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2016 MDX Sh-AWD Advance/Entertain, 53020 miles

I'm getting transmission and transfer case fluid change done at a Honda dealership. How do I make sure if they were done properly?
I've specified ATF Type 3.1
 

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2016 MDX Sh-AWD Advance/Entertain, 53020 miles

I'm getting transmission and transfer case fluid change done at a Honda dealership. How do I make sure if they were done properly?
I've specified ATF Type 3.1
That's a loaded/difficult question...


How do you know 100% it was done properly? I guess you would have to learn how to do the procedure and perform it, yourself. Otherwise you really don't 100% know.



The best you can do, if you don't want to DIY, is to make sure the tech has already done this procedure on a ZF9HP48 equipped Pilot (same transmission as your MDX). If they haven't, I wouldn't be their guinea pig. Make sure the invoice says ATF Type 3.1. Make sure to confirm with the tech that they do NOT use a machine to change the fluid. If possible, watch them perform the procedure (after familiarizing yourself with what the procedure is).
 

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Quick answer,,, you Don't! It is a pure leap of faith one must take today which many avoid like the plague for good reason. In this case, you have little choice as you do not have the equipment to perform the transmission oil change.Call around to various dealerships for a price on trans oil change .., You can advise the dealership how you want it done and that you want someone experienced and they will tell you what you want to hear, in the end, they will do it their way! Unless you stand and watch you just won't know. I have heard quotes of 160.00- 350.00 for just trans oil changes. so ask around. The transfer case you can do yourself for the cost of oil and a quart bottle pump and 20 mins time. undo a drain and fill hole plug is all , drain put in drain bolt and fill through fill hole until fluid trickles out, replace fill bolt.(under $35.00). can't wait to hear what the dealership is going to charge for this one procedure?
 

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I have heard quotes of 160.00- 350.00 for just trans oil changes. so ask around.
If any shop quotes $160 for a ZF9HP48 transmission fluid change, then RUN AWAY. They are not using the correct fluid, and probably do not have experience servicing this transmission.



The ZF9HP48 drains approximately 3.5 US Quarts of fluid... Plus you must intentionally over-fill this transmission and allow it to drain down to the proper level, so you'd need to buy at least 4 US Quarts of fluid -- even if you're careful not to waste it.


MSRP on Acura ATF Type 3.1 is $48.52 per US Quart. So you're looking at nearly $200 JUST IN FLUID COSTS, before tax. Plus you need to replace both drain and fill plug bolts (if you're going to do the procedure, properly). That's another $40-70 in parts. Then you need to factor in labor costs. I would expect a shop to charge between $375 - 475.
 

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I guess no new mdx upgrade for me if this is how they corral owners into their service center!
DIY. Problem solved.


This is not a new thing. Dealer service departments have been "profit centers" for a looooong time.
 

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My understanding is that the equipment needed is overly expensive? If this is not the case i and others would like the DIY procedure for these transmissions that is safe and reliable that we can perform ourselves? A list of equipment and detailed procedure appreciated.
 

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My understanding is that the equipment needed is overly expensive? If this is not the case i and others would like the DIY procedure for these transmissions that is safe and reliable that we can perform ourselves? A list of equipment and detailed procedure appreciated.
It is my intention to DIY the fluid change on my ZF9HP48 and to build a step-by-step guide, with pictures. However, I'm only at ~15k miles, and I don't plan on changing the fluid until 30k... So I've got about another year or 18 months to go.

Here's a brief synopsis:

Parts/tools requires:

  1. Standard hand tools (sockets + wrench)
  2. Device for reading transmission temperature from the CAN BUS
  3. New drain plug (MSRP $26.19, can be found for ~$20)
  4. New fill plug (MSRP $26.19, can be found for ~$20)
  5. 4x US Quarts Acura ATF Type 3.1 (MSRP $48.52 each, can be found for ~$36)
For #2, there are several approaches to reading the transmission temperature from the CAN BUS:

  • Acura has HDS (Honda Diagnostic System). I won't go into much detail about it, but it is possible to buy the necessary computer interface and download the software to replicate HDS.
  • Use a third-party scanner with CAN BUS support. There are many on the market, by companies such as Autel, Launch, Bosch/OTC Evolve, Snap-On, etc. These typically range in price from $700 up to $4500. They're expensive, but they are powerful. If you're a serious DIYer, you may want something like this for more than just transmission fluid changes.
  • Use a ScanGauge II. It's available at local auto parts stores, as well as online. MSRP $169.95.
So if you don't already have a device to satisfy requirement #2, then the ScanGauge II is currently the most economical option, imo.


