1981 Accord, Anything To Swap In?

We may earn a small commission from affiliate links and paid advertisements. Terms


Junior Member
I have a 1981 Honda Accord with a 1.8 L (model EK1). Is there any other engine that will bolt in, or at least bolt in with the least amount of modification? It keeps blowing the head gasket, and there are not any aftermarket parts that I can find at least. Thanks!

why would you want to put a swap into that car....get rid of it and buy an 88-91 civic. put a swap in it and you'll be gravy....b16, b18, gsr, itr, h22 or whatever you want. it all depends on what you want to do with the car and how much $$$$$ you have to spend.
Because that car is a classic. Unfortunately I don't know of any swaps that would be even close to easy.
Thanks lsvtec. It is a classic, and mine is in excellent shape. I think I will just rebuild the engine for now and use some new head bolts to try to prevent it from happening for at least the new few years. Down the road I will look into a swap. Thanks.
I have heard of people throwing H22's in there but that is by far not an easy, least modification swap. It would be wireing from hell. It is a total custom job. Basicly your car is pre Cookie cuter days. Things did not just peice together like they do today.

Is your accord a hatchback? How many miles are one it? I would rebuild it and just keep it as close to stock as possible.
The only people that might have a clue on this is http://3geez.com but they mostly consentrate on 86-89 Accords. Give it a shot, there's members with older accords doing the A20 motor swap (86-89 Motor) in the older version accord.

Good luck!
I have a 77 Accord, so I am familiar with this. I am (SLOWLY) rebuilding this car as stock, even tho the thought of getting a lot of swap HP into this under 2000# car is tempting, because there are few of them left, and frankly it has a great, if sometimes cantankerous personality.

The head gasket is a problem on this engine, and here is what I learned. The head warps pretty easily, with moderate overheating. SOOOO...
1 - make sure the radiator is clean, inside and out.
2 - make sure the fan and its thermo-switch work properly and RELIABLY.
3 - make sure the thermostat for coolant flow (from head to radiator) works correctly. I replace these about every 1-2 years on principle. They do not last well, unlike later Hondas where they last many years.
3 - Have a reliable machine shop flatten both the head and the top of the block, probably needed at this point
4 - The best gasket for this engine that I have found is made by FEL-PRO. Better than OE, which is better than most of the others. Search til you find the FEL-PRO.
5 - When you install the head do this:
a - Torque head bolts per factory spec
b - Drive the car about 10 minutes, enough to reach normal operating temperature. Do NOT drive hard!!!
c - Park the car, let the engine return to completely to ambient temperature (maybe next day)
d - Loosen the head bolts. I don't remember if order makes a difference. May as well use tightening order. Use either that or reverse, but do not loosen in random order.
e - Re-Torque the head bolts per factory spec
f - repeat steps (c, d, e) ONCE after about 2 weeks

If you do not mill (flatten) the head and the block, it will blow head gaskets regularly. This involves removal and disassembly of the engine, (basically a rebuild) but once done will be good as long as the engine is not overheated again.

My engine was treated BRUTALLY in autocross/road circuit trials/back roads, plus fried badly (this is where the block warped at about 140,000 miles) when I lost the radiator fan switch in traffic and did not notice this till I smelled something burning under the hood, but I now have 200,000 miles on and it is ready to go back into the car again. The point is that once you get it right, if you don't overheat it, it should be good for quite a long time.

Good Luck!