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Old March 11th, 2016, 11:16 AM   #1
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Need help diagnosing clanking/rattling

I have a 2003 Accord V6 6-speed. To start, the issue I'm having is a metal clanking/rattling that occurs at low RPM in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gears. It sounds like metal on metal or perhaps metal on another hard surface. It sounds like thin sheet metal. Before anyone says it, I'm trying to avoid taking it to a shop because (a) my experience with local shops has not been good, (b) I'm pretty hard up for cash. Even a diagnosis fee (which is what, like $100 now?) is pushing it, especially considering they probably will not locate the issue (just from past experience), and (c) I'm very much a DYIer. "If you want it done right, do it yourself". I'm just puzzled by this particular issue. The biggest problem I'm having is that the rattle only occurs in gear when the engine is under load, so I can't determine where it originates from when I'm driving it. A little more necessary background info on the problem is below.

I've had my car for almost 9 years. Years ago (2008/2009?), I started getting a little clanking sounds in 2nd at low RPM... mostly only occurred if I started out in 2nd. I assumed it was probably a heat shield vibrating but never checked. I ran over a deer in 2008 and it messed up some of my underside, so it wouldn't be a surprise if it bent some thin steel sheeting too. I just ignored the sound for years, since it was intermittent and not terribly loud.

In the last year or so, it began happening more frequently, and the sound got louder. Last summer (2015) I replaced all 3 catalytic converters. I picked up two used warm-up cats from a member of this forum or some other accord forum. They were relatively low mileage, and in good shape. He also gave me the heat shields, which were in great shape. I replaced the 3rd cat with a Megan resonated test pipe I picked up on Amazon on the cheap. I did all the work myself using brand new Honda OEM hardware and gaskets. After the repair, I banged around on the cats, test pipe, heat shields, muffler, OEM resonator, exhaust pipes with a rubber mallet to try to replicate the rattle, but I could not. On my test drive after the repair, the rattling still occurred just as it always had. I tried bending the 3rd cat heat shield away from the body, but that made no difference (there's a soft coating on the body, so it probably can't rattle there anyway). So I just said F it and gave up.

Probably about a year ago, I began have clutch issues. My clutch would sometimes be soft and sometimes hard. It sometimes catches high, sometimes low. If I hold it in for a while, such as at a light, it tends to catch lower than normal. This has also caused me to stall it a few times. And its becoming increasingly hard to restart once it stalls (starts fine otherwise). I've had to crank repeatedly for like 60 seconds, pumping the gas while trying to simultaneously hold the brake so my left foot can hold the clutch (this is tricky lol). Anyway, that's an entirely different issue. I only mention it in the off chance that it could be related to this rattle issue. Forum members seem to think the clutch issue is a bad pressure plate, so I've just assumed that's what it is and am riding it out till it totally dumps on me.

In the last few months, the rattling has gotten much worse. It's much louder, it occurs in more gears, and it occurs virtually every time I drive. Its getting pretty embarrassing now lol. The fact that banging on the exhaust didn't replicate the sound has me a bit concerned. What else could this be? Could the clutch issue have anything to do with the rattle? Or something else in the tranny? I tried googling this issue, and many people area saying it's the heat shields, in particular the heat shields around the two front cats. I'm 99% sure that is not the cause of my rattle. I was banging around on those guys, and they didn't make a peep. Do you have an suggestions of things to check? Thanks in advance.
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Old March 11th, 2016, 01:36 PM   #2
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Sorry to see you having this. It sucks when there is noise, and no clue on where it's coming from.

Have you checked out the dust shields for your brakes? I'm not suggesting this is the issue, I'm just making sure they are ruled out for any type of noise considering they are also thin metal and can have a metal clanking/rattling noise if they are loose or hitting against something.
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Old March 11th, 2016, 01:57 PM   #3
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Did you check the heat shields above the mufflers in the tail of your car? Both of them started rattling recently on my wife's 03. Good luck.
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Old March 11th, 2016, 02:03 PM   #4
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Sorry to see you having this. It sucks when there is noise, and no clue on where it's coming from.

