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Discussion Starter #1
I changed the oil for the first time (second oil change, but I let Honda do the first one) on the Thanksgiving weekend. Dad noticed a slight smear of oil down the side of the engine block (passenger side) and on doing a search here, I thought I had the same problem as Atheos (link)

So, I called Honda Waterloo and took my Insight in this morning. As of this moment, they're diagnosing it as a head gasket problem - apparently they found evidence of leaking on both sides of the engine - and they've called the Honda Support line for instructions on how to proceed (they want to know what sort of evidence Honda HQ is going to require - photos, etc.).

The car is drivable right now, they'll call me back in a few days when they have parts & instructions from HQ. I was told that I might smell a bit of burning oil, but beyond that driving it shouldn't cause me problems until they get it fixed.

Gah. I'm not happy about this. My Insight's barely over 12000km. *sniff*
I suspect I didn't get ripped off when I bought the extended warranty.

Anyone have any similar news they'd like to share with me?

I'll update on my case when I have more details.
 

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wow. Given your symptoms I would have first investigated that as a Valve Cover gasket leak. Usually a head gasket leaks between the combustion chamber and coolant galley, resulting in milky looking oil. if you were to look at a cross section of the engine, OIL is not on the outer edge of the headgasket!! If it is leaking oil from one of the galleys, it would probably only leak at one point. The fact that it is leaking on both sides further encourages me to think 'Valve Cover gasket'.

i would be very very wary of an eager mechanic who wants to tear into your 'high tech' engine. Try replacing the VC gasket first and torqueing to to SPEC, not a inch/lb over.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hrm. Interesting - thanks PlaneJob.

I'll grill them about how they came to this conclusion - or at least try to. I figured a valve was a lot more probable (the simple answer is probably the right one :) ) but I'm not enough of a car person to know for sure.
 

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I'd also want a more technically precise diagnosis _before_ such a semi-major repair, even if it's under a warranty.

There are UV florescent dyes that are available for difficult to isolate engine oil leaks. The dye glows under UV light making tracing the source of a leak easier. Simply add the dye, usually only a couple of ounces. Put the car on a lift if needed and with the engine running frequently check for dye traces using the black light.

The seam between the cylinder head and the engine block (sealed by the head gasket) can act like a gutter and cause oil to track from one side of the engine to the other *without* it being the source of the leak.

HTH! :)
 

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I'd think twice before assuming the head gasket. I have the same leak (and have noticed many other Insights do as well) and it is clearly the valve cover. Head gasket problems would normally result in coolant leaking into the cylinders and very obvious performance problems. Also, burning oil makes obvious smoke and soot, which will quickly clog your catalytic converters....

Best thing to do is use a MILD degreaser and brush to clean up the engine, then go for a low speed drive of about 30KM. Then pop the hood and look for your leak.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Aaron Cake said:
I have the same leak (and have noticed many other Insights do as well) and it is clearly the valve cover.
So what do I do if it is the valve cover?
Replace it? Clean it?

How many other Insights have you seen/heard about with this problem, guys?

Seriously, if this is a wide-spread problem, Honda should be told that it's NOT just me.

Gah. Why would they diagnose a big problem if it's a little one? It's not like I'm the only Insight they deal with at this dealership, so I'd think the nifty factor would have worn off by now. I don't want to accuse them of ripping me off, but I don't really want to get hosed either.

All of this over 2Tbsp of oil. Hrumph.
 

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Did the dealership clean the oil leak and get a better ideal of were its coming from. The other insighter's above agree.

You can try it yourself. Get some good engine cleaner. I like Simple Green foam. With a cool engine spray the foam. Use a light bristle brush and clean the area. Wash the area with clean water and let dry. Once dry start the car and look for a leak. If you don't see a leak. Drive the car for a real short distance. Use a clean paper towel and run it along the area of the leak. If no leak repeat until your locate the leak.
 

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<replied inline>

>So what do I do if it is the valve
>cover?
>Replace it? Clean it?

_If_ its the valve cover gasket - replace it

>How many other Insights have you
>seen/heard about with this
>problem, guys?


I am only familiar with two IRW (in the real world). And as far as I remember I have not seen another head gasket failure reported here, or in other Insight groups.

