By on February 25, 2008

Honda is known for manufacturing some of the sweetest-shifting transmissions in the world. Yet many owners of 2002 to 2008 model year cars claim that when shifting from second to third, the transmission resists, subtly grinds into third or pops out of third gear altogether. More than a thousand Civic Si owners have signed an online petition asking Honda to “correct the problem.” Over at 8thCivic.com, the list of ’06 through ’08 Si owners “signing” the "I have a 3rd gear problem" thread is up to 270. Recently, Road and Track published its Long-Term Test Wrap-Up of their 2006 Civic Si, and they experienced a “binding resistance going into 3rd, which would kick the gear-shift lever back to neutral if the clutch was let out a moment too soon," and speculate that “we're not sure if the gearbox issue is a design flaw or premature wear exacerbated by a diverse group of learning curves.” And this site offers video of a 2004 Accord six-speed popping out of third gear. Recently, Fox news in San Diego posted a “Call for a recall” video about the current-generation Si, and it’s spread like wildfire [shown above]. Disgruntled owners say Honda needs to resolve these issues, or risk damaging its reputation. You know, more.

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30 Comments on “Honda Transmission Problem Shifting Expectations...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    I owned an 02 Acura RSX-s and now own an 06 Honda Element, and both had similar issues. Both of my cars would grind the gears going from 1st to 2nd at slow speeds, and resisted going back into 1st until the car was almost stopped. I never had either pop out of gear, but it was annoying none the less.

  • avatar
    frontline

    Just last week I watched the Acura dealer replace a automactic trans in a 08 TL that was 30 days old. After a little googling I found out this was quite the norm in earlier TL’s. I think the fastest way to destroying a customer’s loyalty to your product is through a bad tranny.

  • avatar
    tdoyle

    Truth is, Honda is known for transmission issues, at least internally. As a former certified Honda service advisor there were/are warranty extensions to 100,000 miles on certain Accord’s and last body style Odysseys as well. If there is a genuine problem with Civic SI trannys, Honda WILL take care of their customers. I am a Ford guy, but HoMoCo is exemplary in their customer service, they really are.

    Another BIG issue are on late-model CRV’s. As most people do not know, they are built in the UK and the a/c compressors are known for imploding on theirselves during normal use. It will require a phone call by the dealer to its dealer rep but Honda will typically replace the ENTIRE a/c system (condensor, evaporator, all lines) when this occurs even on vehicles with over 60K on them. I wrote up probably 20 of them in a years’ period.

  • avatar

    I have a friend who loves her Accord despite numerous problems (bad 5-speed, several fuel pumps, rusty hood). Why? The car was so nice to drive AND Honda took care of each problem without any fuss.

    Contrast that with how GM dealt with their bad intake manifold gasket problem – “case by case” treatment which meant some got warranty coverage, some did not, most had to get into a fight with GM or their dealer. It created incredible ill will that will take forever (and tons of money) to correct, if it can be corrected. They should have copied Honda and just put things right. Can GM afford to do that now?

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    What does GM have to do with Honda tranmissions? (other than the Vue which used Honda engines and transmissions for awhile).

  • avatar
    jaje

    My dad had a rear oil seal fail at 85k miles leaving him the only time stranded in his Honda. Had the car towed to the dealer and b/c it was at the 90k service he had the entire timing belt / water pump service. Paid everything himself. Just a week later he got a recall notice in the mail for the rear main seal and he called the number provided. They said send the receipt he had. They paid for everything including the tow truck, and his 90k service. Would GM/Ford/Chrysler or even Toyota ever do that for a seal that would fail at such high mileage?

    Aunt had an Accord (Great Lakes are = salted roads) with the notorious rust problem. She made very little money at the time (< $25k a year!) and wanted a reliable car so she bought the Accord. She wrote a letter to corporate about how she loved the car but the rust was getting bad and she could afford to fix it. Honda wrote her back and told her to bring into the local dealer (car had 95k miles on it at the time and way past warranty) to get it checked out. She was given a loaner for the time being. 1 week later she had her car back and the rust problem was fixed and she was not charged anything.

