By on November 19, 2014

(photo courtesy: kdeissy.files.wordpress.com)

TTAC commentator “Stuck in DC Traffic” writes:

Hello Sajeev, B&B and your evil doppelganger Sanjeev,

I have a 2004 Acura TSX 6MT with 263,000 miles on it. The car runs great, owned out right, still looks good, and is almost problem free except for an airbag light. Being that I live in the DC metro area and we are rated one of the worst places in the US for accidents, that light makes me nervous. What I want to know; is it worth getting fixed? Or for that matter is it even worth getting diagnosed?

Part of me wants to fix it as the car runs fine, it’s a great commuter and I don’t have to finance anything(read that as I’m cheap). I probably will get it diagnosed at least, but the other part of me remembers a money pit of airbag issue I had in the past. Twelve years ago I had a ’00.5 Audi A4 avant 6MT, but not in brown, that had an airbag light on. The airbag computer had shorted out and I replaced it. Then a seat sensor when out, then the other seat sensor, finally the airbag computer went again. At this point I had a dumped $2k plus into it and was told the only way to find the fault causing the airbag computer failure was to just start replacing every in the system till the issue when away. But in the mean time I could look forward to more new airbag computers while finding the fault. There was talk of replacing the entire wiring system for the airbags. Being 30 at the time, and with no kids, I didn’t think it was a big deal and I said I’ll drive without airbags, but my wife said no. The mechanic told me I should just trade the car and not even both trying to fix it. I ended up trading it because it was more cost effective than dumping money into it.

The Acura has high mileage and I add about 8k per year to it in dc traffic. It burns oil, about a quart a month as all old vtecs do. First clutch went about 135k miles, so I could be looking at another one soon. OBD 2 has told me nothing about the fault so this probably a dealer trip to figure out the issue. The car hasn’t reached hooptie money pit status yet, but it has soldered on enough in the trenches to make me think spending major money on it is just not worth it. Having kids and being in my 40’s now makes me uncomfortable just driving without airbags. SO … should I fix it, and how much would be acceptable to spend on fixing it?

Oh and for Sanjeev … yes LSxFTW would fix anything, but what about a panther wagon with a LSx …now that would be FTW.

Regards,

Stuck in DC traffic

Sanjeev answers:

Evil doppelganger? How dare you!

Look, you are a sweet person but sadly you fell for Sajeev’s pleasant-smelling yet mind-numbing bullshit.

So listen to Sanjeev! He knows that the older and wiser you, now that you have kids and are in your 40s, needs a four-cylinder, front-wheel drive, automatic CUV with leather interior. But Sanjeev recommends adding “The Gold Package” on the outside emblems. Then everyone knows you as a family man on the inside, and a classy man for everyone to appreciate on the outside.

Sajeev retorts:

CUV? Clearly a Mercury Colony Park (i.e. fully loaded Grand Marquis wagon) with LSX-FTW is perfect for your needs. They even came with a driver’s side airbag; what better way to care for your passengers than with a driver’s side airbag?

I bragged about such airbag selflessness once before, reassuring my prom date’s mother with that line…she probably totally didn’t hate me afterward!

Sanjeev says:

Driver’s side airbag jokes before prom? You are such an idiot, get to the point already!

Sajeev concludes:

Soooo anyway, it’s time for a new car.  The super-high mile Acura served its purpose and now you (and your family) deserve a safer car. Why now?

Because this Acura will reach “hooptie money pit status” the moment you fix the airbag light. It’s literally one large repair away from turning into a wallet sucking repair vortex, relative to the money spent NOW on a newer car.  We all know that older Audis (like your story) are huge money pits, but they are premature money pits.  This Acura is how all cars should “die”, so to speak.

And that time has most certainly come.

Enjoy the hunt for a 2011 long wheelbase Lincoln Town Car new machine.

Send your queries to [email protected]. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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117 Comments on “Piston Slap: An Airbag Light Away From Death?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I agree with the “time for a new car” bit, but everything else these over-caffeinated Magliozzi brothers had to say, not so much…

    “But Sanjeev recommends adding “The Gold Package” on the outside emblems.”

    (roll-eyes)

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I agree with the “time for a new car” bit, but everything else these over-caffeinated Magliozzi brothers had to say, not so much…

    “But Sanjeev recommends adding “The Gold Package” on the outs*de emblems.”

    (roll-eyes)

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Mmmmm…a desire for a long wheelbase TC is my deepest secret. A local dealer had an ’08 LWB TC sitting on its lot for a long time. It’s nose stood proud from the rest of the econo-crap on the used car lot. Every time I saw the chrome grille and hood ornament, I sang the Star Spangled Banner and used “‘Merica” in sentences for the rest of the day. Quixotically, they parked it next to a low-mile Aveo being offered for the same price for a bit. Whoever went past the TC for the Aveo made a horrible choice and is most likely a secret Communist.

    I stopped to look at it with my wife and 2 kids. The boys loved the romper room back seat, but it was of limited use since my car seats apply Hannibal Lecter-grade restraints while on the move. My wife thought it was ridiculous, so I left her there and drove away with the TC (kidding…just).

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      My neighbor has one white on white he doesn’t drive anymore so it just sits in the driveway, maybe has 40K miles on it tops. When you sit in the back seat and stretch your legs out they just touch the front.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Across the street from where my sister lives, I always spy a circa 08 Signature Limited (I think) in champagne over tan. It’s garaged, and the wife doesn’t drive it any more (she has an old Dakota) since her husband died.

