1991 Civic Wagon--repair it or junk it?

Hi all,

I have a 1991 Civic wagon (purchased new) that I’ve been very diligent over the years in repairing on the rare occasions when it’s needed repairs, but I’m coming to the realization that maybe it’s time to say goodbye.

Up until 2007, this car needed nothing but routine maintenance (except for the leaky head gasket which we have not fixed, but has not gotten any worse since it was discovered 100K miles ago). But in 2007, we paid $2100 in repairs for a new clutch, radiator, front seats, rear door lift struts, axles and CV joints. It didn’t need any repairs in 2008. So far this year, we’ve spent $800 on new muffler, radiator hoses, thermostat, blower motor resistor, and front sway bushings. Now the car won’t start (except by compression) and needs a new clutch bracket ($390) and a new brake master cylinder ($325).

So, the big question–should we put more money into it or say goodbye?



When a car gets this old, things are going to start to wear out/fail. And unless you can do the repairs yourself, the cost of these repairs can add up quickly.

I know of the problem with the clutch pedal bracket under the dash cracking, causing the clutch pedal to be inoperative. And the fix for this is to get under the dash and weld the crack. But you probably don’t have a welder, right? Same thing with the brake master cylinder. Not only does it require replacing, but the entire brake system must be bled afterwards. Do you know how to bleed the brake system?

With the head gasket leak, and with all the other things you mention, if you’re paying someone else for these repairs, and for any other repairs in the future, it’s time to say goodbye. But don’t junk it! Sell it as a repairable on Craigs List. At least this way you’ll get something for it.


The car has served you well all these years; I think it’s time to say goodbye. In additon to the repairs, you also have to deal with an increasingly unreliable machine. The car owes you nothing.

I keep my cars a very long time as well; in 2007 I sold a 1988 Caprice still in good condition but I could see major repairs further down the road. My wife has a 15 year old Nissan, but 2 years from now it will likely need a number of major repairs. We will likely trade to a new one next year.

Three comments:

Repairs are almost always much cheaper than a new car. Consider the cost of a years worth of car payments to put the cost of repairs in perspective.

Where are you having the repairs done? Nearly always independent mechanics will be far cheaper and just as good as a dealer.

If you can afford it and if you really want a new car, then don’t try to justify it by cost. It’s your money.

Additionally it should be noted that cars, both used and new, are generally cheaper now as supplies are up and sales are down.

The big question is how new and low miles will your replacement be? If your plan is spending $4000 or less for a used car I would wholeheartly say keep fixing this one.

Nope, no welding skills, and for that matter, I have no car repair skills since my '81 civic. The newer (88 on up) ones are beyond me.

I have the repairs done at a local independent shop that generally does not recommend stuff that doesn’t NEED to be done.

I don’t want a new car, until the Honda Fit gets a 60+ MPG diesel anyway (which will never happen), so I don’t think I’m trying to justify a new car. I wouldn’t mind a new car’s safety features, but the payment and extra $$$ for insurance I can live without.

I’m thinking for now of trying to put $100-200 into an envelope every month and hopefully that will cover repairs, at least until the motor and/or transmission gives up.

I was thinking of a 1999 Ford Escort wagon as a replacement–they run about $2000 but then I’ve got a 10 year old car that will start needing repairs. So, it’s stick with the devil you know versus the one you don’t.

It will be hard to give up it’s capacity