By on July 28, 2017


Josh writes:

About three months ago, we went out to buy a BMW 3 Series with a six-speed manual. The end result? A gray 2009 Honda Civic Si sedan followed us home instead.

Now, admittedly I did NOT do my homework. I did not run a Carfax. I did not drive it. I did not even pop the hood. (I can hear you laughing, you know.) I came across the ad on Craigslist and went to the Buy Here, Pay Here that had it for sale. (It was the only place I could find a Civic Si — in the extended area Craigslist, mind you — with low enough miles yet within our budget.)

The love of my life took a drive in it as I waited nervously in my prehistoric Suburban. I had told her about the six-speed manual gearbox. How it would give her a spirited drive after a hard day at the office, yet should be ridiculously reliable in a typical Honda fashion, sans the typical timing belt and water pump replacement at 100k mile or so intervals. I sang praises of the K20 mill which, although a torque monster it is not (not in the slightest)… that it does love to rev. And good grief, with a 9,000 rpm or so red line… yes it certainly does.

She came back after a test drive with a smile on her face. She was sold. Immediately. She said she wanted it, and I didn’t need to check it out first. And the boss gets what the boss wants. We paid the princely sum of $7,400 cash money and the Honda Civic Si with 120k miles became part of our family.

Where is my concern, you ask?

How do I say this? This car has… history.

It’s been wrecked. Twice.

It’s been repossessed.

It’s been pushed endlessly and mercilessly and ridden harder than a lady of the night. Why you ask? I have a hunch that this car was street-raced, judging by the short shifter, and the new aftermarket clutch, and the crappy HID lighting kit (uninstalled for two regularly functioning headlights).

Furthermore, the car had a bent wheel. It was bent so bad that I couldn’t repair it… I had to replace it. (Hub damage.) The wheel tech vowed that it had been — and I quote — “drifted into a curb”.

The radiator support is damaged on the passenger side. You can clearly see where the car was impacted, and impacted hard (so hard that the hood prop barely stays within the support). The radiator has a slight bend in it, but keeps a full coolant level. Should the radiator be replaced?

I noticed that I have to come to a complete stop before shifting from 1st into reverse; otherwise, it gives me a crunch, so to speak. And I mean a dead stop, even a slight roll will give that crunching noise. My Honda Accord Coupe V6 six-speed does no such nonsense, and I have NEVER changed the manual transmission fluid. Should I just change out the fluid and go from there?

Lastly, what other surprises could we expect with a rap sheet like this? From a preventative maintenance standpoint (because clearly nothing has been done), what would you suggest?

My lady loves her little troublemaker. And as much of a problem child this car could be down the line, it makes her smile. And I want her to keep smiling for a very long time.

Sajeev answers:

It’s always nice when the OP openly admits their mistakes. And damn, son, talk about mistakes!

  1. Shame on you for not doing your homework. “Whatever the Boss wants” comes after you do (or hire) a used car PDI and run a Carfax (or similar).
  2. Since the radiator doesn’t leak, since we have no photos of the core support damage, I reckon you can safely it drive it until it does take a piss. Because optimism!
  3. The transmission fluid could be original and marinating in metal shavings from hamfisted shifting, so change it. Nothing may change, but it’s worth a shot.
  4. For any impending repairs, have the Civic professionally inspected. Make sure they show you the trouble spots. Get either a local independent shop, or a local Honda dealership on board. Dealers sometimes give free inspections in hopes of garnering high(er) margin repairs. Plus, they might cut you a deal on said high-margin work if you ask nicely.  Which doesn’t suck, if you lack a trustworthy, Honda-savvy independent tech.

Indie mechanic or dealership, do that vehicle inspection. You’ll be an informed consumer of whatever the hell this bucket’s gonna throw your way.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

[Image: Josh the OP]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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81 Comments on “Piston Slap: Pre-Purchase Inspection a Civic Duty?...”

  • avatar

    Josh isn’t alone – I’ve been guilty of buying a car ill-advised in the past more than once – okay – ‘way too often. I’ve gotten fortunate a few times and seriously burned others.

