Complete Honda CR-X/Civic del Sol Buyer’s Guide

The Honda CR-X was one of Japan’s most loved cars of the eighties and in the early nineties, the company decided to create a follow up. Honda completely changed the styling, gave the car a new VTEC power unit and even made it convertible with only two seats. This new car was of course the CR-X del Sol and in this guide, you are going to learn everything you need to know about buying one of them.

How to Use this Honda del Sol Buyer’s Guide

This guide is long, so we have broken it down into a number of different sections. To start with we will look at the history and specifications of the del Sol to give you a bit of a background about the car. Following that, we will dive into the buyer’s guide section of the article. We will then move onto more general used car purchasing advice and then we will look at how you go about importing one from Japan (if you want to do that).

The History of the Honda CR-X Del Sol

Credit: ぺいぺい

The story of the CR-X starts with the establishment of Honda’s Verno stores in 1978. Prior to the opening of these stores, Honda had a shortage of dealers in Japan and many of its franchises were decidedly lacking when compared to the flashy, well-lit showrooms of Toyota and Nissan.

Honda was hoping that these new stores would change the public’s perception of them, and they were targeted at the ever increasing number of cashed up young consumers in Japan. The company’s first Verno product was the Prelude, which was introduced in November 1978. This would be followed by the five-door Quint in early 1980, and then the Honda Ballade and a restyled version of the new Civic four-door sedan later in the same year.

1981 would see the introduction of another Verno special Honda in the form of the Vigor, but 1982 saw no new cars on showroom floors. Honda’s next Verno destined vehicle would be a sporty hatchback coupe, named the Ballade Sports CR-X.

The Ballade Sports CR-X

Credit: Rikita

While the new CR-X would share the same name with the contemporary Ballade, underneath the body the car actually shared the same structure as the next generation car.

When it came to the car’s power unit offerings, Japanese buyers had the option of two different all-aluminium SOHC four pot engines: a 1.3-litre carburetted EV engine with 79 hp (59 kW), and a 1.5-litre EW version with as much as 109 hp (81 kW).

While Honda marketed the car as a two-seater in some markets, the CR-X’s Japanese specifications claimed that it could actually seat four thanks to the almost non-existent rear seats. The seats were so tiny in fact that Honda described them as “one-mile” seats (we assume that was all what passengers could manage before losing their minds due to the sheer lack of leg room).

When the CR-X launched it was marketed as a fun, economical, sporty commuter for the younger generation (much like how Toyota marketed the Mk1 MR2). The car rapidly gained a following in Japan and even though it was only really intended for the Japanese market, foreign buyers were hungry for the sporty coupe.

The CR-X would quickly make its way to the United States and other export markets, however, the little car would not be identified as a Ballade, but rather as the Civic CRX (usually without the hyphen). Honda launched the export CRX alongside the other new Civic versions in the fall of 1983 as a 1984 model.

In the United States and Japan the CR-X (CRX in America) proved to be a hit with the critics. They praised its performance, excellent value and astounding fuel economy. European reviewers were less taken by the little Honda, especially compared to the likes of the formidable Peugeot 205 GTi.

With excellent initial reception from most critics and buyers, Honda would continue to develop the CR-X nameplate. They released further versions of the car such as the significantly more powerful CR-X Si that could hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in as little as 8 seconds.

A second-generation version of the car would launch in September 1987 with the rest of the fourth-generation EF Civic line up. This new CR-X would be more of an evolution rather than a revolution, with a subtle restyle, some additional features and technologies, and a range of new power units.

In 1989 the second-gen car received arguably one of the most important updates in the CR-X’s short history. Honda introduced a new variable valve timing system that they called VTEC (which stood for Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control).

The new B16A engine with the VTEC system produced an astonishing 158 hp (118 kW) at a screaming 7,600 rpm. With the introduction of the new engine, Honda could proudly claim that the twin-cam four-cylinder engine was the world’s first naturally aspirated production car engine to produce 100 (metric) horsepower per litre.

Unfortunately, the ever-more unfavourable exchange rates meant that the CR-X was struggling in an increasingly competitive field. Honda needed to rethink where the CR-X was going and they did just that.

Honda CR-X del Sol

Credit: Honda

Production of the second-gen CR-X continued until the early part of 1991, however, unlike before, Honda did not launch a new version of the CR-X with the rest of the new Civic (EG) line-up. They were completely redeveloping the car with the primary focus being to compete with the wildly successful Mazda MX-5 Miata (known as the Eunos Roadster in Japan).

The MX-5 had launched around the same time as the Mk2 CR-X received its midlife update. Mazda took a different path to many Japanese manufacturers (and even themselves) when it came to the new sports car. The MX-5 was designed to take drivers back to a time when cars were simpler and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were walking on the moon. They took great inspiration from cars such as the Lotus Elan and the MGB GT, with their open top designs and driver focused rear-wheel drive setup.

Despite sales of sporty Japanese cars imploding around that time, Mazda’s new MX-5 proved to be a massive hit. Honda wanted a piece of the pie and decided that the CR-X would be a prime candidate for such as project.

While the MX-5 was an instant success, Honda didn’t look to completely imitate the Hiroshima based manufacturers design. They decided to retain the front-wheel drive layout from the previous CR-X (largely because they didn’t have a cheap, small rear-wheel drive platform to use). They also decided to go with a targa-style roof instead of a fully convertible one like on the MX-5.

The del Sol Launches

The new car made its debut in Japan in February 1992. While the car retained CR-X in its name, it would ultimately be called the CR-X del Sol. The Spanish name del Sol translates to of the sun, and refers to the vehicle’s open top Targa style roof.

Honda was eager to advertise the del Sol’s combination of open-air driving in a dynamic coupe body, but the real star of the show was the optional automatic roof that was labelled the “Trans-Top”. With this option, drivers wouldn’t have to faff around manually lowering and raising the roof. They could simply press a button and in around 45 seconds the targa top would retract into the trunk/boot and the occupants would have endless sky above their heads and wind blowing in their hair.

The automatic roof works by raising the trunk lid vertically. Two arms then extend into the targa top. Once the lid locks to the arms, the arms pull the targa top into the trunk lid, which lowers back down with the roof safely inside. The process is simply reversed when the drivers wants to put the roof back up.

While the feature was mighty impressive for a relatively low-cost sports car, it could not be done on the move and it added around 50 kg (110 lb) to the del Sol’s curb weight. Additionally, buyers had to hand over an extra ¥170,000 for the pleasure of having the feature.

Same but Different

As mentioned before, the del Sol was based heavily on the Civic from the time, but with a 200 mm (7.9 inch) shorter wheelbase than the three-door model.

Under the compact bodywork, the del Sol shared the same suspension setup with the other EG Civics, which itself was much the same as the previous generation CR-X and Civic. However, there was now a solid lower wishbone at the front rather than the radius rod/lateral link combination on the older cars.

Model Options  
Credit: Honda

Honda equipped the base VXi model (until 1994 and then VGi from 1995 onwards) with the latest SOHC D15B-VTEC engine that produced around 128 hp (96 kW). While, the base engine would get you moving, if you really wanted to impress you needed to stretch for the SiR del Sol. This model came with a B16A SiR-II DOHC VTEC engine that produced as much as 168 hp (125 kW) and 157 Nm (116 lb-ft) of torque (although automatic cars were limited to 153 hp/114 kW).

Along with the choice of engine options, buyers could also opt for a driver’s side airbag, electronic traction control, ABS, and a viscous-style limited-slip differential. SiR buyers were also treated to four-wheel disc brakes to help control the extra speed and bigger 195/55VR15 tyres.

