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It’s me, ya boy Kevin, back again with another three-digit basket case of a car to spruce up and put back onto the road. After passing on buying a rusty Honda Ridgeline and an odometer-fraudy Prius, my latest pickup is a 2006 Honda Civic EX. It’s affectionately named “Ms. Dent” by the previous owner, and once you start scrolling through the photos you’ll see why. Bodywork’s not the only issue with the car either; this Civic was among many that brought a class-action lawsuit against Honda.

A Hidden Defect Got Me This Dented Honda Civic for $800
Image: Kevin Williams
A Hidden Defect Got Me This Dented Honda Civic for $800
Image: Kevin Williams
A Hidden Defect Got Me This Dented Honda Civic for $800
Image: Kevin Williams
A Hidden Defect Got Me This Dented Honda Civic for $800
Image: Kevin Williams

Ms. Dent was owned by a well-to-do family in the suburbs, where the car was the kiddie cart for the family’s teenage kids, who must have had very poor spatial awareness. “I stopped fixing the damn thing when they kept hitting shit,” the dad told me. This Civic sedan’s seen better days, with bumps and bruises all over the body, most notably a rusty divot in the center of the passenger side rear door.

The car’s been sitting on the street since wintertime, when it apparently developed a penchant for overheating and was subsequently parked on the street, only to be forgotten about. Now that the pandemic seems to be ending, and Ohio’s pretty much returned to normal, I guess the owner decided it was time to take out the trash and get rid of Ms. Dent.

I found the car the same way I get most of my pick-ups. My poor time management skills and insomnia mean that I’m often writing my Car Bibles drafts late at night. One fateful evening, 3:30 a.m. rolls around, and I’m finally winding down for the night, by scanning the usual suspects for online classifieds. I stumble upon a dented-up Honda Civic with unknown miles and a cracked engine block for $800, listed only 21 minutes prior. I figured “meh, why the hell not,” sent an email, not expecting to hear anything back. The miles weren’t listed, the car looked rough, and the seller hadn’t posted a phone number.

To my surprise, the seller emailed me back at six in the morning. After a quick back and forth, I set up a time to view the car later that day, after I took what resembled a real human-sized sleep. 

When I saw the car in person, it was obvious pretty quickly that there were far more issues than beat-up sheet metal. The tires were bald, the battery was completely flat, and all four brake pads and rotors needed replacement. But, the interior was in good shape (if dirty), and the miles were very low for the year, only 133,000 miles on the odometer. The previous owner’s mechanically inclined neighbor serviced the Civic, and over the winter, he learned the car had a cracked engine block. 

Yeah, these things do that. Back in the mid-2000s, Honda had casting issues on 2006-2008 R-series engines. On higher mile cars, the engine block metal will weaken, and crack, spewing coolant. Thing is, most cars didn’t crack immediately — these cracks wouldn’t form until the vehicle was older and higher mileage. Honda fixed the casting issues by the 2009 model year, but a plethora of NHTSA complaints saw Honda extending their powertrain warranty and offering free engine replacements for cracked engine Civics that were ten years old or less. Ms. Dent is too old, she’s a 2006 car, no longer covered by the extended warranty. Personally, I think Honda shouldn’t have put a time limit on the extended warranty. The Civic has been one of its best-selling vehicles, why couldn’t this enormous company have gotten the damn engine right? If this was any other brand, I think this would have been a bigger scandal. People buy Civics because of their reputation for longevity and reliability; this definitely is a black eye for Honda!

A Hidden Defect Got Me This Dented Honda Civic for $800
She made it a whopping 2.8 miles before overheating. Image: Kevin Williams

Some people who also missed the warranty window try to JB Weld the engine block back together, which is usually unsuccessful. A friend of mine bought a 2007 Civic in 2019; he was able to get Honda to replace the engine under goodwill, despite it being past the ten-year mark. I don’t think I’ll be able to do that, so I’m going to have to replace the engine at my own cost. This isn’t the first time I’ve gone around with a Civic; I purchased a 2006 Civic LX back in 2018 with a cracked engine block.

Since the motor was toast anyway and one more overheat wouldn’t matter, I decided I’d try and limp the vehicle to the mechanic’s shop rather than shelling out cash for the tow. If it blew up, then well, it blew up. With a radiator full of distilled water, and a charged battery, I set off on the 18-mile journey across town to the garage. 

Ms. Dent made it exactly 2.8 miles until all of the distilled water blew out of the engine block, overheating. Oh well — I pulled into a Meijer parking lot and called for a tow truck after all. 90 minutes later, and $155 poorer, the Civic arrived at the mechanic’s shop, where it now awaits an engine. 

Future Plans For Fixing Ms. Dent

On my one short drive, I learned that this car’s transmission is in great shape, the suspension and wheel bearings feel good, everything important (besides the engine) works, and there are no vibrations in the steering wheel. Brakes and tires will need to be replaced all around, but the body damage doesn’t seem to extend below the skin. There seem to be no extreme frame rail or unibody damage, and there are no rust spots on the vehicle that aren’t damage-related (i.e., a rusting dent from a paint scrape). All of the dings appear to be limited to replaceable body panels. I’m not promising a showroom fresh final result, but I think I can get this car to look presentable and saleable when I’m done with it.

A Hidden Defect Got Me This Dented Honda Civic for $800
She doesn’t look so bad from this angle. Image: Kevin Williams

Here’s a preliminary overview of my budget to restore and resell this car:

  • Purchase Price: $800
  • Tax/Title/Registration: $78.50
  • Tow: $155
  • Engine: ~$600
  • Front tires: $136
  • Brakes: $104.90
  • Labor (engine replacement): $600

Total Investment: $2,473.50.

Private-party KBB value for a “Good” condition Civic EX sedan with 133,000 miles is around $4,800. Even with the cosmetic blemishes, the Civic is in good shape, and the used car market is completely out of whack, and this high price is actually less optimistic than you’d think.

I’m earmarking $500 for body damage repairs, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I don’t usually do body repairs, so that will be a big part of the learning experience here.

A Hidden Defect Got Me This Dented Honda Civic for $800
Yikes. Image: Kevin Williams

Wish Ms. Dent luck, y’all. She’s about to be a whole new car in a few weeks.

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