Heeltoe Explains Universal Fit Blogging

What is the difference between OE, Genuine, OEM, and OER/Aftermarket Parts?

There are all kinds of replacement parts available for your car. This article is to help you understand the differences between different types of parts that may be available so you can decide on the part that is right for your needs. Know that there is a time and place for choosing each of the below part types, so education is really key when parts shopping.

OE Parts
Genuine Parts
OEM Parts
OE Replacement or Aftermarket Parts

OE Parts

An OE part is an Original Equipment part. It is one that is installed on the car when it is first assembled in the factory. Technically, you cannot buy an OE part as new unless you are getting a new car.


OER, OE Replacement Parts

Any part you buy for the car, no matter what it is, is considered “aftermarket” from a manufacturer’s perspective. To the rest of us, replacement parts are…replacements for other parts! Any part that is installed to replace an originally installed part is a replacement.

Genuine Parts

As replacement parts go, Genuine is number one. If there are 50 identical parts and 20 of them are installed on new cars at a factory, the other 30 go into a box and are sold as replacements. These are Genuine parts. New genuine parts come in manufacturer’s branded packaging. When you go to a Honda dealer to buy parts, you are expecting Genuine; “Genuine Honda” is written right on the box (even if you have an Acura! Most of your Genuine Acura parts say Honda on them as well).

Genuine parts are generally regarded as the best you can get for the car. If you are restoring a car, you really should be sticking with Genuine. Aside from an original equipment part swapped over from another car, you can’t get more original than genuine.

The confusing thing is, most people will call Genuine parts “OEM,” when really that isn’t quite accurate.

Shop Heeltoe Genuine Honda and Acura OEM Parts in our Heeltoe Genuine OEM Parts store!


OEM Parts

Of course, not everyone is restoring their car, and often times the expense of Genuine parts is hard to justify. That’s where enthusiasts will usually turn to OEM parts for their maintenance and repair items.

OEM means Original Equipment Manufacturer. If Original Equipment is a part that came on the car when it was originally made, the OEM is the company that made that part. A company such as Honda does not internally manufacture every part on their cars. Honda may outsource many items to other vendors and then install these parts on cars on the assembly line. Manufacturers that produce parts for original equipment installation are called OEM or OE Suppliers (OEMs for short). Effectively, an OEM part becomes a “Honda” part, even though Honda did not make it themselves.

There are many OEMs in the world. The fit, quality, and reliability of an OEM part is expected to be the same as a Genuine part, but usually, OEM parts are available at a lower cost than Genuine parts. Nobody is ever going to look down on you for buying an OEM part. But please do understand, if you want a part that comes in a Honda or Acura package, the “genuine article” so to speak, you need to specify Genuine parts; not OEM parts. Your concourse judging may suffer!

“Wait, I thought “OEM” meant…the real deal, like, from the dealer.”
You only thought that because of marketing. The term “OEM” has been used so much by OEMs, and so effectively labeled as “the same as a genuine part,” that this has become common knowledge. People assume OEM is the same as genuine! But it is not. The terms are so closely related we decided to call our Genuine parts store “Heeltoe Genuine OEM Parts.” We even needed to put OEM in the url, (, because people “know” what OEM is.*

OE Replacement Parts or Aftermarket Replacement

If you were reading above, thinking that OEM sounded almost like “aftermarket,” you are right. In Heeltoe terms, anything not OE or Genuine is Aftermarket. To the makers of the car, anything bought for the vehicle after it was originally made, is aftermarket.** To the general parts person or enthusiast, aftermarket parts are made by companies who are not OEMs. Stuff you get at average parts stores are usually aftermarket.

While aftermarket parts are suitable replacements for the average user, the aftermarket belt may have a different load rating, fray differently on the edges, have a different service life, or vary more in length. OEM suppliers are forced into consistent production and quality value. It is the general preference not to stray from Genuine or OEM parts unless there is a really tight budget or no need to invest in the car more than necessary to keep it going.

Not to speculate, but aftermarket parts may generally carry a more questionable quality. It may not be critical on every application, but enthusiasts will not really prefer to use aftermarket parts unless there is a performance advance to them…we’ll cover performance aftermarket in another blog.

* People will call me and ask if such and such a part I am about to sell them is “OEM,” and I say “It’s better than OEM; it’s Genuine.” But, somehow that tosses them off and they don’t believe they are getting a factory part. It’s baffling…but, that’s a paradigm for you. Part of what this article is about is to educate people on what “Genuine” means. Ironically, the part you want, the one that says “Honda” on it, also says “genuine!”

** This is really just another play on wording. The term “aftermarket” can be broken into “after” and “market.” “Market” meaning, available to buy somewhere, and “after” meaning after the fact…after the manufacturing of the car. A part is generally either originally installed or aftermarket. Even Genuine Replacement parts are technically aftermarket parts from many OE perspectives.

