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1997 Honda Civic - Trans quesiton

Automatic transmission. While changing into 2nd gear, the RPM jumps up a bit just before sifting. I bench tested the VSS under the distributor. The distributor is leaking oil on to this part. test good.

So…you don’t have a question, just a statement.


Look for a cable that runs from the throttle body to a bell crank on the side of transmission near the dipstick. If you have one, check to see if it has any slack in it. If it does, that is most likely the source of the slipping when shifting. The cable needs to be just taunt, no slack, no tension.

If your distributor is leaking, it is a very easy fix. Undo the clamp bolt and remove the clamp, then just pull the distributor straight out. It had a very short shaft and you will see an O-ring around it. Just replace the O-ring. Finding an O-ring is the trick anymore as most parts places don’t sell individual O-rings any more. You have to buy an assortment and hope one of them is the right size.

BTW, that oil is leaking onto one of your heater hoses. It will get soft and start leaking. It is no fun to replace.

Is the D4 light flashing?


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Automatic transmission fluid level? How many miles has it been since a proper transmission service?

Mark the orientation first of course. So you can get it back on the same way it is now.


The distributor on a Honda is keyed.

Which means, it can only go on one way.


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Ok, I see.

I was referring to the timing adjustment, manual rotation of the distributor is how the timing is set on the 4 cylinder 1.6L engine, right?

Make a scribe mark between the distributor and its mount.

Since the distributor can be only mounted one way, just line up the scribe marks and tighten the distributor back down.


The instructions I’m seeing says to install the distributor, first bring number one piston to compression-stroke TDC. Not necessary?

Well, I’ve done it and I did mark the bolt pattern on the hold down hole. You don’t need to do anything else. Timing can be adjusted by turning the distributor but there is very little range of adjustment and it the end it has almost no affect on the actual dynamic timing.

The cam position sensor is inside the distributor. There is an offset key at the back of the camshaft that the distributor will only mate to one way. The cam position sensor provides a reference to the PCM, but it is reference only. Once the engine is running, the PCM adjust the timing based on several inputs. If the distributor is not in the exact position it was before, it only affects timing at start up and at worse, you won’t be off by more than a couple of degrees.

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Good info @Keith … so there’s no need to set number 1 piston at tdc-compression when re-installing the distributor? The reason I ask is b/c the service instructions say to do it that way.

If you’ve marked where the rotor points before pulling the distributor, and marked the position of the base [maybe redundant if the base is keyed] AND you have not turned the crankshaft, just make sure when the dist is back in place that the rotor is aimed at your mark.

I believe you had to do that on the earlier CVCC engines because the distributor was not keyed. It could be just a left over instruction. It won’t hurt to do that but I didn’t. IIRC, I don’t think you can get it 180 out. On some keyed distributors, that is possible but I think I remember that the key was offset.

Now I do recall that I did remove the cap and made sure that the rotor was pointed in the same direction going back in that it was when it came out, but that is just an old habit of mine.

Funny story, it was rumored that on the old VW bug engines that you could not put the distributor in 180 out because it had an offset key. What my buddy didn’t count on when we rebuilt his bug engine that I also rebuilt the distributor. I got the key 180 out. It was really hard to start and didn’t run very good.

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Bogus repair manual instructions! Pretty much everybody who repairs their own car has a story about THAT topic. I was reading an article the other day about a guy replacing the cabin air filter in their 1998 BMW, and he found one instruction in a shop manual that said it was on the right side of the dash. He took that side apart, not there; another saying it was in the middle of the dash. He took the middle apart, not there; turned out to be on the right side. A 15 minute job turned into a 2 hour search for the filter.

It has a little play in the cable. I have to see how I can tighten it…?

OP, I think you meant to reply to @Keith .

Yeah thats true. I had an 86 Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon. The front seal was leaking bad, like pouring out as fast as I could pour oil in. I followed the instructions from the factory service manual that had me drop the pan, which is incredibly hard to do because of the front differential blocks access to about half the pan bolts, and remove the oil pump.

Of course the first steps involve removing the timing belt and lower timing gear. At that point, I am looking at the torn seal and thinking, why can’t I just pull out that seal and slide a new one in place? But I followed the instructions and several hours later, I am sliding the oil pump with the new seal over the end of the drive shaft taking great care not to rip the new seal as cautioned in the repair manual.

And as you can guess, I tore the new seal. At that point, I used a small hook to pull out the seal and replace it with the oil pump in place, exactly as I had though of doing it when I first got the timing gear off. It was much easier this way and it removed the obstacle that tore the first replacement seal.

Got it all back together and then shared my story on a web site dedicated to that model car. Quite a few of the enthusiast piped in and said that they always just popped out the seal and slid the new one in place. The FSM instructions to remove the pan and oil pump were not necessary.

This particular seal is a common problem on Toyota A series engines and most mechanics replace the seal when the timing belt is replaced.

First you have to see if it has one. The cable controls the pump pressure to the clutch pack. At some point after the introduction of OBDII, the function was off loaded to the PCM and the cable removed. But if you have the cable, the adjustment is at the throttle body end and pretty self explanatory. Just be sure that if you do adjust it, only remove the slack, do NOT go any further than that.

If you have that cable, you will see a ganged bell crank at the throttle body with two cables, one to each of the bell cranks. One comes from the gas pedal and it is supposed to have just a tiny amount of slack, 1/8" to 1/4" IIRC. The other one going to the transmission is the one that is supposed to be just taunt.