The year was 1999, and my mom just bought her first brand new car (or any car for that matter) since 1988. This was partly my fault since I had just gotten my license, and probably drove her old car a little too hard. One late night while I was on my way home from BMXing in down town Long Beach as I pulled up to a stop sign in Palos Verdes, the car made a slight shudder. I went to take off from the stop sign, when everything got bad. My buddy and I pushed the car to the side of the road, pulled our bikes out, and rode the rest of the way back to our houses in Redondo Beach.
The next morning I had to explain to my mom and dad why the family car wasn’t there. We only had that one car (which was a 1988 Toyota Corolla FX) Don’t get to excited, it wasn’t the FX16 GT-S with the 4AGE, it was the carbureted crap one. After a quick assessment, my dad concluded that the automatic trans had broke. We had the car towed to a shop, where they gave us an estimate (something like 700-800 bucks to rebuild it and labor of installing). During the next few days my mom had decided it was best to just buy a new car.
In 1997 Honda released the CR-V platform and it was proving to be a very good car (duh it’s a Honda). So in 1999 my mom (after reading many consumer report articles) felt that this car offered everything she would need. My brother and sister were now just becoming old enough to not need a car seats, and she needed something that would be roomy enough for all of us to fit while still remain cheap and economical. I was more than excited about her purchase because in 99 this thing was pretty quick for what it was. A 2.0 liter, twin cam, light weight car, and I was just now starting to develop my love for Honda’s. While my family drove this car around during the day, I was using this thing nightly to haul my friends and I around to the street races. Compton, Carson, Ontario, Bell, Chatsworth, San Diego, Sylmar, and any other places that they might have popped up at. This is the car that defined my life, and helped shape what I would grow into a hobby that would change my life forever. The CR-V’s B20 produced enough torque to make you feel like you could race anyone, and I did.
A few years later I moved to Las Vegas, and was no longer able to keep up with the regular maintenance of the car. In that time my littler sister got her license, and 21 months later my little brother got his. This meant that the car that had lived through all my abuse now had to be shared by two other new drivers. My dad was also not easiest on the car, driving with a major lead foot, and still to this day in his 70’s… Wont let anyone beat him off the line. Needless to say the car has lived a very hard life. Because I’ve been living in Vegas since 2002, and I wasn’t around to see that the car was properly maintained. My brother would help my dad by doing oil changes in it, but for larger more challenging jobs, my dad started taking it to mechanics around town. This is where everything started going bad.
In the 200k miles of this cars life it has gone through 3 transmission, one timing belt snap/overhaul, and multiple small things. Being 300 miles away and not being able to help him do any of this work on the car (which was super easy for me) would really get me bummed out. I would get upset with him for taking his car to these local mechanics, where he thought they were taking care of him. He eventually stopped telling me when there was an issue with the car, and he would just get it fixed. After being jerked around on the second trans job, he started to realize that these guys didn’t really have his best interest in mind, rather just saw him as an easy target. It is true that he was harder on a car than most people would be, but he was always spot on with regular maintenance of it, and made sure the car was as well taken care of as possible.
The car is now 20 years old, and if you average the millage it comes out to only 10k a year which is very low average. There is no way that this car should have had this many problems in its life, and I only have the hack job “mechanics” to blame for this. Using non OEM crappy replacement parts, and using inferior gaskets, and materials.
For the past 6 months my dad has known that his CR-V was living on borrowed time. We had talked a few times about how I could swap a motor in a weekend and get this thing running right for him. He always felt that he would be imposing on me by having me do this, even though I assured him that I love to work on car’s and this would actually be a fun project for me. Just a few weeks ago while he was driving it the timing belt snapped. Not wanting to inconvenience me, he had the car towed to his “mechanic.” Previously, my dad and I talked about swapping the motor out, so he had asked his “mechanic” about what it would cost to just put a new motor in. The “mechanic” told him that these motors are very hard to come by, and that the only one he could source would be 4500 for the engine and trans. The “mechanic” also told my dad that it was an engine from an Acura. (which Acura never put a B20 in any of their cars) When my dad told me this I wanted to go give this “mechanic” a visit just to tell him how stupid he is. Basically they were going to sell him a B18 Integra LS motor (which look very similar to a B20) and again try to pull the wool over his eyes.
