Archive for the ‘Engine/Drivetrain’ Category

Fastline Performance Shifter for Civics and Integras is On Now!

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

By popular demand on, we have opened up a group buy for the world famous Fastline Performance shifter!

Link HERE to see the details on this awesome deal! :::

The Fastline Performance Shifter was originally developed in 2003 to be the absolute BEST Honda/Acura shifter available.

More than a short shifter or retrofit to a stock part, the Fastline Performance Shifter was designed from the ground up as a completely new solution to getting faster shifts.

How does it work? Two key features are the key to this shifter’s effectiveness in achieving the smoothest and fastest shifts possible.

1) Close reach. By placing the knob a close distance from the “4 o’clock” position of the steering wheel you will find that grabbing a gear is unbelievably fast. A huge amount of time is wasted on reaching down for the knob in the stock location. Making things even better is the ability to adjust the shifter, allowing you to compensate for personal preference or different diameter steering wheels.

2) Counterweighting. It is no secret that a heavier knob is a great way to improve the smoothness of shifts. However simply sticking a weight on top of a long lever has a drawback…more mass to move in the shift. This means, more effort. The Fastline shifter places weight at an equal distance from the pivot to the shift linkage mounting, where it does the most work with the least effort. This allows you to use a light-weight Maven Aluminum or Delrin shift knob which reduces the effort needed to shift. It is the best of both worlds!

But, Fastline didn’t stop at engineering the best shifter. They also took it further by adding in the be absolute best hardware kit. Machined Delrin bushings add a crispness in movement that is unmatched by notchy-feeling bearings or squishy-feeling rubber.

Even the set screw that is included is an engineered part, featuring a toothed face that bites into the shifter base. This set screw will never come loose until you want it to!

For more details and for a neat You-Tube video of the Fastline Shifter in action, visit

Purchase today on or!

Add a Maven Black Anodized or Black Delrin Shift knob to your Fastline Shifter order. These match the Fastline Shifter finish excellently and provide the most ergonomic feel of any knob on the market. It will feel better in your hand than the one you have now or we’ll buy it back*!

* Yeah that is right, if you get a Maven Shift Knob and it does not honestly feel like one of the best knobs you’ve ever held, we will buy it back from you (less shipping fees, must return within 1 week of receipt, must be in new condition).

Heeltoe Automotive : Promotions : GROUP BUY for AASCO Motorsports Billet Flywheels, all Honda/Acura applications

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Spread the word of this GB to your friends in other forums! It is open to one and all!

Check it out our time sensitive group buy on!
Heeltoe Automotive : Promotions : GROUP BUY for AASCO Motorsports Billet Flywheels, all Honda/Acura applications – HeelToe Automotive

Gain back your engine’s lost power !

Drivetrain losses account for 15-25% of reduced power output. Energy is produced by the engine but is sapped by spinning accessories and other reciprocating parts of the engine. The flywheel is the largest mass on the engine that robs power. By installing a light-weight aluminum AASCO Motorsports flywheel, you can get much of that lost power back!

Gain in efficiency is the main benefit of installing an AASCO aluminum flywheel. Whether you are a street driver looking to reduce load on the enging and increase gas mileage, or a performance driver looking to increase your car’s practical power output, AASCO flywheels fit the bill.

AASCO aluminum flywheels offer all the reduced weight possible and are strong enough to take all the abuse a street performance or road race driver can dish out. AASCO incorporates a replaceable friction surface that allows you to keep the same flywheel for the life of the car by simply replacing the steel friction disc when changing clutches.

  • Low mass reduces drivetrain loss = MORE POWER
  • Never replace or resurface your flywheel again!
  • Lighter and longer lasting that chromoly.
  • Tough enough for the rigors of GT3 racing.

Most other flywheels people use today are made of billet steel, while light and strong, these one-peice units are one-time use only. They cannot be resurfaced safely in most cases.

Don’t confuse 100% American made AASCO flywheels with other overseas-manufactured units. AASCO wheels are made with ANSI-certified 6061-T6 aluminum. With something as important as your flywheel, don’t trust one billet material over another unless it carries the proper certification that only ANSI can provide.

Check it out our time sensitive group buy on!
Heeltoe Automotive : Promotions : GROUP BUY for AASCO Motorsports Billet Flywheels, all Honda/Acura applications – HeelToe Automotive

If you like this item, you might also be interested in:
Unorthodox Racing produces aluminum pulley kits that compliement the crankshaft weight savings offered by AASCO flywheels.

Heeltoe offers a wide range of clutch kits through our direct dirstributor sources: ACT, Exedy, Clutchmasters, Cusco, Carbonetics, and more! Email us if you don’t see it on!

When you pull out your transmission, you might as well change your transmission fluid as well! Order Honda Genuine MTF fluid change kit to get everything you need.

