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96 Accord Various Issues

My friend owns a 96 honda accord ex with 172k miles on it. This morning he came to me and said that he lost power steering last night, and when I went out to look at the car there was no fluid left in the reservoir. The fluid had somehow gotten all over around and under the container. Once new fluid was put in the steering went back to normal, albeit with some noise from the pump, much like when there is air trapped in the system. There was no visible leaking anywhere around the reservoir.

Noticed the CEL was on so decided to scan the codes, and it spit these back at me:
p0420- Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold Bank, not too concerned about this one, not worth putting the money and effort into an 02 sensor or cat
p0730- Faulty Shift Control System, this one im more concerned about, didnt have time to check the fluid properly but it was showing on the dipstick and the color was slightly brown, so not critical but i suggested a fluid drain and fill
p1457- Evaporative Emissions Control System Leakage EVAP Canister System, This may just be a gas cap, but could be anything on a 22 year old car. No smell of gas anywhere.
p1739-Problem in 3rd Clutch Pressure Switch Circuit, Pretty sure this is a faulty sensor, as the places i checked the code all showed that.

Other issues include:
-He busted out the tail light on the left side with his knee by accident, just has duct tape over it, non critical but he would like an easy way to fix it
-Rear left tail light on the trunk lid itself fills with water and it pours into the trunk when he opens it, he wants to just drill a small hole in the corner so it drains
-All lights have condensation inside
-Honda rot

Any advice on these issues? He knows its a beater and doesnt expect it to last more than 2 years longer.

Wow, lots of issues there. The lights filling with water and condensation is cheap and easy. Get a tube of silicone caulk, and put it along the top edge seams. Watch ChrisFix’s YouTube video “How to fix foggy headlights permanently”. You can also drill some small holes in the bottom, with the drill aimed upward, to drain out the fluid that is in there. That’s what I had already done before I watched the video and it worked pretty well. I would also check the bulbs and the connections for corrosion. If they are corroded or starting to corrode, it might cause some of the electrical problems. In which case replace whatever is corroded, maybe with non-corroded parts from a junkyard. The junkyard is a good place to get replacement taillight covers since the cars there most often met their demise with damage on the other end.

For the catalytic converter code, Scotty Kilmer, also of YouTube fame, says you can try putting a gallon of automotive grade lacquer thinner in half a tank of gasoline, and drive it for a couple of hours at highway speed and that sometimes will clear the code. You can also take the Cat off of the car and soak it overnight in soapy water - watch Scotty’s Youtube video “Fixing bad catalytic converters…” Otherwise, a new catalytic converter is expensive. You might want to suggest pulling one off of a salvage car and hoping it is in good shape (most salvage yards offer a warranty so if it is bad you can take it back - a lot of work but I have had a lot of good luck with salvage yard parts - I like to think of it more as an automotive organ donation facility)

Change, don’t flush, the automatic transmission fluid, and use only Honda brand fluid. Honda’s are legendary for finicky transmissions. Pray that fixes the transmission code. NutzaboutBolts has a YouTube video on changing the transmission fluid on a Honda like yours, I think.

The EGR code may need a mechanic, but you can look for some YouTube videos from the guys I mentioned above plus Shrodinger’s Box videos.

Don’t ever clean your engine bay. If you did, and you got water everywhere it can cause lots of electrical problems as the connectors corrode internally, etc. Any connector that you get a fault on (with the exception of oxygen sensors), clean with electrical cleaner (all parts stores carry it) and then put a dab of dielectric grease (same places) on the connection and put it back together. If you see any green plugs when you pull it apart you found a problem - clean until the green is gone and then dielectric grease it.

Auto parts stores will scan the car for free, and erase the codes as well. You can also erase the codes, to see if they will come back after you work on it, by disconnecting the battery for a minute or so. And, you should always disconnect the battery before working on any electronics in the car.

Will not speak for all states but where I live Auto Zone and others will read codes for free but are not allowed to clear them. I did have one say once will handing me the reader that if I press a certain button the codes " might " go away.

The lights should be an easy fix, just wet sand and seal. I watch Chrisfix and Scotty Kilmer. Might try the lacquer thinner, but wouldnt do anything beyond that most likely. I own a 2006 accord myself so i know about all the special honda things, such as the tranny and ps fluid needing to be genuine honda fluid. The way i clean an engine bay is with a squirt bottle, paper towels, rags, q tips and armor all. No hose involved. I lifted 60k of dirt off of all the visible surfaces in my own engine bay in about 5 hours total, looks professional and almost new.

I have a bluetooth obd scanner which can show fault codes, live data and if you click on a fault code it will take you to it in browser. super easy and useful.

Re: power steering noise, I don’t know if the following applies or not:

The most common place power steering fluid leaks is where the high pressure hose connects to the power steering box (under the ps pump area). Whenever you hit the turning stop (like when parking) it really flexes that hose at that point, and eventually it will start leaking. Clean off that area then monitor if new fluid leaks starts appearing there.

Concur, defer on this one as long as the engine is running ok, and emissions testing isn’t required

Might want to try a transmission drain, filter replacement, and refill on that one

Suggest to defer on that one too, should be fairly simple to solve, but if car is running ok, fix the other stuff first

You’ll need a shop to look at this one. Could be something relatively simple to fix, like a faulty sensor or solenoid. Automatic transmissions are designed with a series of 3 or 4 or maybe 5 gear sets, and each set has a clutch input and a band input. The input is actually a pressure in a fluid port inside the transmission that is either on or off, never in-between. Clutch on, band off might mean the gear set uses a 1.3:1 gear ration. Clutch on, band on might mean 1:1 gear ratio, etc. There’s an overall pump that supplies the pressurized fluid to the system, and various valves and solenoids and sensor to make sure it gets to where it is supposed to go. So you got something wrong w/all that.

Replace it from a junkyard tail-light. Should be easy to find for an Accord. Cost is probably less than $35.

That’s probably a problem with the seal above the tail-light. Open the trunk and compare one side to the other. There’s usually a seal (often made with a sort of caulking material) which prevents water that gets into the trunk lid drain channels from running into the tail light areas. A common cause of this, tail lights gets replaced and that caulking isn’t installed correctly. A dose of clear silicone caulking may be all you need there.

Try using a hair dryer to drive the condensation out. Eventually you’ll have to figure out how it is getting in, likely needs some new seals.

I think this accord is trying to tell you it’s time for a newer car. Sounds like a lot of problems that could cost $$$.