$144 - Acura ATF Type 3.1
$40 - Drain/fill plugs
$170 - ScanGauge II
======
$354 DIY cost, first time. (cheaper than paying a dealer + you know it's done carefully)
$184 DIY cost, subsequent times. (much cheaper than paying a dealer!)

If you decide you don't like the ScanGauge after you change your transmission fluid, I suppose you could return it and get that money back. I don't condone that sort of thing... But hey... Options.

The procedure for changing the transmission fluid is:

  1. Lift vehicle and place on jack stands so all 4 wheel are off the ground.
  2. Remove drain plug from bottom of transmission housing and drain all fluid (approximately 3.5 US Quarts).
  3. Install NEW drain plug.
  4. Remove the level-check/fill plug from side of transmission housing.
  5. Refill transmission with Acura ATF Type 3.1 through the level-check/fill plug until the ATF overflows. (Approximately 3.5 US Quarts).
  6. Temporarily install the OLD level-check/fill plug.
  7. Turn the vehicle ignition ON without starting engine.
  8. Enter VSA maintenance mode* (See description, below, for that procedure)
  9. Start the engine.
  10. Shift transmission to D position, then select Sport in IDS
  11. Run the vehicle through gears 1, 2, 3, and 4 for at least 10 seconds, each. Slow down, and stop the wheels. (DO NOT GO PAST 4TH GEAR WITH WHEELS OFF THE GROUND)
  12. Shift transmission to P position.
  13. Raise engine speed to 2,000 RPM for a few seconds
  14. Run the engine at idle speed until ATF temperature reaches 104 degrees F
  15. Remove the level-check/fill plug to assess fluid level. If ATF is pouring out, wait until the ATF starts dripping from the hole. If there is no ATF coming out, add ATF through the hole until it overflows, then wait until the ATF starts dripping.
  16. Install NEW level-check/fill plug.
  17. Turn engine off
How to enter VSA Maintenance Mode: These steps must be completed within 30 seconds:

  1. Vehicle ignition must be ON, engine OFF.
  2. Release parking brake, and hold down the brake pedal.
  3. While holding down the brake pedal, press and hold the VSA OFF switch (traction control). When the VSA OFF indicator turns on, press and hold the VSA OFF switch again until the VSA OFF indicator goes off.
  4. Release the brake pedal and apply the parking brake.
  5. While the brake pedal is released, press and hold the VSA OFF switch. When the VSA OFF indicator turns on, press and hold the VSA OFF switch again until the VSA OFF indicator goes off.
  6. Hold down the brake pedal while applying the parking brake.
  7. Press and hold the VSA OFF switch while both brakes are applied. When the VSA indicator turns on, press and hold the VSA OFF switch again until the VSA OFF indicator flashes and the VSA indicator turns on.
  8. While the VSA OFF indicator is flashing, you are in VSA Maintenance Mode.
 
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How do I make sure if they were done properly?
Unless you stand there and watch the person do all the changes you won't know for certain. If your trans has a dipstick you could use it to check the fluid before and after to at least see if you notice a change to a fresh color and that the level is correct, but I thought the 9 speed doesn't have a dipstick so this method is out if that's the case.

You could do it yourself and know for certain exactly what was done but you'd have to know exactly what to do and do it correctly and the 9 speed fluid change is much more complicated than the fluid change for the 6 speed or just about any prior transmission. 'P07...' above outlines the process well.

If you're not going to do it yourself then just make sure you take it to a competent service location to do it - one that has experience with the particular transmission and is ethical and actually does what they say they do. You shouldn't need to specify to a factory trained service location (Acura/Honda) which fluid type to use. I'm wondering - why are you taking it to a Honda dealer rather than an Acura dealer? Ifs it location or cost? If it was a toss-up I'd go ahead and use the Acura dealer.