        I’m just waiting to see it in the driveway for sale every time I go to her house.

        • 0 avatar
          Nick 2012

          The ’08 LWB was a SigLim in the creamy white color. It had just a hair over 100k on the clock with no history of fleet use. I think they were asking ~$7500.

          The black LWBs go for crazy money with insanely high miles.

          http://www.ebay.com/itm/Lincoln-Town-Car-4dr-Sdn-Exec-L-SEDAN-CORPORATE-LINCOLN-AIRPORT-SHUTTLE-TOWN-CAR-VIP-EXECUTIVE-/151474056011?forcerrptr=true&hash=item23448eab4b&item=151474056011&pt=US_Cars_Trucks

  • avatar
    celebrity208

    I wanna know how StuckInDCTraffic thought he’d be able to continue driving with an air-bag light on? I live in VA and I was under the impression that MD was the same in that an air-bag light will fail your car during a “safety inspection”, DC too?

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      D.C. doesn’t do safety inspections anymore, they stopped back in about 2009, smog inspections only.

      • 0 avatar
        sproc

        Technically, yes, but in reality DC still does. Things like excessive damage, bald tires, no brake lights, etc. will result in an “Unable to Test” meaning you haven’t technically failed, but they won’t let you do the smog test. I don’t believe they void your existing inspection, but you’re probably on a short clock at that point anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Stuck in DC traffic

      The light turned on a couple months after this springs inspection. MD does the check every two years. SO I have about 18 months before they catch it.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Is that written in the rules of the inspection law? In Ontario we have safety inspections on title transfer which DON’T require the airbag system to be functional. Seat belts yes, airbags no. That doesn’t stop many shops from holding the certificate hostage until you pay them to fix the restraints system.

        An unresponsive, nearly impossilbe to get ahold of Ministry of Transport does nothing to clarify or police their code when it comes to inspections, so you’re at the mercy of the mechanic’s discretion.

        • 0 avatar
          sproc

          Good point. It also matters that inspection procedures and locations vary so much state-to-state in the US (for states that HAVE inspections). In many like California and New York, they’re done by licensed private shops (where shady shops might pull the repair hostage game). In others I’ve lived in, like Louisiana or DC, they’re done at state or city inspection centers, who are assumably completely objective.

          • 0 avatar
            carguy67

            California doesn’t have safety inspections. Smog, yes, but AFAIK for smog inspections they only look for an illuminated CEL (if that, and they don’t check the ODBII readout unless a fix is attempted, if then). But, I’ve only lived here for 61 years, with up to 3 cars at times so who knows.

            The smog inspections are closely regulated. If your car fails–I’ve never had it happen–the shop can attempt a fix unless it’s ‘smog only,’ which older cars have to go to and the amount you have to spend on repair is limited.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “California doesn’t have safety inspections.”

            I can’t find the words to accurately convey my less than positive thoughts on the PRK in this case. This is about the only automotive thing I want the state to be involved with enforcing.

          • 0 avatar
            nrd515

            When I did smog tests in the late 70’s in Las Vegas, we did some repairs, but even the idiot boss I worked for realized we, and he, made more money cranking out the test tickets at $12.50 each. We got $3.50 a pop for them, he got, I think, $5.00 each, and the state $4.00. I took home one week, an even $1000, almost all of it from smog tests. I did almost 100 one day alone. The failure rate was very low for domestic and Japanese built cars, almost 100% for European cars. We sent the Mercs and BMWs to the dealer, as they would just write them up a ticket, no matter what the machine said. Funny thing, they never got any hassle from the DMV when they passed one of them, we had a close one, and they were all over us.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Does the Ministry of Transport work out of a large black office building which looks like something from Bladerunner?

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Not really that ominous. The actual building reflects their indifferent nature.

            http://goo.gl/maps/vNzoF

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            What a generic 90s shape.

          • 0 avatar
            carguy67

            re: ‘“California doesn’t have safety inspections.”

            I can’t find the words to accurately convey my less than positive thoughts on the PRK in this case. This is about the only automotive thing I want the state to be involved with enforcing.’

            I wouldn’t object, as my cars are meticulously maintained–by me–and if they did it at the same time as the smog it wouldn’t be too much bother. But, I’m a believer in the smog check as I’ve seen (and smelled) the air get better since implemented. I get pissed-off when I see an oil burner (my Healey is technically a ‘gross polluter,’ but I don’t drive it all that much, it don’t blow blue smoke (often) and the only complaint I’ve every gotten was from a tree-hugger in Oregon (talk about a ‘peoples republic’).

            Remember the days when the cat converter was going to absolutely ‘destroy performance’ (it did for a while)? Because of this abomination we can’t have 500HP+ Mustangs whose exhaust smells vaguely like a mild perfume. Oh, wait ..

      • 0 avatar
        S1L1SC

        Not saying to do this, but if you are handy and can take the dash apart, a light bulb is rather easy to pull… and should get you through inspection since quite a few of the techs don’t check if the light actually works at start-up…

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      This question couldn’t have come at a better time. The airbag light just came on my 2002 RSX Type-S, original owner, only 98k, but just starting to get a little hooptie-shabby around the edges. Fuse pull did not reset it. Runs fine, but really don’t want to throw any major money at it. Inspection (DC) is still good until July, but pretty certain the light will fail it (DMV site and the motor vehicle code are unclear).

