pondering Honda quandary
November 19, 2008 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Is it reasonable for a 1995 Honda Odyssey engine with 150K miles on it to have a compression of 179?

My old '95 Honda Odyssey's engine is worn out. I either need to buy another car or put an engine in the one I have. I'm not real car-savvy, so need to lean on the wise counsel of my friends here at ask mefi.

My funds are limited. I need something I can haul a little gear in, so a wagon or minivan is in order. I like 4-cylinders cuz gas prices are not going to stay low, I have a feeling. I can't get much of a car with my limited budget, but can afford an engine for the car I have.

I've been pricing engines locally. One salvage yard has one with 150K miles and compression of 179 for $500.00 w/90-day warranty. Installation is going to be about $800.00. When it's all done, engine and installation will be about $1500.00.

Another one is $2300.00 installed. This includes an engine with 79K miles and no compression rating available. Parts and labor warrantied for 1 year.

What's the better deal? Thanks.
posted by wsg to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
The second one strikes me as a vastly better deal. Roughly half the miles and 4x the warranty for roughly 50% more money sounds good to me.
posted by entropic at 1:14 PM on November 19, 2008

What, exactly, is "worn out" about the existing motor - no oil pressure, leaky rings, worn bearings, noisy valvetrain, what?

Any which way, you ought to be taking advice from your mechanic - which junkyard he trusts, etc. 180 psi sounds pretty damn good for an old motor (then again, my cars read out at 100 - bad rings - and over 200 high - high compression musclecar).
posted by notsnot at 1:18 PM on November 19, 2008

Response by poster: The mechanic told me it's leaking oil at every seal. When I parked it, I was putting about 2 qts of oil in per week. But, it wasn't burning it. There were no clouds of blue smoke coming out the tailpipe and it runs great...as long as you put two qts of oil in per week.
posted by wsg at 1:21 PM on November 19, 2008

The first thing I had to do when I bought an old Volvo station wagon was replace many seals and gaskets in the engine (one of my first AskMefi experiences, IIRC). It ran excellently afterwards and is now (nearly four years later) being driven by my little sister. No oil leakage after replacing the seals. Are you sure that your engine has to be replaced? You might want to find out how much parts and labor would cost for replacing your seals and gaskets. I took the DIY road since I only spent $300 to purchase the car, so my total cost for the repairs was around $60 for an engine seal kit; I can't give you a labor cost estimate.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 1:59 PM on November 19, 2008

The compression is fine, but that's pretty high mileage for an engine that comes without a documented oil change history. Though a honda engine can and will last much longer, given the way most people treat their cars, 150k is getting pretty long in the tooth.

I'd get a second opinion on your original engine from a different mechanic. If it's not smoking, perhaps it only needs a crankshaft main seal or an oil pan gasket, or a combination of those types of repairs -- something that may be cheaper than an engine transplant.

If not that, you might want to consider a brand new crate engine from Auto Zone, or yeah, the 70k one that costs more.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:03 PM on November 19, 2008

One thing to add -- the results of compression tests are usually reported per-cylinder. So in this case, you should be shown 4 numbers, all of which should look about the same. If you test and engine, and it comes up 180-179-112-181, that would mean something is seriously wrong with the #3 cylinder, even though the other ones are ok -- perhaps a leaking head gasket or something like that.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:23 PM on November 19, 2008

Yikes! A used engine is just that- USED. It may give up on you at anytime just like your current one.

Sometimes, a car is just not worth putting that kind of money into. Have you had any other recent repairs on the vehicle? (Struts/suspension, major bake repairs, exhaust, etc etc)? Because those, too, may need money soon.

Just saying.

For $2300, you can practically buy another car with the same kind of mileage.

But yes, the second offer is the better deal. Compression IS important....... but hardly the issue.
posted by peewinkle at 2:46 PM on November 19, 2008

Response by poster: "For $2300, you can practically buy another car with the same kind of mileage."

Yes, you can buy big, gas-guzzlers all day long for that money, but not a 4-cylinder Honda wagon or van or anything comparable, at least in my vicinity. It's hard to find anything good in that price range. People are buying up the smaller engine cars now, cuz of the volatility of gas prices. I want something small, and efficient.
posted by wsg at 3:02 PM on November 19, 2008

The engine replacement questions have been coming up a lot on MeFi lately... I've been down this road myself. There's nothing wrong with a used engine, as long as it's relatively young, reasonably priced, and the rest of your car is in decent mechanical condition.

Don't buy an engine from a salvage yard. You don't know enough about it. There are companies that specialize in importing low mileage Japanese engines from Japan, where the ultra-strict emissions laws require engine replacement at relatively low miles (some places guarantee the engine has less than 50k on it). You should be able to get a replacement motor from someone like this who is reasonably local to you. It should come with a 1 year warranty, and be compression- and leakdown-tested by them to confirm that it's in OK shape.

Ask on Honda-Tech.com for suggestions on an engine importer near you. Then call 'em up and go from there. They may even be able to recommend a shop to do the replacement for you. I had mine done at a "performance" shop, and they did it in 24 hours for $700. Been running great for over 2 years.
posted by autojack at 3:08 PM on November 19, 2008

Best answer: I would seriously investigate the cost of replacing the seals on your current engine vs. purchasing a used engine.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:23 PM on November 19, 2008

There could be more than mere seals to replace, Thorzdad. I'm in the same boat--I've got a mid-90's Japanese 4-cylinder that needs replacing. Provided everything else on the car is sound (particularly the body) you'll save a lot more by replacing the engine than you would buying a completely new (or rather, different) car. But you already know that. I think you should take the advice of some others here and verify exactly what it is that's wrong with the current engine. Oil consumption isn't bad--seals are easy to replace. Knocking is bad. White smoke in the exhaust is bad. If it turns out you need anything terribly invasive that's going to cost you more than a grand, next step is to find a good source for motors.

As autojack said, Japanese manufacturers keep an enormous inventory of late-model replacement parts... including whole engines with zero on the odometer. You'll have to find out exactly what kind of engine is in the current vehicle and then start calling around (or Googling).

I would stay away from salvage yards until you've exhausted all other options. Or, you know, if you get a really good deal... like, free.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:10 PM on November 19, 2008

Best answer: If your car wasn't burning the oil, there must have been a fair sized pool of oil under it most of teh time, or the underside is coated in oil. If this is genuinely the case, and the engine seems otehrwise fine, I'd replace the seals and keep the existing one - better the devil you know, and there is by no means $2300 of labour in replacing all the most likely gaskets and seals. Nothing like, in fact.

Keep your existing engine.

(if it was burning 2 quarts a week - for what mileage? - then you would very much see and smell oil when it was running, so I think it is leaks. Which is easily fixable).
posted by Brockles at 5:48 PM on November 19, 2008

Response by poster: I was over-reacting. The new mechanic said it's leaking at a couple of major seals, but the engine overall sounds good with no knocking valves. Also, there was a big hole in the oil filter so I was losing a lot of oil there. He recommends changing the timing belt and water pump while we're in there fixing the seals and also some general maintenance.

I'm very relieved. I was expecting to spend 2K+ and I'm getting off for about $600.

Lots of good advice here. Thanks to all.
posted by wsg at 3:47 PM on November 22, 2008

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