My daughter's 95 Honda Civic (150K miles) started idling rough on the
last 30 miles from a trip to Boston. I informed her to drive home
since she stated at higher revs it appeared OK. To make a long story
short, it was taken to a Honda dealer and diagnosed as having no
compression in #2 and that it may be a stuck valve -- estimate to
repair worst case was $939. The car uses about 1 quart of oil per 1000
miles with no leaks near oil pan, so maybe was burning oil (even though
not noticable). My daughter wants to sell the car vs spending over 1/3
what the car is worth (sine she can get along without a car in Boston)
-- all maintenance has been performed on schedule and otherwise the
vehicle is in decent shape.
I informed her that she may only be able to get less than $500 for
vehicle. Since the decision was to sell, I thought to try to unstick
the valve (dealer's guess without further diagnosis) using Gunk's Motor
Flush -- following the directions using twice for high milage vehicles
and then follow that up with a treatment of Marvel Mystery Oil in the
crankcase if the first method does not work. If both do not work, then
the buyer will have a very clean engine that needs some work. Is this
worth a try?
they did a diagnostic but weren't able to tell if it was stuck or not???
run away from that dealer my friend - they don't know what they're doing.
regarding the gunk question, it won't work. valves essentially run dry,
so monkeying with the lube will not touch it. not mentioning the damage
it may have on the rest of the system.
getting back to the diagnostic, if the valve is stuck [most unlikely],
it's easy enough to diagnose by taking the rocker cover off and checking
the valve lash. if it's stuck down, you'll have massive lash on the
offending valve. if it's stuck closed, the cam or the rocker arm will
the most likely scenario from your description is that the valve is
burnt. this happens if the lash is too tight because it's not been
adjusted properly [i.e. neglected]. the part is $15-25 depending on
whether it's inlet or exhaust. a full oem head gasket kit is $150.
it's a moderately advanced job but very do-able with a reasonable tool
kit, and the helm manual. otherwise, find another dealer that knows
what they're doing. or better yet, find an independent honda specialist
and call around for quotes.
Apparently, the valve cover was not taken off after the compression
check and the valve lash inspected as you stated to pinpoint the issue
-- maybe they were trying to save my daughter on labor.
Service Order reads as follows:
o Customer states that vehicle is idling rough. States that second
plug is not firing but there is spark present. Check and advise
o Completed compression test -- zero compression from cylinder 2 --
engine is burning oil. Recommend replacing valves in no 2 cylinder and
reseat other valves if necessary (possibly intake and exhaust valves --
won't know until technician is in there). Have to special order parts.
The Honda Master Tech mentioned that the car may use more oil after the
repair. Also, I asked his opinion it it is worth fixing the vehicle if
it were his daughter's car and he said it probably would be best to say
goodbye since the vechicle has over 150K miles. The repair estimate
was $939 worst case.
valves almost never stick, but if it's suspected, it's 15 minutes to
takes the rocker cover off and check the lash. the compression test is
valid. the assumption that it's a stuck valve without pulling the cover
is not - which means this shop is highly suspect and should be avoided.
regarding viability of repair, only you know whether the car's worth it
and imo, that's determined by the condition of the body. without seeing
it i can only comment on the mechanicals, and as stated previously, it's
not that big a deal and the parts are cheap. civics regularly give
300+k miles if reasonably maintained. valves have no effect on oil
consumption. poor repair standards [contamination & dirt] do. you do
the math. if this is an otherwise reliable car in decent condition,
there's no reason it won't stay on the road for a decade after being
repaired. find a decent repair shop that knows what they're doing and
it'll run till the body rots out. if you've already made up your mind,
don't bother wasting any more [of my] time - just sell it. if the
body's good, i'd be delighted to pick it up for only $500.