    Why? I fell in love with either the car or its features and let my eyes do the selling and not my mind. Emotion over logic. Bad, bad, bad!

    I wish him the best with the 2009 Civic Si.

  • avatar

    Whenever I’d bring a used car home, the very first thing I’d do is change out all the fluids. It’s simple, easy, peace of mind.

  • avatar

    About the trans – don’t ‘flush it.’ Drain and add. I don’t know how much truth there is to moving debris around where the system is designed to trap it – but I wouldn’t pressurize the system. The theory makes sense to me. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

    Also, 7.4k isn’t that big of a mistake. I’ve made bigger mistakes in my life with no capital to show for it. Enjoy the hot little car.

    • 0 avatar

      OP’s car is a manual, where all the fluid drains out. Flushing is for modern automatics where the torque converter has no drain plug.

    • 0 avatar

      @ tres.. I was told “never flush an automatic”..I’m not sure if the same goes for a stick ?

      • 0 avatar

        No, the same doesn’t go for a stick.

        Like TR4 says, you don’t need to flush a manual, but I did anyway on my cars when I used to work at Jiffy Lube.

        • 0 avatar

          This, drain/fill is the only method that I’m aware of for a stick shift.

          • 0 avatar

            Well there is the “burn a quart” or pint method. Open the drain plug and once it has slowed to a drip start adding that qt or pt and let if “flush” the last bits of the old oil out.

          • 0 avatar

            True. I might need to do that to my Ranger’s M5OD mazda trans, if I didn’t know better Id’ assume it’s the factory fill. Rather notchy.

          • 0 avatar

            Yeah, at Jiffy Lube, you can burn a few pints, or gallons, if you want to with an air compressor driving a pump in a big drum of gear oil.

    • 0 avatar

      Time to shill. I have one of these cars. Change the fluid out for BG Syncro Shift II. I changed mine to Syncro Shift II after ten years of ownership and wish I did it on day one. I’ve always loved the car, but now it isn’t tricky to get into third gear when cold, it doesn’t make noise shifting into reverse as I let the car stop coasting forwards up a hill parallel parking, and it is even quiet on the highway. All the stuff you hear about Honda road noise, it turns out that in my Civic Si it was caused by the transmission. No more.

  • avatar

    BHPH lots are unquestionably some of the most dubious spots to buy any vehicle. They ended up on that lot, for a reason.

    You have better luck playing automotive roulette, at a local [police] auction, and at least there you have a chance to get it dirt cheap.

    Lesson learned, eh?

    • 0 avatar

      BHPH lots are not necessarily bad places to buy if you want something unpopular or common as dirt, because such cars can be well-maintained and carefully driven, but just not interesting to the dealer that took the trade. Thus they get auctioned off and sold cheaply to a BHPH lot. But an exotic/luxury car (such as a BMW 3-series) or very very popular car (such as the Civic Si) on a BHPH lot is very likely to have some “interesting” history and/or serious issues, because otherwise it would end up in a more swanky outlet.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not sure if you’re just seeing something different in your area, but unless you’re paying cash there is never a deal at BHPH. The scam used to work as follows: you must come up with a downpayment, typically one third, which just happens to equal the lot’s price of acquisition. The non-negotiable markup of the price is triple the acquisition cost. We then held the title and you made payments for 12-18 months @ 21% until the balance was paid. This was done because at the time, no one would issue a loan to these customers and BHPH became “credit”.

        The beauty of this system is less than half ever paid off but you got X months of profit plus interest with your risk mitigated out of the gate. The annoying part is dealing with the customers after they quit paying, but statistically it was profitable. Today the BHPH chains, who are criminals, are marking up four to five times and selling the loans into something similar to the mortgage backed securities which brought down the debt ponzi in 2008.

        • 0 avatar

          28 – you are absolutely correct, but my assumption was the buyer is paying cash or at least has a credit-line at a bank charging reasonable interest. Under such conditions it might be possible to negotiate a reasonable price, but my main point is the car itself isn’t always trashed just because it winds up on a BHPH lot.

