Honda Civic Dual Carb 1989 Head Gasket Question

Hi, I have a Honda Civic 1989 Dual Carb that is leaking terribly around the Join between the black head cover and the engine so I am assuming I need a new head gasket (correct me please if I am wrong). This leaking
oil is then burning up on the hot engine and manifold and smoking and causing bad smells. How easy is it for a newbie such as myself to replace the head gasket? Also, the grey plastic cover on the right of the engine would be the cover for the cambelt? If so, why do I get a sort of hissing sound from that side of the engine especially when idling? I probably need to get the cambelt changed also soon as my car has done 189,000kms.
Any help would be appreciated on this subject
Thanks
Matt
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Matt Mills wrote:

Just wondering, maybe this isnt a head gasket but maybe a rocker cover gasket?
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The "cam belt" is more frequently called the "timing belt" these days. If it's never been replaced before on your Civic, it's way overdue. The replacement frequency is 90k miles ( = 97k km) or 6 years, whichever comes first, for your Civic, for non-severe, U.S. driving conditions. You should have it replaced immediately by a good independent import shop or a dealer. If it breaks, and at this age, it could break at any moment, serious damage may result to your Civic's engine.
A timing belt replacement is not a beginner's job.
While the timing belt is being replaced, it's an easy matter for the technician to also replace the items I discuss below.

Right, it sounds more like what is more commonly called the "valve cover gasket," also known as the "cylinder head cover gasket." See Item 2 for the 89 Civic 4-door LX at http://www.hondaautomotiveparts.com/auto/jsp/mws/prddisplay.jsp?inputstate=5&catcgry1=Civic&catcgry2 89&catcgry3MR+LX&catcgry4=KA4AT&catcgry5=CYLINDER+HEAD+COVER
This gasket only lasts around 75k miles/five years or so. If you are a little handy, it is not hard to replace. Tips:
-- Do not overtighten the valve cover cap nuts. They require only 7 ft-lbs. of torque. A $30 low range torque wrench from Harbor Freight is an excellent investment. Wait until Father's Day, and it will probably be on sale. :-) -- Tighten the valve cover cap nuts evenly (bicycle spoke fashion) to ensure the gasket is evenly pressured and so seals properly. -- Strongly consider also replacing the washers (item 13 at the site above) beneath the valve cover cap nuts, too. They tend to harden and start failing after around 100k miles. -- Strongly consider also replacing the spark plug tube gaskets (item 3) that fit into the valve cover. -- Buy only OEM ( = genuine Honda) for all of the above. My and others' experience is that aftermarket rubber parts do not last nearly as long as OEM.
The grey plastic cover on the right (as one stands at the car's front bumper, hood up, looking at the engine) is indeed the timing belt cover. See item 3 at http://www.hondaautomotiveparts.com/auto/jsp/mws/prddisplay.jsp?inputstate=5&catcgry1=Civic&catcgry2 89&catcgry3MR+LX&catcgry4=KA4AT&catcgry5MSHAFT-TIMING+BELT
But like I say, all these parts can be replaced easily during a timing belt change.
www.autozone.com has a free online manual for your car. Getting used to where certain subjects are located within the online manual takes a little time. You can always ask here if you can't find something.
BTW, do you have the owner's manual for this car? It has the maintenance schedule in it.
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If I understand your description correctly, what you are describing is a leak around your valve cover, which is not unusual. That's a whole lot easier to change than a head gasket, which is not a job for a beginner!
OTOH, you mention the cambelt (timing belt) has 189K km. It may also be 17 years old. It is definitely time to change that belt and if the belt is truly the original it is way overdue. DON'T PUT THAT OFF! If the timing belt fails there is a serious risk of catastrophic damage to the engine. This is not a newbie job, either, although not as expensive as a head gasket to have done. It is very advisable to have the water pump replaced at the same time, as the belt replacement includes 90% of the water pump labor and a failed pump can destroy the belt... and quite possibly your engine.
When you have the timing belt replaced, point out the leakage. Replacing that gasket is a part of the timing belt change.
Mike
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Michael Pardee wrote:

The timing belt has been changed at least once in the cars life. ( I cannot read the mileage on the sticker though. I cannot afford to do that at the moment, so on the weekend I bought a rocker cover gasket and took the cover off the engine and replaced that as well as the air-filter which probably hasn't been changed in 40,000kms. I noticed that there was a thick layer of congealed/carbonised oil inside the rocker cover, is this normal/unusual/a concern?
Honda parts aren't cheap here and seeing as this car cost me about US$300 2 years ago I am reluctant to spend too much money. This week I will take the car down to the local wash world and clean as much of the oil off the bottom of the engine as possible so I can see if it is leaking anywhere else.
Matt
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Matt Mills wrote:

As Michael pointed out, the timing belt may still be a concern if one assumes that the belt should be changed every 60K (miles). It might be that the interval was increased for by 1989 but 60K is typical for older Hondas.
You need to assess what the car is worth as transportation. Is it worth fixing properly or would it be better to buy a newer vehicle? Is it worth the risk of major repairs vs. a relatively lower cost routine maintenance action? Only you can make that decision.
JT
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Grumpy AuContraire wrote:

This car has done 189,000 kms (not miles - we stopped using imperial measurements back in the 70s) so it has not reached the second 60K (miles) that you keep writing.
>"Is it worth > fixing properly or would it be better to buy a newer vehicle? Is it > worth the risk of major repairs vs. a relatively lower cost routine > maintenance action?"
On all those question, the answer would be yes if I could afford any of the repairs but my finances do not cover much more than the petrol, luckily I live only 10 minutes from work.
Thanks for your advice.
Matt
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