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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Yes I know a lot of people have had these issues and I've read just about every single thread on this topic twice. It seems most of them end without solutions or with solutions I've already tried.

Basic info:
'03 element. 210,000K miles. Been taken care of very well.

The last few years it has been known to die on me at stops, after sitting all night. But after awhile it will be fine. Usually occurs worse when AC is on.

Recently a check engine light came on. It was exhaust codes.

I changed the oil and filter at this time. As well as put in a new air filter. It wasn't that dirty, but replaced it all the same.

At that time I reset the codes, tried to clean the Idle air control valve. I couldn't get it off at that time. I put it back. It was fine for a few days.

I read I needed a Valve Adjustment. Once had never been done. I took it to a dealership for multiple reasons to have have 2 recalls done and the VA done. They didn't say much, just that some were tight... grrrr

Check engine light came back on. Misfires.

The dealer said I had a leaky VTEC Valve, I think it's also called the spool valve? I changed the valve with an after market part, didn't work. Got a Honda part. Fixed.

I got a NEW gas cap. Cleared codes.

Misfire codes popped up. I changed the plugs with good ones. (They actually looked fine). Cleared Codes.

Engine light came on again.

I changed the Ignition coils. They did look a bit ragged but not terrible.

I replaced the Idle air control valve, aftermarket part. (had a mechanic help me for free to remove it) .

I also changed the throttle body gasket, it was destroyed.

I noticed the Coolant reservoir was empty. I filled it up. Cleared Codes.

Test drove it for two days.. No problems. Ran great.

4 days later, after a day of rest (it's cold still) Started it, rough idle and check engine light came on..

I took it on a 6 hour trip. Seemed to run high idle? If that makes sense. Seemed to struggle on hills a bit. A really high pitched sound when the engine would go up to 5K rpm.

Took it to a mechanic on my trip. They couldn't find anything wrong with it. But (after telling them it MAY be a vacuum leak) they said they thought it was a cold start vacuum leak but didn't test that because they didn't know the whole story.. They were NOT listening. They cleared the codes.

Since mechanic did nothing, I ran the car with the radiator cap off to potentially "burp" out any air. I also noticed a small hose on the main air hose (The big air part that comes from the air filter), was a bit loose but not bad.. I tightened it up.

I drove it home. Six hours. Besides a bit goofy idle during ONE stop (or just how the engine runs now after valve adjustment) it ran fantastic. Very smooth.

After the car sat all night.. It got below freezing again, a bit rough idle and the check engine LIGHT CAME ON AGAIN.

So......Ideas?

1)Vacuum leak?.... I've watched the videos on how to test this.. a bit paranoid. I think this could be the cause, but not sure where to look!?

2) Throttle body needs replaced/cleaned?

3) It needs a new battery? Replaced about 3 years ago.. Approx..

4) The spark plugs aren't tight enough (really don't think this is the case)

5) Aftermarket IACV not working right. Again, don't think this is the case.

6) The Valve adjustment at the dealer goofed things up. I really do not want this to be the case because the dealer was not great to work with.. at all. But, still thinking that could be one of the possibilities.


It now seems obvious that once the engine is cold.. It goofs things up. That mechanic that did nothing (and charged me nothing) said if it is cold, a crack could open up, but once it's hot.. it will swell shut making things fine.. Which when it is hot.. It does run great.

Any other thoughts would be greatly appreciated. I've researched and researched. All things come back to Valve Adjustments or potential Vacuum leaks. Even thought I don't read about many vacuum leaks happening on this forum...? And again, I JUST had the valve's adjusted two weeks ago.

THANK YOU!!!
 

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Valves ever been checked/adjusted for clearance?
 

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I am having the same issues, not as extreme at 215k miles. After it dies at the stop sign and I restart it, it is fine. I have replaced the spark plugs and coils and vtec valve (factory part the 1st time) none of which has helped or even affected the problem. I replaced the ECU temperature sensor on the side of the head this past saturday and it seems to have fixed the problem. Granted I live in the Dallas, Tx area where it has not been cold lately. Later this week it will be though so keeping fingers crossed. This sensor tells the computer what temperature the engine coolant is. If it is telling the computer the engine is warmed up before it actually is, the computer comes out of warmup mode too soon (leaning out the air / fuel ratio)