        • 0 avatar

          28-I think your pretty much on with your comments, but your statements on the 1/3 down AND that amount covers the dealer’s cost are from the old days.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah the only way a highly desirable and uncommon car makes it to a BHPH lot is if it has a “history”. Boring vehicles that make it to the BHPH are sometimes just that boring cars that are plentiful and not necessarily some hacked together or trashed.

        But yeah you are never going to get a deal at a BHPH lot as they know they will sell it for over retail with a high interest rate to the next guy. I guess if the owner’s drug dealer is pushing him to pay up or find a problem with his cars and you are offering enough cash to save his ass he might make a deal.

    • 0 avatar

      This. Used car lots in general are a minefield of rebuilt junk with a few gems, plus you have to deal with some real slimeballs. Of course, “private sellers” on craigslist are now oftentimes curbstoners flipping stuff from auctions, and guys doing crappy rebuilds. We have a big auction every Friday morning and like clockwork by Sunday/Monday there are a slew of similarly-written ads with similar looking backgrounds for a whole bunch of cars saying “I’m selling my well maintained _____!” At that point you’d be better off cutting out the middle man and going to the public auction yourself.

    • 0 avatar

      Buying used cars is generally difficult. BHPH lots can be very sketchy, but I think you can find decent cars at some of them. It depends on how old the car is; a new car dealership isn’t going to sell cars past a certain age, no matter how nice it might be. Especially if you are talking about a premium brand dealership.

      I’ve seen reasonably clean cars at BHPH lots and I’ve seen cars at new car lots in a condition that should embarrass the sleaziest BHPH lot managers. Craigslist is its own nightmare.

      Better informed buyers with a critical eye can protect themselves, but the time wasted looking at all the disappointments starts to add up.

      Sometimes I think I should end the search and make due with whatever new car I can afford when a different car becomes more of a need than a want.

      • 0 avatar

        Many of our local dealers will advertise trade ins on, the low end stuff they might not even list on their website before they whole-sale. Generally inflated prices, but you can get your hands on some higher mile but really nicely maintained-by-the-book stuff too.

    • 0 avatar

      While looking for a beater I came across many always at the dreaded BHPH lots. I checked out the cars and while very few were ok, the majority were roughly used and shined up for the next subprime owner.

      There’s 2 near me down the street, I see the cars arrive, get reconditioned by the “detailer” then put in the lot. Out of curiosity I checked some out and almost all had been in multiple accidents, stolen and recovered, repoed or had more than 3 owners in a 5 year span.

      Being OCD, I can spot many of them having shoddy body repairs, horrible panel re-sprays and other issues.

      Now granted they have less than a handful of ok cars, majority are not something I would buy.

      As for the OP, you can have a reputable mechanic look at it and check over anything it needs. You can beat the snot out of cars, as long you the owner maintains them I don’t see any issues.

      This also why I put the SI up there with WRXs and Evos. Hardest cars to buy used as almost all of them are modified and run hard.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
    I have had much better luck buying a clearly broken car in need of immediate repair.
    Dive right into it, find many other little problems in the process, fix em all and the next failure is much less of a rude awakening.

  • avatar

    Me too, Josh. Didn’t do my due diligence , and got burned . A certain 2000 Firebird convertible. It was actually Sajeev right here at TTAC that pointed me in the right direction…I had master collision man go over it. Turned out the Firebird had been hit so hard, they couldn’t get the drive train aligned., As a consequence the the torque of the mighty 3800 resulted in a nasty habit of eating motor mount bolts.

    Yes, a happy wife, is a happy life.

    My advice. Find a guy that knows Civics. Get a report. Make a list of your needs, and changing all the fluids is crucial. I don’t like that bent rad..It may be okay for now, but you may want to put the Rad on your to do list. If that rad fails in heavy traffic, it can get ugly.

