Resto File #1: Exhaust.


This will hopefully be the first of many articles involving the restoration of my own personal project:

Her name is Goldie (Go ahead and laugh) and she’s an 1981 Accord Sedan.

Now, though I may be trained for such things I would never claim to be an expert, and as such tend to find myself bumbling through most projects despite my best efforts. That seems to be the nature of auto repair sometimes though, and the only thing to do is keep going until you get it right.

So, please bear with me dear readers as I share my tales of trials and tribulations with you. Even if these stories simply serve as mild entertainment  for the majority of you,  perhaps I will help a few of you be spared from the frustrating and sometimes costly mistakes I make along the way.

I recently had to repair a hole in my exhaust. Ideally I would have simply purchased the appropriate section of piping, but I tend to be a man of very limited means these days so I needed to do things on the super cheap.

After considering all my options I recruited the help of a close friend to weld a patch for the hole. I had looked at other solutions and despite the variety of tapes, wraps, patches, etc. available at my local automotive stores I doubted their effectiveness and longevity. Judging by my past experiences with those fixes and the testimony of others I’ve seen online, my assumptions are correct. So welding seemed to be the best option.

Now, I tend to be someone who tries to have his cake and eat it to when it comes to auto repair. I try to do things on the cheap, but I also try to do things mostly “by the book” and with the right new parts and techniques. I don’t want to take an afternoon to do something half-a**ed and then have to fix it a month later. I tend to be a follower of the “Measure twice cut once” method. Unfortunately my own personal version of this method tends to be “Measure eight times and cut 3 times”.

I usually try to consult any available reference materials I can get on an item or procedure before actually doing it, and yet I usually still end up bumbling through it when I get down to business. Maybe when I replace the pipe with a new one I’ll do a nice how-to video on this with some pointers to spare someone else the same troubles.

Anyhow, I set to work, removed the necessary pieces, then brought them into my “workshop”(My back patio) and assessed the damage.

Pretty Bad!

During the removal I had rounded the heads of the bolts a bit, and being a perfectionist I decided that aside from just the necessary gaskets, I should replace them as well. Instead of removing just the length of damaged pipe, it was easier to remove the pipe AND the catalytic converter as one assembly, since the bolts that connected the damaged pipe to the catalytic converter were next to impossible to reach while both pieces were still on the car.

Knowing it would be easier that way I figured it couldn’t hurt to replace one more gasket so I took both pieces off at once. So much for doing things on the cheap!

I brought the 2 pieces (As one) into my work area and separated the 2, making the section of damaged pipe easier to work on and transport. Ironically the actual repair of the pipe was the easiest part. I threw it in the trunk and brought it to my friend (Whom I can’t thank enough). He used a piece of pipe he had lying around as a donor, and welded a patch over the hole.

Cover Your Eyes!
All Done!

The whole thing only took him a few minutes.

So, with the pipe all sealed up ready to go back on it was time for a trip to the parts store to get the necessary gaskets and bolts:


Now, when you buy gaskets for an exhaust system there seems to be quite a few different types however I found there was 3 main types used on the Accord. Even though each type will seemingly create a seal just as well as the other (As long as the dimensions are correct), having the right FORM of gasket for the right section tends to make installation all that much easier. I wish I’d known that.

Ideally I should have had one of each:

Triangular Gasket
Crush Ring
Ring Gasket

However I was unable to get one of the triangular gaskets in the right size so I substituted with one of the other gaskets.

Sadly I did NOT pay attention to which gasket went where when I removed the exhaust from the car and subsequently split it into it’s two pieces. So, despite having reference materials, I still didn’t know which gasket was best suited for each joint. Knowing this would have made my re-installation a LOT simpler, but of course as always I chose to do things the hard way.

Re-assembling the pipe and the Catalytic converter while keeping the crush ring gasket centered proved to be quite difficult and I was proud of myself when I found a technique to do it which made the task slightly easier:

A little bit of this was perfect for holding the gasket in place during installation.
Just a thin layer, you don’t want it getting into your catalytic converter.
Like Magic!

I was thankful when I got everything back together and managed to keep the gasket centered.

My knee served as a useful brace while lining things up.
Alright! Problem…..Solved?

Imagine my chagrin while I admired my handy work and realized I had re-assembled it with the catalytic converter rotated out of line with the rest of the pipe:

Wait a minute….that heat shield doesn’t look like it’s aligned properly with the rest of the pipe!

So, I loosened the bolts and went through the delicate process again, rotating the catalytic converter to the right orientation. I was thankful I hadn’t torqued things down too much and destroyed the gasket in the process.

Phew….finally got it righ…wait a second… Oh geesh.

After the 2nd try I realized that I had rotated it so it was now 180 degrees off kilter with the pipe, it was now upside down.

OK….got it. 3rd time’s the charm?

The 3rd try WAS the charm, and I was still happy I’d managed to keep the gasket centered and uncrushed in the process, having a third hand would have helped though.

My victory was short lived.

When I was installing both pieces back onto the car I realized the error of my ways, and that I had basically put the crush ring gasket in the wrong place. “Oh **** it” I thought to myself, “it’ll still work”.

Ideally I would have used the crush ring in between the catalytic converter and the downpipe from the exhaust manifold (It fits perfectly and would be held in place by a lip on the downpipe). I would have used one of the other gaskets between the catalytic converter and the repaired pipe, and I would have used a triangular gasket (If I’d been able to get one) between the pipe and the muffler.

Holding the gaskets centered in place while propping up the exhaust with my legs and bolting the flanges all back into place proved to be quite the challenge. The right gasket in the right spot would have turned the job into a piece of cake, versus the practice in automotive yoga it ended up being. “Well, I’ll remember this for next time.” I thought, knowing that when I finally DO just buy a new section of exhaust and go to install it, I’ll know EXACTLY what I need and I’ll do a perfect job.

Sometimes you just have to do something wrong (several times) before you know how do it right!

Ethan – Editor.

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