Chassis Universal Fit Blogging

When A-Spec and HFP Suspension Kits Are Discontinued, What To Get Instead?

Updated as of December 2017:

With the popularity of this posting, we have added the Koni STR.T Dampers and popular spring options as pre-built combos on Heeltoe! Find links to them here:

2004-08 TL: Heeltoe Automotive “A-Spec/HFP Evo” Coil-Over Damper Set, 2004-08 Acura TL

2004-08 TSX: Heeltoe Automotive “A-Spec/HFP Evo” Coil-Over Damper Set, 2004-08 Acura TSX

Updated as of December 2016:

Times are tough for the Honda/Acura Enthusiast looking for a conservative drop, comfortable ride, but highly enhanced driving experience. The A-Spec & HFP kits from Honda/Acura were awesome but short-lived, solutions with factory quality you could count on. Then the Neuspeed Supercup Kit was a fantastic option, and promptly itself became discontinued in 2015.

NOW what do you do if you long for that “factory sport package” feel in your Honda Accord, Acura TSX, TL, or other naturally sporting Honda sedan?

Heeltoe has settled on the “next-best” answer… Combine a set of Koni STR.T dampers with a set of Tein HighTECH springs.

Koni STR.T Damper:

Tein HighTECH (HTECH) Spring:

This high-quality combo offers the long stroke and long life of a Koni damper, with excellent body control balanced with proper damping to soak up everyday road hiccups. It also features a slightly firmer spring than stock, with minimal lowering range.

So while this is decidedly not an A-Spec kit it will function excellently and keep your Honda/Acura performing better than new for years to come!

– Marcus


Legacy Post from January 2016:

The Acura A-Spec and Honda Factory Performance suspension packages for popular Honda and Acura models are the perfect suspension tuning parts for the conservative enthusiast. But as they become unavailable, what is the next-best package?

What made the A-Spec kit great for people with a conservative performance goal in mind for both lowering and for sport, was that it utilized springs that were similar to stock in ride height and firmness. The dampers were better at controlling body motions. The combination was great for someone with worn factory suspension but was looking to replace the part with just a bit more athletic ability.

A last look at the much-loved Acura A-Spec Suspension package.

So, with the A-Spec kit gone…what is the conservative-minded enthusiast’s best bet for minimal lowering with great improvements in weight-transfer management and reduction in float as compared to stock suspension? And all that at a reasonable cost?

We would say, the Neuspeed Supercup Kit featuring German-made Sport springs and Sport/Yellow Shocks from Koni are the ticket!

For a little more of a lowering rate, the Neuspeed Supercup Kit is an A-Spec suspension on ‘roids.

Yes, there are a couple of compromises.

  1. The A-Spec kit came with new upper top-hat mounts pre-installed from the factory. Many viewed this as a great value feature, and the value was certainly there. Our counterpoint is that the upper mounts on these cars really do not wear from the factory. Replacement is something better done out of convenience rather than necessity (incidentally, does offer an Upper Mount Option on Neuspeed kits, as we know many customers do like replacing these parts oftentimes).
  2. While the Neuspeed Supercup Kit does come with a Race or Sport spring option, the Race is too aggressive for conservative drivers. The Sport is a great choice, however, the 1.5″ average lowering is a bit more than some drivers are looking for. holds that 1.5″ is a very reasonable lowering range for the average Honda or Acura. It is a compromise, but one worth considering.

Of course, if someone really did not want to lower their Acura but wanted all the sport and control benefit of an A-Spec kit, simply grab a set of Koni Sport replacement dampers!

The Koni Sport dampers do offer a relative degree of height adjustment, but more importantly, they have adjustable dampening. This allows a driver to tune in just the right amount of rebound for their particular tastes. Plus, as they wear, these dampers can be firmed up. They are extremely high quality, and with this tuning feature, can effectively last longer than most drivers will ever need them to.

Yes, the passing of the Acura A-Spec (and likewise, Honda Factory Performance) suspension kits is an unfortunate reality for enthusiasts. But thanks to Neuspeed and Koni, we are not without suitable alternative choices. is here to advise every customer on their specific needs, so don’t hesitate to contact us today for a consultation!

Exterior & Lighting Heeltoe Explains Universal Fit Blogging

Car 101: What color is my car? Honda/Acura Paint Codes, Names, and Variants!

Surprise…your car is not SILVER. It might be hard to describe your color properly, but when you have the color code at your disposal, you’ll get the right parts every time!

So here is how to know for sure what color your car is (at least, a Honda or Acura!)

Here we have the #HTSpecMDX. What color is it?