In all fairness to the Honda dealer, I may have jumped to the
conclusion that the valve was stuck -- the dealer stated no compression
and recommended replacing the values for cylinder #2. What is you
estimate in parts and labor (in hours) to the one set of valves? Also,
do you think that there may be additional damage since the car was
driven with the cylinder #2 condition (burnt valve?) for over 50 miles?
The vehicle had a full 30K service (including valve adjustment) at
146K, good brakes/tires, and my daughter and I performed body work
(paint color off a little) around the wheel wells (where Honda's
usually rust) this past summer. You've got me thinking and thanks so
much for you help! And forgot to say Happy New Year!
i don't know what the honda specified time is, but it'll be considerably
more than a belt job for which 4 hours are charged, even if it's done in
under 2. imo, that's another reason to go to an independent. someone
that knows their business should be able to do it in 4 or less, but
double up to be safe.
zero mechanical. you can drive an engine in that condition for many
10's of thousands of miles. you do however have [smallish] risk to the
catalyst, so it's best to take care of it sooner rather than later.
it's not a major deal because as you've already stated, it still works
reasonably well at higher rpm's and combustion is still ok - it's
incomplete combustion that is a catalyst problem, and that is worse if
you're pottering about town.
I will get some estimates. If my daughter still insists on selling
after obtaining the estimates and you are still interested in this
vehicle, is it appropriate for me (new to newsgroup) to contact you via
this newsgroup? [Note: Vehicle did skip even a higher revs on ride back
from dealer to home.] Thanks again!
If you do have a burnt valve, and if you had the valves adjusted 4000
miles ago - I would be highly suspicious that the 'adjuster' is the
cause of your current problem. Things to look for - is the lock nut on
the malfunctioning number two cylinder valve tight? Check the
adjustment on several other valves - are they on spec? If they were
done 4000 miles ago they should be exactly on spec.
While looking at the valves - check that the cam lobe on that valve is
not worn and that the rocker arm is not worn. In my experience i have
seen more bad rocker arms than burnt valves.
How would one approach the Honda Dealer that they may have been the
root cause of the current problem? Should I suggest that I pay for the
checking of the valve settings IF they are in spec, and they correct
the current problem if they are indeed out of spec in less than 5K
miles -- not sure if they guarantee how long these to be in spec
(service for this is usually 12K miles if I remember correctly)? Does
the fact that the vehicle burns oil (1 quart every 1K miles) factor
into the failure at all?
Also, if the cam lobs or rocker arm were worn, then wouldn't the Honda
Dealer reported this at the 30K service (which was performed on 7/21/05
at 146K miles) and suggest additional service at that time?
service interval on valve lash for a honda is usually 30k. check your
not at all. the only way is if the valve seals are gone, but that's
entirely unrelated to valve lash or to a valve being burnt.
not unless they pulled the cover to inspect. besides, it's not very
common for an i4 honda cam to wear a lobe. plenty of other cars, sure,
but honda are usually excellent in this regard so you can pretty much
rule it out.
if the valve was too tight, either through being adjusted wrong or [more
likely] through not being touched at all, it won't close fully when hot,
start to leak, and get a hot spot on the valve head. this will in due
course burn through leaving a rather spiffy little hole in the edge of
the valve. with luck, the valve seat will be ok because valves usually
rotate slightly in operation, so the seat shouldn't be subject to the
same localized overheating.
the [prevention] solution is to check the valve lash at the specified
interval, make sure it's adjusted per the owners manual, and the motor
should give you almost limitless miles if run with a decent oil.
Could the scenario that you described -- for an incorrectly or not
adjusted valve lash by the honda Dealer -- cause the current problem
(no compression due to valve issue, which has not been confirmed yet)
in less than 5K miles? Basically, in your opinion, do I have a case
against the Honda Dealer?
If so, then how would one approach the Honda Dealer that they may have
been the root cause of the current problem?
