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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Bummer! My beloved 2000 Insight, with 285K on it (182K of it mine) was on the road when it started showing extreme overheating - 2 bars into the red, then 3 (the max) after pulling over and shutting off the engine as soon as possible. The next day, drove it in two short stints to a dealer, not getting into red, and cooling off between legs. Dealer says the radiator is all blocked up, and it looks like someone put Stop Leak in there, gunking it up (said they saw gunk in the overflow resevoir and the radiator itself). They also say the compression measures 160 on one cylinder and 55 on the other two, so they kindly offered to drop a used engine in there for only $4500 (plus new radiator costs)! Uh, no. Now, on the way to the dealer, it did run unevenly, and with significantly less power than usual. But, I've never put anything like that in the radiator in the time I've had it - could it take 185K miles to manifest? And, 160 seems high for a compression number to me, can anybody verify that's a real number? A friend will help me tow the car home tomorrow, and I'll do my own compression check, but unless the dealer's totally bogus, I'm looking at a radiator replacement, and probably a head removal and valve replacement. Given that I agree the radiator looks bad, I'll start by replacing that (needing to use, evidently, the "magic burping procedure"), but I haven't done an engine rebuild in exactly 40 years, although I'm comfortable enough doing another one, and I still have some tools. But, not sure if (a) I can do the valves myself (I sorta doubt it), or if one needs special tools (I think so, like a valve spring compressor, and/or a valve guide removal tool, or what else?), (b) if I should just take the head to a machine shop, and if so, whether I should supply them the parts, or ask them to get the parts themselves, and (c) whether, with 285K on the engine, it would be reasonable to just do the upper end (valves) and leave the lower end alone, or whether I should consider checking and possibly replacing the main and rod bearings, and rings, as well. A new head assembly runs something like $900 from one source, which seems high, but not sure how high costs of rebuilding the one I have could go. Finally, if the head shows up warped, would that change things significantly (I suppose I could check for that myself)? Does anyone have any guidance (and/or commiseration)?
 

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Swap in a used engine.

Update your profile to include your location, might be a fellow Insighter near by willing to assist.

Scott
 

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Dave, since you have done head jobs before, you know what is involved. If you are lucky, it will only be a head gasket. More likely, the head is warped. That can be resurfaced by a good machine shop. There is likely one close by. Not sure Honda endorses resurfacing, check the Service manual.

When you repeat the compression check, make sure someone is inside to press the throttle fully open. Closed throttle can make a ton of difference in the readings.
 

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chicken or egg.

the engine may well have been compromised with a blown head gasket
and that is why the bar's leaks is in there.

I like the stuff as pump lubricant...

if the engine was ok before the over heating...
you can try a new headgasket and I'd guess you have a good chance
to fix the problem.

buuuut you have to get in there to look at things.

thus my advice is to get a replacement engine
and if you feel ambitious do the engine work
after you get the car going again.

... I never did fix my old 86 civic engine after I swapped it.

victor
 

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dont go with them for that used motor. $4500 is WAY over priced!!! Brand new is only $4856
 

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There also is a 3rd option and the option I have been using.

Fix whatever parts you can fix easily, ignore the real problem (especially if its major), add some MMO to the fuel tank and drive her into the ground.

With my car using higher octane fuel coupled with a little MMO seems to stop the racket stumbling and missing.

Then when the thing finally goes boom, keep driving till it stops altogether.

On these type of end of life problems its never worth trying to fix it ahead of time unless you have the full means and time to do so.

If it runs for more than a few days its should give you time to locate a properly priced replacement engine, once yours is out on blocks you can take your time to fix it (if its repairable)

Cheers
Ryan
 

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Sounds like a blown head gasket, perhaps warped head now, oil leaking into coolant and gunking-up, and now low compression - normal compression is about 195psi dry with I think less than 10% variation across cylinders... Various things could have caused the over heating - bad water pump, clogs, maybe a failing head gasket/oil in coolant/then clog, etc...
 

