My Honda has the Shakes

A little history on my little car: I have a 1996 Honda Accord EX, 4 cylinder V-tech coupe. I purchased the car from a private owner, who kept all service records, several years ago. It was in great physical shape, had 45,000 miles and drove pretty well at the time. Pretty much immediately after my purchase, I had to have all CV joints changed, and everything has been downhill from there. I have attempted to maintain the car and perform preventative maintenance over the years(all oil changes on time), but I have had so many things go wrong…

The first major problem occured when I was driving home from work 3 years ago and all the oil fell out of my car. I stopped immediately at the nearest service center and had to have it towed to an engine shop (in case it was a serious engine issue)and found that the oil pump and several gaskets had failed. So I got those replaced and had the timing belt changed as a preventative measure, which cost about $850. I have had all the breaks, which I expected to have to change, done about twice, since I’ve had it. I had to have my transmission replaced in March 2009 at 120,000 miles when the car just stopped driving one day. Luckily, it stopped at a spot where I could safely pull off the road. I had it towed from Lafayette back to New Orleans where the transmission was rebuilt. I contacted the Honda people to ask about any recalls or problems with my years and model, but all they said was “…but the car is 13 years old…” So, no help from them. Even after the supposed “rebuilding,” though, it still jumps between gears and drives like crap. The Honda people even told me my troubles were a bit pre-mature at only 120,000 miles. After all, Hondas are supposed to be one of the longest lasting, most dependable cars on the road, right??? Since my transmission died, I have only learned more and more bad things about Honda transmissions. My little sister’s '99 Accord transmission went out right after mine, another $2,000 bill. Although the car doesn’t drive “well” it does drive, so I guess this is good.

My latest problem has been a severe shaking in the tires when I slow down from any speed. The ABS system has been going out for a long time now and making a severely obnoxious, loud noise when I turn the car on (kind of like baaaaaaaaaaaa! which lasts for several minutes, then the light turns on); but everyone I asked about it said it was too expensive to fix (around $2000), and wouldn’t pose any serious danger if I left it as it was. Well, I recently found some mechanic friends, who I think are pretty trustworthy, tell me they thought the ABS was causing the shake because the brakes were pulling unevenly on the tires during the breaking process. This sounded logical to me, and they said they could fix it for cheap, so we found a used ABS brain in a junk yard for $100 and decided to give it a try. My guy also found that I needed a new break caliper during the job, so we changed that out, too. It turned out the ABS brain had some of the same problems as the original one, so we had to get another one and repeat the process… I got my car back tonight, and the light is off, there is no noise, but the shake is as terrible as ever! I just had 2 new tires put on the front of the car, so I know it’s not that. I am going back to Firestone to see if they will re-balance them anyway, just in case that would help at all. If anyone has an idea of what might be causing this awful shake, please help! It feels like the tires are going to fly off of the car when I slow down, even from low speeds (35MPH). The problem started well after the ABS light came on, so I really have no idea what the problem could be, and I certainly don’t have the money to go to the dealership. My mechanic friends work in a body shop and only have limited abilities when it comes to in-depth diagnosis. If you have any suggestions, I sure would appreciate some guidance! Thanks so much.

P.S. Even though I am obviously frustrated with my little car, I would never let it know that. I still talk sweetly to it and encourage it while we’re driving. I still have faith…

I hope your rebuilt transmission was a quality rebuild. When a transmission is replaced, the parts that attach to the outside of the transmission are transferred from the old to the new. Some of these parts may be defective. Have the solenoid pack checked.
There is a technique to get the transmission trouble codes. The flashes of the transmission gear indicator light, the D4, flash the trouble code. Use the trouble code to troubleshoot. Of course, a transmission shop can do this.
Warped brake rotors can cause the wheels to shake violently, during braking. Worn tie-rod ends can allow the wheels to flop back and forth, also.
There is a fuse you can pull to disable the ABS (Anti-lock Brake System). Years ago, all cars did not have ABS, and people lived without it.

Don’t believe any hype about Honda’s being the longest lasting & durable cars on the road. They are if you put money into regular maintenance and repairing them just like ANY brand.

I think you have had a string of bad luck with this one.

ABS was only available on the EX(your model) in 1996. Pull the fuse and the light will be on and braking will be safe.

I really think you should visit a dealer or independent(trusty/ask around) for a diagnosis/estimate. Expect to pay about $50-$100 for that. I think you will save a significant amount of money vs throwing darts(parts) blindly at it. You can pass the estimate onto friends who then may be able to perform work.

The major issue with the type of problem you have is we cannot feel the car, hear the car or see the car. It could be anywhere.

Best of luck.

You would not need faith if you practiced regular maintenance.For example you might not have had to replace even one transmission if you had the fluid drained and refilled every 30,000 miles.There are alternatives to the (too expensive) dealer and cheap but incompetent friends, They are called independent mechanics, but you have to take your car to them for maintenance.From the history you recite it is clear that you don’t take your car anyplace until it is in disaster mode. Even the best cars need money spent on them every year once they get a few years old. It is cheaper to be proactive than reactive.

If I read your post correctly the shake comes only when you slow down? Is that when you slow down using the brakes? If so I would check for warped rotors first, especially after the stuck caliper as that could be the cause.

Thanks for the response. I asked several people, some who owned their own shops, about disabling the ABS system, but all of them said there was no way to do it. It is fixed now, so not an issue, but obviously was not causing the shake. I will look into the warped rotor. Thanks again.

Wow, thank you so much for this wonderful advice. Just FYI, I did bring the car in at the first sign of problems with pretty much every problem. The most recent shaking, however, has been more of an issue since the initial diagnosis was incorrect and it has been given time to get worse. I posted here for the friendly advice that I am thankful others left me. I think we all do what we can in terms of maintenance. Until I do find that one trusty mechanic, it’s I’m sure it will always be a struggle to get things done right the first time.

That’s correct. I know it’s hard to diagnose something without seeing and hearing it. I think I will try to find a Honda certified mechanic who needs some extra work to take a look at it. I really appreciate your help.

I know every vehicle needs regular maintenance, but I agree that this one has been more of a problem child than most. My sister’s transmission went out not 4 months after purchasing her car. Many people have commented since that Honda transmissions just seem to have some problems.

I will take your advice and go to a certified mechanic to get to the bottom of the shake. It sounds like it may very well be the rotors, but this is for me to pay someone else to find out!

Thanks for your help.