2003 Honda Accord’s obnoxious trans fluid smell

Yesterday, I had an instant oil change shop drain and replace the automatic transmission fluid on my 4-cyclinder 2003 Honda Accord having 147,000 miles. A couple hours later I checked the fluid level on the trans dipstick and although the fluid looked normal (pink and clean-looking and within the high and low marks), it emitted a very noticeable very obnoxious odor that I’ve never smelled before coming from transmission fluids in the 16 years I’ve had this car nor in the over 50 years that I’ve been doing basic car maintenance. The transmission seems to be operating normally both before and after the fluid change. I’ve always had this transmission fluid changed at the recommended interval by different shops over the life of this car. Could the obnoxious transmission fluid smell indicate a problem with the replacement fluid and/or with the transmission itself?

how often have you had the trans fluid changed? 30k miles? i changed the fluid on my ford and got it on my hand and when i made a fist i could not open my fingers. felt like i had poured maple syrup on my hand. very odd. could have been some type of trans stop leak stuff?

I have it changed every 3 years or 30,000 miles whichever is lass.

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A quickie lube place might have used a transmission fluid that was not compatible with Honda specified fluid. I think I would have the transmission serviced by a proper independent shop, including dropping the pan and filter change.


There is a good possibility, that, since you used an “instant oil change place” you got refilled with the wrong fluid. Honda requires a very specific fluid. I’d be at the Honda dealer tomorrow getting the fluid changed by them.

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The first thing you do is find out EXACTLY what automatic transmission fluid they used

It’s not enough for them to say it was “compatible” with your transmission

Once you find out, please let us know

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Can you describe the smell?

Honda hasn’t had the best transmissions over the years. Many people feel that it’s a very good idea to use only the official Honda fluid in them, which your quick-lube place very likely doesn’t have. If this were my car, I’d have a good independent mechanic (or the dealer) replace the fluid to be safe.

I’ll bet it’s Valvoline MaxLife fluid.
The stinkiest oil I’ve ever encountered.
It’s a foul, sulphurous brew that might come from Satan’s bowels, but works well in a trans, people say.

Yep, Hondas are VERY picky about the trans fluid used. I would ONLY use Honda fluid (I know somebody else makes it) to make sure it’s exactly right. Now I would have that fluid removed and replaced.

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You said exactly what I was about to suggest.

I use Valvoline MaxLife ATF for years, it is compatible to multiple Nissan/Mazda/Toyota vehicles I happen to run across and it worked great.

The smell is really awful…

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