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Honda Civic Cooling Problems

rrumbarrumba Posts: 4
My son has a 91 honda civic. He hit a possum and cracked the bottom of the radiator. We replaced the radiator, the water pump went out. We replaced the water pump, and the themostat at the same time. Now the problem is that it still overheats. When it is sitting idle and the temperature is in normal operating range, the water is contsantly boiling out. We have bled the system as directed but no luck. When you step on the gas peddle the water will shoot out of the radiator with the cap off. The top hose is hot, the bottom is cool but does not feel like there is any pressure. If taken for a test drive the temp is fine for a while but then it climbs up as you accelerate, let off the gas and the temp comes down. The 2 fans are working. Any suggestions. I will be doing a compression test tomorrow just in case to check the head gasket. There is also white smoke coming out of the tailpipe.

Any help PLEASE.


  • It sounds to me like you might have a blown head gasket. I just faced the same thing on my 2003 Civic. Since the car is overheating and you have essentially changed out everything in the cooling system that is what I would suspect.

    If that is the problem, the reason the water is boiling out is because due to the head gasket blown, coolant is seeping into the cylinders and that is getting burned off through the exhaust, but in return as the cylinders move up and down, you will get air forced back into the cooling system as a result of the cylinder movement. Since the air takes up volume as well, and since you're probably not making even trade with coolant/air in the head, the coolant has no where to go and will come out of the overflow bottle. That is what happened with my situation. I would get overheating as well. Also I don't know where you live and if you use the heat at all right now, but I was losing that as well since there was so much air in the system it was getting trapped in the heater core.

    After typing all this and reading your message again I didn't notice you mentioned white smoke. Classic sign of a blown head gasket.

    Good luck!
  • rrumbarrumba Posts: 4
    Yeah, thats what I was thinking as well. My son confirmed it for me when I went out and he had replaced the thermostat again had it running for a while and shut it down thinking he fixed the problem. When I went outside he started it to show me and I could not stop him in time, when all of a sudden a rather loud noise, like a train steam whistle sounded and a big plume of white smoke came barreling out of the exhaust. Told him then to shut it down he was done. Looked at the oil cap and dipstick, sure enough coffe with creamer added to it colored oil. Now comes the fun part of a head/valve job.

    Thanks for your help. Not sure if I should have the head machined or not. any thoughts?
  • I think the only way you'll really know if you need the head machined or not is to put a straight line on it and see if any warping occured as a result of the overheating. The shop did that with mine and determined the head did NOT need to be machined. Ask your son how much he let it overheat while driving. If he kept it within the normal zone and didn't continue to drive it when the gauge pegged itself, then you should be OK. I asked the guy at the shop if the head being warped out of the factory might be cause for my gasket to fail but he stated that it was just simple deterioration was the cause for the failure.
  • rrumbarrumba Posts: 4
    He shut it down as soon as it hit the red and starting shutting itself down. Well once I have the head off i will check with the straight edge to ensure, or just take it to a machine shop. The drama, gotta love the drama.
  • newtonj1newtonj1 Posts: 1
    My daughter overheated her 2003 Honda Civic and I had the head thoroughly rebuilt. Now that I am basically finished replacingthe head / completing the job a honda dealer tells me that if you overheat a civic and pull the head the piston rings will collaspe and the car will start burning oil in appx 2000 miles. Any thoughts from anybody out there. The car has 40000 miles on it. Overheating due to a messed up radiator throat. Water boiling out through overflow.
  • aaronr121aaronr121 Posts: 91
    It is totally possible. Could you luck out and put it back together and not have a problem? Sure. Nothing you can really do is drive it and see what happens.
  • First time posting here. I know barely anything about cars.

