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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi folks. Long time lurker, first time thread starter.

TL;DR: Hoping to swap a J35 V6 engine into an 04 Element. Need to figure out if I can get the ECU to not throw a check engine code.

I posted about this in djmatix's "The J-Element" thread in which he V6-swaps his drive-by-wire '07 Element. Spinning off my own thread now, as I could use some technical guidance from the community here.

I am planning to have my 2004 AWD MT Element swapped to a J35 V6 engine. The shop that originated this swap and sells a kit, Minitec in Georgia, is a few hours' drive from me. So, I have spoken to them a couple times and am hoping to have them do the swap for me.

Minitec has built a couple of these V6 Elements, one of which can be seen here.

There is one sticking point, though, and it concerns the ECU and the check engine light.
Norm at Minitec told me they get this swap working with cabin controls almost entirely stock* by piggybacking the J series ECU off the stock Element ECU.

However, the Element ECU will throw a code because it does not recognize the J series engine as its own. So the check engine light will be constantly illuminated.

Minitec's solution is to disconnect the check engine light.

I would prefer to have a functional CEL. (My state doesn't currently require emissions testing, but one reason I want to do the swap is because I want to keep this Element for another 10+ years, in greatly improved form. So future-proofing is a consideration.)

On the advice of AWD in djmatix's thread, I emailed Ktuner about this issue and their reply was brief:

An Element ECU is for a K series i4 engine and won’t run a V6. I don’t have any suggestions for you at this time.
Would greatly appreciate any other creative ideas on how I could make this work, or leads for who to talk to.

* according to Minitec, the one control that can't be made to work like stock is the cold air level in the HVAC controls - left half of the center knob. They wire in a small knob near the driver's knee to control this parameter.
 

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Hi folks. Long time lurker, first time thread starter.

TL;DR: Hoping to swap a J35 V6 engine into an 04 Element. Need to figure out if I can get the ECU to not throw a check engine code.

I posted about this in djmatix's "The J-Element" thread in which he V6-swaps his drive-by-wire '07 Element. Spinning off my own thread now, as I could use some technical guidance from the community here.

I am planning to have my 2004 AWD MT Element swapped to a J35 V6 engine. The shop that originated this swap and sells a kit, Minitec in Georgia, is a few hours' drive from me. So, I have spoken to them a couple times and am hoping to have them do the swap for me.

Minitec has built a couple of these V6 Elements, one of which can be seen here.

There is one sticking point, though, and it concerns the ECU and the check engine light. Norm at Minitec told me they get this swap working with cabin controls almost entirely stock* by piggybacking the J series ECU off the stock Element ECU.

However, the Element ECU will throw a code because it does not recognize the J series engine as its own. So the check engine light will be constantly illuminated.

Minitec's solution is to disconnect the check engine light.

I would prefer to have a functional CEL. (My state doesn't currently require emissions testing, but one reason I want to do the swap is because I want to keep this Element for another 10+ years, in greatly improved form. So future-proofing is a consideration.)

On the advice of AWD in djmatix's thread, I emailed Ktuner about this issue and their reply was brief:



Would greatly appreciate any other creative ideas on how I could make this work, or leads for who to talk to.

* according to Minitec, the one control that can't be made to work like stock is the cold air level in the HVAC controls - left half of the center knob. They wire in a small knob near the driver's knee to control this parameter.
Darn, the guy at Ktuner is known in the racing community for being really short with people. Sorry this was your experience. Like DjMatix stated on his thread, I still believe Ktuner is the way to go for this motor swap. Yes, a regular Element ECU like mine that has Ktnuer will not work as is but it can be the springboard for modifying in the hands of the right tuner. People do motor swaps on Honda's all the time. For some reason people put LS1 engines in S2000's. Straight up blasphemy... but I digress. I would ask around at race shops/ fabricators near you and find a reputable tuner. Or just start calling Ktuner dealers closest to you. I don't think you have anything to lose with this approach. Someone near you who works on cars for a living knows the solution to your problem, or at the very least knows someone who does.
 

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Hi folks. Long time lurker, first time thread starter.

TL;DR: Hoping to swap a J35 V6 engine into an 04 Element. Need to figure out if I can get the ECU to not throw a check engine code.

I posted about this in djmatix's "The J-Element" thread in which he V6-swaps his drive-by-wire '07 Element. Spinning off my own thread now, as I could use some technical guidance from the community here.

I am planning to have my 2004 AWD MT Element swapped to a J35 V6 engine. The shop that originated this swap and sells a kit, Minitec in Georgia, is a few hours' drive from me. So, I have spoken to them a couple times and am hoping to have them do the swap for me.

