Just bought a 2013 Honda Civic EX & after.

Tiny
EM7
  • MEMBER
  • 2013 HONDA CIVIC
  • 45 MILES
Just bought a 2013 Honda Civic EX & after driving it, had dizziness, sore, dry throat, face hot & red, along with pains in lungs & heart & a generalized sick feeling. I had the defroster & heater on most of the time when driving it. I know about exhaust fumes & engine gases, such as carbon monoxide & nitrous oxides & immediately did some research on the internet & found out these symptoms were connected with these engine gases, with the most obvious problem being the nitrous oxides.
I read that when the catalytic converter does its job, it makes more nitrous oxide in the process. So, the problem is, why are these gases coming into the car cabin mainly thru the defroster & however else.
It is particularly frustrating since this is a brand new car. Can you please give me your take on this problem & what I can do to fix it. Thanks.
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Monday, March 11th, 2013 AT 7:05 AM

12 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Before you blame it on the exhaust system, try sitting in the car for a while without running the engine. If you still feel sick, blame it on the interior fabric.

I ran into a similar situation about ten years ago with a woman from Stevens Point, WI. Her throat was seriously burned in a house fire, and that made her extremely sensitive to the exhaust coming in through the fresh air vent from the cars in front when she was in traffic, but she found too that it was the interior of her car that she had just bought. After extensive research into her sensitivity, she wrote a book about her findings. Sorry that I don't remember her name or the name of the book.

The exhaust systems of most cars built since the '96 models are so extremely clean that you can suck on the tail pipe and live to tell about it. Basically you'll get bored is all.
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Monday, March 11th, 2013 AT 7:56 AM
Tiny
13CIVIC
  • MEMBER
Can I ask if you ever found out the cause of that problem with your car? I have a 2013 Civic EX and the same thing is happening. The car is less than five months old and my husband and I are having the same exact symptoms when we drive the car: flushed face, dizzy, headaches, feeling out of it/spacey, chest tightness, sore throat. We also have high blood pressure after driving in the car and a metallic taste in the mouth. There is a slight smell of chemical/metallic funk that is absorbed by our clothing we wear inside the car, too. We're scared to drive it, as the last time we did--which was on the way to the dealership to have it looked at--my husband ended up in the ER with cardiac and neurological symptoms. Really scary, and CO meters don't seem to pick it up.

Did you ever find out what was causing the leak/what the leak was (what kind of chemical(s))? Was it resolved?
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Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 AT 8:03 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Hi 13Civic. Hope you get a reply from EM7. This is about the fourth or fifth case I've heard of but the other cars were years older. All of them were Hondas. It has to be related to the fabric. Seems to me someone figured out it was the headliner, but I don't know that for a fact or what the fix is. In at least one case the dealer bought the car back.
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Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 AT 9:18 PM
Tiny
13CIVIC
  • MEMBER
Thanks for your reply, Caradiodoc. That's good to know. I don't think it's related to the fabric of the car, as sitting in the car without it on does not produce the same awful physical sensations that take hours to go away. Yet, when the car is turned on (even just idling), it's like the Twilight Zone within minutes. Very scary. Thinking of getting a state-certified and licensed environmental air tester who specializes in car fluid detection to test the cabin's air while off and then again while on to see what's actively coming in from under the hood and/or under the car into the cabin. That would at least identify what's made us so sick. We'll see how the mechanics do in the meantime in trying to diagnose what's happening.
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Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 AT 9:55 PM
Tiny
OAMAD
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13CIVIC and EM7 did you ever find out what was wrong with your Honda?

I have an Acura Mdx 01 that just starting giving me health concerns. My symptoms are similar including burning sensation and irritation of mouth, throat and lungs, dizziness, headaches, chest tightness and pain, with persistent cough. I get a chemical type slight odor when driving car. It doesn't matter if the windows are open or closed, AC on or off.

My symptoms are very similar to intoxication, poisoning, chemical buzz. They appear very quickly once I start driving car and take hours to go away. Every day I drive car I feel sick.

