'97 VW Jetta vs. '98 Civic HX 5 speed part 2?

Hi guys, I did go ahead and purchase the Civic today, after my mechanic looked at it. The car is sound. At 90k it's time to great the timing belt taken care of, and i need a new o2 sensor. About how much will the timing belt run me? Is getting the o2 sensor done an issue that I have to take care of right away? By the way I add on about $150-$200 dollars due to the fact that I live on Maui, sucks but thats real.

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Thanks in advance for your time and thoughtfullness!

Answers:

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I'm not sure what a timing belt job would run (it is something I normally do myself). I do recommend replacing all the associated hardware with the timing belt. Ideally, you would like to just buy a "Timing Belt Kit." The kit should include a new timing belt, tensioner pulley, idler pulley (if any), and some gaskets for the timing cover. The kit may or may not include a set of seals for the camshaft, crankshaft, and balance/intermediate shaft, if any. AutoZone's web site lists the Goodyear Gatorback kit for $91.99 (it lists belt and pulleys, but I didn't see seals). They list the camshaft seal for as little as $4.99, and the crankshaft seal for $19.99. Do some shopping around, you may be able to get better prices on the parts, or maybe your mechanic can get close to wholesale pricing on the necessary parts.

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Change the pulleys and seals with the timing belt because the bearings in the pulleys can wear out and cause engine failure when your engine starts getting up in mileage. The seals can eventually lose their elasticity and start to leak engine oil. Ask your mechanic for a price on changing the timing belt, then ask him to include the pulleys and seals (ask him if he can keep the labor low - negotiate - he probably can't do anything about the parts prices, but the labor, maybe).

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As for the O2 (oxygen) sensor, your car uses 2. Autozone lists one before the catalytic converter, and one after (normal for OBD-II cars, all '96 and newer in the USA and some other countries). Autozone lists different O2 sensors for manual and automatic transmission cars.

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You can jack up your car and put it on safety stands, or drive the car up onto approved ramps and change the O2 sensor yourself. Based on your year, make, model, trim (HX), and transmission (5-speed manual), you can buy two new O2 sensors, and put down a deposit on an O2 sensor wrench. Note which (new) sensor is for before (closer to the engine), and which one is for after (closer to the tail-pipe) the cat (catalytic converter).

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The upstream (before, closer to the engine) one may be in the engine compartment, on the exhaust pipe near the radiator. The downstream (after the cat) one, you'll have to get under the car to access. Unplug (you'll probably have to squeeze a clip on the side of the plug) the wire. Using the appropriate size wrench and a ratchet, unscrew the old O2 sensor. Put a little "anti-seize" compound on the threads of the new sensor and screw it in by hand. Tighten it with the wrench and ratchet. Re-connect the wire. Repeat for the 2nd sensor.

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Water Pump. Look at having your mechanic replace the water pump and thermostat at the same time as the timing belt. On some cars, the water pump is driven by the timing belt, so, to prevent engine coolant leaks, change that too. Moving parts wear out over time. While you're at it, flush and refill the antifreeze and the brake fluid too. Regular antifreeze and brake fluid need to be replaced every 24 months. DOT4 brake fluid (a little higher performance) should be replaced every 18 months. Extended life antifreeze can last 48 to 60 months, easily. You can stagger these maintenance issues out over several months, especially if the previous owner kept up with a proper schedule. If not, you may want to "bite the bullet" and get as much done as quickly as possible.

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Notes: If your MIL ("Check Engine" light) is not coming on, you can probably wait a while to change the O2 sensors. If it is on while you are driving, you'll probably need new O2 sensors quickly (the light should come on for about 5 seconds when you start the engine, then go off - and stay off). Also, NEVER work under a car on the factory jack - they are called "widow-makers" for good reason. Use safety jack stands or a proper automotive ramp or lift. The factory jack is only for changing a flat tire, with the e-brake on, with the diagonally opposite wheel blocked, and with none of your body parts under the car or any part thereof. Actually, I carry a 2-ton floor jack in the trunk of my car - so I very rarely ever even see my "widow-maker."

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The belt $500-$700 replace the O2 sensor yourself it just screws in.
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