Step 1: Pop open the Driver’s door. Notice the sticker that says “Color?” That’s your car’s color code!

But what is the name of the color?

Step 2: Visit your car’s page on’s HTGarages (here is the HTSpecMDX’s page). Edit your “Vehicle Specs” and start typing in the color code. The field auto-searches and reveals your color (if you’ve got a custom color or your is not listed, type and save it to add it! Be sure to save changes!

Awesome! Yeah? Now you know your car’s color! But wait, there is more…

Just because you know the color code, does not mean you will get the “right color” from a paint shop with just this information.

There are actually slight variations in colors depending on where and when they were painted. Colors like Satin Silver Metallic and Nighthawk Black Pearl have widely used Honda colors applied to numerous models over many years and applied in various manufacturing plants. Because of these variances, colors that are the same code need a little extra info to tell paint shops what specific variation of the color is applied.

Step 3: Look at the 11th Digit of your VIN, to confirm what factory the car was painted at. Without this information, you cannot get the right tone of the color and you are going to get your parts painted juuust a little bit off.

So, if a paint shop sprays your car’s front end and the bumper doesn’t quite match…it’s probably because they got the pearl mix or metallic content off. Don’t let someone tell you that the color comes out differently just because the bumpers are plastic and the fenders are metal. If done properly that really isn’t the case.

So there you are! That is how you know what color your Honda/Acura is!

Engine Heeltoe Explains

Is a J37 manifold beneficial on a J32/35, or port the stock parts?

Many Honda and Acura V6 owners look to the grand-daddy of all J-series engine, the J37A4, for OEM upgrade mods. The primary item of focus is the large, Magnesium manifold topping that engine. However, there is some debate as to what the best course for intake manifold and throttle body use is ideal on a J-series engine. It’s well known that earlier J-series had removable plenums and internal trumpets that worked great and could more readily be ported out.

Heeltoe went out and got some information to help clarify things!

We’ll be updating this article as we learn more about the J37 intake manifolds and their applications.

Updated Dec 2, 2016:

This article was originally written to comment on the performance differences between a J37 Magnesium intake manifold versus porting out a factory J-Series manifold. Our expert adviser suggested that modifying the stock manifold was a more worthwhile effort when the cost is weighed out. But the market has decidedly chosen that modifying the stock manifold is too inconvenient when compared to simply buying a new part which works the same or better. Why?

Firstly, the stock manifold is not easily modified. Older J-series engines had removable plenums which allow them to be opened and ported with plenty of access. Anything 2004 and newer, though, is all one piece and is not really able to be opened up.

Secondly, who does the work if you want to send it out? Efforts in getting people to actually DO the work after they smugly comment “bah just get it ported” all seem to disappear when you ask for a reference or contact. Even people who say that “can” do it aren’t readily able to.

Thirdly, there is downtime to consider. If the customer doesn’t want downtime, they need to source a replacement manifold and the “it’s cheaper to port” argument gets thinner right off the bat.

Lastly, nothing in the parts world ever remains static. We’ve just recently revised and redone our manifold packages with new, lower-cost options for many J-series owners. Check out that listing here: HTSpec J37 Magnesium Intake Manifold & Throttle Body Kit, Honda J-Series V6 (ALL Single-Port Exhaust Engines)

HTSpec J37 Magnesium Intake Manifold & Throttle Body Kit, Honda J-Series V6 (ALL Single-Port Exhaust Engines)

Original post:

It is fairly commonly known that by upgrading the intake manifold on an engine, either by increasing volume or reducing restriction, more power can be produced within the engine. This is because air is more efficiently delivered.

As Honda engines have grown in size and power requirements, so have intake manifold volumes. As of this writing, the J37 intake manifold is an increasingly effective upgrade to do on mild and serious engine builds. But, are there real benefits over stock manifolds, or ported and polished ones?

We consulted Andy Gerzina, noted J-series engine guru, for his input. His statements to us, and we paraphrase, were:

Does the J37 manifold produce more power over stock intake manifolds which have been ported and polished?

  • Yes, to the tune of 2-3 HP over the rev range.

Do you generally recommend a J37 intake manifold to people building engines?

  • Since the cost of the manifold is over port work is relatively high (even more after considering a throttle body is added), and the gains are minimal, I find it more economical to upgrade the stock components.

It seems that if someone was starting from scratch and wanted maximum power a J37 package may be feasible.

  • It would depend on the person’s situation. On one hand, money would be saved obtaining used stock parts and modifying them, but it is also more time consuming and demanding of resources other than money. Simply ordering a J37 package may be easier for most users.

Are there any drawbacks to either porting or upgrading to the J37 intake manifold?