Sensor location:
Sensor Location - justanswer.com

Part:
Part from HondaPartsNow.com

I hope this helps!
-Michael
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I am having the same issues, not as extreme at 215k miles. After it dies at the stop sign and I restart it, it is fine. I have replaced the spark plugs and coils and vtec valve (factory part the 1st time) none of which has helped or even affected the problem. I replaced the ECU temperature sensor on the side of the head this past saturday and it seems to have fixed the problem. Granted I live in the Dallas, Tx area where it has not been cold lately. Later this week it will be though so keeping fingers crossed. This sensor tells the computer what temperature the engine coolant is. If it is telling the computer the engine is warmed up before it actually is, the computer comes out of warmup mode too soon (leaning out the air / fuel ratio)

Sensor location:
Sensor Location - justanswer.com

Part:
Part from HondaPartsNow.com

I hope this helps!
-Michael
Michael, Now that is some fantastic help! Thank you. Were you getting misfire codes? How did you figure out to replace this sensor? Thank you very much, worth checking into! Cheap part too! Thanks!
 

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I noticed that when I let the element warm up on the cold mornings before I took off it would not die at all. So on one of the few cold mornings we have had here this year I started it and sat in it while it was warming up. I noticed 2 spots in the idle while warming up where I could physically feel the engine running rough in the steering wheel. Once it past those 2 spots, it ran fine and did not stall. This is the only sensor the element has that tells the computer what the coolant temperature is. It never threw any codes. Also about 6 months ago I replaced both O2 sensors as well (which didnt affect it either.)
I also had an early 90's VW that you needed to keep your foot on the gas until it was warm to keep it running until I replaced this sensor.

I hope this fixes your problem, and mine! It is supposed to be in the low 40s here Wednesday morning. I am almost looking forward to it! I will let you know.

-Michael
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I noticed that when I let the element warm up on the cold mornings before I took off it would not die at all. So on one of the few cold mornings we have had here this year I started it and sat in it while it was warming up. I noticed 2 spots in the idle while warming up where I could physically feel the engine running rough in the steering wheel. Once it past those 2 spots, it ran fine and did not stall. This is the only sensor the element has that tells the computer what the coolant temperature is. It never threw any codes. Also about 6 months ago I replaced both O2 sensors as well (which didnt affect it either.)
I also had an early 90's VW that you needed to keep your foot on the gas until it was warm to keep it running until I replaced this sensor.

I hope this fixes your problem, and mine! It is supposed to be in the low 40s here Wednesday morning. I am almost looking forward to it! I will let you know.

-Michael
Michael, Thank you for the great information. Let's hope that's it. It definitely sounds like it could be, but at this point I could be convinced doing a hula dance on the roof would cure it. I'll give anything a try!

I went ahead and ordered the part, it was fairly cheap. I was going to wait, but I found the location of it, and looked at it. For some reason it is really dirty. The connector to it was covered in gunk. Which makes me think, maybe something IS up with it.

In the '03, it is located on the right hand side, below the air filter housing, and then just to the left, attached to the main engine. A technical site I found via my library, said to get to it this way:

1. Remove the air cleaner. (air filter housing)
2. Remove the EVAP canister purge valve. (I'm not sure I'll need to remove all of that..?)
3. Unbolt the under-hood fuse/relay box bolt, and move the assembly aside.
4. Disconnect the ECT sensor connector (A).
5. Remove the ECT sensor (B).
6. Install the sensor in the reverse order of removal with a new O-ring (C).

I'm a bit concerned that your vehicle isn't popping up codes, but I do remember before it got to this point, it did die at times, and the check engine light never came on. Maybe mine is worse? Who knows... ?

Thanks again! I will update!
 

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It was 44 this morning - definitely cold enough for it to be stalling when stopping. I purposely started it and drove, no warm up and it did not stall at all. Did not even act like it was about to. It acted like its old reliable normal before all of this started. I just wish I would have replaced this sensor 1st before the expensive stuff!

If your connector is dirty, definitely clean it and check for cracks. If moisture / dirt has gotten to the contacts, they could have corroded enough to affect the resistance getting back to the computer which will change the temperature it thinks the coolant is.

All that sensor does is change resistance based on how hot or cold it is. The computer (ECU) sends the sensor 5 volts in one wire. The temperature of the coolant around the sensor changes how much current gets back to the computer on the other wire. (Resistance)

So in your case (if this is actually what the problem is) your coolant temperature is 50 degrees when you start. The resistance the ECU is expecting (tuned to run the engine correctly at) is 2200. (Values are for example. I have not done the resistance measurements on the sensor) The bad sensor (or wiring / connectors) is letting too much current pass through - say resistance of 1500. So the ECU looks up in a table the pulse width it is supposed to send the fuel injectors for a coolant temperature resistance of 1500.

Depending on the condition of your sensor / wiring this would affect every aspect of how your Element runs. It would most definitely trigger misfire codes as it gets more and more out of range because the ECU is operating the fuel injectors with information that does not match the real conditions the engine is under.

