Engine Oil myths – new car owners in Sri Lanka, don’t fall for them


For a long time i believed some of the following,

  • You can’t mix different brands of engine oil
  • If you use synthetic oil, you can’t go back mineral oil as it causes oil leaks (seals can’t handle it)
  • Mineral oil is not the best for your car, synthetic is the best
  • Seems the story is very different.

    The story that you can’t go back to mineral oil if you have used synthetic oil is TRUE for cars that are OLD.  New car seal technology has evolved, and you can do that.  Even the  local agents once they know you ask your mileage pattern and then recommend and have said there is no issues reverting back to mineral oil even if the car has been on synthetic for years.  This is is good info for a many who would have brought down cars in recent times due to the reduction in taxes in Sri Lanka.  You don’t need to bust on expensive synthetic oil if your 6 month mileage is less than than 5,000km.

    While synthetic oils are definitely good, that does not mean mineral oil is bad.  Seems like a lot of synthetic oils are created using mineral oils with additives 🙂 though there are few brands such as Mobile that be 100% synthetic.  However mineral oils have also evolved and as long as you keep changing the oil at shorter frequencies you should not have any issues.  However when cars get older the better lubrication capabilities of the synthetic oil might make sense.  However if you are a heavy runner and do 10,000km in less than 3-4 months, going synthetic is better on you as the oil filter cost is high and you are better using the synthetic as its cheaper on the total cost and would also help maintain your engine lifetime.  Most modern oils both synthetic and mineral also have additives to help prevent slug (deposits).  However it seems some engines such as BMW, AUDI and even a few Toyota engines suffer heavily from this and there are special engine oils for these engines, but most engines don’t have this issue.

    More on this later..

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    Honda Stream RN6 received


    The car finally got cleared by customs and i picked it up last Thursday evening. I had to wait 2 hrs for the car to appear out from the customs gate, and it was also rather disheartening to see the Sri Lankan buyer being so traditional with the bulk of the cars coming out being Toyota’s (Vitz, Belta, Axio, Allion and Premio and a lone Camry). The only non-Toyota cars were a single nissan Qualis and two Honda’s, one an Airwave, and my Honda Stream.

    The vehicle thus stood out in size and appearance and many a puzzled look wondering what this rather weird vehicle was! as it was not a traditional wagon in appearance, and neither was it a SUV considering its low ground clearance.

    Have yet to get any significant miles under its wheels, and the first local service to change the engine oil awaits. The vehicle has been serviced with Honda Ultra Oil 0W-20. However this oil is thin for local conditions, and will need to use a 10-30/40 when servicing.

    The quality of the interior is very good, and very practical and simple as Honda goes. The RSZ wheel being a key attraction. The seats are comfortable but still not great compared to one of the older cars i had before (the subaru legacy), though definitely better in comfort and support to the seats in my Honda Fit GD1. The seats in some ways were similar to the Honda Accord CF4 i owned prior to the GD1 Fit.

    The engine seems a bit short on power at low RPM’s, i am not sure if its due to the change in conditions, or if the air filter is not clean. Need to check this during the service. However once you hit higher RPMs you hear the VTEC and the thrust though not anything wild to make your passenger hold on to their seats!

    The ride is decent and very similar to the ES3 Civic RS i owned before, and not as capable of handling the bouncy and rutty roads in Sri Lanka. The RSZ maybe coming with a more sport suspension setup than the standard 1.8X, and the larger 17″ wheels with low profile tires also maybe a reason. I also found that the air pressure was 36, while we commonly use 28-30 due to the local road conditions. However i need to work the best air pressure that balances comfort with economy and handling as i go along.

    The space is pretty decent that 7 could seat in relative comfort, and you could in theory have 3 seated in the rearmost seat if they were kids. However the car seat i have for my small chap is from the US and seems its made for the large SUV type cars which are wider than the standard 1695mm width set by Japanese standards for most of the cars. So sitting 2 adults with the car seat seems not a possibility, and for this you need to go higher to the CRV which has a wider interior. Legroom for the rear passengers is good, and some commented that the rear seats were more comfortable than the front, which is a very unusual situation indeed!

    The car is yet to get used to local conditions, but with octane 95 fuel, the car is returning arond 8.5-9kmpl in the city under varying driving conditions, as i try to get myself familiar with the engine and car with my driving style.