  • On Automatic transmission cars, no issues have been recorded or found to be troublesome with J37 manifold and/or J37 throttle bodies. On modern drive-by-wire j-series vehicles equipped with manual transmissions, there are well-documented rev-hang issues with the J37 throttle body, regardless of which manifold it is used in conjunction with. This change in drivability isn’t something one could not live with, but it may be favorable to port/polish the stock manifolds internals if you have a 6MT for seamless operation on the street. Currently, there is no consumer purchasable available adapter to convert a J32 or J35 drive-by-wire throttle body to a J37 manifold to solve this issue. With such an adapter in conjunction with a J37 manifold, performance gains are equivalent to porting a stock 2004-2008 TL/TL-S manifold.

Thanks, Andy, for the clarification!

Heeltoe Explains Universal Fit Blogging You Can Do It! DIYs

8 tips to get you going on that FWD Honda Transmission removal/rebuild

Based on the recent and disheartening news that the transaxle in our HTSpecTSX needed to be removed and rebuilt, we decided to put together this post to show some handy tips that might arm you with some knowledge you need to get the transmission out of your FWD Honda with that much smaller of a headache.

Factoid: A transaxle is a combination of the differential and the transmission in one unit. Front-wheel-drive cars generally all have transaxles, not technically transmissions!

1. Safety is cool

First and foremost, please please please, wear safety glasses. They might be uncomfortable to wear at first but once you get into your job with tools in hand, you’ll forget they are even on your face. If you don’t put them on I promise you will regret it the very moment you are on your back in a compromised position working on a very difficult bold, and a piece of crud will fall in your eye. It sucks. This is the best-case scenario. Worst case you’ll be like an old coworker of mine who was hammering on a ball joint and a piece of shrapnel shot into his eye and blinded him on that side.

Safety is cool. In addition to the glasses, gloves are a great idea as well. Other important things to have are proper jack stands, and most of all, brains. This job involves some very simple but very real forces of physics. Look at the load system in front of you, and decide where your forces and counter forces are going to be. If this last comment flies over your head, consider leaving the job to a professional.

Now that we have the basics mentioned, let’s talk about some more specific topics.

2. Get the right manual

If you have a Honda or Acura, that means buying a real Helm service manual and read it a week or two in advance of doing the job at hand.  Honda sends a team of people to their production plants with these manuals and literally disassemble an entire car to make sure it reads and works correctly before selling the cars and publishing the books. It will tell you everything you need to know, and nearly every step to take, in order to properly perform any job on the car. If special tools are needed, they will tell you. Need to replace a bolt, or use a specific grease, or need torque specs? Buy the book. Get your very own copy at or on eBay.

A Genuine Helm Manual is full of detail.

3. Tools are your key to success

The manual will tell you what special tools are needed and which are proprietary Honda ones. Now, before you go out and buy all these expensive and hard-to-get tools know that there are good aftermarket substitutions out there. Sears, Harbor Freight, Amazon…you can get good tools to work on the car other than the factory. And also know that you don’t need ALL the tools they are suggesting. Overall these manuals are written for dealers and dealers have a huge cache of tools that they get from the manufacturers. You won’t have access to these tools. And they are pricey! So look for good alternatives. The trick is knowing which ones REALLY need to be OEM ones…that might just be something you figure out in the trenches. For example, expensive seal and bearing drivers can often be substituted for pipes of various sizes or sockets. Be resourceful and get tools, but if you don’t need to buy them that is all the better.

Use a large socket as a bearing or seal driver.

Here you can see my solution for removing this sealing bolt for which I did not have a 14mm hex driver. Of course, I bought one on Amazon and it arrived, along with a new bolt from Acura, in time for me to reassemble properly. This technique has long been a favorite of mine for removing stripped brake rotor screws.

A hammer and chisel made quick work of this sealing bolt that I did not have a 12mm hex driver for.

4. Manage your time and be realistic

Now is an opportune time to mention time management. The prime thing to keep in mind is to be realistic. A professional can take a trans out and put it back in in a day. Maybe call it two days if there is a rebuild in there. You need to expect that this job may take you twice as long, or longer. The reason is not because of anything besides experience and the quality and variety of tools. Professional technicians (even the mediocre ones) spend more money on their personal tool collection than you’d believe (I’ve known guys to amass a tool collection of $100,000 or more). To techs, tools are time and time is money. The better the tools and experience using them, the shorter the time to do jobs. They have lots of shop equipment at their disposal (vehicle lifts, to say the least). You’ll save a lot of money doing jobs yourself, but look at your tool collection and understand that you CAN do the job, but it is going to take a lot of time if that collection is not extensive.

You could be hanging around for a while...mostly waiting for parts. Use time wisely.

5. Save the beer for the fat lady

So, you are following instructions in the service manual, using some handy tools, taking your time, listening to music. Things are going well! Don’t crack a beer!

