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J37A4 (320 HP Acura TL 3.7L) swap

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EDIT- It's been quite the long and winding road, but there's a happy ending! If you don't have time to review 100+ posts, skip to page 6 and digest posts 105 through 109, where I've summarized under the following categories:

Post 105: "NO, you don't REALLY have VTEC on your Pilot!"
Post 106: Build Sheet & Budget
Post 107: Swapped motor control options and wiring
Post 108: Mechanical swap itself, lessons learned & instructions
Post 109: Tuning, end results, and possible way ahead.

Reader's Digest version: I put a 3.7L dual-VTEC Acura TL motor into my 2014 Pilot 4WD Touring. It cost about $7,500 in parts and labor, but could have been done for around $3,000 if I'd done ALL the work myself and not done some of the extra parts upgrades. She makes at least 70 HP and 13 ft-lbs more torque than stock at the crank on 93 octane, and there's probably more still to be had (though I'm not going to go chasing it). It was sometimes frustrating and sometimes fun, but mostly I'm glad it's done and running like it came this way from the factory. GOBS of torque down low, and she'll cruise up a long hill at well above the speed limit in 5th gear without batting an eye.

-------- TL: DR version follows... buckle up, buttercup!--------
Well, the wifemobile (bone stock 2014 AWD Touring) threw a timing belt at 110k, just about 5k miles after having all those components changed with brand new OEM parts. Sheesh.

I'm always looking for an opportunity to make lemons out of lemonade, so since a used 3.7L J37A4 is within a few hundred bucks of a stock 3.5L replacement, let's make simple shit hard and see if we can squeeze a few more ponies out of Princess the Pilot, shall we?

Following a similar swap over on the Ridgeline forums as a guide, it won't be easy but it won't be impossible, either. Mechanically speaking, they're practically identical. EVERYTHING will have to move over from the stock 3.5L, down to the engine mounting points. All accessories and wiring harness. The wiring harness will have to be modified as follows:
1) Injector plugs are different from the 3.7 to the 3.5 so those will have to be moved over from the donor harness.
2) 3.7 has the VTEC solenoid and oil pressure sensor down on the block by the filter as opposed to on the heads like the 3.5, so the harness will have to be extended/modified accordingly.

While we're at it, I'll add a few goodies such as intake manifold spacer & thermal gaskets, throttle body spacer & thermal gaskets, High Flow Pre Cats, equal-length J-pipe, and ported lower intake manifold runners. If Princess has to undergo open heart surgery, we might as well do some touching-up while we're in there, after all!

My biggest concern is CONTROL. Fuel trims are likely to be way off as the 3.5's PCM tries to control an engine with larger displacement and larger injectors than it's expecting. I've got two options: 1) Swap in a Ridgeline PCM, which can be tuned with kTuner, or 2) Try a piggyback ECU (I'm eyeing the AEM F/IC 6). I'm leaning towards the latter.

Anyways, the block is on the way to the installer and all the other ancillary goodies are on order. We expect to start tearing into this around the beginning of September. I'll keep the forum posted, especially considering the dearth of info out there about performance modifications for our beloved Pilots!

-Jon

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Gosh, I hope so! My wife is the one who drives it about 90% of the time. Another 8% of the time, I'm the one driving but with her in the car as well. That leaves about 2% of the overall operating window when the vehicle might actually be pushed to its limits. I suppose there will be no way to know for sure unless it starts slipping/failing, which I'll be sure to report here.
I would assume the transmission is somewhat similar to the TL so it will be fine.
Thanks for sharing all of this...pretty cool stuff.
 

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Hahahah! Yeah, it's been quite the roller coaster ride :)
All I can say is I'm in awe. I can no longer tell my wife how proud of myself I am for completing such mundane tasks as changing the Pilot's spark plugs or cleaning or changing the PCV and EGR. I am but an ant looking up at a lion. My self-pity index doing what I thought was challenging wrench work just dropped an order of magnitude.

Given how finicky the Pilot's PCM appears to be based on numerous questions here about dash lights unexpectedly popping on for small changes in the phase of the moon or turning green jockey briefs into shop towels prematurely ... it's a tribute to your understanding of the electrical circuits and harness mod execution that you're running code free. Impressive! Nice going! Thanks for sharing and the extra work of picture taking and journaling all the steps and associated costs, and in a delightful writing style that makes for easy and entertaining reading despite the level of technical detail.

