Categories
Drivetrain Heeltoe Explains You Can Do It! DIYs

Higher Mileage TSX 04-08 Drivetrain Woes…Engine Vibes and Clutch Creaks

I had two customers in recently with failures that surprised me. One, I should have not been too surprised about. But the other one…well, I guess I could have expected it as well! Worn engine mounts cause noise and vibration, and broken clutch pedal brackets will leave you stranded!

Issue 1: Broken Rear Engine Mount.

Tell me if you have a 1G TSX 5AT and these symptoms sound familiar:

  • Engine vibration while in gear at a light
  • Even more vibration with the AC on
  • Occasional clunks from the drivetrain

Guess what…check your rear engine mount. I wish I took a pic, but sure enough, I had a 60,000 mile TSX in a couple of weeks back with a broken engine mount, most particularly the rear one. I had fooled myself a bit by assuming that this part would not be so vulnerable as to break in under 100,000 miles, however, I was dutifully proven wrong.

The rear mount is easy to see, but not super easy to reach. And when inspecting you can only see half of the mount because a metal bracket covers the top (this limits engine movement, or the throw of the mount). You need a 17mm socket and a long, 24″ extension (1/2″ drive) to reach the bolts holding the cover on. Get the tools, pull the bracket, and do a full 360-degree inspection of your mount if you are getting weird vibrations.

In this image, you’d be removing #7 to inspect the rear mount, and the same tool setup to inspect under #10 for the front mount.

And for Pete’s Sake, don’t assume the problem is an Ingalls ETD or UR Pulley. These parts transfer vibration to the cabin but don’t cause excessive vibrations.

If you want to replace your mounts with new factory ones, here is a tip for you automatic folks: Tip: To get a cheapie upgrade on mounts, replace them with Manual ones! They are ever-so-slightly firmer, and may last longer for you next time!

Order a new Honda Engine mount HERE, or order uber polyurethane Innovative Mounts here! Note thay poly mounts will make considerable more noise and vibration into the cabin, but they will last for an extremely long time!

Issue 2: Creaking Clutch and Sticky Shifts

So, I get this email from a LONG time customer, one of the first TSX customers I’ve had, in fact. He has about 225,000 miles on his 2004 6MT. The report was, his car is practically impossible to get into gear. The pedal feels like it isn’t doing much besides making a funky sound.

We yanked the pedal out and found this:

SNNNNAAP!!!!

And the other side was about to go as well!

Now, we have gotten a lot of squeaking from the clutch depressing but nothing like this. I don’t think this is a really common problem. But then I remembered that no fewer than 2 of my past CRXs had suffered from broken clutch pedals. This failure can and does happen. The metal is under stress and it flexes ever so slightly. After hundreds of thousands of clutch depressions, the metal can fatigue and break.

The replacement part is not too expensive we stock the replacement pedals at Heeltoe. And the replacement was not too tough either. Adjusting it was a bit fussy, but with the factory service manual we got the car buttoned up, good as new! I don’t expect we will see this failure occur often, but we are happy to get the parts for you if it does and supply the instructions for install and adjustment!

Note that this failure happens a lot on the 2003-07 Honda Accord as well, replacement part found here.

Categories
Universal Fit Blogging

Most 2011 TSX Sport Wagons Should Be Equipped with Manual Transmissions

I have been pushed over the edge. Acura’s latest television ad, of the very attractive TSX Sports Wagon doing a drift around what looks to be a closed, race-track inspired skidpad, virtually smoking at all four wheels is just a slap in the face. The ad’s computer graphics skillfully dismantles a TSX sedan, down to the frame while doing a donut, then is visually re-assembled while in motion as a wagon. While the stunt performed in the ad MIGHT be able to be pulled off if the sedan had a manual transmission, it would be horrendously difficult to pull off in real life with a front-wheel-drive layout. Alas, the TSX Sport Wagon presented in the ad insults our collective automotive enthusiasm by offering neither such driving assets to buyers.