Even if your intentions are not to get drunk, a casual beer makes for casual work which is both inefficient and unsafe. Save the beer for when you are done working for the day. Because once you start the beer, it is the start of the end. Trust me; beer is a great tool, for celebrating. Not for working.

I wanted to rotate this pic, but my photo editor was drunk.

6. Get an impact wrench

One of the tools that will come in handy is an impact wrench. Commonly, impact wrenches are powered by air thus requiring an air compressor. I’ll tell you that since getting my electric one, my life has changed. I use the air compressor mostly for filling tires these days. While things like an air hammer and air rachets can be handy, nothing beats the convenience of an electric impact wrench. I have a Bosch one and I highly recommend it. It is compact, lightweight, and powerful. There are cheaper ones but they are more bulky and heavy. But, it won’t make you superman: Some fasteners need to be removed by hand so have a breaker bar also.

Say hello to my little friend.

7. Special fasteners can throw you a curveball or ruin your day

Watch out for left-hand threads. Righty-tighty-lefty-loosey applies almost universally, but there may be left-hand threads inside the transmission. Actually, the TSX trans is held together by them! Special black-coated bolts designed to prevent galvanic corrosion against the Magnesium case cannot be substituted and are distinctively left-handed. Usually, these special fasteners have arrows on them telling you to turn the opposite way you are used to. Also, some fasteners require special sockets to remove. The flywheel and clutch are held on with 12-point fasteners. The important message here is that if you need to cut one off, or break it by doing the wrong procedure for removal, you won’t end up with a new one by doing an 11th-hour run to the hardware store. Most likely your dealer won’t stock these parts, either. Again, read the book!

Arrows mark the direction to tighten.

8. The aftermarket provides more unknowns

Are you installing aftermarket parts in your transmission? If so, realize that no matter how good they are they probably are not going to fit exactly the same as OEM parts. I found out the hard way that the differential in my TSX transmission needed a different shim than the OEM one did, and had to order new shims at the last minute. Even though I’d given myself plenty of time, this little curveball could have really ruined things for my deadline. Tools can be improvised but actual components inside the trans have to come from specific manufacturers and substitutions won’t do. All the research in the world can’t protect you against Murphy’s Law. You don’t want to get details like this wrong because it could mean taking that transmission back out again sooner than later.

That is a good list to get you going. Be prepared by getting a manual and doing as much shopping as you can ahead of time. Expect to have something like a transmission rebuild to take a full week; this is in addition to the time to remove and install the trans from the car. Don’t be afraid to call Heeltoe if you have any questions or need advice!

Chassis You Can Do It! DIYs

How to tune your adjustable coilover damper kit for the street.

There are a lot of folks out there, bless their souls, who have bought into the craze of coilover suspensions without having full knowledge of what they are getting into.

This article is a shot-gun approach at dialing in your favorite coilover kit for the street. Aimed at our core market, front- & all-wheel drive Honda and Acura cars, primarily driven on the street. This is a really general methodology, but it works. People often get mixed up because the changes they make in the front or rear impact the other end of the car, and you keep chasing your tail. With this approach you get the front all dialed in on what is important there, and you can tackle how the rear reacts afterward.


The first thing you would do is set the preload back to zero and then move the damper adjustment knob in the front at least midway in its range, if not more stiff or almost full stiff. This will give the input control and sharpness of steering and handling you probably want. Less “bounce” per-say or “float” in the front end is desired. Those feelings give a certain distrust in the handling of the car and your ability to control it. Moving this stiffer should not adversely affect the ride at all although there will be more harshness through the steering wheel, firewall, and floorboard. It may seem that the car is transmitting more from the road, and this is a good thing. Dial it back to give more NVH isolation if needed, but keep it firm. You should not need any more preload here, but if the front end seems to feel like it bottoms out at all you can add preload about 1/4″ at a time until it feels a little better.


The ride quality and ultimate balance of the car is largely dictated by the rear setup. Here I recommend people make the damping as stiff as they can without feeling too much discomfort. Start in the middle and move softer if you need more comfort over bumps (you won’t be able to make it perfect over all bumps, you are going to have to find a compromise) or firmer if the ride is not uncomfortable. The firmer you make it the better the car is going to feel in a corner but will ride worse and worse. Ultimately you want to find where you are unable to accept the ride and dial it back a bit. In general, you want as much stroke in the back as you can get because this will allow a good ride and add grip, but want body movement controlled enough that it doesn’t feel like it is wallowing about. Preloading too much here, or putting stiff springs, is great for swinging the tail around an auto-x course, but makes the ride like garbage. Don’t preload the rear if you can help it, but again if the suspension seems to cycle too much even on firmer settings, add preload incrementally.

