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Acura RSX, Honda CRV Swap - K-Swap For Less

It's Been Expensive Long Enough. We Cut Over Two Thousand Bucks Off A K-Swap

Tim Kelly
Mar 17, 2010 SHARE

Wrenchin' Technical

Unbelievable, but it was March 2004 when I first did the K-series Hybrid How-To for the dearly departed Sport Compact Car. Then, only a few months after that for Honda Tuning. So here we are five years later and the swap has finally gained enough momentum that it's in danger of becoming routine. Good thing Honda Tuning already told you about the J-swap!

Now that the K-swap has become fairly easy with a decent number of shops having done it and a large number of companies like Hybrid-Racing and K-tuned turning out parts dedicated to the swap, it's time to bring down the cost a bit. Supply and demand economics.

Here's the basics of doing a K-swap in an EG/DC (other chassis are very similar):
K20 engine (real VTEC) - $2,000(Type S) to $3,000(ITR)
6 Speed Trans - $900-1500
Engine harness conversion - $250-350
Shifter and cables - $450
Fuel system - $250-500
Clutch line - $100
Header - $350-800
ECU - $995(K-Pro) + Core
Axles - $300-600

There's more, like mounts and radiators and power steering and a/c, etc, but that's for another day. What I'll concentrate on here is the big upfront-the engine and trans, and then all the extras that seem to nickel and dime you to death.

Let's start with the engine. Obviously the king of the hill is the K20A, A2, Z1 and Z3. Or, if you want more torque, the K24A2 from the TSX. These are the only Ks with true VTEC. BUT, there are those who would be happy with just having a K-swap to cruise around in and for show.

For these people, there's the two-liter and 2.4-liter Ks with the 12-to-16 valve VTEC system. Think about it, if your EG went from a 1.6 with 125 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque to 160 and 160, it would be a whole new dimension. Perhaps every bit as fast as a B-series swap. Even the two-liter from the RSX and EP3 have the same 160 hp, just a little less torque.

Some phone calls to junkyards reveals that Accord motors are like hair on Robin Williams-everywhere. LKQ is one of the largest in the country and you'll find them on eBay often, and just as likely down the street. For me, they had 11 '03-'07 Accord 2.4s. Mileage was from 33k to 111k. Prices from $800 to $400. Then I asked how much if I bought five of them. Ready for this??? $1,500 for the lot. What am I going to do with five Accord motors? I don't know but they're only $300 a piece! How much cheaper is that than a K20A2? Here's a thousand dollars saved already.

You can also source the 2.4 from the CRV and Element. I found regular RSX engines to be about $150 more than an Accord and it's likely that there are just so many Accord engines they will be the cheapest period. But now we've run into a problem. We can't use the Accord engine harness. It terminates in the engine bay like an EG or DC harness. We need one that goes into the cabin like an EK. So be on the lookout for any '02-'06 RSX (yes you can use '05-'06), '03-'05 CRV and '03-'05 Element engine harness and charging (battery) harness.

$1,000 or more down with a different engine. Next challenge, the transmission. Right now, the only swap mounts available are for the RSX/EP3 trannies. The Accord and TSX have a different case with significantly different mounting positions. Hasport says a new bracket is all it will take and it's on their radar, it may even be done by the time you read this. But if you can fab and weld some sheetmetal, it wouldn't be a difficult task to make your own side and rear brackets for an Accord or TSX manual trans.

Considering you can do that or Hasport comes to the rescue, how much is an Accord tranny? Made in the USA (Ohio) comes to the rescue again. They are as cheap as the engines. LKQ didn't have 11 of them, but that's because only about 15-percent of Accords have a manual transmission. Expect $500 for a low mileage guaranteed one. The TSX six-speed is also an excellent unit, but you'll pay as much as a Type S. The best trannies besides the Type S are the regular RSX and the EP3. These are usually about $300-400 less than a Type S.

However, that Accord tranny also has one BIG benefit to it. Accord shifter box and cables. Tired of a $109 RSX box and $335 cables? How about $66 for the box and $135 for the cables? How about you ask the junkyard to include them for $50? When I called they would. But before you go thinking about using these on your RSX trans, stop. The shifter and cables are different and are a complete mismatch.

