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Thread: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

  1. #1
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    Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    Hi Guys,

    New here and thought I'd do a little introduction.
    Picked up my first car, I chose the 1988 Honda Accord Si after browsing around here and falling in love with the aesthetics of this car. Trying to learn as much as possible about how to mantain it and further repair it when it needs it!
    I was fortunate enough to get service history dating back to original purchase along with the original manual. Its an Automatic 1988 Honda Accord Si. It probably needs some love, the interior was very dirty but all the electrics work (including the sunroof!), also icy cold air con! The body has a few little scuffs a very little spots of rust.
    Only issue I encountered on the drive home with a friend was that we noticed the break light on at the dash, but figure it's a faulty sensor.

    Being that it's my first car and its an old one (280000kms on the odometer) it will probably need quite a bit of love to get it back into shape. Haven't had it serviced yet and properly inspected but as I live in Australia it was fortunate to come with a roadworthy certificate.
    Here's some photo's of it, including a cheesy one of me on the bonnet looking way too happy.

    https://imgur.com/a/1HLAagn

    Other things to note, I think the 2 front speakers are blown (or dodgy wiring done), the headunit is kinda crap, came with new tires and alloys.

    The engine is the Australian/NZ release A20A4 engine with Fuel Injection. If anyone has any tips on what I can do to really restore this old beauty I'm all ears. I would love to have this another 10 years! (sounds nuts I know)

    I'll get some photos of the engine bay up soon, it's just at a mates place at the moment before I get it registered and serviced.

    Peace!



  2. #2

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    Welcome here!

    I'd start wit ha good carpet cleaning. It seems your's has seen better days

    The BRAKE LIGHT sensor is lit because you have a brake light that's blown. Check all 5 bulbs (Not sure if the trunk lights will light on your model though)

    288000 km is nothing for these cars. You can do twice that easily.

    It says EX on the back, not SI??

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    Yeah it's quite strange it says that, because I have the original owners manual and it says 1988 Honda Accord Si, strange it has the EX badge. Although from research it seems the Australian EX models didn't come with the sunroof standard and the only the Si models came with powered sunroof. This is as much as I have to go off currently and still wondering about the EX badge. It also seems to have an old Honda Grand Prix Racing Team F1 sticker on the rear, I guess an accessory fitted at the time by the owner? It's getting a service on Monday and I'll see what else I can find out before I have a few other more savvy friends have a look. Anyone got any ideas on this?

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    Also I plan to do as many small mods (or larger) mods to get this back to it's original condition, obviously a massive clean and see if the carpet is savable (maybe needs replacement) I've been driving it around a couple days now and it's such a smooth ride. My friends driving it too I think have fallen for it also! Any tips for restoration? I know the body and interior probably need a bit of work. I'll get posting some photos in the coming days of areas needing attention and would love to hear from anyone and everyone on some tips for what to be done next

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    I'm loving the Bettie Page pic! Welcome to the site!

    I love that you're planning to restore and not just tear everything out and rice it up. Personally, I think the best place to start with planning a build is to drive the car as is for awhile. You'll learn what's magic about the car, and what you want to change. Then go from there.
    Dr_Snooz

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    Took the car in for a service on monday, picked it up and got the run down of the issues they were able to diagnose. Seems like there's a bit of list to go on.
    One issue is actually tracking down the parts for the car at a reasonable price as I'm in Australia. But here is the list they gave me:

    The radiator has a substantial crack and is losing coolant.
    The coolant in the radiator is very rusty.

    The radiator cap is also worn.

    The air intake pipe is missing.

    There is carbon buildup in the throttle body.

    The transmission is noisy.

    Both the upper and lower ball joints are badly worn.

    The LHR tyre has heavy cracking between the treads.

    Both driveshafts are noisy, indicating heavy wear.

    The rear muffler is internally rusted and disintegrating.

    The front engine mount is broken.

    They quoted me $500 for replacement radiator, was able to track down a guy locally fortunately who has a second hand one for about $250 including the installation, going to inspect it tomorrow. Probably worthwhile though doing a full replacement, but if anyone has any advice on sourcing parts cheaply to be delivered to the land down under please let me know!

    Another update, also bought a decent sound system for the car (front and rear speakers, amp and headunit), seriously it was very bad with the two front speakers blown, a erratic broken aftermarket headunit and rear speakers crackling. No regrets on this purchase, may as well have some sick 80s tunes blasting while cruising around.

    Any advice for tracking down parts and what should be done first? I'd love to hear from you guys, I love this car even though it might end up being a bit of a money pit!!!

