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Honda Civic Overheating: Diagnosing The Sources Of The Problem

Engine overheating is dangerous in many senses. Not only it is unsafe to drive under this condition but also can cause permanent damage to the engine. The Honda Civic overheating is one such problem that many Honda owners have to deal with. It mostly occurs in models between 1990 and 2005.

Honda Civic Overheating: The Causes and Solutions

The excessive heat in the car engine can warp the cylinder block or head, leading to an expensive repair. There are plenty of components that can cause this 2002 or 2001 Honda Civic overheating issue. We will discuss the most frequent ones:

The Radiator

Replacing the radiator can solve the Honda Civic overheating issue because a clogged radiator causes this problem by not allowing the water to flow properly. Clean the radiator and fill it with antifreeze. Keep the cap open and warm up the car to see if the water is flowing properly. Bubbles in the water indicate a head gasket problem. Otherwise, just seal the radiator with a new radiator cap.

2001 honda civic overheating
Radiator of a 2001 Honda Civic. (Photo Source: anpadeh)

Coolant Leak

If the car is eating up an excessive amount of coolant than it should be, then it must be going somewhere. Figuring out the problem and fixing it will solve the Honda Civic overheating trouble.

The antifreeze can end up either into the ground through a leak or into a component. If you discover small puddles of sweet-smelling liquid on the ground, there must be a leak somewhere. Look into the heater core if you find the passenger floor feels damper than usual or the air in the car contains a high amount of humidity.

The coolant can also get inside the engine, which is really bad news. Use a dipstick to see if the oil looks like a milky liquid. There is nothing to worry if it looks like regular oil. But, a milky color indicates that oil and coolant have been mixing in the engine and you have to replace it to fix the problem.

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Issues with Head Gasket

The antifreeze can go into the combustion chamber too. In that case, there will be sweet-smelling white smoke coming off the exhaust system. Also, the smoke will feel extremely humid when coming out of the exhaust pipe. All these symptoms point to one component – the head gasket.

2002 honda civic overheating
A 2002 Honda Civic. (Photo Source: garagedreams)

Also, a compression test to the cylinders can lead you to the head gasket issue. If you find the pressure in one cylinder is lower than the rest, it must be a bad head gasket that causes Honda Civic overheating by either pumping compression into the cooling system or burning the water in the engine.

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The Thermostat

If you use a sealant in the coolant system, it will likely to have brown gunk that can smudge the thermostat. A sticking thermostat causes boiling the antifreeze and pushes it through the radiator cap, causing the engine to overheat. An overheated thermostat is damaged, so it requires replacement. No matter what the source of the problem is, an overheated engine means the thermostat is already out of order.

1 Comment
  1. Phil McArdle says

    I’m learning the hard way ’01 – ’05 Civics have head gasket issues that do not present normally. I’m a very experienced hobbyist mechanic, and helping my son choose a beautiful 05 Civic EX SE coupe, inspected and test drove the car thoroughly. And in subsequent weeks, my son and I experienced mystery coolant loss/overflowing coolant bottle that was slightly helped by careful bleeding and installing missing clamps on the overflow hose; also replaced thermostat (had been installed with weep hole down), fan switch, radiator cap. Couldn’t be the head gasket: no oil in coolant and vice versa. No bubbles in radiator neck even when revving. No white smoke under heavy load. Radiator pressure test no drop, overnight high pressure barely any drop and no coolant forced into cylinders. Can drive for a week around town, or a day of hard highway driving with no over heat until next day. Going back through PO repair records, found water pump replaced 3x in past 2 years… Eventually diagnosed: only occasionally and only under extreme load/RPM very small amounts of exhaust gas are forced into the coolant, displacing it; then upon cool-down not enough coolant is withdrawn from the overflow tank. Examination of the head bolts showed (3) with actual clearance between the washer and head, but the threads well anchored in the block. Assume washers not hard enough and “squashed;” also impossible to tell if head warped from overheating. New head bolts/washers and 5 extra lb./ft torque improved the situation a lot, but I have a reman head on the way and am replacing head gasket when it gets here.

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