“We began with a sports car and ended with one?” Does Acura really expect TSX Sport Wagon buyers to envision themselves doing performance driving stunts? Do they expect them to write-off criticism from people who would poke fun at station wagons with the false expectation that the car is actually a performance machine? As it is, it would have been somewhat of a stretch depicting the TSX Sport Wagon doing canyon work in a remote forest or on a seaside cliff. A stretch because, let’s face it, any of the mentioned driving scenarios would be much more enjoyable with a transmission one could row on their own, working three pedals with delight.

Sport Wagons of all marques sold in America are the product of floundering efforts to appease a dwindling demographic of buyers who like not only to drive cars but use them as well. It seems that without fail sport wagons get pushed aside by manufacturers and dealers as liabilities; cars that take up valuable production line and dealer lot space from automatics. Automatics are what people want, really. Well, I don’t prefer an automatic (even taking into consideration my Southern California 80-mile round-trip commute). I have a few acquaintances who wouldn’t either. Come to think of it, in the circles I run, a dual-clutch transmission is the absolute closest we’d ever consider getting to an automatic, and even at that, a manual is just more fun. This despite the fact that manufacturers have continually sedated the manual-transmission driving experience with such backward advances as clutch-delay valves and self-adjusting clutches.

Another disturbing trend I see is that people are settling for automatic-transmission’d versions of cars that actually could be had in manuals, simply for a lack of desire to hunt for them. On the used car market, as well as in the new car market. Dealers just don’t want manuals on the lot. I have been to numerous BMW dealers countless times and ask to see a 3-series, any 3-series, in a manual and frequently come up with a goose egg. This from a maker well known for offering a manual in nearly every car they make. You are forced to jump through hoops and special order your car so equipped, usually bringing along with it a lack of negotiation ability. I am fairly certain that even though buying a new BMW is a financially poor move, I would probably have impulsively pulled the trigger on more than one occasion if I could walk onto the lot and find a manual sport wagon waiting for me to fall in love.

Which gets me back on point; what’s the deal with offering Sport Wagons in any configuration other than a stick-shift? When I think about who actually buys a sport wagon, the thought of a conservative soccer mom looking to step up her image or a financial yuppie who had a fresh commission check burning a hole in their pocket isn’t who pops into my mind. I think…practical person. A Sport Wagon is not and will not ever be an image car. No soccer mom would forgo the 3rd row and commanding view over other moms waiting in the pickup-line at elementary schools across the nation that an SUV or crossover offers. No pink-tie wearing yuppie is going to pass up a classy sedan or sports car for their high-dollar dinners or night at the club, especially when there is a valet involved. No. The sport wagon is for a man or woman of a different breed.

The sport wagon is a car for the frugal, practical, and adventurous. It is a family car that does it all. It holds the enviable “stuff” is the unintended bonus of having a hobby or two (or dare I say, child or two whom compliment said hobbies). It enjoyably carries four in comfort to adventurous locations in the mountains or near large bodies of water (where twisty roads are typically encountered). It is considerably better on gas than an SUV for daily use, especially when motivated by a four-cylinder engine. Wagonists don’t need to tow much, if anything; a roof box or rack will do. A sport wagon is a perfect medicine for mediocrity. You work hard, so play hard. Drive it every day of your life.

I know I am not too far off base here. Acura does seem to realize the target buyer for a TSX Sport Wagon is an adventuresome person, as evidenced by the “Compete like a pro” competition where participants are volleying for a free TSX Sport Wagon of their own:

Are you a serious action sports athlete who’s willing to go the distance to win? If so, a brand-new Acura TSX Sport Wagon could be yours. All you have to do is work your social network as hard as your quads to earn the most votes. Spread the word on your wall, send friends an email – do whatever it takes to let people know how serious you are about your action sport. The person who scores the most votes will compete like a pro in an all-new TSX Sport Wagon.

