These cars come with the following engines:
D14, D15, D16, B18 and 20TD. Faults to look for are:
Blue smoke from exhaust indicates valve stem seals are failing.
Sump gaskets can leak. Check sump and bottom of engine for a lot of excess oil.
Rocker cover gaskets can also leak. Readily available and easy enough to change.
VTEC (B18 engines) there should be a change in engine tone around 4300-4500rpm when accelerating hard indicating vtec is engaging. If not, then most likely cause is the vtec solenoid. It may be just dirty and can be cleaned easily (how to guide in forum) or it may be faulty and need replaced. A more noticeable change in engine tone is around 5800 which is a second butterfly opening. so don't confuse this with the vtec engaging.
Ignitor pack in the distributor can become faulty causing intermittent poor starting/engine stalling. Once it fails completely, the engine won't start and the engine management light may come on.
Gearboxes tend to be durable, although they can suffer from wear on the synchros. Gear changes should be smooth and easy. If not suspect either the synchro's are worn or clutch may need replacing.
Not much is known about the diesel engines due to their rarity.
Brakes are generally good, but be aware that these cars (like most civics) are prone to seized or sticking calipers, both front and rear. These are easily sorted by cleaning/re-greasing the sliding pins, although sometimes caliper replacement will be needed. The handbrake mechanism on the rear caliper is another point of concern and is often seized/stiff. The discs can warp with age, so look for brake judder when braking. The ABS system can also be a real problem. The sensors at each wheel can fail, and replacement (new ones anyway) are expensive from Honda. Second hand ones can be found from around £40 upwards. If the main ABS unit has failed, it's very costly to replace! Over £1000 new from Honda! A second hand unit is usually the way to go here. Any ABS faults will be apparent as the ABS light will be on (check it comes on with ignition and goes off after a few seconds). There's a how to guide with a list of fault codes in our downloads section for this.
Like most cars of this era, rust is now becoming a big issue. These tend to be better than most, but there are key areas to check. The first and most rsut prone area is the rear arches. Check the full length of the arch, paying attention to the area where the arch meets the sill at the bottom, and where the arch meets the rear quarter panel. Both are notorious for rot! Also check the sill where it meets the bottom of the rear arch as the plastic covers, although protecting the sill, can also hide a lot of rust too. Cars needing repairs here should generally be avoided as there are still a lot of good ones out there, so save money on repairs and buy a rust free one!
These cars also sometimes leak at the top of the windscreen. You'll see the top corners of the headlining are wet. This is usually due to blocked sunroof drains, or the bonding around the windscreen has deteriorated. Clear sunroof drains or use silicon around screen, which ever is applicable. Get underneath the car and check the jacking points for corrosion and also the floor.
As standard, these Civics offer a comfortable ride for every day use. Handling wise though, they do tend to suffer from a lot of understeer as standard. The handling can be greatly improved though by a number of ways. First is a swap to MGZS suspension. This offers a reduction in ride height, and much improved handling, reducing the amount of understeer greatly. It also retains a nice comfortable ride for every day use.
Lowering springs and coilover suspension are another way of improving things. There are various makes out there, but one that comes highly recommended by a lot of our members is the MeisterR suspension. It offers the benefits of being fully adjustable for height and stiffness, so a great balance can be found. And with MeisterR being one of our Official traders, discounts can often be had, plus this suspension is tailor made for our Civic MA/MB/MC's.
Things to look out for are:
Knocking from front can be drop links, anti roll bar bushes or top/lower wishbones bushes. If it's the wishbone bushes, steering and handling will be affected and will be quite noticeable. Can also be worn/broken springs/shocks.
Knocking from rear could be rear trailing arm bushes, rear anti roll bar (where fitted) bushes/drop links or worn shocks/broken springs.
Weaving about or a bouncy ride can point to worn shock absorbers. It can also indicate the springs are well worn. Pulling to one side or "tram-lining" can be the tracking is out or worn front wishbones. Pulling to one side may also be a sticky caliper so check when checking brakes
All models come with a variety of trim levels and colours. These are either velour (most models), half leather/velour (VTi, VTiS and Sport models) and full leather (ES models only). All are hard wearing and comfortable, although on half leather/full leather variants check the side bolsters of the front seats as these tend to wear. All have the same dashboard which is a nicely laid out, the only differences being that the VTi/VTiS/Sport models have either a dark ash effect trim inlay or carbon effect inlay. All other models feature a dark/light wood effect trim inlay. This trim also extends to the centre console on certain models.
Most models feature electric front windows, while higher up the range it's electric front and back windows (which usually have a light tint). The higher range models also feature a fully electric tilt/slide glass sunroof.
Things to check are:
Electrics, make sure all electric windows and sunroof work, along with all other switches etc.
Seats, check bolsters for wear.
Carpets, check for damp/wet carpets, especially the front foot wells. This can either be the previously mentioned sunroof drains/windscreen seal, but can also point to the more tricky to sort heater matrix.
Heater! The most common fault is the heater that only works on certain speeds!! It will be the heater resitor pack that's gone. But don't worry, it's a cheap and easy fix with our how to guide!