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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
PLEASE, I am in serious need of some help E owners. I have a '03 EX, manual w/ about 90k miles on it. Earlier this month my system pressurized for some reason and blew the lower radiator hose off, overheating the engine. It was turned off as soon as I could but it was night so we didn't see the hose till morning and all my coolant was gone. We filled it with water and put a new clamp on and replaced the radiator cap since it seemed that it was faulty. That seemed to have fixed it, no milky coolant or watery oil, etc. Then later that week my engine light came on and the code was for a misfire on 3 and a random misfire and a code for the temperature sensor. Figuring it was a leftover code from overheating and we'd gotten the plugs wet we replaced all the plugs. Still showing a misfire on 3. In the meantime we'd replaced some of the water with the proper amount of coolant and yet it overheated again, like my fan isn't working now. We burped the system and it was fine till the other day, other than the misfire code and sounding rough. Well we took it for a 2 hour drive and on the hour drive home it overheated badly 10 miles from the house. even after letting it cool off it immediately went up as soon as it was driven. Oil and coolant levels are fine but the fan isn't going and we thought that must be only part of the trouble since even at 55 mph it is redlining the temp. guage. So, we got it home and figured it would be ok to drive short distances b/c it only pressurizes after long driving times. I drove it 10 miles to work and it hasn't started since. Won't turn over, the poor dear tries but even giving gas doesn't help. Do I need a new engine or head gasket or what do you think is the trouble? We need the Black Pearl back ASAP, any ideas? Thanks in advance!
 

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I have a couple of questions. At the end of your description of what occurred, you said the engine "[w]on't turn over[;] the poor dear tries but even giving [it] gas doesn't help." (As an aside, if you try to start the engine again, stop giving it gas.)

For the sake of clarity, are you saying the engine won't start, or that now it literally will not turn over -- i.e., you turn the ignition key and the starter cannot even cause the engine (crankshaft) to turn over (move)?

And, as these events played out over the past few weeks, did you have to continue to add coolant?

If you know, when in this sequence of events, did you notice the radiator fan(s) had stopped working?

I have other questions, but let's begin with those so I'll have a better feel for what may have occurred before making suggestions.
 

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If the engine is at operating temperature or above, regardless of the head or gasket condition, the fans should be RUNNING. If not, there's an electrical problems, and the engine will overheat.

Regardless of the reason for overheating, an overheated engine can misfire. An overheated engine will run progressively worse as parts seize and warp.

My idea is to take your Element to a Honda dealer before negligence destroys the engine.
 

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The way you describe it it does sound like you blew the head gasket and possibly warping the head ect. Good used engines are less then a thousand plus labor to replace it. Welcome to the club and sorry that your first post has to be an issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks! Well, I'm not sure exactly when the fan stopped running. It didn't over heat for a week or 2 between the 1st and last time so I think the fan was functioning till the last breakdown. It will sound like it is going to start when you turn the key, so I believe the starter is doing it's part, but it is rough, it'll rock the car a little and won't fire up. The day it overheating and even after cooling wouldn't stay cool my husband had to give it a little gas to get it to start and that was just to get it home as we had no ride and the kids in the car. It builds tons of pressure trying to start it now too, on top of not starting. It was leaking a little coolant when the took it off the tow truck and he release a good bit of pressure.
I haven't had to add coolant and very little oil (less than a 1/4 of a qt) to the engine since it happened. We checked often to make sure I wasn't mixing fluids. and nothing seemed to be crossing paths.
I am asking around to friends and family to see if anyone has the tools to do a compression check before I replace the whole engine. Unfortunately E's aren't as popular around me and the cheapest engine I've found is $1250 minus it's intake manifold. I don't make enough money to take it to a dealer or mechanic & that's saying something, since I work for a Ford Dealership w/ a service department. I sooo appreciate your help.
 

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Earthmama, you can do a compression test, but based on what you've described, that's not going to tell you what you really need to know (IMHO) -- namely, whether the main and/or rod bearings have been damaged such that the engine needs to be replaced.

To determine the potential extent of the damage overheating may have caused, you should have the engine oil tested. It's a relatively inexpensive means of determining whether there are heavy metals from the main and/or rod bearings, camshafts, rings, etc., in the sample. Very high percentages of copper, brass, lead, iron, etc., are indicators of oil-starvation damage.