Is it just me or do the thrill-seekers that Acura is targeting with this promotion really strike you as the sort of people who, if they were going to buy a car over a truck, would prefer the car with an automatic? Maybe a lot of them would, but I am betting most of them, given the option, might have some consternation over the choice. Acura’s numbers might cite most buyers of their brand as slushbox-choosers. But, most Acura buyers are getting much more luxurious models that are intended for the afore-mentioned well to do soccer mom and financial guy. Likewise, I’d argue that most Acura buyers choose automatics because, frankly, that is all they can get their hands on.

Bringing together the sort of person who’d buy a manual and the sort of person who’d buy a wagon, there are two very similar sets of traits. Wagon people are (stabbing in the dark a bit, but justifiably so) frugal and practical. Manuals are cheaper upfront, cheaper to maintain, and allow drivers to get better gas mileage (21-speed automatic not-withstanding). Wagon people are adventurous and generally enjoy the efficiency and performance offered over SUVs. Manuals provide the ability to have more fun while driving and extract more speed out of the car both in accelerating and cornering. Wagon owners do their homework, know that they want, and don’t give credence to what others say. Manual transmissions allow drivers to explore their impulsive tendencies when sharing their car with others (ie, it is a bold move in this day and age to take on the “burden” of a clutch pedal.

Let’s entertain the possibility for just a moment that the reason that so few manual transmission cars and so few wagons are sold in America that the companies making cars seem to have no focus on the customers who buy either car? The two attributes go hand-in-hand. The TSX didn’t need to get FATTER. It needed to get a wagon version and more manuals!

I suppose the bottom line is this: If you are going to come out with a car that has the word “sport” anywhere in it, and depict it in ads displaying gross displays of power and driver talent, it might be a good idea to equip the car such that it could live up to the hopes and dreams of us car enthusiasts.

-By Marcus di Sabella, whom Acura lost me on two occasions on the TSX Sport Wagon. Once when I had a chance to trade in my 2004 TSX Manual, and once when my wife needed a car and we snapped up a 2001 BMW 525iT with a Manual instead.

Categories
Track Days, where Cars Play Universal Fit Blogging

Heeltoe’s 2/5/11 Track Day Experience & Video

Long overdue, but worth the wait. We hyped up our first track day adventure quite a bit, and now it is time to give our feedback and conclude. We had a lot of fun, learned that prep is important but not to be overly insane about., and developed some skill that would never be possible on the street.

First things first, mega-props to the folks running Extreme Speed Track Events. The whole time I felt like I was treated with respect and assurance that fun times would be had. To some, they might seem a little lax on the rules (self tech and no numbers were needed), but I think this really shows the level of trust they have in their clients to be mature. The driver’s meeting was very thorough and adequately informative. We weren’t spoken to like kids. I am not sure how they were managing to keep tabs on us without numbers but never was a yellow flag misplaced, despite a few isolated incidents. Overall, it was a great bit of fun and I would definitely consider them for all future track excursions!

Secondly, my “list of stuff” to bring was largely helpful but sabotaged by the unfortunate coincidental surprise birthday party for a friend the previous evening. Long story short…I got quite drunk, stayed out way too late, ended up taking a dip in the pool with both cell phones on me, and gave myself only three and a half hours of sleep to recover from it all. I gathered most of my stuff the day before and packed the car, but, some items didn’t make it. The original list of stuff was posted in our introductory post here. I figure I will make a more formal checklist for distribution the next time out.

