Solving Automotive Performance Issues
If your Honda has OE wires on it, leave them alone. In all the years I’ve worked on Hondas, I’ve very rarely seen any issues with Honda ignition wires, even at very high mileage. I’ve seen plenty of issues with aftermarket wires. So if you’re doing a tune-up and you have Honda wires on your engine, skip replacing them and save yourself some money.
In addition, Hondas don’t like aftermarket spark plugs. Use NGK or Nippon Denso plugs only! I’ve seen several issues with aftermarket plugs in Honda engines, so stick with the OE and avoid this trouble. In addition, it seems that anytime a Honda has an ignition-related issue, the tendency is to just replace the distributor sub assembly.
Admittedly, Honda distributors do have issues, but not nearly the issues the aftermarket distributor sub assemblies have. My inbox is full of people stating that they’ve replaced their Honda’s distributor sub assembly only to find they now have other issues as a result, most notably cam and crank sensor codes, and sometimes even a no-start condition caused by faulty cam and crank sensors. The cam and crank sensors for many Honda engines are located inside the distributor sub assembly.
Stick with OE ignition parts for your Honda and avoid these issues. It’s frustrating to see people with the best of intentions trying to tune up or service a performance issue on a Honda using aftermarket parts. I will say that a good substitute for Honda wires are NGK wires. Those are the only aftermarket wires I’ll stand behind for Honda vehicles. For everything else, you’re on your own.
It isn’t just Honda vehicles that are so picky about the parts you use. I know many of you are trying to save money by purchasing aftermarket parts, but to be honest, they don’t always work out. In some cases they even cause more problems than they fix.
If you do go aftermarket, get the best quality you can afford; you’ll thank yourself later. Putting cheap aftermarket parts on your vehicle is like playing Russian roulette. You can really mess things up and make the problem you were trying to fix worse in some cases.
I’m not saying all aftermarket parts are bad; in fact, some of them are the OE (original equipment) supplier, so what you’re getting is an OE part without the dealer markup. With a little research, you might be able to find the original supplier for your vehicle’s parts. If so, this would be your best aftermarket option. Some aftermarket parts, however, are just cheap knockoffs of the originals. With these, you often get in the door cheap, but it’s not long until they fail and you’re right back where you started. Remember, your repair might only be as good as the parts you use, so be sure to use the best parts you can get your hands on, aftermarket or otherwise.
A lack of spark is not the only thing that can cause a performance issue. Fuel delivery is equally important. Fuel and air are your engine’s sustenance. Fuel combines with oxygen to create combustion. Not enough fuel, or too much fuel, can upset this process and cause performance issues. All fuel-injected engines are dependent on their fuel pressure. Sometimes a difference of just two or three PSI can cause an engine to run poorly or not at all. If you suspect a fuel problem, the first step is to check the fuel pressure itself. To do this, you’ll need to get your hands on a fuel pressure tester.
Getting your hands on a gauge is just the first step; hooking it up to your engine can be where it gets interesting. There are more hookups to different engines than I can count, so be sure you have the proper adapters for your vehicle so you can hook the gauge up. If you can’t hook the fuel pressure gauge up to your fuel system, you’re wasting your time.
The next step is to know what the pressure is actually supposed to be when you check it. This information can be found in the service manual, but I’ve also seen books that come with some fuel pressure test kits that provide this information.
Now that you’ve hooked up your gauge and have the proper adapter and pressure specs, what next? There are a couple of readings that can give you a good idea of how the fuel delivery system is operating. The first is just a general fuel pressure test while the engine is running. Start the engine, observe the reading, and compare it to your spec. It’s okay if it’s off a couple of pounds; in fact, this is normal. I know I said that some systems are sensitive enough to have performance issues at just a three PSI drop, but in my experience it’s rare to get the exact number I’m looking for when taking a fuel pressure reading. This might be due to how the gauge calibrated. If it’s low, try pinching off the return line to the tank for a few seconds and see what the reading is. If it spikes, this is a good sign and shows that the system is capable of producing more pressure if it needs to. If you don’t see a spike in pressure, your fuel pump might not be capable of putting out enough volume and you might have found the source of your performance problem.
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