COAL: 2007 Honda Accord – Jenna’s Orange Doid

I’ll give it its due credit: this is the most dependable car I’ve ever owned. It has been almost entirely trouble-free. It starts on the sixth compression every time—not the fifth or seventh—and always runs exactly the same. It also puts out the cleanest exhaust and promises the best safety performance of any car I’ve ever owned, so in those ways it is a highly competent A-to-B transport module.

With a story I’ll explain why I said it promises the best safety performance rather than it’s the safest. I routinely type at well over 100 correctly-spelled and -spaced words per minute; I’ve been clocked at 130 when I stick my foot in the secondaries about it, and people in earshot have mistaken me for a good rainstorm. I’d no formal instruction; in high school, kids one year behind me were the first forced to take a –typing– “keyboarding” class.

And so I got to hear the –typing– teacher hollering “J! J! F! A! D! K! L! L! S! H! D! S! D!” over the porta-wall that did about an 80 per cent job of separating him and his captives from those of us on the fortunate side in Mr. Thiess’ art class. Concentrating has seldom been easy for me, and the incessant drill instruction made it even harder to keep my mind on my work, but I managed to do this:

I’m happy with a small subset of the few drawings I’ve done; this is one of those. It’s not finished, and some of the details are hasty and sloppy, but I think I got a creditable number of the complex curves and lines creditably right—even the intricate roof contour above the A-pillar. It’s probably because I had a roaring obsession with the ’60-’62 Valiant-Lancer cars. My lighting fixation hadn’t yet caught fire, though, so the headlamps are just generic round things instead of tooling-quality representations of particular lamp lens details.

Typing, though. I’m not even self-taught, I’ve just been practising constantly for years. The year after I drew that Valiant, my first year at the University of Oregon, I was writing a paper on Frankenstein or something—late the night before it was due—and I fell asleep while I was typing. I was awakened a few moments later by the keyclacking, and looked at the screen to see the cursor flashing at the end of this line of freshman-in-university bulk wrap:

There is a subtle significance to the symbolism here, but it wasn’t Jenna’s Orange Doid.

I knocked on the door of the guy in the next dorm and told him we had to form a band, call it Jenna’s Orange Doid, and plaster the campus with posters saying “JOD is coming!” and “Are you JOD-fearing?” and suchlike. We never did, and that’s probably for the best.

Jenna’s Orange Doid comes to mind because on long trips this car is dangerously boring. Sincerely! I’m not exaggerating. It’s not driven, but aimed, and the experience is more soporific than benzodiazepines washed down with warm milk. I found it so difficult to stay awake at the wheel of this car that I actually got a carbon monoxide indicator, and guessed at a pretty good chance it would go dark. It didn’t; the car’s just that anæsthetic, which rather undermines all the safety built in.

I bought the car in March of 2016, shortly after the A604 ProbleMatic transmission failed in my last Dodge Spirit. It is my first-ever Honda, a 2007 Accord EX-L V6. It’s also my first car from this century, my first with more than one airbag (six), my first with a 5-speed automatic, first with an automatic that allows starting from second gear, first with 4-wheel ABS (my Chev Crapiece claimed to have it, but that was a fib), first ULEV, first car with traction control, first with keyfob remote lock/unlock, first with bun warmers (seat heaters), first with dual-zone HVAC. First with wheels bigger than 15″ (seventeens), first with an in-dash CD changer.

I’d’ve preferred a 4-cylinder; Honda’s fours are reputable and economical, and I didn’t and don’t need the V6’s power. The car was bought new in California and imported to Canada in late ’07, so the speedometer and odometer read in miles, of which there were about 80,000 when I bought it—10k more than the Dodge. It had a clean CarProof history and a thumbs-up from the local Honda dealer service department where I arranged for the seller to take it for a pre-purchase inspection; it wanted tires, but everything else was solid.

