Honda Civic Manual 1996

I have a Honda Civic Manual 1996 LX that has 267,000 miles. I have some problems and I am hoping some of you might be able to help me. I am getting married this year and I am hoping that my car will last for another 1 or 2 years. Can someone tell me what is crucial and what I can do without?

Engine Stall - Once in a while my engine stalls while I am driving once I remove my foot from the gas pedal. I could be going 80 mph or 20mph. I have not heard back from the dealership on why yet.

Rear Main Seal - Per Honda service I need my rear main seal replaced for $750.

Ball Joints - Per Honda service I need new ball joints for $399

Timing Belt - Is due to be replaced in another 20,000 miles.

First of all, you could probably save some money by taking the car to an independent mechanic. Dealers are more expensive but their work is no better.

I’d want the stalling and the ball joints fixed right away. The timing belt can wait, as you say, another 20K miles, but when the time comes it’s absolutely essential to replace it. If the belt breaks the engine will be damaged internally.

How badly is the rear main seal leaking? Has it affected the clutch at all? If it’s just a tiny leak you could probably ignore it, at least for a while.

Considering the mileage there are NO guarantees as to how long the car will last, but maintenance is key, so don’t stop taking care of it.

Thanks MC, that’s helpful and it is essentially what I was thinking as well. Replace ball joints, see what dealership says about stalling and wait on everything else…

I’m not sure how badly the rear main seal is leaking but it hasn’t affected my clutch at all. Can I just continue to monitor oil levels and give it oil when needed?

thanks again.

Yes, you can add oil as needed. Is it losing oil now, and if so, how often do you have to add oil?

This is a fairly new problem. I just added oil yesterday and that was the first time I did it. Is it really bad if I use really cheap oil like shoprite brand or something?

No, it’s not bad at all. Oil is oil. I use cheap, store-branded oil in my cars all the time. As long as the viscosity is correct the brand name doesn’t matter.

Sweet, thank you MC. Thanks to you I can now afford to get married.

NEW PROBLEM: Honda Service came back and told me the following:

They are almost positive that the engine stalling is because something is wrong with my oxygen sensor and the exhaust medical is cracked??? and they need to replace the convertor or something like that… this will cost $1,278…

Any thoughts on this? How critical is this? MC, I hope you are still checking.

“the exhaust medical is cracked”

On this one, you better check with Blue Cross/Blue Shield.


Seriously, however, I think that they probably said that the exhaust manifold is cracked. Many people drive their car with a cracked manifold with no problems. However, in other cases, it has led to carbon monoxide seeping into the passenger cabin, so this is potentially dangerous. You should have this checked out by an independent mechanic–not by a chain operation or a dealership.

As to the other issue, stalling could definitely be the result of a bad oxygen sensor. And, in view of the car’s age, it is certainly possible that it needs a new catalytic converter. Or, it is possible that the bad oxygen sensor is leading them to think that you also have a bad cat converter.

In any event, since I surmise that you live in NJ, you need to be aware that your car will not be able to pass the state emissions test next time around if there are any problems with the oxy sensor and/or the cat converter, so these issues do need to be explored.

Why not have that independent mechanic check the oxygen sensor issue, along with the exhaust manifold and the catalytic converter? Even if all of these issues do need to be taken care of, his bill will be VERY much lower than the estimate from the dealership.

They’re “almost positive?” What if you spend the money and the problem is still there?

Bad O2 sensors often trigger a catalytic converter code even if the cat itself is OK. At this mileage anything is possible. You may, indeed, need a new converter.

This is when people starting considering the cost of repairs/maintenance vs. the age and mileage of the car. We each have our own way of looking at this. I’d be reluctant to put a lot of money into car with nearly 300K miles, but I don’t really know anything about the condition of the car or how it’s been maintained.

If you’ve maintained it in accordance with Honda’s schedule since it was new you probably have a car with lots of life left in it. The fact that you take this car to a dealer makes me think this may be the case.

If, on the other hand the only time the car goes to a mechanic is when there’s a problem, and the maintenance schedule has not been followed, the car may not have too many miles left. One thing I know for sure, it’s cheaper to maintain a car than it is to replace one.

Your car has reached the point where it needs some work. You may have to spend a few thousand dollars. How do you feel about that? If the Check Engine light is on (you never said) your car won’t pass an emissions test. Do they test where you live? If so you have two choices: fix it or start shopping for another car.

How critical is it? My personal feeling is this: I want everything on my car to work correctly and I want the car to be safe to drive. A cracked exhaust manifold can leak exhaust gasses, and breathing them is hazardous to your health. A bad O2 sensor and or catalytic converter will prevent the engine from running correctly and increase pollution from the engine.

If you want to keep this car you’re going to have to fix the things it needs. As I said, I think you could save money at an independent mechanic, but this is not really the time to start looking for one.

hahaha, “exhaust medical”. I swear that’s what he said! (j/k)… I knew when I wrote that it was wrong but I also knew you guys would know what I was talking about. Thank you very much for the informative responses. I have copied and pasted your messages into a word document so that I don’t lose them and I can read them over again. I do have an auto mechanic that my brother uses for his honda that I could ask for a second opinion. I’ve never had any issues with putting repair/maintenance money into this car as it has been really great to me. I do generally maintain my car regularly and it has pretty much never given me issues. I find that I don’t take it into the dealership b/c of a problem but rather when I bring it in they find a problem and fix it.

I’m still not sure what I am going to do but I can certainly start by getting a second opinion. Normally, I wouldn’t care too much and just tell them to fix it but money’s been tight for me lately and I’m trying to fund a wedding.

“hahaha, “exhaust medical”. I swear that’s what he said!”

Well, as far as I know, none of the descendants of Demosthenes went into the field of auto repair, so a slurred pronunciation of “manifold” by your mechanic is certainly possible.

My wife’s old 96 Civic at 145k had a similar stall after high speed and it turned out to be a pair of O2 sensors and cat convertor. She had a check engine light on/off for a year until it exhibitied the symptom.

Get a 2nd opinion/price on ball joints, they are safety item.

Forget the timing belt unless you really plan it more than that 1-2 years. Hardly worth putting the $500 or so into a car this old if you plan to dump, has no effect really on value.

Rear main seal, I would let it be and check you engine oil every other fillup or top if leaking. Otherwise ignore.

People (on this board) think Honda/Toyota are a 300k car, yes they are if you have the stomach and wallet to keep repairing or in Honda/Toyota lovers eyes maintaining them. However this is the case with most any car.