Honda Civic 2008 with cracked engine block - What to do?
April 20, 2021 4:46 PM   Subscribe

I have a 2008 Honda Civic that very likely has a cracked engine block. I'll get the verdict tomorrow. It has a few hundred thousand miles on it, but seems to be in pretty good shape otherwise. Do I try to get it fixed, or do I get a replacement car? If I get a replacement car, what do I do with this one, which is likely isn't driveable?

And of course the next question will be, if I get another car, will it be a Civic, or something else? I know nothing about cars, and don't care about them much. I do mostly city driving, and I foster animals, so I schlep crates and animals in the back seat a lot. I do a couple of annual trips of about 600 miles of freeway driving in the hot and dry desert southwest.

I have decent credit and make a reasonable salary for New Mexico, but I don't like debt and I've never owned a new car. If I need to get another car, it will likely be used. I could see myself getting another Civic, another Honda thing, or maybe something sportier like a Subaru, provided the get good mileage.

Help a non-car person make a car decision.
posted by answergrape to Technology (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A Civic is a very solid car, and while you could further optimize for cargo space or sportiness, you’d lose out in MPG. Get another Civic.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:55 PM on April 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Rationally evaluate your options. Make a spreadsheet. I had a perfectly good car (with a hole in the block) of similar or slightly younger vintage that I emotionally spent a bunch of money on a refurbished engine.

Unfortunately that replacement engine was junk and cost me a bunch of more money over time to fix leaks and other issues.

Had it been a good replacement engine would it have been a good decision? Maybe. But not necessarily. I didn't do the math and look through my options carefully. I didn't choose wisely.

Used car prices are bonkers now due to limited supply and new car shortages, check out up to date dealer pricing to make your informed decision.

Make sure your mechanic is qualified to do an engine replacement, it's basically heart surgery.

And you will probably have to take it back in a few times as connectors that have never been reconnected since it was manufactured get swapped, and lose connection.

Used car prices are so bonkers, compare against new, it might not be as different as you think, unfortunately.
posted by TheAdamist at 4:57 PM on April 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

If the Civic met your needs I'd probably get another one, if you're looking for similar reliability and size you're probably going to be looking at something like a Honda Fit, Toyota Prius, Toyota Corolla, or Mazda 3. I'd avoid the Subaru's - mechanically more complex and you don't need the AWD.

I wouldn't replace the engine - I think by moving forward about 10 years in the models you can end up with a generally more reliable car that doesn't have all the fatigue the plastic parts in your existing car will have been through.
posted by iamabot at 5:00 PM on April 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

We had a 2003 civic for a number of years. If it continues to meet your needs, it's fine to get another one. We bought a subaru outback to replace it because I liked it and it fits our current needs. But it is not worth fixing the engine block.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:07 PM on April 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My brother, who taught auto mechanics at the technical college level, always says that engine block replacement is an instant no. It’s expensive, and cars that need engine replacements are usually not worth enough to justify the cost. Especially with “a couple hundred thousand” miles. I mean, everybody says Civics “run forever”, but that’s not literally true.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:13 PM on April 20, 2021 [11 favorites]

Junk the Civic. Buy a certified pre-owned Toyota Corolla hatchback that's a few years old from a Toyota dealer near you. Drive it for the next 15 years. If you need a bigger car than that, get a certified pre-owned Toyota RAV4 from a Toyota dealer near you.
posted by Sublimity at 5:27 PM on April 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Sell this one to a junkyard. Replacing the engine is going to cost you a bunch of money, and that engine is going to be put in a car that already has a couple hundred thousand miles on it. All of the other parts around it--the body, drivetrain, suspension, electrical system, are old and tired. Wouldn't surprise me if your mechanic just keeps finding other problems that need to be fixed while replacing the engine.
posted by TrialByMedia at 5:32 PM on April 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

The answer basically is can you get a vehicle just as reliable and familiar for the amount you have to spend to fix it up, i.e. probably replace the engine?

As the vehicle is "in the shop", the mechanic can give you an honest opinion on how much he thinks the TOTAL repair bill (to make the car reliable, get all the preventative stuff done, etc.) will be including the engine fix/swap. THAT should give you a much better idea on what sort of budget are you looking at for a replacement.
posted by kschang at 6:21 PM on April 20, 2021

Donate the car to a charity. They'll send someone to tow it and give you a tax receipt for something like $500.

I drove my 5th gen Civic Hatchback from late 92 to 2018. It died violently when the timing belt snapped in the middle the 401 in Toronto. It'd had a recent (but improper) belt replacement and was still fine otherwise, except that the plastic interior trim was starting to get brittle.