Should I suggest that I pay for the checking of the valve settings IF
they are in spec, and they correct the current problem if they are
indeed out of spec in less than 5K miles?
it's hard to prove. theoretically, maybe yes, if it's been neglected,
but how to prove it? if they can point to service invoices showing,
say, "60,000 mile maintenance", and valve lash is on that schedule /and/
your invoice, they can say they did it, even if they didn't. and to be
fair, valves can burn from other causes. incorrect lash is the
commonest, but something like a piece of spark plug insulator breaking
off and getting trapped under the valve can cause it, as can a material
defect in the valve itself.
bottom line, the latter two causes are possible and would destroy your
case. eliminating them as causes and proving a "he said, she said"
argument of what was actually done, is tough. but you can try small
claims - often people settle just to get agitators out of their hair and
their name out of the paper, but make sure you've got a paper trail and
be aware of the cost of losing!
examine your paperwork. if the lash was done, and it burnt out shortly
after, particularly if the valves measure too tight right now [measure
them now - do /not/ adjust them!!!], you may be able to argue it /if/
you're a good customer & they want you. but the car's outside any
warranty, so they'd have to be feeling pretty darned generous.
all depends on your relationship with them or your cost of litigation
[and loss]. elmo gets stuff done by his honda dealer on goodwill
because of his long standing relationship.
The oil burning could be an indication that the car has more than 150000
(did you buy it new), or has been run way too long between an oil change
once or twice, has been badly overheated one time, or has just been
driven really hard. Worn or broken piston rings are one reason for oil
burning, another is worn valve seals. If the problem is with the valve
seals, a complete head rebuild would fix everything for you. But if
your oil problem is rings you really need to rebuild the engine. Paying
1000. to fix the valves in a quart per thousand oil burner wouldn't make
My sugestions to you in my first post were for what you might look for
yourself. If the car will be worked on by the dealer you pretty much
have to trust them. Contrary to conventional newsgroup thinking, mostly
they are competent and honest. If you have been dealing with this
service department you should have a good idea of how they are.
Not sure what is causing oil problem -- still passed last annual Mass
emmisions inspection. Would an oil leak caused by either valve seals or
pistons rings exhibit a sign like smoke from exhaust? Currently no
noticable smoke from exhaust, except a little puff when starting -- but
still passes emmisions test.
Car purchased on 6/25/02 with 119K miles from a young man who installed
a Direct Air Charger, Nology Hot Wires, and Denso Iridium Power
Performance Spark plugs (non-resistor) at 110K miles. No other
modifications (e.g. to cam, etc. not sure why he did it). It was
leaking oil at that point, but got a good deal on it ($2500) and he had
all previous service records -- timing belt and water pump replaced at
92K miles. Valve adjust was done also at this service. Good oil used --
Penzoil 5W-30 with 4K intervals, but previous owner had intervals
averaging 6K miles at Jiffy Lube.
If the valve lash was done correctly and a valve became burnt
afterwards, then would it measure tight due to the burnt area, which
may raise the valve? If so, then maybe hard to prove incorrect
I have good relationship with Honda Dealer -- have had no problems
before and bought 3 new Hondas from them (1992 Accord, 1997 Odyssey,
and 2001 Accord) and have had two other used Hondas (1995 Civic -- the
problem, and 1998 Civic) serviced with them. Maybe they will consider a
As I stated earlier, on the 146K mile service, the 30K service was
performed which includes on the invoice a valve adjustment. This last
valve adjustment was performed by technician certification of "Honda"
vs "Honda Master". Not sure if that makes a difference, but less
experience I assume?
Still pondering next step:
1. ask the Honda Dealer to share some of the cost -- the dealer would
be the one to judge themselves on correct valve lash adjustment
2. only have #2 valves replaced and live with oil issue -- hopefully
will not get worse
3. go with added expense of head rebuild -- Honda seems to like using
new parts (will they use rebuilt?) -- and resolve oil issue or am I
mistaken that this requires an complete engine rebuilt? Not sure of
cost of this.
