1991 Acura NSX Long Term Road Test

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1991 Acura NSX: Finally Passed Smog

October 26, 2012

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Our 1991 Acura NSX finally passed a smog test. It was both an educational and costly experience. Here is how the saga wrapped up...

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1991 Acura NSX: Smog Test Results, Compared

October 25, 2012

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When we purchased our 1991 Acura NSX the car received a smog test. As you can see from the results above, it passed with decent marks. And we had the smog performed ourselves.

In California, a used car buyer has two options: (1) have the seller smog it first; or (2) agree mutually and in writing for the buyer to do it. We opted for #2 when we got the car. But now that we're selling it, we chose the more common option #1. That's were we encountered problems. Take the jump for all results...

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1991 Acura NSX: Second Smog Failure Diagnosis

October 25, 2012

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When our 1991 Acura NSX failed smog a second time, we bit the bullet and started shopping for replacement catalytic converters. All along we feared they were garbage, but we didn't want to spend the money if we didn't have to. Take a look at this one. The other is uglier...

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1991 Acura NSX: Failed Smog a Second Time

October 24, 2012

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The smog station technician pointed at our 1991 Acura NSX, and then to the word FAIL on the printout in his hand. "I think you might need new catalytic converters," he advised. I was dejected. For the past 30-40 minutes I'd been running the NSX to make sure the cats were hot and ready for the test. We hoped the sensors would do the trick. Crud.

He must have seen the look in my face. The tech tried to offer reassurance, "If you bring it back in the next 30 days it is only $20 to retest." I thanked him for his time and hit the road. Back to the drawing board. And deeper into the wallet.

Smog test: $65

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 58,290 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Trying to Pass Smog

October 23, 2012

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(Photo by Ron Montoya)

Our first stop after the NSX failed smog was Acura of Santa Monica. Convenience and the hope for a diagnosis took us there. The dealer took a peek and ultimately recommended that we replace both oxygen sensors. "It could be the catalytic converters too," our advisor added, before we asked him for the keys back.

Exorbitant dealer fees were not in our budget. So we drove the car down to a shop we had used in the past, Autowave, for a second opinion...

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1991 Acura NSX: For Sale, But Wait...

October 22, 2012

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(Photo by Dan Edmunds)

The time has come to part ways with our 1991 Acura NSX. We've had the car for a year now and turned the odometer about 12,000 miles. So in its last days the sales routine began. Give the Acura a good detailing. Determine the asking price. Organize pictures for the ad. Smog test the car for the next owner. All of the usual items.

Things proceeded as planned. We even fielded some prospective buyers. Then our NSX failed its smog test. After the expletives left our system and we caught our breath, it was time to ask the big question. Now what?

More to come...

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 58,223 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Loose Lip Part 3

August 15, 2012

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As you can see, Rex Torres, our associate coordinator of vehicles and content, actually did all the work, but it was the NSX god who saved us.

By that I mean Mark Johnson of Dali Racing in San Diego, who not only has a Bat Cave full of hot rod stuff for the Acura NSX, but also knows everybody and everything about the car.

Here's what we did.

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1991 Acura NSX: Road Trip Prep

August 14, 2012

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Some editors will be heading up to Monterey for the annual historics gathering this weekend. As one of the resident grease monkeys on staff, I volunteered to make sure our long-term NSX was in tip-top shape for the journey.

Just as I did in March, I gave the NSX an oil and filter change on our Rotary 2-post lift. Same oil, same filter (awaiting internet outcry in 3, 2, 1...). This time around I brought in my own toolbox. There's something about working with your own equipment (even though our shop and my shed are stocked with Craftsman tools, mine are laser etched and better organized (arrr, arr arrrgh). I also have a nifty strap wrench for oil filters that attaches to a socket wrench.

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1991 Acura NSX: Adolescence Restored

August 02, 2012

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Big props to Riswick for getting the NSX's stereo fixed. Besides being able to actually hear anything, I can now resume my flashbacks to the 1980s. Has it really been eight months since it began eating my old mixtapes?

Last night, I picked out a tape from my collection; one that I would not miss if it was snapped. Sure enough, music began pouring forth from the speakers. At that point, I hit eject and popped in another cassette and rocked out to all sorts of obscure pop songs from my teenage years. This morning, it was all Van Halen (I'm saving the Phil Collins tape for Riswick). There's something to be said for period-correct music in a older car.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 56,875 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: As Good As New/Old

August 01, 2012

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I was in Canada last week and didn't realize my voicemail didn't work up there until Monday. As such, I missed Santa Monica Car Sound's phone call informing me that our NSX's stereo had been repaired and ready to re-install.

I dropped off the NSX this morning and Freddie quickly got to work. When I picked it up, not only had the output been repaired to fix our whole lack of sound problem, but all the head unit's lights once again worked (photos after the jump). I completely forgot to ask them about that. Mark will be driving the NSX tonight so he can report whether they corrected (as asked) the Phil Collins-eating tape deck.

The total repair cost was $555, including $300 for the outsourced repair and $225 for Santa Monica Car Sound's efforts in diagnosing the problem, removing the unit and re-installing it. This was pricey, but given our desire to maintain the clean-look of the integrated factory head unit, it was the price of doing business. And for those of you who'd rather have an aftermarket unit with LED swimming dolphin graphics and chiclet buttons, good for you.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 56,860 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Loose Lip, Part 2

August 01, 2012

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With the rubber lip of the front air dam hidden in the trunk of the NSX as if it were the victim of some terrible mobster shootout as seen in a Scorsese film, I started looking around for getting a replacement.

