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Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) #5114027
05/23/19 09:44 PM
05/23/19 09:44 PM
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 1,621
Seattle-ish, WA
Oro_O Offline OP
Oro_O  Offline OP

Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 1,621
Seattle-ish, WA
So about a week at I asked here for some tips about a used 2003 civic, a first car for a 16 year old. A neighbor has one to sell on behalf of a friend who moved to Alaska. Got some good advice. Today I drove it and inspected it closely (pulled plugs, put it on jacks and crawled underneath, etc.). If we get it I'll go find a good Honda forum to ask specific questions - but for general stuff I always get good answers here I have found. I know cars but not Hondas. They were asking $1500 which is close to private party Edmunds price for a clean car that needs little ($1400 they said), BUT car prices around here are usually way above "book" prices (Seattle). Looking on CL there isn't anything in price like this, or it needs more work.

Since the owner is gone, complete story is unknown. He was a recent immigrant from Russia they were helping get on his feet; he bought the car from a mechanic who had it for several years was the story (inspection supported that). Even were he here, I'd not learn much more I think. 182k, Silver LX w/cloth interior and auto. Per some advice from my 1st question, I dug deeper into the AT on these and found the 01 and 02 ones had issues, but the TC was redesigned by 03 and it's not as prone to issues. This is an 03 I verified on the title (clean, not salvage or anything).

Good things I found:
- minimal evidence of body repair, front end at some point (new lower valance and re-sprayed hood and fenders, LF headlight newer than RF based on some yellowing in it), decent quality job.
- Quality NGK laser platinum plugs looking perfect. Peak inside oil fill cap shows what valve train I can see is super-clean.
- Tight suspension, looks like new 1/2 shafts, struts, and LCA's at some point, bearings, ball joints, tie rod ends all tight, new sway bar bushings.
- Evidence of mild oil leak in the past but new valve cover gasket, so likely no more.
- All fluids look ok and not totally ignored. AT fluid was clean and correct color, not totally worn.
- No bad tears or stains inside, can clean up OK, just replace the center armrest cover (latch broken and a little stained).
- No codes, pending codes, etc.
- AC works acceptably and all climate control all ok.
- Brakes felt good, front rotors not that old, pads have good life left
- Car drives nicely, with good suspension, steering, AT works perfectly.
- New tires, only 5k on them (budget all season tires - "Caldera"? or something). Borbet alloy wheels.
- Can clean up and look decent inside and out; body issues minor, paint ok, interior OK.
- Observation: Someone has done quality maintenance/upkeek on this car for a while.

Negatives:
- Car does not rev past 5,500; stutters (red line is 6,800). I do not think they even knew this as you wouldn't normally wring it up to that rpm.
- Some minor body dings, nothing terrible - long but thin dent on driver's door the worst. Not terribly noticeable.
- Unknown Timing belt history (might be able to get ahold of prior mechanic owner; not sure if I can).
- Central locking system has a problem - Key won't turn in driver's door. System works from inside car though if I manually pull the knob.
- Driver's seat rocks slightly. Maybe a broken mount? could not see and did not remove lower trim to fully check it out.
- Air bag light is on.

I am thinking to negotiate a little and address the issues. Here's what I think and would like ideas; I have to figure out totally what I need to do as money is really tight and insurance is going to hurt a lot. He won't get a license for 6 months so I have plenty of time to address things.

Rev/stutter - I think it's a partially clogged cat, but not positive. I saw this in a friend's Accord I fixed, it was a solenoid in the variable valve control body BUT that consistently and immediately through a code. There are no codes. Cars I have seen with cat issues, it comes on more gradually; this is more abrupt. It kinda feels like a rev-limiter; I'm not sure on this issue. Replacing the cat on this engine does not look very hard and I'll go price one, but have to figure out exactly what is going on.

Central locking - probably not a big deal, an actuator or something, but confused why the key won't turn.

