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Hi, new to forum and really appreciate all the tech folks that help out here. I've reviewed the postings for this particular issue and have followed several fixes but still having issue.
backgournd: 2008 honda element ~150K miles, no other issues or codes, change oil every 5k with specified weight. Current oil level is full and has about 500 miles usage. Check engine light comes on with VSA and exclamation point lights as well. Comes on when transitioning past 3000 rpm. What I've done to date
  • replaced VTEC spool valve (whole thing including pressure switch), used dialectric grease when reconnecting
  • replaced VTC solenoid, used dialectric grease when reconnecting
  • removed and cleaned small screen behind power steering pump
  • disconnected battery for ~20 min to clear codes
I signed up for 24 hour access to honda tech service manuals and following those seems to be directing me to certain things I think I can't do without the "honda hds". Further troubleshooting seems to be pointing to bad wiring to VTEC. Additionally, I've seem to seen some threads that suggest performing the idle learn procedure. So:
  • Anybody got any ideas
  • Anybody have similar experience and had success with idle learn, from what I read of what it does and when it should be done, doesn't seem to be related.
  • For diagnosing wiring issues, any help or suggestions? I'm no electrician but understand basics and can use a multimeter to confirm continuity and things like that but not sure what best approach is.
Any help is appreciated and if anybody else is following in my footsteps and has questions on how to perform what I've already done I'm happy to provide suggestions based on my experience

thanks!
 

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Factory repair manuals are great for determining how a system works. Unfortunately, they are written for the lowest common denominator technician with all of the OE tools. Therefore, if you do not have the OE tools you need to be better than the lowest common denominator tech. You actually need to think. Imagine! Flat rate techs do not have time to think but generally we do. Most of the time.

The P2646 code sets when the ECM does not see the rocker arm oil switch change state when the rocker arm oil control solenoid is switched on. Simple, except when it is not. The rocker arm oil control solenoid off blocks oil flow to the high-lift components in the valve train. At this time the rocker arm oil pressure switch is on. Switching the rocker arm oil control solenoid on will cause oil to flow to the high-lift mechanism and turn the rocker arm oil pressure switch off. Got it? Solenoid OFF, oil pressure switch ON. A vice-versa. The i-HDS test just checks for that switching of the oil pressure switch to occur when the oil control solenoid is switched on. That's it. What it can not tell you is if you have enough oil pressure through the rocker arm oil control solenoid. It also can not tell you whether the high-lift rockers arm actually switched into position.

There is a more advance test in the manual to check the actual oil pressure to the high-lift rocker arms which is great unless you don't have a fancy oil pressure gauge setup in your pocket.

So what does all this excess verbiage tell us? First, anything that prevents sufficient oil pressure to the rocker arms will cause the system to fail to function properly. It could be low base oil pressure due to internal engine wear or it could be as simple as a cheap aftermarket oil filter. Cheap oil filters are known to cause problems with engines that have oil pressure controlled variable valve lift or valve timing. Some auto makers have technical bulletins to this effect.

As for the mechanical side, verification of the rocker arms switching requires removal of the valve cover. Anything that prevents free movement of the rocker arms switching will bugger up the system. Think sludge or varnish. That part of the system can be checked with air pressure in the oil port from the oil control solenoid to verify free movement of the parts. At the same time one can monitor the oil pressure switch with a multimeter to verify the oil pressure switch goes from continuity to open circuit with air pressure applied to the rocker arms.

Just for the sake of clarity, VTEC refers to variable valve lift. VTC refers to variable cam timing which is done by an oil pressure controlled sprocket on the intake cam. Another reason for properly maintaining your engine. Low oil pressure for whatever reason causes a lot of things to happen, all of them bad. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Factory repair manuals are great for determining how a system works. Unfortunately, they are written for the lowest common denominator technician with all of the OE tools. Therefore, if you do not have the OE tools you need to be better than the lowest common denominator tech. You actually need to think. Imagine! Flat rate techs do not have time to think but generally we do. Most of the time.

