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Serious engine problem with 02 Civic LX Sedan, can you please offer ad


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Ooook so I have a 2002 Honda Civic LX Sedan. I bought it new and it was doing fine for a long time but then it would start idling really rough and shaking for a while first driving it. Check engine light was on too. I bought a fancy tester from O’Reilly’s and it gave a P0303 error. So cylinder 3 problem right?


This pic:



shows that the cylinders go from 4 3 2 1 if looking at it from the front of the car.


My friend helped me change the spark plugs and when we took them out they were all dry except number 3 – the plug, the on-plug distributer coil, and tube they were in were covered in oil. So we cleaned it off and replaced all the plugs. We also swapped the distributer coil or ‘boot’ as I think they’re called.

Then a few weeks later the problems weren’t going away so we bought a valve cover kit, new seals for spark plugs and a cam shaft cover and we replaced all those. Things were going well for a couple of months until a couple weeks ago when the engine light came on, engine shaking and the P0303 code came back. It went away though after that but then yesterday when I started it and all throughout me driving it somewhere (it was a mandatory appointment so I had to drive it) it shook really bad, like worse than before. Shook when I drove it back too.


Today I had my friend come over and cylinder 3 was oily again. We did a compression test and we got as the readings 110 – 110 – 110 – 140. Each one held those readings for a few minutes until removing the tester. We also tested the coils/boots by using a spark tester and they were fine. After putting everything back though the car ran fine. I don’t want to risk it though so I really need advice.


It’s likely an internal engine problem right, something with a piston? Should I try and get a local mechanic to fix it which would be expensive? I know replacing the engine would be very expensive so I can’t afford that (it would probably be better just to get a new car at that point). The guy at Oreillys said it would be $3000 just for the engine + money to put it in from a mechanic.

Thanks so much for any advice and input!

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02 LX is a VERY common car. No sane person should pay retail to have an engine replaced in your car. You can find used replacement engines for a few hundred dollars if you do your own legwork. Many local independent repairs shops will have no problem installing a used engine into your used car. (Lets be honest, it's a 12 year old car, why does it need a new engine?) The install labor will likely cost more than the engine. If you use the garage to source the engine then they will usually back the motor for at least a short time (most salvage yards offer at least a 30 day guarantee so the garage would only be out some man-hours if there is a problem.


Better yet is why you have oil in that chamber, especially if you have proper pressure. It is possible you have a worn ring. It's good enough to hold pressure at idle but not enough under load. Depending on how you drive would be a tell-tale symptom for this. If you are not a pedal-masher I would think the problem is a little higher up, possibly in the head then. In either case it seems like you have a capability to do minor repairs and service but identifying this issue might be more than you want to bite off. As a minimum you can take it to a garage and tell them you would like to try and fix what is happening if you can but you cannot fully identify the problem. Once they have looked at it and told you the issue you can do some quick homework an see if you want to tackle this yourself. The garage will charge you a little more for the non-repair diag than they otherwise might have. One huge issue to be watchful for is if the problem is not a clearly obvious issue. If there is any question as to the problem even from a mechanic you might not want to do it yourself. Worst case is they tell you whats wrong, you pay up, go home, fix it yourself and problem isn't resolved. Now you have to do the whole process again.

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