I think it's a poor design choice to make a trans fluid change as difficult and costly as it is for some of these newer transmissions and the end result will be more people will just delay doing it (maybe do it at 50K-75K miles rather than 30K for example) or will skip it altogether and not do anything until the trans has failure.
 

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DIY. Problem solved.


This is not a new thing. Dealer service departments have been "profit centers" for a looooong time.
I have no problem with dealers making a profit. Someone has to pay for for all those loaners sitting out there. If you choose to DIY fine. But I wish people would stop complaining about dealers trying to make money.
 

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I assure you they make more than their share of money! loaners are a write-off for them, pay for them, that is too funny! See all those brand spanking new open floor plan buildings with all the glass that's not because these dealerships are suffering! Oh.. thank you p07r0457 for your great description above.
 

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I have no problem with dealers making a profit. Someone has to pay for for all those loaners sitting out there. If you choose to DIY fine. But I wish people would stop complaining about dealers trying to make money.
Im fine with dealers (or any business) making money.

I take objection to:
  • Dealers charging for services that are either not done, or are done improperly.
  • Selling services that provide little/dubious/no benefit, and may even cause harm. (Most “flushes”, fuel injection services, etc)
  • Not recommending/performing manufacturer-specified services because they don’t like doing them.
  • Selling for maximum profit, instead of based on what a vehicle needs and what is best for the customer.
  • Using the cheapest possible part, instead of quality parts.

I started off my adult life as a DIYer for financial reasons. I did reach a point where I wanted a dealer to take care of my vehicles and I could afford it. I liked the idea of “not my problem”, and loaner cars, and free drinks and pastries. I came back to being an avid DIYer because I discovered that the dealers violate the requirements I outlined, above.

Show me a dealer who charges fair prices for parts and labor, follows manufacturer maintenance schedules, performs services properly, does exactly what they charge me for (no more, no less), uses quality parts, and is trustworthy, and I’ll stop being a DIYer and will gladly pay this dealer to maintain my vehicles, again. No joke.
 

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It is my intention to DIY the fluid change on my ZF9HP48 and to build a step-by-step guide, with pictures. However, I'm only at ~15k miles, and I don't plan on changing the fluid until 30k... So I've got about another year or 18 months to go.

Here's a brief synopsis:

Parts/tools requires:

  1. Standard hand tools (sockets + wrench)
  2. Device for reading transmission temperature from the CAN BUS
  3. New drain plug (MSRP $26.19, can be found for ~$20)
  4. New fill plug (MSRP $26.19, can be found for ~$20)
  5. 4x US Quarts Acura ATF Type 3.1 (MSRP $48.52 each, can be found for ~$36)
For #2, there are several approaches to reading the transmission temperature from the CAN BUS:

  • Acura has HDS (Honda Diagnostic System). I won't go into much detail about it, but it is possible to buy the necessary computer interface and download the software to replicate HDS.
  • Use a third-party scanner with CAN BUS support. There are many on the market, by companies such as Autel, Launch, Bosch/OTC Evolve, Snap-On, etc. These typically range in price from $700 up to $4500. They're expensive, but they are powerful. If you're a serious DIYer, you may want something like this for more than just transmission fluid changes.
  • Use a ScanGauge II. It's available at local auto parts stores, as well as online. MSRP $169.95.
So if you don't already have a device to satisfy requirement #2, then the ScanGauge II is currently the most economical option, imo.


$144 - Acura ATF Type 3.1
$40 - Drain/fill plugs
$170 - ScanGauge II
======
$354 DIY cost, first time. (cheaper than paying a dealer + you know it's done carefully)
$184 DIY cost, subsequent times. (much cheaper than paying a dealer!)

If you decide you don't like the ScanGauge after you change your transmission fluid, I suppose you could return it and get that money back. I don't condone that sort of thing... But hey... Options.

The procedure for changing the transmission fluid is:

  1. Lift vehicle and place on jack stands so all 4 wheel are off the ground.
  2. Remove drain plug from bottom of transmission housing and drain all fluid (approximately 3.5 US Quarts).
  3. Install NEW drain plug.
  4. Remove the level-check/fill plug from side of transmission housing.
  5. Refill transmission with Acura ATF Type 3.1 through the level-check/fill plug until the ATF overflows. (Approximately 3.5 US Quarts).
  6. Temporarily install the OLD level-check/fill plug.
  7. Turn the vehicle ignition ON without starting engine.
  8. Enter VSA maintenance mode* (See description, below, for that procedure)
  9. Start the engine.
  10. Shift transmission to D position, then select Sport in IDS
  11. Run the vehicle through gears 1, 2, 3, and 4 for at least 10 seconds, each. Slow down, and stop the wheels. (DO NOT GO PAST 4TH GEAR WITH WHEELS OFF THE GROUND)
  12. Shift transmission to P position.
  13. Raise engine speed to 2,000 RPM for a few seconds
  14. Run the engine at idle speed until ATF temperature reaches 104 degrees F
  15. Remove the level-check/fill plug to assess fluid level. If ATF is pouring out, wait until the ATF starts dripping from the hole. If there is no ATF coming out, add ATF through the hole until it overflows, then wait until the ATF starts dripping.
  16. Install NEW level-check/fill plug.
  17. Turn engine off
How to enter VSA Maintenance Mode: These steps must be completed within 30 seconds:

  1. Vehicle ignition must be ON, engine OFF.
  2. Release parking brake, and hold down the brake pedal.
  3. While holding down the brake pedal, press and hold the VSA OFF switch (traction control). When the VSA OFF indicator turns on, press and hold the VSA OFF switch again until the VSA OFF indicator goes off.
  4. Release the brake pedal and apply the parking brake.
  5. While the brake pedal is released, press and hold the VSA OFF switch. When the VSA OFF indicator turns on, press and hold the VSA OFF switch again until the VSA OFF indicator goes off.
  6. Hold down the brake pedal while applying the parking brake.
  7. Press and hold the VSA OFF switch while both brakes are applied. When the VSA indicator turns on, press and hold the VSA OFF switch again until the VSA OFF indicator flashes and the VSA indicator turns on.
  8. While the VSA OFF indicator is flashing, you are in VSA Maintenance Mode.
Is this an actual Acura/Honda procedure? I ask because it sound a bit over complicated. I've done a fair share of transmission fluid changes on German cars and none had that many steps.

BTW: always remove fill plug first.
 

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Is this an actual Acura/Honda procedure? I ask because it sound a bit over complicated. I've done a fair share of transmission fluid changes on German cars and none had that many steps.
I put it in my own words, but I do have the actual procedure from Honda Tech Info, and yes, that’s basically it.

BTW: always remove fill plug first.
Normally I’d agree, but Acura doesn’t list it that way, for some reason. I wanted to post the procedure to match what Acura recommends.
 

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If you DIY....be sure and loosen the “fill” bolt before you drain...if you can’t get the fill bolt out, at least you haven’t drained fluid with no way to replace it.
 

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@p07r0457: Thanks for that - it matches what I have read, except that I thought that there were 3 plugs: fill, drain, and level-check. Could you check that?

I believe that it is possible for other OBD2 devices/apps to read the ATF temp. It requires programming the proprietary code. I had collected the data to do it but accidentally lost it. I'm too busy right now to pursue it but I will follow up in the fall.

The biggest problem with DIY ATF changes for the 9-speed is the risk to the warranty. IIRC I received a letter extending the warranty as a result of the fluid interchange in some warmers (heat exchangers). I wouldn't want to provide an excuse to deny coverage.

Chrysler has a different procedure for their 9-speed ZFs: they use an aftermarket dip stick, measure the height and temp, then look up in a table the desired height for that temp and adjust. This may not work for us as they may be using a different ATF. But the important point is that getting the right quantity for the temp is critical, and is not just a matter of filling to a dipstick level.

I started out wanting to stick with the dealer for all service during the warranty period. Then they screwed me. Now it is DIY and an independent mechanic. But even he won't touch this transmission. So as I near 30k I am cringing...
 

