93 honda civic coolant/overheating problem

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Not a big car person so forgive the ignorance. The car I have a question about is my 1993 Honda civic.

When I bought the car as is, and had no idea there was a problem with the coolant. After driving for the first few days, the car overheated on me and I had it checked out. I was told there maybe a crack in the engine or something wrong with the head gasket. However, being broke I was advised to just always have coolant with me and montior the level in the reserve tank. 3 months pass of keeping my eye on the reserve and refilling when necessary.

A couple of days ago, the car overheated again. However, this time it was different. The heater stopped blowing hot air out a few minutes before the temperature gauge began to rise (on a really cold day i might add). I got the car checked out and was told it may be the thermostat, but to test drive for a couple of days and come back, so I had the thermostat replaced and coolant refilled. 2 days later, and about 250km later it overheated on me again.

Now the mechanic says it has to be the head gasket and i need that replaced.

My question are,

1. Do you all think that's the problem and will replacing the head gasket solve the problem?and if yes
2. What should I be paying (canadian dollars) to replace this?

Any help or response would be appreciated,
Lee Pham

posted by  leepham

1. Actually , the mechanic shall do some tests to confirm the head gasket is defective before he touchs the engine.Leaking test, pressure test.....can tell u whether the headgasket is broken. These are simple and easy.
2. check the simple items first, cooling fan, radiator cap....

posted by  autecfan

Check to see if your radiator is plugged. Some shops will check this for you for a nominal fee. I had a Jeep Cherokee that acted similiar to your problem. It ended up being the radiator.

Also check the Cooling fan. While the car is at temperature open the hood and check to see if your electric cooling fan is coming on. If it is not turning on and the temperature keeps rising then that is your problem.

Check to see if there is any leakage around the radiator cap. If there is replace the cap. Less than $20 at any autoparts store.

As for the head gasket check to see if there is any white smoke coming out of your tailpipe at startup and while the car is running. Also check the compression in the cylinders. Most autoparts stores lend out compression testers if you give them a refundable deposit.

good luck

posted by  tr918

Thanks for the response.
The fan does turn on at when it get's hot enough. I'm glad you guys mentioned that the mechanic will do these test for me before he touches the head gasket. I don't want to get ripped off.

I'm hoping it's the head gasket and that's it, nothing else.

The guy made me an offer to change the gasket, water pump and timing belt all in one shot. Is he just trying to make extra cash off of me?

Lee Pham

posted by  leepham

I don't think he is trying to make extra cash off of you. It may be benificial to have the timming belt and water pump replaced with the head gasket. It depends on how many miles you have on the vehicle. Civics have a timing belt replacement schedule of every 90,000 miles. Usually at that time the water pump starts to leak out of the weep hole indicating that it is time to change the pump also. I say usually, but not always, odds are about 60 to 70% of the time the water pump is ready to go when the timming belt maintenance is due. If your civic is ready for a new timming belt have the belt replaced and water pump replaced. You will save $$ on labor. He has to remove your existing timing belt in order to remove the head and replace the head gasket. If you are not close to the 90K mile mark on belt maintenance it is up to you whether or not you want to change the water pump and timming belt. :2cents:

posted by  tr918

I had a similar problem with my 92 civic. Last May it flat out overheated on me. The coolant reserve was empty. I was convinced that it was a head gasket problem. I had a CO chemical test that indicated that CO is getting into the coolant, which indicated that it is a head gasket problem. However, I had another mechanic do a pressure test and he said that it passed the test. There was a cold spot in my radiator, so I had that replaced. This cost around $380 (American)with labor. However my car still goes through coolant faster than it should, but it does not overheat unless it is completley out of coolant. I investigated the cost of a head gasket replacement and it varied from $900-1400.

posted by  purplebondus

U have to bleed the coolant system every time u add coolant, if ur adding a significant amount. Look at ur thermostat housing there is a valve there (looks like a nipple, somewhat) and i beleive u will need a 12mm socket to unscrew it. It will let coolant flow out. once it does, u will know there is no air. This will not solve ur major prob, but it will prevent future probs and may help prolong the time bewtween coolant refills. :2cents:

posted by  Carcass

My car ran hot again so I had pressure tested again. It is a head gasket problem. I have called a few places and the cheapest I have heard for replacing it is $700-900. The reason there is a range is because they may need to send a part out to a machine shop to get smoothed out as they can warp from over heating. I believe it is the cylinder head.

posted by  purplebondus

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