Finally a Prelude

Third Generation Honda Prelude topics

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Prelude Enthusiast
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Joined: Wed Nov 05, 2014 6:55 pm
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Finally a Prelude

Postby 90prelude2014 » Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:55 pm

IMG_1893.JPG (30.72 KiB) Viewed 6475 times
IMG_1893.JPG (30.72 KiB) Viewed 6475 times
I've wanted a pop-up light generation prelude since I was a middle schooler in central Indiana, I'm now a 37 year old teacher in Denver. I even liked the clunkier 86 version. I'd driven several old Preludes throughout the decades and loved the interior and the general feel of the car, but they all seemed to have some major issues and my mechanical skills at the time didn't go much beyond changing the oil and spark plugs. Anyhow, I bought this white 1990 about a month ago. Finally, my first honda prelude (I've had a 92 civic si, a 90 accord lx coupe, a 91 accord ex sedan, a 90 accord ex coupe, an 89 acura integer, and a 98 acura TL… I drove many of them across the country and even to Canada a few times.

This prelude is an 'S' and is the car berated model-- It has 218K miles but is in pretty good shape, especially the interior, but I'm going for perfection. The car runs pretty good, but defiantly needs some attention. It may have a head gasket leak as there is a large heavy plume of white exhaust smoke for the first 20 seconds after a cold start. It idles high (2800 rpms) for 4-5 minutes, when it finally calms down it still idles a bit high at 1800 rpms. I researched a lot and watched a lot of scotty kilmer videos on the YouTube and I thought I'd try "steel seal" first. I was really anal about the procedure (flushing the radiator thoroughly, checking the spark plugs for coolant (there wasn't any), running the car 2X for 1 hour between intervals. The sealant process did seem to have a minor impact, but a week later I noticed fluid steadily running out from the bottom of the engine (near the block). At that point, the fatalist in me assumed it needed a whole new engine. I collected the fluid and took it to a mechanic b/c it seemed to have an ' oily sheen' to it. It was mostly pink "Zerex" (asian friendly) coolant with a little blue Honda coolant mixed together (plus "Steel Seal") so that may be the reason the fluid was grey. The grey fluid was pretty watery, but seemed shiny to me and kind of stuck to the bottom of the collection pan when swished around. A mechanic said that it wasn't oil and coolant mixed together. I'm still questioning this…He said it would be "frothy" and white if it was oil and coolant mixed. I'm still wondering if it just hadn't reached that state yet b/c I'd only driven the car gentally for 20 minutes total on two occasions since adding all new oil and new coolant. Anyhow, I did a compression test after all of this: All four cylinders ranged from 140-150 psi. Pretty good? The mechanic lifted the car and said it seems to be leaking from the water pump. The bottom of the engine seems pretty oily and dirty so I assumed it had oil leaks (I did a synthetic oil change when I first got it) and have been under the car many times trying to see where the 'water' leak is coming from. I used a florescent dye in the oil, drove and ran the car for about 15 minutes, but really didn't see any significant oil leaks. My next step is to put a dye in the coolant and find out all of the areas it may be leaking. My first major car project after that...I'm going to attempt the timing belt and water pump on the prelude by watching the video you guys have on here and using the downloaded 88 manual (thanks prelude!) I also bought a gold 88 Accord LX a week before buying this prelude--it was my family car growing up and I loved driving it. It's also in good shape, but the brakes aren't currently working… both are 5 speeds.

A few questions:

1. With compression in the 140-150 range; is it possible that I have a bad head gasket? It sill smokes heavily from the exhaust (white when 1st started). Would a leaking water pump cause it to smoke? The spark plugs seem completely dry and look to be in decent shape. The car has stalled a few times after warming up and reaching the 1800 rpm range, but it starts back up and doesn't seem to stall again. Once warm and driven it feels like it has a minor "miss or hesitation" (when at a stoplight) but after 15 minutes of driving that doesn't seem very noticeable.
2. Are there certain aftermarket brands (belts, hoses, seals..etc) that are better than others? Mile high honda stocks back to 1996 and I emailed the honda parts place recommended on this website but they never replied. I've been ordering aftermarket stuff off of Amazon...what I can find.
3. Should I change all the belts near the timing belt area? Aren't there a lot of oil gaskets that I should change in that area at the same time?
4. I notice the doors on the old hondas (probably all old cars) sag a bit, can that be fixed?
5. I think the car has 13" steel wheels on it. I want to go larger, but not obnoxious. I assume as you go larger they also get wider? Do 17" look better than 16"? I'd like a low profile tire as well. If you use a 16" or 17" does it make the car appear to sit lower, or does it somehow need to be slightly lowered as well? The car is low as is, especially compared to modern cars, so if larger tires make it look "slightly dropped" I'd like to avoid lowering it.
6. There was a rare bluish teal on the 1991 Honda accord 4 door SE in the U.S. I'm thinking of painting the car that color. The color was far less common and only on the SE accord. I attempted to have a 90 accord coupe painted that color, but the shop got it wrong and it turned out 'navy." ( I wasn't too upset), but I can't seem to locate the name of that color. It seems like the same color (or very close) showed up on the 92-95 Preludes. It isn't the common 'teal' that you see on the EX accords.

Thanks for reading all of this. :!: Peace, Ben

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Joined: Fri Nov 11, 2005 2:55 am
Prelude Model: 1991 SE-SR
Location: Alberta, Canada

Re: Finally a Prelude

Postby spiffyguido » Tue Dec 09, 2014 9:47 pm

Hi Ben,

First off, congrats on your purchase and welcome to Very glad to hear that you found some of our content helpful.

1) Despite having decent compression, it's still possible that you have a head gasket leak. The white smoke is a tell-tale sign of coolant leaking into the combustion chamber. Never a good thing. You're going to have to address that. When you take the head off, if possible, use a straight edge (machinist's tool) to verify that the head and block deck are still straight and make sure that the face of both the head and block are very well cleaned before mounting the new gasket. Little imperfections can cause big trouble. Pay special attention to the head bolt torqueing sequence and torque values as well.

2) I don't have much experience with aftermarket brands, sorry. Exedy is the go to brand for great aftermarket clutches, but other than that my car is completely Honda OEM. If you really can't get a Honda part, look for stuff made in Japan.

3) The timing belt is the only belt that needs special attention. You can change the alternator belt as well if it is worn. Same goes for the power steering belt. The video we developed on changing the timing belt explains all the parts and seals that can be changed. Crucial things are the timing belt, the water pump, and the tensioner. These are the things that will wreck your engine if they fail. Beyond that, change the cam oil seals because they cost only about $10 and are easy to do with the belt already off.

4) Yes, saggy doors are common. Mine aren't that bad so I don't have experience trying to resolve this. It might be a matter of realigning the latch and hinges so that closure works better.

5) Larger diameter wheels doesn't mean they will get wider. That's a separate change. The ride height of the car is determined by the total diameter of the rim and tire. Sometimes cars with larger wheel appear to be lower because they have less fender to tire gap. It's completely possible to fit 17" rims on a Prelude if you use low enough profile tires. 16s work as well. So do 15s. And 14s. Best bet is to decide what look you're going for and then figure the rim/tire combo that will get you there.

6) I think I know the color you mean, but I don't know the name of it either. You may need to find an accord service manual and see if the color codes are broken down in the section on bodywork. Failing that, get in touch with a Honda dealer and have them look it up on their system. All Honda colors have an alphanumeric code and can be replicated for resprays. I'm sure you'll be able to find the one you're looking for.

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