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95 Honda Civic Overheated to Death - repair it, trash it, was it inevitable?

happy holidays my car died on me // I have a question for you!

so I am home for the holidays and have been using my brother’s old beater car while i’m here. it’s a 95 honda civic with about 140,000 miles on it aka a really old box of metal.

I was driving up to see my friend in ojai when i noticed a random ribbon of smoke (as if someone had left a cigarette burning for a second) wafting in the car. I freaked out, called my boyfriend, and he told me he didn’t know anything about cars and to call my dad. I was only 6 miles away from my destination and i didn’t see any more smoke and so I kept driving.

I should have called my dad or just stopped driving in retrospect, but the point is that when i got to my destination I noticed that the car was overheating and that there was smoke coming out of the front of the car.

I popped the hood to let the heat escape and got towed home shortly after. Today my dad is telling me that the engine is fried and the car is no longer drivable.

So my question is - how much of this is my fault//would this have happened to this old car anyway? I ask because I never drive, live in NYC, and didn’t really notice any real sign of smoke but also because I want to know if i should pay whatever kelly blue book thinks that piece of junk is worth to replace or just chalk it up as a loss since it was such an old car anyway and was bound to die at some point. I also ask because I feel like i have terrible luck with cars and maybe I should never drive again…

thanks for your advice!!

I don’t think you were responsible, although you probably should have stopped at the first sign of smoke, but the damage was probably done by then. Once the smoke starts, its usually too late.

It isn’t due to being an “old box” of metal. Cars in Southern California do not deteriorate nearly as fast as in other parts of the country and 140k miles is nothing for a Honda, but this car probably had years of neglect and abuse before you borrowed it. It was its time due to neglect, not old age. You are not responsible for the neglect.

What was the temperature gauge doing while it was smoking?

The car was probably trashed already when the smoke was noticed; continuing to drive it 6mi was thecoup de grace.

Those 95’s should be preserved and kept on the road. My opinion anyway. The mid-90’s was the golden age of car design. They have modern electronic ignition systems and electronic fuel injection and computer control, but without the unnecessary complexity of newer cars, like blue tooth, 6 speed manual transmissions, 8 speed automatics, tire pressure sensors, ABS, and the like.

So don’t assume the engine is toast. What you thought was smoke could have just been steam from a radiator that sprang a leak. Tow it to a shop and have the situation evaluated. You may just need a new radiator. I had to buy a new radiator on my Corolla last year and it only cost $90 for the aftermarket replacement. If lucky you could have this 95 civic back on the road for short money.

I want to add a little to my post. I still don’t think it was your fault, but it is possible that it was just bad luck. Part of that has to do with how far you drove. If you just drove from Ventura or Oxnard, then I would still suspect long term neglect, but if you had driven from San Diego, then it could be due to neglect or just bad luck.

You could have left with a perfectly well maintained drive with no leaks, and somewhere a long the way, a hose or radiator seal just decided it was time. On a short trip, that is far less likely.

BTW, if it didn’t get too hot, the engine is pretty rugged and it could have survived. How did your dad determine the engine is toast? Did someone tell him? If he got an opinion from a mechanic, I’d get a second opinion, I recommend Kenyon’s on the avenue if they are still in business.

Be prepared . . . the head gasket may have let go

It’s also not uncommon to have a warped head when an engine overheats