    Anyways, I have a 95 Civic EX, 1.6. I drove from my buddies house back home which is a about a 3 hour drive, was pushing the car kinda hard. When I got off the freeway and finally stopped the temp gauge went into the red zone. White smoke/steam started was coming out of the hood. Pulled over, turned the car off, popped the hood and the fluid in the reservoir was extremely hot..bubbling and pouring out. This guy helped me out, took off the radiator cap, a white/brownish foam was pouring out of the reservoir/radiator. When we pressed down on the throttle, the liquid would fly out of the radiator, when the cap was off. Not sure if this is normal. He ended up pouring buckets and buckets of water till the foamy crap coming out of the radiator was mostly watery looking...white/clear foam. Pretty sure the radiator fan doesn't turn on anymore. I'll have to check on that tomorrow. I bought a thermostat, bought antifreeze, just trying to figure out where I should start since I really don't have much money to work with. One more thing, might be a completely different thing, but the car idles really weird now, mainly idles at about 1000 rpm's, then jumps up to about 1500 after driving on the freeway for a bit.

    Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.
  • targettuningtargettuning Posts: 1,371
    I would start with the electric cooling fan and the temperature sensor that turns it (the fan) on at the upper end of its temp.limit. From what I can surmise the car was normal while you were driving along but only overheated when stopped...correct? In cases like that the coolant is no longer cooled mostly by airflow through the radiator. When you stop the temperature spikes and the thermostatically controlled electric cooling fan starts...and runs until temps. are brought below the lower limit of the sensor that controls on/off of that fan. So, you may have answered your own question when you state you don't think the fan turns on any longer. I don't think so either.
  • i have a honda civic dx 96, and my is problem that the fan cooling doesn´t want to work, i already change the thermostat, and temperature sensor, because i though those were the problem, but not. i send u this messages to know what is the problem, could u help me out with this problem?
  • I have a 2003 Honda Civic, I notice that it only takes a few seconds for my vehicle to warm up to normal. I can drive my vehicle for approximately 30 miles before I can see that it starts to over heat, once I exit the freeway it jumps all the way to the top. I have replaced the thermostat twice, just replaced spark plugs and had oil changed, not milky. No leaks found. My concern is what can make my vehicle reach normal temperature in just seconds. I can drive the vehicle sitting from over night and reach the normal temperature in under 5 minutes
  • i have on 2003 honda civic ex. ive replaced two hoses, theromstat, and radiator cap. car is still overheating. i have to keep putting coolant in it, however every time i pop the hood to put coolant in it the overflow is full to the top of coolant. it wont run hot for a couple of days the driving the gage will start going up. i always pull over it never barley gets over the half way mark. ive also had the oil changed to make sure it want milky, and it wasnt. please help i dont know what else to do.
  • I have a 05 civic LX, bought the car new. Until mid-Sept I had absolutely NO problems with the car. Took it in to a Honda Service Dept closer to home(not the original purchase dealer because of driving distance) and had the 110k service done plus compliance bushings, a strut replaced, etc. Paid over $1600 for all the work to be done. Picked my car up on Friday, seemed to be running like new. Monday, my daughter and I were running errands and the temp gauge went to hot. Pulled over immediately and shut the car off, called dealership that did the service, they sent out a tow truck and towed my car back at no charge to me. They said the thermostat got stuck, so they burped the system. Over the next few days the temp gauge continued to go up and down so I took the car back in. They replaced the thermostat. Car seemed to run fine again. A week later the battery indicator light on the instrument panel started coming on when I would start the car. My husband and I were taking our dearly departed dog to the pet crematorium when I lost all instrumentation. Husband says pull over, turn the car off and then turn it back on. So I pulled over, turned the car off-and tried to turn it back on with no luck. Car was dead. Called dealer who had done all the work on my car, they sent a tow truck again. This time they charged me a $150 tow bill. I firmly believed that this latest problem was a result of something the dealer had done(or failed to do) so I argued and got the tow bill reduced to $75. Service dept said Alternator went bad. It wasn't bad when the dealer did all the work on my car two weeks prior. I paid an independent mechanic $327 to replace the alternator. My mechanic also told me the brake fluid level was low-service dept did NOT tell me this or advise me there were issues with brake fluid level.
    2 weeks ago, our weather turned cold so I had to start using the heater. Temp gauge showed car was at operating temp but it was taking a long time to get hot air out of the heater. Let off gas, heater would get cooler. Coolant levels were full, no leaks on driveway, etc. Took car to the original purchase dealer yesterday, asked them to find out why it was taking my car so long to blow hot air-they said the heater core was either failing or clogged. They wanted to charge me $1019 to replace the heater core-I declined. I also asked them to investigate why the brake fluid was low-they said the cam seal was leaking(cam seal should have been replaced when timing belt was changed but was not) and wanted to charge me $315 to replace that. Took car to independent mechanic, the coolant hoses were 2 different temps, car is getting heat, and he told me it is NOT the heater core. Drove home from his shop, car sat in the driveway for 30 minutes. Left to go pick up daughter from school which is 3.75 miles from my house. Waited 3-5 minutes for daughter, looked down and temp gauge was at hot! Shut car off. Opened hood, no steam, no apparent coolant leakage. Waited for 20 minutes, started car and drove home.
    I have put in 3 phone calls to American Honda and am now waiting for a case manager to contact me.
    If anyone knows what is causing this newest problem please advise!
  • dslynxdslynx Posts: 8
    edited March 2011
    Any updates? This sounds extremely close to what my current issue is with my 2003. I've googled this issue up one side and down the other. Seems to be a common problem, but no solution. On my path, I have had the water pump, thermostat, and radiator cap replaced. I have had hoses tightened and the system bled on a few occasions. My "current status" is that I might have a head leak, but I don't have any milk in my oil either, so I'm at a loss. I was thinking of taking it to a dealer, but after reading your post, I doubt there is a point. The only thing left is the heater core, that I can think of, and I don't think I'm ready for that yet. My whole problem started with no heat at idle to the point that I have had to pull over once due to over heating, but I have never had the car "die".

