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Howard the Honda PCX150

2013 (C) Honda Powersports
I traded my GXSR600 in for a 2013 Honda PCX150 scooter as part of a long line of changes I have made to reduce my carbon footprint. 100+MPG's from the freeway capable scooter seemed too good to pass up.

I have logged in a few hundred miles over the past couple of weeks, held from riding more by medical issue and bad weather. This summer will be interesting. At slightly north of 100MPG's in the city, Howard handily bests Astro the Prius is short urban commutes, where Astro struggles to warm up all the way and correspendingly stuggles to average more than 40MPG's.

I found the Gixxer was overkill for what I needed and what I wanted. My tastes have changed and so has my lifestyle. I live in a dense urban area now and the sportbike seemed out of place. I will write more about Howard the Honda in the coming months as I put more time in the seat.

I have sadly been persuaded to drive Astro the Prius rather that riding Howard the Honda because of rainy cool spring weather. Our summers in western Washington are far too short.

I pray that some consistently rain free days will come along soon. I also hope that "good" "fair" weather becomes a trend soon. These cold rainy spring days are really lame for 2 wheel fun.



A Short Review By Yours Truly

I find myself now wondering about the engines operating temperature. The lack of gauges and available operating data information is a little disconcerting to me. I do like getting on the gas much at all if I know an engine is cool, and prefer to wait until the engine is warm to drive it in a non hypermiling ultra gentle fashion. I understand that the computer controlled fuel injection helps to warm the PCX up quickly, but how quickly? A coolant or block temperature probe seems like a likely modification in the near future. I also would like a battery voltage readout, and will likely hack a cheap multi-meter to provide such functionality.

Ride quality is crisp, fluid and sharp without being harsh. The PCX handles road abnormalities admirably. The only thing I dislike about its ride is the wind feedback, or lack of wind protection from the diminutive oem sport fairing. I imagine that in hot summer weather, the drafty nature of its aerodynamics will be a relief to a leather encased core overheating in sun drenched traffic congestion. Cool spring days prove challenging to body thermal maintenance unless layers of insulating wind blocking clothing articles are employed to limit wind chilling of the extremities. Several aftermarket companies sell enhanced fairings, but they cost more than I am willing to pay for a little extra wind protection, especially considering that this 150cc PCX maxes out at 70MPH, a speed I have not seen on the dial yet as I am still breaking it in.

The headlight is always on, and all the exterior indicator lights are halogen/ incandescent: this seems odd in a scooter that was designed for solid class leading energy efficiency. When riding thoughts of a headlight on off switch and HID upgrade often cross my mind, as do fluttering ideas of an LED indicator retrofit: the latter of which is more likely to occur sooner. I have performed several HID vehicle upgrades, and figure I will install a power switch with one if Howards front light gets the metal halide enhancement.

That under seat storage while large, could always be a little bigger. Megs helmet for example, barely fits under the seat. Her Scorpion EXO is larger than my Arai, even thought the EXO is a smaller size. A lock on the glove box would be a great plus as well, and I am surprised it is not available as an optional part.

No clock, I have resorted to attacking a solar powered digital watch to the handle bars when riding, and removing the nice casio tough solar setup when the ride is complete. I would love to install something like a scan-gauge that would yeild a tachometer, fuel consumption indicator, engine temperature gauge and the other features that such "OBD computers" provide in modern cars.

Overall the scooter has a very refined feel, and even though it is missing a few things noted above, it is still a bar setting leader in its field. Nothing really offers the Honda PCX150 real competition; others bikes in the same class seem half baked by comparison. Honda Thai Limited really polished this one. The 2013 Honda PCX150 US model is a great compilation of aesthetic design and professional computer assisted engineering superiority. The construction and mechanical aspects of the PCX echo of Honda's consistent historical focus on quality. My first Motorcycle was a 1999 Honda CBR-600F4 with similar positive vehicle attributes in terms of overall quality.


Howard hiding from the Sun in the Shade of a tree.

