Honda S2000 Buyer’s Guide – Everything You Need To Know

The Honda S2000 has all the ingredients of an exceptional sports car. Its engine is in the front, has rear-wheel drive, perfect 50:50 weight distribution and only two seats. It is one of the greatest cars Honda has every produced and arguably one of the best sports car of all time.

The S2000 is as desirable as ever and it is fast becoming a classic. If you are in the market for a S2000, you have a lot to choose from.

However, while there are plenty of S2000s out there, you do need to be careful. Availability isn’t as good as it once was, as age, mileage and accidents take their toll on the fleet of available “S2Ks” (as many people like to call them).

With S2000 prices rising and availability becoming more challenging, it’s more important than ever that you avoid investing your hard-earned money into a lemon car.

Although Honda has a generally good reputation for reliability, any car has the potential to throw you big bills, and the specialist nature of the S2000 means you need to inspect carefully before committing.

This Honda S2000 buyer’s guide will give you all the information you need to know to not be landed with a lemon.

Before we dive into the S2000 buying guide section of this article, let’s take a look at the history and specifications of the car.

If you already know about the history of the S2000, feel free to skip on ahead using the table of contents below.

The History of the Honda S2000

Credit: Honda

The world got a glimpse of Honda’s first roadster since the 1960’s at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1995. Named the Honda Sport Study Model (SSM), the concept car was like many other prototype vehicles. It didn’t do a lot, but it did show what Honda had planned for the future.

The SSM featured a 2.0-litre inline-five-cylinder engine that delivered its power through the rear wheels. To stiffen up the body and improve collision safety, Honda developed a rigid ‘high X-bone’ frame design. Other notable features included the extensive use of aluminium to save weight and a 50:50 weight distribution.

Honda continued to wheel out the SSM for a number of years, hinting at the possibility of a production version. Then, in 1999 Honda unveiled the S2000.

Honda S2000 AP1 (1999 – 2003)

Credit: Honda

Honda was on a roll at the end of the nineties. The iconic NSX had only hit mid stride and they were having great success with their Type R Civic and Integra sports cars. However, there was one more sports car they wanted to release.

The S2000 was launched in April 1999 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Honda. It was the undeniable successor to the company’s famed S500, S600, and S800 roadsters, carrying on the tradition of being named after its engine displacement.

The car was given the chassis designation “AP1” and it featured the same front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout as the SSM concept. Driven by a 237 – 247hp (depending on the market) 1,997cc inline four cylinder DOHC-VTEC engine, the S2000 was no slouch. In fact, the F-series engine in the S2000 held the crown for the highest specific output of a normally aspirated engine for 10 years, only being dethroned when Ferrari launched the 458.

Honda achieved this impressive feat because of an 11.7:1 compression ratio, roller rocker valvetrain, variable valve timing and an impressive 1.82:1 rod-to-stoke ratio that let the 2.0-litre engine hit nearly 9,000rpm.

Credit: Honda

Special fibre-reinforced metal cylinder liners that had previously only been used on the NSX and Prelude were installed to reduce friction, along with molybdenum disulfide-coated piston skirts. Additionally, Honda’s engineers replaced the beltdriven valvetrain with a long-life chain that was less susceptible to failure. 

The peppy VTEC engine was mated to a six-speed manual transmission and Torsion limited slip differential. Engineers fitted the S2000 with independent double wishbone suspension, electrically assisted steering and integrated roll hoops. Honda managed to achieve a 50:50 weight distribution by mounting the compact and lightweight engine behind the front axle.

Type V (2000)

Japanese buyers had the option of purchasing the Type V S2000 for the 2000 model year. The Type V featured a number of changes and upgrades over the standard S2000.

It featured variable gear ratio steering (VGS), a steering system that continuously changes the steering ratio based upon the car’s speed and steering angle. This was the first system of its kind to be implemented in a car and was designed to improve handling performance.

Honda also reduced the lock-to-lock steering ratio to 1.4 turns from 2.4, and all Type V cars came with revised damper units, stabilisers and limited slip differentials. Type V S2000s were given a special steering wheel and had a VGS badge rear of the car.

2001 to 2003 Updates

Credit: Honda

A series of small updates were introduced over the next few model years. Starting in 2001 the S2000 received a standard wind deflector, a digital clock on the radio and the “Spa Yellow Pearl” paint colour became available. The new paint option quickly proved to be a big hit, with nearly 20% of the S2000s sold that year coming in the colour.

Then next year saw production break 10,000 units and a number of more serious revisions were introduced. The suspension settings were altered slightly and more importantly Honda engineers issued a mid-year change to new banjo bolts (Part Number 15290-PCX-000). This was done as it was discovered that the S2000’s engine could face oil starvation issues when running at very high rpms for extended amounts of time. While, drivers were unlikely to experience issues during regular road driving, Honda was concerned for those that tracked their S2000s or regularly drive them hard.

A recall was issued for S2000s sold in Europe for the new banjo bolts, however, North American owners didn’t receive any such notice.

Credit: Honda

Along with those two changes, Honda also fitted the 2002 car with a plastic rear window, a better stereo, revised tail lights, a leather wrapped steering wheel, and new paint options were introduced (Suzuka Blue Metallic and Sebring Silver Metallic in place of Silverstone).

With 2003 being the final year of the AP1 version of the S2000, changes were kept to a minimum. Both Silverstone Metallic and Grand Prix White paint options were reintroduced, with the latter being made available with a tan interior.

Honda S2000 AP2 or AP1 Facelift (2004 – 2009)

Credit: Honda

The 2004 Honda S2000 received some significant changes. Production was moved from Honda’s Takanezawa plant to Suzuka and a larger version of the F20C, the F22C1, was introduced for the North American market.

To create the F22C1, Honda lengthened the engine’s stroke by 6.7mm which increased displacement to 2,157cc. This increased peak torque by six percent to 220Nm, but, as a result, the redline was reduced from 8,900rpm to 8,200rpm. Peak power was the same, however, it was achieved at a lower 7,800rpm.

With the introduction of the larger F-series engine, Honda also changed the S2000’s transmission gear ratios to better compliment a wider range of driving conditions. The first five gear ratios became shorter while the sixth gear became taller for better motorway driving. Honda’s engineers also swapped in cabron fibre synchros in place of the old brass ones.  

Along with the engine and transmission changes, the new 2004 AP2 S2000 received some alterations to the suspension setup to make it more balanced. Honda increased the front spring rate by 6.7% and decreased the rear by 10%. They then tuned the shocks to match these new spring rates and fitted a 1.8 mm thinner rear stabiliser bar.

To improve brake feel and increase resistance to brake fade Honda’s engineers also fitted the AP2 with Jurid632 brake pads at the front, while the rears remained the same as the ones on the AP1.

The wheels were changed to 17 x 7 at the front and 17 x 8.5 at the rear, replacing the old 16 x 6.5 front and 16 x 7.5 rear wheels. These new wheels were then wrapped in new Bridgestone RE-050 P215/45R17 (front) and P245/40R17 (rear) tyres. Lastly, the steering ratio was increased to 14.9 from 13.8 to better match the new tyres.

2006 Revisions

Credit: Honda

The S2000 remained largely unchanged for the 2005 model year, but 2006 saw the introduction of two quite serious revisions, drive-by-wire throttle control and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Honda’s version of electronic stability control. While the drive-by-wire throttle was standard on all 2006 S2000s, the VSA system was an optional extra for those who felt they needed it.

Interestingly, when the 2006 car launched, some enthusiasts felt that the addition of these two electronic driver aids watered down the raw driving experience of the S2000. However, most buyers felt they were a good addition and the VSA wasn’t too invasive.

Along with the addition of electronic driver aids, Honda also resculpted the area around the front air dam and made some slight alterations to the rear bumper. Headrest speakers were also introduced and were much like the ones fitted to the Mazda MX-5. To finish off the 2006 changes Honda fitted some new wheels and interior trim, and introduced a new colour, Laguna Blue Pearl.  

F22C1 Engine Introduced for JDM S2000s

Japanese buyers were not only treated to the changes above for the 2006 model year, but they also received the 2.2-litre F22C1 engine that had been introduced with the launch of the AP2 S2000 in North America. While power figures remained roughly the same between the new F22C1 JDM S2000 and the old F20C version, the larger engine provides better distribution of power across the entire rpm band with increased power below VTEC.

Special Edition S2000s

2008 Honda S2000 Club Racer

Credit: Honda

While the S2000 didn’t get the Type R treatment, a few different performance versions were launched. One of these was the 2008 Club Racer that was designed as more of a track-orientated version of the S2000.

The S2000 Club racer was put on a diet and featured fewer amenities. There was a new exhaust system, a lower ratio steering rack, stiffer suspension, new wheels and Bridgestone Potenza RE070 tyres that were wider at the rear.

The body also underwent a number of changes in the pursuit of more performance. Honda fitted a new front lip and spoiler, and the folding soft top was replaced with a tonneau cover. The hard top that was optional on other models became standard on the CR and extra chassis bracing was fitted.

Credit: Honda

On the inside Honda continued the performance theme. Lights on the dashboard indicated when peak power was being produced and faux carbon-fibre was fitted to the centre console.

To save weight and lower the centre of gravity, the spare wheel was removed and the air conditioning and stereo systems were only offered as optional extras. Without the hardtop, the Club Racer came in at 41kg lighter than the standard S2000.

All up, Honda produced 699 Club Racer S2000s for the combined 2008 and 2009 model years

Honda S2000 Type S

Credit: Honda

The Japanese market received the S2000 Type S for the final two years of production. This was a more hardcore S2000 that underwent similar changes to the Club Racer, but was positioned slightly lower.

Like the Club Racer, the Type S featured a purpose built bodykit that provided much more downforce. It also featured similar weight saving techniques and shares the same wheels. Handling was improved via a new suspension setup, that was stiffer but more compromising than the Club Racer. Honda tuned the Type S for spirited driving on the roads of Japan.

Only 1,755 Type S S2000s were made and they were sold exclusively in Japan.

Ultimate Edition and GT Edition 100

Honda launched the Ultimate Edition (continental Europe) and the GT Edition 100 (UK) to commemorate the end of the S2000’s production. The GT Edition 100 was limited to 100 units and was made specifically for the UK market.