      It’s been a great car to me, but it seems worth cashing it in as-is while it still has surprisingly high sub-100k value. Very curious to hear opinions on the original question.

      • 0 avatar
        Stuck in DC traffic

        Get it checked out. The seat belt switch on these cars are prone to failure. Honda added a lifetime warranty after a class action suit. If your lucky that’s all that is wrong and the repair is free, even gave me a loaner for 24 hours. They also didn’t charge me to tell me what else was wrong as it was under the cost of the seat belt switch.

        Chevy Chase Acura FWIW

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        My brother has ruined his RSX by driving behind semis and hitting curbs and having people back into him. It was nice and with 80k when he got it!

        So questions:

        In your area, where an airbag light will fail you – isn’t that going to discount the value on selling the car to anybody? Will it cost you just as much as fixing it? Does a dealer care that much or will they not ding you on trades?

        Can you take it to a nearby state which does NOT have that inspection to sell?

        • 0 avatar
          sproc

          Too funny. Sadly my ’93 Integra might still be on the road had my sister not treated it that same way.

          As to my case, I think it’s not just the SRS light that weighing on me, but the foreshadowing that there are other expensive things to come. It’s been maintained well enough, but the thought of putting several hundred into airbag fixes if clutch, suspension, electrical gremlins, etc. might be not too far off is not appealing. If I had the time and garage to be DIYer, maybe, but I don’t have that luxury.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I think your fix is simple, wear your seatbelts and use car seats if your children are of that age. There are untold millions of us, my children included, who rode very safely in cars before the advent of airbags.

    You can try to fix it but I don’t see the point in a car with that kind of age and mileage; it will probably (though not necessarily) be a money chase.

    One last thought, is it a “Takata” equipped model? If so, you might get a freebie fix.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    The fix could be something small and relatively inexpensive like a chafed wire causing a short or open. Or it could be something bigger like a defective airbag, clockspring, module etc. Most cheaper OBD scanners won’t pull the restraint system B codes (which often have several extensions specifically stating what type of circuit problem occurred). You’ll need to take it to someone who has the tools and experience to see what’s in the system. The dealer is one option, but there are usually independent garages that specialize in diagnosing these types of issues and have the right equipment.

    I’d say that because you took the time to write Sanjeev, this is something you are interested in fixing. Start by finding a reputable place that does electrical work and pay the diagnostic fee to get an idea of what the problem might be and base your decision on that. Be aware the average mechanic will be inclined to pound the parts most closeley related to the circuit faults, THEN diagnose a wire or connector problem which are common with modern restraints systems. Find someone who knows WTF they are doing, get an idea of what’s wrong, then decide if the investment is worth it. At the very least, you’ll know what’s up.

    • 0 avatar

      I know here in CT there are a few mobile SRS light specialists I know at least on the does a flat $45.00 diagnostic (at least a few years ago). I would call one of those guys up for a diag before I went to the dealer. One of the guys around here actually does all the SRS stuff for multiple dealers.

  • avatar
    poltergeist

    Does the seatbelt indicator in the gauge cluster turn on with the l/f seatbelt disconnected and go off with it connected? The single most common cause of a “airbag” light on in this vintage Honda/Acura is a failed switch in the seatbelt buckle. The SRS wants to know it the seatbelt is being used. The car has a lifetime seatbelt warr. so Acura should replace the buckle free of charge if that’s the issue…

    …my ’04 TSX has this issue. I just need to take it in one of these days to get it fixed…for free….

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I was going to ask the same question: an 04 with 263k and you drive 9k a year? Me thinks you are not good at math.or you only purchased the car recently or you bought from the one guy who used his Acura as a Taxi.

    I would keep the car for 18 months or so and unload when making the repair is necessary for state inspection reasons.

    With those miles the car is worth $1500. A 1k repair means the car is totaled. You can pick up a used 6mt Cruze for reasonable dough and get 7 years out of it with no worries.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      It would take me over 65 years to drive that many miles at my current rate of annual mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      Stuck in DC traffic

      I bought it from sister in law who had a 106 mile commute and drove everywhere racking up miles (she averaged 30k plus a year). The starter failed and she was tired of the car, I bought it for cheap and a rebuilt starter. Then a job change for me where I don’t drive as much anymore too.

  • avatar
    Stuck in DC traffic

    Since I wrote this I had the car looked at by a dealer to find out the issue. Two problems, the seat belt switch on the driver side (which was replaced via a lifetime warranty) and a front driver side bumper sensor.

    The bumper sensor replacement is $500. Looking it up it’s like a $75 part on line, $125 via the dealer. The kicker is you have to pull the bumper off and is 3 hours labor. I could do the work, but airbags are one thing I’m not comfortable messing with on a car.

    Now my new dilemma … do I do it for $500? What is the spend no more money on it point for this car? I just tossed brake pads on the front, no rotor for $35, I think that’s a no brainier spending wise as it’s maintenance anyway. But is $500 the point the car isn’t worth fixing? Would that include say four new tires and an alignment? Assuming no other issues tires would be considered maintenance and a deal breaking one way ride to the by here pay here lot? How about the clutch? Current has 130k on it, but works fine, the first went at around 135k.