Minitec has built a couple of these V6 Elements, one of which can be seen here.

There is one sticking point, though, and it concerns the ECU and the check engine light. Norm at Minitec told me they get this swap working with cabin controls almost entirely stock* by piggybacking the J series ECU off the stock Element ECU.

However, the Element ECU will throw a code because it does not recognize the J series engine as its own. So the check engine light will be constantly illuminated.

Minitec's solution is to disconnect the check engine light.

I would prefer to have a functional CEL. (My state doesn't currently require emissions testing, but one reason I want to do the swap is because I want to keep this Element for another 10+ years, in greatly improved form. So future-proofing is a consideration.)

On the advice of AWD in djmatix's thread, I emailed Ktuner about this issue and their reply was brief:



Would greatly appreciate any other creative ideas on how I could make this work, or leads for who to talk to.

* according to Minitec, the one control that can't be made to work like stock is the cold air level in the HVAC controls - left half of the center knob. They wire in a small knob near the driver's knee to control this parameter.
I'm in the process of completing a J35A4/J32a2 hybrid using the Minitec swap kit, in a 2003 E AWD EX and am working through the wiring at the moment.

Minitec offers a plug and play swap wire harness and TL ecm (a cut down '02-'04 Odyssey harness) to run the engine, which only requires a three wire hook up. The CEL is not wired into this harness, hence the recommendation to unplug the light.

My understanding of the swap harness is emissions and the immobilizer have been removed to allow the early J series to be installed in any vehicle (this is considered an "off road" modification and is not emissions compliant).

ALL other electronics run through the stock ECM and wiring.

I wouldn't consider this setup as a "piggyback", but two different ECM's operating independently.

Minitec couldn't get the A/C switch and A/C thermostat to operate through the stock wiring & ECM. The work around is simple: A ~$42 aftermarket switch. Yes, it isn't stock and requires thought on placement to minimize an unsightly addition as well as convenience. Pretty minor modification in comparison to the overall swap!

Some suggestions for those looking to complete this swap:
I would not recommend this swap for a novice. No directions are suppliedd with the kit. There's an assumption of a high level of mechanical acumen or access to it.
DON'T use your daily driver, this is NOT a weekend swap.
Find a mechanically solid E from a corrosion free zone (the kit is designed for an early model E - non DBW Yes, they ARE different).
Pick an engine designed for the kit.
Buy the plug and play wire harness & ECM from Minitec.
Expect fabrication & modification: The bell housing must have a notch cut to clear the nose of the relocated starter and a cover must be fabricated to protect it from the elements. A debris plate must be fabricated to seal the engine and bell housing.
The Element bell housing must be clearanced for the J water manifold.
A rear main cross bolt must be slightly recessed and the head of the bolt shaved level with the block to clear the jack shaft (it will clear the block without cutting away ANY of the block!).
While the transmission is out, consider swapping out the E gear set for that of an '03-'07 K series Accord. The gearing is much better matched to the V6 and drops highway RPM more than adding 6th gear AND it's about half the cost!
AWD engine cradle requires notching for exhaust clearance
Heat shielding the starter is necessary if using the OEM J-pipe
A custom exhaust of at least a 2.5" is necessary.
To keep costs low, use a stock J34a4 or J32a2 engine (including exhaust manifolds).
If you want more power, complete and sort the swap first, THEN throw your wallet at it (ask me how I know ;) )!

Kit Items I suggest checking for proper fitment:
Oil pan. The pan is modified to clear the relocated starter, welding aluminum can cause distortion, make sure the pan seats properly on the block (the pan is an integral part of the block). Minitec will stand behind it, if there's an issue.
The jack shaft bearing support: Mine required a little machine work to clean up a "lump" left by the CNC machine, so the bearing would press in properly (without clearancing, the bearing pressed in hard and caused the shaft to bind in the bearing).

Norm at Minitec is always helpful and willing. Keep in mind, there are very few of these swap kits out there (I have #6) so knowlegeble resources are slim!

Mark
 

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OP: I understand you intend Minitec to complete your installation. My information dump was intended to answer your question about the CEL, but also provide the community with a broader scope of the swap.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
OP: I understand you intend Minitec to complete your installation. My information dump was intended to answer your question about the CEL, but also provide the community with a broader scope of the swap.
The info dump is greatly appreciated. I am very interested to learn more of the details even though I do not plan to do this myself.

I was planning to do the 6th gear mod to the E transmission, per the well documented process. I'm surprised it's cheaper to go to the full Accord gear set - I suppose it is cheaper partly because it requires no modification to the shift fork, since the Accord is also a 5 speed? Would you go that route instead of a 6th gear, even if you removed cost from the equation?
 