The P2646 code sets when the ECM does not see the rocker arm oil switch change state when the rocker arm oil control solenoid is switched on. Simple, except when it is not. The rocker arm oil control solenoid off blocks oil flow to the high-lift components in the valve train. At this time the rocker arm oil pressure switch is on. Switching the rocker arm oil control solenoid on will cause oil to flow to the high-lift mechanism and turn the rocker arm oil pressure switch off. Got it? Solenoid OFF, oil pressure switch ON. A vice-versa. The i-HDS test just checks for that switching of the oil pressure switch to occur when the oil control solenoid is switched on. That's it. What it can not tell you is if you have enough oil pressure through the rocker arm oil control solenoid. It also can not tell you whether the high-lift rockers arm actually switched into position.

There is a more advance test in the manual to check the actual oil pressure to the high-lift rocker arms which is great unless you don't have a fancy oil pressure gauge setup in your pocket.

So what does all this excess verbiage tell us? First, anything that prevents sufficient oil pressure to the rocker arms will cause the system to fail to function properly. It could be low base oil pressure due to internal engine wear or it could be as simple as a cheap aftermarket oil filter. Cheap oil filters are known to cause problems with engines that have oil pressure controlled variable valve lift or valve timing. Some auto makers have technical bulletins to this effect.

As for the mechanical side, verification of the rocker arms switching requires removal of the valve cover. Anything that prevents free movement of the rocker arms switching will bugger up the system. Think sludge or varnish. That part of the system can be checked with air pressure in the oil port from the oil control solenoid to verify free movement of the parts. At the same time one can monitor the oil pressure switch with a multimeter to verify the oil pressure switch goes from continuity to open circuit with air pressure applied to the rocker arms.

Just for the sake of clarity, VTEC refers to variable valve lift. VTC refers to variable cam timing which is done by an oil pressure controlled sprocket on the intake cam. Another reason for properly maintaining your engine. Low oil pressure for whatever reason causes a lot of things to happen, all of them bad. Good luck.
Thanks so much for the response! Much more enlightening than the service manual. Think I'm going to try oil change with quality oil/filter and also confirm the movement of the rocker arms and verification of the switch as you note. Thank you again!
 

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2003 Honda Element Sunset Orange Pearl 2WD Automatic 135K Miles I Love It!
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Factory repair manuals are great for determining how a system works. Unfortunately, they are written for the lowest common denominator technician with all of the OE tools. Therefore, if you do not have the OE tools you need to be better than the lowest common denominator tech. You actually need to think. Imagine! Flat rate techs do not have time to think but generally we do. Most of the time.

The P2646 code sets when the ECM does not see the rocker arm oil switch change state when the rocker arm oil control solenoid is switched on. Simple, except when it is not. The rocker arm oil control solenoid off blocks oil flow to the high-lift components in the valve train. At this time the rocker arm oil pressure switch is on. Switching the rocker arm oil control solenoid on will cause oil to flow to the high-lift mechanism and turn the rocker arm oil pressure switch off. Got it? Solenoid OFF, oil pressure switch ON. A vice-versa. The i-HDS test just checks for that switching of the oil pressure switch to occur when the oil control solenoid is switched on. That's it. What it can not tell you is if you have enough oil pressure through the rocker arm oil control solenoid. It also can not tell you whether the high-lift rockers arm actually switched into position.

There is a more advance test in the manual to check the actual oil pressure to the high-lift rocker arms which is great unless you don't have a fancy oil pressure gauge setup in your pocket.

So what does all this excess verbiage tell us? First, anything that prevents sufficient oil pressure to the rocker arms will cause the system to fail to function properly. It could be low base oil pressure due to internal engine wear or it could be as simple as a cheap aftermarket oil filter. Cheap oil filters are known to cause problems with engines that have oil pressure controlled variable valve lift or valve timing. Some auto makers have technical bulletins to this effect.

