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2003 Honda Element EX
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104 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Well, I reached the end of my journey with Gretta the Jetta and started a new one with Ellie the Element.

Over the weekend, I traded my old Jetta in for a 2003 Honda Element EX, 121k miles, green, that "real-time AWD" thing... I have to admit that it appears to be in much better shape than my Jetta was ever in. The past 6 years were both fun and frustrating, having replaced nearly every part of the car and costing me way more money than I have. I'm still paying off the loan I had to take out to replace the transmission and timing belt and will be paying on it for probably the next few years. I have to be honest, though. I got a much better trade-in deal ($1000) than I thought I would get considering the bald front tires, the torn-to-hell driver seat cushion, the missing passenger door handle, the missing rear headrests, the peeling clear coat, and the missing bolts that anchor the rear seat belts. I'm going to miss having that 1.8T rocket under the hood but so far I'm enjoying the immense cargo (and future living) space in the back of the Element and I think I'll enjoy doing some traveling in it that I wouldn't have been able to do in the Jetta.

So I bid you farewell, Gretta, old friend. May you give some other poor, unsuspecting soul as much grief and enjoyment as I got.

And with that comes the actual introduction!

Hello all! I'm Trevor, based out of the Muscle Shoals, AL area, and this is my new-to-me Element. I've always thought these looked like such fun (and quirky) cars. I really want to do some travel and camping and I've honestly thought long and hard about joining the van dweller life with the thing. I feel like I got a good deal on it. They were asking $6000 but I talked them down to $5300 minus the trade-in. Everything came out to $4900 plus an additionally purchased 5-year/100,000 mile warranty. The only issues that I saw -- and I'm pretty well mechanically-inclined -- were a faulty factory radio volume knob, a dead front wiper fluid pump, and the overhead compartment door was pushed in too far and warped over time to the point it no longer stays closed. Other than that, it's a very clean and solid-feeling Element!

20180127_160704 by Trevor Joiner, on Flickr

20180127_160717 by Trevor Joiner, on Flickr

20180127_160655 by Trevor Joiner, on Flickr
 

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2010 EX AWD Omni Blue
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310 Posts
Your going to love the Element. Thanks for the pictures with your intro post... that is one good looking 03. You will actually become a healthier person because the Element is always eager to get out and have fun.

See you on the highway.
 

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Welcome - i'm in AL as well, but a bit further south and east of you (near Anniston). I'm also a former Jetta owner, and trust me the fixing is much more affordable and less frequent.

I've got a working 2004 LX radio (single DIN), cubby, and factory mount that I just pulled out if you're ever in this area and want it. You might have to adapt it a a bit - the EX audio systems are a little different with the separate amp.
 

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Lol been down the VW road myself several times, I've replaced all the cars with Hondas now. Congrats on making the switch
 

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2003 Honda Element EX
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104 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Lol been down the VW road myself several times, I've replaced all the cars with Hondas now. Congrats on making the switch
I grew up around and owned mostly Toyotas with a '98 Eclipse and the previously own '02 Jetta thrown in the mix. This is my first Honda.

Welcome - i'm in AL as well, but a bit further south and east of you (near Anniston). I'm also a former Jetta owner, and trust me the fixing is much more affordable and less frequent.

I've got a working 2004 LX radio (single DIN), cubby, and factory mount that I just pulled out if you're ever in this area and want it. You might have to adapt it a a bit - the EX audio systems are a little different with the separate amp.
I appreciate the offer but I've already got plans to replace the factory unit with an aftermarket one with DVD playback.

Your going to love the Element. Thanks for the pictures with your intro post... that is one good looking 03. You will actually become a healthier person because the Element is always eager to get out and have fun.

See you on the highway.
Yeah, I was also looking at a silver Element in Nashville, same price with 150k miles but hated the powder blue interior. Glad I found this one!

Welcome aboard, Tjjoiner.

Please add your location to your profile; it could help others help you.
Done.
 

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2003 Honda Element EX
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104 Posts
Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
2018 Summary

When I was a VW-owner and active member at VWvortex.com I used to keep a very detailed and up-to-date thread with regular posts about any work done to the old Jetta. The past year has been very busy, though, so I haven't been able to do that with the Element.

