FCW System Failed: What Does it Mean?

If you’re seeing an FWC system failed alert on your car’s dashboard, it means there is a problem with your car’s forward collision warning (FCW) system. The forward collision warning system is designed to let you know when you’re about to smack into something when you’re driving. 

What to do when you see the FCW system failed alert

If you see a FCW system failed alert on your dashboard, there’s no need to panic or pull over. Your car is totally safe to drive. 

So carry on and head to your destination with confidence.

The only impact an FCW system failure has on your car is that you won’t receive a warning (lights, sounds, haptics) if you’re about to get into a collision.

How soon do you need to have your FCW system fixed?

You can drive indefinitely without the FCW system. This safety feature is basically an added layer of driver safety that alerts you in the event you lose concentration while driving. 

Driving without your FCW system generally won’t impact the driveability or efficiency of the car. Nor will it cause any damage to other systems in your car.

However, I recommend getting the problem fixed sooner rather than later. A forward collision warning system is a great safety feature that has been proven to reduce rear-end collisions. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did a study on these systems and found that a FCW system helped reduce crashes by 27%.

Sure, you may think you are a safe driver (you probably are!) and you don’t need  your car to beep and light up if you’re about to hit something… But it’s great to have a safety net. 

Think about it…  nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to get into a car accident.

A forward collision warning system is great because it gives you a reminder when you need it most: on a rare occasion when you might not be paying attention to the road.

Let’s take a look at the various reasons why your FCW system failed.

Honda FCW System

Before we get into it, I want to quickly touch on different car makes.

If you’re reading this article, chances are you drive a Honda. 

I know this because the phrase FCW system failed is the specific message Honda vehicles use to alert drivers that their forward collision warning systems are not working.

Other car manufacturers use forward collision warning systems, but they call their systems by different names. For example, Audi calls their system Pre Sense, Toyota calls their system Pre Collision System (PCS), and Volvo has City Safety.

While this article uses Honda’s terminology, most manufacturers’ FCW systems basically do the same thing. The high-level information in this article applies to most car frontal collision warning systems.

Causes of FCW System Failed Alert

So what might be causing the failure of your FCW system?

If you’re lucky, the cause could be as simple as a dirty sensor or camera. 

But given that these safety systems are quite sophisticated, the cause can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint. Here are some of the most common reasons you’re seeing an FCW system failed alert….

Dirt, Mud, and Snow

A very common cause of FCW system failure is a dirty camera or sensor. Seriously…it’s just that simple. 

One of my friends received a FCW system failure alert on his Honda Accord because a glob of bird poop was perfectly plopped on the spot where the camera is on his windshield! (That bird has got some enviable aim!) My buddy cleaned the poo off, and the alert went away after he drove the car for a bit..

Dirty sensors and cameras can prevent the system from accurately detecting obstacles. To maintain optimal performance, keep your sensors clean and free of debris.

Bad Weather

Weather conditions such as heavy rain, fog, and snow can impair the FCW system’s operation. 

Think about it this way –  your FCW system sensors are like your eyes. If you can’t see the road in front of you because it is snowing hard, neither can your FCW system’s sensors! 

That said, it only makes sense that poor visibility conditions can cause the system to fail and you might receive the FCW system failed alert on your dashboard.

Physical Damage

Accidents or impacts can cause damage to the FCW system components, leading to system failure. 

Even a minor collision can damage a sensor and trigger a FCW system failed alert. Maybe you pulled into your garage just a bit too far and bumped into some of the crap you have stored in your garage. 

If the precise point of impact happens to be one of your FCW system sensors, you might have damaged it.

Or maybe one of those rocks that flies off the back of a dirty-ass dump truck on the highway makes a direct hit on one of your FCW sensors (instead of cracking your windshield for a change!).

Windshield Replacement

Speaking of windshields, many Honda FCW systems use a camera mounted behind the rearview mirror on your windshield. 

If you recently had a windshield replacement, the camera may have been disconnected and caused a FCW system failure. You may have to reset your car’s safety systems after a windshield replacement. 

A good windshield replacement company should do this for you, but just in case they don’t… You now know this could be the reason for your FCW system failure.

Gremlins 

Yes, you read that correctly. I said gremlins. I’ve talked to some Honda owners who have had the FCW system failure alert light up on their dashboard along with the traction control light AND lane departure warning (among other things). 

Sometimes sophisticated vehicle systems share circuits and things get tricky. Check out this thread of frustrated Honda owners dealing with this issue on the Ody Club Forum.  

A quick connection to a good OBD scanner may reveal the exact source of your problem. 

And if this doesn’t help, a visit to the stealership or an experienced Honda mechanic may be your only hope.

Software updates

One possible fix to repair these “gremlin” problems is a software update. Just like our phones or computers, the software that runs computers in our cars sometimes needs to be updated. 

Depending on your car, you may be able to update its software yourself. If you don’t have this ability, you might need to visit a qualified mechanic.

Staying informed about software updates and installing them promptly can keep your FCW system (and other software systems in your car) functioning optimally. 

Understanding the FCW System

Now that you know some of the possible reasons why your FCW system failed warning came on, here’s a little more information about FCW systems and how they work.

The FCW system is a safety feature designed to help you avoid frontal collisions (duh). It’s a cool safety technology that basically keeps an extra eye on the road in front of you. 

If it detects an object in your path (another car, pedestrian, biker, etc.), it alerts you by providing visual, audible or even haptic warnings.

The FCW system works using cameras, radar, or a combination of both to monitor the distance to the vehicle or object in front of you. By constantly analyzing this information, it can detect when the distance is becoming dangerously short or when closing speed is too high. 

Based on these data, the system then generates alerts to remind you to take action and avoid a potential collision.

Here’s a video from Honda that shows how the system works:

It is important to remember that the FCW system isn’t your ticket to pay less attention to the road. You still need to drive safely! The system is in place to back you up in the rare event you  have a momentary lapse in concentration while driving.

Like I said earlier, nobody ever wakes up in the morning and plans on getting into a car accident (at least I hope not!).

If you lose concentration or become distracted, the FCW system just might bring you back to focus and help you avoid a collision. And that’s a great thing for you and whatever you just avoided colliding with!

Conclusion

If you’re seeing a FCW system failed alert on your dashboard, there’s no need to panic or stop driving. Your car is still OK to drive. A common reason why your FCW system is failing is dirty or damaged sensors. If cleaning or repairing your sensors doesn’t work, you may need a software update. If none of these things work, a visit to a qualified mechanic might be in order. Remember… don’t ignore an FCW system failed alert. Your FCW system acts as an extra set of eyes on the road and gives you an alert if you’re about to get into a forward collision. You only need this system when you need it and when you need it, you really need it! Drive safe!

About the author

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Kevin

Hi I'm Kevin and I'm a car guy. I first got the bug as a kid when I helped my dad rebuild the motor in his 1969 Mustang. I shadowed him for countless hours doing all kinds of hands-on work in the garage. As I got older, I started working on my own cars - from new transmissions to stereos to fine detailing. I started this website to share some of the things I've learned over the years.

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