Acura RSX: The Car Bible (DC5; 2002-2006)
The final form of the almighty Acura Integra.
Welcome to the Acura RSX Car Bible. As you scroll down, you’ll learn all about this vehicle’s qualities, features, finer points, and shortcomings. If you’re thinking about buying one of these, want some help maintaining or modifying one, or just want to deepen your knowledge for the next round of car trivia, you’ve come to the right place.
This is a living document that’s updated as we learn (and confirm) new valuable information. Got something to add? Drop a comment or send us an email. Don’t be shy; the more dialogue we have the better this Car Bible will get.
–Andrew P. Collins, Car Bibles Editor-In-Chief
(Disclaimers, Disclosures: Some Car Bibles will have links to specific forums, groups, brands, shops, or vendors for parts shopping and such. We have no sponsorship deals or official affiliation with any of them unless explicitly stated. We also have to explicitly state that you should work on your own car and follow our advice at your own risk.)
There’s a lot of information packed into this Bible. If you’re looking for something specific, hit command/control-F, type one of these terms, and your browser should bring you straight in.
- The Short Story
- Fast Facts
- Spotter’s Guide
- Check This Car Out If …
- Important Trim Levels and Options
- Year-To-Year Changes
- General Reliability and Ownership Costs
- Red Flags and Known Issues
- Where To Buy Parts
- Aftermarket Support
- Popular Modifications
- Key Technical Details
- Fluids, Filters, and Capacities
- Factory Service Manuals
- Other References and Resources
- Professional Reviews
- Owner Reviews
- What They’re Worth Now
- Where To Find One For Sale
- What To Ask A Seller
- Competitors To Consider
- Photo Galleries
- Enthusiast Inquiries
- Downloadable Paperback Car Bible
- Comments Disclaimer
The Short Story
The 2002-2006 Acura RSX is a Japanese two-door premium compact. They existed for only one generation with two facelifts.
All RSXs are equipped with the proven Honda K-series engine in two variations: the 160-hp K20A3 and the red-hot 210-hp K20A2 or K20Z1. The RSX is Acura’s evolution of the legendary Integra and is underpinned by a newer architecture that replaces the excellent double-wishbone front suspension with a more production-friendly MacPherson strut. The Type-S is the range-topping model with an engine to die for, fabulous Honda shift action, and comprehensive upgrades available in all departments.
If you’re looking for more images, scroll on down to the Photo Galleries links toward the end of the Car Bible.
The Acura RSX was sold as the Honda Integra in Japan.
This was the first United States-spec Honda/Acura with the full-bore dual-VTEC K20. It squeezed a claimed 210 horsepower from two liters of displacement and revved to a screaming 8,200 rpm.
The Type-S features a six-speed manual gearbox, larger front brakes, axles, and slightly different hubs and suspension geometry to compensate for the added power.
The RSX shares a platform with the Civic, the CR-V, and the Element.
The RSX Type-S only came with the six-speed manual transmission. The base model got a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic.
A known sticking point with the RSX is the compromised suspension geometry in the name of quicker production. Enthusiasts have been fighting this issue for years.
On the RSX and other platform-shared Hondas, the entire steering rack moves on the firewall to move the tie rods, instead of being fixed as in most cars.
Spotting an RSX in the wild is easy; Honda/Acura made a lot of them. It’s a small, handsome-looking coupe that’s clearly related to its Integra predecessor. Visual differentiators between the base model and Type-S are limited, but there’s always the red S badge in the top right of the rear to look for.
The 2002-2004 cars have so-called droopy headlights and taillights, and feature five-spoke blade wheels. No pre-facelift car came standard with the rear wing of the later RSXs. Inside, the primary difference between older and later models is the gauge cluster. Younger cars have a smoother, matte silver, concave face.
The 2005-2006 cars trimmed the fat off the lighting assemblies and sharpened the look of the car with refreshed bumpers and skirts. The Type-S was made available with a factory rear wing, and the gauge cluster was refreshed in favor of a glossy white face recessed into a brushed silver bezel.
