1988 Honda Civic Hatchback Troubleshoot Overheating

The cooling system in your 1988 Honda Civic is designed to give years of trouble-free operation. An overheating problem indicates that either a major component has failed or that the flow of coolant, or air, has become restricted. Overheating conditions should never be ignored as even occasional bouts of extreme operating temperatures will damage internal engine components. Occasionally, an overheating problem can be traced to other areas of the vehicle, such as the brakes or transmission.

Tools Used: Flashlight

Troubleshoot Overheating

Raise the hood of your Civic. Check that the radiator cap and hoses are cool. If they are cool, remove the radiator cap. Look for a damaged seal on the radiator cap. A damaged seal will keep the system from reaching its proper operating pressure and will cause overheating. Check that there is coolant in both the radiator and in the coolant overflow reservoir, which is located on the inner fender. Look for any obvious leaks. Check for any obstructions to the airflow, such as leaves or other debris blocking the radiator fins.

Squeeze the lower radiator hose with by hand. If it collapses easily, this is a sign that it is closing during the intake of coolant and should be replaced. Look for any signs of discoloration around the hose clamps which indicate a leak. Check for any unusual bends or kinks in the radiator hoses. Inspect the radiator hose for any bulges or weak spots. This indicates either a blockage or an internal failure in the hose.

Inspect the fan belt, looking for any signs of slippage, such as glazing of the inner surface. This indicates that the belt is slipping and is not allowing the water pump to operate at its full capacity. If the belt shows glazing, either tighten or replace it. If the belt shows other damage, such as dry-rot or cracking, it should be replaced.

Examine the fan to determine if it is operating correctly. A clutch fan should give some resistance, when spun by hand, while an electric fan should turn on when the engine temperature rises. If the electric fan does not turn on when the engine temperature rises, check the electrical connections and the fuse to the fan. If the fan still will not operate when power is supplied to it, replace the fan.

Locate the water pump on the front of the engine and inspect it for any leaks. Some water pumps will seep coolant when they are failing mechanically.

Replace the radiator cap, start the engine and allow it to reach operating temperature. While keeping your hands away from the fan, feel the upper radiator hose. If the hose will not warm up, it indicates that coolant is not returning from the engine. This points to a stuck thermostat or a malfunctioning water pump.

Note any recent work done on the vehicle and if the overheating condition existed before the work was done. Brakes that have been adjusted too tightly and clutches that slip will also contribute to overheating. If any work has been done to the ignition system, check the timing of the distributor. Timing a distributor with too much advance will cause a vehicle to run hot. If the vehicle is an automatic, check the transmission fluid level as a slipping transmission will cause an engine to overheat.

Tips & Warnings

Keep notes of all work done to your vehicle. This allows you to see how certain modifications can affect the vehicle.

If the vehicle is overheating, turn on the heater; this will put more coolant into the system and cool the engine down temporarily.

Never open a radiator cap when the radiator or hoses are hot. Severe scalding can result.

Keep hands away from moving belts and fans. Remember that electric fans can turn on even if the engine is not running.

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