Have you checked out the dust shields for your brakes? I'm not suggesting this is the issue, I'm just making sure they are ruled out for any type of noise considering they are also thin metal and can have a metal clanking/rattling noise if they are loose or hitting against something.
Thanks. I have not checked the dust shields. It would seem weird for that to be dependent on RPM and not speed or wheel position. But they should be easy enough to check, so I'll do that real quick.
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Old March 11th, 2016, 02:04 PM   #5
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Did you check the heat shields above the mufflers in the tail of your car? Both of them started rattling recently on my wife's 03. Good luck.
I actually don't think I did check those heat shields. I checked like every damn heat shield in the front, which is a lot! But I can't remember checking a muffle heat shield. I'll try that as well. Hopefully its something that simple.
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Old March 14th, 2016, 07:18 AM   #6
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I checked the muffler heat shields. The driver's side shield has a slight "twang" to it if I kinda pull it back a little and let go (though I wouldn't say its loose really). I tried bending it away a little, but that had no effect on the rattle. I can't physically remove any heat shields until I can get to a place to work on my car like my parents house. Maybe over Easter weekend.

Totally forgot to check the dust shields lol
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Old March 23rd, 2016, 04:16 PM   #7
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I checked the muffler heat shields. The driver's side shield has a slight "twang" to it if I kinda pull it back a little and let go (though I wouldn't say its loose really). I tried bending it away a little, but that had no effect on the rattle. I can't physically remove any heat shields until I can get to a place to work on my car like my parents house. Maybe over Easter weekend.

Totally forgot to check the dust shields lol
I have the same ISSUE!

hopefully we both can overcome this issue. I recently purchased my 2005 i4 5spd. when I test drove it I didnt notice the sound but after a while I notice it occur in 1st gear and 2nd gear just under 2k rpm mainly when i let off the gas and let the car brake with the engine. I looked online and even searched "clutch sutter" a lot of people say the sound can be from heat spots on the clutch or fluid contamination on clutch. like oil seal going back and leaked on clutch idk. but i hope mine dont get to worse I plan to do clutch on it shortly within a couple months.

anyone kno who much would the job cost to replace a clutch?


this noise drives me crazy really crazy i;ve though of getting rid of the car but its still reliable and runs mint fine you wouldn't even notice the sound if you never heard it. i know we are for sure on the same boat here stay in touch hopefully one of us can find the solution .
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Old March 24th, 2016, 10:27 AM   #8
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I have the same ISSUE!

hopefully we both can overcome this issue. I recently purchased my 2005 i4 5spd. when I test drove it I didnt notice the sound but after a while I notice it occur in 1st gear and 2nd gear just under 2k rpm mainly when i let off the gas and let the car brake with the engine. I looked online and even searched "clutch sutter" a lot of people say the sound can be from heat spots on the clutch or fluid contamination on clutch. like oil seal going back and leaked on clutch idk. but i hope mine dont get to worse I plan to do clutch on it shortly within a couple months.

anyone kno who much would the job cost to replace a clutch?


this noise drives me crazy really crazy i;ve though of getting rid of the car but its still reliable and runs mint fine you wouldn't even notice the sound if you never heard it. i know we are for sure on the same boat here stay in touch hopefully one of us can find the solution .
I had a friend who restores BMWs take a look at it (in other words, he knows more about cars than I do lol). I can now actually replicate the rattle in neutral, but its not as loud and doesn't last as long through the RPMs. He said its coming from the bottom of the engine bay. He thinks its most likely a heat shield, but he also said it could be clutch related. He said my clutch was slipping when I drove with him (he never drove it), so I guess it sounded like it was slipping? Maybe the pressure plate and/or leaking rear main seal? Or maybe it was just me letting it out slow cause I hate the bucking. He seemed to think the rattle was coming from the passenger side though. Isn't the clutch on the driver's side? It also couldn't be the clutch if I'm in neutral, right? Though, I do think I have two separate rattles, so maybe the other could be clutch related. Another thing he mentioned was the bearings in the accessory parts like the power steering pump or alternator. My PS pump is garbage, so that wouldn't surprise me. But its towards the top of the engine, so it should be obvious if that was the problem.

Anyway, I'm going to take another look at it this weekend when I'm at my parent's house for Easter. Gonna take off the secondary cat heat shield. I'll post an update.
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Old March 26th, 2016, 10:45 AM   #9
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I just took the secondary cat heat shield off and there are two hard rubber hoses about 3" above my resonated test pipe. I'm assuming these are the parking brake cables. I dunno how i feel about leaving this shield off indefinitely with rubber only a few inches away from a 700F exhaust pipe. My test pipe is even smaller diameter than the cat, and I'm still worried. Have any of you done this for a long time without issues? In hot weather with heavy highway driving? Does the exhaust still get the same temperature without the cat?



