By on December 31, 2012

Ronald writes:

Sajeev,

I’ve been lurking TTAC for a few years now and I really enjoy visiting the site every day. I think I’ve learned quite a bit about how to get the most out of my cars. Here’s my most recent car issue: I recently inherited a 2004 Honda Accord EX-V6 with an automatic transmission. It was purchased new and only has about 44K miles on it.

The problem is this – it hasn’t moved in 4 years. It was in good condition before and was being driven daily. However, when the owner passed away, it was transferred to someone who doesn’t drive and that person left it sitting in a garage for 4 years until I got it.

Traditionally, I have not been very hands-on in my car care, but am starting to take baby steps into fixing things myself. My current ride is a 2004 Acura TSX 6-speed manual that I bought new and currently has about 150K miles on it. Aside from a few cosmetic issues, the car runs perfectly and has been reliable so far. I also love driving the TSX (especially due to the 6-speed), so until recently, I didn’t have any plans on replacing it.

So my question to you is this:

Should I -

(1) Sell the Accord as-is?
(2) Get the Accord running again and sell it? If I take this option, how much do you think it would cost to get a non-running Accord in running condition?
(3) Get the Accord running again, use it as my daily driver, and sell the TSX? How reliable of a daily driver do you think the Accord would be after sitting for so long?

Thanks in advance for your help!

Sajeev answers:

Option #1 is a non-starter…literally!  Get it?  (snort)

Since you like the TSX, maybe cash from the Accord’s sale is better for you.  It’s probably worth more to someone else! Invest the proceeds, save it for a rainy day, give it to charity, or burn it away in a Hunter S. Thompson-esque bender in Vegas…whatever man, it’s all good.

So I recommend option #2, as it probably needs very little work to be a clean and awesome ride for craigslist, AutoTrader, Edmunds, local classifieds, etc. Here’s the stuff I recommend to recondition a car like this to ensure buyer confidence and a fat profit for yourself. In no particular order:

  • Thoroughly detail inside and out, it might take a full day for a car sitting that long. Anyone can do this, and it’s very rewarding if you like to get your hands dirty.
  • New tires: they might be flat spotted and are definitely not inspiring buyer confidence if they are original with that much age/mileage.
  • New Battery: don’t forget to save the receipts!
  • New fuel filter, after you run the old gas thru the system. Or dump the old gas out, if it won’t run on what’s in the tank. You might need a mechanic for this, if you don’t trust your skills.
  • Oil Change, coolant change too.
  • If it’s an EX with leather (aren’t they all?), marinate the hides in leather conditioner.  Baby oil works in a pinch.
  • Drive for a week or so, see if anything else goes wrong. Definitely run the HVAC system and deodorize if needed.

Honestly, given the low mileage and late-model status of this Honda, I don’t think it’ll need anything else!  If outdoor storage, rat infestation, etc are mitigating circumstances we aren’t aware of, perhaps option #1 isn’t a bad idea.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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28 Comments on “Piston Slap: An Accord Awakening?...”


  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    You failed to mention the first thing that normally happens to a vehicle when sitting for a long time like this. Unless he lives in an extremely dry climate the rotors are probably rusted and one or more of the calipers could be seized. They can often be unstuck by cleaning the rust from the outside edge of the piston and using a C-clamp on them.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      Good point but the age and the low miles the car, it should be fine after some gentle break tests and a bit of driving. Definitely something to watch out for, first drive though.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Owning a Honda V6 is like owning a Porsche, you have stock in an oil refinery. So much for Honda’s superior engines.

    http://townhall-talk.edmunds.com/direct/view/.f1c61ae/0

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Yup, poor design flaw on the J series with cylinder management.The J series in the Accords have shown no major oil consumption issues since 1998. Just like their V6 automatics, it doesn’t reflect on their powertrains across the board.

      The K and R series are proving to be as good as the B and D series engines they replaced. Honda is best when the cylinder count is 4 (except for the C series V6 which I believe they prematurely replaced).

      With that said, all fresh fluids goes a long way to selling the car at the price you want. People buying used won’t want to haggle as much if they know they won’t be needing to dump some additional money into it.

      Of course, now is where you’d tell us about your magical SAAB.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I haven’t seen much oil consumption on my Accord V6 or my girlfriend’s Acura TL. Mine uses about half a quart in 5000 miles with 150,000 on the odometer. I think the oil consumption problem may be related to the addition of cylinder deactivation or the extra weight of minivans and not inherent in the J series V6 engine.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      “Honda returns to the Ward’s 10 Best Engines list with two wins for powerplants in the all-new Accord: the 2.4L 4-cyl. that represents Honda’s first direct-injection engine in North America, as well as a 3.5L port-injection V-6.”
      http://wardsauto.com/vehicles-amp-technology/2013-ward-s-10-best-engines-showcase-efficiency-gains

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Does anyone besides Honda and Toyota not make a DI V6? They are so far behind…they were behind 3 years ago too!

        http://wardsauto.com/vehicles-amp-technology/gdi-dominates-ward-s-10-best-engines-list

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Direct injection is not flawless: it requires much higher fuel pressure, makes for dirtier intake valves, and the injectors are in a much harsher environment (the combustion chamber) vs. the intake ports.

