Our 14 year old, 253K mile Honda Element finally needed a repair

Sounds like a Ferrari - ugh!
At least on the 308/328 the entire power package comes out relatively simply, relatively:)

I absolutely love the Element.

Way back, I wound up responsible for our Corporate Services (incl. facilities and mail rooms) on the West coast. We were growing by acquisition and had duplicate (triplicate??) departments, locations, staff, etc. which I was tasked with reducing and consolidating, but that is another story.

Long story short, as an interim we hired a service that one of the acquired companies had to courier between all the facilities between San Fran, Walnut Creek, Pleasanton, Palo Alto, Mountainview and San Jose. I took one look at the spend, did some analysis and hired two folks and bought two Elements for half of what we were spending. Those Elements had the worse lives, think about the service they were in, and perfomed flawlessly.

Two notes:
1) I had the rear seats removed immediately for 'freight'....and lessen the temptation for joyriding.
2) magnetic signs for our logo, removed most of the time as at the time there were accident stagers looking for vehicle owned by high flying companies!
 
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Honestly, I didn't struggle as much as you did...and certainly did not shed any blood!

It was nowhere near as bad as helping my son change the clutch on his BMW 328i...where the factory manual says step one is to pull the engine. 🤯 LOL
I wouldn't say I struggled, it ended up being time consuming. I'm 71 and did the work while lying on my back with the Element on jack stands.

Because I'd tested positive for a melanoma on my right shoulder I had a 4 inch long piece of flesh excised from my back. Having a foolish streak I did the repair 4 days after the surgery! It wasn't so much lying on my back, but I had to be careful how I reached forward with my arms because the doc warned me I could rip the incision open (he didn't know that I would be repairing the Element - he would have smacked me). In other words, I was working slower than normal and many of my physical movements had to be carefully executed.

Regardless, had the wiring not been there the job would have been much, much easier. Mechanically, it's not even remotely complicated.

Scott
 
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Although the original radiator appeared to be in great shape (zero deposits on the inside), it has an aluminum core with a plastic top and bottom that's crimped on. The plastics on any radiator with that type of construction have been known to fail.

With everything being apart and the radiator being right there it took 10 additional minutes to replace it. Replacing those fans was not the type of mechanical work I enjoy doing. I much prefer working on things like brakes and suspension.

See the attached. Cramming my big hands into tight confines to release a dozen little plastic clips is not my idea of fun. I'll take spring compressors any day.

Scott

View attachment 224352
That's usually what my hands look like when I'm done working on a vehicle! :oops:
 
Ladies and Gentlemen:

The title says it all - after 14 years and 253K miles our beloved Honda Element finally needed some repairs. Aside from one brake job, 4 or 5 sets of tires, respectful treatment, and years of meticulous maintenance, this was literally the first time something went wrong with it. What a loyal and trustworthy servant it has been!

While waiting in line at a fast food place, needing some calories during a busy day, I noticed the temp gauge starting to creep up. Normally the gauge never moves from it's normal position, regardless of whether it's 105 or 30 degrees outside, idling in traffic or speeding along at 80 mph. The gauge plays like it's highly buffered.

I noticed the gauge moving from it's normal position, say, 3/8ths to a 5/8ths. The Element has a single serpentine belt so I checked to see if the power steering was still working, which it was, verifying the belt hadn't broken. I shut it off and "started and stopped" my way to nourishment, not wanting it to get any hotter.

Zooming out of the fast food place I noticed that as soon as I got moving the temp gauge dropped to its normal level. That made me suspect the electric cooling fans, which the Element has two. One is called the "AC fan", the other the "radiator fan".

After arriving home I slammed down my food to correct my increasingly hangry mood, which had nothing to do with the Element's woes.

Freshly fueled, I popped the hood and noticed neither fan was working. I swapped fuses and relays with known good ones, hoping for a quick and easy fix. No go. I checked Youtube University, watching a video that says if you turn on the AC to Max, both fans should run. I did that and neither fan worked, even with the engine at full operating temperature on a pleasant 75 degree California afternoon.

Before I go any further on this, one thing I'd noticed over the last year or two was that at times the AC didn't blow as cold as it used to. It seemed to be more an issue during stop and go driving, but once I got moving again the AC seemed to blow fully cold. Given the age and mileage of the 'ole Element, I chalked it up to needing a recharge, but never got to it because the AC worked well enough overall to not bother. This behavior turned out to be a good clue.

