3 Most Common Honda K20 Engine Problems & Solutions

Honda K20 Engine Problems

Honda introduced the K20 2.0L inline-4 engine in 2001. It is a member of the popular K-series engines and is still manufactured today. The engine’s success is well-known, as many look to the K20 for engine swaps.

Honda’s K20 engine is a powerful engine for its size and is renowned for its reliability. However, no engine is flawless, and this is no exception. We’ll discuss K20 reliability in this article, as well as some of the most common engine problems.

3 Most Common Honda K20 Problems

Several of the most frequently encountered issues with the K20 include the following:

  • Front Main Crankshaft Seal Oil Leak
  • Exhaust Cam Lobe Galling
  • Excessive Engine Vibration

We’ll discuss these Honda K20 flaws in greater detail below. As a side note, despite our use of the term “common,” it is not always appropriate to refer to these issues as common. Many K20 owners may never encounter any of the issues discussed here.

Additionally, the K20, like any other engine, is susceptible to other faults and failures. While the K20 is an excellent engine, issues can and do arise from time to time.

Before we delve deeper into these issues, let’s take a look at the various K20 engines. Again, this is a long-lasting engine found in a variety of Honda and Acura models. Additionally, the engine has received numerous updates to comply with modern emissions and power standards.

Having said that, the issues we discuss may affect some K20s more than others. Additionally, because earlier models are 12-20 years old, it’s reasonable to assume that the majority of issues are due to age and mileage.

K20 Engine Variants

The Honda K20 engine is available in the following configurations:

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

As you may have noticed, the K20 comes in a variety of configurations. These engines are found in a variety of Honda vehicles, including the Civic, Civic Si, Civic Type R, and Accord.

Additionally, they are found in the Acura RSX, RDX, TLX, and CSX. As a broad and general note, some K20s are performance variants designed to handle the increased power.

However, they are frequently driven more aggressively, and certain maintenance procedures may be more costly than on lower power models. Additionally, they may be more prone to malfunction, particularly when pushed hard without proper maintenance.

Honda K20 Common Problems

Honda K20 Common Problems

We will now go into detail about the three common issues mentioned previously. These issues affect a large number of K20 variants, but some engines may be more or less vulnerable.

Additionally, it is reasonable to assume that newer engines, such as the K20C family, will be more reliable in the short term. Older K20A engines are likely to be less reliable due to age-related wear and tear.

However, if you’re looking for an older K20, be sure to inspect the maintenance records. It is possible that some or all of these items have been repaired previously.

1) Honda K20 Front Crankshaft Seal Oil Leaks

The term “front crankshaft seal” is frequently used interchangeably with “front main seal.” The front main seals on the K20 are responsible for sealing the crankshaft’s end against the timing chain cover. Additionally, there is a rear main seal that seals the crank on the motor’s rear side. They are collectively referred to as the main seals.

Although the rear main seal may develop leaks as well, the K20 is primarily susceptible to front crank seal leaks. The primary seals are fairly straightforward components. They are simply seals that are used to close off openings at the end of the crankshaft to prevent oil leakage.

K20 front main seals deteriorate over time and begin leaking oil from the timing chain cover area. Typically, this is not an instantaneous leak. Rather than that, the rubber seal develops small cracks, allowing for minor oil leakage.

If left alone, the leak will gradually worsen. Typically, K20 main seal oil leaks occur north of 120,000 miles. Some last the engine’s lifetime, while others may be less fortunate and develop K20 seal leaks before 100,000 miles. Age and a poor oil change history may accelerate the onset of problems.

K20 Front Main Seal Oil Leak Symptoms

The following are some of the symptoms of a K20 front main seal oil leak:

  • Visible oil leak
  • Low engine oil
  • Smoking
  • Burning oil smell

Visible leaks are the most noticeable symptom and are frequently the only one. Again, the front main seal of the K20 is located behind the timing cover, so look for leaks in that area.

If the leak is severe enough, you may notice that you need to top off on oil more frequently than usual. Though you’re more than likely to notice oil on the ground before it gets that bad.

Smoke and odors of burning oil are extremely rare symptoms of Honda K20 main seal leaks. The oil will almost certainly drip down before it comes into contact with any hot components that may emit smoke or odors of burning oil. Nonetheless, if the leak is severe enough, this is a possibility.

K20 Front Main Seal Replacement Cost

As many of you are probably aware, Hondas are typically quite affordable and simple to repair. This is also true for the front main seal on the K20. Labor and seal costs vary according to the year, model, and engine variant of your vehicle.

Front main seals should cost between $10 and $40. This is excellent news for the do-it-yourself crowd, as this is a relatively inexpensive repair. Anyone familiar with the fundamentals should be capable of replacing the K20’s front main seal. It may take a few hours for those who are less experienced, but it is a simple job.

For the non-DIY crowd, the financial impact is still manageable. Of course, labor costs vary globally, and some are dependent on the year and model of your Honda or Acura. Having said that, a reasonable estimate for front main seal replacement at a repair shop is between $200 and $400.

