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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was driving 5 fifth-graders in my 2003 MDX on a class field trip about 40 miles each direction. There was rush hour traffic for the first 8 miles (SF Bay Area), cruised on the highway for the next 30 miles, and a mild uphill climb for another 2 miles (Chabot Science Center, Oakland). Everything was fine until we started the uphill climb, when the "A/T Temp" warning light suddenly came on. There was no shoulder where I can pull over so I just kept going since there was only about 1.5 miles left to destination. I did not feel any degradation in shifting or the way the car was driving. The warning light did not come on during the return trip after 5 hours of sitting in the parking lot.

Is this something to be concerned about, considering these older gen models were notorious for A/T issues? I did have some work done on the car the previous week (replace leaking rear main seal, reseal P/S pump, and replace broken motor mounts). I brought it back to the shop after the field trip, and the mechanic said he could not find any codes, and tranny fluid looks fine. He suggested installing a tranny cooler to help reduce heat.

How much will a tranny cooler help in this particular situation? This did not seem like a particularly strenuous day for the MDX. I never saw this warning light before, even while driving (albeit, usually with just 3 people and some luggage) many more continuous miles to Mt. Shasta, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, SoCal, etc, from the bay area. Is there a possibility that something went wrong when they put things back after replacing the rear main seal? The car drives and shifts just fine. There is a faint smell of fluid all the time, though, but I just thought it could just be some spilled fluid that hung around from before/during the last repair job.

I appreciate any input regarding this. TIA.
 

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Your issue was applying too little throttle to keep going uphill... In these scenarios you either turn the A/C To max cold or avoid creep movement (Wait until the traffic moves and move a good stretch).
 

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Our 2001 MDX had several issues with trans fluid overheat and boil out. We finally had a rebuilt trans job by a local Honda friendly salvage yard. They do the trans for $1800 with a six month guarantee. Problem was the cooling method Honda used piped the trans fluid through lower engine radiator and that was a notorious failer. These guys throw that line out and put an air-to-air cooler on front of A/C condensor. No more failures. If you do get the real failure, the trans fluid mixes with engine coolant and you have the lovely strawerry milkshake which can mean both an engine and a transmission replace, worst case.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I did not have any tranny issues since my post... until last night. Ten minutes into my highway drive home from work, the tranny started slipping (i.e., engine revving high but car not moving faster). I managed to park at the shoulder and checked the ATF - it was below the low mark. Soon after a tow truck came and tested it ... car did not move in any gear. I asked him to tow the car to the same mechanic, but the shop was already closed for the day. The next morning I stopped by the shop and watched the mechanic checked the fluid, and somehow it was at a good level. Anyway, he just kept saying Acuras are known for this issue. In fact, when I picked up my car after the rear main seal replacement, that was the first thing he said to me ... I found that odd that time as if he was already expecting something will go wrong with the tranny soon and he already had an excuse.


What irks me is that I had no tranny issues until immediately after they replaced the rear main seal. I do not know what type of work is involved in that job, but something tells me they did something wrong that led to these issues.


Is it possible that the issue could be on the engine side, or perhaps the transfer case? I desperately need advice. I do not want to pay for a reman tranny if that is not really the problem.
 

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How many miles on your X and was the trans fluid changed per the maintenance schedule?

Low fluid could cause your symptoms. The fluid needs to be hot before checking and the X needs to be on level ground. Was that the case when checked by the truck driver and the shop? If it was towed to the shop and not warmed up first, the fluid level could be wrong.

No garantees but the lowest cost thing to try would be to have the trans fluid level checked correctly, then changed. If your X moves and based on what you said, I would find another shop that specializes in Hondas and Acuras.

Not saying the shop made a mistake but the trans does have to be disconnected from the engine to do the real main seal.

A trans cooler is about $50-$75 plus installation - guessing $200 labor? I would hold off in case the trans needs more than a fluid change.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
So, things got hectic and needed the MDX operational as quickly as possible, so I just finally had them rebuild the tranny. The guy said the gears and clutch were in bad shape, but everything else was fine. This is an independent shop, so I assume they did not use OEM replacement parts. It has been more than a week since the rebuild and seems to be driving fine so far as my daily commuter - at least gear shifts feel very similar to 2 months ago before the rear main seal replacement. I just hope no more issues with the car for a while. Although, after my experience, I do not feel confident that I can take this car on long trips anymore without worrying that the tranny may act up at the worst possible time.
 

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Although, after my experience, I do not feel confident that I can take this car on long trips anymore without worrying that the tranny may act up at the worst possible time.
If the transmission is rebuilt why wouldn't you have the confidence of a "new" transmission?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
If the transmission is rebuilt why wouldn't you have the confidence of a "new" transmission?
I guess it is more psychological than logical :grin: It's just that I do not have enough knowledge on what to look out for as advanced warning that something may about to go wrong with this tranny. I know it's not an apples-to-apples comparison, but When I used to drive an Accord with a manual tranny, I knew that the clutch was starting to wear out because it slipped on a few occasions a few weeks before it completely wore out. Of course, I did not have enough cash during the warning signs to have it done right away, so I just drove it till the inevitable.

But, I suppose if the tranny were to break down again, it's better for it to happen during the warranty period. I'm also considering adding a tranny cooler if it provides considerable benefit in preserving the "new" life of this tranny.
 

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But, I suppose if the tranny were to break down again, it's better for it to happen during the warranty period. I'm also considering adding a tranny cooler if it provides considerable benefit in preserving the "new" life of this tranny.
I'm surprised the mechanic didn't recommend one when they rebuilt your transmission. Yes, I'd add a cooler.
 
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