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    Quote Originally Posted by arc28 View Post
    Took the car in for a service on monday, picked it up and got the run down of the issues they were able to diagnose. Seems like there's a bit of list to go on.
    One issue is actually tracking down the parts for the car at a reasonable price as I'm in Australia. But here is the list they gave me:

    The radiator has a substantial crack and is losing coolant.
    The coolant in the radiator is very rusty.

    The radiator cap is also worn.

    The air intake pipe is missing.

    There is carbon buildup in the throttle body.

    The transmission is noisy.

    Both the upper and lower ball joints are badly worn.

    The LHR tyre has heavy cracking between the treads.

    Both driveshafts are noisy, indicating heavy wear.

    The rear muffler is internally rusted and disintegrating.

    The front engine mount is broken.

    They quoted me $500 for replacement radiator, was able to track down a guy locally fortunately who has a second hand one for about $250 including the installation, going to inspect it tomorrow. Probably worthwhile though doing a full replacement, but if anyone has any advice on sourcing parts cheaply to be delivered to the land down under please let me know!

    Another update, also bought a decent sound system for the car (front and rear speakers, amp and headunit), seriously it was very bad with the two front speakers blown, a erratic broken aftermarket headunit and rear speakers crackling. No regrets on this purchase, may as well have some sick 80s tunes blasting while cruising around.

    Any advice for tracking down parts and what should be done first? I'd love to hear from you guys, I love this car even though it might end up being a bit of a money pit!!!
    While I have no idea what the main source of 3gee parts is in Australia, I would say that when it comes to these cars, the biggest thing to do is to fix as much as you can by yourself! These are amazingly good cars to learn on, and nearly all of that sounds like something you can do yourself! It's only six bolts to remove the radiator, and the transmission noise most likely just low transmission fluid, and if you're willing to take on the task of replacing the axles yourself you'll be able to pull the ball joints out while you're at it, and take out three problems in one fell swoop! And with a simple floorjack you can support the engine enough to remove the ~4 bolt front engine mount yourself. They can be money pits if you pay for other people to work on your old car, but if you take it on yourself you'll save tons of cash and learn tons! 3geez is where I started ~three years ago, and at this point it takes me an afternoon to do an engine swap. DIY! Save cash man!
    1988 Honda Accord DX Coupe (x2!), 1988 Honda Civic DX Hatch, 1985 Honda Spree

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    The 3G Accord is a car that trains it's mechanic

  9. #9

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    Quote Originally Posted by arc28 View Post
    The radiator has a substantial crack and is losing coolant.
    The coolant in the radiator is very rusty.
    ~US$100 to put a brand new radiator in yourself. It will be a good opportunity to replace all the hoses too, but you don't have to if funds are tight. Definitely replace any hoses that feel mushy though. A burst hose will leave you stranded on the side of the road, possibly even wreck your engine. You don't want that.

    The radiator cap is also worn.
    Maybe US$10?

    The air intake pipe is missing.
    That should be an easy junkyard item for maybe $20? Or get a $10 universal hose and make it fit yourself.

    There is carbon buildup in the throttle body.
    $7 can of carb cleaner

    The transmission is noisy.
    US$50 fluid change you can do yourself. Use a premium, full synthetic fluid.

    Both the upper and lower ball joints are badly worn.
    Really the only urgent item on the list. But you should double check them before you spend any money. Jack up the car and remove the wheel to look at them. If the boots are torn and the grease all gone, you should probably replace them. The uppers are maybe US$100 and easy to do yourself. The lowers are a challenge and require complete removal of the knuckle assembly, as well as a hydraulic press. If you don't have some wrenching under your belt already, let a shop do them. Since they will have to completely disassemble the front suspension to remove the knuckle, you may as well have them replace the upper ball joints and the CV axles at the same time. You'll save on labor costs overall, unless they do flat rate pricing, in which case, you should ask for a discount.

    Both driveshafts are noisy, indicating heavy wear.
    You can drive noisy joints for a very, very, very long time. Basically, if you aren't wondering what's making all that clacking when you go around corners, you can probably keep driving them. For myself, I prefer to fix stuff, but if funds are tight, you can most likely put this off. This is a fairly advanced repair, so you might put it off until you have some other repairs (maybe the ones above?) under your belt first.

    The rear muffler is internally rusted and disintegrating.
    Meh. If it's bad enough, the car will become very gutless and slow.

