By on September 6, 2010

Randi writes:

I have a 2000 Civic with 70,000 miles (hoping to hit 250,000 miles). Googled for major repairs to do including the timing belt, and everything listed below should be done…right?  Are any unnecessary?

Any not listed that I should fix before it breaks? Here it is:

  1. Replace fuel filter, air/cabin filter, coolant flush.
  2. Check bushings and alignment.
  3. Replace timing belt, water pump, idler and tension pulley, tensioner (hydraulic tensioner, tensioner assembly).
  4. Check various rollers, valve adjustment and clearances.

Sajeev Answers:

Short answer?  Well done.  I’d hug you for making my job so easy, if I knew where you lived and was sure you wouldn’t file harassment charges. You are keeping a car with the trouble spots and owner’s manual concerns in mind, and you picked a damn good platform for your wallet. But I digress.

On your regiment, only the cabin air filter might be unnecessary: do a visual on it, shake out the leaves/debris and see if that’s good enough for your nose. The lifespan of these filters depends on where you live and if your car sleeps in a garage.

My only addition is to check all rubber parts: tires, vacuum lines, brake lines, etc. Oh, and replace the PCV valve, if so equipped.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Many of the filters mentioned above are easy to replace by yourself, with basic hand tools.  Even the fuel filter isn’t a big mess if you let the system de-pressurize overnight.  And with the money you save?  Upgrade the stereo, amplifier and speakers to make your car better than any newer alternative.

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25 Comments on “Piston Slap: Penny Wise, Civic Minded...”

  • avatar

    Is that list for mileage, years, or both?
    I’d add thoroughly inspect the radiator and heater hoses (although I’d be surprised if they needed replacement just yet).  Inspect the brakes on all four wheels not just for wear but for function (old calipers and wheel cylinders occasionally get sticky) and don’t forget the parking brake cables.
    Happy motoring!

  • avatar

    Flush your brake fluid. You would be amazed by how many braking system problems can be avoided by doing this often neglected service. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water. You do not want that water boiling off when you need you brakes the most, as you will lose pedal feel. I do mine every 3 years.

  • avatar

    2000 Civic doesn’t have a cabin filter, and the fuel filter is considered “lifetime” by Honda, meaning you don’t need to replace it unless the fuel pressure measures low…if you don’t have a driveabilty issue, I wouldn’t mess with it (and BTW the fuel pressure will not “de-pressurize” overnight unless there is a problem with an injector/regulator etc) .  T-belt interval is 105K 7years, so if it hasn’t been done it’s due by time.  No hydraulic tensioner so unless the pulley bearing in the tensioner is noisy I wouldn’t bother.  Water pump not a bad idea and check the front engine seals while it’s apart.

    Make sure the radiator/thermostat/fan switch and cooling fan work properly, as just one overheat will wipe out the headgasket on these cars.  Radiator tank splitting and the fan cooling fan switch failing are fairly common on these cars when they get up in mileage.

    Most likely you’ll find the rear trailing arm bushings are split.  IMHO I don’t consider them to be a critical replacement as when they fail it doesn’t seem to do much but cause a squeak in the rear.  

    Valve adjustment probably isn’t a bad idea, but the maintanence schedule says to adjust them once at 30K with no need to do again unless they become noisy.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re correct about not having a cabin air filter, but incorrect with regards to the fuel filter.
      The 2000 Civic has a replaceable fuel filter on the firewall, just in front of the passenger. No need to wait for the pressure to decrease overnight, just have a rag or two handy to catch fuel when you crack open the banjo bolts. Be sure that your new fuel filter comes with new copper crush washers.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t say that it is not replaceable, I said that Honda does not have a service interval for the fuel filter.  The S/M says to check and replace it only if the fuel pressure drops.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup, you’re correct. However, with the ease of replacement and the request towards extending the life of the car, it can’t hurt to do it.

    • 0 avatar

      It certainly can’t hurt to replace the fuel filter, but it would be pretty low on my priority list (esp. at 70K) compared to making sure the cooling system and cam timing systems are reliable.  

  • avatar

    Let’s see, 10 year old car with 70,000 miles on it and you want to keep it to 250,000 which at this rate will be about 25 years.  Two things come to mind, 1) start putting some more highway miles on this car and 2) take good care of the exterior with regular washes and waxes.  A mechanically sound car with peeling paint wont keep anyone happy.

    ’98 Civic owner, 238,00 (highway) miles so it can be done

  • avatar

    These run forever…though there was a couple years with trans issues (google it.)  My neighbor’s are on their third generation of Civics and they run and run and run.  Pretty sure they’ve pushed 200K on all of them.

