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Dec 7, 2003

I have not posted to this forum in many a year, since I turned tail and fled my 1950 Nash Statesman thread who knows how long ago. In my defense, it would appear that car spent time in a river and has changed hands on Craigslist at least two more times since.... You know, this car:

No, this thread is about a much newer car. In about a week, it will have been 10 years since I bought my Honda Element. A particularly quirky car about as awesome as an Aztec... errrr... wait, no. Way more awesome than an Aztec, though targetted at the same audience; dorks who sleep in cars. I mean go camping. Something like that. It was a completely utilitarian purchase. I could sleep in it, and it could hold my camping and photography gear. Perfect.

But then again, I did think it looked cool, too. All shiny and silver.

Nevermind the fact that since then it's been recalled, like, a dozen times. Or that it was discontinued three years later.

For the past 10 years, it's chugged along. But it's beginning to show its age. It's been used mostly as a daily driver, but I push it, sometimes, in pursuit of my photo passion. So it's gone offroad, on established trails. Made an eventful trip to the Arctic Circle with my kids in tow where the wildlife seemed suicidal and the gas stations were mysteriously closed (always carry extra!).

Signs of age include; drivers side door electric lock doesn't respond to key-fob input, passenger side door electric lock locks randomly, check engine light goes on and off, eats oil like crazy, random rattles, passenger side headlight burns out twice as fast as driver side, crack in bumper next to passenger side headlight, many scratches in paint, a few gouges in plastic bits. Overall, still in great condition, I just wanna fix these random, mostly electrical, headaches.

The Element has proven to be a handy and fairly capable car. I have only gotten it stuck once, and that was in a wet spring, driving through my in-laws yard to get to our bee hives:

But most of the trails I've taken it on, it has come through like a champ. I'm not gonna be competing with any Jeeps, but the dry streambeds and rocky trails I've done fine on.

Oh, and there's a side project, of course!

My mother gave me and my wife this Coleman pop-up since she no longer wanted it and didn't want to go through the trouble of selling it. It's been sitting for several years. While I'm a bit leery of a trailer made by the same company that makes coolers, I own a car by the same people who make lawnmowers, so I really don't have much room to complain. Plus it was free! She has noted that it appears to have a propane leak, and a bit of a leak if it rains. That, and it's crazy dirty.

When I hooked it up to my car, none of the lights work. I'm not sure if that goes back to the electric issues in the Element, or if the trailer has electric issues (or both!) We'll find out in the course of this project, I suppose.

Not sure of the frequency of posts. I'm currently self(un)-employed, and out doing photo projects. Of course, the Element will be with me, barring any unforeseen breakdowns. I won't be taking the pop-up anywhere until I figure out its electric and gas line problems.


May 15, 2004

Psst -- Wanna buy

some high-quality thread's DESTROYED!

This thread has possibilities. I like Elements, not many that old in the US have fully painted side panels... did you do that? Or is it some kind of Canananada thing?

Oct 15, 2005

You shared it with a dick.

Cybernetic Crumb

Elements are great. A buddy of mine has one that he bought back in 03 or 04 and the only real downside to it is gas mileage, it doesn't do normal Honda high 30s. It's like 20-22 mpg. But we road tripped it from Portland to Denver right after he got it and it was super roomy for 4 dudes over 6' tall and our luggage. And we also took it up Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, and like you say it took it like a champ.

As for the gremlins, find whichever local junkyard gets these and go hunting for parts. You can practice taking things apart there and if you break them nobody really cares. Also Youtube these days has millions of dudes doing repairs and recording it for internet glory and overall DIY help. Also find out which other Hondas share parts, those door locks are probably common to Rav4s and/or other large Hondas of the same generation. I know the drivetrain will be.

And of course, we're all here to help too. Good luck!