As for the mechanical side, verification of the rocker arms switching requires removal of the valve cover. Anything that prevents free movement of the rocker arms switching will bugger up the system. Think sludge or varnish. That part of the system can be checked with air pressure in the oil port from the oil control solenoid to verify free movement of the parts. At the same time one can monitor the oil pressure switch with a multimeter to verify the oil pressure switch goes from continuity to open circuit with air pressure applied to the rocker arms.

Just for the sake of clarity, VTEC refers to variable valve lift. VTC refers to variable cam timing which is done by an oil pressure controlled sprocket on the intake cam. Another reason for properly maintaining your engine. Low oil pressure for whatever reason causes a lot of things to happen, all of them bad. Good luck.
Rustedwrench: Thank you very much for the detailed explanation! I now at least have some understanding of what is going wrong when you get a P2646.

You mentioned avoiding cheap oil filters. Which oil filter(s) do you recommend?

I'm asking because of what I read on this post:


That oil filter cut away photo was an eye opener! The 15400-PLM-A01 was supposed to be the best of the best, but is no longer available. The 15400-PLM-A02 is now what Honda replaced the A01 with. But by the looks of that cut away picture, the A02 is virtually identical to the cheapest PH7317 Fram! So I have just been using the $2.99 PH7317 Fram filters that I bought at Walmart!

I used to be a hard core GM guy, and always bought the AC oil filters for them; paying about $4 - $5 each. In fact, I probably have never spent more than ~ $6 for an oil filter! So I'm trying to be practical here, getting a good filter without breaking the bank! I do have 2 Honda vehicles that take the same filter after all!

Please let me know. Thanks in advance! : - )
 

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Rustedwrench: Thank you very much for the detailed explanation! I now at least have some understanding of what is going wrong when you get a P2646.

You mentioned avoiding cheap oil filters. Which oil filter(s) do you recommend?

I'm asking because of what I read on this post:


That oil filter cut away photo was an eye opener! The 15400-PLM-A01 was supposed to be the best of the best, but is no longer available. The 15400-PLM-A02 is now what Honda replaced the A01 with. But by the looks of that cut away picture, the A02 is virtually identical to the cheapest PH7317 Fram! So I have just been using the $2.99 PH7317 Fram filters that I bought at Walmart!

I used to be a hard core GM guy, and always bought the AC oil filters for them; paying about $4 - $5 each. In fact, I probably have never spent more than ~ $6 for an oil filter! So I'm trying to be practical here, getting a good filter without breaking the bank! I do have 2 Honda vehicles that take the same filter after all!

Please let me know. Thanks in advance! : - )
In general there are three grades of oil filters. The cheapest oil filters are made for conventional oil changed every 3000 to 5000 miles. The middle grade oil filters are equivalent to the typical oem filters. The best oil filters are made for vehicles with requirements for synthetic oil and extended oil change intervals.

I generally use Honda or Denso oil filters and change the synthetic oil every 5000 miles, which in my case for this vehicle works out to 1 to 1-1/2 years between oil changes. It is my experience that oil changes are cheaper than engines. Filters can be bought by the case on-line for less than buying one or two at a time. Please dispose of your used oil properly for recycling.
 

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In general there are three grades of oil filters. The cheapest oil filters are made for conventional oil changed every 3000 to 5000 miles. The middle grade oil filters are equivalent to the typical oem filters. The best oil filters are made for vehicles with requirements for synthetic oil and extended oil change intervals.

I generally use Honda or Denso oil filters and change the synthetic oil every 5000 miles, which in my case for this vehicle works out to 1 to 1-1/2 years between oil changes. It is my experience that oil changes are cheaper than engines. Filters can be bought by the case on-line for less than buying one or two at a time. Please dispose of your used oil properly for recycling.
Thanks again Rustedwrench. You set me straight. Sometimes I can be a world class penny - pincher!

I searched around and found another interesting video about oil filters; another eye opener:


Those Fram PH7317 filters I have are going back to Walmart (where they belong!). They are 100% pure junk.