The two special editions were given a removable hard top, a Grand Prix White body colour, graphite-coloured allow wheels and a red leather interior with red stitching on the gear shifter.

Honda S2000 Specifications

Engine ModelF20CF22C1
Engine typeNaturally aspirated inline-4
Displacement1,997 cc (2 L; 122 cu in)2,157 cc (2 L; 132 cu in)
Power177 kW (241 PS; 237 hp) at 8,300 rpm (US & EU)
184 kW (250 PS; 247 hp) at 8,300 rpm (JP)
177 kW (241 PS; 237 hp) at 7,800 rpm (US)
178 kW (242 PS; 239 hp) at 7,800 rpm (JP)
Torque208 N⋅m (153 lbf⋅ft) at 7,500 rpm (US & EU)
218 N⋅m (161 lbf⋅ft) at 7,500 rpm (JP)
220 N⋅m (162 lbf⋅ft) at 6,800 rpm (US)
221 N⋅m (163 lbf⋅ft) at 6,500–7,500 rpm (JP)
Redline8,800 rpm / 9,000 rpm8,000 rpm / 8,200 rpm
Bore & stroke87.0 mm (3.425 in) x 84.0 mm (3.307 in)87.0 mm (3.425 in) x 90.7 mm (3.571 in)
Compression ratio11.0:1 (US & EU)
11.7:1 (JP)
11.1:1
Valvetrain16-Valve DOHC VTEC
Transmission6-speed manual
ModelAP1AP2
Brakes Front300 mm (11.8 in) ventilated discs300 mm (11.8 in) ventilated discs
Brakes Rear282 mm (11.1 in) solid disc282 mm (11.1 in) solid disc
Brake PadsNF71Jurid632 (front)
Wheels Front16 x 6.517 x 7
Wheels Rear16 x 7.517 x 8.5
Tyres Front205/55 R16Bridgestone RE-050 P215/45R17
Tyres Rear225/50 R16Bridgestone RE-050 P245/40R17 Bridgestone RE-070 P245/40R17 (Club Racer)
Steering Ratio13.8:114.9:1
Stabiliser Bar Front26.5 x t4.526.5 x t4.5
Stabiliser Bar Rear27.2 x t4.525.4 x t4.5

Buying a Honda S2000

Now that we have covered the history of the Honda S2000, let’s take a look at buying one. While the S2000 is a fairly robust and reliable sports car, a poorly maintained one can be trouble. Additionally, the S2000 encourages spirited driving so watch out for any crash damage.

Some S2000s will have a significant number of miles on them, while others may have extensive modifications. You need to decide whether a modified or higher mileage model is acceptable, or if you want one with low miles that is completely stock.

Let’s take a look at some things you should keep an eye out for when buying a Honda S2000.

Tips For Setting Up an Inspection

Here are a few things to keep in mind when setting up an inspection of a Honda S2000:

  • Inspect the S2000 in person if possible – Buying cars sight unseen is becoming more popular, especially with the advent of specialist auction sites such as Bring a Trailer and Cars & Bids. However, we always feel it is best to view a car in person before purchase if possible. This will lower the risk to you, and you may even be able to haggle a better discount in person. If you can’t inspect the car yourself, it can be a good idea to get a reliable friend or third party to do so for you.
  • Take a friend or helper with you to the inspection – We recommend this as a second person may be able to spot something you missed. They can also drive behind you during a test drive to see what comes out the back. Lastly, they can give you their thoughts on the Honda S2000 and whether or not they think it is a good buy.
  • Look at the S2000 at the seller’s house or place of business – This isn’t always possible, but it can give you a change to see where the S2000 is regularly stored and driven. A car parked on the street is more likely to suffer issues such as rust, paint fade, leaks, and perished seals. Additionally, the S2000 was never really intended to be driven on rough roads, so check to see if the tarmac around the seller’s house is in good condition. If it is not it could lead to increased suspension component wear and a higher chance of tyre/wheel damage.
  • Inspect the S2000 earlier in the morning if possible – This isn’t completely necessary and it will depend on you and the seller’s schedule, but by inspecting an S2000 earlier in the morning it will give the seller less time to clean up any potential issues and pre-heat the engine.
  • Ask the seller not to drive or warm up the S2000 before you arrive – A warm engine can cover up a number of different issues that could be quite serious, so let the seller know you don’t want the car driven prior to your arrival (this obviously isn’t always possible, especially if the seller has to meet you somewhere).
  • If the Honda S2000 is being sold at a dealer, don’t let them know you are coming to see it – While this is not always possible depending on how the dealer operates, it can be a good idea. If the seller knows you are coming it gives them a chance to clean up any potential issues and pre-warm the engine.
  • Avoid inspecting an S2000 in the rain – Water on the bodywork can cover up various different issues such as areas that have been resprayed due to accident damage or rust repairs. If it is raining when you inspect an S2000, try to go back for a second viewing in the dry before handing over any money.
  • Be cautious if the seller has just washed the car – This is largely for the same reason as above, but some sellers will also wash the engine bay and underside of a vehicle to hide an issue (or anywhere a leak/issue may occur).
  • Get the seller to move their Honda S2000 outside if it is in a garage or showroom – Lighting in places such as garages and showrooms can cover up issues that direct sunlight may have revealed.

Buying a Honda S2000 With Problems

It is generally best practice to purchase a used car with the least amount of issues possible and the information in this guide steers you in that direction. However, there is really nothing wrong with buying a Honda S2000 with issues as long as you know what you are getting yourself into. You should try to find out as many problems with the car as you can (and this guide will hopefully help you with that) and then try to work out roughly how much they will cost to fix. Remember to keep in mind that people often underestimate the cost of repairs and there may be some hidden issues.

If you are looking at purchasing an S2000 with the best “classic” potential we would try to find the lowest mileage, cleanest example possible. An S2000 that has had problems in the past and then repaired is never going to be worth as much as one that has always been in great condition and well looked after.

Where to Find a Honda S2000 for Sale

Well over 100,000 S2000s were sold before production ended in 2009, so there are plenty of examples out there. Unfortunately, many of them have been owned by people who haven’t looked after them properly, crashed them and/or have thrashed them to bits, so finding a good example is becoming more difficult.

To start your search for an S2000 we suggest that you jump on your local auction/classifieds websites or dealer websites. Specialist auction sites or dealers such as bringatrailer.com or carsandbids.com are also excellent places to look if you are wanting a really good example.

Honda dealers can often be a good place to find really good examples as sometimes they source specialist used cars or get them traded in on a newer model. If they don’t have anything they may be able to point you in the direction of somebody who does have a good S2000 for sale.

We suggest that you also check to see if there are any S2000, Honda or JDM owners clubs in your area. These sorts of clubs tend to attract very enthusiastic owners who are knowledgeable and look after their vehicles properly. Here are a few examples:

  • S2KIArguably the biggest online forum dedicated to the Honda S2000 with lots of really knowledgeable owners.
  • S2KUKClub for UK based owners of the Honda S2000
  • Honda-Tech – Big website and forum dedicated to all of Honda’s models, with a section for the S2000. There is a section for classifieds and sometimes you may find links related to the S2000 in the Official S2000 For Sale/WTB Thread.
  • NZ Hondas – Club dedicated to all Honda models in New Zealand
  • Facebook Groups – There are loads of Facebook groups for Hondas and JDM cars. Check to see what is in your local area or country.

How Much Does a Honda S2000 Cost To Buy?

This is largely going to depend on a number of different factors from the car’s overall condition, its mileage, specs, where it is being sold, how it is being sold (auction, fixed price, private vs dealer, etc.) and more. For example, a Club Racer in excellent condition with low mileage is going to be worth a lot more than a ragged old AP1 that has seen a lot of action and abuse.

Bringatrailer.com has some great information on sale prices of S2000s that have been sold on the platform dating back to 2015. At the time of writing, most S2000s seem to have a sale price in the region of US$25,000 to $55,000, but some can go for a lot more (this 123 mile Club Racer went for an eye watering $200,000). Bring a Trailer tends to have better examples, so you will probably be able to find some S2000s at a lower price than $25,000 on other auction platforms.

As prices can vary dramatically, we recommend that you jump on your local classifieds and dealer websites to check the prices of ones that are currently for sale. You can then use these prices to work out roughly what you need to spend to get a Honda S2000 that you are happy with. Remember to add around 5 to 10% of the purchase price to your budget for any unexpected expenses.

What is the Best S2000 to Buy?

If you are looking at an AP1 S2000 it is generally recommended that you look at a mid-2002 to 2003 model. This is because they came with a glass soft-top window and the updated banjo bolts, which improve reliability at high engine speeds.

For those looking at an AP2 model the 2004 to 2005 versions of the car often come highly recommended as they were the final models without drive-by-wire or Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA). Additionally, the final two model years are also highly desirable as well.

Do S2000s Get Stolen a Lot?  

Luckily, the S2000 doesn’t seem to be that popular with thieves in a lot of markets (not saying every market though). This is in part due to the fact that they are all manual and they are quite a specialist car. If they do get stolen it is often for parts rather than anything else (like with many other cars).

While stealing the whole car isn’t that common when it comes to S2000s, breaking in and stealing what is inside is very common thanks to the soft-top roof on most cars. In some cases the thieves will steal the seats and any other valuable interior components.

If you are concerned that the S2000 you are looking at may be stolen, check the VINs. Make sure they all match and that none have been scrubbed out or removed. It is also a good idea to check the VIN on a checkup website as well and with Honda if possible.

Checking the VIN

If you are looking at an export market Honda S2000 (sold new in the United States, UK, Australia, etc.) it will have a 17-digit VIN (vehicle identification number). Japanese domestic market cars were given a different looking VIN (commonly referred to as a chassis number on JDM cars) that is shorter.

When a JDM S2000 is imported into another country it is usually given a 17-digit VIN when it is first registered for road use (this can depend on the country/area in question). The extra VIN is usually stamped onto a separate plate.

The VIN/chassis number can give you quite a lot of information about a particular Honda S2000. From the characters you should be able to determine the particular model, its model year, engine type, etc.

