Honda Automatic Transmission Failure

Honda AT transmissions are common to have failure and I have rebuilt many of these over the years. Most transmissions have a pan you can remove and service the filter, which is a common service at around 30K to maybe 60K depending on the manufacturer and type of fluid ran in the transmission. Honda automatic transmissions have a closed case design to where there is no serviceable filter. This seem stupid to me because other manufacturers have serviceable filters and they’re going as far as having a screw on style filter along with a serviceable filter in the pan. That would be a Chrysler Jeep AT transmission I’m referring to (funny they offer lifetime powertrain warranty). Anyways, Honda has been designing these transmission this way for ever without problems, they were good transmissions in my opinion. Around the years of the three shaft Honda AT trans “1999 to 2000 and up I believe, don’t quote me on that though” they started using a incased style filter that you would see in a serviceable style pan transmission and that is when I started seeing all these problems with Honda AT transmission failure! Everyone that I seen failed because the non-servicable filter plugged up and the transmission looses line pressure which causes all kind of problems and eventually complete transmission failure. Don’t get this wrong either, the filters are serviceable if you remove the transmission and split the case. That shouldn’t be that hard huh?

Old Style vs New Style Honda AT transmissions

Old Style:

On the older versions of Honda AT transmissions they used a screen that was way under the valve body and separator plate and it would eventually get plugged up, but keep in mind this is a screen not a full on filter so the majority of wear material would just cycle through and get ground up in the pump. You would end up with dirty ATF and you could flush it out, not bad huh?

New Style:

The newer versions used a fiber style filer incased in a plastic housing similar to the ones you would see in a transmission with a removable pan. These filters get plugged up way to easy and cause pre-mature transmission failure.

Honda Automatic Transmission Failure Prevention

So, how would you prevent this from happening to your Honda AT transmission? Well, it would be hard to know for sure if your not the only owner but I would have these transmission serviced way more than the factory recommendations, maybe drain and fill ever 10 – 15K and complete flush every 30K. The problem is that most every one of these Honda’s on the road today are already past that point and have had many owners. The best you could do from here is keep that ATF CLEAN as possible…

Honda Transmission Failure Signs

You may ask, are there signs that I can look for? The most common problem I have seen related to this restricted filter problem will be a delayed engagement from park to drive or reverse. I have also seen them slip after driving for awhile and after you turn it off and restart it works fine again, this is because all the material restricting the filter falls when off and while driving it slowly sucks it back up restricting it to the point where the vehicle will not move. Either way, there is not much you can do at this point except start planning for transmission repair and save your money while you keep driving the car, just baby it around and make sure to have some type of towing coverage.

This post was written by: Martin Hand


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Martin Hand

About Martin Hand

ASE Certified L1 Advanced Mastertech. Martin Hand has over 15 years experience in Asian and European Import Auto Repair. Specializing in electrical diagnosis, engine performance, AT/MT transmission repair/rebuild. Martin is also pursuing a degree in Computers Science & Information Systems starting at Portland Community College while he plans to transfer to OIT. Certified in Java application level programming, experienced with other languages such as PHP, Ruby, JavaScript and Swift. Martin has future plans of automotive diagnostic software development.


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  • ArieleDryer says:

    I just swapped transmissions, same exact car and model both are 99 Civics 1.6L engines. The transmission I was swapping out was one that was having problems and when I took the torque converter off there were little metal bits that someone told me were some plates from the inside.
    I got the second transmission in, this one had 220000 miles on it but it hadn’t been giving any issues. (I knew this was a gamble when I was doing it) The transmissions belonged to me, both of them. I got the engine and trans bolted back into the car and reattached everything, some water (i’d say about three cups) had gotten into the trans through the axle openings and so I did 3 drains and refills, drove the car and did one more. When drove the car it drove great for about 25 miles, then it didn’t seem like it wanted to go into gear. (This is an autotrans) It didn’t act like it was slipping either, but I tested it by pressing the brake down and giving it gas, the car wanted to go forward, there were no tremors, no bad sounds. But it doesn’t seem to be gearing up past 1st or second gear. The engine just revs. Even walking it through the gears starting from the lowest and working my way up to D it just wont commit to those higher gears. Would you have any idea what is going on?

  • NancyGOBarr says:

    Put LucAs Transmission treatment in Did it ruin my seals and filter

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