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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
2004 Element with 230k miles. My guess is that the entire exhaust system was hanging on by a thread then my CAT was stolen and my new MacGyvered DIY repair has thrown the whole system out of whack (that is what me, non-auto mechanic, figures is happening)

I now have the tell-tale sounds of a worn out donut gasket at the exhaust manifold (plus a leaking exhaust manifold gasket but that's another thread, another repair needed)

I've read every thread I can find here and elsewhere: some describe a nightmare of rusted bolts snapping, others say something like "just get under there, take out the two bolts, stick in a new gasket, done"

Some use a penetrating oil to help, others say penetrating oil does nothing, others say hitting the rusted bolts with MAP gas is the only way--yet another tool I don't own

Only a few have mentioned that the replacement might could possibly entail two new nuts on the manifold side, which I guess are welded on (??) but that's also an area of concern if they snap off somehow

Maybe I won't have to remove any shields before tackling the rusted bolts at the flange, so that's a potential PITA with its multiple rusted bolts avoided, maybe

Reason I'm having to do this is that I now have the dreaded P0137 code and one reason for that is listed as "exhaust leaks upstream from the O2 sensor". I didn't have that exhaust leak sound just after I finished my DIY CAT replacement and my CEL wasn't coming on. Now I have that leak sound and the CEL is on

I have the parts #s for the donut gasket/springs and bolts (which I got from an older thread here but the parts #s are still the same and probably ordering them is going to be the easiest part. I need to do something, I have emissions test coming up in November. I was skating merrily along with no CEL till last week, now it's Panic Time

Any suggestions on how I can make this go as easily as possible would be appreciated. I don't have a lift or a floor jack, I've been driving my E up on a series of blocks to get it up off the ground about 5"

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Those actually look in pretty good shape. As @wannahonda says, spray with some penetrating fluid several times. The last time when it is cool as long before you're going to work on it as possible. If you can get a look at the end of the bolt sticking through the nut, you may get an indication of how easily (or not) they may come out. For good measure, I would have at least new bolts (along with the gasket) on hand and use them. If you have the proper thread tap, run it through the threads to clean them up. Use some anti-seize in case you need to remove it for some reason in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the replies. I found a pic of an Element exhaust manifold and I added some arrows for my questions:

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Blue arrows indicate where the exhaust pipe flange attaches with bolts and springs. Not really shown are nuts already attached to the backside of the manifold flange...right?

Green arrows indicate where the manifold attaches to some mounting bracket for the manifold but that doesn't concern what I'm going to be dealing with...right?

Magenta arrows, that's a tough one. I can see the donut gasket sliding over and laying flat against the area beyond. The double pipe has me worried. Does the inner pipe slide into something in the exhaust pipe or is it a butt joint ? Does the outer pipe slide into the exhaust pipe or is a butt joint as well?

And, are the Honda OEM bolts long enough to start threading into the nuts before compressing the springs? A very tight area to work in if there's some compression needed just to get the bolt to thread.

And, am i spraying penetrating fluid onto the heads of the bolts as well as any threads sticking through the nuts? I have to say I've never used penetrating fluid in this situation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The msting part of the converter pipe is flared to contact the donut. Springs stent that hard to compress if need be. Penetrating oil more important on threads than heads.
OK, the exhaust pipe is flared at the end. But I don't have to connect anything together (meaning the inner pipe) before the flared end has contacted the donut? It's a de facto butt joint but not connected? It just slips over? At no point of my DIY experience has it been that easy! You said "Springs stent that hard to compress if need be." Can you say that another way :)
 

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stent = aren't . . . If you have to compress the springs to start the bolts, it doesn't take a lot of effort.

The pipes don't connect or butt against one another. The donut gasket and flared end of the cat pipe allow some movement of the engine relative to the exhaust system (simpler than the flex pipe that would invariably rust out on my 4th gen Accords). Good engine mounts minimize the amount of relative motion at the joint.
 

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The donut just slips snugly over the end of the double pipe, and the donut has a radius on the outside which matches the radius of the next section of pipe, like this. Very simple, you’ll do fine.
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Work the bolts carefully as you remove. Fluid on the threads. Loosen until it “cracks” loose, then retighten the same amount of turn, which will be a tiny amount at first, but it should be looser. Keep repeating this process carefully and slowly, using penetrating lubricant each time and it will turn a little more each time. If it starts to feel mushy, it’s probably going to spin the head off. Good luck.

If you get the bolts out, consider yourself lucky, throw them away and use new bolts and springs. Maybe $10-15 on RockAuto, with the donut gasket. Chase the threads with a tap and use anti sieze like fleetw00d said.

If you spin the head off, try not to torch the car and scream bloody murder like I did. It is not fun to fix that.
 

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The tip I received from a Honda tech was to use hand tools rather than an impact. I thought that was counterintuitive because of the rust, he was not concerned about rust at all. He said that using hand tools and taking things off a few turns at a time alternating on each side worked better because if you took one side all the way out, the other side could bind and potentially break.

I did spray penetrating fluid from above and below once each day for a week beforehand, as I waited for my cat to ship. I dont exactly recall the tools, but I think I used a 1/2” ratchet with a longer wobble extension and socket from below. I did what was suggested and backed out the bolts alternating a few turns side to side so the bolts were taken out evenly, and it wasn’t a problem. I remember trying to reuse by old donut gasket. That was no good, so I did it again a few hours later with a new donut gasket.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
One thing I've never heard addressed is the flamability of any penetrating fluid. I read on this thread about spraying the bolts multiple times over days and days. Is that on an E that isn't being driven? How long after any application should I wait to drive it?

