What to do with my 2004 Civic EX w/ 240K miles

Hello, CarTalk community.

My 2004 Civic (EX, auto-transmission) is getting old, with her 240,000 mile engine. About a month ago, I started hearing a metal rattle/banging sound coming from the engine when I accelerate at about 2,000 RPM going at about 30-45mph. It doesn’t happen all of the time, in fact it’s kind of rare. Seems to happen especially going up hill. The mechanic (at the dealer that I trust very much) said they think it’s rod knock, but it’s hard to tell for sure, and with the age of the engine it’s not worth it to tear the engine apart to find/fix the problem.

That being said, they also said I need new brakes. As in, new pads, rotors, and calipers. And shoes for the back. Grand total, plus oil change, would be a little over $1,000. They also said I need new tires soon. I told them to proceed with the work – hoping that the rod knock doesn’t permanently kill my engine as I’m driving off with brand new $1,000 brakes.

Do you think I shouldn’t have dropped the money into the car for the brakes? Do you think I should’ve just called it quits for this car? I hope I made the right choice. Other than the rod-knock sound, the car runs fine. I’m good with my oil changes and fluid changes, and have no other major issues with the car.


Drive it till it dies. A $1000 is a bunch of money, but it is only 3 car payments. If you get more than 3 months out of it you are a head of the game. Also, you save not having full coverage on a new car.

Is your “check engine” light on? If you’re hearing an occasional knock (which might or might not be “rod knock” - I think your mechanic is guessing) I suggest you have your knock sensor and EGR valve checked.

Why do they say you need new calipers? Are they leaking? If not, I probably wouldn’t replace them unless your mechanic gives you a good reason other than “they’re old.”

It sounds like your car is in better shape than mine, and most of the items on your list are maintenance items, not repairs. If the air conditioning works well, I’d continue to maintain and drive the car.

Thanks for the replies.

Check engine light has come on a couple of times, stays on for a bit (day or two) then goes off. Apparently the catty converter is dead/dying, but they said that a new one wouldn’t be worth it given the age of the car. Plus, I just very recently had my emissions checked, and the car will probably be dead before I’ll have to get that done again.

The calipers are sticking / slow to release the pads. I’ve noticed it a few times while braking hard. After I take my foot off the pedal, the brakes seem to drag. I don’t think they’re leaking. As of now, I don’t think they’ve done the work yet. Should I tell them not to do the calipers and for now just do pads/rotors? Like I said, I do trust them.

The AC until pretty recently has been great. Lately though the temp seems to fluctuate a bit - sometimes it’s perfect, sometimes I can barely tell it’s cooling the air at all. But I’m not too worried about it right now since we’re heading into cooler months – unless you think I should be worried about it for some reason? Should I have them check the system while they have it?


This car has served you well! I would not put more than $1000 into it at this stage, and, as others say, just drive it till it dies or state inspection take it off the road.

Your noise could be the heat shield on the exhaust coming loose. The welds rust and the shield dangles and rattles at certain rpm (harmonic distortion) until it finally falls off completely. So, I’d fix the car and keep running it. Make sure you keep up with oil changes and you might consider full synthetic oil as a way to minimize further deterioration in case it is a rod knock, or bearing noise.

Go ahead and let them change the calipers. With the cooler months approaching, I’d worry about the air later.

I agree with everyone that these are maint items and it is realistic to just do the change and be satisfied if you are still driving the car past 3-4 months.

Here is another option: Maybe this would be a good time to go deeper with your diy status and learn to do your own brake pads, rotors, and possibly the calipers. You don’t have to do all of this at once but slowly before the winter. So tackle front pads and rotors, then rear, then calipers.

I said calipers last as this is a progression of success. Also know that if you did all of this yourself, your bill may be below $300 for parts. Also with the car being so “used”, do you really have much to lose? get on you tube and give it a whirl. then report back.

Hi gdawgs: great advice. Actually, I have done pads before myself. I enjoy doing it and I’ve done a good job (hey, I’m still alive after all).

I haven’t done rotors, but I don’t think it would be difficult - I just need whatever tool is needed to get the rotors off. I haven’t touched drum brakes except to remove the drum and marvel at the complex mess of springs, clips, etc. I’m kind of afraid of trying that, but those are the most expensive brakes to have serviced, so I’d love to learn. And finally, I wouldn’t mind learning how to do the calipers, either. Honestly they don’t seem that hard. I would think it would just be a matter of detaching the brake fluid line from the caliper, flushing out all brake fluid from all brakes, attaching the empty line to the new caliper, and then refilling the brake fluid. … Or, something like that, right?

Anyway, the reason I’m not doing the DIY route this time is because I have no time. I’m going away on a trip tomorrow morning and I need my car. And I also need my car to stop. :slight_smile:

What what about future DIY - what should I tackle next if I’m comfortable changing my own oil and doing brake pads? What’s next on the DIY list for me to learn?

Look for the loose exhaust/cat converter heat shield and rip it off. They do make the sound you describe.

My dealer did that “fix” unofficially and for free when I owned a Honda. They said don’t park in tall dry grass.

I’ve had a heat shield problem before, so I’m familiar with the sound. Typically for me it was always loudest when I’d be idling. This probably never happens when idling, only when accelerating w/ load around 2,000 - 3,000 RPM. I really don’t think it’s the heat shield. But I’ll ask my mechanic to check it just the same. Thanks!