Thanks for checking out our post!

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

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

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!!!

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 weeks back with a broken engine mount, most particularly the rear one. I was fooled a bit myself into 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, and order uberRR Hond-R Street or Race engine mounts, straight from the UK, right here!

Issue 2: Creaking Clutch and Sticky Shifts

So, I get this email from a LONG time customer, like one of the first TSX customer’s I’ve had, in fact. He has about a bazillion miles on his 2004 6MT (more like 225,000 or so to be more accurate). And 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:


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 CAN 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…about $75. 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!

New Shifter Cable Bushings…Out With Solid Aluminum, In With Hybrid Racing!

Monday, January 10th, 2011

The HT-Spec TSX has been running around with an HT-Spec Shifter package for about 4 months now, and initially I was really happy with the shifting. The action was so solid and direct it felt as though I was reaching inside the transmission with my bare hand and moving the gears!

However more recently I have been driving around a lot more than I used to and had started noticing that I needed to force the shifter into gear quite a bit when shifting. When speed-shifting it was even worse and it started causing me to miss shifts. This shifter situation became a real problem for me. I knew it was not the knob of the short shifter causing the problem. However the solid aluminum shifter bushings we include in this HT-Spec kit seemed to be of suspect.

When you install these bushings, the tolerance between the actuating arm on the transmission, the bushing, and the collar on the end of the shifter cable all need to be quite tight. This makes installation a little challenging for anyone who has tried it. Even worse is the fact that as the engine moves around between shifts the bushings bind up, causing the resistance to movement that I was feeling. It maybe doesn’t make sense reading it, but if you’ve ever installed them you’ll know what I am getting at. There just isn’t any wiggle room in the bushings and this makes the shifting pretty tough at times.

Hybrid Racing makes an excellent solution to the need for added shift feel and solidity WITHOUT increasing the effort. The following DIY Install Pictorial explains how!

HT-Spec Shifter Upgrade Packages featuring Hybrid Racing Bushings (TSX/TL/CL/Accord)
Hybrid Racing Shifter Bushings for your 03-08 TSX/JDM Accord or 04-06 TL
Hybrid Racing Shifter Bushings for your 07-08 TL
Applications for 09- TSx and 03-07/08- Accords Coming Soon!

Here they are. The big advantage of the Hybrid Racing bushings come in the form of a spherical bearing in the large bushing.

You can see the bearing a little better in this pic.

These bushings reside in the engine bay under the intake arm, as shown in this pic. First remove the airbox lid and you'll gain enough but limited access to work. Removing the lower box makes the job a lot easier.

Looking in from the side you can see the smaller bushing.

With the lower box in it is tough to see the larger bushing, but it is here in this pic. Come to think of it, removing the lower box really would have been a good idea for this DIY. Oh well, it's a pita this way but you can do it.

Remove the cotter pin and washers off the shaft and put them aside. The cable bushing end will slide off the shifter arm.

To get the bushing out of the cable end simply stick in a screwdriver and tweak it. The rubber bushing will pop right out.

The little taper on the inside hole REALLY aids in installation. Again, the solid bushings don't have this feature and it is a bit of a bitch to install without disconnecting the cables farther up the line.

Here I diverge from the HR install instructions a bit. They say to install the bushing flat side out. It made a bit more sense to me to put it flat side side in. It works either way, so it is up to you.

There is a special clip included with the bushings to hold them securely in the cables. These were a little tricky to install but it helps to see how they work, as in this pic. Start with one layer and work them on.

So far you've got this far. Lookin' good!

I finished the install with another change to the HR instructions. I reinstalled the plastic and metal washers from the OEM assembly. This is completely not needed, but I felt the bearing in the other bushing would be more protected from debris, and there is slightly less play in the lateral direction this way. I don't think it makes a difference on the feel at all, but I thought this method was best.

Here is the larger bushing. Installing flat-side down really did make it more sensible to re-install the washers. I never looked back!

My initial impression was, WOW AMAZING. Such a small change made such a big difference in feel. Without the bushings binding on the shift lever shaft I can flick through the gears with the twitch of a wrist. The same solid movement is there without an additional force. This bushing is now the more recommended one on our HT-Spec Shifter package. It does cost quite a bit more than the solid bushing option, but it is worth every penny!

HT-Spec Shifter Upgrade Packages featuring Hybrid Racing Bushings (TSX/TL/CL/Accord)
Hybrid Racing Shifter Bushings for your 03-08 TSX/JDM Accord or 04-06 TL
Hybrid Racing Shifter Bushings for your 07-08 TL
Applications for 09- TSX and 03-07/08- Accords Coming Soon!


Q/A: Rusty Fastline Performance Shifter

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

We recently got this email from a customer and thought we’d share our reply, what with the recent weather situations (i.e. winter).

