Will replacing auto trans fluid kill my car?

I have a 2002 honda civic lx with an automatic transmission, looks like the previous owners did a fluid replacement at 60k and some other transmission upkeep throughout the years. Im getting close to 120k and Im wondering if replacing the fluid now will kill my transmission. I dont plan on flushing it considering the car is 20 years old now. Any thoughts?

Not replacing the transmission fluid is a guarantee that you’ll kill the transmission.



Absolutely have the fluid replaced, make SURE to use Honda brand fluid, their transmissions are very sensitive to using the correct (not just ‘compatible’) fluid. It’s an old wife’s tale that changing fluid can hurt the transmission.


That’s only 60k miles between changes. That’s not too bad anyway. Probably more than a lot of people do.

On high mileage transmissions, if it fails shortly after a fluid change, it was going to fail anyway.


Thank you so much, should I do it myself or go to a shop.

We don’t know your mechanical skills or if you have the tools to do this. Also the fluid needs to be disposed of properly . Just get a couple of prices from a local garage , it might be a price that you can accept and not have to crawl around under the vehicle.


Up to you. I’d go to a Honda dealer, pay the premium, just to be sure. But that’s me.

1 Like

Here’s more reason to take special care of the tranny:
2002 Honda Civic Problems, Defects & Complaints (carcomplaints.com)

1 Like

I used to be a do-it-myself kind of guy when changing fluids, but stopped doing it a while back. It’s just too messy, and I’ve got other things I’d rather be doing.

When deciding whether to attempt the fluid change yourself, I’d ask myself:

  1. Do I have a flat, safe location to do this work?
  2. Can I get the new fluid on my own?
  3. How am I going to safely, correctly, dispose of the old fluid?
  4. Do I have a clear understanding of how to change the fluid?
  5. Can I clean up any spills or messes?

I might be able to answer “yes” to all of these, even now, but I’d rather drink the “free” coffee in the mechanic’s shop while I read the newspaper. You results may vary.


Haha! thats true, i’ll probably just shell out the $90 at the honda dealer to make sure its done right. I appreciate the response.

Fluid replacement requires that you do it three times. All the fluid is not drained and the way I used to do it on my 2005 Accord was to drain, refill, then go for a short drive to mix the remaining old and new fluid. Then drain, fill, and drive two more times. After the last fill, go for a short drive and check fluid level again. If it’s low, add more.

Flushing at that time was discouraged since the pump used to circulate the transmission fluid could damage the transmission due to high pressure. That may have changed over the years.

If you get it done, don’t use a quick lube place. They use universal transmission fluid and will flush it. After I stopped doing it myself, I found a shop that did it correctly. You can always take it to a Honda dealer.


In their service manuals, Honda specifically recommends that you do NOT flush the transmission.

If you can do an oil change, you can change the ATF, it is actually easier. If this is the 4 speed auto, then it will take 2.5 qts to refill the ATF from a simple drain. There is no pan to remove and the filter is not accessible.

The transmission capacity is 6 qts, so a drain and fill only replaces 2.5 of those qts, 3.5 remain. This is why @jtsanders recommended doing three back to back drain and fills. However this may not be necessary. It would be if you were doing the first ATF drain and fill at 120k+ miles.

Look on the recommended maintenance schedule to see if the ATF is scheduled for every 30k or if it says first change at 90k, then every 30k after. If the latter, then you only need to do one drain and fill, but do it every 30k from now on.

If it says every 30k, then look closely at your ATF in the transmission now. Compare it to fresh ATF still in the bottle. If it is close to the bright red of the bottle, then one change is enough. If it looks washed out, i.e. light pink, then do two a few miles apart. If it has any brown tinge to it, then do three.

Be sure to get your ATF from a dealer and make sure it is for your transmission and not a CVT transmission. If you have a CVT or the 5 speed transmission, then some of the specifics may not match. Also while at the dealer, get a new washer for the drain plug. Use it on the last drain and fill if you are doing multiple drain and fills at this time.


Most cars will never need a trans fluid change, and their demise will not be from a trans problem. But why take a chance if it’s a car you want to keep, or even just want the satisfaction of taking good care of?

I have mine changed every 30,000. The dealer does the Acura and a shop does the Pontiac. Cost is upward of $150. These days some require temperature measurements so not just a DIY project. Transmissions are expensive.

1 Like

It’s been the opposite for me. Transmission is usually the major component that fails or acts weird. Dodge Ram had to have a couple of rebuilds before 200k miles. Buick Lesabre has 185k miles, still going, but the trans slips, shifts hard, etc. I’ve been expecting it to fail for over a year, but it hasn’t lol. That’ll be the end of that car, though, I think.

Maybe I just drive wrong!

But, doing a drain/fill will change some fluid. Vs none.
I did the drain/fill twice in 30 days. 80k miles ago on kids car. Did it last summer when she gave it to me. Thought it would be long gone but here it sits. 1k miles in last 8 months.

I would suggest avoiding a quick lube for a flush. Ensure that a drain/refill is completed. When doing a flush sometimes it will stir up contaminates that sit on the bottom of the transmission, these contaminates sometimes lodge themselves in the valve body and can cause shifting concerns after. This is why the old husbands tale exists about not to service a transmission if it has never been serviced before…


1 Like

And, remove fill plug before draining. Heard that Honda plugs are tight.

I am thinking that show is sponsored by BG??