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2004 Honda Civic Hybrid with 93K miles & manual 5-speed?
Old 08-05-2011, 09:48 PM   #1
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2004 Honda Civic Hybrid with 93K miles & manual 5-speed?

I've posted this at PriusChat.com but I thought I'd add it here too.

Spouse's '97 Nissan Altima, with 111K miles, is looking at a new A/C compressor and maybe a few hundred bucks of "other" repairs. It was in a 2005 collision and it drives fine today, but I'd estimate its current value at about $600. We bought it over eight years ago (with 58K miles on it) so it owes us nothing. We're looking for a different (not "new") car and we'll donate this one to Goodwill.

Now that we're both retired and empty nesters, spouse drives "her" car maybe 3000 miles per year. I change the oil every six months more out of habit than necessity. A typical drive is 10-15 miles each way or a round-trip errand run of 15-20 miles. The car rarely sees a rush hour. It sometimes sits in the garage for 2-3 weeks between trips.

Her replacement vehicle doesn't need to have a lot of hauling capacity or a hatchback or folding rear seats, and if I had to take the car surfing then I'd use a roof rack for my longboard. She'd prefer a beater car so that she doesn't have to worry about parking lot dings or other wear & tear. (Yes, I'm very fortunate to have such a low-maintenance spouse!) With those criteria, we look for older used cars with higher mileage.

The Civic caught our eye because the owner seems to be having trouble selling it. It's been listed for nearly a month and it's well below blue-book value. Yet he claims that the hybrid batteries were replaced under warranty in 2009 and that the A/C compressor was replaced this year.

Of course we're buying a car with an ICE approaching a 100K-mile checkup, but IMA ICEs probably have much gentler run hours on them. If the batteries and the A/C compressor turn out to be as advertised, are we looking at any other Civic-specific issues? Anyone know how the five-speed transmission's holding up? (Honda has since shifted to a CVT for later model years.) Any other recommendations?
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Old 08-05-2011, 10:12 PM   #2
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In 1978 bought an Accord with 5 speed. In 1992 replaced it with another Accord with 5 speed (wanted a 4dr). In June I bought the wife a new Accord with 5 speed. The Honda 5 speed manuals are excellent. Buttery smooth shifting. Never had a problem with their transmissions or clutches.
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Old 08-05-2011, 10:54 PM   #3
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Just me, but I'd spend the "few hundred" to get the old one fixed. Then, you know what ya got.

I wouldn't touch a used hybrid with the proverbial 10 foot pole. If you don't drive much, you can't save much by buying a hybrid. Why take the risk.
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Old 08-05-2011, 11:11 PM   #4
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Just me, but I'd spend the "few hundred" to get the old one fixed. Then, you know what ya got.

I wouldn't touch a used hybrid with the proverbial 10 foot pole. If you don't drive much, you can't save much by buying a hybrid. Why take the risk.

My feelings exactly. However, NORDS has a Prius and probably has a liking for hybrids. Personally, I like them simple since I due all my own mechanical work. The only time one of my vehicles will see the inside of a repair shop is if it is covered warranty issue.
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Old 08-05-2011, 11:28 PM   #5
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I have a similar attitude. However, my perception of my ability to diagnose and repair a hybrid is extremely low. I don't even want to try.
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Old 08-05-2011, 11:42 PM   #6
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Not to pile on but I wouldn't own a new much less used hybrid, Honda or not. I have owned Civics since about 1988 or so and all were 5 speeds and never had a bit of trouble with the tranny but it sounds like this is a different tranny. Hondas are excellent cars, very economical and very dependable. I've had 3 Civics all used and I'm about to purchase my 1st Accord used.
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Old 08-05-2011, 11:48 PM   #7
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Go to the Honda service site and take a look at what they recommend for the 100K service.... probably at most a tune up, replace fluids and a timing belt...