As any right thinking NSX owner would, I turned to NSX Prime, the leading voice for NSX owners on the Internet. As always, these guys have already done everything there is to be done with an NSX.

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1991 Acura NSX: Loose Lip

July 31, 2012

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It had to happen to someone, so it finally happened to me. I got to be the one to entirely scrape off the rubber lip from the NSX's chin spoiler.

I wish I could say that it happened when the front grounded at full throttle in top gear on a high-speed sweeper, but instead it happened just getting in and out of my suburban driveway.

When I think about it, this low-hanging lip for the spoiler is the most retro thing about the NSX, as I can remember dragging any number of these things on various cars on driveways back in the 1990s.

As you'd expect, not much has been holding on the spoiler these days, and I was just going to get the racer's tape out of the garage and do some quick-and-dirty NASCAR-style repair when things finally unraveled completely.

We've got the piece removed completely for the moment and it's stashed in the trunk. The horseshoe-shape mounting holes in the fiberglass and the rubber lip suggest that we might be beyond the point of DIY repair, so we're going to look around for a more professional solution.

We'll let you know.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 58,995 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Old Honda vs. Old Porsche

July 30, 2012

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You'd think it might be difficult to find much drama in a cabin with fogged up windows.

But after once sitting in the driveway for 20 minutes in a 1985 Porsche 911 while its rudimentary defrost system breathed ineffectively on the windshield like an old dog before the glass was clear enough to see, I appreciate that the NSX is an old Honda, not an old Porsche.

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1991 Acura NSX: It Needs a Stereo

July 26, 2012

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Our NSX is currently undergoing stereo surgery and that's had some of our more confused staffers commenting that the sound of the V6 is all they need.

They're wrong. Our NSX needs a stereo. All road cars do.

Don't get me wrong: engines sound wonderful. Each one is unique and even if they're not classically pretty to listen to, every motor has its own sound signature that will forever tinge your experience. But they're not the only part of the driving experience. Not by a long shot.
It ties the experience together and sets the cadence of the drive. As the engine winds to redline the music is overwhelmed (self-adjusting volume control is the worst thing in the world) and it rushes back into your ears as soon as you shift. Know the song well enough -- or shift fast enough-- and you don't miss a beat. The right song in the right car on the right road...there's almost nothing better.

Music is as essential to a good drive as is having a pretty girl by your side. Maybe the people saying our NSX sounds better like this are the type who would kick our a pretty passenger because she throws off the weight balance. I'm not. Our NSX's new stereo can't come quickly enough.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line

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1991 Acura NSX: No Stereo, No Problem

July 24, 2012

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I was a little bummed when Riswick mentioned to me on my way out of the office the other day that, not only does the NSX's radio not work very well...but it doesn't even have one anymore.

A problem?

Nope. Between the crazy that's constantly running through my head, along with the beautiful noises emanating from behind my head, I'm pretty much good. Seriously. The music from the NSX's mid-mounted V6 is truly that wonderful. Even in traffic. You just have to wind it out every once in a while to get the full effect.

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1991 Acura NSX: Fixing the Stereo

July 18, 2012

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"The NSX stereo couldn't be worse if we just tore it out and replaced it with a flatulent man blowing on a jug."

I wrote this in a text message to Magrath back on March 15 and documented it in a blog a day later. The stereo only got worse and sadly, we did nothing about it. Not coincidentally, the NSX was being driven less and less by people not named Kurt Niebuhr. "But James, you loser, the NSX should be more than enough entertainment by itself thanks to its sweet engine and general awesomeness and blah blah blah." Except that's a load of crap. I could drive a Bugatti Veyron in LA traffic and be bored to death, and the reality is we drive the NSX in traffic and on weekend road trips more than canyon bombs. I mean, that IS the point of buying this everyday supercar, right? Wait, why am I justifying fixing something that is broken?

Despite talk of a DIY job, that talk never turned to action. So after driving the NSX home last night, I decided enough was enough.

I Googled "car stereo repair Santa Monica," and looked at Yelp reviews for several places. Santa Monica Car Sound had strong reviews, both in terms of star ratings and favorable comments about Freddie and his employees. I brought the NSX in yesterday morning at 9, said our diagnosis was that the amp had gone, and had him listen to the faint wisps of music that farted out the speakers. Freddie said he'd take a look at it and give me a call with a diagnosis. He was also respectful of the delicate nature of "my" 20-year-old baby.

Freddie called around 11 saying it wasn't the amp and that he'd have to take a look at the head unit itself. I appreciated this mid-stream check in. Around 12:30 he called again saying the problem lay with the head unit's output. There were two options. He could install a new head unit entirely, which isn't an option since we want to keep the car as-close-to-original as possible. The second was to pull the head unit out of the car, ship it off to be repaired and reinstall it a week later. We would take the NSX back and be able to drive it in the meantime. Parts and labor would be about $300. Option B it is then, plus a request from Takahashi "to check the tape deck because it ruined my Phil Collins mix tape." I'd say it was working perfectly.

So we indeed tore the NSX stereo out, but the flatulent man is on hold. We'll see how it goes, stay tuned.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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1991 Acura NSX: The Fix

July 17, 2012

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While this certainly won't go down as one of the more heroic fixes, thanks to Science of Speed, Mark and I were able to replace our NSX's busted door thing. The part came promptly and was well packed. As you can tell from the above photo, I'm not an elegant opener of cardboard boxes.

As Mark had already replaced the one on the passenger side, I let him take the lead. After all, my beer wasn't going to drink itself.