LloydDobler fucked around with this message at 17:37 on Jun 16, 2019

Dagen H
Mar 19, 2009


FuzzyBuddha posted:

Way more awesome than an Aztec

I feel attacked

I wanted an Element, wasn't gonna happen. Subscribed.

Dec 7, 2003

meatpimp posted:

[...] not many that old in the US have fully painted side panels... did you do that? Or is it some kind of Canananada thing?

I'm in Alaska, which is close enough, I s'pose. As far as I'm aware the 2008 - 2011 models were a solid color.

Dagen H posted:

I feel attacked

There is only love here.

But the important thing here is, which can hold more of the essentials?

Applebees Appetizer
Jan 23, 2006

I would highly recommend a transmission cooler for towing that camper. Upgrading the brakes if you can wouldn't be a bad idea either, and hopefully the camper has electric brakes as well that's a huge help.

I had a camper about the same size, towed it with a Jeep Cherokee 6cyl, and fully loaded with people and gear it struggled to the point it would over heat. Hopefully your Honda is up to the task, good luck!

Mar 26, 2010

I had a 2004 Element for several years. It was the most useful car I ever owned. Looking forward to seeing what you do with this.

Dec 7, 2003

Today was mostly more poking about the Element to see what else needs work. I've added the following to the list:

  • Weatherstripping around all doors needs replacing
  • Need to pinpoint the source of oil leak
  • Replace the front windshield (lol... every car in this state needs this...)
  • Rear utility power not working (yay, more electric issues.)
  • Determine the cause of intermittent Check Engine light
  • Rust check! Nicks in paint introducing rust in places.

Rust is not a major issue. I don't know if it's just a Fairbanks thing, or a statewide thing, but salt isn't used on the roads, from what I can tell. Neither is sand. Just lots and lots of gravel. There are at least 20 chips in my front window and a number of growing cracks.

Today we packed into the car to visit and inspect our bee hives. The hives are all located on my in-law's land. I kinda hit the jackpot in terms of in-laws. They are the coolest, mellowest people I know. They've let us keep hives at the back of their property for the past several years, despite my wife's step-dad being freakishly afraid of bees. We only have four hives this year, but they seem to be doing well.

Sarah, my wife, uses the honey and wax for her home business. I just dig watching the bees. It's weirdly relaxing.

One of the fun things about visiting the in-laws is they have a huge yard, and their friends often store vehicles there. You never really know what you might come across. This recently showed up:

An old Peterbilt. I don't know much about big trucks like these, so can't say much about it. I do know that this isn't usually on 'em.

Sure there's a story there, but I have no idea. Behind the Peterbilt is an ancient camper van of some sort under a blue tarp.

You are also not a true Alaskan unless you have a snow plow.

It should be noted that I'm only an Alaskan by proxy, as I do have ACCESS to a snow plow, but don't own one myself. I believe there's a small boat under the tarp behind the truck.

Finally, there's a lonely, and in need of much love, VW Westfalia, sitting there.

I'm tempted to inquire more about that one, as it's sitting there with expired registration and making a tempting restoration project.

Anyway, time to go. But can't leave without a photo of the Element.

Dec 7, 2003

Another post with pictures. I love pictures! (Crappy iPhone pictures!)

Let's have a look at some of the issues with this car. I'll start with the most embarrassing example of my stubbornness (and forgetfulness). Shortly after I purchased the Element, I had a bit of an accident. Such a small one, I didn't even realize it had happened. I was driving down the expressway when a box blew out of the back of a truck. It blew off the side of the road, and then, just as I was about to pass it, it blew back into my path. I heard a thud, but not much else, and kept driving. It was just a cardboard box. Whatevs...

Call up insurance, learn there's a mistake in my paperwork and a missing signature. Basically, for the first month or so of new car ownership, I'm uninsured. And nobody bothered to let me know. *sigh* Stubbornness kicks in, everything is perfectly functional, and we get to today, where I've lived with this for the life of the car. Moral of the story: double check all paperwork. Oh, and don't run into cardboard, it will wreck your poo poo.

