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Aftermarket Exhaust Manifold - Thoughts & Recommendations

1373 Views 35 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  ktemkin
Hi all. Due to a recent loss of the catalytic converter, I got under there and found that I needed the entire exhaust system. The Walker system which replaced the original converter and resonator/muffler assembly was a mess and heavily rusted. So, I have the entire system out and ready to be replaced with a stainless steel setup. However, the exhaust manifold stay bracket bolts and the lower exhaust manifold shield bolt are not that healthy. I tried to remove them with my induction heater that I used on the rest of the bolts and it was a no go. They are locked in there. So, before I go any further, I would like any thoughts and comments on an aftermarket exhaust manifold I found on ebay. I am thinking about this if I cause any issues while removing these bolts. It looks like I could drill out the exhaust stay bracket bolts and use bolts and nuts afterwards, but there is limited space to get to the exhaust heat shield lower bolt.

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Here is a link to the listing.

Does anyone have experience with aftermarket exhaust manifolds? Am I asking for trouble even considering this one? Thoughts/comments/advice/guidance/experience would be much appreciated. Thank you.
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Several months back I ran into the same issue with a bolt locking the bottom of the exhaust manifold to the stay bracket. In my case the head of the bolt had been rounded-off by some previous "repair," so I used a MIG to weld a new head onto the bolt and, once welding on, the bolt came right out. I believe the greatest factor in loosening the bolt was simply the intense thermal shock imparted by the welding--I would think your inductive heater would have done the same thing. After welding, I backed out the bolt with a 1/2"-drive impact gun--that may have also helped breaking the seize. Be sure to use a universal joint when approaching the bolt head as the subframe/suspension prevents you from getting a straight, solid purchase on the head of the bolt.

Here's the link to what I did.

Looking for recommendations on exhaust manifold repair...
Hi ktemkin,

Thanks for the response. My welder was lent to someone who got laid off and disappeared. The induction heater never got the bolts hot enough as I think the heat was transferring to the steel exhaust manifold. I really tried on these. Looks like the exposed threads above the stay bracket are a real mess. I was concerned about getting a straight shot to the exhaust manifold stay bracket bolts with an impact gun. I will look at this next. However, how did you get the exhaust manifold heat shield lower bolt out with the limited space available?

Thank you.
Luckily, with whatever previous repair that was done in that area, the butcher removed and left off the heat shield. Lucky me.

BTW, I see that Home Depot rents small MIG units. At the one near me, in the northern Chicago suburbs, it's 39$ for four hours. I also see that Home Depot sells a Ryobi flexible shaft attachment for an impact driver for $16 . . . you could also use it with an electric drill. If you could fashion a cutoff wheel attachment to that flexible shaft, you could cut off those messed up threads on the back side of the manifold. WIth that done, I would be pretty confident that the weld-on nut and impact gun method would work.
I also had much trouble with the manifold bolts. At first I just needed to detach the cat from the manifold to work on it away from the car. The right side bolt head spun off. This is of course the one that is more difficult to reach without removing the sub-frame. I attempted to drill it out but broke the drill bit. Then I had to drill out the drill bit and the bolt with a hardened cobalt bit. That was unsuccessful until I torched the bolt and basically annealed it down to a level that could be drilled. It was extremely challenging to drill straight on that bolt and equally challenging to cut it off.

I also thought about removing the manifold, but stopped short of risking what I had read about too many others stripping the manifold bolts and having to basically remove the whole engine to drill out the broken bolt and tap the block with a repair helicoil.

I would be careful with using those flexible shafts (usually meant for drill driving or screwing) as a cutoff wheel shaft. They aren’t really designed to take high speed cutting loads especially when bent tightly. I have a flexible Dremel shaft that I was able to use with some success to get in there, but even still it was challenging.

Eventually I got the cat off, cleaned up, repaired, and I was able to retap the drilled out manifold hole and use a larger screw. I also pulled a manifold off of a junked element and have it on a shelf in case I need it. Given that you can usually find a junked E in a U-pull yard, I would try to go OEM over something new.
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Because you can't get a straight shot on that right-hand bolt, it sounds like the rounded-off head issue is a common problem.

Agreed that those flexible shafts are not intended for high speeds, but since this is a single incident solution, and you have only one bolt the cut through, if you take your time and use a drill to drive the shaft (which means a slow speed), I don't think you'd have a problem. If a Dremel, or something similar, is available, that's even better.
Oh boy, looks like I am in for it. I guess I should have realized, but I did not think about how bad the manifold to engine bolts and studs/nuts would be. I would like to avoid removal of the manifold if possible. I am in upstate NY (near Albany) and will check on the welder. Does Harbor Freight have one you might recommend or like?

pihmpdaddi, what did you drill with? Was it a right angle setup? And how did you remove the lower exhaust manifold to heat shield bolt?

Any other thoughts or guidance would be appreciated since I do not want to make a total mess out of this.

Thank you both.
The absolute cheapest welder HF has is about $170 and is just a stick welder, which is good enough for what you have to do here, but can't be used it for much sheet metal work (I suppose an unbelievable pro might, in a pinch, do sheet metal welding with a stick welder). Cheapest helmet at HF is $35. So you are going to be in the low $200 range total.

