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2003 Honda CRV


2003 Honda CRV with 180,000 miles
I have been given a 2003 Honda CRV with 180,000 miles on it. It is need of some repairs including a new Catalytic Converter and Oxygen Sensor. The repair quotes that I have been given range from$3000 to $6000. I want to be able to give this car to a new couple in town (that are expecting their first child). Is it worth it to repair this car? I realize you cannot guarantee anything, but if we do these repairs, do you think I can expect the car to be a safe vehicle that can be driven locally for the next few years?

Honda CRV’s are generally reliable cars and can go well over 200k miles if properly maintained. Since the car has been given to you free, it could be worth the investment depending on the condition and the cost of repairs needed.

Is it rust-free? Does it have a “differential whine,” a whining noise made by the rear differential when the differential fluid hasn’t been changed regularly and can indicate damage to the differential? Has it been in an accident?

It might help if you would itemize the repairs you anticipate. Some of them may be unnecessary, depending on who advised you. Was it a dealership? Don’t take it to a dealer! Half of the work they try to sell you will likeoy be unnecessary. Take it to a trusted local independent mechanic who knows Hondas. Find one near you by clicking the “Mechanics Files” link on this website.

Do NOT replace the catalytic converter until AFTER the oxygen sensor(s) have been replaced. The catalytic converter may be OK but you won’t know if that’s the case until the bad sensor(s) have been replaced.

Check out for the estimated repair prices of the items on your list, based on labor rates in your area. It’ll help you judge whether the estimates you’re getting are fair.

Again, please list all the repair work you’ve been told it needs, and we may be able to help you pare the list down.

Rockauto has a direct fit catalytic converter with gaskets for the vehicle for $200.00.

All you would need to do is find a shop to install it for you.


Thank you for your help with this!!! Any sense of direction would be a huge help!!!

One of the mechanics said:
Oxygen Sensor
Air intake boot torn and needs replacement
fuel injection/induction service is recommended
Air filter needs replacement
Lower trans mounts are worn and need replacement
Left rear tire needs to be replaced
Front compliance bushings worn and need replacement
four wheel alignment
Front strut boots are torn indicating worn struts. Front struts with strut boots need tobe replaced
Catalytic Converter needs replacement (possibly)
Power steering pump leaking and making noise - needs replacement
Valves need to be adjusted and gasket need to be replaced
(over $6000 in repairs)

Another mechanic said:
Oxygen Sensor
Catalytic Converter
Oil Leak/oil change
filters/ fluids
control arm busing (one needs it, but it has to be done in pairs)
left rear tire needs to be replaced.
(@ $3000 in repairs)

With all wheel drive you want 4 tires that are the same rolling diameter. These CRVs need the center differential fluid changed regularly, I think.

With 180,000 miles, do what’s necessary, not what’s on some mechanic’s wish list.

I’d bet money you don’t need a new cat.

Here’s what I would do. The mechanic is telling you everything that is wrong with the car, even though some issues are minor and not worth doing on a 180k mile car you’re going to give away.

OX sensor: replace
Air intake boot: If the tear is in the section between air filter and engine, wrap it with high-temp silicone repair tape.
Fuel injection service: unnecessary unless engine running poorly
Air filter: replace
Trans mounts: unnecessary unless it’s affecting how the car drives
Front compliance bushings: maybe, depends on how the car drives
Tire: replace it
Alignment: may not be necessary if tires are wearing evenly
Front struts: may not be necessary. Honda struts last a long time. Google “how to test your car’s struts” by pushing down on the bumper and see if what you think.
Catalytic converter: probably unnecessary. Replace Oxygen sensor first, then reassess.
Power steering pump: If it really is making noise, probably does need replacement. But see if you can hear the noise. If you can’t hear it, it’s not making noise and is probably OK.
Valve adjustment: probably does need it.
Gasket: what gasket? head gasket? exhaust manifold gasket? Big difference. Head gasket job is expensive. What are the symptoms? May or may not be necessary.
Fluids and filters: change 'em all, including transmission fluid if automatic, and rear differential fluid.
Control arm bushings: maybe, depends on how far gone they are.

