Replaced oxygen sensor 5 times already!

Hello everyone! I have a 1996 Honda Civic Hatchback. I have had to replace the O2 sensor 5 times and the Check Engine light is on again and I assume that it is the O2 sensor again. We just had the O2 sensor replaced for the 5th or 6th time 2 months ago! Honda was paying for us to have the O2 sensor replaced but now that the car is at least 14 years old, Honda will not cover the cost of replacement. Our Honda dealer says that it is probably our computer and that we would need to replace that which would cost $900 - $1000. Has anyone had a similar problem? Anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!

Try getting a second opinion from a mechanic who does not have an interest in getting rich on YOUR car!Kidding aside,did the dealer pull codes from the onboard computer?If not I smell refund!Did the dealer offer suggestions why the O2 sensors are going out?Does the engine use oil?

Can you integrate that over some time span? Can I assume that the O2 sensor replacements were over some MASSIVE time/mile span? I mean while the 5th or 6th time was two months ago, over the 14 years …how was the frequency. While it would be too often anyway, one can’t quite say too much if the frequency was every 2 years. That kinda says that it was 100% function for a very broad span of time and/or miles.

See if there is a reflash available for the PCM/ECM. There are also plenty of used/remanufactured units on ebay for CHEAP.

The only think that could cause an oxygen sensor to fail so quickly is a poor quality part or it’s getting contamination from leaded or otherwise contaminated fuel.

The computer will usually throw codes like “EGO (exhaust gas oxygen sensor) indicates engine is lean” or “EGO indicates engine is rich” There may be others like “EGO value is not changing” All but the last one, and maybe not even that one do not necessarily indicate the sensor is bad. If the engine is always running rich, as indicated by the sensor, it can be a leaking injector or other problem. If lean, it can mean air is leaking in somewhere.

You can also get a situation where the computer thinks the engine is lean because of an air leak, so the computer tries to correct if by enriching the fuel mixture, which makes the sensor read ‘rich’, so the computer leans out the mixture… lather, rinse, repeat. This will usually make your car run like crap and mileage will suffer.

Long story short, the trouble codes need to be interpreted by someone with some diagnostic skill–they don’t always indicate you should throw a part at it.

You didn’t mention if the car was running well, nor the code(s) that are being generated. You can get the codes read at an Autozone for free, and post them back here. It’s silly to assume that the sensor is bad just because the check engine light is lit.

…and unless there is some warranty somehow remaining on the car, there’s no reason to take it to the dealer. The dealer will charge you more than anyone else for the same repair, and they are probably no more competent than a decent independent shop. (not a Midas-like chain)

Some data points. Your vehicle probably has two O2 sensors. They do not last forever. Typically they are good for somewhere upward of 60,000 miles. Conventional wisdom is 100,000 miles for heated sensors which I believe yours probably are. (About half that for unheated sensors). You haven’t told us how many miles are on the car, but if it has 300,000 miles, replacing sensors five or six times wouldn’t be outrageous.

O2 sensors can either just fail reporting no heater voltage or four or five other conditions or they can get tired and report inaccurate values causing the vehicle computer to report that the catalytic converter has failed. That latter results in a lot of unnecessary catalytic converter replacements – something you need to watch out for given the vehicle’s history.

Since the dealer has been fixing the sensors up 'til now, they have surely been using genuine Honda parts. It might be an excellent idea to get the next replacement done by an independent mechanic using an aftermarket part. It’s just barely possible that the genuine Honda O2 sensors for the 1996 Civic aren’t all that great. Maybe O2 sensors made by someone else will last longer. You may be able to find sensors with a lifetime warranty, but that won’t include the labor to replace them.

Long story short, the trouble codes need to be interpreted by someone with some diagnostic skill–they don’t always indicate you should throw a part at it.

My thought exactly. Those codes don’t say "Replace the O? sensor.

now that the car is at least 14 years old, Honda will not cover the cost of replacement.

You should read up on the lemon laws.

http://www.jdpower.com/cc/auto/bbb/lemon_law.jsp

http://www.lemonlawamerica.com/

One thing you have not stated is whether it’s the same sensor being replaced each time (there’s more than one) and you’re making the statement that “I assume…” it is the O2 again.

My suggestion is to get AutoZone, Checkers, etc to scan the car and post any code or codes back for discussion.

There’s just not enough info known to really know what is going on here.

I never cease to be amazed at the number of O2 complaints and replacements referred to on this board.
In spite of countless miles driven by me and my family members we’ve never had to buy an O2 sensor except one time. Even that was due to a wrench that slipped during routine maintenance and which struck the O2, cracking the porcelain in the process.
Since I was planning on a trip to the Pull A Part yard I just picked up a used one for 5 bucks and voila.

Just my opinion and seeing as how O2 sensors are only made by a few companies, my feeling is that there is a lot of misdiagnosing going on and the distinct possibility that a legitimately bad O2 is being killed. It’s not dying a natural death.

Running rich can also kill the O2 sensor. I’d start by determining if you’re running rich. If you don’t have a sniffer handy (like they use at inspection stations) just hold a piece of white paper up to your tail pipe and see if the exhaust turns it black. Another good indication is if the muffler tip or the bumper just above the muffler has black stains on it.

If you’re running rich constantly either your fuel maps are messed up (in which case you might actually need to replace that computer, but don’t let the mechanic do it. Get one from a junk yard and do it yourself - it’s easy. 4 bolts and a plug - shouldn’t cost more than $50-100) or your timing is too retarded (which is also a relatively easy fix)

Could you have the codes read and post them back here?? Are there any drivability issues? High oil consumption?

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You know our Forum really misses “hellokit” on these type of questions.He was clearly the best (OK in my eyes) on OBDII material. If I could do only one test with your “faulty” 02 sensors I would do the “heat with propane torch test”. If you can’t find a description I will get out of bed and find my book for you (my spinal fusion hurts today, will I ever work again?)

Hello Everyone! Thank you so much for all of your responses! It is clear that I need to do a few things. First, I will call the dealer and find out exactly what codes my car was throwing on the past CEL checks. Then, I will bring my car somewhere to see what code is causing the current CEL. I will then post that information back here to see if anyone has any suggestions for a next step. You are all super awesome! Hope you are all having a great holiday weekend!!!

Honda had problems with this vintage Accords and ended up giving a 14 year, 150k mile extended warrantee. We have a 97 Accord that has gone through 3 sensors, at Honda’s expense. The second one only lasted a couple thousand miles. The third one has lasted though.

Your problem could be with the O2 heater. If thats the case, have all the wiring checked.

Hi. There are no drivability issues that we have noticesd. Plus, we have only 60,500 miles on the car (even though it is over 14 years old…) and we have normal oil consumption. I will go to an AutoZone type joint to figure out why our CEL is on. Thanks!

Thanks for the suggestion. I will have the car checked out and let you guys know what the scoop is. And, I do know that there are 2 sensors and I don’t know if it is always the same one. Thanks!