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Second Generation Legend (1991-1995)

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Old 02-23-12, 09:11 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Blown Head Gasket - Questions / Should I Repair?

In August I noticed my car (1994 Legend LS - 164k miles) had a rough idle in the AM. The car never overheated.

My mechanic ran a hydrocarbon test and found 900ppm. Instead of doing the head gasket job, he used some type of ceramic sealant. It seemed to work as the next hydrocarbon test showed less than 3ppm and the car has been running normally.

A few weeks ago, I began to notice the coolant level dropping. My mechanic says coolant is now leaking near the water pump and the hydrocarbon test is up to 50ppm

I plan to keep the car a few more years, if not longer, and am weighing my options. The car is garaged, in excellent shape, has been very reliable and currently gets around 21 mpg.

I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area and am getting quotes of $1800 - $2500 for the head gasket job. Does this sound like a fair price? Instead of doing the head gasket, should I consider replacing the engine with a rebuilt? Or, maybe this is the beginning of major issues and I should consider selling it?

Any information or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!


Eric
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Old 02-23-12, 09:36 PM   #2 (permalink)
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You will get plenty of advise on how to proceed. LOL Here's mine: For about the same money, you should be able to replace the engine with a low-mileage 3.2 - or 3.5 from Japan. Apparently, emission and safety inspections every 2 (iirc) years are tough, and as the engines age, it becomes more difficult to pass. So, 3.2 and 3.5 engines - many complete with alt/ps/ac/starter, and mileage around 50,000 - for $5-600 to $1200. With the labor, you should be able to have it done for almost the exact prices you are being quoted for just the head gaskets - maybe even less.

If it was my car, my decision would be based on whether I could find a competent mechanic that is not trying to fund his kid's college tuition from my car! GL!
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Old 02-24-12, 03:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The JDM 3.2 engines are a bit more expensive but you should be able to find one for around $1000-1200 shipped (type I or add $200 for type II). Check eBay or your local CL to see if anyone has a JDM C32A engine available. Since your mechanic put crap in your engine the only way I would go is to replace the engine. Since you are in CA and have strict smog, go with a replacement of the same engine if you want to keep it. More than likely your leak is caused by the "stuff" your mechanic put in as it has started to plug up the water pump and passages.
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Old 02-25-12, 02:34 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I got my engine from enginesus on ebay (came with a 6mo warranty) for a hair under $900 shipped. I did the swap myself tho. I later ended up getting a tranny from them too. I went this route because my original engine had 160k miles, and I have always been told that if you rebuild the top end on an old engine, the lower end will give out sooner than later. How true that is in today's engines... I don't know. Either way, I liked the thought of having a low mileage engine with a 6 month warranty!
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Old 02-25-12, 10:40 AM   #5 (permalink)
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You might consider what you would do instead of repair/replace. What would you hope to get for $2500-$3000? It won't compare to a Legend in "excellent shape." My '91L coupe has about 280,000 miles on it. HG was replaced around 260,000, and it runs better than ever. Salt air and rust are my enemies, not mileage. GL.
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Old 02-25-12, 02:57 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LowPSI View Post
You will get plenty of advise on how to proceed. LOL Here's mine: For about the same money, you should be able to replace the engine with a low-mileage 3.2 - or 3.5 from Japan. Apparently, emission and safety inspections every 2 (iirc) years are tough, and as the engines age, it becomes more difficult to pass. So, 3.2 and 3.5 engines - many complete with alt/ps/ac/starter, and mileage around 50,000 - for $5-600 to $1200. With the labor, you should be able to have it done for almost the exact prices you are being quoted for just the head gaskets - maybe even less.

If it was my car, my decision would be based on whether I could find a competent mechanic that is not trying to fund his kid's college tuition from my car! GL!
LowPSI, thank you for the advice. I was not aware engines could be purchased from Japan, or that it was even an option. My concern would be finding a mechanic willing to do it, and not knowing the history of the replacement engine. Would there be any type of warranty with such an engine? I also wonder if a mechanic would offer any type of warranty for such work?


Thanks again,

Eric
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Old 02-25-12, 03:01 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by ari_one View Post
The JDM 3.2 engines are a bit more expensive but you should be able to find one for around $1000-1200 shipped (type I or add $200 for type II). Check eBay or your local CL to see if anyone has a JDM C32A engine available. Since your mechanic put crap in your engine the only way I would go is to replace the engine. Since you are in CA and have strict smog, go with a replacement of the same engine if you want to keep it. More than likely your leak is caused by the "stuff" your mechanic put in as it has started to plug up the water pump and passages.
ari_one, thanks for the advice / information. I'll take a look at Craigslist and eBay. A second mechanic, with a good Yelp reputation, suggested purchasing a rebuilt engine, but he was unsure of the pricing (estimated $2,500+ range for the engine) + labor. If I went this route, he would provide a 2 year warranty (parts and labor.) But, for the warranty, he would have to provide all parts.

Thanks again,

Eric
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Old 02-25-12, 03:04 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fastasu View Post
I got my engine from enginesus on ebay (came with a 6mo warranty) for a hair under $900 shipped. I did the swap myself tho. I later ended up getting a tranny from them too. I went this route because my original engine had 160k miles, and I have always been told that if you rebuild the top end on an old engine, the lower end will give out sooner than later. How true that is in today's engines... I don't know. Either way, I liked the thought of having a low mileage engine with a 6 month warranty!
fastasu, thanks for the information! I'll take a look at enginesus. I've also heard the same warnings about rebuilding only the top 1/2 of the engine. If I went this route, I think my biggest issue will be finding a mechanic willing to do the work, and how to deal with any problems that might arise.


