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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So here is another post on transmission leaks...

I was driving home on Friday, and at a red light I noticedsmoke between me and the car to the right. Luckily for me it was coming out ofmy 04 MDX. I pulled over and noticed it was trans fluid (I think); I couldn't see where exactly the leak was coming from because of the splash shield, and although it was dark brown it smelled like trans fluid, and it was everywhere. I checked the PS fluid and the level was fine. The engine oil was on the lowend, but still ok. I checked the trans fluid level and it seemed empty, but I checked it when the transmission was cold and the surface wasn't level.

The car has almost 190k miles, and there is a delay when shifting from D to R, and vice versa, and it has the torque converter growl. I had actually bought the trans fluid and planned to flush it this week, but I didn't get a chance. In any case, I spent almost two hours (while waiting for the tow truck) searching this site about what could've happened. Likely causes are rear main seal, which would explain why I couldn't see it, or radiator/hose, but the coolant doesn't look milky. I had it towed to a local independent Honda/Acura shop and they're not gonna get to looking at it until tomorrow (Tuesday 6/19/2018). So the car isn't worth much, but it is otherwise in good condition. I've kinda made up my mind that $1000 is my limit. I don'twant to buy another car but I don't want to give up on this just yet, ideally I'd get 2 more years out of it. So, aside from likely causes of the leak,

1. how much does rebuilding a transmission cost (ballpark)?I s it better to have it rebuilt or do people have better luck buying one that'salready rebuilt and swapping it? I'm in Chicago.

2. If it is a rear main seal, or if I need to get the trans rebuilt/replaced, is there any other maintenance that should be done once all those parts are removed? I'm thinking motor mounts, but not sure of what else? I had the timing belt replaced about 4-5 years ago at around 105k miles.

Thanks for the help.
 

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Hi Rudy,

We are on the same boat! Different issues but leaning towards the same path. If you will get the transmission rebuilt, I would tackle on the rear main seal if it’s also leaking. I am considering rebuilding if the cost is affordable but will spend a lil extra if I do on replacing the rear main seal gasket. I was told that someone with a 2006 MDX did a rebuild for $1,100 but the price sounds too good to be true.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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FWIW, the rear main seal keeps oil in the engine, so you can rule that out (though it's perfectly sensible to consider replacing it if you DO end up pulling the transmission out for any reason).

My guess is that a cooling hose broke, or perhaps the fitting at the radiator gave up the ghost (happens fairly often, and doesn't contaminate the coolant). That much fluid splashing around all the sudden isn't likely to come from something like a seal going bad, IMHO.

But you'll know for sure tomorrow - keep us posted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
So good news, apparently it's just the radiator and fitting. They quoted me $625 but said that they're so busy that they can't work on it till Monday.

How difficult is it to change the radiator on this car? I'm thinking I'm going to have it towed to my place and knock this out this weekend. I think I have a decent skill and tool set, and I work on my cars when I can. The radiator is less than $200 on rock auto and I already have the honda transmission fluid. I just don't want to tackle something that's gonna turn into a days long ordeal.

Also, what other maintenance should I take care of while the trans and radiator are empty? I'm thinking radiator hoses? I also know my motor mounts are bad, so would changing the front motor mount while the radiator is out be a good idea? Thanks for the help!
 

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Great news (I would have bet that was the case).

Changing the radiator isn't all that difficult - never done it myownself, but based on what I read here, it's not rocket science. I believe that some manuals will suggest dropping the bumper, but I don't think that's necessary.

Radiator hoses - absolutely! The front motor mount is a toss-up. It's a gold-plated bear to change with the radiator in place apparently, but a whole different animal with the radiator out. They DO fail regularly, but I don't know if I'd take out a working Honda-built part to install a new "built by ?????" part, and I certainly wouldn't pay Honda the price they want for one of theirs. I guess in the end, if the front mount were to fail, you'd be miles ahead by already knowing how to get the radiator in and out.

If you are due for a timing belt change, it might save you at least a little time to do it all together (since you have to drain the coolant anyway). At 190k miles, I'm betting that you're either getting close to needing a second belt change, or you're WAY overdue for your first. ;-)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hmmm, good point on the timing belt, I'm due for the second one soon. How long does that take? I'm assuming it's going to take me twice as long since I haven't done it before. And I'm a little hesitant to due it right now; it's been 5-6 years and 80-90k miles.

In terms of the motor mounts, I know for a fact two out of three are bad. Based on my research on these forums it seems the front one is not to bad and the rear one is a pain?