My wife's profession and full time job is in finance as a manager at a big corporation. She rounds to the nearest $millionth. She has no appetite to deal with money when home, so I take care of all the finances, bills, taxes, investments, etc. When I saw your commrnt "If I should get hit by a truck - diagrams." I laughed because I felt like my wife did when I told her if I get hit by a truck here are all the accounts, all the locations, all the passwords, when things are due, how much to pay who and when, which policies to collect on and how much, etc. etc. ... you get the idea. She looked at me and said, "Thanks, but you have to be shitting me to think I understand enough of that to even try to do it all. Just don't die before me!"
 

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2014 Pilot AWD-Touring with J37A4-swapped engine
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Discussion Starter · #104 ·
All I can say is I'm in awe. I can no longer tell my wife how proud of myself I am for completing such mundane tasks as changing the Pilot's spark plugs or cleaning or changing the PCV and EGR. I am but an ant looking up at a lion. My self-pity index doing what I thought was challenging wrench work just dropped an order of magnitude.

Given how finicky the Pilot's PCM appears to be based on numerous questions here about dash lights unexpectedly popping on for small changes in the phase of the moon or turning green jockey briefs into shop towels prematurely ... it's a tribute to your understanding of the electrical circuits and harness mod execution that you're running code free. Impressive! Nice going! Thanks for sharing and the extra work of picture taking and journaling all the steps and associated costs, and in a delightful writing style that makes for easy and entertaining reading despite the level of technical detail.

My wife's profession and full time job is in finance as a manager at a big corporation. She rounds to the nearest $millionth. She has no appetite to deal with money when home, so I take care of all the finances, bills, taxes, investments, etc. When I saw your commrnt "If I should get hit by a truck - diagrams." I laughed because I felt like my wife did when I told her if I get hit by a truck here are all the accounts, all the locations, all the passwords, when things are due, how much to pay who and when, which policies to collect on and how much, etc. etc. ... you get the idea. She looked at me and said, "Thanks, but you have to be shitting me to think I understand enough of that to even try to do it all. Just don't die before me!"
You are too kind, Sir. I am definitely a voracious knowledge "consumer" on many enthusiast forums, so I try to balance the scales when given the opportunity. Remember... we are ALL just a couple of forum guides and/or Youtube videos away from being experts at a given task :)

-Jon
 

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Discussion Starter · #105 · (Edited)
SUMMARY POST 1: "NO, you don't REALLY have VTEC on your Pilot"

Yeah, sorry to start this off by crushing your soul, but if you are thinking of "VTEC" = "engage higher-lift cams that increase intake/exhaust airflow at high load & RPMs"... nope. Your 3.5L Pilot (at least, gen 2s... the Gen 1 have either a VTEC engine or an earlier version of this i-VTEC depending on 2wd or 4wd) has i-VTEC, which is a marketing smoke-and-mirrors equivalent to another acronym - VCM (Variable Cylinder Management). Your J35Z4 motor uses a mechanically-similar process as traditional "VTEC" - use oil pressure to lock/unlock a secondary set of rocker arms that engage/disengage different cam lobes - but in this case, they aren't ENGAGING them and causing them to ride on higher-lift cam profiles, they're actually DISENGAGING the primary cams under certain circumstances, allowing them to simply ride on perfectly-circular cam profiles and deactivating the affected cylinder(s). VTEC = better performance. i-VTEC / VCM = better fuel economy.

BuT I caN fEEL tHe VTEC kICKinG IN, YO!!!!
Sure... if you mean "the engine gets off its lumpy ass and actually gives you all six cylinders" then yes, you do feel it, bro.

No, reALLy, MaN... at, LiKE 4 grAnD u gET thIS 'wuuuuuuAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!" iT's ToTaLLy VTEC, DuDE!!!
Ummm, still "no." The intake manifold has a rectangular butterfly flap that opens at 4,200 RPM to effectively alter manifold runner length and optimize it for higher-RPM flow. That's what you're hearing and feeling. It's pretty cool, but it's also pretty NOT VTEC.