Hello. I purchased a fastline performance shifter for my ek civic on dec.19,2009. Order#xxxx. A while back I noticed pen dot sized rust spots on the bends of the shifter. I wiped it off and didn’t thing much of it. Well with the recent rain/moisture, I found more rust spots on the shifter, and in more spots too around the bends of the shifter. I was wondering if this is a defect is the powder coating of the shifter?

Here is our reply:

Hi there, thanks for the email! The shifters are not powder-coated. They are treated with a coating called “black oxide.” Basically, the shifters are a black -colored oxidation that resists further rusting. As you can see, the shifters are not impervious to getting rust spots from time to time. The black oxide is not worn off, but some surface spots can appear. What you want to do is treat the shifter with an oil, like WD-40 and allow it to soak into the metal. This will clear up any rusty spots you have, and will prevent more from appearing. You might need to do this once a year.

One might ask why we choose black oxide rather than powder-coating or chroming. Well, Powdercoat really doesn’t hold us as well as we like it to in this application, especially considering the tight tolerances where the two-pieces fit together. And chrome, as awesome as we have seen our samples turn out, would raise the cost of our shifters by about 10% putting them well over $199. We figure the occasional lube job is more favorable that raising the price.

Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF): Out with Z-1, in with DW-1!

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

We recently got wind of a brand new transmission fluid now available from Honda/Acura! ATF DW-1 is the new standard in Honda ATF from model year 2011 and on. Check out this latest service news from Honda:

Service News: New ATF DW-1 Now Available

Heeltoe is including ATF DW-1 with all HT-Spec Maintenance Packages for AT cars involving transmission fluid changes.

If you are just switching from ATF Z-1 to DW-1, make sure you follow the Honda procedure outlined in the following Service News update:

Service News: Check Out The Latest Word On A/T Flushing

HT-Spec Maintenance Program: A balanced approach to sustaining performance

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

This is a rundown of the HT-Spec maintenance schedule, including a link to the schedule itself and some bullet-point items indicating our reasons for changing the intervals from the OEM specification. For more on our notions as to why this schedule is needed, please read this article.

Is it just us, or does a car seem happier after a good wash and an oil change? We can say this for sure…we recently changed the spark plugs and air filter in the HT-Spec TSX just as we crested the 100,000 mile marker and WOW did the car come alive! There must have been a 5 hp increase in changing those two items alone (speculation, but justified)! Both parts were changed in accordance to the factory service intervals, and the experience really got us thinking.

If we followed Acura’s recommendations and the effect of doing so created such a drastic increase in the engine’s liveliness, how long have we been going about with less power than we should have? How much crap was deposited in the engine in that time? How much gas did we unnecessarily burn? How much fun did we miss out on? Why they heck did Acura make us wait so long to do this maintenance!?!

We decided that the factory maintenance plans needed a thorough look. What we saw amazed us.

We got our experience working on Hondas back in 1995, and the maintenance plans looked a whole lot different back then. We understand that technological advancements have rolled in a lot all this time, but nobody has re-invented the wheel. We’ll accept a drastically different maintenance schedule when engines get drastically different. The 1990 Honda Accord is probably in the top 5 of the world’s most reliable cars, and the maintenance it got made sense. Frequent changes of vital items to keep the car running tip-top. We’ve used that car as the basis for formulating the recommendations for our revised maintenance schedule, and compensated where we feel it was inadequate or excessive based on technological developments.

    In our schedule you’ll see listed 4 columns.

  1. HT-Spec Maintanance program for all 4- and J- series Honda/Acrua engines.
  2. The factory’s recommended maintenance on a J-Series V6 engine (from a 04- TL).
  3. The factory’s recommended maintenance on a K24A2, the engine found in an 04-08 Acura TSX.
  4. The factory’s recommended maintenance on an F-series 4-cylinder as found in a 1990 Accord, and remained basically unchanged until the 2003 Accord went to a K-series.

The only purpose of including the other cars is to illustrate side by side what is recommended on the car you might have now, along with what used to be recommended to show you we are not coming out of left field with the HT-Spec schedule. If an item has an R next to it it means REPLACE, while an I means INSPECT. If you inspect and all is OK, move on. We’ve also removed items such as inspect suspension, brakes, etc. In some cases we consolidated all this into “I Chassis, Belts, & Fluids” to save space. We believe that inspecting the chassis both during routine maintenance and during your normal every day driving should be Car-Owner 101. ALWAYS be alert and pay attention to what your car is telling you!

Click here to review the HT-Spec Maintenance Schedule

If you really want to know why we felt the need to make this maintenance schedule, link here for an in-depth, soap-boxish article on the matter!

