My "new" Civic DX Coupe

Discussion in 'My Ride' started by jcp123, Apr 24, 2017.

  1. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    The replacement for the Echo: it wasn't the most exciting car I looked at, but it was certainly the cleanest, with a fair price. 168,920 miles when I signed the papers, and a lifelong Dallas car. It drives nice and tight, and although I've never cared for Hondas, actually driving this makes me understand how these cars helped create the loyalty to the brand which they did. Everything feels light, tight, and responsive, yet refined enough to reveal smart engineering. It's that sprinkle of old Honda magic I've heard about. It has manual steering, which will be a neat little bonus, and only one option: AC.








    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  2. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    Okay, this answers the question I left for you in the Daily Grind. Good luck with that, James. A Civic with a manual trans is a wonderful thing.
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  3. PaleMelanesian

    PaleMelanesian Beat the System Staff Member

    Obviously, I like this. :D Nice find, and it looks to be in decent shape for the age.
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  4. PaleMelanesian

    PaleMelanesian Beat the System Staff Member

    Since you have no tach, I looked up my old numbers.

    Good P&G ranges are
    25-40 mph in 4th gear (1300 - 2100 rpm)
    30-50 mph in 5th gear (1200-2100)

    Or to look at it another way, to start the next gear at 1500 rpm, shift
    1st-2nd 13 mph
    2nd-3rd 20 mph
    3rd-4th 26 mph
    4th-5th 33 mph

    The most I ever got in it was 13.8 gallons of gas, from sputtering empty to topped off.
    You've got about a gallon left when the empty light is on (it fades in and out with hills, so I mean "on more than 50% of the time).
    Mine would let me know it's getting low by being hard to start. If you get there, turn the key on, wait 5 seconds, turn it off and on again, wait 5, off and on again. This primes the fuel pump better so you get fuel pressure and it starts better.
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  5. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    Thanks all!

    Edwin, yup although I'm betting this will have the edge over the Echo, though only slightly since literally 90% of my driving is freeway now.

    Andrew, I thought of you when I bought this car. I love the info you gave me. At some point I'll put my feelers out and see how easy it is to swap in an IP with tach, because the data is is so slow that my UG isn't great as a tach. But it sure is clean. Still has the dealer emblem on the trunk, so looks like it's been a Dallas car its whole life, and that the owner actually took pretty good care of it. There's a few things not quite perfect (how does the hood prop rod literally get broken clean off?) but overall it's cleaner than I'd have a right to expect. And the fuel info is interesting; I noticed that when the fuel gauge was maybe a needle width over the E line, it held only 8 gallons, so I guess it's pretty conservative.

    I'll have to study P&G as that's not something I've attempted before. Once I nail driving this stick I'll give it a whirl.
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  6. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    So, after some shakedowns, I'm starting to see some flaws in the car. The major components and the cabin are all tight and delightful. But...

    Number one are the tires. Four different brands and one which is undersized. All have good tread but show exterior cracking, which was enough to put the tires on my radar. But even worse, none will take air though two are below 20psi. Guessing the PO gummed everything up with Slime.

    The battery is two years old but basically toast. Blah.

    The clutch has a weird action - basically needs to be pushed nearly to the floor for a clean shift, but re-engages further up its travel.

    The centering springs are uneven - soft on the 1-2 side and stiff on the 5-R side.

    The trunk light is altogether missing. I need that when I check my load out in the wee hours of the morning before heading to work.

    The drivers' side headlight assembly is accumulating moisture.

    Has a sticky throttle action, though as I've driven the car more it has started to free up a little bit.

    Less irksome is the sheared hood prop rod and clapped-out wiper switch.

    Ac works but is weak. After three straight Japanese cars with meh ac, I'm wondering if it's just a Japanese thing.

    Basically, though, I find the car solid. Brakes are in good shape, it has fresh fluids all around, the manual steering is still tight and light. Fuel trims are bonkers good, and I see a fresh front O2 sensor. All the seals are solid with no water getting in or oil getting out.

    Once I address the tire and battery issues, it'll be a fun ride with a lot of mpg potential. The fact that it surpasses my Echo's FE while favoring learning its manual over FE, carrying ~300 extra pounds, and craptacular tire air pressures beckons me for more. Plus it's far more stable at speed than the Echo and feels BMW-like in its confidence and handling feedback.
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  7. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    In my experience , the hydraulic clutch in the Civic will cause problems. I NEVER had any issue with the cable-operated clutch in my 89 Si , even when the rest of the car turned to rust at 229K miles. But all the later Civics I owned ( or my daughters ) had issues with clutch master cylinders. This make it very hard to disengage completely , which makes shifting tricky. Andrew might have had the same problem wit his Civic. You can easily check the level of (brake) fluid in the clutch master reservoir. Maybe just a refill and bleed ? And the A/C in a 1.6L car will never be like the A/C in a V-8 car. But it worked pretty well in my 89 and 08 Civics (bought new) , and "okay" in the 97 Civics we bought used.
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  8. PaleMelanesian

    PaleMelanesian Beat the System Staff Member

    I did have to replace the clutch hydraulics at somewhere around 150k. The telling symptom was the engagement point moving lower and lower toward the floor.

