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1999 Honda Civic EX - Exhaust Notes

Comments, Questions, And Smart Remarks

Jul 1, 2009
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Your Questions Answered

Valve Cover Leakage
First off, let me say I love Honda Tuning magazine!! Every other magazine is trying to focus on Honda content, but you guys are the only ones that nail it every month with the best cars! I have a problem with my 1991 CRX Si. I recently completed a B16 a swap in my garage (my first one, 100% of the work was done by me!). I'm having an issue with some oil leaking around the valve cover. Now I purchased the motor used, and I never removed it. I went to change the spark plugs today and I noticed there was a oil in there. Am I screwed? Please help me out, I love this motor, but I'm afraid I might have blown it before I even got a chance to get it tuned.
David, Knoxville, TN

Thanks for the support David, and we agree with you, we get some of the best Honda features around! First off, congrats on completing your first swap. There's nothing like that feeling that comes from hard work and finally hearing your car fire up after a transplant. And don't stress, the problem you're having is very common, especially with older motors. Your valve cover and spark plug seals are probably worn or brittle and just need to be replaced. Pay a visit to your local Honda parts counter and order the gaskets (some people order Del Sol VTEC, others order the '99 Si version). Carefully remove your valve cover and the old gaskets, clean the surface and install the new ones. Go ahead and use a little sealant like Honda-bond or RTV to complete the process. Simple and effective, you'll be leak-free in no time my friend.

Street-Legal Exhaust Notes In Socal
What up, Honda Tuning! My question is about street legality in Southern California. I always hear horror stories about officers issuing tickets for modified exhaust systems. I have a 1999 Civic EX with springs, wheels, and an intake. My next purchase will be a quality cat-back exhaust system. I really like the JDM mufflers that I see online, but I don't see anything about them being street-legal. If I keep my cat, and the exhaust isn't really loud, do I have anything to worry about?
Big Sheldon, Chula Vista, CA

Sheldon, this is a subject that goes back and forth quite a bit during discussions about laws and guidelines. Essentially, if the exhaust you purchase doesn't have a CARB E.O. number with it, it's not legal for street use in California. The JDM exhaust systems you see online are, in most cases, intended strictly for track use only. There are legal cat-back exhaust alternatives available from well known industry icons like Greddy and DC Sports. Not only do they offer high-quality kits, they're 50-state legal. That's an important point for someone living in a zero-tolerance city like Chula Vista.

A Wide Stance Might Cost You More Than Just A Set Of Wheels
Honda Tuning! I love your magazine more than any other. I've been a subscriber for years and I'm begging you, PLEASE help me out!! I've seen a lot of guys running crazy offset wheels on their Civics and Integras. I love the look and I want my car to rock the wide look, but I'm wondering if this type of wheel setup will hurt me in the long run, especially since my car is slammed. With such a massive offset, won't my wheel bearings or axles tend to give out sooner than later? I drive my car daily and I would hate to have to pay for some major repairs, especially after I drop a bundle on new wheels. Also, what about tires? Doesn't the camber mean I'll wear through them too fast? Thanks for any advice you can give me, you guys rock!!
Devon, via the Internet

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Low-offset wheels seem to be the big craze currently with the Honda crowd. A couple of things to keep in mind when considering this type of setup. First, if you're opting for a very low offset for the widest stance, you're going to have to run some negative camber in order to keep them from grinding away at your fenders. This means your tire life will be dramatically reduced. Also, the wear and tear of daily driving with low-offset wheels on your wheel bearings and axle could add up over time. With the wheels pushed out much farther than Honda had intended, stress is added to your suspension on a daily basis. Keep these things in mind before you make your next wheel choice or you might end up with a car you can't drive daily.

Special K
Ok, Honda Tuning. I read your magazine every month and I keep seeing cars with K motors installed. I can't take it anymore, I NEED K POWER!!! So I've started collecting parts for the swap, and I think I'm almost there. My problem is, I don't want to deal with the wiring. It's a mess and I'm afraid I'm going to screw something up (trust me, I'm speaking from experience here). Are there any shops out there that can take care of all my wiring by mail? I live in the middle of nowhere, literally, and shops don't exist here. Thanks for listening, please give me a hand if you can. Or maybe fly out here and take care of my wiring for me! Just kidding. No, not really-help!
Randy, BF Egypt

Randy, we understand where you're coming from. There's a lot of guys that don't want to play with the tangle of wires needed to complete a K swap. Now we're not going to fly out and wire up your car for you, but we will do the next best thing since you're a regular reader. Jump on your computer and log onto They offer a ton of different options from standard swap wiring, to custom hidden harnesses, and Mil-spec wiring kits.