    The front engine mount is broken.
    This will be interesting, because those mounts are not available here in the States anymore. Start by verifying the diagnosis yourself. The font mount is easy to see with the hood open. If the rubber material is cracked, smooshed out of shape or gone entirely, replace it. On the other hand, if you aren't feeling and hearing clunks when you step on the gas, it will hold awhile longer even if it isn't in the best shape. I'll let others chime in on what to do if it is bad.

    As for cheap parts, train yourself early to look for good parts, not cheap ones. There are stores that will sell you cheap parts. Those parts will fail at bad times, leave you stranded and cost you extra for tow bills and hassle. Good parts will always be the cheapest in the long run, even if they are a little more costly. Here in the states, we use RockAuto.com. They have the best prices I've found and sell parts from Honda's OE suppliers. Always go for the OE supplier parts (like Denso) whenever possible.

    All in all, that's a very manageable list. Your car is in good shape. Download the manual in my signature and read up on the repairs your car needs. You can do most of the work on these cars with only a basic tool set from your average auto parts store. The only thing I would add to a basic kit is a torque wrench. Add more tools as you require them to take on more challenging repairs.
    Dr_Snooz

    "I like to take hammers, and just break stuff, just break stuff." - Beavis


    1989 Honda Accord LX-i Coupe, 220k miles, MT swap, rear disc swap

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    I thought I was being smart today, took my Accord to a Honda specific mechanic as he stated he has a good condition 2nd hand radiator. This doesn't seem to be the case.
    He replaced the previous radiator with this one, (looks old and beaten, may not have leaks) but seems to have not flushed coolant properly.
    Further more they found cracked hosing which they decided to cut and reattach and finally they found a electrical issue where the fan was aftermarket fixed, this is problematic because the previous fix kept the fan running as per normal, to fix this problem they have done a bypass.

    Today the weather was extremely hot 37° Celcius (98.6 °Fahrenheit) and after driving the car back home the radiator was making a loud gurgling sound. This was accompanied by hissing and a leak that had sprung under the radiator (likely due to the hosing being worn and cracked).
    These noises remained for around 10 minutes after the engine was turned off. I've decided best to call back, complain about the issue and ask why the job was not done correctly and see if they can remedy it.
    Although if the weather is extremely hot I do not want to drive the car and damage the engine (which may have had damage from today).

    All these issues could of been solved if I had either ordered the parts myself and waited to get a very good mechanic to replace them (also the hosing, thermostat etc etc) or to go to approved mechanic offering warranties.
    Either way, I am sort of in a difficult position, I will not sell the car but I don't want to risk damaging it and it really needs the attention of a good mechanic who won't fuck me around. I'd love to get deep into this but it's my first time working with cars and understanding mechanics.

    Currently in a difficult position financially to further put another lot of money into it, so it may have to sit around for the next 2-4 weeks or more until I can get funds for the parts and work needed.
    On a side note, I did the classic newbie mistake and hilariously so put a great sound system in it. Well at least this will never be done again, all the shrouds are covering the speakers and amp, so apart from the headunit it looks stock but sounds amazing.

    This has now become my project car, I have probably spent already $1400 AUD in total costs for registration, service, 2nd hand radiator (probably a massive mistake) and sound system.
    I'll probably have to drop another $2000 into it to get it back to it's best condition for the age.

    Out of respect for the engine and love, I really want to make sure the cooling issues are solved properly before I really get it out on the road again. I'm seriously worried about potentially damaging the engine.
    I'd love to hear some thoughts on this. I'll be taking photos of the engine bay so you can see the condition of it. At this stage I really want all the hosing for cooling to be replaced and to get it properly looked at.

    The difficulty is finding mechanics who want to undertake this task and are willing to help. I can acquire parts myself then find people to help install them but I'm not sure where to go from here.
    Also I do not have the money currently to buy the tools necessary to repair yet myself. This might be something to be done over time.

    Of course all these things are embarassingly newb mistakes/lessons that I'll learn, either way I have commited myself now and won't abandon it until its done.

    If anyone knows Mechanics in Melbourne Australia who really love these cars and have experience with them I'd love to know.

    PS: Thank you Dr Snooz! I think I'll order parts from RockAuto, shipping is reasonable to Australia.
    Carotman, damn you are right on that one, it will train even a seasoned mechanic, so a newb like me is going to have a good lot of lessons!
    Bocks, you are right man, I should really try and DIY this, but I need a mechanically minded friend to assist me for the first few little jobs.