If you can live with the fuel economy ratios of the Accord gear box, then we have huge savings here. At least $500 on the trans and $240 on the cables and shifter. Another tip. Only the cases are different, so if you can find a cracked-case Type S for cheap, you can put all the ratios in an Accord case.

Another $740 saved. How about some of this other stuff? The fuel system of your EG is a very different from a K-series. The K is returnless and uses quick-disconnects. Traditionally what's done is a fitting off the outlet of the EG fuel filter that gives you a -6 (dash 6) fitting and then custom lines to an adjustable fuel pressure regulator (FPR), then more -6 lines to an aftermarket fuel rail, then another to the return line of the EG. A complete kit like this can cost $350 and up depending on the quality of the parts.

But what if we took the stock line and, at the banjo that goes on the fuel rail, cut it off, leaving just a hose? Now connect that to a port on the FPR that will accept just a hose with a clamp. Next take your K-series fuel rail and remove the fuel line. Then, if it didn't already break off, remove the plastic quick-fit from the rail, leaving just a metal line. From another port on the FPR that accepts just a hose and clamp, run a fuel line to the K-series rail and clamp it on. Finally connect the EG's return line to the return of the FPR with just a hose and clamp like on a stock EG.

You have to buy an FPR no matter what, but now all you've had to buy to make the K-series fuel system work is about 24-inches of fuel hose and some clamps. And it's pretty clean. The EG fuel filter stays in place, the stock hose goes to the FPR, the new line goes out to the stock rail, and you use the stock return line (though it may need some additional hose, depending on where you mount the FPR). Just buy an FPR with connections for a fuel hose, not -6 (dash six). Just saved you a fuel rail and a bunch of crazy expensive -6 custom lines. That's worth at least another $300.

Where to next? Clutch line. This one is just as easy. Obviously the K has the tranny on the opposite side of a stock EG. So the hard line that comes out of the clutch master cylinder runs across the firewall and way down the passenger side frame rail. Current kits feature a beautiful braided steel line designed to connect at the master on one end and at the soft line fitting on the trans side. $100 for this beauty. How about free just for reading this far?

The EG (and the other chassis) have a break in the line right around the middle of the firewall. Detach it here and at the master cylinder and get the line completely free. Now, reconnect it at the master cylinder and with some two-inch pipe as form, start to make bends right there by the drivers' side frame rail to bring it to the K trans. You'll have more tubing than you need, so you may want to go across the firewall a bit first and then come back at more than a 90-degree angle toward the trans. Make sure to use the two-inch pipe as your bending form because it will be very easy to kink the line. Smooth and slow all the way.

Another Franklin still in your wallet. What's the total so far? $1,000 on the engine, $500 on the trans, $240 on the shifter and cables, $300 on the fuel system and $100 on the clutch connection. That's $2140 saved!

Can it get any better? Well, yes, but you'll have to do some work now. Let's start with the engine harness. Here's what will work easily. Any RSX, CRV, or Element. Make sure you get the subharness that has the battery, alternator, starter, and knock sensor connectors in it. Premade conversions range from $250-$400 depending on whether or not there is a core needed.

You can easily do this yourself with the guide provided by Hondata in their tech section. It's detailed and if you can do wiring, save yourself at least $250. Just make sure you understand how wiring works in a car. You can also use an '05-'06 RSX harness. The plugs are the same; the pins are just in different locations, like OBD 2a and OBD 2b. Sorry, no big details on this because it could be pages all by itself. If you don't read wiring diagrams and don't like wiring, just pay the pros.

Finally, a nice little trick that is on Hasport's drawing board but not in production yet. This utilizes a D-series alternator and eliminates the EP3 idler pulley needed (for non power steering swaps). Basically, since the D alternator can pivot, using it with a special bracket lets the alternator become the tensioner for the belt. D-series alternators are everywhere, just use a '96-up so it has the correct plug. This saves you the cost of the EP3 idler pulley, or about $200 for one of the aftermarket systems.

So there you have it, about $2,500 off a K-series swap. No it won't be as much power, but Skunk2 and Brian Crower are making cams for the K24 and the results have been very good. Couple that and a K-Pro and you're right back in the ballpark of the real VTEC version. Even better, Endyn has been promising K-series heads from their own casting. It's been quite a wait, but if it ever comes out, that will make for a great Frankenstein swap on the cheap.

Long live the B, but such is the circle of life. Out with the old and in with the new!

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By Tim Kelly
23 Articles

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