    But I have a desire to get this car to 300k just to say I did it. Plus I was hoping to get about two more years out of the car assuming nothing blows up.

    • 0 avatar
      Stuck in DC traffic

      sorry for the over posting, they didn’t show up earlier

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      If it runs good, and you like the car, fix it and keep driving it. Look at it this way, anything comparable is going to cost you $500+/mo, for 60 months. If you want a new car, then go for it – even as manual tranny die-hard as I am, I would not suffer with a clutch in DC. Of course, I would just move, but that is me. :-)

      Changing out that sensor is no big deal, grab some wrenches and screwdrivers and whip that bumper off yourself. The actual sensor is just a plug in, nothing to it. If you are lucky, the warning light will go off all by itself with no dealer involvement needed.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d probably recommend you hang onto it for at least another year, but that clutch is guaranteed to be expensive and it leaves a big question mark in the air. Maybe it’s time to let it go.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      There is no danger in replacing the sensor yourself. Disconnect the battery and touch the negative and positive cables together for a minute or two. That will ensure the capacitors are discharged. Then remove the bumper replace the sensor and just make sure you have the connector fully seated and latched.

    • 0 avatar
      S1L1SC

      If you are worried about the sensor, remove the bumper yourself – drive to deal and have him do the sensor (should be much less than $500), drive back home and re-attach the bumper.

      Of course this is assuming your dealer is cool and will let you do it that way. I use an independent shop that doesn’t mind. They still get their labor fee.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I appreciate your sentiment of wanting to get 300k out of the car.

      I would caution to not let emotion get in the way of making sound financial decisions. The dilemma here, much like a lot in life is ‘hope’. You fix the car and hope nothing else goes awry. Then you have to decide to fix and hope some more. Cars like this can sell very quickly when they are in proper running order on a specific day.. The next day when it lights up like a Xmas tree it is sale proof.

      Your call but this unit is disposable, I would put black electrical tape over the light and forget about it until inspection time, then sell the car.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    You’ve got the right boxes checked for an easy sale though. Popular engine in good condition, stick shift. I would get rid of it, but I wouldn’t trade it, knowing that there’s decent demand for many of the drivetrain and interior parts.

    Not knowing about the oil-burning issue cost me almost 4 grand last year on one of those cars. Oops.

    Anyway, the way I see it, you have 18 months before your state condems it anyway, but in those 18 months your family is at an elevated risk. Seatbelts absolutely save lives, but airbags can make those lives saved a lot less miserable. When an idiot changed lanes and ran my stepdaughter and her boyfriend off of I64 and into a guardrail, the airbags ensured that their psychological damage was the only wounds to heal (thank the fates the 1996 TL didn’t have Takatas!!)

    Sell it, get top dollar from a fanboy, and get another car. Hell, go for another 1st gen TSX if you loved it that much! Personally I’d gun for a 2005/06 G35 sedan with a stick.

  • avatar
    smartascii

    Everybody has their spreadsheets out, and nobody’s thinking about total outlay. Yes, the repair to the airbag may be more than the car is worth. Probably not, but it’s possible. So what? How much does it cost to get a newer car? I get that this could become a money pit, and the cost of repairs could, at some point, add up to more than the purchase of a newer car now. I also realize that time has value, and the time the OP spends diagnosing and repairing the Acura could easily add up to a significant sum. But this isn’t a Diamante. It’s a reliable car with parts availability, and it was sold in sufficient numbers to mean that it’s easy to find a mechanic who knows the failure points and how to fix them. And unless the OP plans to buy something new enough to have warranty, there’s a chance that, even with a newer car, he’ll be right back in this same boat.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “And unless the OP plans to buy something new enough to have warranty, there’s a chance that, even with a newer car, he’ll be right back in this same boat.”

      Nonsense. He will have a newer car with TONS less miles on it, with greater safety features and better comfort and technology. Airbag light problems are not common.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      At a certain point, you have to cut your losses because an older high mileage car will continue to need expensive repairs as time goes on. At a certain point, the total cost of repairs including downtime will approach or exceed the operating costs of a replacement.

    • 0 avatar
      Stuck in DC traffic

      Tried to post this as independent comment a while ago and failed, but it goes with this comment anyway ….

      Since I wrote this I had the car looked at by a dealer to find out the issue. Two problems, the seat belt switch on the driver side (which was replaced via a lifetime warranty) and a front driver side bumper sensor.

      The bumper sensor replacement is $500. Looking it up it’s like a $75 part on line, $125 via the dealer. The kicker is you have to pull the bumper off and is 3 hours labor. I could do the work, but airbags are one thing I’m not comfortable messing with on a car.

      Now my new dilemma … do I do it for $500? What is the spend no more money on it point for this car? I just tossed brake pads on the front, no rotor for $35, I think that’s a no brainier spending wise as it’s maintenance anyway. But is $500 the point the car isn’t worth fixing? Would that include say four new tires and an alignment? Assuming no other issues tires would be considered maintenance and a deal breaking one way ride to the by here pay here lot? How about the clutch? Current has 130k on it, but works fine, the first went at around 135k.

      But I have a desire to get this car to 300k just to say I did it. Plus I was hoping to get about two more years out of the car assuming nothing blows up.