Reference: Link in Post 24 (Page 2), excerpted: "To help improve the fuel efficiency of the V-6 engine, the latest generation of Honda's VCM is used (similar to the Accord V-6). This is the first application of VCM on a Honda 4-wheel-drive model. (The previous generation of VCM used in the 2007 - 2008 Pilot switched between three- and six-cylinder operation and was used exclusively in two-wheel-drive models.) The Pilot's new VCM system can operate on three, four or all six cylinders, and is standard on all both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models. During startup, acceleration or when climbing hills - any time high power output is required - the engine operates on all six cylinders. During moderate speed cruising and at low engine loads, the system operates just one bank of three cylinders. For moderate acceleration, higher-speed cruising and mild hills, the engine operates on four cylinders."

"VCM deactivates specific cylinders by using the VTEC (Variable Valve-Timing and Lift Electronic Control) system to close the intake and exhaust valves while simultaneously the Powertrain Control Module cuts fuel to those cylinders. When operating on three cylinders, the rear cylinder bank is shut down. When running on four cylinders, the left and center cylinders of the front bank operate, and the right and center cylinders of the rear bank operate. The system is electronically controlled, and uses special integrated spool valves that do double duty as rocker-shaft holders in the cylinder heads. Based on commands from the system's electronic control unit, the spool valves selectively direct oil pressure to the rocker arms for specific cylinders. This oil pressure in turn drives synchronizing pistons that connect and disconnect the rocker arms."

"At lower rpm these [intake manifold butterfly] valves are closed to reduce the volume of the plenum and effectively increase the length of inlet passages for maximum resonance effect and to amplify pressure waves within each half of the intake manifold at lower rpm ranges. The amplified pressure waves significantly increase cylinder filling and torque production throughout the lower part of the engine's rpm band. As the benefits of the resonance effect lessen with rising engine speed, the butterfly valves open at 4200 rpm to interconnect the two halves of the plenum, increasing its overall volume. ...The inertia of the mass of air rushing down each intake passage helps draw in more charge than each cylinder would normally ingest. The inertia effect greatly enhances cylinder filling and the torque produced by the engine at higher rpm."


Further descriptions and diagrams of the rocker arm / cam assemblies may be found in post 41, page 3.
 

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2014 Pilot AWD-Touring with J37A4-swapped engine
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Discussion Starter · #106 · (Edited)
SUMMARY POST 2: BUILD SHEET AND BUDGET

From Post #7 (page 1), Post #49 (page 3), and Post #73 (page 4) here are the "bare essentials"-

BLOCK - eBay:
Used long block with 96k miles, complete from oil pan to throttle body, some minor damage to harness (that's okay, we're swapping over the 3.5L harness). $1300+$200 shipping & $80 tax

PLUGS - ngk.com:
6x NGK 93175 LKR7DIX-11S Iridium IX Plugs, $50 shipped

TIMING COMPONENTS, GASKETS, SEALS, O-RINGS - HondaPartsConnection.com:
14520-RCA-A01Tensioner, Timing Belt Auto$125.931$125.93
14550-RCA-A01Idler, Timing Belt (Koyo Seiko)$46.461$46.46
14551-RCA-A01Bolt, Timing Belt Idler$6.011$6.01
14510-RCA-A01Adjuster, Timing Belt$101.491$101.49
14513-RCA-A01Bolt, Timing Belt Adjuster$7.621$7.62
14530-P13-000Collar, Auto Adjuster$26.291$26.29
90441-PK4-000 Washer, Sealing (24MM) 1 $1.90
94109-20000 Washer, Drain Plug (20MM) 3 $2.49
15400-PLM-A02 Filter, Oil (Honeywell) 1 $5.69
19222-R70-A11 Gasket, Water Pump (Magna Powertrain) 1 $4.59 (I am reusing the water pump, it was new 5k miles ago)
91214-RKG-003 Oil Seal (80X98X8) (Nok) 1 $16.84 (rear crank seal)
91212-5MR-A01 Oil Seal (41X56X7) (Nok) 1 $7.44 (front crank seal)
91213-RKG-003 Oil Seal (39X53X8) (Nok) 2 $14.62 (cam seals)
91307-RTA-005 O-Ring (Denso) 1 $2.38 (on water passage assy)
91314-PH7-003 O-Ring (31.2X4.1) (Nok) 2 $5.04 (water passage pipe)
19411-P8A-A03 Gasket, Front Water Passage (Nippon Leakless) 1 $4.42
18715-PB2-000 Gasket, Egr Valve (Ishino Gasket) 1 $8.45
19301-P8E-A10 Thermostat Assembly w/ gasket (Nippon Thermostat) 1 $45.79 (also changed when I did timing belt 5k miles ago... could probably reuse but I'm being lazy)
19412-P8A-A02 Gasket, Rear Water Passage (Nippon Leakless) 1 $2.38
08200-9014 Fluid (Hgo-1), One Quart $13.99

