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2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 08, 2013 8:07 am
by jkbrigman
I own and have been a happy driver of a 2000 Honda Insight now for almost 12 years. In that 12 years, the car has had four catalytic converters: the factory original and two that Honda put on. One, the last one, I put on. Now, in 2013, the little old Honda Insight wants to exact it's Catalytic Converter toll on me: best price I have for replacing it with a reputable part is $770.

At this point, there's a fair amount of work needed on the car. The synchronizers in the transmission are going. I've got an IMA light on (could just need a balance charge - it's never had one), shocks are gone and need replacing, and somewhere, somehow, there are leaks in the body where water gets in and soaks the seatbelts.

I've always fantasized about converting the car. It's darn near perfect: 1800lbs all-up right now, you could convert it and with LiPo, probably stay under 2000lbs. The questions I'll put to the forum for your consideration are:

1) Pay the money for the converter, drive it another 2-3 years, then trade it on something?
2) Hunt down a used converter from a crashed car or some other low-cost option and install it myself? (I'm capable and have the tools.)
3) Convert the car now and drive it till the wheels fall off?
4) Do nothing, trade it in on a new car. That new car could be a Toyota Prius or a LEAF.

One important thing to consider: I have a ton of projects already and don't have the time to start a months-long conversion of this car right now. I can do the work in a year from now (and buying a catalytic converter would buy me that time) but I can't worry about a car conversion this year, unless it's a job that could be completed quicker than I think - two or three weekends, maybe?

A trade in of the car on a LEAF is an attractive option, since it accomplishes a "conversion" in the shortest possible time. (I have the charger installed and hanging on the wall of my garage right now.) Although that is, by far, the most expensive option.

I'm interested in the thoughts of anyone who owns an Insight, already converted a car (especially an Insight) or anyone who owns a new Prius (especially the plug-in) or LEAF.

JKB

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 08, 2013 9:00 am
by Ykick
I don't understand why you go through so many CC's? Is that a known issue with these models or something causing them to die early? Short trips? Do you have annual SMOG checks? If not, I'd consider a test pipe.

Old cars are one of those things that bring lots of opinions. My general rule is that as long as repairs don't exceed the sales tax of a new one, I'll keep rolling in the oldie.

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 08, 2013 9:09 am
by jkbrigman
Ykick wrote:I don't understand why you go through so many CC's? Is that a known issue with these models or something causing them to die early? Short trips? Do you have annual SMOG checks? If not, I'd consider a test pipe.

Old cars are one of those things that bring lots of opinions. My general rule is that as long as repairs don't exceed the sales tax of a new one, I'll keep rolling in the oldie.
Yes, it's common with the old Honda Insight. Honda wanted "SULEV" designation for the car, so the computer is set with very tight parameters on what it will "allow" before it throws a P0420 code: "Low Catalytic Converter Efficiency". Honda has had to revise the firmware of the onboard computer TWICE on this car, that being one of the main reasons.

It's ironic, really. My car won't pass an emissions test but it may still, yet, be one of the least polluting cars on the road. I'm fed up with Honda's crap on this catalytic converter.

If you look over on the Honda Insight forums (insightcentral.net), you'll see it's a common occurrence in the original Insight. My problem right now is that the car is 13 years old and I'm forking over for gas, insurance, inspection and maintenance (plus a car tire I can only get from Tire Rack nowadays) and it's getting to be a pain in the ass. So bad, that I'm starting to think the car ISN'T a good candidate for conversion.

JKB

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 08, 2013 9:17 am
by jkbrigman
Ykick wrote:I don't understand why you go through so many CC's? Is that a known issue with these models or something causing them to die early? Short trips? Do you have annual SMOG checks? If not, I'd consider a test pipe.

Old cars are one of those things that bring lots of opinions. My general rule is that as long as repairs don't exceed the sales tax of a new one, I'll keep rolling in the oldie.
Ykick - your message had a lot of content and I was focused on the catalytic converter question. I appreciate your feedback on this - you make some good points:

1) Yes, we have annual smog checks here. There are tricks I can do, but the ethics of that bother me and this car's got several other problems I have to consider.
2) You said "repairs don't exceed the sales tax of a new one". That's interesting. Because I can tell you right now that this is becoming the case with this car. Sales Tax in NC is 3% the value of the car. Right now this repair, at $770 (estimate) gets us squarely into your category.