There isn’t any rarity here; these cars fairly common. If you’re looking at buying a junky one, make sure you pay appropriately or just walk on and wait for another to come along.
Check This Car Out If …
You’re someone who wants a more modern and comfortable Honda sports coupe that maintains the edginess and fun of the Hondas of yore.
Important Trim Levels and Options
The base RSX is common and cheap. Options are limited for the entire RSX line, including the Type-S. Equipment splits mainly between the base and Type-S.
For the base, you could option a manual or automatic transmission and a leather or cloth interior. The interior came in black cloth, tan cloth, black leather, and tan leather. The base only came with a four-speaker, two-channel stereo with Matsushita/Panasonic head unit and speakers.
The Type-S came standard with black or tan leather and a an upgraded seven-speaker Bose stereo that is just a rebranded Matsushita/Panasonic system, with a spare-tire subwoofer. By all accounts, both systems are not great.
Most ’02-’04 RSXs came in silver, Desert Silver, and Taffeta White. The rarest color for pre-facelift cars is Eternal Blue Pearl. Nighthawk Black seems to be the most common color on ’05-’06 cars. The rarest color for any RSX is Milano Red, only available from 2004 to 2006. Facelift cars get the unique Vivid Blue, Jade Green Metallic, and Blaze Orange colors. Those are desirable but not that rare.
These changes reflect the U.S. market.
2002 model year:
- Car introduced to U.S. market after having been globally released in 2001 as the Honda Integra
2003 model year:
- No changes
2004 model year:
- No changes
2005 model year:
- Revised engine for Type-S and base, both gaining a modest power bump
- Final drive on Type-S shortened to 4.74 from 4.38
- Suspension heavily revised with new damping and inverse-wound front coil springs, thickened front and rear sway bars, reduced steering ratio, revised steering-column guibo bushing, and a 7-mm lower ride height
- The brake system was upgraded with a larger master cylinder for firmer brake feel
- Body rigidity increased by 19 percent overall with revised body structure reinforcement and a thicker front strut tower bar
- Addition of engine damper on front subframe and various applications of sound deadening and extra seals around doors for further refinement
- Vivid Blue, Jade Green Metallic, and Blaze Orange colors added until 2006
2006 model year:
- No changes
- Final model year for U.S. market
General Reliability and Ownership Cost
These cars are cheap to run, cheap to buy, and cheap to own. They’re robust even when kept up on a budget. Parts are inexpensive and common, and a thriving aftermarket helps keep the car upgraded. Even the issues mentioned above tend to be rare. Just make sure to get one that was at least a little maintained.
The steering rack of the RSX is mounted on the firewall on sliders. The entire steering rack assembly moves back and forth to turn the wheels, instead of just the inner portion of the rack. It is bizarre and part of a push from Honda to make cars less expensive to manufacture. Because of this rack, the RSX, Civic, and Element had compromised steering geometry that was bandaged by Honda.
The seats tear extraordinarily easily.
Red Flags and Known Issues
The RSX is the first car with the high-performance variant of the K-series engine in the U.S. and one of the first cars globally to have the engine as well. Because of that, there are rare teething issues, but these are generally robust cars.
One major issue is that these cars seem to get abused. Make sure to look out for clean examples and stay away from ones that have been modified or owned on a serious budget. It’s a strange phenomena, but there was a generation of RSX owners that drove them into the ground.
The most common issues to look out for are:
Transmission grinding or popping out. The new generation of cable-shifted six-speed transmissions from Honda suffered the greatest teething issues of any component on the car, with the issues persisting on newer Hondas to the present day. Look out for a grindy or crunchy transmission on a prospective buy or even your own car, usually easy to smooth out with a high-rpm shift. These transmissions are meant to shift like a cozy metallic blanket when new, so look for that feel. Most of the time, these grinds are fixed with better transmission fluid if it isn’t severe.
