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I am thinking about buying a 2005 CRV from a dealer, 172,000 miles, no history on engine available but Car Fax show no reports. How can I assess the soundness of the head gasket?
 

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Why would you be concerned about a head gasket? Carfax is useless for anything beyond accidents. Never rely on it for anything else. Only things reported are by specific chain stores and dealerships.

Honda motors arent known for randomly blowing head gaskets. Chrysler and Mitsubishi are the ones to run away from for that.

If its not using antifreeze, blowing white smoke or oil looks like chocolate milk, along with running like crap the head gasket is fine.

Only think to fear on a k series motor, people not changing the oil as required. End up with vtec and timing chain issues.

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3 ways to check.

1. Open the oil filler cap and see if the oil inside it / under it looks like a chocolate shake.

2. a) Make sure engine is cold.
2. b) Remove the FI_ Relay (to prevent the car from starting)
2. c) Remove the Radiator cap and observe it while a helper tries to start the car.
2. d) If you see bubbles then there's a leak.

3. Gun the motor and check for white smoke from the exhaust / muffler. Shows coolant leak. (Also happens if its freezing outside)

You are wise to be cautious. It's used and could have been abused - driven without coolant and overheated.
 

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3 ways to check.

1. Open the oil filler cap and see if the oil inside it / under it looks like a chocolate shake.

2. a) Make sure engine is cold.
2. b) Remove the FI_ Relay (to prevent the car from starting)
2. c) Remove the Radiator cap and observe it while a helper tries to start the car.
2. d) If you see bubbles then there's a leak.

3. Gun the motor and check for white smoke from the exhaust / muffler. Shows coolant leak. (Also happens if its freezing outside)

You are wise to be cautious. It's used and could have been abused - driven without coolant and overheated.
It is useful instruction, unfortunately, I didn't know some before. Likely I choose a car in good condition. But I will know what I need to check for future. Thanks
 

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I would suggest a compression check on a used engine if at all possible. That might indicate condition of valves, piston rings, and head gasket leak (although a leakdown test is far more helpful, but time consuming). Having said that, every used car we have purchased in the last few years has had zero engine issues, although our '04 Civic in hindsight likely was a bit lax with maintenance.Not a CR-V, but the 2001-05 Civic is known to easily ruin a head gasket if the engine overheats. Apparently the bit of gasket between the #2 and #3 cylinder fails, so the compression in those cylinders is off, and the coolant overflow tank fills up with excess fluid (as it is pushed out of the engine. There is, however, no mixing of the coolant and oil. So if you blow a radiator or hose in that Civic, kiss the head gasket goodbye. I nearly bought one as a fixer-upper but the body had a few too many issues. As it stands, I have to put a new cylinder head on our '04 since that farkin' Bosch spark plug blew apart inside the cylinder and did who knows what damage. #2 has no compression now, and it's acting like it has a burnt valve.
 
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