FCW System Failed (What It Means and How to Fix It)

Imagine driving down the highway, listening to your favorite tunes, and suddenly, the message “FCW System Failed” pops up on your Honda’s dash. Is your car about to break down? Are you in danger?

Fortunately, you can relax. While seeing an FCW System Failed message can be alarming, it’s not necessarily a cause for immediate concern. In fact, there are a few reasons why this message might appear, and most of them are relatively easy to fix.

So, let’s take a closer look at what the FCW System is, why it might fail, and what you can do about it.

What Is a FCW System?

FCW or “Forward Collision Warning” is a driver assistance feature equipped on most modern vehicles. It uses sensors in front of the vehicle to determine when there is an obstacle in the road ahead. The obstacle could be another car, a pedestrian, or debris in the middle of the road.

While Honda calls this system Forward Collision Warning, other manufacturers may have their own names for this type of system. Examples include:

  • Acura: AcuraWatch
  • Audi: Pre Sense
  • Ford: Ford Co-Pilot360
  • Mazda: Forward Obstruction Warning
  • Nissan: Intelligent Forward Collision Warning
  • Subaru: EyeSight
  • Toyota: Toyota Safety Sense
  • Volkswagen: Front Assist
  • Other brands: Forward Collision Alert or other

How the FCW System Works

what is forward collision warning system
Credit: Honda

When you’re driving your Honda, the Forward Collision Warning system is always working to keep you safe. It utilizes sensors, typically located in the lower front grill or near the top of the windshield, to monitor the traffic and road conditions ahead of you. The primary goal of the FCW system is to alert you to potential collisions and help prevent accidents before they occur.

As you drive, the FCW system continuously scans for vehicles in front of you. It takes into account your speed, the distance to the vehicle ahead, and the relative speed of both vehicles. If the system detects that a collision is imminent, it will alert you with visual and auditory warnings, allowing you to react and take necessary actions to avoid the accident.

To ensure optimal performance, the FCW system relies on a clean and unobstructed view of the road. This means that keeping the front of your vehicle (especially your front grill and windshield) free of dirt, debris, and other obstructions so the sensors can maintain a clear “line of sight” for the system.

Not all FCW systems are created equally. FCW systems are implemented differently across various manufacturers. Some FCW systems use cameras, while others use radar or lidar to detect obstacles. Each implementation has its own pros and cons, and no system is perfect at detecting obstacles, nor immune to identifying false positives.

Causes of FCW System Failure

FCW failed animation
FCW System Failed message

There are many reasons why a forward collision warning system could fail. Here are a few of the most common reasons you could see this warning illuminate on your dash.

1) Sensor Obstruction

One of the primary reasons behind FCW system failures is sensor obstruction. The FCW system relies on sensors, such as radar or lidar, to detect the distance and relative speed between vehicles.

If these sensors are blocked due to rain, snow, dirt, or other debris, they may fail to provide accurate readings. This could result in false warnings or missed collision risks.

You can minimize the chance of a FCW system failure by regularly washing your car. This is especially important if you’re driving through a storm after it hasn’t rained in a while.

Driving behind other vehicles after a fresh rain means you’ll have a lot more dirt, mud, and other road debris on the vehicle. Don’t forget to clean the inside of your windshield as well. 

2) Software Glitches

Software plays a critical role in processing the data from FCW sensors and generating timely warnings. However, software glitches or bugs can occasionally impact the system’s performance. Coding errors, compatibility issues, or insufficient testing and quality control during software development can lead to inaccurate warnings, false alerts, or even complete system failures.

If you think there is a software bug in your FCW system, check with your dealership to see if there is a software update available. You might receive an email or a letter in the mail about a software update. Some vehicles will actually tell you onscreen in the infotainment system.

Most software updates are free. Severe software bugs may result in recalls, which are always free to repair if the vehicle was sold within 15 years.

3) Inclement Weather

Weather conditions can pose significant challenges for the FCW system. Heavy rain, fog, snowstorms, or even extreme sunlight can interfere with the system’s sensors, compromising their ability to accurately detect potential collisions.

Reduced visibility and unpredictable road conditions can make it difficult for the FCW system to operate effectively, potentially leading to false alerts or missed warnings.

Many FCW systems are designed turn off temporarily if they see too much noise or erroneous readings in their signals. Wait for the storm to clear and see if functionality returns to normal. You may have to restart the car for the system to work normally again.

4) Improper Installation

The proper installation of FCW system components is crucial for their optimal performance. If sensors or cameras are incorrectly positioned or not calibrated correctly during installation, it can result in inaccurate readings and unreliable warnings.

Improper installation can lead to false alerts, reduced sensitivity, or even complete system failure, rendering the FCW system ineffective in detecting and preventing collisions.

It’s quite common for FCW systems to need a calibration after a windshield replacement. Skipping the calibration may result in FCW failures. Although rare, it is also possible for a FCW system to be installed incorrectly from the factory.

5) Lack of Regular Maintenance and Updates

Honda FCW system

This last one may not be an issue now, but could affect you years down the road. Nobody really knows what roads are going to look like in 10 years, or what systems could be in place that make current driver assist technologies obsolete.

Over time, the FCW system may require software updates or recalibration to ensure optimal functionality. Failure to perform regular maintenance and software updates can result in outdated systems that may not be able to handle new road conditions or evolving technology standards.

Outdated software can lead to glitches, reduced accuracy, or complete system failure. This could increase the risk of false positives or missed obstacles, putting vehicle safety at risk.

How to Reset the FCW System

Sometimes, resetting the FCW system can resolve minor issues. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the engine and remove the key from the ignition.
  2. Locate the FCW sensor. On Hondas, it is typically located in the lower front grille or behind the windshield.
  3. Clean the sensor area with a microfiber cloth to remove any debris or dirt. Be gentle, as you don’t want to damage the sensors.
  4. Wait for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Turn on the engine and check if the warning light has disappeared. If it’s still on, you may need to seek professional help.

Note: Resetting the FCW system may not work for all issues, but it’s always a good first step to take.

When to Seek Professional Help

If the FCW system continues to have issues despite resetting it and ensuring there’s no blockage at the sensor location, it’s time to get professional help. A mechanic can diagnose the issue, check the sensor connections, and determine if a component needs to be repaired or replaced.


Does My Car Have a FCW System?

Not all cars have a forward collision warning system. If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, check the sticker before you buy to know for sure. These systems now come standard on many models. 

If you bought a new vehicle within the past 5 years, it is much more likely that your vehicle has a forward collision warning system. The best way to know if your vehicle has a FCW system is to call the vehicle manufacturer and provide the VIN. Some dealerships may know this information as well.

The owner’s manual that came with the vehicle should have a list of which models and trims come with a FCW system. If you no longer have the owner’s manual for your vehicle, they are usually available for free online through the vehicle manufacturer’s website.

Can I Continue Driving My Car if the FCW System Fails?

While you can technically continue driving your car if the FCW system malfunctions, it’s not recommended. This system is an important safety feature that warns you of imminent collisions. Without it, you’re at a higher risk for accidents.

But if you’re not able to get it in the shop or dealership right away, drive with extra caution and awareness of your surroundings.

Does the Check Engine Light Relate to FCW System Issues?

The Check Engine Light (CEL) can illuminate for various reasons unrelated to the FCW system. However, it’s possible that a more significant issue could trigger both the CEL and FCW system failure.

The first thing you should do if notice your Check Engine light on is use an OBD2 scanner to check for fault codes (or have a mechanic do so). While it’s probably not related to the FCW System, diagnosing the cause should still be your goal.


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