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Yes. For the following reasons:
It's cheaper to buy a complete used Accord transmission than the parts for the 6 speed conversion. Used transmissions go for $300 -$350, a minimal part cost in the scope of the swap.
The Accord is a 5 speed, but all gears are taller than the Element, which mates better with the V6 power band. With 46% more displacement with a J35, tall gearing isn't necessary for torque multiplication.
5th gear is the same ratio as the 6th gear conversation. An added benefit is a reduction in ring and pinion size. I'll dig out my comparison chart between the Element and Accord and post it here too. The RPM drop at highway speeds is significant (reduction in engine noise and potential increase in fuel economy)
The swap is ALMOST a drop in. I found the bearing in the bottom of the case needed to come from the Accord case, as the secondary shaft end was larger than the Element. I also had to add a .218 spacer for the speed sensor.
Norm at Minitec recommended the swap. I suspect he'll mention it as an option, should he do the swap for you.
 

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Comparison the gearing of an Element 5 speed manual and an '03-'07 Accord 5 speed manual

Element
3.553 1st
2.042 2nd
1.355 3rd
1.028 4th
.825 5th
Final Drive 4.765

4 cylinder Accord
3.267 1st
1.769 2nd
1.147 3rd
.872 4th
.659 5th
Final Drive 4.385

The combination of a "taller" 5th gear and final drive drops highway RPM by 919 at 70 mph (3,319 vs 2,440). At 80 mph the difference grows to 1,005 (3,794 vs 2,789)*
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Excellent info Mark, thank you for sharing.

Any thoughts on adding a limited-slip differential? This is not discussed as often as the 6-speed Element mod, but I understand it is possible. When I spoke to Norm and asked him about this in the context of the swap, he said that in his experience, the AWD E has no trouble putting down the extra power without an LSD. (On his own J-swapped E, he runs 235/65/16 tires on 16" Crown Vic wheels - wider than stock, but a drop-in fit - and I will probably do the same).

However, I have half a mind to just add the LSD, since the transmission would be taken apart for the gearing change anyway. Interested to hear your take.
 

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My conversation about an LSD with Norm is similar to yours. Having seen video of Norm's Element launching hard, it doesn't spin (though he does have the taller Accord gear set, plus the taller tire!).
My engine combination is expected to have greater power than a stock J35a4 or J32a2, so my initial plan was for an LSD.
The front Gear X unit didn't fit as advertised (the bolt holes were too small) and after four months of getting the run around from the supplier and manufacturer (stalling the project), I put the open diff back in.
Should I have traction problems after completing the swap, I may consider an LSD in the future, IF I'm confident a unit is available that

fits without modification.

At this point, I'm more focused on completing the swap and working out the bugs ;)

Mark
 

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A comparison of final drive ratio options available when taking overdrive into account:
Standard Element 5 speed
4.765 X .825 = 3.93 final drive
Element 5 speed with the 6th gear added
4.765 X .659 = 3.14 final drive
Accord 5 speed
4.385 X .659 = 2.89 final drive
 

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2004 Element EX-S AWD 6MT = “Zippy”
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I like your thinking Mark... I just wanted to share another data point...

Full disclosure: I really like rowing my own gears...

I even just bought the pieces to do another 6MT conversion for a second transaxle... The pieces are much pricier than the last time I did it years ago... :oops: Holy cow... I just bought the minimum bits to put in my second 6MT Conversion (cost: ~$350)... I didn't purchase 5-6 sychro this time ($380 by itself, more than doubling my cost!), and I had to modify the previously removed interlock as the 6-speed one is currently nationally back-ordered "No-ETA" - (make slot longer, no biggie...)

My point is... I see more value in the Accord swap for the power-band/gearing reasons discussed previously, and that's the direction I would have gone if the decision was mine...
LSD options might even be improved??? 🤷‍♂️

I like my 6MT, I may end up doing it a third time if given the right circumstances... and I might get there... all in due time.

-Brad
 

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Brad, I appreciate rowing the gears too. It's a great feeling when you drop into a second overdrive gear :)
I discovered the increased part cost for the conversion when I researched it too, as well as the lack of availablity for the 6 speed part. It is what pushed me to swapping gear sets

Interesting you mentioned LSD options. In doing research this weekend, I found a company that may be able to supply a low cost, true LSD for the OEM differential.

204976
I pulled my transmission down last night (the engine & trans were hanging on the hoist as I wait for wiring info from Mini-Tec) and shipped them my unit.
 
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