Richard Craver

Thoughts, Musings And The Occasional Rant

Gandalf Gets A New Soul

Written By: richardwcraver - Oct• 21•17

After my last Honda Accord, Methusalah for obvious reasons, got killed by a Toyota,

I got a Honda Element, who I named Gandalf because he’s gray. He’s done nothing particularly magical (yet), but I liked the name.

Gandalf The Grey?



Gandalf has been mostly a good boy the last two years. There was the alternator that put me in the passenger seat of a tow truck, but that can happen to any vehicle with over 200,000 miles. The real frustration was the intermittant misfire that I chased for months before an extremely small head gasket leak finally showed itself during the busiest time of the year when I could scarcely do anything about it. So I kept adding about a pint of water every two weeks or so and made a plan.

I plan on keeping Gandalf into the foreseeable future. I mean, he already has over 200,000 miles, I drive 1-1/2 hours each day for work, so anything else I get will have a ton of miles in no time; and I like him, he fits my needs pretty well. At work we had an engine on the recycle heap we had taken out of an Accord with a burnt valve using oil heavily. I stripped it down and started cleaning and inspecting parts. It seemed apparent that the Accord owner was lax on oil changes and the piston rings had gummed up. So I started ordering parts and built an engine on the stand over the summer in spare time along with some other things that needed attention; struts, some suspension bushings, adjustable rear camber arms. All that was left was for the fall dead period to arrive.

Fall and winter in a garage around here are always slow. Kids are back to college, vacation travel is over and people are traveling less, the fair comes to town and the carnies take all the money away, Christmas comes around, so people put off maintenance until something breaks. But the slow finally hit, so I borrowed a car for a couple days and ripped Gandalf’s guts out.

So here is Gandalf’s new soul, waiting to be installed.

As usual, when I have something I want to do, or NEED to do, we got busy. Not wanting to drive the borrowed car all weekend, I begged off Friday afternoon and finished the transformation. So far, knock on wood, I’m calling it a success. I’ll probably not rest easy until after the first couple oil changes have come and gone. Off hand power seems better in the low to mid range. It has the tinny piston skirt noise that virtually all Honda 4 cylinders get after 150,000 miles or so, it’s a little annoying but not detrimental. I wasn’t gonna spend the $$$ to replace pistons, I have a radio to fix that noise.

I did however replace the extra things that put cars on the side of the road, all the coolant hoses, including the little ones around the intake and throttle that get overlooked, thermostat and radiator fan switch. The starter was pre-emptively replaced¬† because it lives under the intake manifold and is such a pain to do after the fact. I used a Denso reman, (They are the OE manufacturer for Honda) they seem to hold up well, but don’t cost as much as genuine Honda reman. The reman stuff Autozone, Advance and O’reilly sell is garbage. The top tank of the radiators are prone to splitting with age, mine had some tiny ‘scratch’ looking lines forming, so it got replaced. The AC condenser in front of the radiator was beat up with 11 years of bugs and road debris, so it was replaced as well. Again Denso is one of the OE manufacturers for Honda. I installed plastic rain gutter mesh in front of the condenser for protection from road debris going forward.

So here we are, 241,7xx miles and an new lease on life, and I hope to drive it out to 500,000 miles plus like the Accord . I just have to keep an eye out for the kamikaze Toyotas.


You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.