    I'm starting to think there might be a design flaw in this series... :(
  • billy63billy63 Posts: 1
    I beleive its in the water pump for $100 alex lol
    if you think its the heater core look at the fire wall closest to passenger side 2 hoses larger then most but not as big as the hoses goin to radiator
    remove clamps from both hoses and then remove hoses this is the entrance and exit from heater core you now have 2 options hook a hose up to the spot u removed the hoses from and turn on the water see if yuck comes out prob not
    option 2 same as one but use compressed air if you have a compressor thats got an adjustment for psi that turns down most do you can put steady air into it once water stops coming out stop air if using full air pressure only tapp the release dont hold it if nothing comes out i tell you
    or you could buy a flush but you have to drain and refill let run a couple times these will all clean heater core
    but water pump this i tell you
    no circulation = no heat to cab and a HOT motor
  • vorlonsvorlons Posts: 6
    I have a 04 Civic LX 4-door. I have the same problem. My problem started after I replaced my timing belt and water pump at around 153K miles. I performed the work myself since I know enough about cars to work on the simple issues. Couple of months after I replaced the timing belt, tensioner, water pump etc... I noticed that the water temp gage gone up and down while I'm driving. In the morning when I turned on the heater, I got nothing but cold air coming out and will not get heat for until after 10 minutes of driving. Shortly after I turned on the heater, my temp gauge shot up to the red marker and down again..... and it just goes up for up to 30 seconds and goes back down a little and up again. This is worst in city driving or if you're stuck in a traffic jam. I replaced the thermostat the first time and it did not fix the problem and replace it again with another thermostat and problem persists. I also replaced the fan switches and temp sensor without any luck of getting it fixed. I also flushed the coolant system twice and problem still persists. When the car temp shot up, there was no smoke or fumes coming out from the exhaust or from the hood. Only thing that came out when this happened was coolant from the reserve coolant tank. I had the coolant system tested for signs of a damaged head gasket but it turned out fine. Inspect the engine head and no coolant leak coming out of the cylinder head. I've been driving more than 25K miles with this issue and change my oil every 5K miles and do not see any signs of coolant in the oil.

