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Discussion Starter #1
Please post this warning for all Insight owners: CAUTION!! THE ENGINE TEMPERATURE GAUGE IS NOT PROPERLY CALIBRATED!! OPERATING THE ENGINE AT 75% MAX (WELL BELOW THE RED REGION) FOR MORE THAN SECONDS MAY RESULT IN SERIOUS ENGINE DAMAGE!!
I can back this up from personal experience.
Furthermore, I have testimony from a mechanic at Cardinal Honda in Groton, CT, where I purchased my car, and serviced it until this past Jan. Additionally, Honda has not admitted the calibration error, since they do not want to open themselves to liability; my auto ins company (State Farm) would not pay for damages to the engine, either (engine head warped 3/1000 beyond specs - Honda would not repair).
 

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thanx for the heads-up. (sorry about that. bad pun) mine always warms up to about 1/2 way. now i know to stop the engine if the temp gage starts climbing at all. good to know, but sorry about your issues with honda, etc. might have to test the gage reading against a good thermometer, and see what the service manual says is the max.

andy g.
 

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I mentioned this a long time ago on another thread, I installed 6 thermocouples around the engine compartment when I was trying my warm air mod.

I had a thermocouple on the metal base of the hose coming out of the engine, and another one on the one going back into the engine, this way I would be able to read the delta temperature, and it would also tell me how efficient the engine was cooling, I was very surprised when the engine temperature would climb to levels that I would not feel comfortable running the engine, and the temp gauge would stay in the same place.

This is very important to those running cardboard between the condenser and radiator, even if the fan turns on it takes a long time to cool, due the fact that the fan is not able to pull air thru the radiator.

One time I pulled over when the thermocouple was reading 240, I removed the cover and within a couple hundred feet the temperature went down, but the stock gauge never went up.
 

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Thanks for the advice. Might I ask what happened that caused your car to overheat?

I'll advise this with any vehicle. There is a "normal" opperating temperature reading on the gauge that it should never go over. I would stop long before the red on the gauge. For an Insight 6 bars is normal, if goes up in 2 bar increments so if you ever see 8 bars I'd get off the road immediately.
 

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There have been a couple of posts from other Insighter's of their temp gauge hitting the red with no short term consequences :?

What is absolutely true and the same for most all cars is that if the coolant level gets past a critically low point then the gauge will _NOT_ read correctly. It will indicate somewhat hotter than normal but the engine will be in a critical overheat condition.

Its a limitation of a one sensor system. And when the coolant level drops below the sensors immersion point then its accuracy is compromised. Unfortunately the circumstances that can cause this can happen relatively suddenly and will little warning. E.g. a sharp object pierces a hose etc. while driving. The "bump" might be so little as to go un-noticed. But they are thankfully rare.

Not sure about Steev's specifics and sorry to read about it :(

3/1000 over warpage limit :?: Get it resurfaced and checked for cracks :!: But if you missed the overheat such that the engine oil smells burnt then save your money for an engine replacement (used would be a good value).

Yah if resurfacing is an option they'll tell you that they won't guarantee emissions or future problems, but if they do the job otherwise correctly the odds of such failure are slight.

HTH! :)
 

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Before I post all of my 2 cents, I would like a brief history on what hapened with the insight from "steev".

John has it right on the money. The temp. sensor goes "weird" when it trys to read a temperature from air instead of coolant.

Like Rick said, anything over 6 bars, you had better check and see what the malfunction is.
 

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The sad fact is that this is true for nearly any car made within the last 20 years. If the typical driver saw the wild swings in temperature even during normal driving, they would make a bee-line back to the dealer for unneeded warranty work. So like almost everything else in the driving experience, most of the gauges have been dumbed down with a huge amount of added hysteresis (delay, damping). This keeps the "needle" at the "normal" position under almost any circumstance, but causes it to fly up to the top when you are in the engine damage zone.

Indeed, the Insight's gauge is no different. During warmup, it immediately flies up to normal temp (I forget the exact temp... it's about 184 degrees). According to OBD-II, it can get over 200 degrees before the temp gauge moves. This is normal.

The Insight, like most new cars, has a VERY specific coolant bleed procedure which MUST be followed when it is changed. If this is not followed, air pockets will form and create hot-spots. If a pocket forms around the temp sender, then the gauge will read low and you'll never know that you're burning up your cylinder head (which is where the pockets will sit).

