Why Not to Buy a Honda Element – The Worst Starter Design

Why Not to Buy a Honda Element – The Worst Starter Design

Rev up your engines!
today I’m going to show you how to replace a starter on this poorly designed Honda, where
you have to take the engine apart in order to replace the starter,
boo on the Honda engineers, now I know it needs a starter because I checked
the battery and the charging system and that works fine, but the customer was complaining
that once the engine was warmed up and she tried to restart it, the engine would start
really slow or wouldn’t start and then eventually it would start,
which is a sign of the starter wearing out and on this it’s because it’s hidden deep
inside the engine and it gets a hear soak and then it just burns itself out,
now the first thing we do is take off one of the battery terminals so we don’t short
anything out when we’re working on the electronics, get it out of the way,
and then use an old pan to put nuts and bolts in because we have to take all this plastic
crap off to get to the intake manifold, the you have to remove the intake hose to
the manifold, get it out of the way,
then we unbolt the throttle assembly and pull it out of the way,
so all the wiring won’t be in the way when we take the intake manifold off, then we take
the six bolts off the intake manifold, then you slide the manifold, and there’s not
much room but you got to get enough room to get to the starter,
all I have to say is, curse the engineers that built this,
starters use to be, you just jack the car up, it would be a couple of bolts, or on the
top, you take the air filter off and it would be there,
these guys are idiots designing a car like this,
now there’s no working room so in order to get the stupid manifold out of the way we’re
going to have to take all this plastic crap off,
off that comes, and we’re going to have to remove the stupid
brace too, so all this has to come off, then you pull the crossmember out of the way,
and now you got enough room to get to the starter,
and as we look inside here, here’s the stupid starter,
now we can unbolt it, then you move all the stupid wires out of
the way, and take the two bolts off that hold the starter
off, and then you wiggle the crap out of the starter
and finally, there it is, the stupid thing, then of course compare the new starter to
the old one, make sure the plugs are the same, the angle
is the same, and it has the same amount of teeth, because
if anything is wrong, it’s a lot of work to take it all off again,
then you slide the starter and you put the top and the bottom bolt on and get them nice
a tight, then you bolt the electronics on and plug
in the little starter wire, and then comes the fun of putting all the
crap back on, I could strangle those engineers,
we wiggle the intake manifold, and we wiggle it and line it up,
then bolt the throttle assembly back on, the put the air intake hose back on the air
filter and back on to the throttle and connect all the hoses that you had to take off,
and before we put all the superficial stuff back on start it and make sure it runs,
success, so now you know what a pain in the butt it
is to change the starter on a Honda Element and why maybe, hey you shouldn’t buy one in
the first place, so if you never want to miss another one of
my new car repair videos, remember to ring that bell!

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. I know it can be removed from underneath as well, but that requires a lift to make it an EASIER job. Which I don't use and most DIY people don't use, so without a lift this is the easiest way to remove the starter. This channel mainly shows backyard DIY style and how anti-DIY many vehicles have become, so I stand by that this is a crappy design.

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  2. It's unsettling the negativity you spread. Just do it from the bottom. While you're at it, clean the acid and crud off the terminals ( as any good mechanic would do)

  3. Hahaha, love the sense of humor and all that, but reading what people say want me to actually get one of these cars, despite the starter placement… at the end of a day, it won’t be me who’s gonna be replacing it. 😉

  4. Omg, this remind me on my job. I always curse the engineer for stuff like this. one of our equipment that we have, in order to tighten or change the fan belt. you have to take the side panel off, the engine cover off, then fan cover (which have 3 different size metric sockets, WTF). dam german engineer

  5. So let me get this straight…because one part is half a pain in the butt to replace, it should not be bought?! I guess being a crazy reliable, spacious, and versatile vehicle means nothing. Come on dude, are you telling us there aren't at least one or two parts on any of your Toyota's or Lexus that are half a pain or even full pain in the a*$ to repair? Not buying that…esp with the Lex. We all know how they like to cram things in there, not to mention having to remove the panels under the vehicles just to gain underside access. Easier on a lift but totally doable with just a jack and jack stands.

  6. Everything is stupid , cross member, plastic cover . wires. starter engineering 😂😂😂 Luv you sir 👌🏼

  7. Scotty, love your videos! But dismissing the Honda Element because of one middlin'-warm design flaw? My wife and I beg to differ.

    In the course of about forty years, I have owned about a dozen cars. I've owned the good ones and the awfuls. I started out with a '68 Plymouth Belvedere station wagon with a 318 V8 that I bought for $125 and even then I overpaid for it; then I bought a '66 Ford Galaxie for $250 that, between me and my brother, we put 200,000 miles on, a great car. Then I married into a '74 Fiat 124 sedan, and replaced it with an even worse an '82 VW Jetta Diesel that my mechanic called "Hitler's Revenge". I've put serious miles on three Toyotas;. We've owned two Cadillacs, an '89 Sedan de Ville that was such a good car, we made the horrendous mistake of buying a '97 Sedan de Ville that I wouldn't have wished on my worst enemy. And my pride and joy is an '82 Checker Marathon that I still own and have owned for twenty years. (Dan Short of Fantomworks restored the Checker for me ten years ago.)