Bottom line: only half this stuff may be really necessary. It’s a ten-year old car you’re giving away, and it doesn’t need to be like new, only safe and reasonably likely to live a few more years. If you had a sympathetic mechanic, you could pare the list down and get out of the shop with a bill under $1000, assuming you don’t really need a head gasket. If you do need a head gasket, then you’re at $2000 and up for the necessities. But $6000? No way. Someone has a boat payment to make.

“Air intake boot: If the tear is in the section between air filter and engine, wrap it with high-temp silicone repair tape”

As a pro, I gotta say . . . when I open the hood of a vehicle and see an air intake visibly patched with tape, it sticks out like a red herring. And it instantly makes me wonder what kind of overall shape the vehicle is in. But that may just be me. A new air intake will not break the bank.

This is for a civic, but it shows a picture and the location of the compliance bushing, and it tells you under what circumstances they should be replaced. From what I hear, these are a common wear item . . . and not just on Hondas. If they are noisey, just replace them and be done with it.

“Valves need to be adjusted and gasket needed to be replaced”

I understand this to mean that the valve lash needs to be adjusted, and that the valve cover gasket needs to be replaced. The valve lash can only be adjusted if you first remove the valve cover and valve cover gasket. And it would be prudent to install a new gasket after the adjustment

“Oil leak/oil change” . . . what is leaking?

It’s near impossible to determine just how bad this vehicle is without laying hands on it, but sinking 3 to 6 grand into an 11 year old CRV with going on 200k miles is simply not adviseable in my opinion.

What would I do? Forget about this half or fully worn out CRV and find a decent something more generic for less than the money being quoted for repairs on the Honda.

Buick or Crown Vic maybe. They’re all over the place, can often be had for a decent price, reliable on average, and with some digging one should be able to find a much lower mileage 1 or 2 owner example.

My general comment is to not make this a bigger problem than it actually is. Do a little more investigation first. Is the check engine light on? If not, I’d ignore the O2 sensor and cat problem as long as the engine runs ok. Maybe the question to ask is: What is the shop’s reason to think there is a problem with the O2 sensor and/or cat? The air intake – if it is small tear, it can probably be fixed as above. But if a serious tear, better to replace the boot as this pathway must be airtight and have no restrictions in order that the ecm can meter the fuel/air ratio correctly. For the various filters etc, ask the prior owner when these were last changed, before putting new ones in. If the air filter was changed less than 2 years ago, no change is probably required yet. It’s not possible to make an assessment of the suspension components on the internet. You pretty much have to trust the shop for doing that. Ask them if any of them are safety issues. If not, you might consider to postpone those until/unless you notice there’s a performance problem. The power steering pump: As above, not possible to assess the sound it makes on the internet. But ask the shop to make sure the fluid level is up to spec and the leak is actually from the pump. Often these leaks actually occur at where the hoses connect to the pump. The shop could clean everything off spic and span, then watch over the course of a couple weeks to see where the leak is actually occurring. My Corolla has had a small leak at one of these power steering hose connections for 10 years, and only had to top off the fluid level once. I’ve never fixed it, still works fine. Valve clearance: You could take a chance of not doing this. I had a VW Rabbit one time in the 1970’s, I checked the valve clearances every 30K, did that 6 times in a row through 180K, and never once did the valves need any adjustment. It was just a waste of time. On the other hand, if the measurement shows they do need adjustment, failing to do so could shorten the life of the engine. There’s some risk, but me, if cash was an issue, I’d probably cross my fingers and skip that, hope for the best. In the end, that would be your call I guess.

My 2 cents…

I have a 99 with 264K and still going strong. Did have to replace the head (did it myself) due to a burned valve, so definitely have the valves adjusted/checked (2nd gen may not be as prone to this as mine).

I would assume the O2 and cat were diagnosed by check engine light – start with O2 and then see from there.

Other items sound like some regular wear items. I’m still on original struts all around and don’t have any bounce but I’ll probably go ahead and replace in the next year.

Sounds like a keeper to me!