1990 Honda Accord Overheating Issue

Hello everyone, I have a 1990 Honda Accord EX with 176,000 miles on it. A little less that a week ago I sat idle for a second while waiting on a
friend at the airport and I started smelling antifreeze, so I quickly shut off the engine, opened the hood, and there was steam coming up from the passenger side of the engine under what I think is the water pump. Also, there was a good bit of antifreeze on the ground. The car did not get hot so I checked the reservior and removed the radiator cap and saw that there was some fluid left. I dont live far from the airport, so I poured in some bottles of water I had and drove home, watching the temp guage constantly, and there was no change in temperature that was abnormal, even in idle. When I got home there was a small amount of steam coming from the same spot, but the water level seemed to be fairly stable. I checked all of the hoses and they seemed fine. I had no time to take it in or do anything so I drove the car to work the next day in a similar fashion and there was no steam and the levels were stable (20 minute drive on the highway about 60 degrees outside). Same deal for a couple of days until this afternoon. This afternoon leaving work I checked the level in the reservoir, and it was fine, so I started driving and in a couple of minutes I could see the temp shooting up so I pulled over. The funny thing is I still had the heat on full blast and the air coming out was cool even with the car reading hot. I let it cool down and then tried to make it back to work. I drove for a second and the heat suddenly came on and the temperature stabilized. This worked for a little while even while the car was idle. Then suddenly the heat went away and I noticed the temp start to rise again. I pulled over, let it cool, then drove the car the last 200 yards to the office and as I parked the car was running extremely hot again. When I got out the fans were running full blast and the leak had returned, though not as bad as the first time.
Money is tight so I would like to try and troubleshoot this myself this weekend so, if someone could tell me what to check on the car to gather more information I would greatly appreciate it. I have replaced various parts on the car so I have to ability to do some minor work on it, but this is the first problem I have had with the coolant system so Im kind of lost. I would be very grateful if someone could give me a thorough reply to let me know what Im up against.
Thanks in advance
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DCracker wrote:

<snip>
visual inspection is the only way. you may need to remove some of the plastic inner fenders to see everything.
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DCracker wrote: Then suddenly the heat went away

Kinda sounds like the T-stat is sticking closed. But I'd also verify that the water pump belt is ok, etc. But that you were not getting heat seems to indicate the water was not pumping through the engine, heater core. The stat would be one of the first things I would be looking at if the water pump and belt are ok. On that engine, the pump may be driven by the timing belt, but I'm not sure. On mine, "89" it's not, but I think they might have changed on your year model. Obviously if it's timing belt driven and the engine is running, the belt is ok. Most timing belt driven water pumps fail to bearing lockup, or seal failure. So if it's not squealing, or gushing water, it's probably ok. Which leads back to the stat. The fans possibly could be an issue, but I doubt it. That wouldn't cause you to lose heat. MK
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snipped-for-privacy@wt.net wrote:

how does a defective thermostat cause leakage???

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jim beam wrote:

Shouldn't really. I was assuming maybe the cap spewed a bit for some reason. But I also missed the part where he says the leak returned again. If thats the case, it's probably the pump, hose, etc, and the loss of heat was due to a lack of water. I was thinking he had full coolant the 2nd time for some reason. MK
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Success, Im not sure if the thermostat was bad, but while I was replacing it I noticed a hose that I hadnt seen before right under the distributer that was totally shot. Turns out it was the heating tube which was a pain in the butt to fix but I finally finished replacing it and the thermostat in about 3.5 hours. Here is what I believed caused the problem. When I removed the distributor to get to the hose oil began to leak out. There was also oil all over the end of the heating tube that had blown, which was right under the distributor. The oil leak must have corroded the heating tube over time.
What can I do to prevent this oil leak? Is it possible that its the O-ring or some gasket somewhere?
Anyway, thanks for your responses. Its great to have a community that will offer advice for free. I spent a total of $40 for the hose, clamps, and the thermostat so Im sure I saved a load of cash.
"nm5k" wrote: > jim beam wrote: > > snipped-for-privacy@wt.net wrote: > > > DCracker wrote: > > > Then suddenly the heat went away > > >> and I noticed the temp start to rise again. I pulled > over, let it > > >> cool, then drove the car the last 200 yards to the office > and as I > > >> parked the car was running extremely hot again. When I > got out the > > >> fans were running full blast and the leak had returned, > though not as > > >> bad as the first time. > > > > > > Kinda sounds like the T-stat is sticking closed. > > > > how does a defective thermostat cause leakage??? > > Shouldn't really. I was assuming maybe the cap spewed a bit > for some reason. But I also missed the part where he says the > leak returned again. If thats the case, it's probably the > pump, > hose, etc, and the loss of heat was due to a lack of water. I > was > thinking > he had full coolant the 2nd time for some reason. > MK
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DCracker wrote:

Distributor oil leak. This is a bigger problem and is common to this generation Accord, just Googe this newsgroup and you will find plenty advice.
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DCracker wrote:

The water pump is on the drivers side and is under the timing belt cover.
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