Starting an EJ1 Build

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


New Member

I'm going to start this off by saying that I'm fairly new to cars. I got my EJ1 two years ago with 300k miles on it because i figured buying a $1000 civic and fixing the issues that arise along the way would be more cost efficient and would force me to learn about cars. I'm at the point where i should either scrap the death machine or try doing some major work on it. I figured building a D16Z6 would be an okay place to start with engine building since its not terribly complicated and a fairly cheap engine to build. I want an engine that would last me another 300k miles and would help the civic serve as my daily driver for years to come. I need some advice on the quality of my reasoning for building a D16 and advice on how to start. I understand the major components of an engine but I'm worried that with my limited knowledge I would be overseeing some important things. Any advice is appreciated.

Hi, welcome to the site.

Is this car your daily driver? like if you pull the head off it, and need a part at the store, or to go to work tomorrow in when a bolt snaps, are you in trouble?

That's the first thing to consider - what is your downtime availability.

Next, what's wrong with it? is it just old? anything not working 100%?
Currently I have a lot of downtime availability with it. I’m gonna be working from home until the end of this year so now is probably the best time to gut it.
It is old. Suspension bushings are rotted so it squeaks when taking turns, something my front left rattles when breaking hard, I have no airbags, alignment is off...the list goes on.

My power train is what I’m most unfamiliar with and the most concerning for me. Recently my clutch master cylinder gave out and I had to replace that and the slave cylinder. Ever since then it’s been taking some finesse trying to shift gears because of how sticky it is. I’m assuming it’s just the wear on the clutch/transmission gears. When it turns on, the idle rpm is around 2-3k, then slowly drops and starts rev searching. This goes away either with time or until I drive for a bit. There’s always smell of oil burning from the caked on oil/dirt around the engine. So there’s definitely a leak somewhere. The upside is that I don't have a check engine light yet.

I got it with a lot of stuff "tuned" on it. The ignition timing was lowered, the ECU is from a different model civic, the cold air compressor was removed, they replaced the muffler with something that sounds like bees on the highway. Basically there is some stuff that was changed but I have no history of repair. It is an OBD1 car so I cant plug it into a computer that will tell me what I need to do next.
but do you have to drive it everyday?

if the body is good i'd fix it to drive it... then conquer everything a little at a time.

clean up the engine bay and find the vacuum leak. you can use dish soap in a bottle sprayer on all the places the intake gaskets and hoses are to look for bubbles (leaks). the throttlebody could even just be gummed up but i would buy new gaskets and such before removing any parts.
Well, it sounds like you need a lot of stuff.

Are you willing to dump 2-3x the cost of the car into it? if you REALLY fix it up, up and tally all the misc crap over time, you'll easily be in the 1000s range.
If it's to learn, that's great but there's some things that aren't just good financial decisions.
The body isn’t in the best condition but it doesn’t have a bent frame or anything that I know of. Just a couple dents here and there. I’m not too worried about it looking nice just yet. I’m going to eventually need to drive it everyday but I have about half a year til then.

If it were to cost me 2-3k to get my car to a reliable point then it seems to be worth it. Once I graduate from uni in a year I’d probably be looking to spend around the same amount if not more on a car that is reliable enough to daily drive. I just get to spend the same amount for the same results on a car I fell in love with.
most of us that post are atleast 10 years older lol

as long as it isnt rusty dents arent a big deal. i gave you some nice tips. get started! lol
Rust is going to be your enemy. Take a look at my build thread, it's pretty recent. As of today, I have $6532.17 into my build, and I could have done that a lot cheaper by using lower quality parts and not making it NHRA legal. I think you can probably do it.

You say "Uni", so that leads me to believe you're not in the US. Where are you located?

It sounds like you should strip the car down completely and go from there. You have the downtime availability, but honestly I'd pick up a scooter/motorcycle so you can go get parts.

I'd start off by vacuum bleeding the clutch and getting that all squared away, then see what's actually wrong. Change the transmission fluid, and filter it to check for metal.

Take the old ECU out, figure out how it's chipped/tuned, and put the correct tune on it for the engine and other components. If you can't use a stock ECU, I'd suggest looking into Honda Tuning Suite, as it's a continuation of ECTune, and has lots of support. Your apparent vacuum leak may be the IACV not configured correctly.