I'm going to start putting a parts list together. Thanks!
 

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If you're going to do a t-belt, then I'd also do a valve adjustment. Silly to waste new gaskets to only have to go back in, again.


"How long" is always a difficult question... Your skill level, access to tools/lift, and comfort level are all significant factors.

Between radiator, t-belt, and valves, you're looking at a solid weekend project. Even an experienced DIYer would be spending a full day on this, imo. If you're apprehensive then it'll take longer.
 

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Think it will take you 3 hrs. Timing belt took me about 5 hrs and it’s a lot more work and finesse than a radiator. You’ve got some miles left before a scheduled timing belt replacement so seems like a lot of work in addition to a radiator change.

Re removing the radiator, when folks say the bumper has to be removed, it’s really the lower plastic shield (the gray part). It’s pretty simple to remove as it’s held on with push rivets. Just takes a screwdriver to pop them up and then you pull out. This will allow you access to the trans hose fittings and lower coolant hose.

For the upper hose, you’ll have to partially remove the black plastic cover that goes across the engine bay. It’s held with the same kind of push rivets.

If you’re going to change both hoses you could cut the old ones to save time. To get the hoses off the engine, you’ll probably need a screwdriver to pry up the hose slightly to get some WD40 in the gap to break them loose. Be careful not to scratch the port and create a leak path.

Good luck, you’ll save a bunch!
 

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Fairly easy DIY to replace the radiator. I did my 2005 a few years back. As far as removing the bumper cover, my preference is always to remove anything that is in your way, unless it is really hard. Based on my being an auto and motorcycle tech for 45 years, I always prefer to spend a few minutes extra to save my sanity.

Here are great instructions for removing the bumper cover:

http://assets.rigidhitch.com/Blue_Ox/BX1015.pdf

As the photos show, it really opens up the access to the radiator.

For refilling, the coolant funnel is a real help and eliminates air in the system that can cause overheating.

Video here:

https://youtu.be/j4GRK4LUwj8
 

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At 90k miles, I'd go ahead and do the timing belt, rather than waiting another 10-15k miles. Order a new serpentine belt and tensioner, too. I recommend the Aisin kit that comes with a water pump and TB tensioner. And yes, doing the valves will also save at least a little time if done with everything else (and it's probably "just as due", too).


If I was doing all this at the same time, including the motor mounts (which are a no-brainer to include!) I'd plan on spending a solid day. Might take you longer, or not... just make sure and go through some of the online resources and get the right tools (especially that special Honda crank pulley bolt tool - and make sure you have a BIG breaker bar while you're at it).


The good news is, if you do all this you're done with a whole lot of your upcoming scheduled maintenance for a while. The bad news is, it's usually after you do a big job like this one that the tranny dies. ;-)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
So that last line bothered me a bit. It occurred to me that's I'm assuming the transmission wasn't fried, which I don't know one way or another. I decided that the best things to do right now is replace the radiator, use prestone coolant, replace the coolant hoses, drain and fill the trans, and replace the front engine mount. I'll test drive the car and see how she feel. Wait it out a week or two and if it seems like she's fine (or no worse off), then I'll invest the effort in replacing the timing belt, water pump, and adjusting the valves in. I'd hate myself it I put in so much effort if the trans is bad.
 

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So that last line bothered me a bit. It occurred to me that's I'm assuming the transmission wasn't fried, which I don't know one way or another. I decided that the best things to do right now is replace the radiator, use prestone coolant, replace the coolant hoses, drain and fill the trans, and replace the front engine mount. I'll test drive the car and see how she feel. Wait it out a week or two and if it seems like she's fine (or no worse off), then I'll invest the effort in replacing the timing belt, water pump, and adjusting the valves in. I'd hate myself it I put in so much effort if the trans is bad.
Why Prestone coolant?


Normally I'd stick with Honda Type-II. Less than $20 a gallon -- even at the dealer.
 

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Fair point, Rudy... if it was me, I'd just fill up the transmission (with "good fluid") and drive it with the current radiator (I'm assuming that only the tranny cooler circuit was compromised). I'd tie the two cooler hoses together, bypassing the radiator, or heck - get an external cooler and install it, even if only temporarily (they're cheap, and a good idea anyway). Without a cooler in circuit, I wouldn't drive it too far, but if it's shifting fine for a few miles around town and on a short interstate-style romp, I'd call it all good and proceed with the bag-o-fixes. If the tranny won't act right, it's a whole lot more difficult... just make sure you get the right amount of fluid in that tranny (not a trivial thing - you need to check it with the transmission warmed up, and the vehicle parked level, within 30 (?) seconds of shutting off the engine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I wish I would've thought of that sooner. My plan is to buy a trans fluid cooler tomorrow and drop it in. A couple people mentioned Hayden coolers, is there a model that fits best? Also, How does it attach to the car? Based on the pictures I saw they have some kind of heavy duty zip ties? And is there a specific spot I should mount it on? I'm thinking I want to install it in front of the radiator where the trans circuit is so that I don the impede air flow to the coolant circuit?

