I'm the original owner of an '85 Honda Accord hatchback (113K mi.),
automatic transmission. The car has never overheated, but the other day
white smoke poured out of the tailpipe. I drove it home 1 mile, then
had it towed to my regular mechanic, a Honda specialist. The head
gasket is blown (a $900 repair, high, I guess, because I live in
My husband and asked the mechanic whether it's worth spending this
money on the car. He was reluctant to say so one way or the other, but
he noted that the radiator is original, and there's a good chance it,
too, might go soon.
The car is in decent condition, with a bit of rust along the sides. It
was running great until now, although it has failed emissions
inspections. We recently had the battery replaced (it was the original
one!) and the muffler. We've given it regular maintenance.
Does needing a head gasket mean it's the beginning of the end for my
beloved car? Does the fact that this part went mean that other things
are wrong with it or that other parts will soon start going? (That is,
are we throwing good money after bad?) I thought I could count on
having it until 200K.
It sounds like it's the years, rather than the miles, that have taken the
toll on your 20 year old car. The years have also taken their toll on the
market value of the vehicle, and that leads me to think you will be better
off to replace the car with something newer.
I wouldn't have thought the head gasket would be the harbinger of age, but
so be it. My focus would be on the rubber parts, including bushings. And,
yes, the plastic tanks on the radiator are not young any more. The timing
belt should have been changed a few times by now on the basis of time, and
will be coming up again sometime. Will the car be worth it to you then?
The car can be fixed up, but it would have to be considered a "project
car" - something to work on the equivalent of every weekend for several
months to make actual headway against the forces of decay. That is a labor
of love, and your love for the car would definitely be put to the test. It
really is only practical as a major DIY job - you would pay a professional
many times the car's value to do that and still would have a 20 year old
car. A high school kid taking auto shop would be a better owner for your
baby, I fear.
113k... and you had the original battery for just about 20
years? That's amazing.
How does the undercarriage, especially where the jack goes,
look? That area can become so rusted the jack can't be used
Also, can you get an estimate of how much a new radiator,
installed, would cost? I figure maybe $500.
I wouldn't expect any serious engine problems from years
used, and certainly not at only 113k miles (unless you do
some really serious sitting in the car in traffic, with it
idling). I suspect the same goes for the transmission.
Figure certain seals (oil pan gasket, for example) will need
replacement. Tack on another $600. Which might be high, or
it might be low.
So you'd be spending maybe $2000 to renovate this car a bit,
but possibly so as to take it to at least another five years
(sounds like miles is not really the goal here). Key word
Obtaining parts might get to be a problem within a few
years, if not already. Online Honda parts sites go back this
far and then some, but I don't know if your local mechanic
has access to similar sources.
I am inclined to agree with your mechanic: This is a tough
I think at this time I would feel the safer bet is to take
the money and put it towards a younger car. E.g.
www.edmunds.com , used car appraisal section, says a 1995
Civic Si Hatchback with 100k miles and in good condition
goes for $2700 - $3900 (private party to dealer prices).
That should last five years, easily, assuming routine
maintenance has been, and continues to be, done. Your car in
its present condition is pretty much worthless, by Edmunds.
(Running, you might get $1400 for it from a dealer.)
Original owner, 1991 Civic. 173k miles. Thinking rust might
kill it within five years. Suspension bushings appearance is
poor, but drives fine. 40+ mpg, no oil drips on garage
floor, but I have chased down many seals and replaced them
in the last two years.
You're sure right on the "tough call" regarding this vehicle.
On one side, a 113K Honda is barely over the 300K that could be expected
to be a service life but the twenty plus years of salt/rust exposure
sure can take the wind out of one's sails.
My first Honda was a used '76 Civic CVCC that I bought at 82K from the
original owner (a friend) in 1982. It only lasted another five years
with rust being the driving factor. There was little mechanical wear
even though the car attained 160K in late 1987.
OTOH, I am nearing the end of a 1983 Honda Civic FE project that sat in
a repair shop back yard. The previous owner evidently did not pay
attention to the temp gauge and blew a head gasket at 110K. The owner
of the shop inherited the car and later found a wrecked 1982 Civic DX
with the intention of swapping engines. All this happened in the early
1990's and both cars sat in that back lot until I rescued both of 'em a
little over a year ago for a measly $200. Incidentally, the wrecked
car's engine had 116K on it.
Because here in Texas, rust is not really an issue, I swapped the
engines but retained all the '83 FE tranny, accessories, carb, etc. The
clutch/pressure plates in both engines appeared to be new so left them alone.
I figure that I'll have about $1,400 in the project when it's road
worthy and considering what these cars bring on ebay, I figure I can't
go to wrong if I run it until the wheels are square. If for some reason
it becomes an aggravation, on ebay it will go.
Hopefully, the gas miser king of 1983 will serve me well for a few years
Been chatting with some other folks, and I forgot two
-- These folks know this car well, so buying a used car, but
one less old, as I suggested, means buying into an unknown
-- $900 for another year (quite possibly more) of service
from this 1985 Honda is still pretty darn cheap for the
I know installing the new head gasket is an option I would
strongly consider if this were my 1991 Civic and I felt it
had never overheated, as anwinesp@@ yahoo.com indicated.
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