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Old March 26th, 2016, 12:24 PM   #10
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It seemed that my rear primary cat heat shields could potentially be hitting each other, so i put a steel house clamp around them. That plus removing the secondary cat shields made absolutely no difference in the rattle. I'm now almost certain it's not a heat shield.

I have been researching online for things to check for rattling. The noise i think it's better described at a bell ring type of rattle. Like it kinda sounds like one of those old school alarm clocks with the two bells on the top. Does this sound like a familiar noise to anyone? Gonna see if i can capture it on video and upload to YouTube a little later.

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Old March 26th, 2016, 01:45 PM   #11
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https://youtu.be/7oqKJx4H_Ak

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Old March 26th, 2016, 04:44 PM   #12
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Well... after listening to that sound from every angle i could, I'm like 95% certain it's coming from the clutch case

So can anyone tell me what exactly would cause a sound like that inside the clutch case? And why would it make the sound in neutral when the clutch is not engaged?

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Old March 26th, 2016, 10:38 PM   #13
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i seen the video it sounds a lil more worse than wat mine is sounding like. mine would sound more like a metal gate going down for a store fornt kinda. that one is a bit more high pitch what ever it is hope you can find the fix for it. maybe clutch replacement would do it but that sounds a little bad and def would drive me crazy .
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Old June 2nd, 2016, 05:44 PM   #14
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Somehow it has now stopped. My car definitely doesn't sound healthy, but the metal rattling stopped lol

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Old June 3rd, 2016, 07:40 AM   #15
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I just took the secondary cat heat shield off and there are two hard rubber hoses about 3" above my resonated test pipe. I'm assuming these are the parking brake cables. I dunno how i feel about leaving this shield off indefinitely with rubber only a few inches away from a 700F exhaust pipe. My test pipe is even smaller diameter than the cat, and I'm still worried. Have any of you done this for a long time without issues? In hot weather with heavy highway driving? Does the exhaust still get the same temperature without the cat?

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I wrapped my parking brake wires with heat resistant tape and used some DEI tunnel heat shield.
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Old June 3rd, 2016, 11:06 AM   #16
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@ OP, I have had very similar issues with mine as well. I have an AT though so there has to be a common thread somewhere. I have had ALL of my heat shields removed for about a year now and there are no problems in that area. There was a previous "rattling noise" thread that mentioned a service done by Honda where all they do is wrap a metal band around the precats. It didn't fix my problem. It used to only make this noise at around 1800-2500 RPM and ONLY in D through all gears(until wind and road noise drown it out around 4th gear). Now if I am in my garage I can hear it very faintly at idle but still pretty much only in D. I have taken it to 4 separate mechanics, including my local stealership to their head certified tech and they all either say they can't hear it or just don't know what it is. I took it to an AT specialist and he couldn't seem to get it to duplicate the noise. I have already changed everything with a bearing or pulley and it made no difference so save your $ unless they actually need to be changed. I am almost convinced now that this IS in fact an AT issue, I'm leaning towards the TC but, your's being an MT is where I have my doubts again. I have noticed on my tranny case right at the bottom it is perpetually wet/moist with what I can only assume is AT fluid. I believe the main seal has a pin hole leak somewhere. Just as you had stated though, I have no drivability issues and the ATF levels have NEVER dropped from my presumed leak. I am baffled by this as well and have been scouring the web for info and so far I ain't found ****! The noise does not raise in pitch or intensity as the revs swell which leads me to believe that it isn't a rotational item. I haven't been able to get under my car and have the noise duplicate while I inspect for various reasons but my noise seems to be the same area as yours. Your audio is lousy btw, no offense, so it's a bit hard to tell. I know this post doesn't exactly "help" but, I know what you're going through. It's maddening and makes the car sound like butt. I will definitely keep you posted as I trial and error some more. Good luck.
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Old June 3rd, 2016, 11:56 AM   #17
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@ OP, I have had very similar issues with mine as well. I have an AT though so there has to be a common thread somewhere. I have had ALL of my heat shields removed for about a year now and there are no problems in that area. There was a previous "rattling noise" thread that mentioned a service done by Honda where all they do is wrap a metal band around the precats. It didn't fix my problem. It used to only make this noise at around 1800-2500 RPM and ONLY in D through all gears(until wind and road noise drown it out around 4th gear). Now if I am in my garage I can hear it very faintly at idle but still pretty much only in D. I have taken it to 4 separate mechanics, including my local stealership to their head certified tech and they all either say they can't hear it or just don't know what it is. I took it to an AT specialist and he couldn't seem to get it to duplicate the noise. I have already changed everything with a bearing or pulley and it made no difference so save your $ unless they actually need to be changed. I am almost convinced now that this IS in fact an AT issue, I'm leaning towards the TC but, your's being an MT is where I have my doubts again. I have noticed on my tranny case right at the bottom it is perpetually wet/moist with what I can only assume is AT fluid. I believe the main seal has a pin hole leak somewhere. Just as you had stated though, I have no drivability issues and the ATF levels have NEVER dropped from my presumed leak. I am baffled by this as well and have been scouring the web for info and so far I ain't found ****! The noise does not raise in pitch or intensity as the revs swell which leads me to believe that it isn't a rotational item. I haven't been able to get under my car and have the noise duplicate while I inspect for various reasons but my noise seems to be the same area as yours. Your audio is lousy btw, no offense, so it's a bit hard to tell. I know this post doesn't exactly "help" but, I know what you're going through. It's maddening and makes the car sound like butt. I will definitely keep you posted as I trial and error some more. Good luck.
Lol i know my phone records sounds all ****ed up. It's super annoying.