    Lets hope that a few minor tweaks can fix the issues, and you should get some good years. Right it off to the greatest teacher that ever existed ..”Experience ”

    Good Luck

    Best of luck

  • avatar

    I would imagine that finding a non-thrashed one of these would be a rarity indeed! Sounds like fun.

    • 0 avatar

      OP here.

      I do take some comfort with the notion that finding a Civic Si driven lightly by an old lady to church on Sundays probably isn’t going to be a reality. Lol I didn’t expect it to have been pushed that hard, however.

      Aside from the plastic emergency brake handle literally crumbling apart in our hands a couple of weeks ago (presumably a tell tale sign of a hard impact, breaking interior plastics, etc.), it’s been running great since we brought it home, knock on wood. I submitted this to Sajeev some months ago. She’s driving it daily, and it is a hoot to drive.

  • avatar

    Holy sh!t, you know you can buy a 120k mile Si for under $6k that hasn’t been salvaged, right?

  • avatar

    The reverse gear crunch is actually normal. My 2004 Acura TSX 6-spd had the same issue. It’s because these transmissions do not have a synchronizer for the reverse gear. You absolutely must come to a complete stop before you switch, otherwise you are crunching your gears every time.

  • avatar

    The noise going into reverse is likely due to reverse not being synchronized. If you are still rolling and attempt to put it in reverse that’s just characteristic of the transmission to grind a little. Come to a stop, put it in first, then put it in reverse and see if it stops doing it. My Civic will do the same thing as have other manual transmission vehicles I’ve owned.

    This sounds likely that some kid just was hard on his car and made dumb decisions, go through it with a fine tooth comb and fix anything that is wrong and it will probably give you several years of mostly trouble free service.

    • 0 avatar

      This. Didn’t yo momma teach you not to go for reverse unless you are stopped? Very few cars have a syncro on rev. gear. There was a time when manufacturers didn’t syncro first either because it was assumed that you were stopped whenever you needed first gear. I believe it is still best practice to engage first gear only when stopped, as most 1st syncros are not very robust. I cringe whenever I’m riding with someone who is obviously rushing the syncro so they can roll through a stop sign.

  • avatar

    I’d start looking for a junkyard transmission and proactively installing it; no telling when this one is going to finish grenading itself.

  • avatar

    I once bought a car that I only saw at night, after a five minute test drive, so I can’t really point fingers here, I guess. I was lucky it didn’t have a dead body in the trunk since it wouldn’t open. Still I was lucky, and it’s been a good car.

  • avatar

    I cant imagine this happening to me

  • avatar

    no way cant believe it

  • avatar

    And absolutely check the suspension mounting points on the unibody. This is an often overlooked/hidden aspect of collisions. The bent wheel is a giant clue pointing to this.
    Suspension arms, spindles, hubs, and wheels are usually replaced. Fixing the unibody/frame is harder (more expensive) so often not done.
    End result is rapid tire wear, steering and handling problems to say nothing of safety.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    At some point you just have to reconcile with the fact that spending 4 figures on a car isn’t going to net you a virginal creampuff. Personally, I would’ve expected better for $7400 (would think these problems are more in the <$5k range) but I am not intimately familiar with the market for these. I think you have to realize where you are in the market, fix some of the easy stuff, and then just hope for the best. "The Boss" likes it so you're way ahead already, worst case is you spend a little money and then sell it off to some high schooler for $5-6k.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    As noted above your *mistake* was $7400, which is not really accurate. You still have a Civic SI, that runs and drives.

    You can always find another one, or a 3 series or whatever to make your better half smile if you find the Civic is too nerve racking to keep around. Just like you bought it on CL for $7400, most likely someone else will also. I would recommend being a bit more forthright with the next buyer though, for karma sake.

    I think worst case, you have a $1k mistake here. I have made plenty of those.

    • 0 avatar

      She got an Si and she loves it. Hindsight, if some of the trouble was spotted before hand, a lower price might have been negotiated. Don’t worry about it too much, Civics aren’t meant to last forever and very few are perfect for very long.