The VIN can also be entered into a VIN check up website or service that may be able to provide a bit more history about the car. This information you can find out does depend on what service you are using and what country you are, but you can usually find out things such as registration history, whether or not the vehicle has been written off and more.

S2000 VIN Decoded

If you are looking at an export market Honda S2000 the VIN should look something like this – JHMAP214X8SXXXXXX. Below you can see what the different letters and numbers indicate:

Character 1 (Country of origin) – J = Japan

Character 2 (Brand) – H = Honda Motor Co. Ltd.

Character 3 (Classification) – M = Honda/Acura passenger vehicle

Characters 4, 5 and 6 (chassis/version) ­– AP1 and AP2

Character 7 (body and transmission type) – 1 = coupe plus manual transmission

Character 8 (vehicle grade) – 4 = S2000

Character 9 – Check digit

Character 10 (model year) – as follows:

  • Y = 2000
  • 1 = 2001
  • 2 = 2002
  • 3 = 2003
  • 4 = 2004
  • 5 = 2005
  • 6 = 2006
  • 7 = 2007
  • 8 = 2008
  • 9 = 2009

Character 11 (factory code) – S = Suzuka, T = Tochigi

Remaining characters – production number

Where to Find the VIN on a Honda S2000

There should be a around ten VIN stickers around the S2000 (export market cars). We have listed where you can find them below:

  • Four under the bonnet/hood – one on the underside of the bonnet, one on each fender and one on the front bumper and a little lip
  • One on the left-hand door jam and one on the right (open the door to view)
  • One on the left-hand door and one on the right (located on the ends of the doors)
  • Two in the boot/trunk – one on the underside of the boot lid and one on the lip of the rear bumper just in front of the rubber seal
  • Edge of the windscreen – You can sometime find an extra VIN at the base of the windscreen on the driver’s side

Japanese S2000 Chassis Numbers/VINS Explained

If you are looking at a Japanese domestic market S2000 it should have a VIN number that looks something like this: AP1 – XXXXXXX or AP2 – XXXXXXX.

Obviously, the AP1 or AP2 bit indicates what version of the car you are looking at. The last four digits are the production number and the other three indicate the model year. Here are what the first three digits/characters indicate:

  • AP1 – 100XXXX = 04/1999
  • AP1 – 110XXXX = 04/2000
  • AP1 – 120XXXX = 09/2001
  • AP1 – 130XXXX = 10/2003
  • AP1 – 200XXXX = 04/2004
  • AP2 – 100XXXX = 2005
  • AP2 – 110XXXX = 2006
  • AP2 – 120XXXX = 2007
  • AP2 – 130XXXX = 2008
  • AP2 – 200XXXX = 2009 (not 100% sure if it is 200 for 2009 models, so if you know leave a comment below).

The Japanese chassis number can be found stamped at the back of the engine bay and on a plate. There is no number at the edge of the windscreen like in some other markets. The chassis number won’t register in the databases of Honda’s export market subsidiaries (Honda UK for example).  

Engine

Credit: Honda

We recommend that you get familiar with what a stock S2000 engine bay looks like. This will help you recognise if anything has been changed or seems out of order.

Both the F20C and F22C engines fitted to the different versions of the S2000 are known to be very robust and reliable. Unfortunately, while this is the case a lot of S2000s have got into the hands of people who haven’t maintained them properly and/or thrashed the nuts of them.

To start your inspection of an S2000’s power unit, move to the front of the car and lift the bonnet/hood. Check that it opens smoothly and that the hinges are in good condition. If they look like they have been replaced at some point it may be a sign that the S2000 has been in some sort of accident or had some other sort of issue.

Once you have checked the hinges and catch, give the engine bay a good general look over for the following:

  • Cleanliness – A really dirty engine bay is never a good sign, but a completely spotless one isn’t necessarily good either. This is because it could be a sign of somebody who is trying to cover something up like an oil leak. Additionally, if the engine bay has been pressure washed it could have forced water into some of the critical electrical components if they were not covered properly. Problems resulting from this water ingress may take a while to become apparent.
  • Obvious issues – This could be anything from an oil leak to broken or missing components (for example a damaged coolant expansion tank)
  • Modifications – As we mentioned earlier, get familiar with what an original S2000 engine bay looks like so you can spot any obvious modifications. Additionally, check with the owner to see what mods have been done and look at the service history as well. Modifications can be okay, but they can also be a nightmare, so be cautious.

Regular Oil Top Ups and Oil Changes are Important

The VTEC system works by allowing more fuel and air into the cylinders and expelling it through the exhaust valves more quickly. Almost no issues have been reported with the VTEC in the S2000, but it is important to check the oil level frequently. If the oil level is too low we would probably walk away from the S2000 as you simply don’t know how long the car has been run with insufficient oil. Incorrect oil level can lead to some very serious issues, so make sure it is not too low or too high!

Regular oil changes on a Honda S2000 should be scheduled for every 6 – 12 months or 10,000 km (6,000 miles). Any good quality 10W-30 or 5W-40 Synthetic oil should be fine for an S2000 but some may burn off quicker than others (Mobil 1 has a reputation among some S2000 owners for excessive oil consumption).

Remember to have a good look at the engine oil itself, checking for any metallic particles or grit which could be a sign of major engine trouble such as bearing failure. If the engine has just been rebuilt it can lead to metallic particles in the engine oil, however, this should soon go away.

Another thing to be on the lookout for is any foam, froth or milky looking oil. If you do notice any problems here it could be down to a range of different issues from condensation in the oil to an engine that has been overfilled with oil, or possibly even a blown head gasket.

While it is not completely necessary, it may be worth getting the oil analysed prior to purchase, especially if you are wanting an S2000 in exceptional condition. Doing an analysis on the oil will help you determine its condition and whether or not there are any ‘foreign’ particles in it. Additionally, testing the oil can also help you determine if the S2000 can go further between changes or if they need to be a bit more frequent.

Do S2000s Consume/Burn A Lot of Oil?

It is true that S2000s can drink a lot of oil, especially as they age. Some S2000 engines can use up to a litre of oil every 1,000 miles while others don’t drink a drop. When looking at looking at a S2000, ask the seller about oil use to try and determine whether the car is a drinker or not. While not everyone will be honest, it is worth a try.

The high oil consumption in some S2000s has led to engines being damaged as their bearing shells break up from a lack of lubrication, so check for any knocking sounds. Additionally, if the oil level runs too low, the ECU will not allow the VTEC system to kick in, restricting the engine to 6,000rpm. If this happens, the ECU will need to be reset once the oil has been filled to the correct level.

AP1 S2000s produced until around 2003 have the biggest reputation for burning oil, especially while in the VTEC range. Fitting an oil catch can is quite a good modification that many owners recommend, especially if you plan to do regular spirited driving and/or track days.

Oil-related Modifications

Common oil-related modifications include the addition of a baffle plate in the oil pan to prevent oil starvation during track use. In addition to this, owners will often fit an oil cooler as the S2000’s engine tends to run quite hot when driven hard.

Common Oil Leaks Areas on a Honda S2000

Below we have listed some of the more common oil leaks you may come across when inspecting or owning an S2000:

VTEC solenoid – A leak from the VTEC solenoid is arguably the most common leak to come across on an S2000. This leak is usually caused by the gaskets, but they are cheap to source and replace. The upper gasket used to be a problem to replace as Honda would not sell the part separately and would instead only offer to replace the whole solenoid (at vast expense to the owner). Luckily, third party manufacturers and vendors started offering this gasket a number of years ago, so don’t let Honda or another mechanic convince you that the whole thing needs replacing. If you are wondering where the VTEC solenoid is, it is located at the front left of the engine, so a leak will appear around there. You can see a video of the replacement procedure below:

Loose oil filter – A number of owners have experienced problems with oil filters coming loose. This is usually caused by user error when installing the filter or if the wrong filter is used. However, If the filter does come loose it can lead to a big loss of oil, so stop the car immediately if this happens during a test drive (or if you own the car). Some owners carry out an “anti-spinoff” mod that helps reduce the chance of the oil filter coming loose. You can read more about this modification here.

Timing chain tensioner – Most of the time a leak from the timing chain tensioner is confused with a leaking VTEC solenoid. However, if you can’t see a leak around the VTEC solenoid and the oil appears to be coming from down lower it could be the timing chain tensioner. A leak from here is usually caused by the triangle shaped O-ring, especially if oil is appearing on the timing chain tensioner bolt heads.

Valve/Timing cover gasket  – watch out for oil around the timing cover as it is probably due to a leaking timing cover gasket. If the gasket is fine, it may be due to incorrectly tightened bolts. Sometimes this leak can be confused with a leak from the VTEC solenoid gaskets.

Drain bolt – Leaks from the drain bolt commonly occur if the old washer is used after an oil change. This isn’t a major problem and a replacement of the washer at the next oil change should fix the issue. Do not try to fix the problem by tightening the drain bolt further as it is quite easy to strip the threads or crack the pan by doing so.

Oil cap – This isn’t too common but can occur if the cap isn’t tightened properly

Dip stick – A leak from here can occur if the dip stick pops out and/or if the O-rings have gone bad. If the dip stick constantly pops up it could be a sign of problems with the PCV valve.

PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation)

Keep an eye out for the following symptoms on the Honda S2000 you are looking at as it could be a sign of a bad PCV valve:

  • Rough/lumpy idle (this could also be spark plug issues, etc.)
  • Hesitation during acceleration
  • Excessive oil consumption and worse fuel/gas mileage (probably not going to be able to tell during a short test drive)
  • Leaks from the PCV hose assembly

Below we have listed some steps you can take to check the PCV system:

  • Try remove the oil cap with the engine running – the oil cap should be easy to remove
  • Check how the engine is running – with the oil cap off the engine should start stumbling due to there being a vacuum leak. If the engine starts surging immediately it could have a PCV issue.
  • Put some plastic/cling wrap or a post-it-note over the valve cover – If the item you are using gets blown off forcibly or sucked in, the car probably has a PCV issue. A normal functioning system should provide some light suction against the valve cover.

The PCV valve should have been replaced around the 30,000 km (20,000 mile) mark, so check to see if that has been done. You can clean the PCV valve, but it is generally best to replace it as the part is so cheap to source. How Tune has a good guide on replacing the PCV valve which you can read here.