    My AC was completely dead the last 5 years I had that car. :/ Then again, the Suburban I had before that had a failed AC as well. Any make can have that issue.
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  9. RedylC94

    RedylC94 Well-Known Member

    I suspect that's probably normal by design; my '81 Mazda was like that from new.

    Hydraulic clutch actuation was a giant leap backward in technology. I never had the slightest problem with the linkage or cables that operated the clutches in >900K in my previous cars.
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  10. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    That's a shame about the clutch. My family seems to have bad luck with three-pedal cars...after my Pa put a 5-speed in his Mach 1, we could neve get the cable to stop binding. My SVT was an ordeal thanks to Tremec's poor design (early Minis shared this transmission and clutch issues). I checked out a vid by EricTheCarGuy inspecting and then replacing clutch hydraulics on a same-gen Civic, so I'll take a look when I get home. It's honestly not a terrible looking job, and might be an excuse to grab a vacuum bleeder :D

    Idk, Edwin. Good and poor AC has been more correlated with Japanese makes in my experience than engine size. Even my Mom's Sienna had fairly weak AC, although it had a leaky hose replaced and the refrigerant charged literally days after she got it, so who knows if the techs were any good. The Echo's was weak too and I even cleaned the condenser and checked pressures with a manifold, so it was functioning properly, it was just...weak.

    Re: centering springs, if it's normal for the car then it's still new to me. I don't remember lopsided centering springs in any other stick I have driven. I'll get used to it I suppose, but I might toss in a set of aftermarket ones I found when I get around to upgrading my shifter bushings.
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  11. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    I got to do a little work on the car, finally. I was unable to air up the tires at all, so I replaced all four valve cores. It was getting dangerous, the rears were 15 and 17psi (!) and the fronts weren't much better but at least in the 20s. Aired up to only 38 all around, as the tires are pretty old. She rides pretty stiffly now, and I thus may not choose to go any higher even with fresh meats on the wheels. The steering (manual, remember?) is now much lighter and far easier to be precise with. It clutches out from a stop far easier and rolls much further on a glide.

    Also cleaned the headlight lenses a bit more, they didn't shine even with the Sylvania Xtravisions I swapped over from my Echo. Plus I got my license plates and inspection tag on, and got a windshield sun shade.

    Bad news? Clutch master cylinder is indeed leaking. Kinda sucks but it's not that expensive or hard to do, bleeding is just tedious. Also, I was going to firm up the alternator belt tension, as the battery light illuminates north of 3000rpm. I don't go that high very often at all, but I'd like it to be right. However the bolt head on the adjusting arm is rounded and filled with bite marks, presumably from vice grips or the like. I want to do that once and right, so I'll pick up a new bolt from Honda next time I'm in town.
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  12. Dorean Clarke

    Dorean Clarke Active Member

    Sweet ride! Looks ready for a long ride. :)
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  13. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    Hope so!

    I have the alternator bolt from Honda. May or may not get a chance to do it next time I'm home, depending on which of my vacation requests they decide to grant.

    The more I look at it, the more those faded wheel covers are bothering me. I don't want to scrub the 6363738474 holes in them, but I'd like to give 'em a fresh spray. Would go a long way toward sprucing up the exterior, even though it's far from perfect (two dents, hail damage, a scrape on the rear bumper, and the mandatory Honda paint fade). That might be my next little project.
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  14. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    Nothing much exciting to report. I purchased a fresh battery. Cranks nice and hard, and curiously enough it seems to idle more sanely. Depending on what was going on with the previous battery, it may have been loading up the alternator, which I have noticed correlates with a higher idle.

    I did, unfortunately, get a check engine light. P0135 for a defective upstream O2 heater. That's disappointing as the sensor that's in it looks fresh. I did some multimeter checks and the heater is indeed toast, but I need to check the heater ground more thoroughly - I'm suspicious there could be a problem causing the heater to burn itself out, so I need to be sure about that before I toss a part in there. I think the presence of the CEL might be keeping the ground (which is the switched side of the circuit inside the computer) from being made. On the upside, I've found the NTK sensor which should essentially be a sub-$50 version of the over $200 dealer item.

