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Speedometer/Odometer repair

i am a nineteen year old (female) driver. i have been driving a 1995 honda civic when i’m home from school, and have been driving it for the last three years.

my seventeen year old brother also drives this car fairly regularly.

September through May, it is driven maybe 50-100 miles per week tops to and from school, church, etc.

June through August, maybe 180-230 miles per week to commute to work, run errands, etc.

it has about 200k miles on it, but i’m not quite sure of the exact mileage due to one issue.

it runs perfectly, with one exception: the speedometer only works intermittently. (maybe 65% not, 35% does). this has been a slight worry, but not necessarily a problem, for about three years. i first started noticing this in August/September of 2007.

when the speedometer doesn’t work, the odometer does not register the miles being driven.

it rarely works after the car has been turned on. after about 5 to 10 minutes of driving, 75% of the time it will start operating again, but after another 5 to 10 minutes, it usually drops back down to zero, and only seems to work at random intermittent periods after that. the temperature outside does not seem to affect this at all (ranges from 0’s F in winter to 90-100’s F in summer).

this has become a bigger worry, because not only are my brother and i unsure of the speed at which we are driving, but i also can’t clock my mileage to and from work and am unsure when routine maintenance is needed (oil change, etc.). fortunately, i have been able to ‘guesstimate’ when to change the oil and approximately how fast i’m driving (no tickets or problems with the oil so far). it’s becoming more of a concern now that i’m only home for one weekend (friday night-sunday morning) a month, and my brother (as the primary driver) doesn’t really know how to tell or ‘guesstimate’ when maintenance is needed since the odometer isn’t registering a lot of the miles driven on this car (i usually get the oil changed either after 6-8 months, but my dad usually insists on waiting until we’ve driven an estimated 4k-5k miles). so far, i’ve been the only person bringing it in for maintenance since June 2007.

when my parents and i brought it in to our local honda dealer for a safety check before my brother got his license last summer, he mentioned that the connecting wire was corroded, BUT that the entire speedometer would need to be replaced, at a cost of about $600.

everything else (the engine, transmission, wheel axles, alignment, etc.) are all in excellent condition, so this car could potentially be driven for another 5 to 10 years.

my questions (finally!) are:

1. do we really need to get the whole speedometer replaced? or is there a way to replace just the wire (hopefully at a much lower cost)? was the mechanic just trying to get me to buy a whole new speedometer when the only problem seems to be the wire? is it worth investing $600 in a new speedometer for a 16 year old car?

and, in your opinion,

2. at this point in the life of the car, even though it is operating perfectly, is it even worth replacing? i should probably also mention that i have another brother (currently 15) who will get his permit this June, will get his license next year, and barring any major problems, will also be using this car. as a brand-new driver, he won’t be able to tell (or know) how fast he’s going, which makes me concerned for his safety and driving record.

hopefully all of the above background information helps.

please post if there is any information that i have left out that may be helpful, and thanks for responding to my questions:)

i’ll be going home next weekend (and probably be getting the oil changed), so (if necessary), i’d like to be equipped with a reasonable repair strategy to present to both my parents and the mechanic.

Have a good independent mechanic check the car out and go from an “unknown” to a “known”. A dealer is not a good place to find out the real cause of any mechanical/electrical failure. The reason is that they like to throw parts at a problem in the hopes that it will go away. You need a speedometer that works. Think of a good salvage yard when you find out what’s actually wrong with the speedometer. You drive a used vehicle so used parts make a lot of sense. I finally finished reading your entire post and I have one question: Did the butler do it?

actually, it was Colonel Mustard, in the library, with a candlestick.

thanks for reading and replying:) i know it’s long-winded, but i wanted to make sure i didn’t omit anything that could be useful!

It is worth fixing, even if it ends up costing, $600! The main reason is that it’s a tough little car and two brother will be honing their driving skills in it. It’s the perfect car for that, rather than your dad’s Mercedes.

As others mentioned, get a second opinion, and a good independent mechanic will be able to salvage one from a wreck. You are actually LEGALLY required to have a working speedometer in almost all jurisdictions.

Just keep maintaining it by the book, and it will serve you for many more years!

Good luck!