Swap Options
Hi guys, I'm new to the Honda scene and I'm looking for a little guidance. I just inherited a 1995 Honda Civic Si, and even though it's quicker than my old Nissan I want more power. I've got about 8,000 bucks to spend, give or take a little bit, and I need some direction on what swaps cost and which direction I should go. Are engine swaps even legal?
Thomas, Stockton, CA

Thomas, welcome to the world of Hondas. We hope you're planning on staying for the long haul. Regarding swaps, there are legal and illegal options out there for you. On the legal end, a few popular choices are Integra LS, GS-R, and Type R swaps. With your budget, you could easily afford to have a shop complete the transplant, and prepare you for an appointment with the CA State Referee in order to certify your motor for street use. Of course you could research the swap, get your hands dirty, do it yourself, and save a bundle in labor fees. It's not for everyone, but it's usually much easier than people would imagine.

On the illegal swap side, you have your CRV 2.0L swap (considered a light duty truck motor in the US, not legal to swap into a Civic) and LS or CRV/VTEC combos. If you want to save a bit more, you could opt for the K series swap and again, save yourself a bundle if you do it in your garage. Take heed, the K swap takes a little more knowledge and is a bit more involved than the standard B swap. Good luck!

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Tach Needles Gone Wild
I love Honda Tuning! I just renewed my subscription for the fourth time. I've seen the mag change over the years and it just keeps getting better. Got that off my chest, now on to my issue! I installed a B16 motor into my '89 Civic a few years ago and it's always been good to me...until last week. As I was cruising down the freeway, the car hesitated a bit and I noticed that the needle on my tachometer was bouncing around like crazy. After that, it ran fine. The next day, same thing happened on my way to work. The needle was going haywire while the car was just cruising. A few days later, same thing. Now I'm wondering if my problem is electrical. I suck at wiring and I don't even want to imagine how much it would cost to hire someone to fix it. My CEL light doesn't blink because the previous owner of this car removed the bulb. Any idea what it could be?! My friend is smoking me on the freeway with the same motor, in the same exact chassis and my pride is hurting!
Enrique, Staten Island, NY

Well first we'll address the check engine light. Enrique, you need this! Seems like you know your way around a Honda, you should take some time and reinstall your CEL bulb. It's the absolute easiest way to diagnose a problem like this. From your description, my money would be on a distributor issue. It's most likely caused by a bad ignitor. If your buddy has the same engine, try swapping his distributor onto your car and hit the road. If the issue is gone, you can be pretty sure that the ignitor is the culprit. This way you don't spend money unnecessarily. And finally, keep the racing off the streets Enrique!

Time To Breathe A Little Easier
HT, I've been working on Hondas for a few years now and usually I just do suspension and wheel upgrades for my project cars. I enjoy Auto-X events every weekend and I concentrate more on the proper handling, rather than making power. But now I'm at a crossroads. My RSX handles like a dream but I'm thinking it could use a bit of a power bump. Now, I've already settled on an exhaust system and header, but I'm completely lost when it comes to intakes. I see cold-air intakes, short ram intakes, pipes, boxes, aluminum, carbon-fiber, and everything in between. What is going to make useable power? I more concerned with making a little power over aesthetics. Thanks guys, I know you'll shed some light for me.
Brett, Topeka, KS

You know what, Brett? More than any other aftermarket item, intakes are probably the most popular for both manufacturers and enthusiasts. Most guys start with an intake; it's nice to see that you've focused on the importance of proper handling over the bolt-on parts when it comes too Auto-X racing. Different styles of intakes make power at different RPM points. While some might argue a cold-air intake would be more beneficial, I'd recommend trying a shorter intake. The quicker throttle response will benefit you much more around the course. Now as for which one you should choose, just keep in mind that most short ram intake systems make similar power. But again, the throttle response is what you're after.



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