  • I brought lots of tools, but oddly no 19mm socket for removing wheels (?) Don’t know what I was thinking there
  • Tire Pressure Gauge
  • Food
  • Gloves
  • CELL PHONE. Ultimately both of my phones dried out and worked while I was out, but for half the day I was “disconnected”
  • Cash: for food, in case you didn’t bring any. Or souvenirs for the track.
  • CASH! For the gate fee! Yes, the track collects a fee just to let you on the grounds (for the upkeep of bathrooms and other facilities and lunch for the corner-workers, I imagine). At WSIR it was $10. I’d suggest bringing at least $60. Enough to get in, eat as needed, and get the inevitable emergency couple gallons of gas if disaster strikes to get back to civilization. Always have some cash.
  • Laptop if you have one if you want to record tire temps or anything else you are tracking directly in a spreadsheet (my geek-ass did just this).
  • Power Inverter: If you are bringing phones and a laptop, you might need juice to charge them.


The Video!

I spent quite a bit of time on this video. Big props to my friends Emilio at 949Racing for encouraging me to even get the footage and make the darn thing, and Mark at Mission Viejo Auto Collision for lending me his GoPro.

:)

Make sure to watch it HD! It looks great 

The driving experience

I always fancied myself a decent driver but could not really ever claim it because I don’t really have enough training to support it. Part of the reason I loved the name Heeltoe for my business is that I have been heel-toe downshifting ever since my first year driving. I learned and took my driver’s test in my Mom’s 94 Civic EX Coupe with a stick shift. It felt like a ballsy move, but no big deal.

After this event, I feel a little justified in claiming I am a decent driver. Albeit, I have a lot to learn. Here is how the day played out.

Arrival: Entered the gate, found a pit-spot, unloaded my crap, checked in with the event staff, and attended the driver’s meeting with optional supplementary informative discussion for beginners. After all that, I went to change my brake pads. I knew the pads I had in my car (Racingbrake ET500s) were not in anywhere near track condition, so I brought a set of ET800s with me to run on the Racingbrake 2-piece rotors for the day. I knew these would not be aggressive pads, but figured they should cope well with the rigors of track work and they had full meat on them. With new pads in, it was time to go out in a lead-follow session that the beginner groups are introduced to the track on.

Session 1: Lead and follow. I had heard of a lot of different methods that event coordinators use to get people familiar with a track. I have done the “walk the track” on a previous occasion elsewhere, and while it is definitely valuable, takes too much time if the goal is to get the rubber to the road. I have also heard of groups in cars parading around at parking-lot speeds, stopping periodically to discuss track intricacies and the line. Against walking, this seems better because you’ll get around faster. But depending on how many people are out, it can be messy and you’ll lose visualization of the line. The line seems like the most important thing to know, and the lead-follow to me was the best way of showing it.

An instructor in their car leads four beginners around the track at a pace just slower than brisk. Enough to feel a little load but not enough to require concentration on anything other than the car in front of you. The beginners are single file and for 4 consecutive laps, they rotate position directly behind the instructor, each getting shown the line in turn. Then after the rotation is done, the instructor pulls off and the beginners get to drive around un-aided for the remainder of the session. Talk about sink or swim! However, I prefer this to the hand-holding I have heard goes on with other groups.

Best time: 2.04.494

Session 2: For this session, I opted to bring an instructor with me. Wow, I am glad I did. After getting chastised for doing things like swinging wide out of the pit exit (NEVER DO THIS) and braking into Turn 8, I learned even more about driving on the track. Such as, where to get on the gas, and where to turn in. And to be smooth when changing directions. Essentially, the car doesn’t like change. Braking, accelerating, turning in, winding out…all should be done as smoothly and easily as possible.

Even though my car was clearly not very fast off the corners I was catching people because I was carrying more speed through turns. My times here were not really burners because of the learning going on, but they did improve a bit. All in all, I would say that for anyone visiting a track for the first time, going out with an instructor should be required, as I saw people making mistakes all day long that I learned to avoid very early on.