    At this time, I'm at a total lost as to why this happened. My mechanic friend that worked on Honda cars for more than 20 years was not able to narrow down the exact problem. He performed all the basis tests and diagnostics without any luck. All he indicated to me is that I may have a water pump that was pumping in a reverse order.... meaning that the water pump is spinning int the right direction but the water pump propeller is spinning in the wrong direction because it may be reversed at the factory during assembly. I did not have time to remove the pump and verify this and I made a mistake by throwing my old pump away.

    I hope one of you can find out what the problem is and share with us. I will do the same. Thank you so much!
  • m_brousm_brous Posts: 2
    I had the same issues with a 1992 civic. I replaced the timing belt and water pump. A couple of months later the car overheated due to low coolant. I seem to recall i had bubbles in the overflow reservoir. I got an exhaust gas tester for coolant-turned out negative. My theory-blown head gasket due to the low coolant condition. Head gasket eventually went about a year later-it was smoking out the neighborhood. I replaced all hoses, head gasket, hondabonded around the water jackets on the head and block, arp studs on the block and the head was milled. This head gasket was not going to be an issue again.

    Fast forward another year-i have been constantly adding coolant to the reservoir every 2 weeks--the culprit---heater core.

    The heater core was leaking the coolant out resulting in a low coolant condition. Check your carpet on the passenger side to see if it's damp. You might have to check under it. Also, your windshield will want to fog up more frequently. Try to look underneath the dash where the heater core is--you may see it dripping.

    As for the surges in temp-or lack of heat. It may be air pockets in the system-either from lack of purging or exhaust gases from the head gasket making their way into the coolant.

    Check your reservoir when the car warms up-the increased pressure from the exhaust gases cause the cooling system to over-pressurize and blow coolant out into the reservoir.

    Also, I started vacuum-filling my cooling system to eliminate air pockets.

    Hope some of this helps. It's been a crazy 3 years since all of this trouble began-and i just had the heater core repaired for $30 last week.--of course it took me 2 days to do the work.
  • m_brousm_brous Posts: 2
    When my head gasket was leaking-it was only leaking into the water jacket. And it seemed to be a one-way path. Exhaust would flow into the cooling system but coolant would not flow into the cylinder. Also, my oil remained clean.

    Check your overflow reservoir for rapid filling when the throttle is pressed-indicating the exhaust gases pressurizing the cooling system.

    To check water pump flow-you may be able to squeeze the radiator hoses to detect if the water pump is working.
  • sacchampsacchamp Posts: 1
    Did you ever get an answer to your question about your 2003 Civic? My car has identical symptoms. What do I do?
  • dslynxdslynx Posts: 8
    Thanks for all the advice, I bought another car till I can get around to working on this one. After spending over $1,000 trying to fix this issue, I said enough with mechanics for now. I know enough about cars to tear them down, just didn't want to be bothered with it. Right now, my next test is going to be to bypass the heater core. (pull the hoses mentioned above and hook them together) I haven't seen any liquid on the floor, and had a firebird with a leaking heater core, so I know what that is like. When I get this figured out, I'll be posting it everywhere.
  • jmfsoc12jmfsoc12 Posts: 5
    Any progress? Having the same problems... No heat unless moving down the road, overheating more so with stop and go, especially on hot days... Already replaced thermostat twice and radiator cap...thought about taking it to the Honda place and letting them take a look but after reading this...I'm not sure about it now... Let me know
  • dslynxdslynx Posts: 8
    I was going to wait a week to confirm, but i ended up buying a product called steel seal for fixing cracked blocks and head gaskets. I didnt think that was the problem because i didnt have water in my exhaust or milky oil. Well, i added it, chocked the gas to keep it at around 2000 RPM and let it run for an hour. I set a mirror on the seat so i could see the temp. Gauge from the house and it ran fine. I shut it down and let it sit, added more antifreeze in and it hasnt overheated yet. I cant belive i wasted $1k in mechanics and fixed it myself for $60.