Here's the realization that came to me today. This is a second car. My current rate of spend for "overhead" (maintenance, insurance, taxes, license, gasoline, oil changes) isn't buying me enough value. If I'm going to own a "second car", then it needs to be something that really makes it worthwhile that I can leverage.

I'd rather put this $770 somewhere else. Heck, I'd MUCH rather get rid of the car and put the $770 toward another ebike.

If I could have anything I wanted, I'd like to get rid of this car and the old gasoline pickup I also own, turning both of them into a later model (or new?) Toyota Tacoma pickup converted to electric drive. Now that's a project I WOULD block the time out for.

JKB

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 08, 2013 9:48 am
by dnmun
did you investigate some way to spoof the codes for the CC? if it will work without having to replace the CC then i wouldn't worry about making smog if i were you. maybe register it where there is no inspection.

but if you have the level 2 charger, you should be looking to buy a used Leaf or iMEV from one of the major markets where they already are present. i see a lot of Leafs on the street here, not any iMEV but i do see Think EVs occasionally which also seems a reasonable option.

there are just a few used ones at the dealers currently listed, no owner sales i could find:

http://portland.craigslist.org/clc/ctd/3723895974.html

maybe you can post up a 'wanted' listings in the major east and west coast markets if you wanna consider buying used. something in the $15-18k range seems possible if someone is facing a trade in depreciation larger than that.

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 08, 2013 11:19 am
by Ykick
JKB - Thanks for elaborating. I dunno much about these models but older hybrids have begun to intrigue me. 'sounds like this one might be just about finished without significant rework?

That definitely sounds like FUBAR CC service life. I've replaced very few over a very large period of time and mileage. Who knew? Thanks to your post now I do.

I'm the last person to provide financial advice but at that repair $$$ point (and your confessed waning interest) I'd seriously considering moving on. Somebody will surely want it though and designs from the last decade appear to have much more going on for us to tinker with?

Transportation is certainly changing before our eyes and in a good way for the most part. I'm beginning to believe my household could do fine with all electric drive and simply tow a small genny for long road trips? I don't mind towing small trailers - used to do it all the time with motos, boats, etc. Your EV pickup idea is a good one too....

Good luck and 'hope you find the right thing!

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 08, 2013 12:30 pm
by neptronix
Spoofing codes is rather difficult. You have to replace the rear o2 sensor with something that generates the right kind of sine waves that the car expects..

This is known as an o2 simulator.

At this point, your NiMH battery has got to be near dead. You should be able to lift the transmission out with your bare hands, i'd guess it doesn't weigh more than 50 pounds. I think the car is worth working on.

For what it is, it makes excellent use of the gasoline that you put into it... hybrids are good stuff. I say patch it up; fix up the tranny and the rear o2 sensor and rock it till the battery dies.

If/when you go to convert it, forget lipo, it's all about lifepo4. Big, heavy, long lasting, reliable, less lethal.. :lol:

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 08, 2013 3:03 pm
by dnmun
what if you had saved the original CC that set off the codes the first time.

then temprarily install a new one for the DEQ test and remove it after it qualified and put the old one back on. or even a straight pipe to save the new one so you could then reinstall it when you needed to pass emissions again each year.

then disconnect the engine warning light so it won't be nagging you.

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 09, 2013 2:05 am
by jkbrigman
Neptronix, Ypedal, I see your points.....

I Just found an exact fit catalytic converter, with lifetime warranty for $260 from Advance Auto. Ordered it tonight, going to take a shot at replacing it. Hen the pressure will be off and can study alternatives for the car.

I'll post the results. Could be interesting..... I've never done a catalytic converter before.....

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 09, 2013 2:06 am
by jkbrigman
Neptronix, Ypedal, I see your points.....

I Just found an exact fit catalytic converter, with lifetime warranty for $260 from Advance Auto. Ordered it tonight, going to take a shot at replacing it. Then the pressure will be off and I can study alternatives for the car.

I'll post the results. Could be interesting..... I've never done a catalytic converter before.....

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 09, 2013 4:21 am
by MitchJi
Hi,

Given the price reductions on the new models this looks like a bad deal:
dnmun wrote: there are just a few used ones at the dealers currently listed, no owner sales i could find:

http://portland.craigslist.org/clc/ctd/3723895974.html
One Owner Like New 2011 Nissan Leaf SL with 9000 Miles - All Electric! - $19999
http://www.treehugger.com/cars/2013-nis ... -6400.html
New Entry-Level Model Almost 20% Cheaper Price than 2012 Model
This was not unexpected. In fact, a few months ago I wrote about Nissan's intention to create a new, improved and less expensive entry-level model of the electric LEAF. But it's still a welcome development: The 2013 Nissan LEAF electric car will now come in a new entry-level trim with an MSRP of just $28,800, which, after federal and state tax credits (depending on where you are), can mean you actually pay around $19,000. This compares very favorably with the MSRP of the 2012 base LEAF, which was $35,200, but this isn't exactly apples to apples since this more spartan trim didn't exist previously.

