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Why is Honda picky about fluids?

Are Honda fluids (brake,transmission,power steering) really that different from generic off the shelf fluids? I recently had the brake fluid flushed/changed on our 2005 CRV and forgot to ask for Honda fluid at the independent shop I use. Thanks in advance for your comments.

Honda does not manufacture its fluids. It buys them from outside suppliers. They recommend Honda-branded fluids because they make lots of money selling them. I’ve successfully used generic oil, brake fluid, and coolant in my Honda for many years with no problems.

The only exception to this is transmission and differential fluids and lubes. I think it’s worth the extra money to use Honda brand fluids and lubes in these applications.

If your CR-V is the AWD version keeping the rear differential maintained according to the factory schedule is particularly important.

Honda recommends Honda brand fluids because they can charge more for them than you pay otherwise. In some cases it makes sense to use their fluid, but in your case, the brake fluid in your brake system is just fine.

For a long time I used Honda manual transmission fluid, but now I use synthetic 10W-30 oil. However, if I had an automatic, I would use Honda ATF. You can find other brands of power steering fluid that will work in a Honda, but it is usually easier just to use the Honda brand.

I have been using non-Honda brand brake fluid in my brakes and clutch for more than eight years with no problems.

Any kind of brake fluid is fine in your Honda as long as it is DOT 3 or DOT 4. The only kinds of fluids you need to be concerned about are transmission fluid and power steering fluid. Honda definitely uses a different kind of power steering fluid than other makes, and any newer make including Honda has specs for their transmission fluids which must be met or the transmission will fail. The transmission fluids and power steering fluids do not need to be bought at the Honda dealership, they just have to meet specs for use in your Honda vehicle.

The only item of concern with Honda’s is the transmission fluid if automatic. Honda’s are delicate in that area.

Also I forgot for AWD the rear diff fluid should be Honda’s or meet their spec. They have had issues with it in various years.

I drive a 2003 Acura MDX and had the same question as the manual says only Honda brand brake fluid. I called the local Advance Auto parts and he said what Honda uses is mineral based and what he sells is silicon based. He said if I used the non-Honda fluid, I would later have to have the system flushed which would cost about $150+ dollars. Since there is no local dealer, and I really don’t want to drive over an hour just to buy a bottle of brake fluid, I’m looking online to see if I can buy some that way.

I wouldn’t treat as gospel something that an auto parts store employee says. You should be flushing your brake system every 2-3 years anyway to properly maintain it, and if you shop around, you can get it done for less. It isn’t that hard to do if you know how to follow instructions, but it will be a little easier if you have a helper.

My 1998 Honda Civic has 195,000 miles on it, and I have never used Honda brake fluid in my brake system or my clutch, and both are doing fine.

Advance guy was wrong, Honda recommends a Dot 3 (or 4) fluid: what does your manual say? Most of what he sells is not silicone based, but glycol based.

Two reasons…First, selling all these different “special” fluids is a profit center for Honda…Every penny counts…

Second, in the event of a failure of an expensive part that is covered under warranty, if they can detect or somehow prove you did not use the Honda product at the specified time, they can deny the claim…These requirements tend to keep people coming back for service in the dealers shop so the proper documentation is maintained…

Keep in mind the Magnuson-Moss warranty act. If a special brand fluid or part is required to maintain the warranty, then Honda must supply it free of charge.

The replacement should be a non-silicone, synthetic DOT3 or DOT4 fluid with the highest boiling point you can find. I bought a quart of Valvoline at Advance and it works great. I’ll change the fluid in the spring and use the same fluid. BTW, I have a 2005 Accord EX-V6 with disc brakes on 4 wheels.

Yes, they want you to spend money on them, but they also save a lot of money in testing by telling you to buy their branded stuff. If you do enough research, you may find a substitute fluid like I did. But it probably doesn’t cost a lot more over the long run, especially considering how long the change intervals are.