    Honda Fit / Jazz GE6 Transmission Types


    The good old times that the Honda Fit / Jazz came with just the CVT option globally along with the manual seems to have disappeared, partially due to CVT issues that mainly has become a problem in the Asian region.

    Just for GD1 users the transmission types were the

  • 5-speed CVT (You only have the D, S, L gears on the transmission stick, no +/- buttons on the steering wheel)
  • 7-speed CVT (You get the +/- buttons on the steering wheel)
  • 5-speed standard auto
  • The standard auto for the GD1 was offered in the US which surprisingly did not get the more advanced CVT solution, one wonders if Honda was a bit worried over the issues faced in the Asian region with the gearboxes. Whatever the reason the choice worked fine, as the car sold very well in the US, a country where most folks just loved large cars, though times are changing now with more and more smaller and fuel efficient cars entering that market (Just like the iPhone, to most folks in the states these cars may seem knew but little do they know these are tried and tested models in other countries that are being sold with a new set of clothes to make them look new).

    So okay back to the subject, what about the GE6,

    Well seems like most Asian markets are now playing safe by only offering the manual, standard auto and the new I-SHIFT (supposedly a manual gearbox with automatic controls). Initial review comments suggests that the CVT seems to be a much more driver oriented gearbox with better fuel efficiencies than the I-SHIFT version though Honda marketing may otherwise.

    The Japanese market though continues to get a CVT version of coupled to the 1.3L I-VTEC engine. This variant seems to feature technology lifted from the FD1 Civic such as drive-by-wire throttle control, etc which means the vehicle for a 1.3L gives out quite a bit of juice and jazz in its performance while sipping fuel very thriftily.

    Honda definitely has no fear in using CVT in their bigger models even globally, so the issue with the Jazz/Fit (and the new City) seems purely due to the GD1 catastrophe. To this date I still am extremely disappointed that Honda never ever sold the CVT issues even in latter models of the GD-Series Fit/Fit Aria/Jazz/City. Considering the car toiled for over 7 years with remarkable sales due to its ahead of time space efficiencies and fuel efficiencies, and Honda a company renowned for innovation says a puzzling story. Maybe they just did not want to replace all gearboxes if they introduced a new gearbox in that serious to avoid legal repercussions, though extending the warranty in many advanced markets to 7-years was a way they wanted to show confidence in their gearbox. Speculation speculation 🙂

    My new drive – The 2007 RN6 Honda Stream 1.8 RSZ is on its way


    After 2 years of small car commuting driving the 2004 GD1 Fit, going to be back driving something more that hopefully should be suited to my style of driving and taste! However now with family and relatives, choice had to be a sedate one, and the car chosen was the 2007 Honda Stream RSZ 1.8. Yet to see the car as it was purchased in an auction in Japan. Here are the pics, and shall definitely provide my experiences and review once i have the car with me.

    Nearly decided on getting the older RN2 model Honda stream that was available locally, but after much thought went for the newer model and a big hole in the pocket that going to take a long time to fix!

    The car has never been brought to Sri Lanka before, though the older model had a few which came down as brand new, but the lumpy looks and the subsequent increase in taxes coupled with the SUV madness took the Stream out of the market place. The newer model is definitely a better looker, based on the FD Civic platform, and sharing the new aggressive front of the JDM Accord. The word though is that the RN6 Stream i brought is about to be face lifted as it has renewed competition after Toyota refreshed their boring looking “Wish” to take on the Stream.

    Honda Fit GE6 1.3L review coming soon


    UPDATE: Review of the car is now available at https://rayazmuthalif.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/honda-ge6-2008-fit-cvt-gearbox-version-quick-review/

    While i may have moved on from my GD1 fit, my brother has just brought a re-con (used cars which is the most popular type of import in Sri Lanka) GE6 1.3L. The car comes with the new CVT gearbox by Honda mated to a 1.3L engine that is a lot more powerful than the older one (More details check out http://asia.vtec.net/Engines/LSERIESG2/index.html). The i-Dsi engine which was known for its unique 2 spark plugs per cylinder and great pulling power at the low end is now gone and replaced by enhanced version of the VTEC, and has been given the i-VTEC badging.

