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Old 01-28-2011, 09:38 PM   #1
vclarke
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2005 4WD EX MT
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Gurgling/cavitation sound behind center of dash

I’m sorry for the length of this, but I don’t know what details are important or not…and I need help figuring out what’s wrong with my Element. The dealer is unable to.

My E was in a minor collision in October (in California) and the radiator was replaced (with a refurbished one, as determined by my insurance). Immediately after picking it up from the shop I started hearing a sound behind the middle of the dash that sounded like hollow ping-pong balls rolling around (on acceleration, when driving short distances around town—seemed to go away when the E was fully heated).

Upon calling the collision shop I was told it was the radiator gurgling, and just to keep driving and it would burp out eventually. I had to return to the shop for a coolant leak within a few more days, and they said the radiator was bad, and replaced it again. Upon driving away the “gurgling” was still there, and upon calling them again I was told it was because they didn’t burp it afterwards (since they were in a rush to get it back to me)…to drive it and it would eventually burp itself.

The fluid that had leaked under my E was seemingly-normal-looking water, with patches of brownish-red oil. The shop said that was transmission fluid.
I discovered leaking the next week, and returned to the shop again. They said the radiator was leaking in the same place again, and the insurance authorized a new one to be put in, and they would have a radiator shop down the street put it in. However, the radiator shop discovered that the radiator was fine, that there was a mismatch in the after-market parts, in the piece that connected the transmission line to the radiator. The solution was to tighten the connector piece (sorry I don’t know the right terms!) a few torque tighter than the instructions said to.

After this, we immediately left to drive across to the East Coast (military move). Over the 3 weeks driving/visiting/sight-seeing, I not once heard the “gurgling” sound.

Upon arriving in Maryland, the Element sat outside in 30-degree weather for two days, and I started noticing the “gurgling” again driving around locally here. Upon checking under the E, I noticed non-oily water spots. I took the E (through the insurance) to a Honda shop here and they discovered that the coolant level was low, and that coolant was spilled all over the engine casing. They pressure tested the system and could not find any leaks. They topped off the coolant, burped the system well, cleaned up the engine casing, and were confident that my issues were resolved.

The next day we drove 10 hours to Boston, stayed there for 5 days, and returned. I did not hear the “gurgling” sound during any of this time. The weather in Boston was continually below freezing, and I drove short distances around town while there.

Upon returning home last week, the Element sat in the garage here for three days undriven. Upon driving again, locally here, the gurgling has started up again. The good news is that nothing is leaking this time.

I focused hard on the sounds this time…they aren’t as loud as the initial episodes after the two radiator replacements, but it’s the same ping-pong-ball rolling sound, just gentler.

I went back to the shop. They said the coolant level was fine, they couldn’t reproduce the sound, but that they drained a small amount of air out of a heater hose, and that maybe that was it. Upon driving out of the shop, the noise started up again for me. I returned and got the mechanic to drive with me to hear it. He heard the noise, said it sounded like an object rolling around. He said he was confident it wasn’t in the coolant/heating system though…he said if it was the sound would be coming from behind the glove box area, not the middle of the dash. He took the E back into the shop, but couldn’t reproduce it in the shop, and said because of that, and not knowing what it was, they didn’t know what to fix.

So I’m left with this noise that wasn’t there before the collision/radiator work, the insurance and the shops all say my E is fine, I’m sure they all are sitting there rolling their eyes thinking I am a hallucinating and paranoid woman…am I? What’s going on?

Upon more internet surfing, I’ve learned that the noise I’m hearing sounds more like “cavitation”, not “gurgling”. It sounds similar to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Lbxtjfdat4 (starting at 15 seconds). Sometimes there will be a string of consistent pops, sometimes just a few uneven ones, and sometimes just one or two. The strings of pops happens when I’m accelerating after straightening from a right-hand turn, and the one or two pops happens if I’m in park and rev my engine, or just general acceleration. I cannot reproduce the noise consistently though…it seems to happen with a precise combination of turn radius and acceleration that I haven’t pin-pointed yet…or maybe it’s just random. The only thing that seems somewhat consistent is that it starts up after having sat for a couple of days, and goes away for a while if I drive more than 5-10 miles.
I’m not having any noticeable power or heating loss, the shop said the pressure tests also checked the head gasket and that it is fine.

