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Timing belt repair question

Before I overwhelm you with details, I want to be clear with my main question(s): Can you tell me if my car’s current problems may relate to repair work performed at local service center; namely do the problems result from a bad timing belt job? If so, do you have suggestions for how I should approach the service center about problems and getting them taken care of.

History of a 2005 Civic CE:
In March of 2010 my wife and I had our car serviced at the Honda dealership where we had purchased it new about 5 years prior. The service included replacing the water pump and timing belt. This was done prior to driving/moving from North Carolina to Oklahoma. My wife and I have never had a problem with this dealership and had been taking the care there since we had purchased it.

Roughly 18 months later the car reached the 100k mile mark and we took advantage of a 100k mi. check up offered by Honda at our local Honda dealership in Oklahoma. We are told that the water pump leaked and needed to be replaced. The one we had put in 18 months prior was 6 months out of warranty. After some back and forth with the decision we had the water pump replaced as well as the timing belt since it is much more cost effective to do both at the same time. Those repairs were made in April 2012.

Then the trouble began.

Within about one week, the car started overheating while stopped at stoplights. Once moving again the engine would cool. The motion seemed to cool the engine, as if the fan was not running. The problem was intermittent. So the first time I took the car back to the Honda Service Center for repairs, the mechanics could not duplicate the problem. However, they were able to find a problem the second time I brought it back; a faulty fan switch, which was possibly damaged during the water pump/timing belt repair, or possibly not. Though they did not unambiguously admit fault, the dealership did not charge me for the fix.
That worked for about two more weeks, then the same problem began again. As before, the problem could not be duplicated when I brought the car to the dealership. The second time I took it in, the mechanics told me that they let the car idle for a long time as well as drove it around 15 miles in the city and on the highway. Nothing caused it to overheat. No repairs were done but the problem has not repeated since that visit.

Then all hell broke loose.

After another two weeks passed, I was driving along a highway (speed limit 75 mph). I was accelerating from about 65 to 75 mph when something ‘gave’ in the car. It was very much like the power was choked out. Accelerating was rough and jolting. The check engine light came on and has stayed on since. I should point out that the Civic is an automatic transmission and the point that it ‘gave’ was when the engine revs just before speeding up in the ‘passing gear’.
Since then, I have only driven the car four times out of absolute necessity .The car now shuts off while driving, thankfully only at lower speeds so far. The check engine light stays on. It drives like it has almost no power. If I baby the accelerator it will still drive, just not too well or smoothly. If I give the car too much gas and it will shake and potentially shut off.
The last two things that may or may not be related or relevant. On one recent occasion, I turned on the AC and the vents began to blow white odorless smoke into the cabin. It was a hot and humid day, so this could have been water vapor. However, we have never known the car to do this before even under similar environmental/weather conditions. Also, sometimes the radio will just ‘stop’. This did not occur before the most recent timing belt replacement. As I drive, my local NPR station will abruptly turn to static without change in the digital station dial. If I push the preset button, Car Talk comes through clearly once again.

Thank you for reading this and I will greatly appreciate any insight.

You don’t give any reason why the 2nd water pump was needed. Was it leaking?

On to symptoms after all hell broke loose. These are not easy symptoms to categorize. It seems the motor is running, which means the 2nd timing belt hasn’t broken, a broken timing belt means no go at all. Yet, something in the repair could have be affecting it now since you have to remove and replace a lot of parts in a timing belt, water pump job.

So, I think the water pump repair is related to your problems, take the car back to the dealer or whoever did the 2nd timing belt job. If you don’t trust them, and I understand why you wouldn’t, take it to another shop for a diagnosis. This way you won’t get a snow job, and/or dog and pony show, and hopefully will be the real problem fixed once and for all.

Thank you, and that sounds like very good advice, especially going to another shop for a diagnostic.

And I should have clarified in the post that, yes, the water pump being replaced was for a leak. I will edit and correct it above.

Thanks again.

There’s no way for anyone to say anything without know what error codes are in the computer. Have to codes read - many auto parts stores do this for free. Get the very exact and specific codes in the format “P1234” and post them.

I did not think of auto parts stores hooking up the error code readers for free. I may certainly need to give this a shot. I had been thinking of picking up one of the readers myself but I didn’t think to ask if the stores may hook it up for free.

