Transmission help!

I just found out that my 2001 very-well-taken-care-of Honda Civic (81,000 miles) needs a new transmission. I had the transmission flushed in 8/2008 (at 75,000 miles) at a cheap oil change place. Is it true that if they put the wrong transmission fluid in, it could have ruined my transmission? I’m having a hard time not linking these two events together (transmission flush and failed transmission). After I had the flush, I thought the car sounded funny, but it seemed to run fine until the day it died while I was driving. UGH!

First, find out if your Honda requires special “Honda Only” transmission fluid or does it use one of the more common types of fluid.

If it uses special fluid, go back to the place that performed the service and ask them if they stocked the special fluid required by your car. If they don’t, THEN pull out your receipt for the tranny flush and ask them what type of fluid they put in your car since they don’t stock the correct fluid…

If your car uses a common fluid type, you are wasting your time trying to blame the lube shop…Hondas reputation far exceeds their actual performance. Junkyards are full of Hondas with blown transmissions…

Well, I see several potential problems here.

  1. Was the transmission ever serviced prior to that flush at 75k?
    If not, then you yourself caused some damage to the transmission by not changing the fluid at 30k and at 60k.

  2. While Hondas have a generally well-earned reputation for durability, unfortunately their transmissions–especially on Hondas of your era–have not held up well. If someone has properly maintained his transmission (and can prove it) Honda has been known to do half-price “goodwill” repairs/overhauls on transmissions that fail within a certain time and odometer mileage limit. If your transmission fluid was changed properly at 30k and at 60k, and you can substantiate it with documentation, then it is worthwhile to make a phone call to Honda of America. If you cannot substantiate proper service of the transmission, don’t waste your time.

  3. Quick lube places are notorious for screwing up even relatively straightforward procedures like oil changes, with the result being ruined engines. It is certainly believeable that they could have screwed up with a transmission flush, especially since this requires that the filter be changed prior to the flush, and given the necessity of dropping the transmission pan in order to change the filter–which I doubt that these places would even attempt, given their very low level of expertise–it is very likely that damage was done by the flush, and that damage could have resulted from incorrect flush procedure, or from incorrect fluid, or both.

So–please give us the maintenance history of this car. If it does not include transmission service prior to 75k, then you bear a major part of the responsibility. And, whether it was serviced prior to 75k or not, I question the wisdom of entrusting something as complex as a transmission to a quick lube place.

I am NOT minimizing their responsibility to perform service procedures correctly, so if you can substantiate that they did not use Honda-spec fluid, then you should definitely go after them in the legal arena. However, the fact remains that you are exposing the car to increased hazards by using these places, and they are best avoided.

I have an '03 Honda Civic, here’s what the manual says.

“Always use Honda ATF-Z1 (Automatic Transmission Fluid). If it is not available, you may use a DEXRON III automatic transmission fluid as a temporary replacement. However, continued use can affect shift quality. Have the transmission flushed and refilled with Honda ATF-Z1 as soon as convenient.”

The key word is “temporary” regarding the use of DEXRON III. Using a non Honda fluid may cause your transmission to fail. Check your car’s owners manual. It is page 212 in mine.

As per the manual on the service interval for an AT. Normal maintenance schedule is replace at 120,000 miles or 6 years, then every 90K miles or 5 years. The Severe maintenance schedule is at 60K miles or 3 years, then every 30K miles or 2 years.

Your car should follow the severe schedule because you drive few miles per year. That means the 1st AT fluid change in 2004, then 2006, then 2008.

Conclusion, if the quick lube place used DEXRON III that is part of the problem. If the 1st transmission fluid change came in 2008 at 75K miles then the transmission was overdue for service, which is the second contributing factor to the failure.

After reading posts on this site I’ve come to believe that auto transmissions are very sensitive to the proper fluid and it just might be worth the few extra bucks to be sure to use the car mfgs brand fluid in an automatic transmission. Certainly quickie lube shops are likely to use generic fluids and that can spell big expensive trouble.

From reading your post, here are the problems I see.

#1. Transmission flushed.
#2. Transmission flushed by cheap oil change place.
#3. Most likely wrong fluid. This trans NEEDS HONDA fluid which is expensive and not normally carried by cheap oil change places.
#4. After the flush the car sounded funny.

Honda’s are pretty much the easiest transmissions to service. Much easier than changing engine oil. All you need to do to a Honda is #1. Remove drain plug and let drain into pan. #2. Replace drain plug and refill using Honda fluid. Done. Do this every 25-30k miles.

What exactly is the trans doing??



there are transmission fluids made by reputable manufacturers (sorry, can’t remember which ones) that say specifically that they are direct replacements for the Honda ATF-Z1.

Do you have any experience with these fluids? They’re half the price of the Honda fluid, but I chickened out and put true blue Honda fluid in the wife’s Accord. The dire warning quoted by Uncle Turbo put the fear in me, as I’m sure it was intended.