Seat - Worst case I imagine is a cracked mount ear; pull seat and get it welded (I don't weld unfortunately. I should learn - maybe I'll make this the reason).

Airbag - I assume it has an airbag in it - I didn't pull the cover. I guess the airbag deployed when the front was damaged. Have to figure this out and I'll have to get advice on how to figure this out.

Timing Belt - if I can't get the history, I can pull the cover and eyball the belt and wp and guesstimate it. Given the obvious good maintenance I am guessing it has been done once and is not way over due. If it comes up on my watch I have no trouble doing that.

If I can solve the things I found, this seems a good car to me, as someone has done a lot of the things that need done at this mileage. I really don't think I can get anything as decent close to this, or it would need even more work. Also, does anyone know the best Honda forum for asking advice?

Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: Oro_O] #5114032
05/23/19 09:49 PM
05/23/19 09:49 PM
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 8,397
USA
slacktide_bitog Online content
slacktide_bitog  Online Content

Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 8,397
USA
Doesn't seem much better or worse than other cars in that price range.

Is that won't go over 5500 rpm when in park, or actually when driving? Some cars do have an earlier cutoff for cars in P

The car is probably worth it and as good as any other car in that price range.

Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: Oro_O] #5114033
05/23/19 09:50 PM
05/23/19 09:50 PM
Joined: Feb 2014
Posts: 3,091
Bushnell Optics Store KC KS
Marco620 Online happy
Marco620  Online Happy

Joined: Feb 2014
Posts: 3,091
Bushnell Optics Store KC KS
At 1500.00 I would buy it and do the regular drain and refills along with timing belt/waterpump. All cars have issues even those at Barrett Jackson I imagine.


15' Civic 1.8 i-vtec 246,000 mi Redline oil 0w20, BP transmax cvt fluid & Archoil9100
Certified Glock Armorer
Say no @ redheads,drugs,& gummi beers
Son of a Navy Corpsman. Support vets!


Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: Oro_O] #5114035
05/23/19 09:52 PM
05/23/19 09:52 PM
Joined: Feb 2014
Posts: 3,091
Bushnell Optics Store KC KS
Marco620 Online happy
Marco620  Online Happy

Joined: Feb 2014
Posts: 3,091
Bushnell Optics Store KC KS
Around here a truck that runs at minimum will fetch 2 grand.


15' Civic 1.8 i-vtec 246,000 mi Redline oil 0w20, BP transmax cvt fluid & Archoil9100
Certified Glock Armorer
Say no @ redheads,drugs,& gummi beers
Son of a Navy Corpsman. Support vets!


Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: Oro_O] #5114038
05/23/19 09:56 PM
05/23/19 09:56 PM
Joined: Dec 2014
Posts: 477
Minnesota
2010Civic Offline
2010Civic  Offline

Joined: Dec 2014
Posts: 477
Minnesota
The airbag light would be my biggest worry. They can be hard to figure out.


2010 Honda Civic LX
Valvoline SynPower 5w-20 - Napa Gold oil filter
59,992 miles
Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: Oro_O] #5114042
05/23/19 09:59 PM
05/23/19 09:59 PM
Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 1,127
Mississippi
TheLawnRanger Online content
TheLawnRanger  Online Content

Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 1,127
Mississippi
I agree with the others. You could likely use the negatives to get 2-3 hundred off. However, the asking price sounds fair.


2011 Impala
2012 Colorado
Oil: 5w30 synthetic
Filters: Wix 51522 for both
Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: Oro_O] #5114043
05/23/19 10:00 PM
05/23/19 10:00 PM
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 4,808
Wet side WA
JohnnyJohnson Offline
JohnnyJohnson  Offline

Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 4,808
Wet side WA
BUT car prices around here are usually way above "book" prices (Seattle).

Yes but you have to understand in Seattle a car in tent city is a status symbol.


