can occur in various components:
    • Steering column and shaft
    • Steering rack
    • Struts

Troubleshooting Steps:

  1. Verify Hydraulic System (NA 7th gen Civic):
    • As your car likely uses a hydraulic system, these steps may not be directly applicable. However, they can be adapted for troubleshooting the hydraulic components.
  2. Disconnect Electrical Components (For EPS Systems):
    • Disconnect the power supply to the EPS motor (if applicable). If steering becomes easier, the problem lies within the EPS system.
  3. Check Alignment:
    • Obtain a printout of the alignment results and ensure caster is within specifications.
  4. Inspect Used Rack:
    • If a used rack was installed, consider the possibility of internal damage.
  5. Manual Rack Movement Test (For EPS Systems):
    • Disconnect the tie rods from the struts.
    • Ensure the steering column and joints move freely.
    • With the EPS motor disconnected:
      • Move the steering wheel and observe the resistance. It should be smooth with a slight initial resistance due to the motor.
  6. Swivel Joint Orientation (For EPS Systems):
    • Ensure the swivel joint connecting the steering shaft and rack is clocked correctly during installation.
  7. Check Steering Column and Shaft:
    • Verify the steering wheel and shaft turn freely without excessive resistance.
  8. Check Strut Bearings:
    • While disconnected from the car, the strut assemblies should require two hands to turn freely.

Detailed Solutions and Fixes

Initial Troubleshooting

  1. Disconnecting Electrical Assist: Temporarily disable the electrical operations of the EPS to determine if the issue persists in a purely mechanical mode. If steering difficulties continue without electrical assistance, the problem is likely mechanical.
  2. Visual and Physical Inspection: Examine the steering rack and column for any signs of damage or unusual wear. Check for smoothness in the steering gear’s movement by manually moving the pinion shaft across the full range of motion. Any inconsistency in movement could indicate internal damage or misalignment.

Mechanical Adjustments

  1. Rack and Pinion Check: Use locking pliers on the pinion shaft to manually check the smoothness of the rack’s motion. This can help identify if there is binding in one direction or another.
  2. Steering Column and Joints: Ensure that the steering wheel, column, and swivel joints rotate freely without undue friction or drag. Any drag can cause incorrect readings by the EPS torque sensor, leading to persistent steering assistance in one direction.

Calibration and Alignment

  1. Torque Sensor Calibration: After replacing or adjusting any part of the steering system, recalibrate the torque sensor values using an EPS-capable scanner. This ensures that the sensor accurately reflects the driver’s steering inputs.
  2. Comprehensive Alignment Check: Obtain a detailed printout of alignment measurements, ensuring that parameters such as caster, camber, and toe are within manufacturer specifications. Misalignment can significantly impact steering behavior.
  3. Rack Guide Adjustment: Adjust the rack guide to ensure it is not too tight, which could restrict the rack’s movement, nor too loose, which could lead to sloppy steering response.

Consider Professional Assistance

Given the complexity of EPS systems and the potential for multiple interacting issues, seeking professional assistance from a certified Honda technician is advisable, especially when personal troubleshooting has not resolved the issue. Documenting all actions taken and observations noted during personal troubleshooting can be invaluable to professionals diagnosing the issue.

Additional Tips:

  • Refer to the repair manual for specific procedures and torque specifications.
  • Consider seeking professional help from a qualified mechanic if troubleshooting becomes complex.

Final Thoughts

Steering issues in the 2002 Honda Civic with EPS can stem from a variety of mechanical and adjustment-related problems. Comprehensive diagnostics and adjustments, often requiring professional tools and expertise, are crucial for resolving these issues effectively.

Imran Khan

Imran Khan is a car enthusiast with a technical background, who shares valuable insights and tips on fixing common car problems in an accessible way through his blog. He aims to connect with other car enthusiasts and help car owners take control of their own maintenance and repairs, reducing reliance on expensive mechanics.

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