2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by Punx0r » Apr 20, 2013 9:05 am

In my experience of having emissions tests on cars sometimes marginal catalytic converter performance can be rectified with an Italian Tuneup. It gets the cat niiiice and hot and burns of contaminants. I have a feeling the lambda sensor(s) also benefit in the same way.

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by jkbrigman » Apr 20, 2013 9:50 am

Punx0r wrote:In my experience of having emissions tests on cars sometimes marginal catalytic converter performance can be rectified with an Italian Tuneup. It gets the cat niiiice and hot and burns of contaminants. I have a feeling the lambda sensor(s) also benefit in the same way.
Punx0r, good advice. It's been years since I've heard that term. 8)

That phase of the operation is coming, maybe today. I have a tankful of gas in the car with a "solution" added and I plan to take that little drive to warm the car up nice and warm - I HAVE to, to see if the check engine light goes out. I've also got a bottle of seafoam on standby in case that's needed too. If the engine computer continues to throw a P0420, it's game over and I'll have to order that new converter and install it.

I wish I'd taken before and after photos of the catalytic converter. I didn't because I went into this so completely skeptical. Even if it doesn't work, I'm surprised at how much the detergent and garden hose cleaned inside the catalytic converter: the intake was totally gunked up with a black, gooey residue when I started and now the front honeycomb wafer is completely clean. All it took to finish the job was an ordinary household water hose hookup and conventional garden hose handle set on "jet". I flushed the front interior of the converter with the hose by shooting water into the front intake flange.

I'm speculating at this point that it all depends on how a catalytic converter fails. If all we're talking about here is that the front wafer gunks up from the center toward the outside, preventing exhaust flow through the core of the converter and pushing it all to the outside, then hell yes this will work.

I'm re-installing the converter today (Saturday, US EDT) and will have to drive the car awhile today to see what happens with the emissions codes. I'll post an update by tomorrow on what I find, and results will also be posted on insightcentral.net.

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by dnmun » Apr 20, 2013 12:47 pm

along with the soot there may be microscopic pieces of metal that condense on the CC also. this may clog the catalytic reaction spots and not burn off like the carbon. that is why i thought using metal prep to rinse it would help. what does the seafoam do?

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by Punx0r » Apr 21, 2013 6:28 am

That gooey black gunk sounds like the stuff I've had to scrape from the inlet systems of diesel engines fitted with an exhaust gas recirculation system. Hopefully it was just a restriction in flow and physical contact with the catalyst that was causing your problem.

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by jkbrigman » Apr 21, 2013 6:29 pm

Ok guys, here's the initial results:

I reinstalled the "washed" converter, reset the code and went for a drive. The code normally comes back within about 12 miles, but this time it took 46 miles before it came back on.

So is this defeat? Hard to say - it took a LONG time for the light to come back on. I'd been driving for almost an hour. It's very clear that the "washing" had a significant effect. It might be that I simply didn't wash it long enough, or that I need to wash it with something that will work as a better solvent, like lacquer thinner or MTBE.

The important thing is, If I really wanted to, I could reset the code, go get the inspection and keep futzing with the converter on my own time. If it takes almost an hour of run time before the light comes on, that will solve my legal issue, then I can keep working to see what's achievable by washing. Heck, you'd think an hour in a garage parts washer might do the trick.

I'm thinking the results of all this weird work are incremental instead of an yes/no thing. I've got a tankful of gas and the added mystery fluid that's supposed to help clear catalytic converters - I'll run all week long until I run out of that, reset the code and go from there. If, at the end of the week the code is still reappearing, I'll declare defeat and install a new converter.

So, stay tuned. Let's watch and see if things get any better or any worse....

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by Punx0r » Apr 22, 2013 5:20 am

I would also give it a week. Time to mull over things and it's also amazing how many things fix themselves...