Very nice idea indeed.

Question. When the car starts shaking/dying, have you ever (quickly) shifted it into neutral? Does the engine recover it’s equilibrium?

Being that it is an automatic I have not messed with the gears. I could try this when I go tomorrow to a parts store. I can report the findings here. I just need a little clarification on what you mean by equilibrium. Do you mean regain its rpm/ act like it is not choking anymore?

If it helps the car has exhibited the ‘choking’ behavior while driven as well as in park. I was just checking the engine again a few minutes ago. I kept it in park and it twice rough idled until the engine died. It is starting to sound a knocking noise as it shuts off, like a much older car.

Sounds like the timing belt jumped a tooth.

Ultimately that is what I am worried about, a slip rather than break.

It’s easy to check. Have the shop check the timing. If it is way out then you have jumped a tooth. They should then fix it (if they installed it in the first place) since the only way it would jump, normally, would be an improper tension adjustment or a failed idler pulley (which I normally recommend replacing with the belt).

OK. Back with an update.

On cigroller’s advice I took it to Advanced Auto and the check engine error codes were:
P0340 Cam Shaft position sensor A-Bank 1 circuit malfunction
P0344 Cam Shaft position sensor A-Bank 1 circuit intermittent

The associate at Adv Auto agreed that this could be from a poorly timed timing belt job. His advice was to call up the service department and tell them to fix it. However, of the shops in there area he said he would never recommend the honda service department where I had the work done. he has heard a lot of complaints about them.

I was able to try nerad137’s advice and put the car in neutral as it tried to shut off. Being in neutral did not have any change.

I don’t think it indicates anything about the timing belt job. I think it just says that your camshaft position sensor or its wiring are having a problem. If your belt had jumped a tooth or something of that nature then there are other codes that would trigger (e.g. P0016).

I don’t know where the cam position sensor is on this engine. But you’d start by just finding it. Inspect the sensor itself and its wiring for any obvious signs of trouble - cracks, frays, overly contaminated, etc.

I worry about my all thumbs approach but I am going to see what i can find. According to what I can frind from honda the sensor is just below the timing belt cover and it doesn’t look like I can harm anything by taking a good look at it.

Given that location the its probably from some carelessness when doing the timing belt - though coincidence is always a possibility. Just look for any sign of damage to the wiring or the sensor. Pull the connector, clean it up with some electronics cleaner and plug it back in nice and tight. If you don’t have any electronics cleaner - well, why not? - but you can use rubbing alcohol. Don’t plug anything back in until its all dry.

If you don’t see anything then I would call the shop that did the belt. But if they are a little sketchy I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be honest about it. They can always claim some coincidental problem.

I did not see anything, from what I could get to. I have taken it back to the service department.

Interestingly while looking up the error code for the sensor I ran across on some Honda forums that this sensor had caused bad readings from the thermostat, in '01 and 02 models. It may not be too far of a stretch to think that the overheating could be related given that there were few changes, from what i can tell, between '01-'05. At least as far as the sensor goes.

I just wanted to give an update and my thanks for all of the advice.

The Service Dept did replace the cam position sensor. After much arguing they agreed to cover the parts and labor without admitting that there was fault on their part.

All interactions with them have been icy since but the car is back home. I have only driven the car a little, about an hour max, but at least the rough idle/shutting off seems to be fixed.

I just wanted to thank you guys for the advice - so thank you for your help.

Also, those error code readers seem like a fairly sound investment so I think I will pick one up. Any model suggestions?

Have a good one.

I just go to Advance Auto. The price is right, and I get the codes scanned.

I agree that I like Adv Auto’s service but I was thinking that it could be very useful if the car was immobilized to give me a better idea on the repairs if I could not get it to someplace with a code reader.

I bought a basic scantool that runs via laptop. It reads codes and does basic reads of realtime data. It is quite handy except hooking it up is more cumbersome than a simple reader. But it does a lot more too. I spent $100 but you can spend less than that.

There’s some kind of a shareware software to go with most any of them called OBDWiz

You might find some satisfaction in the fact that Honda no longer uses rubber timing belts on most of its models…

Your car needs the services of a good independent Honda mechanic who knows what he is doing and has the skills and tools needed to correct problems like this…