        How well these systems hold up after over time is anybody’s guess, and repair/replacement costs will definitely be higher than the old throttle body systems. Honda and Toyota have a well earned reputation for engine longevity, and if they are holding off on DI systems I would be inclined to trust their judgement.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Norm,
        B*tch, b*tch, b*tch. Want to tell me what the Toyota 3.5L V6 that slings Camrys and RAV4s to 60 in ~6.5 seconds in a silky smooth manner while getting competitive fuel economy needs DI for? I care about results from an engine, not paper specs, and the Honda and Toyota 3.5s deliver it without DI. It’s like complaining that the Chevy V8s still uses pushrods. Seems to work fine in the Corvette.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        The 3.6L Pentastar V-6 does not have Direct Injection.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        But but but, people on TTAC told me that Ecoboost sucks.

  • avatar

    Moparman is right…odds are the calipers are stuck to the pistons, hopefully a lot of pushing (at the bumpers) and penetrating fluid (on the rotors) is all you need to get the system back to 100%.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    If it were me I would flat-bed the car to a good independent mechanic. Let him look it over top to bottom and recommend a course of action.

    Draining the old fuel, changing the gas filter, changing the motor oil and oil filter, inspecting the air filter, belts, exhaust, hoses, suspension, battery, brakes, transmission fluid, coolant, and replacing the tires should be on the agenda.

    That car has a rubber timing belt that will be well past its “best before” date, an expensive replacement. Look to your mechanic for a recommendation.

    I would expect him to remove the spark plugs and squirt about a teaspoonful of motor oil, some recommend automatic transmission fluid, into each cylinder and let it sit for 24-hours to ensure good start-up lubrication. He might even turn the engine a few revolutions by hand before hitting the starter.

    You’re easily into several hundred dollars without the timing belt but, if God smiles, you may finish up with a good car that’s worth more than you spent.

    • 0 avatar
      daviel

      Very excellent recs. Take it to that trusted mechanic and ask him to bring it back to life. All new fluids. New battery, new belts, brakes, tires. Tune it up. Then keep it.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Good suggestions, I’m surprised nobody’s suggested flushing the brake fluid. If it’s DOT 3, it’s definitely absorbed water over those 4 years, and even if it’s not it’s worth doing.

      Low-mileage Accords are golden in the used car market, you should easily get any money back that you put into it.

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      Great advice, I’ve revived vehicles that have sat for extended periods of time and it does require an certain amount of skill to know what to replace/fix etc. And its a pain the neck, old gas can really ruin your day. I would put a call into your local independent mechanic to get a ballpark for what he would charge. KBB is 10k for poor and 12k for excellent, I’d say if it cost you less then a grand to put in excellent condition you would come out ahead, especially since it cost you nothing. Having the shop drive it for a week is a very good idea, let them work all the bugs out.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        My 1994 Taurus wagon sat up for four years with a nearly empty tank; when they dropped the tank; it was totally rusted on the inside; took a replacement tank, float, pump, and three injectors to fix it. Something else to consider; ethanol is bad about absorbing water. Taking it to a mechanic is a good idea.

    • 0 avatar
      Mikemannn

      Replace the water pump with the timing belt. It’s not that expensive.

      A good Honda mechanic can blast a t-belt job out in an hour or so. (A great one can do it in less).

  • avatar

    What about the fourth option of getting the Accord running again and keeping it? Two cars, one of which was free(ish) is better than one car, in my book.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      If both cars are old, unrealiable beaters, then two cars are great. The TSX is reliable though, so I don’t see any benefit in having another car that is the functional equivalent sitting around. Especially when that car can bring a nice premium in the market.

      Now if the second car was a free pickup truck…

  • avatar

    Isn’t a leaky main seal a possibility with a car sitting that long?

  • avatar
    George B

    I think you have to drop the fuel tank to replace the fuel filter. I’d definitely siphon out the old fuel. Definitely replace the brake fluid and change the oil too.

    Sajeev, will the increased selling price exceed the cost of replacing parts that are old but not worn? $100 for a new battery? $500 for new tires? I’d be curious what Steve does, but I would guess that potential buyers underestimate and undervalue the cost of new replacement parts.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      With a cost basis of zero, whatever it takes to look and drive like a cherry 2004 with 44k is necessary, and after four years sitting, the battery and tires are no longer viable, no matter how little wear they had when parked. That may even go for the struts and other suspension bits. If it were mine, I’d have a mechanic perform a thorough mechanical rejuvenation to get it to drive like new, then hire a detailer to make it look like new. The bottom line is, whatever he nets over expenses is gravy.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Honda V6 automatic transmissions are not known for their longevity – get it serviced as part of its return to the road.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    The struts are probably fine. I had a set of shocks that sat in my barn since 1991, couldn’t even remember what I bought them for, but I remember when & where I got them. A buddy of mine bought an Econoline that had bad shocks, we looked at it and saw that the shocks I had would fit like a glove, so I gave them to him. He installed them and they work just fine. I’ve had many parts sit in my barn for 10-20, and probably close to 30 years. Sometimes when I eventually end up using them or giving them to someone they are normally fine. Parts often sit on shelves in auto parts stores for years before being sold if it’s not a part that people commonly buy. Parts are also known to sit at salvage yards for years before being sold. The belt & hoses are probably fine. There are muscle cars at shows that still have the original belts & hoses. The climate to which they are exposed is the major factor that determines how long they last. The tires could or could not be flat spotted. I’ve seen some develop flat spots after sitting a short time, but I’ve also seen cars that have sat much longer than 4 years and the tires were fine. It probably depends on the quality of the tire, how much air they had, whether or not they were exposed to SUV rays, etc.


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