The del Sol Goes International

European cars would quickly follow after the launch of the Japanese version. They were labelled the CRX del Sol and in most markets the car was offered in ESi and VTi trim levels that roughly translated to the Japanese spec VXi and SiR models. However, power was slightly for European versions when compared with their Japanese counterparts, with the ESi being rated at 123 hp (92 kW) and the VTi at 160 hp (119 kW).

Unlike in Europe and Japan, the del Sol was identified as a Civic rather than a CR-X in the United States. The Civic del Sol made its debut in September 1992 as a 1993 model. Unfortunately, for American buyers the DOHC VTEC from the SiR was nowhere to be seen at launch. Instead, Honda only offered two SOHC engines: a 1.5-litre 102 hp (76 kW) motor from the Civic DX and a more powerful 1.6-litre 125 hp (93 kW) and 144 Nm (106 lb-ft) of torque engine from the Si Civic. The less powerful model would be branded the del Sol S, while the larger engined model would be called the del Sol Si.

Despite the engine range being slightly disappointing at launch, Honda would soon introduce a more powerful version for hungry American buyers. The del Sol VTEC made its debut in 1994 equipped with a 160 hp (119 kW), 160 Nm (118 lb-ft) B16A screamer of an engine. The suspension was also improved and the base S trim received a front swap bar. Another change was that dual SRS airbags were fitted as standard for United States bound models.

More Changes for 1995

The big news for the year was that the Civic tag was dropped from U.S. models and the car was simply called the del Sol. Honda also rebadged Japanese VXi models with the 1.5-litre SOHC VTEC as VGi.

They also redesigned the targa top seals to help prevent leakage, added anti-lock brakes as standard to VTEC models, made the heater vents in the centre console open and closable, introduced some new alloy wheels for U.S. models and added a remote trunk/boot release (U.S.).

1996 Mid-model Refresh

The last big changes to the del Sol came in 1996. Honda replaced the 1.5-litre engine in the S model with a 106 hp (79 kW) 1.6-litre engine, while the del Sol Si received a 127 hp (95 kW) D16Y8 Civic engine as well as the suspension, larger front and rear stabiliser bars, and the steering from the top-end VTEC model. The del Sol VTEC also received some attention with an updated B16A2 engine that produced roughly the same horsepower as the older power unit.

Apart from that there were some other minor changes such as a new front bumper and air dam, removal of the front auxiliary headlights, new seat materials, and new carpet (all for United States models. The OBD-II Emission control system was also implemented on all models going forward.

The End of the del Sol and the CR-X

Unfortunately, whole the del Sol survived passed the rest of the EG Civic line, sales didn’t live up to Honda’s expectations. The Japanese company halted sales in North America in 1997 and complete production would come to an end one year later.

Honda had no direct successor to the del Sol, but they did launch the significantly more powerful, rear-wheel drive S2000 a short time later. The S2000 would go on to become one of Honda’s most loved sports cars of all time and you can read our buyer’s guide for it here.

Honda CR-X del Sol/Civic del Sol Specifications

ModelVXi/VGiESi SSiSiR, VTi, VTEC
Country/LocationJapanEuropeNorth AmericaNorth AmericaJapan, Europe, North America
Year of production1992 – 19981992 – 19981992 – 19971992 – 19971992 – 1998 (VTEC in 1997)
LayoutFront-engine, front-wheel driveFront-engine, front-wheel driveFront-engine, front-wheel driveFront-engine, front-wheel driveFront-engine, front-wheel drive
Engine/Engines1.5-litre D15B VTEC I41.6-litre D16Z6 I41.5-litre D15B7 Inline 41.6-litre D16Z6 I41.6-litre B16A2/B16A3 I4
Power128 hp (96 kW)123 hp (92 kW)102 hp (76 kW)125 hp (93 kW)168 hp (125 kW) JDM

153 hp (114 kW) Automatic

160 hp (119 kW) Europe & North America

 

Torque138 Nm (102 lb-ft)142 Nm (142 lb-ft)133 Nm (98 lb-ft)144 Nm (106 lb-ft)157 Nm (116 lb-ft)
Gearbox4-speed automatic

5-speed manual

4-speed automatic

5-speed manual

4-speed automatic

5-speed manual

4-speed automatic

5-speed manual

4-speed automatic

5-speed manual

BrakesDisc brakes at front, drum at rearDisc brakes at front, drum at rearDisc brakes at front, drum at rearDisc brakes at front, drum at rearDisc brakes all round
Weight2,295–2,535 lb (1,041–1,150 kg)2,295–2,535 lb (1,041–1,150 kg)2,295–2,535 lb (1,041–1,150 kg)2,295–2,535 lb (1,041–1,150 kg)2,295–2,535 lb (1,041–1,150 kg)
Top speed202 km/h (126 mph)193 km/h (120 mph)177 km/h (110 mph)193 km/h (120 mph)212 km/h (132 mph)
0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)8.2 seconds8.8 seconds9.2 seconds8.8 seconds7.2 – 7.6 seconds (SiR Fastest)

 

Honda CR-X/Civic del Sol Buyer’s Guide

Credit: Honda

With the background and specifications out of the way, let’s have a look at what you need to know about buying a Honda del Sol. While Honda sold quite a lot of these cars (74,936 to be exact), they are becoming more and more difficult to find. The reason for this is because many of them have been treated diabolically or have been in contact with things they shouldn’t have been in contact with.

There are so many of these cars in terrible condition that you really need to take your time if you want to find a good one. Here are some things to watch out and keep in mind when looking at buying a del Sol.

Setting Up an Inspection of a Honda del Sol

There are a number of things to consider when setting up an inspection of a used car and here are some of the most important ones:

  • Physically inspect the del Sol yourself or get a reliable third party to do so for you – purchasing a used car, especially one as old as the del Sol, sight unseen can be a recipe for disaster and unexpected bills. While you may get lucky, it is always best to try and look at the car yourself or get a reliable third party to do so for you. Some auction sites do vet the cars on their sites prior to listing them (bringatrailer.com for example), but there is no guarantee there aren’t any hidden issues. If you are looking at importing a CR-X del Sol from Japan, we recommend that you go with a trusted importer who can get the car inspected for you (read here for more).
  • Try to inspect the del Sol at the sellers house or place of business – There are a few good reasons for this with the first being so you can get a look at how and where the del Sol you are interested in has been stored/parked. The second reason is so you can check the condition of the roads. If they are in very poor condition, the suspension, steering components, wheels and tyres components may have taken a beating.
  • If possible, try to go look at the Honda del Sol in the morning – This is usually a good idea as it gives the seller less time to clean up any issues (oil leaks, etc.). Additionally, they will be less likely to have pre-warmed the vehicle (pre-warming an engine can hide some problems).
  • Bring along a second pair of eyes, ears and hands – Taking a friend or helper with you to inspect a del Sol (or any used car for that matter is a good idea). While you, the seller and your friend obviously won’t all be able to fit in a del Sol all at once, they may be able to spot something you missed during the inspection. Additionally, it is a good idea to have them follow you in their own car while you are conducting a test drive as they can have a look at what comes out the back.
  • Avoid inspecting a used car in the rain – The main reason for this is because water on the bodywork can hide potential issues (resprays, repairs, etc.) If you do happen to view a Honda del Sol in the rain, try to go back for a second viewing.
  • Watch out for freshly washed cars (water still on the body) – This is largely for the same reason as above, but it may also be a sign that the owner is trying to cover something up.
  • Be cautious of inspecting a car in a showroom or garage – It is better to inspect a used del Sol in direct sunlight rather than under the lights of a showroom or garage. Direct sunlight will highlight any potential issues with the bodywork, so ask the seller to move the car outside if it is inside.

