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3 Easy Steps To A Daily Driver Refresh

You should love your everyday commuter car – here are some quick and inexpensive ways to give your tired daily new life

Oct 12, 2016

The genesis of this story is a pretty funny one – or at least funny now that time has passed and I can see the humor in the tale. It all began with SEMA Show 2015 and an unfortunate incident in the parking structure of the Flamingo Las Vegas. I drove to the trade show that year and arrived to my deluxe accommodations (for 1946) on the Monday before doors opened at the Las Vegas Convention Center. As I pulled into a parking spot in my ‘05 Acura RSX Type S, I felt like I had parked a little crooked, so I backed up to straighten out – and that’s when things quickly went south.

From the front of the car was a cacophony of popping and plastic scraping that compelled me to jam on the brakes and figure out what the hell had just happened. I got out of the car and approached cautiously the driver side front corner, and everything seemed kosher – so far, so good. It wasn’t until I stood directly in front of the car I realized something was seriously wrong with the passenger side front corner, as in it had been separated from the car pretty dramatically. I walked around further to look at the extent of the damage and sure enough the entire right side of the front bumper cover had been pulled away from the car. The cover was still in one piece, but only half of it was actually attached to the car.

Grille zip ties Photo 2/50   |   No clips? No problem - when you have zip ties, that is.

What had happened was the lower edge of the bumper cover had snagged onto a piece of rebar sticking out of the top of the parking block in the space I had pulled into (#loweredcarlife). Since it was the first day of a long week in Vegas for the trade show, and I wouldn’t be needing my car to get around during the week anyway, I basically just shoved everything back together; then at the end of the week, before hitting the highway for my three-plus hour drive back home, I sourced some detailers tape and zip ties (thank you, drifters!) and did a DIY patch job in the parking lot of AutoZone, rigging the bumper to the nose of the DC5 as best as I could. No one is more surprised than I am that the whole thing stayed together.

Anytime anything needs fixing on our cars, it’s pretty standard to consider what else should get replaced/upgraded relative to what’s broken; in this case, I could’ve gone the route of a body kit but really had no desire (I’ve resisted that impulse for as long as I can remember). For all intents and purposes, the stock bumper cover was still in good shape, save for all the clips that got ripped out. But the idea of changing up the car’s exterior look, however subtly, was appealing, and so with that in mind we made some easy – and relatively cheap – improvements to the old girl, starting with the most basic of car care exercises.

TSW Amaroo detail Photo 3/50   |   TSW Amaroo Detail

CLEAN SLATE

I had already taken some small measures to update the car’s looks, namely getting a new set of wheels and tires. Since I’m not made of money, and this is after all an everyday commuter (subject to many miles and conditions), I went with a more budget-minded rim: the Amaroo by TSW in silver with a brushed face and chrome stainless lip. I had never plus-sized any wheels for the car, so with these I went with 18x8-inch sizing, which are +1 over the stock 17-inch diameter and a half-inch wider than anything I’ve run previously.

Since “stance” is not something I’m currently pursuing, for tires I went with Continental Tire ExtremeContact DWs in 225/40 ZR 18, which are only slightly different from the 225/45-17s I was using before on a smaller rim. The sizing provides the slightest hint of stretch for fitment that is nice without being obnoxious or useless.

Unfortunately after throwing on the new running gear I ran out of both time and inspiration to do anything else – that is, until the debacle in Vegas. By that time, the car was starting to get pretty dirty, which is perfect motivation to source some car care products and give the chariot a little TLC. Enter Mothers, who stepped up with product for every area that needed sprucing up.

Dirty wheels Photo 7/50   |   Gross!

Starting with the aforesaid wheels and tires, which at this point were grungy with brake dust and what have you, Mothers offers an Aluminum Wheel Cleaner that was good for most of the rim, save the lip, which we cleaned with Mothers’ All-Chrome cleaner. For the tires, we opted for the Mothers Back to Black Tire Renew, which cleans the sidewall and leaves a nice, new-tire dull sheen (as opposed to an over-the-top gloss some tire cleaners produce). A little bit of time and a handful of microfiber cloths and the corners of the car began looking pretty sharp.

Mothers Back To Black Tire Renew Aluminum Wheel Cleaner All Chrome Photo 8/50   |   Mothers Back To Black Tire Renew Aluminum Wheel Cleaner All Chrome

Under the hood, we attacked exposed portions of the engine and other soiled up aluminum parts with a water-based degreaser from Mothers Professional line. We also used some Mothers Instant Detailer and Back-to-Black Trim & Plastic Restorer in an aerosol can to return hoses, covers, etc. to their original factory-fresh luster.

Dirty engine bay Photo 9/50   |   Oh, the filth
Q tips Photo 13/50   |   PRO TIP: don't forget the cotton swabs to get at all the corners and hard to reach places

For windows, Mothers has its Re-Vision Glass and Surface cleaner, a pretty cool product that is also useful for electronic displays and touchscreens (we know; we tried it). For most of the remainder of the DC5’s exterior, we went out on a limb and tried for the first time a waterless, all-in-one spray-on cleaner, Mothers’ Waterless Wash & Wax. We know what you’re thinking: that’s no way to wash a car; but we LOVED that it only took us about an hour to do the entire vehicle instead of the usual hours it would normally take us to wash and then wax (which admittedly has more to do with the long process of waxing than washing).

