88-91 4th gen Honda Civic UK buyers and owners guide.

So I’ll try and keep this a brief as possible because I could literally talk about these cars all day long.
I’ve had six 4th gen Civic’s in the past in various different models and trims. Namely I’ve had two hatchbacks, three saloons and a Shuttle.
Unfortunately most of them were in the days before your camera was attached to your phone so I only have a picture of my most recent three.

My second Sedan was bought for me by my then girlfriend and is still to date the coolest birthday present I’ve ever had. It started out life as a totally bog standard 1.4 automatic but it didn’t take too long for me to convert it to manual and swap the engine for a twin carbed d16 out of a Honda Concerto.
Ash's 4g civic sedan 1

My third and most recent Sedan I bought pretty much as it looks in the picture below, it was a 1.4 automatic that I used as a daily runaround for a while until it developed a pretty serious gearbox problem and the gearbox casing cracked. I then sold it to a friend and we converted this one to manual as well.

Ash's 4g civic sedan 2

Then there was my Honda Shuttle which started out life as a 4 wheel drive 1.6 but was converted to rear wheel drive so that it could be used for drifting. You can see below how it looked after I picked it up. It had a none vtec single cam d16 in it but almost as soon as I got it home the oil pump packed up and the engine seized.
I swapped the engine out for a twin cam d16a9 out of a Honda CRX which gave it the extra bit of torque it needed to get the rear wheels spinning, it did drift quite well once you got the hang of it but because of it having such a short wheel base and not a lot of power it took a lot of practice.

Ash's homnda shuttle drift van

Less about me and more about these cars then!

 

There were quite a few different variants of the 4th generation Civic sold in the UK.

The hatchback.
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The hatchback was available in the following trims
DX came with a single cam 1.3 with a single down draft carb (d13b)
GL came with a single cam 1.4 with twin side draft carbs (d14a1)
1.6-16i came with a fuel injected twin cam 1.6 none vtec engine (d16a9) and had the advantage of having rear brake discs.
VT which was the highest spec model sold in the UK came with a twin cam 1.6 vtec engine (b16a1) also came with rear discs, thicker anti roll bars amongst various different cosmetic differences.

The 4 door saloon.
p1
The 4 door saloon was only available as a GL in the UK and came with the same 1.4 (d14a1) that was fitted in the hatch.

The Shuttle.
ef-shuttle-1

The shuttle came with a few different engines.
Again sold with the GL trim name and the D14A1 engine but there was also a slightly rarer model GL that came with the D15B2.

The other option was the 1.6i which was available with 4wd drive and equipped with a 1.6 single cam engine (D16A6)

COMMON PROBLEMS 

I won’t bother splitting them up into different models as they honestly don’t have that many common issues and they’re pretty much the same over all models.

RUST!!!
As with any Honda the main problem you’re going to encounter is rust, it seems no matter how well you take care of them the back arches will fall out at some point. The sills and front inner arches are also a bit of an issue although slightly less common than the back arches.
Around the wind screen can be a bit of a problem too.

Sometimes the inside of the car can turn into a pond.
My advice would be a get a tin top model if you can. The sunroofs are prone to leaking when they get to a certain age either from corrosion or just the seals get old and dry.

Spark plug seals.
I’ve had it a few times on the d-series engines where the spark plug seals give up and the oil leaks into the spark plugs and it starts misfiring. I don’t think it’s a problem with the seals just the simple fact that most of them won’t have been changed in the lifetime of the car but it can cause issues so it’s worth changing them considering they only cost a few pounds.

Distributor.
As with most old Hondas they have the usual Distributor issues.

Head gaskets.
I wouldn’t say it’s a common issue but a couple of mine have had head gasket problems due to the age of the car so it’s something to bear in mind.

TUNING

Are they easy to tune? Are parts easy to get hold of?
Well yes, as they share the same engine and chassis layouts as most of the Civics going all the way up to the early 2000’s most parts are interchangeable.
Coilovers are readily available and although the suspension is slightly different, the EG and EK Civic suspension can be made to fit.
The hubs are all interchangeable so you can swap to 5 stud hubs if you really wanted too.
There’s an endless bunch of options with the brakes as most stuff swaps over from other Civic’s.
Tuning on the carbed engines is a lot of fun and a great place to start if you’re just looking to learn and have fun as they’re wonderfully simple and inexpensive.
The D16a9 is a bit of an awkward one as it was one of the few twin cam none vtec engines that Honda made but they do have a bit of a cult following amongst the oldschool Civic and CRX owners so parts are still available for them, you just have to look in the right places.
The 4GUK and CRXUK forums are always a great place to pick up some of the slightly harder parts to find.
The B16A1 is just an all around awesome engine for something made in the late 80’s, it was well ahead of it’s time. So much so the B16 continued to be the engine of choice for all the fastest Civic’s for the next 12 years which means parts are are very easy to get and parts from the later b series engines all swap over.

The 4th gen Civic is a great platform for all purposes, whether you just want a classic comfortable daily driver or and all all out track weapon.
They are basically what you make them, a bit like Meccano for adults.
If there’s anything you think I’ve missed out that’s worth mentioning please leave a comment below and if you have any questions then fire away.
Thanks for reading.