View Full Version : 3S-GE vs. 3S-GTE vs. 5S-FE vs. Honda Civic

Disco Dan
09-23-2009, 06:56 PM
So recently I've been weighing the pros and cons of my current vehicle stock, vs. what I would ideally like, vs. what is probably most practical.

I just got married, and I have a kid from a previous relationship, and at the moment, I'm unemployed, so these are the kinds of considerations I'm making.

I have two cars. My pride and joy is my 1992 Celica Convertible.

When I got it, it had the 5S-FE engine, with 67k miles on it. This was the first car I had ever bought, and at the time, I knew nothing about cars. Nearly everything I have learned about cars has been due to buying this little machine.

It's black. It has the 3S-GE engine, which is a hell-of-a lot of fun to drive. It handles great. The top comes down. It has a great, stock stereo system. I combined the Japanese RHD power-folding mirrors with German LHD non-power, defrosting, folding mirrors, to get LHD, power-folding, defrosting mirrors. My pride and joy. The stock 6th gen wheels give it a very slick look. Love it. And more recently, I've managed to squeeze out 30 mpg, primarily on highway driving, but also incorporating non-aggressive city driving.


It has issues. The A/C hasn't worked since I put the 3S-GE in it. Part of that, I'm sure, is because of my wiring. I pulled the RHD wiring harness off of the engine, and instead of just extending the connectors 3 feet, I reran the wires to make it LHD. Well, imagine what Dr. Tweak does, but from someone with no experience. Believe me, when you look in the engine bay, you can tell it was done by someone with no experience. :D

Ok, so no A/C. No big deal, right? Well, I have a 9-month old son, and I can't transport him in my car on really hot days. Not great for showing the courts that I have the resources to take care of a kid. Also, it's a black car, with a grey interior and a black top. 95 weather is miserable in that car, and it's no better with the top down. Imagine driving around with a hair dryer the size of the world aimed at you. Granted, part of that is the area I live in. I'm sure it would be fine in most of California. But in D.C. we have awful humidity. I can't put my kid in there on those days, and I don't even want to put ME in there on those days.

Also, and probably because of my wiring as well, it sometimes doesn't start. Just click. Strangely, if I jump a wire from the battery to the starter, it cranks and starts right up. Ok, you say, it's definitely a wiring issue. Except that when I put a voltmeter between the starter terminal and ground and turn the key, it gets 12 volts to the same terminal that I use to jump the starter. So the wiring is doing its job. Anyway, it's not a huge issue, but I do keep an extra length of wire handy to jump it, since it does this about 3-4 days per week if I'm driving it regularly.

Apparently, one of the previous owners had an accident on the drivers side and had repairs done. They replaced both doors with ST doors. So when I go the car, it had manual locks, manual windows. Granted, the little rear windows were still electrical, as was the convertible top, which I thought was a little strange, since I had to crank the front windows. The repairs also included an amateur bondo job on the rear quarter panel which has not improved in the 5 years I've had the car. It bulges out like a swollen lip just behind the drivers door. Worse yet, the drivers door doesn't close all the way. Oh sure it seals, and it sort of sounds like it closes all the way, but you know how the door is supposed to latch twice when it's shut all the way? There's that safety latch position, then you push it all the way closed and it latches again? Well, because of the accident an the subsequent body work, the left rear quarter panel is farther out to the left than it should be. Not by much, but enough that when the door latches, it's actually latching the first time, not the double latch that it should be. The other door is fine.

The rear plastic window has started to separate from the canvas top. The stitching on the top has started to come apart as well. The trunk lid, which was black when I got it, has faded to something between gray and white.

Then there's my 1992 Honda Civic LX.

Stereo system is lacking. Acceleration is lacking. Going around corners takes the rubber off of the tires. It's not a performance machine, it's not a sports car, and it's not fun to drive. BUT! It gets between 35 and 40 mpg (I did 43 mpg one tank last summer) and the A/C works! It's practical. It doesn't let me down, I don't worry that it will stop working because of my custom wiring or engine installation. It's a safe, reliable car.

