Honda Civic Engine Overheated – Head Gasket Bad?

Reader Question Austin, Hi, I have a 2000 Civic 1.6L. I drove it way too much while the temp. gauge was in the red and overheated it. I took it to a Firestone dealer. They said the water pump was leaking(which is the cause of the overheating) and the radiator melted to the point where you could not take off the cap.

I approved them to do all the work. They also checked the compression and did a block test which both checked ok. After the repairs the engine ran fine.

I drove 300 miles and it ran hot again. I took it to another Firestone dealer and they said the fans were not working correctly and replaced them. Shortly thereafter it ran hot again and I took it to another Firestone dealer. They said the head gasket was no good causing the running hot.

I have a question. Is it possible for a head gasket to be bad/weak to the point that it would perform OK for a few hundred miles then run hot again?

Thank you,


Hello there Charles,

Take this vehicle to the Honda dealer to get a proper diagnosis. Firestone is great for tires and oil changes but I would NOT use them for anything that required any real mechanic know how or diagnosis. You need to get a “cooling system pressure test” first! This is simple and cheap and can be done while you wait. This test will also test for a blown head gasket.

Yes, the headgasket leak COULD run fine for a while without any troubles, but I have a feeling something else is happening here. Although, overheating this small aluminum engine is NOT good news at all and you would be super lucky if you did NOT do internal engine damage already.

You did not mention anything in your email that would indicate a blown head gasket, but if by chance the dealer suspects that is what is happening you might want to try this suggestion I talk about first before sinking more money into this vehicle

Head Gasket Repair


Austin Davis

Posted in: Over Heating

19 Comments on "Honda Civic Engine Overheated – Head Gasket Bad?"

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  1. Gabriel says:

    STAY AWAY FROM FIRESTORE for mechanic work! I have experienced the same as you, and have heard many stories one after the other, of worng diagnistic. They tak your money, do not resolve the problem, and you waste your time. Worse place to resolve mechnic problems.

  2. rod says:

    i have a 2002 civic the reserve bottle boils over took the termastat out and the reserve bottle still boils over what finds the most stranges is the temp gauge is where its suppose to be meaning not over heating help

    • By Austin Davis says:

      I would make sure the electric cooling fan is working up near the radiator, it should be cycling on and off as the engine heats up. I would also check the radiator for a restriction. These small radiators tend to build up rust and mineral deposits at the bottom rather easily and restrict the coolant flow inside the engine.

      Since the temp gauge on the dash is not showing an overheating issue, either there is a problem with the temperature sending unit that sends the signal to the gauge, or perhaps there is an air pocket in the cooling system and not enough coolant is in the engine to properly read. I have seen this a few times before, so try and rule out the possibility of air being trapped inside the engine/cooling system.

      This video I just made might also be helpful to you to help rule some things out

  3. Tommy says:

    I have a 2002 Honda Civic. Got a pressure test done, no leaks. Replaced the radiator, water pump, thermostate, radiator cap, and sensor. Everything seems to run fine for about a week, then over heats. I noticed the reserve tank is always full to it’s capacity and I noticed coolant leaking from reserve tank lid. Could this cause the car to overheat? please help!!!!

    • By Austin Davis says:

      Yes, I think I would assume that the engine is overheating and boiling over the coolant inside the reserve tank. Check inside the radiator and make sure the coolant level is full. If its not, you probably have a coolant leak somewhere. If the coolant is full, then I would check to make sure the electric cooling fan is working at the radiator. A bad cooling fan motor will cause the engine to run hot at idle and slow speeds, but usually not a freeway speeds where there is plenty of air flowing across the radiator.

      If the engine runs hot at freeway speeds it would indicate that there is either not enough air flow across the radiator, or there is not enough coolant flowing inside the cooling system. This could be due to a restriction in the radiator, a water pump that is not working properly, a coolant leak and there is not enough coolant, the wrong radiator cap (they are sold in PSI increments) a stuck thermostat or an internal coolant leak like from a headgasket.

      I would try to determine WHEN the overheating occurs, then start to rule out the items I mentioned above.

      A radiator cap that does not vent properly will usually cause the upper radiator hose to swell, a rad cap that is venting too much will not allow the system to build up pressure and the upper rad hose will be easy to squeeze together with your hands when the engine is hot. When the engine is at normal operating temp and the cooling system is full of coolant the upper rad hose should be firm and not easy to squeeze with your hands.

      Since you did some pretty major parts replacing I would make darn sure there is no air pockets in the system which need to be bled out. Sometimes letting the engine get to normal operating temp with the rad cap off (while slowly filling radiator with coolant) can remove all air pockets.

  4. mrmonarc74 says:

    thank you and God bless you… i will follow your instruction..
    do you think the engine block could cause it also engine overheating,??? because what i did in my previous repair is i got a well known good cyl. head assembly, and radiator assembly.. . it was happened on my second repair, but like of what ive said after 2 months the problem occurs again…

    • Austin says:

      You are welcome. Usually the head gasket fails because of an overheating issue elsewhere. A radiator is clogged up, a water hose is leaking, a water pump is leaking or has failed and the engine overheated and the driver continued to drive the vehicle when it was overheating to the point that the headgasket was damaged.

      This is why I say to make sure you get the pressure test to rule out any possible coolant leaks, check the radiator circulation to make sure its not all clogged up at the bottom where you can not see, and check the electric radiator cooling fans before you jump to conclusions that the head gasket is the problem.

      If you have ruled out all other possibilities of overheating, then the sealer will be a good option for you.