Also, assuming all goes well, am I living in borrowed time with the existing radiator and should replace it anyways? Thanks guys!
 

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Hard to say if the radiator will be trustworthy - if only the tranny cooler fitting broke, there's no reason to think the coolant side of the radiator is compromised.

I don't have any real experience installing an external cooler, but would recommend adding a magnetic "extra" filter in line while you're at it. That will just supplement the internal filter (which can't be changed) and will also suck out any microscopic metal bits floating around in your tranny fluid.
 

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Plate and fin type are more efficient that tube and fin. Hayden brochure:

http://www.haydenauto.com/upload/HaydenAuto/Documents/Cat_Hayden/Transmission_Engine_Oil_Coolers.pdf

Here's the 677.

https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo.php?pk=3843654&jsn=267&jsn=267

I have a small tube and fin in my X. Too lazy to change it to plate and fin. After learning more about them, installed a 676 plate and fin in my 08 TL. Both are forward of the radiator and ac condensor.

If you install the new radiator and bypass it for trans cooling, you might want to keep the oil tube stubs covered in case you decide later to not bypass. (My radiators are not bypassed.)
 

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Does the filter go on the inlet or outlet side of the trans?
Won't really matter - it's not going to be stopping chunks big enough to clog up your cooler (or, to put it more accurately, it that's an issue, it also doesn't matter any longer). ;-)

You DO need to know which way the fluid is flowing though (the filters are directional). I honestly don't recall which line is which. On a working vehicle (not yours...) the output line should be the hot one, and the input line the cool(er) one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Update

UPDATE:
First, I just want to thank everyone for the helpalong the way.

It turns out that the fitting on the return lineto the trans that connects to the radiator corroded and popped out (I'm tryingto attach pics but for some reason my computer is acting up, will try againlater). It seems like the threads on the radiator itself were fine (see the first 3 pics). I ended up replacingthe radiator without connecting the ATF lines to it and installing a Hayden 677ATF cooler as well. I also flushed the coolant system (which turned out to be prettyclean), and replaced the hood struts and front motor mount while the radiator wasout. Side note: I can't even think of the nightmare it would've have been toget the front mount off with the radiator in place.

I drained what little remained of the ATF whichlooked more like engine oil than ATF, and the drain plug had quite a bit ofmetal shavings (see the last pic). I’ve owned the 04 X for six years, and I don’t think I’ve everhad the ATF changed, or if the previous owners did it either. My fault, I know.It took about 7 quarts to fill her back up again, and I think I may have overfilled her a bit, but I can’t be sure because it’s so hard to determine the ATFlevel accurately per the shop manual instructions.

I took her for a test drive and was able to provethat the transmission wasn't fried (at least not too bad) and it actuallyshifted a bit better than before, but there is still a delayed shift from P toR and vise-versa.

I haven’t installed the in line filter yet, but Iwill when I do the last step of the 3x drain and refill to replace the ATF, andI’ll add a bottle of lubegard platinum. I read on another Honda forum that itis not advisable to do the 3x drain and refill in a short span given that theexisting fluid was in such rough shape. So I’ll wait about 2-3 weeks betweeneach drain, which is about 240 miles of driving per week.

I bought most of the parts and had planned onchanging the timing belt and adjusting the valves, but that was too ambitiousto complete all at once, so it will have to wait a couple more weekends. I dohave a few questions about that, but I will start a new thread.

It took me wayyyyyyy longer than I thought I would’ve,and the hardest part was getting the bolts for the engine mount to line back upagain. The one smart thing I did do was to drown all the bolts with pb blasterand kept re-spraying for a couple days before I started. I also realized thatit would’ve been much easier/faster if I would’ve had better tools, so I boughta set of gearwrench flex ratchets, and tekton ratcheting flex wrenches, alongwith a few other toys to go along with the standard 240ish piece craftsman set Ihave. I may return them and buy American made tools instead.

Now that this is behind me, I have about 5 otherproblems on the X I need to fix. I’ll keep y’all posted. Thanks.

-Rudy
 

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