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Honda CRV, maximum reliable mileage

I’m considering the purchase of a used Honda CR-V around 2003 model year or newer.

Mileage significantly influences the price of these vehicles. Many used models in my price range seem to have 140,000 plus miles.

Assuming the timing belt was changed at the right mileage and other maintenance was performed at reasonable, if not perfect, intervals, in other words, at least a moderately well-maintained vehicle, what is the upper limit of miles I could reasonably expect from this 4 cyl. 160 hp engine before it would require a rebuild or replacement?

In my thinking rebuild/replacement means any of the following has to be replaced- rings, pistons, crankshaft, crankshaft bearings, valves, lifters, etc. Basically any short block parts.

I could probably withstand milling the head and replacing the head gasket if need be.

I don’t want to buy a vehicle with 140,000 miles if it is not likely to get past 150,000.

If, on the other hand, I might reasonably expect 200 k mi or more, I might consider such a purchase.

I know there are many variables and no precise answer is possible. I’m only looking for a ball park estimate, preferably from mechanics familiar with these Honda engines.

The same question for the transmission, 4 spd. auto.

What about 5 spd. manual? (I’m not too concerned about clutch replacement)

If you are a mechanic experienced in this field, please not that in your response as anyone can have an opinion but may not be based on much practical experience.

Anecdotal statements such as “I performed pretty regular maintenance and mine went to 230,000 mi without any major problems.” will also be appreciated.

Thanks for any input.

If the car was maintained properly, I’d be surprised to see any of the engine issues that you list before 200,000 miles. Honda builds solid engines.

On the other hand, Honda’s automatic transmissions weren’t particularly great in the early 2000s, so possibly that could be on the horizon for you. I don’t know about the CR-V, but for the Acura MDX things did improve for 2004 and up.

Other than the risk of transmission issues, I’m not aware of anything else major that would keep you from getting to 200,000 miles.

Strangely, the CR-V never seemed to have problems with its transmission, even though the Civic, which it is based on, did have issues. I’m not sure if the transmission was identical, though,

The first generation of CR-V did have issues with burning valve seats. I’d be a little wary of those. But a 2003 seems to be a solid vehicle, if it passes a good mechanic’s inspection.

CRV’s have very reliable drivetrains. First generation engines (up to 2001) could experience valve problems if not kept in adjustment. But my friend’s '99 CRV has 250k miles and still going strong.

Most important for you is to find a CRV that has been well maintained, timing belt changed, with service records. A 2003 CRV that has been well maintained will have plenty of life left in it.

My friends experience with a 2002 CRV with manual transmission and only 45,000 miles back in 2007 was not so great. She had issues with things like axles and engine problems that were relatively major. She took good care of the vehicle and gentle driver.

She was not happy as her previous 1998 Honda Civic was trouble free for her.

At the very least when sold just recently she got 50% back of the $10000 paid for the vehicle on the used market. She was quite :slight_smile: with that and easy sell.

Thanks for the informative comments.

Can’t tell if any of them came from mechanics but they are reassuring.

I’ve been driving an '89 Chevy Van for the last 20 years. I bought it used in '92 with about 60 K mi.

It now has only about 115,000 mi. For most of those years I did a lot of air travel and only drove about 2,000 mi/yr.

At 11 to 13 mpg around town, I naturally try to limit the amount of driving I do. But, I’d like to feel free to drive more, which I could do with a vehicle that gets much better mpg. The CRV looks like a good multi use choice.

Before the Chevy van I had an ‘85 4 cyl. 105 hp Nissan King Cab 1/2 ton PU. I bought it new, took good care of it, but worked it hard. With a class III trailer hitch I used it to pull a 21’ Prowler RV Trailer all over the USA.

How hard did I work it? Out of curiosity I checked it out on some truck scales with a fully loaded bed and trailer (I was a book distributor at the time). I weighed in at about 7,900 pounds combined weight.

With a 5 speed manual transmission, I sold it in 1992 with about 160,000 mi. having never changed the clutch (which was still in good shape) and only changing the brakes one time (also still in good shape).

Other than regular oil changes/greases and tune-ups, tires and the one brake pads/linings change I never spent a dime on repairs. I also drilled and tapped for grease fittings rather than depend on the “lifetime” self greasing mechanism.