If the S2000 has got problems with the PCV valve it is important to get them sorted as soon as possible. This is because if it is left it can lead to a build-up of excessive amounts of pressure in the crankcase, resulting in a failure of the engine seals and a massive loss of oil.

Does the S2000 Have a Timing Chain or Belt?

Both the F20C and F22C engines fitted to the S2000 feature a timing chain and not a belt. Like with most other engines fitted with a timing chain, there is no required service interval for the chain. However, the S2000’s power unit does feature an accessory belt which needs to be replaced every 80,000 km (50,000 miles) or so.

A bigger problem is if you hear a rattle when starting the engine. This indicates that the timing chain tensioner (TCT) needs replacing. This is a simple job that should be done every 160,000 km (100,000 miles) or whenever the rattling sound appears. Failure to replace the TCT could lead to potentially disastrous consequences for the top end. Valve clearances should also be checked on a regular basis to make sure the engine is in perfect health.

Many owners recommend that you replace the original TCT with a more durable aftermarket one from the likes of Billman, Ballade or InlinePro. Billman’s aftermarket timing chain tensioner seems to be the most well-regarded product due to its hardened steel pins. The Ballade version of the TCT is generally well-received as well, however, some owners have some very negative opinions of it. You can read more about the Billman TCT here.

Faint Tapping Noise During When Cold Starting

If you hear a faint tapping noise from the top of the engine when cold starting, it could be caused by a sticking hydraulic pin. An oil change should fix this problem, so it is not a major problem. This sort of noise may also be something like the timing chain tensioner or poorly adjusted valves. Another cause of the problem may be the use of thinner oil that has been used due to winter.

Cooling System

If the S2000 you are looking at overheats or has overheated in the past, expect major trouble in the future. On AP1 S2000s there should not be any more than three bars showing on the digital temperature gauge. AP2 models featured a different instrument panel, so these are okay up to seven bars. Here are some other things to watch out for:

Failing Water Pump

The water pump fitted to both AP1 and AP2 versions of the S2000 seems to be incredibly robust and reliable and most owners seem to easily hit well over 160,000 km (100,000 miles) before needing a replacement. We definitely would check to see if or when the water pump was last replaced as if the car is getting up there in mileage a new one may be needed in the near future. Below we have listed some things that may indicate the water pump is failing/has failed:

  • Coolant leaks – could be a slow or fast leak
  • Whining and/or chuffing sounds
  • Overheating – It is a good idea to go for a reasonably long test drive as you may not notice the car overheating during a short test drive.
  • Steam or smoke – Be on the lookout for any steam or smoke from the front of the car. If you notice this problem, it is best to walk away.

You can test the water pump by turning on the heater as high as possible. The heater core in an S2000 requires proper function of the water pump, so if it isn’t working no fluid will be forced through the system.

After turning on the heater as high as possible you should notice a good blast of hot air. This hot air should continue if the S2000’s water pump is functioning correctly. If the warm air reduces considerably overtime or stops completely it shows that no more hot fluid is being cycled through the system and the water pump is not functioning correctly.

If you do happen to buy an S2000 and want to physically check the water pump you can do the following:

  1. Loosen the pump’s pulley bolts
  2. Loosen the belt tensioner and remove the belt
  3. Remove the bolts in step one
  4. Manually turn the pump shaft counterclockwise. There should be no issues with turning the pump and it should feel smooth
  5. Check the seals for any leakage

Thermostat Failure

Replacing the thermostat isn’t a major expense, but it is important to make sure that it is functioning correctly. A bad thermostat could lead to more serious cooling system failure, so watch out for the following:

  • Temperature gauge sits on the cooler side and/or behaves erratically – if the temperature gauge is on the warmer end, it is more likely that the Honda S2000 is overheating (could still be the thermostat, but the overall problem is now probably more serious).
  • Coolant leaks – If the thermostat has failed you may find that it starts to leak coolant (however, leaks from here are not very common and it is more likely to be caused by a failed

If the radiator fans stay on permanently this could indicate a problem with the thermostat or even something like a head gasket failure.

Constant Bubbles in the Coolant

This is a sign of air in the cooling system and is most likely caused by a bad bleed (a common issue that S2000 owners seem to experience). If there is air in the cooling system you may also notice that the heater is very inconsistent. Another common cause of this issue is a bad radiator cap, so a new one may be needed.

If the system is properly bled and the radiator cap is in good working order, the bubbles may be a sign of a more serious issue such as a leak in the system or possibly a blown head gasket.

It is very important to fix the bubble issue as soon as possible as it can impact the performance of the cooling system. If you notice the bubbles along with other issues such as overheating, smoke, etc. we would probably walk away from the S2000.

Coolant Level

It is a good idea to check the coolant level. Have a look in the expansion tank to check the condition of the coolant as well. If you need to remove the expansion tank lid only do it when the engine is cold and do not do it when warm/running!

Coolant Leaks

Have a good look around for any coolant leaks from the S2000 both before and after a test drive. Once you have finished a test drive, turn the S2000 off and let it sit for roughly 10 to 15 minutes. Following this, recheck for any coolant leaks. If you don’t notice any coolant leaks but smell a sweet aroma, the S2000 is probably leaking coolant from somewhere.

Remember to check around the coolant lines, expansion tank and other cooling system components (water pump, radiator, etc.) for any coolant leaks. Look for any crusted coolant as well, which may indicate a past or present leak. If the radiator and/or water pump have not been replaced in a long time they could very well be the cause of a leak.

Head Gasket Failure

While head gasket failure doesn’t seem to be as common on the S2000 as some other sports cars, it can happen, especially if the engine is running more power. Below we have listed some of the main symptoms of head gasket failure:

  • Overheating
  • Check Engine Light (CEL)
  • S2000 idles rough
  • Bubbles in the radiator or coolant expansion tank
  • White and milky oil
  • Spark plugs that are fouled (if you or a mechanic can get a look at them)
  • Low cooling system integrity
  • Smell of coolant from the oil
  • Sweet smelling exhaust
  • White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)
  • Steam from the front of the S2000

If you are not too sure if the head gasket has failed but you are still interested in the car it may be worth getting the cooling system pressure tested before handing any money over.

Misfiring

Misfiring is quite a common complaint with many S2000 owners, so watch out for any rough running and a Check Engine Light (CEL). The problem with misfiring is that it can be caused by a whole range of different issues, some major and some minor. Here is a quick rundown of some the possible causes of the misfiring issue on the S2000 you are looking at:

  • Bad fuel/gas
  • Failed/failing spark plugs
  • Bad coil packs
  • Injector issues
  • Poor valve adjustment
  • Bent intake or exhaust valves
  • Blown head gasket
  • Failed engine

There are some other issues that could lead to misfiring such as a failing timing chain tensioner (only if it has led to a stretched chain that is skipping) or cam shaft position sensor, but these tend to be very, very rare causes of the problem. Most of the time it is simply down to bad coil packs, injector issues or a failed spark plug or two.

If the S2000 starts up and warms up fine, but the engine starts to misfire once it is up to temperature, it is probably the coil packs. Replacing all four is probably the best option, but you can replace them individually if you want to (however, you need to diagnose which one/ones are bad).

Misfiring under load could be caused by the coil packs once again, but bad injectors are another likely cause. You can get the injectors cleaned to see if it will fix the problem, but we would budget to replace them.

Spark Plugs

Check to make sure the stock NGK PFR7G-11S are fitted and torqued correctly. A loose spark plug can be catastrophic for this engine. If the wrong plugs are fitted it could be a sign that the car hasn’t been looked after properly.

Checking the VTEC System

A very small number of owners have reported problems with their S2000’s VTEC system. Most of the time this is simply due to the fact that the S2000’s VTEC pull is more subtle than some of Honda’s other cars from the mid-2000s and before.

To check the VTEC system, do a pull in second or third gear and floor it at around 3,000 to 4,000 rpm (when it is up to temperature) and listen for a slight change around the 6,000 rpm mark. You should also feel that the car pulls harder around this rpm as well. If you are a bit more gentle with the throttle the VTEC pull and sound change will be a bit more subtle.

Removing the airbox lid will make the VTEC sound change a bit more noticeable, however, the seller is probably going to look at you funny if you start removing bits of their car.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the VTEC system is a bit more noticeable on AP1 cars vs AP2 versions of the S2000. This is because AP2s were fitted with a heavier flywheel that smooths out power delivery and mutes power distribution due to slower flywheel response.

If you do suspect that there is a problem with the VTEC system it could be caused by a range of different issues from a disconnected/failed VTEC solenoid, intake issues and much more.

Lowering VTEC Engagement

Some owners like to lower the VTEC engagement point to around 4,000 to 4,500 rpm. This improves midrange performance and helps make the power delivery a bit smoother. Lowering the VTEC engagement point should be done with other modifications as it can actually reduce power with a stock setup.

If the car is stock the VTEC engagement point should not have been reduced below around 5,500 rpm (5,500 rpm is the optimal for performance). It is speculated that Honda raised the point to around 6,000 rpm from 5,500 rpm as it provides more of that VTEC bump that buyers of the S2000 wanted.

Exhaust System

Make sure you have a good look at as much of the exhaust system as possible, checking for any damage, repairs or bad modifications.

The OEM exhaust is stainless steel and the mufflers are triple walled, so rust shouldn’t be too much of a problem. However, the issue can still occur due to corrosive unburnt fuel or exhaust gases mixed with water vapour in the system. This is why cars that are driven on shorter trips tend to suffer from rusted exhausts more than those that do a lot of highway miles. The moisture and corrosive substances remain in the muffler as they are not burnt off during a short trip, leading to rust formation from the inside out.

If rust has occurred, it will almost certainly be around the welds as they are usually not the same grade of metal as the main body of the component. The muffler is another somewhat common failure point for rust, so take a good look at that. Some owners have even found that the weld connecting the inlet pipe to the muffler has rusted so badly that it fails, leaving the inlet pipe dangling by the hanger.

If you hear any low rumbling, scraping or rattling noises it could be a sign of exhaust issues. Ticking noises are often a sign of a leak, especially if they change with an increase or decrease in rpms.