The engine runs fine with no apparent exhaust or oil leaks.

I have been trying to find the cause for 6 months with no luck.

CARADIODOC do you know what was the issue with the headliner?

I appreciate any assistance!
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Monday, May 29th, 2017 AT 11:50 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
I can only share what I learned from the person I worked with. The comment about nitrogen oxide is not correct. That gas was blamed for acid rain years ago. It is caused by burning fuel at very high temperatures. That is why diesel engines are the biggest contributor. That gas will cause burning eyes and nose. With gas engines, nitrogen oxide is reduced or eliminated by using exhaust gas recirculation, (EGR valve). That puts inert exhaust gas into the cylinders. By partially-filling them with that, there is less room for fresh air and fuel, so less heat is generated.

Starting with '96 models, all cars and light trucks have the "on-board-diagnostics, version 2", (OBD2) emissions system. The exhaust from them is so clean, you can suck on the tail pipe and live to tell about it. If the catalytic converters are working properly, the exhaust is carbon dioxide and water vapor. Typically you'll see water dripping from the tail pipe or the drain hole at the back of the muffler.

There have been anecdotal stories for years about people becoming sick from the special gasoline formulations required in some parts of the country. The politicians create one problem when trying to solve another problem.

I have a hard time believing the exhaust is the cause of the problem because you're breathing the exhaust from the car in front of you, especially when in slow-moving or stop-and-go traffic. The common factor in all of these complaints is the manufacturer. If the cause of the sickness is the gas, the complaints should come from people with all different car brands.

If you suspect fumes are entering the passenger compartment from the engine area, I would entertain a notion to do a miniature version of wind tunnel testing. Part of the OBD2 emissions system includes a means to collect fuel vapors so they don't get released into the atmosphere, and a means to monitor that system. The Engine Computer can detect very small leaks that we would never find with a visual inspection. To address that, the industry came up with "smoke machines". They generate a white, non-toxic smoke that can be injected, then we watch for where it sneaks out. I would be tempted to try to use that to see where the smoke can be made to blow into the passenger compartment. There's only two places I can think of. One is all cars with factory-installed air conditioning have a drip pan for the humidity that condenses out of the cooled air, and a drain tube in front of the firewall to get rid of that water. There's usually a 4"-long rubber hose with a 90 degree bend hanging down, and little air can flow in there.

The second place is the air inlet for the heater system. The only fumes that might come off the engine are from vaporizing oil that has leaked out previously. To prevent those fumes from going into the inlet vent, there's a long rubber weather seal attached to the rear edge of the bottom of the hood. I'd look for that to be missing on a car that was repaired after a crash.

None of my potential suspects should apply to new cars that have never been damaged. My observations are based on logic, and we all know that doesn't always pan out. Hopefully someone will post a better solution.
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Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 AT 1:20 PM
Tiny
OAMAD
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Caradiodoc, thank you for your reply.

I agree I do not think my problem is related to exhaust nor engine fumes. If I smell tailpipe and hot engine I don't get sick. Everything smells normal.

At startup I do get fuel smell from engine and tailpipe but them it goes away after car warms up. Do you know why this happens?

I feel my odorless toxic fumes are coming from interior of car but only when car is in motion. It seems car motion and air flow agiates some kind of toxic dust from within dash or perhaps headliner.

What material is the headliner? Can it decompose and release chemical fumes?

Is there anything within dash that could be toxic besides coolant and refrigerant?

I really feel like some glue or resin is decomposing releasing a toxic chemical that becomes worse with engine heat and cabin air flow.

You mentioned someone else had issues with their headliner.
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Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 AT 4:23 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
My original reply goes back to someone I worked with on this before 2008. Her car was a few years old by that time. It seems to me she had the head liner removed and that reduced the effects. That was an unusual case though because due to a fire she was in, she was overly-sensitive to things in her house too.

I remember reading an article about "off-gasing" of some synthetic materials, and it had to do with soft products like fabric upholstery and foam seat cushions. No mention was made of plastic parts. Adhesives would stop giving off fumes once it was fully-cured. That could take a few months, but many of these complaints involved much older cars.