    Now in conflict and to all the transmission problems – The Mercury Cougar would destroy transmissions every 30-40k miles (friend went through 3 of them before 90k miles – Ford didn’t pay a dime or recall them even though failure was very high). Caravans have some tranny problems but no recall or extended warranty offered.

    It all boils down to any knocks people have against Honda look for them b/c there’s not too much you can fault them on. The best way to counter this is take care of their customer – which they have a habit of doing as proof here from other posts. In the end no car or MFGR is perfect and will ever be 100% fault free. It’s how they stand by the product when they do find a problem.

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    My last Honda was a 97 Prelude – puts my BMW and Mini to shame in the shifting department and was quite reliable – I made it to 105k miles with zero repairs (just tires/oil & 1 set of brakes!) before trading it in on a BMW 330 Coupe. The BMW was in the shop 6 times in the first 4 months. In yet, I can’t describe how much more I like the bimmer!

    (Luckily it’s avoided a return to the mothership in the last 2 years, else I might be singing a different tune)

  • avatar
    brettc

    My parents had a 1994 Accord, and I agree with what’s been said about Honda’s customer service record. They issued a recall at one point that involved replacing the A/C condenser, from what I remember. We had no problems with it, but it got replaced anyway. In 1996, I remember having that car at the dealer because the power antenna on it was seized. Honda replaced it for free with no questions asked, even though the car was out of the bumper to bumper warranty by a couple thousand kilometres. So, whenever Honda starts offering diesel engines in North America, I’ll probably be saying good riddance to my VWs.

    On the other hand, I vividly remember my dad fighting with the people at our Chevy dealer about many issues that never should have occurred on our 1987 Celebrity. People don’t forget bad CS experiences, but good CS experiences can create a loyal customer.

  • avatar
    Orian

    The reason GM was brought up (and Ford for that matter) is that they will fight tooth and nail to keep from recalling anything, even when it is a known issue. Add to it the horrid dealer experiences with getting things fixed and there you have 2 reasons why people have moved away from Ford/GM products to Honda/Toyota products.

    At least from my standpoint Honda and Toyota are relatively quick to recall things when they are found to be defective whereas Ford and GM will wait up to 10 years to recall anything, and only do it when the NHSTA gets involved most of the time.

    As someone pointed out above, there’s a known issue with the lower intake manifold gaskets going bad on the 3.4 V6 GM uses and they refuse to take care of it.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    I have a few friends who work at a Honda/Acura dealership. Man, they have all kinds of stories of people trying to get over on them with warranties.

    They showed me this chewed-up clutch friction disc from a RSX that the kid wanted replaced under warranty–swears he didn’t burn it up while racing.

    Had a customer come in with a 05 Accord, all kinds of weird lights in in the dashboard and under the knee panel. Was causing havoc with the interior lighting and blowing out fuses. She wasn’t too happy when they just ripped it out and told her it wasn’t under warranty because that shoddy wiring was causing all of the problems to begin with.

    Stopped by the other day to see them working on a Pilot that had a bad misfire. Mismatched plugs, wrong coolant, all kinds of problems—and the car was serviced at another dealership before they brought it here!

    No point to this story really, but I must add my GM story to balance it all out here. I broke the wiper arm on my 03 blazer. You would not believe the dealership experience I had. I drove my truck into the bay, went out for some coffee and doughnuts (because no dealership ever has good coffee and doughnuts, don’t be fooled), and two hours later, it was fixed! And washed! With a vacumed interior!

    See? I knew you wouldn’t believe me.

  • avatar
    HabaneroSi

    I purchased a 2007 Civic Si sedan in July last year. It suffered from a gimpy 3rd gear almost since day one. There is a workaround for those who are experiencing this. I, along with a lot of other Si owners, replaced the dinosaur MTF with synthetic and the third gear problem has (so far) gone away. Perhaps Honda needs to change the specs on that tranny. My dealer was pretty cool about it. My tech told me that this tranny was used on the previous Acura RSX, and the Honda Accord. He said that the only complaints they ever received were about 3rd gear. This has been going on for quite a while now. There seem to be two camps at sites like 8thcivic.com and vtec.net. One is angry at their dealerships who refuse to do anything about it, while the others just swap out the tranny fluid and get on with their lives. It seems to me the dealers will not do anything until they get something in writing from Honda N.A.

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    Has anyone mentioned the GM 3800 Series II fires? They patently refuse to acknowledge that there’s anything wrong. Go to any junkyard, however, and you’ll find roughly half of the 3800 Series II-powered cars (mostly last-gen W-Bodies and H-Bodies) were totalled due to engine fires. I’m not kidding.

    My personal experiences involve these two companies (Honda and GM) quite a bit. My mom’s family grew up on GMs and still buys them today – complaining constantly about the problems, but going back time and again regardless. My dad’s family, on the other hand, is a set of Honda devotees. An aunt had the A/C compressor replaced on her 110,000+ mi ’02 CR-V a couple of years ago. Our ’06 had an ignition problem – the second time it was in (it hasn’t had any other problems at all in 22,000 miles), the Honda dealer offered to straight up trade for a new 2007, though my stepmother refused because she didn’t like the curvy, new style.

    Meanwhile, our Cadillac dealer (the people we go to for the Aurora since Oldsmobile petered out, since they’re supposed to have good customer service) charged us for one Oldsmobile recall, claimed they didn’t know about another, has ignored TSBs regarding a multitude of things (“cannot reproduce” a steering clunk that happens literally every time the wheel is turned), and has generally denied tons of service.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    I drove my truck into the bay, went out for some coffee and doughnuts (because no dealership ever has good coffee and doughnuts, don’t be fooled), and two hours later, it was fixed! And washed! With a vacumed interior!

    quasimondo, you should see the Lexus dealer here. They’ve got a professional single-cup coffee maker (just choose your variety from the drawer and hit “brew”), pop, orange juice, and good hotel-quality pastries in the waiting area, along with a selection of comfortable couches. It’s quite the sight. Of course who knows how much the owners are paying for their oil changes!

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    I’m surprised no one on this site has mentioned the spark plug spitting problem with Ford 4.6 engines. Go to
    http://www.consumeraffairs.com/automotive/ford_spark.html

  • avatar
    Nemphre

    I experienced this 3rd gear issue during an RSX Type S test drive. I haven’t heard of it, or experienced it in any of Honda’s 5-speed transmissions though. As another poster said, I’ve read that switching to a synthetic MT fluid, such as Amsoil, can fix the problem.

    Honda is probably the only company that makes their own transmissions in-house, rather than sourcing them out to someone else (Aisin, Getrag). Unfortunately they’ve had some issues, the biggest one being the auto tranny on 98-02 Accords and derivatives. Those cars are a tranny problem waiting to happen.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Has anyone mentioned the GM 3800 Series II fires? They patently refuse to acknowledge that there’s anything wrong. Go to any junkyard, however, and you’ll find roughly half of the 3800 Series II-powered cars (mostly last-gen W-Bodies and H-Bodies) were totalled due to engine fires. I’m not kidding.

    I prowl the junkyards on a weekly basis trying to get parts to revive an old Corolla hatchback. Never saw any burned out 3800′s, but I did come across a Scion tC and an Infiniti G35, both reduced to a burned out shell.

  • avatar
    Chaser

    I’m not a fanboy of Honda or Mazda, and I have nothing against either company. Having said that, I’ve never seen a reason to pay $21k for a Civic Si when I can get a Mazdaspeed3 for less than $2k more. The Hondas I’ve driven seem like pretty good cars but the price premium isn’t worth it, especially if you’re going to have to deal with problems like this.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    The 2nd and 3rd gen Odysseys suffer transmission failures on the 4 and 5 gear auto transmissions. Honda replaces it up to 100k miles for free.

    The Honda auto tranny problems appear when it’s matched to their V6 engines, I haven’t heard of the 4-cyl Accords or Civics ruining the 2nd gear due to excess heat.

    This spring on my ‘to-do’ list is the installation of a transmission cooler and filter to our ’03 Odyssey as a bit of cheap insurance.

  • avatar
    Raskolnikov

    Wow…..I just love how a discussion of junky transmissions from HONDA turns into a GM hate fest.

    Remember folks, the topic at hand is HONDA selling a poor quality transmission.

    So to everyone who purchased a Civic Si: will this problem affect your purchasing decision next time?

  • avatar
    CarShark

    @Raskolnikov

    Well, people are just comparing the recall/dealer experience of Honda with other automakers. No problem there. And I’d hardly call what quasimondo said “hate”.

    My mom and dad have a Chevy Equinox and Lexus GX470, respectively. I’ll ask them how it’s been for them.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    What does GM have to do with Honda tranmissions?

    Being that you went out of your way to critique Toyota on a thread criticizing GM, I do hope that you see the irony in your comment.

  • avatar
    Minnesota Nice

    Wow…..I just love how a discussion of junky transmissions from HONDA turns into a GM hate fest..

    Remember folks, the topic at hand is HONDA selling a poor quality transmission.

    Agreed. While I have no doubts regarding some of the issues facing domestic auto manufacturers, the topic at hand is Honda, one of the God companies in the automotive world, has sold, and is continuing to sell, a fundamentally flawed transmission.

    This has been happening for almost a decade. The RSX Type-S, the S2000, the Accord V6 6MT, the new Civic Si, and several others.

    So to everyone who purchased a Civic Si: will this problem affect your purchasing decision next time?

    I can’t deny that the Civic Si is fun to drive. The car handles incredibly well for the price, it’s interior is comfortable, functional, and stylish, and the gearbox, when it’s not popping out, grinding, or resisting, is a pleasure to operate.

    However, I’ve had so many nagging quality issues. The seat fabric, despite careful maintenance, is wearing and discoloring at the seams, the plastics scratch easily, the interior has had over a dozen rattles, the paint is paper thin, it has to be warmed up considerably in cold weather in order for it not to buck or resist or lurch, the locks hiss sometimes when I unlock/lock the doors, the cowl on the windshield had to be replaced due to peeling, as did the windshield wiper (peeled down to metal base), and the seats squeak like an old rocking chair. I have had only a few of these fixed because the dealer can’t “replicate” any of them. They hate dealing with my car because of all the problems with it, and they spend too much time fixing problems that should not have been in the first place.

    In short, knowing what I know now, I would not buy another Civic. At least the Si. People talk about Honda’s customer service being so good, but my experience is the opposite. The dealerships don’t know anything about the car (put the wrong oil in several times, never know about the TSBs/Recalls), and American Honda’s Customer Care line has some of the rudest case managers I’ve ever encountered. They refuse to acknowledge the problem of third gear, and have rudely handled me, dismissing my case before even talking to me. This has happened twice now.

    The Chevy dealership my mother goes to bends over backwards to help her, even when they maybe shouldn’t. This experience with Honda could very well be my last based on how myself and my friends have been treated over this matter.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Totally unaware of the manual tranny issues in Honda’s, I have known for a while about their auto failures. I just kind of figured they made the manuals the same as they were a long time ago, they felt like they were filled with mayonaise, no clutch required and virtually indestructable.

    Minnesota Nice I think the dealer issue depends on your area. The one’s in the Atlanta area that I was car shopping at or heard from relatives were BAD. Gwinnet Place Honda practically held me prisonner to buy a new Accord which I didn’t. Sister-in-law had expensive transmission issues in her 2002 Accord with 50,000+ miles about a year ago and they weaseled her into leasing a new Accord. Bad dealers can go either way domestic or import, it comes down to the people running the place and how they view their customers.