But be careful !!! Under the car, on your back, with six inches, maybe a foot of room to move around. And with a stick welder the rod is alway energized. You accidentally brush against something while moving around and you've just welded to that thing you brushed against. At least with MIG, nothing happens until you pull the trigger.

Also, before doing any welding on a car, DISCONNECT THE BATTERY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Guys, thank you very much for your comments and thoughts. I did not feel comfortable getting under there with a live flame or welder. I do have all four wheels up about 5 inches from the ground.

I went back under with the induction heater, the long handle ratchet, the impact sockets, the nut extractors, and more nerve than before. After a hell of a lot of heating, both bolts broke free and are out. Took several days. I rammed my hand into the cross member (forgot the gloves) and am bleeding pretty good from two knuckles right now. Thank you so much for your guidance. I can now replace the rusted exhaust stay bracket. Looking at the removed bolts, I have no earthly idea how I was able to grip them and get them out. They are a mess. What did you guys replace them with? Did you use 10 mm X 25 mm long fine thread flanged bolts and heavy washers?

However, how do I get that lower exhaust manifold heat shield bolt out? It looks like the head has rusted down from 12 mm to 10 mm. Also, what is the mesh washer/gasket under the head of this bolt and between the bolt and heat shield? Should I just leave it alone? My concern is that if it breaks free, it will rattle the shield, and there is no room or access once the exhaust system is installed. I did remove the rectangular heat shield above it to get a little more access. Thoughts/comments/advice/cautions?

Thank you again.
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Can you post a picture?

Also…I would, almost never, buy something from Harbor Freight, especially something like a welder or a compressor or anything else with more than 2 or 3 parts. Might as well throw your money away. Most of that cheap Chinese knock off garbage will break on the first or second use.
Okay, here is a picture of what I am up against on the exhaust manifold heat shield lower bolt. This is from a similar thread, specifically Exhaust Manifold leak/removal issue

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However, mine looks just like this one, perhaps a tad worse. Also, I removed the heat shield at the top left (4 bolts) to get slightly more access. Any thoughts? The other thread suggested vise grips, but it is very hard to get in this area. Maybe if I had a much larger pair of vise grips. I am concerned because if this bolt breaks free, the shield will vibrate and rattle. With the exhaust installed, it will be impossible to get access to this area.

Thank you.
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I think that wire-mesh washer is to allow some float of the sheet metal without clamping it up. I’m not sure if that is a shoulder-bolt that bottoms out while leaving a gap…and that allows the gap to remain without rattling. There would be one of those on both sides of the sheet metal clearance hole. I would be very wary of that bolt head spinning off.
That is why I am concerned. But exactly how did you get the one on your vehicle out?
I don’t think I ended up ever removing mine. So I can’t offer any evidence based advice.
Here are some photos of that wire mesh "grommet."

As I said in one of my previous posts in this thread, my car was missing this heat shield when I bought it. When I replaced the catalytic converter and had to deal with the manifold stay bolt, I had to order a bunch of parts, so I ordered a heat shield. I have not yet put it on so I was able to take these pictures.

If you look carefully you can see that the two "washer" halves are press fit assembled like a grommet, sandwiching the wire mesh washers.

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Okay, great, now I understand the construction. That means the outside of this metal grommet (closest to the bolt head) has rusted away, fused to the bolt, and exposed the wire mesh. So when I am trying to turn it, I am not only fighting the threads but trying to turn this metal grommet. I do not see any way to remove it without causing more problems. So how about leaving this lower exhaust manifold heat shield bolt in place and adding a band clamp (see photo)?

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The band clamp is above the bolt and positioned in a detent/recessed area. I positioned the tension screw towards the driver side. Anyone ever try this? Thoughts/comments/suggestions? I want to be able to prevent vibrating/rattling if this lower bolt should fail.

Also, how tough are the upper exhaust heat shield bolts to remove? I looked at them and they look in decent shape, but I am sure they are locked in place.

Finally, did you have any issues/adverse effects from running without the heat shield?

Thank you.
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As the heat shield on my Element was missing, so were those two upper bolts. The flanges on the manifold through which those bolts pass are threaded and are in good condition. Off the top of my head I don't remember the condition of the threads of that lower bolt, although I know the bolt is no longer there. Along with the heat shield, I purchased the three bolts from a Honda dealer.

Purchased my Element with 55,000 miles in January, 2021 and drove the car from Chicago to Anchorage in August of that year, pulling a trailer. It lived in Anchorage until September of 2022 and was then driven back to Chicago, again, pulling a trailer. The car now has 77,000 miles on it.

In that span of time I have not had any problems running without the heat shield.
Looking at your last picture, are you missing the heat shield that covers the shaft that drives the driver's side axle?
Hey, good catch, yes I am missing the heat shield that covers the shaft that drives the driver's side axle. I had to remove it to get to the exhaust stay bracket engine side bolts. My bracket was super rusty, I purchased one off of an ebay seller. Turns out he sent me the one for a 2004 Honda Accord (similar in shape but smaller in size). So last night I had to order one from and will have to wait for it because they have to get it from a distribution center (which I believe is in south New Jersey) and then ship it to me.

Did you wind up purchasing the bolts and heavy washers for the manifold side of the exhaust stay bracket from the dealer as well? Or did you use aftermarket M10-1.25 X 25 mm long bolts (say from Advance Auto or otherwise)? Are these a high temperature alloy bolt?

Thank you for your help and support.
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