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Import 2003 Honda Civic LX Issues

Discussion in 'Engine' started by Paulster2, Jun 9, 2018.

  1. Paulster2

    Paulster2 My VTEC Won't VTEC...

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    I've been working on my '03 Civic lately. No, it's not too glamorous, nor is it a Hot Rod, but I need to get it fixed. Here's the story ...

    When I bought the car, the 1.7L D17A1 engine was having an issue where it would "sometimes" overheat. Could be in any situation. Standing still or running down the road. I correctly bled the system and thought it was good. A couple days later, overheating again because it was low. Must be either leaking or burning coolant. These engines are really fickle. If it is low by more than a quart or so, it will overheat. It doesn't overheat in the typical way, it's just that the temp gauge will max out and the heat doesn't work (no heat out of the vents if you have it on that mode). I think the water pump stops pushing coolant around or something ... I don't know exactly.

    Through the course of troubleshooting, I realized the old radiator wasn't looking healthy, as the aluminum fins were starting to decay (very weak; very brittle). So I put a racing radiator back into it. This gave the effect of having more coolant (radiator itself holds about twice as much or more as the original), but all this succeeded in doing was keeping more coolant in the system. Car would overheat, just not as quickly. I also put a new Honda thermostat in it (direct from the Stealership @ ~$38 !!!). It didn't do anything for it either. Mind you, as long as I topped off the radiator every day, I had no issues.

    I finally did some research on these engines. There are two basic engine types which fall into the D17 family: non-VTEC and VTEC. Mine was the non-VTEC (D17A1) engine which comes in the 01-05 Civic models besides the EX which has the VTEC (D17A2) in it. (NOTE: There are some other D17 engine models, but I believe they weren't for sale in the States). These engines have an issue with leaking head gaskets if you don't use Honda type coolant ... yah, the blue stuff. I figured this had to be my issue, so I bought a regasket kit and new head bolts.

    I pulled the engine apart and this is what I see:

    20180428_175336.jpg

    Can you tell which cylinder was leaking? This was after I cleaned the tops of the pistons off. Cyls 1, 2, & 4, had some carbon buildup, so I scraped the tops of those pistons the best I could. Cyl 3 was just cleaned off with a rag (all were cleaned with a rag at the same time). Anyway, that's the cylinder which was getting the coolant.

    Also while I was pulling it apart, I realized the cam was not in very good shape. There was scoring on the lobes and stuff, like the oil hadn't been loved very much before I owned the thing. I decided I was going to just replace the engine instead of putting it back together like it was. I looked on good ole Craigslist and found a JDM engine seller and purchased a D17A2 motor from them. You are going to say, "Oh, he went VTEC!" ... yes, but not quite. You can run the VTEC motor in a non-VTEC mode in the non-EX cars. Just install it with the D17A1 computer and it never goes into VTEC mode. Easy enough.

    I ended up pulling the engine out of the car the other day. Everything I've seen online states you need to pull the engine and transmission together. I'm here to tell you, you don't need to. If you pull the cam belt and water pump off of the engine, this thing will pull out of here with room to spare. I think if you don't mind there not being as much room, you could pull it out with the cam belt and waterpump on the engine, it would just be a little tougher. Pulling it this way was a LOT easier than pulling the transmission (because you have to pull the axles and bunch of other stuff along with it). I left it all intact. Here's what that looks like:

    20180606_192923.jpg

    And of course the D17A2 engine completely naked:

    20180606_192926.jpg

    It's pretty much ready to go in, except I've got a new Stage 2 clutch on the way for it. The old clutch/flywheel had a lot of heat spots on it, so I decided to go ahead and replace it while I had it apart. The pilot bearing was about shot as well. Might as well get it done. It ran me ~$138 on Amazon. It should come in sometime this week. Seems it has to take the slow boat from China in order to get here. Actually, it's coming from California and since it's ~35lbs and free shipping, comes by USPS ground shipping, which is most likely the cheapest shipping they can find. It'll get here is all that matters to me.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2018
  2. Tony

    Tony Administrator Staff Member

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    I think you left something out here that has my OCD going nuts. What did you put on the car? I think you did this on purpose lmao.