    Thanks again guys! I appreciate the support. I love this car and I want to see it go another 10 years if possible!
    Last edited by arc28; 02-28-2019 at 06:39 AM.

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    I am seriously concerned, if the head gasket is blown, well fuck me won't be fixable for around 6 months. Really really hoping that isn't the case, but god damn it is a possibility.

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    After consulting the manual (thanks Dr Snooz!) I thought I should try the following. Save my pennies and then purchase this off rockauto:

    - DENSO 2213218 Radiator
    - new ACDELCO high flow 12TP9D thermostat
    - new Thermostat Seal
    - GATES 13psi rated Radiator Cap
    - ACDELCO Radiator Lower Hose (26108X) 1-1/16" x 24 19/32" [looks like the one that will fit my A20A4 engine]
    - ACDELCO Radiator Upper Hose (31604) Professional/Flexible 1-1/8" x 23" [looks like the one that will fit my A20A4 engine]
    - BECK/ARNLEY Fuel Filter 0430896
    - DENSO Air Filter 1432023

    If anyone could confirm these parts should fit let me know, I'd love some more input here.

    These things should significantly reduce the engine temperature, next is to find an intake duct/hose/pipe (possibly custom?) to fit. If all these are achieved it may solve my issue, after thinking more over this I am hopeful the head gasket has not blown.

    PS; nearly lost sleep staying up troubleshooting these problems in my head and looking through the manual. I won't be able to do another diagnostic until tomorrow. I'll try and get some pictures although if the crack/leak is small it may not show.

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    Further so to have a physical reference I am purchasing a Haynes repair manual, the detail of the print and having a book on hand is simply useful. The PDF is great for now but this will make diagnosis easier when the car is right there in front of me. (my printer is rubbish anyway, so can't print off all the pages)

    And again after considerable rational thought, I should simply assume the simple fixes first before jumping to conclusions of the worst case scenario. Now my focus should be entirely on making the car mechanically sound before any other work is done. (haha sound system should of been done last but whatever)

    After cooling and filter work is done, I will then work next on suspension (upper and lower joints etc) followed by engine mounts and drive shafts if necessary.

    Thoughts?
    Last edited by arc28; 02-28-2019 at 10:00 AM.

  14. #14

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    Stop and take a few breaths. The car's okay. First thing to check is the coolant level. It sounds like it's low. If it is, you'll need to top it off and bleed the system according to the instructions in the manual. Do that one thing, then drive the car for awhile. If it leaks coolant, find the leak and fix it. It will probably be as simple as a loose hose clamp. If it's more complicated than that, post up and we'll help you. When you check the coolant, note it's condition. Is it emerald green like an Apple Jolly Rancher, or muddy orange like rust, or goopy brown like chocolate milk? Let us know. Believe it or not, what they did with the hoses is a time-honored way of stretching service life. They might have bought you another year of not replacing them. Remember that trick when you come across someone stranded on the side of the road with a ruptured hose. It will save them a big tow bill. It's not the ideal way to fix them, but it works. You can now use the money they saved you to fix your next urgent issue. If you had taken the car to a dealer, they would have replaced all the hoses and charged you $800. The car would still be sitting because you'd be broke. And it still would have been crappy work, because to them, it's just an old car that they'll make the new guy work on. Don't worry about head gaskets or anything. These cars can take a lot of abuse and not break. That's one of the reasons we love them so.

    Learn from the lesson you've just received. It's a lesson we've all learned. You paid to have work done, but it wasn't good enough. It will never be good enough because no one cares about your car like you do. You may feel inadequate, but you're still the best mechanic for your car. You have the Honda manual, which holds more knowledge about your car than any shop mechanic will ever have. You may feel like you don't have the tools, but as two people have already stated, you can do most of the work on your car with a basic tool set. I'm talking basic like the cheesy $50 kit with the crappy Chinese tools in a blow-molded case from your local auto parts place. Add a cheap torque wrench and you'll be equipped to do most of the repairs you'll ever need to for less than $100. Use the money you were planning to spend on those parts above to buy your tools. Add to your kit as you advance in your work. It will pay off in money saved and quality of work. Ideally, start your mechanic career by changing your own oil a few times. In your case, start by bleeding your cooling system. That's a super easy job. Change your trans oil next and keep advancing from there. Before every job, read through the instructions in the manual. Do all the work in your mind. Go buy any additional tools you may need. If you need to see the actual work done, you can watch YouTube videos. I learn an amazing amount of stuff from YouTube.

    Don't feel bad about your stereo either. The car you enjoy is the car you'll keep working on and keep improving. You've made an investment in your own commitment to the car, that's all.