2) Honda K20 Exhaust Camshaft Lobe Galling

Honda K20 Exhaust Camshaft Lobe Galling

Camshafts, alternatively referred to as cams, are located in the cylinder head and are responsible for opening and closing the K20’s intake and exhaust valves. The cam lobes are in charge of regulating the lift of the intake and exhaust valves. It’s difficult to convey in words, so we’ve included an image; the physical damage to the K20 cam lobe is visible above.

This type of damage is referred to as cam lobe galling and is fairly common on the Honda K20. Galling occurs as a result of excessive friction between the camshaft’s lobes. It can cause materials to weld or form connections at the point of contact where the friction occurs. Additionally, the lobes may crack or become roughened.

This issue is specific to certain K20 variants, but it appears to be most prevalent on earlier K20A engines. Additionally, oil that is too thin or has a poor oil change history may contribute to K20 cam lobe galling.

Most likely, you will not encounter cam lobe failures. However, it is possible. It’s also worth mentioning because it’s one of the more costly issues that could arise. Typically, cam lobe galling occurs after 100,000 miles.

K20 Exhaust Cam Lobe Galling Symptoms

Keep an eye out for the following symptoms that may indicate cam lobe galling on the K20:

  • Clicking noise around valve cover
  • Loss of power

This may be a more widespread problem than we are aware of. Because the symptoms are so minor, it’s possible that K20s are driving around unaware of the problem.

Loss of power typically occurs gradually, as this is not an unforeseen event. Rather than that, power is lost over time as the excessive friction wears down the K20’s lobes. The most obvious symptom is almost certainly a clicking/tapping noise coming from the valve cover area. If the friction is severe enough, you can actually hear the noises.

K20 Exhaust Cam Replacement Cost

Galling typically necessitates a complete replacement of the K20 exhaust camshaft. Due to the labor intensive nature of the repair, it is one of the more expensive K20 issues. Honda K20 exhaust cams are typically available for under $300. Not bad for the do-it-yourself crew. You might even consider upgrading the intake and exhaust camshafts while you’re at it.

Upgraded cams provide some performance benefits and should reduce the likelihood of experiencing exhaust cam galling in the future. Again, this is a labor-intensive job, and we recommend that only intermediate and/or patient do-it-yourselfers attempt to replace the K20 exhaust cam.

If you find yourself in a repair shop with these issues, expect to pay between $800 and $1300. It’s not cheap, but that’s about as bad as it gets for the K20. We come from the BMW world, where virtually any issue is fixed for that price.

3) Honda K20 Excessive Engine Vibrations

Honda K20 Excessive Engine Vibrations

We’re going to keep this section brief. To begin, there are a few basic maintenance items that can contribute to the vibration and rough running of the K20 engine. Consider the fundamentals first, such as spark plugs, ignition coils, and a dirty throttle body. If none of the fundamentals are causing the vibrations, motor mounts should be a top priority on the checklist.

This is probably not a problem to consider. Engine mounts are responsible for supporting the engine’s weight and partially absorbing bumps, corners, and other irregularities.

Engine mounts for the K20 are more of a routine maintenance item. They are components that degrade over time. However, engine mounts are frequently overlooked as a source of engine vibrations.

The fact that we’re discussing engine mounts demonstrates the K20’s dependability. We’ll skip the symptoms section because this is primarily about the vibrations.

K20 Engine Mount Replacement Cost

The K20 mounts are quite affordable, typically costing less than $100 for both. You’ll need the proper tools for the job, but it’s a fairly straightforward do-it-yourself project otherwise.

Expect to pay between $200 and $400 for replacement at repair shops. Not bad for a maintenance item that shouldn’t require attention until 120,000 miles or more.

K20 Overall Reliability

This has been mentioned several times throughout the post. Nonetheless, we want to emphasize how reliable the K20 engine is. It should have no significant issues on the road to 200,000 miles or more. Certain K20 owners will not encounter any of the issues discussed in this post.

Simultaneously, it’s uncommon for an engine to exceed 200,000 miles without encountering a few issues along the way. The same concept should apply to K20 reliability. Failures are possible and almost certainly will occur at some point.

A large part of the K20’s reliability is determined by how well it is maintained. Appropriate oil weights and regular oil changes are arguably the most critical components of basic maintenance.

Certain reliability is simply a matter of chance. Regardless, if you maintain your K20 engine properly, it should have a trouble-free 200,000+ mile life.

Honda K20 Common Problems & Reliability Summary

The Honda K20 is a venerable engine that has endured for a reason. While it has seen its share of updates, the engine has remained consistent in terms of quality and reliability.

Certain models and engine configurations may be more or less susceptible to the issues discussed in this post. To summarize, is the Honda K20 reliable? Yes.

However, all engines are susceptible to faults on occasion, and the K20 is no exception. Three of the more prevalent issues are oil leaks from the front main seal, cam lobe galling, and worn engine mounts.

There are numerous other ad hoc issues that may arise on the K20. This is particularly true for early K20 variants, as age and mileage have a detrimental effect on any engine. Regardless, the K20 is expected to have a long life and an above-average level of reliability.

What are your thoughts on the Honda K20 Engine? Leave a comment and inform us.

Up Next: Honda J32 3.2 V6 Engine: The Ultimate Guide

Leave a Comment