COAL: 2007 Honda Accord • Jenna’s Orange Doid

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!

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