I figured Honda had earned my loyalty so I eventually got a 2020 Civic hatchback. I find the new Civic feels like a tank compared to my older model. If I had a do-over, I might more seriously consider the Fit - it's closer to what I think of as a Civic.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:27 PM on April 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Get another Civic.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:06 PM on April 20, 2021

I had a Honda Civic Hybrid, it was pretty good. Now I have a Prius and I really like it. I camp out with it, the electrical system makes it possible to leave the car on, like a generator, run the fan or even heat off the hybrid battery, gas engine comes on occasionally to top up the hybrid battery. It hauls a surprising amount of stuff. I've had quite good luck with Toyotas (RAV4, Prius) and Hondas (Civic Hybrid, Odyssey minivan). The minivan was really handy to haul stuff and for camping.
posted by theora55 at 8:13 PM on April 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

A few hundred thousand miles is a great run for a car. It’s time to get a new one. Another answer mentioned that used car prices are a bit crazy right now, so definitely look at new cars. I’ll add that if you are the type of person to keep a car for over 200k miles a new car is completely reasonable and and should be at least comparable in cost to buying used cars and replacing them more often.
posted by unix at 5:19 AM on April 21, 2021

surprised no one has suggested this yet, before you make a decision, read up a little on buying a low milage civic engine from japan.. the term to google is "JDM engine" which stands for japan direct merchant. i replaced my civic engine this way, no regrets. because of strict emmisions laws, people really dont keep cars long at all in japan, so the used engines are very low mileage. I wish i could think of the merchant i bought from to recommend him to you .. can't remembee at the moment but if you message me i can look it up when at my computer. he ships all over the us and after hearing him recommended online i ran into someone at an autozone who knew of him and had bought an engine from him .. considring how many competitors there are that was prerty amazing odds, so i took the plunge. my mechanic said it was the nicest looking used engine/jdm engine hed ever put in a car.
posted by elgee at 7:51 AM on April 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Would an electric vehicle suit your needs? They've reached the point where cost of ownership is typically lower than gasoline-powered cars, and for the rare long road trip you can rent a car with the range you need. Since you're likely to keep your car for a long time, thinking about what the balance of cars on the road is going to look like over the next 20 years is worthwhile.

If an EV doesn't suit: I love my 2011 Honda Fit, but the Fit has been discontinued in the US and parts may become harder to find. Many libraries have subscriptions to Consumer Reports - I looked at one of their guides to best small used cars when I was shopping and it was helpful.
posted by momus_window at 10:46 AM on April 21, 2021

My guess is the value as a vehicle is negative. You can probably get a few hundred for parts, junkyards will haul it away. You can usually buy a crappy car for less than it costs to replace an engine. The Fit is a highly functional car (with mediocre crash resistance), lots on the used market. But I would look at the ownership cost of a Prius or other hybrid. Great mileage, good cargo in the hatchback.
posted by wnissen at 12:49 PM on April 21, 2021

I have the shop space, tools, and knowledge to do an engine swap. If it was my car, I might consider getting a low-mileage JDM engine, if the rest of the car was reasonably sound and I felt I could get several more years out of it. But if you're going to have to pay someone else to do it, it's an automatic no. Labor is going to be... significant is an understatement. And, even if you get exactly the correct engine for your car, and it arrives in great shape, and the swap goes perfectly, you're still going to have a car where everything else on the car is 13 years old and wearing out.

Especially if there are other problems that you've put up with because hey, it's paid off (speaker doesn't work, knobs broken on the dash, seat is broken, door seal leaks, etc etc) then, why sink a large chunk of cash into an engine swap, and still have all those problems?

Since you mention hauling animals and crates, I would suggest a hatchback. A Civic, if you're stuck on them, or a Toyota Corolla or Mazda 3 would all be a great choice. If all you've ever had is a sedan, going to a hatchback feels like you've got the cargo space of a U-Haul. It's magical.
posted by xedrik at 4:48 PM on April 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your good advice everyone! I bought my very FIRST new car, a Civic hatchback, and drove it off the lot and onto vacation.... like someone who buys cars all the time. It felt very fancy and made me appear to be an actual adult.

It has lots of new safety features I'd never considered, that likely will make my long drives much safer and easier. And it groks my phone, so I'm not fumbling with it when I should be driving.
posted by answergrape at 3:32 PM on May 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

« Older Meet this deadline. No, not that one...   |   what’s it like to live in... anywhere? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.