    Today, our newest car is an '05 Honda Element, the only car we've ever bought brand new. It is now fourteen years old and has 155,000 miles on it. From a mechanical perspective, it is without a doubt the best car we've ever owned. Granted, we haven't had to replace the starter. Hey, that's pretty good right there, isn't it? A starter that has lasted for fourteen years and 155,000 miles on it? Look, I get that replacing it is going to be two or three times more expensive than replacing one on a '64 Impala. But if that's the only problem you've found on the Element, consider it a bargain.

    Here's what I've had to do to my Element:

    • The normal tires/batteries/brakes.
    • A new alternator at 120,000 and new battery cables.
    • Change the differential fluid.
    • Change transmission fluid.
    • Change brake fluid.

    That's it.

    What you've described as a design flaw with the starter, I accept 100%. Not every manufacturer gives a hang about engineering for maintenance. Maybe what makes this example stick out is Honda did it, and Honda is normally good about such things. Amirite?

    Well, to paraphrase the Bible, Honda's folly is wiser than most auto makers' wisdom. The Honda Element is a fine automobile. It's a joy to drive and twice-joy to park. Not a great road car — too noisy and doesn't ride well enough — but for around town, you can't ask for a better car. I wish they still made them; I'd buy one new all over again.

  8. I know this is inevitable on my Element. Once in awhile when I go to start it I get a buzzing noise and no start 😨😲😢

  9. We (by that I mean I) love our Honda Element to transport miniature horses. That said, you are right about mechanical design. I helped my husband repair the water pump and he had to take the engine off the block to make space. Then you still have to have arms like slenderman to work around the lack of space. The lack of aerodynamics and weight of it makes fuel economy poor. I love how it fits in our tiny garage and all of the ways you can use it to transport items. Even as a temporary motor home for camping. There are downsides but many pluses.

  10. Poorly designed? One of the greatest SUVS of all time, it started a trend that almost every manufacturer copied. You have no experience at all with Hondas. Did you work at the dealership? No you did not. I'm 26 years Honda master technician. It's really not that bad if a job. I would like to see you replace the top on a S2000 if you think the starter is different. What about the Toyota/Lexus V8? It's buried between the cylinder heads and Toyota electrical connectors always break trying to release them.

  11. Same thing happen to mine at 230,000 but now that it’s fixed, it runs just fine, only problem I’ve ever had with her and I love her.

  12. I feel like the fact that the only 'issue' is that the starter is in an inconvenient spot doesn't make this a bad vehicle.. Especially when they go 400k miles on the original tranny and engine.

  13. Mr. Scotty your the only mechanic that I know who saids the Element was poorly made ..all of my mechanics tells me how much of a great veichle I have and I just bought another ..and I still have my old one after 10 years 🙂

  14. This is me when when I change the oil on mine. I love the thing, BUT WHY DID THEY JAM THE OIL FILTER RIGHT ABOVE THE CV JOINT!!!!! It’s literally almost impossible to get ANY kind of grip on the damn thing, have to use C-clamps. Stupid thing

  15. Is this really a deal breaker for buying this car? What about overall quality and reliabiltiy? Surely, a single component doesn;t define whether someone should buy a vehicle or not. Silly design, admittedly, but I think the overall repuation of the car speaks for itself.

  16. Having read so many of the comments, this video acheived unintended consequences. I usually follow Scotty's advice. But in this case, I see a Honda element in my future.

  17. You do not have to remove all that crap just the intake manifold once you have done one the next time its like a 30 min job and no lift needed. Love your channel but this starter change is mad easy.

  18. I don't like them cars or Honda but I no I would not buy one with a 10 foot pole if someone give me one for free I will be at the first car lot that i see that same day and with that starter like that hard to get to hell no

  19. Dang that alot of work for a starter mg what was Honda thinking .. but I do like the look of that element but I agree to much to do for a stater replacement.

  20. I’ve had to replace my starter, radiator, a/c condenser and my sunroof blew out on the highway, but I would still recommend my 2005 Element to anyone. Sorry, Scotty.

  21. I changed by starter last year and I did it from the bottom. What saved me some time was using air tools to take the starter out. I used the plastic ramps you get from Harbour Freight that I have had for years.

  22. Hey Scottie. Quick question. I am doing my starter next week, and I was wondering if I need to replace gaskets? I just want to know which ones would I need? I'd like to have them on hand in case I need to. Love the channel. You crack me up and teach me at the same time.

  23. Seriously just ran into this… I'm pretty confident on tackling just about any car project, but this one i just made my blood boil so i gave it to a mechanic with a lift.

  24. The starter location does suck, but I wouldn’t let that dissuade you from owning an Element. They are otherwise very reliable.