    What i believe is happening, is the cooling system is building up preassure and blowing off the overflow hose (at least, mine was off), causing air to get onto the system. Ive drove it for a few days that would normally have caused it to overheat.
  • jmfsoc12jmfsoc12 Posts: 5
    Where did you get this product from and where do you add it to? I was also curious to see if this fixed your heating problem as well. I am getting no heat at idle. I have to be going usually above 40 or 50mph before I start to get some heat to come through the vents. I also heard that some people are mixing their antifreeze different. Do you mix yours 50/50 or 75/25 or something different?? I would great apperciate this if it works for my situation as would my wallet too!
  • dslynxdslynx Posts: 8
    I purchased it from . And it has fixed my "no heat" problem as well. To verify if this is the same issue I was having, you shouldn't need to drive 40-50 mph, you should just need to rev the engine to around 2,000 RPM. What was happening in my case, is that air is getting introduced into the cooling system, causing pockets. At idle, these pockets are restricting the flow, so you do not get water moving through your heater core for heat, nor circulating through the engine (causing it to over heat). When you rev the engine to around 2,000 RPM, you are forcing the water to circulate. Also, my antifreeze is 50/50.

    From my understanding, I must have had a very small leak in the head gasket. I did have a mechanic mention it, but a friend also said that if the heads warped, they wouldn't be able to repair it. Problem is, the cost was like $500 to replace the gasket (alone with having it honed, I believe) and if it was warped where honing it wouldn't fix the problem, I'd be in real trouble, as it would be torn apart and I'd be looking at major engine work costing a lot more. Every time I had work done (water pump, thermostat, etc) my heat would work fine for a few days, and then it would be back to no heat. So, the leak was small enough that it would take a few days for the pressure to build up to the point where it would push off the overflow hose and dump antifreeze on the ground.

    Of course, this is all speculation, as I don't really know what was happening. I just know that after driving the car for a few days, it is still running fine, without overheating. As it is summer now, I don't really need the heat now anyway. But before, as I would be driving with the heat on, and stop at a red light, the heat would slowly blow colder till it was completely cold. At that time, the temperature gauge would slowly start to rise. Reving the engine to around 2,000 RPM would cause heat to start coming out the vents and the temperature to go back down.

    I'll post back in a few days with an update if the issue pops back up.
  • jmfsoc12jmfsoc12 Posts: 5
    ok so I tried the thing with the heat in my car today...going down the road was fine and it was blowing heat like normal. When I tried the heat at idle...nothiing for room temp/cold air would came out. So i left the hit on and revved it up to around 2000 RPM and I could tell it was getting a little hotter and then I went up to around 3000 RPM and it really started blowing hot air like it normally do you think that would be the same car's would usually start to creap up when sitting at the redlight and also go up when I would accellerate at first (after a while driving) and then would go back down once I got fast enough. Let me hear a confirmation back from me about what you think... I may just try the steel seal anyways and then if that doesnt work for some reason take it to honda....but I'd rather try and pay 60 then getting my wallet rapped at the honda place. Thanks again for all the help. much apperciated
  • dslynxdslynx Posts: 8
    I'd start by checking your overflow hose. It's right under/behind the radiator cap. If that is not connected, it is almost definitely the issue, and I believe steel seal will fix your problem. If it is connected, I would try adding 50/50 antifreeze. Since you get heat with the engine revved, it's not your heater core. Since you replaced your thermostat, it's most likely not that either. All that is left is your radiator and water pump. In theory, your water pump could have broken fins or worn down fins that don't have enough surface area to push your coolant at idle. When you rev the engine, the increased RPM of the pump forces water to circulate. This could give you the same symptoms we experienced, which was why I had my water pump and timing chain replaced (I was at 90k miles, which is when they suggest you change the timing chain anyway)

