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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Greetings,

I have 2003 Pilot with 145K miles on her. About a year or so ago I started noticing an exhaust-like smell inside the vehicle. It comes when my heater is on and when I'm ether sitting in the traffic, idling on the parking lot or moving very slowly. Once I pick up some speed the smell is not a factor.

I'm trying to figure out what is happening and how to address it. There is no visible or audible exhaust leaks from the exhaust system itself. I have a little of motor oil dripping around the pan, but nothing really major otherwise.

I spoke to the mechanic and he advised me to replace a rubber hood seal that is used to isolate cabin ventilation air intake from the engine compartment when the hood is closed. Given that the seal is original, it seems to be a bit squashed but the hoof itself, but all intact and I'm not yet convinced that it is the source of this issue.

I'm sure that I'm not the one who is having such issue. If anyone experienced similar smell in the cabin before, please share what was the cause of it. Any tips or suggestion will be highly appreciated.
 

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For the age and mileage I would recommend inspecting the exhaust system specifically the front exhaust pipe that has a flexible section. The OEM front pipe has been discontinued but aftermarket parts should be available. Drive safely with the windows open until this is repaired.
 

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As engine mounts fail, the torque of the engine can cause separation at the catalytic converter flanges. I would make sure all engine mounts are sound, then work my way down the exhaust system, replacing nuts bolts gaskets and or decayed pipe. Hopefully not cats. RockAuto has aftermarket exhaust systems if needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Aggrex and Nail Grease,

Thank you! You guys made me thinking in the right direction! I was looking for the exhaust leak right near the manifold, but it can well be below by the cat. And I did not check there! Engine mounts were replaced about three years ago. And now as I'm thinking, I was changing my belts accessory last year and I needed to jack an engine from the mount to snail new belt around the mount. I think I started noticing that exhaust smell after that. It may well be that I twisted the engine enough to break the flunge seal around the cat.

Thank you for the tip! I'll get on it and will share what I will find.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Once again, thank you Aggrex and Nail Grease.

Here is the scoop. I got her on the lift last Saturday and started looking around. Surely, flexible section of the front exhaust part did not look too good. And the smell was clearly around that area.

Frankly, I was expecting to hear some sort of noise when exhaust is escaping before the muffler. But all what I could hear is a very low hissing, almost uncatchable when the motor is running.

Aggrex, seems that you are spot on. I’m ordering a new part and will update you all. I think it should fix it.
 

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Aggrex, seems that you are spot on. I’m ordering a new part and will update you all. I think it should fix it.
Check out Rock Auto for a complete system. In my case the entire system was just a bit more than having some muffler shop half-azz weld on a flex section that leaked
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Check out Rock Auto for a complete system. In my case the entire system was just a bit more than having some muffler shop half-azz weld on a flex section that leaked View attachment 148107

Here's the one available on Rockauto for a 2003 Pilot. It's $515.79.



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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Well. I wanted to give you all an update on the exhaust repairs. Unfortunately, I encountered a bigger problem. On Sunday my Pilot lost power while on the highway. I pulled it over and got towed to the shop. The verdict is sad - timing belt. The motor is pretty much done. Ironically, vehicle got exactly 147000 on the clock when it happened.
At this moment, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. Trying to see if I can source a used motor. Hope the cost of repairs would not go beyond reasonable :(
 

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Well. I wanted to give you all an update on the exhaust repairs. Unfortunately, I encountered a bigger problem. On Sunday my Pilot lost power while on the highway. I pulled it over and got towed to the shop. The verdict is sad - timing belt. The motor is pretty much done. Ironically, vehicle got exactly 147000 on the clock when it happened.
At this moment, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. Trying to see if I can source a used motor. Hope the cost of repairs would not go beyond reasonable :(
Did you change the timing belt at 105,000 miles per Honda's maintenance schedule?
 

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Sorry for your pain. I never thought to ask if your timing belt had ever been changed.
The engine block itself may not be bad. I'd remove the heads to inspect, possibly just replace heads along with a timing belt water pump job. Flush coolant and reseal the oil pan and oil pump.
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Sorry for your pain. I never thought to ask if your timing belt had ever been changed.
The engine block itself may not be bad. I'd remove the heads to inspect, possibly just replace heads along with a timing belt water pump job. Flush coolant and reseal the oil pan and oil pump.
Yeah. The timing belt was changed by the previous owner. (Who happened to be my friend.) Not sure why it snapped on me. Perhaps the quality of the belt was not great. I was trying to take a good care of this car.

There are no compressions in the cylinders. I presume pistons collided with valves.
 

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Yeah. The timing belt was changed by the previous owner. (Who happened to be my friend.) Not sure why it snapped on me. Perhaps the quality of the belt was not great. I was trying to take a good care of this car.
Quite possibly. There are some bad aftermarket parts out there. The consensus on this subject is to buy an Aisin kit or OEM from a dealership. No fault of yours.
There are no compressions in the cylinders. I presume pistons collided with valves.
Yes, this is what happens when the TB breaks. Most cases the heads can be replaced as a fix. Inspect cylinder walls for scoring. If they are scored, ya, I'd be looking for a replacement engine.
 
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Yeah. The timing belt was changed by the previous owner. (Who happened to be my friend.) Not sure why it snapped on me. Perhaps the quality of the belt was not great. I was trying to take a good care of this car.