For a while I've been planning to add a bunch of real gauges (oil pressure, oil temp, intake air temp, coolant temp and voltage), but have not got around to it yet due to the annoyance in adding the oil temp/pressure senders, as well as the water temp sender.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
details on engine overheating

Here is the play-by-play:
On the way back from a routine trip to Poughkeepsie, NY on CT route 4, we hit severe weather on the back roads over the Berkshires. Driving rain, 50 mph gales force winds. To top it off, as we were climbing on CT rt 4 towards Cornwall Bridge, the de-fogger failed to work. It was dark, about 7 pm, and I noticed that the engine of my 2000 Honda Insight Hybrid was neither charging, or getting any energy assist. I did not notice any other warning lights or excessive readings on any of the gauges. I assumed that the moisture had got into the electronics somehow and was fouling the works (the engine was running rough at this point). I looked for a place to safely pull off the road - there were none - until after about 10 miles, at the Junction of CT routes 4 & 7, a Citgo station. Once there, I called AAA for a tow. It was going to be at least 1.5 hours. After about half an hour, my brother Mike and I pushed the car to the gas pump area which was covered. I thought maybe a fuse was blown, and I checked the fuses, the lights. Everything looked fine. Then I remembered that I had just put in some gas in Poughkeepsie. Thinking that perhaps it was bad gas, causing the car to act up, I topped it off with the highest premium grade gas. I tried to start the engine. After a couple attempts, it did start up. Again, everything looked fine. I did not notice any other warning lights or excessive readings on any of the gauges. I left the engine idling while I went back in to cancel the tow call. Mike and I got back into the car, drove 100 yds, to a stop sign. The engine was still running rough, so I then turned around and headed back to the Citgo: the engine temp gauge indicated that the engine was now hot! I went back in and renewed the tow call with AAA. This time it would be a 2 hr wait.

Mike and I had some food, and sat around. I read in the car manual that the hot engine might be due to low radiator fluid. I waited until the engine had cooled, then opened the radiator, noted I could not see any fluid, but that it was wet. I topped it off with some pre-mixed fluid, and started the car up again. All the indications were that the car was OK. I did not notice any other warning lights or excessive readings on any of the gauges, that the car was running a little rough. Again Mike & I drove it off about 100 yards to the stop sign. But the car was running so rough; I drove back to the Citgo and waited for the tow.

The evidence to date shows that some road debris was kicked up in the storm and drove a hole into the radiator. However, apparently the engine overheated and warped the head. The engine will have to be replaced.

The repairs will cost between $3500 and $5500 (depending on whether new parts are used). The Torrington, CT Honda Service Dept has found a used engine & transmission with about 35K miles in MA.

What would my insurance cover? Alison (the claims agent on Team “A” at State Farm (SF)) maintain that had I just left the car at the Citgo station and waited for the tow, then they would had covered all the damage to the radiator and if any, to the engine. She maintained that all the damage to the engine occurred when I drove it from the Citgo station the two times I "tested" the condition of the car. Therefore, that damage is my responsibility. They will cover the cost of replacing the radiator only. I maintain that any damage that I may have caused during those two brief "test drives" would be minor compared to the damage driving the approximately 10 miles to find a safe place to pull over.

Later, my Agent Curtis Boyd called and told me that SF had changed their position:
Now they maintain that I should have stopped the car at the first sign of engine trouble. They are now saying that I should stop the car where it is unsafe to do so – an illegal maneuver – and risk a rear-end collision, and potentially serious bodily harm to me and my passenger.

I submit that I did everything that was safe and reasonable to minimize the damage to the car, me & my passenger, and due diligence in troubleshooting the matter to minimize costs to all parties. Therefore, under the stated conditions, SF should make good on the agreements of our binding insurance contract and pay for the damage to the engine.

Timeline:
23 Dec 05 Loss occurred. Vehicle towed to Torrington Honda.
24 Dec 05 Called into Torrington Honda, Got the machine. Left a message.
25-26 Dec 05 Torrington Honda closed.
27 Dec 05 Spoke to Torrington Honda mechanic “Bob” or “Bill” and explained the condition surrounding the loss.
28 Dec 05 Spoke to Torrington Honda. Bob said that the radiator needs to be replaced.
29 Dec 05 After radiator was installed, and the car was “test-driven”, Bill said that the engine was damaged. Gave me a worse case cost. At this point, I felt it was worthy of a claim. Called in the claim to State Farm.