    The new CVT gearbox seems to have sorted the problem that the GD1 has, as i have not seen any issues (yet) on this, and then again it would be criminal if honda had not rectified that issue considering they would have learnt their lesson, and with almost all vendors now using CVT gearbox (specially in the Japanese market), it seems the Honda Fit (and the cars of that era made by Honda the ES1 and ES8 Civic, the HRV, the Fit Aria/City) were among the few that had such a notable issue with the CVT implementation.

    I will update the blog of my findings with the GE6 CVT implementation as i test my brother’s car and also report on his long term running. Considering the car is already over 50,000km in mileage it should be an ideal test bed to see if the CVT issues have been fully resolved.

    Some pictures of my bro’s taken by the vendor at the car yard prior to being shipped to the country


    GE6 Honda Review Train (Asian version)
    1.3L
    http://cars.singaporeexpats.com/article.php?artid=393 (Honda Jazz – Singapore)

    1.5L
    http://asia.vtec.net/Reviews/2GJazzFullDrive/index.html (Honda Fit)
    http://cars.singaporeexpats.com/article.php?artid=373 (Honda Jazz – Singapore

    My experience owning a pre-owned Honda Fit GD1 for two years


    Sold my Honda Fit GD1 to a friend, the odo meter is now 73K, i got it at 53K and used it for precisely two years. I first ensured the CVT oil was changed more frequently to avoid any gearbox issues, and then once i found the additive i resorted to a normal 15-20K cycle. However i did not finish that cycle by the time i sold the car, and the good news is the gearbox is faultless. I also had brought 2 bottles of the additive for future use, and passed it to the new owner, since those are vital for the trouble free running of the car.

    Several of my friends who have brought fit/fit aria/city cars have now used the additive and have been blessed with trouble free running. In addition several vehicle vendors i know who got the info from me have been using the additive and it seems they are happy (as they bring the additive for personal use). The bad news is that i hope they are not using this additive for cars with real gearbox troubles, as the oil will cover the problem up for a short period of time!

    Overall the car served good with the following observations,

    1. Fuel economy
    Average in Colombo Sri lanka running where you find a color light every 100m! is around 10-11kmpl.
    Average driving outstation in rather narrow roads is around 12-14kmpl
    Best fuel economy when driving a long trip i got was 19.5 kpl on a hot and humid day
    Best fuel economy i have seen on the dial when driving in colombo late night when the roads are deserted was 21kmpl
    Worst fuel economy i have seen is when the car is idling with the AC on in traffic, and this can get bad as 4-5kmpl

    2. Repairs
    a. The AC fan motor packed up (same happened to my CF4 accord i had previously) around the 60K period. I changed this from a company called Suraweera AC, they are near my house and are AC professionals. I found out that they seem to be supplying the agent as well, and their charge is much much less than the agent, specially on the labor.

    b. The rear hub bearings went, this was weird and the agent themselves were surprised. Replacement was not cheap !

    c. The engine mount (the infamous left mount) busted as expected, and had to be changed. This again was a common thing with this car and seems to need replacement every 30-40K. The other two mounts remain intact. The agent also mentioned that unlike others this car only had 3 mounts.

    d. The front shock bushes on top had to be replaced, the agent informed me this was a common thing with this car.

    e. The AC valve started a wierd squeal, like a rat !!! The agent indicated this was another common problem not with this car but with several other honda’s. I got this changed before i handed the car to the new owner. The repair was to cost less than 10K but went to 21K as the part alone was 11.5K and the labor + filling AC gas (the had to flush the gas out before doing this replacement). Well the squeal is gone, and my pocket dented. Lucky new owner

    Fuel economy dropped to 9.5kmpl, and i thought this was due to carbon build up in the injectors. I got the agent to remove the injectors and clean them by hand and do the fuel injector cleaning (using the WURTH product). Removing the injectors is a messy job, unlike my older CF4, and the O-rings tend to crack and had to be replaced. Seems the O-rings are not stocked by the agent everytime so watch out. When the removed the EGR valve parth was almost 80% blocked with carbon deposits, and ye the car seems to be have been working pretty fine with this

    The surprise was that the fuel economy got worse (7-8kmpl) after the treatment, and then agent then reset the computer, but then informed me that in some cars the cleaning is so effective that like a new car the fuel economy drops and it takes time before the fuel economy comes back to normal as the injectors have to get a bit of dirt it seems, wierd. However as informed by them the pull has increased so maybe its the truth. The good news was that the economy started to improve, and informed the new buyer that the best economies would take a bit of time as the 1000km has not yet been achieved after i did this cleanup. When giving i was getting 9-10kmpl in colombo city, and 13kmpl in crowed outstation so improving indeed.