You'll also notice in that photo some panel gap. While this thing doesn't exactly have the tightest panels ever, I suspect that impact may also have bent something. Additionally, given its proximity to the headlight that burns out way to fast, I'm wondering if it messed with the wiring/headlight housing. Maybe water is getting in there, or something shorts it out.

Ok, now how bad is that windshield? Just a few chips, maybe a crack?

I'll be honest. I've seen much worse, but two of the cracks moved into my field of vision last winter, with one right at the road line. As I said, the borough uses gravel on everything. Icy roads? Gravel it. Just snowed? More gravel. Snows melting? EVEN MORE GRAVEL. Now add in that half the people don't know how to drive on ice, and you get people pressing hard on the gas 'cause they're not going anywhere on a green light, and you got projectiles launching from their tires.

VTEC just kicked .... errrm, no. I can't do it. Somewhere in here is an oil leak. A small one, but a leak none the less. I shall track it down.

Oh so dirty. But for reference, this is the Element LX, with a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic transmission. It's not that exciting, and not altogether powerful either, so the comment about a transmission cooler is likely on target.

This ridiculously boring photo of my cars rear end shows the extent to anything aftermarket. A tow package I installed several years ago.

So far the only thing it's been used for has been hauling Sarah's old car out of ditches when it got stuck. Apparently, Dodge Caravans, while popular, suck on icy hills and couldn't get out of our driveway most of the winter. She has since moved to a Subaru Forester which works much better.

Finally, meet Ninja Girl (never let an 8-year old name a dog), who will likely show up frequently, as she thinks any time I do anything with my car, I should be taking her for a ride. She would like you to stare at her butt for some reason. She is a chihuahua-somethinorother mix and is much larger than we were expecting. Her favorite things are licking faces and farting. Her dislikes include birds and the neighbor's german shepherd.

Dec 7, 2003

A bit of an update. Our landlord has decided to sell the house we've been renting for several years, so any cash dedicated to the car is now dedicated to buying a new home (no more friggin' renting...)

But, who cares! Pictures! That's what these threads are about...

So, right now, pretty much everything around Fairbanks is burning down. Smoke is filling the Tanana Valley, and life is pretty much crap, 'cause smoke and heat (yeah, it can get hot here) combined, suck rear end. That and it's covering the car with ash.

Decided to take a trip to get away from the smoke, so headed down to Denali Park. The goal was to get some wildlife photos. I had heard that a lot of caribou were hanging out around the Savage River bridge, the point that unless you have a permit to continue, the road ends. It's a gorgeous area with plenty of hiking. Of course, by the time I get down there, I can't spot a caribou anywhere. But what's this?

I'll take that! Bears are frequent visitors in the park. You can often spot them along the park road. However, with the number of people who walk these trails during the summer, I wasn't going to count on my luck.

Not a bear... Way friendly. I'm guessing tourists had been feeding it.

Also not a bear. Monkshood, or wolfsbane. Don't, like, eat this.

Still not a bear... maybe.

Getting my rear end kicked on the whole wildlife front, and then my camera craps out. F0? What the hell? Something screwy with the lens mount. There's a number of pins that have to make connections and it's loose. Sigh. More things to fix.

Parting shot of the Savage River.

Also, I like my cameras like I like my cars. Boxy!

Anyway, trip over. No big critter photos. Caribou that were there one day were gone the next. No bears. Just ground squirrels and marmots. But for a brief moment, I was away from all the smoke. Now just have to contemplate a move, fixing a car, and apparently a camera lens. Back to the smoke...

Oct 9, 2003

Gimme Gimme Swedish Fish...

Fallen Rib

Which Nikon?

Dec 7, 2003

D750. Pretty sure the issue is that the lens seems to be slightly loose. If I wiggle it just right, I can adjust the aperture and the display shows the proper settings. The lens is the Sigma DG 120-400mm. It's long and heavy and I suspect that over the years it has bent its mount points.