Valve cover gasket set & liquid gasket: $60 shipped
OEM ZDX airbox-to-TB elbow and 100mm clamp: $60 shipped

MORE FLUIDS - eBay:
4 quarts DW-1 ATF $40 shipped
Power steering pump kit (2 pints fluid & 2 o-rings) $20 shipped
6 quarts Royal Purple 5W20 full synthetic $70 shipped (I don't run this oil continuously, but have used it as a "cleanout" oil with good success in the past on swapped-in used blocks)
3 gallons Long Life Type 2 coolant $70 shipped

Total of $1580 + $50 + $450 + $120 + $200 = $2400

From Post #14 (page 1) and a correction from Post #53 (page 3) here are the "upgrades"-

SKUProductQuantityTotal
GAT.T329RBGates Racing Performance Timing Belt, Honda J-series V6 (Single Exhaust Port Gen-2), T329RB1$
UNO.TS6121Unorthodox Racing Billet Tensioner Pulley, J-Series Honda V6 (Gen 2 single-port heads), TS61211$
UNO.CU6141|Unorthodox Racing Underdrive Crank Pulley w/ Belt Option, Honda V6 J-Series J30/J32/J35/J37 (w/ single exhaust port heads), CU6141
Add a Belt
1 - Bando Drive Belt, 2002-06 Honda Accord, w/ UR Underdrive Pulley, 6PK2080
1$
KNN.33-2309|K&N Performance OE Drop-In Replacement Air Filter, 2009-15 Honda Pilot, 33-23091$
RV6.JP_PIT-1215|2389RV6 Performance Long Tube J-Pipe, 2012-15 Honda Pilot1$
RV6.HFPC_PIT-1215|G2|2389RV6 Performance GEN2 HFPCs (High Flow Precats) Kit, 2012-15 Honda Pilot1$
P2R.P392.2P145P2R Intake Manifold Spacer, Gen 2/2.5 Honda J30/J32/J35/J37 (w/ Single Exhaust Port Head & Port Injection), P392
Options:
Add thermal gasket:Yes, 2x P2R P145
1$
P2R.P326.2P149P2R Throttle Body Spacer, Silver, Honda V6 J35Y4/5/6 J37A4/5 (SH-AWD TL/ZDX/TLX/RLX/Ody/Pilot/Ridgeline), P326
Options:
Add P2R Gasket?:Yes, add 2 P149
1$
P2R.P321P2R CNC Ported Lower Intake Manifold Runners, Honda J Series V6, P321
Options:
Engine Code:J37A4
1$

Subtotal:~$2250
Insurance:$
Standard Shipping (Ground):$
Total:~$2300

From Post #33 (page 2), some optional add-ons. I ended up forgetting about the rodent tape (keeping my fingers crossed, I guess!) and instead of installing the load resistors I just kept everything plugged into the original solenoids and zip-tied them to the new block. (I'm leaving these out of the totals below)

3x 15 ohm, 25W load resistors from Amazon.com - $11
2 rolls of OEM Honda "Rodent Tape" - $80 (I saw some horror stories online about mice thinking Honda wiring is delicious, so as long as I've got the harness out, now's the time for some cheap insurance!)

From Post #64 (page 4) - an "if you don't have it already" item:
Silicone vacuum / coolant hoses of various diameters - $40 (I'm leaving this out of the totals below)

Assuming you'd like to take advantage of the J37A4's VTEC, you're going to need the AEM F/IC 6 piggyback ECU. They're getting tough to find, but usually run around $350 - $450. We'll take $400 as an average.

GRAND TOTAL:

$2400 for the block and "bare essentials"
$2300 for upgrades (to include upgraded timing belt)
$400 for AEM F/IC 6
---------------------------------------
$5,100 in parts, plus whatever the cost of labor will be for you depending on how much, if any, you plan to do yourself.
 

