Question about 1990 Honda Civic

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1990 Honda civic si.....overheating...was told that head gasket is shot...done a compression test on all 4 cylinders...all had at least 135 psi or higher...antifreeze is clean..no oil...although overflow smelled like exhaust or minor gas smell..does smoke when first start...could it be a slipping belt.

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  • Mike Butler
    Mike Butler Apr 09, 2011

    Is it using oil or coolant need to be topped up on regular basis? Did you have pressure test on cooling system?

  • mattlonas Apr 09, 2011

    I just bought it...haven't put it on the road yet...want to get everything right before I do...I recently put a top radiator hose on because I noticed antifreeze pooled up in the recess on top of the oil cap...it had to be blowing out from somewhere...and the hose is only about 3-4 inches from the oil cap..I just bought a set of plugs and wires...a alt. Belt...and a valve cover set w/ plug rings...when I pulled the plugs out ...significant amount of oil ....but not near the spark...gonna do all this tomorrow..but after the compression test to the cylinders...we put the old plugs back in and took it for a ride...never overheated that time after 20 minutes of driving....confused is an understatement...any comments would be appreciated...Matt

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  • Honda Master
  • 8,215 Answers

Hi, I have a way to test for a blown head gasket. Since you have good compression, yours would have to be small. Recommend you park on an incline, remove the radiator cap, set the heater on high, start the car and let it warm up until there is flow in the radiator. Fill the radiator and keep it full while the engine continues to run. Look for any bleed ports the system may have either in the hoses or at the attach point housings. Crack any bleeders open to allow any air out. Top off the radiator all the way to the neck and make sure there are no bubbles coming up. Bubbles coming out the radiator are an indication of a blown head gasket.
Please let me know if you have questions, and thanks for using FixYa.

Posted on Apr 09, 2011

Testimonial: "Thanks..ill give it a try...I don't think its the head...idk...thanks again for your time...matt"

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Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it sounds like a bad head gasket between a cylinder and the water jacket.
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How low is it? Usually any cylinder that is less than 75% of highest cylinder compression is a problem. They should all be close to each other for good balance and power. Any cylinder below about 100 psi will be misfiring.
If one is very low, yes, the head will have to be removed to find the problem. Could be a valve not sealing or a head gasket failure. If you want to be certain of what the problem is, you could have a leak-down test of the cylinder done before removing the head. About 100 psi compressed air is held in the cylinder, and wherever the air is escaping points to the problem. A bad intake valve will have the air coming out the intake manifold. A bad exhaust valve will have air coming out the exhaust. A failed head gasket will have air escaping where the gasket lets compression escape, like the radiator sometimes, or sometimes into the crankcase, or sometimes outside the engine where the block and head mate. It's another diagnostic test, if you want to spend the money to have it done.
If the engine overheated, be sure and check the head surface for warping or cracks.

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Have a compression test done on that cylinder. Sounds to me like the rings went bad on that cylinder.

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White smoke is burnt coolant. Take the car in and have a pressure test done on the rad. It's probably going to lose pressure slowly so get a compression test done on the engine. This will most likely show a leaky head gasket. That is the most common cause of white smoke out the tail pipe and could also cause your other symptoms. Hope this helps.

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