Timely Topics Archive

A Monthly Article for Vigor Enthusiasts (1/02)


Checking and Changing Your Vigor's Fluids

For those of you who don't have an owner's manual (tsk tsk), here are the procedures for checking and topping up or changing the fluids in your Vigor. These are excellent Do-It-Yourself projects for beginnersrelatively simple to do yet vital to your car's longevity and performance.

There are a few things you'll want to have on hand. Some are essential and others will just make these jobs easier. Things you'll need:

  • Wrenches and SocketsBuy the best you can afford. Any tool that's used to remove fasteners (bolts, nuts, screws...) should be a high-quality tool. This includes wrenches, sockets, and screwdrivers. Most cheap tools will eventually break. But cheap wrenches, sockets, and screwdrivers will also ruin the nut, bolt, or screw so it can't be removed! Buy cheap hammers and pliers, if you must, but not wrenches or sockets.
  • 3/8" drive socket driver
  • Jack StandsDO NOT get under the car unless it's supported on a set of jack stands. The common 3-ton stands are the best all around size for the Vigor. Click here to see where they should be placed when supporting the vehicle.
  • Drain Panto catch and store the fluids until they can be recycled.

Things that'll make the job go easier:

  • Hydraulic Jackeither a "bottle" jack or a "floor" jack are much faster and easier to use than the "scissors" jack that's in the trunk. Click here to see where to position the jack when raising the vehicle.
  • Creepergood for saving the ol' bones while you're crawling around under the car. If you're over forty, you'll especially appreciate a padded creeper.
  • Suction Gunto transfer oils from their containers and pump them into the filler holes.
  • Long-necked Funnelto pour ATF into the filler tube.

With the exception of coolant, fluids should generally be changed when the engine is hot. When they're hot, fluids will thin-out and flow better, so they'll drain more thoroughly. With coolant, there isn't enough viscosity to make much difference.

In many cases, the following procedures specify torque values for bolts. These values are not critical for the jobs described here—just use new washers, snug the bolts down securely, and don't over-tighten. The torque values are included here for anal-retentive types—who just have to have everything perfect—and for those who just got a new torque wrench and are dyin' to use it. The rest of us can safely ignore those specs.

Engine Oil

The single most important thing you can do to prolong the life of your Vigor's engine is to change the oil and oil filter regularly. The oil level should always be between the upper and lower marks on the dipstick. Oil Drain Bolt

To change the oil, you'll need to place your drain pan under the drain bolt in the oil pan (see illustration at left). Remove the bolt with a 17mm wrench. When the bolt is removed, hot oil will come spurting out the hole, so be prepared. Make sure the drain pan is positioned to catch the spurt, have a clean rag handy, and don't lose the hot drain bolt when you drop it.

Let all the oil drain out. This will usually take five to ten minutes and this is a good time to take off the old oil filter. It's on the driver's side of the engine. The illustration below shows its location, but it's hiding under the intake manifold, which is not shown.

Oil Filter -- Under the IntakeYou should be able to unscrew the filter by hand. If you need a wrench to remove the oil filter, it was not installed properly. To install a new genuine Honda/Acura filter, first examine it. You'll notice it has the numbers 1-8 printed around the canister. Coat the rubber gasket (on the filter) with clean engine oil, and then screw it on until it just barely seats. Then, using the printed numbers as a guide, continue tightening until the filter moves 7 more positions. Stop.

This is just a complicated way of saying, roughly, "Give it another three-quarters of a turn." NEVER use an oil filter wrench to install a  filter. You don't want the filter to be too tight. If it is, the rubber gasket will distort, possibly causing an oil leak, and, just as importantly, you won't be able to get it off easily the next time. You should be able to remove it by hand.

Once the new oil filter is in place, re-install the drain plug in the oil pan using a new washer. Torque it to 30 ft-lbs. Then, fill the crankcase with oil (4 quarts), replace the oil filler cap, and start the engine. The oil pressure light should go out within a few seconds. If not, turn off the engine and check your work.

Let the engine run for a minute or so while you check for leaks around the drain plug and oil filter. Then, turn the engine off, let it sit for a few minutes, and re-check the oil level. Add oil until it's at the upper mark on the dipstick.


Coolant level is checked by looking at the level in the reserve tank, next to the air filter. The level should be between the MIN and MAX marks on the side of the tank. Genuine Honda All Season Antifreeze/Coolant should be used because it's formulated specifically for these cooling systems. Others, even though labeled as safe for aluminum parts, may not have adequate corrosion inhibitors.

To drain and replace the coolant, it's best to work on a cold (or cool) engine. Start the engine, turn the heater temperature control lever to maximum heat, and turn off the engine. Remove the radiator cap.


Removing the radiator cap on a hot engine can cause the hot coolant to spray out, seriously scalding you.

Always let the engine and radiator cool down before you remove the cap.

To drain the cooling system, you'll have to drain the radiator and the engine. The radiator drain uses a petcock on the bottom of the radiator (see illustration below left). Open the petcock and the coolant will flow out. Make sure your drain pan is positioned to catch it.

Radiator Drain Plug The engine drain bolt is hidden on the side of the engine beneath the exhaust manifold (see illustration at right). It's not the easiest thing to get to.

Remove the bolt and let the coolant drain out. After the coolant has drained, close the radiator petcock and re-install the engine drain bolt with a new washer. Coat the threads with gasket sealer and torque the drain bolt to 43 ft-lbs.