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1991 Acura NSX: That Must've Hurt

July 16, 2012

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I was washing our NSX this morning in my backyard when I noticed an impact dent in the front right wheel. In the picture, it's right at the 11 o'clock position.

Then I noticed this one on the rear left wheel.

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1991 Acura NSX: POP!

July 02, 2012

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****!

Hey, uh Mark. Doing anything next weekend?

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 56,704 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Lucky Catch

June 29, 2012

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I got lucky, caught the odometer on its way up. This happened right as I was rolling out for the morning commute. Only had to wander about an eighth-mile down the block to line it all up.

We're past this mileage already, and as Oldham noted in an earlier post, we've put 10,000 miles on the NSX already and only dealt with minor annoyances. We've had a leaky trunk. I still don't think we've pinpointed the source, although JayKav's theory of a minor and unreported fender bender somewhere in the car's history is compelling.

We've replaced the airbag control unit, trunk and engine cover struts, 02 sensor, coolant hoses and passenger-side door pull. Erin replaced a side marker light. We bought new tires and in the process discovered a bent wheel lip. We flushed and recharged the A/C, although we've now got some HVAC controls issues. There's some dirt in our audio system, possibly a loose connection, or more likely a blown channel on the Kenwood amp.

We paid $33,000 for the NSX. Now go ahead and tell us how much we suck for paying that kind of money for this kind of lemon. I've kicked the door open. You can't convince me these are unreasonable hiccups for a 21-year-old slab of aluminum supremeness.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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1991 Acura NSX: Seat Wear

June 26, 2012

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After almost 56,000 miles, the leather covering the driver's seat of our 1991 Acura NSX is starting to show significant wear on the bolster. It's far from wearing through and becoming a hole, but the material isn't exactly "just in need of a wipe with a good leather treatment" either.

This is one of those things any sports car will begin to suffer from. After so many years of drivers getting in and out and dragging their butts across the seat's aggressively shaped bolster it's almost unavoidable.

Aside from some normal and expected wear on the Acura's leather shift knob, the NSX's leather otherwise looks practically new.

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1991 Acura NSX: We've Driven it 10,000 Miles

June 25, 2012

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We've driven our 1991 Acura NSX 10,000 miles. The day we bought it the supercar's odometer read 45,886. That was back in September. Ten months and 10,000 miles later I can tell you that our NSX is running better than ever.

Sure we've put some money into it over that time, including a new set of tires and several fixes, but this car is better to drive now than the day we paid for it and it has proven to be impressively reliable.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 55,886 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: More to Fix

June 12, 2012

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After the big stuff has been fixed, it's time to get down to the details. See those knobs in the picture above? My altered labeling pretty much says it all.

When I first got in the car last night, the air conditioning was blowing incredibly cold. It wasn't until I turned the dial into the 80-degree range that it finally warmed up to a normal temperature. This morning, however, it all seemed to be working fine. This isn't anything new, though.

Then there's that volume knob. The only sound coming from the speakers last night was a faint crackle. This morning, I was able to hear a local station, but it was still very much overpowered by static. Magrath thinks we can swap out the amp to try and isolate the problem, so I'll be bringing my tools in to give it a shot. He'll take the lead on this one, since me and electrons rarely get along.

With any luck, all of this will be resolved by the time I hit the Kulinary Mille.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 55,506 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Back on the Road

May 31, 2012

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Our 1991 Acura NSX is back on the road after a multi-day visit to the mechanic. We originally left the NSX with Autowave in Huntington Beach to have the SRS control unit replaced. While it was there we had a couple other issues addressed.

Let's start with the coolant. Our noses detected that the system was compromised but it was not until now that we acted on it. Autowave replaced the three coolant hoses routed through the center tunnel and refilled the system with fluid.

Summer is coming, so we asked them to also inspect the A/C system. It turns out we were down on refrigerant. The system was flushed, recharged with R-134 and works fine now.

Back to the SRS control unit. It was replaced with a used one since, well, Acura just doesn't make those anymore. To top it off, the fuse blown by the short in our faulty SRS brain was exchanged for a new one.

This was an expensive experience. But we covered the major items on our list and expect the job was done right. We hope to keep things status quo for awhile.

Total Cost: $1,350.07

Days out of Service: 8

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 54,775 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Airbag Warning Light, Continued

May 22, 2012

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We dropped our 1991 Acura NSX off at Autowave this morning to finally extinguish the SRS warning light that's been staring us in the eye. It took some time, but now parts are in and the car is in. We look forward to getting her back on the road soon.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 54,815 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Aluminum Sandwich

May 03, 2012

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At some point during its prior ownership, our longterm 1991 Acura NSX was sandwiched between two vehicles. Likely it was rear-ended at a stop which then nosed the car's pointy prow into the car in front of it. Doesn't appear to have been a colossal crunching.

It's speculation on my part. Here's what I see. Beyond the earlier cues of dewey tailights and leaky trunk there's some light mottling of the paint on the wing like it's been resprayed, the decklid doesn't quite sit flush no matter how much you fiddle with the stops, and there's some crazing evident beneath the paint on the nose like it, too, has been repainted.

None of it is terrible, but it would've been spotted by a good PPI and at minimum used as a bargaining chip. Carfaxes are helpful but don't always tell the whole story - the Carfax for this car has no accidents reported.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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1991 Acura NSX: Getting to the Bottom of the Airbag Issue

May 01, 2012

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After an initial estimate from our local Acura dealer to fix the SRS warning light in our NSX we decided to get a second opinion. This time we went to Autowave in Huntington Beach, a local Acura/Honda specialist. It also happens to be well versed in the ways of the NSX.