Thanks again,

Eric
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Old 02-25-12, 03:08 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boru View Post
You might consider what you would do instead of repair/replace. What would you hope to get for $2500-$3000? It won't compare to a Legend in "excellent shape." My '91L coupe has about 280,000 miles on it. HG was replaced around 260,000, and it runs better than ever. Salt air and rust are my enemies, not mileage. GL.
Hi Boru,

The car is in excellent shape. I'm the second owner (since '99) and it's been garaged since it left the showroom. The interior and body, absent a few scratches, look new. The only issue, outside of the head gasket, is the stereo (FM radio stopped working a year ago.) I telecommute and drive the car only 7,500 miles per year, if that. I'm hoping to get a few more years out of it, and possible giving it to my son when he begins driving in four years.

Thankfully, I'm in Northern California and don't have to worry about the salt air and rust.


Thanks again,

Eric
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Old 02-25-12, 05:31 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The C32A is a robust engine and will be good for another 250.000km after the head gaskets are replaced. If it has never seriously overheated or been running without oil, the engine should be fine.

I have rebuilt several heads of different car models and not a single engine has failed on its bottom. However it is important to replace the head gasket as soon as the engine is burning coolant. Accumulation of coolant in the cylinder will cause a water hammer effect and ruin the bearings and connecting rods. Also, oil contaminated eith coolant damages the bearings. For this reason, the engine oil should be replaced after doing the head gaskets.

If you do the head gasket job including all additional gaskets and seals, you know what you have. If you just install a used engine, the head gaskets might fail in half of a year and you have the same issue again.

Last edited by 4HondaOwner; 02-27-12 at 06:29 AM.
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Old 03-24-12, 02:10 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Update - leaning towards replacement engine

The quotes for the head gasket repair appear to be creeping closer to the $3k range. In fact, most mechanics seem to have no interest in doing it, especially since the car has 160k miles.

I did find one local mechanic with tons of positive reviews on Yelp. He immediately suggested a replacement engine from Japan. He indicated that he buys them from a local importer in the SF Bay Area and they provide a 6 month warranty. The engines have approximately 35k-40k miles. He would have it delivered to his shop and provide some type of inspection there before he installs it. He would use my current intake manifold and other existing items to be certain in can pass CA smog tests. He has installed many of these used Japan engines into Hondas, but has done only a handful of Acuras.

He can obtain the engine for $850 and charges additional $1,150 for the install (including new water pump and timing belt.) Are there any additional services or parts I should request from him?

I'm leaning towards this route, but would like to have a few opinions as it relates to this plan, price, etc. Are there some key questions I should be asking him? I do want to be certain to get the proper engine for my car, so is there a certain engine model I should request? Do I have the 32A or the 32A Type II? What is the difference?

Thanks in advance!


Eric
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Old 03-24-12, 10:08 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ericxv View Post
The quotes for the head gasket repair appear to be creeping closer to the $3k range. In fact, most mechanics seem to have no interest in doing it, especially since the car has 160k miles.

I did find one local mechanic with tons of positive reviews on Yelp. He immediately suggested a replacement engine from Japan. He indicated that he buys them from a local importer in the SF Bay Area and they provide a 6 month warranty. The engines have approximately 35k-40k miles. He would have it delivered to his shop and provide some type of inspection there before he installs it. He would use my current intake manifold and other existing items to be certain in can pass CA smog tests. He has installed many of these used Japan engines into Hondas, but has done only a handful of Acuras.

He can obtain the engine for $850 and charges additional $1,150 for the install (including new water pump and timing belt.) Are there any additional services or parts I should request from him?

I'm leaning towards this route, but would like to have a few opinions as it relates to this plan, price, etc. Are there some key questions I should be asking him? I do want to be certain to get the proper engine for my car, so is there a certain engine model I should request? Do I have the 32A or the 32A Type II? What is the difference?

Thanks in advance!


Eric

Sounds like you've found the solution. $2,000 is the right price and it sounds like they know what they're doing. You most likely have a type I, but look on the front of the intake manifold and if you have a Type II, there will be a badge that says "Type II".

I just bought a 94 LS that had a JDM engine installed for the previous owner, and he paid $2K. There is a garage in FL that advertises $2K for the same swap. The fact that the garage also does the TB/WP tells me they have probably done this swap before. (A few references wouldn't hurt.) It is THE way to go. This swap should give you another 90,000 miles. Best of luck.
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Old 03-24-12, 10:43 AM   #13 (permalink)
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If your car is a coupe it has the type 2 all coupes 93-95 have t2 engines only the GS 94/95 has type 2. GS only is a sedan but the ls sedan isn't equipped with type 2.
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Old 03-24-12, 02:26 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by LowPSI View Post
Sounds like you've found the solution. $2,000 is the right price and it sounds like they know what they're doing. You most likely have a type I, but look on the front of the intake manifold and if you have a Type II, there will be a badge that says "Type II".

I just bought a 94 LS that had a JDM engine installed for the previous owner, and he paid $2K. There is a garage in FL that advertises $2K for the same swap. The fact that the garage also does the TB/WP tells me they have probably done this swap before. (A few references wouldn't hurt.) It is THE way to go. This swap should give you another 90,000 miles. Best of luck.
Thanks LowPSI. I'll try to track down a few references before I commit. Also I don't see any "Type II" badge, so I guess that clears that up. Thanks again.

Eric
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Old 03-24-12, 02:28 PM   #15 (permalink)
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If your car is a coupe it has the type 2 all coupes 93-95 have t2 engines only the GS 94/95 has type 2. GS only is a sedan but the ls sedan isn't equipped with type 2.
Thanks for the advice. I have an LS Sedan and confirmed there is no "Type II" Badge.


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