Honda death?

Four days ago, my 1999 Honda Civic (189,000 miles) died, stranding my toddler and me in 105 degree heat. Previously dependable, the car started having trouble just hours after an oil change and general safety check by a locally respected mechanic (who specializes in European cars). The first sign something was wrong was an inability to accelerate then intermittent loss of power for about ten blocks and finally full stop and a grudging push to the side of the road by a couple of sweating strangers. An hour later, when the tow truck arrived, the car seemed to drive OK, but there was liquid all over the engine, so the tow truck took it away. That I had had an oil change hours before was a coincidence, I keep trying to convince myself. I had an appointment at the same place the next day for tires so I had it towed there. That mechanic has since given it a more-or-less clean bill of health 3 times, yet now it sits stranded at a friend’s house. The first time, he repaired a water hose that had broken. Within a block, I knew the acceleration was less than normal. He then replaced the distributor, which he said had been fried by the water. Next morning, the check engine light came on and my toddler learned some words I had been trying hard not to teach him. Back to the mechanic! Now he said the catalytic converter was going bad and I could keep driving without problems as long as I didn’t believe in global warming (I do, but am also broke). It drove fine for several miles and two trips that day, but on the third trip that day started losing power again. I drove up a gentle hill at a top speed of 15 mph and then just ditched the car (at least for the weekend) at a friend’s. We spent $700 a month ago to replace an O2 sensor and CV boots and were counting on this car to get us from KS back home to CA. So far, THIS problem has been about another $700. What’s up? What should we do now?

Sounds like an old car that had overheated and possibly a lot of problems at once. The vehicle is 13years/189k miles old.

Maybe try a another mechanic if you don’t trust this one. Or stick it out.

Wish I could say more.

The descriptions you are giving is somewhat all over the place and I know it is not your fault. Either you have a single problem and need a good mechanic ro find it, OR, there are many things wrong with the car. In the latter case, it might be time for a new one. You still need to take it to a good, honest mechanic just for diagnosing whats wrong.

First you should find a good Honda mechanic, as this “European specialist” hasn’t correctly diagnose the “loss of power” problem in several attempts.

Your sequence of events is a little hard to understand, but it sounds like shortly after the oil change, the car started to lose power, and there was water all over the engine. Your mechanic then replaced a hose and called it good. When the car started to lose power, did any dash lights come on? Did it overheat? One possibility is, when the hose broke, it sprayed water all over the distributor and ignition wires, causing the engine to misfire, thus the loss of power. The mechanic probably assumed that was the reason for the loss of power, and that a new hose and a dried off ignition system would solve the problem.

Did the oil change cause a broken water hose? Probably not, so I don’t think that was the mechanic’s fault. However, when you brought it in the next time and he replaced the distributor…probably that wasn’t a good guess as to why you were still losing power. At that point I’d be suspecting maybe a bad coil, or a bad fuel pump. Not clear if he checked either of those.

What you need now is a good Honda mechanic. Click the Mechanics Files tab on this page to find a recommended mechanic in your area. This should not be a terribly difficult problem to diagnose, you just need to find someone who knows what they’re doing and will take the time to figure it out.

Were there any other lights beside the check engine light? Oil change and problems sound related to me. Replacing hose indicates high coolant pressure to cause it to blow. I would find a new mechanic if you are not mechanically inclined. My guess, a connector such as the one to the electric cooling fan or something so simple as that got inadvertently disconnected. The hope is other major engine damage did not occur.

Assuming for the sake fo discussion this problem is or was not caused by a lack of engine oil due to the oil change that was performed and IF there are no codes present then you might consider a failing ignition switch.

Your car should be under a Recall for this problem and if the Recall has not been performed previously then you can have this done free of charge at any Honda dealer.
Call the Honda dealer tomorrow. give them the VIN, and schedule this repair if necessary.

There are other things that could cause this but lacking detail and considering the ignition switch can be a freebie you might take advantage of the switch Recall.

Did you happen to glance at the temperature gauge when it FIRST died and left you stranded? If you had lost all your coolant and the car became severely overheated, that event could have destroyed your engine…it’s all a matter of degrees, just how hot did it get? At this point, the best way to determine the overall condition of the engine would be to have a compression test done…The “loss of power” you describe can sometimes be caused by plugged fuel filter, a simple repair…

That’s a good point about overheating Caddyman. I had forgotten the part about liquid all over the engine.
It could also be that this liquid might be oil thrown out because of failure to reinstall the oil filler cap.