According to Nissan, this price drop makes the LEAF the least expensively priced 5-seat electric car in the US.

The 2013 LEAF will now be available in three different trims:
* LEAF S for $28,800.
* LEAF SV for $31,820.
* LEAF SL for $34,840.

It's interesting to note that even the most expensive trim for 2013 is still cheaper than the least expensive 2012 trim, which was $35,200. Now that's a price cut that makes a difference!

Here's how Nissan describes the different trims:
The 2013 Nissan LEAF is offered in three well-equipped models, the LEAF S, LEAF SV and LEAF SL. Standard features include 6-way manual driver's seat, 4-way manual front passenger's seat, trip computer (instant and average energy consumption, driving time, outside temperature and autonomy range), Automatic Temperature Control (ATC), center console storage and 3.6 kW onboard charger. Other standard equipment includes Nissan Intelligent Key® with Push Button Start, Bluetooth® hands-free phone system, power windows with driver's window one-touch auto up/down, power door locks with auto locking feature, remote charge door release, variable intermittent windshield wipers, AM/FM/CD with MP3 playback capability and a 12-volt power outlet.

LEAF SV models are upgraded to 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a 6.6 kW onboard charger, cruise control, auto dimming rear view mirror, energy saving hybrid heating system, an upgraded 6-speaker sound system, 7-inch color LCD display, Pandora® link for iPhone users, Nissan Navigation system with CARWINGS telematics and B-mode setting for increased regenerative braking. At an MSRP of $31,820, the 2013 LEAF SV represents a $3,380 savings over a similar 2012 model.

LEAF SL adds leather-appointed seats, 17-inch five spoke alloy wheels, DC 480V fast charge port, automatic on/off LED headlights, fog lights, photovoltaic solar panel rear spoiler and HomeLink® Universal Transceiver. At an MSRP of $34,840, the 2013 LEAF SL represents a $2,410 savings over a similar 2012 model.
Also I think all the 2013 models have heat pump heaters.

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 09, 2013 6:08 am
by dogman dan
Just seems to me to be the wrong car to convert. Ideally, you convert a simple small car or light truck with a manual transmission. Bug, geo metro, chevy S10, etc.

Get it the cheaper converter and sell it?

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 09, 2013 4:02 pm
by jkbrigman
dogman wrote:Just seems to me to be the wrong car to convert. Ideally, you convert a simple small car or light truck with a manual transmission. Bug, geo metro, chevy S10, etc. Get it the cheaper converter and sell it?
dmun, I agree with your comments about the LEAF. It's a better value for 2013 than it was before, and the "informatics" in that car are impressive. Nissan did a great job with it, my only quarrel is that it really is a Versa body - I'd rather see just a little more length in the car, maybe 6 inches distributed front-to-back.

dogman, you're right but it took me 10 years to come to that opinion. I bought the car back in 2001 with the intent of converting it, but there's just too much about the car that's wrong, that's too lightweight and not well suited to electric conversion. It's a fragile little machine and amazing that it's made it this far.

I'm considering trading it in on something new. I'll fix the catalytic converter and give the battery a balance charge, see how that works out. If I can make it driveable again for not much money, I'll run it awhile to get my value back out of it then trade it in on something.

The little bugger is mostly made of aluminum. I'm thinking there's some money to be had by being the person who scraps it out.

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 10, 2013 12:46 am
by Dauntless
jkbrigman wrote: It's ironic, really. My car won't pass an emissions test but it may still, yet, be one of the least polluting cars on the road.
JKB
Are you sure you have to SMOG it? Even in California (Smog laws are born here) a hybrid is exempt. Diesels used to be, not anymore, but the hybrid still gets the cakewalk.

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 10, 2013 1:21 am
by mikebikerad
I have a 2002 Insight sitting in my garage right now. I have been working on it for one of the research projects I am involved in as a Grad Student at UC Davis in the Institute of Transportation Studies. We are going to use the insight as a testbed for testing lithium packs and ultracaps in hybrids. This insight was donated by my advisor who just started leasing a FIT EV. I just installed the following.......