LOG ect

6/1/ 2013 ***
It looks like some decent weather has arrived ***

6/2/2013 ***
I Found some interesting information about the PCX on Honda's worldwide web site, regarding it design and creation as a collaboration between Honda Powersports of Japan and Honda Thai Limited of Thailand. http://world.honda.com/design/designers-talk/pcx/

The following are quotations from that source:

"There are two main reasons why the PCX was created" , "people want a commuter bike that goes beyond practical considerations to offer a more premium feel and greater pride of ownership. Sitting on a larger, plusher seat with a more relaxed leg position isn’t just more comfortable for the rider—it is also a sign of a more relaxed and affluent lifestyle." ; in reference to cultural changes associated with the economic development occuring in Thailand. "The designers wanted to create a scooter that would be popular not only in Thailand but also in Europe, so the associates aimed to create a truly global Honda bike that would be popular throughout the world.

"the slim, sporty styling and compact, easy-handling design that Thai customers appreciate is perfect for handling not only heavy Bangkok traffic but also rush hour in Tokyo. The larger steering angle, like that of an off-road bike and ideal for Thai traffic, also allows for smooth parking in Rome, where limited space demands precision steering. The 14-inch wheels provide the stable and solid dynamics required for the rougher roads around Bangkok as well as a comfortable ride on the cobblestone pavements of Europe and a premium look"

Additional content about the PCX was found on another Honda Official Web Site:

http://world.honda.com/PCX/engine/index.html

"For fun, nimble riding in an urban environment, the engine of the PCX offers extra power at low- to mid-range speeds, with more torque at lower rpms than previous scooters. The engine with built-in liquid cooling system is newly developed for reduced weight, size, noise and vibration and enhanced acceleration, fuel economy and environmental performance."

"the built-in liquid cooling system of the PCX engine, however, the radiator is integrated with the right side of the engine case, while a fan inside the case effectively cools the engine."

"Liquid-cooled engines are quieter than air-cooled engines, and the engine of the PCX takes this benefit to the next level with several noise-reducing technologies. At typical urban cruising speeds, the engine of the PCX reduces rpms while producing maximum torque—approximately 16 percent more torque than an air-cooled engine. Reduced rpms mean reduced engine noise and vibration, resulting in a ride that is more refined than that of previous scooters."

"For additional quietness during startup, the PCX features an ACG starter, which is controlled by an ECU (Electronic Control Unit) and serves as both a starter motor and an alternator. After starting up the engine of the PCX, the same device immediately begins serving as an alternator. The ACG eliminates the cranking noise associated with startup, resulting in exceptionally quiet starts."

Service Log

Service 1 at 461miles

Oil changed on 6/10/2013 at 6pm after 461mi of operation. 80% of 1 quart of Valvoline SynPower 10w 30 and a mess that contaminated some paper towels, rubber gloves and newspaper I put down on the garage floor anticipating that the oil drain plug was too close to the center stand for a easy clean drain cycle. When the oil flow slows down during draining the surface tension on the slow flow causes it to cling to the engine, where the oil then follows the contour of the machined block surface down with gravity to the center stand bracket and ultimately down the right side support onto the ground. I had read about someone else experiencing the same problem when researching how to change the oil. The laser etched American made metric socket set mounted in the back of Astro provided the need 12mm socket and wrench to open the drain plug. I did not clean the oil screen at this service as doing so is unnecessary at this point. The 17mm screen plug requires more time to remove and clean. I was already into this oil change more than 1 hour total, so it was not practical for me to perform the full oil change procedure at this point. After reviewing other stories about the 600mi oil change, I am confident that a simple drain and fill flush will get me to 2500 miles for my next service.

