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Discussion Starter #1
I just bought a 98 CR-V, with 156k miles. Although it's not severe, I notice (now that I've come to my senses) that there is some shift flare, and it very very occasionally slams into gear when accelerating. There's no "hunting" or other weirdness when at highway speeds, though it does seem to resent climbing hills.

Anyhow, I had the idea that the previous owner had probably never changed/drained the transmission fluid, and, though it looks like it's an easy thing to do (even for me), I decided to go to the Honda dealer to have the simple 3-4 qt drain done.

So (finally), here's the question: The service rep recommended against it, saying that by the time there's transmission flare, it's usually a damage-already-done situation, and that, in fact, freshening the trans fluid would likely make it even worse!

This isn't making sense to me, and I wonder if I'm just not getting it; I'd appreciate any thoughts regarding this. Thanks, in advance.
 

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this is a common recommendation because often with a worn trans, replacing the fluid will make it "act" more worn, or even fail altogether soon after the change. However, the more you drive it the worse it will get. I can not see how putting fresh fluid in it will "cause" damage, if it is damaged, it has already happened. so you will have trouble with it sooner or later whether you change the fluid or not. Putting clean fluid in it can only help.

I am of the opinion that the fluid should be changed, it should prevent any future damage, even if it makes it shift poorly. And often it corrects the current problems. And I have also found that if the shifting does degrade further, adding a "valve body cleaner" transmission fluid additive will often fix any slipping or hard shifts.

Honda, and many "knowledgeable experts", will advise against any additives to the trans (of course they would like to sell you a new trans too). I think this too is bad advise, if the trans is bad you will not harm it further, and I have tried it a number of times (including in a Honda automatic trans), and had it correct the shifting problems on very high mileage cars with shifting issues. So you may end up needing trans repair eventually, but trying the additive first may help or even precluding needing to do any major work if you are lucky. If not, than you only risked a few $. I would never advise using it on a good trans, but if it is shifting funny, usually just putting in some cleaner or performance additive makes it work properly. Do not use the cheap additives, only the good ones by larger companies with good reputations.

I want to add that some people consider me a "knowledgeable expert", I have worked as a mechanic many years and been self wrenching for 40 years. My mechanic work helped pay for my degree in a mechanical engineering and have worked for several large companies an automotive engineer for a number of years. I have used the additive with good results when the only other alternative was a complete overhaul.

If it were my car, I would do the fluid change and drive it. If the problem is solved, you are good, if it degrades further, than try a quality additive. If that does not work, you were going to need a new trans anyway.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you - that tracks perfectly with the sort of reasoning I was going through. (In fact, I even mentioned, at the time, that if it shifted worse, but prevented further damage, I'd be fine with that!). I'd already bought two different additives (couldn't decide which to use - I won't be using both, of course). From the descriptions of how fluid change is done, I'm thinking I'll just end up doing it myself - the entire "3 times method" and see where that goes. Thanks again; I appreciate your response.
 

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That will almost certainly be worn clutches within the transmission as a result of contaminated, or the wrong type of ATF/oil being put into the transmission.
The reason your Honda dealer will have said "it isn't worth it" is probably down to the fact that if both the transmission, it's internal clutches and the old fluid are not working at full efficiency, at least they are not working at full efficiency simultaneously! Introducing new fluid and thus making one part of the transmission efficient, could make it feel worse?
They are probably trying to get out of any possible future issues, by not touching it themselves. It is an old car after all!
If it were me, I think I'd try a change, whilst also looking for second hand replacement transmission!
 

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If the dealer changes the fluid and the shifting gets worse, you will be back looking at them for a new transmission. This way they avoid the argument.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks, all, for your help and comments. I'll change it myself, this weekend.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I'll report back -- I won't be doing this until this weekend, though. And, so far, Amazon, and dealer are the only places I'm seeing the actual Honda ATF. I'll do the simple drain with 3.5 to 4.0 qts, and see what happens.
 

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my 2000 CRV used exactly 3 quarts. If you intend to do several fluid changes you can get a full 12 quart case of Honda ATF and ask for a 10 percent discount, that will give you the best price (usually cheaper than e-bay or Amazon when you include shipping). That will give you enough for 4 drain and refills. I did the drain and refill after I bought the car (ATF very dirty and smelly) two times within 1000 miles, it drove and shifted much better.

You might also get the aluminum crush washer for the drain plug on the trans, it only cost $2. I have reused mine with a very light coat of sealant without leaks. Most recommend replacing the washer, it eventually gets beat up because it is soft.
 