As per the instructions in my factory service manuals, I hot-wired each fan directly to the battery, Neither one worked. With both bad it made me realize the AC fan must have failed sometime earlier, but with the radiator fan still working the vehicle never overheated. The failure of the AC fan explained why the AC blew less cold in stop and go traffic. At any rate, the failure of both fans added a certain degree of confusion during my diagnostic process.

I'm an OEM parts guy, but Honda wanted $450 plus EACH, just for electric motors. That price didn't include the shrouds or fan blades. I had serious doubts that those by now well roasted plastic fans blades blades would come off the motors without them breaking.

I searched further for parts, some online Honda dealers selling the motors for under $300. The local dealer where I originally bought the vehicle wouldn't price match so I tried RockAuto for the first time in my life. They had some Continental/VDO (made in Thailand) fans, fully assembled, including shrouds and blades, 100% ready to bolt in. $383 delivered. My RockAuto package arrived two days later, beautifully packaged. Hearing all the RockAuto horror stories, I was pleasantly surprised.

R&R'ing the fans was a PITA. It wasn't a difficult job, per se, but major portions of the underhood wiring had to be removed from various structural pieces, and to Honda's credit that wiring was attached at 16 or 18 points with hard to reach plastic clips. Getting the wiring detached and out of the way was the most complicated part of the job. At several points I was mumbling some really bad words under my breath.

After getting the fans out I decided to throw the Element a bone. With everything right there I decided to reward its remarkable service with a brand new OEM radiator, even though the old one was in perfect condition because of my every 3 year coolant changes. I got new OEM hoses and clamps, plus OEM coolant from my non-discounting local dealer - to the tune of $700 plus. All in, I was in this job for just under $1,100.

Reassembly was fairly easy, but my inability to refasten some of the hard to reach plastic clips required the use of zips ties instead. No big deal. At any rate, I performed the repairs with all the OCD attention to detail and quality I do with the other cars on our fleet. Just because it was 14 years old with 253K miles on it was no reason to do a less than "perfect" job.

New fans in and fully operational, the AC blows as cold as an industrial meat locker, even while idling the driveway. No recharge required - Yay! - the issue being the failure of the AC fan sometime earlier, before the radiator fan eventually failed.

A few pics for your viewing pleasure. The engine and body pictures were taken after job completion. Yes, I take that good of care of the thing!

Scott

View attachment 224329View attachment 224330View attachment 224331View attachment 224332
Looks like a very well cared for vehicle. A quick give away to me about a person is when I see the condition of the engine compartment. Clean usually means someone with great pride. Nice machine! ;)
 
Although the original radiator appeared to be in great shape (zero deposits on the inside), it has an aluminum core with a plastic top and bottom that's crimped on. The plastics on any radiator with that type of construction have been known to fail.

With everything being apart and the radiator being right there it took 10 additional minutes to replace it. Replacing those fans was not the type of mechanical work I enjoy doing. I much prefer working on things like brakes and suspension.

See the attached. Cramming my big hands into tight confines to release a dozen little plastic clips is not my idea of fun. I'll take spring compressors any day.

Scott

View attachment 224352
Good idea to swap out the rad.
Sadly the plastic are the weak points
 
I checked Youtube University, watching a video that says if you turn on the AC to Max, both fans should run
Thanks for this tip! I did not know this. My son has a 2007 CRV and has been complaining that the AC runs cold when starting a drive but it turns off sometimes (usually on hotter days). I was thinking it might be a bad thermal protection device on the compressor which is difficult to replace.

After reading this post, I noticed only the passenger side fan ran but not the driver side. I did the test after watching the video you mentioned. Sure enough, the motor would not run and I thought I would need to order a new fan.

Then I remembered the trick some guys use on starters by banging on them with a hammer. I found a very long blade screwdriver and banged its end about five times on the back of the bad motor using a hammer. My son started it up and the fan is working now and it cooled down much faster. This fix may be temporary but now I know the problem.

Thank you very much for your detailed post as this saved me a lot of time and probably money. The bonus was all the laughs my son and i had that banging on it worked.
 
Thanks for this tip! I did not know this. My son has a 2007 CRV and has been complaining that the AC runs cold when starting a drive but it turns off sometimes (usually on hotter days). I was thinking it might be a bad thermal protection device on the compressor which is difficult to replace.

After reading this post, I noticed only the passenger side fan ran but not the driver side. I did the test after watching the video you mentioned. Sure enough, the motor would not run and I thought I would need to order a new fan.

