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Discussion Starter #1
I bought my wife a 2001 Honda Insight (CVT) with 117K miles this summer. I drove it a lot the first few weeks, like a new toy, maxing out the gas mileage (60 was my best tank, 47.1 is the lifetime ave, 51 is pretty typical w/o too much care).

When I turned it back over to her as her full-time vehicle, I failed to watch it carefully and the next time I drove it, I heard an ominous valve clatter... I checked the oil and it was over a quart low! I topped it up and it sounded better but I also heard some lower-toned grinding... but not much.

Like an idiot, I gave it back to her and didn't think too much about it for a month or so... and the next time I drove it, there was a bad engine rattle... It was due for an oil change by that time, it was down 1/4 quart and I had the 0-20 synthetic changed out. The sound didn't get any better.

It may be my imagination but it has only gotten worse.

I had my regular mechanic (not a Honda specialist) pull the valve cover on the hopes that it was a timing chain/camshaft gear... no such luck... it was definitely coming from the bottom end. My mechanic doesn't know hybrids and is reluctant to go any further... I'm looking for someone (besides the dealer) who is willing to go inside of this engine.

The talk on this forum about the "oil pan" which I understand to be the bottom half of the block, suggests that the bottom end can be accessed without pulling the engine? It is dead winter here (12 degrees tonight) and I have no garage, etc... so I'm not going into that myself.

What I'm wondering is: 1) Is there any other likely reason for something to sound like a bad bearing besides a bad bearing (after low lubrication)? 2) Can the bottom end be rebuilt w/o pulling the engine? 3) Do people even rebuild these engines? I don't see any evidence on this forum or in my web searches that they do?

Thanks,
- Steve ([email protected])
 

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The oil losses and levels you described could NOT have damaged the engine. However, unless most of those losses can be attributed to external leaks then such is indicating internal engine wear. More likely cylinders / pistons / rings.

Why your mechanic would be reluctant to take on this task is a mystery. There's nothing "hybrid" about the engine. But he clearly doesn't know his Hondas so you should look elsewhere.

While its possible to only replace the connecting rod bearings without "major" engine disassembly I doubt this will be much of a long term fix for your situation. A used engine is usually your best value in both the _down time_ and money factors. But a correctly rebuilt engine will be as good as new.

HTH! :)
 

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But a correctly rebuilt engine will be as good as new
Do they make rebuild kits for these engines? Do you know where to get one?
 

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Do they make rebuild kits for these engines? Do you know where to get one?
AFAIK its piece it together yourself. And since its an Insight (low production) its unclear whether or not the aftermarket will _ever_ produce such parts (Honda Dealer only parts for now).

HTH! :)
 

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Piece it together yourself indeed. The crank bearings are hand fitted to each journal based on tolerance codes stamped on the crank at the factory. Tedious to say the least. And no garage? Hmmm - outdoors, on the ground, under the car and a whole 12 degrees? Pass.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
out of the woods (maybe)

So... I may be (almost) out of the woods. It seems I may have panicked and stampeded myself (and my regular mechanic) into a worst-case assumption about the bearings.

I found a very thorough, careful Honda mechanic who listened to the rattle/knock in the parking lot and gave me a "90% chance it is the idler pulley" and an appointment today to run it up on the lift and do a complete diagnosis.

This mechanic claims he's been working on Hondas for 20 years and has never seen a bottom-end failure beyond seals. Even with some run-dry situations that "should" have caused such.

I quit doing *all* my own wrenching on cars about 10 years ago and have gotten to the point that I hate doing more than lifting the hood and checking fluid levels for the most part. I keep several old vehicles which I still do many things on but the new ones are a little daunting. My 49 ford dump truck is unwieldy but simple as can be (and doesn't need much). My 86 CRX is a piece of cake except for the 300 vacum lines and my 87 VW Cabriolet is even easier except for the details of mechanical fuel injection. I suppose if I took the time to get familiar with the Insight (by working on it) I would get more comfortable. Until this threat of total engine failure hit me, I was toying with putting in a MIMA... even though the CVT undermines the higher MPG possibilities. I suppose that would get me in tight with the systems.

I've a friend who is about to trade his 5 speed 05 Subaru Forester who claims that Subaru claims that the CVT in their 2010 Forester gets 20% better MPG than their 5 speed. I always thought a good CVT should be able to beat a standard... like a variable pitch prop on an airplane.
 

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What I'm wondering is: 1) Is there any other likely reason for something to sound like a bad bearing besides a bad bearing (after low lubrication)? 2) Can the bottom end be rebuilt w/o pulling the engine? 3) Do people even rebuild these engines? I don't see any evidence on this forum or in my web searches that they do?

Thanks,
- Steve ([email protected])

As the stationary oil level was 'over a quart low' I would expect major engine bearing damage because as the car corners the oil 'piles' up on the outside of the oil pan and lets the oil pump suction suck air which naturally is a very poor lubricant. we experienced that way back when with one of our first Civics used in autocrossing. One 60 sec run is all it took. And high speed is not necessary. Since then all our racers have had baffled oil pans. And the sounds of failed bearings is distinct and terminal. While at it REPLACE all bearings.
There is nothing of any substance different about this engine and any mechanic familiar with Hondas could easily rebuild it as several have said. You can count on new bearings and probably valves & crankshaft so you may want to consider simply replacing with an engine from a salvage yard which would be less costly I suspect. And should come with some guarantee, typically 60 or 90 days. if memory serves 2000 thru 2004 engines are alike but check yourself.
Good luck.
 