They agreed to take a look and seemed familiar with the problem. Later that day I got a call from Shane who said that the SRS control unit was indeed bad as the dealer had originally diagnosed. He had already done a little research and was able to source a replacement for a few hundred dollars. Combined with the labor involved to install and test the new part, the bill from Autowave was still going to be less than half what the dealer was asking. Needless to say, we're going to give it a shot. We'll let you know how it goes when the part arrives.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 54,815 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Airdam Damage

April 16, 2012

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After 21 years of service, the under side of our NSX is showing some wear. Most specifically, the airdam. Photog Kurt Niebuhr mentioned in a previous post that the airdam touches down in some corners when driving aggressively on back roads.

And I'll admit the front kissed the pavement once or twice in the midst of my spirited road trip to Laguna Seca, Part 1 and Part 2.

Steep driveways have also proved problematic for the NSX, despite our best efforts to angle the car in properly. To sum up, there's been some scraping, as much as it pains us.

So Mark Takahashi and I put the NSX on our Rotary Lift to inspect the level of damage.

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1991 Acura NSX: SRS Warning, Next Step

April 11, 2012

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Yesterday we dropped our 1991 Acura NSX off at Santa Monica Acura to diagnose the issue behind our SRS warning light. There was a $148.88 fee to open up the car and locate the problem. We said okay.

Later that afternoon our advisor called, "Mike, I hoped the light was seat belt related so that we could cover it under warranty. After digging around we found the SRS control unit needed to be replaced instead. That job will cost $1,713."

We have dealt with this advisor, Henry, for years, dating back to when he was at a another dealership. He has always been up-front with us, which is why we keep going back. I told him we'd like to get another opinion. He understood. Then I asked him what we could do about the initial diagnosis fee. He was able to knock it down to $99.95, which was better than nothing.

We're off to another garage to see if we can save some dough.

Total Cost: $99.95

Days out of service: 1

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 54,675 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: SRS Warning Diagnosis

April 10, 2012

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We dropped our 1991 Acura NSX off at Santa Monica Acura this morning to address the SRS warning light that Mike mentioned yesterday. A brief conversation with our service advisor taught us a couple of things concerning our situation.

One, if the SRS warning is due to an issue with the seatbelt system then our visit is covered under warranty. Acura offers lifetime seatbelt repairs. Cool. But two, if the problem is not belt-related, the diagnosis fee is $150. Well, $148.88 to be precise.

We'll get to the bottom of the issue and let you know how it goes.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 54,673 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Warning Light

April 09, 2012

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I had barely gotten my road trip to Monterey/Laguna Seca going in the NSX, and this SRS (Supplemental Restraint System) warning light came on.

So we'll add this airbag problem to the list of things (including the horrible-sounding audio system) we need to have looked at on the NSX.

Oh, and my road trip report will also be coming shortly. I'm serious.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 53,805 miles.

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1991 Acura NSX: Sounds Awful

April 02, 2012

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I don't always drive the NSX, but when I do...

...I usually turn the radio off so I can enjoy the glorious V6 soundtrack coming from behind my head.

But when I'm stuck in traffic or on a long drive, music is a necessity. Before I drove the NSX up to Buttonwillow this weekend, however, Mr. Riswick let me know that the stereo sucks. It hasn't always sucked, though, so it appears that a fix is in order.

First off, the subwoofer isn't working anymore. Also, the sound quality is pretty awful. It's "scratchy" for lack of a better word. Add these complaints to the lack of nighttime illumination and its appetite for mixtapes, and I think a visit from an audio professional is now justified.

We've got a few educated guesses on the cause of the degraded audio quality. First and foremost is the water intrusion into the trunk. I'm no expert, but I think water and electronics don't play well together. Upon closer examination, I also noticed that the amplifier's terminals and some of the attached wires are not protected from errant metallic objects. Perhaps a loose screwdriver for similar object shorted it out?

Whatever the case, we're looking for someone who can check out the NSX and possibly fix all that ails it. If you have anybody you trust implicitly and is in the L.A. area (mobile would be preferred), feel free to pass on the information. In the meantime, I'll be listening to the engine. Awwwwwww.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 53,560 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: A Change Will Do You Good

March 22, 2012

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As noted in an earlier post, it was time to change the oil in our beloved long-term NSX. I volunteered to do the job myself, even though our local Acura dealer quoted us a very reasonable $70 to have it done. Here's how it all went down.

Once I had the NSX on our two-post Rotary lift (nose-in, instead of backed-in, as Dan Edmunds suggested), everything was easy to access. I should note that I made sure to empty the trunk of everything I brought with me (tools, oil, filter, etc.), because too many times in the past, I've had to lower a lift to grab something I forgot.

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1991 Acura NSX: Time for a New Stereo?

March 16, 2012

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Text message to Magrath
March 15, 2012 5:06 pm

"The NSX stereo couldn't be worse if we just tore it out and replaced it with a flatulent man blowing on a jug."

I was not listening to the radio (you accept FM can be bad in LA). I was not listening to my iPhone through a tape adapter (you expect that to be bad everywhere). Nope, this was a brand-new CD being played through the trunk-mounted changer. Ditto another CD. And I'm not talking about inherent sound quality, where the sound stage and the mid-range highs of this and that audiophile technobabble could be better. Sound quality was never great, but now there is something wrong. Certain notes sounded like the speakers were being fed through whoppie cushions, while a general staticiness permeated everything.

