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One of those repair it vs. sell it conundrums

I have a 2005 Honda Civic with 115,000 miles, it’s paid off. The timing belt is due, and that’s not a task I want to take on or let go (had one break on me before), so it needs to go to the repair shop. I’m getting similar quotes from three different shops, about $750.

Normally it would be a no-brainer–get it done and the car would last me another 7 years, but there’s another issue. I have a slow coolant leak that as of yet can’t be found by me or the mechanics I’ve been bringing it to. There’s no white smoke, there’s no whiteness on the plugs, there’s no coolant in the oil, there’s no sweet smell in the cabin, the chemical test for exhaust fumes in the coolant passed, there’s no drips on the garage floor overnight.

I can only guess it’s a small gasket leak (or block/head crack) and the coolant is burning up before showing any signs. It might stay small, and I’ll be annoyed every couple weeks when I lose heat and have to top off the coolant for the rest of the time I own the car. Or it might decide to let go in a fabulous cloud of white while I’m in the middle of nowhere during a snow storm. My two preschoolers are screaming in the back–and of course I left the cell phone on the kitchen counter.

So, best case, I get the timing belt done and get a car for $750 that lasts another couple years. Worst case, I get the timing belt done and the head gasket lets go, costing me thousands in either a down payment or repair.

Thanks in advance for the advice!

Get the belt changed. Along with the water pump. And the front crank seal of it’s needed.

Then get a UV sensitive dye and a blacklight. Follow the directions, It’ll likely suggest adding the dye, running the engine until it’s at full temperature…maybe even 10 miniute more, and looking for the leak with a blacklight.

Unless, of course, there’s coolant on the water pump when you remove it…which would suggest that the pump’s seal at the shaft bearing is leaking…a very common thing for a pump with over 100,000 miles.

A car with that few miles is worth fixing and getting another 7 years of service. I agree with others that you should get a better mechanic to find the leak.

Have you tried using a coolant system pressure tester? I borrowed one from Autozone a month ago to find a leak I knew was there, but couldn’t find. My leak only appeared when the engine had been working hard uphill, and by the time I’d get stopped and up on ramps to search, the leaking stopped, I couldn’t see a source.

Likewise you may be leaking only when you get above a certain temperature/pressure threshold, which is gone by the time you get parked in your garage. It’s a fast, non-technical, and cheap test if you can borrow the pump/gauge unit. You might only need a radiator, hose, or water pump - hope for the best. Mine turned out to be the original radiator with 150k.

750 seems awful high for the timing belt and even including the waterpump,go to somebody who only does Hondas,-Kevin( like the rest I say try to keep it)

@kmccune - agreed. Repairpal shows a timing belt for a 2005 Civic in my area should cost about $304-414. When the waterpump on my 98 Camry failed (just 2 years after having been replaced), I had the waterpump, timing belt and thermostat all changed out for about $550, IIRC.

Unless, of course, there's coolant on the water pump when you remove it.....which would suggest that the pump's seal at the shaft bearing is leaking..........a very common thing for a pump with over 100,000 miles.
I'm guessing this is the problem with the coolant leak. The seals tend to leak while the vehicle is in cool down mode. You don't see it when you look while driving but there it is on the floor the next morning. This is even more common when the temperature outside is cooler. We have a 93 Ranger in the family that I am quite sure the water pump is going out. The owner only put 3000 miles on it last year. During the winter months it consumed/leaked a lot of fluid. During the summer months I haven't added a drop. Will be changing the pump in just a few weeks for sure this time as staining is showing at the weep hole in the pump.

Repair the car and keep it would be my suggestion.

“750 seems awful high for the timing belt and even including the waterpump”

It depends where you live. I just had the timing belt, drive belt, water pump, and coolant replaced on my Accord and it cost $800. That was the lowest price by a long shot. Honda dealer, too, in the Baltimore area.

Get the timing belt job done.

I had a similar coolant leak with an '03 Civic. The pressure test with the engine warm didn’t turn up the leak. Mechanic let the car sit overnight in the garage and did another pressure test in the morning when the motor was cold and a slight leak and loss of pressure did turn up. In this case a loose clamp.

The leak could be a simple pin sized hole or very small crack in a hose, a crack in the plastic nipples on the radiator, or even a bad radiator cap. In other words you’d be bailing on a very good car over a minor problem.

For a leak that small, you also might be in the select group of people who would actually benefit from some of those “stop-leak” products. Most people try to use them to fix major leaks, but if it’s so small that it’s not detectable, this just might work as a semi-permanent fix.

One more point about those goshdarn water pump leaks…they can weep only when the pump is running and self-stop when the engne is turned off…

I hope the OP posts back.