But I remember what acceleration feels like every time I take the Celica out for a spin.

My wife has a 2004 Corolla S. It's actually not bad. She only drives manuals, so I can still have a fair degree of fun with it, but under that hood is still an economy engine. We pushed 39.7 mpg on our trip to Atlanta, averaging 75mph with the A/C on. Her "S" version makes it a bit more fun around the corners, but I feel like, compared to the Hondas I've driven, Toyotas have always offered better handling options. But the reality is, it's still just a mildly sporty family car.

So I've come to the conclusion that I still want a 5th gen Celica. Oh sure, I'd love a 1st gen, or a 2nd gen Supra as well. But if I had to have just one car, and that's what it's looking like, I'd keep my convertible.

But it has all these issues, which make it impractical for my use.

So I thought, maybe I'll look for a good-condition, black convertible with a manual transmission. I'll keep my wheels, my awesome mirrors, swap any trim pieces I absolutely want to keep, and sell my 3S-GE vert. So then I've got a solid bodied 5th gen Convertible, I get the bells and whistles that I had in my old convertible, and since it has the 5S-FE again, I'll have A/C. And since it hasn't been played with, I shouldn't have as many issues. I mean, every car has issues, but it will be nice to have issues that aren't a result of my Frankenstein tendencies.

But... it will have the 5S-FE. Now, don't get me wrong. After driving my Civic for years, I bought the Celica and I was thrilled with the 5S-FE. It had low-end torque which I had never experienced. I could beat most cars out of an intersection in that car. Granted, once I hit the 4k mark, they started to pull away, but the low end was great. But once you've driven the 3S-GE, which BEGS to be taken to the red line, with a very nice, even-feeling power curve, it's hard to go back to the 5S. Oh sure, the bottom end is fine, but it's the mid-to-high end on the 3S that will spoil you rotten.

So then I thought, well, what if I got the 3S-GTE? It's even more powerful than the 3S-GE, and since they made it in this country, I wouldn't have as many compatibility issues, and as long as I keep the stock 3S-GTE wiring harness, I should be able to get A/C with it. The power curve should be similar to the 3S-GE, since it's an almost identical engine with the exception of the turbo components.

But... there's the fuel issue. My driving patterns have historically averaged about 300 mi/week, or about 1300 mi/month. For reference, the average American drives 15000 miles per year, or 1250 mi/month. On average, that's about 65 gallons on the 3S-GTE, or 52 gallons on the 3S-GE. In addition, I'd have to fill up the 3S-GTE at least one more time per month than the 3S-GE (assuming I drove out all 16 gallons). Since premium gas, on average, costs between 20 and 30 more than regular unleaded, per gallon, I'm looking at almost $50 per month in increased fuel expense with the 3S-GTE.

In my current financial position, that would not be a wise move. I do wonder, however, if the 3S-GTE would behave like the 3S-GE if it didn't have the turbo. The advantage of the 3S-GTE swap would be the compatibility and availability of aftermarket parts. While I can use a lot of 3S-GTE parts for the 3S-GE, there are enough differences to make it a hassle, and sometimes an impossibility.

Anyway, this is the debate I'm currently having with myself. I love the 3S-GE performance, and hate to give it up, but with the wiring issues, and the unavailability of stock LHD wiring in this country, it has already presented practical issues. The 5S-FE is more practical, but not nearly as fun. The 3S-GTE is, I'm sure, a blast to drive. And while it is not nearly as economically practical, it has fewer compatibility issues than the 3S-GE. And if I could determine that the 3S-GTE could run without the turbo... well, I suppose it wouldn't run nearly as well as a stock 3S-GE, since the GTE ECU is looking for certain values which would be out of whack with the disabled turbo.

I don't know. I'm probably mostly rambling here, but I'm also wondering if anyone else has had to make this decision. Congrats if you made it through this meandering post!

09-23-2009, 07:35 PM
So... what are you asking?