4. Not sure what to ask the Honda Dealer to do since the cause of the
oil leak has not been determined -- would they have to disassemble
engine to determine if ring issue -- as well as the reason for no
compression in #2? My open up a can of worms/expenses!
5. I do not think that I can go to Small Claims since I do not have a
loss yet -- I will only after the repair
6. sell the car as-is (for parts -- since will probably not pass Mass
inspection currently) for best offer to someone who is mechanically
inclined -- any bids?
ok - those two points dramatically change the whole equation.
1. the puff of smoke on starting is definitely oil - at working
temperature, a catalyst burns what you'd otherwise see in an older car.
2. that air intake mod stuff is guaranteed to ruin rings. it sacrifices
filter efficiency for flow rate - the result is that fine dust gets
ingested and has an abrasive effect on the cylinder wall/ring interface.
suddenly a 300k motor is lucky to get 100k.
based on the above, i wouldn't bother repairing this motor. i'd get a
japanese replacement for $500 and have it swapped out. those motors are
typically 50k miles or less. it's a much better deal than spending $1k
on what we now know to be worn out.
no - tightness means that at full working temperature, metal expansion
stops the valve closing completely. leakage of hot exhaust gas through
the resultant tiny opening causes the valve to get too hot, it softens,
then starts to erode. with correct operation, the valve head gets to
cool when it's in complete contact with the valve seat which is in turn
cooled by the head and liquid coolant circulation.
no - if the valve is too tight, it's too tight. the wear rate is real
slow, so if it was adjusted 5k ago, any change due to normal wear & tear
should be so small as to be not measurable - assuming oil maintenance /
quality is decent, etc. therefore, if a valve measures tight, even when
it's burnt, it's due to the adjustment, /not/ the erosion.
adjustment of the cost, not the valves! adjusting valves at this point
won't fix the problem - only pulling the head and replacing the valve
can do that.
presumably. i'm not honda certified.
in view of the mod history, i'd definitely reject any claim if i were
the dealer - you'd have to be spending a /lot/ more with me to get me to
pick up the tab on something that is already garbage and won't be coming
back to me much longer.
i say do the japanese motor swap and regard it as the price you paid for:
1. the "good deal" going in on a car that had been monkeyed with before
you got it.
2. the learning experience of why such a car /needs/ to be heavily
there's a bunch of places online that ship these used japanese engines -
you just find the mechanic to do the swap. then you have a car that
will be good for another 200/300k miles or as long as the body lasts.
Appreciate all of your help. Questions on the japanese motor swap:
o Any dealer better than others -- testing, etc.(Rising Star, Japan
Direct, ATK, etc.)?
o Has your experience been that these engines are reliable (better
testing by some dealers)?
o Will the japanese engines work with American emisions equipment?
o Other parts recommended/needed to complete swap not included with
engine (e.g. new timing belt, water pump, other)?
o Cost to swap, including engine (approx $500 + $100 shipping to Mass +
additional parts + labor) = $????
o Should I look for direct replacement (1.5 liter 95 Civic) or upgrade
to 1.6 liter 95 Civic VTEC or will that complicate matters?
I agree with what everybody else has said. However, I would just yank
the whole cylinder head off and replace it with a rebuilt one. A
rebuilt head for a 95 Civic should be around 300 to 500 US dollars.
After replacing the head, the car would probably go another 150k.
Removing the head will require remving other parts, such as the timing
belt, that probably need to be replaced anyway. This whole project
should end up costing about what was quoted to you, since labor should
run around 500 US dollars
As others have said, only you can decide if it is worth it. If I had a
burned or cracked valve on my 93 Accord, I would do as I have
suggested, but I would do the work myself. It is a complex job,
because you have to remove the throttle body, both manifolds, somehow
swing all of that plumbing out of the way, etc. But once you get to
the head itself, it is a fairly simple and straightforward process to
remove and replace.
Hope this helps.
Freelance Science Writer and Editor
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