Spring rates and preload.

The only real reason to change rates is if you are exceeding the cornering load limits the kit was designed around. Springs are spec’d to hold the car up and to resist forces in cornering. A car with lighter weight will need lighter springs, and heavier cars need heavier springs. Also, a car cornering at .8g will not need a firm a spring as a car cornering 1g. I think a lot of people think that works in reverse…take an .8g car and add heavier springs to make it corner like a 1g car. Maybe this is true to a certain extent, but more important are the tires, tire pressure, road surface, and other grip related factors. Those all add grip. Firmer springs without more grip will cause the car to slide easier.

Wider tires mean more grip meaning harder cornering loads requiring firmer springs. Increasing the rates will allow the car to cope with harder cornering loads, but will dramatically impact the ride. This is especially true if the dampers are not tuned to accommodate these changes. Many adjustable suspension kits are designed around a single spring rate and allow some latitude up and down in spring rates but don’t mistake this as truly stiffening or softening the suspension.

Then there is preload, which is largely misunderstood. Changing the spring preload does not change the spring rate, but can lead to the effect of a firmer feeling suspension. Really what it does is it increases the load needed to compress the spring initially. Once the spring starts compressing it will feel normal but a larger input is needed to do that. This is particularly helpful bu increasing the amount of force needed to bottom out the suspension.

We hope that gives you enough information to get started on dialing in your suspension! By all means reach on out to us if you need more specific advice!

Drivetrain Heeltoe Explains

Honda/Acura Axle Vibration Issue found and fixed, with video

You are reading one of the most popular articles published on to date.

Your support over the years has been much appreciated! Note the following section headings with dates of updates in descending date order.

Update: March 22, 2020:

This article continues to be a runaway success, but nothing stays the same over time. This block update is to supplement the information below with the latest we know today.

How to install a new inner joint kit:
The right-side debacle

The right side inner joints are an issue. As far as we are learning, most all aftermarket right-side axles and axle joints have some attribute that causes them to have a vibration. It is not the same vibration that comes from the wear-pattern outlined in this video.

What happens regularly, we have seen, is the following series of events:

  • Hondacar driver notices vibration on acceleration, somewhere between 40-60 mph, give or take.
  • Finds our article and buys an aftermarket axle for both sides of their car, because they are a lot cheaper than Genuine OEM axles, and in many cases are even cheaper than our Genuine OEM joint kits.
  • Installs aftermarket axle–regardless of or brand, cost, or supplier–and experiences a shaking at 20-30 mph.
  • Customer needs to circle back and buy a new Genuine OEM inner joint from Heeltoe to properly repair their old original axle, or if they tossed the original axle, they buy a complete new Genuine OEM axle.

We would LOVE to sell you an aftermarket axle or inner joint at a lower cost than the Genuine part, but as of this writing, we don’t have one to provide that we can promise will be perfectly vibration-free. This has been true for DSS, Insane Shafts, Raxles, AutoZone, so many other brands we can’t name them all. Even though we posted an update in 2015 (below) that we have one, it just doesn’t work on the right side.

The left side does not seem to have this issue. The right side is just a really particular area of the car for this concern. You won’t save time, money, or stress by getting an aftermarket axle.

Wait, right or left?

More on right versus left in our blog article, Car 101: Right Side Left Side, Driver Side Passenger Side

Update: August 31, 2015:

Since this writing on January 6th, 2012, we have had drivers of Accords, Civics, TLs, and TSXs of all generations contact us for our solutions for inner joint replacement. As of today, we have released our new, stronger solution to Honda/Acura vibration on acceleration. Read more about how we’ve solved the problem below, here: New Fastline Performance Inner Axle Joint Kits

Original Post: January 6th, 2012

There have been numerous instances of vibration in the Acura TSX front end when accelerating. Usually, at lower or more moderate speeds, the shimmy in the steering wheel can also be felt throughout the front end of the car. We’ve recently heard this issue is prevalent on S2000s as well.

The issue was attributed to an axle shaft problem very early on, but even replacements of axles have not proven to be a reliable solution to the problem. In fact, Heeltoe had sold for at least a year a new replacement aftermarket axle we believed to solve the problem. However, when the issue arose in our own HTSpecTSX, said axle failed to resolve the issue. In fact, the inexpensive aftermarket axle we (an most all others) were using proved to exhibit worse vibrations that the factory units!

On a hunch, we purchased some new inner joints to install on our TSX’s original axles. When we removed the old joint cup, we were impressed to see the problem so blatantly in front of us!

See the wear are there? We’ll zoom in for you…

The joint bearings ride on this surface and put a torsional load there to transmit power to the shaft then to the outer joint. When there is a load on the axle it forces the joints bearings against this pulverized area of the joint causing a really nasty vibration! There is wear on the other two loaded surfaces as well but we are showing the worst one here to save space.

