2000 Honda Civic help me please

  • 2000 HONDA CIVIC
  • 4 CYL
  • 2WD
  • 196,000 MILES
Hello there, I just bought my daughter a car (three weeks ago) from a guy who claims he buys from insurance companies. The car looked very good and clean, I drove it just a little and it felt good, it also had a clean title so I bought it.
2 or 3 days later with out driving it much the check engine light came on, I took the car to a mechanic l know and he said he got a misfiring code and than said it could be a blown head gasket, just like that. I got very disappointed, we change the distributor cap and rotor and reseted the code, two days later light came back on, this time we changed the sparkplugs and wires and reseted the code again. During this time, one day the radiator gauge almost got to the red area, I checked and it needed water, I poured some in and it all was good,

Days later I gave the car to my daughter and she said the light came back, I took the car back to the mechanic and he said he did a head gasket check with a pump and some blue liquid he added to the radiator, liquid than turned green and again he said the car had a blown head gasket, now the radiator gauge has been going up three quarters and my daughter has to stop and she has been adding water every day.

Today (Friday), I picked up the car and drove it to my house, the gauge stayed in the middle but when I got home I smelled coolant so I opened the hood and notice the coolant reservoir was up more than the limit and there was water all around it (like it came right out of the reservoir), the car also has a stain on the passenger floor near the door, I noticed it after removing the floor mat. (Its old)

Could you give me any advice? The reason I doubt the mechanic is because he is no longer working for the shop he used to work for (he is on his own and he has fixed the head gaskets on at list 4 cars in three weeks so I get the feeling he is giving people this diagnostics he can get more money to survive you know.

SATURDAY; Today I drove the car to a shop and ask the people there what my problem could be, the gay said the car looks like its been worked on head gaskets, he said he sees a new valve cover gasket and doesn’t think the heads are the problem. The fans worked and everything seemed to be ok. He said in case of overheating, to grab both water hoses and if one is cold that is a thermostat problem. Ok.

To test the car I got on the freeway and drove to Los Angeles (about 45 miles, 30 min. About 90 back and forth) the car worked well and the gauge stayed in the middle but when I got out of the freeway and started driving on the city, the gauge went up and up and up almost to the red mark (I had to turn on the heater to bring it back down and that’s how it stayed the rest of the day even after I let the car rest a couple of hours, when I got on it to go to the store the gauge went up all the way.
Please tell me what I should do?
Do you
have the same problem?
Saturday, April 3rd, 2010 AT 3:29 AM

1 Reply

This definitely sounds like a head gasket issue. We call that tester the "sniffer" tester. It is a glass tube with two chambers partially filled with dark blue liquid. The liquid is not poured into the radiator. A rubber bulb is squeezed to draw air out of the radiator through the chambers of fluid. If combustion gases are seeping into the cooling system, the liquid will turn bright yellow. Later, the fluid will return to dark blue after drawing fresh air through it for a minute or two.

Two things can invalidate this test. Some coolant must be drained from the radiator if it is full because the special fluid will no longer work if it becomes contaminated with antifreeze. Contaminated fluid will make every car appear to be ok. Next, if you don't trust your mechanic, watch as he performs the test. The fluid will turn yellow if exhaust gas from the tail pipe is drawn through it. That is how we test the fluid to be sure it isn't contaminated. You can also "talk to it". Your breath will make the fluid turn yellow. If the fluid turns yellow, be sure the only air that is drawn through it comes from the radiator.

Sometimes head gasket leaks only show up at certain times so fluid that stays dark blue isn't really conclusive. If it turns yellow really quickly, say in two to four squeezes of the bulb, that indicates a pretty bad leak.

In addition to leaking head gaskets, the cylinder head itself must be inspected for cracks and warpage. A special dye is needed to make tiny cracks visible. They most commonly show up between the intake and exhaust valve seats, although most machinists will tell you those are harmless. They're easy to see too. It's cracks leading onto the cooling system that are important to find.

The sealing surface of the head must be checked with a straightedge and feeler gauge. .002" is the maximum allowable warpage in any direction. Years ago with old, heavy cast iron heads, warping was rarely a problem. They could be machined which meant removing material to make them perfectly flat. On most engines today, the heads are made from aluminum which is much more prone to warping, and it expands and contracts at a significantly faster rate than the cast iron engine block they're attached to. That makes the head gasket's job really tough because it has to seal in spite of the shearing action that takes place every time the engine warms up or cools down.

Most aluminum heads can not be machined if they are warped. They must be heated and straightened. The camshaft sits on the top, (overhead cam) and rotates on perfectly aligned surfaces called journals. If the head is warped, those journals are no longer in alignment. Machining the head gasket's sealing surface would leave those camshaft journals in misalignment. That will lead to binding and could cause the camshaft to break.

Simply replacing head gaskets will not solve the leak if the head is warped or has cracks. Even though replacing them is a fairly costly expense, it is a very common failure on every brand of car. Besides the sniffer test and the overheating, the other clue is the overfull reservoir. Combustion gases, (exhaust gas), that is pushed into the cooling system causes pressure to build up which forces coolant into the reservoir. In really bad cases, it will look like the coolant is boiling in there when the engine is still cold, but in reality, it is just the gases flowing in there with the coolant. The clue is there is no steam yet and the coolant is cold. In less severe cases, the leak will not show up until the engine has warmed up and parts have expanded.

Now that I went through all that, be sure to check if the electric radiator fan is turning on after you leave the highway. There is plenty of air flow through the radiator at highway speeds that the fan isn't needed, but in slower traffic, the fan should be cycling on and off. The clue here is the temperature gauge drops when you turn on the heater. (Good observation). The heater acts like a miniature radiator. I drove my Grand Caravan through two summers using just the front and rear heaters to keep the engine cool until one of my students noticed a wire for the fan wasn't connected! I got lucky. A leaking head gasket can cause engine overheating, but an overheated engine can just as easily cause a warped head and leaking head gasket.

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Sunday, April 4th, 2010 AT 5:48 PM

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