Replace the transmission or call it quits? (In a Honda Accord)

Hi Everyone!

I posted a question a few days ago about the transmission in my 98 Honda Accord. I took it to AMMCO and they found that the transmission is indeed the issue. They offered to replace the transmission for a little over $2,000. My question… Is it worth it? The car is a 98 Honda Accord LX. It has 162,000 miles. It is a Honda, and as the transmission mechanic pointed out, they can and often do last well into the 200,000 miles range. I am stuck between paying to have the transmission replaced or calling it quits and dealing with a car payment every month.

First off, AAMCO stands for All Automatics Must Come Out. I would seek s second opinion from a qualified independent shop. Click on MECHANIC’S FILES at the top of this page for one near you.

I agree. Always Ask another Mechanic to Check it Out.
Always get a second opinion, preferably from and independently owned and operated shop rather than a chain.

Assuming that the rest of the vehicle is in good shape, you’re smart to consider repairing it, even if it turns out to cost $2K. Where else are you going to find another car with a known history for $2K?

Welcome back @Nicole,

I strongly agree with @MG McAnick: Stay away from Aamco and any other national chain transmission shop like Lee Myles, Mr. Transmission, etc. Find a local independent business instead. The diagnosis may be the same, but the integrity will be vastly superior. And at an independent, you have a good chance that they will actually tell you if there’s an alternative solution, like some electronic sensor for example. It probably isn’t that simple, but there’s a chance.

Whether your car is worth the trans rebuild is uncertain. If the engine, body, interior, and glass are at least good, then it may well be worth it. If instead the car looks ragged, or you’d be uncomfortable showing up at that new job you will get after graduation, then maybe you’ll decide to give it up. You have said you really like this car. That’s one key consideration. If it looks and runs good, I’d suggest that before you decide to even consider replacing the transmission, find a local independent general mechanic who can spend half an hour evaluating the car to identify any issues which may not be evident to you. Make sure the mechanic knows you are trying to make a decision about the transmission. That might cost you $50 for his time.

If the signs are good, then find that transmission specialist. If they quote you close to $2000 for the transmission rebuild, think about what $2000 would buy you for another comparable car (which might have a transmission ready to die).

Another option is a used transmission from a salvage yard. Cheaper, less reliable, but a potential solution which either the general mechanic or the transmission shop could advise you about. The remove/replace cost, plus the purchase price, might not pencil out, but be aware of the option.

But do I remember that there was some issue about low oil or low coolant, or both? That should be a top consideration. Be sure to mention that to the mechanic doing the evaluation, he might do a few tests to judge the state of the engine. If the engine has been damaged, then I think you should move on.

I agree with all comments above. You need a second opinion and stay away from AAMCO and all other chain shops.

Assuming that the trans is found in need of expensive work, you might ask a scrapyard if they can find one for you with lower mileage. With that you might get a few more years from the car. If the supply of these is exhausted, at least you asked the question. We had the same problem as you with my parents car a long time ago during a difficult time. A scrapyard trans got a few more years from the car. The people from the scrapyard did the transplant.

Now you can see why I prefer to avoid cars with automatic transmissions. Two of our three cars have manual transmissions and I wish it was three out of three. A dead automatic trans hit my parents’ financial situation at the worst possible time in their lives.

FYI, here is her earlier thread.

Stay away from AAMCO. Please reread my post to your earlier thread. I still doubt that you need a new transmission.

Why go to an independent auto transmission shop? What do they have that AAMCO doesn’t?

The owner is a qualified repairman that knows enough that he can make a living as a specialist. Young mechanics that want to learn how to repair a transmission go to work at the chain stores. The chains don’t pay enough to have experienced mechanics around for long. They can only afford the inexperienced ones. And even if the indy shop has young mechanics, they can get a solid opinion from the master mechanic quickly.