What is a Honda CR-X/Civic del Sol Worth?

 

This depends on a whole host of factors from what sort of condition the car is in, to its specifications, where it is being sold, its mileage and more. For example, a del Sol SiR/VTEC/VTi in excellent condition and with low mileage is going to be worth a lot more than a base model car that looks like it has gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson.

To work out how much you should expect to spend on a Honda del Sol we recommend that you jump on your local auction/classifieds and dealer websites to see what sort of money they go for. You can then use these prices to work out how much cash you need for a del Sol in a specific condition and/or spec level.

We had a quick look on bringatrailer.com and found that most Civic del Sols seem to go for around US$7,000 – 10,000 (at the time of writing), with VTEC models in excellent condition selling for over US$20,000.

Which Honda del Sol Should I Buy?

If you can stretch for it, the more powerful B16A equipped models (SiR, VTi, VTEC) are the del Sols to go for. Not only do they provide significantly more performance, they are also far more collectable. However, that doesn’t mean the lower spec models are a bad buy. If you are just looking for a fun weekend car and are not too concerned about performance or resale value, the lower end del Sols could be the right choice for you.

Is the Honda del Sol Expensive to Run & Maintain

Luckily, the del Sol shares many parts with the normal Civic models from the period, so most parts are still fairly easy to come across. Specific del Sol components are becoming more difficult to source, but you should still be able to find most things.

Servicing a del Sol is also pretty easy, so any competent mechanic who has a bit of experience with Civics from the period should be good to work on one of these cars (however, a good Honda specialist or mechanic is always the best way to go). The relative ease of servicing one of these cars (you can also do a lot of things yourself), means that they are pretty inexpensive to maintain and run.

Where is the Best Place to Buy a Honda del Sol?

There are so many places to look for one of these cars for sale, but it is always a good idea to check out if there are any owners’ clubs in your local area or country. The people in these sorts of clubs are usually more enthusiastic about their cars and tend to look after their vehicles a bit better. Here are a few online examples.

DelSol UK – Dedicated owner’s club/forum for the Honda del Sol in the United Kingdom. Plenty of great information on here and worth a visit for any potential (or current) del Sol owner.

del Sol Owners Club / Sol SquadFacebook group that is worth checking out. Contains just under 4,000 members (at the time of writing).

Honda-TechWebsite/forum dedicated to all things Honda with a special section for del Sol owners.

Another great place to source a Honda del Sol from is a trusted importer/dealer. If they don’t have a del Sol on hand, they may be able to work with you to find a suitable one for you from Japan. Additionally, if you are looking for a specific Japanese spec model you may have to get one imported.

Auction/classifieds sites such as Trademe, Craigslist, Gumtree and more are often good places to look as well and there may be a bigger range on offer. Buying private will often lead to a cheaper price than purchasing off a dealer. Specialised auction sites such as bringatrailer tend to have better examples for sale as they check the cars on their site prior to listing them.

Should I Get a Mechanic to Inspect a del Sol Prior to Purchase?

It is absolutely not necessary to get a mechanic to inspect any used car prior to purchase, but it is generally a good idea (even if you know a thing or two about inspecting used vehicles). A competent mechanic or specialist who is familiar with Hondas from the era will be able to give you a second opinion and they may find a problem you missed. Even if you do not plan to take the del Sol to a mechanic, we recommend that you ask the seller if you can, so you can gauge their reaction. If they don’t want you to, it may be a sign they are trying to hide something.

Manual vs Automatic del Sols?

Automatic Honda del Sols are usually considerably cheaper to purchase than their manual counterparts. This is largely because they are much less desirable, and many drivers find them less engaging and enjoyable to drive. Automatic SiR models are also less powerful than the manual versions.

We would personally go for a manual del Sol, but if you don’t mind the less engaging drive, an automatic car could save you quite a bit of coin (they also tend to be thrashed less).

Checking the VIN or Chassis Code

It is always a good idea to check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) prior to purchase. The VIN can tell you quite a bit of information about the del Sol you are inspecting and is a 17 character/digit code. The VIN on a del Sol should look something like this JHMEG2171TSXXXXXX. JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) del Sols do not have a VIN and instead use a chassis code that looks something like the following:

  • EG1 – XXXXXXX – VXi with D15B
  • EG2 – XXXXXXX – SiR with B16A

If the del Sol you are looking at has a vin VIN, it should start with JHM as that states that the nation of origin is Japan (J), Honda is the manufacturer (H), and the vehicle is a passenger car, built in Japan (M). We have listed some other things to be aware of below:

4th to 6th Characters – Car line/engine

  • EG1 = Civic del Sol, 1.5-litre
  • EG2 = Civic del Sol VTEC ,1.6-litre
  • EH2 = Civic3 Door, 1.5-litre
  • EH3 = Civic3 Door, 1.6-litre
  • EH6 = Civic del Sol, 1.6L-litre

7th Character – Body and transmission type

  • 1 = 2 Door Coupe, Manual
  • 2 = 2 Door Coupe, Automatic

8th Character – Grade

  • 4 = S Civic del Sol (1993)
  • 6 = Si Civic del Sol (1993)
  • 9 = Civic Del Sol LX w/ABS
  • 9 = Civic Del Sol Si w/ABS
  • 9 = Civic Del Sol VTEC w/ABS
  • 9 = Civic Si w/ABS3-door

9th Character – Check digit

10th Character – Model year

  • N = 1992
  • P = 1993
  • R = 1994
  • S = 1995
  • T = 1996
  • V = 1997
  • W = 1998

11th Character – Assembly plant

  • S = Suzuka, Japan

12th to 17th Characters – Production sequence number

Where can I Find the VIN or Chassis Code on a del Sol?

The VIN or chassis code can be found at the back of the engine bay stamped onto the firewall and on a sticker in the driver’s side door jam. Check that these two numbers match as if they don’t it may suggest that the vehicle has been in an accident or has had some other sort of issue.

Engine

As we have already mentioned in this article, the Honda CR-X/Civic del Sol was fitted with a range of different engines that include the following:

  • 5-litre D15B7 I4
  • 5-litre D15B VTEC I4
  • 6-litre D16Z6 I4
  • 6-litre B16A2/B16A3 I4

All of these engines are fairly bullet proof if looked after properly. However, many del Sols have been treated poorly, so don’t be too surprised if you come across a number of different issues on the cars you go and inspect.

To start your inspection of the engine, move to the front of the del Sol and open the bonnet/hood. Make sure it goes up smoothly and the release/catch works as intended. Once you have opened the bonnet, take a good general look at the engine bay and keep an eye out for any obvious problems such as leaking oil or coolant, missing components, and broken parts.

An engine bay that is completely spotless is usually a good sign, however, it may also indicate that the seller is trying to cover something up. Be very cautious if the engine bay and underside of the vehicle looks like it has just been washed (water still present).

Checking the Fluids

Once you have taken a good general look at the engine bay, move onto checking the fluids as a problem here could spell trouble for the entire power unit. If the fluid levels are too low or high and/or they have not been changed regularly it suggests that the del Sol you are looking at has been poorly maintained.

Be very cautious if you notice lots of metallic particles, dirt or grit in the oil as this signals a big problem.

Talk to the seller/owner about their maintenance schedule for their Honda del Sol. Ask what oil and oil filter they use as using the wrong stuff can cause issues. The recommend service interval from Honda for the engine oil is every 12,000 km (7,500 miles) or every 12 months (Honda claims for dino/non-synthetic, but we would only go this far on a modern synthetic). Many owners like to change the oil much more frequently at every 5,000 km (3,000 miles), but this really isn’t completely necessary with modern synthetics. Still, if the owner changes the oil this often it probably shows that their care about their del Sol a lot.

