Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Just bought my first car

It’s an '04 Civic with 92,000 miles…got it from a dealer with a carfax that shows it’s been regularly maintained (oil changes, etc) and occasionally serviced but I don’t know what all has actually been done. Is there anything I should immediately have done/checked for?

the first thing to do, and this should be done before you buy a car, is take it to a reputable independent shop and have them do an inspection. Have them check it over bumper to bumper. This is probably going to cost you fifty to a hundred dollars but will be well worth it.

timing belt

You’re probably close to needing a timing belt, if it hasn’t been done already. Check your manual. You don’t want to let it snap unless you feel like buying a new engine.

Among the things that are likely overdue [unless the previous owner(s) were very conscientious about maintenance]:

Brake fluid should be changed every 3 yrs/36k miles, whichever comes first. Failure to do this can result in some expensive brake problems and/or loss of braking ability on a long downgrade.

Automatic trans fluid should be changed every 3 yrs/36k miles, whichever comes first. Failure to do this will result in VERY expensive transmission failure anytime after 90k miles, and is pretty much of a sure thing by 120k miles.

For the immediate future:

The timing belt is supposed to be replaced at 105k miles or 8 years, whichever comes first. You seem to have a bit of time before this is vital, but make a note to have it done next year. Failure to do this will result in catastrophic engine damage.

Also–check your Owner’s Manual to see when the spark plugs are supposed to be changed. More than likely, 90k is the limit. Failure to do this will result in reduced power, fewer mpg, starting problems, and–perhaps a problem removing the spark plugs at a later date without damage to the engine.

Additionally, check the Owner’s Manual for the interval for changing the coolant and the air and fuel filters. Unless you have documentary proof that these things were done at 60k, it is time to do them.

I’m going to assume your car is a standard Civic with the 1.7 liter engine, and not an Si or a hybrid.

If you don’t have documented proof the timing belt was replaced you’re going to have to have it done soon. The 1.7 is an “interference” engine, and if the timing belt breaks the valves and pistons inside the engine will collide, resulting in significant and very expensive internal damage.

Timing belt replacement on this car is part of routine maintenance, and I’m sure the maintenance schedule that came with the owner’s manual will tell you how often the belt should be replaced.

A new water pump should be installed along with the timing belt, and perhaps a belt tensioner and a pulley or two. This service normally runs around $500-750, depending on who does the work.

I know this is not what you want to hear, but it’s extremely important to have the belt replaced BEFORE it breaks.

If the car has an automatic transmission, it, too should be serviced by replacing the transmission fluid.

You must use ONLY genuine Honda transmission fluid for this, so it might be a good idea to have the dealer do the fluid change.

If the car is a manual, it, too, needs an oil change. Once again, Honda transmission oil only.

Good luck with your Civic. They are very reliable cars as long as you follow the maintenance schedule.

If you don’t have the owner’s documentation that should have come with the car you can probably download it from Honda or find a used owner’s manual at

The quote they got for the belt change might have been why they were selling the car in the first place. :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s also possible the original owner became aware of the timing belt job and as many do, decided to dump the car and let the next owner worry about it.

I have an '03 Civic with 106K miles. You are due for a timing belt. Brake fluid should have been flushed several times. You are due for new coolant at 105K miles, new plugs at 105K miles. and value adjustment at 105K miles. Auto or manual trans fluid changes several times, every 30K miles for an auto trans, every 60K miles for manual trans.

Best to pay a bit more and use Honda brand fluids in your Honda. I buy the fluids from Honda and have my regular mechanic use them when servicing the car. Generic fluids do not do well in Honda’s, especially in the auto trans.

Thanks! Very detailed. I know about the all-important timing belt, that’s the main thing I’m worried about. I didn’t realize manual transmissions also required fluid changes so I’ll have to look into that.

yikes! I sure hope not…but I’m really happy with this car so far and I’ll do whatever needs to be done.

Needs to be said again: HONDA BRAND FLUIDS ONLY. This includes coolant, power steering, brake, transmission, and clutch (same as brake fluid). Owner’s manual is your best resource.

Stay out of chain shops. If they claim that their fluids are “universal” leave immediately. They do not know what they are talking about.

Some '04 Civics Have Contaminated Factory - Fill Coolant. Your Civic’s Factory - Filled Coolant (If It’s Original) Should Be Fairly Bright Blue Or Bright Green, Not Cloudy Or Some Other Color.

Some '04 Civic owners have had radiators plug up, causing poor cabin heat output or engine over-heating.

Why not flush the cooling system, anyhow ? Better still, when the timing belt is replaced, have the water pump replaced and the coolant flushed and replaced.