I've never heard of anyone becoming sick from antifreeze fumes. AC refrigerant will vaporize instantly, then sink to the lowest level. If you were to breathe it, the concern would be lack of oxygen, not that the refrigerant is toxic.
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Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 AT 4:37 PM
Tiny
OAMAD
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I too am hyper-sensitive to chemical odors and fumes. AC refrigerant and antifreeze also get me sick but they have a distinct smell so easy to detect.

Does any part of interior or exterior of car contain fiberglass or asbestos dust?
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Wednesday, May 31st, 2017 AT 9:41 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
The only thing made from asbestos was brake linings, but that went away in the '70s or early '80s. Even then it was not as hazardous as the lawyers on tv would have you believe. Asbestos under a microscope has little barbs or hooks that cause the fibers to attach to your lungs. When it was used for brake linings, and for clutch discs, the fibers that broke free got ground down by the brake drums and rotors and flywheels. Those hooks got ground down too so the fibers could be coughed up. There was no such thing as brake squeal when asbestos was used for brake linings. That problem started when we switched to other materials.

I'm not aware of anything in a car made of fiberglass. Making parts from that is very labor-intensive since parts have to be hand-assembled. Instead, dash pads and door panels can be injection-molded very quickly and to very repeatable tolerances with plastic. You may find fiberglass used for rear spoilers and some exterior trim panels, but it is always finished off with a gel coating. If a part were to break, it could give off fibers, but I've never heard of that being considered hazardous material. The worst thing is it causes itching when it gets on your skin.
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Wednesday, May 31st, 2017 AT 10:17 PM
Tiny
FRUSTRATED2007
  • MEMBER
So I bought a 2007 Toyota FJ cruiser last Oct from a smoker. Dumb I know. I have tried to clean every inch of the truck with Dawn soap and a plastic scrub pad. Its better but still I smell some smoke and after an hour I get a metallic taste on my tongue. I have even removed the headliner twice to clean with my carpet cleaner hand attachment. I left the soap on the first time and them I could also smell the detergent too which was worse than the smoke, so I removed it last weekend and did a hot water extraction until it was clean and free of soap bubbles. The taste seems chemical. I even wondered if they had cooked METH in the truck The first cleaning had a red tint to the waste water. Red iodine is a component of Meth production. But by now, after all the cleaning it should be gone.
I had never considered exhaust gas as a culprit. It has 211,000 miles. It runs great and has no codes. Fuel trims are all good and I see no signed diagnostically of any air leaks. I find I need to lower both side windows at least 1" to let fresh air in while driving. I would find it hard to believe engine air could come up the AC drain line. The air box is usually pressurize from the blower and pushing air out the hose, not drawing in. Unless the location has a Bernoulli effect when the fan is on. But air coming in from the windshield vents is a real possibility. No loss of fluids or leaking can be seen. I wonder about the headliner off gassing when the sun hits the roof. But my symptoms are similar. Flushed face, dizziness, metal taste, sinuses irritated but not draining. Much like a menthol effect of opening the sinuses. I love the truck but I will have to sell it if I cannot figure this out.
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Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 AT 12:46 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Sorry, I don't have any answers other than what I already mentioned. For emissions testing starting with all '96 models, part of the test consists of placing the vehicle in a sealed room, then testing the air after a certain period of time. They're looking for fuel vapor sneaking out of the gas tank, but I seem to recall they were also looking for pollutants from any other sources, to include plastic panels and fabric. Once the EPA is done with that, who is to say the manufacturer doesn't switch to a different adhesive for carpet on doors and other trim panels?

We've also heard horror stories about people becoming sick from the additives in gasoline in some parts of the country. Blame that on the ill-informed politicians. We all know to avoid buying gas in southern Wisconsin. The politicians who demanded different formulations many years ago apparently think the exhaust stays there and doesn't blow over to Michigan
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Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 AT 4:20 PM

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