Catalytic Converter (CAT) Issues:

The catalytic converter will eventually fail and need to be replaced. Lots of track days or regular spirited driving will cause the cat to fail quicker, so keep that in mind. If the catalytic converter has failed, you may notice the following issues:

  • Smell of sulphur or rotten eggs from the exhaust
  • Reduced acceleration and sluggish engine performance
  • Excessive heat under the S2000
  • Dark smoke from the car’s exhaust
  • CEL (Check Engine Light)
  • Emission test failure

Lots of owners like to replace the OEM cat with a higher flow aftermarket one, which can increase performance. Decat systems are also an option, however, be cautious if the S2000 you are looking at is running one of these as it will almost certainly fail emissions tests and the car may not be road legal at all.

Aftermarket Exhausts

There are a load of different aftermarket exhausts available for the Honda S2000. We are not going to go into them in detail as there are simply too many, but here are some of the more common and well liked ones you may come across:

  • SPOON Sports N1
  • Berk Technology 3″
  • GReddy Revolution RS
  • Fujitsubo Legalis R
  • HKS Hi-Power
  • Tanabe Medalion Touring
  • Buddy Club Pro Spec
  • Invidia N1
  • J’s Racing 70RS

Joe Terral has created a great guide on drifted.com on the different exhausts available for the S2000, so we suggest that you check that out.

If the S2000 you are looking at is fitted with an aftermarket exhaust, note down the brand/builder and then check any reviews or feedback. If the exhaust is a poor quality one it may be a sign that the Honda S2000 you are looking at has not been looked after properly or the owner has ‘cheaped’ out when it comes to upgrades.

Bad Motor Mounts

Given high mileage, age, and general wear and tear, the engine mounts can wear out and need to be replaced. If one or more of the engine mounts have failed you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Engine movement – Rev the engine and see if it moves excessively. Also check how the engine is at idle and check for any movement while looking from underneath the car.
  • Excessive vibrations/shaking – Often most noticeable at idle – you can see an example of this in the video below. In some cases, you may even notice the body of the car moving.
  • Clunking, banging or other impact sounds – These sorts of noises could indicate that the engine is moving slightly due to a failed mount

Replacing the engine mounts isn’t too expensive, but remember to use the problem to get a bit of a discount. Additionally, engine vibrations can also be caused by other issues as well (bad injectors for example).

Aftermarket motor mounts made from materials such as polyurethane or a popular modification. These sorts of mounts tend to be a bit more durable and come with some other claimed benefits such as improved engine response. On the other hand, aftermarket engine mounts can also make the ride a bit more harsh than the original Honda ones.

Idle Speed

You should find that the idle speed sits around the 800 to 900 rpm mark on both AP1 and AP2 versions of the S2000. The idle speed will be a little bit higher when cold but should soon drop once the car is up to temperature. Additionally, if you turn on the air conditioning the idle speed should increase a bit.

Bad idle can be caused by a whole range of other different issues as well from clogged intake components, spark plug and coil issues, a bad battery and much more. You are probably not going to be able to determine the exact cause of the idle issues during a short test drive and inspection, so assume the worst and hope for the best. However, keep in mind that if the problem was an easy fix the seller would have probably got it sorted before putting the car on the market.

If you have an OBD2 scanner on hand you may be able to use that to work out if there are any faults that may be causing the rough idle.

Hesitation During Acceleration

When you are out for a test drive, check to see if the car hesitates when pulling away. If the car does hesitate, it could be down to a failed MAP (Manifold Absolute Pressure) sensor on the top of the inlet manifold. Additionally, this problem can be caused by a dodgy lambda sensor. You may be able to clean the MAP sensor to fix this issue, but if it is caused by a failed lambda sensor, they will need to be replaced. There was a service bulletin issued for the MAP sensor, which you can read more about here.

Smoke from a Honda S2000

If the Honda S2000 you are looking at smokes like an eighties rockstar you should probably walk away as it is a major problem and there are loads of better examples out on the market. Don’t worry if you notice a small amount of vapour when the car is first turned on, especially in winter. This vapour is usually just condensation in the exhaust and it will eventually go away.

It can be a good idea to get the seller to start the S2000 for you for the first time. This way you can see what comes out the back as the engine starts up. Additionally, if the seller revs the S2000 hard when it has just been started and is still cold you know they haven’t treated the car well. Below we have outlined what the different colours of smoke can indicate:

White smoke

As we have already mentioned above, a small amount of white vapour on engine start is usually just condensation in the exhaust.

If you notice lots of white/greyish smoke it is usually a sign that water/coolant has made its way into the cylinders due to a blown or leaking head gasket. Give the exhaust a good whiff and if it smells sweet, it is probably coolant. If the smoke is very thick and doesn’t dissipate quickly it could be sign that the block or cylinder head is cracked/broken.

If the S2000 you are looking at is running a turbo modification (not common but they are out there), this colour smoke can also indicate that the turbo has failed, especially if there is no sweet smell.

Blue/Grey smoke

This colour smoke could be caused by a whole range of things including warn pistons rings, valve seals, and more. To test for this colour smoke during a drive, get somebody to follow you while you are driving the S2000. Take the engine through its rev range and see what comes out the back. If you don’t have a helper, get the owner to drive for a bit while you look out the back (good chance to see how they drive as well).

Black smoke

This sort of smoke is usually a sign that the engine is running too rich and burning too much fuel. There are quite a few things that could be causing this issue from something like dirty intake components to incorrect spark timing, problems with the injectors, and more. If the exhaust smells of fuel, the engine is almost certainly running too rich.

A lot of modified S2000s will produce a few puffs of black smoke when under load/first accelerating. This is usually because they are running ricker and/or the new ECU mapping isn’t quite right.

Turbocharged or Supercharged S2000s

As mentioned above some owners have fitted turbochargers to their Honda S2000s. Supercharging is another option as well, but it seems to be a bit less common than the turbo route.

Fitting either a turbocharger or supercharger to an S2000 can both dramatically increase low-end and high-end power (in excess of 400 bhp). However, while forced induction is beneficial in the performance department, it can dramatically reduce engine and transmission reliability, especially if the car is running too much power and/or the tuning has been done poorly.

For those looking for around 350 whp it is generally recommended that you go with a supercharger. This is because the installation process should be a bit easier, reliability is better and it is less maintenance. If you are looking for more power a turbo is the way to go. You can read more about what parts are needed for a turbo conversion on an S2000 here.

We would be very cautious of buying any S2000 with a turbo or supercharger simply due to the reliability concerns. If something goes wrong it can be a nightmare to fix, so you may be best off buying a standard S2000 and getting the mods done yourself (although this will probably be more expensive than buying an already modified car).

Buying a Honda S2000 With a Rebuilt or Replaced Engine

There is absolutely nothing wrong with an S2000 with a rebuilt or replaced engine, as long as the work was done by a skilled S2000/Honda specialist or mechanic. If the S2000 has a non-stock engine like in the video below we would probably avoid it. Radical engine swaps can be okay, but they are often a nightmare and you don’t want to purchase somebody else’s unfinished project (unless you want to off course).

Be very cautious of home rebuilds as many home mechanics have more ambition than skill, however, there are some very good ones out there. If the work was done by a business/specialist, find out exactly who did the work and check any reviews (give them a call as well if you are really serious about the car as they may be able to tell you a bit more about it).

It is usually best to avoid fresh rebuilds or engine swaps with only a few hundred miles on them. For example, a Honda S2000 with 10,000 km (6,200 miles) on a rebuild or replacement is going to be a much safer bet than one with only a tenth of the mileage.

Compression/Leakdown Test

If possible, we suggest that you get a compression test done prior to purchase. A compression test can help you determine whether or not there is problem with the engine, however, it won’t necessarily tell you exactly what the problem is. If the owner doesn’t want a compression test to go ahead it suggests that they are tying to hide something from you.

Some owners will get a compression test done before sale and put the results in the advertisement. The most important thing with the results is to make sure that they are all roughly the same (within around 10% of each other).

Transmission

Credit: Honda

The six-speed manual transmission fitted to both AP1 and AP2 versions of the Honda S2000 is known to be quite strong and reliable. There were a couple of service bulletins for both the AP1 and AP2, which we have outlined below:

AP1 Technical Service Bulletins

  • Buzzing/rattling when decelerating from third to second between 3 – 4,000 rpm – To fix this problem Honda replaced the clutch disc with an improved one.
  • Grinding when shifting into second gear at high rpms – fixed by replacing the countershaft first gear and second gear set

AP2 Technical Service Bulletins

  • Gear pop out on all gears (first and second seem to be the biggest problems) – In some cases Honda replaced the entire transmission and in others they just replaced parts relating to the specific gear.

Make sure you test all of the gears at both low and high engine speeds. Check for any grinding or graunching which could indicate synchro wear or the countershaft issue on AP1 S2000s.Synchro wear is often indicative of an owner who likes to drive their S2000 hard, but it can occur with regular driving as well.

Sometimes grinding can also be a result of low clutch fluid, faulty hydraulics or some other sort of issue such as bad clutch and throwout bearings. If the throwout bearing has gone you may notice a slight grinding when you depress the clutch.

Watch out for any gear pop-out as it has been a bit of an issue, especially on AP2 versions of the S2000. Honda fixed the problem for owners while the car was under warranty but you will have no such luck if you buy a used one today. Some owners have had luck fixing the issue by switching to Amsoil MTF, replacing the clutch fluid and/or replacing the detent spring. If none of those things work more serious repairs may be needed and in really bad cases the transmission may need to be rebuilt or replaced. You can read a big thread on the problem over at sk2i.com.

It is a good idea to see how the clutch and transmission performs during a hill start. Additionally, lift off after accelerating hard in second, third and fourth. If you notice any strange rattling noises it co uld be a sign that the gearbox bearings are in a bad way.

Modified S2000s with lots of power are going to be much harder on the gearbox, so keep that in mind if you are looking at one of those.

It is generally recommended that the manual transmission fluid (Honda MTF) be replaced every 48,000 km (30,000 miles) or so, but some owners like to do it much earlier. If the S2000 has problems with gear pop-out watch out for very frequent gearbox fluid changes (under 10,000 km/6,000 miles) as this is a common temporary fix for the problem.

