Honda Civic AT - To "flush" or not to flush

I have a '00 Civic EX automatic with 180k trouble-free miles under its belt and I am bringing it in for brakes this afternoon and plan to have the transmission fluid done as well. I had this car in college and a total of 10 years this spring. Overall I realize I’ve been too lax with maintenance items and especially since I can afford it now, I need to be more diligent about it. I’m also interested in trying to DIY some of these things. On to my current dilemma:

About 100k ago I had the transmission “flushed” at Jiffy Lube. I know, it is the worst thing I could probably do. The good news is that my tranny performs the same as it always has. No slipping, no clunking, no resistance when shifting. I want to remedy the fluid situation, but my research has left me wondering what the best move is. On one hand, the Civic’s service manual says “drain and fill” for ATF at regular intervals. On the other hand, I’ve neglected “regular intervals” and probably have some worn out fluid in there. From what I understand, today’s “fluid exchange” units are much easier on the tranny than the old “flush” procedure and use the transmission’s own pump to work the fluid in and old fluid out. I’ve also seen the opinion that if your tranny is working fine now, then a “flush” is probably not going to harm anything.

So out of the two options, should get all that old fluid out (I don’t even know what kind it is) with the exchange machine and move forward from there with a regular “drain and fill” interval, or should I just start draining and filling on an accelerated schedule (say every oil change) for 3-4 times to slowly replace most of the fluid with something like Maxlife, which is a replacement from the Honda Z1. The shop I’m going to pushes BG products, so I know they will want to push the BG Universal ATF, which I think is OK as well. It will just be harder to get to do my own drain and fills in the future. I’m not sure if they will even let me bring my own ATF. If the BG stuff isn’t a replacement for Z1, I might just look for a shop that will perform the service with Maxlife. Thanks for the input.

Just drain and fill every 25-30k miles. Use HONDA ATF ONLY. If you want to use an additive, use Lube Gard in the RED bottle. Honda’s are very picky so dont use other fluids or additives.



Do a drain-and-fill three times right now with only the correct Honda fluid.

Have you been lax with the timing belt as well? If so, realize that you’ll be buying a new engine if it snaps.

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Always listen to transman on a transmission question.

I agree to be sure to use Honda brand fluid in this Civic auto trans. You can take it to Honda dealer for the service, or go to a Honda dealer and purchase the fluid and have a good independent shop do the work. Only do a “flush” if the trans pan is dropped and cleaned with a new filter installed BEFORE a flush is done. I’m not a big fan of flushes because many are done badly especially at quickie service shops.

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If your shop “pushes BG products”, simply bring your own ATF with you, and insist they use it. If they balk, or they don’t want to, go somewhere else.

Thanks for the input. The timing belt and water pump was done when it was supposed to, along with the rest of the belts and the valve cover gasket while everything was apart. I was on top of that one and will probably have it done again this time next year. I commute about 90 miles round trip, so the miles add up quick.

So Transman, there is no “danger” in mixing the old generic Jiffy Lube fluid with new Honda DW-1 fluid ~3qts at a time? Like I said, I don’t know if it is synthetic or what brand it is, and was worried that mixing synthetic with non-synthetic is problematic. I obviously like the drain and fill option because I can start doing that myself as it seems simple enough a job for my novice skill level, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t need to start with completely fresh fluid before going on that interval.

“Just drain and fill every 25-30k miles. Use HONDA ATF ONLY. If you want to use an additive, use Lube Gard in the RED bottle. Honda’s are very picky so dont use other fluids or additives.”

Yea, it has already been said by transman, but repeating is not a bad idea. From now on, be sure to keep up all the maintenance listed in the car’s owner’s manual and for anyone with an automatic transmission, do a fluid change every 25-40,000 miles

For some reason changing the transmission fluid is something most manufacturers fail to list for maintenance. Frankly manual transmission should be changed about every 50 - 100,000 miles.

Note: Flushing is not the same as changing. I suggest only changing (not flush) unless advised to do so by the manufacturer or someone like transman. Use the right fluid and replace the filter if applicable.

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That is the plan Joseph. I could cite a few reasons why I ended up neglecting things, but ultimately it is just stupid. Since moving to Northern VA, I’ve yet to find a shop to stick with, so I guess I’ve avoided going. I used a couple for a while and each time I caught them doing something I didn’t like. For example one shop charged me $200 for a part they never installed and I had to call them out on it. I’d love to find one place and go there for everything and build a relationship. We’ll see what happens with today’s brake job. In the mean time, I think I’ll be buying a case of ATF DW-1 and either putting it in myself or finding some place that will do it without any fuss.

Changing the ATF on a Honda is dead simple. No pan to drop, no filter to change. Just pull the plug and drain, then refill. Not sure, but it should drain about 2.5 qts each time.

If you put the car up on jackstands instead of ramps, there is a procedure that will do a complete fluid exchange, but it takes 12 qts, at least on an Accord of the same vintage.

Drain, refill, start engine, put in gear, run up to 2500 rpm and let transmission shift all the way up and torque converter lock, brake to zero (gently) and repeat run up 4 times. Shut down, drain and refill again. Repeat run up procedure and drain and refill for a total of 4 drain and refills.

BTW, just doing the drain and refill 2x with one run up procedure between will get about 80% of the old fluid out.


The advice given pretty well covers it so the following comment may be nitpicking.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the word “flush” when it comes to services like this. To me it denotes something shoddy and halfaxx and I prefer the term “fluid replacement”.
It’s a matter of semantics I guess, but still… :slight_smile:

Just joined and posted Spam on an old thread.

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Thats an old post…6 years old

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Hi everyone new here so i just bought a 2006 civic it has 206xxx miles on it did a major tune up but noticed when i checked the fluid for trans its really dirty. Now my question is should i do a fluid exchange on this the 3x3 like i have read or just deal with it? so far trans doesnt slip make noise nothing. I am just not sure if i should do it because the miles on it or do it and put a trans additive in it with new filter. PLEASE HELP

You can’t change the filter, the transmission does not have a drain pan. You can drain about 2.5 qts. of the 6 qts. of ATF from the drain plug and refill through the dipstick, or you can take it in for a flush.

I would just drain and refill with the ATF specified and bought from a local Honda dealer. Honda transmissions are very particular will will not perform correctly with the wrong ATF. If you chose to flush, do it at a Honda dealership, a generic transmission shop or independent mechanic will contaminate your transmission even if you use the Honda ATF. Their machines will have had other ATFs in then.

If you chose the DYI drain and fill, check the ATF after a few miles and if still discolored, do another drain and fill. You could do up to three drain and fills closely spaced if you feel there is enough economic life left in the vehicle, i.e you think it can go and you expect to keep it for another 100k miles.

I agree with keith. Do the drain-and-refill three times with only the correct Honda fluid.

You bought a 14-year-old car with more than 200,000 miles on the odometer, and you didn’t get the transmission inspected by your mechanic before you bought it?

I’d get a Honda dealership to flush it out immediately, and then I’d go to an independent mechanic you trust and have the entire car checked thoroughly, because there is no telling what else you’ll find after finding something this obvious.

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That needs to be repeated, and emphasized. Honda’s transmissions are very “picky” in regard to fluid. If a shop tells you that they can use non-Honda fluid and make it “okay” by using some sort of additive, leave that shop and go to one that understands the importance of using the correct-spec fluid in Honda transmissions.

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