    The problem is, you get the same symptoms with air pockets (aka, low coolant level) as the system is pressurized. That is the reason they also changed my radiator cap. It's job is to allow the 16lbs of pressure to build and when it goes above that, allow the coolant to overflow into that tank.
  • jmfsoc12jmfsoc12 Posts: 5
    yeah it is connected...some time last week i believe or maybe the week before that...I was driving and it eventually went all the way in red so I pulled over and that hose had come off which spilled some of my coolent...I ended up having to tow it back to the car place which is when i reconnected it, changed the thermostat again to make sure I didnt get a bad one and thats when I also got a new radiator cap... concerning the water pump, I got it and the timing belt replaced at 168k miles and i am now at 178k miles so that shouldnt be an issue either. I believe the guy that changed my thermostat the first time... pressurized my system with a tester thing and didnt find any leaks anywhere so that should be good as well

    So you think i should try the steel seal??
  • dslynxdslynx Posts: 8
    That's all I can think of then.. and it would fit into my theory. But, if my theory is correct, you should be able to add 50/50 antifreeze to fill the system back up and remove any air pockets. You should then be able to have the car idle with the heat on without issues. After some time (I actually don't know how long it takes) but the slow leak in the head gasket will allow exhaust pressure to leak into the coolant, building the pressure up till it pops that hose off again. The fact that the hose was off when you over heated leads me to believe that you do in fact have a head gasket leak.

    Keep in mind that I am not a mechanic. I'm also not promoting steel seal in any way. I still can't believe it worked! I kind of wish I wouldn't have bought another car now. Oh well. If you can afford the risk of a few dollars, I'd say go for it. As my wife pointed out, this issue actually cost us $9,000, as I bought another car for $8,000 so I would have heat and not have to worry about overheating the whole time. They say you can add it even without a leak. Seems like pretty cheap insurance now.. I might get some for the rest of my cars.
  • jmfsoc12jmfsoc12 Posts: 5
    Yeah I will definitly give it a try....spending $60 on it isnt too bad...if that doesnt work then I'll definitely have to take it to the honda place after that cause I can't think of anything else but I'd rather try this and hope for the best before going to the honda place and spending who knows what....I'll post back whenever I get it and post the results...hopefully it will be good results!
  • mrc1217mrc1217 Posts: 2
    I read your messages about the overheating problems and I was wondering if you think this solution would work for my issues as well. I have a 03 Civic that is well maintained. Last year, I began having issues with it overheating if the car was stalling for more than a minute. The cooling fan switch had locked up, causing the cooling fan to lock up as well. I had both replaced immediately. About six months after, the same problem began again. The thermometer had corroded in the radiator so that was replaced, along with the radiator cap and I had a flush service. Now, the same issues is happening again. Once I drive the car for about 30 minutes it will overheat if stalled. It doesn't do it unless I have been driving for a while. I took it to the shop today and they said I need a new radiator but after reading these posts I am afraid that will still not fix the problem! Any advice would be great, I am a college student on a limited budget and I'm frustrated after spending over $500 to still have the same issues.
  • dslynxdslynx Posts: 8
    Well, it really depends on if the issues previous were really a problem or not. If your fans stop working, they need to be replaced. If your thermostat was actually sticking, it needed to be replaced. If the thermostat was actually corroded (did they show it to you?), then you can only imagine what the inside of the radiator looks like, and it is probably true that the radiator needs to be replaced. Now, if you were having this issue, and replacing the thermostat had no effect (as in my case) and the water pump, and the radiator cap, etc. Then yes, you probably have a blown head gasket. But, from what I can tell, your system sounds like you had some bad/old anti-freeze that was corroding the metal causing the water not to circulate properly. Now, it's easy to say just buy the stuff and poor it in, follow the directions and see what happens, but if you need to have your radiator replaced after that, you will have wasted the money, as they will have to drain the current fluid containing the product.

    So, my personal opinion, based on a corroded thermostat, is that your radiator is most likely corroded as well, which is reducing it's ability to cool the fluid. Just be happy that they haven't suggested the water pump.. that's a very expensive repair!

    Good luck,
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