Here are a few of the things we noticed that startled us, and made us believe that modern maintenance schedules are more about giving you the perception that the car will be cheap to own rather than ensuring consistent operation and long life. Keep in mind the following items are an outline of the general recommendations given by the factory. The factory does not give consistent recommendations across all engine platforms, which again raises our suspicions on the matter.

Item: Oil & Oil Filter
What we are used to on an old car: Change every 3000-5000 miles (3000 most of the time)
What the factory tells us on a new car: Change oil only every 5000, Oil and filter every 10,000 (on a TSX, and more recently on all models there is a smart computer telling you oil life as an arbitrary percentage of new)
Why it might be justifiably different: Newer engines burn cleaner which contaminates oil less than we expect. The factory in this case does not recommend synthetic oil, and standard oil may not be expected to last much past 5000-7000 miles (the additives that keep it ‘good’ are ‘used up’ over a shorter time with standard oil versus synthetic). An oil filter may reasonably filter particulate well enough for a longer duration than the oil additive will last.
What we are recommending, and why: Change oil every 3750 miles. Based on studies we’ve done, particulate buildup in oil is slow due to the oil filter doing it’s job. If there is a place to cut corners, the advantage does not lie in skipping oil filter changes as much as changing the filter and leaving the oil be for extended periods. Keeping the oil clean makes it last longer. We can think of no sane enthusiast or mechanic who would change either-or and not both at the same time. Change both oil and filter every 3750 miles. There is no significance to the number 3750 aside from the fact that it falls in line numerically with the rest of our schedule (to make maintenance easier to remember, you have a service every 3750 miles, some major, some minor). Use regular oil for a regular car doing regular driving. The cost of synthetic is excessive and at this interval amounts to an undue expense that you should not need to incur. Synthetic has more appropriate applications in vehicles where heat and abuse are considerably higher, such as racing or turbocharged applications. Even though you can use synthetic and it will last longer, we’d still recommend a filter change every 5000 miles at the most, and at that point you might as well change the oil as well. You might think you are getting piece of mind with synthetic, but all you are really doing is overpaying.

Item: Spark Plugs
What we are used to on an old car: Change copper plugs every 30,000 miles.
What the factory tells us on a new car: Change Iridium plugs 100,000 miles or more.
Why it might be justifiably different: When spark plugs arc, a little bit of material burns off of them. Iridium plugs have more durability and wear at a slower rate than traditional copper plugs. There is nothing significantly better about iridium or platinum plugs than the life. They do cost more than standard plugs do by a significant amount.
What we are recommending, and why: Change iridium plugs every 60,000 miles. We could easily recommend changing from iridium to copper plugs and changing every 30,000 miles, but we can speculate that iridium plugs have a more consistent operation over a longer period. While iridium plugs will work up to and exceeding 100,000 miles, their operation is significantly past their usefulness. People equate changing plugs to doing a “tune up” and the allure of the 100,000 mile tune-up tugs on the heat-strings of new-car buyers all too easily. To follow this recommendation will result in discouraging performance at 70,000+ miles which we feel is to encourage you to buy a new car. Changing iridium spark plugs at 60,000 mile intervals will guarantee that your engine will operate within a reasonable limit of peak performance at all times.

Item: Brake Fluid
What we are used to on an old car: Change every 3 years.
What the factory tells us on a new car: Change every 3 years.
Why it might be justifiably different: It isn’t something that Honda has ever evaluated. We think this is a big mistake.
What we are recommending, and why: Change brake fluid every 15,000 miles.Take a look at this image of a 2008 TSX brake fluid master cylinder reservoir after approximately 22K miles.

Brake fluid scum

This scum is water from the atmosphere that has penetrated the seals on the reservoir and contaminates the fluid. Brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid that is non-compressible, otherwise it would not function well to transfer force to the brake calipers and the stopping is less efficient. If water is in the brake fluid, the heat generated from braking boils the water turning it into a vapor. Vapor is compressible. Thus, water in brake fluid = squishy brake pedal. A squishy brake pedal reduces the car’s stopping ability, and reduces your confidence in whatever stopping ability exists. We feel brake fluid should be changed annually, and this generally coincides with approximately 15,000 miles per year for many drivers. Either interval is fine and will keep your pedal firm and confident feeling. 15,000 miles is a nice number that falls in line with the rest of our recommendation intervals. For people putting an excessively low or high amount of miles on their car an annual brake fluid change is ideal.

