In my earlier post, I detailed how everything was mostly sunshine and roses on our Easter trip. While this was mostly the case.... there were some problems.

(All photos except the first one courtesy of Taylor.)



Honestly, this is where the Civic Wagon still steals my heart. It is incredibly practical. It absorbed my luggage, spare parts, fluids, and tools into the “way back” and left the whole of the back seat for my doggo.

My standard tool bag was slightly too wide to accommodate lengthwise, so I tilted the back seat forward slightly and suddenly it fit!


When I wanted to pet the doggo, I could fully recline my seat into the back seat to give him much deserved pets.


The lack of cup holders, however, is pretty annoying. Also the gas tank is a little small, the windows are manual, and the locks are non-automatic. If you want to get into the rear hatch, you have to press the release next to the driver’s seat. However, if you want to lock the rear hatch you have to use a key on the hatch itself.

Mild annoyances. Overall this car works great ergonomically.


Overall it did really well and my friends were super impressed with how it pretty much trundled along without a care. Having seen what it could do when we took it out to an ORV park, this didn’t really surprise me.


Nor was I terribly surprised that its somewhat weak 7.4" of ground clearance became a problem more than once. That said, when I did scrape, I didn’t seem to damage anything, so that is good anyway. The car’s break-over angle was a problem in a few spots, forcing me to take humps of a certain size at a diagonal to prevent scraping. (That’s a big word for you Lola...)


That said, my narrow track meant I could do that, even on pretty narrow tracks. While the others were shouting “THINK THIN!” over the radio (our standard call-out for a narrow obstacle) I was still playing with the radio or worrying about breaking down, with little to no concern for whatever was troubling the wide boys.

Similarly, my low curb weight meant the soft ground wasn’t really all that troubling. Overall, this meant I could drive around my lower clearance, so to speak, and keep up just fine.


Water crossings, however, weren’t exactly a walk in the park. While the Civic’s intake in pretty far up and back, the alternator hangs down very low. In practice, this meant a couple of times going through puddles the engine wanted to stall really bad. I’m not 100% sure this was an alternator thing, but it seems logical.



This is where the Wagovan really... falls on its face. To be fair to the car, it did the best it could with the mechanic it had available. It’d been off the road for a while, and the gremlins were bound to make themselves known.


And so they did.

The wonky idle

My first problem was a wonky idle that kept getting worse. This, funny enough, was pretty easily solved when the idle jet fell out of the carb. That’d explain a hunting, semi-erratic idle that would get better for a while, then worse.


The problem has not come back since I reinstalled.


The next problem came in the form of gradual overheating. I admit this is partly my fault. I decided to go ahead and do a cooling system refresh prior to the trip and I didn’t have a chance to fully test it.


Especially on the second day, I noticed that my expansion tank was getting... full. Generally one is not supposed to gain coolant, even with the questionable water crossing we were doing. Luckily, I’d seen this before with my Alfa. I don’t know why it happens (maybe someone can chime in) but when the car is cooling off it switches from drawing coolant out of the reservoir to drawing it out of... air.

Either that or I am having headgasket issues.

Or whatever Person B said in the comments.

Either way, pulling off the radiator cap, allowing the radiator to fill back up out of the reservoir, and then recapping seemed to solve the problem until I turned the car off again. Which is... an thing. I have a couple ideas of where the air could be coming from and will be testing it as soon as I could be convinced to give a fuck.


Vacuum leak?

Also... even after putting the idle jet back in, it seemed like I was getting a vacuum leak. I won’t go into too much detail here because my troubleshooting method was flawed, but it seems like either my tune was super off (possible, considering) or I was getting a vacuum leak.


(Un)fortunately, when I got home I was able to confirm the issue was not a vacuum leak, against all odds. Or at least not one my smoke injector thing could detect. That just means I need to go back through the carburetor tuning procedure to set a baseline and go from there.

Well there’s your problem...

Oil Consumption

Weirdly while this might be the most serious of the ailments, it is also the one that bothers me the least. The Civic is burning oil. Not sure where it is coming from, but it is doing it.


I have theories, primary of which is dried up valve guides/ seals, but for whatever reason burning oil just doesn’t bother me. I also know it is losing a fair amount through the filler. I guess the oil cap is worn out enough that it is allowing the oil splashing around in the valve cover to seep out.

(Yes, the breather is working.)

But all of these issues were workable, which was nice, and aside from some squeaky belts and a poorly adjusted heater control valve, the Civic did great bombing around back roads.


The Fate of the Civic

Here is the thing, I am still on the fence about this car. I like it, I want to keep it, and (most of all) I’d hate to see it in the hands of someone who’d be mean to it. At the same time... I have three other problem children to look after...


I think short term it sticks around. I want to try camping in/ with it, utilizing the fully fold flat deck as a tent, and George wants me to try running the K-Trail with it. I think I can live with that.

Though it is slow, I do enjoy driving it, so I am ok where seeing where it goes.

That said, it isn’t without its problems.

The sticky calipers that had me running in circles a while back are still a thing. I should consider just replacing them. Also, while I love how much of a greenhouse the interior is, if I am going to consider driving the car in the summer it is going to need a tint to make the best of the AC.


Thinking about it further, and this is almost certainly my third cocktail talking, that is sort of the problem with having a Honda in the fleet. Though I’ve owned three Hondas in the past, lately my cars have been drifting in the direction of unusual, unreliable, former luxury cars. Like a collection of aged-out porn stars or wealthy lepers or.... some other non-gross/weird analogy. The Honda doesn’t really.. fit in. I’m afraid they’re picking on it after I turn off the lights.

Either way, I look forward to getting it back to 100% and taking it out at least once more to play in the dirt.


Share This Story

Get our newsletter