Honda Civic tuning

"Turning your Civic into a Type R beater!"


The Honda Civic remains one of the most popular Japanese cars available.

As a result has a wide selection of tuning and styling parts available for it.

The following mods are usually carried out by our members. Just decide how far you want to go before you begin.

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Best mods for your Civic

  1. Brake upgrades are important on the Civic, the stock setup is ok but can be dramatically improved.
  2. Handling improvements come from sway bars, coilovers and performance dampers.
  3. A tuning box, piggyback ECU or Hondata ECU upgrade will increase power and it's a good idea to get the VTEC to kick in earlier.
  4. Intake and Exhaust - Note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by removing the restriction.
  5. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - forced induction is the most efficient approach to increase air supply, allowing you to burn more fuel and make more power. It is one of the most costly upgrades but provides the best gains - a turbocharged K20 has been done a few times.
  6. Weight reduction improves handling and performance.

Typical stage 1 mods: Exhaust, Panel air filter, Engine management (VTEC kicking in earlier), lighter flywheel

Typical stage 2 mods often include: Ported and polished head, fuel injector & fuel pump upgrades,

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Engine balancing, forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), competition cams.

When building a car each maker typically decides how to produce power from the engine according to two methods.

  • A large engine with relatively low engine speed
  • A smaller capacity engine with a higher engine speed.

Both engines burn similar amounts of fuel and offer similar performance and both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Honda opted for the latter high revving engine option and cleverly built a 2 phase engine which behaves very differently when the VTEC kicks in.

This is also the fun option if you like revvy high speed engines!

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums


The Honda Civic rates as the most popular tuner project car and enjoys a massive array of performance parts.

Guides to engines that fit in the Civic

We have actually updated our Civic engine swap article recently detailing the most popular engine swaps for the Civic with tips on probably one of the biggest performance gains.

Why Honda engines are special

Honda is able to extract phenomenal power figures from relatively small sized engines.

We frequently see 2-liter engines producing 200 BHP and 1.6 liter engines producing 160 bhp.

Honda's methodology includes a two-stage cam profile and a carefully balanced constructed engine.

The VTEC system is one of the most reliable engine control systems and essentially enables an engine to have two sets of characteristics. One at low revs (sub 4000 RPM) offers good fuel economy and torque, then another and over 4000 revs where the engine really comes alive and power spikes.

One of the most interesting divisions of Honda produce the Civic Type R variant of models which are essentially highly tuned "Race optimized" versions with carefully blue printed and balanced engines.

Unusually the components used to construct the engines induction system and exhaust are among the best available.

This means it can be difficult to find performance upgrades for these models that give a noticeable gain. Many aftermarket parts are only a little improvement on the factory settings.

Improve your Civic's handling

For the Civic, there are a lot of things you can do to improve the handling, and models like the Type R have a fine setup from the factory so although improvements are possible on that they will not be as significant on say a 1.5l version.

Most Hondas were not designed for the track and although they perform well it doesn't take much to greatly improve their cornering ability.

Try lowering the car around 30mm and fitting slightly stiffer suspension and you'll have less body roll and the car will feel more planted. Early models seem to be better with a 40mm drop at the front and 30mm at the rear.

Avoid the temptation to fit large 18 inch alloy wheels though, they really don't add to the performance or handling. You want to minimize your unsprung weight not increase it.

Suspension settings

Adding a few degrees of negative camber and a few degrees of toe-in or out on the front wheels can make a big difference in how the Civic handles. Then, adding a camber kit will allow for more adjustment and setup than with your stock set-up. Make sure your car is stable by turning your toe in or turn your toe out to improve cornering.

To keep the car from rolling, a sway bar only connects suspension links from one side to the other. This keeps the car from leaning to one side to the other.

You could indeed consider this an equivalent of adding extra "spring rate" to the car, which helps to make it more stable.

If the front end seems to roll too much, which is the case on many Civic's I've driven, you could add a bigger sway bar to stop it. This would work in the same way as hardening the springs, but it won't change the ride quality.

Coilovers and springs/dampers for the Civic

Also, coilovers (literally a coil spring over a shock) can be used to change the height and damping of the ride. They are usually made to very high standards and are the best way to make your Civic more stable.