I'm going to get my E up on my DIY block system just to see if I can actually access the area in question. Again, I don't have a lift or a floor jack or even jack stands. Wish me luck
 

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One thing I've never heard addressed is the flamability of any penetrating fluid. I read on this thread about spraying the bolts multiple times over days and days. Is that on an E that isn't being driven? How long after any application should I wait to drive it?

I'm going to get my E up on my DIY block system just to see if I can actually access the area in question. Again, I don't have a lift or a floor jack or even jack stands. Wish me luck
Don’t worry about it, it burns off pretty fast.
 

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Your Honda tech is right. Alternate bolts and alternate loosen/tighten directions. Impact guns usually do more damage than good. They’re great when things aren’t bound up by rust and seized with granular interleaving between bolt and hole.

Access to the exhaust manifold spring bolts isn’t bad unless you break it and have to take the whole thing off, then you have to remove more parts and risk spinning off the bolts holding it to the block (eek!). That’s why when my bolts rusted solid and spun off, I opted to not remove the manifold to fix it and instead drilled out the bolt from below. It was not pretty. But I had a lift and without that it would have been miserable, maybe impossible.
Don’t spray penetrating fluid on a hot manifold, obviously. But once it’s cooled off, it won’t be a problem. It will evaporate and smoke off quickly in a few minutes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Your Honda tech is right. Alternate bolts and alternate loosen/tighten directions. Impact guns usually do more damage than good. They’re great when things aren’t bound up by rust and seized with granular interleaving between bolt and hole.

Access to the exhaust manifold spring bolts isn’t bad unless you break it and have to take the whole thing off, then you have to remove more parts and risk spinning off the bolts holding it to the block (eek!). That’s why when my bolts rusted solid and spun off, I opted to not remove the manifold to fix it and instead drilled out the bolt from below. It was not pretty. But I had a lift and without that it would have been miserable, maybe impossible.
Don’t spray penetrating fluid on a hot manifold, obviously. But once it’s cooled off, it won’t be a problem. It will evaporate and smoke off quickly in a few minutes.
Yeah, the scenario I'd like to avoid seeing as I'll be lying on my back looking up. I've got my E up around 5" and I'm going to slide under there when the sun comes up just to check access. Like can I actually reach it and can I get a can of penetrating fluid up there to spray the nuts which are on top of the flange. I avoided all of this when I first did my DIY CAT replacement, not anticipating that once I got done with that THEN I'd be forced to disconnect that area anyway to replace the donut gasket. It's always something, right?
 

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I have several cans of penetrating fluid of varying brands, but when I need to get fluid to a bolt in a really tight spot I resort to a trial-size can of WD40 (3 ounce). WD40 is about the WORST of the penetrating fluids, but when the choice is getting something on the rusty bolt, or barely getting anything on it at all, I use the sample-sized WD40.

Whatever penetrating fluid you use, applying it over days, even weeks is beneficial. I was working on removing the fenders on a '56 Triumph TR3 I have and there were about a dozen bolts holding it on. I hit all the fasteners with penetrating fluid and the first bolt snapped the head off. I then spent the next month, on a twice daily basis, spraying fluid on all the remaining bolts. All the remaining bolts broke free cleanly.

Heat, however, is the best thing to use when freeing up a rusty bolt. I will hold a MAP torch on a bolt for a good, solid five-minutes--no joke. Torching the bolt for less than that really doesn't soak the heat into the fastener.

I have had success using air impact tools at a very reduced air pressure. I set my regulator to about 35 psi and allow my air tool to lightly knock-away at the bolt, switching the direction every few seconds. After a couple of minutes doing that either switch to hand tools, or up the pressure to my standard 90-120 psi, and I am generally much more successful in removing really stubborn bolts.

Obviously, in a production environment, where time is money, you can't take advantage of some of these techniques--you may have to accept the fact that you are going to break parts and the customer will have to pay--a consequence of the condition of their car.

To be straight, your bolts look pristine! Where are you located? I'm in Chicago, so dealing with rusty bolts is just a part of life here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I'm in the Denver area, so dry climate. I inched my way under the front of my E (first time I've had it high enough I could do that) and took some pics

Bottom line is, access to the heads of the bolts at the springs is doable in theory. Access to the nuts is nearly impossible. I tried every which angle with my tiny camera (which required threading my hand through any number of obstacles) to get these terrible shots of the nuts on the manifold side of the flange. I can't even see them from down below or even looking down into the engine bay unless I took off the exhaust manifold shield which in itself is probably three stripped rusty bolts to get off

So even the spaying of penetrating fluid on the nuts would be very problematic

And today is the day I'm replacing a leaking toilet flange wax ring so, truly, the fun never stops

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I really think you’ll be fine and the bolts will come out without too much grief. My choice of tools is a 1/2” drive ratchet with 12” extension and a 6-point socket, and no swivel as it’s not necessary. Mine were super crusty and corroded, and came out no problem.
 

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Bottom line is, access to the heads of the bolts at the springs is doable in theory. Access to the nuts is nearly impossible.

So even the spaying of penetrating fluid on the nuts would be very problematic
There is access to the head of the bolts. Access to the nuts requires more work.

You are not precision spraying penetrating fluid on the bolt/nut. It will get all over the place, including the manifold, heat shields etc. It will make a dripping mess under the car. Put sacrificial cardboard down so you don’t have to clean up your driveway as much. Don’t wear nice clothes. Put some goggles on so sprays and drips dont get on your eyes.
 
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
"Spray and pray" is what you're saying

I just got done putting in a new toilet wax ring, or should I say two stacked because it was leaking before with only one for who knows how long till it came through the ceiling below.
 
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