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Caden J Witt

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So back in late September, I bought a 1998 Civic with about 116,000 miles on it. I had the vehicle inspected for kinks at a Honda dealer and they told me everything was okay.


The week before last, I started to see smoke coming from under my hood. I brought it to a few people and this is what they told me:


Honda Dealer Technician


" c/s there is smoke coming from under the hood. vehicle would not start for technician. vehicle was overheating with no coolant. vehicle has engine damage and will need new engine"


This dealer also advised me that it should be better to get a new car, otherwise I would be paying anywhere from $1500-2000 for a new engine, labor, etc. However, I am unsure if whether or not this was completely accurate due to the fact that certain technicians are notorious for overestimating certain services if they don’t want to actually do them for you.


Under table mechanic


I brought the car to another mechanic who works under the table. This one told me that I could replace the head gasket with a new one all for $500. He told me that the head gasket was leaking oil and that I needed to make sure that there was oil in the engine.


I am unsure which opinion is more accurate. I have the following factors to consider:


1. A few weeks before I first saw smoke, I would occasionally have to pump the gas in order for the car to start.

2. Since I saw the second mechanic, I have driven the car for a total of probably 15-20 miles.

3. Since I started manually putting oil, smoke has started to recently come out of my tailpipe and the car occasionally jerks (similar to someone learning to drive a 5 speed vehicle… I think something may be wrong with the transmission.)

4. Should I just get a new engine? If so, what is your opinion on the most cost-effective way to get one? I have been told to visit junkyards and used ones. I am not sure if it would be worth it considering I paid about 2 grand for the vehicle.

5. Do the mechanic’s thoughts about the head gasket sound accurate? If so, would my engine function properly afterwards?

6. Would there be a way to temporarily repair the vehicle so that I could drive until I’ve saved money for a new car/engine?


I would like to hear as many opinions as possible. Thanks so much!


Feel free to email as well (wittcj@gmail.com)

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1. You don't have a carburetor so stop pumping the "gas", this is specifically discouraged in your Owner's Manual.


2. I wouldn't be driving this car, there is a good chance it will leave you stranded.


3. I'm not completely sure what you mean by "manually" as there is no other way to add oil other than by hand. Perhaps you mean to say you're adding oil yourself rather than paying someone else to add it for you? Unless your transmission doesn't have any fluids in it either than it probably has little to do with the hesitation you're experiencing. Given the hesitation coincides with the appearance of smoke and your adding oil, I'm going to guess you're burning copious amounts of oil, so much so the spark plugs are fouling up. No spark or weak spark = hesitation.


4. Get a NEW engine, or get a "new" engine? I'm going to assume you mean the latter: replace the engine with a used motor. Well, that depends on what your plans are and what the rest of the car looks like. If the car looks as bad as the motor runs, you may want a fresh start; do not dilute yourself with the idea this car will magically sell for exactly the amount of money you've put into it. Again, the most cost effective way to obtain another motor depends on what's available and what's wrong with your motor. If this was me and I intended on keeping the car for more than 5 years then I would only look for a used motor if the block or head had a hole in it and that's only because I can rebuild the motor for less than a NEW motor but for more than a "new" motor and at the end of the day I've made myself NEW motor.


5. Having the engine function properly after a head gasket change really depends on what else is wrong with the car and how well the mechanic performs his job in changing the head gasket. Not many people take the time to check the block and head for warpage and if discovered actually pull the motor for decking and milling (that means they shave off just enough metal to make it flat again) because this skirts ever so closer to a full rebuild. Again, this all depends on what else is wrong with the car and more importantly how long the car is driven with no or low oil and/or no or low coolant; ie did you continue to drive the car after being told the head gasket had failed? I tell people all the time: if you see coolant vapors and the motor starts to run warmer than usual, don't wait until it overheats, pull over and figure it out or have it towed.


6. From what you described, no there are no temporary fixes. Find alternative transportation. This vehicle is no longer what I would consider reliable transportation. Continue to drive it as is and you will be left stranded.



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