What to do w/ our beloved Honda Civic... -- Please Help!

I know this is a lot, so thanks in advance for helping us with this one!

My wife and I have a ‘97 Honda Civic Hatchback, with manual transmission, and 171K miles. It’s the basic model: no A/C, power nothing. We’ve driven it pretty hard having lived all around the country, but it’s been taken care of: regular oil changes, doing maintenance when needed.

The last few months, however, we’ve been sinking money into this car.

Rebuilt transmission: $1100

new muffler: $225

new wheel cylinders: $350

The other day the check engine light came on while on my way to have Jiffy Lube change oil. They checked the signal and said the car was misfiring on two cylinders. A couple days later the light went off. Then, of course, it came back on.

Here’s what I did: I tried a fuel cleaner additive, but that didn’t work. So I took it in to my mechanic (Dennis Hall’s Automotive in Knoxville, TN - CarTalk recommended), described what had happened, and asked for a tune-up.

I picked the car up the next day, the engine light was off, the car had more oomph and felt great…for only a single day. The next day, literally on my way to work, the check engine light came back on.

I took the car back to my mechanic at the end of the week. They hooked up their sensor reader and told me that I have a “Bank 1 Sensor 2 Oxygen Sensor Malfunction.” They recommended replacing the rear oxygen sensor and then rechecking. Replacing would cost $280.

So, what am I to do here? Do you think if I replace this sensor, that should be about it on this car? I mean, what else can go wrong? Is it even worth sinking money into this car? How long can I drive with a bad oxygen sensor? How easily do you think I could replace it myself?

The other thing is we’re trying to start a family and need to get a family car with A/C. Would this be a good time to get rid of the ol’ trusty Honda, trade it in, and get something more family-friendly and a bit bigger?

I know this is a lot, but we’re going crazy out here in Tennessee. Any help you all can give is greatly appreciated!

Thanks so much!

If the car is mechanically sound and doesn’t burn oil I would fix it and keep it. You will get just about nothing for your car as a trade-in. Even as a private sale it’s probably worth less than $3000.

If you need a car with AC then buy one. If you fix the old car first then you can keep it or sell it at your discretion.

An O2 sensor is one of the most common causes for a MIL to come on. It’s also one of the most ignored. It can effect your gas mileage. How adept are you at wielding a ratchet? You can buy the sensor and borrow the special socket and ratchet from Autozone (and possibly others) and install it youself. They’ll even tell you where to put it. Then Autozone will recheck the system for you for free. In fact most major auto parts stores will.

Personally I would dump it for one reason, no AC in Knoxville, wow you are tough.

obviously you have never “had” to live without AC. it is possible, and life doesn’t end without AC.

if the civic only needs an O2 sensor, then why not do it, and get around 25 to 50k more life out of it???

BTW, have you changed the timing belt?? that would be a pretty important topic if i was goign to keep the car.

My first vehicle didn’t have AC (or power steering, or power brakes, or even shoulder seat belt for that matter). I cannot begin to tell you how much I cursed that truck when I would have to drive 120 miles in mid-summer to my grandparents house. I would stop every 40 minutes to get a new surplee becasue the on I had previously been nursing had melted. Thankfully my grandmother didn’t approve of the old F-100 from a saftey or comfort standpoint and decided to go over my parents and get me a 1992 Ford T-Bird SC when I turned 18. It had A/C :slight_smile:

That’s the whole question, if the civic will only need normal maint. and a 02 sensor in the repair catagory for the next 50k should I keep it?The answer to that question is a easy yes,but who can predict what will fail next? Fix the car,sell it with no current problems,buy a car that meets your current desire (AC) and your potential future requirement (larger family).

There is no way of knowing if replacing the O2 will be the end of your problems. Since the car has high mileage, has been driven hard (according to you), it’s possible that some of the maintenance may have not been done often enough.

Misfiring spark plugs will kill plug wires, coils, ignition modules, O2 sensors, catalytic converters, etc. The domino effect is usually present with car problems.

The O2 sensor is fairly easy to replace and often can be done with a boxed end wrench. Simply unplug the old sensor and cut the wire off. O2 sensors are somewhat fragile so I would advise that when installing a new one you should be very careful with it; no dropping it, banging into it, or overtightening it.

Trading in an older high mileage car with no A/C, power etc., will not bring you very much at all, although you could be led to believe they’re giving you more because of the obligatory number shuffling that is done.
If possible you could consider keeping this car along with purchasing another. A backup car is a pretty handy thing to have around. Hope that helps.

According to the internet Kelley Blue Book, trade in value for your Civic is $1,200 to $1,700 depending on its appearance. That’s after you fix the oxygen sensor. I doubt you would have much luck getting anything for it with the check engine light glowing balefully. If you do trade it in on a newer car, the dealer will almost certainly wholesale it rather than put it on his own used car lot.

Most of the repairs you mentioned are just normal wear and tear. The exception is the transmission. It would not be unreasonable to replace a clutch, but the transmission should last more or less indefinitely. (I hope they did replace the clutch when they did the transmission.) Although you didn’t mention it, the timing belt should have been replaced somewhere around 100k miles.

How badly do you want air conditioning? What does your mechanic think will need work in the next two or three years? (In my opinion, the time to replace an old car is when you spend as much repairing it as you would on car payments for something newer that doesn’t need repairs.)

If the Civic is healthy, would it make sense to buy an additional car, with A/C, and keep the Civic as a bad weather beater? Given how little the Civic is worth, you should not carry collision or comprehensive insurance on it. Do carry emergency road service since it is cheap and will cover you if the Civic dies on the road.

actually the O2 sensor is only an indication. you are correct that there probably will be more “normal and required maintenance” items to keep up with. BUT, these items will be required on ANY car the OP purchases. (assuming they normal maintenance IS done) so the basic question of fix or get rid of is pretty simple IMHO; the car is owned, paid for and has no bill other than maintenance. sounds like a no brainer to me.

any car you can buy for the same value (1500 to 1700) is going to have the same maintenance and repair issues too. why change for an unknown. at least this one already has the transmission and brakes done. these hondas are known to be bulletproof, and have a great reputation. this is the ONLY reason i say keep it.

although OK has an excellent idea of keeping it for a backup car some may not be able to afford that luxury. usually back up cars are cheap to insure, and are great to have on hand. my 2000 daewoo is a good example. POS but cheap to keep, (yup AC is broke) but it still runs.