Refreshing an 02 Civic EX - Honda Civic Forum

Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Old 01-14-2019
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Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Hello all, new to Hondas and the the forum. My oldest stepson was gifted a Civic for his first driver and we are going to freshen it up to hopefully make a reliable daily driver. He gets his license at the end of the year so we have some time. He will be out in the garage turning wrenches and hopefully learn some things in the process, im sure I will as well.
The car is an 02 civic ex, sedan, auto, 251K. We were told the car was overheating and blowing the cap of the overflow, so HG is most likely blown. I drove the car a few minutes home...got hot but not pegged, no heat, suspension and steering needs work. Needs front tires. Shifts well, stops well. Needs some exhaust repair as well. The car is pretty clean and looks decent though so we will throw some money and work at it.

Shortly after getting it home I determined the fans were not kicking on, so I jumped the plug for the fan temp sensor in the thermostat housing and they ran constant. So a faulty fan switch is what was likely the cause for the initial overheating problem. The coolant smells of exhaust and is a bit dark, exhaust blow most definitely. Once the cooling system was full I did have heat for a bit but after a few test drives lost heat and coolant was overflowing again, that is all I need to know about that. Did a compression test and had right around 170psi all across, so bottom end should be good.

I would like to keep it under 1K total...
HG, TB, WP, incidentals(probably deck the head, valve job?)
Possibly the Radiator
Suspension, Steering, Alignment(struts, LCA's, BJ, TRE, Sway links)
Front tires( maybe all four)
Check brakes and fluid
Trans Fluid change
Exhaust repair
Drivers rocking seat repair


We got started tearing into it yesterday. Initial plan is Head Gasket, Timing Belt, Water Pump. And all the stuff that goes along with that(plugs, fluids, filters, belts). Got a decent amount of disassembly done, hardest part was the intake side. The electrical stud broke off the alternator so I guess a new alternator is in order. I was amazed to find the drivers side balljoint did not have a nut on the bottom, I cant believe I drove it like that!!!

Going to order some parts tonight, mostly RockAuto and Ebay. I will try to buy decent quality but cant justify buying OEM everything for this car, Id have way to much money in it.

Here are some pics...












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Old 01-14-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

The lack of a nut on that balljoint is frightening,
Strongly suggest getting oem parts for the head gasket, timing belt, tensioner, and water pump
and use oem fluid for the trans.
Just take the head to a good machine shop and see what they recommend.
We've had people post on this forum that the aftermarket headgaskets and timing belts fail extremely prematurely sometimes less than 1k miles.
Alternator you're better off getting on from a scrapyard rather than getting a crappy rebuild from a parts store.
Other than that car looks good you and your son should have some fun with it
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Old 01-14-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Discolored coolant likely from some “stop leak” type product put in by PO.

Valve train looks too clean.
Either they changed that oil weekly, or it’s been pulled out and cleaned up prior.

Maybe they repaired head gasket leaking once, and now that’s it leaking again they gave it away.

Indeed a fun project.
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Old 01-14-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

plugs, use the OEM NGK (can be from parts store).
Leave the radiator in for now, no need to try and can be done later.
sad to say, but i pulled the head with the intake in it - there was no need to remove it before pulling the head... Should help on putting back if you install the intake on the head out of the car.

the absence of the nut in the ball joint is... nuts!

EX? I see the VTEC solenoid there
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Old 01-29-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Well finally getting back at it. My father recently passed so things have been difficult, however being in the garage turning wrenches was his favorite place...so keep on keeping on.

My stepson and I spent a couple hours in the garage the other night. The goal was to get the timing belt and head off, then we can see all kinds of fun stuff. Of course I am not being detailed in this post so it is not an instructional, just wanting to show progress and get advice along the way.

We removed the power steering bracket, engine mount, crank bolt and pulley. Timing covers. Loosened the tensioner, removed the timing belt. Then loosened the headbolts slowly in reverse sequence, and the head lifted right off. That was our goal for the night. Next step is to clean and stay organized while the head is sent to the machine shop. Here our a few pics, sorry I am not the best at documenting my work. Questions to follow

Head off engine

Cylinder 1 is cleaner than the rest, exhaust blow?

Suspected exhaust blow at cylinder 1.

Head off engine, still have some things to remove. What all should I remove before taking it the machine shop?

Bottom of head. I used an aluminum straight edge and it seemed flat, but Ill let the machine shop determine that. How can I tell if it has been surfaced before and is there a tolerance I need to be concerned with?

Old head bolt(top) New head bolt(bottom) They are a bit different, thoughts?

Lower timing belt cover. Apparently the last person that removed it just decided to break the thing off, Ill be getting a new one.

New head gasket has a pinhead size piece of the embossing flaked off. Its not on an edge, but not sure if thats ok. Thoughts?

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Old 01-30-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

My thoughts are, if it’s already defective and you don’t seem pressed for time, why use it and risk all the time and efforts to go back in a replace it with a good head gasket?
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Old 01-30-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Please use an OEM head gasket at the vary least. "Buy once cry once."

No need for valve job, as the valves are already broken in and bedded to the head. Just make sure to keep them in the same order they came out.

Good luck 😁
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Old 01-30-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

What is the oem supplier or brand name to look for with honda? I'm a Toyota guy so aisin or denso is what I'm used to.
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Old 01-31-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Denso for sure, for sensors.

