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Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/22/12 11:47 a.m.

A girl that I know has decided that she needs a used Honda Element. I know almost nothing about these things, other than they are odd looking and mechanically similar to a CRV. Anything specific that we need to look out for?

MCarp22 HalfDork
9/22/12 12:04 p.m.

CRV : Civic :: Element : Accord

bastomatic Dork
9/22/12 12:11 p.m.

Does she have anything that would need to go in the back seat? Make sure she practices putting things in and out of those clamshell doors - they are awkward to use, especially in tight parking lots.

The AWD system doesn't work very well so for MPG and price purposes I would go with a front wheel drive. They're not great for gas mileage in general due to the box shape. Expect about 20-22 mpg mixed with an auto.

The only trouble spot I see repeatedly is the rear brake calipers like to stick after a few years and need rebuilt or replaced. That's a pretty inexpensive part though.

bastomatic Dork
9/22/12 12:13 p.m.

Also, the hard plastic flooring on these is very conducive to groceries sliding their way all over the damn place. Harbor freight sells collapsable car trunk organizers that fit three across perfectly behind the rear seats.

integraguy UltraDork
9/22/12 3:06 p.m.

I could be wrong, but I believe the Element is based on the Civic, not the Accord as one poster (seems?) to be implying.

I always thought these were built in Japan until I found out a few weeks ago that I was wrong...they are built in the U.S.

Try to get an '06 or newer as ABS became standard on both trim levels that year...until then, ABS was an EX model exclusive. How to tell a EX from a NON-EX? EXs and their "equivalents" (example: the SC model) ALWAYS had factory alloy wheels. DX models (is there an Element LX?) had "steelies".

Head protection airbags became standard in '07. (Not sure if it was available before then...don't think so).

Being a woman, I suppose she doesn't care for a manual transmission, but after a certain point (08 or "09 model year?) Elements were automatic only.

Flight Service
Flight Service SuperDork
9/22/12 3:22 p.m.

If you want a GRM project get a 5 speed and look up the 6 speed conversion. Apparently about $200 in parts from a tsx jumps the mpg into the low 30s

CarKid1989 SuperDork
9/22/12 3:39 p.m.
Flight Service wrote: If you want a GRM project get a 5 speed and look up the 6 speed conversion. Apparently about $200 in parts from a tsx jumps the mpg into the low 30s

You sure? that sounds too good to be true

OHSCrifle GRM+ Memberand New Reader
9/22/12 3:57 p.m.

vehicles in your (enormous) blind spot.

Osterkraut UltraDork
9/22/12 4:19 p.m.
CarKid1989 wrote:
Flight Service wrote: If you want a GRM project get a 5 speed and look up the 6 speed conversion. Apparently about $200 in parts from a tsx jumps the mpg into the low 30s
You sure? that sounds too good to be true

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/22/12 5:23 p.m.

$168.30 in parts (plus some trans fluid) and a transmission rebuild, anyhow :)

bastomatic Dork
9/22/12 7:03 p.m.

And the guys I know with the 6 speed conversion report 25-28 mpg.

I managed to get 22-25 mpg mixed in my AWD manual trans Element. I didn't love it as much as I thought I would. The Mazda5 I replaced it with is in every aspect a better vehicle. I suspect a CR-V or RAV is better as well.

Ottawa GRM+ Memberand New Reader
9/22/12 9:34 p.m.

Good Day Woody,

Well I guess I'm the closest thing to an Element expert, as I own two of them right now. I own three dogs, the largest is 130lbs of hair, Elements make the greatest dog vehicles since the high roof means no blocked visibility when they stand and the totally flat floor with removable seats means room for them to lie down and no carpet or upholstery to get mucked up. If you aren't a dog owner not sure what the attraction would be, but here are a baker's dozen other things of note in no particular order:

1) Basic honda appliance means reliability and not thrill of driving

2) Proper tailgate/liftgate combo means you can lug full sized sofas and long lumber with the tailgate down, unlike with a swing door CRV (this is very useful)

3) If hauling dogs advise her to buy some custom plastic mattes for the floors

4) Buy one with side airbags, mine is a 2005 EX and has these but double check year/trim

5) Later 2008+ had revised seatbelts in the seats not in the doors, this is a better approach for rear ingress

6) These are not good if you constantly have rear passengers as the front passenger needs to open their door first (clamshell)

7) They are shorter than a Honda Civic making them easy to park in cities

8) AWD more likely to have mechanical issues and those models had a rear sunroof thing that leaks if not looked after

9) Water repellent fabric for all seats in higher trim models, only front seats in lower trim models

10) Unpainted plastic quarter panels look crappy but are great for not needing repairs (treat them like an older Series Landrover)

11) Decent ground clearance is good for bad winters or potholed streets

12) Remember there are only four seats, can't fit a fifth person

13) Buy those little convex mirrors to reduce blindspots of having seats folded up

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/22/12 9:53 p.m.

