1997 Honda Civic Overheating

I own a 1997 Honda Civic EX. Lately the car has been getting hot, mainly when I am at a stop. I have taken to dealer and they tell me that thermostat, relay, fans, water pump all look good. They have bled the cooling system and haven’t found any leaks in the radiator and also say that it is not a head gasket. Yesterday it started getting hot, so I parked and let it run with the hood up…as soon as it started to warm up the fan would kick on, but it would not cool down. The only thing that seems to cool it down is moving or turning on the heat. Please help, I’m at a loss!!

How hot is it getting and what indications are you looking at?

I like Hello wonder what indications of heat are you seeing. Just off hand I would suggest a possible water pump issue.

At this age of the car, I would get a new radiator if I were you. I once had a car that had everything check out fine. The problem was that over the years the radiator’s interior passages had become clogged and the front of the radiator had been damaged from road debris to the point where it didn’t cool as effectively as it should.

When the car is getting hot are the cooling fans kicking in??? If not it’s the relay or the fans themselves. If they are turning on but the car is still getting hot then it’s either the pump or the radiator.

The temp gauge inside the car will get right below the red, has been in the red about 4-5 times (at these times I have pulled off the road and let it cool down). The car is close to 170,000-so dealer told me to go ahead and have the timing belt and water pump replaced (since it will need it soon anyway and to see if the pump is the issue). Guess I should go ahead and look into having the radiator replaced at the same time? Is there any way you can tell if the radiator is “clogged” or is just a hit or miss? Yes, the cooling fans kick on when the vehicle is getting hot/hot. Thanks for your comments!


First get the timing belt and water pump replaced. When was the last time you had a new water pump? Shop around for a good price. I saved a lot of money on my timing belt/water pump by going to a non-dealer mechanic. You will probably also need a new crank shaft seal, so factor that in to the price with the timing belt/water pump job. If your car still overheats after that, then it is time to get a new radiator.

“Is there any way you can tell if the radiator is “clogged” or is just a hit or miss?”

It is hit or miss. You can’t really tell because there are still other paths for the water to take through the radiator. I guess you could get the radiator tested, but it isn’t worth the added expense.

Thanks for the advice! I will set up appt. to replace timing belt/water pump- hopefully that will do it! If not, then I will try the radiator. Thanks again!

Can you tell if the engine cooling fan(s) are coming on before the temperature begins to climb; or, do they wait until the temperature gets near the red mark before they come on? If the cooling fan(s) is waiting for the temperature to rise to the red mark, first, then the coolant temperature sensor may be faulty, or, the engine temperature sending unit (to the dash gage) may be faulty.
So, the question is, which one is correct? A radiator shop, or a mechanic, can use an actual, hand held, thermometer to determine which is which. The dealer’s mechanic should have done this, but, did they? I doubt it they did.

I agree with the others on the water pump, but considering the age of the vehicle, you should go ahead and replace the radiator cap.

Also would recommend cam seal & timing component kit, which usually includes: Timing belt, timing belt tensioner, idler pulley & balance shaft belt

Aren’t there TWO fans??? If ONE isn’t working then there’s a problem isn’t there.

I had a similar issue twice on a 95 Civic at 140k miles and then 220k miles. It was the radiator flow was not great so they replaced it the first time. They stated flow was not great through the radiator(I am guessing a pressure test?). Replacement of radiator fixed the issue.

The second time I was waiting for the engine to die as I was sick of car however it never got quite to red nor caused any run problems.

I’ve had all the same issues. Honda has 189K miles. All parts have been replaced. Water pump, radiator, timing belt, cam kit, radiator cap (2x’s)(higher pressure cap- 15lbs), thermostat (2x’s), temp switch on thermostat housing. Vehicle continues strangley to push coolant out into reservoir (mind you radiator is not being overfilled). After cooldown, cap is slowly opened and a substantial amount of air pressure blows through the overflow hose to the reservoir bubbling through the coolant- much more than light pressure (as when the car was new without this problem). The radiator inside shows coolant just up to or below the top of the cooling tubes /fins of the core. When I turn on the fan system for the heater/air conditioning system the radiator fan does not kick on. When I turn the vehicle off when the radiator fan does or finally comes on, on its own, it shuts off as well- I thought electric radiator fans were supposed to keep running, if necessary, after the vehicle is shut off? When I turn the key to the ignition ‘on’ position the fan turns back on. Another bizarre detail- the core of the previous radiator was not blocked at all. The exhaust is not blowing out any coolant and the coolant tested negative for hydrocarbons. Am I looking at the relay or computer for the problem? signed ‘Ultimately perplexed’ - oh, and I have run the engine on start up to burp out any trap air in the cooling system with the radiator cap off. HELP!

Also, look at the bottom of the radiator. If you see a lot of green stuff or white color, you may need a new radiator. With the shroud pulled back, check the fins. If any of them are missing, the radiator isn’t working very well.

No issues there either. If there was, it wouldn’t be a problem now anyhow for I installed a radiator. Thanks for your suggestion. Any other possibilities?

I am having the same problem with my car…97 Honda Civic. Were you able to get the problem fixed? If so, what was the problem? Any help would be appreciated…thanks.