You can, of course, remove the oil pan and valve cover, and actually inspect for damage (metal particles and the like), but actually inspecting for damage is going to be more expensive -- actually a lot more expensive -- than testing an oil sample. (Unless, of course, you can persuade the people you work with to do this work for you without charge.)

If you Google "engine oil testing," you'll find the names of companies that test oil. Blackstone and Amsoil are two of the better known. They will send you the test kits and instructions, and you can go from there.
 

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If the radiator fan doesn't run, there's a definite electrical problem in addition to whatever else might be wrong. It might be a consequence of the overflowing coolant, or it might be the cause.

Check all the fuses involved with the fans before you do anything else. It's the cheapest test/repair procedure you can do, and it might solve your problem.
 

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....................
................... I don't make enough money to take it to a dealer or mechanic & that's saying something, since I work for a Ford Dealership w/ a service department. I sooo appreciate your help.
Gee, therein lays the answer!!! Slip one of your mechs a fifty and have 'em diagnose it!! All cars function fundamentally the same way and fords are only a little bit more 'primitive' then your E. Any of your mechs worth his salt should be able to track and fix your problem!!
I had a misfire on my '99 Ody. Replaced the 'coil-on-a-stick' and all was well. It sounds like you need to troubleshoot the fan circuits, - those are very simple circuits even a ford mech should be able to do in less than an hour...
 

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Sounds like your thermostat went bad, which is now causing the overheating. It also sounds like you did some major engine damage running it at highway speed when it was overheating. I'm going to say you most likely warped the head.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
thanks!

Thank you to all who responded to my cry for help! We've narrowed it to at least a blown head gasket and will be opening her up to see the extent of the damage beyond that. I have purchased the service manual (a MUST HAVE if you want to work on it yourself, I LOVE THIS BOOK. It's like one of those "for Dummies" manuals, lol) and we've already removed the cylinder cover and are heading to the intake manifold next. Can't seem to find the last wire harness but we're getting there. Definitely coolant in the oil. Once it is removed we'll take the head to the machine shop and have it tested. This wasn't as expensive as I feared. It's gonna cost me $100 for the test and machining, assuming it isn't cracked. So, despite being the oldest daughter of mechanic and former race car driver, I will be tearing apart my first engine - my beloved E. Wish me luck, and thanks again for pointing me in the right direction!!
 

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Earthmama, based on what added today, I assume you've enlisted the help of a mechanic to assist you in determining what happened to your E and what's necessary now? A service manual is a good start, but (to state the obvious) there's no substitute for experience in sorting out mechanical ills.

In this regard, I don't mean to be a bearer of bad news, but I still recommend you have your oil tested for heavy metals. You're going to need drain and refill the oil sump and change the filter anyhow, so now would be an ideal time to determine if you only need to replace the head gasket and ensure the cooling fans are operating properly, or should remove the oil pan and inspect for additional, mechanical damage. (Based on your description of what occurred, I'd do that anyhow, but that's me.)

[Edit: When you remove the oil filter, you need to inspect it carefully for obvious signs of metal contamination. You could also bag it and send it to a lab for examination.]

Obviously, the oil is going to be contaminated, but serious and repeated overheating such as you described often causes more damage than just the loss of coolant and a blown head gasket. In a prior post, you indicated that after the engine overheated for the second time and you continued to drive the car, you couldn't get the engine to turn over. That suggests to me that you're going to need more that just a head gasket to get back on the road.
 

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I see I can't edit my prior post to add a lab address, should you desire to pursue this. http://www.oaitesting.com/g2047.pdf. FWIW, this particular lab has state and federal certification (many don't), and they have several locations which could speed up the process. A $25 oil analysis could quickly determine if you are looking at several hundred dollars additional $ to repair your engine.
 

