Piston Slap: The Balding Accord?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the balding accord
Ann writes:

Last fall we purchased for my son a 2003 Honda Accord with 78K. When we had it inspected the mechanic pointed out that a few of the fins on the condenser were missing, but the radiator seemed to be working fine so he didn’t think it was a problem worth worrying about. Well, shortly after we purchased the car my son had an accident which pulled off the bumper. He has been driving this winter with no bumper, thus exposing the condenser. When he finally took the car in to the body shop they noticed that ALL of the fins are now missing. He said he’d never seen anything like this, no explanation for why they had begun to fail in the first place and continued to drop off. He checked the radiator fluids and took the car for a ride and said as far as he can tell the radiator and condenser seem to be working fine, and to reduce the expense of repairs he doesn’t think we need to replace either but that if we were going to do the work at some point now would be the time. Obviously the fins are there for a purpose. Should we place the condenser since we’ve got the car open doing the other bodywork? Is there any reason we should replace the radiator at this point too? It seems to be working fine.

This is my son’s car and he doesn’t have enough $ to pay for the repairs so we are helping out. We’re looking for ways to keep costs down but I don’t want to do anything foolish.

Your advice would be appreciated.

Sajeev Answers:

Well, that’s a new one for me! Who knew Hondas shed cooling fins like male pattern baldness?

Apparently you aren’t the only one with this problem, even if yours is much worse given your lack of a front bumper. Yes you should replace condenser, if you live in an area where air conditioning is more than just a luxury. The fins maximize the efficiency of the system, as the extra surface area helps cool down the refrigerant as it circulates through the system.

The (engine) radiator? Hopefully all the fins are there, but if not, that absolutely needs to be replaced: you might save a bit in labor with the bumper removed. Or not. But still…this shouldn’t happen, even with your bumperless Accord. Hopefully your Accord just came with poorly constructed parts, and the replacements are fortified with plenty of Rogaine.

Fingers crossed on that.

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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2 of 15 comments
  • Angus McClure Angus McClure on Nov 05, 2012

    I am not certain what the tubes in a car condenser are made of. If they are aluminum like the fins, it's just a matter of time. Right now it is less efficient. I am a licensed AC Mechanic (residential) and I can tell you that in a home you are putting the entire system in a bad way. In a car I suspect you are not but you will lose a load of refrigerant. Easy enough to fix.

  • Russycle Russycle on Nov 06, 2012

    Unless it's insanely difficult to replace the radiator on an Accord, I wouldn't replace it. Should have plenty of life in it yet, and on most cars it's an easy job. I don't think I'd worry about the condensor either. If the AC does fail, you can fix it then, it's not like it will leave you stranded. Just sweaty.

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