Watchdog: Frozen wipers blow engine computer on Civic

Owner left stunned at £1,600 bill because he activated wipers in frosty weather

Cold weather can cause a whole string of problems for cars, with frozen windscreens, dead batteries and icy roads all posing a danger to drivers.

What you wouldn’t expect is a £1,600 repair bill for a blown engine computer (called the Electronic Control Unit or ECU). Yet that’s what Graeme Scott, from Banchory, Aberdeenshire, faced after trying to switch on his 2006 Honda Civic.

After turning the key in the ignition, the hatchback wouldn’t start, but flagged up its engine management light. Graeme got it to a local garage, which said it was a glow plug fault.

He then booked the car into Honda’s Macrae and Dick dealer in Aberdeen for a more detailed diagnosis. After several weeks, Graeme was told the problem was a blown ECU. This had been caused by the window wipers being frozen to the screen and unable to move when the car was switched on. This in turn created a voltage spike which damaged the ECU. Graeme said: "It is unacceptable. It’s costing £1,600 simply because the wipers were on in frosty weather.”

A quick search online revealed Graeme wasn’t the only one to have had this problem on his Civic. Other owners were reporting the same failure.

Graeme contacted Carbuyer's sister publication Auto Express, who in turn got in touch with Honda. The consumer desk at Auto Express felt that, as it was a known issue, the firm should be contributing to Graeme’s £1,600 bill.

A spokeswoman said: “When a vehicle is out of warranty, and has been serviced outside of the Honda network, it is hard to offer goodwill gestures as we do not know the full history of the vehicle.

“The vehicle in this instance is five-and-a-half years out of warranty and has not been seen by a Honda dealer since 2012. As a company, we pride ourselves on exceptional customer service, and would like to reduce Mr Scott’s ECU bill to £500 plus VAT and labour.”

Graeme was delighted. He added: "That’s brilliant news – I can only thank Auto Express for all its help. It’s far beyond what I expected.”

Advice: What should you do if it happens to you?

If you own a Civic of this age, you should be aware of this potential problem. The best advice is to turn the auto wiper function off to avoid the wipers trying to start if they’re frozen. Alternatively, remember to check the wipers aren’t frozen before switching the engine on to avoid a potentially hefty repair bill.

Recommended

Best classic cars to buy in 2022
Classic cars to buy in 2022
Tips and advice
4 Aug 2022

Best classic cars to buy in 2022

New Honda Civic Type R hot hatch gets 325bhp and a giant spoiler
2023 Civic Type R front driver side
News
29 Jul 2022

New Honda Civic Type R hot hatch gets 325bhp and a giant spoiler

Cheap fun cars: our picks from £1,000 to £10,000
Honda Civic Type R front
Toyota
21 Jun 2022

Cheap fun cars: our picks from £1,000 to £10,000

New Honda ZR-V SUV coming in 2023
New Honda hybrid SUV
Honda
10 May 2022

New Honda ZR-V SUV coming in 2023

Most Popular

Best new car deals 2022: this week’s top car offers
MG HS
Deals
12 Aug 2022

Best new car deals 2022: this week’s top car offers

Top 10 best electric family cars 2022
MG ZS EV - front
Best cars
8 Aug 2022

Top 10 best electric family cars 2022

Kia EV4 SUV to take on the Volvo XC40 Recharge
2024 Kia EV4 - front
News
5 Aug 2022

Kia EV4 SUV to take on the Volvo XC40 Recharge

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
23 Mar 2022

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Electric car charging station
Tips and advice
5 Nov 2021

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Car buying
17 May 2022

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
20 Jun 2022

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors 2022
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors 2022

Top 10 best electric cars 2022
Ioniq 5
Best cars
12 Jul 2022

Top 10 best electric cars 2022

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2022
Nissan Leaf front
Best cars
12 Jul 2022

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2022

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2022
Audi RS 3 driving - front view
Hot hatches
24 Jun 2022

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2022