Help! Scrap or repair?

Our Honda Civic 2009 is currently sat on the forecourt of the local garage until we decide whether to spend money or scrap it!

We’ve been told it needs a new radiator and coils which will cost around £950, but that they also can’t check if that will sort the issue until we spend the money for it to be done, as without being able to heat it up they can’t check the head gasket.

Does that make sense? Is it worth spending the money and taking the risk? Or use the money more wisely towards a new car?? If so what is going to last longer than the 18 months this one has?! Could spend 5k on something else but all feels like a risk and we’d need to borrow money for a new one. Need safe and boring family car!

Sorry for the waffle, many thanks for any help!

Do older Hondas have rust issues in England? Will it pass mot?

I really can’t help because I have no idea what this vehicle needs besides what you mentioned . Also you must be in the United Kingdom so even after repairs you still have that MOT thing.

I guess you should ask what the headgasket will cost if it is needed plus what else it should have then make your decision.

A new radiator shouldn’t cost 950. More like under 200. A radiator from a junk yard could be used and then returned for a refund if you decide to scrap the car.

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That cost is for a radiator and coils . Plus they are not in the US .

Thanks everyone. Yeah sorry, I’m in the UK! Hadn’t realised this was a US site!

It passed it’s MOT in August, so still has 8 months left on that, which is a plus, but needs new brake pads (around £120)

No signs of rust. Will ask them to quote for the head gasket, but previous cars have cost £600-800 in the past and I only paid £3,000 for it! Been quoted £500 to scrap it, which could go towards a new car.

What are coils?

No need to apoligize . It is just that we do not have a regular member from the UK . So it is hard to know the market or repair costs .

Paid $3k for 2009 civic? Good price.
Why does shop want to replace radiator?

I’m probably late to the party but I consider radiator and coils maintenance items. But it sounds like there may be a question of a head gasket issue. You should not have to replace the radiator to test for a head gasket. They can use the test strips in the coolant to check for exhaust gases. Then the can even do a test with compressed air to check for leaks. So time for a different shop in my opinion.


I suspect that the radiator failed and the engine overheated to the point that it is now misfiring and new ignition coils are not going to solve the problem.


Nevada’s suspicion may well be correct. On the other side of the equation however, a 2009 Civic should be a pretty reliable runner if it has been properly maintained, and well worth keeping. Especially in this Covid era where replacement cars , both used and new, cost so much.

So what to do? If I had this problem and was certain the car had been well maintained, had never severely overheated, I’d replace the radiator with a used auto-parts recycler’s, obtained from a wrecked Civic. As far as the coils, it seems unlikely all four coils would fail at same time, so I’d be suspicious there is any problem at all with the coils, and test for that first. (Note: One option to consider if shop says it is ok, radiator isn’t required for first 2-3 minutes of operation at idle after a cold start and a badly leaking radiator could probably be bypassed for that amount of coil-testing time. Make sure engine is otherwise full of coolant first of course. )

If used radiator not available, then I’d install a cheapo aftermarket new radiator (which should be ok for continued use, provided car is manual transmission and you are frugal w/the AC use).

If I later discovered the engine overheated and damaged the head gasket, that’s not necessarily the end of the world. I’d just replace the head gasket and hope for the best.

If engine severely overheated and seized before all this, I’d forget the radiator experiments idea. Instead I consider replacing the engine with a used version. That could well make $$ sense. But that would take quite a bit of repair time, so if car is needed for daily driver, that method may not be practical in OP’s case.

The car is 13 years old. Everything you mention is maintenance at this point. If it is otherwise in good condition, spending the £950 should give you a few more years of service. What else can you buy for £950 that will do that for you?

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Did you notice if the engine temperature gauge was showing it overheated at any point? How did the radiator fail? Did it blow steam or just start leaking? Will the car not run with the existing ignition coils?

Depending on how the failure occurred, there are tests and observations that can be done to help determine if the head gasket is suspect. Can you explain a bit more about what led up to the car being at the mechanic’s garage?

Thanks for all your replies, really helpful!

The car overheated (gauge at the top, full steam etc.) Pulled over and let it cool down, topped up radiator with water and anti-freeze, then tried the engine and the engine light had come on (not before then). Got the emergency tow guys out and he added more water but it was now just going straight through so he suspected cracked/broken tubes to radiator and towed me to the garage.

Difficult to get a used radiator as have a toddler who takes up all my time, and no other means of transport to get to a place to find one.

It’ll be £950 as a minimum, very likely to be more (they say!) Particularly as some brake pads also close to needing replacing too. I don’t know if the car is in good condition (it came with some history but not full), the radiator going is a surprise, so feels like a big risk to spend potentially £1500+ on a car that might last a random amount of time, or spend a bit more to get something more reliable. It’s all a bloody risk this used car business, can’t get my head round it!!

Not enough details to diagnose.

I’ll guess the engine would not start, that is the reason you called for assistance. Overheating can cause damage to the engine, a new radiator will not restore a damaged engine.

A used radiator will not save much money, new radiators are not expensive.

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Why doesn’t the mechanic want to do a leak down test? I wouldn’t put any parts on it until that’s been done.

Sorry for your troubles. I would want clarification from the mechanic. Did it blow a hose to the radiator or is the radiator itself damaged? Big difference in cost.

It got very hot and that’s not good for the engine’s head gasket(s) or head(s). However, in catastrophic failures, the leak should be evident cold or hot. As mentioned, a leak down test could be performed. This requires them to rotate the engine until the valves for each cylinder are closed and then apply air pressure to the cylinder to see if it leaks. Leaking is definitive and then you have to weigh the expected expense. If it does not leak, it is not guaranteed there is no problem but the odds are now in your favor and moving ahead with fixing the coolant leak might be less risky.

If they are bundling the ignition coils into this repair cost, ask why. They shouldn’t be needed to assess the coolant leak and overheating. It was running OK up to the overheating event, correct?

Bear this in mind- it is not uncommon to give the customer the worst case scenario. This way, if it ends up needing that much work, they will be off the hook for not telling you. However, if it only needs a radiator hose and you sell it to them for bargain price, they make out like bandits and you’re none the wiser. Ask questions and watch how they answer. If they are dismissing you or uncomfortable with their reasoning, time to tow it to another shop for second opinion…