Maybe it’s time for a compression test also. :frowning:

When the car first gave trouble, the check engine light flickered but did not stay on. No other warning lights were on. I didn’t look at the heat gauge – silly, I know – but I can say that the AC never stopped working well, which it did years ago when I had a broken radiator that was fixed by a dealer who said no damage was done at that point.

The mechanic suspected a plugged fuel filter and revved the engine in neutral for a while. He seemed satisfied that that wasn’t the problem after doing this, but I didn’t ask why. I figured if it kept revving, fuel was getting to the engine…

Find a new (better) mechanic…Was the fluid covering the engine anti-freeze or motor oil?


Now that the OP has told us that the liquid “all over the engine” was actually the coolant, that she never looked at the temperature gauge, and that the engine was losing power as she drove, I think that severe engine damage as a result of overheating is a very real possibility–as Caddyman suggested.

Nobody, including apparently the OP, knows just how long the engine was overheating, but if it was for more than a couple of minutes, there could be damage ranging from a warped cylinder head, to scored cylinder liners, to damaged bearings, to…enough to add up to a totally trashed engine.

As was suggested, a compression test would be a very good idea before throwing any more parts at this problem.

We don’t know that the engine overheated, only that it threw coolant all over the engine. It could have happened suddenly and the coolant could have caused the engine to shut down before it overheated, but we don’t know one way or the other. What I think we do know by now is that the mechanic is not up to the task. I think it is time for a new mechanic, but get some opinions from friends and coworkers first.

I will jump on the bandwagon and say find a new mechanic. I have a couple reasons:

  1. If your mechanic is responsible for causing the damage, he might be covering his tracks.

  2. You need detailed information about what it wrong, and for that, you need a good diagnostician.

You know you lost coolant and engine power. Now you need to figure out why. Get a compression test done on the engine, and if that doesn’t turn up anything wrong, get the cooling system pressure tested. If those tests don’t turn up anything, ask a Honda/Japanese car specialist to drive your car for a few days. This should improve your odds of finding out what is wrong.

Went back to the same mechanic. Don’t ask why. He said the problem was a clogged catalytic converter and just gutted the cat. Now the car runs and pollutes :frowning: We will get a different car as soon as we can.

Why are you replacing the car instead of replacing the catalytic converter?

A converter doesn’t clog instantly and cause an engine to die so I’m not convinced the cat is the problem at this point; unless the car was running poorly for a while before dying.

I’m curious what state this mechanic is in. Gutting a converter could place him on the wrong side of the law… :wink:

We know the car had a broken water hose. We know the coolant sprayed all over the engine.
We also know the car is losing power to the point of dying.
We also know that we have a mechanic who tests the fuel filter by revving the engine in the parking lot…

First of all, you need a new mechanic. One who understands that a car that has sufficient fuel supply to rev in the parking lot does not necessarily have suficient fuel to pull a car down the road at 40mph. One who knows how to do a fuel line pressure test.

Secondly, I’m suspicious that the car did overheat and there may be a lingering effect such as a blown headgasket. You need a guyu who can check for these things.

I don;t see anything in your post that suggests a bad cat converter. And if that’s suspected, a flow test can be done.

Finally, my guess. You may have damaged an ignition component, like perhaps a coil pack with a bad casing, when the engine got wetted with the coolant from the blown hose. Is it safe to assume that you’ve checked your oil since you got it changed, especially since you’ve been having problems?

I’m pretty sure he was on the wrong side of the law and now so are we. I don’t know why in the hell I took it back to that guy. Plus he tended to do things like gut the cat without telling me ahead of time. I think he was just trying to get it running knowing I was sick to death of all the money I’d been paying. First he told me a new converter would be $1300 and then he told me (on a different day) that he didn’t even know where to get one. He showed me all the gunk he took out. Looked like some stuff had melted in there. He said junk in there was periodically blocking the exhaust flow, although the car was just fine until the hose burst. He couldn’t tell me why the cat would go bad or even what reactions are catalyzed in the converter. I’m going to look on Wikipedia. We now have an appointment with another guy who will do a ‘used car check’ and then replace the catalytic converter if the rest of the car looks OK. But this is a guy who checked out our car before a trip only to leave us with such old brake fluid that the brakes went out on the trip. He’ll replace the cat for $750, though, and the next cheapest is over $1,000.