I’d found no suitable cars in Vancouver and its suburbs. Everything was overpriced, overworn, or both. It was fun to think about getting one of the numerous used cars imported from Japan, but I wasn’t interested in hassles with wrong-hand drive (border guards, parkade entries); special not-in-this-country parts, or 40 per cent higher crash risk. So that “local” dealer aformentioned was actually in Nanaimo, a drive and a ~2-hour ferry away. I took a cab to the dock and had a lovely ferry trip with internet just spotty enough to remind me to keep lookin’ out the windows at the scenery. The seller was a grownup, versus the dillweeds in Surrey and other suburbs I’d wasted Monday on (it doesn’t have a licence plate, so you can’t test drive it…I’m actually selling it for my friend…and he’s in Manitoba…I can try to call him tomorrow, and other symptoms of yeahritis).

Cosmetically, the car was about a 7/10. Paint was more or less fine with scratches and scuffs on the bumpers. Middle of the rear seat had a worn patch from previous owner’s skis rubbing, wheels had some curb rash. A good detail job would’ve made it spiffier (but I didn’t wind up getting one until this year). Overall, though, my first impressions were favourable. It seemed streets ahead of the Dodge in materials and build quality, technology, and refinement. One would hope, eh; it was 16 years newer! I did miss the Spirit’s instantaneous-and-average fuel economy readout, and its oil pressure gauge. And the Honda had no US/Metric dashboard switch. But that dual-zone HVAC meant Bill and I would no longer be overriding each other’s temperature settings like a pair of chess players slapping one of those timers. All in all, I felt I’d got a decent car for a decent price.

First task: licence plates. The rear plate bracket didn’t want to coöperate, so I bought an appropriate tap and rectified the threads, then affixed the plates using tamper-resistant screws; whoever has the correct driver could take the plates, but most people don’t.

Next: tires. I think I put on Pirellis; I don’t remember, and I don’t care enough to go outside and look. If I had this to do over again, I’d replace the 17″ wheels by the lower-trim fifteens and use tires with a taller sidewall; I’m not autocrossing, and we have potholes and cobblestones. Come to think of it, maybe I do have this to do over again; those tires are now five years and 52,000 miles old, probably getting close to due. We’ll see.

Purple– Yellow haze, all in my –brain– headlamps

The car needed new headlamps; the lenses were badly degraded—this kills pedestrians. I knew once new ones were installed, fitted with thoughtfully-selected bulbs, and aimed, I’d like them fine; they’re designed in accord (heh) with the better aspects of both American and European headlamp standards, made by a reputable Japanese supplier by the very Japanese name of Stanley and equipped with bulbs of a type easily, inexpensively, safely, and effectively upgraded. The red rear turn signals were not welcome to remain; I’d have to do something about those.

I didn’t see to the lights straightaway; I just settled into driving the car. It has what pretends to be an oil condition monitor, but is really just a 6,000-mile (plus or minus maybe, depending on average speeds or somesuch) countdown timer. I bought a good quality filter and briefly dove into numerous browser tabs’ worth of endless web forum discussions about boutique oil brands and what viscosity of oil is specified for various car models with this engine in Japan, in Europe, etc. Then I closed all the browser windows and bought a reputable shelf brand of synthetic oil —Pennzoil was on sale—of the 5W-20 specified by the maker for this car on this continent. I disregarded and reset the oil change reminder when it pestered me at 6,000 miles. Changed the oil and filter after 4,300 additional miles and sent in a sample of the drain oil for analysis. The report came back showing the drain oil was in excellent condition at 10,300 miles; I could’ve probably driven double that mileage (through something like three and a half dashboard exhortations) without the oil numbers turning badward.

Look ma, no cavities!

This is nothing short of amazing versus what we used to see with old oil, old filters, and old engines. Much of the improvement is because of engines that run (and fuels that burn) a whole hell of a lot cleaner than before. I took a look at one of what very well might have been the car’s original spark plugs. It appeared to be in fine condition; no indication that a new one was warranted. Back into its cylinder it went.

It felt strange to be able to get whatever which part or service I might need on short notice, anywhere—no need to hoard parts or put the service manual on the seat when taking the car to a shop. Accessories were easy, too; I got a set of Weathertech floor and trunk mats and rain deflectors for all four windows. No scavenger hunt required, just a credit card. The B-side of that 45 is standing there in a parkade, grocery bags in hand, and wondering why the car won’t unlock…oh, it’s because this isn’t my silver ’07 Accord, it’s somebody else’s silver ’09 Impala.

The brakes came due, and I permanently vanquished the notorious warped-rotor pedal-pulse with a set of cryogenically-treated new rotors, which were available off the shelf; I first read about the technique many years ago in this 1987 Popular Science magazine (click the cover for the relevant article in a new browser tab):

There was a recall issued by both American Honda and Honda Canada for the V6 Accords: new power steering high-pressure line assembly, because the original could chafe and leak and start a fire. Honda Canada asked if there were any chance I’d be in the states soon; if not, they could do the recall, but it would involve a lot of paperwork and delay because the US and Canadian operations don’t talk much to each other (which was also why it was still undone on this car—a weakness in Canada’s Registrar of Imported Vehicles program). I had the Seattle house, and we were back and forth frequently, so yeah, no problem, I’ll take it in down there. And hey, while I was there I could try out this dealer-service thing, because there was a weird lighting problem: usually I couldn’t turn off the headlamps with the ignition on. With the key off the headlamp switch worked normally, but with the ignition on, about 95 per cent of the time it was as though the headlamp switch didn’t exist, or had been glued in the third position: headlamps, parking and tail lights, side markers, licence lights, all lit up. Automatic lights weren’t offered on the ’07 Accord (there’s an ambient light sensor in the middle of the dashboard, but it’s not used for the lights—it’s said to somehow influence the air conditioner).

So I took the car to a Honda dealer in the Seattle area for that recall, a wheel alignment (the only one I’ve ever had on this car), and a look into the lighting weirdness. They called me while I was having lunch with my starter-and-alternator wizard, and said “Have you been into the steering column?” No, but I’d just bought the car a month ago and had no idea what the previous owner might’ve done. “Because there are two extra wires in there that Honda didn’t put there. The tech wants to remove them and see if that fixes the problem”. Yes, that fixed the problem, which was that some IPO had ziptied a blue plastic Hella relay under the dash and run two wires to the headlamp switch on the steering column, and one wire to the fusebox, where it had been crammed into an unused fuse slot. Clearly this was done so the car would have full lights auto-on with ignition-on, and I’m guessing it was done when the car was imported to Canada. Which is dumb, because the car, even as a US model, was built with daytime running lights fully compliant with Canadian regs. The misbehaviour was intermittent probably because those blue plastic Hella relays aren’t very reliable. With it and its wires excised, the lights worked as intended.

I’d asked the dealer to change the transmission fluid and filter. Came the response: “We can change the fluid, but there’s no filter”. That didn’t sound right, so…quick! To the internet! Turns out there is a transmission filter behind a 3-bolt cover easily accessible from under the hood. I found a site showing photos of the filter and the replacement procedure, a list of the needed parts, and all that. When I went to the dealer for the steering hose recall, just to be sure I asked the service writer about a transmission filter change. Same answer: “There is no filter on that model”. I walked 15 feet to the parts counter and asked if they could sell me a 25450-RAY-003 and if so, how does it come up in the system. Answer: “Yup, that’s a transmission filter”.

