The Truth About Cars » 1992 Honda Civic The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 14:51:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » 1992 Honda Civic Kill Switch Thwarts Denver Civic Thieves Once Again, Junkyard Parts To the Rescue Thu, 19 Jul 2012 14:30:21 +0000 I love my beater 1992 Honda Civic, and living near downtown Denver is great, but the combination of fifth-gen Civic and urban living means that thieves are going to try to steal my street-parked car on a depressingly regular basis. Would-be thieves tore up my steering column less than a year ago, and they did it again a couple of weeks back. Both times, my homebrewed kill-switch system kept the bad guys from starting the car. Both times, I got the car back on the road with cheap junkyard parts.
The first indication I got that something was wrong was the sight of the open glovebox— itself the victim of many break-ins when the previous owner lived in San Francisco and Chicago and repaired with non-color-matching junkyard parts just recently— and the busted steering-column cover on the passenger-side floor. Not again!
After I had an ’87 Civic hatch ripped off in Oakland back in the 1990s, I’ve installed kill switches on every Honda I’ve owned since; this is the fourth time (that I know of) that such a switch has saved one of my cars from theft. The problem with Civics of the 1980s and 1990s is that any random Honda key has a pretty good chance of starting any Honda; most thieves just carry a bunch of keys with them and keep trying keys until one works. This thief went for the old-fashioned break-the-column-lock/pry-the-ignition-switch-off approach, which tears the hell out of everything on the steering column.
I’m not sure exactly what tools are used to do this, but some major leverage must have been used to crack the tough steel of the column-lock collar.
I’d like to share my kill-switch secrets with the world, but I don’t want to make things any easier for the Honda thieves prowling my neighborhood. What I’ve got is a device that doesn’t look like a switch and requires a certain amount of contortion to reach from the driver’s seat, and it’s a double-pole/single-throw switch that cuts power to both the starter solenoid and the fuel pump. Actually, that’s the setup I had, before this incident; now I’ve got the two circuits on separate camouflaged switches. It would take a very patient thief indeed to find both switches, and meth use doesn’t encourage such patience.
One of these days I’m going to master the art of Field Expedient Ignition Key Making, as seen at towed-car auctions: you jam a key blank in the lock, abuse it cruelly with a pliers, and then file away the areas where the lock pins made marks on the blank. For now, I buy a lock cylinder and ignition switch at the junkyard and get a locksmith to make a key; in this case, I found a great deal on eBay for a 5G Civic cylinder/switch assembly with keys already there, so I went that route.
Since the steering-column covers had been torn to bits by the amphetamine-crazed Civic thief, I headed to my favorite self-serve wrecking yard to do some plastic shopping. Someone had already pulled the ignition switch from this ’95 Civic sedan (nearly every 5th-gen Civic in self-service yards has had the ignition switch assembly removed, which tells you something about the prevalence of theft with these cars), and he or she had been kind enough to not destroy the steering column cover pieces. It’s nice to find that the parts you need are removed and conveniently located.
Success! I’m pretty sure my car had been stolen and recovered several times before I bought it, because every lock and latch in the car was already pretty well thrashed; the steering column cover was already beat to hell before the latest thief finished it off. I’ll have to give the car’s previous owner a call and ask him about the car’s theft history.
Removing the old switch is a medium-grade pain in the ass, mostly because the car is so small and it’s hard to get to anything. To get to the shear bolts that hold the switch assembly on the steering column, you need to drop the column down to seat level.
This is the sort of job for which the factory shop manual is a must-have, and Honda has always done a beautiful job with their manuals. I’m a technical writer by trade, and I’ll use Honda factory shop manuals as course materials if I ever teach a tech-writing class (if I ever teach a fiction-writing class it’s going to be Flannery O’Connor all the way).
Right. So, you center-punch and drill out the two shear bolts that hold the lock cylinder assembly on the steering column, and then you unplug the two connectors from the ignition switch harness to the fuse panel.
Here’s the old ignition switch and harness assembly.