You'll note by the previous descriptions that I'm not a sound system expert, and as such cannot identify the problem. But there is one, and we really need to get it fixed or replace the entire '90s-era aftermarket system. (I'm just guessing we wouldn't have had the same problem with the original OEM unit).

Furthermore...

Monty was reacquainted recently with the notion of a trunk-mounted CD changer, noting its tendency to skip. However, I had a trunk-mounted CD changer in my 2000 Jetta and it skipped less in 7 years than the NSX did in 7 minutes last night. I can only suspect that electronic shock protection (ESP) was either not invented or perfected yet back in '91. When you pair this CD changer with a firm suspension and L.A.'s atrocious pavement, well, our stereo problem gets a wee bit worse.

I seriously doubt we'd replace the CD player with a more modern unit, but the sound system issue hopefully will be addressed. Otherwise, I'll need to find myself that jug. I could probably live without the bean enthusiast.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 55,215 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Oil In and an Oil Change

March 14, 2012

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Yesterday I checked the oil level in the engine of our old school NSX. Sure it enough it needed a quart. So I splurged for the bottle of 5W-30 ($4.33 at the local Shell station) and poured it in.

We also realized it's time to change the NSX's oil. We've driven the car about 7,000 miles since we bought it last September, and have changed its oil once before. That was about 5,000 miles ago and the job was done by the local Acura dealer for $70.00.

This time we're going to do the job ourselves and we're going step up to a synthetic blend from the conventional oil we've been using. Look for a post on that next week.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 52,748 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Marker Light Bulb Replaced

February 29, 2012

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Last week some of you noticed one of the front marker lights was burned out on our long-term 1991 Acura NSX. On Monday morning, I remembered this and pulled out the owners manual. I looked at the step-by-step instructions and thought, ah, well I'll just replace the bulb myself. It'll be easy!

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1991 Acura NSX: Taking a Beating

February 21, 2012

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As I was preparing to wash our long-term NSX this morning, I noticed that the front air dam is looking pretty ratty.

The black plastic bottom lip has separated from the silver body work right in the middle. I thought that maybe I could just pop it back into place, but when I took a look underneath, it appeared as though the clip and screw that was supposed to hold it in place have been pulled clean through the silver plastic.

I might try to put it on our Rotary Lift to fix it, but I have a feeling this might be a job for a body shop.

We'll definitely need a body shop for a few spots on the silver body work. Right under the driver-side air inlet there's a chunk of paint missing. My guess is that some road debris hit it on the highway. There's also another ding that's much less noticeable on the passenger side.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 52,026 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: A Look Underneath

February 02, 2012

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We finally put our 1991 Acura NSX up on our 2-post Rotary Lift . Go to the next page to get a detailed look at its not so dirty side.

More pictures after the jump.

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1991 Acura NSX: Schhhhhhck

January 31, 2012

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It's no secret the NSX's front lip is pretty low. It's also no secret I was going at a pretty good clip across one of our many, many mountain roads. But did I think I was going fast enough to drag the nose in to and through some of the corners? Not a chance.

Sure enough, there was that sound. That distinct shhhhhhck shhhhhhck shhhhhhck of plastic skating over asphalt. And ok, I'll admit it, I took a little pride in that sound.

Not one to let myself think I'm actually that fast, I mean, other, much faster people have driven this car and never noticed anything, I figured it must have been some busted underbody panel that was dragging. But as you can see in the photo above, everything is right where it should be, albiet a little scuffed up. As Takahashi (he's one of the faster ones around here) had the car not long after did and experienced no such noise, he's interested in sticking a GoPro to the nose and making another run - you know, just to be sure.

Tough job, this.

inb4 the scuff police

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 51,626 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Fixing the Door

January 02, 2012

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The replacement billet door lever from ScienceofSpeed.com came in last week, so I decided to fix it this weekend. All in all, it was an easy fix; maybe a four on a difficulty scale of ten. It wasn't completely without some frustration, as you'd expect, but there's certainly a feeling of satisfaction that comes with fixing something yourself.

The first step is to remove the door panel that slides into the handle and lever pocket. I used a plastic putty knife the lift the edge, then pulled it out with some pliers wrapped in a small towel (so as not to tear the leather).

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1991 Acura NSX: Trippin' Trip Meter

December 29, 2011

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The NSX's trip meter has started acting up. It seems to reset fine, and starts counting up the miles okay. That is, until it gets to 10.9 miles, at which point it just stops.

I reset it a couple of times and it kept getting hung up at 10.9. I tried resetting it by pushing it once, twice, resetting it while sitting still and resetting it while moving.

Then this morning it got hung up at 2.9. So apparently it's a bit random where it gets hung up. I reset it again and now it appears to be working fine, as it went right past 2.9 and 10.9.

Part of the fun of owning a 20-year-old car.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 50,209 miles.

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1991 Acura NSX: Door Handle Update

December 22, 2011

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The passenger door handle in our NSX has been broken for a month now, so I went ahead and ordered the part last week. Thanks to a tip from reader 92_nsx_411, the billet door lever will be coming in from ScienceofSpeed.com.

Thankfully, the entire door panel won't have to come off -- only the section surrounding the door handle. That means I'll be doing the repair myself, which shouldn't pose any problems. With any luck the part will arrive sometime next week.

I'll give you all a complete rundown when it happens.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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1991 Acura NSX: Looking For Used Car "Tells"

December 20, 2011

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I've bought a lot of used cars from private parties over the years. Sold almost as many, too. It's a process that involves a detailed look at the car, a sizing up of the seller and an understanding that you will never know everything that the car in question has been through. The latter is especially true if the seller is not the original owner, which is almost always the case whan a car is 20 years old like our 1991 Acura NSX.