Best time: 1.58.312

Session 3: My first session going out completely un-aided. Fighting my tendencies to tap the brakes into turn 8, and concentration at full tilt through turns 3-4-5, I felt myself going faster. So much so that I pulled up into a train of cars by the 4th lap that had my in caboose position for most of the session. Frustrated, I remembered something that was mentioned in the drivers’ meeting. If this happens, pull off and get a restart. Unfortunately, I remembered this just in time to pull in at the very end of the session, coming out of the pits on the final lap. Lesson learned: when you pull up on a train of cars, just pull off and get a restart as soon as you can. This was a botched session, but I had a great first lap: my best so far.

Best time: 1.49.479

Session 4: Learning during the last session that following a train of cars sucks, and yearning for an even faster time, I squared up early enough in the hot pit for the fourth session to be first in line. After setting off I enjoyed a full lap of clear road, only to have a C65 AMG blow past me on the front straight. By turn 5 I had caught him, and we were running together for the rest of the session. That car was so powerful that he pulled out enough to just slow me down here and there through some of the tight stuff. During the session, I seem to recall getting a big drop in times when he finally pulled off, but looking at the times now I don’t see it. I was going at a pretty good pace with lots of variation because of that guy but still chopped my time to achieve another best-of-the-day for myself.

Best time: 1.46.755

Session 5: This is the last session of the day. My tires were getting worked hard during the last session and I feel like I was getting a lot out of the car. Almost as much as it could get out of it. I figured this session would be all about “getting the lap right.” Traffic was light because, oddly enough, with every session more and more people fled the track. Not me…I paid to come here so I am getting all I can out of it. So off I went, first in line again. This time it took a number of laps for people to catch and pass me (it was really inevitable I guess), but I never was slowed by anyone. It was definitely during this session that I felt the weight of the car and the lack of power in straights.

Best time of the session and the day: 1.45.424

Casualties

My car came out of this event with a little more wear than it had going in for sure. My choice not to tape up certain areas of my car meant I got a few rock chips. This is easy to avoid, but, frankly, I don’t care. I feel like these scars attest to the real use my car gets.

My wheels were CAKED with brake material and later found that the ET800 pads I was running were nowhere near up to the task of track driving. Had I been driving at session-5-speed all day, my pads would have gone metal-to-metal. However, running stock brake fluid proved to be fully acceptable. Not once did I experience fade or fear of loss of brakes.

Tires were the only other components to take a beating. The Hankook Evo V12s I ran are definitely great tires, and in the 255 widths I was running they were probably the only thing keeping my pig of a car on the track for all 5 sessions. However, I was finding the limits with them and even noticed some chunking at the end of the day (over-heated and over-stressed bits of tread flying off). Again, at the speeds I was running at the end of the day this is where the damage was coming in. An all-day abuse like that would have me stopping at the tire shop the next day. As it was, the tires are still doing daily duty.

Pics!

Conclusions

Let’s face it…I drive a 200 crank hp, 3200+ lb, front-wheel-drive sport/luxury sedan. It wasn’t a rocket, but I am pretty happy. After all, I drive this car nearly 400 miles a week in exactly the same trim I took it to the track in. I turned some really decent times for a beginner and felt validated in the whole HT-Spec philosophy. The TSX was more comfortable driving home than some of the track-oriented S2000s, costs a whole hell of a lot less than a Mercedes, and got 20 mpg over the whole day.

Balancing costs and consumables is the most difficult hump people need to get over to visit the track. The brake and tire costs can add up if you are going all-out every month or two. But, I don’t think that the average Acura driver should really be dissuaded by this. Most people are not going to mash hard all day, as evidenced by my forum-mate Princelybug who was out in his TL-S. He was perfectly content going out with ET500s and not logging lap times at all. Purely going out for the fun of working the car out a bit.

The best part is, from where the car is now, it can only really get faster. Maybe next time, with some dedicated track tires and better brakes I can hold off those S2000s for just a couple of laps. I can definitely see us going back out to more events, especially with Extreme Speed. I will make sure to give my readers here ample warning in the event they’d like to tag along!

If you want to look at all my times in detail, look on extremespeedtrackevents.com!