    Man, from a leaking head gasket to an engine swap. I'm not sure I would have went down that road lol. But hopefully you have a better engine now that will not leak. And yes, I can definitely see you had 'auto clean' turned on in that one cyl. While I was reading this, I was thinking "that fluid has to be going somewhere, and I know his wife would not allow a streak down the driveway, so it has to be going out the exhaust" hahaha.

    Nice find and great writeup! Thanks for posting it. And definitely keep us updated on how it goes now that you have vtec but can't use it and the new racing clutch in a car that produces less torque than my lug nuts require :biggrin:. I had to hahahaha :rotflmao:
     
  3. Paulster2

    Paulster2 My VTEC Won't VTEC...

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    I'm not sure I know what you're pointing at here? I put quite a few things on the car, lol ... radiator, tires, timing belt, water pump, thermostat, was replacing the head gasket (well, actually replaced the head gasket, then after looking some more at the camshaft, decided to just get a JDM engine). Going in: JDM engine w/ ~50k miles on it, new motor mount, new stage 2 clutch. Yah, the clutch is definitely OVERKILL, but for less money than a stock clutch kit and new flywheel, it was a no brainer. Got it from a well rep'd company out of CA. I'm sure there's a lot of import guys who buys from this company all the time.

    If I've not filled in all of the blanks, let me know!
     
  4. Tony

    Tony Administrator Staff Member

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    You had stated that you had "put a new Honda", then gave a price but never said what it was that you "put" lol. I think, after reading all of the text around it, you meant you put a new thermostat in it direct from honda. Below is the full paragraph, the quote is at the end of it.

     
  5. Paulster2

    Paulster2 My VTEC Won't VTEC...

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    I updated, thanks for the catch :)
     
  6. Tony

    Tony Administrator Staff Member

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    Hey, when I can catch a typo from you, I take full advantage lmao. Most of the time I'm wrong though hahaha.
     
  7. Paulster2

    Paulster2 My VTEC Won't VTEC...

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    Just an update on the Honda. I got the new (to me) JDM engine in the car. Wasn't too much of an issue. Right after I got it started, I found a HUGE oil leak. I thought it was the front main seal. Turned out to be the camshaft seal. I had completely torn the front of the engine down again looking for the leak, expecting it down low ... and it was dry. So I started looking. Pulled the plastic cover off which hides the seal to find it had walked out of the bore. No wonder it was leaking!

    I've had the engine in the car for a couple of weeks now. I finally got the oil changed in it, as while I still had an oil leak I was running what came from Japan. The only real issue I've had with it is the new clutch bite really low. I would bet I'm not 2" off the floor pan when it's fully engaged. When the clutch heats up totally (read: gets really warm), it's dragging a little bit. This means its hard to get into reverse and shifting between gears can be a little fun if you don't press the pedal down all the way. It is getting better, though, the more I drive it. I'm sure it's just needing to get broke in. I expected it to have a better bight than the original one, and it surely does have that. Grips very well with smooth engagement (even when hot). I'm really pleased with it.

    The engine has plenty of power (for a 1.7L 4-cyl, mind you, lol). I think I told you all it is a VTEC engine, but I'm running it in non-VTEC mode. Having the valve cover off of it, I really like how the cam is setup on this one compared to the D17A1 non-VTEC head. This one has rollers on the rockers, where the A1 just rode directly on the cam. I've thought about what it would take to get this to run in VTEC mode. I think all I'd need to get is the computer and wiring harness for it. Finding those might prove difficult, though ... well, getting them cheaply, that is.

    The only thing I have left to do is get rid of the old engine. I guess it can go to the auto recyclers. I need to ask them ... I'm sure I'd get $.50 out of it from them. If they'd take it, I'd probably just let them have it. Not worth the paperwork. lol. I guess I could offer it on CL as a core. I guess I'll figure it out.
     

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