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1. perform a compression test after the engine warmed up or after it has reached operating temperature. make sure the throttle body is fully opened while performing the compression test. it is not unusual to measure high cylinder compression. what you are trying to find is the % difference between the cylinders. or you can do it with the engine cold but readings might not be accurate

2. if you happen to have considerably low cylinder pressure on whichever cylinder, add a small amount of motor oil in that cylinder and perform another test and see if theres a change in the reading.

3. if you want to further diagnose the problem, perform a cylinder leakdown test and you can narrow down your problem even further and more precisely.

4. remove your spark plugs and inspect it. do you see if anyone one of them looks alot white/lighter than the others? if you are burning coolant in one of the cylinders, that particular spark plugs will have a color variance.

5. with the car running, put your hand over the tail pipe and check if you feel alot of water/coolant releasing into the air. if you have a severe headgasket leak, your hand will feel very moist when you hovering your hand over the tail pipe.

6. make sure you diagnose and find the problem first before you start taking things apart. you dont want to do extra work and spend money if you dont need to. only get the head resurfaced after you have checked that it is not flat. unless it is not severe, you wont need it to get resurfaced. have a reputable machinist examine it for you

7. remove the valve cover and see if you have any milky residue inside. if you do, that means the cylinder head has a hairline crack where the coolant jackets are at. easier to replace the cylinder head at this point.

8. if you see dark motor oil residue in the coolant reservoir tank or inside the radiator, the headgasket blew

9. check for leaks and burp the system

these are in no particular order. do the easiest first and work your way down to the most difficult
 

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With those miles on the engine I think I would shop around this forum for a low mileage (under 100k) used engine and swap the engine.
 

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Dave, since you have done head jobs before, you know what is involved. If you are lucky, it will only be a head gasket. More likely, the head is warped. That can be resurfaced by a good machine shop. There is likely one close by. Not sure Honda endorses resurfacing, check the Service manual.

When you repeat the compression check, make sure someone is inside to press the throttle fully open. Closed throttle can make a ton of difference in the readings.
I'm with jime. I would pull the head and give a visual inspection. Have the head checked for straightness, deck if needed and replace the HG. I haven't looked into it yet but there may be other headgaskets available in the marketplace at that are available in varying thicknesses.
 

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OK, I did a check of the service manual. The maximum resurfacing limit is .008" or 8 thousandths. This approach is certainly a lot easier than changing out an engine.

Of course, you don't really know how hot it got, so you could also be dealing with ring or valve damage. Head repair is not a certain fix but, since you know how to do it, I'd take the head off and have it checked.

Not sure whether the Insight is your total transportation and that would figure into the equation.
 

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Just saw this thread. I'm with KLR3CYL and Need4Speed. Swap the engine.

The head is most likely warped and while you can machine the bottom to be flat the cam journals will stay out of alignment so the cam will bend every revolution. Sure, Honda says that such and such mm runout is acceptable but realize that the journals for the cam are the aluminum of the casting of the head itself- bare aluminum – no steel and the cam is steel.

The price for a head and the price for a complete engine are not that different seeing as the heads go and the bottom end doesn't.

Is there a machinist out there who could put some steel into those journals?
 

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Cast iron on Aluminum is an acceptable bearing combination. Many cars, including some BMW's, use the combination.

.008" is apparently acceptable cam flex for the Insight in Honda's opinion. I don't argue with the manufacture. I'm more concerned that the rings or valves are also damaged, and that certainly argues for a engine replacement. I'm only saying that since the OP know how to do the job, it seems sensible to at least pull the head and look. Would be a waste if it was just a blown head gasket. JMHO
 

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Yes, if you have the time, check for warpage before buying anything.

The Original poster asked how. Well, briefly use a straightedge and criss-cross every way while trying to slide a feeler gauge under the straightedge. It MUST be a straightedge not a piece of wood or a common ruler.

But I have found that overheating causes the head to bow up in the middle. If that happens you can try to find a head and replace it but you need to know the cause so you aren't into the same pickle all over again.

