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Bad transmission in three year old Honda?

Hi - I have a 2006 Honda Element (automatic) with 74,000 miles on it. I noticed that it is shifting hard on the interstate as it revs up through the gears. Also, if I “stomp” on it in lower gear (which is not something I normally do…) it hesitates for a while at its current speed before accelerating. Is my transmission on its way out? I changed the transmission fluid at 40,000 and plan to do it again at 80,000. Please help! I want to keep this car, but I do not want to put a new transmission in it. Thanks.

This could be an indication of transmission problems, but the first thing to do is to check the level and the color of the transmission fluid. After you have done that, please come back to this thread to report your findings.

If you believe that you have transmission problems, the best route is to go to an independent transmission shop that has been in business for at least 3 years. DO NOT go to AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, Mr. Transmission, or any other chain operation unless you want to be told that you need a new transmission–whether you really do or not.

OK - I just checked the transmission fluid (cold) and the fluid is full (within the hash marks) and it’s red. A deeper red, but certainly not brown. I didn’t smell any burning smell…any advice? Thank you!

Okay–so far, so good. But, since it does sound like your trans is malfunctioning, the question still remains of how to proceed.

One thought that comes to mind is that it is possible that the shop that did the trans fluid change at 40k did not use genuine Honda transmission fluid. Some shops will use Dexron (or, as they usually incorrectly refer to it–Dextron) fluid. While that can be used “in a pinch” if nothing else is available, long-term use of anything other than Honda transmission fluid is likely to cause shifting problems. If the trans fluid change was done at a dealership, then the correct fluid was used, but if it was done elsewhere, it is possible that Dexron was incorrectly substituted.

With any luck, our resident transmission expert, Transman, will log in with his advice. Just remember to AVOID a chain transmission shop if you do decide to seek trans service.

Thank you for your advice - and yes, I had the transmission fluid changed at the dealer, which is where I get most of my routine maintenance done. Should I have the fluid changed right now? And how long can a car last with these issues? I know West Virginia is hell on cars (we’re either going up or down, and usually on a curve)…but this is not what I expect on a Honda with 74,000 miles!

While I thought that Honda finally licked their transmission problems a couple of years before your Element was manufactured, it is possible that some problems remained. On some 2000-2002 models, Honda wound up giving an extended transmission warranty up to 100k.

Since it is possible that similar durability problems are now cropping up on newer Hondas, I would suggest that you take the car to the dealership. With any luck, Honda may be willing to repair it gratis, or at a reduced cost.