Item: Check valve lash
What we are used to on an old car: Every 15,000 miles, check valve lash and change valve cover gasket.
What the factory tells us on a new car: Check valve lash and change valve cover gasket when valves are noisy or at 105,000-110,000 miles.
Why it might be justifiably different: We can speculate that better engine design puts less load on the valvetrain, thereby reducing the amount of attention needed to check valve lash. In all reality, if valves are not noisy, it isn’t particularly necessary to inspect them.
What we are recommending, and why: Inspect valve lash when engine is noisy and replace valve cover gasket when leaking, or do both at 90,000 miles. The main reason we recommend doing this a little sooner than the factory is because of the valve cover gasket. This gasket will develop leaks over time and while they are relatively harmless they can become bad enough to make a big mess of your engine. It used to be that this gasket was changed very frequently, but that is no longer the case. Even if you are not planning to check the valve lash, inspect the area around the valve cover for signs of leaks and replace them. 90,000 miles is a major interval and it is a good time proactively do this work, and with the valve cover off, you might as well inspect the valve lash while you are in there. Note that adjusting valves the tighter end of the service tolerance will increase power slightly.

Item: Engine clean treatment (Seafoam treatment)
What we are used to on an old car: We never used to do this at a regular interval, but some dealers sell it as frequently as 15,000 miles.
What the factory tells us on a new car: Nothing, this is not part of factory recommended maintenance.
Why it might be justifiably different: Not applicable.
What we are recommending, and why: We are recommending this service be done at 60,000 mile intervals. The PCV system of the car will run unburned gases through the engine that are contaminated with oil particulate which gets deposited in the intake tract. Heat on the engine valves cooks carbon deposits on the backside of the valves which disrupts aerodynamic flow around the valve, impacting the efficiency of the engine. Fossil fuels are nasty substances. Running them through the engine, while necessary, leaves buildup behind that inhibits performance over time. This sort of engine treatment will clear out built-up junk inside the engine, making it perform better over the long haul.

Item: Air filter and AC filter
What we are used to on an old car: Inspect every 15,000 miles, replace every 30,000 miles (replace every 15,000 miles in extreme conditions)
What the factory tells us on a new car: Has not changed
Why it might be justifiably different: Not applicable.
What we are recommending, and why: Replace both air filters at 15,000 miles, or clean the engine intake filter if you have a permanent filter (such as a K&N drop-in replacement filter or one that comes with a cold air intake). As with the spark plugs and brake fluid, a consistent and constant degradation occurs with the engine air filter. The more you drive and the harder you drive the more particulate gets stuck in the air filter. We do not support the notion of replacing this part when it becomes saturated with dirt. A reduction in efficiency and performance comes much sooner than the replacement interval than the replacement interval. The air filter is visually dirty after 15,000 miles and this is reason enough for us to suggest changing the filter at this time. If air passing through the air filter for the engine is dirty after 15,000 miles of use, it stands to reason the AC filter could also be replaced. Doing so is simple and inexpensive and will keep the ventilation system flowing properly and the air fresh.

If you really want to know why we felt the need to make this maintenance schedule, link here for an in-depth, soap-boxish article on the matter!

What motivated Heeltoe to come up with a revised maintenance schedule?

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Disclaimer: this is the longish version. To cut to the chase with specifics about the HT-Spec Maintenance schedule itself, link here.

Click here to review the HT-Spec Maintenance Schedule

The HT-Spec TSX is about to turn 100,000 miles.

Fear-not the 6-digit mileage marker

Accumulating this landmark figure is a rite of passage many less dedicated car owners never experience. There is some inexplicable fear of failure which causes a jump in depreciation of value that happens to cars when they reach this mileage. Banks won’t finance cars with this many miles on them. People’s eyes get big when you tell them about it, and they make comments like “you should think about getting something new” and “you know after 100,000 miles things seem to go bad all at once.” It’s actually a pet peeve of ours that Suzie Orman, someone we have respect for as a guru of personal finance, advocates replacing cars after this many miles, despite the financial advantages of fixing versus replacing. It’s like when someone turns 40 years old they somehow become “over the hill.” I’m surprised there isn’t a support group for people who own cars with over 100,000 miles on them.

Not Heeltoe! We laugh in the face of the 100,000 mile marker. Not only do we feel the “odds” of something going wrong at high mileage are skewed in the direction of negative preconception, it is largely a matter of lack of driver diligence causing the need for emergency repairs. Maintenance is the key to a long lasting and reliable ride, both routine and preventative. Keeping up with maintenance results in the engine feeling lively, the suspension taut, the shifting smooth and even helps avoid costly repairs later on. For many, going in for maintenance is a procedure many people are happy to do, and there are a lot of high-mileage cars that run perfectly because of it.

Maintenance is the key to long life

The degree and frequency of maintenance needs traditionally come from the car’s owner’s manual or from the dealership under the guidance of automotive manufacturers. Sadly though, factory maintenance schedules have been getting lax of late. Intervals are extended and some items have even been eliminated from regular changes! While some items are now considered lifetime parts (like fuel filters), others are simply not included at all and never really were.
It is widely accepted in the automotive-technician’s view that frequent changes in fluids will result in longer life of seals and gaskets. Inspection of belts, chassis components and brakes reduces longer term repair costs and roadside breakdowns. Adjustments to critical clearances, replacing spark plugs, and keeping the air cleaners fresh help maintain maximum power and efficiency keeping the car running like new.

