Piston Slap: Just Do It Edition

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Adam writes:

Hi Sajeev, I own a 2002 Honda Civic Si Coupe 5spd. It has almost 140,000KM on it and I am trying to keep it in good health out of warranty. Recently I decided to go through all my service receipts to see what has been done so far to the car. I noticed (shockingly) that the manual transmission fluid has not yet been changed. There is a side note in the service guide to do this every 96,000KM or 36 months. But this service isn’t part of their regular A,B,C,D and E type service packages. Nobody in the service department EVER reminded me about this while owning the car. Furthermore, when I called my Honda dealer to ask about its importance, the service advisor put me on hold for several minutes to get second opinions.

What is the deal? Is this an important part of vehicle maintenance or what? I would imagine that I am not the only one who overlooks the manual gearbox when maintaining a vehicle. But I just want to know that my $88.00+TAX is being well spent, and not too soon.

Sajeev answers:

Aside from (rear axle) differential fluid, which usually outlasts the vehicle, changing fluids on a regular basis is a good idea. In this case, you’ll get smoother shifting and less wear because fluid changes removes sludge and/or metal particles. Which can also lead to less noise and better fuel economy. Maybe.

Most importantly, it will keep the transmission alive for more years or even decades to come. I have no clue why this cheap and simple form of automotive maintenance goes overlooked by so many places designed to make a profit off of you and your car.

I suggest you get all Maury Finkle on this: “Hey, do me a favor. Change your gearbox oil. No, seriously, come on, do it. Do it.”

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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4 of 41 comments
  • I_Like_Pie I_Like_Pie on Jun 24, 2009

    Let me repeat what several people have mentioned above with respect to Honda manual transmissions...DO NOT (Repeat -NOT!) use transmission fluid in your civic's manual transmission. It calls for regular old motor oil. If you use anything else the viscosity and additives will make shifting very difficult, will make the transmission very temperamental with respect to warm up, and cause excessive wear to the syncros. You gear heads should know this. Also...as mentioned the Si is different depending or region. The OP actually seems to know his stuff and asking a pretty good question - all this armchair misinformation is not helping at all. Change the lubricant...it won't hurt a thing in that honda's manual transmission. Actually very easy to do yourself with $20 worth of tools and a couple quarts of oil. Make sure to use new crush washers.

  • AlexD AlexD on Jun 24, 2009

    "Some people even go as far as to say that metal particles in the oil make it better." Like the flakes in Goldschlager? I think it's best to change the oil if only for the psychological benefit of not lying there at night wondering if you should change the oil. Spending 80 bucks at the shop every 100K km isn't too bad. There are good comments above re. doing it yourself - that's your call and comfort level.

  • AdamYYZ AdamYYZ on Jun 24, 2009

    "There are good comments above re. doing it yourself - that’s your call and comfort level." I have no problem doing work myself... However, I live in a high rise, and they do not allow vehicle maintenance in the parking lot. And, there is the problem of properly disposing of the used materials and oil. It is just too inconvenient. I'm a little pissed about the dealer not informing me that my car was not properly serviced. I followed the service menu for 5 years and paid a lot of money for peace of mind. I feel the service advisers owed it to me to look over my service history and make sure I was up to date. In the end, I am responsible for my own car, but I still feel cheated.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Jun 24, 2009
    Jimal : The ‘03 Golf I owned (and the ‘03 Jetta my wife still drives) the drain and fill plugs are tamper proof Torx bits. They're only "tamper proof" to someone who doesn't have $5 and access to a Princess Auto (or whatever the American equivalent is)! I guess it accomplishes the objective of scaring off anyone who doesn't know that there are many tools out there beyond standard screwdrivers and wrenches. Does Honda still recommend Honda MTL? If they do, I'd go with that. It's cheap and it works well.