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Just Purchased 1991 Honda Civic Hatchback


91Civic3DrHb

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Hello,

 

Yesterday I purchased a 1991 Honda Civic 3 door hatchback. The car has 106,950 miles. I purchased a CarFax report and it looked clean. I'm the third owner. The Kelly Blue Book value for excellent condition was 1,960.00. He was asking 2,150. I offered 1,900. He said the lowest he would take was 2,000. I paid it because the car is in such good condition. (And, I really wanted it.) I have a few questions at the end of this post--just in case you want to skip the boring narrative!

 

There is absolutely no rust on the car. The original white paint is in unbelievably excellent condition--it must have been a garage-kept car. There are only two tiny dings, which you have to really look for to see. Even 95% of the exterior plastic trim, including bumpers, is in excellent condition. When you look at the car sitting in the driveway, it looks like it's only a couple of years old.

 

The interior is in good shape. The driver's seat has some rips in it, but the passenger seat and the rear seat are in very good condition. The carpet is even in really good shape. (Know any sources for seat covers?)

 

According to the previous owner, it has had a recent brake job, a new exhaust system, and new CV joints. He had no paperwork, so I can't know for sure. I could tell the exhaust was not original and there was no clicking sound from the CV joints. The boots looked to be in good shape.

 

It drives really well. It has a 4-speed manual transmission. It starts right up (even on a cold morning). It has quite a bit of pep in the acceleration. It shifts smoothly. The clutch seems to be...a little...I don't know how to describe it. The clutch doesn't seem to engage until the clutch pedal is close to the floor. Maybe the clutch cable just needs adjusting. The brakes are good. It seemsto be in alignment. Heat and AC work fine. All the lights, horn, wipers, etc. work. I can't see any signs of fluids leaking--the engine compartment is really clean.

 

I know the Civic has a large group of enthusiasts. From what I see, most appear to be young. Many modify their Civics--engines, exhaust, bodies, etc. I don't fall into that group. I'm 45 and don't plan on doing any modifications. I bought it because my 16 year old son wanted to buy my 1996 Ford Ranger, and I wanted a dependable car that got good gas mileage. I also didn't have a lot of money, and I didn't want a car payment. I've had two Hondas in the last 20 years, including a 1990 Honda Civic wagon. I know they're dependable cars. Plus, there's something about an older car with manual windows and locks, that just has the basics, that appeals to me.

 

Now the questions:

 

1. Are the fourth generation Honda engines the non-interference type? (If the timing belt breaks, will the valves and pistons be okay?)

2. If I don't know whether or not the timing belt has been replaced, should I replace it? (It has 106,950 miles on it.)

3. For a person who is mechanically adept, could the timing belt be replaced in a weekend? Does the entire engine need to come out? I did a frame off restoration of a 1969 VW Beetle, including a complete engine rebuild, so I'm sure I could do it. I'd only want to do it, however, if it would mean saving a bundle of money. If the difference is only a couple of hundred dollars, I'd probably get someone else to do it.

4. If I start the engine, depress the clutch, and shift the transmission into reverse, there's a slight grinding of gears. If I shift it into another gear first, then into reverse, it won't grind. I ran across something in the owner's manual about shifting into reverse. According to that, what I'm experiencing seems to be normal. Does anyone know anything about this?

 

Thanks in advance for any help, suggestions, insight, advice you can give. I look forward to receiving the benefits of the combined experience and knowledge found in this forum.

 

Jay White

Virginia

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1. Are the fourth generation Honda engines the non-interference type? (If the timing belt breaks, will the valves and pistons be okay?)

 

The engine will stop and you could damage the valves.

 

2. If I don't know whether or not the timing belt has been replaced, should I replace it? (It has 106,950 miles on it.)

 

In extreme conditions, the timing belt should be replaced every 60K miles; in normal conditions, the timing belt should be replaced every 120K miles. However, given your description of the car's condition, I would venture a guess that the car falls into the latter catagory.

 

3. For a person who is mechanically adept, could the timing belt be replaced in a weekend? Does the entire engine need to come out? I did a frame off restoration of a 1969 VW Beetle, including a complete engine rebuild, so I'm sure I could do it. I'd only want to do it, however, if it would mean saving a bundle of money. If the difference is only a couple of hundred dollars, I'd probably get someone else to do it.

 

If you did a frame off restoration, you will be fine. Weekend, no, an afternoon perhaps. The engine does not need to come out. I just changed my timing belt this weekend, pretty straight forward, and it was my first time. Honda wanted $650.00 in labor to do the same thing.

 

4. If I start the engine, depress the clutch, and shift the transmission into reverse, there's a slight grinding of gears. If I shift it into another gear first, then into reverse, it won't grind. I ran across something in the owner's manual about shifting into reverse. According to that, what I'm experiencing seems to be normal. Does anyone know anything about this?

 

Honda transmissions have trouble synconizing with reverse. I would get used to doing the first-then-reverse shuffle.

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...I just changed my timing belt this weekend, pretty straight forward, and it was my first time....

 

Search the forums for more information on the procedure. I ended up needing a special tool to hold the crankcase pulley and a 36" breaker bar with 3/4" driver on a 19mm socket via 24 inches (8"+16") of 3/4" driver extensions to get the crankcase bolt off. But you probably already have these tools.

Edited by James Matteu
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Thanks. I bought a shop manual; it looks pretty straightforward. I think I'll replace the timing belt and water pump sometime in the next couple of months.

 

Something weird happened this afternoon. For about 15 minutes, while stopped at lights and whatnot, the engine was revving up and dropping off in about a 3 second cycle. I don't have a tachometer, but I estimate it would rev up to about 1,100 RPMs, for a second, then drop down to about 700 for half a second, and then repeat. When I got home and stopped in the driveway, it wasn't doing it anymore.

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Your Idle Air Control Valve probably got stuck for a second but normal driving cleared it for ya. If it continues to do it, just go ahead and replace it and you'll be in business.

 

And it sounds to me like you got a CRX, but I may very well be mistaken. But you are running an interference engine. Personally I've had timing belts let go and have had nothing happen. But other people have had their motors completely trashed i.e. valves through pistons, wrecked heads, thrown rods, etc. But to play on the safe side I'd go ahead and replace the belt just for insurance.

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beautiful car.

Thanks. The one thing I wish I had was a tachometer. It's not a necessity, but every car I've ever had with a manual transmission has had a tach. I was looking on eBay at instrument clusters. There's one listed for a 88-91 honda civic crx. Do you know if you can change the odometer reading on an instrument cluster before installing it so that it reads the correct mileage for the car you're installing it in?

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Took some pictures today of my new Civic. For Civics for this year (1991), there were apparently three trim levels: DX, SI, and standard. Mine is a 4-speed manual transmisison with no tachometer. I'm assuming it's a standard.

It is. The DX had a 5 speed and a small console around the shifter area. Still no tach though. It's the one thing that bugs me about Hondas is that the trim line, and not the engine/tranny combination that decides whether or not you get a tach. All manual transmission should have a tach standard.

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