      • 0 avatar
        Stuck in DC traffic

        sorry for the repeat post

      • 0 avatar
        hiptech

        Actually removing the bumper cover isn’t as difficult as it might sound. I’ve done it and other mods on my ’04 TSX over the years and honestly you could have it off within a half hour of less. It’s more time consuming (removing the plastic pins and clips) than anything else. If you own a metric socket set and basic tools your good to go. The worse that could happen is you break a few plastic clips but these are relatively inexpensive and easily obtainable especially through local parts stores or eBay if you plan ahead.

        Here are pics from when I removed the front cover to install my fog lamps…

        https://picasaweb.google.com/116678244033806564185/2004TSXCustomFogLampInstall?authuser=0&feat=directlink

    • 0 avatar
      Stuck in DC traffic

      The repair is $500 .. do I do it? What is the spend no more money point for this car? Would that include say four new tires and an alignment? That would be over $500 but maintenance costs not a repair. How about the clutch? Current has 130k on it, but works fine, the first went at around 135k. I want to get the car to 300k to say I did it and hope to get at least two more years out of it.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        Can you attempt a DIY repair with parts and save most of the money? At worst, you bodge a few clips that are only a few bucks to replace and take it (with parts) to a pro to finally resolve. Taking a bumper off terrified me once, but is really quite easy with youtube videos and the like.

        An older high mileage car should be treated as if it were you when you’re getting up in years – manage the decline, get normal wear items replaced, but when it comes to ultra-invasive procedures adding minimal benefit, maybe let those go until the whole thing is scrap.

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          Before attempting any sort of work on the SRS system, be sure you remove the battery clamps and let it sit for at least an hour to make sure there no other batteries or capacitors retaining power somewhere. Otherwise, you risk firing the airbags accidently.

          The SRS computer in the Taurus went out after sitting up for four years; apparently the onboard batteries died. I picked up another one at the junkyard and replaced it myself. It is mounted on the side of the car just to the right of the glove compartment; I just had to undo one screw and two connectors to remove it.

          But I was working with my head just a couple of inches from the passenger side airbag; so I made sure it was good and discharged before replacing it. Worked like a charm; though I get an occassional irregular voltage signal for the top center impact sensor.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        It really depends what your goals are. You should include projected maintenance costs like tires and alignments because these are an expense you wouldn’t have to lay out with a new vehicle. If you have to add more oil than a new car would consume, include that into your cost factor too.

        Most fleets that use objective figures will dump a vehicle once the repairs and maintenance exceed the value of the vehicle unless theres some other reason to keep it. A $500 repair isn’t much of a big deal if the rest of the car will make it a while longer, keep it at that point if that’s all it needs. If the clutch goes out on you and the sum of the repairs that are coming due then approach or exceed the value of the car (I cant’t see it pulling more than $1500-$2000), dump it. That’s unless you really aren’t in a position to make the outlay to replace it with something newer.

        You aren’t likely to get good value for the clutch replacement if it needs it, but it sounds as if you will out of the previous replacement. If it goes out, that’s probably when I’d shut the door and walk if I were you.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          A new clutch will cost less than the sales tax on a new car. Fix it unless you need/want something different. The value of the car is wholly irrelevant in my opinion. The utility and condition of the car are all that matter.

          Amazes me how people are willing to spend $35K to “save” a couple thousand.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            You’re neglecting the fact that older cars require more frequent and more expensive maintenance as they age. There comes a point where he would be throwing good money after bad, meeting or exceeding the ongoing operating costs of a newer vehicle, but always having an old vehicle. There comes a point where making the investment isn’t worth it and it’s time to start over. This is why fleets don’t run the same vehicles forever and ever and ever. 300k miles is a pretty good service life out of any car. If his clutch goes out then, it would be a good time to walk away from it and put the money into something newer as the chance of something else expensive failing in the near future is reasonably high.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Fleets get to write-off new vehicles. Individuals generally do not. That vastly changes the calculus.

            To me, rust is the only real reason to dispose of a car, other than just wanting a different car. Otherwise, repairs are cheap in comparison to depreciation. You can put a much lower mileage used engine in that car for a couple thousand or so, that is only 4-5 payments on something comparable. I don’t believe in the whole good money after bad argument, it doesn’t hold water if the car is anything worth having.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          KBB lists the car’s value as $4600 private sale, $3600 dealership trade-in. Which surprises me. I’d never pay that much.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I’d be very surprised if he was able to get anywhere near that price with the mileage. if he could get close to that, I’d say take it in an instant.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            That does sound high. I’ve been looking at used first-gen TSXs for the last few years as they are a desirable vehicle within my group of friends. They have excellent resale value so I figure it would be worth as much as $4000 here in the Canadian prairies if it’s well cared for. But Canadian new vehicle prices are cons*derably higher even when our dollar is at par, and depreciation is lower compared to American and Eastern Canadian markets.

          • 0 avatar
            Stuck in DC traffic

            Yes …Like Dano said, If I could get that I would dump it tomorrow. But my guess is 1k to 1500.

      • 0 avatar
        Stuck in DC traffic

        ugh … sorry … my reply didnt show up so I re-posted and re-asked. I gave up ..now they all came up. I will hang my head in internet shame.

        • 0 avatar
          PandaBear

          Oh, that’s it? a $75 bumper sensor and 3 hours taking off the bumper and put it back on?