So there you have it. Replace the inner joint and you will be set!

Right or Left Side?

We have not determined a great method for knowing what side, left or right, is the culprit side but it seems like more people have an issue with the right side (USDM passenger side) so we suggest starting there. The joint and boot kits are available through Heeltoe.

About lowering…

While we were in the joint we noticed something else that you might want to be aware of. You know how mechanics tell you the lowering your car is bad for the axles? They usually tell you this when you have an outer joint noise or problem. However, lowering the car has little or no effect on the outer joints. Rather, the inner joints can experience some abnormal wear.

The axle has a tripod on the inner end that mounts three bearings that ride in the cup of the inner joint. This is so the axle can vary in length as the suspension articulates. When you lower the car, you are actually making the axle compress all the way when you hit large bumps, and this can cause the bearings to bottom out in the base of the axle cup. See the image below. We’ve highlighted some witness marks on the inside of my inner joint cup.

We have not yet seen this result in an actual failure of the axles, but it is something to be aware of.

Chassis You Can Do It! DIYs

How to assemble a Honda/Acura Top Hat Kit

In case you need a reference on the top hat kit assembly order on your Honda or Acura suspension, check out the video we tossed together.

**** NOTE: We indicated that the Type-S does not need to have the collar installed, but actually it is supposed to be. It can be omitted but if you have them, use them.

**** ALSO NOTE: This assembly is pretty much the same for all Hondas and Acuras with Double-Wishbone layout (yes, going back as far as 1988!). Newer cars like the 9th generation Accord and RSX have strut suspensions with a little different layout.

Thanks For Reading!

Heeltoe Explains Intake & Exhaust

An Outline Of The Exhaust Layout On J-Series Honda/Acura V6 Engines

Updated Nov 9th, 2016

Later model Accords from 2013 and newer have a little different layout where the catalytic converter that used to be after the j-pipe is now incorporated with it. So replacing the J-pipe is now something that will also replace the cat.

The J-series Honda V6 found in all V6 Hondas and Acuras since 1998 (such as the Accord, the TL, the MDX, Odyssey, Ridgeline, and even the limited production TSX V6) has a special cylinder head that has a manifold integrated into it. As such, there is only a single port coming off the head that leads to the exhaust system.

Early J-Series

The first generation of the J-series found in 01-03 CLs, 98-02 Accords, and 99-03 TLs featured a traditional manifold layout with a front and rear bank of primary tubes that heads down to a collector.

1g J-series header from CT Engineering

Later J-Series, “Pre-cats”

Later 04+ J-series engines have quite a different design.

Diagram of the J-series cylinder head showing a single port.

The single-port then dumps directly into the “pre-cats” as people refer to them. As a matter of fact, these are the primary converters in the car, containing 2 O2 sensors each. These cats are restrictive and are frequently removed (albeit illegally) in favor of open units, which we are told make a significant power increase. RV6 Performance makes Pre-Cat Deletes. Often these are referred to as PCD’s throughout the web. Deleting these converters will cause and engine light to come on, but the RV6 pipes do come with provisions for fooling the sensors so the light does not come on.

RV6 Pre-cat deletes. RV6 also produces versions of these pipes with metal-core converters, called High Flow Pre Cats, or HFPCs.

J-pipe as the new “header”

Immediately after the pre-cats, there is a “j-pipe” as has been dubbed by the industry. This pipe takes the flow from the front and rear bank cats and brings it together into a single exhaust system. There are significant gains to be made from replacing the factory j-pipe to an aftermarket version. Larger diameter piping and a smoother collector improve the volume capacity and flow of the system. RV6, ATLP, and XLR8 all make j-pipes for the TL/Accord. We prefer the ATLP version as it has been redesigned to allow more ground clearance due to customer demands and produces maximum power in the upper RPM ranges. The others may have been updated recently, but ATLP remains our preferred brand because it’s the price point is competative, ability to keep the stock cat and provide a lot of ground clearance.

ATLP J-Pipe, smooth transition, large piping, ground clearance, can use stock 3rd cat.

The 3rd Cat

After the J-Pipe there is the 3rd cat. This cat, which lacks any O2 sensors, exists to provide additional of the exhaust not taken care of by the pre/primary converters. This pipe can also be replaced by a test pipe or a high-flowing converter to produce more power. ATLP, RV6, and XLR8 all make both options to replace this converter, although it should be noted that replacing this converter is completely illegal as well, however, deleting it will not cause any engine lights to come on.

