Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

1998 Honda CRV TSB 03-038

My neighbors offered me their 1998 Honda CRV with 108,000 miles for $4000. I called my mechanic and he said that this year was one of the years that there can be problems with the valves tightening and becoming seated which can be an expensive repair. I looked of line and saw discussion on Motor
Trends about this problem and a TSB technical service bulletin from Honda in 2003 and 2004 recommending the valve clearance be checked every 30,000. Altho the Honda owners manual says check valves at 105,000 only if noisy. Mechanic said he has had to do this repair on a few at under 100,000 but others have had no problem. Wondering if this has been a frequent problem especially since Honda issued a TSB? Would love to get the vehicle but no idea about how likely this problem shows up?

Just have your mechanic check the valve lash as a condition of sale. You will have to negotiate with your neighbor about who pays for this and it will probably need a new valve cover gasket and it is time consuming, about an hour so you are looking at about $100.

Also, this is 14 years old so it is due for its second timing belt, the first should have been done at 7 years. Most Honda dealers offer a package deal for the timing belt, water pump balance shaft belt, oil seals, valve cover gasket and fresh coolant for around $800. While everything is apart, checking the valve lash would be a good idea, but the only overlap is the valve cover gasket set so it isn’t that much of a savings.

I would suggest that you ask your neighbor if any of these services have been done. It could turn out that they have already done this and its a non issue right now.

Problem or not, the valve lash should be inspected every 30k miles on any car that uses mechanical valve lifters.
The factory recommendations of 100k miles+ is bogus. While it may sound good to the car owner maintenance-wise it’s not good for the health of the engine.

The recommendation about adjusting them only if they’re noisy is also bogus. While it’s true that a very noise valve lifter can be damaging to the valve train it’s the quiet ones that should be of the most concern as those are the ones that tighten up and cause burning of the valve faces and seats.

My brother’s car had great difficulty starting. It took several minutes of cranking.
The reason?
Low compression
The cause?
Valve lash was too small.
It started up instantly after adjusting the valves.
The factory service manual said to only check valve lash if the valves were noisey. They never were.

I am just home and checking the responses above and thanks for the suggestions. My neighbor did replace the timing belt and water pump last month. I did mention my concern about the valves and they took the vehicle to their mechanic this morning to have the valves adjusted ($250) so I hope that includes your suggestions and I hope the mechanic reports on the condition of the valves if any have low compression or are damaged. They also are fixing the power window which isn’t working satisfactorily. Another comment on the Honda owner’s manual for this model that I read from several others on the Motor Trends blog on this valve problem is that in Europe the manual recommended valve adjustment every 30,000 but in USA only 105,000 “if noisy”…that is troubling and may explain more why Honda issued the TSB on the valves.

I believe cars that officially need valve lash adjustment every 30K miles would be seen by some as high-maintenance.
People in this country love the idea of 100K “tune-ups,” extended oil change intervals and "free maintenance."
Marketing . . .

I See It. It’s High Maintenance !


I have a 99 CR-V, currently with 247k. Unfortunately I leared about the valve adjustment issue too late. At about 175k I started getting the check engine light, which indicated misfire. On further checking, I diagnosed low compression on one cylinder and after checking valve clearance and researching suspected a burned valve. I actually ended up ordering a rebuilt head on ebay for $300 (from an Acura Integra, same head) and did the work myself. Still ended up costing me about $700 with water pump, timing, belt, etc but worked fine after that. Since then I’ve been checking them at 30k. Need to get another 4 yrs/100k out of this thing so will continue to do so!

Mbrassette, you weren’t able to adjust your valves and fix your misfire? Was it already too far gone?

I understand your concern, but why would you relate a tsb for '03-'04 model years to your '08?

@db4690 – Yes, I checked compression and suspected a burnt valve and as I dug into it, that’s indeed what I had…I let it go too long before adjusting and caused that damage.

Any engine with mechanical valve lifters should have the lash checked every 30k miles and the factory recommendations about checking them when noisy are bogus. The quiet ones are real trouble spots.
For what it’s worth, the TSB is actually irrelevant because this kind of thing is actually spread over decades and many car lines.

Even if adjusting the last cures the problem, any fix may be temporary as microscopic burning of the valve face and seat can occur in minutes with problems surfacing later on no matter what.
What you want to ask is whether or not any exhaust valves were excessively tight as the exhaust side is usually where the trouble crops up.

Guys, whoever’s reading . . . this is the reason to check your valve lash, even if the valves aren’t noisey.
ALL of the manufacturers are dead wrong about their advice to only check valves if they’re noisey.
IMO the manufacturers should go back to recommending valve lash checks every 30K. It would save more engines.

DB, we had a guy bring a Subaru into the shop one time and this thing was barely wheezing on one cylinder. Compression test showed 0 on a couple, about 60 on another, and 90 on another. It stunned me that the thing would even start at all although it did not have enough grunt to even move itself across the drive.

Inspection of the valve lash showed every valve on it was tight, tight, tight. Adjusting the valves did not help anything; the exhaust valves were burnt clean out.
We were never able to determine who was behind this but it was believed to be caused by the car owner who may have adjusted them down to zero because he didn’t like the subtle tick sound at idle or by some uninformed mechanic who may have botched the at the time normal 1000 miles inspection that included a recheck of the lash.

Once both cylinder heads were removed, I saw they were not even repairable as chunks of the valve seats, valve faces, and there was even a few missing bits of cylinder head around a few of the seats. The customer had to pony up for this and did not complain a bit.
The sad part was this car only had 7k miles on it. That’s how quick it went from brand new to junk.

@ok4450 your story shows how critical valve lash is, noise or no noise.

Apparently his car was making zero noise before it quit… :slight_smile:

If it is an EX with auto trans and roof rack, get a prepurchase inspection. Deduct anything it needs from the $4000 and add 10% for your trouble. If it is an LX with auto trans, AF/FM/Cassette and roof rack, start at $3500 and do the same thing.