Take this engine bay brace, for example. The correct orientation is clearly marked on both ends, and yet it is bolted in backwards with the "FR" arrows pointing toward the back of the car. This is not a part that's typically removed unless the engine has had serious work or has been removed entirely.

This being a Honda engine with less than 50k miles on the clock (officially, anyway), we can probably rule out a prior engine overhaul. On the other hand this "supercar" could have been driven as such, and some previous ham-fisted owner with weak manual skills could have zinged the engine. It does idle a bit funny, but that could be anything. Our test results say it runs strong.

Of course this brace could have been removed to somehow facilitate a clutch replacement. The mileage is a little low for that, so it would have been fairly recent. Trouble is, the accumulated dirt and a matching rub mark from the engine cover prop rod looks old, indicating it has been this way for quite some time.

Early removal of this brace could be a sign of low-mileage accident damage and repair. If so, there's no reworked metal evident in this area and the nearby bodywork looks straight. Car drives great, too. Seems unlikely that would be the reason. There is that trunk leak, though.

Maybe it was something benign like an alternator or throttle body replacement. Or, unlikely as it seems, maybe some worker at the plant simply put it in backwards when the car was built.

We'll never know for sure, but I'll see if I can find any more "tells" when I put it up on our Rotary lift for a suspension walkaround eartly next year.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 49,732 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: Checking the Oil

December 19, 2011

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I forgot to mention last week that I checked the NSX's oil. It's not really a noteworthy event by itself. But in the context of old exotic sports cars, the process is super easy. 1) Pop the rear glass hatch with the release located on the driver side door frame. 2) Lift up the engine cover and prop it up with the attached rod. 3) Check oil.

The dipstick is easy to find and indicates the oil level pretty clearly.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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1991 Acura NSX: Chivalry is Dead

December 13, 2011

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Just because Takahashi was careless enough to break our NSX it doesn't mean I have to waste my time getting out and opening the door for the girlfriend.

Though I'll certainly get out to take this picture of her nearly dislocating her wrist.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line

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1991 Acura NSX: Bent Wheel

December 09, 2011

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Earlier this week we put new tires on our NSX. That's the good news. The bad news is that during the mounting and balancing we discovered that one of our front wheels is badly bent.

It's bent so badly that it's a miracle we can't feel it though the steering wheel in the form of a vibration. Gotta be the fact that the NSX's front wheels are just 15-inches in diameter. If they were larger, say 18-20 inches, we'd probably be buying a wheel right now.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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1991 Acura NSX: New Tires

December 07, 2011

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Yesterday our NSX got new tires, not because the rubber on the car was worn, but because it was old.

We wanted an aggressive summer tire, but honestly we saw no real need to put high-dollar, extreme rubber on a 20 year old sports car that has a known history for eating its back tires.

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1991 Acura NSX: Night Lights

December 02, 2011

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It's been a while since I set up a beauty shot at night. I had a little time to kill so I decided to suction-cup my camera to the rear window and set it to bracket three pictures every 5 seconds. It looks like I just engaged hyperspace in the Millennium (aluminum?) Falcon, but I'm barely breaking 30 mph.

OK, enough artsy stuff. See how the radio only shows the station info? James noted earlier that the rest of the head unit doesn't light up, so I decided to look into this in the morning.

I popped open the fuse box in the driver-side kick panel, but there wasn't a fuse labeled that pertains to interior lighting or audio. Then I tried the box under the bonnet. Yup, there were fuses that were attributed to lighting, but all of them were in good shape.

James was wondering if this was a job for resident tech man, Doug Newcomb. Perhaps there's a resource out there that can restore/repair OEM head units? But our senior front-end engineer and Honda-phile Masaki Komine turned me onto a Honda program that restores/refreshes NSXs.

Now, I don't speak or read Japanese (I'll let resident Japan-o-phile Dan Frio handle this one), but it looks to me like an interesting resource. Perhaps we can get original dash elements that have been shoddily "fixed" with a Sharpie while we're at it?

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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1991 Acura NSX: Shattering My Youth

November 30, 2011

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I noted previously that the NSX, besides being a wonderful drive, permits me to relive my youth in the form of my old mixtapes. Last night, I subjected acquainted my girlfriend to the finer points of Phil Collins' early work as we headed out for burgers. This morning, however, all that nostalgia came to a sad, sad end.

I switched out the tape for another one and I heard a click inside the deck. Then the tape ejected. I inspected the cassette and saw that the tape had snapped. Bummer. Thankfully, it wasn't a tape that I had too much of an emotional attachment to. I tried another tape (again, one that I wasn't even sure what was on it) and "snap."

Yup, it looks like the tape deck has either malfunctioned, or is trying to tell me that my adolescent taste in music sucks. Perhaps both. I hope there's a fix for this. Until then, it's radio or CDs.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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1991 Acura NSX: No

November 30, 2011

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That would be the answer to the question, "Is it acceptable to cover up scratches on my interior trim with a Sharpie?"

Not even once.

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1991 Acura NSX: Dewey

November 25, 2011

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Our 1991 Acura NSX was recently at the track for its maiden test day (surprising results forthcoming), and I noticed we have yet to properly address the taillamp issue. Didn't we buy new gaskets?

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ somewhere North of 50,000 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: I Guess I'm Pressing #5

November 23, 2011

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Well, our pristine Acura NSX isn't exactly so pristine. None of our NSX's issues have been especially terrible, but it certainly dispels any notion that a 20-year-old Acura/Honda will be troublefree.

