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Should I replace my 2002 Honda Accord head gasket?

Earlier this week, my 2002 Honda Accord died on the freeway. My mechanic, whom I trust, said (A) that a heater hose had burst and (B) the head gasket had blown. So the question is, should I get the head gasket replaced? (He says that if we go that route he would also advise doing a valve job and a timing chain replacement at the same time.)

The car has 210,000 miles on it; the transmission was replaced, by Honda, at 105,000 miles. I like the car and I’d like to get another couple of years out of it, but I don’t know if I’d be throwing good money after bad.

Thanks for any advice,

SFPete

I look at three things with a vehicle that has over 200,000 miles on it. If a major component fails ie: engine/transmission, it’s gone. Or if the body/interior is degraded, it’s gone.

Tester

If you like the car and know the service history of it and the rest of the car (brakes, suspension, body,interior, etc.) is well-maintained, I’d lean towards fixing it–properly. Valve job, rings and bearings, and you should be able to hit the 300,000 mile mark. It may cost you $2500, but that’s far less than a year’s payments on a new car.

I agree with Tester. Once you hit 10 years and 200,000 miles a major failure such as engine or transmission is the end. If you have not already replaced brake lines and fuel lines (a common problem with these cars at this age) you can expect to drop another $1000 to $2000 into it soon. Suspension components will start to fail as well. I owned an Accord of this generation and my son still drives it (with 197,000 miles). It is a lovable car that seems indestructible but don’t let your emotional attachment drive your decision here.

Personally I would simply change the head gasket only if reasonable cost and drive on.

How much for head gasket only?

From afar, there are really no easy answers.
First of all, the exact sequence of events is probably not known, and may never be known.

If the heater hose was the first thing to go, it is very likely that low coolant level led to overheating and to the blown head gasket. If there was significant overheating, it is entirely possible that the head is warped, and there could even be other problems such as bearing damage and scoring of cylinder walls, thus leading to more repair cost than simply replacing the head gasket.

Also–it is very possible that the replacement transmission is about to say its farewell soon. If the replacement transmission died after ~100k miles, it certainly wouldn’t be the first replacement trans from a Honda of this era to die after about the same number of miles as the original one.

At 200k+ miles, the car has seen most of its good days, and repair costs will only accelerate from this point forward, even after the currently-needed repairs. That is just the way that things can be expected to go when you get to this number of miles.

The OP should do whatever he feels is in his best interests, but I would not sink any more money into this car.

It’s a question of value…You are about to spend a LOT of money on this car and your chances of recovering the value of that money by having a sound, trouble-free car are slim to none. Time to move on…

I agree with Caddyman and others. It’s time to move on and not throw good money after bad. I have driven cars further than that, but they were rear drive V8 Chevies which soldier on forever wirh only modest repair costs.

I’d call it a day and sell it to a junkyard.

IF you knew that the brake lines, body, suspension, and the transmission were all in good condition, then it would be a “maybe”…

But unless you can check these - in particular the transmission, because repeated failures on these cars aren’t rare - I wouldn’t put money into it. The only way I’d fix it without being able to check everything out properly (checking the transmission with a bad engine isn’t easy) would be if I could do the repairs myself, and that would generally mean that I’d have another vehicle available. But I sense that’s not in the cards here, so scrapping it is likely the best option.

Think of it this way - for the $2,000 or so that work is likely going to cost, you can just about buy an Accord with similar age and mileage in working condition where everything can be properly checked out. Throw in the scrap value that you’d get (I’d wager $500-750), and you’re right there in the ballpark for being able to replace the vehicle with something similar.

Personally, I’d fix it if it’s otherwise in good shape. I had this same conversation with people when my '89 Toyota Pickup timing chain got noisy at 200,000 miles.I chose to fix it. I had the truck for another 138,000 miles without ever having to again open the engine before it got totalled in an accident.

By the SF in the ID I assume you’re in the San Francisco area and my understanding is that they have some of the highest labor rates in the country. You’re also facing the state of CA emissions program.

Overheating can cause oil consumption problems (there goes your emissions pass) so before committing to a head gasket job I’d want to know 2 things.

The total cost of the repair.
A compression test of all cylinders before anything is disassembled. A breach in the head gasket will affect 1 or more cylinders but generally does not affect all of them. The purpose of the compression test on the unaffected cylinders is to try and determine what shape the piston rings are in.
Any fault with the rings would pretty much assure that it’s time to throw in the towel on this one.

I think this one is a leaner. It’s hard to say. But if you like the car, and it has been reliable for you and is otherwise in good shape, and you want to keep it …

  • Simply replacing the engine may be the more cost effective alternative.

  • Alternatively, a good mechanic should be able to replace the head gasket and get the head re-machined w/no problem, but doing it that way could take the car off the road longer.

  • Consider to replace all the rubber hoses, belts, and other rubber parts with new at this time too.

If you decide to replace the head gasket, I would recommend against a valve job. It seems that on these engines, if you do a valve job with over 100k miles on them, the renewed compression unseats the rings and they start burning oil.