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Not a good day for my '03. Stuck out on the highway, engine running fine, no warning lights on the dashboard, but won't move in any gear select position. Checked codes and only got P0174 Pending. Had the car towed and the driver found transmission fluid and rusty water under the car. The car went to Aamco and I checked the radiator, no coolant visable, checked the transmission dipstick, no fluid at all. Aamco's initial report is broken radiator, coolant may be in the transmission. I'm asking them to drop the pan and prove that the transmission has coolant in it. They are costing up the repair, and I'm expecting bad news, but there might be a tiny chance that the radiator broke so that all the trans fluid was pumped out, but no coolant into the transmission. Wishful thinking, but I gotta try. The car has 172K, so it may be a close call to fix or ditch. Funny thing is I had a mini van radiator failure 15 years ago that did flood the transmission...........
 

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Don't feel bad.

My MDX trans nearly killed me and my whole family, twice (01 and 05 models). Bought a new GMC Acadia Denali 2015 but couldn't bring myself to sell the 05 once I got it back with rebuilt trans and a 30/3yr warranty.

205,000 miles and its so reliable and smooth, and still very peppy and good mileage. With bluetooth, Navi and XM, I have all that need and prefer riding my 05 MDX over the GMC.

The most important thing is finding a trans shop with a strong Yelp rating. Don't feel you are stuck at the current Aamco shop. Do some research right away and make some phone calls asap. I towed my dead MDX from one shop to another (actually the receiving shop offered to go get it for free, as they should, as I lived 3 hours away) and had it all done in two days, $3k

In separate incident, I also had a busted radiator (metal road debris flying through the grill) and when I replaced the radiator, I bypassed the internal oil cooler and added a B&M 70274 SuperCooler Black Aluminum Fluid Cooler. I use a laser thermo gun to check intake and output of the transmission oil and found a huge differential. Whoever invented the combination radiator / transmission oil cooler 60 years ago is a total idiot. Running hot oil pipes through the middle of a hot coolant radiator is obviously stupid. Any trans shop can do this for you - they bypass or add additional oil coolers all the time.

If you are happy with your MDX aside from this trans problem, just keep it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for your very helpful advice. Aamco wants $625 just to replace the radiator, then anywhere from $2413 to $3762 for a rebuilt trans depending on the number of parts needed for an in-house re-build, or the level of warranty on an Aamco re-built. Checking around this forum and other websites provides a lot of information about similar cases where the trans fluid was lost and the owners repaired the leak, filled drained and re-filled the transmission several times and continued on for some period of time without a transmission problem. I went to a well rated local transmission repair shop and the owner recommended going this way. Do I even need to replace the radiator if I just add the transmission cooler? The MDX is sitting at Aamco and they are calling to find out what I'm going to do but now I'm leaning toward towing it to my house to the add the cooler, then fluid, then see how the transmission works, before I just throw up to $3700 at the problem.
 

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In your initial description it sounds like you lost radiator coolant? If so, I'd guess the whole radiator will need to be replaced; it's broken somewhere (if you're lucky, it wasn't at one of the connection points for the transmission lines and it's just something mundane like a good ol' crack or something). A new one will set you back a couple hundred bucks and replacing it in your driveway is relatively simple if you're so inclined (they lift straight out pretty easily, you don't even have to remove the bumper if you don't want to). While you're doing it, installing a transmission cooler is also fairly easy (though you might want to take the bumper off for that), either install it in-series with the new radiator or get a heavy duty one and bypass the radiator all together.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the advice and reassurrance, the car is back at the house now and I will be replacing the radiator later this week, then flush the engine coolant system and add transmission fluid and see how the transmission is doing.
 

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Parts I purchased from Amazon

Hayden Automotive 106 Transmission Oil Cooler Hose
PROCOMP 9" INCH ELECTRIC AUTOMOTIVE RADIATOR TRANSMISSION/OIL COOLER FAN 12 VOLT
B&M 70274 SuperCooler Black Aluminum Fluid Cooler

The cooler is heavy duty and therefore kind of heavy. I wasn't comfortable having it attach just by the zip cables.
I rested the cooler on the body frame at the bottom of the radiator and found the lower lip of the cooler mates well with the lip of the body. I temporarily put a piece of wood board between the cooler and radiator and drilled two pilot holes through the metal lips of the cooler and body support. The board prevents drilling damage to the radiator. I then secured the bottom of the cooler with large (but short) #12 self-tapping metal screws. Make sure the screws don't penetrate the radiator. I then used two of the provided spacer springs for the upper corners of the cooler to attach to the radiator.

