Mr. Green Car: 23 years with the same car

By Allen Penticoff
Freelance Writer

This February marks 23 years since we bought our 1992 Honda Civic VX new from Rockford Honda back when they were still on West State Street. It has rolled 220,000 miles in that time, and had many things happen along the way. Following, not necessarily in chronological order, are some of those things and the maintenance issues that have occurred.

It has seen several mufflers and one complete exhaust system, although I did nurse the exhaust pipe along for more than a decade by patching it. Several sets of tires. The latest being “winter” tires I bought online and had installed by a tire shop on South Main in Rockford. I’m very happy to have them now. Who knows how many windshield wipers have come and gone? I have had to paint the wiper arms twice.

I’m about to have its second alternator installed — it having decided to die while at church during the Super Bowl blizzard. By the way, it is possible to drive many miles on just battery power. It took a while for it to dawn on me why the engine was acting up, and the tachometer and speedometer were not working, and the windshield wipers were very slow — it was running on the battery. Barely made it home in the storm.

The transmission has been out for repairs twice. I took it in for a rebuild, then something wasn’t quite right, and the shop had to do it all over again. A new clutch came along with this. I’ve had the clutch cylinder go out twice — leaving me to drive quite a ways without shifting. The trick is that once you get going, you don’t stop. But it IS possible to start a manual shift car in gear and get going, but you may not be able to shift up. I drove 20 miles in third gear the last time.

It is still riding on the original shock absorbers, but they are near the end of their life. The rear ones make clunky noises over bumps. I’ve had almost all the suspension rubber bushings replaced, since they wear and rot out over time. Brakes have gone a long time between replacing the pads and shoes — a job I do myself. I’ve had to replace the drive axles twice. It is do it yourself, but I messed it up once, thought I’d destroyed the transmission and didn’t drive the car for more than a year. It got hailed on while parked outside during this time. I made an insurance claim for that. It turned out the driveshaft was not inserted all the way, and while I paid a professional to figure this out, it was a “whew” moment in that it was not the transmission after all.

The car got walked on by some punk while parked on the street in Freeport. Dented the hood and roof. Both dents are still there. The hood had been replaced years ago when a friend backed his pickup truck into it. That’s when the Tahitian Green paint no longer matched perfectly. I do an excellent job of keeping rust at bay by washing it whenever it gets road salt on it and wiping around all the door edges. Despite this care, the rear quarter panels on these old Civics rot out. I had new metal replaced over the rear wheels and nice paint done by a professional, but they are rusted again. Someone hit the left rear taillight, and that’ll be replaced with used. We came out of Lino’s one snowy night to find the left rear quarter panel either badly keyed by some jerk or a dog with sharp toenails had scratched it. Either way, more damage to deal with.

Another time, we’d parked in a lighted, but unattended, lot during On The Waterfront and came back to find the right door window broken and glass everywhere inside. The face of the tape player and some tapes had been stolen and the dashboard damaged by the big rock that was thrown through the window. I went back the next day and found the tape player face lying in front of where the car had been parked. A used window was found, and I installed it. Insurance paid me for that damage, too.

I had some upholstery work done on the driver seat back where we rub on it as we get in and out. It has held up well. I have had to get new floor mats, and recently tied the one up on the driver’s side so it would cease to slide up and get caught under the gas pedal and hold it wide open. Yikes. You can use a big red-hot nail or rod to melt a hole through the mat — then tie it off to the seat with wire or rope or something.

There have been the usual parts. Fuel and air conditioner pumps to replace, but finding a good used fuel tank in Kentucky saved some dollars when the old one got to leaking from rust. The new tank holds more gas as well, which is good, since it doesn’t get 55 mpg like it once did. It will still get 50 mpg on occasion, but mostly we’re still seeing 40 mpg — about what new cars get.

Our old green Civic is like those favorite old, beat-up shoes you like so much — you just can’t give up on them. They fit. They do what they need to do. And the replacements are no better. So, we keep them. Most folks don’t want to deal with all this sort of trouble and maintenance. But it is family, and we keep taking care of it, and it still keeps on providing us with reliable and inexpensive transportation. It saves on the carbon footprint of someone building a new car for us, too. So, I’ll continue to be “Mr. Green Car,” so long as I can get parts for it.

From the Feb. 4-10, 2015, issue

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