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by jkbrigman » Apr 22, 2013 10:20 am

Punx0r wrote:I would also give it a week. Time to mull over things and it's also amazing how many things fix themselves...
Good advice! In only 24 hours, I've already seen that kind of thing happening. Lordy, the Honda Insight is such a finicky little thing....
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dogman: "I bet if you just don't ride like a jerk, you can do whatever you want up to the speed where everybody looks at you like this. :shock: "
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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by Hillhater » Apr 22, 2013 6:01 pm

I am no chemist or metals expert, but i know guys that clean their "race" bike mufflers of oil & carbon gunk by soaking them in a trash can filled with caustic solution !
I have seen how effective it is at removing all that gooey crap. :wink:
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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by jkbrigman » Apr 22, 2013 6:34 pm

Hillhater wrote:I am no chemist or metals expert, but i know guys that clean their "race" bike mufflers of oil & carbon gunk by soaking them in a trash can filled with caustic solution !
I have seen how effective it is at removing all that gooey crap. :wink:
Good point. I wish, when I'd seen that the gunk in the "uppermost" screen had been cleaned with the detergent solution, that I had taken the unit somewhere and run something more of a solvent through it - even gasoline would have been a big improvement over the detergent, with laquer thinner being even better.

Working with "chemical processes" like this is definitely an analog-type of phenomena. Now I'm haunted by the possibility that I didn't do enough, but that I was on the right track.
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dogman: "I bet if you just don't ride like a jerk, you can do whatever you want up to the speed where everybody looks at you like this. :shock: "
tomjasz: "Romans go full dork. They could give a hoot what 'Merkins do."

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by bigmoose » Apr 23, 2013 6:36 am

Just a thought that may or may not help. With the black goo in the front of the catalyst, it sounds like the exhaust may be cooling too much under certain run conditions. When I drove a 97 HX civic with lean burn, they put the catalyst right in the exhaust manifold. I don't know where the Insight's catalyst is, but perhaps you could increase the exhaust temperature getting to it by wrapping the exhaust pipe from the engine to the catalyst with exhaust heat wrap tape? The extra temperature might elevate catalytic activity in the bed.
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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by dnmun » Apr 23, 2013 9:17 am

i second this. i was thinking the same thing but i figured it would require wrapping the entire tailpipe with rockwool or fiberglas insulation to keep it hot.

also if you have a lot of blowby now that is pushing a lot of oil through the motor into the exhaust then maybe it needs some new rings. i assume they use fewer rings for friction so maybe they just wear down faster.

would it help to use a different oxygen sensor, or a new one?

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by jkbrigman » Apr 23, 2013 5:21 pm

bigmoose wrote:Just a thought that may or may not help. With the black goo in the front of the catalyst, it sounds like the exhaust may be cooling too much under certain run conditions. When I drove a 97 HX civic with lean burn, they put the catalyst right in the exhaust manifold. I don't know where the Insight's catalyst is, but perhaps you could increase the exhaust temperature getting to it by wrapping the exhaust pipe from the engine to the catalyst with exhaust heat wrap tape? The extra temperature might elevate catalytic activity in the bed.
bigmoose, Holy smokes that's a great suggestion: the Insight is built exactly the same way: a teeny tiny header coming right off the side of the engine, the cat "hangs" from that downward to the bottom of the car. There's not enough header to wrap (the thing is TEENY) but I COULD start the wrap the the cat's flange and move backward to the end of it.

By the way: that MIGHT also help mileage, especially if it allows the cat to heat up faster. The computer cares about NOx emissions and will richen the mixture when it thinks there's too much oxygen in the exhaust.
dnmun wrote:i second this. i was thinking the same thing but i figured it would require wrapping the entire tailpipe with rockwool or fiberglas insulation to keep it hot.

also if you have a lot of blowby now that is pushing a lot of oil through the motor into the exhaust then maybe it needs some new rings. i assume they use fewer rings for friction so maybe they just wear down faster.

would it help to use a different oxygen sensor, or a new one?
dmun, I've been thinking about this very thing. I fear piston blow-by, as it's something I really can't fix myself. I replaced the PCV valve in anticipation of this - if the PCV valve chokes off the pulses, that can increase blow-by.

FYI: both the upstream and downstream O2 sensors are "new". I replaced them with genuine Honda parts when I first got the P0420, hoping that would help. It actually "accelerated" when the P0420 appears. I kinda wish I had the old ones back but I discarded them. Not smart.

I'm considering two options:

- re-remove the cat and flush it with a solvent, possibly using a parts washer to circulate the solvent. Maybe gasoline, maybe lacquer thinner.
- the EGR valve on these cars has been known to gum up. Might be time to pull that and check it. There, again, the solvent wash might help.