Oil consumption. All K-series suffer from some sort of oil-consumption issue, and these high-rpm examples suffer even more. If properly broken in, these cars won’t burn much oil, but they’re generally finicky and will end up consuming oil. Look out for consumption any lower than 1500 miles per quart of oil. It’s common, and you’ll likely have to live with it.
Timing-chain tensioner. Another issue shared with the K-series, these high-rpm engines are most susceptible to a failure. of the dreaded timing-chain tensioner. Early Type-S will likely already have had a new timing chain and tensioner installed, but be wary of any car that hasn’t.
VTC actuator rattle. Again, shared with K-series. This will manifest itself as a nasty rattle on cold startups. Make sure to test drive the car cold and listen closely, as this will require what amount to a full timing-chain replacement.
The RSX has four open recalls for exterior lighting deficiencies and one for a brake booster vacuum leak.
NHTSA link here.
Key Technical Details
Engine: The base is a K20A3 1998-cc four-cylinder with dual-overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and i-VTEC. On the A3, i-VTEC is equipped on only the intake camshaft, with no variable lift, duration, or timing on the exhaust. Powered by Denso/Kehin engine management. Honda organizes its production engine codes with a three-digit part number master identifier, this engine is called PND.
The Type-S is split slightly by facelifts. The details are as follows:
K20A2 (2002-2004) 1998-cc four-cylinder with dual-overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and i-VTEC. This engine features true i-VTEC with variable lift and duration on both cams and variable valve timing on the intake cam. It has an 11.0:1 compression ratio and boasts an all-aluminum construction with coil-on-plug ignition, a first for Honda. This engine also boasted a bed plate-style construction, where the main bearings are held in with a large girdle, instead of individual bearing caps, granting the K-series immense rigidity and strength. This engine is referred to as PRB in parts catalogs.
K20Z1 (2005-2006) 1998-cc four-cylinder with dual-overhead cams, four-valves per cylinder and i-VTEC. This engine features true i-VTEC with variable lift and duration on both cams, and variable valve timing on the intake cam. It also has an 11.0:1 compression ratio and an all aluminum construction with coil-on-plug ignition. It features the same impressive construction as the A2. The Z1 gets revised camshafts for extra lift and duration, a new intake manifold (PRC), and a revised exhaust system for extra flow. It is rated at 210 horsepower with the then-new SAE correction factor, a 10-hp bump. It also made power higher in the rev range, making peak power at 7800 rpm rather than 7400 rpm.
Transmission: There were a few RSX transmissions.
Base models got a five-speed automatic with SportShift semi-manual shifting or a five-speed manual that shared a case with the six-speed.
The early Type-S (‘02-’04) had a six-speed manual transmission only with 4.38 final drive and brass synchronizers. Standard aluminum case.
Later Type-S (‘05-’06) cars also were six-speed manual only with 4.74 final drive and carbon synchronizers on fifth and sixth gear. Aluminum case.
Drivetrain: Front engine, front-wheel drive, with open differential.
Curb Weight: 2,734 pounds (base); 2,840 pounds (Type-S)
Suspension: Front MacPherson strut suspension for both base and Type-S. Geometry is slightly tweaked for Type-S for a more desirable roll center with new uprights to house larger axles and brakes. It’s a strange McPherson strut because the steering rack mounts very high on the firewall, and the tie rod actually moves the wheel via the strut body, just below the spring perch. It has a 23-mm hollow sway bar for ‘02-’04 and 26-mm hollow sway bar for ‘05-’06.
Rear semi-trailing arm suspension shared between the two trim levels. It has a 19-mm solid sway bar for ’02-’04 and 21-mm solid sway bar for ’05-’06.