  • avatar

    I owned 1 Honda civic, in 1988. Never again. They are built with such fragile and low quality parts that they disintigrate after 80k miles in many instances. Yet for some reason Honda has a reputation for being reliable. Never again. I’ll stick with US cars.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    An si with a low asking price for the years and miles on a bhph lot? With crappy aftermarket lights? Of course it’s been wrecked and abused. The enthusiastic description of Honda shifters and high revving engines is telling– I think you let brand bias cloud your judgement as much as the gf. But hey, it runs and makes the two of you happy, so just roll with it, follow sajeevs advice and enjoy it.

  • avatar

    “And the boss gets what the boss wants.”

    Some people never learn

    • 0 avatar

      I cringe whenever someone refers to their significant other this way. Oddly, in the increasingly rare situation when it’s a woman referring to her man this way, more often than not, people (rightly) come out with pitchforks. But it’s accepted as normal when men do it towards their women, and it’s very, very sad, even when said in jest.

      If you don’t respect yourself enough to demand equal status in the relationship, you can guarantee that she won’t respect you enough to give it to you, either.

      You whipped guys do realize that there are over 4 billion women in the world, with more being made every day, right?

      • 0 avatar

        The reality was that for decades it was the man of the house that was the boss and the wife was on a strict budget. The tables certainly have turned. However in most cases it is just subscribing to the saying an old neighbor taught me, “if mama aint happy nobody is happy”. It is just a matter of picking your battles, not that you don’t have self respect or that she doesn’t respect you.

        If it is going to be his wife’s car then she should be the boss and make the decision as to what she gets assuming it is within the agreed upon budget and can fill its intended purpose. Just as what he drives should be his choice, again assuming it fits the budget and other needs. Now if one of you want to get a two seat sports car as your only vehicle and you have 3 kids that you had routinely shared the duties of schlepping them to school and/or activities that would raise a flag.

        And I don’t know about that whole more being made every day thing. Certainly there are many females born every day but you’ll be in for a bit of a wait if your plan is to legally hook up with one.

  • avatar

    Let me tell you about the $8200 2009 Clubman S I bought – only 59k miles on the clock. A great deal! So far I’ve dumped about $3k into it *sigh* and I still don’t trust it. It’s the city beater car now.

    It had a “clean” Carfax – just rather spotty with a year or two without any reporting. That should have been a red flag. To paraphrase my mechanic’s comment: “Looks like this car was in a front-end collision and it was poorly repaired without the accident ever being reported to the insurance company”.

    • 0 avatar

      I learned this lesson the same way– never trust a CarFax (or your own intuition) and always inspect with a specialist mechanic that isn’t affiliated with the selling party/dealership.

    • 0 avatar

      A Carfax with sketchy history makes a car worth avoiding, but a clean Carfax does not mean the car is clean; just that it has cleared a pretty low bar and you can proceed with a more detailed inspection if you are still interested.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Last fall, I may have witnessed one of these fix and don’t report then dump situations in the neighbor’s front yard. There was an accident where an Asian woman managed to go over a curb and hit a big Sycamore tree hard enough to set of the air bags in her late model Tahoe. I heard the thump and walked over to offer assistance with notifying the police since PA law requires this for accidents with damages over $200 and this had to be in the thousands. She said she already did so and I left. Watching the scene from my front window, her husband (baby daddy?) showed up about 20 minutes later. An unmarked tow truck came about 30 mimutes later. The police never showed up. I imagine the car was repaired for cash and never reported. This is an obvious shortcoming of Carfax.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I have a low opinion of Carfax.

      My former 12 Leaf sustained $4000 worth of front-end damage including a bent sub-frame, and was repaired a the Nissan-approved body shop, a year before I parted with it. The repair was adequate, but not perfect. The charging door never worked the same afterward, for instance, and the suspension/body groaned sometimes going over small bumps.

      It ended up on a used car lot with a clean Carfax. I e-mailed that dealer to advise them of the discrepancy, but they didn’t want to hear about it.