          If you are concern about botching the job and cause safety issue. I wouldn’t as manufacturer has tolerance build it for fail safe on these kind of things (i.e. your airbag light means airbag is disabled when it detects a sensor failure). The worst you can get is the light comes back if your sensor isn’t installed right and have to do it again. (it is just an accelerometer like the one in your smart phone and your video game controller)

          The time you spend asking question and debating whether to do it, you could have finished the job already.

          • 0 avatar
            Stuck in DC traffic

            Ha … but i can hid screwing off on the internet at work …not pulling the bumper off my car in the parking lot.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Just do the $500 repair. You want to see it roll over 300K, you seem to like the car well enough, the friggin’ thing is still somehow worth over $3500 even with all that mileage, and the transaction costs for buying another vehicle are high enough to cover several such repairs.

        Fix it. Drive it. Don’t stress. Dump it once the repairs become more frequent.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “2004 Acura TSX 6MT with 263,000”

    Most impressive. My thought it complain to Honda about the Takata debacle until they fix it, as I feel 300K coming on. Go on about how your wife needs a new car and this is just your work beater, and how it would be in their best interest to keep you a happy Honda customer.

    Additional:

    “It’s literally one large repair away from turning into a wallet sucking repair vortex”

    I have to disagree with the Mehta twins on this one, this TSX lacks the problematic auto but uses the stellar 2.4 VTEC. I believe it also lacks Skynet style computers controlling the interior, uses real tires, and can be seen out of without the aid of a camera. Unless there is something wrong with the platform I don’t know about or if this example were R-title or something to this effect, I see no reason for this TSX to not keep going.

    • 0 avatar
      Stuck in DC traffic

      I tried to post this earler, but it’s not showing up.

      Cost to fix is $500. Seat belt switch on the driver side (which was replaced via a lifetime warranty) and a front driver side bumper sensor. Bumper sensor replacement for $500. Do I do fix it for $500? What is the spend no more money on it point for this car? Is $500 the point the car isn’t worth fixing? Would that include say four new tires and an alignment? Assuming no other issues tires would be considered maintenance and a deal breaking one way ride to the by here pay here lot? How about the clutch? Current has 130k on it, but works fine, the first went at around 135k. But I have a desire to get this car to 300k just to say I did it. Plus I was hoping to get about two more years out of the car assuming nothing blows up.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    The Gold Package! On a TSX 6-speed…?

    Lol!

    No, seriously, drive the car until it quits. You’ll make it to the “magical” 300k :)

    Air bag light, Schmair bag light.

    My Wednesday Morning Miser is making his appearance.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    How about pulling the bulb out of the dash that illuminates the airbag warning light? Re-register the car in 18 months and keep driving it just like everyone drove cars up until the mid 1990s… without an airbag. Problem fixed. Plus, in DC traffic, it’s unlikely you’ll be going fast enough to need the airbags even if you are in an accident.

    We’re also assuming this warning light means the airbag won’t operate… is that necessarily the case? If there is any failure does it default to deactivating the bags? Perhaps you can just pull the bag out of the steering wheel or put some cool Pep Boys aftermarket faux-wood or fake Momo-style steering wheel on in its place?

    When airbags were first introduced, we were also told that they would need to be replaced every 10-15 years. Though, I have never heard of anyone bothering to do this and am not sure if this was just an old wives tale or something OEMs actually recommended. Is this still something anyone worries about or is any 20-year old car one maintenance visit away from the scrap heap?

    I have a 1994 Mercedes E320 Cabrio that has 109k miles and the original airbags (2 front were a big deal in 1994). I have never had a warning light nor have I ever wanted to test that they work. I also know that even a new Nissan Versa is likely safer in an accident than my 20-year-old car thanks to updated crashworthiness standards. I also don’t worry about driving it nor think the car is any less safe than it was 20 years ago… and nobody worried about driving them then.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      I can’t speak regarding the OPs Acura, but I know the airbag computer in my Taurus will disable itself if finds anything wrong.

      Sounds the OP’s issue is with the impact sensor as well, one of the two at the end of the subframes behind the bumper mounts. My Taurus was throwing the codes for those as well; I tried dosing them with WD-40 to clean the connectors and wiring and it actually worked; though the center one on top of the radiator still throws an occasional code.

      Thought about the age of the airbags as well; the older ones also inflated with more force than the current ones.

      Funny thing is that the brake light on Taurus was on for awhile when it was hot. The fluid level is fine; it appears to be an issue with the connector. It still passed inspection; and now that it is cold, it has gone out again.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      This is the reason why those bulbs on the dash light up for a few seconds when you first start the car: to prevent people from pulling them out. Not turning on for a few seconds when starting means you are likely going to fail an inspection.

      Now if you put a timer to control the idiot light, that’s a different story, but then if something happen and the insurance company or the other car’s driver found out you fraud the safety system, they can sue your pants off and decline any claim filed. I wouldn’t do it.

  • avatar
    86er

    Black electrical tape is an easy and inexpensive option.

  • avatar
    Stuck in DC traffic

    Well, since I wrote this I had the car looked at by a dealer to find out the issue. Two problems, the seat belt switch on the driver side (which was replaced via a lifetime warranty) and a front driver side bumper sensor.

    The bumper sensor replacement is $500. Looking it up it’s like a $75 part on line, $125 via the dealer. The kicker is you have to pull the bumper off and is 3 hours labor. I could do the work, but airbags are one thing I’m not comfortable messing with on a car.