I'll be editing this post with actual mileage and dates for maintenance and other things I've works on.

January / February 2018:
- Replaced wiper blades with Bosch Icon
- Factory stereo replaced with a Kenwood Excelon 9903S
- Installed 100w mono solar panel between the roof rack bars. This feeds a 100 amp hour battery currently housed in a plastic milk crate behind the driver seat. That milk crate also holds the PVM charge controller, a Camp Chef "Everest" camp stove, a set of Stanley camp pots, and a smaller backpacking stove.
- Made window privacy panels out of Reflectix to cover the rear window, side rear windows, and rear door windows. I didn't have enough material to do the sunroof.

March 2018:
- First oil change (Mobil 1 5W-20 High Mile & Mobil 1 Extended Performance filter)
- Bought a Dometic CFX-28. Runs entirely on 12-volt solar and was awesome to have during the brutal Alabama summer. It was great going fishing and being able to cool off in the car and grab an ice cold bottle of water from the fridge. This same fridge also runs on 120 volt so during a trip to New Orleans in October I brought the fridge up to the hotel room and kept it full of food and drink.

Some time between March and October:
- Replaced the dead wiper fluid pump
- Replaced the starter battery with AutoCraft Platinum AGM battery (group 34, 740 CCA)
- Replaced the factory horn with a Fiamm "El Grande"

October 2018, prior to the trip to New Orleans:
- Air filter (Purolator ONE)
- Spark plugs (NGK Iridium)
- Engine oil and filter (Mobil 1 High Mile, K&N Filter)
- Transmission fluid and filter (both Honda OEM) - This fixed the annoying torque converter shudder @ 40 mph.

January 14, 2019:
- Swapped gauge lighting to white LEDs
- Replaced the burned-out shifter bulb with a white LED as well
I'll post photos of that later. I may or may not do the HVAC lighting as well. I only did the gauges because they were hard to read at night.

IN PROGRESS:
- Alarm System - I have the system, just need to install it.

- Front Privacy Curtain - I bought some hardware normally used to secure Bimini tops on boats to create a curtain rod that spans the B-pillars. I have a blackout curtain (tested; it's true blackout) I'm I'm making alterations to.

- Rear Storage Cabinet - I'll be honest here. I've been studying photos of Fifth Element Camping's cabinet in an effort to reverse engineer it. If I had $2000, I would just buy their cabinet but I live paycheck to paycheck. What I'm having the most trouble with is the mounting point. It looks like it uses the factory rear seat mounts but I feel it must also mount somewhere at the top of the cabinet. Otherwise wouldn't it be very unstable? If anyone out there has the Fifth Element Cabinet and would be kind enough to send me some detailed photos that would be awesome!
 

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352 Posts
tjjoiner, Welcome to the wonderful world of Elements. Their great.I also have a GGM EX AWD. Its my 2nd. I think you got a great deal on your. Enjoy the ride.
 

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2003 Honda Element EX
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104 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
tjjoiner, Welcome to the wonderful world of Elements. Their great.I also have a GGM EX AWD. Its my 2nd. I think you got a great deal on your. Enjoy the ride.
Thanks! It's been a whole year and so far I've enjoyed it. I really haven't had any issues. For the most part, everything has been maintenance or minor repairs (horn, wiper fluid pump). Friday, however, after getting gas I started the car and got a flashing "MAINTENANCE REQUIRED" light. I'm not sure what that's about (yet) but I figure it's not a CEL so it must not be all that serious, right? :|
 

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2003 Honda Element Sunset Orange Pearl 2WD Automatic 135K Miles I Love It!
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826 Posts
Nice Element Trevor. Love that Galapagos Green! I thought it was kind of a blah color at first, but the more I see it here on this site, the more I like it! I especially like the green accents in the interior.

Looks like you are in it for the long haul; same as me! I got mine about 5 months after you bought yours.

Don't sweat the Maintenance Required light; it's just an oil change reminder. Your owners manual has the directions to turn it off.
 