The Element also uses a sensor much like the coolant sensor for measuring air temperature as well. Although the changes the ECU makes using these values are less drastic than the coolant temperature. (I think) But something to look at as well if replacing the coolant sensor does not 100 percent solve your (and mine) problem. The location of this air temperature sensor is in that original link as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
You mentioned exhaust and misfire codes, then your narrative says "cleared code" repeatedly without mentioning which code(s). Need more info, preferably the actual code numbers.
Thank you.. Yes the original codes before I did anything at all were P0507, P2279, P0301 and P300.

I have never had those codes come up again.

I have "cleared them" myself every time by unhooking the battery and waiting several hours before putting it back on. The only exception is the mechanic who cleared them as well.

Every code after the value adjustment has been Misfire codes. I don't have the specific code number because it keeps being the same codes and I didn't write it down. This is before AND after I replaced the plugs and ignition coils.

Thank you for your help!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
It was 44 this morning - definitely cold enough for it to be stalling when stopping. I purposely started it and drove, no warm up and it did not stall at all. Did not even act like it was about to. It acted like its old reliable normal before all of this started. I just wish I would have replaced this sensor 1st before the expensive stuff!

If your connector is dirty, definitely clean it and check for cracks. If moisture / dirt has gotten to the contacts, they could have corroded enough to affect the resistance getting back to the computer which will change the temperature it thinks the coolant is.

All that sensor does is change resistance based on how hot or cold it is. The computer (ECU) sends the sensor 5 volts in one wire. The temperature of the coolant around the sensor changes how much current gets back to the computer on the other wire. (Resistance)

So in your case (if this is actually what the problem is) your coolant temperature is 50 degrees when you start. The resistance the ECU is expecting (tuned to run the engine correctly at) is 2200. (Values are for example. I have not done the resistance measurements on the sensor) The bad sensor (or wiring / connectors) is letting too much current pass through - say resistance of 1500. So the ECU looks up in a table the pulse width it is supposed to send the fuel injectors for a coolant temperature resistance of 1500.

Depending on the condition of your sensor / wiring this would affect every aspect of how your Element runs. It would most definitely trigger misfire codes as it gets more and more out of range because the ECU is operating the fuel injectors with information that does not match the real conditions the engine is under.

The Element also uses a sensor much like the coolant sensor for measuring air temperature as well. Although the changes the ECU makes using these values are less drastic than the coolant temperature. (I think) But something to look at as well if replacing the coolant sensor does not 100 percent solve your (and mine) problem. The location of this air temperature sensor is in that original link as well.
:shock::-o Wow.. That's a lot of useful information that is hard to compute in my tired old head, but I appreciate it! It makes a lot of sense and I can see how it would defiantly effect the vehicle.

I also conducted my own "test" and let it warm up a touch before I took off. It wasn't long, but the idle changed during that time.. When I left, no issues. It was pretty much smooth sailing.

It's established whatever it is, and let's hope its this sensor.. It is effected by cold, and the engine temperature. Which also could be some kind of a vacuum leak..? I'm not going to do anything until that part is replaced.

Yes, I plan on cleaning the connector as well as I can. Thank you for the info! Maybe that o ring is leaking a bit?

I think we are on to something. Thank you for your help! I hope you get some very cold temperatures soon! haha..
 

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Hi, I am not discounting a vacuum leak as a possibility or contributing to this problem, but in my experience with vacuum leaks, they do not change with temperature. Meaning the problem is always happening. I would wait and replace the sensor first before anything else. Plus, it is good troubleshooting to change just one thing at a time. That way you end up knowing for sure what the problem was. The Element does not have that many vacuum hoses, so checking for obvious cracks or breaks should not be a huge undertaking.
Which O ring? the one around the sensor? If that O ring was leaking, it would be leaking antifreeze. I guess if it was seeping antifreeze, it would definitely accumulate the grime you described. Very true!

Michael
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hi, I am not discounting a vacuum leak as a possibility or contributing to this problem, but in my experience with vacuum leaks, they do not change with temperature. Meaning the problem is always happening. I would wait and replace the sensor first before anything else. Plus, it is good troubleshooting to change just one thing at a time. That way you end up knowing for sure what the problem was. The Element does not have that many vacuum hoses, so checking for obvious cracks or breaks should not be a huge undertaking.
Which O ring? the one around the sensor? If that O ring was leaking, it would be leaking antifreeze. I guess if it was seeping antifreeze, it would definitely accumulate the grime you described. Very true!