Changes in maintenance over time

Lately, the maintenance intervals of cars and engines have been increasing. If you think about it, automotive manufacturers have every reason to reduce the maintenance needed on cars. One could certainly argue that technological advancements have reduced the need. Automotive pundits speak of increased technological advancement in engine tolerance and credit the use of synthetic oils. It is undeniable that reduced fluid changes results in savings of petroleum usage with less frequent fluid changes, and the reduction of impact on the environment.

But let’s get back to the real world. The reason for reducing maintenance is money.

The biggest example we can think of comes from European makers like BMW, where in maintenance is included for the first so-many miles or years with the purchase of the car. What initially seems like a cost-of-ownership savings for new-car buyers is really a mechanism for the auto maker who inherits service bill to get paid up front for it by the buyer. BMW is ensuring that you will go to the dealer for services rather than an independent shop, and possibly pick up an affinity for their quality and cleanliness. At the same time, it is also in the manufacturer’s best interest to extend maintenance intervals and reduce the extent of work needed at those intervals. The premium once paid on a 2000 model year BMW hasn’t gone down for a 2010 model, but you’ll get a lot less maintenance out of it today. Folks with these cars feel better about the intervals because it results in less down-time of the cars and a lesser impact on their lives for a perceived savings on cost-of-ownership. Also undeniable is the perceived benefit that when maintenance becomes the owner’s responsibility they will not be liable for a burdensome maintenance schedule. The reduction in maintenance on a car where maintenance is included is completely conceived to help sell more cars and reduce internal costs related to those sales. Only in some cases will we concede to the notion that improved technology reduces the need for maintenance, but this is in no way a sweeping rule.

Don’t forget to manipulate us little people

Not everyone can afford a car that comes with maintenance included. However on many lower-end cars technology is improved over time and this helps justify a reduction in maintenance for the average conveyance. And with extended intervals in high-end marques, of course the more modest brands (like HONDA for example) are obligated to extend their intervals so as not to seem comparatively inferior. Indeed, intervals are extended to 10000 miles for an oil and filter change, spark plug changes around 100,000 miles, and little-to-nothing else in between. However the message gets a little exaggerated on the sales floor. You often hear lay-people stating their cars have longer and longer time in between “tune ups,” even up to 100,000 miles! In many cases this is true as items such as fuel filters and transmission filters become essentially non-maintenance items, wearing caps and rotors have given way to individual coil packs, and engines move from timing belts to longer-lasting timing chains. How great they must feel about never needing to maintain their car in the whole time they have it!

Little do they know, a “tune up” in 21st century speak is really a glorified oil and spark plug swap when most people conjure up a myriad of adjustments and parts to “tweak” the engine back to a like-new state. I can hear Honda’s Committee on Buyer Manipulation now: “If we are able to push that big ‘tune up’ expense past the 100,000 mile mark, people will be elated that maintenance costs will be minimal, and only become excessive when they want to trade in the car anyway!” But consumers play right into their hands. If there are ever any doubts as to what the car is capable of actually getting away with, consumers can just revert back to the service manual to blame the manufacturer should something go amiss. After all, even if something does degrade or run down, who cares? The plan is to trade the car in at that point anyway.

All reduced maintenance allows us to save is some minor maintenance costs in the name of consuming more cars! It is a mistake to assume the car doesn’t need a “tune up” from time to time. On the road to 100,000 miles, the performance of the car slowly degrades and by the time the 100,000 mile mark comes, the whimpering spark plug have given up their fire long ago, minute slipping in the transmission has set in, and all the seals and gaskets in the engine have begun to degrade. The result is a car with 100,000 miles simply does not drive as well as it did when it was new. “Well, maybe it’s time to get a new car…it does have 100,000 miles on it. It’s just getting tired.” Naturally, common sense says this is exactly what should happen at 100,000 miles. We cringe whenever we think about it. The example is an assumption, but don’t you think this is how things play out for most Americans?

The 3000 mile oil change lives on!

In the face of many modern maintenance schedules that tell you your oil changes should happen at 7000 miles or more, and that oil filters get changed every-other service, there is still a large population of enthusiasts who prefer to change their oil at the traditional 3000-mile mark. Why do car-people insist on changing the oil every 3000 miles instead of the 7000-10,000 that the dealer suggests? We’d contend the reason is because they care more about their car than non-car-people and will do the very best practices they can justify to maintain them. They don’t plan on getting rid of their cars in any foreseeable future or mileage.