To answer the poster’s question… Before changing the transmission have the following known problem areas inspected. 1- Front sub-frame, 2- brake lines, 3- fuel line, 4- power steering lines. Each of these is prone to corrosion and, especially for the first two, expensive to repair. If they are in good shape and the rest of the car is in good condition then I would take a chance on replacing the transmission.

Thank you for the great answers! From the last 2 posts, I have gathered that independent mechanics are the way to go. Here is the issue, I don’t have one near me that I actually trust. I go to the dealership because one night I broke down and 3 of the mechanics there stayed after hours to fix the car and asked for nothing in return. I did later send them thank you’s with gift cards, but my point is, I have tried the independent mechanics in the area and I haven’t had any luck. I don’t live in a nice area, and the mechanics around here are used to doing the cheapest possible thing to buy time. This is not something I have ever believed in. Since writing the original post I have had time for the shock to wear off. I realized that the transmission has not been the only issue as of late. When it is warm outside and I drive the car there is a strong odor of gasoline. The A/C hasn’t worked in over a year and for the past 2 1/2 years I have had to bang on the dash where the temp gauge is to get it to work.

I wish I knew more about cars, and I wish I had a teacher other than Youtube, but I don’t so maybe it is time for me to let go (even though the mere thought makes me cringe). The mechanic at AMMCO wants to buy the car, which brings me to another question… how do I know what to charge!!! There isn’t exactly an option in the Kelly Blue book for a car with these issues. I am fresh out of college so I need as much as I can get, but how do I know whether or not I will get more for it from the trans mechanic vs. scrap yard. :frowning:

@Keith, I mentioned your suggestion to a few people and nobody will do it. I am also kind of stuck because having it towed somewhere is going to be costly. I love this car and would do anything to have it back but I don’t seem to have that option.

I have started the search for a new car and I am in need of a mechanic for that now, too. When trying to find this person what do you look for???

Nicole, I fear you are about to make a costly mistake. I have a 97 Accord with 185 k miles on it and have had the same issues with the distributor O-ring and the leaking heater hose. You have the same transmission and it is not one of the problematic ones that someone here referred to. The transmission does have a issue with shifting when cold, but changing to the new ATF will correct a lot of that.

If the D4 light in the instrument display panel lights up and does not blink when you put it in D4 (drive), then the transmission is very likely OK. If it does not light up when selected, but all the others do when selected, or it blinks, then there is a problem. But if you get a good steady light in D4 but feel like you are having a problem, it is most likely with the engine and will probably be easy to fix.

Tell us exactly why you think you have a transmission problem. What is it doing or not doing?

BTW, Honda seems to do a pretty good job of policing its mechanics and dealers. If you like the dealer, then you should continue to go there. I usually do all my own work, but I will use my Honda dealers mechanics before I would go to an independent around here, although there are a few good independents in this area.

The Honda dealer should have no problem doing a simple drain and refill on your transmission. The new ATF is compatible with the old so a flush is not needed, and for your year vehicle, Honda specifically recommends against flushing the transmission.

If your Accord does not have any body damage and the interior is not badly stained, you are certainly justified in asking the good condition price for the vehicle. I’m pretty sure the AAMCO tech knows that there really isn’t anything wrong with your car, he is just looking for a bargain. Some of those guys are always on the lookout for something they can get cheap, drive for awhile and then sell for a profit, kind of like insider trading.

Hondas are good reliable cars and I think you should be able to get 250K out of your car easily, provided the routine maintenance has been kept up to date 'til now. Auto xmissions tend to fail at about the mileage you have, so this is not an uncommon problem. But there is still plenty of life in your car expect. One consideration is reliability. 150K+ mileage cars just will never be as reliable as a new car. All the parts – while still working and serviceable – are older and wearing out, the rubber parts are deteriorating month by month. So if you just cannot tolerate your car being out of service at times, then the best solution for you may be to exchange this car for a new or newer one.