      Keep me posted please as to what happens.

  5. mrmonarc74 says:

    i have honda civic 1999 model same case engine overheating, i’ve replaced engine head gasket twice, after 2 – 3 months overheating came back again…
    thermostat, radiator fan switch is new..
    symptoms i have encounter was bubbles coming out continously from the radiator… until it losses its coolant…
    why sfter changing the head gasket it will run smoothly for a short period of time, then after 2 months overheating is coming back again???
    thank you

    • Austin says:

      First thing to do is get a cooling system pressure test to determine if you have a coolant leak, either external like a radiator hose or internal like a head gasket leak. DO NOT SKIP THE PRESSURE TEST STEP!

      If there are no external coolant leaks, like from a radiator hose and the mechanic is certain there is an internal coolant leak then I highly recommend you try using K&W Engine Block Sealer like I advise on this page (not as can instructs)

      It is my opinion the best product out there for internal coolant leaks like a headgasket

      Now, if the overheating happens more so at high speeds like on the freeway I would HIGHLY suspect a clogged up radiator, and if its the original radiator with more than 100K miles ….its probably clogged up at the bottom which “flushing” does nothing for. Replacement is the only option.

      If the overheating happens more at stops or slow speeds I would be looking at the electric radiator cooling fan, it has to cycle on and off at slow speeds or the engine will overheat.

      if you do not repair the cause of the overheating you will continue to damage the headgasket.

      The last thing I would be suspect of is the quality of the previous headgasket repair, if the gasket was just replaced and the cylinder head was not resurfaced at a machine shop it, it will have high spots on it due to being warped from the overheating and the new gasket will not fit properly to the engine and the cylinder head. Not doing a cylinder head resurface will always come back to bite you. Ask your mechanic and check your receipt to see if the job was done correctly,

  6. joe says:

    I know this thread is old but I like to share this with everyone hoping to help someone else. My sister have a civic xe 2002 engine overheat problem. She had someone else replaced thermostat, upper & lower hose and still overheat. Here’s what I did to solve the problem. I replaced the Fan Thermo switch cuz fan not come on, replaced new radiator cap (some overheating problem had been linked to bad cap), replaced radiator reservoir hose cuz cracked, and do radiator flush it solve her overheat problem.

  7. Jon Smith says:

    Remove the radiator cap before the engine is warm run the engine a few minutes so the thermostat functions – if there are a constant stream of bubbles coming to the filler hole 99% of the time your head gasket is blown.
    In my case the radiator fan quit working and after several overheated conditions the gasket gave out as aluminum will streach and warp when extremely hot creating a weakness between the gasket and block/head. Do no be misled into thinking the head or block is ruined , because when it cools back down naturally it will return to it’s original shape. If you put cold water into the engine when overheated it will damage the shape. Dealerships are the worst place to take your car – ask at inspection stations where you can find a good independent mechanic – they are out there. It’s about a 7 hour $50.00 fix if you do it yourself. The 60 Year Mechanic

  8. Sid says:


    I took my 2000 Civic an year ago to a mechanic (for a similar overheating issue), who got the radiator of the car changed. But the overheating came back after driving for 6-8 months. Then I took it to the Honda dealer yesterday, who is saying that he would need to take the Engine head off to investigate the head gasket damage. He says that if there is damage to the Engine top, then he would need to machine the head to make it level (heat causes aluminum head to warp). All told, the expense for the full job, he says, is $1950.

    Can you guys tell me if the quote is reasonable, and if it is worth it to get this done? The car itself has about 120k miles on it, and probably won’t sell for more than 5K (if this issue weren’t there).

    • Austin says:

      If you are indeed having an internal engine coolant leak….like what the dealer suspects yes the job could cost that much. Probably less costly at an independent shop and not the dealership BUT have you read my article about using a sealer to fix these types of internal engine problems?

      I have had great success with this, and would bet you would to. At this point, it won’t hurt anything to try it and it might work. 🙂

      Here is a link to my article about Head Gasket Repair

      If you use it, let us know how it goes.

      Austin Davis

  9. frank says:

    So far, radiator is working. still early. back in a week or so.

  10. frank says:

    i have an 04 civic lx. the ac fan stopped working and sharted getting hot. since then i have replaced the fan just to find it heating up again, but not on a regular basis. it did get hot and i had to replace the thermostat and it was fine for over a week. then out of nowhere, hot… replaced thermo again and fine for several days. did get hot i pulled over and replaced water in reserve tank where while hot water and steam pouring out. radiator was still full. thought it was head gasket and had checked 3 times and showing no sign on problem. now at a lost. radiator??? cracked block??? help

    • admin says:

      I would be suspect of a clogged radiator although I would first get a cooling system pressure test and rule out an internal or external cooling leak. These small radiators get clogged up pretty easily and replacement is the only real cure.

  11. Dave says:

    My 99 Civic similar problem. Ran “hot” one day, took it to my mechanic – he replaced the radiator/thermostat and did a coolant flush. 2 days later, ran Hot again. I took it back. He replaced a “hose.” 2 days later, ran hot again, but noticed I could control the temp gauge by giving the car more “gas” while in neutral. Took it to Express Oil Change, they believe the head gasket is bad and I’ll need a new engine. Sucks, before it ran hot, this car was in perfect condition! any advice is helpful.

    • admin says:

      Get a dealership diagnosis, I doubt you need a new engine. Guessing will always cost more than a diagnosis from a qualified mechanic. this could be a simple electric cooling fan motor problem or an air pocket in the cooling system. Keep me posted.

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