    Now my new dilemma … do I do it for $500? What is the spend no more money on it point for this car? I just tossed brake pads on the front, no rotor for $35, I think that’s a no brainier spending wise as it’s maintenance anyway. But is $500 the point the car isn’t worth fixing? Would that include say four new tires and an alignment? Assuming no other issues tires would be considered maintenance and a deal breaking one way ride to the by here pay here lot? How about the clutch? Current has 130k on it, but works fine, the first went at around 135k.

    But I have a desire to get this car to 300k just to say I did it. Plus I was hoping to get about two more years out of the car assuming nothing blows up.

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      Personally, if everything else on the car is in reasonably good condition I’d roll the dice and spend the $500. And then drive it until the clutch goes bad and sell it to someone who’s willing to replace the clutch themselves(like me). IIRC you can disable the airbag system by pulling the fuse, and the sensor isn’t that complex to replace. As mentioned elsewhere, it could be corrosion in the wiring or an issue like that from salt on the roads.

      • 0 avatar
        PandaBear

        The airbag is likely already disabled if it detects a sensor failure, and pulling the fuse will still keep the airbag light on because the light is controlled by another computer.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    This car isn’t included in the Takata airbag recall, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be a similar issue. You should report your problem to the NHTSA. Acura might want to take a look at your car, and if they look at it, they might fix it. I’m in the camp that you should at least have a full diagnostic run on the car. The cheapest 2004-2005 Acura TSXs on the market now go for about $4k.

  • avatar
    Exfordtech

    Maybe at least get the DTC. Could be a clockspring, crash sensor, seat position or weight sensor. These aren’t typically hard to replace. Seat sensors may need a specific disassembly/reassembly sequence and calibration so they might become pricey, but a clockspring ($200) or crash sensor (front $115, front side $120, rear side $40) might not crush your budget. These are factory parts from parkacuraoemparts.com. Might not be as expensive as you think depending on your DIY skill. The systems are fairly robust making accidental deployment rare, you’d pretty much have to accidentally apply power and ground to a specific bag circuit to make it deploy, as it takes a specific sequence and timing of impact sensor events for the system to deploy a bag. Main safety procedure is to power down and isolate the bags when doing any disassembly or harness tests. Also, if SRS light is on and the failure is related to a seatbelt (buckle switch, pretensioner) it may be covered by warranty as belts usually have a lifetime warranty.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    First thing to do is figure out why the light is on, and that means pulling the error code(s). OBD2 doesn’t poll the SRS system, so you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way. Find the factory service manual somewhere (ebay, online, forum, etc.) and look up the procedure for jumping the correct SRS harness connector pins and counting the blinks ’80s style.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    The lack of airbags wouldn’t bother me. Frontal airbags are overrated. It’s not even a requirement that they be functional in order to register a salvage or out-of-province vehicle here in Saskatchewan. They seem to be primarily intended for those who neglect to wear a seatbelt, and as a last resort for the frail. They activate in extremely minor incidents, increasing vehicle repair costs and causing unnecessary injuries.

    Fortunately I didn’t have an airbag in my structurally-poor Grand Am. There was no room for one after the impact, so it could have done some serious damage. It took a couple hours to extricate me from that mess. I don’t know how much worse a collision needs to be for an airbag to be beneficial. Yet I have three friends who have been harmed by the unnecessary inflation of airbags.

    http://s754.photobucket.com/user/rpn453/media/Front.jpg.html

    But I suspect the sensor doesn’t cost much so I suppose I’d just end up replacing it myself anyway if it has to eventually pass a safety. It probably wouldn’t be any more difficult than disassembling the gauge cluster to remove a bulb.

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      Umm airbags don’t remain inflated and fill the crushed passenger compartment. That’s not how they work. Additionally, they are designed to be used in conjunction with your seatbelt, without wearing one you will torpedo below the bag with horrible consequences. Knee bolsters are added to instrument panels as an attempt to mitigate this. I don’t know what the statistics are on unwarranted deployment and I’m sorry to hear about your friends but I myself would much rather have airbags. Can the airbag injure you in a crash? Yes but it’s a matter of degree. Would you rather have facial bruising or be impaled by the steering column?

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        The airbag can cause internal injuries if there is too little space between the steering wheel and driver. Quite a few people – usually shorter people who sit close to the steering wheel – have been killed by airbags because they were too close to it when it inflated.

        However, on further cons*deration, I’m not sure that would have applied to my situation. While the NHTSA reports that some belted drivers have been killed by the airbag, the wording suggests it may only be a problem if you’re too close when the airbag initially fires:

        “The one factor that is common to all who died is NOT their height, weight, sex, or age. Rather, it is the fact that they were too close to the air bags when they started to deploy.”

        http://www.safercar.gov/staticfiles/safercar/pdf/811264.pdf

        In my situation, I suspect the airbag would have been fully inflated by the time I hit it. Within a fraction of a second, it would have then pushed me into the back of my seat and continued to press on me as the passenger compartment collapsed and the steering column came forward to within a couple inches of my chest. I’m not sure how much extra force that would have transferred to me, and whether that greater but much more evenly-distributed force is preferable to the more concentrated loads and impacts I experienced. So I’ll abstain from using that as an argument against airbags.

        That’s not to say that I’m even against airbags. I’d be willing to pay extra for s*de airbags on a new car, and I believe those who design and test airbags that front airbags reduce injuries in severe frontal collisions. But after experiencing a highway-speed frontal-offset head-on collision against a vehicle of similar mass in which an airbag would not have had any significant positive effect on my outcome, I question how important they really are, and why they regularly deploy in minor incidents.