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This mechanic claims he's been working on Hondas for 20 years and has never seen a bottom-end failure beyond seals. Even with some run-dry situations that "should" have caused such.
I'd love to believe this but my buddy lost his 1995 Honda Civic's engine somewhere past 200k miles after delivering pizza's with it for about 4 years with extensive idling and being driven very hard. Funny thing is he even bought the car with the engine rebuilt, but it's hard to know if it was rebuilt properly or not but if it wasn't I would have figured it would have let go sooner. No engine is immune to failure, but they can sure get mighty tough.

www.car-part.com shows some at around $800-$1000 from CVT cars, although I'm not sure if there is actually anything different between them based on what transmission they are used with.
 

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www.car-part.com shows some at around $800-$1000 from CVT cars, although I'm not sure if there is actually anything different between them based on what transmission they are used with.
The MT and CVT engine are different. The main difference is in the pistons. The CVT has a lower compression ratio and has a different shaped piston. Most other parts of the engine are the same. The model in question in this post is a CVT.

JoeCVT = Just your average CVT owner
 

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Don't forget the japanese CVT's are also different and do have lean burn and the same power output as manual cars. We have Jap CVT imports here in UK.
 

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You are correct Peter and I forgot to mention that.....I can understand the lack of lean burn for US built CVTs (wanting to achieve the SULEV emissions rating and such) but it seems like Honda had to lower compression as well in order to achieve SULEV. It is only 1 or 2 HP and torque different but every bit helps sometimes. If I ever had to replace my engine, I have thought to put in a used MT model engine instead. I know that I won't get lean burn that way but will probably gain a few more HP. Although there is a possibility that the CVT version of the ECM may be confused with supplying the proper fuel mixture of a higher compression ratio engine and the ECM can not be swapped out for an MT version.

JoeCVT = Just your average CVT owner
 

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The MT and CVT engine are different. The main difference is in the pistons. The CVT has a lower compression ratio and has a different shaped piston. Most other parts of the engine are the same. The model in question in this post is a CVT.

JoeCVT = Just your average CVT owner
Good information

Would that make an MT engine completely incompatible as a direct swap into a CVT car? One would get the higher compression ratio, it wouldn't have the lean burn of course, or the SULEV rating. ...would it run at all or does the computer really need that specific engine?
 

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Would that make an MT engine completely incompatible as a direct swap into a CVT car? One would get the higher compression ratio, it wouldn't have the lean burn of course, or the SULEV rating. ...would it run at all or does the computer really need that specific engine?
I think it would run near normal or fully normal for a CVT. My only doubt is the ECM setup for a known engine but there may be a bit of room in the programming to allow for the greater compression. For example, I did a search a long time ago at Majestic Honda and there are pistons that you can order if you rebuild the engine. They are slightly oversized (assuming the cylinder walls were reconditioned). But they had the same part number for MT and CVT engines. This leads me to think that the ECM can compensate for a rebuild (or in this case, an engine swap). There are some slight differences on the outside parts attached to the engine like the fuel pressure regulator but after looking at Majestic for a long time, the only part number difference I saw for internal differences are for the pistons between the MT and CVT engine. Things like the flywheel would have to be retained from the original engine.

I wouldn't recommend swapping the other way around (replacing an MT engine with a CVT) as this will probably have an effect on lean burn.

If my engine goes down for the count, I will look into the possibilty if the price is right (meaning I may be willing to give it a try if I can find one cheap enough so if I was wrong, I wouldn't feel too bad)

JoeCVT = Just your average CVT owner
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks to all for the input.

The Insight in question is back on the road after a full AC compressor replacement. The Clutch on the compressor went out and then *wore* the shaft it rides on badly enough that the mechanic could not offer any solution except to replace the compressor too. Both mechanics (Honda guy and AC specialist guy) had the decency to tell me that they thought it sounded a little like a rod-knock from above too. I think they were just being nice to a customer with egg on his face.

He could not find an alternative that involved deleting the compressor in the belt-drive system. I suppose some fabrication of a new idler pully system might have done it, but an important reason for buying the car for my wife was A/C and having that feature defeated early on would not be welcomed.

It was an elaborate (lots of individual pieces-parts from the dealer) and expensive repair. I kept the compressor. I suppose that a good machinist could repair/replace the shaft/bearing combination... but I couldn't afford to leave the car out of commission long enough to sort that out.

To normalize my Honda Mechanic's claim that he'd never seen a low-oil related engine failure, I have to say that this mechanic is a top-flight kinda guy... his garage looks a bit like a Mercedes shop and while he doesn't steam clean every engine before he works on it, he comes pretty close. He has a long waiting time for normal repairs and service and I suspect his customers of being generally very careful... so most would probably not let their oil levels drop even a tad. Similarly, few people who know him would bring him a car that had been neglected (I'm probably an exception) or mistreated.

I threw a rod on a 1976 Honda CIVIC coupe "back in the day" by letting my oil go low... and then spent several weeks in the snow replacing the engine from a wrecked job I found for a song ($200). Part of my youth mis-spent. Of course my wife (different one at the time) wanted a new car as soon as I got this one up and running again... moved her up to a Prelude... (with AC and a sunroof!).
 
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