    Don't buy the Haynes manual. It's not worth it. Buy the genuine Honda manual for your vehicle from eBay.
    Dr_Snooz

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    Decided to put some photos up of the engine bay with the 2nd hand radiator replacement in, this one is looking junk as hell and might just go about getting a replacement for it. On another note I bought some parts from RockAuto, upper and lower radiator hoses, thermostat, new radiator cap, upper and lower ball joints, new air filter, fuel filter, ilder pulley and engine mount. Now just waiting on some more income to get the radiator.

    Found a place that will do reconditioning of drive shafts. Although I could buy new ones for around $150 each here in Australia. For the upper and lower joints and drive shafts I'll probably need to pay someone to help me do the job. The throttle body is definitely in need of a good clean, thinking about doing the right thing and removing it entirely to spray it down. Figure this is what might be causing another issue, when turning on the engine, the RPM goes up and down.

    Also decided to take photos of all the dents and little rust spots to know where to work on after the car is back in good mechanical condition.

    Here are some of the photos of the engine bay and radiator: https://imgur.com/a/mo2LAyB

    Also noticed it looks like some oil is leaking from the valve cover, seems like a replacement of the valve cover gasket and a good clean will help. Eventually going to go over the entire bay and clean it thoroughly.

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    UPDATE: I've found another Honda Accord 1987 2.0Si, it's a manual (these are pretty rare now I suppose!) Looks to be in a lot better condition than the current one I have, its 2nd owner vehicle and the previous owner was a mechanic. It has the original hub caps too. It needs a new battery but its got 40k less kms on the clock. Owner explained it has been in fantastic mechanical condition since bought, only selling because their son doesn't like the look of it and wants an auto. It's priced at around $1800 AUD and comes with 7 months rego. I'm honestly thinking about buying it and swapping whatever parts are better in mine to it if actually needed. Since these manual versions are hard to come by. Considering this as an option in case the car I currently have presents a bunch of money pit reasons to replace then maybe fixing up the auto and selling it to a friend. I've asked the owner to send me heaps of pictures because I won't be able to do a physical inspection.

  17. #17

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    I would avoid removing the throttle body, myself. To my knowledge, it's the only paper gasket on the car and it's a NIGHTMARE to get off completely.
    Dr_Snooz

    "I like to take hammers, and just break stuff, just break stuff." - Beavis


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  18. #18
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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    A bit of an update on the Accord. I finally found a mechanic I can trust and who will do a good job at a reasonable price. I took it in to him to get the suspension sorted considering the time it was going to take I got him to cross off a bunch of things on the list. The upper and lower ball joints have been replaced, the driveshaft boots replaced, full synthetic fluid change (it was dark brown/black), front engine mount was replaced, upper and lower radiator hoses replaced, engine bay was cleaned down and valve cover resprayed, new thermostat as well. The car seems to be shifting better and feels sturdier on the road.

    The break light is still an issue, he had a look at it and imagined it may be a short somewhere. The car is no longer vibrating or making any noises in the engine bay.

    All considered I think it was all worth it. Cost about the same as the car, he did a general service too so of course all filters, oil change etc done.

    Not sure about that transmission though, but for the moment it seems a heck better, I'll be posting more as I know. Slow process but we'll get there.

  19. #19

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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    Take a picture of the back of the car with the brake lights on. I'm sure there's a burnt bulb

  20. #20
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    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    I wish it were, had the car taken to my mechanic to look over it, he believed it may be a short somewhere. Also another thing to note, on start up it idles high at around 2k RPM then floats between 1000-1500 for another 5 minutes. My mechanic believes the IACV is faulty, where would I even get one? I can't seem to find it on rockauto, anyone got any ideas?

  21. #21
    3Geez Veteran BITESIZE's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
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    2000 VW
    Location
    Phoenix, AZ
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    6,451

    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    Take the IACV off and clean it out. It's easy.

  22. #22

    Dr_Snooz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
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    1989 Accord LX-i
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    Fresno, California
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    9,666

    Re: Picked up my first car (and first love) the 1988 Honda Accord Si !

    That's probably a combination of a vacuum leak and a FITV out of adjustment. There's a thread around here somewhere showing how to fix it. Basically, you open the top and tighten the innards all the way down.
    Dr_Snooz

    "I like to take hammers, and just break stuff, just break stuff." - Beavis


    1989 Honda Accord LX-i Coupe, 220k miles, MT swap, rear disc swap

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