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Help: 1998 CRV already repaired and the mechanic wants MORE money (to replace distributor)

Oh help!

Last month I took my 98 CRV in for a big (70-ish thousand miles) tune up. I don’t drive very much, and my car has had almost no professional maintenance (husband does the oil changes, etc.).

It was running fine except: the check engine light was on, and the steering is whining when turned all the way (like making a u-turn).

I paid 800 bucks for the tune up, and new brakes and rotors. The steering STILL whines. They seem to have forgotten that problem.

One month later, the car starts dying in traffic, and sputtering. I take it back in. They still haven’t even figured out the steering problem. But they tell me my distributor needs to be replaced (600 bucks).

How did they miss this during the tune up (when my car was running fine)?

Can I trust these guys? Could they have damaged my car? Is it normal for the distributor to fail? (I think they said it was corroded inside.)

Help help! They want my ok for the next repair!

Thank you so very much!


The first step is find out what the Check Engine light is trying to tell you. Take the car to AutoZone, Advance Auto Parts, or some similar store for a free scan for diagnostic trouble codes. Post back with the exact code(s). They will be in the format of P0xxx.

Has the power steering fluid been changed (with Honda p/s fluid ONLY)?

Thank you for the reply.

They turned off the check engine light last month at the tune up. When I asked why it was on, they didn’t seem to know.

My car is currently at their shop, and the distributor has been removed (so they could examine it). It is running very poorly, but perhaps I should have them put it back together, and take it to another shop for a second opinion?

Btw, the current shop had several online positive reviews on “Yelp” and one positive review on this site.



Its not they missed a single thing. It just happens to be a coincidence more than likely the distributor failed a month after doing the other. Its called welcome to the world of old cars, they break down on occasion that is all.

I don’t think there is any reason to mistrust these people. You are not supposed to turn your wheel to the end as it stresses out your power steering pump. Low fluid can also cause this however they avoided the issue as its very expensive problem typically to fix if not fluid level. Simply not turning the wheel to the end may avoid it.

Thank you Andrew.

It’s kind of funny to hear my car called an “old car.” I still think of it as newish! I guess that means that I am the one who is getting old, if 1998 seems like yesterday to me!

I do think there is a problem with the steering (they replaced the fluid at tune up). It whines ever time I back out of my driveway, and make a 90 degree turn to go up the street.

My husband is irked and distrustful because his Acura is several years older than my Honda, and has about DOUBLE the milage (mine only has 70K). Yet he has never had ANY kind of repair other than body type work.

I guess I’ll hand over the 400 bucks. Oh–probably more for the steering!

Thanks again!

It is possible to still have the code stored even when the light is out:

That CEL (check engine light) is just a kid in class waving her hand trying to get you attention because she has the answer. You need to have the codes read. Some places will read them for FREE. Try Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts. Get the exact code (like P0123) not just their translation into English and post it back here.

Regarding warning lights:

  1. if the coolant temp light comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

  2. if the oil warning light comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

  3. if a FLASHING MIL/CEL comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

    ASAP means driving to the berm of the highway right now and not waiting for the next exit.

But if the MIL/CEL is not flashing, then it’s not an urgent indicator.

Have it checked by a reputable independent shop.

If your engine is running fine then your distributor should be fine. Some oxidization takes place on all cast metals over time, but that does not mean it’s bad.

The steering whine should not be difficult for them to figure out. It’s either the pump or the belt that’s driving the pump, with an outside possibility of being the belt tensioner (if you have a serpentine belt). It’s really easy to tell which.

I think you’re being robbed. Just one man’s opinion.

JMHO, but considering the CEL was on they should have pulled codes at that time also. However, if the distributor is bad now that does not mean that it bad at the time the vehicle was serviced. The dist. could very well have been in perfect shape and there is no way of determining when or if it will go bad.

What I hope here is that these guys are doing something more than guessing on the dist. and have a more thorough diagnosis of a dist. problem other than being “corroded on the inside”. That sounds pretty strange to me.
You might ask exactly how they determined the dist. was at fault (other than this corroded business) and post back with what they tell you. We may be able to tell you if it sounds legit or not.