Thanks Ottowa.

If anybody else is looking for one of these things, I found this breakdown from the eCamper people to be pretty helpful.


bastomatic Dork
9/22/12 10:22 p.m.

Oh, and the seat fabric tears very easily - most will show significant wear on the driver's side bolster. Covers are not recommended either due to the in-seat airbags that many models have.

Flight Service
Flight Service SuperDork
9/22/12 11:40 p.m.
Osterkraut wrote:
CarKid1989 wrote:
Flight Service wrote: If you want a GRM project get a 5 speed and look up the 6 speed conversion. Apparently about $200 in parts from a tsx jumps the mpg into the low 30s
You sure? that sounds too good to be true

I knew my late night car forum browsing was worth something!!!! Got the number right too!

BAMF HalfDork
9/23/12 8:29 a.m.

I know a couple folks with motor scooters who have them. The beautiful thing is that you can fit a pair of vintage Vespas or Lambrettas in them, if you fold the seats up.

The only other people I've known with them used them for dogs. However, I can see them being useful if you need the ability to carry 4 people sometimes, and large cube like objects other times.

That's cool that you can turn the 5 speed into a 6 speed. It would be awesome to put a TSX engine into one.

emodspitfire Reader
9/23/12 8:49 a.m.

We drove from Boulder to Steamboat several years ago in Blizzard/whiteout conditions most of the way. Our AWD Element, with near-new tires, is the best winter vehicle I have ever driven. The car has excellent grip, good balance, and no bad manners. I am still surprised at how good it is in those conditions. (Cause its so boring otherwise....)


CarKid1989 SuperDork
9/23/12 1:18 p.m.

more i read about these cars the more i like em. cool stuff

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/23/12 3:37 p.m.

I can tell you from personal experience that some people get testy if you call their Element a minivan

My experience with them is just in driving around in Ottawa's, and I can confirm that they're definitely smaller and more wieldy in town than you might think. I'm also a fan of bumpers that are either chrome steel or unpainted plastic, as then they act like bumpers instead of protruding body panels.

Slyp_Dawg HalfDork
9/23/12 8:22 p.m.

A LOT of my mountain biker/dowhiller friends have them, they seem really great for that, especially being able to wash out your gear on the interior floor with a garden hose

Mazdax605 Dork
9/23/12 11:07 p.m.

I have a friend at work who has I think maybe an 04 AWD model. He bought it new,and loves it. Swears by the AWD system, but I doubt he would really notice if it didn't have it. Seems to need valve adjustments an awful lot as his won't start or is a hard start from time to time,and he has to get the valves adjusted to fix it. Engine seems pretty noisy to me. Seems to go through brakes quite often as well, but maybe he is just anal about the brakes. Gets pretty crappy mileage as well from what he says. Probably due to the brick-like aerodynamics.

mightymike New Reader
9/24/12 6:29 a.m.

I like this one:

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/24/12 7:29 a.m.

I'm a huge eCamper fan. There's one in my neighborhood.


stumpmj Dork
9/24/12 8:08 a.m.

My wife has a 2004 AWD auto. Here's what's gone wrong after 160k miles:

Sway bar end links. They braek. You'll need a grinder to remove the old ones. Just plan on replacing all four. Moog replacements are cheap

Motor mounts. They seem to last about 125k miles.

That's it. It's been super reliable for us. I just replaced a ball joint boot and CV joint boot that were cut from my wife driving through corn fields for her summer job so I'm not counting those as failures. I also replaced the original front brake pads/rotors. They still had some life left but at 160000 miles, I figured they'd served their time (rear brakes don't last nearly that long).

MPG wise, stay away from ethanol. We were averaging 16-18 with 10% ethanol gas and that jumped to 20-22 on no ethanol gas. Changing the rear diff fluid to new Honda fluid bumped it up to 25 mpg (it doesn't make sense but that's what happened).

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/24/12 10:39 a.m.

Now that my friend is looking for one, I'm starting to see them everywhere. I actually prefer the look of the early ones, but the extra ten horsepower and fifth gear (auto) of the later ones probably make a big difference on these things.

Incidentally, inside mountain bike transport is the prime directive of this particular vehicle choice. It seems perfect for that.

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