Then I remembered the trick some guys use on starters by banging on them with a hammer. I found a very long blade screwdriver and banged its end about five times on the back of the bad motor using a hammer. My son started it up and the fan is working now and it cooled down much faster. This fix may be temporary but now I know the problem.

Thank you very much for your detailed post as this saved me a lot of time and probably money. The bonus was all the laughs my son and i had that banging on it worked.
Pfft a couple years ago I banged on the blower motor in my SuperDuty to revive it. Still going. Thus, I conclude this is a credible, long term fix :D
 
Thanks for this tip! I did not know this. My son has a 2007 CRV and has been complaining that the AC runs cold when starting a drive but it turns off sometimes (usually on hotter days). I was thinking it might be a bad thermal protection device on the compressor which is difficult to replace.

After reading this post, I noticed only the passenger side fan ran but not the driver side. I did the test after watching the video you mentioned. Sure enough, the motor would not run and I thought I would need to order a new fan.

Then I remembered the trick some guys use on starters by banging on them with a hammer. I found a very long blade screwdriver and banged its end about five times on the back of the bad motor using a hammer. My son started it up and the fan is working now and it cooled down much faster. This fix may be temporary but now I know the problem.

Thank you very much for your detailed post as this saved me a lot of time and probably money. The bonus was all the laughs my son and i had that banging on it worked.
According to the 'net, fan failures on Elements and CRVs of the same era are common. I suspect your "fix" is temporary.

Scott
 
I can relate to your latest maintenance efforts on your Honda Element, Scott! I replaced both fans on our 2003 Element in August 2018 for the same reason. I went with the ~$55 TYC fans from Amazon because they would arrive the next day and I don't regret using these Chinese made parts at all. They fit and work identical to the OEM Honda parts and I have no indication they will not last 15 years like the original fans. I also replaced the radiator while it was out but I went with a DENSO rad. that also fit like OEM.
Just to be clear, your chances of reliable, long term operation are hugely increased using OEM stuff. I almost always choose non Chinese parts when I have the chance. The idea that china parts are equivalent is doublethink.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen:

The title says it all - after 14 years and 253K miles our beloved Honda Element finally needed some repairs. Aside from one brake job, 4 or 5 sets of tires, respectful treatment, and years of meticulous maintenance, this was literally the first time something went wrong with it. What a loyal and trustworthy servant it has been!

While waiting in line at a fast food place, needing some calories during a busy day, I noticed the temp gauge starting to creep up. Normally the gauge never moves from it's normal position, regardless of whether it's 105 or 30 degrees outside, idling in traffic or speeding along at 80 mph. The gauge plays like it's highly buffered.

I noticed the gauge moving from it's normal position, say, 3/8ths to a 5/8ths. The Element has a single serpentine belt so I checked to see if the power steering was still working, which it was, verifying the belt hadn't broken. I shut it off and "started and stopped" my way to nourishment, not wanting it to get any hotter.

Zooming out of the fast food place I noticed that as soon as I got moving the temp gauge dropped to its normal level. That made me suspect the electric cooling fans, which the Element has two. One is called the "AC fan", the other the "radiator fan".

After arriving home I slammed down my food to correct my increasingly hangry mood, which had nothing to do with the Element's woes.

Freshly fueled, I popped the hood and noticed neither fan was working. I swapped fuses and relays with known good ones, hoping for a quick and easy fix. No go. I checked Youtube University, watching a video that says if you turn on the AC to Max, both fans should run. I did that and neither fan worked, even with the engine at full operating temperature on a pleasant 75 degree California afternoon.

Before I go any further on this, one thing I'd noticed over the last year or two was that at times the AC didn't blow as cold as it used to. It seemed to be more an issue during stop and go driving, but once I got moving again the AC seemed to blow fully cold. Given the age and mileage of the 'ole Element, I chalked it up to needing a recharge, but never got to it because the AC worked well enough overall to not bother. This behavior turned out to be a good clue.

As per the instructions in my factory service manuals, I hot-wired each fan directly to the battery, Neither one worked. With both bad it made me realize the AC fan must have failed sometime earlier, but with the radiator fan still working the vehicle never overheated. The failure of the AC fan explained why the AC blew less cold in stop and go traffic. At any rate, the failure of both fans added a certain degree of confusion during my diagnostic process.

I'm an OEM parts guy, but Honda wanted $450 plus EACH, just for electric motors. That price didn't include the shrouds or fan blades. I had serious doubts that those by now well roasted plastic fans blades blades would come off the motors without them breaking.