Oct 9, 2003

Gimme Gimme Swedish Fish...

Fallen Rib

Very likely. The body should be ok, the F mount is pretty robust.

Olympic Mathlete
Feb 25, 2011

FuzzyBuddha posted:

Finally, meet Ninja Girl (never let an 8-year old name a dog)

I think only kids should be allowed to name pets, sir.

Dec 7, 2003

Olympic Mathlete posted:

I think only kids should be allowed to name pets, sir.

There is nothing "ninja" about this dog.

I've always said, that if Alaska is in the news, it's either 'cause someone has done something embarrassing, or we're leaking oil somewhere. I guess I can add wildfire to that list. The largest fire in the United States right now is the Hess Creek Fire, which has so far burned nearly 300 square miles. There are currently twice as many fires (40) burning in Alaska than the rest of the country (19). Many of them near Fairbanks.

The result? Well, I'm not getting anything done on this car. Right now, the air quality index is in the mid-200s, or "Very Unhealthy". Yesterday it spiked over 500. I'm pretty much staying in the house. Well, except to take this photo of the sun.

So, for today, we get a bit of history on the Honda Element, and how not to design a car.

The Honda Element was introduced in 2003, which I think is also the same year (or a year after) the Honda Pilot. This is important to remember. Also in Honda's utility vehicle lineup at the time of the Element's introduction was the CR-V, in production since 1995, and the HR-V (a subcompact SUV), in production since 1998. Of all these vehicles, on the Element is no longer in production (though in fairness, the HR-V was out of production for a bit sometime in the middle of all that.)

Now, Honda has a decent reputation for reliable vehicles, and I regularly see ancient Hondas still on the road. The Element was no different. It used the Honda K24 engine, a similar engine to those in vehicles from the Accord to the Odyssey. The drivetrain, while certainly not impressive (mine seems to hate a couple of local hills...), was solid. The AWD has saved my rear end a few times on our winter roads.

So why did all of those other cars succeed, and the Element tanked - going from nearly 70,000 units sold in 2003 to less than 15,000 by 2010? In a word: Marketing. Honda envisioned the Element filling a niche market. Specifically, physically active college-age kids. All marketing was geared towards this group, to the exclusion of others. The 2003 Honda Element brochure provides some highlights.

And you got ads like this:

Oh, and this awesome one (not awesome):

The problem was, this narrow marketing focus left out a lot of people who likely would have been interested, had they had more information. To use the day I bought mine as a totally non-representative non-scientific example - when I went into my local dealership in 2008, there were three of us looking at the Element, none of us in the target market. I was a dude in my late 30s, another was a 60-something coworker of my wife, and the third was some giant dude of indeterminate age. We each purchased one that day.

These days, it seems the Element has a bit of a cult following, particularly in Alaska, where I still see them all over the place. A good resource, the Honda Element Owners Club, boasts nearly 70,000 members. Rumors (more likely wishful thinking) constantly flies that Honda will eventually bring it back, perhaps as a hybrid.

Because of this community of Element enthusiasts, aftermarket parts still seem pretty easy to find, which is good, as I'll need to replace a few things on mine, particularly that broken front bumper panel.

Anyway, that's enough for now. I'm gonna move to a room that has a better air filter in it, now. I'll leave you with one shot of my car, just to get some hippy cred...

FuzzyBuddha fucked around with this message at 04:28 on Jul 10, 2019

Jan 1, 2008

High Energy, Good Feeling!

It's interesting, because the Element was panned by youth, but in the "partially disabled 60+ with a service dog" contingent that my parents ran with, it was massively popular, even seducing traditional American and German car buyers away, it seemed to seduce the type of people that used to drive VW vans back in the day, a box of infinite utility, easy for an overweight older man with a bum knee to get into. Unfortunately that's a limited demographic, and the Element lasts for the rest of their natural lives.