Any who, would you care to change the radio to preset 4? Oh, how about eject that tape? Well, you'd better be a raccoon or a blind guy, because our stereo lights no longer illuminate. Again, not a huge deal, but add another item to our Fix-It list.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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1991 Acura NSX: Ancient Tires

November 22, 2011

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I recently wrote an article on aging tires that opened my eyes to an often-overlooked aspect of car maintenance. For years, many of us (myself included) have looked at tread wear as an indicator of when to replace a tire. But the age of the tire itself is just as important. Old tires develop cracks over time, which can potentially lead to tread wear separation.

When you buy any used car, especially a low-mileage vehicle like our 1991 Acura NSX, you should make it a habit to check the Department of Transportation (DOT) identification number on the tire. I was curious about the tire vintage on long-term cars we bought used, so I went to check them out.

Our NSX illustrates one of the difficulties you may encounter when you're trying to determine the age of a tire. The lettering on two of the four tires was facing the inside of the vehicle. This car sits very low to the ground, so the only way for me to see the DOT code would be to jack up the car and peek underneath. Thankfully, the code was visible on the other two tires.

The code on the front right tire reads "1502." This means it was manufactured in the 15th week of 2002. The code on the right rear tire says "0302," or the third week of 2002. The tires on the left side of the car face inward, but I'm going to assume they are of a similar vintage. This means that they are very close to 10 years old.

Consumers get mixed messages on when they should replace their tires. Many automakers recommend six years, regardless of tread. Most tire manufacturers say you should get annual inspections after the six-year mark, but that 10 years is the maximum service life.

We have Bridgestone tires on the NSX. If you look at the tires, the tread looks like it's in good condition, but the company says its tires have a maximum service life of 10 years. Our NSX is right on the edge. There are a couple other factors that could tire roadworthiness over the edge.

Tires wear out faster in warm-weather states. And it certainly doesn't help matters much when anyone who drives the car really steps on it to see what it can do.

So we're going to have to get a new set of tires as soon as possible. Similarly, our other used car, the 1985 Porsche 911, is going to need new rubber. In addition to the shallow tread, the tires are pretty old too. Here are the DOT codes for the 911: front right 4002, rear right 0105, left rear, 5204. The front left tire was mounted inwards, but if three out of four tires need replacing, we may as well get a full set.

For those of you who haven't bought a new set of tires in a while, take a look at the DOT code and let us know how old your tires are.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate

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1991 Acura NSX: Forced Chivalry

November 21, 2011

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Michael Jordan and I met up with some of our colleagues for lunch today, and discovered another item that needs repair in our beloved NSX.

I opened the passenger door for Mr. Jordan from the driver's seat and the handle did not return to its customary position. Nope, it was just left hanging as you see it in the picture above. Once we parked at our neighborhood taco stand, this door handle was indeed non-operational. That sent me into action as a two-seat limousine driver; sprinting to the other side of the car to open the door for him from the outside.

I normally volunteer to make repairs like these myself, but my past experiences with disassembling door panels inevitably result in a handful of fastener left over and a new group of door rattles. This one is best left to the professionals, I think.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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1991 Acura NSX: New Oxygen Sensor and Gaskets

November 14, 2011

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Our 1991 Acura NSX was out of commission for a few days to address the check engine light and trunk leak. Well, we picked it up from MD Automotive in Westminster on Friday. That was when I tossed the keys to Kurt...

What I didn't tell Kurt was that the tail light seals were replaced. He managed to make the brand new Acura seals ($25 apiece) leak just as well as the worn seals they replaced. Way to go, Kurt. Now we know those weren't the problem.

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1991 Acura NSX: Make It Rain

November 14, 2011

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So, remember when I said I was "given" the NSX for the weekend? Well, here's the reason.

As it was supposed to rain quite a bit here this weekend (it didn't, natch) I was given the task of driving the NSX around in the rain and then inspecting the hopefully wet trunk to come up with a possible source of the leak.

On Saturday, armed with my smart phone and an ever refreshing Doppler radar image, I did my best to hunt down rain. As I didn't want to smell like Magrath did after all his clothes got soaked and then baked in the heat of the trunk, seriously, the man smelled like mulch, I decided to leave the trunk empty and go into full storm hunter mode.

As luck would have it, all I had to show for 200 miles of Doppler guided driving was a smeared windshield and frayed nerves. I'd be surprised if I encountered more than 5 minutes of light rain. Click on through to see what came next.

On Sunday, I turned the hose on the back of the car and let it rip.

Before you get all bothered with the idea of me blasting away at some unsuspecting rubber seals, know that every new car goes through far worse leak testing before it makes it out of the prototype phase - Corvettes and F-Bodies excepted. Those cars should have come with a complimentary poncho.

Anyway, after tracing the seals around the trunk for a few minutes, I popped open the hatch and saw that, low and behold, it was leaking just above the tail lights on both the left and right side. To be fair, it wasn't much, but, to be fair, it shouldn't leak at all. You can see the compromised seal and the water droplets in the picture, below.

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1991 Acura NSX: Service Update

November 08, 2011

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Some of you have been asking where the NSX has gone. Well, it's still getting fixed up down at MD Automotive in Westminster, CA. The O2 sensor has been replaced and we're waiting on new taillight seals to fix the trunk leak. I think we'll have it back good as new by the end of the week.

Until then, I thought you might like to see this pic of photographer Scott Jacobs earning his huge salary.

And one more thing...

Many of you are going to question whether or not we could have fixed these things on the NSX ourselves for less money, and the answer is undeniably yes. But you've got to realize there are only so many hours in the day and we have to choose how we are going to spend that time.