  • avatar
    HabaneroSi

    Hmmm…
    Would the gimpy 3rd gear in my Si make this the last Honda I purchase?
    Probably not. As long as the new tranny fluid works, I’ll keep it. I did have one piece of plastic trim that kept popping off, and the dealer, Ed Voyles in Atlanta, replaced it. That was a no-brainer. The other issue Si owners have reported is a popping noise (like a champagne cork) from the front left bump-stop. There is a TSB for it, but, for some reason, Honda NA refuses to include ’07 Si sedans in the list. It stops with ’06 Si coupes. Go figure.

  • avatar
    roamer

    At 48,600 miles my ’02 RSX Type S ate it’s engine. I had noted excessive oil useage and discussed it with the maintenence department at Boulder Acura, but with the engine being the brand new K-series they didn’t have anything to go on but the manual. On the way home one late night the car started sounding like it was having rod knock – very disconcernting in an OHC motor. Making the last hard left towards home the engine did a sudden stop from 3500 rpm.

    Called the service department next day (Saturday) and had an amusing time assuring the guy there (the new guy, of course) that yes, I would need a loaner, this wouldn’t be fixed while I waited.

    Service manager called Monday morning and asked me if I liked the TSX loaner, because I was probably going to have it for a month or so. They had to ship a long block from Japan for the replacement. They shipped my engine back to Honda Japan in the same crate so they could tear it down and do a full autopsy.

    Naturally, I didn’t pay a cent. But the most important thing to me was, I never worried about what was going to happen. I had a Honda; they would make it right.

    That’s what sells cars.

  • avatar
    Chaser

    Damn right! When my Nissan Frontier was in the shop for a week and the dealership basically told me to piss off and rent a car–and still didn’t get my truck fixed!–they lost a customer for life. The domestics get a bad name around here and I did have a lot of problems out of my Dodge, but the dealers always took great care of me and even offered me a loaner on non-warranty work. I just wish they sold a car I wanted these days.

  • avatar
    daisy

    There is a lot of civic si owners on 8th civic.com that state that the problem with third gear returns a few months after swapping out the transmission fluid.
    Also , as someone else stated that honda has good customer service, that has not been proven to me yet. My dealership treated me more like I was the cause of the third gear problem instead of trying to look for the real cause. When I mentioned changing the tranny fluid, they said it was not recommended by honda. Then why did I find an official honda newsletter to their techs stating to change the mtf fluid?I dealt with honda america and they were absolutely no help. The rep laughed at me when I told him about third gear,he said “I have never heard of that before”.
    I have owned three generations of civics(all used)and this 07 SI was my first financed new car. I have had the worst experience ever with this vehicle. I just dont understand how honda can not acknowledge that their is a serious defect with these transmissions.
    Everyone is so judgemental and say the owner must have raced the car. Even if that were not true, then why is the car marketed to the young public and is “race-inspired” as they state in their catalog.

  • avatar
    Sing

    I am from Canada, I got a Honda Civic Si 2008 model, I know that there was problem with the clutch from the beginning, but they told me that is Normal for a honda civic Si to pop out of 3gear, because the gear shift is very stiff, after 42,000 Km and a year and a haft, the transmission burn out, I continue get blame from Honda Canada, saying that is my fault that this happen, over rev, as result paying $1400 for repair. I been a driver for the military for several year, and All we have was Standard Vehicle, So I been train, I believe talk and talk only go so far, Litigation is needed.

  • avatar
    Sing

    1 day before the Arbitration date for the BBB, Honda Canada calls me and decides to settle the amount that I paid for repairing the car, and also any other costs associated with the diagnostic and rental car cost. I encourage any one having the same problem to continue the fight.

  • avatar

    Honda transmissions are so prone to failure. I have had 3 in my lifetime – all needed trans rebuilds. Luckily I found a great trans shop here in Charlotte ( http://www.twincharlotte.com) they do awesome work.


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