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01-05 Civic Headgasket replacement and Timing Procedure

So I’m planning on replacing the Headgasket on my 04 Civic. That would be the first time i’m doing that myself since I’m only 19 years old (someone will help me of course). The only thing i am afraid of is the timing procedure because everyone is telling me that it’s an bad idea doing it without good knowledge but is it really that complicated? I’m driving with a blown Headgasket for months now (it never overheated). After a 60 mile drive coolant will start to get pushed out of the overflow reservoir (I already tried 3 different Radiator pressure caps). Unfortunately i don’t have the money to get it replaced professionally and i also think a $1700 Car isn’t worth doing so.

I’m apologizing for my bad English when i moved from Germany to the United States a year ago i was barely able to speak English, i hope you will understand.

It’s not that it’s complicated, but it’s one of those jobs where if you screw it up, you wreck the engine. So you just have to be really, really careful to do it right.

Do you know which engine your Civic has?

Also, you will probably need a special tool to hold the crank pulley in place while you crack the bolt off, and you will need a long breaker bar to get it off if you don’t have air tools or a powerful electric impact wrench. That thing’s on there tight.

Here’s a good video on doing a T-belt on a Civic with a D-series engine, which is one of the engines your car likely has.

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Your English is just fine.

I think this is a great way to learn to do your own repairs. Get yourself a decent manual for this car. Haynes or Chilton is OK, factory would be the best. Read the chapter that describes to job. Then read it again. Look on YouTube for someone who filmed this. Mostly so you can SEE what they are doing and skip their mistakes!

Be careful, take your time. Use a checklist if it helps. Tools you might not have, you may be able to borrow from the free-loaner tool programs at local auto parts stores. Good Luck


Thank you all for replying so fast, the engine in my Civic is an D17A1. The guy who’s helping me has all the tools we need except that special honda breaker bar for the pulley. How much are those Handbooks?

Before you remove the timing-belt…mark the location of the gears. That way when you put the head back on you’ll have a reference point to line up the belt. I also suggest getting a new belt.

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$29 from Amazon for a Haynes

Your local library might have one if it is large enough. Might find a PDF online for less. Google helps here.

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The belt including waterpump was replaced 8000 Miles ago and since I’m broke i will use the same belt again. Thanks for the tip for making a reference point tho.

And take lots of pictures, wiring connections, vacuum lines, how accessories are mounted

Before you disconnect or unbolt it, take a picture of it.

No such thing as to many pictures, they really do help when putting it all back together.

I would also bag and tag all the bolts you take off, 1 bag valve cover bolts, 1 bag alternator mounting bolts, 1 bag ect. zip lock bags work great.

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There is another thing, everytime i start the car it wants to stall for like 3 seconds. I have to turn the ac on or turn the steering wheel in order to keep it running. That only happens when the engine is hot. Cold starts are fine. I already cleaned the throttle body and the IACV that only helped and solved the problem for 2 Days. After that the problem started to occur again. Could that be a side effect of an blown headgasket or a fuel system problem? When the Car is running it runs good no CEL whatsoever!

The Haynes manual, plus the instructions that came with the Aisin water pump/Mitsuboshi belt, helped me do the timing belt.

Getting the harmonic balancer off required some tools I did not yet own: a special tool to keep the balancer from rotating, plus a 38" long 3/4" drive breaker bar and 15.5" extension, and 3/4" drive 17mm socket for the bolt.

Along the way I replaced a motor mount that needed to come off, the drive belts, and I used a lot of PB Blaster and an overnight soak to get the alternator bolt loose enough to remove that drive belt. I adjusted the valves, too.

It was a big job and took the better part of two days. If I had been also replacing the head gasket, I would have needed one more day, after getting the head back from the machine shop.

When you’re young, or retired, and have more time than money and a healthy curiosity, it’s gratifying work. Good luck and please keep us informed.

I will thank you very much

How have you confirmed it is the head gasket? A bad one won’t usually allow a 60 mile driv before pushing fluid out. Have you pressure tested the system? You car is plenty old enough to have a partialy clogged radiator.

If you are doing this job then do NOT skip the portion where you take your cylinder head to a machine shop to be checked for “squareness”. Head gasket issues usually always involve overheating the engine. This will warp the cylinder head. A machine shop will check for this and cut the cylinder head to return it back to being square… I cannot over stress the importance of this, do not skip this part. It usually costs less than $100-150 to have it checked and or decked. After that, just follow the instructions in any good manual.

Replace every single seal under that timing cover… Camshaft, Front main seal, the complete water pump, balance shaft (if equipped)…etc…every seal that exists, don’t forget the valve cover gasket as well ( not under timing cover but…). Then you sit back and enjoy a job well done.


I’m pretty sure it’s the headgasket since my coolant smells like Gasoline. The Radiator is relatively new and i also flushed the cooling system. I don’t know why it only happens after around 60 Miles of driving.

I will of course check the head for warpage :slight_smile:

Before you go to all the trouble of tearing the engine apart, get this:

and test for combustion gasses in the coolant. If it turns green, then you need to replace the HG, and check the head for cracks. But if it doesn’t, then your problem may be caused by another issue that’s easier to fix.

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But why is my coolant smelling like gasoline? I mean you could be right since that is the only symptom of an blown headgasket. (No Milky Oil/White Smoke out of tailpipe)

Well, the smell is what would make me want to put the gas tester on the radiator. A tiny fuel leak that sprayed fuel on the overflow reservoir, or anywhere near it, would easily fool you into thinking the coolant smelled like gas. This is just a way to be sure of what you’re facing before you do a bunch of work and then discover the problem still exists after you’re finished.

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Yes you are right i guess i will pick up a combustion leak detector at advance or O’Reilly’s and let you all know what the result was.

Since the timing belt as currently installed is probably lines up correctly, make use of that info before removing it. Set it up to cyl 1 tdc on the compression stroke before doing anything else. Then mark the orientation of the camshaft, camshaft sprocket(s), and the crankshaft sprocket with white paint or white-out typists product. Good idea to also use a timing light to check where those marks fall at 1000 and 2000 rpm. They’ll have to line up in the same place afterward, otherwise the engine won’t run well. Make sure the existing timing belt, since you are re-using it, that it gets put on the same orientation btw.

When doing this job, suggest to remove anything that’s even slightly in the way. Make it easy on yourself. Remove the battery, air cleaner box, whatever possible that can help make it easier.

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Wow, I didn’t know you could get a leak tester so inexpensively, there has not been a car in our family in over 20 years that overheated and I have not had to replace a head gasket since the late 60s but I would buy that in a heartbeat if I had a problem.

My first repair job on a car was a head gasket on a 47 Fraser with a Continental flathead six. Used box wrenches because I didn’t have any sockets and borrowed a torque wrench and socket to put it back together. Cost me under $14 and that included the bottle of Indian Head shellac. Neighbor nad a cast steel table saw that I used to check for warpage, those old cast iron blocks and heads were very forgiving.