2007 Honda Element sputters and stalls after driving through water

honda
element

#1

My Element sputters and/or stalls after driving through standing water in the roadway as during a heavy rain. Not really deep water, just normal roadway puddles and gutter overflow. Does not happen in light rain, but has happened after a car wash with an undercarriage wash. Feels like the car is running out of gas, sputtery, no response when giving it gas, may or may not stall. After driving a few minutes, the problem goes away.

Two mechanics, including the dealer, have looked at it and can find no obvious reason, but of course it never exhibits the problem at the shop. Both mechanics say this could be umpteen different causes.

I’ve only owned the car about 10 mos (purchased used through dealer with warranty, one owner, clean carfax, pristine maintenance) and this has happened maybe 5-6 times. ~112k miles.


#2

They may not be able to duplicate the problem, but there are basic components known to become sensitive to becoming wet when they get old.

Ignition components are the biggest offenders, for a couple of reasons. One is that the coil and the connections past the coil, be they spark plug wires or COPs with connections, carry high voltage spikes to fire the spark plugs. Both have rubbery coatings or boots, and rubbery things begin to fail as insulators with age. In addition, one arc to ground cane leave a carbon trail that becomess a high-resistance path for future voltage spikes. Just three days ago I fixed an intermittently misfiring '02 with new COPs. I changed the plugs too, but they actually looked great.

Another thing to check is whether there’s a problem with an undercar plastic splash shield or the inner wheel well liners, If the shield is hanging down or the liners are falling off, that can allow more water into the engine compartment than the design can accommodate.

In summary,
Coil(s), spark plug wires (if the car has them), and check the splash shields & wheel well liners.
I don’t generally advocate “shotgun” troubleshooting, but there’s times when it’s appropriate.


#3

Don’t they have a water hose or a bottle of water with a spray? Next time, open the hood and with a strong light take a look at where the water has splashed to get a clue. I’d maybe suspect something like the crank sensor that is lower down. Then in the driveway, you might want to use a water bottle and spray water carefully in the various places until you can get a hickup from the engine. Then back to the shop with your results.


#4

Are all the splash shields in place? Seen Civicss do this when the shield is missing. Water soaks the alternator.


#5

I had a VW Rabbit years ago w/this exact symptom. To figure out the cause I sprayed water with a hose all over the engine from every direction and it would never stall. I think I could have driven it underwater and it would have run fine … lol . Then I’d drove over a medium sized puddle, kaput … engine stalls.

I ended up having to remove all the high voltage parts from the ignition system and inspect them on the bench under a bright light and magnifying glass. Sure enough I found a tiny crack on the underside of the ignition coil. Replaced, never had the problem again.


#6

One thing you might do is go out at night, start the engine and look for any arcing betwen an ignition part and the engine block. It may not show anything, but it’s a quick test that may let you pinpoint the problem