The best way to find a good xmission shop is to ask your regular mechanic for a recommendation. If you don’t have a regular mechanic, ask friends coworkers who they use, then go to the shop and tell them you so and so said you should see them, and are seeking out the best xmission shop in town and would appreciate their recommendation. The pro inde mechanics in town probably all agree to a person which xmission shop is the best, because they’ve used all of them and found out which one produces the best results. Xmission repair is sort of like surgery, it isn’t that difficult as far as what needs to be done on a step by step basis, but all the parts needed for the rebuild have be be ordered-up and available up front, pre-verified to be the right part numbers for the job, pre-tested so they are known to be good, the job has do be done in the right order, every step has to be double checked, and cleanliness is an absolute must.

The xmssion shop I used to have my Ford truck auto xmission rebuilt – recommended to me by an inde mechanic – the xmission shop owner, for each rebuild in process, he had a long list of procedures written on a form with checkboxes – and he would not allow his employees doing the rebuild job to proceed to the next step until he had inspected the current work, and signed the tracking form. While I was there one of the employees came in to show him the xmission pan he was cleaning. The owner inspeccted it under one of those circular lab lights with a magnifying glass on the inside, tilting the pan this way and that, very carefully. Finally the owner said to the tech that there were stil some dirt spots on it, and go back and clean it better. That’s the kind of shop you want. Whether that shop is AAMCO or not, well the only way to know is to ask people who have experience using the various available shops. Best of luck.

I got the hose issue fixed last month so it’s not that I am concerned about. I was told about a year ago by the Honda mechanic that I had a leak in my transmission. This is not the cause of the issues though because I checked before having it towed to AMMCO and the level was fine. The car has done this jerking thing when I put the car into D. It doesn’t always do it, in fact it mainly does it when it is hot out and hardly ever does it when it is raining. It started out small, but after having the hose work done it all of a sudden became more of a violent jerk. I have never been rear ended by another car, but I am thinking this feels like that would. It also made more of a sound when I put it in D. I continued driving it even with this issue because I had no choice. I tried driving it one day last week and it would not go over 20 mph. When i tried the engine revs but the speed will not increase and it will not shift.

Oh! And I don’t know if this is related but I noticed a sound once or twice after I turned the car off. It was like a knocking sound from under the hood. It wasn’t a loud sound, but one that I had never heard before.

Have you had this happen?

When the xmission on my Ford truck failed, the engine would rev but the truck wouldn’t go, or not go very fast. I’d come to a stop light, then when the light would turn green I’d step on the gas and the engine would rev but the truck wouldn’t move. If I shifted between neurtral and drive eventually I could get it going. In my case the problem was worse in cold weather. After the xmission was rebuilt, all that went away, and it has worked like new since.

Sounds? No, there were no unusual sounds in my case.

Thanks @GeorgeSanJose!

@Keith, what are your thoughts?


I help maintain my family’s fleet of Hondas, including our current 1998 Accord LX, and former 99 Accord Lx, and 99 Accord EX.

The miles on these cars ranged from 66,000 miles to 250,000 miles and I never had a transmission issue. I think there are a few things to look into that are common problems before going to the transmission. First, check your tranny fluid. With the car off, pull out the tranny dipstick. Is the resevoir empty? Do you smell a burnt smell? Like someone said earlier, I have seen D4 blink, check engine come on when there was a trouble code. You could try as a last resort driving it like a manual. Start out in 1st gear, then shift into 2nd. I know people with Honda Odysseys that drive a bad tranny like that. Probably not good for it, but if that works then it looks like you have a bad torque convertor or bad gear.

Other issues that are common, and I have seen maintaining 3 cars identical to yours are: Ignition switch, engine control module, or catalytic convertor (exhaust). On my 99 V6, coolant leaked on the ECM, and created an erratic acceleration problem, and caused the car to jerk, and buck like a horse. An uncommon issue, it may happen if coolant leaks on it.

More common with any car is a clogged catalytic convertor. My 1998 accord lx got clogged, and it would not drive over 20 miles per hour like you said. Same thing happened with an old buick i owned, and a volkswagen my sister owned.

