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Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) MegaDork
4/30/21 9:01 p.m.
John Welsh said:

I expect this to be the kryptonite you can't avoid...

 

There's a gray ECamper that lives in my neighborhood. I would absolutely love to own one of those.

JoeTR6
JoeTR6 Dork
5/1/21 9:56 a.m.

I think the later Elements got the painted panels sorted a little better.  Here's the 2011 that I left in Virginia.  When we bought it, there were four exactly the same sitting on the dealer lot.

My replacement for it (FJ Cruiser) has a better engine but less cargo room.  It still has suicide doors and plenty of character.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/2/21 6:55 a.m.

Time for an update: 194,300 miles.

I went to the dealer and bought some magic sauce:


 

Then put the Element up on the lift and pulled all four wheels off to give it a real inspection. 
 


 


 


 

Luckily, everything looks great! The rear motor mount is completely shredded, but I'd already guessed that and ordered all four mounts from the dealer. The tie-rods had some play, so I'll address those, too. And of course it has the typical K24 oil leaks, but nothing super urgent.

But other than those two issues? This doesn't have any urgent needs. No missing suspension bushings, nothing bent, good brakes, etc. I changed the rear differential fluid while it was up on the lift, since I couldn't find any record of it being done recently. 
 

Then we went kayaking. Success!

Erich
Erich UberDork
5/2/21 7:28 a.m.

Since Ursa Minor's ECamper was mentioned, you should all also know about Fifth Element Camping

 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/3/21 8:41 a.m.

I fixed the starter yesterday morning... by replacing the battery. I'm not sure how/if the PO actually diagnosed it as a starter, but the five? year old battery was dead when I walked out to the car yesterday, so I put a new battery in it and now it seems fine. We'll see if this problem stays fixed.

In other news, first bike trip was a success!

eastsideTim
eastsideTim PowerDork
5/3/21 8:46 a.m.

Nice, I'm very jealous of the ability to stand up a couple of bikes, and not remove their front wheels.  I can see why bicyclists love these things so much.

Cousin_Eddie (Forum Supporter)
Cousin_Eddie (Forum Supporter) Dork
5/3/21 10:32 a.m.

As soon as my Rockauto order gets here I'm going to start a suspension refresh on my Element. I'm waiting on some rear strut mount hardware to be delivered. I want to do a straight R&R of the struts without having to harvest anything off of the tired original struts. So far I have Tein struts, front lower control arms, and ball joints in hand. In the rear I have adjustable upper control arms to address the inevitable camber that results from lowering the car.

I have no designs that the above pictured parts are enough. I'm sure I'll find other things in there that need addressing and it will go from a one-day project to a two-week project. That's how my stuff always works out. I'm a patient man though so I don't really mind.

electric_olive
electric_olive New Reader
5/3/21 9:13 p.m.

Nice Element.  I am a big fan - they are easy to work on and very versatile.  Going with a bigger battery is a common upgrade.  Lots of potential for mods and upgrades.  I got a little carried away with mine...

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
5/3/21 10:24 p.m.

Ottawa (serial and parallel Element owner) has pointed out that I have not made enough minivan jokes in this thread. Consider yourselves warned. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
5/3/21 10:26 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

I fixed the starter yesterday morning... by replacing the battery. I'm not sure how/if the PO actually diagnosed it as a starter, but the five? year old battery was dead when I walked out to the car yesterday, so I put a new battery in it and now it seems fine. We'll see if this problem stays fixed.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/10/21 6:25 p.m.

Time for a little update: I got back from Sebring and found a stack of Element parts in the garage. Hooray!

I didn't have much free time today, but I took five minutes and installed a new overhead console that doesn't have a broken door. $42 shipped on eBay for a good used replacement. 

You could argue that I spent $42 on a completely useless feature that most people would never notice. Or you could argue that I fixed one of the most visible reminders of the car's age, and something I see every day, for $42. I'm happy with my purchase. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/13/21 11:14 p.m.


Time to give the element some more love!

First up, the new drivetrain mounts arrived. Well, three of them did. The fourth one the Honda dealer forgot to put in the box, so I grabbed a replacement from Autozone instead. I hate generic mounts, but you can't beat the convenience.

As expected, the old mounts were... not good. 