Michael
Yes, the temperature would seem to discount the vacuum leak, but that "non listening mechanic" said it could happen. He may have been grasping at Vacuum Straws too...:roll:

Yes I will just replace the sensor, nothing else at this point. I do tend to do it all at once in situations like this.

Yes, I was thinking the O ring around the sensor potentially maybe leaking. It is very dirty. I'm not going to dig in there until I have the part, which should be here by Friday at the latest.

My reservoir was totally dry of antifreeze (a week ago, listed as a problem in the original thread). It has now been filled. And I do detect a faint smell of antifreeze around the engine...

It does seem to be narrowing down. If this works, I'll be one happy camper.

Thank you for your time!
 

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Thinking about the loss of antifreeze (i missed that in the original post) Technically it is possible for that sensor to leak. Not only around the seal, but through the sensor as well. Which if that is the case, your contacts inside the connector most definitely are corroded / gunked up.

If this sensor or its seal is not leaking I suggesting doing a cylinder compression test to see if all cylinders are close to equal, then within specs. with 200k + miles you are more interested in the 4 cylinders compression being close to equal as first concern and within factory specs as a secondary concern.
The antifreeze is going somewhere. Its either leaking out of something, being burned in one or more of the combustion chambers or getting into your oil :-(
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Hmm.. Let's not get crazy.. I don't need more things to worry about. ha!! Ugh... Repeating myself a bit, but that plug did look really gunked up. Like unnaturally dirty. I'm thinking there is a leak there.

The compression test and other items could be possibilities after if this doesn't add up. I do not see Antifreeze on the garage floor. Which could mean several things due to what you said..I don't believe it is mixing with my oil, I just changed it myself and it looked fine. The radiator was completely full of antifreeze. Just the reserve was empty.

Let's stick with the original hypothesis until I can get in there and change the part.. ha.. I don't want to think about what if's at the moment. Let's say it's leaking via that sensor, very slowly over time.. and that is the cause of the reserve being out and the dirty plug, as well as the engine having issues.. (Crosses fingers)

Thank you again! Those other concerns will defiantly be addressed if this doesn't work.

It seems the dealer would have seen some issues when doing the valve adjustment if something else was going on? Or ...no??
 

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I agree. I would be surprised if it was something major at this point. It sounds like you have taken good care of your Element and that is really all most of them need to last a very long time.
If the sensor has been seeping antifreeze for a while, it is possible you would never have seen the signs. Especially if it seeps on cool down, drips onto the warm transmission and dries there before building up enough to drip onto the garage floor. Eventually, doing this long enough it will lower your overflow tank level. Very true.
You should take some pics replacing this sensor. It may help others running into this issue later on. The part and location info is in the thread. Just need the process pictures :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I'm putting on the part tonight. I'll do my best to take usable photos. Thanks for all the advise! Will keep you posted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
Okay, Here we go.. So I replaced the ECT sensor. It wasn't very difficult at all. But I "cheated" a bit by not removing some things. I feel, if you are careful and don't get carried away, it's quite okay to do it this way. I'm not a mechanic so....This is just a FYI of what I did.

I removed the negative side of the battery cable before I began...

First image, shows you the area where the ECT is located at.. You will need to remove the Air Filter/cleaner housing.

[/url]ECT REPLACEMENT by cw_stevens, on Flickr[/IMG]

When you are peeking down from above on the LEFT side of the air filter housing, you will see these two bolts. There is one more on the other side. I believe they are 10mm. I used an extension on my wrench to be able to reach them. This also shows the approximate location of the sensor. (you can't see it in this photo)

[/url]ECT REPLACEMENT by cw_stevens, on Flickr[/IMG]

That bottom bolt, is a bit difficult to get to. I pinched the plastic holder piece that holds those wires (that are blocking the bolt), and used a flat head screw driver to push the holder piece out. The wires will be a bit more free. Don't get carried away, because these wires do not have a lot of give to them. You do not want to pull a wire loose. I was able to push my socket and extension between the wire and the metal bracket in order to loosen the bolts.

[/url]ECT REPLACEMENT by cw_stevens, on Flickr[/IMG]

Here is a blurry picture of where the other bolt is on the air filter housing, it's on the right side, just one of them, straight down. It's easy to get, and I used a long extension to access it.

[/url]Honda Element ECT sensor replacement by cw_stevens, on Flickr[/IMG]

Now, you could have done this first, before the bolts, but either way, remove the hose portion from the air filter by loosening the clamp and wiggling it back and forth. Gently, but with force. Then the other hose on the right side of the filter.. Mine was missing a clamp!? I added it when I closed it up. Same thing, just wiggle it off of the housing.