I guess this is a general complaint against both State Farm & Honda.

Steev
 

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Thanks for the summary, but it looks by your timeline it hasn't happened yet. :p

Unfortunately the type of damage you experienced is of the catastrophic variety. If it had happened under better weather conditions then you would have seen other warnings.

Be "mad" at Honda if you must, but be aware _ANY_ other make or model (AFAIK) would have failed in a similar (no warning) way given the same conditions that you detail. :(

And Yup :!: the hole had to be plugged (replace the radiator) before the cooling system could be pressure checked for a blown head gasket.

Sounds like your going to need an attorney. Good luck :!: :roll:
 

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bad cooling system design

Steev,

sorry to hear about your problem! That is a painful experience. Thanks for sharing it with us so we can be on the lookout!

This sounds to me as the worst case consequence of a bad cooling system design! I see two problems that are not unique to the Insight, but as others pointed out common with modern engines:
-coolant temperature sensor location
The sensor is not located in the hottest part of the engine. Consequently, when collant level is too low (or entirely gone), it won't read the engine block temperature, but the air at it's particular location.
-air pockets in coolant system
The intuitive emergency response, as you did it, is to open the radiator cap and fill it with coolant. However, this is not enough and will leave the top half of the engine coolant jacket filled with air. While the pump may now be able to get some coolant circulation going, the air pockets will cause cooling to be non-uniform at the least and that can lead to defects as you experience. All the wile the temp sensor might be reading a reasonable temperature, because it might not be in the hot air pocket, but normal temperature coolant.

The only protection is to carefully check coolant level and properly "burp" the system regularly. Something that I expect very few people to actually do! (I don't do it myself).
 

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It's not really even the sensor location. It's more in the design/programming of the gauge. If the sensor location was in the hottest part of the engine, and the coolant began to boil, the sensor would read very low as steam surrounded the element. The problem all goes back to the manufacturer not wanting to provide the driver with real information on their engine, presumably because most of the public is too lazy/stupid to deal with it.

For example, the RX-8 looks like it has a real oil pressure gauge. Yet there is no oil pressure sender on the engine, only a switch! The PCM "fakes" the oil pressure signal to that gauge. When you start the car, you see the gauge slowly rise to the middle. The gauge is just getting a slowly rising voltage from the PCM. That's a pretty dirty trick.

The Insight is no different in that the gauge is programmed to show a wide temperature variance as "normal" as to not frighten a driver who doesn't know how to properly read a gauge (ie. most of them). At least the Insight has a real temp gauge. The last Toyota Echo I drove had only two gauges: speed and fuel. Though you did get a blue warning "Engine Cold" light on startup...
 

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If the temp gauge ever rises above 6 ticks and you can't shut it off right away, turn on the heater full blast. If coolant is still flowing, your heater will act like a small radiator and help cool the engine.
 

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Most stock temperature gauges are set so they have a non-linear response to temperature. It has to get pretty hot before they register any change. My advice would be to pull to the side of the road and stop if there is any unusual temperature indication at all. Remember how many bars you usually have, for comparison.
 

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Here is something funky that I just discovered. In the shop manual section on Climate Control (A/C) there's a description of how you can check some of the related sensors. You hold down AUTO and MODE while turning on the key, and the A/C display flashes between two numbers. Press the rear window defogger (leftmost) button to advance to the next sensor.

The first number is the sensor:
1 = in car temp
2 = outside temp
3 = sun sensor
4 = engine coolant tmperature
5 = evaporator temp
6 = air mix opening %
7 = vent temp out
8 = something about the fan
9 = vehicle speed

For the temperature sensors the reading is in degrees C. If a sensor is disconnected or shorted, it displays "Er".

This all makes sense, but with my car sitting cold in the garage, all the sensors read about 10 degrees C, or 50 F, which is about right. EXCEPT for the coolant temp, which reads 5 degrees C, about 40 F. I'm surprised at the difference, although this sensor is operating in a more harsh environment (the engine block) and might not be as accurate.

What do others see?
 
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