While Honda recommends replacing the engine oil filter every second oil change (or every 12 months), many owners like to replace it every time they do a replacement. The part number for the oil filter is 15400-POH-305, so make sure the owner has used the correct one or a suitable aftermarket equivalent (however, be cautious of some aftermarket oil filters).

When it comes to the oil itself, it is generally recommended that you use a 5W-30 or 10W-30 oil. If the owner has used much thicker or thinner weight oils you should be asking why (maybe they track their del Sol and need a heavier weight oil for example).

Are Oil Leaks Common on a del Sol?

Don’t be surprised to find the odd slow oil leak on many del Sols you come across as these cars are getting on a bit. However, walk away from any Honda del Sol that is experiencing major leaking issues.

Check all the usual locations for leaks such as around the oil filter, cam shaft oil seals and the valve cover gasket (this is a biggie for del Sols with higher mileage). If you are looking at a VTEC equipped car, try to find the VTEC solenoid (should be top left side of the engine block) as this is a common area for leaks. A leak here isn’t a major problem unless it is serious, but it is worth getting sorted as soon as possible.

Remember to check for oil leaks both before and after a test drive as you may find that spotless engine bay isn’t so spotless after a trip around the block. Remember to look under the car as well and walk away from a del Sol that is leaving puddles of oil on the ground.

Valve Cover/Rocker Cover

Paint peel/fade can be a bit of an issue on the valve cover. This isn’t a major issue and doesn’t affect the performance of the vehicle, however, definitely use it to your advantage when negotiating the price.

Timing Belt or Chain on a del Sol?

The different engines fitted to the Honda del Sol all use a timing belt instead of a chain, so they need to be replaced. It is generally recommended that the belt is replaced every 96,000 km (60,000 miles) or so for D series engines 160,000 km (100,000 miles) for B series motors. However, many owners with B series equipped cars like to change the belt at the earlier service interval for better piece of mind. If the del Sol does not get much use the belt should have been replaced every 7 years or so.

Check in the service history and with the owner/seller to make sure the belt has been replaced. If it has not been done at the recommended service intervals it suggests poor maintenance and you should be wondering how the rest of the car has been maintained if something so important has not been changed regularly. Remember to check that the water pump, timing belt tensioner and pulleys have all been replaced along with the timing belt.

Are the del Sol’s Engines Interference or Non-Interference?

Unfortunately, the motors fitted to the del Sol are all interference engines, so that means if the timing belt snaps it could lead to a very expensive repair bill. Make sure the timing belt has been replaced!

Inspecting the Cooling System on a del Sol

The cooling system should be in good working order with no leaks or overheating issues. Problems with the cooling system can lead to engine damage or possibly even total engine failure, so be very cautious if the del Sol is overheating.

Check around the coolant tank and hoses for any leaks or crusted coolant which may indicate a past leak. If the hoses or expansion tank look in a really bad way they will need to be replaced. Below we have listed some of the main components of the cooling system on a del Sol.

  • Radiator – removes heat from the water/coolant
  • Thermostat – sends water/coolant that is hotter than the target temperature to the radiator to be cooled
  • Water Pump – belt that is driven from a pulley. Pushes water/coolant through the engine – as we mentioned before this should be replaced with the timing belt
  • Overflow or Expansion bottle – removes air from the system and provides a filling point
  • Coolant Lines – hoses that allow water/coolant to remain contained as it moves through the engine/cooling system

Make sure the coolant has been replaced at regular intervals. In the service manual Honda states that the coolant should be replaced every 120,000 km (75,000 miles). However, on the bottle of Honda’s Type 2 coolant it states that it is good for around 96,000 km (60,000 miles). We would personally stick with whatever the bottle states, but there is no problem going with the service manual recommendation as well. Other coolants from the likes of Prestone will work as well, but just make sure the coolant is flushed before swapping coolants.

If the coolant is brown or muddy in colour it suggests that it has not been changed in a while and that the del Sol you are looking at has not been looked after properly. Gurgling noises may indicate that the coolant level is low or that there is a leak. Alternatively, this issue may be a sign that the water pump is past its used by date.

What Are the Signs of an Overheating del Sol?

Below we have listed some signs and symptoms that may indicate that the del Sol you are looking at is suffering from cooling issues, overheating or a blown/failing head gasket:

  • Temperature gauge on that is on the high side
  • Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
  • White and milky oil
  • Spark plugs that are fouled
  • Low cooling system integrity
  • Smell of coolant from the oil
  • Sweet smelling exhaust
  • Leaking or crusted coolant
  • White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)

If you notice any of the signs above on the del Sol you are inspecting it is probably better to move onto another car.

Radiator

Radiators on del Sols tend to last around 10 years, so see when the one in the car you are looking at was last replaced. If it is coming up to around 10 years, expect to replace it in the near future (however, they can go longer or may need to be replaced earlier). Make sure you also visually inspect the radiator as if it has lots of dings or dents it may need to be replaced. Additionally, if it looks warped the vehicle may have been in an accident.

Checking the Temperature Gauge

If the temperature gauge is behaving a bit erratically, it may be a sign that the thermostat needs replacing. Alternatively, it may indicate there is a problem with the cooling system (coolant leaks, radiator issues, etc.). Once the del Sol you are test driving is warm, give it some throttle and make sure the temperature needle doesn’t shoot up quickly.

Take a Look at the Exhaust

Check as much of the exhaust system as you can as Civics (and as a result del Sols) from this era tend to experience quite a lot of issues (leaks, holes, etc.). Most exhaust repairs are a simple job, but if it is something serious it will be expensive to put right. Below we have listed some of the main things to watch out for:

  • Black sooty stains – Typically indicates a leak. Sometimes the fix is simple, but if the problem seems really bad a new exhaust may be required. Pay particular attention around any welded areas.
  • Bad Repairs – A well repaired exhaust is perfectly fine, but watch out for bodge jobs that have been done for a quick sale
  • Corrosion/Rust – Rust can be a big issue on del Sol exhausts, especially if the car has been parked on the road all its life in countries that salt their roads (UK for example). Additionally, condensation/water on the inside of the exhaust can lead to it rusting from the inside out, so even if you don’t see any it may be there.
  • Low rumbling, scraping and rattling noises –These sorts of noises can indicate a problem with the exhaust, so keep an ear out for them.
  • Accident damage – Expect to find the odd scrape or scratch along the exhaust system, but any major damage is a big problem. Additionally , it indicates that the car has probably been owned by someone who is a bit careless.

Checking the Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter fitted to some export del Sols is a different length to Japanese spec ones. Not a major thing, but something to keep in mind. If the cat is on its way out, the car may display the following symptoms:

  • Smell of sulphur or rotten eggs from the exhaust
  • Reduced acceleration and sluggish engine performance
  • Excessive heat under the del Sol
  • Dark smoke from the del Sol’s exhaust

Are Aftermarket Exhausts Okay on a del Sol?

A good quality aftermarket exhaust is perfectly fine and is usually a plus unless you are looking for a completely original car. Watch out for cheap mild steel exhausts as they can cause lots of issues and can fail quickly. Check who manufactured the exhaust and if it is from a good brand or a well-reviewed custom builder you shouldn’t have too many issues.

Make sure the Spark Plugs Have Been Replaced

Honda recommends replacing the plugs every 48,000 km (30,000 miles), but this is only really needed for conventional copper plugs. Platinum or Iridium plugs are good for at least 96,000 km (60,000 miles) but can go much, much further as well. If the spark plugs are coming up for a replacement soon, use that as another tool in your arsenal to get a better discount.