You can install the ignition switch/cylinder assembly with regular bolts and it probably wouldn’t matter; any thief who is willing to remove the half-dozen fasteners required to get access to the switch mounting bracket is going to apply his talents to more valuable targets. My switch came with new shear bolts, courtesy of the eBay seller, so I used them.
It doesn’t take much torque to snap off the heads of the shear bolts; one hand on a short 1/4″-drive ratchet was sufficient.
At this point, punching and drilling of the bolt will be needed to remove the assembly.
In a job like this, there’s always some nickel/dime headache that slows things down. In this case, the replacement switch’s wiring harness didn’t have one of the two one-way hold-downs that keep the wires out of the way of nearby moving parts.
I could have drilled a second hole in the bracket and used a zip-tie, but instead I opted to free up one of the hold-downs on the old harness and install it on the new one.
A quick test showed that the new switch worked fine, so I buttoned everything up.
Ready to go!
I’m glad my kill switches have saved my Civic, which has been the best daily-driver/parts-hauling beater I’ve ever owned, but these constant theft attempts are getting old. To prevent such occurrences— which seem inevitable, given that I park a known-to-be-easy-to-steal car with high parts demand in a nice neighborhood adjacent to a sketchy/tweeker-centric ‘hood— in the future, I’m going to take additional steps:
1. I’ve been parking the Civic (which I don’t drive much since I bought a much more VIP daily driver) in a dark parking space where it can’t be seen from my house, mostly so my ’66 Dodge A100 van can be seen from the house. Since I remove the battery from my hot-wireable-in-10-seconds van when it’s parked, and demand for A100 parts isn’t particularly high, it’s probably safe to let the Civic live in the A100′s spot.
2. Car alarms are pointless and annoying, but the cost of a flashing LED and resistor is about 99 cents. There’s a small-but-real chance that the appearance of an alarm will deter potential thieves, so I’ve installed a blinky LED on the dash. I’ve also added a club-style steering wheel lock, because a thief might decide that the added 30 seconds to hacksaw through the steering wheel isn’t worth the risk of getting shot full of holes and/or bludgeoned with a lag-screw-studded 2×4 by an enraged car owner.
3. I’ve added a second kill switch, so now the fuel pump and starter are interrupted by separate switches. Good luck finding both switches, thieves!
4. Long-term (i.e., before I swap my Integra GS-R B18C1 engine in), I plan to install a racing-style quick-release steering wheel in the car and stash the wheel inside the house. Most thieves don’t carry a collection of steering wheels with all the popular quick-release hubs, and using a Vise-Grip as a steering wheel works poorly on a non-power-steering-equipped car.
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Working On a Harlequin Interior For My Civic, One Junkyard Piece At a Time Wed, 30 May 2012 18:03:27 +0000 There’s a liberating feeling when you have to fix some interior component on a beater transportation car (e.g., my destined-to-become-a-track-car 1992 Civic DX) and you don’t care about color matching. Item #3,491 on the list of Parts Whose Failure Doesn’t Stop You From Driving, But Still Drives You Crazy: the glovebox door latch.
My Civic led a rough life before I bought it five years ago; its previous owner was a blues bass player who lived in Chicago and then San Francisco, parking the car on sketchy side streets near sleazeball blues clubs in both cities. Street-parked cars in San Francisco get broken into about once every two weeks on average, which meant that every lock on the car has been punched or pried out at least a dozen times, and every storage compartment in the interior has been pawed open by many desperate thieves in the throes of amphetamine psychosis and/or the DTs and/or the hippie hippie shakes (in Denver, they just try to cold steal the car itself). The glovebox in my car was always flaky, with a balky latch mechanism damaged by the scrabbling fingers of so many urban entrepreneurs, and last week it finally gave up completely.
Yes, the plastic handle finally snapped off when I opened the glovebox to grab my cassette of I, Fish Driver. I called my local Honda dealer and was quoted a price of just $17.95 for this piece, but it wasn’t in stock. I planned to do a junkyard run that day and shoot Junkyard Find photos, anyway, so I thought I’d do some glovebox-latch shopping at the same time. If I couldn’t find one, I’d just wait a few days for a new replacement part.
