Wow, what an awesome thread. Nice work!
Thank you! Sorry I missed your post last year
I never intended to have such a long lapse in between posts, but quite literally all my time either planning for the upcoming major maintenance or actually working on the car. Now that the season is nearing an end, I finally have time to revive this thread. Lots of changes happened in the past year. I’ll do my best to document them all in the following 3 part series.
Part I: The Teardown
After daily driving it all of last season and poking around the car, it became increasingly apparently that the car desperately needed comprehensive maintenance. Over winter, I began planning and gathering a list of all the maintenance items I wanted to complete. Kaz’s post on NSXCB
served as an invaluable resource for getting me started with a baseline. The list includes the basic things like belts, water pump/thermostat, coolant hoses, seals & gaskets, LMAs, but has since grown to around 300+ parts as I came across more things that needed replacing.
Before we get started, I wanted to highlight the absolute best NSX purchase I’ve made so far: a hard copy of the 1993 service manual. The free pdf version was a great resource, but it was prone to scanning/converting errors. And ultimately nothing beats having the book physically in your hands when you needed to flip between multiple sections quickly. It soon became my Bible. I’d read it before bed to prepare myself for the upcoming tasks. For anyone interested in working on the car themselves, I would HIGHLY recommend buying the actual book. It gave me a huge confidence boost to tackle all the work myself, and that’s coming from someone with practically zero wrenching experience.
Let’s get down to business. Given the MO of the previous owner, I sure as hell didn’t want anymore unpleasant surprises. The first step to identify ALL the problems. This means stripping the car down as much as possible to make sure I catch everything at once. And boy am I glad I did.
While I didn’t intend to remove everything in the interior, one thing led to another and it was honestly too much fun to stop. The removal process was pretty straight forward, with the exception of the heater core, which took a lot of wrestling. Just be careful not to break anything as the plastic trims can be fragile. One tip for anyone thinking of doing an interior tear down: take a lot of “before” pictures and prepare lots of ziploc bags for all the fasteners and make damn sure you label every one of them accurately -- it’ll save you a ton of headaches later (ask me how I know).
First thing that jumped out at me was that the passenger door was completely replaced at some point with a black door. I do vaguely recall the PO telling me that the right side was dented and fixed at some point, so I’ll give him credit for this one. It appears to have been repainted and installed properly, so doesn’t bother me too much, but I’m pointing this out in the interest of transparency for future owners.
Remember how the car had “SRS delete”? I knew the SRS module was removed, so I figured I’d just pop a replacement and call it a day. NOPE. 2 of the 4 torx screws used to secure the SRS module on the tunnel were completely stripped, so the PO did any sensible gentleman would do: hack off the brackets and call it good. I’d have to give him A+ for determination.
Next up was the exterior body panels. I was quite apprehensive about what I’d find because there is real potential for hidden frame or body damage. Surprisingly there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, although sadly we already set a low bar of missing crash beams and cracked fenders being ordinary. There were no signs of frame damage/repairs, and all the other body panels seem to be in good shape, which was a HUGE relief. I also peeled off the worn black vinyl over the roof, showing the repainted white roof, which I plan to paint back to berlina black. I must admit, the white was starting to grow on me...
Last but not least, it was time for the engine tear down. This is where things get messy. Strap in, folks. I wanted to complete all the engine work without dropping the engine. Partly because I didn’t have the space or equipment to properly lift the chassis, and partly to show everyone that it is not a prohibitively difficult task. This is what the engine looked like when I started. Not terrible from the surface, right?
Someone wanted to see what the wiring tuck on this car looked like. Well, here it is in all of its glory. Emissions box was removed and the internals were stuffed haphazardly:
Rear fusebox was “relocated” to the bottom of the engine bay, and driver side harness rerouted through god knows where.
Passenger side harness was rerouted and tucked under the alternator. Also, almost all of the 20+ small harness brackets were also deleted, so I had to individually hunt them all down.
One of things I noticed while taking the harness was how there were a lot of oil around the coil area. You see that nut? The rubber cap underneath that’s supposed to be there was missing, so hot engine oil had been sloshing out straight past the nut, and who knows what else had been going in. Same situation on the rear bank. BUT WAIT, there’s more! To add insult to injury, that’s a M8 nut sitting on a M6 stud. I can’t even comprehend why someone would bother with this. Perhaps it’s comic relief.
I would say by far the most dramatic part of the teardown was removing the crankshaft pulley. I had researched for weeks to prepare myself for the job. @blodi
was kind enough to lend some tools and impart some wisdom on the task. Check out the crazy breaker bar! I still couldn’t believe how much force it took to remove the pulley. Sounded like a shotgun when the bolt finally broke loose! Video here
I knew the engine was leaking since covered in oil and dirt, but I didn’t really find out until I started taking everything apart. With the crank pulley off, I was able to remove the timing covers and dig a bit deeper. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:
Check out that sweet RTV job!
Clear signs of VTEC solenoid and oil pressure sensor seal degradation
Keep in mind that normal engine parts should NOT be black
Oh, let’s not forget how the car was slammed. Kids, this is what can happen when you live the slammed lyfe. Exhibit A: the “A rod” subframe brace was scratched and bent beyond repair. Top brace is how it should look.
Exhibit B: oil pan was scratched and dented, along with the oil strainer underneath it
Exhibit C: the headers were also scratched, dented, and started rusting.
Moral of the story: just don’t do it.
PO also swapped out the OEM engine mounts with Innovate polyurethane mounts, which may not have been a bad idea considering the original mounts will crack and degrade over time. However, the new mounts required a shorter bolt since the brackets are skinnier than OEM, so you’d expect one would use the proper bolts….but you already know where this is going:
As you saw earlier, the valve covers were in pretty bad shape with the paint flaking off. Since I removed them to have them refinished and also to clean up the horrendous RTV job, I decided that I might as well install new lost motion assemblies (LMAs) while everything is apart. I removed the covers, the cam pulleys, and then finally cam caps to remove the camshafts, and that’s when my heart sank:
Journal wear. It felt like finding out the engine has cancer. This is actually not the first time that someone has documented this type of journal wear on the middle cam on the front intake camshaft. Of those two documented cases (here
), both of them have replaced their heads. Luckily, mine aren’t as nearly as severe as theirs. People have speculated that the wear was due to the way that the oil channel designed such that it was the most difficult place for oil to reach, compounded with low oil level from improper maintenance, could have caused the wear. I did clean off some black residue from the oil passage on the corresponding cam cap that may have prevented proper lubrication, hopefully that’ll prevent future wear.
After a lengthy discussion with Kaz and a few other friends who are versed in engine development, I’ve decided to use them as-is rather than swapping in new heads, but keeping a watchful eye on oil pressure and the chemical content in future oil changes. Since the engine ran perfectly fine prior to the teardown, I do not believe the damage will worsen quickly as long as oil level is properly maintained. I know this isn’t the optimal resolution, but it’s the best option I can accept at this point. Plus, if the engine really does suffer from a catastrophic failure from this in the future, it’ll give me a reason to pull ahead the end game
Another finding worth noting was that there were engine marker writings on the cam caps, cam pulley bolts, water pump bolts, pulley bolts, and under oil pump, which suggest the car did receive a major service that included timing belt/water pump and possibly valve adjustment during its lifetime. Carfax showed that the car was serviced at Pikes Peak Acura in CO back in 2002, which would roughly match the condition of the items I saw, so there’s another small ray of sunshine in this shitstorm.
Here's how the car sat for the next four and half months. Stay tuned for Part II.