    I should have gotten a picture, but I also replaced the shift knob with a ball- or globe-type knob. Better hand feel plus more consistency for when I use different hand posistions to shift. It's a must-have for any manual I get.
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  15. PaleMelanesian

    PaleMelanesian Beat the System Staff Member

    That's funny. I replaced the Fit's ball shaped shifter with one from a 90's Civic because I like that better. :p
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  16. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    I also liked the Honda shifter knobs from my 89 and 97 Civics. Not too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter.

    And a comfortable , familiar shape.
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  17. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    That's hilarious how subjective that is! I will say that I did rather like the soft-touch stuff the OE knob was made out of.

    I guess it really is what you're used to. I learned stick in a '66 Mustang with a 4-speed. Shifter would have been like the first pic. After that, I had an SVT Focus, the second picture is a stock shift knob. So right there, I'm already accustomed to it.

    The third pic is the unit in my truck. It never feels right in my hand at all.

    Attached Files:

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  18. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    Well, after a year (and about 4,000 miles) with the Civic, I figured I'd make some sort of summation in the way journalists write about long-termers.

    I gotta say it's an addictive car. I'd like to write a piece about it but it's hard to find a good narrative for it. I could compare it to my former car, a Toyota Echo; but I'd have to put some real work into arguing that they are analogous. I could compare it to the first-Gen Ford Focus, a more driver-oriented car, which also has clear differences with the Civic, but I kind of find it an unfair fight in the end. I don't have much else I can draw on to compare it to, and letting it stand alone risks a fanboyish apologist tone. But in short, it's so far a plucky small car which is defined by a stark contrast between its core demographic of librarians and teachers, plus the age it's showing, and the unassuming but engaging driving dynamics it provides. Those dynamics are augmented by its fantastic inputs which are both light and unflappably surgical, and breathlessly easy fuel economy compared to basically anything built in its time.

    Unfortunately some of the age it is showing is in the basics. I've yet to address the oxygen sensor problem, and that's just old car syndrome. The door locks rattle - not much of a complaint at this point, more a testament to the fact that it really only has those itty bitty rattles. It is laughably small, and probably less usable than almost any compact or subcompact today. And if this is what people call a good shifter, either I have tired bushings (probably the case), or others are complete idiots for calling it out as an example of how a shifter should feel; it's far from terrible, but doesn't excel either.

    In short, I wouldn't say I got a bargain on the car. But I was ready for a new experience, and Honda-in-its-prime goodness is certainly a new experience. I'm happy with the car despite its obvious shortcomings, and as the Echo fades from a trusty companion to a more and more foggy silhouette in the rear view mirror, the Civic stands well in its stead.
  19. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    Well, I finally replaced the O2 sensor, made sure I got an NTK as that seems the nearest thing to an OE at around 1/10th the price. It seems indifferent to having a fresh sensor around town, though I think I might have gained a couple MPG on the freeway, where it really counts for me. It's nice having a comparatively easy, spacious engine bay to work with.

    Also passed state inspection. Barely! I need tires. But it's nice to not have to otherwise jimmy rig the car for inspection time.

    I have some time to myself this summer while the wife visits family in NY State, so when I'm done with honey-do's maybe I'll work on sprucing the car up a bit, perhaps track down my oil leak, replace PCV, and see if there's any aero bits I can fab up. Or I could get ambitious and toss in a set of Energy Suspension shifter bushings? I crave a chunkier feel from the shifts. Whaddaya think?
    BillLin likes this.
  20. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    Slowly but surely the car is getting better and better.

    Another 49.5 mpg tank sure looks good. I had also attempted to fix my holey exhaust with exhaust tape, but just as soon as I did that, someone backed into me and finished the job, breaking my exhaust pipe in front of the muffler and leaving it to rest on my rear suspension. $40 saw that fixed permanently, and it's now so quiet I have trouble driving it smoothly. I also (maybe falsely?) detect a hint of much-needed extra torque.

    Also, into the crankcase went just shy of 4qts of Pennzoil Platinum, filtered by a Bosch unit. That was the last of my store of cheap Pennzoil Platinum, so next go-around I'll have some interesting choices to make.

    But that's not all! I had a tire tread start to de-laminate, so I was forced to make an emergency trip last night to find someone open who could sling a new (used) tire on it. $40 was a bit steep, but the tire is almost new.

    The sticky throttle has loosened up a bit just through use, so I'm guessing the car wasn't driven much before it was sold off. It's still oddly difficult to find or hold a given throttle position, though.

    Lastly, I am fresh off family vacation to Florida and New Orleans, so I have some new stickers to tat the car up with :)
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