  • avatar

    Best advice I can give you – SHOP AROUND for scheduled maintenance service prices by phone. I called four dealers and four independent shops and got eight different prices. The price range was significant – more than $600 between cheapest and most expensive quote. When they quote a price, be sure to ask exactly what is included because some automatically include the water pump for this scheduled service, some don’t. For any given scheduled maintenance service, the list of services they do will vary from shop to shop, so don’t assume that they look up the manufacturer’s recommended services and do only those things. Beware that many dealers/independent shops add on services that sound important but are NOT recommended/required according to the manufacturer’s service schedule. They do this solely to jack up profits. You can end up paying a couple hundred dollars (or more) extra for services that simply aren’t necessary and won’t have an appreciable benefit to the longevity of the car.

    Getting several price quotes is great, but that doesn’t help your if the some of the shops giving quotes do a crummy job, so I recommend spending the $29 to join . You can use to show you the top shops in your area so that you are only requesting quotes from competent shops with established reputations. I thought my old shop was pretty good until I tried one with a bunch of great ratings – I had no idea what I was missing.  (Angie’s list also has contractor and health care provider ratings in addition to auto service shops if that’s useful to you.) If you don’t want to spend the money, and make or model specific enthusiast forums can help you get a sense of whether or not a shop generally does good or bad work.

    In my Accord and Prelude, the belts had to be removed and put back on in order to get to the timing chain. Since the labor to get the belts on and off is already necessary and included in the timing chain service, now is a good time to replace all the belts because new belts are cheap and the labor is “free”. For the same reason, I wouldn’t skimp by failing to replace the pulley bearing(s), either. Again, the belts are already off and the part is pretty cheap.

    Replacing the water pump is often done at this time. It isn’t 100% necessary, but they tend to start breaking at about the mileage you are at. If you can afford it, I’d recommend doing it, but its one of those “What am I willing to spend for peace of mind?” questions. It will be inconvenient when it does break, so find out what the parts and labor will be for a water pump replacement and weigh that cost against how messed up your day will be when you get stranded on your way to work or lose a bunch of quality weekend time dealing with an unexpected problem. As I mentioned above, be sure to clarify if the price quote you are being given includes the water pump. If its included, get a quote for the service minus the pump to help you comparison shop.

    • 0 avatar

      Excellent post, Silvy.

    • 0 avatar

      FWIW no Prelude has ever had a timing chain and the 4cyl Accords didn’t until ’03-up. 

      The water pump can “fail” in one of two ways.  Either the seal fails and it leaks or the bearing fails and it disintegrates and allows the T-belt to jump time.  IMO if you’re replacing the tensioner pulley/bearing because you don’t want to “skimp” than why wouldn’t you replace the water pump for the same reason?  If either bearing fails, you end up with the same result, a jumped timing belt and (likely) bent valves.    

  • avatar
    George B

    If it’s an automatic, drain the transmission fluid (has drain plug) and replace with the same amount of Honda ATF-Z1 as you remove.  Eventually the A/C compressor will need more PAG oil, probably ISO-46, to replace lubricant lost in leaks over the years.  Used small can with 2oz PAG oil and 2oz refrigerant from NAPA to quiet down a noisy decade old compressor.
    I’ve started to use a sharpie to write date and mileage on replacement filters and parts when I install them.  I try to write down all maintenance in a notebook, but nice to be able to see how old a part is just by looking at markings on the part.

  • avatar

    SCO means 25 years from now, and not when the car is 25 years old.
    +1 to silvy. I belong to Angie’s list, and its been a great help for a lot of different services.
    My ’99 Accord has 178k and runs very well, probably better than my old ’93 Saturn did when it was new.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, David is right, that would be 25 years from now, 35 total years of driving in your Civic. I’ll let the rest of the B&B comment on the wisdom of that move but I think the 250,000 goal goal makes a bit more sense if you put on 25,000+ miles per year

  • avatar

    Rather than cherry pick maintenance procedures, see what the owner’s manual recommends and do that. If you have missed something that should already have been done, don’t wait any longer. With such low mileage, the calendar will be more important than the odometer for setting your maintenance schedule. At a minimum, you need two oil changes per year. If you only make short trips in the city, change oil every three months regardless of the odometer reading.
    Get quotes from independent foreign car shops in addition to dealers. If you tell us where you live, someone may be able to recommend a good shop. Members of car clubs are often good sources. The CarTalk web site has a list of shops recommended by the public.

  • avatar

    Step 1: Follow the book using the calendar schedule or the mileage schedule depending on how you drive it.
    Step 2: Drive it ’til the wheels rot off. Then put new wheels on and keep driving it.