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2003 Honda Element EX
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104 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Nice Element Trevor. Love that Galapagos Green! I thought it was kind of a blah color at first, but the more I see it here on this site, the more I like it! I especially like the green accents in the interior.
I'll be honest, it wasn't my ideal color choice. Like you, I also thought it was "blah" at first but I've gotten used to it. I do like the green interior accents. I have my stereos lighting set to green as a complement. If I got to pick any of the factory colors, though, I think I would have gone with Cargo Khaki.

Looks like you are in it for the long haul; same as me! I got mine about 5 months after you bought yours.
Oh I'm definitely in it for the long haul. I'll drive it until the wheels fall off, replace them, and keep on going for as long as she's repairable.

Don't sweat the Maintenance Required light; it's just an oil change reminder. Your owners manual has the directions to turn it off.
That's what I read. Oil was changed in October so I should be good until I change it again in April. I try to stick to a 6-month change interval.

Hey a fellow Alabamaian.
Yep yep! Moved here from southern California way back when I was 11.

Nice thread
Thanks!
 

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tjjoiner, Yep, the GGM isn't my favorite color of choice , but its what I have ( and I feel lucky to have it). But, as you pointed out, it kind of grows on you. Im planning on changing it up a bit by "blacking out" my gray panels when the weather permits (spring/summer). And probably my wheels also. So much can be done to make these cars " your own". Another reason I love my E. And I plan to drive it till the end. I was talking to my wife yesterday , and told her when my E finally stops, I think I will also. Hehehe.
Even looking at newer E's with lower milage, Mine has 145,000, still low for an 04, it seems that I should be in good shape for a LONG time. Religiously change oil/filter/etc., Old school auto guy, what can I say. oh yea, Enjoy the ride
 

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2003 Honda Element EX
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104 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
I installed interior RGB LED strip lighting. It's a 16-foot strip which I cut into sections and wrapped around the perimeter of the headliner. I primarily got it to flood the interior with white utility lighting but as a bonus it also responds to music, has built-in lighting effects, or you can choose static colors. It's controlled either via Bluetooth through an app or from a small wired module. I'll take pics and maybe video later but it's pretty cool.

I also started wiring in the alarm (Viper 3400). I've installed alarms before in my old 2000 Corolla but this seems a little different. May need some help (already posted about this in another thread).
 

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2003 Honda Element EX
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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Been making some minor upgrades here and there:

- ALARM: I finished installing the alarm the weekend before last. That combined with the Fiamm "El Grande" horn I installed last year makes it a very noticeable alarm.

- INTERIOR LED STRIP: Also finished wiring in the LED strip lighting only to discover a defect that causes the first three LEDs in the strip to remain green under certain settings. The manufacturer sent me a free replacement and even let me keep the other one.

- EXTERIOR LEDs: Upgraded the license plate bulbs and side marker bulbs to LED. They both use the same size (168/194). While I was at it, I did the mod that converts the side markers into turn signals.

Next big upgrade will be an HID retrofit. I'm not sure what bulbs are currently in my E -- still using whatever the dealership installed -- but judging by the abysmal light output I'm assuming they're whatever was cheapest. I did an HID retrofit on my Jetta and the difference was night and day so yeah, HIDs spoiled me a bit.

Or maybe have the suspension checked out. I feel there are too many creaks and groans.

Oh yeah! I'm gonna throw some photos I've been meaning to post right here.

Gauges & Transmission Shifter After Installing White LEDs:

Group 34 Battery Installed:

I'm all about some maintenance labels:

Issue I'm having with the interior LED strip:

The old side markers were brittle and broke when I tried to remove them.
 

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2003 Honda Element EX
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Discussion Starter #20
I installed these white LEDs last week but didn't get around to taking photos until last night.



The amber 194 LEDs arrived yesterday. They're the same brand, type, etc. as the license plate LEDs but in amber (well, yellow) instead of white. I was waiting on them to arrive before I installed the new front side markers.





While I was at it, I thought I should snap photos and a video of the interior LED strip lighting. Despite the issue with the first 3 green LEDs staying lit, the strip mostly works perfectly. The wired control module features roughly 12 preset colors (warm white, cool white, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, blue, teal, green, and a couple other in-between colors) and lighting effects but I can also connect via bluetooth and dial in custom colors (full RGB) and effects from an app on my phone.

The video is sideways. My apologies.






 
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