Learn about common problems with Honda automatic transmissions, typical symptoms and how to check a few basic items yourself.
The early 2000s V6 Honda models such as Odyssey and Accord had higher than normal automatic transmission failures.
Newer models are not troublefree either. 2015-2018 Honda and Acura vehicles with ZF 9HP 9-speed automatic transmission were recalled due to problems with gasket leaks that allowed engine coolant and transmission fluid to mix. Once coolant mixes with the transmission fluid, it destroys the transmission bands and requires a complete transmission rebuild.
What you may notice when Honda transmission fails:
In most cases, one to two symptoms will be present depending on the problem affecting your Honda transmission.
Symptoms range from delayed engaged, engine revving up, check engine light stays on, "D" light flashing.
These symptoms are eventually followed by a transmission that slips, goes in and out of gear, and if these symptoms are ignored they will eventually lead to complete transmission failure.
If your Honda transmission is starting to act up, diagnose it immediately to avoid causing further damage to the transmission.
Check the transmission fluid level as soon as possible. If the level is low, add the recommended Honda transmission fluid.
Signs that your Honda transmission may be low on the transmission fluid include delayed engagement, transmission slipping and rough shifts between gears.
This is a very simple procedure and only takes less than five minutes.
If your transmission fluid level is low, add the recommended Honda transmission fluid that is specified in your owner's manual.
Low transmission fluid level can cause the engine to rev up when the automatic transmission changes gears. It can also cause the transmission to bang into gear or whining noise coming from the transmission.
Transmission problems will in most cases generate a fault code. Transmission-specific fault codes get stored in the transmission control unit and will not always set the "check engine light".
Generic OBD2 scanners cannot read transmission fault codes. In addition to diagnosing the check engine light, your scanner needs to diagnose the transmission module as well.
A scanner that can diagnose Honda transmission problems. Here are a few popular choices.
These scanners can read and clear fault codes from the transmission module.
If you have a scanner that is designed for Honda, it is a good idea to perform a full system scan which will read codes in all modules.
Sometimes a problem with the mass air flow sensor, Powertrain Control Module PCM or VSS can be the issue that is causing your transmission to not shift, shift erratically or go into limp mode.
On Honda equipped with the four-cylinder engine, the problem could be due to TCC lock-up solenoid. This may be the problem if you are getting fault code P1735.
Using a digital multimeter, you can perform a TCC lock-up solenoid test by meaning the resistance. The TCC solid does not need to be removed from the vehicle, it just needs to be disconnected.
Follow this guide on how to perform TCC lock-up solenoid test.
Honda Transmission Control Module (TCM) may malfunction.
Honda transmission problems can also be caused due to TCM software keeping the torque converter engaged even when the vehicle is stopped. This condition puts unnecessary stress on the transmission and can shorten the life of the transmission.
Honda has come up with a transmission software update that can prevent the lockup clutch from always staying engaged.
Call your Honda dealer give them your VIN and ask if there is a transmission software update. The dealer may be able to let you know over the phone, or they may require you to take the car in to verify.
Hondas that are equipped with the latest 10-speed automatic transmission are very sensitive to voltage fluctuations.
Low voltage can cause the TCM to reboot which places the transmission in Park or Neutral.
If your Honda is affected by the recall take it to the dealer to get it serviced. If not, ensure your Honda battery is fully charged. Read fault codes from the transmission module to find out if the codes are voltage related.
Only use the recommend Honda transmission fluid. Using aftermarket transmission fluid can lead to erratic shifting or premature gearbox failure.
On high mileage vehicles, metal particles in the transmission fluid can cause solenoid failure. Metal from the torque converter or clutches is carried in the transmission fluid which then gets into the solenoids.
To fix this problem, you will need to do a complete transmission fluid flush and in some cases, you may even need to replace the valve body.
Keep in mind that the transmission fluid pan only holds about 1/3 of the fluid. The rest of transmission fluid is in the torque converter, lines and cooler. To get a 100% transmission fluid change, you will need to perform a flush. If you are changing the transmission fluid every 30,000 it is not necessary to perform a flush.
To extend the life of your Honda transmission, it is strongly recommended to change the transmission fluid and filter at the recommended interval. Honda recommends changing transmission fluid between 60,000 and 90,000 miles depending on the transmission model. In some models, Honda transmission filters are considered lifetime filters and can not be easily serviced.
Using the correct transmission fluid in your Honda is very critical. The transmission fluid that you must use depends on the type of transmission installed in your car. Transmisison and fluid type are listed in your owners manual.
Here is a list of various Honda transmission fluids:
The correct transmission fluid is indicated in your owners manual.
Call any Honda dealer and provide them with the VIN. Ask if there are any recalls that may affect your vehicle. If not ask if they will offer a "Goodwill repair".
If your Honda is not covered by the dealer here are some of your options:
Honda has recalled millions of Honda Accords, Odysseys, and Pilots due to transmission problems. You can check if there is an open recall for your vehicle by going to the NHTSA Website and entering your VIN.
While there are hundreds of possible fault codes, here is a list of the most common Honda transmission fault codes.
Not all Honda transmission fail. In those that do, a common problem with Honda transmission is inadequate cooling of transmission fluid.
Transmission fluid that's not cooled enough causes gears to overheat, more especially the second gear. Extreme heat causes the transmission fluid to break down, which causes internal transmission failure.
For models that had this issue, Honda issued a recall where a transmission fluid cooler was installed to address the issue.
2000 Acura TL (M7WA)
2001–2003 Acura CL (BGFA)
2001–2003 Acura CL (MGFA)
2001–2003 Acura TL (B7WA)
2001 Acura MDX (MGHA)
2002–2006 Acura RSX - base model only. (MRMA)
2002 Acura MDX (BGHA)
2002–2004 Honda Odyssey (BYBA)
2005–2006 Honda Odyssey (BGRA)
2003–2004 Honda Accord (MAYA)
2003–2004 Honda Accord (MCLA)
2003–2004 Acura MDX (MDKA)
2006–2014 Honda Ridgeline (BJFA)
2003–2004 Honda Pilot (BVGA)
2005–2015 Honda Pilot (BVLA)
2003–2005 Honda Accord (BAYA)
2003–2005 Honda Accord (BCLA)
2006–2012 Acura RDX (BWEA)
2004–2007 Saturn Vue (MDRA front wheel drive, MDPA all-wheel drive)