When it comes to sping stiffness, it helps with cornering, but only up to a point. The goal here is to keep the bodyroll down. There is less grip and traction when there is a stiff spring towards the tire.

A car's ride height is set by its spring, and this is what we're trying to do.

Dampers stop a car from bouncing on the road. A car with just springs would bounce all over the place, so the damper stops this.

The best dampers let you set the compression (bound) and decompression rate (rebound) of the springs and dampers.

Further grip improvements

Grip also comes into play here though so if you have rubbish skinny low grip tires you'll end up locking up much sooner.

Tire technology has come a long way and there are many quality all-season performance tires to choose for your Civic but we recommend you stick to a branded tire as they last longer and maintain their performance throughout their lifespan.

Think of your stopping distance as a factor of braking power and grip and you'll get the idea to balance this out.

Civic Braking upgrades

Don't spend too much money on your brakes. You only need to stop the car, not change the earth's rotation.

Braking is frequently overlooked in tuning projects. Thankfully when it comes to Civic upgrades there are plenty of big brake conversion kits out there which dramatically cut your stopping distances.

The big problem on a track is heat build up so make sure you have race spec pads and a synthetic brake fluid or you'll end up sitting out the last few laps with cooked brakes.

Larger disks really do increase your braking feel and allow you to shed more speed in a shorter time.

Because the pad moves the heat from the brakes to the discs, the cooler the disc stays, the better. There are ways to improve the stopping power of a car, but you'll need to buy new calipers and pads to fit the bigger discs.

The discs and pads usually need to be changed. Because a bigger disc has more friction and spreads more heat, you will see an advantage right away when you use it.

The middle channel of the vented disc increases the surface to air ratio of the disc, which makes it cool faster and better.

Because they have holes in them, drilled discs help keep pads "clean and sharp." This is because they increase the air ratio and reduce gas vapor buildup between the pad and disc.

Larger discs mean better cooling, but they may need a different alloy wheel.

High-friction racing brakes use a high-temperature compound that doesn't work as well at lower temperatures, making it more difficult for the road and making more noise.

Due to the fact that racing brake pads only work when they are very hot, they should not be used on public roads, where braking is normally done with cold pads or in short bursts.

Best Civic Engine mods

Internal engine mods should be high up on your list if you are serious about power gains. With some clever mapping it is possible to get the vtec to kick in lower down the RPM range.

The solid Honda engines are pretty reliable even when pushed hard and we have seen Turbo conversions on stock engines without issue! You just have to watch your fuelling and compression ratios.

Cryo treating the engine will strengthen the parts and reduce friction proving to be a relatively cheap way to boost reliability in your tuning project.

Fast road cams also work well but the VTEC performance cams can be hard to track down. Don't forget to uprate your fuelling if you are hiking up the power as you'll end up running lean if you are not careful with potentially disastrous consequences.

However a thriving aftermarket has sprung up of specialists offering tuning parts for all Civics including the Civic Type R engines, which enhance the already high levels of performance.

There are also companies producing an supercharger kits and turbo conversions which almost double the power output of these engines.

Smaller engined Honda Civics are good prospects for an engine swap or conversion to one of the larger type R engines. There are more parts and tuning options available to the larger engine size.

Specialists offer an in house Civic engine conversion service and source suitable donor engines, and, also provide additional tuning options on those installations. See our forums for details on what our members have done to their Civics and to find out who is worth dealing with in your area.

Weight reduction on your Civic

The Type R models used to be stripped out, the modern ones have lots of refinements and comfort fitted. Rip out everything you don't need to reduce weight.

Cutting weight is the cheapest power gain you can make. The car will handle better, accelerate faster and stop more quickly if it is lighter.

Source a carbon fibre body panel set, door hood and trunk and make sure you have light wheels. The rear seats and carpets can also come out leaving you with a really nifty track day car.

Please join our other Honda Civic and Type R owners in our members' forum to discuss the many Honda Civic tuning options, problems, and styling ideas. You can also browse our tuning and styling articles using the menu links across the top.

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Your Constructive comments on this article

One Response to “Tuning tips for the Honda Civic.”

  1. Dilshan says:

    I’m using a HONDA RS 1.7L 2002. Can some help me to give some tips to improve performance

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