Granted, most of these people understand that the oil is still good at 3000 miles, and it would be at 5000 as well. In all likelihood, the oil is probably still “good” up to and exceeding the 10,000 miles. But…and we could be wrong here…most people’s underwear is still pretty clean after a day of wearing it, yet something about putting on day-old underwear is unappealing. It’s really the right thing to do, and most people would be appalled to find out someone didn’t wear fresh undies every day. Car-people don’t use their oil up until its flat-out DONE. There is a progressive degradation that goes on which can’t be ignored. If 10,000 miles is the prescription, 3300 is the 30% usage mark. At 30% usage, the oil is still 70% good. 70% will barely get you a college degree. For those who strive for excellence, it is perfectly acceptable to resist the temptation to continue using oil past this point, and nip progressive degradation in the bud right at this mileage.

We fully believe that modern equipment and lubricants are certainly capable of lasting at these extended intervals, and after so many miles of use oil still possesses many of the lubricating properties needed to be considered “good.” But something isn’t sitting quite right with letting go of the traditional measures by using much or all the “life” in the oil before changing it. Maybe it is old school thinking, but we want the oil coming out of our cars to be almost as clean as the oil going in. It gives us a good feeling to know we changed my oil before it stopped being “good.” Should someone be labeled fanatical for changing their oil and filter three times as often, we’d contend that the fanatics have the better used-car examples and get more money when selling their cars by producing records than those who do the bare minimum.

Are we making an issue out of nothing?

Naturally, car enthusiasts being free citizens are definitely allowed to change their oil and filter as often as they please (that is until a radical ultra-liberal group is able to pass legislation telling us we can’t in the name of being green). These folks will do what they want, as will the “normal folks” out there. So why write this paper? The reason is because of simple maintenance confusion. Without guidance, the enthusiast community will sometimes interpolate the factory maintenance recommendations to “improve” them on their own. The result is a better maintained car, but the side effect are some somewhat odd practices and excessive costs that could mostly only be contrived out of misguided “common sense.”

We know we are not alone in questioning the OEMs and thinking they are getting on a bad path because enthusiast community inventions, such as the Acura TL “3×3 tranny flush” on the Acurazine internet forums, to name one example. Briefly outlined on what this is; one enthusiast changed out his TL’s automatic transmission fluid and found it to be quite dirty and with no trace of the bright red color it is supposed to be. He was appalled at the condition of the fluid. Wondering how effective this fluid change was at freshening his transmission for the next stint before changing it again, he drove the car briefly and then changed the fluid again only to find the fluid was visually just as bad 5 minutes after changing as it was before he did anything. So he tried it again. Another 5 minutes later and the fluid was getting better, but not clean as he expected it should have been. So after the third change an improvement was found in the purged “fresh” fluid. And so the 3×3 transmission flush was born on Acurazine. 3 quarts, 3 times. This is basically a “transmission flush.”

Common sense tells us that perfectly clean fluid is an ideal fluid to use in a transmission. Here a Heeltoe we often don’t believe in common sense. We are open to the idea that contrary to common-sense assumption, that fluid that is a little “used” is good for the transmission. We are willing to concede to Acura that it is entirely possible that all the fluid need not, and perhaps should not, be spanking new to function properly. By this concession, consider the following: if this person was following maintenance schedules from Acura, he would not have changed the fluid for the first 60,000 miles of driving, yet the very same fluid, in say a 1996 Civic or Accord, was supposed to be changed every 30,000 miles (as a matter of fact, we feel that transmission fluid after 15,000 miles is clearly in need of changing, and we can’t fathom going a whole 60,000 miles before touching it). It begs the question…are costly and time-consuming 3×3 flushes really needed if we would adopt the older interval of 15,000 miles on our newer cars? Would the fluid on the whole never really get “that bad” as to necessitate doing a change 3 times in a row? Aligning a simple 3 quart change with every third or fourth 3000 mile oil change really should be sufficient and not require the extra time and expense of a 3×3. The 3×3 change seems unnecessary to us, and potentially counter-productive. We can see doing a flush from time to time, but not with every transmission fluid change.

The HT-Spec solution to the enthusiast’s maintenance question

Today’s cars are not that significantly different than those of the 90’s, save for nuance mechanical advancements and a whole lot more refinement with computers. Some facets of the car are capable of being reliable getting double or triple the amount of miles per maintenance item before being changed. All this is explained away with one simple word: technology. Less blow-by, better combustion, and other such advancements mean there is less buildup and contamination in the engine that normally would need to be purged with a fluid change. In the meantime, we have yet to encounter a car mechanic or enthusiast [one that we’d allow to work on our car, at any rate] who would abstain from changing their oil filter along with their oil in the face of a manufacturer’s suggestion that this is what you are supposed to do at 5000, and that the filter need not be changed until the 10,000 mile mark (as Acura suggests for our car, a 2004 TSX). According to Acura, the extensive mileage put on our HT-Spec TSX, we should only be putting on our 10th oil filter at 100,000 miles instead of what traditionally would be the 29th at 105,000 (based on past practices used at most Honda dealers). What it really comes down to on our end is; there is already work going into changing the oil. Is it so bad to think that changing the oil filter is, while not completely necessary, something that you’d just do anyway?