I bought the filter and assorted gaskets and crush washers and took them to my usual non-dealer shop the next time I had the car there for something else, I think an oil change. I brought along printout of the web page I’d found, and they said they’d take a look at it. Went to pick it up, and they said “That’s really something! Officially there’s no transmission filter on this car; it’s not in the service manual or Mitchell or anything, but it’s right there; took us about 10 minutes to change it, and the old one was really crusty and obviously due for replacement. Thanks for showing us that”. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why this transmission has a less-than-sterling durability reputation. Why in the screaming yellow zonkers does an automaker go to the trouble of putting in an easy-to-reach, easy-to-change filter, then deny it exists?

At the same time, I got new transmission pressure switches, because they drift. I was hoping this show of goodwill might improve the transmission’s behaviour, but it didn’t, and I’m getting ahead of myself.

The engine mounts are a fine bit of doglick engineering; there are vacuum lines, of all things, running to the front and rear mount, and a whole control system that sends vacuum (or doesn’t) to the mounts to stiffen or soften their reaction. I file these right next to the stupid transmission-engagement programming. At about 117k miles the mounts failed—all of them. Vibration/rumbling drone at idle in Drive, like being stopped in traffic next to a truck with a big diesel engine and a street-level exhaust. Thunk-effect feeling when accelerating from a stop—there was no actual clunk/thunk noise, but it felt like a large mass moving, like the bump when a heavy item shifts in the trunk. The choice was between genuine Honda parts (expensive, doglick-y, but quality worth installing) or aftermarket parts without vacuum provisions (cheap, sketchy junk). I sighed and bought the OE parts.

I was still ignoring the zombie undeadlamps and halfassed rear turn signals, but I turned my attention to other lighting matters. There were a whole bunch of dashboard switch lights burned out. Most of these took special proprietary bulbs, which I ordered. The gearshift light used a standard bulb, and I got to do that job one-and-three-quarters times: the Sylvania bulb I bought was so poorly made that it physically wouldn’t fit the socket, so I dug around in my extensive stash and found a Narva bulb, which immediately fit perfectly. Yay, German bulbs.

Winter came, and the power steering pump began raising a ruckus: moaning and screaming as though it were on a Ford when cold, but silent when hot. I’m accustomed to the way American cars are put together (i.e., how they come apart), so I figured I was about to need a pump. Not so fast, eh; there was a TSB for exactly this problem. The original black O-ring at the pump inlet fitting was a tetch too small, and does that Challenger thing (space shuttle, not car) where it takes a set when cold, which allows air in along with the fluid, which makes the pump noisy til the engine bay warms up and the O-ring softens and conforms. I officially fetched an official orange O-ring from the official dealership and swapped it in about six minutes including cleaning down the small amount of spilt fluid. No noise on subsequent cold start, yay. Had a weirdly persistent squawk from the serpentine belt til I removed it, chipped impacted wax out the pulley grooves (I’d tried to quiet the belt with a block of paraffin), hosed down the pulleys with brake cleaner, then installed a Gatorback belt with teeth instead of ribs.

Water was getting into the trunk, like, a lot. Abetted by the nose-down parking angle of my driveway, it was pooling up in the corner outside the trunk lid seal.

I bought and installed a new seal, to no effect. I had the trunk lid adjusted—still no luck. I took the car to the leak-whisperers who had dried up the Spirit’s right front door leak. They replaced leaky taillight gaskets and further adjusted the trunk lid, and that made the leak smaller, but it was still there. I was starting to have visions of involved modifications with drain tubes, but went back to the leak whisperers. Y’never believe what they found: there are wouldabeen drain holes at the forward corners of the deck lid itself. Apparently Honda decided not to use them after all, but they weren’t very well sealed off. Water was pooling as shown and told here, entering the trunk lid bracing via those drain holes, and then riding the reversing lamp/lid latch wire loom into the trunk. Drip-drip-drip. Those holes got properly sealed and the leak stopped. The whisperers also found and fixed something like fourteen breaks in the backglass defogger gridlines after every other shop I asked said I’d have to replace the glass, and I was stalling because cost. The defogger started working—nowhere near as well as the one in the Spirit, but better than nothing. Why didn’t I get after the faulty grid myself? I would have, on the upright backglass in an AA-body Mopar, easily reached while sitting in the back seat. With the highly raked Accord backglass, my spine decided it was well worth paying the job done.

