Troubleshooting Honda Transmission Problems

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. 

Symptoms

honda transmission warnings

What you may notice when Honda transmission fails: 

  • Transmission slips
  • Lack of response
  • Car jerks when accelerating
  • Burning smell  
  • Car refuses to go when in gear
  • Transmission slips when changing gears
  • Whining, clunking or humming noise
  • Transmission is noisy in neutral
  • Transmission pops in and out of gear
  • Transmission slips or won’t engage
  • No 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th Gear
  • The engine revs up before the car starts moving
  • No reverse
  • Thumps or clunks noises when changing gears
  • Check engine light always on  
    • Common codes: P0700, P0730, P0740, P0780, P0705 
  • D, D4 or D3 light flashing
  • A vehicle goes in limp home mode
    • Speed limited to 30 mph

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. 

What to do? 

If your Honda transmission is starting to act up, diagnose it immediately to avoid causing further damage to the transmission. 

Check Transmission Fluid Level

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. 

  1. Drive your Honda for 15 min to warm up the transmission fluid then park it on level ground.parked honda 
  2. Turn off the engine. turn off engine honda civic accord
  3. Open the hood by pulling the hood release under the dashboard. open hood
  4. Locate the transmission fluid dipstick. transmission dipstick
  5. Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean. Note the MIN and MAX marks. Reinsert the dipstick making sure it is fully inserted. check honda transmission fluid
  6. Remove the dipstick to determine the fluid level. The level must be in the area marked as xxxx. transmission fluid level

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. 

Read Transmission Fault Codes

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. 

What you need

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.

Instructions

  1. Locate the OBD-II port under the dashboard. 
  2. Turn on the ignition. 
  3. Allow your scanner to turn on. 
  4. Select your Honda model then go to the Control Unit. 
  5. Select Automatic Transmission menu. 
  6. Scroll down to Read Codes and press enter. 

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

TCC Lockup Solenoid Resistance Test

sensor

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. 

TCM Software Update

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. 

Battery Voltage

low battery voltage causing transmission problems

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. 

Honda issued a recall for this problem where a software update changes the behavior on TCU reboot. NHTSA campaign number: 19V299. Honda recalls are Z4J and Y4K.

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. 

Change Transmission Fluid 

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. 

  1. Drain out the old transmission fluid. 
  2. Clean the drain plug magnet
  3. Add three quarts of genuine Honda transmission fluid.
  4. Check transmission fluid level with engine off. 

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. 

What transmission fluid to use on a Honda? 

recommended honda transmission fluid

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. 

My Honda transmission failed, what should I do?  

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:

Used Honda Transmission

  • This is the cheapest route but the least reliable. A used transmission can be purchased a local salvage yard.
  • A used Honda transmission will cost anywhere from $350 to $600. A local mechanic can install the transmission for $500-$700. 
  • The main disadvantage of installing a used transmission is that there is no guarantee. Even if the used transmission comes with a 30 or 90-day warranty, it may fail at any time after that. 

Rebuild Honda Transmission

  • Because certain Honda transmission is known to fail quite frequently, there are transmission shops that specialize on rebuilding Honda transmissions.
  • While they cost more than what a used transmission, a good rebuild transmission should last several years.
  • Rebuild transmissions also have better warranty typically 30,000 or 50,000-mile warranty which is significantly higher than what you will get from a used transmission. 
  • A rebuild transmission will be shipped to you or your mechanic. The mechanic will then install it for you for an additional fee. You are looking to spend between $1600 and $2500 in total. 
  • Note that some Honda transmission rebuilders require that you return the old transmission.
  • You will be charged a core fee which will be refunded when you return the old transmission. 

Remanufactured Honda Transmission

  • The most expensive solution is to buy a rebuild Honda transmission. You can have your local Honda dealer install a remanufactured Honda transmission.
  • These transmissions are rebuilt by Honda technicians and with OEM parts. 
  • This route will be more expensive but it is less headache.
  • Remanufactured Honda transmission come warranty that is honored by Honda dealerships. 
  • Having Honda replace a failed transmission typically costs between $3000 and $4500. 

Recalls 

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

Common Fault Codes

While there are hundreds of possible fault codes, here is a list of the most common Honda transmission fault codes. 

  • P0766 – Failed Shift Solenoid D – This DTC can be stored when there is a problem with a shift solenoid or the valve body.
  • P2703 – Failed Friction Element D – This trouble code can be triggered by a failed friction element like a clutch disc.
  • P0720 – Failed Input Speed Sensor or Output Speed Sensor – This trouble code is caused by a bad speed sensor on the transmission.
  • P0730 – Incorrect Gear Ratio – This issue could be caused by a number of problems, including a fault in the transmission control module, dirty transmission fluid, or a bad transmission solenoid.
  • P0657 – Voltage Problem in the ‘A’ Circuit – This transmission problem is often caused by a short or bad ground on the PCM or PCM wiring harness.
  • P0700 – Malfunction in the transmission control system – This DTC is often triggered when there is a problem with the TCM, a wiring harness, a solenoid, or the valve body.
  • P0715 – Input/Turbine Speed Sensor Malfunction – This code typically gets stored when the input sensor cannot read the engine RPM, which can prevent the transmission from appropriately shifting gears.
  • P0717 – Input/Turbine Speed Sensor No Signal – This trouble code is generated when the PCM does not get a signal from the input speed sensor, which will prevent the computer from being able to determine when the transmission needs to shift.
  • P0791 – Intermediate Shaft Speed Sensor ‘A’ Circuit – This error can occur when there is a problem with the intermediate shaft speed sensor, most likely due to a bad sensor, wiring problem, or a failed shift solenoid.
  • P0793 – Intermediate Shaft Speed Sensor Circuit No Signal – The computer will generate this DTC when it cannot communicate with the intermediate shaft speed sensor.  

FAQ

Why do Honda transmissions fail?

 

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.

 

Which Hondas should I avoid?

 

  • Honda with the V6 engine and automatic transmissions from 1999 to 2003. The most problematic Honda transmission is H5 transmission. The early model years had high failure rates. In the latter years, Honda improved the parts used and the failure rate has significantly decreased.  
    Show vehicles with H5 transmission

      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)

 

Should I drive a Honda if I experience transmission problems?

 

  • Avoid driving your Honda if you experience transmission problems. Driving in these conditions can cause complete transmission failure. 

 

Do Honda cars have transmission problems?

 

  • The early 2000 Honda cars, SUVs and VANs with the automatic transmission had a high failure rate. 

 

How long do Honda automatic transmissions last?

 

  • A Honda transmission can fail as early as 60,000 miles or last up to 300,000 miles. The life span of a Honda transmission depends on the transmission model and proper maintenance. 

 

How to make Honda transmission last longer?
  • Change transmission fluid at the recommended interval. 
  • Every time you change gears between P, R and D, make sure your Honda is fully stopped.
How much does it cost to replace the transmission on a Honda?
  • The average cost to replace or repair a failed Honda transmission ranges in the $2500 to $4000. Some Honda dealers may quote up to $5500.

Additional Resources

  1. How to Test: TCC Solenoid and Shift Solenoid A (Honda 2.2L 2.3L Engine)

Comments

JimsAutoRepair, 2019-06-26

I'd have to agree with this article. In our experience, the first thing a person needs to check is the transmission fluid. People often forget how important this is, and while they regularly get the engine oil changed, they forget about this.

In order to avoid costly replacement, always try to get your fluid checked every 40,000km

By YOUCANIC on Jul 10, 2019

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