The first yard I visited didn’t have any fifth-gen Civics that hadn’t been completely gutted (I’m still waiting for 1992-95 Civics to show up in large quantities in self-service junkyards, but this hasn’t happened yet), so I looked at Integras, Accords, and Preludes from the same decade. Honda has been known to share components across different models, so maybe the Accord’s glovebox latch will fit the Civic.
This one has a lock, but the overall shape is identical to the 92-95 Civic unit. What the heck, it’s held in with just two screws and the junkyard wanted only $2.99 for the entire latch mechanism. As an added bonus, it’s even the correct gray color!
Unfortunately, the location of the striker is about 1/4″ different in the Accord latch, so it wouldn’t work without a bunch of pain-in-ass modifications. The good news was that I planned to do another photo expedition at a second junkyard that afternoon… where I found this fifth-gen Civic coupe.
The interior of this Civic was a very mid-90s beige, which was sort of horrible, but the latch was mechanically correct. This junkyard charged just $1.49 for it.
30 seconds of work and the swap is done.
In a non-beater, this would be a major fashion don’t, but I’m this car’s final owner!
Anyway, the latch goes well with the only-one-I-could-find replacement for the window crank I snapped off while loading 8-foot 2x6s in the car at the lumberyard. Now I’m tempted to get a green steering wheel.

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Drag Strip Adventures: Why I Need To Put a GS-R Engine In My 18-Second Civic Fri, 12 Aug 2011 13:00:14 +0000 The D15B7 engine that Honda installed in my beater/daily-driver ’92 Civic DX was rated at 102 horsepower. Car and Driver managed to get the ’92 DX down the quarter-mile in 16.7 seconds… but that was at sea level, in a brand-new car. With its tired 200,000-mile engine gasping for air at 5,280 feet up, my Civic is definitely short on power in its new Colorado home. The good news is that I have an Integra GS-R B18C1 engine in the garage, and it’s getting swapped into my Civic very soon. That means I needed some “before” dragstrip numbers, so I can see just how much improvement the new engine will bring. Time to visit Bandimere Raceway for Test-&-Tune night!
The B18C1 came from a Texas GS-R that was rolled into a ball and hacked into the most unsafe car in 24 Hours of LeMons history. Hoonatic Racing (that is, the one guy left standing when his teammates flaked and went home) won both Most Heroic Fix (for thrashing all weekend and getting the car onto the track before the checkered flag) and I Got Screwed (for getting the car onto the track approximately 15 seconds before the checkered flag after thrashing all weekend). You can get the entire story here, but the important thing to come out of the Hoonatic Racing One Lap Integra’s adventures was that I bought the car’s engine. In Houston. How would I get it to Denver?
Fortunately, team captain Brandon of the Index of Effluency-winning ’67 Mercedes-Benz 190 of the Texas-based B League Film Society decided that he just had to drive all the way to northern Nevada and race a Jetta (which blew up about 16 seconds after the green flag) in the Goin’ For Broken 24 Hours of LeMons. Brandon was kind enough to haul my GS-R engine (plus transmission, wiring harness, and various suspension components) all the way to Fernley…
…and, even though Denver isn’t exactly on the way from Fernley to Houston, he dropped all the Honda goodies off at my place.
So, now there’s a grimy VTEC engine, complete with Neuspeed header, sitting in my garage. Waiting. Mocking me.
I’ve got every inch of the GS-R’s engine wiring harness, plus the ECM, instrument cluster, sensors, the works.
I’ve also got a bunch of suspension components of suspect, car-rolled-into-a-ball condition. All I need to do is buy the correct axles and engine mounts and get going on the swap. Of course, first I’ll need to get a new, more luxurious daily driver (torn between a Grand Marquis and a Lexus LS400 at the moment), and then there’s the ’66 Dodge A100 Hell Project demanding attention. Totally normal situation for a car geek.