While the car was there (and I was in Los Angeles covering the auto show) I had ’em do a bunch of other stuff, too. They installed a Bosch ParkPilot kit I bought—a de luxe one with four front and four rear sensors; this is the type of system that beeps to help with parking. They also installed the first half of a RainTracker rain-sensitive wiper control.

They put in the like-new headlamps I’d found. Har de har har: the lighting boffin, who spends his days and nights telling everyone all about how degraded lenses cause pedestrian deaths, drove daily and nightly for 3+ years with past-dead headlamps while the new ones sat on the basement shelf, waiting. The old lamps were long past due; the polycarbonate itself was clouded, crazed, cracked junk. I wasn’t expecting the car to look quite so much better with the new lamps in place, but it surely did. And night driving got a whole lot easier and safer, particularly after I replaced the 1,000-lumen low beam and 1,700-lumen high beam halogen bulbs with same-wattage, optically-compatible 1,900- and 2,350-lumen halogen bulbs, respectively. Let there be a great deal more well-focused light!

Because of course I did, I found part numbers for the European headlamps for this car—yes, they did sell this kind of Accord in countries that drive on the right and use the European vehicle regs. I found one side in Australia (where it was a useless wrong-side-of-road lamp) and I don’t remember where I found the other one. Same bulb types as the US lamps, different low beam optics, “city light” type of parking lamp, and electric levelling motors. They’re in boxes in my basement and I don’t imagine I’ll ever get around to installing them.

I’d bought a set of Accord Hybrid sideview mirrors, which have inbuilt turn signal repeaters (I have this weird hangup; I think people whose space I intend to enter should be able to see my advertisement of that intent). At first I fretted about how to match the paint—the non-hybrid cars were painted in № 700 silver, while the Japanese-built hybrids got silver № 695, different enough to look wrong side-by-side. While trawling around for the mirrors, it dawned on me that black ones would be fine, so black ones went on.

And they also swapped in the taillamps I’d sourced used out of Australia. These have a colourless upper chamber with an amber bulb rather than clear bulb/red lens like before (yes, the guy who cannot quit bellyaching about red rear turn signals drove around with them for 3+ years). Great, but the US lamps have inbuilt side marker lights, a red LED in a window behind the side wraparound portion of the retroreflector. The retroreflector was present in the rest-of-world lamp, but the light was not. So in went a set of these Hella side markers:

So how come I didn’t just get a set of the US-model ’06-’07 Accord Hybrid tails, which have the amber turn signal and the inbuilt sidemarker light? Because those don’t have the spreader optics for the outermost column of brake/tail LEDs. The rest-of-world spec for visibility is 45° inboard to 80° outboard; the American spec is 45° inboard to 45° outboard, and the US lamps only just barely meet that 45° outboard requirement—LED brake/tail lights were still pretty new, and the technology and technique weren’t as well developed as now.

Roughly 45° outboard: notice the outer three emitters and their proximate reflections in the adjacent chrome wall. Almost zero light from any of the other emitters. The outer emitters were just like that with the US lamps, and I didn’t consider that good enough even if North American regs do.

But wait, there’s more! The lamp assembly consist of a lens/housing, a socket for the turn signal bulb, and an LEDs-and-driver module secured to the housing with four screws. The splash shield on the back of the module says ECE: 0.5w tail 5.0w stop – NAS: 1.5w tail 6.7w stop. ECE = rest of world, where brake light straight-on intensity ranges from 50 to 185 candela; NAS = North American specification, 80 to 300 candela. There are brake:tail intensity ratio requirements, too. The rest-of-world tail and brake lights were significantly dimmer than the American-spec ones, so I swapped the LED/driver modules off the NAS lamps onto the ECE lamps, and voilà: wider rest-of-world visibility angles with higher US intensities. With these mods I felt like somewhat less of a damn hypocrite.

