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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello All! I picked up a Honda Element that was not running for pretty cheap. The story doesn't match up to what I have found. Here is where I am at, and I'll write a story below.

2003 Honda Element EX AWD - 292k miles.

Issue: Cranks and feels like its going to start but just keeps cranking. I have shot starter fluid in the intake manifold and no change in the starting sound.

Things I have looked or tried...
Key on and fuel pump primes. Checked key on fuel pressure and coming back at ~45psi.
I have compression - 120 PSI across all 4 cylinders (Spec is 135 but this should still be enough to start and run)
I have spark and have checked with a second set of known good coil packs (and those did produce a better spark but still didn't start)
I have checked the timing and I'm 98% positive it can't be off. See photos below.
I have cleaned the grounds at the engine mount on the passenger side, the one in between the intake/exhaust cam sensors and the one that goes from the transmission to the battery.
I am not sure what I am missing... I have included a video I recorded of the spark (these are the coil packs that came with the car.. I have another set that were brighter spark) and the cranking that I am experiencing.


The story that I was sold on.
Found this on Craigslist for $900, and the guy told me his daughter drove the car home about 1/2 hour overheating (temp gauge on H) and after she got it home they couldn't get it to start. I went and looked at it and there is no moisture in the oil, and no coolant in the oil. The engine turns over freely but not starting. I was thinking this is probably something simple and jumped on it.

I'm looking for some ideas that i might be missing - or things to test.

YouTube Link: Element Cranking Video
Photos:
TDC
Automotive tire Wood Gas Automotive wheel system Tints and shades


Timing Marks:
Gear Bicycle part Rim Auto part Bicycle drivetrain part
 

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Welcome to the forum.

From the angle in the picture the timing marks on the gears are not properly lined up, looks off a tooth on the exhaust gear. Those marks should be pointing directly at one another, this is when cylinder one is at TDC, and the lower timing mark will align with its mark as well.

Cranking is even from the sounds in the video, my concern is the spark. In the video I only saw one spark event for cylinder two during its cranking session, and cylinder four appears to miss a spark event in the middle of its cranking session in the video.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Welcome to the forum.

From the angle in the picture the timing marks on the gears are not properly lined up, looks off a tooth on the exhaust gear. Those marks should be pointing directly at one another, this is when cylinder one is at TDC, and the lower timing mark will align with its mark as well.

Cranking is even from the sounds in the video, my concern is the spark. In the video I only saw one spark event for cylinder two during its cranking session, and cylinder four appears to miss a spark event in the middle of its cranking session in the video.

I will repeat with the different set of coil packs and see if I get a better result for spark.

If the exhaust is off by one tooth - would that prevent it from even starting, or should it at least start... but may run like garbage?
 

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Correct. The vehicle may run rough and could set a performance code being off a tooth, but it would not prevent it from starting, unless it’s WAY off and in that case you’d set performance codes because the CKP, CAM, TDC and/or ECU are not on the same page. Although I have seen cases of vehicles not starting being off just a tooth (some pre-OBD I cars and newer cars that set performance codes with jumped timing chains).

Did you disable the fuel injectors while you were testing the spark (at least unplugged them)? Just don’t want to have fuel pooled in the cylinders. Converters don’t like that.

That is not to insult your intelligence, I’m pretty sure you know what you’re doing but sometimes in the heat of trying to diagnose a car people forget.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Correct. The vehicle may run rough and could set a performance code being off a tooth, but it would not prevent it from starting, unless it’s WAY off and in that case you’d set performance codes because the CKP, CAM, TDC and/or ECU are not on the same page. Although I have seen cases of vehicles not starting being off just a tooth (some pre-OBD I cars and newer cars that set performance codes with jumped timing chains).

Did you disable the fuel injectors while you were testing the spark (at least unplugged them)? Just don’t want to have fuel pooled in the cylinders. Converters don’t like that.

That is not to insult your intelligence, I’m pretty sure you know what you’re doing but sometimes in the heat of trying to diagnose a car people forget.
I did unplug injectors when testing compression & spark.
I'm only getting an 02 sensor error on the ECU, so I am ASSUMING (that's big here) that the ECU is getting a reading from the Crank Sensor, Intake/Ex Cam Sensor...