Ignition switches are common on Hondas, and was replaced on my 1998 accord lx. When the contacts go bad, sometimes the car shakes violently, stalls, or jerks as the switch is losing power and cutting the engine off and on.

take these all in mind, and good luck.

A failing ignition switch can cause a number of symptoms including what is perceived to be goofy shifting so it’s something to consider. Your car is under a Recall for the switch so you can have this done free of charge at any Honda dealer. There are other Recalls out on this car so ask that they all be done in one shot. It’s all free so take advantage of it.

Many years ago I knew, casually, a guy in another state who had a small transmission shop which was an AAMCO if I remember correctly. He had one employee to do the R & R (remove and replace) transmission work on the cars and the shop manager did the actual rebuilds; something he was very good at.

The problem was that the employee liked drugs that sped up the metabolism and the rebuilder liked drugs that slowed things down. This led to transmissions really stacking up due to the R & R guy having the metabolism of a hummingbird and the rebuilder having one similar to an anemic snail… :slight_smile:

The mechanic at AMMCO wants to buy the car

Besides the fact it’s AMMCO…the fact that one of the mechanics there want’s to buy the vehicle is another red-haring. That is saying to me…there really isn’t a problem with the tranny…they know it…but trying to get you to basically give it to the mechanic. Sorry…but too many red flags.

Find a good independent…or a LOCAL place that specializes in transmissions.

Nicole, it all goes back to that D4 light on the dash. This transmission has a number of solenoids that control the shifting, the good news is that they are mounted to the outside of the transmission and can be replaced without removing the transmission. But when they are not working, either the D4 light will blink or it will fail to illuminate at all. So the D4 light is the first thing to check.

BTW, now that you have graduated, have you found a suitable job? I only ask this because maybe you are in a position to just buy a new car and that is what you really want to do. If that is the case, yo do not need an excuse to go ahead and buy a new one, just do it. But if you are still looking, or are paying off massive student debts so the wise choice is to keep the current car, then I will be glad to help as much as I can by giving you the best advice I can.

As I said before, I suspect that the oil leak was from the distributor oil seal, when that one leaks, it damages the heater hose and gets oil all over the transmission, making it look like it is leaking. This has not been addressed, but the ATF should have been drained and refilled about every 30k miles. If this hasn’t been done, then it must be done ASAP.

You stated that you checked the fluid level and it was OK, but what did it look like? was it a nice bright clear red or was is cloudy with a brown tinge, or worse, did it look like the engine oil right before it gets an oil change? You would be surprised what fresh ATF can do for a transmission.

One other thing that could cause a problem would be a clogged cooler in the radiator. The transmission fluid goes through a coil in the bottom of the radiator to be cooled. If this clogs up, it could cause a problem. The dealer can disconnect the cooling lines and check that there is flow through them. If not, there is a specified flush of the cooling coil that is authorized and recommended by Honda for this case, but Honda recommends against flushing the transmission itself.

Thank you everyone for the advice! All of this is very overwhleming, but you are making me realize more and more that no matter what I have to try to find someone for a second opinion! Now, that is definitely easier said then done, but I have to try and figure it out.

The D4 light wouldn’t come on once or twice about a month ago. There was no blinking, it just wouldn’t come on. It really freaked me out, but it didn’t continue so I didn’t think to make the connection.

Also, the steering wheel squeels when I turn it on cold mornings. Any connection? Since the ignition was mentioned, I should also mention that sometimes I have to try to turn the key in the door quite a few times before it will unlock. It has been this way for years, but could it also be a factor?

@Keith, nope no job and I am definitely not looking for the justification to jump into a new (used) car! The plan was to get the job and then maybe start a slow search for a new car so that I would have it when I began my Masters program in a year. I am hoping very much that I can find a trustworthy mechanic and that the issue is something a lot less costly than a transmission.

I will look at the mechanics listed on this site, but I really wish I could just ask y’all for recommendations for my area.

Thank you!!