If you get a mechanic or specialist to inspect the car for you, make sure you get them to check the spark plugs as they can tell you quite a bit of information about how the engine is running. This guide has a bit more information on spark plug analysis.

Starting a Honda del Sol for the First Time

It is always a good idea to get the owner or seller to start a used car for you for the first time. We recommend this for the two main following reasons:

  • So you can get a look at what comes out the back of the del Sol
  • If the seller revs the motor hard when cold you know to move onto another del Sol

Make sure you try and start the del Sol yourself at a later point during the test drive. Additionally, check that the engine light comes on when you turn the ignition to the “on” position. If it does not come on it may be a sign that somebody has disconnected it to hide an issue. Alternatively, it may simply be a blown bulb, but either way the problem needs to be investigated prior to purchase. A flashing check engine light also indicates that an issue is present.

Check the other warning lights come on as well. Watch the video below to get an idea of the start procedure and what to expect.

Unit Conversions & Limiter (Imported del Sols)

If you are located in a country that uses imperial units for speed and distance and you are looking at an import model, find out if a conversion has been done or if it is a mix between the two units. Additionally, check with the owner to see if the speed limiter has been removed. Japanese models were limited to 180 km/h (112 mph) from new, so many people remove this limiter.

Distributor Issues

Listen out for any grinds, rattles or clicking sounds from the distributor. These tend to fail on del Sols around the 96,000 km (60,000 mile) mark, so check when it was last replaced. Replacing the distributor yourself isn’t a major task, but it needs to be adjusted correctly. Make sure you check for any oil leaks around the distributor as well.

What Should the Idle Speed Be on a Honda del Sol?

Expect the idle speed to be in the region of 700 to 800 rpm when the car is stationary and warmed up (a bit above and below this range isn’t really an issue). The idle speed will be quite a bit higher when you first start the del Sol, but it should drop to this range once the car warms up. Del Sols fitted with the VTEC B16A engine tend to idle quite high initially (upwards of 1,800 rpm), but this isn’t an issue as long as it drops.

Idle issues could be caused by a whole range of different issues from spark plug and coil issues to something really simple like dirty intake components. If the problem was a simple fix the owner probably would have got the issue sorted prior to sale (or they simply haven’t noticed).

Checking What Comes out the Back

As we mentioned earlier, move to the back of the vehicle when the seller starts the engine. Hold up a white piece of paper or cloth in front of the exhaust and see how much soot gets on it. A small amount is perfectly normal, but large amounts indicate a problem.

A small amount of exhaust vapour on engine start-up is perfectly normal for a del Sol (or any internal combustion engined car for that matter) and is usually just caused by condensation in the exhaust. If you notice lots of smoke or vapour walk away, especially if it does not stop quickly. In the section below we have listed what the different colours of smoke may indicate:

White smoke – If you notice lots of white smoke from the Honda del Sol you are looking at, it may be a sign that water has made its way into the cylinders due to a blown/leaking head gasket. Give the exhaust a good whiff and if it smells sweet, it is probably coolant.

Blue/Grey smoke – This colour smoke could be caused by a whole range of things from worn piston rings, valve seals and more. If you see this colour smoke on startup it may be a sign of a bit of an oil burning issue or that the vehicle has been thrashed. To test for this colour smoke during a drive, get somebody to follow you while you are in the del Sol. Take the engine through its rev range and see what comes out the back. If you don’t have a helper, get the owner to drive for a bit while you look out the back.

Black smoke – This sort of smoke is usually a sign that the engine is running too rich and burning too much fuel. There are quite a few things that could be causing this issue from something like dirty intake components to incorrect spark timing and more. If the exhaust smells of fuel, the engine is almost certainly running too rich.

Rebuilt or Replaced Engines

Sometimes it is necessary to rebuild or replace an engine. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a rebuilt or replaced engine in a Honda del Sol, however, just make sure that the work was carried out by a competent Honda specialist.

It is generally a good idea to avoid a del Sol with a freshly rebuilt engine as it is a bit of an unknown. Something with 10,000 km on a rebuild or replacement is a much safer bet than a del Sol with only 1,000 km on the rebuilt or replaced engine.

Is a Compression or Leak Down Test Necessary?

No, but they are usually a good idea, especially if you are looking for a really good del Sol. A compression or leak down test can give you information on the health of a del Sol’s engine. If you plan to take a particular Honda del Sol to a mechanic or specialist prior to purchase, we recommend that you get one of these tests done.

A leak down test usually takes more time to perform, but it will give you a more accurate and detailed picture of the engine’s overall health and condition.

Some owners will get a compression test done before sale and put the results in the advertisement. The most important thing with the results is to make sure that they are all roughly the same (within around 10% of each other).

Transmission

Credit: Honda

Honda fitted the del Sol with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic. Manual cars are more desirable and hence worth a bit more. Below we have listed some things to watch out for when it comes to both transmissions.

Manual Transmission

Remember to go through all the gears at both low and high engine speeds to see how the transmission performs under varying conditions. Also check how the gearbox feels while you are stationary. A bit of stiffness is perfectly fine when the car is cold, but the transmission should loosen up as the del Sol warms. Don’t forget to check reverse as well!

Listen out for any graunching or grinding sounds on both upshifts and downshifts. Synchro wear can occur with the main problem gears usually being second and third (however, all gears can experience this problem). If the synchro issues seem really bad, except to replace or rebuild the transmission in the near future. Higher mileage cars or those that have repeatedly been thrashed are more likely to suffer from synchro wear.

Make Sure the Transmission Fluid Has Been Changed

The transmission fluid should have been changed every 96,000 km (60,000 miles) or every 48 months, so make sure that has been done otherwise it suggests poor maintenance. Honda MTF is usually recommended, but there are some other options that will work perfectly fine as well. Find out what has been used in the del Sol you are inspecting.

Clutch

Clutch Engagement – The first thing we recommend that you do is to see how the clutch engages. If it engages high up in the pedal travel there could be a problem. Alternatively, if the clutch feels soft or stays on the floor there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Clutch Slippage – The best way to test for this problem is to shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going. You should notice that the engine bogs down a bit (don’t do this on a regular basis). The next thing to do is to accelerate. If you notice that the tachometer goes up out of relation to the speedometer and/or you notice jerkiness it suggests that the clutch is slipping.

Clutch Drag – Find a nice flat surface and press the clutch pedal to the floor with the car in first. Keep your foot of the brake and rev the car. If the car moves it suggests that the clutch is not disengaging when you shift, leading to premature wear.

Clutch Shudder – This is usually noticeable when you accelerate from a stop. A small amount is perfectly normal, but an excessive amount is a sign that the release bearings need to be lubricated. Not a major problem, but it will probably set you back at least a couple of hundred dollars.

Remember to also check the clutch master cylinder reservoir. The fluid should be a good colour and should not be black or muddy. Make sure the level is correct and you may as well check the brake fluid while you are there as well.

Replacing a clutch on a Honda del Sol isn’t too expensive, but it is one of the more pricey wear components, so ask for a discount if the car you are looking at has a bad one or it hasn’t been replaced in a long time.

Automatic Transmission

The 4-speed automatic gearbox shouldn’t cause any issues, just make sure that it works as intended and is smooth. Watch out for any big jolts or shudders when the transmission shifts and check the kickdown.

Apart from the above, keep an ear out for any grinding, whirring or whining noises. Remember to test all of the transmission positions when stationary, and check how the gearbox acts under both low and high speed shifts.

