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Honda Odyssey out of gear

I have an old (mid-'90s) Honda Odyssey that has generally worked great. Yesterday, it struggled to get up an icy driveway (since it does not have four-wheel drive) and once at the top seemed to to disengage from fourth gear into neutral, though it was still in fourth. After turning off the car and restarting, it engaged fine.
Today the same thing happened on a level, non-icy surface after a few minutes of driving at slow speed. Is it possible to avoid this problem by driving in a lower gear to begin with?
Any repairs would likely cost more than the car is worth, but I want to keep driving it – safely – as long as possible.

You were not in 4th gear at the top off driveway. Why do you think you were in 4 th gear at 5mph? Or less?

I’m not sure what you mean. (I’m no car expert.) I had the car in fourth gear, whatever it was doing.

You maybe low on transmission fluid, so check the transmission fluid level.

Thanks! I will check that out.

Ok. I understand. You had gear selector in “D” or drive which allows car to shift into overdrive or typically 4th gear. As car slows down, it automatically shifts into lower gear. So when you are driving slow, say 10mph you will actually be in 1st gear. Loosing OD is a typical problem. But your issue is car is skipping into neutral or it slips so much it feels like neutral. Bottom line is you do not move. Yes, checking fluid level is first step. But, a trans with lots of slippage usually indicates other problems.

Is this an automatic or manual tranny? If it’s a manual, your clutch is slipping. The condition under which a worn clutch is most likely to start slipping is in high gear under high load.

Thanks all. It’s automatic, so I’m hoping it’s just the fluid level.

All Honda automatic transmission fluid level checks are done with the trans warm and OFF. Not on, like other brands. Also Honda brand fluid, from a Honda dealer, is what you want to use. Sounds like you got it pretty hot, you should change the fluid, just a drain and fill, it takes 3 quarts, there is a drain plug, fill it thru the dipstick. There is no drain pan or serviceable filter.

Does the D4 light blink?

No, the D4 light does not blink.

Looks like the transmission is done for. Thanks to everyone for input.

@jyoung you sound pretty sure. Did a shop diagnose it? Was it really obvious for them? I assume the fluid level was fine and it didn’t smell burnt?

Yes, a shop diagnosed and said there was no doubt. The fluid was fine with lots of metal shavings in it.

What shop told you this? There are a lot of shops out there where that is the ONLY answer they give. You really should go to the dealer with this because among other things, there was an extended warrantee offered by Honda on some Odyssey transmissions.

BTW, if the transmission was having a problem, the D4 light would blink, its the equivalent of teh check engine light for the transmission.

@jyoung metal shavings do indeed mean major mechanical damage. Will that shop overhaul your transmission or install an already overhauled transmission?

I’d like to know how they determined that there were metal shavings in the ATF. They would have to drain the fluid to find out as it wont be on the dipstick. The ATF is a very light oil so any metal shavings will quickly settle to the bottom of the transmission. The metal shavings that have iron in them will be attracted to the plug. so unless they drained the transmission, I am not buying the “metal shavings” diagnosis.