Piston Slap: Some Civic-Minded Guy Edition

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Hashim writes,

Dear Sajeev, I have a 2003 Model Honda Civic LX1. It has about 94000 Km (not Miles). I am very disturbed about the continuous chirp chirp sound I hear from my car when I start it. It goes like chrrp chrrp chrrp in continuous motion. Some guy told me to change the belts in my car, all done, even changed the timing belt; still the problem is there. I have no loose or cracked belts. But the problem is still there.

I have noticed that when I gently press my clutch, the sound immediately goes away, when I remove my foot, the chirping sound is back. I don’t like this, is there any easier way to get it fixed? Is the fix worth its price or should I just eat dust and be quiet?

Sajeev replies:

Some guy? Oy Vey! Reading those two words always makes my stomach churn.

Misdiagnosing car problems is great for heartless mechanics, or know-it-alls unaware of the financial ramifications of their words. Granted, you might be due for a new timing belt, but examining the other belts (or misting them with water) was all you need.

You replaced normal wear items, so it’s not a big deal. But don’t listen to “some guy” again: find a smart (and honest) non-franchise mechanic instead.

The again, take it from “this” guy: if the noise comes from the clutch pedal, look at your clutch. I’m guessing pressure plate or throw out bearing is at fault. Or replace both, since you’re gonna have to go in there to diagnose the problem anyway. Speaking of, with that mileage, now is also the time to get a new clutch.

Best and Brightest, was this (mis)diagnosis really that easy?

[Send your technical queries to mehta@ttac.com]

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Rt Rt on Jul 15, 2009

    FWIW, I had this exact problem on my 96 SuperGoo Outback. Input bearing chirped. There was also a slight rattle in top gear. My trusted local mechanic advised "turn up the radio, and drive it". He told me some trannies can have these minor issues and still last darn near forever without really needing a rebuild. And indeed that's how it turned out. I drove the car about 60K more miles before selling it. The problems never got worse. But then again, a Subaru tranny might be a different beast than a Honda. I've never owned such a coarse and unrefined machine. Subaru should label all thier cars "for agricultural use only".

  • Dolo54 Dolo54 on Jul 15, 2009

    zorkor: unfortunately that post you linked to sounds right on. A big job and expensive if you don't DIY. This is the part you're looking at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3tAV7idcSs Here's another description of the job. Honestly it sounds like a bitch. At least a full day of work if you haven't taken the tranny out before: http://honda-tech.com/showthread.php?t=596873 Don't do it without a manual. Labeled plastic baggies is a good tip, and when I'm going deep into uncharted territory, I like to take pictures along the way to remind myself what goes where when I'm putting it back together.

  • Ricky Spanish Ricky Spanish on Jul 15, 2009

    belt tensioner

  • Kablamo Kablamo on Jul 15, 2009

    It's clearly something related to the clutch, the input shaft bearing seems like a likely culprit, or a good place to start. Too bad that's a labour-intensive repair. I have a 98 Civic (212k km...original clutch btw) and I have a similar tranny problem although I've narrowed it to a counter-shaft bearing (noise in every gear except 4th). The thing is, aside from the noise, the tranny is fine. Non car-minded people don't notice it at all. Your bearing may not be right, but it can probably go a long, long time (more than 50k km). Unless you have money to blow, I'd ignore it except if it gets much worse or affects the driveability of the car.