2004 Corolla 132497
Out: EDGE EP 5W-30 Bosch 3311 7156 Miles
In: Havoline Pro DS 10w-30 Purolator PureOne 3-14-19 129693
2006 Duramax 74906
Out: T6 5W-40 M1-303
In: T6 5W-40 XG9100 73705 4-22-18
Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: Oro_O] #5114046
05/23/19 10:05 PM
05/23/19 10:05 PM
Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 1,029
Maryland USA
rubberchicken Offline
rubberchicken  Offline

Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 1,029
Maryland USA
Check the title- it might be a salvage or reconstructed vehicle, so that is a $$ ding, possible negotiating point. As a first car for a 16 year old, it needs to be disposable: most kids are going to tear it up in the first 6-18 months.

Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: Oro_O] #5114067
05/23/19 10:22 PM
05/23/19 10:22 PM
Joined: Mar 2014
Posts: 3,975
NJ
Leo99 Online content
Leo99  Online Content

Joined: Mar 2014
Posts: 3,975
NJ
I use the rule of 10 cents per mile. At $1500, if you get 15000 miles out of it, you've done good. Therefore, if the car will go 15000 miles, those imperfections are not a big deal.


Without data you're just another person with an opinion. W. E. Deming

2003 Corolla 250,000 miles (RIP)
2004 Corolla 125,000 miles
2004 Rav4 370,000 miles
2015 Camry 70,000 miles
Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: Oro_O] #5114087
05/23/19 10:58 PM
05/23/19 10:58 PM
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 432
Atlanta, GA
pezzy669 Offline
pezzy669  Offline

Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 432
Atlanta, GA
The seat rocking was a common issue on the 7th gen even when they were brand new, I imagine there were some owners that either did not notice it or just overlooked it. I test drove brand new '02 Civic EX coupe with ~17 miles on it where the drivers seat ever so slightly rocked back and forth during shifts, acceleration and braking. Drove me up the wall. Felt like an old school desk chair with a couple of the screws holding the seat down were a turn or two loose.


2012 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI - 66k
2011 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI - 46k
Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: 2010Civic] #5114099
05/23/19 11:12 PM
05/23/19 11:12 PM
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 1,621
Seattle-ish, WA
Oro_O Offline OP
Oro_O  Offline OP

Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 1,621
Seattle-ish, WA
Originally Posted by 2010Civic
The airbag light would be my biggest worry. They can be hard to figure out.


That is my biggest worry, yes. I can sort the rest. I actually don't think the airbag deployed. The wheel wear matches everything else, it's not a lot newer. And the front body work is not that old, and it's well done so likely insurance and they would have covered the airbag correctly. I can't have him driving around w/o an airbag.

I agree with most all comments. The title is clean, btw. The rev thing happens in gear or in N sitting still. I took a video of it w/my phone and will see if I can link it. And that seat rock is not dangerous, but dang it would drive me crazy. I know I can fix it somehow.

It can be a really decent, respectable car and still cheap enough to meet that "disposable" criteria, so that has me pleased.

Last edited by Oro_O; 05/23/19 11:30 PM.
Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: Oro_O] #5114104
05/23/19 11:30 PM
05/23/19 11:30 PM
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 432
Atlanta, GA
pezzy669 Offline
pezzy669  Offline

Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 432
Atlanta, GA
Originally Posted by Oro_O
Originally Posted by 2010Civic
The airbag light would be my biggest worry. They can be hard to figure out.


That is my biggest worry, yes. I can sort the rest. I actually don't think the airbag deployed. The wheel wear matches everything else, it's not a lot newer. And the front body work is not that old, and it's well done so likely insurance and they would have covered the airbag correctly. I can't have him driving around w/o an airbag.

I agree with most all comments. The title is clean, btw. And that seat rock is not dangerous, but dang it would drive me crazy. I know I can fix it somehow.

It can be a really decent, respectable car and still cheap enough to meet that "disposable" criteria, so that has me pleased.


