By on May 17, 2016


vacuum hose. shutterstock user Mikhail Abramov

TTAC commenter Sjalabais writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I wrote to you once before about choosing a sensible family beater. In the end, I bought a 2002 Honda Stream, which I have since driven 30,000+ km. It’s a very rare car in Norway; only 147 on the road as of this year.

The Honda has been fairly reliable (lots of brake issues), practical enough (try to beat a ’70s Volvo!) and fairly robust. What I like is that it can take a beating when we go to the mountains.

Over the course of the last year, an odd issue has become an annoyance: Sometimes, the car will start, but not hold revs.

Without extra gas, the engine dies. Drive the car for half a minute, and everything’s well. The issue usually rears its head when my wife drives it, or when I’ve been stuck driving very slow in traffic. Driving with low revs is the only possible cause I’ve come up with so far.

Any ideas what I should look for? The engine is well maintained. Plugs and cables are new; oil and air filter are changed regularly. A shop deemed the compressor governor fit for service. Should vacuum hoses be checked?

Sajeev answers:

You just loooove giving me difficult questions, don’t you my friend? Do me a favor: buy a Crown Vic or something LS-swapped for your third query to this column.

The normal maintenance items seem covered. Perhaps the most obvious culprit to a poor idle condition is the idle-air controller. If your D17 engine has a fast idle thermal valve, clean that too. Some IAC units can be cleaned (along with the throttle body, please!) but others must be replaced.

Depending on mileage and level of blow-by, a blocked PCV can cause a poor idle. And maybe the PCV isn’t blocked when you pump up the crankcase pressure via winding the hell outta that motor, unlike your more conservatively driving wife. So you do have a few choices:

  1. Free: Clean IAC, fast idle thermal valve, throttle body.
  2. Cheap: Replace all rotted vacuum lines, discard old PCV for a Honda-branded replacement.
  3. Cheap-ish: Replace IAC.

Is this likely to work? I think so, but the Best and Brightest always have the final say.  

[Image: Shutterstock user Mikhail Abramov]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. 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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20 Comments on “Piston Slap: Slip Streamin’ a Poor Idle?...”

  • avatar

    Time to trade it in.

    For a PACIFICA.

    • 0 avatar

      If you were lucky enough to find a Chrysler dealership in Norway (sure, you can find the odd Ram or Jeep at some place that deals American cars in general, and some rebadged journeys at the Fiat shops) I doubt someone can go from a reasonably cheap old Honda to a Pacifica that would cost more than $100K just like that. Also, there’s no room in Norwegian parking spaces or driveways for a beast like the Pacifica anyway…

  • avatar

    Ditto on the vacuum lines, although that would be my first check on a car that age. Leaky lines will cause a lean condition which forces the IAC to hunt for the correct rpm.

    Then I’d go after the IAC. Of the few I’ve had problems with I’ve not been lucky enough to correct it by cleaning. Generally it seems like when they malfunction it is on the electrical side but that’s just my experience.

  • avatar

    The graphics on that CR-V back there are RAD.

    • 0 avatar

      Corey, I get to see loads of wild OEM and factory accessories coming straight outta JDM-land in the Siberian part of Russia, my favorite is the ‘car-poetry,’ not sure if this is an actual Toyota-sanction spare tire cover or not:


      Other favorites are bright colored (yellow, red) mudflaps, supersized rain guards, and crazy airbrushed tigers and dragons that take up the entire hood of a car.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, outdoor sport is the science to raise spirits.

        • 0 avatar


          I have seen things like this when in Korea, just usually not on cars. Notebooks, signs, stickers, etc.

          I have a plain spiral pad that says: “A Note paper, for sensual people.”

          Koreans also put “COMMON RAIL GDI” stickers on lots of cars.

  • avatar

    I would agree with everything Sajeev suggested but would add a few more…

    I have had ECT sensors go bad, no CEL, yet affect idle. Same for TPS sensors.
    Vacuum leak at the TB gasket and/or intake manifold gasket (smoke test).
    Possible valve-lash adjustment could be needed.

    If it is a D17 it should probably idle at 750-800 RPM and have 19-20 inches of vacuum, you could adjust the idle control screw to increase idle. (band-aid fix)

    Weird but cool Honda!!!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I didn’t even realize that these existed. A Mazda 5 competitor manufactured by Honda! How do they compare in interior room to the Fit? Why the heck did we not get these in North America?

    • 0 avatar

      Honda was too busy selling fifteen billion higher margin CRVs instead.

    • 0 avatar

      I think this is direcly comparable to the Mazda 5, and how well did that sell in the US?

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        But an (edit) respectable seller in Canada, particularly in Quebec.
        People movers and hatchbacks are still in demand in The Great White North.

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda 5 is about it, even though it’s a bit bigger – the closest competitor is the Opel Zafira*, but in contrast to that, the Honda carries all its seats, always. It’s based on the Civic and fits small children. For everyone else, rows two and, especially, three are torture chambers.

      I bought the Honda for its excellent steering, the stamp “best driver’s van” by What Car? and Honda’s reputation for reliability. It’s not all I wanted it to be, but it does its job fairly well. The plan is to use up every bit of life it has left in it.

      *Proper road tests are few and far between, but here’s a German slideshow comparing it to seven seaters Zafira and Peugeot 307, Europe’s smallest seven seater at the time and a great sales success:

  • avatar

    Googled in Japanese about this, quite a few cases about rotary air control valve coming out

  • avatar

    To sum it up, fix ALL THE ISSUES. Last week, I rounded 40k kms in the Stream, and the idle issue persists. It has been like this for a year, and I know it comes off incredibly lazy, but since this issue can be fixed by just starting the engine again, I haven’t prioritized hunting for it. Just that little instructional video about the fast idle thermal valve above lists three potential causes for bad idle on one part…

    On thursday, I’ll have to pass the biannual tech inspection. If that hurdle is taken without too much hassle, I will follow your very timely advice (and further comments here) and get to work. Thanks a lot!

  • avatar

    Seriously? Almost 10 years later and Honda still cant figure out IACs that dont plug up?

    I’ve had to do similar work to my own ’94 Accord, but its old and such, even with newer pads the brakes arent that great (compared to old Volvos). You’d think Honda could fix these shortcomings by 2002.

    Despite the age my Accords been decent, easy and cheap to get parts for, however I cant say I’m not a little sour over the AC compressor crapping out on me (despite regular servicing).

    • 0 avatar

      My AC compressor appears to have started leaking the other day (I first thought my radiator was on the way out). I’ll have that checked tomorrow, but everything’s pointing towards foregoing the benefits of AC – just fixing a plug and a refill would set me back 250$ in Norway, the lowest possible cost according to the shop. That would be about 5% of what the car is worth.

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