3 Common Honda K20 Engine Problems

by | Aug 3, 2022 | Articles | 0 comments

2001 saw the release of the 2.0L inline-4 engine known as the Honda K20. It’s still being produced today and belongs to the well-known K-series of motors. Since many people use the K20 as a replacement engine, the engine’s popularity is no surprise. Honda’s K20 engine has outstanding reliability and is powerful for its size. Nevertheless, no engine is flawless, and this is not an instance. In this post, we’ll talk about the K20’s reliability and go through some of the most typical engine issues.

The Three Most Regular Honda K20 Problems

Several of the K20’s most frequent problems include:

  • Excessive vibration of the engine.
  • Galling in the exhaust cam lobe.
  • Oil Leak at Front Main Crankshaft Seal.

These Honda K20 flaws will be covered in more detail below. Although we use the term “common,” it’s not necessarily accurate to refer to these problems as common ones. Many K20 users may not even encounter the problems we mention. The K20 is also susceptible to various flaws and problems, just like every other motor in the world. The K20 is an excellent engine, although problems may and do arise sometimes.

Let’s lay out the different K20 Honda engines before we go any farther with these concerns. Once again, it’s a durable engine that can be found in a variety of Honda and Acura vehicles. The motor has also undergone a considerable amount of upgrades to meet current norms for pollutants and performance. Nevertheless, certain K20s may be more impacted by the issues we examine than others. Additionally, as older models are 12–20 years old, it is reasonable to presume that most issues are age- and mileage-related.

K20 Engine Subtypes

The K20 engine from Honda comes in the following variations:

K20Z5 (2005-2015), K20A2, K20A3, K20Z3,K20A, K20A7, K20C3, K20A1, K20Z4, K20C4 (2015-present)
K20Z1, K20Z2, K20A4, K20A6, K20C2, K20A9 (2001-2011), K20C1

There are a lot of different K20 variations, as you may have seen. The Honda Civic Si, Civic, Civic Type R, as well as Accord all have these engines.  A broad and general observation is that some K20s are better performance models that were designed to handle the more power. However, they are often pushed a little harder and some maintenance may cost more than on lesser power versions. They could also be more prone to issues, particularly if used vigorously without the required upkeep.

Honda K20 Typical Engine Problems

We go into further depth about the three typical issues we mentioned before. These issues are present in a large number of the K20 variations; nevertheless, different motors may be less or more susceptible to damage. In the near run, it’s reasonable to believe that modern engines such as the K20C series will be more dependable. Due to aging-related wear and tear, aged K20A motors are considered to be a little less dependable. If you’re looking at an older K20, however, be sure to go through the maintenance history. It’s conceivable that all or some of these things have already been fixed.

1. Front crankshaft seal of the Honda K20 leaks oil

The front main seal is another name for a front crankshaft seal. The timing chain cover and the end of the crankshaft are sealed with K20 front main seals. The crank on the motor’s back side is likewise sealed with a rear main seal. They are collectively known as the major seals. The K20 is more prone to leaks from the front crank seal than the rear main seal. The primary seals are quite simple parts. Actually, they are nothing more than seals created to cover crankshaft end apertures to stop oil leaks.

K20 front main seals degrade with time and start dripping oil from the region of the timing chain cover. Usually, it doesn’t develop into a serious leak right away. Instead, tiny fissures form in the rubber seal, which let in a few tiny drops of oil. The leak steadily grows worse if left alone. Oil leaks from the K20 main seal often appear after 180,000 km. While some are fortunate enough to endure the whole engine’s life, others may not be so fortunate and develop K20 seal leaks before 160,000 km. Age and a bad history of oil changes might make issues appear sooner.

Symptoms of a K20 Front Main Seal Oil Leak

The following are signs of oil leaks from the K20 front main seal:

  • evident oil leak
  • engine oil is low
  • Smoking
  • odor of burning oil

Visible leaks are usually the only discernible sign and the most evident one. Keep an eye out for leaks around the K20’s front main seal, which is hidden beneath the timing cover. Your oil may need to be topped up more often than usual if the leak is severe enough. However, before things worsen, you’ll probably notice some oil drips on the ground.

Smoking and the smell of burning oil are highly unusual signs of Honda K20 primary seal leakage. Prior to coming into touch with any heated components that can result in smoking or the odor of burning oil, the oil will probably trickle down. Nevertheless, if the leakage is severe enough, it is conceivable.

Cost of replacing the K20 front main seal.

As most people are probably aware, Hondas are often reasonably priced and easy to fix. This is valid for the front main seal of the K20. Depending on your specific year, type, and type of engine, labor and seal expenses change. Costs for front primary seals should be only R200 to R450. This is excellent news for those who like doing repairs themselves. Anyone who is acquainted with the fundamentals should be able to change the front main seal on the K20 with ease. For those who are less experienced, it could take a few hours, but it’s an easy task.

The financial harm is still manageable for those who don’t DIY. Of course, labor rates differ from country to country, and some of them depend on the year and type of your Honda. However, a typical estimate for replacing the front main seal at a repair facility is between R3000 and R5000.

2. Galling on the exhaust camshaft of a Honda K20

Located in the engine’s cylinder head, the K20’s exhaust and intake valves work in tandem with the device known as the camshaft. The lift of the intake and exhaust valves is controlled by the cam lobes. On the Honda K20, this damage, known as cam lobe galling, is very prevalent and well-documented. The camshaft lobes’ high friction causes galling. Material may join or weld to the area where friction is occurring as a result. The lobes might also break or become rougher.