So, I headed over to Bandimere on Wednesday night. It had been a few years since I’d last been to a dragstrip Test-&-Tune session, and so I spent some time checking out the more interesting machinery. Always nice to see a couple of Chrysler A-bodies with healthy small-blocks; the orange Dart on the left ended up getting consistent high-12-second times. Remember, the thin air at Bandimere probably adds a second to a naturally-aspirated car’s quarter-mile time.
The turbocharged imports were running some ridiculous times. Here’s one of a pair of street-driven Mitsubishi Mirages that knocked out mid-11-second times all evening.
The Civics were out in force, and some of them were walking the walk for real. Normally, when I see a car that looks like this one, I figure it will do 15.5 at the strip.
Nope, this Honda rode geological boost pressure to a 10.27 ET. Another Civic got well into the 9s, on an allegedly dead-stock junkyard B16 engine being cruelly force-fed by a massive turbocharger off a Cummins diesel… but then it nuked the engine doing a burnout in preparation for its second pass. Oh well, plenty of B16s in the junkyard!
Turbocharging is an amazing thing; I saw quite a few four-wheel-drive diesel pickups running 11s and 12s.
OK, diesel drag racers tend to be a bit smokier than their gasoline counterparts.
The Lakewood Police Department brought their dead-nuts-original, 383-powered Fury police car; sadly, the officers driving the car told me they’d be fired if they dared to run it on the dragstrip.
Vintage radio, shotgun, the works!
Wait, is that a Saab Sonett?
A Sonett with giant Hoosier slicks, no less.
I was ready to find a boring small-block Chevy under the Sonett’s hood, but it’s all Saab in the engine compartment: the turbocharged 2.0 liter H engine out of a Saab 900 Turbo, driving the rear wheels via a Powerglide transmission. This combination is good for high 12-second ETs.
Not every vehicle at the track was so quick; this 19-second Chevy Apache appeared to be driven by its original purchaser.
That was good news for me, because I’d have been humiliated to drive the slowest car at Test-&-Tune night. For the first run, I had Cadillac Bob in the passenger seat, a bunch of dog blankets and assorted random crap in the back, and a desire to not spit any rods out the side of my somewhat loose engine.
Not exactly the optimal weight for a car with 1500 CCs under the hood and 580-treadwear tires skipping and chirping all over the place.
My car is number 74, in the right lane. Ugh, 19.479 seconds? And there’s really no need to discuss my sloth-on-Quaaludes-grade reaction time.
After kicking Cadillac Bob out of the car (and handing him my camera), I was able to knock almost three-quarters of a second off my embarrassing first attempt. Even better, I managed to beat the camper-shell-equipped Dodge truck next to me. The hard-as-teakwood tires were spinning quite a bit off the line, and the elderly D15B7 started to misfire above 6,000 RPM, so I figured I could get better at the launches, shift earlier, and maybe pick up some more fractions of a second.
Being a little less aggressive dumping the clutch and then shifting at 5,800 or so got me another 0.18 seconds. At this point, my goal was to crack the 17-second barrier. Probably impossible, but it’s good to have a goal.
I figured some weight reduction was in order; I hadn’t thought to bring any tools, so I couldn’t remove all the seats (and maybe the hood, hatch, and doors), but I could pull out the spare tire, jack, and assorted crap littering the car and dump them in a friend’s pickup.
Meanwhile, the Ununquadium Legend of LeMons-winning Rocket Surgery Racing mid-Golf-engined Renault 4CV joined us, and the 2,100-pound/100-horsepower Renault looked like it had a good shot at beating my Civic’s best time.
Head-to-head Honda-versus-Renault racing. The spectators probably figured they’d have time to watch the start, go get a hot dog, and get back to their seats in time to watch the finish.
Unfortunately, the wonky shifter linkage in the Renault (which involves a very long rod, supported by springs and running all the way back to the rear-mounted Audi transaxle) caused a third-gear launch, which limited the 4CV to a disappointing 19.125-second ET. But hey, I managed to get the Civic within spitting distance of 17 seconds!
18.235 seconds, which was with minimal wheelspin and shifting just before the point of engine misfire. If I could solve the high-RPM misfire problem and/or remove another couple hundred pounds from the car, 17 seconds could be mine.