[/url]Honda Element ECT sensor replacement by cw_stevens, on Flickr[/IMG]

In the above photo, there are two cables right above my hand. I'm not sure what they are, but they sit in a metal bracket toward the "back" of the engine. Closest to interior. You can gently pop those out of the metal bracket so they can move a bit.

Once the hoses are off, and the two small cables are a bit free, slowly twist and lift the air filter housing. Take your time, and you may need to move those hoses a bit, but there is plenty of room to free it.

This is what you will see once it is gone. Note the two hoses on the left and bottom. Those are the ones you removed from the air filter housing.

[/url]ECT REPLACEMENT by cw_stevens, on Flickr[/IMG]

The filter housing. I had to do some work on it, It's a good idea to open it up, and look at it's general condition. One of my screws broke off years ago, and now was a good time to fix it. It was a mess. I tried different methods, but finally I drilled it out and rethread it for a 4MM bolt. It worked!
Honda Element ECT sensor replacement by cw_stevens, on Flickr

So.......The official way to do this, per a mechanical manual, said to remove the EVAP Canister Purge Valve. Which is all that stuff in "front" of where the ECT sensor is located. I did not do that.. I didn't want to mess something else up.

I used a long socket (17mm) to angle down there and loosen the sensor and remove it. During that process the plastic tip of the old one snapped off. I used very little effort and that thing ripped off. So do NOT use this method on your new one. It doesn't matter with the old one, because you can still get it off.. But we warned if you try this method. It is difficult to get the angle due to a metal tube and part of that EVAP Canister Purge Valve part in the way.

Here are a few pictures to set this up.
[/url]ECT REPLACEMENT by cw_stevens, on Flickr[/IMG]

And the old sensor after removal.

[/url]Honda Element ECT sensor replacement by cw_stevens, on Flickr[/IMG]

The end of the actual cable looked pretty good. I sprayed an Electrical cleaner/lubricant in the plug and let it set overnight. It recommends 3 to 4 hours at least to dry. I took a dry paper towel and cleaned off the outside of the plug.

[/url]Honda Element ECT sensor replacement by cw_stevens, on Flickr[/IMG]

NOW... When you remove that old sensor, Antifreeze will come pouring out at a pretty good rate.. Be prepared!! I wasn't...ha.. I knew some would come out, just wasn't sure the extent.

I hurried with the new part, and was able to squeeze my fingers in that area enough to thread it, and barely get it tightened enough to stop the flow of antifreeze. So be ready! Again, if you take off the part in front of the sensor area, you will have a lot more room. And again, a reminder.. Don't get all pushy with those wires!

I was able to get it screwed in with my fingers. To tighten it, I couldn't use the long socket. I didn't want to risk breaking it, and the angle was off due to the metal pipe part being in the way. So.. I was able to a wrench with a built in ratchet. Like this. http://www.harborfreight.com/7-piece-metric-ratcheting-combo-wrench-set-95552.html It is 17 MM.

I was able to angle my arm and the wrench back in like this...

[/url]Honda Element ECT sensor replacement by cw_stevens, on Flickr[/IMG]

The wrench will slide back in there, and around the sensor enough to tighten it. Watch out for those two fat hoses which you can kind of see to the right of my hand. I was able to bump one out of a metal clamp enough to have room to move the wrench.

[/url]ECT REPLACEMENT by cw_stevens, on Flickr[/IMG]

Another point.. I purchased an aftermarket sensor. I would recommend fitting it to the plug BEFORE It is in place. I had this happen with another after market item. The Honda sensor connector doesn't "Snap" onto it very well. I believe you could file or dremel the Honda sensor connector, just a tiny bit where it fits over the "bump" of the sensor.. The Part that makes it CLICK into place. What I ended up doing, is pushing it down over the little bump of the sensor with a small screw driver. This made it click into place. It makes me a tiny bit paranoid, but it did click and it's a tight fit. Just make sure you get it to connect and click into place.

So that's basically it! Snap on the connector. Put stuff back , put your air filter housing back, screw it down. Connect the battery..

I added a bit of antifreeze since it leaked out. Once I started the car I let it run a bit with the radiator cap loose, to in theory...remove the air.. ? Not sure if this helped.. But that's what I did. A bit will leak out, but not much.

Once I started it.. For about 2 to 3 minutes it ran oddly.. Then the idle dropped down and it got quiet.. Unlike I've heard my engine in awhile!

So I let it run for probably 10 to 15 minutes. Not sure exactly if that helps or not, but I was just seeing how it did. My radiator fans never clicked on, but the engine was cool.

It seems to have fixed it..
 
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