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2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) #5106450 05/16/19 12:04 AM
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Oro_O Offline OP
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I looked briefly today at a reasonably priced, pretty clean 2003 Civic, DX 4dr auto, as a potential 1st car for step-son turning 16 later this year.

My questions are if there are any known issues with this vehicle, and if it's a reliable auto transmission? I'm not a Honda guy. I went this afternoon to take a quick look at it to see if it was worth coming back and really looking harder - jacking it up to test the steering and suspension joints, pull some plugs, etc., etc.

It has 182k, new-ish tires, recent brake discs, very modest body wear and no signs of serious repair. Engine bay was clean, fluids looked maintained; really a pretty nice looking vehicle for the miles and age. Cars in the PNW can do that with maintenance. It started well, idled smoothly, no smoke and very clean inside the tail pipe. Signs of an old oil leak from the head down the back of the block, but new vcg so not currently, it appeared. Steering rack and things all very clean and dry. I didn't drive it; we will come back and do that and poke harder. I was ambivalent when I heard about it, but after a brief going-over, it looks really solid.

A friend (very good, honest, trusted friend) is selling it for another friend of theirs who moved away to Alaska. It was reportedly owned previous to that for a long time by a mechanic, and it does have that appearance to me; it looks as well maintained as our cars. wink I am thinking it could be a cheap starter car for a new driver and reliable enough. I don't mind replacing things here and there, but just want to know what I am getting into and really what to now what the rep is on these engines and transmissions since I don't know Hondas in detail. I really don't want to face a transmission issue, new cats, or some big headache in the few years he'd use before we move him up to something bigger/nicer/etc.

Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: Oro_O] #5106465 05/16/19 01:16 AM
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The Critic Offline
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The 01-05 Civics are somewhat prone to head gasket failures. You can find some info about this online if you wish.

But for the right price and based on the condition you are describing, it sounds like a good buy to me.


2011 Toyota Prius 1.8L - 195K - Idemitsu ZEPRO Adv. Moly 0W-20
2007 Honda Accord 2.4 - 138K - Mobil 1 EP HM 5W-30
Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: Oro_O] #5106472 05/16/19 01:27 AM
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cjolson140 Offline
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The D17 is an interference engine, and somewhat known for blowing the head gasket if overheated even a little, but otherwise is alright. It has screw/locknut tappets for easy valve adjustment, or at least the d17a1 does, not sure about the VTEC version. If the cooling system is kept in good shape I wouldn’t be concerned about it.

Common suspension wear items include front lower control arm bushings, and rear “radius rod” bushings that throw the rear camber out. Nothing hard to deal with.

The A/C typically plugs up the orifice tube, which is sort of a pain to replace. I can’t vouch for the automatic transmission, don’t have any experience with it.

Overall they’re pretty solid cars that get good gas mileage, just a little harder to work on than older Hondas. If it has a good service history I wouldn’t turn it down.

Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: Oro_O] #5106581 05/16/19 07:08 AM
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supton Offline
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Wife had an '01 and it needed a/c work every other year, from new, and around the 8 year mark the dealer said it needed a complete new system. We were done fixing it by then and traded off after 10 years.

It blew an axle one night. It was dark and I wasn't in a position where I could work on it, so off it went to the dealer. Only recently I came across a SMA video with a Civic with a blown axle... in the vid the axle rusted in half. There is (was?) some sort of rubber dampner on the shaft which trapped salt and rotted the axle. Now I wonder if that was the issue.

Outside of a/c I guess it wasn't a bad car. Gutless and lots of road noise (but what can I say, I had a Jetta at that time). Set of wheel bearings and cat back exhaust around 150k. Oh, it did need an airbox and oil pan around that same time. Ours was a manual, so no issues with that. Wife still misses that car.


2011 Toyota Camry, base, 2.5L/6MT, 187k, hers
2010 Toyota Tundra DC, 4.6L/6AT, 153k, ours
1999 Toyota Camry LE, 2.2L/4AT, 209k, his
Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: Oro_O] #5106595 05/16/19 07:38 AM
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diyjake Offline
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2001-2005 had some issues with automatic transmissions problems.

Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: Oro_O] #5106638 05/16/19 08:14 AM
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maverickfhs Offline
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We had an 03 LX, it was a really good and bullet proof - before it started to burn oil because of a separate issue.

As long as timing belt has been replaced and ATF(drain and fills) were done, it should be a reliable car.

Make sure no overheating, HG is a known weak point too.

LCA are a known failure point, typical wear of other suspension components as well.

Good Luck thumbsup


2006 Civic EX 205K/AT
2006 Acura TSX 187K/AT
2007 Accord VP 151K/AT
Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: Oro_O] #5106652 05/16/19 08:27 AM
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JeffKeryk Offline
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As others have said, there can be head gasket issues. I took care of one for a friend; he overheated the engine due to a worn radiator.
Probably had 250K miles at the time.
Otherwise, if the car has been serviced regularly, it is a 300K mile long runner.


2018 Tesla Model 3, Medium Range Battery
2018 Lexus RX450h
2013 Lexus GS350 F Sport
2006 Acura TSX
2001 Tundra Access Cab, 1998 Accord LX, 1968 Corvette L36 Roadster, 1965 Olds 4-4-2
Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: diyjake] #5106793 05/16/19 11:02 AM
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quint Offline
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Originally Posted by diyjake
2001-2005 had some issues with automatic transmissions problems.


^^ This. I know two people who had issues. One I helped replace the trans with a rebuild, the other junked the car. Both did have fairly high miles though.... but this era of Civics was known for transmission issues anyway.

Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: Oro_O] #5106802 05/16/19 11:14 AM
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2010Civic Online Content
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The 03-05 transmissions are better than the 01-02's.


2010 Honda Civic LX
Valvoline SynPower 5w-20 - Napa Gold oil filter
59,992 miles
Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: Oro_O] #5106822 05/16/19 11:39 AM
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The Critic Offline
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The good news is that the head gaskets are a lot easier to replace in comparison to newer 4-cyl engines.


2011 Toyota Prius 1.8L - 195K - Idemitsu ZEPRO Adv. Moly 0W-20
2007 Honda Accord 2.4 - 138K - Mobil 1 EP HM 5W-30
Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: 2010Civic] #5106832 05/16/19 11:49 AM
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diyjake Offline
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Originally Posted by 2010Civic
The 03-05 transmissions are better than the 01-02's.


Actually I think the 04-05 transmissions are the better than 01-03's.

Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: Oro_O] #5106860 05/16/19 12:20 PM
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JeffKeryk Offline
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Do a simple spill and fill and most Honda transmissions run a looooong time.
Anyways, that's my experience.


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2013 Lexus GS350 F Sport
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2001 Tundra Access Cab, 1998 Accord LX, 1968 Corvette L36 Roadster, 1965 Olds 4-4-2
Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: Oro_O] #5106881 05/16/19 12:54 PM
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EdwardC Offline
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We had a '01 LX in the family for many years, sold it last year or the year before that. The engine and transmission (auto) were still going very strong. We did try to keep up with regular maintenance, including ATF drain and fills. The only issue we had was that there always seemed like there was something that needed replacing in the suspension. Went through a lot of LCA bushings, sway-bar end links, etc. Always seemed to make some noise over bumps for the last few years. It probably needed new struts, but we chose not to replace it and just kept driving. Got great gas mileage.

Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: Oro_O] #5106900 05/16/19 01:15 PM
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spavel6 Offline
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I would check on the insurance premium for a Civic, as it is the #1 or #2 most stolen car in the PNW. The other being the Honda Accord.

Of course, you could consider getting liability only, but then when it gets stolen, you'd be the one on the hook.


2003 VW Jetta Wagon TDI 198k M1 5W40 TDT
2001 VW GTI VR6 250k T6 5W40
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Re: 2003 Civic pros/cons (2001-2005 generation) [Re: Oro_O] #5106975 05/16/19 02:51 PM
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Get a manual transmission. Much better than the auto. I've had a 2002 EX and a 2003 EX, both 5-speeds. Had to do a head gasket on the 2003 but other than that they were both great.


2010 Honda Civic LX
Valvoline SynPower 5w-20 - Napa Gold oil filter
59,992 miles
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