Piston Slap: Impending Coupe D'etat, Part II

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

George writes:

Sajeev, the automatic transmission in my 1999 Honda Accord Coupe from a prior Piston Slap failed at 115k miles. Lost 4th gear (and reverse) on US-75 on Friday. Lower 3 forward gears work, but got a rental Saturday and kept the Accord parked at home. Have an estimate of $1850 from Plano Transmission to rebuild it with (tougher?) Raybestos clutches. Owner Jeff McLeod claims to have bought a 98 Accord from a customer, rebuilt the transmission, and drove the car to 200k miles. What is your opinion of rebuilding that transmission in a local shop vs. installing a factory rebuilt transmission? I like the idea of knowing exactly what was done to the transmission and where the core came from. What parts would you want inside the transmission if it was your car? My goal would be a

  1. A car capable of running to 200k miles
  2. A car reliable enough for getting to work and weekend trips for at least 2 years to 140k miles.

I test drove several cars this weekend and wasn’t excited with my replacement choices.

Sajeev Answers:

I’ve had good luck with a smart local shop upgrading my Ford transmissions, but I’m lucky. Look at the condition of the shop: how clean are the floors, how organized are the parts and workbenches seem, etc. Get a list of the upgraded parts that are supposed to fix the failed parts. Then look on the Internet to see what parts normally fail on these transmissions.

I am saying this because upgraded parts are sometimes overkill, and sometimes do more harm than good. Take, for example, the hi-po rebuild kits sold to those wanting a hot Ford AOD: the kevlar overdrive “band” supposedly builds more heat and stress than stock, not suited for 100% street use on cars with close to stock HP levels.

Your shop has a nice website and they seem to give you the right information, I’m inclined to believe they can fix it. I hope they recommend you get an external transmission cooler and run it in series with the factory cooler in the radiator, too.

George Answers:

Thanks for the reply. The shop appeared to be clean and well organized. At this point they plan to rebuild with stock parts except that they think Raybestos clutches last longer than the OEM ones. From conversation with the shop owner and work in progress they appear to work on a lot of Honda/Acura and Ford automatics. Honda cars and Ford trucks are very popular in the Richardson/Plano Telecom Corridor area.

My transmission failure is almost certainly due to operator error. The car stalled on the highway due to a worn ignition switch which I should have had replaced under recall years earlier. I attempted to shift to neutral to coast off the highway and somehow shifted into reverse. This caused a metal fork associated with reverse and 4th to get broken off. First 3 gears work without slipping and probably would have continued to work for many months if I had been more careful as I tried to get off the highway.

I’m having more empathy for people who experienced unintended acceleration. People make dumb mistakes when they experience sudden information overload.

Sajeev Replies (again):

Your last sentence is a universal truth, a fact we should take to heart. Owning up to your mistakes (at least to yourself) is a smart move. Doing so in regards to a Honda, a somewhat-disposable vehicle, is downright honorable. Luckily for you, I believe your attention to detail with the tranny rebuilder and love of the Accord Coupe shall keep you motoring for well beyond 200,000 miles. If you so choose.

That’s because your Accord coupe is a beautifully restrained sweetheart, inside and out. And unless the next generation Accord goes on a serious diet, I suspect you’ll happy fork over $2000-ish for a local mechanic to put in a LKQ-junkyard motor when your V6 starts losing compression, when your coupe is in dire need of a heart transplant. I have high hopes, so don’t be surprised if this car lives as long as you see fit.

Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • NN NN on Aug 12, 2010

    I've had to have two rebuilt transmissions put in cars last year--my Mazda Millenia and my Mercury Mountaineer. The shop (Cottman Transmissions) had more experience with Mountaineers/Explorers. The results show...the Mountaineer rebuild drives really well, basically like new, with very smooth, near imperceptible shifts. The Millenia 1-2 upshift specifically is still pretty harsh; certainly not what you would expect from a new transmission. I've put about 15k miles on both so far since the changes. The Mercury started flashing the O/D light about 3 months after the rebuild, I took it to Cottman and the shift solenoid had gone bad, they put a new one on under warranty. Keeping my fingers crossed that these rebuilds hold up a bit. I actually have had too many problems with the Millenia and am now working to rid myself of it. In the past year, along with the two transmissions, I've had to do a new radiator and unscheduled timing belt & tensioner on the Millenia. It ain't cheap...and my used car blues resulted in a) huge, frequent repair bills and b) no improvement in trust in the Millenia. So I bought a new Malibu just last night to replace it.

  • Polska Polska on Aug 12, 2010

    What's your definition of disposable? - my '92 accord went 250k before the transmission failed, which could have been mu fault for not keeping up on maintenance. I think it was a tranny seal, but I didn't go through the full diagnosis since I wanted a newer car anyway. I should have forked over the money to repair it - I've been dicking around with less reliable replacements since.

  • SPPPP Too much individual choice in that program, maybe?
  • Eric I would like one of each, please. But make that a '641/2 Mustang and a 1970 240Z
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Funny comparison: https://gab.com/Did_I_Piss_You_Off/posts/112661740945412303
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Some insight. https://gab.com/Did_I_Piss_You_Off/posts/112661740945412303
  • Amwhalbi I know this is apples and oranges, but I'd rather have an Elantra N, a Jetta GLI or a Civic Si than either the Mustang or the Z.