Gay Nudist Dad
Dec 12, 2006

asshole on a scooter

There are tons of Elements around Seattle still, and considering how many camper-converted Sprinters and roof-and-bike-rack-equipped Transit Connects I see around here I almost think the Element was just a little ahead of its time.


Dec 7, 2003

S'pose it's time for an update. After Sarah's aunt and uncle announced they planned on selling the house we were renting, we kicked searching for a new place into overdrive. We knew we wouldn't be able to afford the place after they put it on the market. Her uncle intended to try and get $400K for it which is waaaaaay more than it's worth (the guy that rented the other side of the duplex got it appraised as soon as they announced they were going to sell it.) Not having a boatload of cash ourselves (Sarah and I both made the move to self-employment in the past couple of years and are still getting everything going) we opted to purchase a mobile home - knowing it would be a serious step down in space.

Since I'm a sucker for photos, we'll tell the rest of this story with pics! Here's the old place. Gonna miss it.

Around 2500 square feet, we were both able to have our spaces for our businesses. Sarah makes artisan soaps using the wax and honey from our bees. I'm a photographer. It'll be a trip getting used to the smaller space. I'm down a darkroom, and Sarah's soapmaking will now take place in our new kitchen.

Pretty much as soon they announced they were going to sell this place, people I didn't know started coming and going; appraisers, engineers, potential buyers, repair people. Our driveway was super busy, with cars coming and going all the freaking time. Came out one day to see this on our popup camper.

Zero - the number of people who would take any sort of responsibility. It's insured. Whatever. But seriously, you break something, take some responsibility, people. >

During this time, the local fires continued, though the smoke got considerably better. Near the end of July, I believe we were still the number one state for forest fires. A park about 20 miles further down the road was closed when fires came through there. The Shovel Creek fire, the largest one near Fairbanks continued to grow.

A friend described it as the lion-headed mermaid fire. I was thinking narwhal.

To get sorta back to the Element, between moving we took a break to check the bees. This is what the Element was made for.

Sarah, my step-son Vincent, and Sarah's mom. Vincent is not a fan of the bees. He's not afraid of them, he just thinks there's a better use of our time, like playing Minecraft. Sarah's mom lets us use here land for the hives.

Back to the whole moving thing. Our new place is a mobile home, originally built in 1971, so you can expect it to have some issues. Which is fine, I've never shied away from a fixer-upper. The previous owner was a carpenter and built a kickass old western-style shed.

The house has a few issues I'm going to fix next summer. I'll redo the siding (vinyl siding is a poor choice for a place that gets this cold) and a few flooring areas aren't even.

A better look at the awesome shed.

The shed is currently home to the majority of our stuff. Eventually, it should become a nice workshop. It currently doesn't have electricity, but I'm planning on having a chat with an electrician about that. The guy that built it made it seriously solid. Could probably insulate it and have a year-round workspace.

The last thing I hauled from the old place was a load of trash consisting of old motor oil, scrap wood and old, broken beehive supplies. On my way to the dumpsite, some idiot pulled out in front of me, making me slam the brakes. This sent the wood into the containers of oil and broke some of the old, rotten hives (which also housed a sizable population of old, dead bees.) After clearing everything out, this is the current state of my car. So dirty, so gross.

Those indentations where the rear seats latch are full of dead bees and oil. That's gonna be fun to clean. My shopvac is going be gross.

Let's finish off this update with some cute. Apparently, this area is full of semi-feral rabbits. They like the Element.

There are a ton of these rabbits, but those two seem to like our place the most. They hide under my car and under the shed.

And I can't have a post without the dog. The previous owner of this place left a decorative pillow. Ninja has claimed it and it is her new favorite thing. No one else is allowed to use it.

Anyway, that's all for now. With the move complete, I might actually have time to get to work cleaning up and fixing things on the Element. Getting the dead bee/oil slurry out of my car is a priority!

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