MIMA System from Mike at 99mpg.com
OBDII C&C gauge from insight central crew

The next step is to populate and install the boards of the
BCM Interceptor to fake SOC and the BCM fooler to fool the car BCM that the voltages are all correct (from insight central crew).

If I was in your shoes I would either 1) sell the insight and lease a Leaf (because the lease price is crazy low and it would make a great second car for commuters etc) or 2) install a MIMA kit and all the goodies plus a big lithium pack. The usefulness of the little 13-15 kW brushless motor is pretty surprising. I can get the somewhat bald front tires to squeel when applying ~110 amps and flooring it. I can't speak to the MPG increases yet with the kit installed because the battery is in poor condition and I have not taken it on any long trips yet with the manual control. Sounds like you don't have much time to put into the car, but this kit is really easy to install. Took me ~10 hours all said and done to this point.

:D

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 10, 2013 1:23 pm
by jkbrigman
Dauntless wrote:
jkbrigman wrote: It's ironic, really. My car won't pass an emissions test but it may still, yet, be one of the least polluting cars on the road.
JKB
Are you sure you have to SMOG it? Even in California (Smog laws are born here) a hybrid is exempt. Diesels used to be, not anymore, but the hybrid still gets the cakewalk.
D: Thanks for your comments, but no, my Insight Hybrid is not exempt from smog check. If the CHECK ENGINE light is on (0420 - "Catalytic Converter Efficiency Low"), it's an automatic FAIL here in NC. A LEAF would (naturally) be exempt, but not a gas/electric hybrid. :shock:

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 10, 2013 1:47 pm
by dnmun
yep, they read the codes during the smog test so it would get flagged. i still think the idea of using the new CC as a way to pass the DEQ is the best way to solve the expense problem. except you would have to swap them in and out each year or two for the test. exhaust parts don't like that.

peter perkins just reduced the price on his big lifepo4 pack too, except it is over the pond. i think his mima hack is superior to mikes. jmho.

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 10, 2013 2:54 pm
by jkbrigman
mikebikerad wrote:I have a 2002 Insight sitting in my garage right now. I have been working on it for one of the research projects I am involved in as a Grad Student at UC Davis in the Institute of Transportation Studies. We are going to use the insight as a testbed for testing lithium packs and ultracaps in hybrids. This insight was donated by my advisor who just started leasing a FIT EV. I just installed the following.......

MIMA System from Mike at 99mpg.com
OBDII C&C gauge from insight central crew

The next step is to populate and install the boards of the
BCM Interceptor to fake SOC and the BCM fooler to fool the car BCM that the voltages are all correct (from insight central crew).

If I was in your shoes I would either 1) sell the insight and lease a Leaf (because the lease price is crazy low and it would make a great second car for commuters etc) or 2) install a MIMA kit and all the goodies plus a big lithium pack. The usefulness of the little 13-15 kW brushless motor is pretty surprising. I can get the somewhat bald front tires to squeel when applying ~110 amps and flooring it. I can't speak to the MPG increases yet with the kit installed because the battery is in poor condition and I have not taken it on any long trips yet with the manual control. Sounds like you don't have much time to put into the car, but this kit is really easy to install. Took me ~10 hours all said and done to this point.

:D
Excellent information mike, thank you!

I'm going to take it one step at a time. The catalytic converter has shipped. When it arrives, we'll see if I'm able to install it myself and pass inspection. Next, I'll see if I can find a grid charger somewhere and give the stock NiMH battery a nice balance charge. If that works, then I'll figure out what to do from there, with the decision tree being:

- keep the car and continue maintaining/upgrading it, or
- get rid of the car for something more modern

There's an awful good argument for keeping the car and continuing to drive it. But the clock is ticking on the Fed and State incentives for the Prius Plug-In or the LEAF (or any EV, for that matter). And I do have a very nice, high-capacity L2 charger on the wall of my garage. So there's an opportunity cost to KEEPING the car as well....

JKB

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 10, 2013 3:07 pm
by peterperkins
G1 Insights def don't have a major problem with Cat converters.

Yes there was a problem with an over sensitive cat efficiency threshold code early on which was rectified by updating the ECM.

Yes they fail occasionally but your situation suggest some other issue causing repeated failures. :?:

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 10, 2013 3:14 pm
by jkbrigman
dnmun wrote:yep, they read the codes during the smog test so it would get flagged. i still think the idea of using the new CC as a way to pass the DEQ is the best way to solve the expense problem. except you would have to swap them in and out each year or two for the test. exhaust parts don't like that.

peter perkins just reduced the price on his big lifepo4 pack too, except it is over the pond. i think his mima hack is superior to mikes. jmho.
This catalytic converter has a limited lifetime warranty, so I'm planning to install it and leave it.

