2001 Civic LX gears don't engage (transmission?)

So, not 36 hours after spending close to $1200 having my 2001 Civic LX automatic with 65,000 miles on it tuned up (brakes replaced, alignment, etc. etc.), I drove the trusty car 350 miles from Northern California to Southern California down the I-5 where it promptly died.

Just before I hit the Grapevine (literally, at Laval, a few miles before it) I pulled over for gas since it was just below 50%. Got back on the road, merged onto the freeway, accelerated and–

--the speedometer maxed out at 60mph. The pedal went to the floor (or at least felt like it) and the RPM’s went up drastically. Any amount of pressure on the gas did nothing, and the car began to slow down from 60 to 50 to 40 until I pulled over. Turned the engine off, waited for a moment, tried to start it. Engine starts, all systems go–step on the gas…nothing. Just a revving sound and that’s that. No motion in any of the gears, D3, 2nd, Reverse, etc.

So AAA comes and rescues me, tows me to Lebec, where my beloved Silver Bullet sits in limbo for the time being while the mechanic diagnoses the problem.

My amateur internet sleuthing seems to point towards a transmission problem, but I’d be curious to hear anyones thoughts on what I should expect.


Just spoke to the mechanic.

Apparently the transmission is dead, which is odd since the Honda dealership said they replaced the fluid on Saturday and didn’t notice any problems, however the mechanic said there was a “horrible smell” from it.

Off the cuff estimate for a new transmission was about $2500 parts/labor. Seems very very odd that the tranny would go out at 65k miles with routine maintenance and such.

Any thoughts on what I should do?

I have attached a copy of TSB# 04-036. This bulletin explains a known problem with the Civic automatic trans. Although a TSB is not a recall as it explains in the TSB you may qualify for a goodwill repair which may cover some or all of the cost. I hope it helps.

Wow, thanks a million!

I just spoke with my honda dealer up north where the majority of the routine maintenance has taken place, and one of the advisors suggested (in a very hush hush way) to contact Honda Support and try to cover this as a courtesy.

Would you suggest mentioning that I just read their Service Bulletin 04-036 and it sounds very very similar to what the mechanics diagnosed, and my car falls within the range of affected vehicles?

Yes, I would mention that you have a copy of the TSB. I would also indicate that the majority of the service and maintenance has been done at a Honda dealer. Politely expressing your dissatisfaction with your vehicle leaving you stranded on the freeway and ask them if they are willing to provide a goodwill repair. Let us know what happens.


So after dragging their feet all bloody week, Honda of America finally decided to reimburse us for 75% of the amount of the transmission, plus towing from the mechanics to a dealership about 65 miles away. I consider it a minor victory.

The bad news is that it’s going to take until Thursday/Friday of Next Week to finish the work since the dealership just got the car yesterday, is closed Sunday and Monday for the Labor Day Weekend, and work won’t start until Wednesday when they get the part they need. Being stuck 400 miles away from home for 10 days because your Transmission went belly up at 65k miles ranks pretty high on the list of Things I Hope I Never Have To Do Again.

I’m rather disappointed with Honda over all and will seriously reconsider if I’m ever going to purchase another car from them, or might just make the jump over to the Toyota Prius’ a few years down the line. Their customer support at the higher levels was nothing short of a run around, and it actually took our families business attorney to put in a call in order to get the gears moving.