But the job went fairly smoothly and everything fit well. I did enjoying finding the front mount installed upside down; it fits both ways, but doesn't quite fit right unless you orient it correctly. Somebody was in a hurry last time it was changed.

Once the mounts were done, I changed the starter out for the good used replacement the seller gave me. The new battery was just a band-aid for the bad starter: It would still fail to crank occasionally when things were real warm.

This job books for something crazy like three or four hours (I didn't look it up, but the forums are full of $800 repair bills). Why? Because the FSM says to pull the intake manifold to access the starter. I pulled the front under tray and did it through the bottom by removing one knock sensor, which meant the whole job took about an hour. It starts way easier now, so I'm calling this fixed.

One last thing on tonight's to-do list: Change the transmission fluid and in-line filter. What came out looked brand new, but this is cheap insurance and a good way to get a feel for the transmission's condition. While I was in there, I replaced a leaking portion of the transmission cooler line that somebody had band-aided with a worm-drive clamp. Gross! 


 

Parts are still showing up faster than I can install them, but I'm making progress! That's all for tonight. 
 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/17/21 8:27 a.m.

More progress! Next up on the to-do list: Replace the door checks, improve the stereo wiring, and replace the horrible stereo receiver that was installed in the Element. Okay, so horrible is probably too harsh, but it didn't have Apple CarPlay and it didn't have a volume knob. Both of those are deal-killers in my book, and no CarPlay is actually one of the reasons I sold the Leaf and switched to this.

Bonus shot of my two red Hondas:

 

And some sweet yard-cat action, too.

I started with the door checks, as it's easier to work on wiring when the doors don't constantly close themselves. In my opinion, these are a must-fix for any car with high mileage. They're cheap, easy to replace, and one of the most noticable reminders that your car is worn out. Plus, they prevent door dings!

I bought a pair of OEM Honda door checks for $52 shipped.

Replacing them was easy: Pull the door panels, unscrew/screw three bolts, done.

Next up: Stereo wiring. I was pretty scared about what I'd find, but it wasn't horrible. Just bad: Thank you, Best Buy or equivalent.

Within a few minutes, I'd torn most of the car apart to get a better look at the wiring.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/17/21 8:32 a.m.

Oddly enough, the stereo sounded FANTASTIC. And while the wiring is messy, the fundamentals were fine: Probably sized/wired amplifier wiring, factory subwoofer amp bypassed, new tweeters in the stock locations, etc. They'd completely rewired the car, which is necessary for what's installed, but they just hadn't neatened things up afterwards. Close enough, I can fix that. I spent a few hours with zip ties, electrical tape, and heat-shrink crimp connectors neatening, protecting, and re-routing stereo wiring until I was happy with it. I'm fairly certain at this point that there won't be random failures (or fires) while I'm on a long trip or put something heavy in the back without worrying about where there might be wiring.

Next up: Adding a backup camera. This Element doesn't really need it, but I've never said "you know, there's just too much rear visibility" while driving.

I think those bolt-on license plate frame cameras look too aftermarket, so I found this on Amazon for $34:

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/17/21 8:39 a.m.

Installation was fairly easy: Remove cladding, drill hole, done.

One interesting tidbit I noticed: I think Elements were designed to make stereo upgrades really easy, which would make sense given the target demographic. It takes less than a minute to remove the headunit, and replacing the door speakers doesn't require removing the door panels. There was even an extra wiring channel molded into the kick panel covers, and since this Element is the highest trim, I don't think there is an option that would have been there from the factory. Honda wants your Element to have a big amp in the trunk.

After two days of crawling around in this thing, I mostly accomplished my mission: A professional, reliable installation of a radio with CarPlay and a volume knob. I did fail on one count: I wanted to hide the amp somewhere in the car, but the space is just utilized too darn well. As far as I can tell, the only space big enough in an Element to hide this amp is in front of the under-dash fusebox, which I didn't want to use for two reasons: First, it would make replacing fuses require removing the amp. And second, that's valuable knee impact absorption space in a crash. I'd rather meet Honda plastic than giant aluminum amplifier with my knees if I get hit. So I left the amp in its original location, which isn't in the way anyway.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/17/21 8:45 a.m.