Do I have old air pockets still in the system? The overflow reservoir (cold) is sitting 1/3 of the way between cold and hot … it doesn’t seem to be sucking air in from there.

Do I have transmission fluid (from the original leak issues) in the coolant, causing cavitation in the water pump? (is that something that can only happen in a diesel though?) I took the radiator cap off and ran the engine for about 20 min, only saw one tiny bubble pop out at one point, but no frothy, and especially no red or brown anything… it’s a nice blue/green color. The overflow reservoir was just below the “hot” line.

I’m thinking of going to the bigger Honda dealer here and having them do a thorough flush of the system and refill with Honda coolant… will that fix any air pockets that might still be remaining, and also any possible issues from transmission fluid? Or mismatched coolant? Does this possibly sound like the right direction, or am I wasting my money?

I’m just frustrated that the professionals can’t fix my E, and that I, who knows nothing about this stuff, am left to figure it out =(
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Old 02-01-2011, 04:33 PM   #2
scorpion1
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Gurgling

I work at BMW/MB/Honda dealer and both BMW's and MB's had a gurgle noise that was caused by the evaporator condensation not draining properly. BMW had a "gurgle kit" that vented the evaporator case to facilitate easier drainage of the evaporate. Just a thought since everyone seems to be stymied. Never heard anything like this in either of our Elements.
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Old 02-01-2011, 07:50 PM   #3
packerz4
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i had this same problem... solved it by slowly adding a little coolant every now and then. eventually the gurgles all went away.
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Old 02-03-2011, 10:35 AM   #4
ElementALAW
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2007 4WD EX 5AT
Nighthawk Black Pearl (NBP)
 
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I have the same 'gurgling' problem every now and then. Mainly when the E has sat a couple days. I haven't tried to fix it but I'm glad someone brought this up. I will post any solutions I find....if I find any
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Old 02-03-2011, 10:58 AM   #5
1fastvx
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2006 2WD EX-P MT
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This is a simple fix. You just need to purge the air from the coolant system. The simpliest method would be to park upwards on a steep incline. Open the radiator cap and start the car and turn the heat/cold selector towards the heat, but do not turn on the blower. Let it run until the fan cycles a few times. Add coolant as it goes down. When you done just throw the radiator cap back on. If needed repeat the process until completely purged.

Good luck!!

John
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Old 02-04-2011, 12:26 PM   #6
vclarke
EOC Rank: Hydrogen
2005 4WD EX MT
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Location: Maryland
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John/1fastvx,
The dealer insists they have given it good purges, and they also mention they jack up the front of the car to do so. I'm keeping my eyes open for a hilly area, to attempt to do this myself as well, but hills are sparse here.

ElementALAW,
Sounds same as mine...did yours start happening out of the blue, or was there an event that caused it?

If this is indeed air bubbles in there, isn't that bad for the head gasket? Localized overheating in areas of the head?
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Old 02-04-2011, 03:21 PM   #7
rhurt
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Its really not very difficult to remove the air from the system. Really it happens almost automatically on its own. So there must be another issue. Is there a slow coolant leak? I have seen this with a leaky heater core. Is there any relation to blower speed (interior vent fan)? Or maybe its time to consider other systems under the dash.
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Old 11-27-2012, 02:25 PM   #8
bhwhiteside
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Hate to bring up an old thread, though it seems this issue was never resolved. If it was, I would love to know!

My element is doing the same thing, only when the heat is on. If the temperature dial is turned towards the heat side at all, this noise occurs while driving (usually on acceleration, mostly on acceleration while turning). If the dial is on cold, the sound does not occur.
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Old 11-27-2012, 08:03 PM   #9
NEROWONDER
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Did you check coolant level?
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Old 11-27-2012, 08:13 PM   #10
becker57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bhwhiteside View Post
Hate to bring up an old thread, though it seems this issue was never resolved. If it was, I would love to know!

My element is doing the same thing, only when the heat is on. If the temperature dial is turned towards the heat side at all, this noise occurs while driving (usually on acceleration, mostly on acceleration while turning). If the dial is on cold, the sound does not occur.
Mine didn't it after a coolant flush so after the car had cooled down all the way, I completely topped off the radiator only and that fixed the problem for me. The coolant is the radiator was a little after they did the flush even though the overflow was in the normal range. My civic did the same thing with the same solution.
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