1991 Honda Accord EX 2.2L 4 cylinder from North America
Reliable, cheap and rusty - the last memorable Accord
- Exhaust leaks, so most of the exhaust piping has been replaced.
- Previous owner's mechanic only hand tightened the crank pulley bolt down; pulley came off while driving, required a tow.
- Slight knocking noise coming from driver's front area. Have not looked into it yet, but expecting a worn end-link, strut/strut mount.
- Weeping oil pan gasket to be replaced.
- A/C does not work at the moment - to be repaired.
- The ubiquitous Honda rear wheel arch/rocker panel rust.
Virtually everyone knows someone who has owned a Honda at some point. These 4th gen models are fantastic cars. Timeless styling, fairly economical, easy to drive and built to last.
This is actually my girlfriend's car (her first), but I work on it. She wanted new (with payments), but ultimately decided to buy something inexpensive and time tested, and save money towards something nice later. We were actually looking upmarket, but couldn't pass up on this one owner car (and I had always wanted one, but never found the right one until now).
We have the white with blue interior Canadian EX model, which came with the base 125 HP engine. With similarly matched torque, the car is peppy around town and decent enough on the highway to get up to speed. Romping the pedal for passing will require a little bit of pre-planning, however. Fuel economy is dead on or better than the EPA ratings.
This engine is known to be reliable with a few quirks; the main one being valve noise (AKA "valve tap") that is expected for many Honda SOHC engines, and this one is no exception. Valve adjustment will resolve the issue, but it always comes back, however it is more of a noise irritant than anything else, and does tend to go away after the engine is fully warmed up.
Honda's history of having problematic automatic transmissions (notably V6s) has been well documented. Luckily, the automatic in this generation has stood the test of time. They have the common Honda late 1-2 shift point, and on the whole it really isn't the smoothest shifting transmission, but keep the fluid changed and it'll last. General consensus seems to be that with these older Honda transmissions that use the older fluid, try to use Honda OEM or ATF compatible for Hondas.
Like any car, this generation has its own common faults. These include:
- Brake master cylinder (usually the seals fail).
- Leaking valve cover.
- Leaking spark plug seals.
- Leaking distributor.
- Vehicle speed sensor.
- Main relay.
- Slow failing window regulators.
- Clogged EGR ports.
- Ignition coil.
- Trunk seal.
- Power antenna mast.
- Cracked door handle assembly.
- Transmission control unit (capacitors fail, causing erratic shifting in the automatic transmission).
Some of these have been replaced by the previous owner, which is always nice, but most of the repairs are fairly mundane and low cost (even better if you can turn a screwdriver and wrench a little bit). Our stack of receipts do indicate that the previous owner had a reoccurring need to replace parts of the exhaust piping and the muffler (looks like it has been changed at least a half dozen times so far), so take that for what it's worth with the longevity of the OEM exhaust and the OEM equivalents. Come to think of it, we've had to replace the entire mid-section shortly after purchase. Should this issue come up again, I would say it would be best to have the entire exhaust redone at an exhaust shop, using a slightly larger diameter piping with better quality steel and components.
The interior, while dated, is well put together, and the use of different materials removes that cheapness you get even from modern interiors. A few negatives however. The plastic housing around the door handles tends to crack, making door handle use a two handed affair, so consider scouring the junkyard for a spare or two. Bulbs do go out, and Honda's design to have a 1-piece dash cover insert is a bit of a pain in the ass, requiring the removal of a dozen or so screws and gentle maneuvering just to remove the combination instrument panel/center console piece without scratching the vinyl dash. The glove box is also known to warp inwards towards the top left side, exclusively as a result of the driver pushing off on that corner to close it. It can be bent back with some two handed effort. The vinyl roof liner seems like a cost cutting measure, as it does tear and mark easily.
Now onto the rear wheel arch and rocker panel rust. Unless you live in a state like California or Arizona, every 4th gen Accord I have seen has some degree of the rust, from tiny, to weight reducing, eye sore level. The rust is very minimal on both sides, where it is visible just behind the rear doors at the bottom where it meets the rocker panel, but removing the side skirts show the rust's true damage. It's actually quite minor on ours, but absolutely a flaw that the major Japanese manufacturers at the time all share during manufacture. This is such a common problem that you can buy aftermarket rear quarters to replace the cancer, but given the age of these cars today and the cost to repair, it's not worth it for most, and it's best to keep it minimized. We may consider fixing this considering the condition of the rest of the car.
A few other minor things here and there, but definitely a keeper for sure. These cars make excellent transportation for all types (as first cars, beaters, backup cars, why), and despite the physical condition many of them end up looking like now, ours has been well maintained to the point where other people have commented on its condition. It may be a quarter century old car, but it offers very little stress to operate.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 4th November, 2014
4th Nov 2014, 20:12
That was an awesome, very thorough review! Hondas of this vintage have always been great cars. Very minor amounts of trouble or major issues with these Accords. The interiors were still very solid, lots of soft rubber touches on the door panels and dash, instead of the cheapish plastic you feel in the newer Accords.
The engines were rock solid too. By 98 something changed. The cars were still good, but they felt a little flimsier. You can tell Honda started cost cutting during this model year. The transmissions in the V6 broke often because the internals weren't beefed up to handle the extra power of the V6. The transmission fluid would overheat and wear out very quickly, causing a breakdown in the additive properties that help keep the clutches shifting smoothly. After this would happen, the trans would start to slip as the fluid was worn down, causing more issues, which eventually destroy the transmission. A lot people doubt this; sure some of it is due to weak tranny parts, but the major reason why they self destructed was because of how fast the fluid overheated and burnt up.
The pre 98s were just of better quality, even down to the window regulators.
6th Nov 2014, 17:19
Agreed. The succeeding 5th generation model (1994-97) were still robust mechanically (even the wheel arch rust was definitely not as bad) and added more modern updates, so it was like having the best of both worlds. You can't go wrong with either generation though.
Funny it took Honda so long to improve the reliability from their V6 automatic transmissions, though they have always been known for high-rev, high HP/L engines, and you'd really only want stick shift for that.
It's a shame that it is hard to find a clean 4th/5th generation example today, but I suppose it's a testament to their reliability if owners can rat bag it and still count on them.
7th Nov 2014, 17:31
Nice review on these, I had one with lower miles that had been nailed by hail damage, sold it because I got sick of how it'd scrape my own driveway and speed bumps. The exhaust was all aftermarket, but nothing ricey, suspension was all stock; these cars just ride too low IMO.
7th Nov 2014, 22:59
They followed the design cues at the time with the low belt lines and high roof lines, but many of the cars of this era sat low (the Acura Vigor really exaggerates this look). Among all the modern cars it's daunting to have to look over a sub-compact like a Yaris though, but what do you do gain is good blind spot visibility for having to crawl over speed bumps and the like.
How these cars dwarf in size now when alongside a current model year Accord.