Next up: Fix the rocking chair that functions as the driver's seat. Yeah, seriously. There's even a TSB for it:

https://www.elementownersclub.com/threads/seat-rock-2003%E2%80%9306-tsb-03-032.2417/

Short version: Honda uses tiny little stamped metal bushings to mount the seat to its tracks. These bushings disintigrate over time, causing a tiny little rock back and forth when accelerating/braking. Not unsafe, and not even that noticable. But it's another thing that makes it clear the car is high-mileage, so I fixed it. The repair took about 15 minutes with OEM parts.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/18/21 10:09 a.m.

I spent more time on the Element last night. Next up on the list? Fix something I broke while changing the radio: The dash lights.

How did I break the dash lights while tidying up radio wiring? The real answer is I didn't. But what I did do was zip tie up the radio wiring so it was no longer putting pressure on the cluster harness. After getting everything back together, I had to bang the dash with my hand to get it to light up.

That means my Element's dash suffered from cracked solder joints. The forums say it's a somewhat common problem, and I'm assuming the radio harness was pulling the connector down enough to make a connection. The only solution is to replace the entire cluster, or send it off to be rebuilt for $169.99.

Or... do it yourself. So I did. I pulled the cluster out, disassembled it, and reflowed the solder joints on each connector. A few did indeed look like they hadn't gotten the right amount of solder from the factory, or it cracked, or both.

I also replaced every bulb with new OEM stuff, as one was burnt out when I bought this. Turns out the cluster bulbs aren't supposed to be red, anyway, as the VIN-matched parts were white. The result is a huge improvement: I can actually see the gauges at night, and the OEM dash color scheme looks way bettter.

It's only been one day, but I'm going to tentatively call this operation a success. We'll see if I have to start slapping the dash again anytime soon.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/18/21 10:14 a.m.

I also adjusted the valves and changed spark plugs and the oil. The valve cover gasket seal looked brand new and all of the tolerances were in spec, so I'm assuming this had been done fairly recently. Still, I'm glad I did it: These have a 100,000 mile service interval and I had no idea when it had last been done. Plus, now I know each tolerance is perfect.

CAinCA
CAinCA Reader
5/18/21 12:34 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

I really need to put the internet down. Or do I need to open up the Tire Rack website? I can't tell....

WOW! Those wheels look great. That has to be the best looking Element I've ever seen. Out here they are all silver or light metallic blue. 

 

EDIT: Just realized that isn't your Element. I still like the red more than the silver/light blue.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/18/21 12:39 p.m.

In reply to CAinCA :

Yeahhhh, I may have erred by googling that. Once this thing is caught up on maintenance it'll be tough to resist the call of the Tire Rack. And agreed on "every one is silver." It took a lot of searching to find one that was painted a color.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/26/21 1:06 p.m.


Quick update: The 29er fits in the back with the wheels on!

Also, the dash lights are still working great.

I know that isn't much of an update, but it's what I've got. So far so good!

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
6/3/21 2:30 p.m.

Update: I spent three hours wiring this thing for trailer lights. No photos (sorry, I was on the GRM video chat for most of the project), but it took so long because I wanted to use the factory trailer harness, which requires an additional harness from the dealer that's no longer available. Oh well, after some quality time under the dash installing a signal converter, I have mostly factory wiring that runs off the factory trailer fuse. Success!

In other news, did you know an Element will carry 8 Miata wheels and 16 Miata tires without even playing Tetris? 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/3/21 7:14 p.m.
Woody (Forum Supportum) said:
John Welsh said:

I expect this to be the kryptonite you can't avoid...

 

There's a gray ECamper that lives in my neighborhood. I would absolutely love to own one of those.

Saw one driving around town today. They're rare beasts. I like poptops.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
6/8/21 10:41 a.m.

Was just looking for some 350Z photos in my phone, and realized I never shared one easy fix I did: New seat bungees! Both of the left seats on an Element came from the factory with bungee cord on the backs, and mine was missing. I ordered a new pair of bungees online and installed them in about 10 minutes:

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) MegaDork
6/8/21 9:22 p.m.

In reply to Tom Suddard :

Every time I see one of these on the road, I notice a bunch of low hanging stuff under the car. What is that? I never think to looked under one that's parked. 

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