Honda had big plans to squeeze out a few extra miles per gallon for its popular SUV starting with the 2015 model year.
They gave the CR-V a direct-injected, 4-cylinder engine known as "Earth Dreams." We'll save complaints about the name for another day.
They swapped out the old standby, 5-speed automatic transmission for the new and shiny continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The Vibrations Are the Result of A Few Extra MPGs ∞
This new engine and transmission combination improved fuel economy by reaching maximum horsepower at lower engine revolutions per minute (RPM).
Lower RPMs means the engine isn't working as hard → not working as hard means less gas is used → less gas means better fuel economy → better fuel economy means the marketing department can get all excited about EPA estimates again.
A side-effect of lowering RPMs at low speed or idle is that you increase noise and vibration.
"This car is severely vibrating including car back seat, toys/things on car back seat are vibrating and making noise. I have requested American Honda and dealer to buy back this car but they denied and this dealer doesn't want to see my car again." --- 2015 CR-V owner
Owner's can't decide if this is a transmission or an engine problem, but one thing is clear --- all the vibrations and noise is giving owners headaches, backaches and serious distractions while driving.
Honda Isn’t Hiding From the CR-V Has a Vibration Issue ∞
Honda has acknowledged that a "small percentage" of owners have reported vibration issues. I think we have a different definition of small, but regardless this is a big step for the automaker. They did, however, stress:
That the vibrations pose no danger of present or future component failure
That the 2015 Accord has the same engine and CVT combination, without any vibration complaints
According to Honda spokesperson, Chris Martin:
“We're working to come up with solutions that will address several different customer perceptions of the vibration at idle. While it is annoying to some, it is not noticed by most, and it does not represent a detriment to the safety or reliability of the vehicle."
The emphasized part feels like a sly way of rolling your eyes at the people complaining about this issue. Still, Honda went on to release a series of videos^1 to address the problem.
On November 5th, 2015, Honda sent out technical service bulletin (TSB) 15-046 to its dealers outlining the problem and possible solutions. Think of TSBs as a set of instructions for the dealer on how to handle customer complaints and possible repairs.
Honda stressed that this is an optional update for owners who feel an "unwanted amount of vibration." They've narrowed their focus down to three driving modes:
Driving mode 1: The vehicle is stopped, but in gear.
Driving mode 2: The vehicle is accelerating and between 1,000—1,200 RPMs.
Driving mode 3: The vehicle is cruising at 40-50mph and between 1,800—2,200RPMs.
Honda then outlines a potential solution for each new scenario.
Owners who complain about vibrations in driving mode 1 are supposed to get new radiator cushions, transmission mounts, and front head restraints. To me this just sounds like Honda is trying to eliminate things that make noise and hope you never come back.
The solution for driving mode 2 is more involved. First, the dealership is supposed to update the "PCM software". PCM stands for powertrain control module which is a combined electronic control unit of the ECM (engine control module) and TCM (transmission control module). Additionally, the dealer is instructed to install a "tailgate damper kit."
Driving mode 3 gets the PCM update, but no tailgate damper kit.
You have to assume that the PCM update increases the engine's RPMs at low speeds, but Honda says it should have very little impact on the vehicle's MPGs. Approximately a 0.7 MPG drop in combined city / highway.
Of course, we all know there's a difference between lab-driving, and real-world driving, so the real impact is still undetermined.
There Are Lawsuits That Claim the Vibrations Can Actually Make Occupants Sick ∞
Within weeks of buying her brand new CR-V, Linda Oakes said the vehicle started shaking violently at a stop light. Oakes said the steering wheel was visibly shaking in her hands. The car had a whopping 500 miles on it.
Oakes took her rattle-box to three different dealerships in the area. Technicians acknowledged the SUV had a shaking problem, but said there was little they could do. The corporate offices agreed.
In January 2015, Oakes filed a lawsuit in the California Central District Court, saying:
The 2015 CR-V is prone to severe vibrations at slow speeds and idle
The condition exists from the time the vehicle is sold and worsens over time
The vibrations are distracting and can lead to headaches and queasiness
The lawsuit accuses Honda of knowing about the problem, but selling the vehicles anyway. Gotta protect that bottom line, after all.
Time wore on. Vibrations got worse. Headaches were had.
How an “outreach program” ended the issue in court ∞
As of July 2018, that consolidated lawsuit appears to be on the path to settlement as Honda agreed to start a consumer outreach program.
As part of the outreach program, Honda will be posting information about the available CR-V repairs on its website, sending reminders to dealers and contacting owners or lessees who complained but never had the repairs performed.
To please the court, all Honda has to do is update their website and make a few phone calls? That's less of a program and more of an afternoon nuisance at the call center.
Five things you need to know about the 2015 CR-V vibration problem ∞
In conclusion, here's what we know about the issue so far:
It's caused by the combination of Honda's new direct-injection, "Earth Dreams" engine and continuously variable transmission.
Honda made these changes to improve vehicle economy and, according to lawsuits, ignored the vibration side-effect
Honda is starting an “outreach program” to make sure more owners know about potential solutions.
Lawsuits against Honda have essentially been shut down by the “outreach program” and for now you shouldn’t hold your breath for a recall.
This problem has popped up in the following Honda generations.
Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.
A timeline of stories related to this problem. We try to boil these stories down to the most important bits so you can quickly see where things stand. Interested in getting these stories in an email? Signup for free email alerts for your vehicle over at CarComplaints.com.
A consolidated lawsuit about 2015 CR-V vibrations is coming to an end, and there isn’t a recall or restitution in sight. Instead, I present to you the consumer outreach program.
By agreeing to settle the lawsuit, Honda only agreed to start a "consumer outreach program" to let customers know about the 2015 technical service bulletin.…
2015 CR-V owners are sick and tired of their SUVs making them sick and tired. The combination of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) and the new "Earth Dreams" direct-injection engine has created a vibration nightmare.
Some owners say the vibrations are so bad, especially at low RPMs, they're actually getting nauseous. Well, at least we know what the 'V' in CR-V stands for now.…