Electrical System Modified at 468miles

Installed the Battery Tender fused quick connect to the battery terminals 6/12/2013 at 1am. I could not sleep and wanted to get that one out of the way. Now I can connect a battery charger to Howard or use the Female 12v Socket BT adapter to charge electronics in the cargo holder while riding. Mission critical is the Garmin charging system. Using navigation that is easily mounted gives the Scooter more all around utility, practicality and time efficiency. Having an easy to use GPS unit in a vehicle makes all the difference for time efficiency, which results in decrease fuel consumption, cost savings, and prolonged vehicle operation. Having access to the electric storage system on Howard the PCX150 reminds me of the importance of electric systems, even in so called "gas powered" vehicles. While nearly all fossil fueled vehicles produce onboard electricity with an alternator, the energy storage system (battery) is what allows gas powered vehicles to be easily started. The energy storage system also acts to buffer the electric loads for lighting and the fuel injection system and other electrical sensors and related electronic control equipment. The dashboard and security system and ignition and safety warming lights/ signals: many of the important subsystems on a vehicle are completely reliant on the energy storage systems function. Astro the Prius for example has a 12v lead acid deep cycle battery that is used to power the Smart Key system and related relays and subsystems. Starting the Prius involves the 12v system opening the relays on the 201.6v 6.5ah NiMH traction battery so that the powerful inverter system can use the polyphase primary traction motor MG1 and secondary motor generator MG2 to start the 1.5L of the 1NZ-FXE in 900miliseconds. The ACG starter/alternator on Howard the PCX is a hybrid electrical component that combines the functions of a starter and alternator, producing high speed starting with minimal noise, while also generating approximately 350watts of power. The ACG system on the PCX takes a surge of energy from the tiny 12v 6.5ah lead starting battery and turns over the motor quickly with almost no noise. The highly muffled engine comes to life and the ACG unit instantly turns into a generator, producing all the energy needed to operate the PCX's electrical systems. The output of the ACG unit enables faster battery charging when the PCX is operated such that in short urban commuting settings with frequent short trips and many restarts, the battery can be float charged effectively. Without an ACG, a heavier, less efficient configuration of a starter with a large battery would be required. Honda made the overall electrical and mechanical and material efficiency of the PCX greater with the Hybrid Starter Alternator or ACG unit employed.



Service Cost Excessive: Be Forewarned
Valve job after the first 600mi ? Hmmm  


I went over to the local Honda Powersports dealer the other day (early Jun 2013) to inquire about my first service (600 mi), as recommended by the owners manual. I thought an oil change and some quick inspections by a mechanic, maybe $50 to $80. The service manager said that is going to cost $175 + tax. I politely left and came home to read about the PCX150 motor and valve-train on-line and in my Official Honda printed materials/ manuals, ect. After a lengthy review of the available literature, I concluded that I am going to perform the first oil change at 600 miles and have the dealer do the valve train inspection and adjustment along with the second oil change an other inspections at the 5000 mi mark.

PCX Service Schedule Adjustments

Honda's owner manual recommends a major service every 2500 miles and an oil change every 5000. I think this is overkill and is outside of my budget anyway. I spent $4200 on a high quality Honda Scooter so that I could avoid having to constantly repair a half baked far cheaper made in China scooter. I got a Honda because Honda makes reliable solid well made vehicles that stand up really well over time even when neglected by owners. Rock solid long term durability is what caused me to invest in the Honda PCX150 over other far more affordable scooter options.

As noted in the official literature, the OEM warranty expires after 1 year. That said I plan to keep and operate the PCX 150 for several decades.

The official user Manual the comes with the PCX recommends a valve clearance inspection/ adjustment after the first 600 miles of operation: and for a two valve water cooled fuel injected single from Honda that seems absolutely unnecessary. The other recommended interval of 2500 miles is also likely overkill. A comprehensive service with every 5000 mile oil change seems perfectly sufficient, especially after reviewing the available literature on the aforementioned PCX.

After contacting three different Honda Powersport Dealers in Western Washington, I came away with three different stories about the valve clearance adjustment. One dealer told me that they only inspect the valves at 600 miles, and that most of the PCX's are within specs at this point. Another dealer told me that I could wait until 800 to 1000 miles for the first valve inspection. The third dealer told me that he would strongly recommend performing the valve check at the OEM specified intervals.