And I hoped perhaps the car would irritate me less, but that was not to be. The annoyances went in before the name went on, to paraphrase an old Zenith TV tagline. The controls and displays are thoughtlessly designed throughout, to a degree that varies from annoying to unsafe. The instrument cluster is always lit, day or night; it would not be legible otherwise. A dim little telltale is the only indication that one is driving around at night dark from the back and sides and throwing around too much glare up front from the high beam daytime running lights. I almost never make this mistake—hi, I’m Daniel Stern—but it’s an easy one to make.

The dashboard illumination is adjustable. Some of it, that is; certain lights respond to turning the knob, and others don’t. Turning the knob also causes the dashboard to go “Beep!” when entering or leaving maximum-intensity mode, and a line of little doughnut-ring lights to replace the odometer/outside temperature/trip odometer/oil life display. Because multiple redundant audiovisual indications of how my dashboard lights are adjusted is rilly important, you guys; even ask god.

The HVAC controls are highly concentrated stupidity. There’s an LCD display that can show fan speed, system mode, A/C on or off. I say can show because sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Turn off the system, then turn it on, and none of the information shows up until I press the relevant button. Want to know what the fan speed is? I have to hit the + or button, then that part of the display comes on. Want to know the system mode? I have to press the Mode button, which changes the mode and makes that part of the display come on; if the system was already in the mode (or at the fan speed) I wanted, it isn’t any more and I’ll have to select it again. Want to know whether the A/C compressor is on or off? I have to press the A/C button. If it was on (off) and I just turned it off (on) but I wanted it on (off), I have to press the button again. Pressing Mode steps through four of the five modes available: floor, panel, floor + panel, and floor + dashtop air ducting. If I want the fith mode, just defog, I can’t get it via that button. Instead I have to push the separate defog button, which turns off the mode indicator and A/C indicator portions of the display (they won’t come back on until I repeat the monkey motion already described) and—this is the best part—ramps the blower to maximum speed. I never want maximum blower speed, which is noisy and gusty, so I have to push the button as many times as it takes to ramp the speed down to where I want it. This mess is grossly inferior to the controls in the Spirit, which had a separate button for each available mode and could be easily and accurately operated by touch, without looking. Looking is mandatory in the Accord.

Stepping on and then releasing the brake pedal causes the intermittent wipers, if they’re engaged, to give a single wipe even if the selected interval hasn’t elapsed (good) but they don’t provide the same courtesy when the interval is shifted from a longer to a shorter one (duhh), and the entire range of intervals is too slow. The Dodge was much better there, too. I still haven’t got round to having the rest of that RainTracker system put in, and I imagine I never will. The Bosch ParkPilot quit working; it started squealing full-time as though I were about to hit something. The only way to stop it was to unplug the control unit. Replacement parts aren’t available and the system is no longer supported; thanks heaps, Bosch. I might have better luck with a Valeo system, or not; I don’t guess I’ll try my luck. The Bosch Supertone horns I put in, on the other hand, work great. They’re not the ones meant for making cars louder when needed, they’re the ones meant for use on European emergency vehicles with a wig-wag controller to provide the hee-haw siren: very much louder.

Folding down the rear seatbacks to accommodate large items in the trunk is much more difficult and unwieldy than in the Dodge, and the pass-through is smaller. The rear head restraints worsened already-poor sightlines until I removed them; nobody ever rides in the back anyway.