There are no compressions in the cylinders. I presume pistons collided with valves.
Sorry to hear about your engine issue. If you decide on replacing the motor post any information from the engine teardown to enlighten us on the exact failure as the TB (brand) may not have failed alone. Something to consider might be the possibility to pick up another first gen Pilot in decent running condition close to the cost of an engine replacement.
 

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How experienced and skilled is your buddy at changing timing belts? In addition to changing the belt itself, the whole timing belt kit should be done at the same time, with the Aisin kit, including water pump, tensioner... and then he's got to make sure to get the tooth alignment spot on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hi All!
I'm back. Sorry for the long period of silence. I've got something else happening and put the Pilot motor issue on the backburner.

Well. I'm trying to figure out what to do with it now. The shop gave me a estimate for swapping the motor. $2,700 for the used 70K motor. I've never dealt with motor replacement before and I'm not sure if taking an used motor is a great idea.
And there is a need to invest at least another 1,500 in it. It soon gonna need new shocks and struts and there is a dent on the right rear fender that needs to be taken care of.

I went to see the her on Sat. And I have a suspicious feeling that mechanic did not do any diagnostic on it. At least the motor was all intact and even the top plastic cover in place. I did not see any evidence that it was removed.
I tried to crank the motor and in turned and I did not hear any metal to metal noise.

So, my biggest question now is this motor really gone, or are there any remote chance that valves and pistons are still intact? If any one had an experience like this, please let me know.

Have a great day everyone!
 

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You did say that the timing belt broke, didn't you? There is no point in cranking the motor over now. All you are doing is making the pistons cycle while the valve train is motionless. The valves that are in interference positions are already bent, so you won't hear any noises. The damage is already done, and valve replacement is required before this motor can run again. Nail Grease is correct, it's very possible that replacing the heads with new or rebuilt ones could repair the engine. Compare the cost for that job with your mechanic.
 

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So this mechanic supposedly did a compression test and told you it had cylinders with no compression?
If you want to know for sure that the belt broke, you could remove one of the timing covers on top to inspect (10mm bolts).
If your confident that the belt broke and this is a trusted mechanic, $2700 for a 70k engine installed is not a bad price. It's difficult for me to say "yes, do it" without looking at your vehicle. So many other things could go wrong.
To protect your investment.....
Has the timing belt water pump job been done on the replacement engine? I'd want a new Aisin kit installed.
I'd want all the seals replaced with oil pump, pan, oil pick up tube and oil filter housing gasket replaced/resealed. That would include all the seals on the transmission side too.
New drive belt, radiator hoses, heater hoses, ATF hoses, rubber power steering hoses etc. If it's rubber, it likely needs replacing with new clamps if it's all original.
What is the condition of the radiator? If it's original I'd want to replace.
What's the condition of the AC condenser? Replace all seals on AC lines.
Sorry to throw all this at you. It is a 2003.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
You did say that the timing belt broke, didn't you? There is no point in cranking the motor over now. All you are doing is making the pistons cycle while the valve train is motionless. The valves that are in interference positions are already bent, so you won't hear any noises. The damage is already done, and valve replacement is required before this motor can run again. Nail Grease is correct, it's very possible that replacing the heads with new or rebuilt ones could repair the engine. Compare the cost for that job with your mechanic.
It what what that mechanic told me that the timing belt is gone. But I did not see any signs of him opening the motor. And he is no longer with this shop due to some kind of conflict. So I started getting second thoughts about the the timing belt and such. Very likely it is what he told, but I did not see it for myself.
I will definitely explore an option to just replace heads. It sounds more appealing to me than getting the motor with unknown history.
Thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
So this mechanic supposedly did a compression test and told you it had cylinders with no compression?
If you want to know for sure that the belt broke, you could remove one of the timing covers on top to inspect (10mm bolts).
If your confident that the belt broke and this is a trusted mechanic, $2700 for a 70k engine installed is not a bad price. It's difficult for me to say "yes, do it" without looking at your vehicle. So many other things could go wrong.
To protect your investment.....
Has the timing belt water pump job been done on the replacement engine? I'd want a new Aisin kit installed.
I'd want all the seals replaced with oil pump, pan, oil pick up tube and oil filter housing gasket replaced/resealed. That would include all the seals on the transmission side too.
New drive belt, radiator hoses, heater hoses, ATF hoses, rubber power steering hoses etc. If it's rubber, it likely needs replacing with new clamps if it's all original.
What is the condition of the radiator? If it's original I'd want to replace.
What's the condition of the AC condenser? Replace all seals on AC lines.
Sorry to throw all this at you. It is a 2003.
Thank you so much for a very thoughtful advice! There is a lot to think about!

I know for sure that radiator was replaced and it is in a good state. AC was running fine. I charged it with freon last summer and it worked fine. The power steering started to make noise and I was thinking about fixing it. But it is something to add to the list. There was some engine oil dripage when it was hot. I was investigating it. I thought it was around the pan. So yes. There are quite a few little things that need to be addressed. I think all in all if I will take on this project it will be about 5K investment.
I just liked this car. It had that special old car smell. Old leather, old carpets and plastic. But it did not smell bad at all. It was sitting outside for two months on the rain and sun. I opened a door and it still smelled like I just drove it.
So I guess it has some sentimental value. )) I just hate throwing cars to a junkyard.
 

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If you are unsure about the timing belt, then please follow Nail Grease's advice and remove one of the top covers that enclose the belt and sprockets. If you are unsure about this, try to google a youtube video on Honda J-engine timing belt. The covers are not that hard to remove, and then you should be able to see if the belt is broken or not.
 
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