Clutch

You shouldn’t find too many issues with the clutch, but expect to replace it every 100,000 to 160,000 km (60,000 to 100,000 miles). While not prohibitively expensive to replace on S2000s, a worn clutch can be a bargaining point. Many owners recommend changing the clutch fluid (Dot 3 or Dot 4) with every replacement of the differential oil (75W-90 GL-5).

Modified S2000s with more power should have an uprated clutch. The standard clutch has a fairly easy life thanks to the engine’s relatively low torque output; increasing power and torque means a stronger clutch needs to be fitted. Below we have listed some tests you can do to make sure the clutch is working as intended:  

Clutch Engagement – The first step is to make sure the engagement is good. To do this put the S2000 you are inspecting into gear on a level surface and let the clutch out slowly. It should engage around 7 to 10 cm (2.5 to 4 inches) from the floor. Engagement that is early or too late indicates a problem.

Clutch Slippage – The best way to test for this problem is to shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going. You should notice that the engine bogs down a bit (don’t do this on a regular basis). The next thing to do is to accelerate. If you notice that the tachometer goes up out of relation to the speedometer and/or you notice jerkiness it suggests that the clutch is slipping.

Clutch Drag – Get the Honda S2000 on a flat surface and press the clutch pedal to the floor (do this while you are stationary). Rev the car hard (once it is warm) and see If it moves. If the car does move, the clutch is not disengaging when you shift and parts will wear prematurely.

Clutch Shudder – This is usually noticeable when you accelerate from a stop. A small amount is perfectly normal, but an excessive amount is a sign that the release bearings need to be lubricated.

If the Honda S2000 you are looking at is running an aftermarket clutch make sure you are happy with its feel. Aftermarket clutches can have a heavier feel and can make regular road driving a bit of a chore (especially in heavy traffic).

Suspension and Steering

Make sure you are happy with the condition of the suspension and steering components, as a problem here can be expensive to fix and could reduce the S2000’s fantastic driving characteristics.

If you hear a squeaky sound being emitted from the rear when slowing down, especially when going up or down driveways/curbs or over bumps it is probably the swaybar bushings or endlinks. Problems with the bushings and endlinks was and still is very common on earlier model S2000s, but it can happen to later model ones as well.

Try to get a look at the front and rear control arms as a number of owners have reported that breakages when going over bumps, potholes, etc (especially on tracked S2000s). There was a known problem with 2000 to 2003 S2000s where the upper control arm spot weld at the front would break free, which meant that the upper suspension mount was not connected. This led to some accidents and Honda issued a technical service bulletin in 2004 to fix the problem. However, today the problem of broken control arms is usually caused by corrosion, so definitely watch out for this issue if you live in an area with salted roads/very harsh winters.

New owners should have the suspension geometry checked and possibly modified. If you notice uneven tyre wear there is a good chance that the suspension geometry is out of whack and adjustments may be needed (could be major or minor).

Repairs to the suspension can be complicated by the fact that the bolts running through the bushes of the suspension wishbones tend to seize. The only way to remove the seized bushes is to heat them up or cut them out. This problem also occurs on the radius arms incorporated into the rear suspension design.

The problem is caused by the bushes and bolts not being greased at the factory. Ask the owner and check the service history to make sure the suspension system has been adjusted correctly and greased. If the work has not been carried out, try to get a lower price as the job.

Annual suspension geometry checks are recommended and expect to hear some clonks and knocks from the suspension as the car and components approach the 160,000 km (100,000 mile) mark.

Suspension Component Checklist

Here is a bit of a checklist when it comes to the steering and suspension components on an S2000. If you notice any of the following it is a sign of a problem:

  • Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
  • Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration and rear end wobble over bumps
  • Tipping during cornering
  • High speed instability
  • Delayed or longer stopping distances
  • Uneven tyre wear
  • Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension (trailing arm bushes)
  • Sagging or uneven suspension
  • Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive – usually the bushings or wheel bearings. Sometimes these sorts of noises can also be a sign of bad shock absorbers as well.
  • Rattles – drive over some bumps – there should be no noise from the suspension components (however, you may hear some rattles from something in the cabin).
  • Clicking sounds (especially at full lock)

Make sure you visually inspect the suspension and steering components, especially if you notice any of the problems above. Watch out for any leaking fluid around the shocks/struts, cracks in CV boot and/or excessive grease around the boot, damaged components or modified components.

Remember to Check the Wheel Alignment

Credit: Honda

We have already touched on this briefly but don’t forget to check the wheel alignment on a nice, flat and straight section of road. Poor wheel alignment can lead to problems such as excessive and/or uneven tyre wear, leading to more frequent tyre changes. Additionally, it can even make an S2000’s driving experience less enjoyable and safe.

If the wheel alignment is really bad it is a sign of an owner who probably doesn’t care much for their Honda S2000 as they probably should have got it sorted before putting the car on the market.

Most of the time a simple realignment is all that is needed, however, in some cases bad wheel alignment can be a sign of serious suspension/steering issues or even accident damage.

Wheels

Check all four wheels for any damage, scratches, etc. We would expect to find some on most S2000s you come across given their age, but a lot indicates that the vehicle has been owned by somebody who is a bit careless. Curb damage can be repaired depending on its severity, but if it is really bad a whole new wheel may be needed.

It is also a good idea to check for any dents or buckling to the rim as once again this sort of problem may require a new wheel. Buckling is more likely to occur on larger aftermarket wheels, so keep that in mind.

Speaking of aftermarket wheels, if the S2000 you are looking at is running them, check with the owner to see if they still have the originals. Owning the original wheels will only add value to the car and we would try to get a discount if they don’t have them.

Tyres

Tyres are a big talking point among S2000 owners, especially on early models. When the car first launched it had a reputation for being twitchy and there was a lack of feel when steering. The original Bridgestone Potenza S-02 P205/55 R16 front and P225/50 R16 rear tyres took much of the blame for the S2000’s twitchy nature.

There are now a whole host of different tyres you can choose from that improve the feel and handling of the S2000. If the car is running different sized tyres to the originals, try to find out what size they are and check to see if they are suitable online. Apart from that check the tyres for the following:

  • Amount of tread – If there is minimal tread left try to get a discount as you will need to get the tyres replaced in the near future.
  • Uneven wear – Wear should be even between the right and left tyres on the Honda S2000. Additionally, make sure wear is even across the tyre itself.
  • Brand – They should be from a good or well-reviewed brand – if they are from a poorly reviewed brand it suggests that the owner has cheaped out on maintenance.
  • Same tyre – In terms of tyre make, type and tread pattern on each axle (preferably on all four wheels) – mismatched tyres can lead to poor handling performance, increased wear and may even be dangerous.
  • Pressure – The S2000 is very sensitive to incorrect tyre pressures, so it can be a good idea to check them when conducting an inspection. If the tyre pressures are wrong it can cause the car to pull to the left or right during acceleration.

Modifications to the Suspension

Some owners will have fitted aftermarket springs and dampers, so make sure these are to your liking. Additionally, Bumpsteer Kits are offered for those who want to make an early AP1 S2000 handle like the more stable AP2. These kits change the rear tie rods and reduce the amount of toe change, which helps to reduce the AP1’s tendency to oversteer.

The rubber suspension and drivetrain components can be replaced by polyurethane units, but at an increased cost.

If the S2000 you are looking at is running aftermarket suspension make sure you are happy with the ride quality. Non-original suspension can be harsh for regular road driving, especially if it has been set up for track-use.

Brakes

Credit: Honda

The brakes on these cars can take a bit of a beating with regular spirited driving and track days. When testing them they should be more than adequate for regular road driving and should not feel weak or spongy. If you do notice an issue, it could be down to anything from a bad bleed to pad issues or maybe even more serious brake problems.

Remember to test the brakes under both light and hard braking conditions. Do some repeated high to low-speed runs to make sure everything is working as intended. If you notice any squealing, rumbling or clunking sounds when the brakes are in use it could simply be caused by poorly adjusted/worn pads or something more serious.

A shuddering or shaking through the S2000’s steering wheel when the brakes are applied is probably a sign that one or more of the discs are warped. This usually becomes first apparent under high-speed braking and is more likely to occur if the Honda S2000 has been regularly tracked/driven hard.

Make sure the handbrake works as intended and see how it performs on a steep incline (if you can find one).

Quite a few owners report seizing calipers on their S2000s (especially the rears), so watch out for the following on the S2000 you are looking at:

  • Car pulls to one side (may even happen when the brakes are not in use)
  • Car feels low on power as if the parking/handbrake is on (could also be a sign of diff issues)
  • Brakes get extremely hot and produce a distinctive acrid smell and in some cases smoke
  • You find that the Honda S2000 doesn’t want to move at all
  • Loud thud-like noise when pulling away for the first time

Rebuilding the calipers/brakes due to a seizure can be done at home, but many owners just replace them with new ones.

Check to see how much life is left in the pads, as replacing them will set you back a few dollars. If you can, get the owner to replace them before purchasing the car or get a discount.

Make sure the brake fluid has been replaced every two years or so on the S2000 you are inspecting.

Aftermarket Brake Components

Most owners find that the OEM Honda brake pads are perfectly fine for regular street use, but some S2000 owners do swap them out for aftermarket ones. Carbotech 1521 pads are often recommended if you want an aftermarket solution. They are said to offer a bit more ‘bite’ and fade resistance, but they do produce quite a bit more dust. EBC Green and StopTech pads also come highly recommended as well.

For those who want a more track oriented pad, Carbotech XP10/XP8 and Ferodo ds1.11s come highly recommended, but at a price.

Big brake kits like the one from Ballade or StopTech’s ST40 are available, but not necessary for street use or even light track use. If the S2000 has been fitted with a big brake kit it is more likely to have experienced some very severe and regular track days, so keep that in mind.

Bodywork & Exterior

If you notice any problems here it can be very expensive to fix, so make sure you are happy with the overall condition of the exterior.