Additionally, the running of an engine in a lab or in a controlled test is nowhere near the same as running it out on the street in daily use. Stop-and-go traffic, repeated cold starts, environmental dirt infiltration, variable weather conditions (including humidity, rain, snow, and the bugs, oxidation, and mud that come along with the weather), and, our favorite, sustained “spirited” driving all wreak havoc on cars.

So that is the reason why we have come up with our own maintenance schedule. It is a schedule for people who aren’t looking to do just the bare minimum. For people who drive their cars with vigor every day and who put their cars through the gamut. Or even want the peace of mind that knowing that their car is consistently running in top form and as safely and securely as possible. We contend that by following our schedule not only will you be happier with your car while you drive it every day, you most likely will want to keep it longer as well. The hope is that you’ll come to a realization that keeping your car tip-top and making enhancements here and there up is far cheaper than buying a new car.

Click here to review the HT-Spec Maintenance Schedule

HT-Spec TSX Comes Alive With New Spark’n'Flow

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Having turned 100,000 miles in the HT-Spec TSX, I felt it was time to give it a little attention in the maintenance area. I’ve meant for a while now to come up with a revised maintenance plan due to the fact that the car just didn’t seem very happy lately. The spark plugs are supposed to last to 105,000 miles, and while I am now due for a change, I feel like the car feels a little more sluggish than it should. Next time I’m not going to wait so long to swap my spark plugs and change my air filter. Actually, I am not going to need a new air filter this time since I installed a K&N Drop-In filter which will basically last the life of the car! All I need to do is clean it from time to time!

You can find all the items listed in this blog article for sale on through the following links!

TSX OEM Replacement Spark Plugs (There are Denso and NGK available, Densos are cheaper so I linked those here)
K&N Drop-In Air Filter
K&N Filter Re-Charger Cleaning Kit

Yikes! We better do some maintenance. The old girl's feelin' tired!

You'll need a 10mm socket to get your Fastline Spark Plug cover off :P

The same 10mm tool removes the bolts holding on the spark plug coils. Unclip and remove each.

I use a long 3/8ths extension and a 5/8ths spark plug socket to get the plugs outta their tubes.

Side by side...the old iridium plug doesn't look too bad for the miles of abuse they've had. Still, the electrodes are worn and the gap has grown. They're done, for sure.

Installation on the plugs is the same as removal. Some people lube the threads on plugs before installing their plugs to avoid corrosion, however this practice is really obsolete now since the plugs are completely protected and sealed in their tubes. The torque spec is 13 ft-lbs, or 18 Nm. A better place to put some lube is on the ceramic end of the plugs (avoiding the terminal at the end). When installing plugs it can be pretty tricky to get the spark plug socket off the plug once it is down in the tube. Maybe I just need a new tool like this one: yay Snap-On!

Another note on the gap, the spec is 1.0-1.1 mm (0.039-0.043 in.) however adjusting the gap on Iridium plugs is a big no-no. Just get the plugs and drop them in!

Removing the air filter is best done with an 8mm socket on a long extension. There are screwheads on the bolts, but they always seem to strip at the most inopportune times. The socket és mo betta.

Uh, disgusting. Yes this is the normal filter condition after 30,000 miles, because mine looked great when I got the car about that long ago.

And this is why you have an air filter in the car. Junk like this would get sucked right into the engine without it!

Here is the new filter. Long been known to provide more airflow than a stock filter and save money over the long haul, the K&N air filter is every enthusiast's best friend!

On a side note, check out the inlet on the stop upper air box. The air horn is a pretty sophisticated touch! More evidence that the TSX is basically a car for people who know and respect fundamentals of automotive engineering.

Results: WOW. Simply amazing. These two simple mods cost less than $100 and made a HUGE difference in the power of the car. But I was put off a bit by this. Maintenance should not be “getting back what you lost.” It should be “preserving what you have.” I am so impressed with this improvement I will never wait for 30,000 miles to address an air filter or 105,000 miles to change plugs. I have devised a new maintenance plan with the new found power gains that should keep my car running tip top for all time. This plan will be announced shortly for you to review, and if you are like me you’ll consider following it!

Q/A: Can you use 0W-20 oil in your Acura or Honda?

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

In some engines, when used in milder conditions, you can take advantage of the fuel savings and added horsepower of 0-20W oil in accordance with these official Honda-published diagrams: