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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all! I’ve done some extensive reading on the forum and want to make sure I don’t screw anything up so wanted to start a new thread.

I just got a 2004 MDX Touring for practically free, traded a days work for it. It was in pretty rough shape, 246k, but I’m getting it cleaned up and in good Repair to use as a weekend warrior car, mtn biking, etc. I replaced the power steering pump and AC compressor, got those running right. Now to my current issue. The transmission shifts a little rough between 1-2 and 2-3 when driving gently, drive it hard and it’s smoother. I’ve been told by my import mechanic that I’ve used for years that these Acura’s and Honda’s are known for trans issues and I’d like to avoid that down the road. I see on the forum that a 3x3 trans fluid flush is recommended, I understand how to do it, but according to my dad, grandpa, and mechanic, you either change ATF regularly or not at all, if it’s never been changed you can make it worse by changing it. Is this correct? Does anyone have any long term experience with these transmissions and whether a 3x3 will cause harm on a high mileage tranny that likely hasn’t had it regularly, if at all?


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I change all fluids religiously for this exact reason :) In any case, if your transmission is slipping, you are left with very little options at this time. I would first try with Honda/Acura Genuine Transmission fluid, this generally should be your best shot at this point. I would repeat this again after a few 100 miles to make sure you get a clean transmission - seems like you have not replaced it for a while.

I have read and heard, Honda/Acura does not recommend a transmission "flush". You only drain and fill. There are other threads on the internet, where it is mentioned that "flush" can cause new issues particularly for a transmission where the fluid has not been replaced for a while.

It is advised that only Genuine Honda transmission fluid should be used as they have special additives etc. not sure about the truth to that, but I did not want to challenge that claim ;-)
 

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Definitely do the drain 3, replace 3..maybe more than once...drain fill, crank, drive it down the street and back, do it again...use only Honda/Acura recommended fluid...this might help. It certainly won’t hurt.

On my 02, I usually drive in 4 unless on the highway...I do the drain 3 refill 3 on this vehicle every other oil change...
 

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You won't hurt anything with a fluid change - that's mainly an old wive's tale, but any tranny that died after a fluid change was on its very last legs anyway. Do the changes, and there's a good chance it'll fix any niggling issues with the tranny - they're very sensitive to fluid condition / age.
 

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I’d do the 3x3 a few times - drain > fill > drive a few cycles at street and highway speeds for 50-100 miles repeat 2 or 3 more times.

Go to your Acura dealer and get a great deal on fluids in bulk. I generally pay $6.50 a qt.

You should also bleed the brake lines as you have no idea the last time that was done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Alright I’m really torn. I’m sure all y’all know what you’re talking about, but at the same time, my car nut friends and mechanic do too. From what one friend told me, with an old transmission, your friction pads have started to break down and the ATF has that friction material loose in it, if you do a drain and fill with fresh slippery fluid it can most likely cause slipping. Is that the case on these transmissions? I drove it last night from SC to TN pulling a heavy 3 seater jetski up the mountains in D4 (in D5 it shifted back and forth a lot) and it did just fine, no slipping or hard shifting. It seems almost like it just needs to be driven, previous owners let it sit awhile and no longer used it. Riding now to Nashville, with my wife driving who drives a little more aggressively, no jet ski, it’s shifting with a short mild kick. Am I expecting too much trying to smooth it out?


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I'd say to follow your friends' advice - assuming they agree to pay for a new tranny when your un-maintained unit dies due to contaminated, worn out fluid. ;-)

I hope you're getting that advice from someone who isn't paid to diagnose / advise others on their cars. Just sayin'...
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I’m not saying anyone here doesn’t know what they’re talking about, just that I’m getting exact opposite advice from two groups of people, both of whom I know to be experienced. (The experience of the forum I’m assuming on, but I’m sure that’s a given). I think confusion is to be expected. And yes, my mechanic who’s done my import work for years, I couldn’t come up with a single complaint about him, and has been working on imports German/jap for 20+ years. He does disclaim that he’s not a transmission expert but says in his experience that has been the case that damage follows fluid changes on old transmissions, particularly Honda/Acura. I’ve been given an explanation why a fluid drain and fill is a bad idea, can someone explain why it’s a good idea? I’m all for doing whatever the best option is, regardless of who it comes from. I just want to base my decision on what actually makes technical sense and not who says it.


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My $0.02:

Regular fluid changes prolong the life of a transmission.

However, there does come a point where a transmission has been so badly neglected that it’s basically on its last legs. Changing the fluid does seem to result in its demise, shortly thereafter.

That doesn’t mean fluid changes are bad. I would think the transmission would die soon, anyway. Typically the person only does the fluid change (finally) because they’re trying to prevent the (impending and inevitable) death. When the transmission does die, they then blame the fluid change, since they got 100k without them and then it dies after they finally did it — scapegoat.

Perhaps it would be worth taking a 3oz sample and sending it off for analysis? Cost is only about $38. The lab could tell you “how bad” it is. If the clutches have already **** the bed, then maybe don’t drain/fill and start saving up for a rebuild/reman. But if the lab results aren’t morbid, then do a drain/fill to keep the transmission happy.
 

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There's an urban myth that's largely due to the "fluid change" being done by a shop with a "power flush machine". That CAN cause problems, by stirring up metallic (and other) sediment that had long since settled down in out of the way niches in the transmission, and were causing no problems. The turbulence during the flush process can dislodge gobs of this stuff, which then migrates into the shift solenoids and valving, causing a sudden failure, which - in this one narrow case - can be attributed to "changing the fluid". A drain and fill on a Honda tranny doesn't do any of that.

Thing is, ATF - just like oil - wears out. It's got special additives that are necessary for the proper operation of the transmission (including providing proper friction at the clutches, lubrication, etc.). The engineers who designed these complex devices specify regular fluid changes. Now maybe your buddy knows more about transmissions than the folks who designed them, but I'm betting not. It would make no more sense to argue that engine oil should never be changed because I had a second uncle who changed the oil in his Ford after 50,000 miles and it blew up three weeks later.

But you gotta do what you gotta do. It won't get my knickers in a twist if someone decides to never change their tranny fluid, and I hope they get away with it. I've been hanging out here since I bought my MDX a few years ago, and can't remember anyone ever claiming that a drain and refill hurt anything - and the number of us who've posted about doing those is huge. It very often "fixes" a "broken" transmission.

That's my last word on the subject. YMMV.
 
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