Repair questions for 1990 Acura Integra, A/C and Valve Cover Gasket (slightly long)

Hi folks--
I have some repair questions concerning my 1990 Acura Integra I hope someone here can help me with. The car has about 250,200 miles on it, and I am the
only owner. I've been pretty good with keeping up with services and oil changes, but now I need to get *second opinions* on some maintenance issues, because the place I had been taking the car the last three years has become much less reliable, and I'm in the process of finding another reliable mechanic. I need to keep the car running well to go to and from school (I'm an older, nontraditional student), and keep the car for another 3 to 4 years, until I'm again gainfully employed and able to afford another newer car. In any case, I think the car should last me at least another 100K miles anyway!
When I took the car in for inspection this morning, I had the mechanic check out the A/C, since I thought it was running very rough after I had more Freon put in it two weeks ago. The A/C went out last fall and I didn't get it fixed until now. BTW, the car passed inspection without a problem, since I had a minor exhaust system issue addressed two weeks ago at Big Al's.
The mechanic told me that the compressor was old, and was "going," which I knew, since I've had relatively cool (not cold) A/C the past three or four years anyway, but the compressor didn't run nearly as rough as now. He said that the compressor could last another three months, or another three years, it was hard to say. He also said that the compressor would run harder in the extreme heat, and that I should expect the compressor to run rough until the car is warmed up anyway.
Also, I asked him about replacing the valve cover gasket, as I have some oil leaking from the around the engine. Someone else told me that a failing valve cover gasket would cause that. The mechanic told me that there were two different types of gaskets now, one with Kevlar, and the older conventional kind. He also quoted a cost (around $100.00) for the repair, which I thought was fair. Is that in the ballpark? Is there anything else that would cause the car to use/burn excessive oil? Until the last service (replaced spark plugs) the car used 3/4 of a quart of oil in a month, and nearly left me stranded until I had the spark plugs replaced.
So, is what I'm being told about the A/C compressor, and the oil leakage and valve cover gasket repair sound accurate, or am I being scammed again?
Hopefully the valve cover gasket issue will be the last thing I'll have to deal with right now regarding my car. The fall semester starts on August 19th, and my time to address automotive issues after that will be extremely limited!
Right now the yearly mileage on the Acura is 10K to 11K, but could increase to 20K if I don't move next spring when I transfer to another school that is 40 miles away, and would require a daily round-trip commute.
Thanks in advance for the help/advice. I just want/need to have a working and reliable car to get me to and from school, errands, running events, and occasional social outings. My *other* vehicle is a 1979 Dodge Ram van/RV, that is even more unreliable, and with gas being so expensive, isn't cost-effective to drive.
Jean in VA
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Yes, it will.

Yes, it's in the ballpark, but I'd expect a bit less from an independent mechanic. Closer to $75 total.
I haven't heard about the Kevlar type gasket here. If it were popular or recommended, it is IMO the sort of thing one would hear about here, since valve cover gasket replacements are pretty common around a ballpark age of 100k miles/7 years or so.
I would buy the genuine Acura gasket instead of the Kevlar one, unless googling or someone here speaks up and confirms this is the latest technology.

Yes. I suggest also replacing the PCV valve. This is a part that will cost around $20. Get only an OEM (= genuine Acura) one.
Also, the seals around the spark plug tube holes (and in the valve cover) probably need replacement.