When I look at the data log on my code reader app I see advance timing 5 degrees, RPM, MAP, Intake Temp, Coolant Temp, Throttle Pos
 

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Did you consider moving the coil pack from number 2 and 4 to 1 or 3, to see if the spark issue in those follow it to a good cylinder coil and vice versa?

The motor wouldn’t try to turn over without a crank signal (bad or disconnected CKP) and you wouldn’t have spark either, since the ignition system is controlled by the ECU. The ECU bases the spark events on the crank signal, among other things (CMP and TDC sensors). Since you have spark, the CKP sensor (and others) is/are getting a signal to the ECU to provide it.

I would like to see what it does with known-good coils and proceed from there
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Did you consider moving the coil pack from number 2 and 4 to 1 or 3, to see if the spark issue in those follow it to a good cylinder coil and vice versa?

The motor wouldn’t try to turn over without a crank signal (bad or disconnected CKP) and you wouldn’t have spark either, since the ignition system is controlled by the ECU. The ECU bases the spark events on the crank signal, among other things (CMP and TDC sensors). Since you have spark, the CKP sensor (and others) is/are getting a signal to the ECU to provide it.

I would like to see what it does with known-good coils and proceed from there
Yes I have swapped around coil packs and then the known good ones are from my Dad's S2000 and as stated before I got much better spark - but I will do the same thing I did before and check that I get spark on every 4th rotation of the engine. I'll try to get that done shortly.
 

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Correct. The vehicle may run rough and could set a performance code being off a tooth, but it would not prevent it from starting, unless it’s WAY off and in that case you’d set performance codes because the CKP, CAM, TDC and/or ECU are not on the same page. Although I have seen cases of vehicles not starting being off just a tooth (some pre-OBD I cars and newer cars that set performance codes with jumped timing chains).

Did you disable the fuel injectors while you were testing the spark (at least unplugged them)? Just don’t want to have fuel pooled in the cylinders. Converters don’t like that.

That is not to insult your intelligence, I’m pretty sure you know what you’re doing but sometimes in the heat of trying to diagnose a car people forget.
i like the way you worded that. these days one must clarify their intentions.... or else the hate and discontent comes flying in like WW2 bombing escapades. 🙄
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
OK - So you might be on to something with spark. Even with the different coil pack it looks like I get spark for the first few rotations and then I don't get spark, and then I'm getting spark again.

What is telling the coil pack to fire the plug - is that all ECU? And what is the ECU using to tell the coil to fire?
 

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The ECM controls spark by grounding the ignition coils based on input from the CKP (and RPM). The CKP is the primary input for this system, but the ECU also compares the CKP data to the data from the CMP and TDC as well, which have their own responsibilities but have nothing to do with ignition coil firing. Does your scan tool have waveform data for the CKP? That would be definitive of a problem with the sensor/circuit itself. I believe some diagnostics not only show running waveforms but cranking as well (since that is the least you can do at this point since it is not running). I can look up voltage and continuity tests at the very least for you.

Some thing to consider: you have no idea what maintenance was done to this vehicle, correct? Now I’m throwing things off the wall here, but take a look at the connection to the CKP (lower left of timing cover, secured by a bolt with a 10mm head). If you have an o-ring for it, remove it and take a look at it. Is there debris attached or physical damage to the sensor and/or wiring (even though open or shorted wires would give a “hard” code which would be present whether it is running or not most of the time)? Since it uses the pulse wheel and magnetic resistance, maybe there is very dirty oil or damage to the sensor/wiring itself? Or even, maybe someone did the timing and put the reluctor wheel on backwards? Does the Hondabond used to seal the cover look fairly recent to you? I am just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Maybe someone tried servicing the timing chain and didn’t

I know I would have already popped the cover off anyways to do maintenance just so I know it’s been done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
So I popped out the CKP and it had some crud built up on it, wiped it off and put it back in, no change in starting.

I will look through the Element Service Manual to see if I can find a test for the CKP.
 
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