Engines are relatively cheap for now. That may change but given that the cost of the engine isn't much different than the cost of the head plus head gasket plus head bolts (if you replace those), then the entire engine seems like a real upgrade to the original high mileage engine.
 

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Does anyone have any guidance (and/or commiseration)?
Yes. To be perfectly honest with you, I would swap the engine out with a lower mileage salvage unit.

It is not cost effective in time or money to rebuild an engine yourself nowadays, unless you have a very rare application. A lot of money for parts and machining services. A lot of time. And yes, your time is definitely worth something here. More than you realize. Dropping the power-train assembly and switching out engines is going to be way cheaper and quicker than messing with the cylinder head and trying to get all that goes with it right.

With a hoist, you should be able to do the swap in 3-5 hours if you work diligently. I've done it, so I know. Without a hoist, give it a weekend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Thanks to everyone for the great advice, and yes, retepsnikrep, thanks, better blocking and layout would be helpful (trade you for some commas). ;-)

I didn't actually tell all the original story, for brevity (or what passes for it, with me). It originally made knocking noises on the highway (which I thought might be from lower-octave gas than I usually buy, when they were out of higher grades), but I didn't notice whether the temperature gauge indicated overheating. I babied it for a mile or two, minimizing the knocking by slowing down and minimizing the loading, then took the first exit, where it stalled at the stop sign, after which I pushed it to a safe place, and called my wife for pickup (2 hours south of home).

While waiting for pickup, I tried to start it again after about 45 minutes, and it did start (so not seized, yay), but wouldn't run on its own, unless I gave it some gas to keep the revs up to 1000+.

When I got it home (in a separate rental operation, since my tow-capable vehicle had meanwhile thrown an alternator light), I found that the plastic around two of the three (#2 and #3) coil hold-down bolts had gotten hot enough that the hold-down bolts had pulled through the plastic, and #3 wasn't even on the plug anymore. So, I took a couple of slightly longer bolts, with washers and lock washers and cinched them back down, then tried to start it, just in case that's all it was (unfortunately, not yet asking the question of how the plastic melted). That seemed to work fine, since it started up, and ran relatively normally (it was not particularly smooth, even before). I waited for the warmup high idle to subside, and when it dropped to the normal 1000 RPM, and seemed OK, I said Yay, parked it, and went back to normal life. This, in hindsight, was a Bad Idea.

When I had filled up with the low-octave gas, I had checked the oil, and it needed a quart (hey, it's got 285K on it), but I was carrying a quart of 0-20, so I knew the oil level was good, even after the unexpected event. But, I didn't check for normal cooling system operation after I got it home, and it seemed to be running OK. Yes, even though the plastic had obviously gotten hot. Sigh. Note to self for the future.

So, the next day I headed out to go somewhere, got about 7 miles down the road, and then saw the temperature gauge two bars into the red. I pulled over almost immediately, stopped the engine, and saw the gauge go up to 3 bars (the max) after stopping it. The day after that, I drove it in two stints, about 3+ miles each, to the dealer, with a cooldown in between.

The dealer service rep said on the phone the radiator was blocked, and that it should also be replaced (as they dropped in their recommended $4500 used engine, I suppose!), but I'm not sure if he thought he "saw me coming" or what, because when I picked up the car (with a friend and a tow-capable vehicle), the mechanic said the top radiator hose had split, and that's why it overheated. Not exactly a blocked system.

Regardless, the car's now home, and after I got the mechanic at the dealer to tighten the coil hold-down bolt he failed to tighten (so I could barely start it and limp it onto the tow dolly), and now that I've now tightened the spark plug in the good cylinder that he also failed to tighten (what, really?!), I'm ready to warm it up a bit (without overheating it) and do a compression test. Thanks to jime and J.K. for reminding me about opening the throttle. Not sure I've done a compression check since carbeurators (only recently gave up on my '86 Corolla), and don't really see that the mechanism involved with injection is the same as with a throttle butterfly valve, but will defer to your more current expertise. I'm not worrying about the cooling system right now, since evaluating the engine seems the priority.