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed, SCE to AUX. Conversely, a dealer once tried to ding my parents on a trade-in because of a phantom accident on the Carfax report. The entry made no sense, as it indicated an accident:
        – in a state over 900 miles away, and with no town indicated.
        – that occurred one day before the vehicle passed an emissions inspection in our state.
        – during a time when one of my uncles, an incredibly trustworthy person, owned the car.

        Fortunately, the dealer agreed it looked like an obvious data error and upped their offer to a normal lowball rather than a “this car has been hit” lowball. I’m not sure if/how they resolved things with Carfax.

        Addendum: I also don’t think the phantom entry was shadiness on the dealer’s part. A fake entry would have been executed better.

  • avatar
    Hoon Goon

    I would rather have a twice totaled Civic than an out of warranty BMW.

    You may have been able to get a better Civic for that money, but a $7K Bummer would leave you wanting to lay your wrists open in a warm bath.

    Consider yourself lucky.

  • avatar

    I would be very hesitant to put my wife in a car that had not been thoroughly checked out from head to toe. It is not just for her safety but for my sanity as well. Every thing that goes wrong with the car will be your fault. God forbid if she gets stuck with it in a bad neighborhood somewhere. Hell hath no fury as a woman stuck on the side of the road with a car you deemed adequate for her needs.

    • 0 avatar

      Very true. In this case no only did he not do due diligence in making sure the car was in good safe condition he actually steered her to it selling her on how much she would love the 6sp transmission that is turning out to be one of the problem areas.

      And yes it should be thoroughly inspected. Was it properly repaired or is something still compromised that will lower its crash performance should that be called upon in the future.

      Not sure that it is as common as it used to be, but you could buy air bag replacement covers when they were just being introduced. Some buyers found out the hard way that the car had those covers installed and the warning bulb removed so that the hack that put it back together didn’t have to spend the money to replace the air bag(s), sensors and computer.

  • avatar

    At this point, it’s time to get the other type of PPI, in this case, a “Post Purchase Inspection” hopefully it’s not that bad.

    For Used Car Shopping:

    Vehicle Free “no sign in” is a great starting point, I use the site for fun while browsing car listings however if I were buying, this would be my first step before setting off to look at the vehicle, as it displays pretty much everything except the detailed service history. How many Owners, Odometer History, Recalls etc.

    If the car checks out, plan a trip to see the car—confirm that the vehicle will be at the location at which it’s advertised. Lot’s of “Bro”-kers with names like VIP Motors, Illustrious Autoz, Platinum Carz etc.

    With the exception of Clutch, and subframe reinforcement, I DIY all maintenance on my cars, therefore, I am curious about what type of maintenance is common with the car in question.

    Google Search the “name of the car”, with terms like buying guide, and or DIY in the search terms; inevitably this will yield results from the various Forums. You learn things like AM V8s were better sorted after 2009 iirc E46 BMW VANOS, Subframe Mounting issues etc.

    Learning the car’s big issues, and the little foibles help to keep a grip on reality for the moment when you see the car, and you’re emotions begin to supersede your ability to question the car at all…it’s it’s perfect—you must resist. Having a concise list of “model-specific” problems to look for is extremely helpful when the “Car-Goggles?” take hold. The first question I ask the seller: What are all the problems with this car?

    Pop the hood, be skeptical.

  • avatar

    $7.4k is not that big of a mistake. A few years ago I bought a Volvo 850R wagon on eBay for $5k, put about $7.5k into it, and sold it for $4k. So I’ve done worse.

    My failure was not not doing a Carfax or an inspection but rather not understanding how the Volvo enthusiast world operates and not understanding that market. Basically, the value difference between a real nice car with new parts and a beater is 0. We all learn.

    At least you have an operable car out of it. After you’re done with it you’ll probably be able to sell it to some kid for 5 grand.

    • 0 avatar

      ” not understanding how the Volvo enthusiast world operates”

      Its a very absurd market, a nice low mileage ’90-’92 245 can go for $2500, but a ’93 245 stick with a dubious history, bypassed heater core, previous major overheating issues, will go north of $5000 on ebay. A rare stick-shift 242 coupe? $500-$1000. Its a very inconsistent market.