Like manual del Sols, the transmission fluid on automatic cars should be replaced every 96,000 km (60,000 miles) or every 48 months.

Steering & Suspension

Credit: Honda

Honda del Sols are getting on a bit now so don’t be surprised to find many of them with clapped out/worn suspension and steering components. If the del Sol you are looking at has been fitted with aftermarket suspension make sure you are happy with the ride. Aftermarket suspension that is more tuned for performance on a track can oftentimes make the ride pretty unbearable on normal roads.

If you feel a vibration through the steering wheel it could be anything from a damaged tyre to an out of balance wheel, or even a bent wheel. Below we have put together a quick list of the main things to watch out for when it comes to the suspension and steering components on a Honda del Sol:

  • Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
  • Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration
  • Tipping during cornering
  • High speed instability
  • Delayed or longer stopping distances
  • Uneven tyre wear
  • Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension
  • Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
  • Sagging or uneven suspension
  • Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive (this may be caused by something else, but bad suspension and steering componentry is a common issue)
  • Rattles – drive over some bumps – there should be no noise from the suspension components (however, you may hear some rattles from something in the cabin).
  • Clicking sounds (especially at full lock) – usually a bad CV joint. However, clicking sounds may also indicate something like a bad wheel bearing as well

Visually inspect as many of the suspension and steering components as you can get a look at. Watch out for grease around the CV joints and drive shaft boots/gaiters as this is a sign that they will probably need to be replaced (a common issue). Additionally, watch out for any splits in the material as well.

Check for any other leaks, broken or damaged components. If you notice that the components are different from one side to the other, it may be a sign that the vehicle has been in an accident and/or has been repaired poorly. A torch/flashlight and a mirror can come in handy when inspecting all these different components, so bring those tools along.

Checking the Wheel Alignment

Remember to check that the Honda del Sol you are inspecting drives straight with minimal wheel corrections. The best place to check this is on a flat, straight section of road.

Incorrect wheel alignment can lead to excessive/uneven tyre wear and can make the driving experience less safe and enjoyable.

Wheels & Tyres

There are no specific del Sol related issues here, but make sure you do thoroughly check the wheels and tyres. Expect to find some scratches, scuffs, etc. on the wheels but if you notice lots of curb damage it is a sign that the del Sol has been owned by somebody a bit careless.

Many del Sols have been fitted with aftermarket wheels and while the seller probably doesn’t have the originals, it is still worth asking. If they don’t have the originals, see if you can get a bit of a discount as having them will only add value to the car.

While you are inspection the wheels, have a good look at the tyres for the following:

  • Amount of tread– Check how much tread is left on the tyres as if they need to be replaced soon you should try to get a discount on the del Sol
  • Uneven wear– Wear should be even between the right and left tyres. Additionally, make sure wear is even across the tyre itself (check the inside and outside edge)
  • Brand – They should be from a good or well-reviewed brand – if they are from a poorly reviewed brand it suggests that the owner has cheaped out on maintenance.
  • Same tyre – in terms of tyre make, type and tread pattern on each axle (preferably on all four wheels) – mismatched tyres can lead to poor handling performance and may even be dangerous.

Brakes

While checking the wheels and tyres, remember to have a look at the brakes as a problem here could be expensive to fix. Make sure the pads and discs are in good condition and if they look like they need to be replaced soon try to get a discount.

According to Honda, the brake fluid should have been replaced every 72,000 km (45,000 miles) or every 36 months, so check that this has been done. Look around the brake master cylinder and the brake lines for any leaks.

If you find that the brakes are weak or spongy there is a problem as they should be more than adequate for road use. Listen out for any squealing or rumbling noises when the brake pedal is depressed.

A shuddering or shaking feeling through the steering wheel of a del Sol could be a sign that the discs/rotors are warped and will need to be replaced. This issue usually becomes first apparent under high speed braking, so make sure you do a few high to low speed braking runs.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is any erratic braking that causes the car to pull to one side. This sort of problem may be a sign of a sticking/seized caliper and you may hear a loud thud when you pull away for the first time. Sticking/seized calipers are usually more of a problem on del Sols that have been left to sit unused for a while, but the issue can happen overnight.

Some owners have upgraded the brakes on their lower spec del Sols with ones from the VTEC models or Honda Integra. This isn’t a problem, just make sure they work properly and see if they have the originals. The easiest brake upgrade is to simply get a better set of pads.

Exterior

Credit: Dave2010

Bodywork issues can be an absolute nightmare and can easily turn a mechanically sound car into a write off. As this is the case, thoroughly inspect all body panels and exterior parts for the following issues.

Do Honda del Sols Rust?

Rust can definitely be a bit of a problem on del Sols (and all Civics) from this era. Be very cautious of any del Sol that has rust issues as the problem is often much more serious than it first appears. If the rust looks serious, walk away as the del Sol you are looking at is probably not worth your time.

Where Does Rust Usually Occur on a Honda del Sol?

  • Around the front and rear wheel arches and on the lip of the arches – the rust tends to bubble through but should be fixable, even if the effected area needs to be cut out and replaced
  • Side sills and around the doors – check the around here with the door open
  • Behind the weather stripping of the A pillar – if this is bad it may lead to the car being structurally compromised
  • Around the bumper mountings
  • Around the wing mirror mountings
  • Around the aerial hole
  • Under or around the seals for the roof
  • Behind the window seals (especially along the top of the doors)
  • Around the fuel tank and oil sump
  • In the area under the pedals (see if you can lift up the carpet)

What Can Make Rust More Likely to Occur?

  • Vehicle has spent time in countries or areas with salted roads
  • Car has spent time in countries or areas with very harsh winters
  • Vehicle is often parked/stored by the sea for significant periods of time
  • If the Honda del Sol has always been kept outside (never garaged)
  • Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)
  • No underseal (more on this below)

Looking for Rust Repairs

It is not only important to look for present rust, but you should also keep an eye out for signs of past rust repair (mismatched paint, paint overspray etc.). Watch out for any areas that may have been resprayed or cut out and replaced. You should also check the service history and with the owner (however, don’t trust what the owner says completely as they may be trying to hide something from you).

Use a magnet on steel sections of the car (cover it with a cloth so you don’t damage the paintwork) or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.

Make Sure the Car Has Underseal (Japanese Imports)

While rust still occurs on cars in Japan, it doesn’t seem to be so much of an issue, so many JDM vehicles do not come with underseal from the factory. If the del Sol you are looking at was imported from Japan, underseal should have been applied when it was brought into the country. Sometimes this is missed or done poorly, so make sure you check!

Underseal isn’t so important for some markets, so this advice doesn’t apply to all countries. However, it is still worth getting it done if the car you buy doesn’t have it.

Accident Damage

Crash damage is another very serious issue that is often much more serious than it first appears. Many owners and sellers will lie about the severity of an accident and the resultant damage, so don’t trust their answers completely.

In the section below we have listed some signs that may indicate that the Honda del Sol you are looking at has been in an accident

  • Bent or broken parts underneath the car – Check to see if everything is straight underneath the del Sol and watch out for any replaced parts. Take a good look at all the suspension, steering and exhaust components for damage.
  • Rust in strange locations – May be a sign that the Honda del Sol you are inspecting has been in a crash or has some other sort of problem. The most common cause of rust on the bodywork is usually from stone chips.
  • Paint runs or overspray – While this could be a factory issue it is probably more likely to be from a respray.
  • Missing badges or trim – Could be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).
  • Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Check that the bonnet lines up correctly and fits as it should. Additionally, check the bonnet catches as if they look new the car has probably been in an accident. You should also check the doors and the lights for any damage or signs of past damage.
  • Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the del Sol you are inspecting may have been in an accident (or the hinges may have simply gone bad).
  • Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – Indicates a respray which may have been conducted as a result of accident damage or rust.
  • If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This may indicate that the del Sol you are inspecting at has been crashed into something (even a light knock can cause this problem).
  • Damage to the mounting supports for the headlights– This is very difficult to fix if the car has been in an accident, so watch out for this.

