I was driving to work one morning and the car just staled, after waiting hours to be towed by a flatbed truck and sending it to a shop, I received a call that my timing belt broke. Which was not terrifying to hear but that the shop continued to say I needed a new engine and the car dead due to it being an "Interference engine". Now I've never heard this before but can this happen to a 1991 Honda Civic Wagon 1.6L 4wd? I found this list and I don't see my car. I have been calling multiple shops and figuring out if I can still save my baby.

After 2hrs and a new belt, the car started up as if nothing happened. However let my mistake serve as a reminder for others with interference motors. Just change your belt, I will not make this kind of gamble again. Thanks everyone with the great information!

  • It is a 1991 honda civic wagon 4wd 1.6L
    – fassetar
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 17:19
  • Its starting to not look good:honda-tech.com/showthread.php?t=2407221 but im hoping for the best with some more information.
    – fassetar
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 17:22
  • Sorry forgot to include that, but it is Automatic.
    – fassetar
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 18:00

2 Answers 2


You have the D16A6 engine. From searching various forums it seems that is an interference design. However, while valve damage is possible (probable?), it may not be certain. There do seem to be reports of timing belt breaks without valve damage. Then again, there are reports of bent valves, too (though that is a later 1.7L version of your engine). A break at idle is probably better than at high RPM, and coasting to a stop with an automatic is probably better than doing so with a manual left in gear.

Consider having the timing belt changed and checking for valve damage as Larry is suggesting. That seems to be the first step recommended by many on the forums I linked to, also. If there is valve damage, you should run the numbers on a top end repair as Brian Knoblauch is suggesting in his comment. It should be cheaper than a new engine.

I suppose the shop you had it towed to could be suggesting a new engine due to the mileage on your current one, or maybe they are not set up to perform engine repairs themselves.

You'll have to do a cost / benefit / risk analysis on the options and see what makes sense for your situation.

  • I do have the D16A6 Engine and with all the information gathered concluded it to well worth the risk. If I can't have faith in my car shouldn't trust my life in it. Thanks
    – fassetar
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 18:15
  • 1
    In my experience, the valves are almost certainly damaged, but all it will probably need is top end repairs and a new timing belt. There's always the chance the entire engine is destroyed, but that's unlikely unless you were racing at the time. The possibility of no valve damage occurring is so slim that I'd be astonished if that was the case. Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 18:54
  • 4
    @fassetar Just to clarify they can tell if the valves are bent without taking the top of the engine off. I would let them put the belt on and check for bent valves at a minimum. It's only about 2.5 hours to R&R the timing belt, and they don't have to put it all the way back together to check the valves. Depending on the configuration they may be able to check for bent valves without putting the new belt on first. Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 13:19
  • @Larry: Slightly off-topic, but are you aware of any "mechanic's endoscope" devices that could be used to get a look inside for problems like this without taking apart the engine? I find it really surprising I've never seen such a thing and that shops don't seem to have them... Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 19:43
  • 1
    @R.. Yes there are many, and even some inexpensive options (less then $100). But you don't need that to find out if you have bent valves when the timing belt breaks. Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 23:21

For what it's worth, the timing belt slipped (rather than breaking) on my 92 Civic due to a mistake on my part when I was repairing it, and the engine suffered no noticable damage. Before accepting that the engine is ruined, I would spend the money (or do it yourself) to have someone put a new belt on it and realign the timing. Here is my old question and answer related to the topic:


Note that the problems I experienced after repair, which are mentioned in the comments there, are due to the timing still being off by one notch; once this was fixed, everything was good.

The procedure for yours may be different though; you have the freedom to turn the cam and crank independently from the beginning, but might be starting from an interference position.

Expect to spend $200 or so to have someone try this for you, and keep in mind that could be money wasted if it turns out the valves are smashed or other internal engine damage happened.

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