I contacted Honda Powersports of America and they were unable to resolve the discrepencies in maintenance recommendations by the three dealers. I would like to give special thanks to Honda Powersports of America for sending me a free copy of the extended in depth and expensive service manual: the one used by mechanics that service the PCX. In this proprietary expensive literature, the mechanical engineering of the PCX is illuminated.

The fuel economy of the PCX results in operating cost savings that would be greatly reduced if I follow Honda's official and expensive maintenance schedule. I suspect that these intervals have more to do with covering Honda's warranty so that they can minimize warranty claim payouts, and so that the services performed can generated added revenue for the groups that retail the PCX. I am all for having my PCX maintained and looked after by professional Honda Powersport Mechanics, but this valve adjustment interval seems almost dishonest.

At 600 miles I am going to have the first oil change. No valve clearance checks or other labor intensive unnecessary procedures. 90% of the first service consists of removing the fragile plastic body work in a very specific order in a very persnickety way in order to avoid breaking or bending any of the plastic body panels.

I reviewed postings from over 200 different people about the Honda PCX valve clearance inspection/ adjustment intervals. About a third of these posting were clearly written by mechanics with ample mechanical knowledge about small engines, value adjustment procedures and general engine valve-train knowledge. The over-whelming majority of these postings indicated that the PCX's two valves were perfectly at the manufacturers specifications at both the 600 mi and 2500 mile service intervals.

Honda has a long history of building rock solid small motors. It make no sense in light of this history that the PCX motor would somehow be different; requiring special value procedures at intervals more regular than the specified oil change intervals. With this in mind I am going to have the valves inspected and adjusted if needed at 5000 miles along with its second oil change and related mechanical inspections.

The PCX150 was $4200 out the door, not some cheap made in China INTERNET special scooter. At $200 per service for the valve adjustments as prescribed in the manual, it would Almost be more cost efficient to operate the cheap made in China scooters as disposable transportation devices.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. If Honda seriously thinks that the engine needs a valve adjustment at 600 miles, then I am a purple snuffalufagus. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the PCX's motor is just like all of the other small motors from Honda; highly reliable, highly efficient, durable, robust and solid. I am not at all opposed to having the valves adjusted by a professional motorcycle mechanic, just not after 600 miles of operation.

Motorcycle mechanics that posted about the PCX value adjustment noted that the PCX motor can operate smoothly even if the valves are "way" outside of the Official clearances listed in the service manual. Even without looking into the details, through inferential deduction one can easily conclude that the OEM service schedule in terms of the valve-train are geared towards generating service revenue instead of actually doing something to ensure the safe mechanical operation of the motor.

Also noted by mechanics that posted about the PCX valves, was the fact that an improperly functioning valve on a two valve single cylinder engine would be extremely obvious to the operator. Power output and the engine noise/ vibration would change significantly if a dangerous out of specification valve clearance interval occurred.

The engine in the PCX is so well made, to such tight tolerances, that many owners report the oil as being barely brown after 5000 mi of operation in the engine. This further enhances my confidence that a simple oil flush and fill will be sufficient for the 600 mi service. I can look over the other parts of the bike and though using them deduce if they are still functioning properly.

I am going to change oil the per Honda's recommendation soon. I will change the oil before I hit 600mi on the odometer on my next day off of work. I found when checking the oil yesterday morning before work that the Honda dealer very slightly overfilled my oil level when they un-created the bike when it arrived from Thailand (nothing too concerning). The oil was perfectly clean at 423 miles of operation, so clean that it was tricky to read the oil level with the dipstick. On that note, depending on how many miles I log over a given time interval, I might change out the oil every 1000 miles. For example my daily commute is so short (less than 8 miles round trip), that even if I used the PCX every day for work for the entire year I would only log about 1900 miles per year. That said I am a fair weather only two wheel commuter, and I am not going to ride Howard the PCX in winter weather. So if the odometer reading is still low by late spring in 2014, I will perform the second oil change anyway! At 2500 miles I will clean the spring loaded spring assembly.

