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1998 Honda Civic Lx Auto Transmission Slipping. HELP!

Hello! I recently purchased a “beater” car. 1998 Honda Civic Lx Auto Transmission. 221k Miles. Let me start off by saying i know my way around a car, however when it comes to auto transmissions i don’t have much experience. When I first purchased the vehicle, the previous owner who claims he was a mechanic (i’ve heard this before) said he had just replaced the transmission fluid. I checked it and it seemed full and clean. After about a month of me driving the car during the winter i noticed the car starting to shift hard when putting car in reverse and then when selecting to drive D4. This was only happening when it was really cold and once in a while. After a while it started to become more noticeable and now when I’m driving all the time the car seems to be “slipping” or rather the rpms seem to “hang” when the car should be shifting to the next gear. I notice it will shift down hard when slowing down as well. I have been gentle with the car since I’ve owned it just because of the mileage on it.

I have done some reading about this generation of civic and everyone seems to be having tranny problems a lot earlier in the game than me. I have recently checked the fluid again and it seems a little more burnt than when i first looked. I’ve made an appt. with honda to do a drain and fill a few days from now because i don’t want to take the chance and I’m thinking maybe it will help.

Is their any chance it could be the throttle cable or one of the transmission solenoids? Ive even read that you can take out the 7.5 amp fuse in the control panel box to reset the engine computer and people have been having luck with that.

Pictures posted are just to see color of fluid not the level

Please help!!


Your transmission is toast. Start getting quotes on a rebuild or replacement.

Is the D4 light blinking?


Insightful: I don’t have the money for a replacement. I need it to last me until the summer.

Tester: The D4 light is NOT blinking.

There’s no way to tell via the internet, but when my Ford truck started experiencing those symptoms it was in transmission shop for a complete rebuilt shortly thereafter. After the rebuild the old tranny has worked since like new.

You need a good transmission shop to do their thing, run their tests. You might luck out and it is only a solenoid on the fritz. But at this mileage, if the tranny hasn’t ever been rebuilt, I think your are looking at a rebuild. Tell your tranny shop you’d like to squeak out as many remaining miles as you can before doing a rebuild, they may offer you some options.

The reason this happens is b/c auto transmission – contrary to what many think – do have clutches, just like a manual transmission. Just more of them. And they wear out with use and start to slip. And just like a manual transmission clutch, auto tranny clutches are designed to be replaceable. It is a considerably more time consuming job on an auto tranny is all.

If you feel lucky you could replace the transmission fluid and filter two or three times, driving it a week or two in between. Might work.

The transmission is likely dying. After 19 years and well over 200k miles with more than likely no transmission servicing ever done it’s due to expire.

The seller also knew this and when the fluid change did not help he decided to unload it rather than fix it. Happens all the time.

You could try pouring about half a can of Berryman B-12 into the transmission and that may bring it back to life for a while. Yes, B-12 is carburetor or fuel injector cleaner and the methodogy does work in many cases. It’s cheap and worth a last ditch shot to buy time.

While I agree that tranny has done its duty by this mileage…esp and automatic…that doesnt always prove true however…ive seen them last well into the 200’s…and Ive seen em puke at 125…so it varys and greatly.

You need to determine if you have a slip…or a hang…they are different and beget different repairs.

You say it hangs in gear…which to me means its holding its shift points too long and should be in the next gear at that speed/rpm. OK…here is your test…shift the gear lever MANUALLY.

Start out in the lowest and then you move the shifter where you feel the normal shift points should be…does it respond? Feel normal then? If so…replace your tranny control computer and or the two shift solenoids…the tranny ecu should be separate from the main ecu…or at least they used to be.

But if its a slip its a slip…they are pretty different scenarios from each other…and if its slipping…its over.

Throw a manual tranny in there and never look back… Thats what I did to my 97’ Accord…and I also threw in an H22 from a Prelude for good measure at the same time. Nothing like getting and LSD 5sp manual and an extra 100 Hp in one shot… Shwing!


Given you’re trying get it last till summer, and are not interested in spending the money for major repairs, I also recommend OK4450’s suggestion of using Berryman’s B12 Chemtool.

It’s likely the seals in your transmission are hardening, as eventually happens with age. A can of Berryman’s will cause the seals to soften. Often that softening is just enough to get them to seal again.

It’s not a permanent fix, but worth trying in your situation.

Thank you for all the input. I will consider contacting a tranny shop to see what their suggestion is before I bring it to Honda. I’m also going to do some research on this berrymans b12 as well.

How about the Berryman’s Transmission and Power Steering Sealer? Is that better for this purpose? At least its labeled for transmission rather than fuel.

I thought Berrymans was to swell seals to stop leaks? What can it do for shift intervals? Perhaps unblock a blocked up pressure channel? Hmmm

I would try to shift the trans manually and at the proper intervals see if it is ABLE to do so when manually shifted. If it responds normally…I would be looking at the shift solenoids and or trans computer.

If its slipping proper…then its over…


The B-12 can soften and swell up the seals in the clutch drums and servos and in turn help any pressure loss as mentioned by Joe Mario.

After all, the most critical component in an automatic transmission is nothing more than a handful of rubber O-rings of varying sizes. They’re what makes everything work and over time high heat can do a number on the elasticity of the rubber.

Wow…good info Thank you. Transmissions are the ONLY thing I never allowed myself to get intimately involved with. I figured I had my mechanical plate rather full enough without diving into band adjusments and wet clutches and drums and whatever else is in there.

When an auto trans dies…I swap it out…thats how deep I get into trannys…lol… The formula has worked thus far. I will leave that trans for the pros to dive into its internals… That reminds me…I dont think Ive ever seen a “Rebuilt” Automatic trans deliver the service anywhere near what a new and or used OEM unit does…and I mean NOWHERE NEAR…as in Frighteningly Far away from type of service… Why is that? LOL


If you have a cable going from the throttle body to a bell crank on the transmission, this cable must be just taunt. If there is any slack in it, then the transmission will slip. Many mechanics think this cable needs a little slack, but that is incorrect.

Also you may have the wrong ATF in it, it needs Honda ATF only. It will take about three fluid changes if you have the wrong stuff in there now.

I dont believe he has that cable Keith… Thats more of a Murican thing. But a good call since we both know what that cable does when it is present.