I'm "up to" 35 miles before the P0420 light comes back on. That's significant progress - before the "wash", it was about 12 miles.
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dogman: "I bet if you just don't ride like a jerk, you can do whatever you want up to the speed where everybody looks at you like this. :shock: "
tomjasz: "Romans go full dork. They could give a hoot what 'Merkins do."

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by Hillhater » Apr 23, 2013 5:31 pm

- re-remove the cat and flush it with a solvent, possibly using a parts washer to circulate the solvent. Maybe gasoline, maybe lacquer thinner.
Those racer guys have tried all those things ..and more,..but caustic solution was the most effective !
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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by jkbrigman » Apr 23, 2013 5:39 pm

Hillhater wrote:
- re-remove the cat and flush it with a solvent, possibly using a parts washer to circulate the solvent. Maybe gasoline, maybe lacquer thinner.
Those racer guys have tried all those things ..and more,..but caustic solution was the most effective !
I'd be tickled to try it, but I don't understand. What kind of caustic solution? Something made from, like, Drain cleaner? There's a drano two-part "foaming" product that I'm thinking might work along those lines.
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dogman: "I bet if you just don't ride like a jerk, you can do whatever you want up to the speed where everybody looks at you like this. :shock: "
tomjasz: "Romans go full dork. They could give a hoot what 'Merkins do."

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by Punx0r » Apr 23, 2013 5:55 pm

Hmm.

If the cat was running too cool I'd imagine the issue would be well documented amongst Insight owners by now.

The first sign of the engine burning oil is invariably smoke from the tailpipe. I've had cars that made clouds of smoke and there was no carbon buildup in the cat (which was 4-5ft from the engine).

For repeated cat failure I'd more suspect a slight over-fueling problem, which can damage the them through overheating. But that doesn't marry with it being chocked up with carbon...

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by dnmun » Apr 23, 2013 5:59 pm

lye. that is a caustic solution. MEK is also caustic but where can you buy it anymore?

it should not be too hard to replace the rings and rod bearings, but you can tell by checking the leak back rate to see if they are really leaking or if it is the valves. if the valve seals are leaking on the valves then you can actually replace them while the motor is together, but that really requires a mechanic's skills since it is not trivial. rebuilding the head is the best way to solve that.

depends on the mileage and how old, but it would be easy enuff to rebuild the head and do rings and rod bearings. but sounds like it is a daily driver and might take you awhile to do it.

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by Punx0r » Apr 24, 2013 5:22 pm

Unless there is a well established history for these cars documenting the esoteric relationship between carbon buildup in the cat and ring/bore wear, it is madness to consider an engine rebuild in this situation.

Examples of such strange relationships of symptom and problem do occur on particular cars, but they are usually well known.

If you were burning oil you would smell it or see it as smoke at the tailpipe. Also bear in mind that oil consumption (burning) of up to 1 litre per 1000 miles is considered acceptable as within normal limits by many major car manufacturers. That's going from max to min on most dipsticks.

BTW MEK is a solvent, not a caustic. Google says its pH is in fact acidic (5.5). I used to work with a fair range of chemicals :)

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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by Hillhater » Apr 28, 2013 6:20 pm

MEK is also a very nasty ( carcinogenic ?) substance , that has been banned in most industrial situations for many years.
( but a damm'd good solvent !)
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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by jkbrigman » Jun 28, 2013 10:29 pm

UPDATE:

I pulled the catalytic converter and soaked it in drano gel for an hour. The results were not what I expected.

I re-installed the cat and drove the car - I drove it 60 miles and the light never came on. I figured: SUCCESS!
I took it to be tested and it passed the emissions inspection, no problems.

Then the car ticked over 120 miles and the CHECK ENGINE light came back on. MADNESS!

I reset the check engine light and went on a 250 mile road trip. The light never came on until I shut off the car and restarted it: I got 200 miles before the CHECK ENGINE light came on again. I've put over 1000 miles on the car with the CHECK ENGINE light either turned off or back on.