It’s probably just as well that I didn’t have the tools to perform radical weight-loss surgery on the car, and tracking down the misfire could easily be a many-hours-long task. 2,360 pounds with me and a half-tank of gas in the car was about as light as the Civic would be able to get that night.
The Rocket Surgery 4CV went back around for another try… and promptly died on the track a few hundred feet from the starting line.
Such humiliation!
Fortunately, the problem was just a busted CV joint. Cheap and easily replaced. However, with no spares at the track, the Renault’s night of drag racing was over.
I decided to do one more pass. A 17-second time wasn’t going to happen without a sudden hurricane-force tailwind, but perhaps I could top my 18.235 ET.
Damn, 1/1000th of a second slower! So, it appears that 18.2 is about the best I’m going to get out of my car at this altitude with its current engine. This forces me to move up the timetable on the GS-R engine swap.
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Engine Swap: Hoonatic Racing Integra GS-R Engine Now Destined For My Civic’s Engine Compartment Wed, 23 Mar 2011 13:00:15 +0000
Those of you who follow 24 Hours of LeMons racing know the tale of the One Lap Integra, an Integra GS-R that got knocked down to LeMons price range because it had been rolled into a ball by a leadfooted previous owner. The car was hopeless, but the 170-horse B18C1 engine and transmission are in good shape… and now I’ve bought them for my beater ’92 Civic DX.

I’m also getting the complete, un-butchered wiring harness, ECM, instrument cluster, and everything else, courtesy of Hoonatic Racing team captain John and his meticulous car-stripping skills.

I’ve owned many Civics over the years, at least one example of each of the first five generations (after Soichiro Honda died, Civics became too bloated for my liking), but I’ve never done any serious modifications to any of them. My current daily driver has been the most reliable vehicle I’ve ever owned, but the 102-horsepower D15B7 under its hood just can’t make any power in Denver’s thin air. The solution: bolt in a bigger engine, just as our forefathers did when dropping 427s in their ’55 Chevys.

The only problem with the deal is that the engine is in Texas and I’m in Colorado, but that problem has been solved by the members of the Team B League Film Society – How I Learned To Stop Whining And Love The Judges Mercedes-Benz W110 LeMons team. They’ll be hauling their car up to Colorado for the second annual B.F.E. G.P. race in July, and they’ve agreed to include the GS-R goodies on their trailer. It’ll be a long four months to wait, but so worth it! I’ll be the owner of the world’s only fifth-gen Civic with a B18C1 and no wing!

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5th-Gen Civic: Cargo-Haulin’ Workhorse! Sat, 18 Dec 2010 20:00:12 +0000
Some folks will tell you that you need a big ol’ truck to haul a grimy cast-iron V8, but those folks are wrong! My beater ’92 Civic, which stood up well when compared to the Audi R8, not only sports a trailer hitch (no doubt suitable for hauling popcorn carts weighing up to several hundred pounds) but the cargo-area capacity to take a disassembled Chrysler LA engine.

When I pulled the rod-knockitty 318 out of my ’66 Dodge A100 Hell Project, I thought that I might rebuild it for later use in the ’49 Plymouth sedan project I keep threatening to do… but once I opened it up, I changed my mind. Crank bad. Block bad. Smog heads. Plan B: give the engine to my friend who makes regular scrap-metal-for-cash runs, so he can turn it into a few bucks for his ill-advised car projects.

The key to making large objects fit in your pre-Model-Bloat Civic (the current Civic has packed on the bulk like Ozzy Osbourne after his infamous motel-room whiskey-and-donut binge) is the tailgate. Even though the car is a total cheapo beater, I laid down an old sheet in the cargo area to keep the worst of the grunge off the interior. Block, heads, intake, exhaust manifolds, accessory brackets, everything. It all fits just fine, even with the back seats up!

The rear doesn’t sag too badly with all that extra weight, although the handling did get a little funky. As for the engine for the ’49 Plymouth project (which will use this car as a role model), I’m thinking supercharged Slant Six.
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