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I agree with Ratchet - based on the description provided, I'd be potentially concerned about damage beyond just the head and head gasket and would look into that before I sunk any $$ into head repairs. Damage to the main and/or rod bearings or the rings and cylinders is not out of the question based on what you described and would be a whole different $$ situation than just a blown head gasket and a possibly warped head. Worth looking into exactly what's wrong before you start spending repair $$.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Thanks, dgale & ratchet! Since I'm pretty much following the book to a T and it hadn't mentioned that it's a good thing you mentioned it! How would I go about checking the rods,etc? Would the machine shop test it when they test the head or will it be quite obvious once we get in that far? I've drained the oil but not removed the filter yet so we'll check out the webpage you provided the link to, ratchet, and see if I'm in a deeper hole than I supposed. Keep your fingers crossed as mine are going to be quite busy it seems! :)
 

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Earthmama, the reason I continue to suggest that you test the oil -- and I would test the oil in the oil filter and inspect the contents of the filter -- is because testing the oil is a relatively inexpensive first step you need to accomplish in order to determine the scope of the problems you may have to solve. In other words, if that test shows only normal results -- no huge spikes in heavy metals -- then your repairing the head gasket and ensuring the cooling fans are working properly may well be enough to get your E back on the road.

However, you need to understand that the failure of your head gasket may not have been the source of your engine's overheating. It may have been only one of many consequences of your driving your E after it overheated. If it's the latter and you don't determine the extent of the damage first, you could very well end up replacing the head gasket only to have it fail again almost immediately, assuming the engine runs at all.

Let me turn to your questions: (1) How can you go about "checking the rods"? What you'd actually be checking is the rod bearings. (And let me add parenthetically that, if you were considering this step, you'd start by inspecting the main crankshaft bearings and then the connecting rod bearings.) (You can look up the terminology in your service manual.) To accomplish either of these inspections, you have to remove the oil pan and unbolt one or more main bearings or the connecting rods from the crankshaft journals, and physically inspect the bearing surfaces. This, obviously, a lot of work, and it requires a high level of mechanical knowledge and the proper tools. Testing the oil will tell you whether this needs to be done.

Let me add that if the main or rod bearings are damaged, there's no point in repairing the head gasket unless you intend to rebuilt the engine.

(2) Will the machine shop inspect the rods? No, not unless they are a full service shop and you instruct them to do that.

(3) Will rod or main bearing damage be obvious once you remove the head? No. If you look at a schematic diagram of the entire engine in your service manual, you will see the crankshaft and the connecting rods are physically located in the middle of the engine block. The cylinder head sits on the top of the block, and removing the head and repairing it will not reveal anything regarding the crankshaft, the connecting rods, any of the internal bearing surfaces or the piston rings, all of which may have been damaged by driving your E under the circumstances you described after it overheated. Here again, testing the oil will tell you whether the internal compoments of your engine need to be examined or repaired.

Finally -- assuming you are not too discouraged by now -- it's important to understand that Honda engines are mostly aluminum. When engines were made mostly of iron, they could overheat and still be repaired. That's often not possible with an aluminum block engine. Severe overheating often distorts the engine block, ruining it. That's why I continue to come back to testing the oil as a basic diagnostic test. You need to know what happened to the internal components of your engine when it overheated and you continued to drive it. Testing the oil for heavy metals and aluminum tell you whether it would be more cost effective to buy a replacement engine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
oh boy. don't suppose you are in or near Ohio and feel like a field trip? lol I haven't had a chance to get to the oil testing b/c we've been trying to locate a pulley holder and attachment in order to remove the timing chain. Sounds like I need to change gears, at least for now, and work on getting ahold of the oil testing facility. I have contacted one of the closest dealerships out of curiosity to see what it would cost for them to do the repair and he couldn't tell me off the bat. Said he'd have to research it and get back to me b/c he didn't think they'd ever replaced the head gasket on an E! Why does mine have to be the first? lol I'll keep you posted as we go along and THANK YOU SOOO MUCH for all your advice!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
well, I guess there is no metal in my oil, so that is great. However, despite managing to fashion a tool that will hold the pulley still we can't get the bolt loose. We even called Honda to make sure we were turning it the right way and we are. We've broken breaker bars standing on them and the darn thing won't budge. Any ideas? We're stumped.
 

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well, I guess there is no metal in my oil, so that is great. However, despite managing to fashion a tool that will hold the pulley still we can't get the bolt loose. We even called Honda to make sure we were turning it the right way and we are. We've broken breaker bars standing on them and the darn thing won't budge. Any ideas? We're stumped.
Let Liquid Wrench (Kriechoel) do its job. If that does not work take a very small torch and apply some focused heat but make sure you are not annealing the bolt or fry the seals close by...
 

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Seeing as you will have her apart it would be a great time to replace the water pump, just a thought.
 
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