Although I hadn’t originally intended to tackle this topic in two parts, it seems that the responses received fairly demanded it. In all fairness, I do agree that the text didn’t support the title theme to the extent necessary. So without any further ado, on to Part Two!
There are those times when some truths seem so apparent, one would think they would be that apparent to others. Of course, that isn’t always the case; which is why historical eyewitness reporting often results in a very different accounting of events. That isn’t to say that every report is necessarily “the truth”, even if there is that conviction on the individual reporter’s part.
Since this is an editorial column, I really can freely spout off opinions on any subject without ANY level of objectivity, if I’m so inclined. But that’s not the way I roll, which is why I think this site is a very appropriate place for my postings.
That being said, I’m going to provide some additional evidence to support my statements in (what can now be considered) Part One.
It’s not my intent to turn this into some sort of an unsolicited testimonial for the Honda Motor Company; in fact, I’m making a conscious effort to avoid this sort of thing in ANY of my entries. Nevertheless, I have to call it as I see it—and I certainly did have an excellent vantage point, with my hands-on experience on many different vehicles from the period that is the basis for our dialogue.
When I consider what other manufacturers were producing during this period, I am not experiencing any warm and fuzzy feelings about spending time under their hoods.
Carburetors—ANY carburetor—from this period were generally just appalling, for the most part: The Blue Oval’s Feedback Variable Venturi, The General’s CCC, The Five-Point-Star’s Feedback Holley-Weber, to name a few. All a distant memory, thank the Car God’s! Yes, the European use of the Continuous Injection System was one of the bright spots, having replaced their by-and-large hideous emission carburetors preceding it.
But the Honda’s CVCC carburetor was really a REVELATION! It’s basic design didn’t change fundamentally from its introduction all the way until the end of the CVCC engine’s run. Yes, there was the 1983 CVCC Prelude—a one year only offering—with its dual sidedraft carbs, but otherwise we techs had only one design to familiarize ourselves with.
Honda never went to any sort of feedback mixture control variant (the feedback control they later added was an air-bleed system outside of the carb), or any other technology that made servicing the carb more difficult and expensive.
Techs could service the carburetor on-car; Honda even provided what they called an “On-Car Repair Kit”, containing all of the essentials for performing this service. It was a very rare occurrence that this carb had to be removed for repair. I NEVER had occasion to actually be required to replace one! There were a couple of instances where, if going by the factory recommendations in the service manual, I SHOULD have replaced the unit, but having a deeper grasp of the actual engineering and principles of operation, I was able to make a viable repair, instead.
Yes, it’s true that these carbs did have an “Achilles Heel” in the form of what seemed to be rather expendable floats (they had two, one for the main chambers and one for the auxiliary chamber). I think the failures might have had something to do with the changing fuel formulas of the time. At any rate, they eventually got it right. The shops I worked for at the time gave reduced rates for the float replacement procedure; and we didn’t mind, because it was so easy for us to do.
Some techs complained about the degree of difficulty involved in the removal of the air cleaner assembly for this procedure, but compared to some other imported cars of the day, I didn’t find it that big of a deal.
Regarding the CVCC cylinder head servicing, when it came to the servicing of the Auxiliary Valve / Prechamber unit, us full-time Honda techs didn’t have a problem with it, either. Throughout the years, we could do what we called a Prechamber Overhaul with pretty much the same minimal set of special tools. There weren’t a bunch of new additions required with each successive model year.
Some complained about the frequency of headgasket problems with these engines, but as far as I could tell, poor design was a factor on only the earliest models. Otherwise, headgasket failure was just collateral damage inflicted by some other cause: loss of coolant through some cause other than the headgasket itself, poor owner maintenance (failed thermostats, radiator fan switches, broken water pump belts, failed water pumps—usually due to over-tightened belts or poor coolant maintenance, etc.).
It’s also true that, on earlier models, Honda engineers had the radiator fan switch supplying the high-amperage current to the motor—which did cause rather premature failure of the switch. I engineered a relay system where the switch only controlled the low-amperage current in the relay solenoid circuit, resulting in big-time longevity for these otherwise overloaded switches.
Regarding the vacuum system on the CVCC engines: yes, they did get quite complicated on later models, but I found them to be very reliable, and not really that difficult to service. Often, serious difficulty was almost always caused by a previous encounter with an inept and impatient “tech”.
The underhood vacuum schematics were very easy to follow, and the hoses were numbered and color-coded, not to mention the fact that they were made out of an incredibly durable rubber compound.
Savvy techs made it a point to only remove hoses for other service when absolutely necessary—an then using the right technique to avoid damaging the hoses, steel tubing or components. We generally left everything connected when removing cylinder heads. The whole removed assemblage of head, manifolds, carb and vacuum system was still relatively light, so again, it was no big deal to do it this way.
I could go on and on with more reasons why it was a real pleasure working on these cars during this period (did I mention that—along with the Catalytic Converter—there was no EGR system to deal with until the early ‘80’s, too?), but I’m hoping my point has been defined and clarified a bit better than at the end of the first part.
Other car companies may have had the ability to do what Honda did, but only Honda actually DID it, for which I’m very grateful, indeed.
Phil ran a successful independent repair shop on the West Coast for close to 20 years, working over a decade before that at both dealer and independent repair shops. He is presently semi-retired from the business of auto repair, but still keeps his hand in things as a consultant and in his personal garage.