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
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
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
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)
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
Were genuine Acura parts used in this tuneup?
Thanks for writing back so quickly. My reply is lengthy, but I think, worth
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
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
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$ email@example.com, "Elle"
Were the spark plugs replaced as part of normal maintenance, or were
they replaced to fix a problem? Many garages replace plugs for the
latter, even when the ignition system has no problems with it.
$300 doesn't seem "mini." How expensive is regular service?
Am I misreading something, or are you taking a Honda Acura to a Toyota
dealer? Why not at least use a Honda dealer?
I also don't understand how pumping the accelerator helps with a fuel
injected engine, and I think all Acuras were fuel injected by 1990.
The only time you should need to push the gas pedal of a fuel injected
engine is to clear a flooded condition. And if a fuel injected engine
is harder to start after it sat for a while, that could indicate an
internal fuel system leak, such as because of a defective check valve.
It may not cost that much to fix the A/C leak, especially at an auto
A/C specialty shop, and the Freon R-12 your car uses is expensive but
cheaper than converting to R-134a.
But garages aren't supposed to simply add Freon to a leaking system but
also fix the leak. At the very least, do not let anybody put R-134a
into your system unless a complete conversion is done that includes
removing all the old Freon and oil from the system. Cheap conversions
don't cool well and have high failure rates.
At many dealerships, service advisors are little more than comissioned
sales people and know little about cars.
I don't understand why you'd choose a garage simply because a muffler
shop recommends it.
3/4 qt. / 5 weeks (I'm assuming it's about 1000 miles) is not unusual
for an old engine, especially one with worn valve seals.
Acuras aren't known for leaky valve covers, so I see nothing wrong with
a conventional gasket, but use only quality gaskets, either original
equipment or Fel-Pro.
How do you know the ratings are accurate? I would look for factory
trained mechanics (ASE certification isn't nearly as good), but beware
that even dealerships don't always employ them. Also AAA approval is
desirable since it requires garages to abide by AAA arbitration of
disputes (customer is not obligated).
Thanks for writing back--
A 15 or 30K service around here is likely more expensive than $300.00 at the
dealer--since I haven't had one done lately at a dealer, it could be as much
as $500.00--This is in SE Virginia. I was taking my Acura to the Toyota
dealer because the Acura dealer was difficult to work with, and was trying
to sell me unneeded services, etc back in the late 1990s. After having some
work done for a couple of years at an independent garage that wasn't much
better, I found out about the Toyota dealer, which, back around 2001 or so,
had a very good reputation, and was able/willing to work on all Japanese
imports. However, I have been increasingly unhappy with them the past year,
and what's happened in the past month has completely soured me to them. My
former BF has good experiences at the Tread Quarters in his town, but the
one where I live isn't as good. He is not mechanically inclined either
(local sports journalist and well-known masters runner) and cannot help me
with the car, so I'm on my own on this.
I've told my other running acquaintances about my car troubles, and one guy
recommended a place that is a little off the beaten track for me to get
to--but if I don't get satisfaction at the place I'm taking the car to
Monday, I might take a drive to Poquoson Garage after school starts, since
my community college isn't *that *far away from there.
Jean in VA
On 8/4/06 6:06 AM, in article
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