I searched further for parts, some online Honda dealers selling the motors for under $300. The local dealer where I originally bought the vehicle wouldn't price match so I tried RockAuto for the first time in my life. They had some Continental/VDO (made in Thailand) fans, fully assembled, including shrouds and blades, 100% ready to bolt in. $383 delivered. My RockAuto package arrived two days later, beautifully packaged. Hearing all the RockAuto horror stories, I was pleasantly surprised.

R&R'ing the fans was a PITA. It wasn't a difficult job, per se, but major portions of the underhood wiring had to be removed from various structural pieces, and to Honda's credit that wiring was attached at 16 or 18 points with hard to reach plastic clips. Getting the wiring detached and out of the way was the most complicated part of the job. At several points I was mumbling some really bad words under my breath.

After getting the fans out I decided to throw the Element a bone. With everything right there I decided to reward its remarkable service with a brand new OEM radiator, even though the old one was in perfect condition because of my every 3 year coolant changes. I got new OEM hoses and clamps, plus OEM coolant from my non-discounting local dealer - to the tune of $700 plus. All in, I was in this job for just under $1,100.

Reassembly was fairly easy, but my inability to refasten some of the hard to reach plastic clips required the use of zips ties instead. No big deal. At any rate, I performed the repairs with all the OCD attention to detail and quality I do with the other cars on our fleet. Just because it was 14 years old with 253K miles on it was no reason to do a less than "perfect" job.

New fans in and fully operational, the AC blows as cold as an industrial meat locker, even while idling the driveway. No recharge required - Yay! - the issue being the failure of the AC fan sometime earlier, before the radiator fan eventually failed.

A few pics for your viewing pleasure. The engine and body pictures were taken after job completion. Yes, I take that good of care of the thing!

Scott

View attachment 224329View attachment 224330View attachment 224331View attachment 224332
That is one of the best engines Honda made... On my 07 accord I had 386000 on it when I traded it in...Original water pump and alternator..NO engine issues at all or tranny...Just the usual paint. to do...
 
That is one of the best engines Honda made... On my 07 accord I had 386000 on it when I traded it in...Original water pump and alternator..NO engine issues at all or tranny...Just the usual paint. to do...
and this was all done on Mobil 1 and a Fram oil filter not a overpriced mail order oil....
 
Ladies and Gentlemen:

The title says it all - after 14 years and 253K miles our beloved Honda Element finally needed some repairs. Aside from one brake job, 4 or 5 sets of tires, respectful treatment, and years of meticulous maintenance, this was literally the first time something went wrong with it. What a loyal and trustworthy servant it has been!

While waiting in line at a fast food place, needing some calories during a busy day, I noticed the temp gauge starting to creep up. Normally the gauge never moves from it's normal position, regardless of whether it's 105 or 30 degrees outside, idling in traffic or speeding along at 80 mph. The gauge plays like it's highly buffered.

I noticed the gauge moving from it's normal position, say, 3/8ths to a 5/8ths. The Element has a single serpentine belt so I checked to see if the power steering was still working, which it was, verifying the belt hadn't broken. I shut it off and "started and stopped" my way to nourishment, not wanting it to get any hotter.

Zooming out of the fast food place I noticed that as soon as I got moving the temp gauge dropped to its normal level. That made me suspect the electric cooling fans, which the Element has two. One is called the "AC fan", the other the "radiator fan".

After arriving home I slammed down my food to correct my increasingly hangry mood, which had nothing to do with the Element's woes.

Freshly fueled, I popped the hood and noticed neither fan was working. I swapped fuses and relays with known good ones, hoping for a quick and easy fix. No go. I checked Youtube University, watching a video that says if you turn on the AC to Max, both fans should run. I did that and neither fan worked, even with the engine at full operating temperature on a pleasant 75 degree California afternoon.

Before I go any further on this, one thing I'd noticed over the last year or two was that at times the AC didn't blow as cold as it used to. It seemed to be more an issue during stop and go driving, but once I got moving again the AC seemed to blow fully cold. Given the age and mileage of the 'ole Element, I chalked it up to needing a recharge, but never got to it because the AC worked well enough overall to not bother. This behavior turned out to be a good clue.

As per the instructions in my factory service manuals, I hot-wired each fan directly to the battery, Neither one worked. With both bad it made me realize the AC fan must have failed sometime earlier, but with the radiator fan still working the vehicle never overheated. The failure of the AC fan explained why the AC blew less cold in stop and go traffic. At any rate, the failure of both fans added a certain degree of confusion during my diagnostic process.