The MT do have TC actually, and my TC has been ****ed up for probablyyyy...8 years lol The light used to come on and stay on for weeks or months on end, then i wouldn't see it again for a while (it's been well over a year now since I've seen it). My TC rarely works anymore, though it does seem to work once in a great while (maybe just my ****ty engine bogging down under load!).

A leak in your rear main seal is probably what's keeping your AT lubricated. If I'm not mistaken, engine oil would simply leak right into the tyranny.

I put a steel hose clamp on my rear primary cat shields, made zero difference. front shields are definitely not the issue.

Sorry to hear you wasted all that time and money. That's exactly what I'm trying to avoid! I wish i could just have a sit down with my car, like some kind of vehicular psychologist, and get down the root issues without all this guesswork 😆

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Old June 3rd, 2016, 09:19 PM   #18
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By TC I meant torque converter, shouldve been more clear on that. My bad.
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Old June 10th, 2016, 07:40 AM   #19
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I didnt read the entire thread but the tin metal rattling sound is most probably the heat shield above catalytic converter. It happened to me quite a few times with my previous hondas.



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Old June 10th, 2016, 07:51 AM   #20
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By TC I meant torque converter, shouldve been more clear on that. My bad.
Oh ha ha. Definitely thought you meant traction control!

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Old June 10th, 2016, 07:52 AM   #21
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I didnt read the entire thread but the tin metal rattling sound is most probably the heat shield above catalytic converter. It happened to me quite a few times with my previous hondas.



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Tried taking it off. That wasn't the problem.

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Old June 10th, 2016, 08:18 AM   #22
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Tried taking it off. That wasn't the problem.

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Then my next guess would be the catalytic converter itself. Also happened to me

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Old June 10th, 2016, 08:21 AM   #23
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Then my next guess would be the catalytic converter itself. Also happened to me

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No longer have third cat. I replaced the two primary cats last summer. I'm 99% certain it was coming from the clutch case, or at least somewhere in that immediate vicinity.

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Old June 10th, 2016, 09:39 AM   #24
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Tried taking it off. That wasn't the problem.

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Ditto. Also had both precats banded and clamped. It almost seems like a pressure build-up/discharge issue due to the fact it only happens in gear, the pitch does not change with speed/rpm (like a bad bearing), the noise is consitent and seems to come from the crankcase area on apparently, MT and AT, and it only happens upon slight load 15k - 28k rpm.
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Old June 10th, 2016, 10:48 AM   #25
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Ditto. Also had both precats banded and clamped. It almost seems like a pressure build-up/discharge issue due to the fact it only happens in gear, the pitch does not change with speed/rpm (like a bad bearing), the noise is consitent and seems to come from the crankcase area on apparently, MT and AT, and it only happens upon slight load 15k - 28k rpm.
Yup, sounds like mine

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Old July 16th, 2016, 09:00 PM   #26
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Figured it out! It was the carrier bearing on my intermediate shaft. I changed my axles today and decided to do the oils seals and the intermediate shaft bearing and boom, no more squeal!
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