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Old 09-20-2011, 04:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Buying a used 2000-2006 Honda Insight: What problems to watch for



Someone asked me recently if I could advise him on what things to watch out for while shopping for a used Insight.

(When I discovered my 2000 Insight sitting on a used car lot out in the countryside back in April, I fired off the exact same question to EcoModder member Robert Smalls - urgent! )

Seems a thread on the subject would be useful for future reference. These cars are finding their way into the hands of more and more EcoModders, since they're coming down in price, and may need electrical / mechanical attention. (Both being characteristics that appeal to forum members!)

Other first generation Insight owners: feel free to make suggestions and I'll expand this post.


Summary:
  1. IMA hybrid battery pack condition
  2. Catalytic converter
  3. Driveability issues in lean burn from clogged EGR
  4. Corroded drivetrain-to-chassis ground straps
  5. Weak 12 volt battery problems
  6. Manual transmission problems
  7. CVT judder
  8. Missing original equipment (tires/aero panels)
  9. Other corrosion points (fuel/brake lines)
  10. Cracked engine mount
  11. Rear shock absorbers
  12. Misc

------

1) Obviously: IMA hybrid battery pack condition

Expect it to die at about the ~10 year mark, if it hasn't been replaced yet.

It will last that long if used every day. It will die a lot sooner if the car sits unused for an extended period.

If it is dead or ailing, there are several options that shouldn't scare the ecomodding type away (if the price is right, of course): You can refurbish one yourself; have it rebuilt; buy & install a used one; or buy new.

Consider buying a grid charger to extend high voltage battery life, see 99mpg.com

Or you can just drive the car with a dead pack (with IMA disabled), as I have been doing. You can still get phenomenal fuel economy, with some operational oddities.


------

2) Catalytic converter

If the cat code is lit, it could be an $1,200 (US) problem (new), or ~800 used depending on availability of used parts. Can be rebuilt for ~$300-400.

Heat shields rust and rattle on both cats... use stainless hose clamps.


------

3) Driveability issues in lean burn from clogged EGR

A jerky low-load engine hesitation seems somewhat common on older, high km/miles cars. The EGR valve & manifold can clog, and results in engine bucking when transitioning into lean burn, or when throttle position is changed while already in lean burn.

Many owners have resolved this simply by disassembling & cleaning the EGR system (manifold and/or valve).

If you've never driven a lean burn Honda engine before, you may find the lean burn transitions a little unsettling until you get used to it.

------


4) Corroded drivetrain-to-chassis ground straps/cables


This can prevent the car's "back up" 12 volt engine starter from working, and other IMA issues & random dashboard lights to pop up.

Most of the time, the ICE is started via the hybrid motor/generator. But the 12v starter is occasionally summoned by the car's computer, depending on ambient temperature, or if the hybrid functions are manually disabled (via the IMA - Integrated Motor Assist - ON/OFF switch).

The cables/straps corrode internally. There are 3 to replace: two cables under the air filter, plus the battery ground cable.

------

5) Weak 12 volt battery

Make sure the 12v battery is in good shape; the car really does not exercise it very well. An ailing 12v battery will cause issues similar to the ground strap problems.

A dying 12v will not necessarily be obvious, since the engine is normally started using the IMA motor & high voltage battery.


------

6) Manual transmission problems

Synchros: Second gear synchro is a weak point. You'll know if these are worn if the car won't shift smoothly, and/or "grinds" when shifting (especially when shifting quickly, and/or when the transmission is cold).

Input shaft bearing: symptom is a low growling sound in first or reverse gears under power. Noise goes away in higher gears or if you turn up the radio.

------


7) CVT (continuously variable transmission) judder

CVT tranny has "judder" issues caused by dirty fluid, if you are lucky. CVT fluid is pricy and requires a lot for a flush. CVT clutch pack is a less likely the issue, but more easily fixed.

------


8)
Missing original equipment (tires/aero panels)

LRR tires: Does it have Bridgestone Potenza RE92's, in size 165/65/r14, with good tread? Insight owners swear by the fuel economy benefits of these Insight-specific low rolling resistance tires. You will want them on your car.

Aerodynamic underbody panels: Is the full suit of panels there? Maybe not - some may have been torn off, or not replaced after being removed for service. But a coroplast DIY set is at least as good -- if not better -- than original equipment.

------


9) Other corrosion points (fuel/brake lines)

The unibody and some suspension components may be made from corrosion-resistant aluminum, but there is steel used in various places that will rust and cause problems.

The fuel line on the pasenger side firewall has a rust problem at the anchor point. (The smell of gas when running the fan is a tip off.)

Brake lines also need to be watched in rusty climes, and fluid should be changed ~ 3yrs.

------

10) Cracked engine mount

Bottom center motor mount will be cracked with age. Replacement is ~$75.