So what's the final verdict? The caustic worked well enough to get the car inspected, but it did not completely cure the problem. I need to replace the catalytic converter - if I leave the car like this, I'm gonna lose 10-12mpg on every tank.
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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by peterperkins » Jun 29, 2013 10:43 am

Faults like the cat code need several engine cycles to register in the ecm to reduce spurious issues flagging a dtc. So you could have driven it 1000 miles so long as you didn't turn it off. The fault would have appeared when you turned it on again.
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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by jkbrigman » Jun 29, 2013 2:53 pm

peterperkins wrote:Faults like the cat code need several engine cycles to register in the ecm to reduce spurious issues flagging a dtc. So you could have driven it 1000 miles so long as you didn't turn it off. The fault would have appeared when you turned it on again.
Dang. So, may I ask your opinion? I can do either:

1) Remove the cat again (I'm getting pretty good at it :-) ), soak it again in caustic, this time maybe overnight and try again?
2) Replace the cat with a quality OEM replacement?

If you recommend simply replacing it - which I'm ok with - can you suggest a product and source for purchase? I ask not to be a n00b, but because I know many have gotten poor quality cats or cats that don't meet OEM spec. So telling me what NOT to do is good, too.

And...if I simply need to go back to insightcentral and look, tell me and I'll gladly do so...

Thanks Peter! Much appreciated!

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Final Results of Honda Insight Cat Experiment

Post by jkbrigman » Sep 08, 2013 10:11 am

FInal results are:

Soaking in Drano solution for 24 hours DOES improve performance of the catalytic converter enough for the car to pass inspection. I can go up to 250 miles at a time before the "CHECK ENGINE" light comes on. I have considered pulling the cat one more time and just leaving it sit in a drano solution for a week and see how that works. Might do that, as all I have to lose is the time and hassle of removing/reinstalling the unit to test it.

And it is not lost on me that these forums aren't where I should be posting this - I should bugg on over to insightcentral.net and post. But they keep wiping out my login since I can take a few months between logins. I mean, I can't let anything cut into my endless-sphere time, right? :-)
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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by whereswally606 » Sep 10, 2013 3:13 pm

As a fellow insight driver, well done. Totally spend more time here too.
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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by jkbrigman » Jan 02, 2018 12:32 am

Hello All;

This is a very old thread, but I feel the need to update it because it's taken a long time for the ultimate answers to become apparent:

First:
Eventually, I replaced the catalytic converter with a genuine Honda OEM catalytic converter. I got that part from majestic honda in Rhode Island (USA).

Second:
Peter (Perkins) has said in this thread (and I think elsewhere on insightcentral.net) that "There's something else wrong if you are going through catalytic converters so much". Peter, you were right. There was an obstruction further down the exhaust system that was constricting exhaust gas flow. I replaced the ENTIRE exhaust system and have achieved success: I've been running on the new catalytic converter now for over a year, with no problems at all.

Third:
I have seen some very interesting upgrades to the Insight lately. There's been a great deal of success with the "Linsight" upgrade (go see it at insightcentral.net) which turns the Insight into a kind of serial PHEV using 2.5kwh LEAF cells.

Fourth:
I still want to convert my insight to a full BEV. It's becoming clear to me that the little car is so efficient that you might be able to get some significant and usable range out of, say, 20-30kWh of cells with the right components.

My problem is, I don't want to convert the car and have it down for "months". I'd love to do the entire conversion in a weekend. To that end, I've considered the possibility that I might need to start a project to create a conversion manual for an Insight - essentially do the entire job on paper first, then take a stab at it for reals.

With this email, I'll conclude this thread and start a new one on the subject of Honda Insight PHEV and BEV enhancement....

Thanks all!
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Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Post by neptronix » Jan 02, 2018 4:36 am

Nice to hear that you managed to fix that long running problem. Now with that money invested, you can continue receiving the benefits of that car!

After that kind of work, i'd be hanging on to that baby for a while. Electric cars are providing more value with every generation, but you still have literally the most efficient car on the road ( yes, even the Model 3 hasn't beat the Insight yet ). Rock it!

By 2020, you'll have Tesla Model 3 batteries from wrecked cars at your disposal. Solid state or graphene ball batteries will probably be in mass production. If you chose to convert at that time, you'll have the coolest electric car on the planet.

The cost savings of keeping an old car running cannot be understated when you think of the monthly costs of a new car. I'm still driving my late 90's Nissan into the ground. Said car needed $1000 of work this year. I thought... that's no big deal.. that's like paying $83/mo to own a car.
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