Wheelbase: 101.2 in, 2570 mm
Overall length: 172 in, 4368 mm
Width: 68 in, 1727 mm
Height: 55 in, 1397 mm
Fluids, Filters, And Capacities
Fuel: 91 octane (premium gas)
Battery size: Group 51R
Engine oil: 5W-30 for all variants of engine. The factory oil is made by Idemitsu for Honda. Any full synthetic 5W-30 will work well. 7,500 mile interval.
Oil filter: All RSXs uses a common size of oil filter, Bosch 3323 or Honda 15400-PLM-A02. 7500-mile interval.
Air filter: OEM Honda part number 17220-PNB-505, and it’s hard to find. Denso part number 2056025901 also works. Interval is 35,000 miles.
Cabin air filter: OEM Honda part number 80292-S5D-A01, interval 35,000 miles.
Transmission oil: For manual transmission, Red Line MTL is recommended for fixing grinding issues. Some owners even use GM Synchromesh. It is recommended to avoid the OEM Honda fluid. 30,000 mile interval. For automatic transmissions, Honda ATF DW-1, 60,000 mile interval.
Transmission filter: Only applicable to automatic transmission, Honda part number 25430-PLR-003. Interval 60,000 miles.
Differential oil: Same oil as transmission, transaxle.
Coolant: Honda Type-2 genuine coolant, blue. Interval 100,000 miles.
Power steering fluid: Honda Genuine Power Steering Fluid, the only fluid recommended for the RSX. 60,000 mile interval.
Brake fluid: Acura recommended is DOT3, but an upgraded DOT4 is acceptable with shorter service intervals. DOT3 interval is 40,000 miles.
Clutch fluid: Acura recommended is DOT3. DOT4 is an acceptable upgrade along with the brake fluid for simpler fluid storage.
Spark plugs: Base model gets NGK IZFR6K-11, interval 100,000 miles. Type-S gets NGK IFR7G-11KS, interval 100,000 miles.
Where to Buy Parts
Your favorite online or down-the-street parts store will do great for the RSX, with great parts availability and unfussy maintenance requirements. I prefer to use a combination of NAPA parts and Honda dealership parts to service a Honda.
The RSX has huge aftermarket support. Parts for everything imaginable are available but of questionable quality. There are high-quality parts, but these cars require more setup than usual to get parts working correctly.
Honda knew what it was doing when it came to the design of this car and was very aware of its deficiencies.
The best parts to get are from the overseas DC5 Integra Type-R. Everything bolts on — suspension, Brembo brakes, sway bars, seats. They will yield you the best results.
More great mods for this car are nerdy things such as roll-center adjusters and adjustable tie rods. Hardrace has the most comprehensive suspension parts for this platform.
An intake, exhaust, and Hondata tune yields big power and is pretty common among RSX Type-S owners. A lot of the great modding on the RSX centers around the huge potential of the K-series engine.
RSX owners also like modding the suspension with coilovers and the like, but that can quickly ruin the car because of the strange suspension geometry.
Factory Service Manuals
This random Russian website has it, trust me, it’s legit. Find it right here.
Other References and Resources
Check out this cool RSX archive from Honda Japan. The model was known as the Integra in Japan. The entire site is in Japanese, so you’ll need to run a translator app or browser extension if you don’t read the language.
MotoIQ has an excellent series on solving the suspension issues inherent in the RSX/Civic platform here.
“First Drive: 2002 Acura RSX. Cleaner, meaner, faster” (MotorTrend, Oct. 22, 2002)
Todd Lassa had nothing but praise for the then-new RSX, save for the bad OEM tire choice.
“What makes driving the RSX Type-S so delightful is the way the engine works with the chassis and the excellent six-speed manual gearbox.”
“2002 Acura RSX Type-S. Worth the wait.” (Road & Track, Nov. 6, 2012)
Douglas Kott at R&T loved the engine and found that the Type-S outperformed the old Integra GS-R in every category, including handling.
“And the all-new 2.0-liter i-VTEC 16-valve engine is a gem, idling with near-vibrationless calm yet capable of a liquid shriek to its 8000-rpm redline.”