I can see no reason why that little Nissan 4 cyl. couldn’t easily make it to 300,000 mi. plus. But the long clutch and brake life tell the story of how carefully I drove the vehicle.

In those days Nissan had a great reputation for reliability.

In 1992 Chevy had a terrible reputation for reliability but I needed a larger passenger carrying vehicle and took a chance buying an 8 passenger van with a 5.0 L engine twice the size of the 2.4 L of the Nissan.

Surprisingly, my experience with the Chevy Van was roughly the same as that with the Nissan P/U, for the first 15 years or so.

I didn’t work it nearly as hard, except for one high speed round trip from NJ to CA where I pulled a heavy trailer load of books on the return trip. What do I mean by high speed? There’s a lot of open highway between the two coasts. The speedo needle was north of 90 much of that time.

Now, with about 150 k mi., the engine and transmission still seem to have a lot of life left in them.

It’s age, not mile-age that seems to be taking its toll.

23 years may not be so hard on a fairly well sealed engine that is properly lubricated, as it is on rubber and plastic that oxidizes with exposure to air and sunlight.

I don’t have any confidence in the rubber bushings, hoses, clamps and so on. There are also tell-tale signs of aging wiring. Window gaskets no longer seal out the rain and are expensive to replace.

The last time I replaced a tire I was surprised when they wouldn’t honor the warranty. It had about 70% of the tread left! Then the mechanic showed me the receipt, it was over 8 years old. The tire failed due to cracks in the sidewall, most likely caused by exposure to sunlight, the enemy of rubber. Not covered under warranty.

Although the van is great for hauling 12’ lengths of 2x6 lumber, or 4’x8’ sheets of plywood (with all doors and windows closed) on short trips around town, I am not so confident about longer ones. I think it’s time for something a bit newer and I don’t haul all that much lumber.

Looking at used CRV prices I have to say I’ve probably become a little spoiled. I picked up this van in good and clean condition at a GSA auction in '92 for just at $3,000.

Other than spending about $150 for a new computer and another $120 for an alternator about 10 years ago, I never paid for a repair until the last 3 or 4 years. Since then, I’ve spent more than the previous 15 years combined. Not on huge repairs, but they’re starting to add up. A radiator, a water pump, a couple A/C blower motor swaps, and now the A/C compressor has seen it’s last days, all leading me wonder if the law of diminishing returns is catching up to me.

My options for repair facilities is also diminishing as fewer shops want to deal with the problems of “pre-computer” vehicles. Yeah, it has a computer, the first model year to have one, but modern readers don’t even connect to the ancient port supplied under the dash and it wouldn’t tell you much anyway.

The $6 K to $8 K I’ll have to spend on a new CRV would probably cover another decade or so of repairs to the old van. And, in a couple more years it will be so old that NJ won’t even require emissions inspections any longer.

It’s such a beast that I’m generally sitting above the hood height of other vehicles. I’m more worried what will happen to the other guy in a crash, should my front bumper go crashing into his windshield while I look around to see if I hit a speed bump. So even the updated safety features of a CRV with airbags and so on don’t seem to give me that much of an edge.

It’s just that I’m starting to wonder every time I leave the driveway, will I drive back, or be towed?

Please keep the comments coming. I want a little more assurance before I trade one set of unknowns for another.

I’ve found that owner reviews from are helpful:

The CRV is good overall car and the hold up well. A Honda motor can easily go 200K+ miles with regular oil changes. You are aware of the timing belt, and they need to be changed on schedule.

The main issue with the CRV is they are very particular to fluid changes with Honda brand fluids. You should use Honda brand coolant, transmission fluid, transfer case fluid, and differential fluids. The differential and transfer case fluids are VERY critical. If I was to buy a used CRV one of the first things I’d do is get lots of fluids changed unless the service records are so complete that I can trust they were recently changed with the proper fluids. Quickie lube receipts would not satisfy me on that regard.

Thanks UncleTurbo. Sounds like good advice re: the fluids.

Some research showed that 2003 models forward use timing chains, not belts, so that eliminates one concern.

The engine will last anywhere from 3 more miles to 300,000 more miles. Getting 200K out of most any engine these days is really not hard or rare. But automatic transmissions? These days, its the transmission that will send the car to the scrap yard, not the engine.