<snip>

>Gah. Why would they diagnose a big problem if it's a little one?

<snip>

AS I wrote earlier further diagnosis may be required. If you wanted an off the cuff assessment then a head gasket is within the realm of possibility.

>All of this over 2Tbsp of oil. Hrumph.

AH HA! The key!

2 Tbs. _barely_ qualifies as a "leak". Seepage, yes. With potential for worsening. But with such small traces and the very light weight oil used in the Insight the old methods of look and see simply aren't as reliable.
 

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I have heard via this forum and the mailing list of 3 other cars with this leak. Another local owner seems to have it as well. I just happened to stop by the dealership and saw an Insight in for service, so I checked it out. Counting my car and yours, that's 6. Valve cover gasket leaks are very common. Frankly, piston engines are so complicated that I'm surprised they don't leak from everywhere...Anyway...

If it's just the gasket, replace the gasket. Valve cover might be warped, but a little attention with a hammer and flat piece of steel will fix it. And sealer should be used on the new gasket. Not a big job. I have not actually "worked" on my Insight's engine, but I wouldn't hesitate to do this job in my driveway.
 

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opal said:
Gah. Why would they diagnose a big problem if it's a little one? <snip> All of this over 2Tbsp of oil. Hrumph.
I hate to say it, but they might have never been planning to replace the headgaket - they might have told you that and told Honda that (I am not aware of the internal procedures here) and just replaced the VC gasket. I am quite sure a headgasket pays substantially more to the dealership that a VC gasket.
 

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For those who are thinking the insight has a cork type valve cover gasket, your wrong. The Insight has a rubber type gasket, kinda like an rubber o-ring.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I called Waterloo Honda and asked for an explaination of how they reached the conclusion of head gasket. The tech I deal with was very nice about it - I half expected defensive and the conversation wasn't. Bodes well for my continued relationship with my Honda dealership.

They're basing their diagnosis on where the oil is coming from (and hopefully I haven't mangled what the tech told me too badly):

(1) it's not close enough to any of the three major gaskets to be any of them (gravity ruling out two of the three, and a 4" gap between the leak and the top seal ruling out the third.)

(2) They are replacing that valve cover gasket when they do the work as a just in case to counter it being overly compressed and causing another leak.

(3) He mentioned the idea of a warped valve cover as an initial option, too, but again it's ruled out.

(4) He described the problem as a "sweat" of oil rather than a leak

You're right Insightful Trekker, it's not moving enough oil that a wash and quick drive is going to show much, if any, results. That's good, in that the car isn't puking oil, but it's also bad in that it's harder to diagnose the problem.

Apparently Honda has not had this problem reported before for the Insight, or so they've told my tech: they gave the green light for the work and they want pictures, etc. for the files.

The dealership says they should have parts next week. I'm tempted to ask for a copy of the photos/report they send to Honda HQ.
 

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<replied Inline>

<snip>

You're right Insightful Trekker, it's not moving enough oil that a wash and quick drive is going to show much, if any, results. That's good, in that the car isn't puking oil, but it's also bad in that it's harder to diagnose the problem.

Agreed. That's why the dye system is required for diagnosis of such "leaks."



Apparently Honda has not had this problem reported before for the Insight, or so they've told my tech: they gave the green light for the work and they want pictures, etc. for the files.

It's part of a QA program that many manufacturers now use. And it helps keep the dealer on their toes. e.g. mis-diagnosis.



The dealership says they should have parts next week. I'm tempted to ask for a copy of the photos/report they send to Honda HQ.

Won't be different than your RO with pics. ;) (and you already know what it looks like.) :)


My greatest concern is that you are dangerously close to the old adage; "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
If such a "leak" is really going to get that bad simply _wait_ for the problem to more clearly present itself.
A quick look through the Insight service manual doesn't reveal any clear contradictions to the current diagnosis. And its really impossible to tell without a first hand inspection. But there are o-rings that are very close to this seam. And such a small leak's source is also very unlikely to be revealed upon disassembly.
Although if the head gasket is at fault the area around the timing chain or the area around the oil pressure feed are the most likely.

