Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

1999 Honda Accord Transmission Slipping Only At Certain Temperatures

Hello everyone. This is my first post. Please bear with me since I am new to posting. I think that I searched for a similar issue prior to posting so that this wouldn’t be redundant (as I know that this vintage Accord has many transmission issues).

First some history: My 99 Accord EX 4 cylinder has only about 46,700 original miles on it. It was my mom’s car before I got it and she only drove it to the grocery store. She bought it new so I know it’s history. For all but the last 3 years the car only went to the gas station and to the local lube place for an oil change every 5k miles or so. When I got the car 3 years ago it had about 20k miles on it and I had tons of work done on it at the Honda dealership to get all the maintenance done on it that should have been done over the years (including timing belt). At that time it had a ‘transmission service’ at the dealership as part of the service. The car even had original tires that needed replacing due to dry rot.

Now to my question: When the weather outside it cool/cold, the car sometimes revs a little between first and second gear before shifting. If the temp is below 40 degrees, it doesn’t happen at first, but after about 1 mile it will do this for 2 or maybe 3 shifts from 1st to 2nd and then will be fine. If the temp outside is between 40 and about 55, it will do this for the first 2 or 3 shifts and it will be fine thereafter. And, if the weather is warmer than about 55 degrees, it will shift fine.

I checked the level and quality of the transmission fluid and it appears fine. I have done routine maintenance at the Honda dealer since 3 years ago but have not touched the ATF since then.

So, I’m wondering if this is a precursor to transmission troubles and what is suggested that I do at this time.

Thank you!

Technically that’s called a “flare”.
I suggest you change the ATF again and cross your fingers.
When you got it 20K miles in 15 years is 1300 miles per year.
A 5K oil change would take over 3 years of short trips.
Hopefully the engine didn’t suffer too much damage from such abuse.

Thanks circuitsmith. I just looked at the history and my estimate was off. I see 10 oil changes in 15 years but there may have been more. The car is in good condition so I’d like to keep it and prevent the transmission from failing, if possible.

There are differing opinions as to whether to just replace the ATF, or do a flush. Wondering which is better given the car’s history (only one change to date).

I’ve also heard that there are several design issues with this auto transmission. I’m wondering if the flair is caused by any specific defect? Perhaps there is a quick repair.

Any help is appreciated!

A drain and fill using proper honda fluid is what should be done, honda advises not to flush. A quick test for oil deposits in the engine is to look under the oil fill cap, the metal should have a light coating of oil and not be black.


A little searching shows an automatic transmission in-warranty exchange program, tsb 98-061, dated November 13, 2001. Good idea to ask about it at a dealership, ask for a copy of the bulletin. It’s terms probably no longer apply, your Accord being somewhat elderly; but its content might provide some add’l info that might be helpful towards a diagnosis and repair of your particular symptom.

I’ll add that this is a common symptom of aged automatic transmissions, and usually means the clutches inside the transmission are starting to wear out. Automatics have clutches just like manuals, just more of them, so with automatics there’s more ways they can fail. A automatic just starting to show this symptom can often be rejuvenated with a proper service. Usually that means to drop the pan, replace the filter, and refill with proper fluid. If they only want to do a flush, and nothing else, make sure that’s the only option for the car. On some cars it is the only option, there’s no pan to drop or filter to replace. But not usually.

The ATF used in that model Accord would cause just those conditions. Honda has upgraded its ATF and the new ATF for geared transmissions (not for CVTs) is fully compatible. I have found that a simple drain and fill which only replaces 2.5 of the 6 qts in the transmission seems to cure the problem.

Honda does not recommend a flush of the transmission, but it does have a flush procedure for the transmission cooling core in the radiator. You probably don’t need that.

You can do 3-4 drain and fills over a short time and that would replace most of the fluid in the transmission, or if the dealer is willing and has a fluid exchange machine, you can do a drain and fill, then hook up the fluid exchange machine to the cooling lines and get 100% of the old fluid out and new in. If they don’t do the initial drain and fill, the fluid exchange machine will not get 100% of the old fluid out, no matter what they tell you.

A fluid exchange machine will not hurt the transmission as it uses the pumps in the transmission to move the fluid instead of an external pump. External pumps could damage the transmission.

These responses were just what I was looking for, and I’m happy that the transmission is probably OK.

Now I need to get the car to the dealership ASAP to do the fluid change. I hope to report back on how everything goes.

Thanks for the help.

Well, unfortunately the ATF change did not do anything. It is interesting that it is perfectly correlated with the outside temperature. Since I only get two or three slight slips per day, and the warmer weather is arriving when it will not slip at all, I think I may just wait it out. If I change the fluid more times (at $142 per time) it will cost much and may not fix it. The same goes for other minor transmission fixes. When it dies (if it does), I’ll just replace it. If anyone else has any recommendations, I’d be open to hear them however. Thanks again for the responses.