I'm an OEM parts guy, but Honda wanted $450 plus EACH, just for electric motors. That price didn't include the shrouds or fan blades. I had serious doubts that those by now well roasted plastic fans blades blades would come off the motors without them breaking.

I searched further for parts, some online Honda dealers selling the motors for under $300. The local dealer where I originally bought the vehicle wouldn't price match so I tried RockAuto for the first time in my life. They had some Continental/VDO (made in Thailand) fans, fully assembled, including shrouds and blades, 100% ready to bolt in. $383 delivered. My RockAuto package arrived two days later, beautifully packaged. Hearing all the RockAuto horror stories, I was pleasantly surprised.

R&R'ing the fans was a PITA. It wasn't a difficult job, per se, but major portions of the underhood wiring had to be removed from various structural pieces, and to Honda's credit that wiring was attached at 16 or 18 points with hard to reach plastic clips. Getting the wiring detached and out of the way was the most complicated part of the job. At several points I was mumbling some really bad words under my breath.

After getting the fans out I decided to throw the Element a bone. With everything right there I decided to reward its remarkable service with a brand new OEM radiator, even though the old one was in perfect condition because of my every 3 year coolant changes. I got new OEM hoses and clamps, plus OEM coolant from my non-discounting local dealer - to the tune of $700 plus. All in, I was in this job for just under $1,100.

Reassembly was fairly easy, but my inability to refasten some of the hard to reach plastic clips required the use of zips ties instead. No big deal. At any rate, I performed the repairs with all the OCD attention to detail and quality I do with the other cars on our fleet. Just because it was 14 years old with 253K miles on it was no reason to do a less than "perfect" job.

New fans in and fully operational, the AC blows as cold as an industrial meat locker, even while idling the driveway. No recharge required - Yay! - the issue being the failure of the AC fan sometime earlier, before the radiator fan eventually failed.

A few pics for your viewing pleasure. The engine and body pictures were taken after job completion. Yes, I take that good of care of the thing!

Scott

View attachment 224329View attachment 224330View attachment 224331View attachment 224332
Sweet machine! The motor looks almost identical to the one in our 2009 Accord. Our 2009 has the 2.4 engine.
 
It’s really a shame Honda killed this model off.
It was very popular with the senior crowd since it allowed you to get in and out easily. Same goes from some Scion xB owners, not your typical Scion owner but seat height was the best choice for many.

There was even a Dog Owners Package:

Dog Friendly Package.jpg



 
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Just to be clear, your chances of reliable, long term operation are hugely increased using OEM stuff.
Completely agree with this statement regarding most OEM parts.
I almost always choose non Chinese parts when I have the chance. The idea that china parts are equivalent is doublethink.
The OEM Honda fan motor available from the dealership was a DENSO part manufactured in China. The TYC fan that I purchased was actually made in Taiwan, not PRC. Decent parts can be sourced from any country of origin contingent on the enforcement of high quality standards (e.g., ISO-9001, EN, etc.) by the manufacturer. As we all know, China is fully capable of world class manufacturing as evidenced by Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy cell phones. The difference is whether the aftermarket provider selectively chooses to target mass sales of inferior products at a cheap price or top notch products at a premium. There is a lot of room for variances between both extremes.
 
Completely agree with this statement regarding most OEM parts.

The OEM Honda fan motor available from the dealership was a DENSO part manufactured in China. The TYC fan that I purchased was actually made in Taiwan, not PRC. Decent parts can be sourced from any country of origin contingent on the enforcement of high quality standards (e.g., ISO-9001, EN, etc.) by the manufacturer. As we all know, China is fully capable of world class manufacturing as evidenced by Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy cell phones. The difference is whether the aftermarket provider selectively chooses to target mass sales of inferior products at a cheap price or top notch products at a premium. There is a lot of room for variances between both extremes.
That has become a problem with everything from autos to plumbing parts to appliances and on and on....... Since many places like China, who are now manufacturing almost everything, have very little to zero competition to hold their quality up against, they have begun to make just about everything they can get away with as cheap as they can. Anyone who takes the time to look will see just how cheap and junky most replacement parts have begun to look compared to just a few years back. Very sad. Not like it once was when you are not satisfied with a purchase and you could fire that company and go elsewhere. Today there is almost no elsewhere!
 
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