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2005 Honda Civic, lots of miles, what to do

I need a car for a year that I will be going to school. A friend of mine, who drives all over the region for work, had a 2005 Honda Civic LX that he was thinking of replacing. I said, I’ll take it off your hands and you can get a new one. This car has 270k miles, but is in otherwise great condition, as far as the exterior and interior go.

I’m getting it dirt cheap (1k), but of course, all sorts of things started happening once I got it. He had to replace the starter just before I got it, and the battery and new tires last year. I’ve already replaced the alternator. The A/C compressor is shot but hasnt been replaced yet, and maybe an O2 sensor needs to be replaced. Now the windshield wipers work for about 8 minutes before shutting off. Looking into the problem, it could be the motor which is at least 100 bucks OR I’ve been told it could be the integrated relay in the fuse panel, which will cost 1200 just to replace the fuse panel. Also, my friend has no idea if/when the timing belt has been changed.

So good people of Car Talk Discussion Panel: do I give up and buy another less used car or is there a possibility that I can squeeze out a year w/o going bankrupt?

So far I am getting great mileage - a tank is about 400 miles.

Thank you for your thoughts.

If you don’t know if the timing belt has been changed, and you are at 270K miles then a new timing belt is 1st priority. A broken belt means a new engine to the tune of $3,000.

Until you figure out the wiper problem you can use Rain-X treatment on your windshield. This means you are not as dependent on your wipers in the rain.

Before replacing O2 and other sensors get new plugs, new filters, and make sure all the maintenance on the car is up to date. The O2 sensor could be fine.

This is a high mileage car with lots of highway miles. I’d recommend replacing all the fluids; brakes, coolant, transmission, power steering. The repairs you’ve listed are not uncommon for a car with this many miles. Wheel bearings would not be expected to last much longer either.

This could be a great car but you will have to spend some money for repairs given the miles racked up to date.

If the check engine light is on, maybe you need a 02 sensor. If not, you don’t. Get the wiper motor replaced for a hundred dollars. It’s not the fuse panel or the wipers and a lot of other things wouldn’t work at all. And you wouldn’t need a new fuse panel unless this car has spent month or so under water. In the ocean.

If the timing belt hasn’t been changed at least twice so far, well, there is that. You should get it done along with the waterpump and hoses and belts for around $650.
You can buy another car instead. I like Honda and swear by Toyota, but even I will admit this car is a leaning more toward the boneyard than the road. But if it starts every day and feels solid while you are driving it, maybe it is worth $800 to get it back in good shape. A “new for you” car will cost you at least eight thousand for car that still will have some cosly problems in less than three years. A brand new or “certified used” car will come with a warranty but expensive maintenance requirements on top of the monthly payments. By expensive I mean expect every visit to cost around $1,000. Really.

Review the records on this car if they are available, or get the VIN and look it up on CarFax. It should all be there. You want to see at least 8 oil changes, two timing belt changes (I’d like three), two transmission fluid changes, two radiator fluid changes, maybe a differential fluid change (I don’t even believe in that) and a brake fluid change (which I’ve always held is completely unnecessary, however old the car).

Oh yeah the pads on the front brakes should have been replaced every year and the rear pads every third year, and should be new all around right now.

These are just some of the things you need to consider trying to decide if an old car will save or cost you money.
I own a very old car. It has been strictly maintained. It doesn’t even have that many miles on it. It still costs a lot to maintain, this year more than $1,000.

But that is just three or four monthly car payments for a new car.
And good luck getting the timing belt changed under warranty.

If your Honda is running well, schedule a timing belt change and get someone to replace the wiper motor. Just never go near the guy who told you the fuse panel needs to be replaced. If you need any proof that this guy is a crook, every single thing that requires any battery power, including your radio, windshield wipers, heater fan, power windows, let’s see, oh yeah, rear defroster, interior lights, brake lights, horn: that should do it. None of that should work.

Car fax will not show the car maintinence history. At $1K I would say make sure you have cheap tow coverage and check the cheap stuff oil, coolant and brakes. Do not put more than a few hundred into the car if you car help it unless it is safety like the steering and brakes. The timing belt and water pump may be beyond a reasonable cost. If you do not travel too far. Get the 100 mile tow distance from AAA. If you are a bit handy you may be able to replace the wiper motor from a recycle yard. Look at about $35, plus bandages. Chances are good the old one is tripping a circuit breaker. They use those a lot on wiper motors. Forget the “integrated relay” unless a yard lets you strip one out of a car for $15. {Spoiler} This advise is good for up to one year from when you bought the car.

Gates belts website doesn’t show a belt for a 2005 civic so either it has a timing chain or their website needs updating. If it has a chain and it isn’t making noise now ,it will probably last more than a year.