  • avatar

    Poltergeist’s statement makes sense.  Either the water pump or the T-belt tensioner pulley can compromise the timing belt, and as stated, the labor is “free” since these come off anyway.  Gates (the belt/hose people) make a T-belt kit that includes the pulley for that reason.  While we are on the topic, don’t be afraid to use quality aftermarket parts.  Carmakers have to watch pennies when the build cars, but aftermarket suppliers do not have this constraint  That is why when faced with a head gasket issue on cars with a reputation for failures, (Chrysler and Honda come to mind) a premium Fel-Pro is the way to go.
    As someone who routinely racks up 200K on their cars, a few other items to watch for.  Overheating is the kiss of death for aluminum engines.  I change the hoses at the 10 year mark including the T-stat and radiator cap.  Belts too.  I never ever have had overheating breakdowns on the highway, even well past 200K on some pretty pedestrian cars.  Cheap insurance.  Struts:  if handling is a priority, get the good stuff (Koni, etc).  If dynamics are really not your bag, get KYBs or Monroes.  These come with a lifetime warranty, so I would buy them once and change them myself.  Honda struts used to last longer than most, but I can’t see much life left after 100K.  Worn struts kill tires.  That droning noise out of the rear will likely be caused by scalloping on the tires which is caused by worn struts.  Those who insist that they are still “fine” at 150K do not know what they are talking about.  That is impossible unless you drive on a pool table.  O2 sensors:  These are good for usually 100K or so.  Don’t bother changing the post cat sensors unless they actually trip the light.  Pre-cat sensors do all the heavy lifting.  There is debate about changing these until they set the MIL, so I guess you could leave them till they are totally dead but if replacements save a MPG or two I consider it worthwhile.
    Keep your eye on the CV boots, and exhaust system clamps.  I usually chew through a few sets of clamps before a major exhaust component fails (usually the flanges fail, not the pipe)  I’ve never changed a failed muffler on a 80s on up car.
    Rack ’em up…a Civic should be able to do 250K if you drive 15K or more a year.

  • avatar

    One of the great things about Honda is that there is a spectacular aftermarket.  You can modify suspension and other parts, so when shocks wear out, don’t think replace, think “upgrade”.  Like another poster pointed out, the manufacturer pinches pennies but you don’t need to.  You can get shocks, bushings, etc that will improve handling, without slamming the car or  making it ride hard.  Ditto things like tires.  Brake fluid-don’t ignore it, replace and flush when you do brake pads…you are there anyway.  Change manual trans oil at 100k, no matter the manufacturer’s recommendations.
    Honda and VW are the best for aftermarket stuff.  You already have an almost indestructable car.  Every time a part wears out, check the forums…and upgrade !
    +1 for check radiator hoses at least once a year, and pre emptively replace year 4

  • avatar

    +1 on everything above.  I’ve never regretting ditching old shocks for Bilstein’s street shocks on several cars.  Such a huge difference, even over a new OEM shocks!

    • 0 avatar

      The only downside to Bilsteins is paying for them. Other than that, a very desirable mod. It’s quite rare to find any sort of aftermarket auto part which has received literally zero bad reviews.

  • avatar

    Ample excellent advice from the neighbors upstairs.
    There IS something to be said for a well-trained experienced mechanic familiar with your vehicle make and modal to do a general “eyeball” under around and within and take the critter for a drive.
    I do it with the Silverado at an independent garage with a mechanic who used to work for a Chevy dealership and obviously is well-informed about later model Chevy pick-ups.
    I also slip the hombre 10 bucks each visit. It is in recognition of his skills, abilities and experience. He doesn’t protest anymore…. understanding, apparently, that if some air-headed dame deserves a tip for hauling my food from kitchen to table his hard-earned skills surely rate a goody.
    My bi-annual or so visit to drop off a dozen bakery thrift store doughnuts doesn’t hurt anything either.  $1.99 per dozen and they are not expired yet and sure appreciated. The shop and the employees know I do not perform the deed expecting any freebies or special treatment.
    Just a method of showing my appreciation for their abilities and good prior treatment and, besides, it’s an excuse for ME to eat one of the doughnuts, one of the major food groups on my forbidden list.
    I used to do much of my own maintenance but various physical defects from years of hard-core hard physical labor and numerous past injuries makes the minor expense of paying for basic maintenance along with repairs beyond my abilities, facilities and available tools/equipment a relatively minor expense.
    Finding a trustworthy mechanic/shop owner can be difficult but if found treasure them. And nuthin’ says lovin’ like sumpthin’ from the oven…. even if others concocted the incredible edibles.

  • avatar

    These little cars are about as good as it gets. I presently have a 2000 Civic in the family (my 19 year old daughter has it) with 200,000 km on it and it runs like new. I have done the timing belt twice, replaced all the shocks but that is it on top of regular maintenance. And yes, Bilstein are worth every penny, I have them on mine and am looking forward to replacing the OEM schocks on my 2008 Fit with them. That is when the stock ones wear out. Took 160,000 km on my 2000 Civic!

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