Scheduled Maintenance on a recently purchased vehicle

OK - just purchased a 2004 Honda Civic EX Coupe with 147500 mi.

I had a pre-purchase inspection done, which covered a lot of things, but the manual recommends several other services that I’m not sure if they’ve been done:

Replace Air Filter (every 30k) (that’s easy enough to do)
Replace Brake Fluid (every 3 years) (could do with help)
Replace Cabin Air Filter (every 30k or 2 years) (a little more complicated, but still doable)
Replace Engine Coolant (every 60k or 5 years) (no clue)
Inspect Idle Speed (every 110k) (no clue)
Replace Spark Plugs (every 110k) (I assume this is pretty straightforward - similar to a lawnmower?)
Replace Timing Belt (every 110k or 7 years) (could do with help)
Replace Manual Transmission Fluid (every 120k or 6 years) (no clue)
Inspect Valve Clearance (every 110k) (no clue)

For the replacement items, would I be able to tell whether they’ve been done recently (e.g. Brake Fluid, Antifreeze, Spark Plugs, Timing Belt, MTF)
I’m a relatively novice mechanic - I can change oil & rotate tires if I’m motivated enough. I’ve done small things like replacing a coolant tank, and replaced a heater blower resistor (on other cars).

What about the idle speed & valve clearance (I assume the latter involves taking apart the cylinders?)


You can do pretty much all of it.

Buy the Haynes manual for your vehicle and you will learn a lot.

I would error on the side of doing / checking everything you mentioned.

Ask who you bought the vehicle from about these because it would be nice to avoid changing something like the timing belt.

Yeah he got it from an auction. May have been a fleet vehicle.

I recommend you do everything, except that you have a mechanic replace the timing belt and adjust the valves. Get those wrong and you ruin the engine.

Everything on the list is inexpensive (assuming you do the timing belt yourself) and I’d suggest doing them all. As Nebin said, a Haynes manual will be a wise investment. Other wise investments would include a set of good “deep” sockets, a good ratchet wrenche set (different sized drives), extra extensions in different sizes, a spark plug socket, a few different size breaker bars, and a torque wrench. A “beam type” (about $25) is perfectly good. I prefer 6-point sockets for most applications. On small bolts they get a better bite.

You’ll find that the spark plugs are set into “tubes”, and you’ll need to use an extension on the socket. I keep one of the proper size taped to the spark plug socket.

If you don’t know if any of these have been done, it would be best to do everything if you want the car to last.

Unfortunately, the timing belt will be an expensive proposition (more than everything else added up), so it’s too bad you don’t have any way to figure out if it’s been done. If this is the original belt, which is a reasonable possibility here, it’s already on borrowed time. If it snaps, you’ll need a new engine. Don’t forget to replace the water pump at the same time.

Is it possible to tell whether the TB’s been done? I guess I could just look and see if it’s worn/cracked or looks relatively new.

Impossible. And by the time you get that close it’d be foolhearty not to just go ahead and change it. And with 146K on the clock you may as well change the water pump and tensioner weile you’re there too.

Besides, I could be wrong but I believe that car has an interference engine. That means that if the timing belt breaks, the pistons bang into the valves and damage multiplies. Dinged pistons and bent valve stems can seriously affect the welfare of your bank account.

I have an '03 Civic EX manual transmission. You can’t inspect the timing belt. If there is no sticker or service record anywhere to document the belt was changed, then assume it wasn’t done and get a new TB ASAP. At the same time have the valves adjusted and let the mechanic adjust the idle if necessary.

I have a Haynes manual and do a fair amount of work on my cars, but I don’t mess with timing belts. You do have an interference engine so the motor will have significant damage if the belt breaks. If the belt is installed improperly and someone attempts to start the motor with the motor mistimed you are looking at damaged valves and a real big expensive mess.

All the rest of the stuff you could do yourself. I believe in Honda brand fluids and recommend you use Honda coolant, manual trans fluid, power steering fluid and change them out. Any brake fluid that meets the appropriate DOT spec is OK.

The cabin air filter has 2 elements and is easy to change when you figure out how to remove the bumpers on the glove box so it will rotate fully out of your way. The contents of the glove box will dump out, so you best remove any items in there beforehand. Spark plugs are easy. Coolant can be replaced when the timing belt, water pump, job is done.

There are a few things manufacturers skimp on to make the maintenance costs seem lower
(they’re mainly interested in getting the vehicle through the warranty):

Inspect Valve Clearance every 110k. That’s crazy. Do it at least every 60K, preferably 30k.
Replace Manual Transmission Fluid every 120k. Again, 30-60k if you want it to be trouble free.

Removing a spark plug that’s been in for 110k could be a nightmare. I’d pull them every 60k.

I would never allow spark plugs to remain in place for 100k miles although I realize it’s often recommeneded and often done. Spark plugs are not at their optimum at that mileage and there’s always the possibility they may be frozen in place because of being in place for so long. Once removed, they may bring the threads in the cylinder head with them.
Do NOT overtighten spark plugs when you install them. Just snug them up good while using anti-seize on the plug threads and diaelectric grease on the plug boots.

Valve lash should be checked every 30k miles. Again, that 100k miles+ recommendation is ill-advised, factory or not. Most car owners won’t have a problem with that 100k miles recommendation but for the minority it can be expensive when a problem develops. When a person gambles, sometimes they win and sometimes they lose.
The purpose of the exercise is to make sure you’re not a loser.

If the car has an automatic transmission change the fluid every 30k miles.

The idle speed is not adjustable so don’t worry too much about that unless there’s a problem. As to valve clearance it sounds to me like you have the mechanical ability to do something like this. It’s simply removal of the valve cover and carefully follow the procedure on inspection and adjustment. It’s really not that difficult at all if care is used. If you attempt this read up on the procedure about rotating the engine by hand until the valve lifter, etc is on the camshaft base circle.

The timing belt is not that difficult but it is more complicated and can be an expensive mistake if you screw up a procedure. Hope that helps.