Accident Damage

The Honda S2000 encourages enthusiastic driving so more than a few of these cars have found themselves going backwards through a hedge or fence with a terrified driver at the wheel. Here are some of the tell-tale signs that the S2000 you are looking at has been in an accident:

  • Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Inspect around the bonnet/hood and make sure everything lines up correctly as Honda’s quality control on the S2000 was excellent. Check the door, bumper and boot/trunk panel gaps. If the panel gaps on one side look quite different to the other side, it could be a sign that the S2000 has been in an accident.
  • Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the Honda S2000 you are looking at may have been in an accident or there may be some other sort of other issue with the door hinges.
  • Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – Indicates a respray which may have been conducted as a result of accident damage or rust.
  • If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This may indicate that the Honda S2000 you are inspecting at has been crashed into something (even a light knock can cause this problem).
  • Damage to the mounting supports for the headlights or surrounds of the taillights – This can be very difficult to fix on any car and is a good place to check for any accident damage.
  • Bent or broken parts underneath the car – While inspecting the underside, check to make sure everything is straight. Look at the suspension and steering components as well. If the parts are different on one side compared to the other or much newer, it may be a sign that the Honda S2000 has been in an accident.
  • Rust in strange locations – Can be a sign of accident damage.
  • Paint runs or overspray – Could be a factory issue, but is far more likely to be caused by a respray job. Check the seller’s shoes as well as we went to look at a used car once and the terrible respray job matched the specks of paint on the owner’s boots (more of a joke, but once you’ve seen it once you can’t help yourself during future inspections).
  • Missing badges or trim – Could be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).

Watch out for sellers who try to cover up accident damage. Some may even claim their S2000 hasn’t been in a crash when it clearly has.

If there has been some accident damage and/or repairs, try to get an idea of the severity of the incident. Light to moderate damage that has been repaired by a skilled body shop/panel beater is normally fine. However, if the Honda S2000 has been in a serious incident and received major damage it is probably best to walk away.

If the owner can’t tell you much about the accident/damage it may have happened when a previous person owned the vehicle.

Rust

Unfortunately, rust can be an issue on S2000s and if somebody says that they don’t rust you should show them this page here on s2ki.com. The problem is that these cars received very poor rust protection at the factory and now a lot of owners are dealing with quite serious rust issues. Below we have listed some of the main areas where rust can occur on an S2000:

  • Front jacking points – This is especially so if somebody has jacked the car up improperly in the past and done damage to the area. Rusted sills can be caused by this issue.
  • Rear arch barrel to boot floor skin – You probably won’t be able to tell unless you strip the car back
  • Wheel arch lips, wheel wells and sills – Look from underneath the car and check with the door open as well. Rust in this area can often be hidden and will only be noticeable when its really bad or if you get the sills off. Rust around the rear wheel arch liners can creep up on you and any repairs to this area are often expensive and time consuming.
  • Boot floor under the carpets – This can rust really badly as seen in this thread. We suggest that you check for any dampness in the boot as if you notice any there is a could chance that rust could have formed.
  • Rear quarter panel (panel above the wheel arches) – This can often be hard to see as it will initially form in the gap between the panels. If its really bad the corrosion can spread further around the panel.
  • Sub frame – A very high percentage of S2000s suffer from subframe rust. The rust can be relatively minor surface rust or a lot more serious. Most of the time rust isn’t as serious here as in other places, but it does depend on the severity.

If you do notice any corrosion, it may be a good idea to take some photos and check with a competent body shop/panel beater to find out roughly how much the problem will cost to fix.

Factors That Can Make Rust More Likely on a Honda S2000

  • The S2000 has spent time in countries or areas with salted roads (UK, Parts of North America, etc.)
  • The vehicle has spent time in countries or areas with very harsh winters (often linked with the above)
  • Vehicle is often parked/stored by the sea for significant periods of time
  • Always kept outside (never garaged)
  • The S2000 is regularly driven in winter (garaging the car and not driving it in the winter will reduce the likelihood of rust issues)
  • Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)
  • Rubbing body parts
  • Old or no underseal

It is a good idea to check with the owner to see if rust protection has been applied at fairly regular intervals, especially if the S2000 is located in a country with salted roads. Additionally, if the S2000 was a Japanese import into a country like the UK try to find out if rust protection was applied when the car was brought in.

We also recommend that you ask the seller/owner if regular washes of the underbody have been carried out during winter if you live in a country with salted roads. This can go a long way to prevent rust formation and if they have done it, it shows that they probably care quite a bit about preventative maintenance.

Looking for Rust Repairs

It is not only important to look for present rust, but you should also keep an eye out for signs of past rust repair (mismatched paint, paint overspray etc.). Watch out for any areas that may have been resprayed or cut out and replaced. You should also check the service history and with the owner (however, don’t trust what the owner says completely as they may be trying to hide something from you).

Use a magnet on steel sections of the car (cover it with a cloth so you don’t damage the paintwork) or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.

Soft-Top Roof

All S2000s came with an electrically operated soft-top, so check that it works correctly. While the soft-top mechanism is reliable, you may find that the roof fabric has torn above the side windows. Some owners may have wrapped the offending piece of frame with tape or created a plastic sleeve for it. Small holes and tears can be patched relatively easily, but larger ones will require a whole new roof.

Pre-2002 S2000s came with a plastic window at the back that has a tendency to fade or scratch. Replacement hoods will come with glass, which will fix those problems and is much more secure. Later model S2000s come with a glass rear window.

The soft-top’s catches can wear, which may lead to water seeping in between the roof and the windscreen rail. Additionally, worn catches may make a rattling noise. While this is annoying, it isn’t an expensive fix and you can easily replace them yourself.

Hard-Top Roof

Honda offered an optional aluminium hard top, which was standard on the GT S2000. You may come across an aftermarket hard top, so make sure it is installed correctly. If you purchase a S2000 GT, make sure the hard top roof and stand is included with the car as these are worth a fair bit of coin.

Aftermarket Bodykits

A lot of S2000s have been fitted with aftermarket bodykits. Some of these aftermarket bodykits are good and some are frankly terrible. A really bad bodykit can lead to problems such as tyre rub and scrapping noises.

If the Honda S2000 you are interested in is running an aftermarket bodykit, try to find out if the seller has the original parts. Aftermarket bodykits may also be a sign of accident damage as the owner may have got them fitted following a crash.

Interior

Credit: Honda

The S2000’s interior is really nothing special, but that’s not a bad thing. It is as hard wearing as it is functional and you really shouldn’t find much more than the usual wear and tear on the inside. We recommend that you check the carpets for dampness as the hood often leaks near the screen pillars. If you do notice any leaks, be mindful of the fact that rust may have formed under the carpets. Water residue on the bottom of the floor mats can also be a sign of a past or present leak.

Many owners replace the radio with an aftermarket one, especially on older S2000s. If this has happened, chances are the clip fixings around the air vents have been broken when the new radio system was installed. Check that the trim around the housing isn’t flapping loose and make sure the radio works correctly.

When it comes to the rest of the interior, check for general wear and tear. Expect to see some wear on the seat bolsters of higher mileage cars and check the steering wheel for wear. Everything can be replaced, but a complete replacement interior will be expensive.

If the seats move during acceleration or braking it is incredibly dangerous and will result in an MOT/WOF failure.

Electronics, Locks and Other Things

Credit: Honda

The electronics in the S2000 are fairly bulletproof. Your main concern is modifications that have been carried out incorrectly, so always inspect any modified part closely. Check to see if there are any warning lights on the dashboard and operate all the controls to make sure they work.

If no warning lights appear during start-up it may be a sign of an issue or that they have been disconnected. Alternatively, if they stay on you need to investigate the issue further and possibly take the car to a Honda specialist to find out what is causing the warning light before purchase.

Don’t forget to check that the air conditioning works as intended and that plenty of cold air comes out of the system. If it doesn’t, don’t let the seller convince you it just needs a re-gas as it may be something like the compressor (expensive fix).

Aftermarket alarm systems can be a good idea to deter thieves but they can also be a nightmare when they go wrong, so keep that in mind.

Apart from that check that all of the dials, knobs and buttons work as intended. Check that the lights and indicators work correctly, along with the door locks, window mechanisms, etc.

Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA)

The VSA traction and stability system was available from 2006 and became standard from 2008. If the control system fails it is expensive to replace, so check that there are no warning lights for it on the dash.

General Car Buying Advice for a Honda S2000

How to Get the Best Deal on an S2000

This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.  

1. Research heavily –  Prior to starting your search for a Honda S2000, figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Do you want a low mileage AP2 or do you not mind an older AP1 that has travelled a bit further.

2. Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. Honda sold a fair few of these cars, so there are plenty out there in different levels of condition and mileage, so don’t limit yourself to one seller, dealer, area or auction platform.

3. Go look at and test drive multiple S2000s if possible – While good S2000s are getting harder to come by, It is a good idea to test drive as many cars as possible This will help you determine what makes a good and what makes a bad Honda S2000.

4. Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time when looking for an S2000 for sale and only go for promising looking cars (unless you are looking for a project vehicle).

5. Use any issues with the car to your advantage –  Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.  

6. Don’t trust the owner completely –  While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say but back it up with a thorough inspection.

7. Go between sellers/dealers –  If you are looking at multiple Honda S2000s, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.  

8. Be prepared to walk away –  If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.  

Mileage vs Condition  

Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good.

Short distance trips do not allow the engine to warm up properly, which can lead to increased component wear and reduced engine life.

Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.  

Service History and Other Documentation

Credit: Honda

It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. While the servicing doesn’t need to be done at a dealer, it should be carried out by a competent Honda specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work). Home mechanic work is okay, but it is much harder to gauge the competence of a home mechanic than checking reviews for established businesses.

The service history will give you a good idea of how the S2000 you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications (if the car has any) can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.  

If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any vehicle your purchase and will make it easier to sell the car in the future.  

Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them. 

Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner  

  • How often do you drive the car? 
  • When was the last service and who was it serviced by? 
  • How much oil does it use? 
  • What oil do you use in the car? 
  • What parts have been replaced?
  • Has the timing belt ever been replaced? If so, what was the reason for the replacement?
  • When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
  • What’s the compression like?
  • What modifications have been made to the vehicle? 
  • Has the vehicle overheated at any point or has the head gasket failed? 
  • Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made? 
  • Is there any money owing on the car? 
  • Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle? 
  • How are the speakers
  • Is there any rust? 
  • Has rust been removed at any point? 
  • When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time? 
  • Where do you store/park the car usually? 

There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important. 

Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a Honda S2000

Here are some things that would make as walk away from one of these cars. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.  