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The TL is a lighter vehicle so the transmission and 3.7 TL powered Pilot will be pulling more weight. Depending on how that power is used proactive ATF maintenance, ATF temp monitoring and cooling would be my next steps.
If I remember correct the J37 was always paired with 6 speed autos or manuals... but the 5 speed auto in the 2nd gen is by all accounts pretty reliable so we will see how it handles an extra 70 hp and half that in torque.
 
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You are too kind, Sir. I am definitely a voracious knowledge "consumer" on many enthusiast forums, so I try to balance the scales when given the opportunity. Remember... we are ALL just a couple of forum guides and/or Youtube videos away from being experts at a given task :)

-Jon
Yep, forums like this and Youtube sure beat the high cost of staying at all those Holiday Inns.
 

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SUMMARY POST 1: "NO, you don't REALLY have VTEC on your Pilot"

Yeah, sorry to start this off by crushing your soul, but if you are thinking of "VTEC" = "engage higher-lift cams that increase intake/exhaust airflow at high load & RPMs"... nope. Your 3.5L Pilot (at least, gen 2s) has i-VTEC, which is a marketing smoke-and-mirrors equivalent to another acronym - VCM (Variable Cylinder Management). Your J35Z4 motor uses a mechanically-similar process as traditional "VTEC" - use oil pressure to lock/unlock a secondary set of rocker arms that engage/disengage different cam lobes - but in this case, they aren't ENGAGING them and causing them to ride on higher-lift cam profiles, they're actually DISENGAGING the primary cams under certain circumstances, allowing them to simply ride on perfectly-circular cam profiles and deactivating the affected cylinder(s). VTEC = better performance. i-VTEC / VCM = better fuel economy.

BuT I caN fEEL tHe VTEC kICKinG IN, YO!!!!
Sure... if you mean "the engine gets off its lumpy ass and actually gives you all six cylinders" then yes, you do feel it, bro.

No, reALLy, MaN... at, LiKE 4 grAnD u gET thIS 'wuuuuuuAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!" iT's ToTaLLy VTEC, DuDE!!!
Ummm, still "no." The intake manifold has a rectangular butterfly flap that opens at 4,200 RPM to effectively alter manifold runner length and optimize it for higher-RPM flow. That's what you're hearing and feeling. It's pretty cool, but it's also pretty NOT VTEC.

Reference: Link in Post 24 (Page 2), excerpted: "To help improve the fuel efficiency of the V-6 engine, the latest generation of Honda's VCM is used (similar to the Accord V-6). This is the first application of VCM on a Honda 4-wheel-drive model. (The previous generation of VCM used in the 2007 - 2008 Pilot switched between three- and six-cylinder operation and was used exclusively in two-wheel-drive models.) The Pilot's new VCM system can operate on three, four or all six cylinders, and is standard on all both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models. During startup, acceleration or when climbing hills - any time high power output is required - the engine operates on all six cylinders. During moderate speed cruising and at low engine loads, the system operates just one bank of three cylinders. For moderate acceleration, higher-speed cruising and mild hills, the engine operates on four cylinders."

"VCM deactivates specific cylinders by using the VTEC (Variable Valve-Timing and Lift Electronic Control) system to close the intake and exhaust valves while simultaneously the Powertrain Control Module cuts fuel to those cylinders. When operating on three cylinders, the rear cylinder bank is shut down. When running on four cylinders, the left and center cylinders of the front bank operate, and the right and center cylinders of the rear bank operate. The system is electronically controlled, and uses special integrated spool valves that do double duty as rocker-shaft holders in the cylinder heads. Based on commands from the system's electronic control unit, the spool valves selectively direct oil pressure to the rocker arms for specific cylinders. This oil pressure in turn drives synchronizing pistons that connect and disconnect the rocker arms."

"At lower rpm these [intake manifold butterfly] valves are closed to reduce the volume of the plenum and effectively increase the length of inlet passages for maximum resonance effect and to amplify pressure waves within each half of the intake manifold at lower rpm ranges. The amplified pressure waves significantly increase cylinder filling and torque production throughout the lower part of the engine's rpm band. As the benefits of the resonance effect lessen with rising engine speed, the butterfly valves open at 4200 rpm to interconnect the two halves of the plenum, increasing its overall volume. ...The inertia of the mass of air rushing down each intake passage helps draw in more charge than each cylinder would normally ingest. The inertia effect greatly enhances cylinder filling and the torque produced by the engine at higher rpm."