Chris Rosales (Feb. 2, 2021)
2002 Type-S; modified; owned about two months
“The front suspension geometry and lack of rear suspension travel give me nightmares when it came to modifying the car. This is a car best kept stock or at least stock height. Fabulous engine, transmission, clutch, and throttle calibration, thanks to a classic throttle cable. I had a good time with it, though it was frustrating to modify.”
(Yes, this is the same Chris Rosales who wrote the rest of this Bible. Click on his byline to see more of his stuff.—Ed.)
Own or owned one of these and want to share your thoughts? Hit up in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What They’re Worth Now
The prime example: You’re looking at about $10,000. This is for a primo color combo, low miles, one-owner, full service history, and no issues whatsoever. A unicorn, and you won’t really find it in an RSX Type-S. Also, it isn’t worth it.
A very clean driver: Budget about $5,000-$6,000. These Type-S models have decent miles but are serviced well, cosmetically 9/10, and well cared for with some road grime. This is what I call the Goldilocks Zone, where the car has been driven and sorted but well loved. This is also well within the budget for a great color combo
An honest car: Budget $4,000-$5,000. These RSX Type-S models will have driver miles, 100,000 or more. These cars are getting old, and miles are stacking up. For a Honda, it isn’t a huge concern.
The budget option: $3,000-$4,000 will get you the most typical RSX Type-S possible or the cleanest base RSX on Earth. Anywhere around 140,000 miles will be typical in this range, which still isn’t a concern for these cars. Expect a silver one for the price. It’s possible to get a non-beat-up car at this price, but be extremely wary.
A roach: $2,000 will get you the cheapest, most beat RSX Type-S or an OK base RSX. You’re deep into rough territory, so be wary and be ready for a restoration project.
Where to find one for sale
These are exclusively Craigslist and Facebook cars. They’re cheap enough and not really owned by the discerning enthusiast. They’re cheap fun and accessible to everyone.
What to ask a seller
Go-to questions include:
• When was the timing-chain tensioner replaced?
• How much oil does it burn?
• How long have you had the car? (This is to spot any joyriders passing problems on to you, which is strangely common with these cars.)
Competitors to Consider
In the used-car world, not much competes with it. The most direct competitor would be a 2006-2011 Honda Civic Si, but they tend to be pricier and compare against the most expensive RSX Type-S.
The Acura RSX is a popular video game car and is in almost every major title such as “Forza Motorsport,” “Forza Horizon,” and “Gran Turismo.”
The RSX is also incredibly popular among young enthusiasts for its cheapness, quickness, niceness, and its modifiable nature. You can’t walk three feet without seeing one with a sport exhaust and intake making some noise.
No staring TV or movie roles for the RSX.
Every car has a collection of common questions that pop up in forums and Facebook groups whenever new blood joins. We hope a lot of those have been answered above, but here are some RSX FAQs we wanted to dig into.
Can you make more power?
Absolutely. The K-series responds well to bolt-ons like intakes and exhausts with a tune from Hondata. Check in with local regulations for legality.
Do they handle well?
Yes, but stock. It takes pretty extensive mods to recreate the gentle balance Honda engineered into the really strange factory geometry. Quality, nearly stock height shocks and springs will do well.
Can you fix the grinding gearbox?
Yes. Personally, I’ve had excellent luck with Red Line MTL for smoothing out the Honda six-speed gearbox. GM Synchromesh also works well. Make sure to do this before it gets too damaged.
Downloadable Paperback Car Bible
If you’re old school and like to keep reference notes on paper, or you’re just a completionist and want a free accessory for your RSX, download this paperback Car Bible. Well, you have to also print it to put it on paper. Think of it like an owner’s manual supplement. Keep it in your car and your days of waiting for slow internet on your phone at the auto parts store are over.
You’ve reached the end of the RSX Car Bible and are about to scroll into the comment section. If any questions were left unanswered in the text above, try posing it in the space below. Unsolicited RSX tips are also welcome.