      I’m sorry about the 850R though, I have a friend who been burned near $7k or so on an 850/S70 too, tis a shame, they’re nice looking cars.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I agree with addressing frame inspection 1st and fluids, and keep on eye on radiator. I’m sure I’ve had cars that were in accidents but this was pre-Carfax era, but mostly my own mental incapacity to recognize the bad and over valuing the good.I guess I have mobil 1 colored glasses.

  • avatar

    Pre purchase inspections are a great idea, but I don’t think they do much that you can’t do yourself if you have the opportunity. I have a real problem with the fact PPI’s usually don’t include things like compression checks. It’s like going to the doctor, and they don’t listen to your heart.

    If you’re thinking of buying an R56 Mini, you’ll need compression check, leakdown test, scope of the bores, [and a live chicken for a sacrifice]. If it’s an RX-8, you’ll need a compression check by someone with a real rotary tester.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed that a standard PPI can be a bit overrated. You can always work with the shop on how you want them to spend the time you are paying for. For example, doing the compression check on the RX-8 rather than poking around the suspension and doing other common used car checks.

    • 0 avatar

      “Pre purchase inspections are a great idea, but I don’t think they do much that you can’t do yourself if you have the opportunity.”

      True of almost everything if you know what you’re doing. But most don’t have a clue how things are supposed to be.

      I can do the mechanical, including what I consider an adequate compression check on an RX-8. Like any compression test, you’re really just looking for differences between cylinders or, in this case, rotor faces. If all the pressure spikes are the same, the car starts fine when hot, and the street start (0-60 mph) is under 8 seconds. There’s no reason to suspect any apex seal issues.

      If the owner thinks the engine is gone, check that it’s getting spark on all four plugs. It will run and start poorly on two, just like an engine with a bad apex seal. Those coils live a hard life firing three times as often as a 9500 rpm piston engine would, so they’re often short-lived.

      When my buddy was buying his first RX-8, he was extremely concerned about the apex seals. He had the owner drop off the car at the Mazda dealer, saying he would pay for a full inspection and compression check. The next day, he called and inquired about the test. They were unable to provide any details and eventually admitted that they don’t have the machine; they just used a standard compression tester. He chewed them out, refused to pay, and walked away from the deal. The next day he calmed down and bought the car anyway. Fortunately, the owner had been able to get the car back from Mazda without payment. So free PPI, anyway.

      With the two RX-8s he’s bought since, a street start test was enough for him to be satisfied that the engine was strong. None were replaced because of any problems.

      It’s the body stuff where bringing along a pro comes in handy for me. My buddy can spot repairs from a mile away. Things that are obvious to him from a distance often require that I look closely at the paint while he explains how it was applied imperfectly, and it still never seems all that obvious to me.

  • avatar

    2008 Civic Si owner here. Dang buddy I would’ve sold you my coupe for not much more and it’s no accident 90k.

    1. The first gear/reverse grind is normal. Look it up on any Civic Forum, changing the fluids will not help although I would very much suggest doing that anyways.

    2. These trans aren’t the greatest from Honda, beware of 2nd/3rd gear problems and the Clutch Master Cylinder.

  • avatar

    Ugh. Been there. Done that. A certain ’08 Mariner Hybrid that had some hidden rust issues. You can bet when we bought a ’13 Escape a few months ago to replace it I paid the Ford dealer for a PPI. Worth every penny of the $75 if for nothing but the piece of mind.

  • avatar

    This might not apply to your Civic but my wife’s 3rd gen Integra at around 175K started having grinds on the synchros, especially if you were hustling it. I had changed it multiple times before using Honda’s fluid but all the forums talked about Redline or GM’s “Synchromesh – Friction Modified” fluid. Figured I had nothing to lose I went to the Chevy dealer and put in the GM fluid. World of difference, grinds went away, trans still shifted like it had 100k instead of the 290K when we sold it.

