Piston Slap: Getting your bearings straight on a worn Wagovan

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Lawerence writes:

I picked up a 1987 Honda Wagovan that has a beginning rattle in the bottom end.  It has almost no rust, pretty straight body, but the 1.5 CVCC engines are anemic and prone to oil pump problems. So can the bearings be swapped out while the engine is in the car? Have you done so? (Sadly no. – SM) 

It’s an AWD, so is there a later model engine that is easily swappable, maintaining the AWD and six-speed gearbox?

Sajeev answers:

In theory, you can drop the oil pan to change the rod and main bearings without removing the engine. And it’s a good idea, provided the bad bearings haven’t messed up the crankshaft’s journals. From photos I see online, drop the exhaust pipe and you should have enough clearance to drop the oil pan. Fingers crossed on that.

Regarding engine swaps, the bespoke Wagovan transmission’s mating points are unique to your EW-series engine. You’d have to convert to FWD to get a better engine. Which I doubt is worth the effort, not to mention it ruins the coolest thing about these Civics.

Even if you took the plunge, it’s never easy to switch a carbureted car to electronic fuel injection.  The cost-effective way is purchasing a donor car (preferably with a fuel tank that interchanges with the Wagovan), removing the high pressure fuel system, and robbing its engine wiring/computer.  Then hope the fuel pump/pickup/sending unit and EFI computer/wiring lay in the Wagovan’s body without serious hacking.  Of course , you can always run a standalone EFI system … that probably retails for more than what you paid for the Civic. 

All of which is far more labor than putting new bearings in your current motor, even if you gotta yank it out of the Civic to make it happen. Let’s not even talk about paying someone to do an EFI motor swap!

Long story short?  Drop the pan any which way you can, change the bearings, and hope for the best!

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