ATLP Race pipe, a 3rd car delete.
Brakes Heeltoe Explains You Can Do It! DIYs

How To Remove The Rotor Screws From Your Honda/Acura’s Brake Rotors

Brake rotor retaining screws are a pain to remove. They are soft, and strip easily, despite having large Phillps heads and generally not being on very tightly. Heeltoe’s got a surefire way to remove them using simple common tools that works 100% of the time. You’ll never reach for an impact driver again. And, luckily, once you get them off you don’t need to re-install them!

I hate these screws. Most European cars don’t even have them, but for some reason, the Japanese feel the need to equip their cars with them. The reason they are there is to hold the rotor securely to the hub of the car once the wheel is removed. If you look at how the whole assembly of hub/studs, rotor, wheel, and lug nuts fit together, you will see that these screws serve no purpose once the wheel is installed. The screws exist merely as an unnecessary assembly aide.

Their function is so superficial, in fact, that they are made out of what must be the softest metallic substance on the entire car. Under any load from the brakes, I can imagine these screws’ heads popping off instantly. Alas, they are on the car holding the rotor in place and must be removed in order to change rotors (another insufficiently designed component of the Honda/Acura braking system, but that is another blog topic...) The process of removing these screws appears to be as simple as grabbing a Phillips head screwdriver and giving them a twist.

Unfortunately, life creates its own interesting moments when it is realized that even a very minimal amount of unseen corrosion or galvanic action LOCKS these bad boys in place, causing the screws to strip with ease. Once these guys are stripped, you need to grab a drill and bore out the heads to get them off. I have done this drilling more often than I have had the miraculous joy of actually removing the screws properly. I never want to do it again.

Let’s say, I was to stop writing here. One might no doubt search their favorite message forum and read all of the wonders of a tool called an impact driver. This tool is a sort of screw-driver with a spring-loaded twisting action that works when the handle is hit with a hammer. The idea is, the hammer forces the driver into the screw while the spring action twists the screw just enough to break it free. Much of the time an impact driver is the perfect tool for the job. But I content this method is no sure-fire way to unscrew these screwy screws without possible need for the drill.

Problem one with the driver is, not everyone has one, and not everyone who changes brakes every 2-3 years wants to buy one. In order to get one that works reliably, you’ll need to spend enough money that you might well have paid someone to do your brakes for you. I’ve used cheap ones and broken them almost instantly. Bonus…before they broke, they stripped the screws.

Problem two, even with a good driver there exists an estimated 10% chance you will strip a screw anyway because the screws are just that bitchy.

So here is my SUREFIRE, WORKED EVERY TIME I DID IT WITHOUT FAIL way of removing the rotor screws from your brake rotors. It involves two simple tools nearly everyone has in their toolbox.

Now it is all about technique. Make a dimple in the screw head near the outside diameter of the screw. You just need to dent the screw a little, not chop a chunk into it.

Using the dimple for “traction,” hold the chisel about 45 degrees from the rotor hat (make sure you put the dimple in a place not directly adjacent to a stud) and give it a few good whacks to work it free, and you’ll need to rotate your position as you hit to walk the screw around.

Use a screwdriver to spin the screw out! No new tools. No special tools. Hell, you can use the crappiest hammer and screwdriver you have. The real trick is not to get too wily with your chisel because you can make mince-meat out of the screw, making the job harder and making the potential for getting that drill out a reality. With a bit of practice, you can get this process figured out before you are done changing 4 rotors.

With the screws removed, go about the business of changing rotors, and if you are re-installing the screws. You’ll have to deal with them again later though. For this reason, I usually toss them in the trash. If these are intended to make my life easier, I wonder how things would be designed if designed to work against me.

GEEK TIME! Why does this work?

It works because when driving a screw with a screwdriver or an impact driver, the majority of the twist happens very close to the center of the fastener, imparting a minimal amount of torque to the screw (remember, torque is force x distance). In order to get the amount of torque needed to remove the screws easily, force must be applied to a point on the fastener as far from the center of the fastener as possible. In T = Fd, you are increasing d.

Likewise, a screwdriver has a tendency to impart minimal grip on the screw itself, which is why when you turn it the driver wants to naturally pop out of the head as you twist. This reduces the force you are able to put into actually turning. In order to get a screwdriver that really grips screws well, you need to come out of pocket more than you might want. You will find yourself putting lots of effort into shoving the driver into the screw to prevent this action even with better tools. A quality impact driver that will handle the extreme hammering that is needed sometimes is even more costly than a good screwdriver! When using the chisel method, the force you impart on the screw is concentrated in a localized area where it does the most good without any “fighting.” It is easy to remove the screws because so much of your effort goes into doing work, not to counter ancillary tendencies. In T = Fd, you are effectively increasing F.

There you go. All you wanted to know about getting the rotor screws out on your Honda/Acura…and more. Too much maybe.