How much longer could this car last?

civic
honda

#1

I have a 1996 Honda Civic EX that I am pretty attached to (had it since '96). It needs a bunch of work, more than it is technically worth, but I’m willing to spend considerably more than the value of the car because of how important it is to me. But, I don’t want to be totally blinded by love if it is unlikely to ever be reliably roadworthy again. I’m wondering how likely it is that this car could last another few years if I make the repairs below, or if it seems too far gone/like there is likely a bunch of damage I haven’t discovered yet. I’m not a car expert and am not in a position to do repairs myself, but if I felt like I could get another few years (even just 2) out of it that would help me decide how much money I’m willing to put into it. These are the known issues with the car:

  1. needs throttle body assembly replaced. It makes revving noises while in park - Mechanic said this was due to the throttle body assembly issue, but are there potentially other causes?
  2. needs Front wheel bearings replaced
  3. needs Front bake replaced
  4. needs Engine & transmission mounts replaced
  5. It was out of my possession and in Texas for two years and the driver from that period mentioned “possible damage related to overheating. It may have a blown head gasket (new coolant hose didn’t solve the issue)” - I’m unsure what damage this would include. I took it to a mechanic who specializes in Hondas and asked him to do a general assessment of what it would take to repair it, and he did not mention the head gasket being an issue (though he mainly drove it around and looked under the hood to do his assessment, not sure how obvious a blown head gasket would be). I haven’t noticed any leaks, smoke, etc.

It currently is drivable (technically) but is obviously shaky and not very safe, so it’s been parked for a year (moved every few months) and needs to get jumped in order to start. I’m not sure if that is just because it gets driven so rarely or if there could be an actual electrical issue. The car was out of my possession for a two year period (up until a year ago when I got it back and it has been parked). Before that, it was receiving regular maintenance, oil changes, etc. It didn’t really have any issues for the first 16 or so years of it’s life, made multiple cross country trips, and it has never overheated outside of that two year period when it was in Texas.

I know this is a very vague/possibly obvious question, but even if I just get a clear sense that I should just put it out of it’s misery, that’s helpful.


#2

The possible overheating and head gasket issue with what you are experiencing now is what would make the cost of the repairs too high to be worth it.

I know you like the car, but it is from a different century, time to move on. When you get your new/newer car, then you will grow to like that one too.


#3

I think you should find out for sure about the head gasket. That’s the one that can skyrocket the bill.


#4

How many miles on the car? Is there any rust? Is the interior bleached out and cracking? Does the car shift well (auto or manual)?

None of the repairs are particularly expensive. Together they add up to quite a bit, especially the head gasket.

Nearly ANY car can be kept running almost indefinitely as long as rust doesn’t compromise the safety IF you spend enough money. It can be made relatively reliable but not as reliable as a newer car. Fixing it likely will take more time and money since parts will be harder and more expensive to find. The first accident you are in, even a minor one, will total out the car. You’ve admitted its an emotional issue. So…

Only you can answer the question, “Is it worth fixing?”


#5

Low coolant can also cause this symptom.

That supports the low coolant theory.

Can you do all the work yourself? If so, you might be able to fix it for about 200% of the value of the car. With the number of engine issues you’re having, and given that you have to disconnect the motor to replace the mounts anyway, if it were my car and I was really in love with it I’d probably just swap engines. They can be had for around 900 bucks on your car. And you can replace all the hard to get at bits while the new motor is on the engine stand instead of having to wrestle around an installed engine to do it.

That said, I had a 1988 CRX that I was really in love with, and when it developed issues that couldn’t be fixed without blowing through a lot of money, I junked it and bought a 1991 CRX which I still have. I spent a lot less money switching cars and got a much nicer example to boot.

Mid-90’s Civics are a dime a dozen. If you’re really in love with the car you can probably find one in better shape for less than you’ll spend repairing this one.


#6

1-3 are no big deal, but numbers 4 and 5 are a little worrying. Motor mounts wear happens b/c of rapid accelerations and engine induced decelerations. I own a 45 year old truck and a 25 year old Corolla, and neither have ever needed new engine mounts. If "on the aggressive side"describes your driving style, might be in your best interest to consider looking for a replacement vehicle. The engine and transmission are both suspect if the car has been driven aggressively. I’d hate to see you spending a lot of money on fixing what you know is wrong now, only to have the transmission go out or a major engine failure 2 months later.


#7

My opinion as is often the case is different. I can’t disagree with any viewpoint here, But a real important question is: DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO SUPPORT AN EXPENSIVE HOBBY?

If you do, the next question is: HAVE THE RUST SITUATION RESOLVED.

If rust isn’t bad, then it is just an expensive hobby. A lot of people have expensive hobbies of many kinds. And, keeping a much loved car running is not at the high end of expensive. In fact, it is probably very near the low end of expensive, even if you have to work on the heads.

I am a CPA, retired, inactive. And, I guarantee you, money is not always more important than emotional satisfaction.

If you cannot afford a relatively cheap expensive hobby, get rid of that junk ASAP.

As far as what happens if you put a lot of money in it for emotional reasons, and it gets totaled out for a low cost wreck, well, it was only money. Don’t let the bean counter types force you into their attitudes. And, it might not get wrecked!


#8

It’s been 60 years since I wrecked a car while on the road. And it was not me that was doing the driving.

My point is that you can go a long time on a car, and wrecking it is should not be a major concern.


#9

That was my exact point. Worrying about a car he loves and if he can afford to fix it, getting wrecked should not be a major parameter.

I learned to be a bean counter studying for the CPA exam. Then, I grew up and realized that in your personal life, there are more important issues than the mighty dollar. If he loves that car and can afford it, go for it.


#10

Hi everyone,

Thanks for your comments, they were very helpful. I ran a few checks that did not indicate a blown head gasket, and that combined with the lack of leaks/smoking, clean oil check, and that the mechanic did not find an issue makes me think the head gasket is ok. The person who originally suggested that the head gasket might be a problem was not a mechanic, he just knew that the car had overheated and that replacing the coolant hose did not resolve it. I’m going to try to do a compression test just to make sure.

@Mustangman, there don’t seem to be rust issues and the interior is in good shape aside from a missing steering column plastic cover. Has just under 173k miles on it. These comments have given me some good direction to determine whether this is worth fixing to me.

@shadowfax, I sadly can’t do any of the work myself though I’d love to. That’s an interesting idea to replace to engine while other work is being done. Honestly I live in a city with good public transportation and wouldn’t drive this car as my main mode of transit, so if I don’t keep this car I’ll likely be carless. This is really just about me loving this particular vehicle.

@GeorgeSanJose, I am not a particularly aggressive driver but I did learn to drive on this car so I’m sure I wasn’t particularly gentle with it in the first few years. The mechanic I took it to did suggest that the other damage (2-4) was caused/exacerbated by the broken throttle body. So he essentially said to prioritize the new throttle body ahead of the other repairs or I’d just get the same issues. Does that make sense, or is it possible I misunderstood him?

@BillRussell and @irlandes, I totally agree. If this money was purely based on money I’d likely have gotten rid of it long ago.

Another question issue that I noticed recently - the battery is about a year old. However it now essentially needs to be jumped to be started. If you turn the key in the ignition nothing happens. If you attach it to a jumpstarter it will sputter for a couple seconds and then start and run fine. I haven’t been driving it, but it seems to have this issue even when it’s been charged from the portable jumpstarter for a while. Does anyone have a sense of possible causes for this, and how much those repairs would cost? This is new since I had it looked at a year ago.


#11

Without a cooling system problem or a symptom of a head gasket failure I would not have that replaced. You may have to drive the car for a period of time to determine the state of the engine.

Engine mounts deteriorate with time and heat, this has little to due with aggressive driving. Most of the engine mounts that I replace are in vehicles that belong to mature owners, they seem to keep vehicles longer than younger drivers.

Recharging a battery with a battery jump pack connected to a power outlet would take 2 to 3 days and is awkward. A battery will go dead after a year of inactivity, best to recharge it with a battery charger.


#12

There could be several causes of this.

  1. Repeated discharges will ruin a battery, so that could be the problem.
  2. There could be a high parasitic drain, that is, when the engine is off the current doesn’t go to close to zero as it should, due to a wiring or electrical problem. This will drain the battery between uses
  3. The alternator could be bad, so the battery is never charged correctly.

Have the battery and charging system checked.


#13

As long as the throttle body wasn’t damaged by the engine mount problem, that makes sense. I’d suggest a compression test also added to the first priority category.

As for the battery, besides the good ideas above, if it goes really dead for quite some time, it can take a few charge/discharge cycles for it to start to recover and hold a healthy charge again. Suggest to charge it overnight using a battery charger on the 2 amp setting. Then drive the car the next day. You may have to do this several times over the course of a couple of weeks. If it still won’t hold a charge after that, have a battery load test performed. If it fails, buy a new battery. If you have to jump start the vehicle, that makes the whole electrical system suspect, you can’t logically eliminate the cause of problems, b/c they might be caused by a faulty battery.


#14

Thanks for the tips @Nevada_545, @BillRussell, and @GeorgeSanJose. I’ll try charging the battery for longer, driving it a bit, and getting the battery and charging system checked.

If there is an issue with the electrical system, how catastrophic could that potentially be and about how much could those repairs cost (that may be a vague question, but even ballpark would help)? I haven’t been factoring this potential issue into my decision.


#15

It is normal for a car battery to go dead after a year of storage. Have you been using a battery charger?


#16

That’s too general of question for anyone to answer. Most electrical problems are things like a dead battery, a faulty alternator, blown fuses, shorted lamp sockets. Those kinds of problems are generally not overly expensive to correct, mostly less than $500 say. Problems involving the wiring harness and the engine computer can be quite a bit more than that. I expect there’s quite a few older cars sent to the shredder because of those kinds of problems. So it depends on what’s wrong.


#17

I would get a newer car because safety standards has come a long way compare to the 90"s.


#18

Thanks @GeorgeSanJose. Would a wiring harness or engine computer issue be something that can be checked before the other repairs are made, or is it strictly wait and see?

My mechanic also asked me to supply the throttle body assembly part myself. His advice was to be careful not to get one for a racing engine - would the technical specs/description clearly distinguish between a racing engine and a regular one?

There also seem to be a ride range of prices for throttle body assemblies and I’m not sure how bad a used one with wear and tear is versus brand new. Do any of these seem reasonable?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1996-1997-1998-1999-2000-Honda-Civic-MT-Throttle-Body-Assembly-118k-OEM-/362009197368


I’m new to auto part purchasing, so if you have any sites you recommend or advice on things to look out for that would be great. I’ve also heard a junkyard may be a good place to try, but I wanted to get a better idea of what I was looking for.


#19

That is why you should deal with a mechanic who supplies the repair parts. You furnish parts and you will not have any warranty and if the part is bad or fails you will be right back where you started.


#20

If I owned a 1996 Honda Civic EX and needed a replacement throttle body, first place I’d check is the local Pick and Pull auto parts recycler’s yard. If you have one in your area, you can find it by Googling. You can tell what cars they have on hand currently, so see if there’s one that matches your Honda make/model/year. There were a huge number of that car sold so I doubt you’ll have much trouble find that part from a recycler, wrecked cars and the like. If your Pick and Pull doesn’t have that car now, they’ll probably have it not too long from now. The next choice I’d look if P & P didn’t have it is the place that you take your car to have it shredded. They strip the parts from the cars destined for the shredder, inventory, and sell them to folks like you. Both kinds of recyclers have an accurate data base which says what make/model/year is compatible with yours for the throttle body. And they have a nationwide used parts network, so if they don’t have the part at that location, maybe somebody in another state has one, and if you want it, they’ll ship from the other state it to that location. Sometimes I’ll go to one of those places to get a part, they won’t have it, but they’ll give me a print-out of all the cars which were manufactured with that part, which is very valuable information. I doubt I’d ever buy a throttle body via the internet, just b/c if it doesn’t work or doesn’t fit then it’s a big hassle if it is even possible to return it. I’d have to be really desperate to buy a used throttle body over the internet.

Have you had a compression or leak down test on the engine cylinders done to make sure they don’t have a valve or ring problem? If not, suggest you do that first before worrying about the throttle body.