How to Put a Thermostat on a 2003 Honda Element

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When the Honda Element arrived in dealers for the 2003 model year, its quirky style attracted me, but Honda's well-known quality and the Element's usefulness sold me on it. Now with plenty of miles under its belt, some minor mechanical problems, like the stuck thermostat that caused it to overheat, are rearing their heads now and again. Replacing the thermostat on my Element was surprisingly simple, but disconnecting the radiator hose required a process unlike most other cars.

Thermostat Replacement

  • I found the radiator petcock on my 2003 Element on the bottom, center of the radiator -- there was a cutout in the splashguard to access it.

    To find the thermostat, I traced the lower radiator hose toward the engine until I came to a large assembly that connected the hose to the engine; this was the thermostat assembly. To disconnect the lower radiator hose, I had to pull upward on the metal locking spring on the quick connector on the end of the hose, then wiggle the radiator hose and pulled.

    After installing the new thermostat, I torqued the assembly bolts to 7 foot-pounds. From there, I pulled the O-ring from inside the radiator hose quick connector -- the second O-ring from the end of the connector -- out with a hook tool, and installed a new O-ring in its place. I then pressed the locking spring downward, aligned the quick connector with the new thermostat assembly and pressed the hose onto the thermostat housing until it clicked into place

    I refilled the radiator to the base of its filler neck with Honda All Season Antifreeze/Coolant Type 2 -- it comes premixed, so I did not have to mix it with water. To burp the system, I started the engine, let it run for 30 seconds and turned it off. I rechecked the level in the radiator and added coolant to bring the level back up to the base of the filler neck. Then, I filled the reserve tank to its "Max" line with coolant, tightened the radiator cap to its first stop -- not all the way -- and started the engine. Once the cooling fan cycled on and off twice, I shut the engine off and topped off the radiator. I started the engine one more time with the radiator cap off and held the engine at 1,500 rpm until the cooling fan turned on. I turned the engine off, topped the radiator, installed the radiator cap and filled the reserve tank to the "Max" line.

Warnings and Tips

  • Coolant is toxic, so keep animals and children away from your work space.

    Always dispose of coolant properly by taking it to a used automotive fluid recycler or to an auto parts store for disposal.

  • Photo Credit Ann Johansson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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