The car is unreasonably thirsty. It’s in perfect running order—that was checked carefully when the Check Engine light came on to indicate a faulty front-bank front oxygen sensor; I replaced both front sensors and put in a new set of spark plugs (the old ones were still pretty), and all readings are nominal. Nevertheless, I get 14 to 15 miles per US gallon around town in good weather—less in winter—and that’s driving like a grandpa. It’s markedly better on the highway, where it gets close to its rated economy. I find it a little baffling that this car uses a speed-density fuel injection system with a MAP sensor rather than a mass-airflow system, and a lot baffling that a 3,300-pound 2007 car with a 3-litre V6 and 5-speed automatic gets so much poorer fuel economy than a 3,200-pound 1991 car with a 3-litre V6 and 4-speed automatic.

It has an unreasonably large turning radius and a ridiculously long lag before engaging Reverse or Drive. The latter is because Honda deliberately programmed the transmission, shifted into any version of Forward, to engage first 3rd and then 1st: thup…thup. This is said to provide a smoother engagement. When I’m doing a multiple-point turnaround or a parallel-parking manœuvre, holding up traffic and marvelling at how long a second or two can be, I’m ever so tickled that some idiot pretendgineer signed off on this. The rest of the transmission’s shift logic is drunken, too: under light throttle at moderate road load it shifts 1, 3 (or perhaps 1, 2+lockup) then senses the lug condition and goes back into 2 (or unlocks the converter). There’s nothing the matter with the transmission; this is how it’s programmed. No use complaining about it; it can’t be changed.

Speaking of which: unlock the doors, either with the fob or the door switch, and they will lock again in an unreasonably short number of seconds. No, goddammit, I unlocked the car and I really meant it! No matter; the stupid car is programmed to win that argument. Open a door and the dome lights come on, so if it’s dark out you have light…for a short period of time, after which the dome lights shut off even if the door’s still open. If I still want light, I have to either close and then open the door(s) or reach up and manually switch on the lights. Having the lights stay on as long as the door is open, like every other car on the planet, is not an option. Same with the parking lights: if the ignition isn’t switched on, and I switch on the parking and tail lights, I’m allowed to have the use of them for something like 60 seconds, then they switch off. Which is wrong, but the car is programmed to win that argument, too.

The seats are passable—the driver side has a heater in the bottom and the back; the passenger gets only a bottom heater—but the rest of the ergonomics are awful. The door checks don’t hold the doors open even on level ground, let alone nose-up, and it’s not because they’re worn, it’s by design—I installed new genuine Honda door checks, and they’re no better. The trunk lid springs are inadequate; the lid wants to come back down on my head with the slightest touch, breeze or whim. This, too, is by design; new springs didn’t help. The glovebox latch is designed such that it can’t be opened unless one’s thumb and pull are at exactly a specific angle. The gearshift was fine in ’03-’05 Accords—a spring-loaded pushbutton on the driver’s side, where it fell readily to thumb—but for ’06 they moved the trigger to the front and configured it to require an awkward, uncomfortable, unintuitive finger-curl motion. The power window lockout is the same dumb kind that could’ve got me copshot in a rental Corolla in Missouri some years ago, if I hadn’t been white.

All of these complaints (and more!) are intrinsic to the design, programming, configuration, and construction of the vehicle. Bill and I hate the damn thing, but it’s as functionally sound as its faulty design and engineering permit, and feels likely to carry on dependably for the foreseeable future. This isn’t a good time to replace it; there’s a chip shortage driving up new and used car prices. And I have no idea what I’d replace it with. A Subaru of some kind, maybe? I’ve toyed with the idea of a handshift car—guaranteed to be more engaging, but maybe that’s an overreaction to this rolling bowl of plain cold oatmeal; if I think about it, I remember what a nuisance my last manual car was in city driving and parking.