Discovering past or present accident damage shouldn’t make you walk away immediately, however, it does need to be investigated closely. Crash damage that was minor to moderate that has been repaired correctly by a skilled body shop or panel beater is perfectly fine. If the damage was very serious and/or the repairs very poor, move onto another Honda del Sol

If the owner/seller tries to cover up or lie about the accident it suggests that the problem is worse than first appears. Alternatively, if the owner can’t tell you much about the accident/damage it may have happened when a previous person owner the vehicle.

Door Issues

We mentioned above that door issues can be a sign of accident damage, however, there was also a problem on some del Sols where they would not open or close properly. Honda did issue a recall, so the problem should be sorted on pretty much all del Sols still on the road.

Paint Fade

Fading paint and peeling lacquer is a common problem, especially on imported cars that have been stored outside their entire life. Additionally, del Sols that have been located in countries or areas with lots of sun are more likely to suffer from these issues.

Red is undoubtedly the worst colour for these issues and if the paintwork is in a particularly bad way, a respray will be required.

Check the Lights

Give all lights a wiggle, paying particular attention to the front headlights and the aux light. The mountings can go brittle and break and if the lights move too much it will be a WOF/MOT failure.

Checking a del Sols Roof

Here are some things to watch out for when it comes to the roof on a del Sol:

Manual T-top

Check all the seals and look for any signs of rust. If possible and with the roof in place, see if you can run some water over the top to see if it leaks (understandable if this is not possible). If the seals are in a bad way it is not the end of the world as they can be replaced or restored.

Look for any damage to the roof and make sure that the handles. Additionally, check that the boot/trunk has a rack to mount the roof.

Trans-Top

If the del Sol you are looking at is fitted with a Trans-top, it is important that you make sure it works correctly. Getting one of these tops repaired by a specialist can be expensive (Honda dealers even more so). You can do the repair work yourself if you are feeling confident, but if you are not too sure it is better to take it to someone who knows what they are doing. Below you can see a video of the opening and closing process:

If you notice that the mechanism is struggling to lift the boot/trunk with the roof inside it is a sign that the motor is on its way out. This is definitely fixable, but can be an expensive job, so factor this into the price.

Make sure you also check the tilter unit (see 0:22 in the video above) for any rust, failed seals or any other sort of issues. The tilter should have a rubber cover otherwise it will rub on the roof, however, this is often missing.

Apart from all that, check the same things listed in the manual top section just above (seals, rust, damage, etc.)

Sloshing Sound from the Rear

During a test drive, listen out for the sound of water sloshing behind you. If you do hear this sort of sound it indicates that the drain plugs to the ‘tub’ under the rear window are clogged. Cleaning these plugs are not a difficult task, however, it can be a bit time consuming.

Interior

The interior on these cars can suffer, especially with higher mileage ones (just like any car for that matter). Luckily, many of the parts are shared with the other Civic models, so parts and trim pieces are still readily available (for the most part).

Take a good look at the seats, paying particular attention to the bolsters. Watch out for any rips, stains or scuffs and if they are in a bad way make sure you ask for a discount as reupholstering all of them will be expensive. If the seats move during acceleration and/or braking it is incredibly dangerous and will be an MOT/WOF failure.

Check the rest of the interior for scuffs, rips or stains and pay particular attention to the roof towards the back. Look at the door cards as if they are split a re-trim may be necessary.

Feel around the interior for any dampness as this suggests a leak is present. Lift up the floor mats and if there is water residue on the bottom it is a sign that there is or was a leak. If you do find any leaks be cautious as rust may have formed (remember to check under the pedals for rust). The most common place for a leak to occur is the roof, so pay particular attention around that area.

Another less common leak is where water runs in somewhere near the bonnet/hood and door hinges, just behind the dashboard. This usually appears under the driver and passenger carpets. Don’t forget to check for leaks/dampness in the boot/trunk and look at the condition of the spare wheel (if it is there).

If you notice excessive amounts of wear on the seats, steering wheel, carpets, shifter and pedals for the mileage it may be an indicative of a car that has had a hard life, or, alternatively, the odometer may have been wound back.

Remember to have a look at the roof above the driver’s seat. If it is a slightly different colour it may be a sign that the del Sol you are inspecting has been owned by a smoker. A smell test will also help you determine whether or not this is the case as well.

The door handles, glove box handle and hinges, and many other trim pieces can become brittle and break. If the locks and or door mechanism have failed it can be surprisingly expensive to fix as these parts are becoming hard to source (unless you pay the Honda tax).

Toolkit

Remember to check that the toolkit and jack is present. The jack is located in a little space in the side near the rear lights and the other parts of it are located in the toolkit. Trans-top models come with a specific emergency roof kit, so make sure that is there.

Electrics

The main thing to do here is to play with all the switches, dials and knobs. Make sure that all three electric windows work properly. When the back window goes down, don’t forget to check that the green indicator LED on the dashboard illuminates. You also need to make sure it switches off when the window goes back up as it can cause issues with the Trans-top roof (if one is fitted).

Check all the lights work as intended (a helper comes in handy here) and make sure the rear fog light functions properly if one is fitted (JDM del Sols).

Other things to check include the electric mirrors, aerial and all the locks. Most del Sols are fitted with central locking, but unfortunately the system often fails. If the del Sol you are inspecting has an aftermarket alarm make sure it functions correctly as these can be a real nightmare when they go wrong.

Make sure the fan and heater controls all work properly at all settings. If the fan doesn’t work on some speeds it is probably a sign that the resister for the fan has burned out (usually a problem on models with a 4 speed fan). The resister is located behind the glovebox. Del Sols with variable speed climate control are less likely to suffer from this problem as they have a more complex resistor arrangement.

If the del Sol you are looking at does have climate control, listen out for a buzzing sound from behind the driver’s seat (just below the speaker grille) when the air conditioning is on. Cleaning or disconnecting the fan will solve this issue (the former is probably a better idea).

The last thing to check is that the air conditioning works for del Sols with it fitted. Don’t let the owner tell you it just needs a re-gas if it doesn’t work as it is probably the compressor. Replacing the compressor will be quite expensive so keep this in mind.

General Car Buying Advice the for a Honda CR-X or Civic del Sol

Credit: Honda

How to Get the Best Deal on a del Sol

This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.

  1. Research heavily –  Prior to starting your search for a del Sol, figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Do you want a low mileage del Sol or are you happy with something with a bit more mileage? Are modifications okay or do you want a stock model.
  2. Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. There are loads of different del Sols out there in different levels of condition and spec, so don’t limit yourself to one seller, dealer, area or auction platform.
  3. Go look at and test drive multiple del Sols – It is a good idea to test drive a many cars as possible, so you know what makes a good and what makes a bad Honda Civic/CR-X del Sol.
  4. Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time when looking for a del Sol for sale and only go for promising looking cars.
  5. Use any issues with the car to your advantage –  Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.
  6. Don’t trust the owner –  While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say but back it up with a thorough inspection.
  7. Go between sellers/dealers –  If you are looking at multiple cars, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.
  8. Be prepared to walk away –  If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.

Mileage vs Condition 

Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good.

Short distance trips do not allow the engine to warm up properly, which can lead to increased component wear and reduced engine life.

Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.