I added a 9" fan triggered by the oem radiator fan because I used to do heavy towing (cement removal or soil hauling for home improvement, unfortunately no big boy toys) and also when I climb the steep twisty Sierra Nevada roads near Mt. Whitney the engine always overheats. I don't mind the engine overheating (contrary to common hype), but I do mind my transmission cooking. In the MDX and I assume most SUVs, trans are more complicated, fragile and more costly to replace/rebuild than engines (I've had both an engine (1 qty) and trans (2 qty) rebuild on the MDX).

When you route and secure the new hose lines, be sure to fasten them so they don't flop around or droop and cause a kink. Watch out for contact with sharp surfaces. You can use flexible electrical pvc conduit (gray, soft) as a protective sheath where it passes near sheet metal.
 
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Discussion Starter #8
Got the condenser out and the radiator is all disconnected, but separating the fan from the passenger side of the radiator is going slow. The fan housing on the driver side just slips out by pulling upward, but it is bolted into the bottom of the radiator on the driver side, which is not disconnecting too easily so far.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Got the radiator in today and refilled the transmission. The radiator (Denso) was $165 at NAPA and the fluid (Valvoline Max Life) was $3.99/qt. I'm expecting to dump the fluid anyway. Ran the car a few times as I filled the transmission, and tried to bleed the cooling system. The good news was that each time I checked the trans fluid level, the fluid was clear red, with no sign of anti freeze contamination, so the radiator failure only seems to have drained the transmission and polluted the coolant system, without getting coolant in the transmission. So far so good with that part. Maybe the transmission has survived this fiasco. I filled the radiator with plain water for now, since I'm expecting multiple drains and refills to get the transmission fluid out. While running the car the radiator barfed out some brown gook several times, which must be the antifreeze/trans fluid mix. I drained and re-filled a few times, but I think I still have a ways to go. Tomorrow I'll try driving the car up and down the drive way a few times then get it on an up slope for easier bleeding. I'm not sure if I will need to do some type of cooling system flush to get the gook out faster.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
How to get trans fluid out of coolong system?

Ran the car up and down the driveway a few times and then out on the road briefly. The transmission seems to be OK, but it has not been through all the gears yet. The transmission fluid still looks like new. The cooling system is a mess. I am trying to drain and refill the radiator, then run the engine for 5 minutes alternately with max heat or max cool. The temp gauge is steady once it gets up to it's normal spot, but after doing this 6 or more times I am still getting the brown gook spewing from the radiator. I'm worried that if this stuff solidifies I might plug the tubes in the new radiator. Any ideas?
 

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Having the cooling system professionally flushed might be the best alternative. Generally I always recommend against system flushing, but at this point I think it might be the best option.
 

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Yes, that's my next move. There is a reputable transmission shop that will do the cooling system flush ($90) and a transmission flush ($140) for me next week. One thing I have found is that since the trans fluid sits on top of the water, much of it may be at the top of the radiator. Sucking it out with a wet/dry vacuum might get rid of the bulk of it then the flush at the shop will hopefully get the rest.
 

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Yes, that's my next move. There is a reputable transmission shop that will do the cooling system flush ($90) and a transmission flush ($140) for me next week. One thing I have found is that since the trans fluid sits on top of the water, much of it may be at the top of the radiator. Sucking it out with a wet/dry vacuum might get rid of the bulk of it then the flush at the shop will hopefully get the rest.
Do NOT do the transmission flush! I repeat, DO NOT DO A TRANSMISSION FLUSH. These transmissions are designed to have the fluid changed by drain and fill. The machines that force fluid through will cause damage, either directly or indirectly.

Cooling system flush, in your case seems reasonable, but for your tranny, you are far better off doing the 3 or 4X drain and fill.
 

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Thanks 75Blazer for pointing me away from there transmission flush. There is lot of information pro/con on transmission flushing on the internet and this website as well. From what I have read flushing might be OK on newer cars that have had regular fluid changes. Older cars that may not have had regular fluid changes can have a risk of stirring up sediment that could clog small passages or valves. The attached Acura Service News Article on changing the fluid states:[FONT=Helvetica,Bold][FONT=Helvetica,Bold][/FONT][/FONT]
[FONT=Helvetica,Bold][FONT=Helvetica,Bold][/FONT][/FONT]
[FONT=Helvetica,Bold][FONT=Helvetica,Bold]"NOTE: [/FONT][/FONT]The term “flushing” refers to repeatedly draining and refilling the trans with Acura Precision Craft
ATF-Z1. Don’t confuse it with aftermarket flush systems. American Honda still strongly recommends that
you avoid using them on any Acura vehicle."