The consensus from your-all's input seems to be that if things are bad enough, that dropping in a used engine makes more sense than repairing the head, so thanks to KLR3CYL, bibendum, rmay635703, Need4Speed, and rhall for that advice (and please forgive me, if I missed someone). Particular thanks to J.K. for a great list of items, to rhall, for reminding me I can use a precision straightedge to check for warpage, and to Working Honda, for reminding me that time is important, as well as money.

I have checked the prices, and one source is ready to sell a complete head assembly
for about $900, but I also know I can probably get an engine for somewhere around that price, maybe even delivered, for not much more. So, yes, if I can trust the mileages that are quoted for the used engines, that does seem to be a better longer-term option. And, I am indeed thinking long-term. My first Honda Civic was given away, still running, with 411K on it, and the second was sold at 285K.

Thanks to some for their cautions about ring or valve damage, and yes, I know the trick to put oil in the cylinders for a second compression test, to see if the rings are implicated. And, yes, jime, thanks for checking, I do have other transportation, but only now that I've replaced the hood release cable on my '90 225K Miata (the first year, with the keyway Lock-Tite fix for Mazda's shameful short-nose crank design flaw), and unplugged and re-plugged the voltage regulator feedback wire that was erroneously lighting up the alternator light on my '96 250K Escort (yes, rigged for towing). I'm never entirely comfortable unless I have a primary and a secondary car (in addition to my wife's), so I was Freaked Out when all three cars (and a motorcycle) were down at the same time! And, the Insight is supposed to be my main car. Guess I'll have to drive the Miata with the top down most of this Spring (don't throw me in that briar patch!). But, I digress.

Just one more question (OK, for now). I do not have a full-blown hoist. I could probably rig, borrow, or even buy an engine-hoist, but I haven't done an engine replacement since the days of Volkswagens and two scissors jacks (for any that remember those halcyon days). Hmnn, actually, that's not true - I did my old, low MGB since then, with an engine hoist. So, if it does turn ugly (like the valves being burned or worse), and it seems like, at least economically, an entire used engine is both a better long-term prospect, and maybe a more straight-forward repair, is an engine replacement something that can be done from the top of the car?

Thanks so much!
 

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It's actually better to take it out as an assmembly (engine & trans) from the bottom.

Scott
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
Well, I figured that, Scott, thanks, since it's what the shop manual specifies. But, I don't know how I can possibly get the car up high enough to get it out that way. So, I'm just wondering if it's even feasible, if a pain, from the top.

I could probably find some non-dealer outfit or person who could replace the engine from the bottom for me, but I'm not particularly wild about a non-Honda-certified person doing the work. For instance, the manual says you need to disconnect the lower ball joints, which requires their special tool (I've only been able to find that tool available for something like $225+). So, if a person or shop doesn't have that special tool, what are they likely to do? Use a fork-style tool, and damage the seals? Start whanging away with a hammer on my aluminum suspension parts? Those are both the way people (including me) did it in the old days (and it worked, on the old cars). But, not my idea of a good time on the Insight!

Actually, now that I think about it, this is the reason why I was originally thinking more along the lines of only doing the top end - because I don't see how I can get the entire engine done, without either paying someone an arm and a leg, or not being able to trust the car to their not-so-tender mercies. Hence, my question about being to get the engine done from the top. I'm wondering... is it even doable that way?

Has anyone replaced the engine from the top, or am I not thinking about something properly? Is there some way for me to get it done at home from the bottom, with only jack stands, ramps, maybe cinder blocks, and maybe an engine hoist? Should I break out my old Volkswagen scissors jacks (ok, kidding)? Heck, I can't even get it driven up on the ramps without taking off all the skirts underneath. Not sure how to proceed, in that eventuality. I do still need to check the compression and head to see what's indicated, but I'm also trying to look ahead, and I can't see a feasible path for an engine replacement, unless I can do it from the top, or with some as-yet-unidentified procedure from the bottom with the equipment I can reasonably muster.
 
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