Service History and Other Documentation

Credit: Honda

It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. While the servicing doesn’t need to be done at a dealer, it should be carried out by a competent Lexus or Toyota specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work).

The service history will give you a good idea of how the Honda del Sol you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications (if the car has any) can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.

If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any vehicle your purchase and will make it easier to sell the car in the future.

Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them.

Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner 

  • How often do you drive the car?
  • When was the last service and who was it serviced by?
  • When was the timing belt last replaced?
  • How much oil does it use?
  • What oil do you use in the car?
  • What parts have been replaced?
  • When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
  • What’s the compression like?
  • What modifications have been made to the vehicle?
  • Has the vehicle overheated at any point or has the head gasket failed?
  • Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made?
  • Is there any money owing on the car?
  • Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle?
  • How are the speakers
  • Is there any rust?
  • Has rust been removed at any point?
  • When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time?
  • Where do you store/park the car usually?

There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important.

Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a Honda del Sol

Here are some things that would make as walk away from one of these cars. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.

  • Overheating problems or blown head gasket
  • Significant Crash Damage
  • Money owing on the car
  • Stanced
  • Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
  • Excessive amounts of power
  • Bad compression
  • Bad resprays
  • Significant rust problems
  • Engine swaps with non-standard engines
  • Significant track use (probably not a major issue as these cars are not known for their track capabilities)
  • Major engine or transmission issues
  • Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)

Notes on the Owner 

The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their Honda del Sol (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute lemon. Here are some things to watch out for.

  • How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well.
  • Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away.
  • Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer.
  • What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump?
  • How do they respond when you ask them simple questions?
  • Do they know anything about the del Sol and the model they are selling (do they know about the differences between VTEC, Si, S models for example)?
  • What can they tell you about previous owners?
  • Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer.
  • What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond.
  • What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?
  • How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
  • How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car?

If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another Honda del Sol.

Importing a CR-X del Sol from Japan

Credit: Honda

Lexus sold quite a few of these cars in Japan, so it is a popular place to import them from. Below we have given you a quick rundown on the importing process and what to keep in mind when looking to import a Lexus GS S190 from Japan.

How to Import a del Sol from Japan

While importing a Honda del Sol from Japan may seem a bit daunting, it is actually relatively simple. The first thing we recommend you do is to Google search something like “import Honda del Sol”. You will be greeted with loads of different websites to choose from. These websites will let you search for one of these cars based on their age, generation, condition, price and more.

Most of the websites/companies you encounter should be based in Japan, but you may find some other ones that are located in different parts of the world.

Make sure you check reviews/feedback of any website or auction house you want to use. While you are unlikely to get completely scammed, many of these websites will be economical with the truth about a vehicle. We have listed a few examples of Japanese importers/exporters below:

JDM Expo – Is an independent subsidiary of Nikko Auto Co., which is recognized as on the most reliable exporters of Japanese cars in the country.

Car From Japan – is another large portal for connecting overseas buyers with Japanese second hand cars.

Japan Partner – Is one of the fastest growing exporters of used Japanese vehicles.

Note: many of these sorts of websites do not provide a grade or auction check sheet. The grade, auction check sheet, and car map are vital to picking a good car. Buyer beware!

Use a Private Importer

While the websites above are a handy way to give you a general idea of what to expect when importing a CR-X del Sol, we recommend that you go with a private importer. A trusted private importer will be able to find a suitable del Sol for you and import it, saving you the hassle. While it may cost you a bit more (sometimes it is cheaper) you are more likely to get a better vehicle.

You can get a full explanation of why we recommend using a private importer here.

How Does the Japanese Car Grading System Work? 

The auction houses and car exporters in Japan all get their vehicles in roughly the same way. The difference between them is how much support they are willing to provide, how honest they are, and how they grade their vehicles

They will provide what is known as an ‘auction check sheet’ – a document that contains most of what you need to know about the vehicle. As you can’t see the vehicle personally, you will have to rely on the check sheet and other information on the listing to make a decision. If the seller/website is not willing to provide you with an auction check sheet or additional information on the car, don’t proceed any further.

Before you make a purchase you need to learn how to read an auction check sheet. The sheet contains information on the make, model, condition, specifications and any other notes. There will be a grade on the sheet that denotes the overall grade of the vehicle.

While the grade on a check sheet is important, you should not rely on it to make a final decision. Different companies have different methods for grading their vehicles, so a grade 4 for one company may be a grade 3.5 for another.

Some websites may use a different grading system and if you can’t view the auction check sheet, you should contact the seller/exporter.

Use the grade to reduce the number of del Sols you are looking at and then use the check sheet and additionally information to make a decision. We also recommend you pay a third party to check out the car for you if possible (hence the recommendation for a private importer).

The Auction Check Sheet 

Below you can see an example of an auction check sheet. The grade is located in the top right corner of the check sheet. You will notice that there is both a letter and a number grade. The number indicates the overall condition of the vehicle, while the letter shows you the interior grade. At the bottom right of the check sheet is the ‘car map’. The car map tells you information about the exterior of a fourth gen Lexus LS and where any problems are located.

Additionally, the sheet contains information about the specs of the vehicle and any modifications (major or minor). The inspector may also write some additional notes about the car.

What Does the Number Grade Mean? 
  • Grade 7 to 9 or S– New car with delivery miles.
  • Grade 6– Same as above but with a few more miles.
  • Grade 5– Vehicle is in excellent condition with low miles.
  • Grade 4.5– Overall condition is great, but may have up to 100,000 miles on the clock.
  • Grade 4– Overall condition is good, but can have low or high miles.
  • Grade 3.5– Similar to grade 4, but some work may be needed and they usually have more miles.
  • Grade 3– Can be the same condition as grade 3.5, but with more miles. Alternatively, the car may have lower miles but require more work.
  • Grade 2– Very poor condition car and may have significant mechanical or exterior issues. Not necessarily a right off, but you would have to be a brave buyer to purchase one of these.
  • Grade 1– Is modified in some way (can be extensive or something simple).
  • Grade 0, A, R, RA– Some repair history that can be major or minor.
The Letter Grade

As we wrote earlier, the number grade is usually accompanied by a letter that indicates the interior grade. An ‘A’ indicates that the interior is in exceptional or good condition. A ‘B’ indicates that the car is in average condition, while a ‘C’ displays that it is in poor condition. Grades below C show that the car’s interior is in very poor condition.

The Car Map 

The check sheet will also contain what is called a “car map”, which tells you all the information you need to know about the exterior condition of the car. It will show the location of any problems or damage to the vehicle. Any problems are indicated by a letter and a number. The letter tells you what the issue is and the number indicates the severity. You can read more about the car map in our “How to Import a Car from Japan” guide.

Our Guidelines for Importing a Honda del Sol from Japan

  • Always demand to see and have the auction check sheet before making a purchase
  • If you can’t read Japanese or the company won’t provide a translated check sheet, get help from somebody who speaks/reads Japanese.
  • Try to go through a private importer
  • Check that the chassis number on the check sheet matches the one on the frame
  • Cross reference the check sheet with other websites
  • Don’t rely on the grade (always check the auction sheet thoroughly)
  • Investigate each website/service thoroughly (reviews, feedback, etc.)
  • Be careful of heavily modified vehicles
  • Get someone to inspect the car for you if possible. Ask for photos and get a good run down of the condition.
  • Avoid cars with unknown mileages
  • Stay away from bargains that seem to be too good to be true
  • Stay away from grade 0, A, RA, R vehicles that have been involved in accidents
Know Your Country’s Importation Laws 

Always make sure you check your country’s importation laws as you may find you can’t bring the vehicle you want in. For example, some countries have certain restrictions on importing cars under a certain age.

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