Automatic transmission

Hello, I have a 10 year old car with 118K . I had the trans. fluid flushed at 117K about one and a half months ago. I checked the fluid last night after running it for five minutes - it started to rain so I went ahead and check it.

The new fluid was clear pink, but some light gray residue was also on the cloth when I wiped the dip stick before reinserting it.

I checked it this morning after driving to work 12 miles, and dipstick had no residue (prob. b/c it had just been whiped off), the fluid level was good, and it was and clear pink again.

I read somewhere that gray can be a sign of a transmission on the way out.

I just had the fuel filter changed last weekend and pistons cleaned to resolve a rough idle issue. Apparently, the pre. owner had not never changed it.

The service has helped a rough idle, performance issues, but I heard someone remark that you can tell your transmission is slipping if it revs up when you down shift.

This does happen sometimes at low speeds (20-30 mph), and in bumper to bumper traffic.

Prev. operator does not appear to have been up to par on all of the maintenance, but I bought it at 81k.

Was this person right? Iam trying to decide whether it’s worth it to stick with this car, or I should start looking for a new one.

Once again, it’s the '98 Honda Civic Ex.

Thanks once again,


The transmission fluid should be clear pink. As long as it remains this way I wouldn’t worry too much.

The engine HAS to rev up as you downshift, just as it has to reduce revs as you upshift.

Stop listening to rumors. If the transmission is operating normally, and you didn’t say it wasn’t, drive the car and don’t worry.

You had the pistons cleaned? How, exactly, does one go about cleaning the pistons?

See if you have an owner’s manual and check out the 90K service, if you have concerns about previous care. It details the minimum to keep the car in decent shape mechanically. Let that be your baseline for the future. Keep in mind that services are measured in miles or months, whichever comes first.

I see no reason to get rid of the car at this point, if the services are kept up and if the car is in otherwise good shape. My son is doing well with a 94 Geo Prizm with 220K miles on it. I would expect your Civic to be able to do the same.

Everything sounded normal and good until you came up with that “pistons cleaned” thing. What in the world is that. Sure sounds like a boat payment thing to me.

I see, not the “pistons”, prob. cyliners, my mistake. Acc. to this shop, they were treated in some way to remove or reduce possible carbon build up - if that helps?

Transmission operating normally? - it might be fine, after driving it for a couple years, it just seems to shift a little less smoothly than it used to - especially at low speeds. Seems noticeable when shifting at speeds between 20 and 40mph (bumper to bumper traffic). At higher consistent speeds it’s fine.

I am not 100% sure what that could be related to, I just know it’s different and sprung up within the past 6 mos. I have already had a number of components checked, changed, or cleaned: IAC, trottle body, fuel pressure, fuel filter, spark plugs, smoke test, valve, cam timing. I do follow my owner’s manual (timing belt, 105k, spark plugs every 30k, etc).

I know what you mean about rumors, but that transmission rumor came from a Honda dealer tech. Honestly, my knowledge of this car goes as far as what I have read in the manual and what I have had to fix. I have never had to deal with an obvious transmission problem in any car I have had, so I don’t know what to look for incase one ever develops, or whether or not the Honda tech has a point.

If it is on the way out, but there is something I can do to help it, I def. want to save it b/c I like the car and it’s paid off.

Thanks for the insight - it is a big help!

The gray residue was clutch material from the transmission. This is normal, and nothing to worry about. This is why the fluid needs to be changed, because the fluid collects material that is wearing off as the car moves. You did the right thing.

however, I’m with the rest on the ‘piston cleaning’ thing. Sounds like a partial boat payment to the mechanic. The only time I’ve ever cleaned pistons is when I completely tear down an engine for an overhaul.

Thanks for the advice, Jay. I have been good about sticking to the manual but will double check incase I’ve missed something. I do love the car and hope I can keep it as long as possible. I will stick with the Idny shop that changed out the filter and spark plugs. They seem to be trustworthy.

I’m sure it was cylinders! This recent shop claims they cleaned them. This shop seems to be trustworthy - they charged me $84.00 for all of the components they checked and filter replacement. I just worry b/c my car is approaching the 150k range and I just noticed that this car drives differently at low speeds than it has before. I have owned it for 2 1/2 years and put 40k on it and am not use to it jumping while downshifting - or seeming to have a parachute dragging behind it right it after it shifts between 2500 and 1000 rpms. Otherwise it’s been a great ca, 3000 rpms and over, it does fine!

Thank you for your insight on the fluid. I hope it’s just some internal component or valve - that has not already been checked -caked with carbon or dirt. But since there is no CEL, there is no way to narrow it down - just rule things out trial and error.

It is very frustrating.