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'95 Honda may have blown a head gasket

Hi my name is Nick Rose and I live in Suffolk, England. I have a 1995 Honda Accord Wagon with 125K. I had an oil change, two brake cables, two new tires and a couple of new side lamps . The next day I was driving to pick my son up from University (going at steady 60) and had got about 20 miles down the road when the radiator blew. The plastic cowling at the top of it split by about an inch. I am interested to know what might have caused this and what steps to take ? The mechanic has said that it could be the head gasket and the only way to check that is to install a new radiator ( ?120 or so). Obviously, if it is the head gasket then we are looking at about another ?400.

The car is in perfect shape otherwise and having just spent about ?300 getting it tip top I am loathe to write it off. Please advise.

Others will correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s a bad sign that your mechanic said that the only way to check for a blown head gasket is to install a new radiator. Head gaskets can be checked by doing a compression test and leak down test on the engine, regardless of what state the radiator is in.

I’d take it elsewhere for a diagnosis and repair, and not return to this mechanic.

Thanks very much for that. I did ask about a compression test (though not the leak down test - what is a leak down test ?) without the rad and he said something about it not being very accurate ? This guy has a good reputation locally (it is a pretty rural environment so everyone knows everyone else). But i do take your point, even with the limited options available to me.

See this page for an explanation on leak down tests:

I don’t see what your mechanic would mean by the compression test not being very accurate…when done properly I don’t see how they aren’t accurate. If he means it’s not going to spell out the problem for him, that’s true, but that’s why mechanics get paid the big bucks…they are trained to interpret results of things like compression tests, etc.

His statement is another reason I’d be trying to get the car somewhere else…but I do understand your situation. If you have to get the work done by this mechanic, and would be willing to pay for a head gasket repair if that’s what’s needed in the end, then I suppose the radiator will have to be replaced in any case, anyway.

Good luck, and let us know what the end result is.

Thanks loads for the advice mate. i will keep you posted.

This same thing happened to the radiator on my sons Jeep. The top tank was completely split away from the core. The problem was caused by a defective radiator cap. I pressure tested the cap which was supposed to open at 16 PSI. But when tested didn’t open until nearly 40 PSI. So like him, you may only need a new radiator and pressure cap.