And if you want to take the chance.... don't replace the timing belt... if you get the car cheap enough who cares.... and I know someone who is over 150K on their timing belt... so 3k per year leave you a potential 'till it dies' time frame....
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Old 08-06-2011, 10:33 AM   #8
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The Honda 5 speed manuals are excellent. Buttery smooth shifting. Never had a problem with their transmissions or clutches.
After the first year or two, the hybrid Civics dropped the manual in favor of a CVT like the Prius. That's easy to do with hybrids but there doesn't seem have been any problem with the manual, either. One driver on PriusChat complained about issues with a bearing, but if there's a problem then it's audible and we'd figure it out on a test drive.

One concern seems to be that a 1.3L engine with only one electric motor is still pretty low on power. The best way to sort out that situation would be to head up into the Ko'olau on H-3 and see how it does on that grade.

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Just me, but I'd spend the "few hundred" to get the old one fixed. Then, you know what ya got.
What I fear we got is a dead A/C compressor. For the last month the car's been making an intermittent howling moan at low RPMs that's gradually died off as it speeds up. Not easy to troubleshoot an intermittent problem like that, although it might no longer be "intermittent". I suspect a new A/C compressor (and system overhaul) will approach $1000-- nearly double the charitable deductible value of the vehicle, let alone actual cash value.

The other issue is electrical-- the dashboard "battery" and "brake" lights both illuminate upon startup and stay that way for the car's first few miles. Not a problem in itself but a disquieting harbinger.

Oh, and the radio's CD player is dying too. Spouse sees this as even more annoying than a lack of A/C.

Ironically the car's collision damage has been the least of our concerns, but I wouldn't sell it with that issue.

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I wouldn't touch a used hybrid with the proverbial 10 foot pole. If you don't drive much, you can't save much by buying a hybrid. Why take the risk.
Your 10-foot-pole philosophy is why the owner's having trouble selling it. I think I know enough about the situation to see past the public's general perception. Any production problems with the first battery set would've been worked out in the warranty replacement.

We bought a 2006 Prius in 2008. Paid top dollar for it, but it's been the second-best car we've ever owned. The entertainment value has been very high, and it's the world's best car for a new teen driver, but I'd rather have a plug-in model. Until plug-ins are showing up on Craigslist more frequently, this Civic seems like a good price-to-value ratio.
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Old 08-06-2011, 12:39 PM   #9
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One concern seems to be that a 1.3L engine with only one electric motor is still pretty low on power. The best way to sort out that situation would be to head up into the Ko'olau on H-3 and see how it does on that grade.
I drive a 2008 Civic Hybrid. It won't win any drag races, but it has plenty of power to merge easily onto the highway and pass when you need to. If you see me going slow up the hill, it's not due to lack of power, but because high speed (or especially acceleration) up a hill kills your gas mileage. As you note, however, the best thing is to drive it and see for yourself.

I've got 91,000 miles on mine now and it's running great. I have done all the scheduled maintenance myself.
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Old 08-06-2011, 10:10 PM   #10
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Well, the Altima decided to take pity on us this morning and help with the troubleshooting. No longer intermittent!

Yesterday when I was driving the Altima downtown (about 20 miles from home) the A/C just died. One minute it was blowing cold, the next it was blowing warm & moist. I did my business and drove home with the windows open like 90% of Hawaii's residents, who for some reason seem to prefer loud road noise to A/C. In retrospect I had no idea how close I came to getting stuck on the side of the highway.

This morning I started the Altima to see if I could stuff any refrigerant into it, and the A/C cranked right up-- blowing freezing cold. Wouldn't take any R134 and seemed fine. We shrugged our shoulders and spouse headed off to her Saturday-morning volunteer gig.

10 minutes after she left the house she phoned home: "The Altima's broken down." She only got five miles before the entire electrical system shut down-- radio, A/C, and engine all went away at once. She coasted down to a side street and parked it. I drove over in the Prius, got her to her volunteer gig with five minutes to spare, and had some time to think about the Altima while waiting for her to finish.