I begged and pleaded with him to just let me work on the car, I told him “I would love to work on it” “it would be super easy.” Even my brother tried telling him that I wanted to do it. I couldn’t handle watching these “mechanics” lie to him, and sell him some jive. The hardest part about doing this for me, was going to be coordinating it all.
It seemed that the stars were all going to align for us though. My sister who is engaged to a man that lives in Australia, happens to frequent there many times out of the year. It just so happens that she would be in Australia for 5 weeks for Christmas. While she was in Australia, my dad was able to drive her car around and this meant that there was now going to be enough time for us to coordinate everything. I was going to be able to bring the car up here to Vegas work on it, get it all running like new again, and he would be able to drive my sisters car around till I finished up the CR-V refresh.
Over the next few weeks, I will be doing a complete refresh on the CR-V. I will take you step by step through everything i’m doing to it.
- Buying a new motor/trans
- refreshing the motor, oil pump, water pump, timing belt, all new seals/gaskets
- deep cleaning
- paint restoration
- headlight restoration
- everything in between
Like most, I’m sure you’re thinking.. why is he spending money on this car? He should just get a new car. Yea, but then he would have a car payment, more expensive insurance and registration, and the added stress about parking next to someone that might dent/ding/scratch the car. I plan to restore this car as much as possible over the next few weeks, I really want to prove to him and many others that all I really know is Honda’s, and breathing. I also want to write about my process, to help people understand just how screwed they are getting by not working on their own cars. Yes I know it can be scary to work on cars, but its really just “legos” you’re literally just unbolting old stuff and bolting new stuff back in the same place. As long as you’re not stripping out bolts, or putting things on upside down/backwards it should all go smoothly.
Last weekend I drove down to his house in Southern California, and we went to Hmotors and pick up a Auto JDM B20 swap. The complete swap (engine/trans) was only 650 bucks cash out the door. We also rented a U-haul tow dolly, loaded the CR-V on it and I drove back to Vegas.
The car has lived it’s whole life outside, it was never ever parked in a garage, and for the last 13 years it hasn’t even been parked in a drive way. I must warn you, the pictures you are going to see below might make some readers squeamish. I only took them to show you the difference between the before and after of the car.
While my dad stays current with all his maintenance, he’s not much into keeping the outside clean and nice. To him, its just a vehicle used for transportation.
I put that Intake on it a few months after my mom bought the car. It was 99′ things were different back then, but still to this day my dad loves the sound of it. Every time he gets the car smog’d (every two years for California) he has to take it off and put the stock intake on.
The engine bay may look neglected to all hell, but take a look at whats under the valve cover.
The felpro gaskets are a dead give away of a shitty mechanic. Never use felpro gaskets they are terrible and most of the time they leak.
As you can see above the timing belt is snapped. This was replaced a few years ago and it broke already. This too was a cheap non OEM belt. Its best to use the OEM Honda belt or a gates one.
I’m unsure how bad the damage is, and I wont know for sure till I pull the motor out. He just said that he was driving down the road and it snapped, so fingers crossed that its still ok. Maybe I can swap it into my 4 door.
As for the outside of the car. Its really not in bad condition, it just has a very strong patina to it.
Looks like one of the “mechanics” trued jacking it up by the lower bash bar. Ill need to source one of those for sure.
I’m planing to do a build series for this just as I did for Pat’s K swap. I know that this wont really have much “performance” stuff about it. What it will have is lot’s of B series info: Setting timing, water pump, oil pump installation, gasket replacement, valve adjustment, how to make a JDM motor pass smog in the US, and much more. Its also going to be a great opportunity for you to lean about basic Honda stuff more focused around maintenance, and keeping your stock daily running correctly. If you can keep your cheap daily running reliably, then you’ll have more money to put into getting seat time in your “track” car for 2020.
This is also very near and dear to me because it’s my chance to really help my dad out, and give him a properly working car, that looks decent too. Too long he has had a car that he really hasn’t been able to rely on, and hopefully now I’ll be able to give him that peace of mind so he won’t ever have to worry about his car breaking down on him.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, hopefully you’re able to take something away from it that can help you out in your own life. Don’t worry we have some other cool projects in the works, but for the next few weeks I’ll be focusing on this. If you’re a keen eyed reader, you will notice there are some spoilers in some of the pictures for what we’ve got in the works for 2020. If not, then you’ll just have to wait to find out. If you have any questions about this blog post or any others, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Email me at Billy@functiontheory.com, DM me on Instagram @Functiontheory, or just comment below.