The final bit of outside clean was a bit more involved; like most plastic headlights, ours had become fogged over with oxidation over the past 11 years. Mothers has a product for that – its NuLens Headlight Renewal Kit, which includes a bottle of PowerPlastic 4Lights plastic polish. The kit also comes with abrasive disks for filing down the oxidation, as well as a polishing “powerball” to make applying the PowerPlastic compound a snap.

BALLER BOLTS

In discussions about what low-key appearance mods we should make to the car on this most superficial of endeavors, my immediate supervisor suggested we consider Downstar, Inc., hardware, which I thought was just ridiculous. There was no way in hell I was adorning my DC5 in four-inch spikes – uh-uh, no way. Which goes to show you how little I knew about Downstar before actually looking at their product offerings and realizing how nice – without being gaudy – their stainless fasteners are.

Downstar Baby Nuts Grille Dress Up Strut Lil Nuts Fender Top Bolts Photo 26/50   |   Downstar Baby Nuts Grille Dress Up Strut Lil Nuts Fender Top Bolts

I’m here to tell you today that if you think Downstar is just spikes, you are way off. These guys take the mundane bits that hold your car together and turn them into an art form.

OEM srut tower brace Photo 30/50   |   PRO TIP: Installing the Downstar Strut Lil Nuts goes a lot easier with your strut tower brace removed

The variety of hardware is extensive, and even with the relative few we installed it was a night and day difference in appearance. For the valve and coil plug covers, Downstar provided its “Baby Nuts” to replace the OEM cap nuts (ok, so they have a sense of humor about the names of their product), and for the strut tops we picked up some “Strut Lil Nuts” with beauty washers. We employed Downstar’s fender bolts and washers to replace the upper fasteners, and for the grille we used their dress-up bolts with beauty washers and threaded rubber sleeves. In order to seat the sleeves, we had to drill out the clip holes with a half-inch bit.

Strut Lil Nuts installed Photo 31/50   |   Strut Lil Nuts Installed
Baby Nuts installed valve cover Photo 38/50   |   Baby Nuts Installed Valve Cover

SHINING THROUGH

The last bit of lovin’ we gave our commuter car was a lighting upgrade, which like everything else we’ve outlined so far can seem barely noticeable but make a world of difference. For starters, we tossed the Pep Boys special bulbs we had in the nose of the car, which by this point projected a kind of yellowish, brownish hue, and ordered some PIAA Xtreme White Plus replacements, which as you might expect shine a whiter, visibly more intense light. With the cleaned up headlight housings, the resulting beams were a huge improvement.

PIAA Xtreme White Plus H1 bulbs Photo 39/50   |   PIAA Xtreme White Plus H1 Bulbs
Left old bulb right PIAA Xtreme Whihte Plus Photo 40/50   |   Left Old Bulb Right PIAA Xtreme Whihte Plus

To supplement the headlights, we picked up a pair of amber fogs. Now, we could’ve gone the purist route and ordered OEM lights – or to be even more obsessive, the JDM OEM versions – but we decided to try the much less expensive aftermarket variety, because at the end of the day we’re cheap like that. As it turns out, we probably should’ve gone factory, because it took our illogical minds a little bit to figure out the wiring portion of the install.

RSX fog light kit Photo 41/50   |   RSX Fog Light Kit

We ordered the generic fog light kit through a popular JDM parts retailer, which we will leave unnamed. The kit components all appeared to be of good quality; unfortunately the one thing the kit didn’t include is instructions. After a quick Google search we found step-by-step directions for the OEM versions of the lights, but this kit didn’t have factory Honda-style electrical harnesses, so this meant we had to figure it out ourselves.

Thankfully, it wasn’t too hard. Basically there is an engine compartment harness and a dash harness; the engine bay harness has connectors for the lights linked to a relay, in addition to a fuse on the power wire (red), a ground wire (black), and a yellow lead that we spliced into the factory fog light wire on the left side of the compartment (it’s blue with a yellow stripe and a brown connector at the end). The connectors plugged into the lights, the black line was grounded to one of the frame rails, and the red wire was tapped into the battery.

1 pin connector taken apart Photo 42/50   |   PRO TIP: Since the fogs are aftermarket they came with no connectors, so we had to splice into the factory wires. To remove the connectors from the OEM wires, you'll generally need to pop out a clip from inside the connector to free the pins.
Vehicle ground bolt behind bumper cover right side Photo 46/50   |   Vehicle Ground Bolt Behind Bumper Cover Right Side

The dash harness is made up of a red wire, black wire, yellow wire, and connector. The connector plugs into the provided switch that pops into a small factory hole on the left side of the steering wheel (grouped with the sunroof and cruise control switches). We grounded the black wire to exposed metal under the steering column, spliced the yellow wire into the other end of the factory blue/yellow fog light switch wire, and tapped the red lead into the power outlet under the stereo. We should note, there’s probably a better place flowing less amps to connect the power wire, as the button itself is illuminated the entire time the car is on and actually gets a little warm to the touch when it’s switched on. But we figured if it works and doesn’t melt the button (or worse) no point in tinkering any further with it (shade-tree mechanic logic).

For kicks, we dug up some old pics of the DC5 when we first started messing with it, pleasantly surprised at how well its looks have held up over the years, especially after this exercise. There’s nothing like a refresh to help you fall in love with your car again. Of course, there are still other issues – the interior is getting shabby, the front left shock is leaking hydraulic fluid – but at least we got our RSX looking virtually new again.

CONNECT:
Continental Tire
Downstar
Mothers Polishes Waxes Cleaners
TSW Alloy Wheels

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