------

11) Rear shock absorbers

Rear shocks are big$$$, can be replaced with Monroes and and little engineering.


------

12) Misc
  • Driver's "auto down" power window switch is fragile, handle with care.
  • Oil pan (magnesium) drain threads are FRAGILE. Instal Fumoto F106N quick drain. Use torque wrench.
  • OEM Seat covers are crap. Go aftermarket, Wetoakies, COSTCO, etc.
  • Lube window channels every fall with Shin Etsu or equal.
  • Leaks in the A to B pillar trim over both doors will cause mold & musty smell - wet seatbelt/floor.
  • Engine coolant fill is another thing that must be done correctly, or no cabin heat.

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Old 09-20-2011, 04:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Old 09-20-2011, 04:59 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Hopefully some other first gen. Insight owners chime in. I'm an Insight noob!
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Fuel line on pasenger side firewall has a rust problem at the anchor point. The smell of gas when running the fan is a tip off.

Brake lines need an eyeballing in rusty climes, and fluid should be changed ~ 3yrs.

EGR and its mainfold need cleaning if low rpm jerking presents itself.

Auto down window switch is fragile, handle with care.

Oil pan (magnesium) drain threads are VERY FRAGILE. Install Fumoto F106N quick drain, torque to 25 ft/lbs.

OEM Seat covers are crap. Go aftermarket, Wet Oakies, COSTCO, etc.

Consider buying a grid charger to extend HV battery life ($???), see 99mpg.com

Cats (~$1,200+ new) can be rebuilt for ~ $3-400, about as much as a dealer installed LAF O2 sensor, (5 wire (2000 & 2001 are picky and hard to get) Bosch aftermarket available for ~ $175). Mufflers and pipes are bulletproof, but heat shields rust and rattle on both cats... use stainless hose clamps m'friend.

Lube window channels every fall with Shin Etsu or equal.

Tires Bridgestone RE92's 165/65/14 best by far for mileage, at 50psi. Inner & outer edges will wear at this pressure (looks like an underinflated tire presentation), WHY...damned if anyone knows.

Bottom center motor mount will be cracked with age. Replace ~$75.

Rear shocks are big$$$, can be replaced with Monroes and and little engineering.

Tranny ISB is a low growling sound in first or reverse under power. Goes away in higher gears or if you turn up the radio. Second gear syncros a weak point.

Last edited by silverinsight2; 09-22-2011 at 07:24 AM..
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Old 09-21-2011, 09:43 PM   #5 (permalink)
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silverinsight - thanks for those additional points. Will add to post 1.
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Old 09-22-2011, 05:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Forgot about the wet seatbelt/damp floor issue, caused by leaks in the A to B
pillar trim over both doors . Will cause mold & musty smell. PITA to fix.

CVT tranny as "judder" issues caused by dirty fluid, if you are lucky. CVT fluid is pricy and requires a lot for a flush. CVT clutch pack is a less likey issue and more easily fixed.

The bad ground cables are more likely to cause IMA issues & random dashboard lights to pop than 12 volt starter issues. Two cables under the airfilter and the battery ground cable which corrodes internally.

Make sure the 12v battery is in good shape, the car really does not exercise it very well. Will cause issues similar to the ground strap problems.

Use 0w20 or 5W20 oil, 2.5 quarts, don't overfill.

Coolant fill is another PITA that must be done correctly, or no cabin heat.

The HV battery may last ~10 years, if used everyday. It will die a lot sooner if the car sat on a dealers lot for an extended period.
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Old 09-22-2011, 05:16 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Looking at a favorite web site, AutoBeYours, I see they have at least one first generation Insights ready for rebuild. I don't know their terms and conditions but they have a good reputation.

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Old 09-23-2011, 02:02 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Updated the first post - again, thanks.
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Old 10-23-2011, 12:58 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks for the check list! Everything checks out but I do have the transmission judder, hopefully it's just the starting clutch but ill change the fluid anyways.
BTW how do I get the condition of the batteries checked? Maybe I'll just take it into honda for the service.
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Old 11-10-2011, 11:32 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The four buttons in the instrument pod ( -, +, Trip, & km-mph) get corroded and/or dirty. While pushing in on the button, move your finger in a north-south and then east west manner. Do this 30-40 times and it will clean the micro film on the switch contacts. Throw in an occasional circular motion. Works.

If you have low mpg's, check the alignment especially 'toe' setting. Should be set as close to zero as possible.

OEM carpets are petrified peach fuzz, you will wear a 'heel hole' into the floorboards. Use good mats.

Ignition coils rust in salty climates, paint the coil laminations to extend service life.

Hatch electrical switch can have expensive mechanical issues, but usually can still be opened with key. Cheaper hatch struts ARE available. Honda struts are $$$.


Last edited by silverinsight2; 11-11-2011 at 05:54 PM..
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