The 5000 mile service done by a professional mechanic at the dealer will consist of the following.
This will become a check sheet for that service: A service like this will be performed by a professional mechanic every 5000 miles.


2013 PCX150 Service at 5000mi
Checklist of Services Performed

[ ] Inspect Fuel Line Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect Throttle Operations Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Clean Crankcase Breather Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Replace Spark-plug Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect or Adjust Valves Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Replace Engine Oil with Synthetic 10w 30  Notes:______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Clean Engine Oil Screen Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect/ Adjust Idle Speed Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect or Replace Engine Coolant Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect Coolant System Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect Brake Fluid Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect Brake Shoes/ Pads Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect Brake System Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect Brake Switches Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect Brake Lock Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect Headlight Aim Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect Clutch Shoes Wear Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect Side Stand Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect Suspension Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect Nuts, Bolts and Fasteners Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect the Wheels and Tires Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________

[ ] Inspect the Steering Head Bearings Notes:_______________________________
________________________________________________________________________



Additional Notes:__________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________



5 comments:

  1. Hi Aaron, I love your blog entries on Howard. As the PCX150 is relatively new in the market, there isn't much information on the net about servicing, and you reminded me that i haven't got my Rider's manual..

    My white PCX150 "Pixie" is 2 weeks old, and i'm thinking to fix a iPhone holder, charger and a meter that reads voltage and necessary other extras( like 0-60km speed etc..) the question left is how do i fix all of these on spending the least money, and not making the bike look like a gadget magnet..

    Keep up the good work with your blogs on Howard.. Thanks

    In Christ's Love
    Ally

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  2. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

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  3. Just got quoted $400 USD by the Dealer for 5000 mi Oil Change, Spark Plug Change & Valve inspection. I can do the oil and plug myself for $15 and have read from reputable forum sources that the valves can wait 10k unless making noise. There are good DIY resources on YouTube for this moto. I saved $100 doing a rear tire change (even including tools purchased and having the dealer mount the tire on the wheel). You definitely have to put some elbow grease on the PCX to keep it economical.

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    Replies
    1. I just got quoted for 280 to check all the stuff.. My plug is done, oil is done, I'm going to do the coolant myself and the only thing that bothers me is this valve thing, and the belt.

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  4. Hi Aaron,
    I thank you for your very informative blog. I worked in engine development for some 37 years and agree with you entirely about Honda generating income for their dealers rather than providing fair for the $ tansport for their product's buyers. I just bought a PCX150 which I love as it is a great machine to side here in Siem Reap Cambodia. I do not do any country riding as I don't fancy poth-hole dodging at 50mph or accidentally destroying my front wheel in one. I just use it around town where one has to ride so carefully so as not to create or become an accident statistic. This means that I very rarely ride faster than 60 kmh / 40 mph. At these low engine speeds, my bike will therefore hardly suffer from any valve seat pound-in which would reduce the valve clearances. I was going to adjust the valve clearances myself, but I there is no mention of valve clearances in the owners manual which is in the Thai language, nor is there any mention of valve clearances in the downloaded English language version. This is so utterly slack of Honda, that it defies description. Also, in all the blogs that I have read it has never been stated at what engine temperature the valve clearances are to be checked. I watched found only one videos on Youtube about adjusting valve clearances and in that, the mechanic intimated that he couldn't adjust the valve clearances, because after the lengthy strip down of the panels to wher you could actually attend to adjust the valve clearances, the engine was no longer hot. I am going to have to buy the proper workshop manual online from the USA and have it sent to my friend in Australia who can send it to me via DHL who have a depot her in Siem Reap Cambodia where I live. Shame on Honda for not providing adequate specifications in their owners manuals. No valve clearances, Honda must be kidding. AND! Not a mention of the back axle drive oil change or oil specification!
    Aaron, thanks again for you blog.

    Mike Enders

    ReplyDelete