In retrospect the alternator could be dead. That would explain the weird occasional moaning/howling noise that dropped off at higher RPMs. It might even explain why the dashboard "brake" and "battery" lights were both illuminated at the same time. (Because the battery really did have a charging problem!) If the alternator finally stopped charging the battery then the battery would drain itself to maintain the car's voltage, and would eventually start dropping that voltage. That might cause the A/C to trip off (low voltage?) before the car's coil quit sparking the plugs.

We bought a new battery at the auto shop and went back to the Altima. The car was still totally dead-- wouldn't even try to crank or turn on the dashboard lights. I put in the new battery and it started right up, so we drove it home. Both dash lights are still on, but that's because the alternator's still not charging the (brand-new) battery.

Spouse says she's done. She's unloaded all her possessions from the car and is completely through fear, anger, denial, bargaining, and acceptance.

The new alternator is $230 plus about $75 labor and maybe another $25 for a belt. We're seeing if any of the neighbors want a cheap beater (the old collision damage, while not unsafe, renders the car worthless). If they want it then we'll get the alternator fixed, they'll reimburse us, and we'll sign over the title. Otherwise we're donating it to Goodwill for them to tow away and fix their own alternator. Our daughter doesn't want a car on campus because it's a hassle and all her "friends" will pester her for rides.

We found three Civic Hybrids and three Priuses on Craigslist. The 2004 Civic ad's been up for a while and he hasn't responded to our e-mail yet. We're taking a look at a 2005 Prius in a couple hours. It's a year older than our current one but it has nearly 20,000 miles less. Carfax says it's OK. $17K is at the high end (and more than double the 2004 Civic's price) but we're in no hurry to buy.

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I drive a 2008 Civic Hybrid. It won't win any drag races, but it has plenty of power to merge easily onto the highway and pass when you need to. If you see me going slow up the hill, it's not due to lack of power, but because high speed (or especially acceleration) up a hill kills your gas mileage.
I'm with you-- I just set the cruise control at 59 MPH and let the electronics do the rest.
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Old 08-06-2011, 11:00 PM   #11
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Stateside, a rebuilt alternator from Autozone is $140; O'Reilly's is $150; RockAuto is $140 and up. It is very task to replace the alternator. Even a Mechanical Engineer can do it without previous training. (I can say that, also an ME in an earlier life). I would change it myself and keep the Altima.
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Old 08-06-2011, 11:19 PM   #12
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Stateside, a rebuilt alternator from Autozone is $140; O'Reilly's is $150; RockAuto is $140 and up. It is very task to replace the alternator. Even a Mechanical Engineer can do it without previous training. (I can say that, also an ME in an earlier life). I would change it myself and keep the Altima.
Nords is probably too tactful to mention that Hawaii became a state over half a century ago... Me too, so I won't mention it either.

Nords, good luck in your car search! Sounds like you have quite a few good possibilities.
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Old 08-07-2011, 12:59 AM   #13
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Stateside, a rebuilt alternator from Autozone is $140; O'Reilly's is $150; RockAuto is $140 and up. It is very task to replace the alternator. Even a Mechanical Engineer can do it without previous training. (I can say that, also an ME in an earlier life). I would change it myself and keep the Altima.
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Nords is probably too tactful to mention that Hawaii became a state over half a century ago... Me too, so I won't mention it either.
I haven't checked local prices, and I don't know if Nissan hand-carves its alternators from blocks of gold, but we usually pay a hefty premium for shipping from (as we call it) the Mainland.

I've busted my share of knuckles on that car, but the issue here is having a trained mechanic someone who really knows what they're doing confirm my troubleshooting and let me know what else is wrong. I might've nailed it but I won't know for sure until the new alternator is in, and then all I'll really know is whether I managed to make the car run again. I think the $75 labor is far more valuable than the price of the alternator.