This problem only affects a few K20 models, although it appears to affect K20A engines the most often. It is also crucial to remember that oil that is excessively thin or an inadequate history of oil changes may play a part in the galling of the K20 cam lobes. Probably won’t have any cam lobe failures. However, it is possible. Since it’s one of the most costly problems that could arise, it’s also important to highlight. After 150 000 kilometers, cam lobe galling frequently occurs.

Symptoms of a galling exhaust cam lobe in the K20

The K20 cam lobes may have galling if you see any of the following symptoms:

  • valve cover-area clicking sounds
  • losing power

This problem could be more widespread than we really realize. Since the symptoms are rather modest, it’s likely that K20s are operating vehicles without even being aware of a problem. Power loss often happens gradually since it’s not an issue that just appears overnight. Instead, power loss happens gradually as the extra friction lobes on the K20 continue to deteriorate. The valve cover location is usually where the most obvious symptom may be heard: a clicking or tapping noise. If the friction is severe enough, you may hear the sounds it makes.

K20 Replacement Exhaust Cam Price

Galling often necessitates a complete replacement of the K20 exhaust camshaft. One of the most expensive fixes out of the many K20 problems is this one since it requires quite a bit of work. Exhaust cams for Honda K20 models are often available for around R5000. For the DIY team, not bad.

You may even want to think about taking advantage of it as a chance to update both the intake as well as the exhaust camshafts. The performance advantages of upgraded cams should reduce the likelihood of experiencing exhaust cam galling once again. Again, as it requires a lot of work, we advise against beginners trying to change the exhaust cam on a K20.

Expect to spend between R10000 and R15000 if you find yourself in a service center with these problems. Thankfully, that’s about the worst thing you can say about the K20’s price—on it’s the pricier side.

3. Excessive engine vibrations in the Honda K20

This portion will be cut a little bit short. First, a few routine maintenance tasks might result in vibration and harsh running in K20 engines. First, think about the fundamentals, such as filthy throttle bodies, dirty ignition coils, and so on. If none of the fundamental factors are to blame for the vibrations, then one of the most important things to check on the list is the engine mounts. It’s probably unfair to categorize this as an issue. The engine’s weight is supported by engine mounts, which also help to somewhat cushion the impact of turns, bumps, etc.

Engine mounts for K20 engines are more of a routine maintenance item. They are components that degrade over time. Engine mounts, however, are often disregarded causes of engine vibrations. The K20 is quite dependable, as shown by the fact that we are even talking about engine mounts. Since the vibrations are the only noticeable symptoms, we’ll omit the symptoms part.

Cost of replacing the K20 engine mount

Usually available for less than R1500 for both, K20 mounts are rather affordable. It’s a rather straightforward DIY project, but you’ll need the appropriate equipment for the task. Expect to spend between R3000 and R5000 for replacement at repair shops. Not bad for a repair that shouldn’t need attention until the vehicle has traveled more than 190,000 kilometers.

Overall Reliability of K20

This has been discussed throughout the article. Despite this, we would like to stress once again that the K20 is an exceptionally dependable engine. On the way to 300,000+ kilometers, it shouldn’t have any severe challenges. The problems we mentioned in this article won’t affect all K20 owners. However, it’s uncommon for a motor to go beyond 300,000 kilometers without experiencing at least a few problems. Regarding K20 reliability, anticipate the same idea to be applicable. Failures may happen at some time and probably will.

The K20’s reliability is dependent in part on how well it is maintained. Probably the most crucial aspect of basic maintenance is using the right oil weights and changing the oil on schedule. Some degree of reliability is just dependent on chance. Regardless, if you take care of your K20 engine, it should have a pretty trouble-free 300,000+ kilometer life.

Final Thoughts On Reliability & Common Problems with the Honda K20

The Honda K20 has been in production for a very long time and there is a very solid reason for this. The engine has seen a good amount of changes, yet it has always maintained quality and dependability. The faults we highlight in this article may be more or less common in certain models and engine variations. The Honda K20 is trustworthy, to put it briefly. Yes.

All engines, including the K20, are, nevertheless, susceptible to rare malfunctions. Wearing engine mounts, oil leaks from the front main seal, and cam lobe galling are three of the most typical problems. Numerous more one-time problems might occur with the K20. This is particularly true for early K20 models since every engine degrades with time and use. In any case, anticipate a lengthy lifespan and above average reliability from the K20.

What have your experiences been like working with the Honda K20 Engine? Please tell us in a comment.


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Potential issues, causes, and solutions have been identified in the above article based on the experiences of car owners and repairers, as well as web materials such as forum blogs and technical support bulletins. This data is supplied exclusively for the purpose of reference. Only appropriately qualified persons should perform repairs and/or changes on your vehicles.

While it’s important to keep in mind, it’s also important to note that the amount of times anything is mentioned here should not be seen as a sign of its reliability or frequency. Various owners, driving in different ways, and caring for their vehicles in distinct ways will cause two identical vehicles to perform differently.

As previously said, this material is supplied primarily for reference reasons; nonetheless, we hope that by doing so, we will be able to supply you with essential knowledge that will allow you to make informed decisions whenever you encounter any of the aforementioned setbacks.

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