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Avoid These 5 Mistakes When Upgrading Your Honda Civic

There are millions of Honda Civics on the road, and nearly as many different opinions out there about how they should be modified. While variety is the spice of life, not all of these ideas lead to the best results when it comes to actually improving performance, which can be frustrating for owners looking for additional speed, handling prowess, or power from their vehicles.

Honda Civic Type R on track in red at speed

Here’s a look at common mistakes that are made when modifying the Honda Civic, and how to avoid feeling let down by your mods by making the right choices before installing and tuning your car.

Going Too Low And Killing Your Suspension Travel, Alignment, and Ride Quality

As with all things automotive, it’s important to approach a vehicle as a system. Rather than simply throwing individual performance parts at your Civic, you’ll want to consider how those components interact with each other, and how they could impact the type of driving you’ll be doing the most.

Honda Civic hatchback green lowered with Nitto banner

A suspension system is a great example of this principle in action. It’s tempting to simply purchase a set of coilovers, install them on the car, and dial them in for maximum drop. After all, a lower center of gravity is key to improving handling, right? Not only that, but a slammed car looks fantastic from almost every angle.

Coilover setup

Unfortunately, your Honda Civic was designed with a specific ride height in mind, and every quarter inch you drop below that figure pulls the rest of its suspension system out of spec. When most people think of a car that is too low, their biggest concerns likely have to do with scraping or bottoming out over a speed bump, but you really need to be thinking about how reduced suspension travel can actively impair your vehicle’s handling, how a major ride height drop affects wheel and tire alignment, camber, and wear, and how comfortable it will be to travel on public roads with an extreme drop.

Camber chart

Lowering a car almost always requires supporting mods. This is doubly true if you intend to get significantly lower than stock. Make sure to research whether a set of camber plates, adjustable control arms, bushings, or other components are necessary for you to keep your Civic aligned to get the most out of your coilover installation.

Wrong-Size Tires Ruin Your Ride

Speaking of wheels and tires, did you know it’s possible to have too much tire as well as not enough tire when modifying your Honda Civic?

Honda Civic tire change Nittos

Circling back to the idea of vehicle-as-system, the tires and wheels you install on your vehicle are an important component of its suspension. It’s common for Civic owners to install a set of wider-than-stock tires and then drop their car so low that they rub against the body or chassis when turned locked-to-lock, or impact with the top of the fender liner over bumps. At the same time, a too-wide tire can also make it difficult to deal with certain road conditions, as they can increase the risk of hydroplaning as well as tramlining on rutted asphalt.

Honda Civic comparing two different Nitto tire sizes

You may also want to consider going down in wheel size so you can fit a tire with additional sidewall under the car. This can dramatically improve the ride quality of a lowered Civic, and further protect your rims from damage out on the road.

Honda Civic Type R on Nitto tires close up front wheel

Sticking with a set of well-sized high performance tires, such as the Nitto NT05 or NT555 G2 is often your best bet for a street-oriented tuner car, with Nitto NT01 rubber available in a wide range of sizes for those heading to the track. Either way, measure before you order to make sure your new set will play nice with your existing ride height and suspension mods.

Cone Filters Keeping Things Hot Under The Hood

There’s no cheaper way to satisfy the mod bug than by picking up a “cold air intake” and installing it under the hood of your Honda Civic. Unfortunately, entry-level intakes are often cheap for a reason, as they represent a generic, one-size-fits-all solution that isn’t specifically engineered to fit in the Civic’s engine bay and maximize performance potential.

Honda Civic Type R underhood

Specifically, we’re referring to that large subset of cold air intake (CAI) kits that consist of a cone filter and ducting, positioned in roughly the same position as the factory air box. It might sound aggressive when you hit the throttle, but the “cold” part of its name isn’t actually working as advertised, since it’s pulling in hot air from directly beside the motor.

Honda Civic with K20 engine

When seeking a CAI, you’ll want to look for a kit that shields the intake from engine bay heat, either using a metal half-housing or a full housing that pulls air directly from a colder part of the underhood area (such as the front fender, or under the bumper).

Getting Wild With Exhaust

Let’s be honest: the majority of exhaust systems out there for the Honda Civic are intended to provide more aural pleasure than actual horsepower. The factory exhaust setup for the Civic is pretty efficient, and while you can squeeze a few extra horses out of the engine with some aftermarket designs, you’ll be spending considerable money to do so—funds that might be better invested in other areas (such as a tune) if power is your end goal.

Honda Civic Type R exhaust tips

For a louder sound, an inexpensive cat-back is likely your best solution, or even a swap to a more boisterous muffler. Getting deep into the weeds with cat swaps, headers, or full exhaust replacements isn’t the best investment for the Civic.

Overdoing It On Aero

If you’re looking at adding aerodynamic improvements to your Civic, you need to be honest about your goals. Is it a track car that needs extra stability at high speeds, or is it a street car that could use a more aggressive look? Each of these situations requires a different approach when it comes to planning out your mods. Throwing the kitchen sink at either isn’t going to help you solve the specific problem you’re looking to tackle.

Honda Civic front bumper kit installation

For example, a track car is much more likely to benefit from a lip spoiler that limits air flowing under the car, whereas a street car leans more towards having that same gear torn off by a pothole or speed bump. Side skirts can look great on a daily driver, but might just be added weight for a track machine. Finally, a towering wing on the trunk is something track drivers will want to tune for their specific application, but street drivers will have to accept is likely just an esthetic add-on.

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