1) We can fix and do all the required maintenance on all of our long-term cars ourselves

or

2) Fill Inside Line and Edmunds.com everyday with quality photos, words and videos

Usually we choose number two, even if it means paying for repair services we could have done ourselves painlessly. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. It's called life. Real life.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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1991 Acura NSX: Check Engine Light, Step 1

October 27, 2011

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By now you already know about the check engine light we encountered on our 1991 Acura NSX. We decided to call in the pros right off the bat. So early this morning we passed the keys off to MD Automotive in Westminster to resolve the issue. More to come.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 47,395 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: New Struts Are In

October 26, 2011

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This morning with a couple of open end wrenches, 30 minutes of my time and a little sweat equity I installed the new struts on our NSX. Now the car's trunk and hood stay up all by themselves.

Next up? A set of 20s and flame paint job, of course.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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1991 Acura NSX: New Struts

October 20, 2011

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Well look what just showed up in the mail...

You've all seen the stick, our NSX struts are shot. We knew this when we bought the car. We also knew that unlike the previous owner, we couldn't live with the stick and set out to find a replacement set for both the trunk and glass hatch struts. The quote from the local Acura dealer came up to $264.89 for both. But NSX-owning friends who've just recently replaced their struts had a better idea.

Two guys, unknown to each other, both suggested we head to NSX Prime (the Acura NSX go-to forum) and particularly this post rather than the dealer. Not only were these cheaper, but there's an additional discount for NSXP members who get the combo set. So we picked up two combo sets for a grand total of $216.00. Shipped. NSXP even has this handy guide for how to change them. Look for the install post soon.

Why two? Well, to start, getting two of these was cheaper than getting one set from Acura and if they happen to fail we've already got a backup. Worst case scenario is that when we go to sell it next year we can say, "Hey, buddy, you know what, we like you...I'll throw in a spare set of struts."

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1991 Acura NSX: The Wash

October 20, 2011

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Like our long-term Porsche 911, I prefer to wash our NSX myself. And like the 911, I found a few flaws during its time at Takawashi. The exterior is in remarkably good condition, with just a few nicks and chips that you'd expect. The one area that I paid particular attention to, however, was the trunk.

In an effort to track down the source of the water leak, Magrath and Riswick suggested I lay down something called Noooozpaper in the trunk (apparently it's a 17th century internet). I took their advice and after I was done drying off the car, I slowly opened the trunk, looking in as I lifted the lid so I could see what was dripping.

Turns out, nothing was dripping. My guess is that there needs to be air and water flowing at speed to get it to intrude past the weather stripping. Oh well, it was worth a shot.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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1991 Acura NSX: Drying Out the Trunk

October 18, 2011

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As Mike reported, our NSX has a leaking trunk that we're attributing at the moment to a faulty taillight seal. This pretty much soaked the trunk and after three days of being heated by the adjacent engine, it got pretty dank in there and condensation continued to form on the underside of the trunk lid. Basically, we were on a one-way ticket to Moldville.

When I got home, I propped the trunk open using the trusty trunk stick (the new struts are on their way) and pulled the wet carpeted mat. After 20 minutes in my dryer using the rug setting, the mat was dry. After four hours with the trunk popped, the rest of the trunk was dry.

After a weekend spent in the hot desert sun with the engine continually running, the trunk was still dry but a tad musty in smell. Takahashi is going to hand wash the car tonight to get rid of our road trip grime while seeing if he can find the location of water intrusion.

Consider yourself updated.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 47,209 miles

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1991 Acura NSX: That Didn't Take Long

October 14, 2011

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Ed Hellwig is right about the way our new/old 1991 Acura NSX sounds. It's got quite the stirring intake note when you give it the pedal. It also boasts one of the best shifters I've used in... well, a long freakin' time. There are shifters that are light and positive like this one's, but few also manage to feel like a mechanism. The NSX's gearchange retains that satisfying mechanical feel. Can't get enough of it. Shift just for the hell of it. The clutch is on its last legs, for sure, though.

Anyway, I was exploring the reaches of the throttle when the above light flicked on. It's a check engine light. No change in the way it's running, all gauges normal, and I'm just around the corner from my destination at this point. Stopped, I snap the photo and cycle the ignition just to see if it sticks. The CEL doesn't return. Hmm.

Now, this is a '91, so it's OBD-I, meaning it doesn't have anything near the diagnostic capability of today's OBD-II cars. No quick hookup of our DashDaq to see if it stored a code, then; this is a count-the-blinks deal.

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1991 Acura NSX: It Leaks

October 12, 2011

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(Sorry for the crummy image, but by the time I'd loaded my stuff into the car and drove it out to natural light, all of the water that had been pooled in the channels of our NSX's trunk had dripped either into my bag or down the back of my shirt. And, really, there's no reason to post that. )

When we bought our NSX we knew of just a few things wrong with the car: 1) there were a few minor scuffs on the wheels. 2) The trunk struts didn't work. We can now add a third item to this list: The trunk leaks.

This leak was the result of rain. Not particularly hard rain, but still, water fell from the sky and mysteriously wound up in the trunk and then down the back of my shirt. The pattern here suggests that before it was on me, the water was in the trunk and evaporated up to the lid.

We like to keep our cars clean and every so often park them near sprinklers or drive them in the rain. I'm following up with some NSX-owning buddies to see if they have any experience with this. Updates to come.

Now, the old owners may have forgotten to tell us about the leak, but they were kind enough to provide a slick workaround for the broken struts...

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