Sounds like the 3X3 drain and refill is the best option for my '03 MDX/173K mi, that lost all its fluid due to the radiator problem, but had not had any transmission problems before that incident.
 

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I normally will be the first to suggest avoiding the "power flush" option - but hondacuraplanet is right in this case, IF there is ANY indication that antifreeze got into the transmission. If that did happen, the risk of the power flush stirring up debris is probably smaller than the risk of leaving antifreeze in the transmission (which WILL happen if you do a 3x3 drain and refill).

FWIW, a better option would be to pull the "output" hose going to the transmission cooler (radiator), and drain a quart at a time with the engine running, then replacing it, draining, replacing, until the fluid coming out looks new. This technique will push almost all the old fluid out the cooler hose, and you'll be left with nearly all new (non-contaminated) fluid in the transmission. Yes, there will still be a very slight amount of antifreeze in the transmission, but hopefully it's a small enough quantity so it won't matter.
 

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I normally will be the first to suggest avoiding the "power flush" option - but hondacuraplanet is right in this case, IF there is ANY indication that antifreeze got into the transmission. If that did happen, the risk of the power flush stirring up debris is probably smaller than the risk of leaving antifreeze in the transmission (which WILL happen if you do a 3x3 drain and refill).

FWIW, a better option would be to pull the "output" hose going to the transmission cooler (radiator), and drain a quart at a time with the engine running, then replacing it, draining, replacing, until the fluid coming out looks new. This technique will push almost all the old fluid out the cooler hose, and you'll be left with nearly all new (non-contaminated) fluid in the transmission. Yes, there will still be a very slight amount of antifreeze in the transmission, but hopefully it's a small enough quantity so it won't matter.
From hondaacuraplanet's post. Empahsis added. "Having the cooling system professionally flushed might be the best alternative."
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for the reply Habbyguy. The transmission was drained when the fitting broke off the radiator and the car would not move on any direction or gear The dipstick was bone dry but when I refilled after the new radiator went in it only took 6 quarts, so something remained in the transmission, but I have no evidence of coolant in the transmission. What are the chances that the fluid that did not get pumped out of the broken line contains some coolant? Is that part of the transmission that does not get pumped out also the first to receive fluid getting pumped in? If not, then somehow the coolant stayed in the cooling system and did not reach the transmission. But, if there is some coolant in the transmission is it better of do the 3X3 drain or a flush? I'm still leaning toward the 3X3, but what do you guys think?
 

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I guess if there's no clear evidence of antifreeze contamination in the tranny fluid, I'd be tempted to do the minimum... if the fitting broke off rather than the more common internal failure in the radiator (the one that allows the antifreeze and transmission fluid to intermingle), then you may have gotten very lucky. If no antifreeze got in, a flush (or heck, even a 3x3 drain) is probably not going to be necessary (you just "drained and refilled 6 quarts, after all). I'm guessing that the fitting you broke off was the output from the transmission to the cooler, which is why it pumped out six quarts of fluid... I doubt you'd have lost more than three quarts if it had been the input to the transmission (aka output of the tranny cooler).

Has anyone out there experienced a "slight contamination" of antifreeze in their tranny fluid? Is there any visual indication, or does it require a chemical analysis to determine?
 

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Thanks Habbyguy. I'll drain and fill and then see how it goes with the transmission. The trans fluid in the coolant is the immediate problem, which is not going away by draining and filling the cooling system. The attached file has some suggestions for an L-11 emulsifier product. Has anyone used or heard of that before? There have been some other sites saying that dishwasher detergent can be used, but some types might harm the seals in the engine.




Don't Rush the Flush
 

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I'd do a water flush to get things started, and to get the majority of the gunk out. Then I like the idea of the emulsifying agent. FWIW, I have a hard time believing that trace amounts of tranny fluid in the cooling system will have any horrible effect - after all, it's essentially a lubricant. I wouldn't want MUCH of it in my antifreeze, but a tiny bit's just going to get suspended in the antifreeze and "go along for the ride" as the coolant circulates.

Don't forget to open your heater fully when you're flushing, or any fluid trapped in there will be reintroduced the next cold day... ;-)
 
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