Please keep us posted here! :))
 

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I wonder if it is a pvc valve

I wonder if the pvc valve is stuck closed? I had a Mercury with that and it blew out all of the external oil seals.

You might try swapping it out, as it is a relatively cheap part, or at least it is for most cars.

If it is a head gasket, that sounds like it could be an engine/engine head warpage, at which point I think you'd want a new engine.

It could also be that the person that filled the oil at the dealer or factory spilled oil everywhere.
 
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Hi Opal:

___This is probably not the case but as another possibility, a few 3.5 L Acura MDX engines have been replaced because of a problem known as a “Porous block”? The symptoms leading to the replacements are small unexplainable leaks (at non-junction points) from the block itself that just weep (sweating is a good term). I hope this is not the case in your situation given the entire engine is replaced as a fix. You can read a more in depth explanation from a thread entitled: Oh No, an 03 Touring + X with a new engine headed its way.

___Good Luck

___Wayne R. Gerdes
___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.
___[email:38pi1k9g][email protected][/email:38pi1k9g]
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Well, the Insight went in for the "head gasket" procedure on Monday. The dealership loaned me a Civic sedan (on Empty, I might add) while they were working on my car.

Tuesday afternoon rolls around with no work, so I called the dealership to find out if the car's ready. They tell me that everything is fine, that the problem was a "glue" seal inside the engine (a silicone seal/gasket - please exuse the vagueness, the notes are at the office, not that the dealership was horribly clear to begin with), and that the parts are back from the machine shop - however, they'll need another day because they don't have time to get the engine back together on Tuesday.

Fine. Wednesday afternoon rolls around and I call again. Whoops, they found some additional seals that they forgot to order. Might be Thursday, might be Friday - depends on when the parts show up.

Thursday the power is out for 2.5 hours in north Waterloo, so I don't even bother calling. I highly doubt they'll have the car ready.

Friday they call and say she's ready to go.
Price for Honda to fix the car, ~$500. I don't want to know how much it would have been if it was the head gasket.

This was an eye-opener for me in many ways:

(1) Take time estimates with a grain of salt

(2) It's "normal" for a dealership to give you a car on empty (so they say, anyway)

(3) Civics, while acknowledged to be economical, have nothing on an Insight. 1/2 of fuel in a Civic sedan = 150 km. 1/2 fuel in my Insight = 400 km. (I knew this, but it's not until it was right in my face that I had it really sink in.)

(4) They DON'T give you status updates when the deadline shifts. (hrumph!)

But hey, I have my Insight back. And do I ever appreciate my little car!
 

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<reply inline>

opal wrote:

<snip>

> I don't want to know how much it would have been if it was the head gasket.

So the headgasket was found to be not at fault??

> This was an eye-opener for me in many ways:

> (1) Take time estimates with a grain of salt

True for more complex repairs and especially true for a car as unique as the Insight

>(2) It's "normal" for a dealership to give you a car on empty (so
> they say, anyway)

I'd bet you'd never guess what point on the fuel gauge such loaner cars would be returned in. <end sarcasm>

<snip>

> (4) They DON'T give you status updates when the deadline shifts.
> (hrumph!)

Definitely a valid point. The standard of the industry is to under promise then over deliver. And when such time mistakes are made you should have been notified. But especially with the Insight an under promise (ohh it'll take about a week) will almost always be received with dissatisfaction. A no win situation.

From an owners point of view its to our advantage to be less time critical and let the tech do his job at a pace he is competent to meet.

> But hey, I have my Insight back. And do I ever appreciate my
> little car!

I hope you can translate the actual cause and repair of your problem. Head gasket? (most certainly replaced) but it sounds like some of the other nearby gaskets / o-rings may have been involved. More than likely we will never know for sure. And as I wrote earlier in this thread, something not easily found without advanced diagnostics and or disassembly. :)

All the best for your future with your Insight! :)
 

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This is the same treatment almost every mechanic will give a customer. Add to it that the repair is rarely done properly. This is the major reason that no one touches my cars but me...It really sounds like they spent some serious time on the car that you are not being billed for. Strange, since the Insight engine looks pretty straightforward.
 
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