Next, remove the reserve tank (just pull it straight up out of its holder), drain it, and put it back.

Engine Drain Plug

Fill the radiator with coolant. As the radiator and engine block fill, loosen the two bleeder bolts on the top of the engine. The front bleeder bolt is in the thermostat housing. See photo below left. The rear bleed bolt is located at the base of the EGR valve, at the rear of the intake manifold. See photo below right. The view is from the driver's side of the car, back by the firewall.

Continue pouring coolant into the radiator filler neck until a steady stream with no air bubbles comes out of the bleed holes. Then, tighten the bleed bolts to 7 ft-lbs.

Front Bleed Bolt

Front bleed bolt on thermostat housing

  Make sure the radiator is filled up to the base of the filler neck.

Put the cap on, but only tighten it to the first stop. Then, run the engine until it warms up -- the fan has cycled on at least twice. Turn it off and let it cool down. After it's cooled down, check the level in the radiator and top it up if necessary.

  Rear Bleed Bolt

Rear bleed bolt near base of EGR valve

Put the cap back on and tighten it all the way. Finally, fill the reserve tank to the MAX mark. That's ityou're all set for another two years or 30,000 miles.

You may want to go one step further and flush the cooling system. There are two ways to do this. One is to follow the procedures above, except after the system is drained, fill it with water. Run the engine until the fan has cycled on at least twice, then let the engine cool down, drain the water and fill the system with coolant.

The other way to flush your cooling system is to install a back-flushing kit in the heater hose. The kit has a fitting for a garden hose. You connect the garden hose to the fitting, turn on the water, and the old coolant is pushed out the radiator filler neck. The kit comes with a "diverter" that installs in the filler neck, so you can direct the flow into your drain pan. When you see clear water coming out, the system is clean. Drain the water and fill the system with coolant as described above.

Transmission Fluid (5-speed)

DrainPlug -- 5-speed Transmission

The bottom pan of the 5-speed transmission has a drain plug and a filler plug (see illustration at right). To check the fluid level, remove the filler plug and poke your finger in the filler hole. The level should be up to the edge of the hole.

To drain the transmission, remove the drain plug. The plug has a round head, so you won't be able to use a wrench or socket to remove it. Instead, the bolt head has a 3/8" square "hole" in the center, so you can remove it using a 3/8" socket extension in the "hole." After all the old fluid drains out, replace the drain plug using a new washer. Torque to 30 ft-lbs.

Use a suction gun to pump the new fluid into the filler hole. Acura recommends SG grade motor oil, either 10W-30 or 10W-40. The filler plug should be torqued to 33 ft-lbs.

Transmission Fluid (A/T)

Automatic transmission fluid level is checked hot, with a dipstick. Park the car on level ground, turn off the engine, wait a minute or so, and then check the dipstick. The fluid should be between the upper and lower marks on the dipstick. If you need to add fluid, add it through the dipstick tube using a funnel with a long neck.

A/T Drain Plug

To drain and refill, remove the drain plug at the rear of the transmission (see illustration at left). Like the 5-speed transmission, the drain plug has a round head with a 3/8" square "hole" that will accept a 3/*8"-drive socket extension.

After the fluid has drained, replace the drain bolt using a new washer. Torque the drain bolt to 35 ft-lbs. Refill the transmission until the fluid level is between the upper and lower marks on the dipstick.

Two things to note about the automatic transmission fluid: First, you won't get all the fluid out. Expect to add about about 2 quarts. If the transmission could be drained completely, it would take about 7 quarts.

Second, Acura recommends using genuine "Honda Premium Formula Automatic Transmission Fluid or an equivalent DEXRON II Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) only." Many club members reported harsh shifting problems that were fixed by changing over to Honda's ATF. Apparently, the difference is significant enough that we recommend using only genuine Honda ATF.

Differential Fluid

Differential Drain Plug

Just like the 5-speed transmission, differential fluid is checked by poking your finger in the filler hole.

Like the 5-speed transmission, the drain plug has a round head with a 3/8" square opening. Also, like the 5-speed transmission, fluid is added using a suction gun to pump the fluid into the filler hole. Torque the drain and filler plugs to 35 ft-lbs.

For fluid, use an SAE 90 or SAE 80W90 weight hypoid gear oil, classified GL4 or GL5 only. Use the 80W90 if your winter climate gets below 0F (-18C).

Other Fluids

There are other fluids that require topping up from time to time, but their replacement is less critical and in some cases controversial. For example, many auto manufacturers recommend against changing brake fluid as a routine procedure -- doing so could damage the ABS components.

Brake and Clutch FluidBrake fluid should be checked at the master cylinder reservoir and at the ABS reservoir. There are MIN and MAX marks on the side of the reservoir. Same thing with clutch fluid. Use DOT3 or DOT4 brake fluid in both systems.

Power Steering Fluid -- Should be checked using the MIN and MAX marks on the side of the reservoir. NOTE: Acura states that, "Using automatic transmission fluid or another brand of power steering fluid will damage the system. Use only genuine Honda power steering fluid."

Most of the above information was stolen from the Vigor owner's manual. There's a lot of good information in that manual and there's no good reason not to have one. You can buy an original one for your car at Helm, Inc. It even has the original leatherette cover. Or, you can get free PDF downloads for your 1992, 1993, or 1994 Vigor.


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