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I was looking at buying a manual 2000 Honda Civic SR 1.6L for cheap. The seller says a mechanic told them that one cylinder isn't working, but the car still drives. I haven't seen the car yet, but I assume this means some kind of severe compression problem in that single cylinder, and not something catastrophic like a broken rod since it's still drivable.

I'm wondering what could cause a single cylinder to be "not working" but the car is still drivable. The things I can think of are a blown head gasket or a severely burnt valve.

I'm trying to figure if it's worth me going to see. From the pictures the car looks to be in mint condition from the outside.

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    We had a similar problem that was easily solved. One spark plug was not fully tightened in the cylinder head causing a leak. It was a five minute and no cost fix. However, worst case scenario is a full engine rebuild so when you do look at the car, be sure you diagnose the fault correctly. If unsure, take a specialist mechanic with your for advice. – Steve Matthews Jun 20 '16 at 10:04
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Besides compression it could be fuel supply (clogged or failed injector), a bad spark plug or cable, a problem with the ignition system, a loose cam cover, and other things. As you say if it was a bad rod or cam it would probably not run at all, although you never know. If you assume that the mechanic would have checked the basics like spark then what's left is expensive and/or time consuming to fix, however it may be the seller has not spent money on getting it looked at so it could be something simple.

The problem is there's no way to really know without doing some diagnostics, like a compression check and plugging into the ECU. If it's close then have a look, you aren't under any obligation to buy it if you see it. If it's far away then you need to make a judgement based on the information you have. For me buying a car is as much an assessment of the owner as the car itself. If the owner is a yahoo or nutcase it puts me off the car no matter its apparent condition, so your communications with the owner could be used as a guide.

Why not ask the seller to put you in contact with the mechanic? It's a slim chance but you'd get useful information. If the seller refuses that tells you all you need to know.

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  • OK, so I saw the car, it's in almost pristine condition, except the engine. Four years ago it overheated and was totally rebuilt by the Honda dealership. One thing on the invoice from four years ago was leveling the head, so I'm guessing the head got warped a bit when it overheated, and that now it's blown the head gasket due to it not being perfectly level. Now it has no compression in the no. 1 cylinder. They haven't been driving it ( other than back and forth to Honda ) since it happened, but I thought I saw a little oil in the radiator. I'll probably have to put a new engine in it. – Robert S. Barnes Jun 20 '16 at 18:52

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