So for the time being, we carry on bitching about it and maintaining it. I had the timing belt done, along with the usual list of things with it—water pump, etc. The rubber bellows between the throttle body and the air cleaner cracked, so I replaced it, big schmeal. I don’t know who in Japan makes Honda’s wiper blades, but they’re by far the best and most durable I’ve ever bought. In digging through factory parts cattledogs I found that European-market Civics used the same-shape sideview mirror glass as the rest-of-world-and-American-hybrid Accords, so I bought a set of replacement mirror glasses from a dealership in the UK. They’re convex with an aspheric outboard section. The driver side item went right on: carefully pry with a screwdriver to unsnap the bottom of the framed glass from its mount, swing it up and out, unclip the top, lift it away, disconnect the heater wires; connect the wires to the new framed glass, hook in the top, swing it down, and press the bottom until it snaps into its bracket. Easy. The passenger side was fine until that last step: I pressed carefully, but the glass broke before the frame snapped into the bracket. Dammit!

I ordered another glass and it broke the same way. I ordered a third one and had the shop do it; they succeeded. These mirrors give a giant improvement in field of view; I miss them terribly when I have to drive another car (though I do wish this magic mirror had been commercialised). Years later, someone stole the glass off the passenger-side mirror. Maybe they wanted to snort drugs off it, or maybe it wound up amidst a sidewalk homeless-mart. They ripped the mount bracket right off the motor. I sighed and ordered yet another Euro-glass and a used mirror assembly. I transferred the mount bracket onto the car’s existing mirror, installed the glass (successfully this time) and that’s where things stand now.

Some shitsmear broke both driver side windows. There was nothing to steal in the car; they pawed through the detritus and left it all. Alarm didn’t go off because they didn’t open the doors. Really good glass shop walk distance to and from my office, but Chinese aftermarket glass was the only option, and even the “good” brand had the wrong curvature to it, so it wanted to bind in its track. The glass guy sighed and said this isn’t unusual. With some tapdancing and insurance-persuading, used OE glass from a wrecking yard was installed instead. Another time, the (Chinese aftermarket) windshield suddenly had a weird nest of spiral cracks. The new windshield, same Chinese brand, went in okeh but hasn’t been very resistant to pitting and sandblasting.

In Autumn 2019 one day there came a new whine from under the hood, rising and falling with engine speed, in any gear or Park or Neutral, not sensitive to steering wheel movement. Up or down thru the gears it sounded like a semi-distant siren. One end of a stick (okeh, steering wheel club lock) on the alternator, other end in my ear: yep, it’s the alternator. My aforementioned wizard said to go get front and rear bearing and brush holder assemblies and give ‘im a call when I had ’em: these Denso alternators aren’t like the GM item; it’ll be noisy for a long time without locking up. Parts bought, and…oops, turns out it wasn’t a bearing noise. It was a dead-diode noise which, before I knew that, got a lot louder the morning I used the car to go down to Honda of Seattle to fetch bearings and a brush holder. Wizard came over to help with (i.e., do) what we thought would be a bearing-and-brush-holder swap, but as soon as he heard it, he said “That’s a diode”. Pulled the alternator: yup, two fryodes. Had to put in a “remanufactured” alternator from O’Really Auto Parts; I hold a dim view, but—touch wood—so far so good. Whatever, don’t care. It’s installed. It’s quiet. The battery light is not illuminated on the dashboard. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I last changed oil and filter at 125,000 miles toward the end of 2019, when the amount of driving I do dropped sharply—no more trips back and forth between Vancover and Seattle. It’s now at 132,000 miles, with no sign of moisture contamination or other issues, so this oil will stick around awhile. I had to add a pint a few months ago.

I never did get around to replacing those dashboard bulbs; they’re still in their Honda parts bags somewhere around here.

I should be more careful what I wish for (a change from hoarding parts and special knowledge and keeping an oldie on the road in daily service) because the gods might laugh and grant it (dangerously boring car). Or, stated another way: a pendulum swings both ways, and if I push it just so, it’ll come back with a vengeance and whack me in the crotch.

The Accord is my current car, but– we’re not yet done with this COAL series, so…tune in next week!

Update 2023: Ding-dong, the witch is dead; I got rid of the Accord and replaced it with something much more satisfactory.

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