        An airbag-free TSX is safe enough for me. Adding front airbags has a relatively miniscule effect on that level of safety. There are vehicles that are far safer in a collision than a TSX; with or without airbags. If I valued my personal safety enough to believe that an airbag-free TSX were inadequate, then a TSX with airbags would also be inadequate. In that case, I’d want a larger, heavier vehicle with s*de airbags and a higher bumper.

        • 0 avatar
          Exfordtech

          From the article:
          “The one factor that is common to all who died is NOT their height,
          weight, sex, or age. Rather, it is the fact that they were too close
          to the air bags when they started to deploy. For some, this occurred
          because they were sitting too close to the air bags. More often this occurred because they
          were not restrained by seat belts or child safety seats and were thrown forward during precrash
          braking.
          The vast majority of people can avoid being too close and can minimize the risk of serious
          air bag injury by making simple changes in behavior. Shorter drivers can adjust their seating
          position. Front-seat adult passengers can sit a safe distance from their air bags. Infants and
          children 12 and under should sit in the back seat. And everyone can buckle up. The limited
          number of people who may not be able to make these changes may benefit from having the
          opportunity to turn off their air bags when necessary.”
          Seems that the issue is to be belted properly and to ensure you don’t sit too close to the steering wheel. 49 of the deaths were children who most likely should have been in the rear of the vehicle. 20 of the adults were unbelted. The main take away I get from the article is to maintain a 10 inch distance between your breastbone and the airbag, not that the airbags are murderous.
          Also from the article:
          “However, 87 people have been killed by air bags as of November 1, 1997. These
          deaths are tragic but rare events — there have been about 1,800,000 air bag deployments as
          of that same date.”
          Of those 87, what would have been their fate without airbags, in other words as cold as it may seem, how many would have died anyway?

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Fix the sensor yourself, buy it online for $75, and your done for a while. Until something really huge breaks you are going to be ahead on buying another car. I used to live in DC, this sounds like the PERFECT car for a DC commuter. Don’t be afraid of DIY on airbags, they are not rocket science and I am sure someone online has posted the process for you. If you simply cannot do the repair yourself, stay the heck out of the dealership and find a good local mechanic to fix it for you, and for future fixes. Honda/Acura dealer service depts are the worst kind of gougers out there. Your TSX will never be like that crappy Audi you dealt with, there is no reason this car won’t last you to 300k and beyond for minimal expense if you spend smart money on the little repairs that will come up.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    Safety equipment is warranted for life by Honda, they will fix it at no charge. It is probably the seatbelt sensor.

    • 0 avatar
      poltergeist

      Ummm no. The seatbelt components for this vintage Honda/Acura are lifetime warrantied. The SRS “Airbag” systems are covered under the normal bumper to bumper warranty.

      For ’07/up models, Honda changed the seatbelt component warranty to 15/150.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Is there a chance this car has a Takata airbag and this problem might, ehem, fix itself if he complains loud enough?

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Here’s the thing, it all boils down to do you want to fix the car yourself (electronics are not too hard if you have some hand tools, a code reader, knowing how to use eBay or your local junkyard’s location, and a lot of time online researching).

    My 97 Integra with 250k miles recently had a SRS light on, and with older Honda you can use a paper clip to read the code out via flashing light, and it turns out to be the air bag computer internal error. I went to a local junkyard to pull out a same year’s air bag computer and it only cost me $35 + lots of time at night.

    2004 should start hitting junkyard very soon, and if it hasn’t yet, there’s always ebay.

  • avatar
    kablamo

    I’d like to see you get this car to 300k, and I don’t even know you.

    This comes down to how much you like the car. If you like it, fix the sensor. Do it yourself, look up online how to safely change an airbag sensor and remove a Honda bumper. This should be a straightforward repair, even if it’s a bit time consuming.

    About the clutch, if it was that close to going you’d probably be feeling it slip already. This TSX is obviously not a lemon, you probably have a good sense of its overall condition and I’d guess there’s a couple more years in it, at least.

    • 0 avatar
      Stuck in DC traffic

      it doesn’t slip yet … I just used it as a example of a big repair cost I know is coming. I hit 200k with it and everyday i drive it I feel like hitting 300k is a fitting tribute to it’s life with me.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    I would remove the front bumper and replace the front sensor.Should take you no more then 2 hours taking your time. I so far have never had trouble with any air bags. My 1991 VW Cabriolet worked like clockwork up to the day i sold it. My 1991 Miata is so far perfect but they claim on the Miata forum that they do go bad but as they use Ford parts you can obtain rebuilt computers. Mazda no longer stocks parts for the system but their are many Ford,s in the local junk yards. I understand even if the bag is disconnected it could be set off by a static electric charge. If you do the job yourself i would keep the car until the next problem and you just might make the 300,000 miles but to be honest it is a gamble. I don,t care who made the car it is a collection of machinery and parts wear out. For my wife,s car i pull the plug at 150,000 miles. Life is too short.

  • avatar
    Matt Fink

    My vote is to get it fixed and keep the car. There’s a reason those cars hold their value so well. Thanks for keeping us updated on where you are in the process, it’s always more enjoyable reading these and the original poster comments.


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