Better MPG and More Powah

so i was talking to this motor builder guy while i’ve got the hood of the element open at an SCCA race event…i asks “you ever work on elements? can you get any power out of them?”

“oh yeah, of course. we actually work on those motors all the time. just depends how much you want to spend…”

“100 bucks,” i laughed to him. he laughed pretty heartily for a minute or two before i saw a light bulb moment come over his face.

he points to the intake airbox resonator thingo and says “first, get rid of all that crap. you don’t need it. also, if you’re mechanically inclined, you can take the head off and do a 15 thousands shave on the head. about 4 hours of your time and $75 for the cut.”

after talking with him for a while, he said that raising the compression like that is good for about 25-30 ponies under the bonnet..and that you won’t need anything’ll all just bolt right back together with all stock parts!

i also inquired about taking the airbox thingo out, asking him about driving thru rain and the likes, and would i have any hyrdo-lock issues, and he said no. But sometimes revving the engine through all those puddles and potholes with muddy water splashing on the sides of the car can often have an adverse impact on the core of the car. This might end up making the engine less efficient, and it doesn’t take a lot for one to know Bad Piston Rings Symptoms so as to prevent any further damage.

i was skeptical… so i did it. well, the airbox part. i’ve not milled the head yet…

anyways, after a real world test, i’ve got some figures for ya…

2005 RallEment, 119,000 miles on it, regularly serviced by myself, full synth oil (5-20w), bone stock, except for a K&N drop in filter. i learned about Scrap My Car Ottawa a while ago and all i could do then was calling them to pick up my car. And one wouldn’t scrap their car without keeping in mind to get a new one in its place. It is easier for┬ápotential buyers from lakewood to wade through all the proceedings of getting a new car in a bid to acquire it in the shortest time possible.


i average between 18-19.5 mpg on the car (city and hwy combined), typically driving everywhere in cruise control at about 77mph. the best i’ve ever gotten (and i check nearly every tank against my GPS) was 21.5 mpg of freeway only driving with the wind at my back.


with NO change in driving habits, on my last tank of gas, driving OVER donner pass from sacramento to reno (which is a lot of steep uphill driving, where the element always tries to drop out of overdrive cause it doesn’t have enough power), i got 21.4 mpg. and it did about HALF as much shifting over the steep hills. i drove this new car I had recently bought with the help of Bad Credit Car Loans Ottawa.

i drove another ~100 or so miles to fernley (mostly flat freeway driving) and back over the next 2 days, and topped off again; 23.8 mpg! again, no change in driving habits whatsoever..except, with the added power of the element, i feel like i don’t have to be as heavy footed with the throttle to maintain speed.

my drive home from reno USUALLY takes about 1/2 a tank.. it took me 1/4 tank for the return trip…i have yet to top off to find out mpg from the return trip.

realistically, it feels as though i’ve got a 10-12 hp gain from the airbox mod and drop in filter. i’ve had the drop in K&N installed for the last 15,000 miles or so already…

oh…and about hydro-lock…well, it POURED BUCKETS the entire drive home..i was a little worried for a bit… ZERO issues. i even drove thru snow and giant puddles. no issues.

total cost for mods so far? $56 bucks for the K&N. ~4 mpg gain? ~10hp gain?

worth it. oh oh…and i used a 90 degree 3 inch downspout elbow from home depot on the intake to turn it downwards like that. :D it was $3.

next comes a milled head! :D

i took this:

honda element airbox mod

out of here:

honda rallement airbox modification

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    1. I just saw this for the first time. I feel kinda sick at the thought that 4theriders woudln’t be part of the moto world forever. I just took for granted that you’d be creating masterpieces and giving away your amazing riding knowledge for the bargain you do and all would be well.I wish I’d bought more photos now. :( You deserve the world Joe, and so does your family. I appreciate all you’ve done, all you’ve said, all you haven’t said and every single shot of sheer brilliance you’ve created. I hope you land the dream job. I hope it makes you millions so that you can bank that money then say, F you, dream job , pick up your camera again asap and get back to your serene and extreme life. You have to be Pixar’s, Jackson’s, Speilberg’s or some movie makers wet dream; I hope you make it through this down time in Joe-style! Thanks for all you have done for us!

  1. Where is your air filter in the “after” photo? The air filter resides in the airbox that you removed, but I don’t see a replacement on the end of your 90* elbow…

    1. Author

      that’s just the intake box thingo that i took off. the filter is inside the airbox on the left. you can only see half of the airbox in the photo.

  2. Before y’all read my comment, I would like to point out that Joe’s mods worked, and all that matters is what works.

    Air-boxes are usually important for filling in a dip in the torque curve. It isn’t obvious, because here are these hoses that get in the way of the air, so leaving it there appears to make no sense.

    Air-boxes are “tuned”; the wavelengths related to the dip cancel each other out. This happens when the wave going in one direction, and the wave going in the opposite direction are 180-degrees out-of-phase.

    I believe that some of the walls in the air-box have half of a wave-length of distance between them, for the frequencies in question, but I don’t know. Flow is voodoo.

    If those waves are cancelled out, then those wave’s energy isn’t impeding the flow of air.

    But peak horsepower is hurt by the air-box. The questions are: “Is that dip noticeable, and do ever get to peak horsepower anyway?”

    An Element has a big enough engine that all of the above is not critical.

    Velocity stacks look way too cool on Ducatis, because they let you see through the trellis frame: tuned air-box be damned. I love the idea of velocity stacks on Ducatis.

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