Peter's got great stuff going on but it's out of reach of anyone in the US. Can you suggest anyone I can deal with in the US that's familiar with the Insight?

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 10, 2013 3:24 pm
by jkbrigman
peterperkins wrote:G1 Insights def don't have a major problem with Cat converters.

Yes there was a problem with an over sensitive cat efficiency threshold code early on which was rectified by updating the ECM.
Yes they fail occasionally but your situation suggest some other issue causing repeated failures. :?:
hI Peter, great to hear from you!

Yes, I've had the ECM replaced and the firmware updated. I still have failures. Honda replaced the original one twice. I suppose it's possible Honda could have screwed up the job and not properly updated the ECM? Is there any way I can check for that - some way to display a firmware code?

I'm puzzled by your observation. Insightcentral is rife with owners seeing catalytic converter failure on this car. There are forum topics scattered over the last 10 years on the subject. What's your personal experience with the catalytic converter? Have you never had to replace one on your car?

JKB

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 18, 2013 10:52 pm
by jkbrigman
Quick Update on the Honda Insight Catalytic Converter replacement:

the "OEM Fit" converter I bought doesn't fit well enough for me to use it, so I returned it to Advance Auto where I bought it. (Those guys are terrific.)

You won't believe this, but I'm "washing out" the stock catalytic converter I already have with clothes washing detergent and a water hose. I finished the "wash out" tonight, and the platinum honeycomb inside is clearly cleaner from what you can see in the ends of the converter. I'm going to try to reuse it and see if this process actually works. I'll post here if it does or not, and follow up on Insightcentral also.

JKB

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 19, 2013 12:19 am
by dnmun
if that doesn't work maybe you could rinse it, actually soak it by recirculating over and over, with some dilute acid like phosphoric acid used to clean rust off of rusted steel.

then blow it out with high pressure air blasts from your air compressor to see if you can remove whatever is eating up the catalyst surface area.

i don't know about resetting the codes though.

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 19, 2013 1:24 am
by peterperkins
Not from a CAT failure code. One cracked a weld and started blowing. I replaced it with a spare I had and fixed the old one.
The insight forum represents only a tiny minority of insight owners.

Yes there are quite a few threads and discussions, but CAT failure is not something that routinely affects the cars or they would have all have been scrapped years ago as soon as the warranty expired due to the high cost of new ones. Visitors and new members desperate for a cheaper solution post about them (generally without searching first) due to the high cost when they do fail, so this leads to a disproportionate number of threads on the forum covering the same ground.

You could try the secondary O2 sensor bodge/spacer trick.

Re: 2000 Honda Insight: Convert, or No?

Posted: Apr 19, 2013 9:21 am
by jkbrigman
peterperkins wrote:Not from a CAT failure code. One cracked a weld and started blowing. I replaced it with a spare I had and fixed the old one.
The insight forum represents only a tiny minority of insight owners.

Yes there are quite a few threads and discussions, but CAT failure is not something that routinely affects the cars or they would have all have been scrapped years ago as soon as the warranty expired due to the high cost of new ones. Visitors and new members desperate for a cheaper solution post about them (generally without searching first) due to the high cost when they do fail, so this leads to a disproportionate number of threads on the forum covering the same ground.

You could try the secondary O2 sensor bodge/spacer trick.
Peter - THANK YOU for your valued, ahem, "insight". :shock:

I gave more thought to what you said (a possible other cause) and I'm pursuing that. Here's why: the "washing" I gave the catalytic converter was visibly effective, cleaning a LOT OF GUNK out of the "uppermost" platinum grid inside the converter. When I removed the catalytic converter, there was oil on the part that faces the engine and there is oil leaking from the valve cover gasket.

What I'm suspecting is a failed PCV valve could have increased pressure in the crankcase, increasing blow-by in the cylinders, throwing more mostly-burned oil into the catalytic converter and clogging it. I can't remember when I replaced the PCV valve on this car, I'm guessing at least 4 years ago.

Before I run this car again, I'll replace the PCV valve and after I get it running, look into installing a replacement valve cover gasket.

If all else fails, I will indeed employ the secondary sensor spacer trick. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Stay Tuned, I'll update as I know more.

JKB