  25. I took my upper intake manifold of in less than 15mins while talking on the phone. Its very easy to get to the starter on K series engines.

  26. That's exactly why I do not become a mechanic for other people's cars. I rather just stick to basic maintenance on cars. I do not have the patience

  27. Lol Scotty that k24 engine is pretty much in every Honda Acura form that area it’s definitely a reliable work horse
    Sure the stater position is cumbersome other then that this engine is top 5 in my books

  28. You have done this completely the wrong way for speed and ease. I have done mine in less than an hour! You forgot to remove the knock sensor also that mechanics are so bad about breaking. You and I should race sometime. My element is the best car I have ever owned and that engine is amazing!

  29. I just picked up a clean 07 ELEMENT SC w/115k. If u are even thinking of buying one I recommend just test driving. We are a family of 4 my small children love love love this car.

  30. I agree with u 100% but now im startin to have doubts the element is a decent car for the price if u have kid/haul… yea it a b 2 fix but i never had any problem since i had this car almost 5 year now nd i drive it everyday towing car nd trailer just hit 200k nd it run like the day i first got it my brother got a lexus is250 for double the price lower miles nd he spend the amount of my element to fix it in the first year….didnt u say the lexus is250 is a great use car to buy? Nd now a honda elements is bad? Ur starting to lose ur touch Scott mayb it time to quit while ur ahead or mayb u can tell me y u saying element is bad nd is250 is good? Cuz i have had on with both car i drive my where he only drive to work cuz he scare it going to die again lol im asian so most of my friend nd family drive honda nd lexus nd i can tell u every1 with is250 had something go out nd the element still going even with 3 wheel between the lexus carbon build up dash tearing up brake locking up nav not work the vaule of that car drop lower den the element over here in Wisconsin nd let not for get about the rust on the lexus man everything fallin apart it worst den a 1992 honda civic so i dont understand how u would advise ppl say its 1 of the best use car nd dont b scare of the high gas mileage

  31. I'm still driving my 2003 Element; I am at 397,292km as of right now (I just checked). I replaced the starter myself about four years ago – I wasn't watching the clock but it maybe took 3 hours. I am definitely not a mechanic but I consider myself a little 'handy' around vehicles. I would think a licensed mechanic stuck in my driveway using his own tools should have been able to do this in far less time.

    Now for the OP and those who are talking about stupid designs, my wife bought a 2016 Chevy Traverse. Last year, the high beam bulb burnt out on the passenger side. Both the front tire and fender wall liner had to be removed to gain access to the lamp housing. Our neighbour has smaller hands than I do and he tried to go at it from the top like we saw on YouTube in one video but between him, my wife and myself, it was impossible to access it from the top so we had to go from the bottom. Two local garages plus the Chevy dealership we purchased this lease-back from also confirmed their dismay with this design.

    On future purchases, I will always check the location of the battery (in the Traverse, it is under the backseat on the passenger side – I hope the battery doesn't need to be changed anytime soon) and how easy it is to replace the lamps for the headlights.

  32. That looks very expensive to replace, I don't want to buy a Honda that breaks down and costs me a lot of money.

  33. It isn't just the Honda Element, any Honda with the KA 2.4L engine has this problem. The CRV/Accord/Odyssey.

  34. It's really not that bad 😂, I've done a few myself, there's much easier and faster ways to get it done… CR-V are the same…

  35. I remember the first time I changed my knock sensor I basically did all of that, but then I learned you can get underneath the car and put it in with little effort. I haven't changed my starter yet but I'm ready for it as I'm coming up on 200k miles on my first gen element.
    So far the only abnormal mechanical failures I've had were: Knock sensor, alternator, and my condenser fan motor
    all within the last 2k miles

  36. I'm surprised you didn't send it to your buddy with the indoor garage like you did with that Jaguar that needed a new fuel pump which required subframe and gas tank removal.

  37. I do love Scotty's videos but not recommending a car because of an issue with the starter? Comon, it is a very popular and very reliable vehicle and I can work on most thing on the car. Not the best Scotty Kilmer recommendation.

  38. i was a mechanic 27 years I would just like to say I know a person who owns an 2005 element the vehicle has over 300,000 miles and it still running off the original factory starter so it is clearly easy enough to say that every vehicle and operator are not the same

  39. Scotty on this one can't agree with you. Honda Element 2003 16yrears I've been loving this car . Hardly anything goes wrong. The most practical car so roomy . I refuse to part with it . No way!!! Haven't had a car payment in over 8yrs so lovely!!!!

  40. Hah mine died recently at 205k. I was looking around trying to see where it was and finally got the smallest glimpse through the manifold. No thanks! I was able to get a long bar slipped through there and after giving a couple whacks, it fired up and I drove it to the shop and paid for the labor…

  41. I’ve owned my Element since 2002. It’s on its 3rd starter. I would probably replace the starter 3 more times before I give it up. I love that car.

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