So far the biggest frustration in a used-car search is casting a net and waiting for one of them to return your calls/e-mails.
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Old 08-07-2011, 09:31 AM   #14
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Have you considered an electric car? That would be a fun project for you, and we could watch. The driving profile sounds ideal. Could you get by with a car that's just one step up from a golf cart?
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Old 08-07-2011, 09:58 AM   #15
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Have you considered an electric car? That would be a fun project for you, and we could watch. The driving profile sounds ideal. Could you get by with a car that's just one step up from a golf cart?
A surf cart!
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Old 08-07-2011, 10:01 AM   #16
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The 2005 Prius is sweet. It's a year older than ours but only has 36K miles compared to our 54K. Almost all the parts are the same and it drives the same. The original owner has been taken taking it to the dealer every six months for oil changes and checkups, and has the records to prove it. Spouse even likes its six-CD audio system (which includes a cassette player?!?), so I don't have to hack in an AUX jack for an iPod. Their price is at the high end but the paperwork & mechanical condition support it.

Civic Hybrid guy better hustle up and answer his e-mail. I don't need to test-drive every car on the island to make a decision.

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Have you considered an electric car? That would be a fun project for you, and we could watch. The driving profile sounds ideal. Could you get by with a car that's just one step up from a golf cart?
I've looked into DIY electric cars, but not for the last couple years. I've seen detailed instructions on '93 Ford Rangers and Geo Metros, and it's more tedious than difficult, but the lead-acid batteries just don't last for more than 2-3 years. The more exotic batteries last longer but their prices weren't cost-effective. Maybe that's changing as Leaf and EV Prius models become more common. If I could get 8-10 years out of a DIY battery then I'd be interested.

We'll probably be Leaf or Volt owners in the next decade or two, but we won't buy new.

I've looked into "golf-cart" EVs, like the ones used in town a few years ago, but I'd never ever be able to go onto H-1 or H-2. Maybe not even onto Kam Hwy, especially not up to the North Shore. I don't spend a lot of time downtown, but it's been a while since I've seen one of those EVs. I wonder how they're doing.

We're getting ready to put a new roof on our familyroom, which will give us more southern roof exposure, and our photovoltaic array has paid for itself. "Someday" after the new roof we'll boost the array to 6-7 kilowatts (by either adding to the old or scrapping it and starting over) and then buy a good used EV or two. That'll save ~$1000/year in gas, even for two 55 MPG Priuses, and at "only" $3.50/gal.

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A surf cart!
That's why pickup trucks make such popular EV conversions-- lots of room under the bed for the batteries, and lots of room in the bed for the stand-up paddleboard.

But a Prius easily holds a 10'0" inside or on the roof, and I'm not going to start SUP until my knees are totally shot.
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Old 08-07-2011, 10:06 AM   #17
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Nords is probably too tactful to mention that Hawaii became a state over half a century ago...
Heck - younger than Nords ...
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Old 08-07-2011, 08:45 PM   #18
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Stateside, a rebuilt alternator from Autozone is $140; O'Reilly's is $150; RockAuto is $140 and up. It is very task to replace the alternator. Even a Mechanical Engineer can do it without previous training. (I can say that, also an ME in an earlier life). I would change it myself and keep the Altima.
Even a Mechanical Engineer can change one out in a remote location, freezing cold temperatures and with cheap, borrowed tools.

Don't ask me how I know that.
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Old 08-07-2011, 09:00 PM   #19
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Even a Mechanical Engineer can change one out in a remote location, freezing cold temperatures and with cheap, borrowed tools.
Don't ask me how I know that.
Spouse has so moved on from the Altima.

It's amazing how big a pile of junk she pulled out of the back seat and the trunk. We have a similar pile re-accumulating in the trunk of the spare parts, the oil/air filters, and the maintenance records.

Turns out that (re-built) alternator is only four years old.
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Old 08-07-2011, 11:33 PM   #20
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I haven't checked local prices, and I don't know if Nissan hand-carves its alternators from blocks of gold, but we usually pay a hefty premium for shipping from (as we call it) the Mainland.

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