Don't forget to look to see if Takata airbag recall has been done, if not you might luck out in that one of the inflators is causing the airbag light and the replacement airbags may fix it. Might be worthwhile to find someone who can read the airbag module to see what is causing the fault.


2012 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI - 66k
2011 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI - 46k
Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: pezzy669] #5114123
05/24/19 12:39 AM
05/24/19 12:39 AM
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 1,621
Seattle-ish, WA
Oro_O Offline OP
Oro_O  Offline OP

Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 1,621
Seattle-ish, WA
Originally Posted by pezzy669


Don't forget to look to see if Takata airbag recall has been done, if not you might luck out in that one of the inflators is causing the airbag light and the replacement airbags may fix it. Might be worthwhile to find someone who can read the airbag module to see what is causing the fault.


I will have to see how to scan the airbag codes, I just read on a forum that was possible somehow.

I think I have a good guess now, though. I did some googling, apparently it's probably not the airbag that is the issue, it's the seat belt, or possibly a connector. There's a sensor in the female end of the buckle, and it lights that off if the seatbelt isn't fastened. They fail quite a lot. There's an open recall on this, so you can go get it repaired at a dealer free. Apparently it's a real nagging issue and the fix is poor - some people said they've had it done three times.

Another person said their light was on because there is a seat position sensor in the driver's seat. It has two yellow connectors under the seat and if they are disconnected, this also lights this light. When I was trying to see why the seat rocked, I looked under the seat and I did notice two yellow connectors, not connected. I assumed they were for heaters or some option not installed, but wondered why they were on the underside of the seat and not coming out of the floor (made no sense). I bet that's it, or the belt sensor like many others. I'll check the Takata issue, too, good point.

So that just leaves the 5,000 cut out to figure out; I bet that's easy for someone who knows these engines. I'll post the video on a Honda forum somewhere and once I have that.

This is the car:

[Linked Image]

Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: Oro_O] #5114125
05/24/19 12:45 AM
05/24/19 12:45 AM
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 9,883
Phoenix
dishdude Online content
dishdude  Online Content

Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 9,883
Phoenix
That's a really clean $1500 car. That will sell fast.


2018 Challenger SRT 392 PUP 0w-40 Wix 57899XP
2018 GTI
Re: Help me evaluate this used car inspection - 2003 Civic LX (Long post) [Re: dishdude] #5114142
05/24/19 01:25 AM
05/24/19 01:25 AM
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 1,621
Seattle-ish, WA
Oro_O Offline OP
Oro_O  Offline OP

Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 1,621
Seattle-ish, WA
Originally Posted by dishdude
That's a really clean $1500 car. That will sell fast.


It's not being advertised yet so we don't have to jump instantly. The (proxy) seller is a close friend and will wait to hear what we say.

More sleuthing and I think the rev issue may be solved - oil level. I played the video on my phone and saw it was a hard stop at 5k, which I didn't notice as precisely while driving. Also, the cat idea didn't play well in my mind after I looked at the plugs, and also the tail pipe was pretty clean, I couldn't see enough oil ever burning to damage the cat that badly even in 180k miles.

I googled "civic 5k rev limit" and saw that is "limp mode" which is an ECU cut-out if Vtech codes present, oil pressure too low, in neutral/park (as someone said above), or oil level too low. I have no codes and no oil pressure light, and it did it both driving and parked. But when I looked it over hard after I got back, I noticed the oil was a tad low (just below the low mark). I topped it up but I didn't try revving it hard again. Apparently oil just a bit low will trigger the cut-out. I'll try that on Sat. when I have a chance again and hopefully we are good.

If those work out, then it leaves only the central locking to sort out besides some cosmetic issues. I know the locking can be annoying but is not bad. So if I can get the belt/airbag light off on Sat and rev it fully, then we are good to go. I mean, we'll probably take it anyway; I just want to know what I need to fix and costs.

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