Further descriptions and diagrams of the rocker arm / cam assemblies may be found in post 41, page 3.
I read this and it's enough to make even a marketing genius wonder how they wound so much word spaghetti into what looks like English sentences signifying nothing.

How many Honda VTECs can you count??
145655


Out of all the verbal diarrhrea, came this gem. Confusingly? Really? IOW ... no VTEC kids. i-VTEC = imitation-VTEC
.
"Honda's J-Series SOHC engines use an entirely different system also, confusingly, marketed as i-VTEC. Honda J-Series Engines using i-VTEC combine SOHC VTEC operation with Honda VCM (Variable Cylinder Management) variable displacement technology to improve fuel economy under light loads"
 

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Hysteresis on the VTEC is anywhere from 200-500 RPM. If attempting to use a single-map PCM (like the 09-14 Pilot's, because again... NOT VTEC - grrrr!), this means that even if I add some sort of VTEC controller, it'll run too rich when in that "gray area" and all conditions for VTEC engagement are not met. For example, under GRADUAL acceleration vs. full throttle acceleration where RPM is high, but load is low. Drivability and fueling will likely suffer to the point where I wouldn't be comfortable implementing a solution that only involves tuning the Pilot's PCM with KTuner and using a simple RPM and/or load-based VTEC controller. So much for "Plan A."

Now to decide between "Plan B" and "Plan C":

PLAN B1: Stock Pilot PCM and AEM F/IC 6 Piggyback ECU.
METHODOLOGY: Piggyback ECU alters fuel/ignition/timing by overlaying its' maps on the stock PCM's. It has the ability to trigger a 12V switched output when certain MAF, throttle position, and RPM criteria are met, and will disengage the output when any of those criteria fall below other specified amounts... in other words, it can control VTEC effectively. It ALSO is unique in that it can store two maps and switch between them on the fly... I can use that same switched output to trigger a switch to a "VTEC" map when engaged.
COST: $400 + my time spent re-wiring.
DRAWBACKS: Wiring in a Piggyback ECU is a pain in the ass, and some stock engine management systems have a tendency to "fight back" against the piggyback's adjustments. No guarantees it will successfully do what I need it to.

PLAN B2: Stock Pilot PCM TUNED BY KTUNER and AEM F/IC 6 Piggyback ECU.
METHODOLOGY: Use KTuner to alter the Pilot's PCM for the 3.7L. Use the AEM F/IC 6 ONLY to engage the VTEC and to alter the fueling/ignition within that "gray window" as necessary.
COST: $400 for AEM + $450 for KTUNER = $850 + my time spent re-wiring.
DRAWBACKS: All those listed above in B1 (though less chance of stock PCM "fighting back" because the window of operation the piggyback is altering is much smaller), plus - most expensive option.

PLAN C: Switch to 09-14 Ridgeline PCM and tune with KTUNER.
METHODOLOGY: Ridgeline PCM can control VTEC natively, and KTUNER supports all the necessary parameter changes to make a 3.7L swap happen. In fact, this is exactly what was done in the Ridgeline swap that was my inspiration for this swap.
COST: $450 for KTUNER, $150 for used Ridgeline ECM, ~$100(?) for time at Honda dealer to change VIN = $700.
DRAWBACKS: I am uncertain about how the process works to disable the immobilizer circuit and/or to change the VIN programmed into the Ridgeline PCM so that I will pass inspection w/o concern. Also, the Ridgeline's 5th gear is a slightly different ratio (.538) than the Pilot's (.612), so it's possible that the shift point will be a little off, there. Not sure what effect, if any, that will have on driveability. Not likely to be much, but still worth mentioning. I am also slightly worried that the car will throw codes or freak out if the active noise cancelling or active motor mounts are disconnected. Not sure what triggers the MIL warnings in the car... is it the PCM, or a separate controller?

Any thoughts or knowledge on this? Especially on how swapping a PCM works in these vehicles?

-Jon
why not just j37 with donor car ecu and key cylinder?
 
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