Can you elaborate?
I have a suspicion about what happened here, but want to hear more from you.
When was the last full tuneup of your car (consisting of the items listed at http://home.earthlink.net/~honda.lioness/id11.html ?
Were genuine Acura parts used in this tuneup?
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Thanks for writing back so quickly. My reply is lengthy, but I think, worth reading--
I had a *mini service* done last September at a Tread Quarters near my house. I went to them because my former BF goes to their place in his town nearby and has had good experience with them (he has a 1991 Civic, but with only about 125,000 miles on it). I got my tires and car battery from my Tread Quarters previously, and that was OK, as far as I know. However, when I had the mini-service done, Tread Quarters was supposed to have replaced the spark plugs as part of the service. Although they may have done that, the car died again the next week (stalled at an intersection, could not be jumped), and I had to get obnoxious, and get my former BF involved, to get the car fixed so that it would start reliably and not stall out at intersections, etc. So, the car was fixed as far as I knew, in late September. I kept driving it for the rest of the Fall semester. This *mini service* cost around $300.00, as I recall, and would have been even more expensive if I had gotten it done at a dealer. I do not know what kind of parts they used during this service.
I had a second instance of being left stranded over Xmas break, and took the car back for service, this time to the Acura dealer where I took the car previously until I felt they were trying to scam me about 5 or 6 years ago. I frankly don't remember what was done back in early January, in any case they didn't charge me. I do recall that I wasn't particularly impressed with them, although they were a little improved from my last visit to them 4 or 5 years ago.
So, I kept driving my car without incident from early January until mid-June, when it was due for an oil change. This time I took the car back to the Toyota dealer, where I had taken it previously, and where I had been *very* happy with their work until last August (A/C work, which failed in November). All they were supposed to do back in June was change the oil and put in a new rear backup light bulb which had burned out.
What followed between mid-June and late July was my car eventually getting harder and harder to start when it had been sitting for awhile (such as overnight). The engine would whine and cough and take three or four turns of the key before turning over. I found I had had to pump the accelerator two or three times before turning the ignition key. I've never had to do this before, the car has always started up without coughing or sputtering, on the first turn of the ignition key, without fail, unless the battery or alternator was failing.
This starting problem got worse and worse until I nearly got stranded in the parking lot at school 2 1/2 weeks ago after a math final. The next day I took the car back to the Toyota dealer, because I thought they had screwed up the oil change. I did not want to wait until my inspection was due in August, as that would have had me homebound for nearly two weeks.
In any case, the Toyota dealer changed out the spark plugs because they were allegedly fouled with oil. They also put more Freon into the A/C. The Toyota service advisor also told me "Your car is burning oil, it's on its last legs, and the A/C has a slow leak in it. Also, your car was hesitating because one of the spark plugs was cracked." So, at some point the spark plug cracked--either on its own, or because someone (a earlier mechanic, or a vandal) deliberately cracked it. So, I'm not sure *who* scammed me this time--Tread Quarters back last September, the Acura dealer in early January, or the Toyota dealer back in mid-June for the oil change. Most likely, the Toyota dealer during the mid-June visit. Of course, the Toyota service advisor calls me at 6:45 PM (right before closing), and when I went to pick up the car the next day, he and *his team* were on their day off. So, I never had a chance to speak face-to-face with that service advisor, or the mechanic who worked on my car.
Additionally, I felt the service advisor at the Toyota dealer two weeks ago was flippant and arrogant to me on the phone, and was only trying to help the dealership sell me a new car. However, my car was working OK when I picked it up (it was starting more or less OK, and the A/C was working), and so I thought I could wait on addressing my concerns until my inspection appointment this morning.
However, when I went to Advance Auto for some windshield wipers later that morning two weeks ago, I had a tech check the charge on the battery. He said it was charging OK. Then, a friend of his came up while he was finishing checking my battery. They both commented on how rough the A/C compressor was running, and also said my problem with the engine oil leak was a failed valve cover gasket.
I may have also mentioned in my first message that I originally was to have my inspection appointment at the Toyota dealer this morning. When I arrived, a service advisor told me my "service team" was not there. Furthermore, the service advisor I spoke with was not helpful when I told him I was unhappy with how my A/C was serviced (rough sounding compressor), and made some excuse that the service manager wasn't available for me to speak to. So, I walked out, and went down the street to an independent garage (recommended to me by the muffler place) who diagnosed the compressor issues and inspected my car without incident. While there, I tentatively scheduled the valve cover gasket repair at the independent garage for Monday morning.
I think this new mechanic at the independent garage said that the conventional valve cover gasket was around $85.00, and the Kevlar one about $15.00 more. That's why I said the service was around $100.00.
Lastly the mechanic I met at Advance Auto two weeks ago called me back *just now* as I'm typing this (I called him last week, he just called back because his cell phone was being repaired, and he was just now returning his calls). I might have him look at my car Saturday afternoon as a side job. This guy told me ten days ago at Advance Auto that my car should last me another 250K if I take care of it. Another 100K would be great, as that would get me through the rest of my schooling and into regular employment again. He is Mexican, and a diesel mechanic at the local AAFES distribution center. He seemed knowledgeable, and *perhaps* is someone I can have work on my car on the weekends, which is his only free time.
In closing, I just don't think its normal for a car, even with 250K miles, to use 3/4 quart of oil in five weeks, and have trouble turning over when the battery has a good charge. I have all of my maintenance records going back sixteen years, and it has only been the last couple of years that I've had to get *really* anal/vigilant/bitchy about my car servicing. Additionally, although I look *very good* for age 51, I no longer look 25, and so I'm of the gender and age group that's apt to be routinely scammed regarding automotive maintenance. I top off my oil and washer/radiator fluid as required, and have oil changes done every 3K to 5K. However, I leave anything more complicated to trained mechanics. I don't have the tools, or the time, to do it myself. Furthermore, my hands are small and relatively weak, and so I would have trouble actually turning a wrench and repairing/replacing parts. I'm simply not particularly mechanically inclined.
BTW, I checked the "Car Talk" website for good garages in my area, and like I thought, the Toyota and Acura dealerships have lukewarm ratings. The independent garage a mile from me has an *OK* one, but the best write-up of all is for a place about twelve miles from me, that is out of the way for me to get to. However, if neither the closer garage (1.5 miles away) or the *side-job* mechanic works out, I *will* check out this out of the way place.
Thanks for reading this, and perhaps someone else can chime too--
Jean in VA
On 8/3/06 3:18 PM, in article a_rAg.7544$ snipped-for-privacy@newsread2.news.pas.earthlink.net, "Elle"

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