09-24-2009, 02:46 AM
Why not talk to Dr.Tweak and see if he can fix your harness for you? That would be the best way to go. maybe he can fix the A/C problem or point you in the right direction. Sorry I do'nt know much about 3sge swaps but money wise sounds the beat way to go.

09-24-2009, 07:06 AM
Homestly, it makes the most sense to keep the vert. I read most of what you said and it only has 2 problems. I know you have spent your time on those problems, but you can't be too far off from solving them and they, theoretically, should be cheaper. And fixing the vert top shouldn't be too bad either.

Trust me on this, don't settle with the civic. You will regret it. I settled on a Protege and mind it did a great job, I hated it after having my alltrac for a bit.

09-24-2009, 07:57 AM
First thing: please be concise!
Yes the 3SGTE is fun, but without the turbo, it's a pig - it will not behave just like the 3SGE. I agree with the others, sounds like you should keep the 3SGE/'vert and just try to fix the wiring issue. Besides, who would buy it from you if it's funky?

09-24-2009, 02:22 PM
Keep and fix the vert w/ 3sge. Cheaper and easier in the long run.

No the 3sgte will not run the same without a turbo - it has lower compression and is fueled differently would run like a geo if you were lucky.


09-24-2009, 02:44 PM
What gen 3SGE do you have? I might know the source of your AC problems.

09-25-2009, 01:59 AM
Fix the 3s-ge. Easiest way.

Can you possibly do a write up on your power folding mirrors I would like to do the same with mine

Disco Dan
09-25-2009, 02:37 PM
Er, wow.

Hey, thanks for the responses. You all are leaning towards what I'm leaning towards as well. And sorry it was not very concise.

The engine is the 2nd gen 3S-GE, I presume from 1993. Good to know about the 3S-GTE. I figured it couldn't be that simple, but glad to know others have had experience with it.

I think I've actually narrowed the A/C down to two separate issues. There's the issue of why the A/C button won't trigger the system, and there's the issue of why, when manually triggering the system, the 15A fuse blows. The latter may be something as simple as the compressor being bad. I don't know if it's the same with cars as it is with residential/commercial A/C systems, but in those systems, a compressor will often short to ground, tripping the breaker. I presume the same could cause a blown fuse in an automotive A/C system. As for why the button doesn't start the system, it may simply be because of the single-wire coolant sensor, of which I have one, but it needs some jury-rigging to get it working.

I actually have a spare rag top, which I was planning on using, but seeing how unaligned the body is because of that accident, I sort of stopped thinking about that.

I'm definitely convinced I want to hang onto this thing, and as a worst-case scenario, pull the engine and tranny, the mirrors, everything else I want off of it, send it to a scrap heap, store the engine in parts in the basement, slowly rebuilding it, and when I have the money, buy another vert, maybe with a blown engine, and do this right from the ground up.

Anyway, thanks for the input from all!

And yes, I've been meaning to do the mirror write-up. We already have the wiring, the trick is just swapping over the internals and cutting the metal on the new mirrors to match the mounts of the old mirrors. Although, since I've done it already, I can't uncut them and do it again, taking pictures.

09-25-2009, 04:59 PM
The issue may not be the same for the 2nd Gen 3SGE, but on the 3rd Gen 3SGE the AC is actually contolled by two computers. One is the engine ECU and the other is the normal AC computer. Toyota started getting smart about power demand from the driver and how that should affect the engine and use of the AC. Take the '95 Celica SS-III for example, if we're cruising down the road on a hot summer day with the AC on and we floor it to pass someone, the engine ECU will override the AC ECU to shut off the compressor. The passengers probably won't notice any discomfort and we'll give power back to the motor. We also end up putting the engine through as little stress as possible as we pass the other car. ST202 3SGE -> ST162s suffer AC problems that take a little mixing and matching between wiring systems to get the AC to work. I imagine that might be your problem. Having it wired all wrong could cause you to pop fuses. However, the 3rd Gen 3S electronics is a little more advanced compared to the 2nd Gen 3S electronics so I'm not sure if that's it or not. That fact is less true when talking about the GEs versus the GTEs.

Thoughts anyone?