Honda Accord Trans Maintenance

My post-college daughter is driving our 2003 Honda Accord EX – V-6, Nav, leather, moonroof, etc. It’s our first new car, and it now has 160,000 miles on it. Most mileage has been highway, and since my daughter began driving I suspect maintenance has been, um, spotty.

THE WINDUP: The car had been perfectly maintained up to about 90K miles. At that time we had tranny fluid changed – it’s second flush, with the first at 30K miles.

Recently, my daughter says the transmission has been “jerky” and “shutters” when shifting from R in to D, like when backing out of a parking space and then moving forward. Car drives and shifts fine otherwise, however. (I told her to make certain the vehicle comes to a complete stop before shifting from Reverse to Drive. That helps the shudder a little, she says.)

THE PITCH: We are aware of Honda’s transmission problems. With that in mind, it’s time to get the fluid replaced. Here’s the question: with 160K and “possible” tranny issues, should we go for a power flush, or a simple drain and re-fill?

She needs to keep the car for at least another 2 years, but we do not want to shell out $4,000 for a new transmission, should it die.

The most important thing is to follow the Honda recommendation NEVER to introduce a foreign “cleaning agent” into the transmission, as some shops will do in a “flush” job.

The only “flush” Honda will recommend is a drain/fill/run/repeat with Honda transmission fluid, or just a plain “drain an fill” with Honda fluid.

Beware that the word “flush” means different things to different people. My 2 cents: don’t let an independent shop touch it. Take it to a Honda dealer and they won’t mess it up by “flushing” it with cleaning fluids that could ruin the transmission.

Yes, I agree. This is one of the few jobs that I take mine to the dealership for. Let them do it. They know what to do and, more importantly, what not to do.

This is one of the few times I would suggest taking the car to a Honda dealer.

Let them service the transmission, but don’t let them sell your daughter anything else. They WILL try.

It’s been 70K since the last transmission service. That’s way too long. I’d keep my fingers crossed if I were you.

Good luck.

Yes, unfortunately, they definitely will try to sell her all sorts of “repairs”, especially if the car looks like it hasn’t been maintained.

Have her tell them firmly to service the tranny and not to touch anything else!

No they don’t. I’ve seen dealers, Honda and others try to sell products and services the the Honda owners manual specifically recommend that you do not do. One of these services is a transmission flush. The will try to make money anyway they can.

OK, let’s be clear about the word “flush.” Honda dealers MAY recommend a “flush,” but Honda’s definition of a “flush” is to drain/refill/run/repeat, using Honda fluid. No Honda dealer will run cleaning fluid through the transmission, and that’s the important thing to avoid.

Yes, we’ve already said that Honda dealers will try to sell other unnecessary things. All you can do is tell them to service the transmission and not touch anything else.

The main thing is that Honda dealers DO know not to run cleaning fluid through Honda transmissions.

Agree with taking it to a Honda dealer for trans service. This will insure whatever is done is done properly and the trans is refilled with the proper fluid. Flushes by most providers, quick lubes, chain tire shops, etc. should be avoided.

Then keep doing trans service on the Accord every 30K miles, no more gaps. The “perfect” maintenance up to 90K miles had a 60K interval on the transmission service, that ain’t perfect on a Honda auto trans.

The clunking from R to D might not be trans related. It could be loose CV joints or some other part in the drive train showing its age. Whether or not the clunk goes away keep up with trans maintenance.

As long as I have someone’s attention, what’s the conventional wisdom regarding piston slap? I have (probably) 1 cylinder that demonstrates piston slap for about the first 30 seconds from cold start. Not evident after oil begins to flow and on subsequent starts.

I’ve been told – by the dealer, of course – that piston slap is “perfectly normal” for Hondas. I know this is not repairable, per se, but do we think this is the harbinger of imminent Honda engine doom?

Some of you all are not getting it. Honda dealers are no saints when it comes to following Honda’s recommendations. Some are, but not all. Our dealer at one time would put a graphite additive in the engine if you let them do an oil change. They also offered a transmission flush with a machine, even though Honda recommends against it. BTW, they are no longer in business under this name or this location, but I do believe that they are operating under a different name and in a different location. I haven’t been to the new suspected location.

Honda’s definition of a flush is NOT drain refill, run, repeat. There is a transmission flush description in the FSM, but it flushing out the transmission cooling lines to the radiator with a solvent, no solvent in the transmission itself. There is no other transmission flush definition from Honda.

My factory service manual from Honda for my 1989 Honda Accord says otherwise. Full transmission fluid flush is defined as three consecutive drain and refills, shifting through the gears between each one.

With the miles on this car, I’d chalk it up to a nuisance noise, much like high-mileage Ford’s and Chevy’s with an annoying valve tick during morning start-up. Especially since it goes away. Since my Ford Explorer hit 176,000 miles, the valves tick in the morning for a few seconds until the oil pressure builds up. The truck has 206,000 on it now, and no other signs of impeding doom. The sign of impeding doom is when the noise no longer goes away. THEN, it is time to retire it.

Honda has just changed to a new fluid with friction modifiers for this problem. My 04 Accord started the shutter at 140k and I did a back to back drain and refill and it was fine. Now 210k and no issue. Honda doesn’t flush really my dealer does 2 drain and refills and calls it a flush. Use the Honda fluid regardless.

haven’t read all the posts so far but scanned some. In my opinion, the manual says 60K changes but my wifes accord (2004, 4 cyl, exl) had bearing issues and I changed the fluid (one drop and refill) about every 10-15K. The dealer said every 30K it needs to be changed. I do it every 7-9K now and use castrol import multi-vehicle fluid. They put a rebuilt trans in for me for free at that point (43K) and the car now has 90K on it (so the rebuilt trans has 47K on it). I wouldn’t go as long as you. Granted, I change often but don’t do the dealer method (they drain and refill 4X to get 96% of the fluid changed, do the math if you wish as I think it holds 7 qts and they drop 3 qts). I’ve used the castrol fluid now as it’s about 4 bucks per qt cheaper than the atf Z1 from honda. I haven’t had any issues and the bearing issue was with Z1 fluid so that isn’t any better. I’m going to use ST multi car ATF from wal mart soon. I’ve used the castrol for 2 year in my camry and no issues there either. So, change your trans fluid at least every 30K (if not sooner) and you shouldn’t have issues.

Wow, you guys have some crappy Honda dealers.
My local one actually recommended I wait until 90k miles before I changed my timing belt. I was close on mileage, but the belt was 7 years old by then already, so I just said to go ahead and change it based on time rather than miles.
Never once did they try and sell me anything, they just did what I asked them to do and nothing else. They did alert me to a damaged caliper on my passenger side brake when I asked them to do a brake service and inspection; even walked me out to the shop floor and showed it to me while the car was on the lift. They gave me the option to use Honda parts(warranty), aftermarket ones they had(no warranty), or not to do anything if I chose.

Our dealer at one time would put a graphite additive in the engine if you let them do an oil change.

I had this happen with the Mazda dealership I went to for my CX-7’s first oil change. Couple that with, what the service manager referred to as clerical error, my receipt said 5w20 instead of the 5w30 they were supposed to use. I went to the Honda dealer for my last oil change(Mazda is an hour drive away, I live in Ohio, and it’s January) and they used 5w30 full syn like I asked them to, even left me the bottle with left over oil in it.