  • avatar

    You just have to go in assuming every used cars been in a wreck, tis what I do. Its how its been repaired that counts.

    Wrecked HondaYotas are prime candidates for crumball flippers/dealer lots, just slap on some parts and re-paint em, nevermind any frame damage or deployed airbags. At least one used Honda I looked at quite literally had the rear bumper taped on (you could pull it off just leaning on it)!

    Craziest repair I ever saw was on a Volvo 740 wagon, at one point it had been crushed from an airborne car! Somehow a new roof was welded on, but the transmission had a super rough shift from first with a loose driveshaft. The car looked nice on the outside (inside was trash just as most 7-940s), most of the suspension had been replaced, but you could tell the structure had been “bananna’d” a bit, tis why the drivetrain no longer synced up.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the 940 and one-year S90 might’ve had the last of the lasting-quality Volvo interiors.

      • 0 avatar

        S90’s tend to crack their seat covers on leather models, but 940s werent too bad barring a few years with melting door panels.

        The only real issue is what keeps the parts attached, and headliners. The cloth seats were pretty tough, just avoid any tan interiors (Volvo used a sturdier plastic for darker colors apparently).

        Btw the sites been working pretty good today, nice work fixing the log in issues!

        • 0 avatar

          I notice a lot of the adhesive peeling in that era, all the way through about 2007 on door panels. As well as leather that seems to age very quickly.

          I have noticed better speed as well. Still a couple little things need fixing, but overall better.

    • 0 avatar

      Honda dealer here serviced my 5MT and “burnished the gears”. I just wanted the fluid changed. No extra cost they assured me. It did shift a little smoother but honestly it was fine before they worked on it.

  • avatar

    OP said: the K20 mill which, although a torque monster it is not (not in the slightest)

    I’d say it makes pretty good torque. Depending on version, around 140lb-ft from 122 cubic inches, or 1.15lb-ft/cubic inch. Show me a naturally aspirated gas engine that does much better!

  • avatar

    Get Triple A with one hundred mile towing for your own piece of mind if you don’t have it already . The worst I’ve ever been taken was when I bought a freshly painted 66 mustang back in 1979 . The battery was dead when I tried to start it after I got home , the fuel pump developed two pinhole leaks squirting gas out , and I had to have a rear seal put in the automatic transmission . But the worst was the poorly done prep work before the paint job which still seemed a bit soft a couple of months later , probably little to no paint hardener mixed with the paint . Looking under the trunk mat both very thin metal rear quarter panel patches were riveted on with way too much filler on the outside and after my fingernail sank into the soft putty in the rain gutter (obviously little to no hardener in that either) I dumped it quick . I then bought a 5 year old babied VW Sunbug for about 600 more than the Mustang and it was a great car – for two years until I totaled it !

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    You’ll have to decide how nice you want the car to be.

    For an 8-year-old car, you’re getting into “I just don’t want it to break down” territory.

    I wouldn’t put more money into niceties – just do what’s needed to keep it reliable and you’ll look back on the purchase with fondness some day. We had a 2001 Elantra from 2009-14. It nickel-and-dimed me the whole time, but it never left anyone stranded.

  • avatar

    OP, this is clearly a story about love, and love is never rational. Will the little Si turn out great, terrible, or both?
    ¯_(ツ)_/¯ It is great to hear it has been running well.

    But the real story is you found a girl who can give her heart to a stick civic with a questionable past. And when that happens there is only one thing you can do: marry her.

  • avatar

    I don’t want to burst your bubble but if your garage
    “Honda dealer here serviced my 5MT and “burnished the gears” ” I would suggest you “burnish his gears” and find somewhere else you can have your work done !

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Meh. My friend “Josh” called me to do a PPI on a _very_ nice automatic Golf MkIV (backup camera, satnav, the lot) and after that checked out ok, the next day he went and bought a stanced Corolla SR. And crashed it a week later. I almost went back to buy the V-Dub for myself.

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