COAL: 2007 Honda Accord • Jenna’s Orange Doid

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.

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