I'm not sure for the head gasket.
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Old 01-31-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Originally Posted by fishon1213 View Post
The car is an 02 civic ex, sedan, auto, 251K. We were told the car was overheating and blowing the cap of the overflow,
Did you first check to see if the radiator cap was defective by buying a new cap and then see if that helped alleviate the engine overheating? Afterall, getting a new radiator cap is not wasted money. My radiator cap looked like new, but it was defective. From my experience most DIY garage mechanics have a habit of always delving into a worse case scenario instead of first checking out the possibility of a simple fix ... even if the head gasket is showing signs of the beginning of an external leak (you said oil looked clean indicating possibility of NO internal engine gasket leak).
Originally Posted by Colin42 View Post
Just take the head to a good machine shop and see what they recommend.
We've had people post on this forum that the aftermarket headgaskets and timing belts fail extremely prematurely sometimes less than 1k miles.
Originally Posted by Slumpertcivic View Post
Maybe they repaired head gasket leaking once, and now that’s it leaking again they gave it away.

I have the same 02 Civic EX (146K) and so far HG is ok, but it's failure is supposedly only a matter of time. My local Honda Service Adviser said that that particular engine design (02 Civic Ex) was "notorious" (his word) for eventually having a leaking head gasket.

Very important to get a couple opinions from machine shops that plane heads to find out whether it's necessary to have that Honda head planed, a waste of money, and/or any other tricks when you reassemble head to block. Also agree that you get an OEM head gasket. Talk to Honda Parts Mgr about head gasket. Perhaps Honda came out with an improved head gasket for that engine.

This project is a great learning experience (due diligence) for both you and your grandson (e.g. when not to skimp, when to buy OEM and when to visit a U Pull R Parts salvage yard).
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Old 02-04-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

I'm doing the exact same head gasket job to my daughters exact same car, even the color! Keep posting any issues you encounter. I've done a lot of the little disassembly work, but I will pull the head one evening this week.

My machine guy said I have to remove the cam?? Is that a normal request?
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Old 02-05-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Some shops like it removed so the valves dont get in the way others just move the cam to where they are out of the way.
If you remove the cam just keep the caps and bolts in order so they go back where they came from.

Also either remove or cover up the upstream o2 senor/AF sensor so you dont ruin it with coolant or oil. I did this and had to replace a recently replaced sensor.

Last edited by GusBuz; 02-05-2019 at 02:45 PM. Reason: Added
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Old 02-13-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX


The head is back from machine shop. I took it in pretty much as is, they cleaned, pressure tested, surfaced and did valve seals.
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Old 02-13-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX


Block is pretty clean, plan to reassemble this Saturday.
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Old 02-14-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Originally Posted by fishon1213 View Post

Block is pretty clean, plan to reassemble this Saturday.
Those metal dowels (the two small silver pipes helping to align the head) go in the front holes, in your picture you have them in the back holes.
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Originally Posted by sidefly View Post
Those metal dowels (the two small silver pipes helping to align the head) go in the front holes, in your picture you have them in the back holes.
Thanks, I thought I had that wrong.
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Old 02-14-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Originally Posted by fishon1213 View Post
Thanks, I thought I had that wrong.

I am doing the same thing this weekend.... assuming my gaskets arrive today or tomorrow!
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Old 02-14-2019
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Good work man 😁
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Originally Posted by fishon1213 View Post
Block is pretty clean, plan to reassemble this Saturday.
With our crappy weather here, my gaskets still haven't arrived!!! How did this go for you? Any tips/lessons learned discovered? I'm hoping to get reassembly started later this week.
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Originally Posted by sidefly View Post
With our crappy weather here, my gaskets still haven't arrived!!! How did this go for you? Any tips/lessons learned discovered? I'm hoping to get reassembly started later this week.
We are still not done, almost there though. Probably have about 10 hours labor into it so far. I can only work on it the weekends that my stepson is home because it's all about him learning.
Just have alt/ps, air boxes, and fluids left. Then we are ready to turn the key...can't wait.

All in all pretty straightforward job...
Timing marks are a bit goofy, in my opinion
Alternator is a pita to reinstall

I used a write up for the first few steps but then just went at it. Didn't really label anything. Just took pics and laid it out in the order it came off. And of course follow torque specs.

Best of luck to you. I'll post results asap. Hopefully this weekend if I can get him for a couple hours.

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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

And yes, my timing marks are correct. Turned the engine over by hand to ensure. I just think it's goofy the way the crank marks don't really line up, they are just parallel. And the cam marks are really difficult to judge as well.
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

We got the Honda back together today. Got fluids in and turned the key. Started after a couple cranks. Ran kinda funky for a bit, as expected. After giving the ECU time and slowly filling with coolant she purred well and had good heat. We let it run for about 30 minutes and it carried good temp. We do have an oil leak to deal with however. Pretty sure it's the cam plug. It's pooling by the egr but I can feel oil just below the cam plug. Should be an easy fix, all in all happy with the outcome. Much more work to do. Thanks everyone for the advice and support.
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Re: Refreshing an 02 Civic EX

Originally Posted by fishon1213 View Post
The electrical stud broke off the alternator so I guess a new alternator is in order.
oof! happened to me too, and I warned about it in advance..

We need more threads like this, thanks for sharing!
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