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Changing transmission fluid will make it better. Only use Honda Atf. It is really easy to change the fluid. You just need a ratchet and pop open the plug from the front side of the car. Some tips, change the atf when the car is driven for a while and really hot. Hot fluid holds more thrash than cold fluid, so a hot change will take out more contaminants. Also when you change the atf clean the drain bolt magnet with a cloth. The drain bolt is a magnet that attract contaminants and needs cleaning. Also when you are changing the atf, always pull the dipstick first then open the bolt, so there is no air lock. Also it is good if you park the car on a slight slope, with the slope side where the drain bolt is. I change mine, with the car parked on the side of the road. Because the road side is tilted/sloped it makes it easier to drain. (the drain bolt side on the slope side). I also had a flare, and changing the fluid made it better. It is advisable to do the 3x change in stages. For example do it each week with a lot of driving in between. There is no filter in the transmission, and the screens get clogged. A little bit of driving opens them up. Do not overfill!! Mines takes three bottles of atf (3 quarts).
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks, Petros -- that's my plan. I ordered the Honda washers (5-pack, if I recall) from Amazon, and am picking up the 12 quarts from the dealer tomorrow.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Status report:

Did one 3 qt drain/refill this morning. I'm both embarrassed and relieved to say that the hardest part was finding the drain bolt - for some reason I thought it was further back, more or less just a bit further back past the front passenger wheel.

It was pretty easy, except that I managed to let the breaker bar slip when I was trying to loosen the drain bolt, and I feel like maybe now it has too much play, and that if I do that again, it'll require something more heroic to remove it. I've ordered another, and after that arrives and maybe 100 miles or so, I'll do another drain/fill. I cleaned the bolt, and yes, it was covered in quite a bit of metal filings and goo.

I did use the Honda ATF, and did not add any additives. By the time I found the bolt, drained the 3 qts, and then replaced the plug (with a new washer), the engine and transmission was pretty cool; I filled it to just about the bottom of the crosshatching on the dipstick (which, umair and Petros said, was exactly 3 qts), and then drove it around for 5 or 6 miles to heat things up and re-read the level. At that point, it was at the high side of the crosshatching, so I think I'm good there.

Subjective results: I know 5 miles or so probably isn't enough to base anything on, but my impression was that there was an improvement. The up-shifting is better, but, the definite improvement is the down-shifting on deceleration. There's no question it was slamming a bit into the lower gears. Whether because of the change, or by coincidence, it's not doing that now.

So -- I suppose I'll just see how what it does in the next 50 miles or so.

Thanks again, for all your suggestions and help!
 

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Oh sorry I forgot to mention, you need an extension to open the bolt. I used a ratchet and attached a very long handle to it. Just be careful when tightening it, its aluminum. If you over tight then it will crack. Just tight it until snug like a milk bottle. The crv has no filter, but has screens which clog up. Doing several changes opens them up.
 

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Hopefully you used the Honda DW-1 and not the old Z-1 atf.
Many have had better luck with Valvoline MaxLife Dex/Merc atf, Mobil 1 ATF, Castrol ATF, Amsoil ATF than the old Honda Z-1 atf.
Some recommend using Lubegard Red as an additive for the AT in their Hondas.
Best of luck and do the 4x change. Was the old fluid really dirty and dark? Don't over-tighten the plug. :)
Buffalo4
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Buffalo, thanks! I did use the DW-1. And, I just picked up a replacement plug, so, I'll be doing the whole series; I've got a case of DW-1 ready to go. I didn't put any additives in - yet. And yes, the old stuff was pretty thick, and very dark. I actually used a torque wrench at 36 ft lb to keep myself from over-tightening! I'm not sure how long I'll wait until I do the next drain in the series. I'm guessing that if I put it through the gears properly, I could do them all sequentially in a couple of hours, and I may just do that today.
 

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There is a hack that some people to with removing the transmission lines going to the radiator and running them into buckets and then using the transmission pump to pump all the old fluid out at once while pouring new fluid in. That is a bit riskier as you have to be careful not to let it run dry while the engine is running.
 

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Buffalo, thanks! I did use the DW-1. And, I just picked up a replacement plug, so, I'll be doing the whole series; I've got a case of DW-1 ready to go. I didn't put any additives in - yet. And yes, the old stuff was pretty thick, and very dark. I actually used a torque wrench at 36 ft lb to keep myself from over-tightening! I'm not sure how long I'll wait until I do the next drain in the series. I'm guessing that if I put it through the gears properly, I could do them all sequentially in a couple of hours, and I may just do that today.
You are correct, that is the way I would do it.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Shryp -- that sounds pretty cool, but I'm pretty sure I'd find a way to mess that up pretty well!
 
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