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@p07r0457: Thanks for that - it matches what I have read, except that I thought that there were 3 plugs: fill, drain, and level-check. Could you check that?
The parts fiche does show 3 plugs. However, the official procedure in Tech Info mentions only the drain and level check plugs. It states that the transmission should be filled through the level plug.


I assume the 3rd plug exists for other manufacturers -- such as Chrysler -- who may use a graduated dip stick.


I believe that it is possible for other OBD2 devices/apps to read the ATF temp. It requires programming the proprietary code. I had collected the data to do it but accidentally lost it. I'm too busy right now to pursue it but I will follow up in the fall.
It is my understanding that the transmission temperature information is published on the CAN BUS. I'm not aware of any free/cheap software to read it. The Scan Gauge II is the cheapest "easy" option that I have found. It has been my intention to attempt building my own reader, specifically for Honda/Acura transmission temperature... But I haven't gotten around to it, yet.


The biggest problem with DIY ATF changes for the 9-speed is the risk to the warranty. IIRC I received a letter extending the warranty as a result of the fluid interchange in some warmers (heat exchangers). I wouldn't want to provide an excuse to deny coverage.
Ultimately, it is up to each owner to decide how they want to service their vehicle. Personally, I feel that I am less likely to cause a failure than a shop, so I'll be doing the procedure, myself. My VIN is not included in the ATF warmer recall, and I did not receive an extended warranty. I suggest you read the letter carefully... It is my understanding that the extended warranty is extremely limited -- only providing coverage if the ATF warmer fails. In other words, the warranty is not extended for any other failure.


Chrysler has a different procedure for their 9-speed ZFs: they use an aftermarket dip stick, measure the height and temp, then look up in a table the desired height for that temp and adjust. This may not work for us as they may be using a different ATF. But the important point is that getting the right quantity for the temp is critical, and is not just a matter of filling to a dipstick level.
Chrysler is an odd case. Some of their vehicles (primary V6 applications) use a ZF9HP48, manufactured by ZF. However, most of their vehicles (primarily L4 applications) use the 948TE, which is mostly a ZF9, but with some changes, manufactured by Chrysler, directly. Many parts interchange, but some do not.


But yes, regardless of transmission model, even Chrysler is adamant that fluid level changes with fluid temperature.


I started out wanting to stick with the dealer for all service during the warranty period. Then they screwed me. Now it is DIY and an independent mechanic. But even he won't touch this transmission. So as I near 30k I am cringing...
It honestly doesn't seem like a terrible procedure, to me. I think the community will warm up to the idea once we build a photo-walk-through and a few of us have success with the procedure.


Tons of people DIY the timing belt -- and that is considerably more time consuming and difficult.
 

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I guess no new mdx upgrade for me if this is how they corral owners into their service center!

I hear ya. One of the main reasons I've been a loyal Honda/Acura owner for decades is because of the cheap and easy routine maintenance and repairs I can DIY. If they design their newer models in such a way that what used to be simple tasks become too cumbersome or expensive for a DIY'er, then I will no longer consider them for future purchases.
 

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At least provisionally I will assume that this is a one-off. Honda/Acura have manufactured their own transmissions for years, and I think I read that they are working on a 10-speed. Clearly this ZF transmission has specific requirements, but I won't assume anything about future Honda transmissions. Let's hope the 10-speed doesn't require such precision filling, and provides a dip stick. Even if this becomes a standard for Honda it isn't that big a deal compared to the total cost of ownership - certainly not enough on its own to rule out future MDX purchases. YMMV
 

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The fear right now is of the unknown as there is nothing available as you have suggested of pics with procedures showing what is actually involved .The actual wrenching isnt the issue as much as getting acurate readings of the trans temperture. You have mentioned scan gauge 2 at $169.00 is it reliable and capable of reading acuratley the trans temp. The launch Creader Vii+is potentially another candidate $169.00 price , but I have not used it either so I am unfamiliar. Yes the level 3 scanners would be nice $800-4000.00 but is too costly for alot of diy individuals. I would presume that we might see more lower cost scan tools available for just this purpose in the not so distant future.
 
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