  • Overheating problems or blown head gasket
  • Significant Crash Damage or poorly repaired roof 
  • Money owing on the car  
  • Stanced  
  • Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner  
  • Excessive amounts of power
  • Bad compression 
  • Bad resprays 
  • Significant rust problems  
  • Engine swaps with non-standard engines  
  • Significant track use
  • Major engine or transmission issues  
  • Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something) 

Notes on the Owner  

The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their Honda S2000 (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute lemon. Here are some things to watch out for.  

  • How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well. 
  • Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away. 
  • Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer. 
  • What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump? 
  • How do they respond when you ask them simple questions? 
  • Do they know anything about the S2000 and the model they are selling (AP1 vs AP2, etc.)?
  • What can they tell you about previous owners? 
  • Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer. 
  • What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond. 
  • What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?  
  • How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
  • How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car? 

If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another Honda S2000.

Importing a Honda S2000 from Japan

Credit: Honda

The Honda S2000 was a popular car in its home market of Japan, so it can be a good place to find them for sale. While S2000 numbers are dwindling in the country, there are still plenty available for export.

How to Import a Honda S2000 from Japan

While importing an S2000 from Japan may seem a bit daunting, it is actually relatively simple. The first thing we recommend you do is to Google search something like “import Honda S2000”. You will be greeted with loads of different websites to choose from. These websites will let you search for one of these cars based on their age, generation, condition, price and more.  

Most of the websites/companies you encounter should be based in Japan, but you may find some other ones that are located in different parts of the world.  

Make sure you check reviews/feedback of any website or auction house you want to use. While you are unlikely to get completely scammed, many of these websites will be economical with the truth about a vehicle. We have listed a few examples of Japanese importers/exporters below:  

JDM Expo – Is an independent subsidiary of Nikko Auto Co., which is recognized as on the most reliable exporters of Japanese cars in the country.  

Car From Japan – is another large portal for connecting overseas buyers with Japanese second hand cars.

Japan Partner – Is one of the fastest growing exporters of used Japanese vehicles.

Note: many of these sorts of websites do not provide a grade or auction check sheet. The grade, auction check sheet, and car map are vital to picking a good car. Buyer beware!

Use a Private Importer

While the websites above are a handy way to give you a general idea of what to expect when importing a Honda S2000, we recommend that you go with a private importer. A trusted private importer will be able to find a suitable S2000 for you and import it, saving you the hassle. While it may cost you a bit more (sometimes it is cheaper) you are more likely to get a better vehicle. 

You can get a full explanation of why we recommend using a private importer here.

How Does the Japanese Car Grading System Work? 

Credit: Honda

The auction houses and car exporters in Japan all get their vehicles in roughly the same way. The difference between them is how much support they are willing to provide, how honest they are, and how they grade their vehicles 

They will provide what is known as an ‘auction check sheet’ – a document that contains most of what you need to know about the vehicle. As you can’t see the vehicle personally, you will have to rely on the check sheet and other information on the listing to make a decision. If the seller/website is not willing to provide you with an auction check sheet or additional information on the car, don’t proceed any further.  

Before you make a purchase you need to learn how to read an auction check sheet. The sheet contains information on the make, model, condition, specifications and any other notes. There will be a grade on the sheet that denotes the overall grade of the vehicle.  

While the grade on a check sheet is important, you should not rely on it to make a final decision. Different companies have different methods for grading their vehicles, so a grade 4 for one company may be a grade 3.5 for another.  

Some websites may use a different grading system and if you can’t view the auction check sheet, you should contact the seller/exporter.  

Use the grade to reduce the number of S2000s you are looking at and then use the check sheet and any additional information to make a decision. We also recommend you pay a third party to check out the car for you if possible (hence the recommendation for a private importer).

The Auction Check Sheet  

Below you can see an example of an auction check sheet. The grade is located in the top right corner of the check sheet. You will notice that there is both a letter and a number grade. The number indicates the overall condition of the vehicle, while the letter shows you the interior grade. At the bottom right of the check sheet is the ‘car map’. The car map tells you information about the exterior of a particular Honda S2000 and where any problems are located.  

Additionally, the sheet contains information about the specs of the vehicle and any modifications (major or minor). The inspector may also write some additional notes about the car.  

What Does the Number Grade Mean?  
  • Grade 7 to 9 or S – New car with delivery miles. 
  • Grade 6 – Same as above but with a few more miles. 
  • Grade 5 – Vehicle is in excellent condition with low miles. 
  • Grade 4.5 – Overall condition is great, but may have up to 160,000 km (100,000 miles )on the clock. 
  • Grade 4 – Overall condition is good, but can have low or high miles. 
  • Grade 3.5 – Similar to grade 4, but some work may be needed and they usually have more miles. 
  • Grade 3 – Can be the same condition as grade 3.5, but with more miles. Alternatively, the car may have lower miles but require more work. 
  • Grade 2 – Very poor condition car and may have significant mechanical or exterior issues. Not necessarily a right off, but you would have to be a brave buyer to purchase one of these. 
  • Grade 1 – Is modified in some way (can be extensive or something simple). 
  • Grade 0, A, R, RA – Some repair history that can be major or minor. 
The Letter Grade 

As we wrote earlier, the number grade is usually accompanied by a letter that indicates the interior grade. An ‘A’ indicates that the interior is in exceptional or good condition. A ‘B’ indicates that the car is in average condition, while a ‘C’ displays that it is in poor condition. Grades below C show that the car’s interior is in very poor condition.  

The Car Map  

The check sheet will also contain what is called a “car map”, which tells you all the information you need to know about the exterior condition of the car. It will show the location of any problems or damage to the vehicle. Any problems are indicated by a letter and a number. The letter tells you what the issue is and the number indicates the severity. You can read more about the car map in our “How to Import a Car from Japan” guide. 

Our Guidelines for Importing a Honda S2000 from Japan

  • Always demand to see and have the auction check sheet before making a purchase  
  • If you can’t read Japanese or the company won’t provide a translated check sheet, get help from somebody who speaks/reads Japanese.  
  • Try to go through a private importer
  • Check that the chassis number on the check sheet matches the one on the frame  
  • Cross reference the check sheet with other websites  
  • Don’t rely on the grade (always check the auction sheet thoroughly)  
  • Investigate each website/service thoroughly (reviews, feedback, etc.)  
  • Be careful of heavily modified vehicles  
  • Get someone to inspect the car for you if possible. Ask for photos and get a good run down of the condition.  
  • Avoid cars with unknown mileages  
  • Stay away from bargains that seem to be too good to be true  
  • Stay away from grade 0, A, RA, R vehicles that have been involved in accidents  
Know Your Country’s Importation Laws  

Always make sure you check your country’s importation laws as you may find you can’t bring the vehicle you want in. For example,some countries have certain restrictions on importing cars under a certain age. 

Concluding this Honda S2000 Buying Guide

Credit: Honda

The Honda S2000 is one of the best sports cars of all time and has all the hallmarks of a true classic. While the S2000 is starting to get a bit old, there are still plenty of good examples to be found out in the wild.

Always check over any car you are looking at thoroughly. While the S2000 is fairly robust for a sports car, you can wind up with a lemon if you are not careful. Get yourself familiar with what a stock S2000 looks like both inside and out, and remember to not run into a purchase. A good S2000 will provide plenty of years of driving enjoyment and could be worth something in the future.

We hope you’ve found this Honda S2000 buyer’s guide helpful. If you have any queries, concerns or suggestions, then feel free to leave a comment below. You can also email us at any time on admin@garagedreams.net and we will get back to you ASAP.

References

Jed Maxwell (11/09/2006) – Honda S2000 (2006) Review – Honda S2000 (2006) review | CAR Magazine

Honda F22C Engine Specs – extension://bfdogplmndidlpjfhoijckpakkdjkkil/pdf/viewer.html?file=https%3A%2F%2Fs2000.club%2FOM%2FHonda%2520F22C%2520engine.pdf

Zdan (25/06/2010) – AP1 16’s Tire Size – ap1 16’s tire sizes – S2KI Honda S2000 Forums

Gomarlins3 (30/10/2008) – OEM Tire Info – OEM tire info – S2000 Forums

Honda Media Newsroom (01/10/2003) – 2004 Honda S2000 – Chassis – 2004 Honda S2000 — Chassis (hondanews.com)

Honda Media amongmany (11/08/2005) – Location of Vin Sticker – Location of VIN Sticker. – S2KI Honda S2000 Forums

Mercnet – Replacing the PCV Valve on a Honda S2000 – Replacing the PCV Valve on a Honda S2000 AP2 (howtune.com)

S2cho (09/05/2017) – Ultimate Misfire Guide – Ultimate Misfire Guide – S2KI Honda S2000 Forums

MM3Kwolik (01/09/2014 – TCT Review – Why I Choose and Support Billman’s Product – TCT REVIEW-Why I Choose and Support Billman’s Product – S2KI Honda S2000 Forums

Christian Baril (18/03/2019) – Even More TCT Questions re: Ballade TCT – Even More TCT questions re: Ballade TCT – S2KI Honda S2000 Forums

Zbrewha863 (04/03/2011) – Air Bubbles in My Cooling System…Again – Air Bubbles in My Cooling System . . . Again – S2KI Honda S2000 Forums

The Gent (18/03/2009) – Common S2000 Problems/Solutions – Common S2000 Problems/Solutions (1999-2009) – S2KI Honda S2000 Forums

Joe Terrel (01/11/2018) – Honda S2000 Exhaust Guide – Honda S2000 Exhaust Guide | Drifted.com

4 thoughts on “Honda S2000 Buyer’s Guide – Everything You Need To Know”

  1. Thank you for the great information on the Honda S2000. I appreciate the time and effort involved in compiling and publishing the information. I am considering an S2000 as a fun/ +/- commuter vehicle and I found you information very helpful.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for the great information. Please perhaps do you know how many S2000 Ultimate Edition were produced/sold in Europe? Thanks

    Reply
    • Thanks for your kind comments – we always try our hardest with our buyer’s guides and it means a great deal when people leave nice comments like yours. If you know anyone who is looking at buying a Honda S2000, please point them in the direction of this buyer’s guide.

      Reply

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