And that doesn't say much about the Honda 15400-PLM-A02 filters (made by Fram for Honda) either! : - (
 

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Thank you RW for the technical diagnosis info on the valve timing system.
 

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Thanks again Rustedwrench. You set me straight. Sometimes I can be a world class penny - pincher!

I searched around and found another interesting video about oil filters; another eye opener:


Those Fram PH7317 filters I have are going back to Walmart (where they belong!). They are 100% pure junk.

And that doesn't say much about the Honda 15400-PLM-A02 filters (made by Fram for Honda) either! : - (
Interesting thing about your comment regarding the Fram filters is that the filter information I related came from a man who works for the parent company of Fram.
 

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Interesting thing about your comment regarding the Fram filters is that the filter information I related came from a man who works for the parent company of Fram.
Hello again Rustedwrench. Yes that is interesting!

I'm sure that the medium and high grade Fram filters are of acceptable quality. But they went way too far in cutting costs on the least expensive version, as seen in the video. (I didn't mean to sound like I was bad mouthing the Fram company; I have bought a lot of their products over the years, with good results.)

Did your contact confirm that Fram is still making the 15400-PLM-A02 filters for Honda? (Just curious.)

My local O'Reillys has the Wix filters for $8.99. My next oil change is due soon, so I'll try the Wix and see what happens.

Back to my intermittent P2646:

I have had intermittent P2646 codes (twice actually) a while back in June, but for the last 2 1/2 months it has been fine. I never changed anything, and it seems to have just gone away! (I can only hope!) But also, I have done very little highway driving in that time, so............. My worst fear is that it will decide to go off into limp mode while I'm driving halfway uphill on the Skyway Bridge!!!!!!!!!!

I'm thinking that I may have partially clogged screens making it intermittent. Since my next oil change will be due soon, my next plan is to put about 5 ounces of Sea Foam treatment (as directed on the can) into my oil, run it for the next 500 miles or so, remove and check the VVT solenoid gasket and screen to see whats going on in there, change the oil & filter (5W20 Valvoline synthetic blend) and then see what happens!

Thanks again for all the help! : - )
 

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Rustedwrench: Thank you very much for the detailed explanation! I now at least have some understanding of what is going wrong when you get a P2646.

You mentioned avoiding cheap oil filters. Which oil filter(s) do you recommend?

I'm asking because of what I read on this post:


That oil filter cut away photo was an eye opener! The 15400-PLM-A01 was supposed to be the best of the best, but is no longer available. The 15400-PLM-A02 is now what Honda replaced the A01 with. But by the looks of that cut away picture, the A02 is virtually identical to the cheapest PH7317 Fram! So I have just been using the $2.99 PH7317 Fram filters that I bought at Walmart!

I used to be a hard core GM guy, and always bought the AC oil filters for them; paying about $4 - $5 each. In fact, I probably have never spent more than ~ $6 for an oil filter! So I'm trying to be practical here, getting a good filter without breaking the bank! I do have 2 Honda vehicles that take the same filter after all!

Please let me know. Thanks in advance! : - )
I also compared the Honda oil filter to fram, identical
 

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I also compared the Honda oil filter to fram, identical
Here's a thread I started 6 months ago on the subject:

 

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Hey I got two E that both have code for actuator stuck open my Macanic says he sees it a lot and it’s a variable timing valve sprocket. Under the valve cover. One has a new v tech selnoid still won’t rev past 3000. Have you heard of this sprocket causing the problem??
 

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I was driving to work this morning when I got this code. I was pulling off from a stop at a red light. While accelerating, there was a sudden (but not intense/severe) jolt that at first I thought was a hard shift from the automatic transmission. When that jolt happened, the CEL came on. So I pulled into a parking lot when I could and hooked up my OBD reader -- code P2646, A Rocker Arm Actuator Control System Performance / Stuck Off (Bank 1) is what the result is.

I have to get to work so no time to fiddle with this right now. And considering that my Element is still in insurance hell after an accident almost 5 months ago, I'm not sure what to do about this new P code.
 
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