    So word of warning, don’t bother with the injector cleaning unless you really think it needs one. Which i guess is when the EGR path is fully blocke that the car does not accelerate smoothly. First make sure you replace the spark plugs, and here again stick to originals as the after markets seems to cause problems, and avoid the platinum one if your car is the i-DSI model. Also replace the air filter regularly, as this impacts the fuel economy pretty heavily. Again aftermarket (VIC) sold all over Sri Lanka is not good enough, so get the original. However the VIC is 1/3 the price of the original OUCH.

    The chap who brought my Honda Fit is a colleague so i will keep you posted on how the car holds up with him. I also have a few more chaps who brought Honda GD1 fits in recent times at my work place, and shall see how they fare. These cars are the last batch of the GD1 Fit, and I am most keen to see if Honda fixed the issue on these transmissions, so that you can just live with the CVT oil and no additive to protect your gearbox.

    How to avoid CVT gearbox failures in Honda City, Fit and Jazz (Sri Lankan perspective)


    I recently was looking to buy a small honda city vehicle (called the Honda Fit, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Fit for details!) and paid a visit to my local agent to get some advise on the car.  The very first response was “don’t buy it Sir, the gearbox is not reliable”.  Now this coming from the local Honda agent, when the Honda CVT gearbox has a solid reputation worldwide was rather disturbing since my research on the web with regard to the car and the gearbox had a very positive view!

    Probing further I inquired from the technician why he said it was not “reliable”, and he gave some very useful insights,

    • The gearbox he felt was not suitable for local city conditions as the wear and tire on the belt was on the lower gears as driving conditions were 90% urban, and 10% semi-urban, with zero highway conditions in Sri Lanka.  This was very valid for driving within the Colombo city and suburbs, where bumper to bumper traffic conditions were the norm and due to close proximity of traffic lights and congestion, there was a very high percentage of stop-wait-go scenarios.
    • The gearbox could not be repaired and a total replacement had to be done in the event of a belt failure
    • Vehicles wore mostly reconditioned (used in Japan or Singapore), and hence already had a lot of miles, and the belt based transmission had a shorter lifespan compared to the traditional auto boxes resulting in failures.
    • Many users were not aware of CVT gearboxes and treated them as normal auto boxes, and hence the oil changes were done in intervals of 40-60K

    The responses were quite startling, since these were not the type of facts i saw in any blog related to Honda fit, Jazz CVT gearbox failures!

    The fact is that the CVT gearboxes do require more attention than the standard auto gearboxes, and the reasons i could identify were,

    • Honda now recommends changing of the CVT gearbox oil every 20-40K periods for normal driving conditions, and 20K intervals for extreme driving conditions.  However based on the information, the extreme levels mentioned by Honda, the pure city driving scenarios as faced in Sri Lanka are far more extreme!, and hence the transmission oil should be replaced every 10K (15K at most) in order to ensure the gearbox does not fail.
    • Initially the transmission oil used for CVT was the same as the standard auto boxes, but now Honda recommends that a special CVT oil be used which has better lubrication.  Based on research it seems even the Honda CVT is not the best and there are third parties making oils that are even more suited for CVT gearboxes.  The point being CVT gearboxes require special transmission oils (standard auto gearbox oils are NOT suitable)

    If the owners do take care of the oil changes I am positively sure the failures will be minimal, though the question if the gearbox is as durable as the standard auto is questionable, as many sites have indicated that a well cared CVT gearbox has a lifespan of 120-160K km, while an standard box will last far longer with minimal maintenance!

    The question of if the CVT gearbox failure requires a full gearbox change of course is uncertain, as it seems the belt can be replaced (along with some other parts) for a fraction of the cost of the gearbox.  Would be great if somebody can confirm on this.