Piston Slap: Crystal Ballin' With Yo Tranny!

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap crystal ballin with yo tranny

TTAC Commentator itsgotvtakyo writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I recently purchased a 1999 Honda Accord LX for my sister. It has 115,000 on the ULEV 4cyl and an automatic transmission. The car is very straight and clean on the inside and out for the year and miles. The seller was a middle aged gentleman who bought the car four years ago for his daughter. The vehicle has obviously been maintained but there’s one glaring issue I have my fingers crossed on… the transmission.

It’s not terrible, but there’s something there. The car upshifts perfectly fine without any slipping or seeking and it also downshifts appropriately when called upon. The only issues occur when shifting the car out of park and when coming to a complete stop. There’s a noticeable (to me) pause and a thunk before the car settles. I noticed this on my test drive and, because the car is so strong in nearly every other aspect, made it the focal point of my negotiation. After pointing it out to the owner he agreed that I was not imagining things and something was out of the ordinary. I’m very well aware of Honda’s transmission issues and, by negotiating a purchase price that’s around $1,800 less than what a comparable 100% no issue car might go for, I’m relatively well protected. An absolute worst case scenario will cost us in inconvenience and time, not dollars. My question is how much life does this tranny realistically have? The current fluid is dirty but not burnt and it will be drained, filled, driven 4X with Honda ATF, along with a couple other piece of mind maintenance items before my sister starts driving it. How much time might that buy me? Is it possible the situation could be resolved completely?

I broke plenty of Hondas before I figured out there’s no way to make big, reliable, forced induction power without spending money, but obviously none of those cars were automatics. In fact, I think a manual transmission is one of the only things that I haven’t broken at some point or another. The Honda forums I used to frequent have been overrun with young kids and idiots for the most part, and the older guys that do know what they’re talking have the same lack of experience with automatic Hondas as I do. The car will get a re-manufactured transmission if it has to but that’s something I’d obviously like to avoid if at all possible. Thanks to you and the commenters for any insight.

Sajeev answers:

Oh boy, another automatic tranny problem. I don’t have a problem repeating myself, but perhaps my best comments on this matter are behind me.

So now I wonder how stupid I sound when Armchair Quarterbacking this play. Because people say some pretty stupid things when analyzing/complaining about a sports team during a big game. Our opinions neither help nor hurt: how many passes have we thrown with a large man barreling down towards us, ready to “profit” from our faceplant? How do we know what’s going on inside the Accord’s gearbox without tearing it apart? It is the same thing.

Kinda.

BACK ON TOPIC (finally): what would I recommend? Change the fluid, make sure your sister comes to a complete stop between Reverse/Drive engagement, and hope for the best. If not, it sounds like you got the Accord for a good price, so find a transmission rebuilder with a good reputation before you need one. That last sentence will save thousands and hours/days of headaches, but adding a coupla cups of sawdust to a failing gearbox isn’t a bad idea too.**

**Except it is a bad idea. Unless you really, really love sawdust. Which you do not.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Comments
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  • Redmondjp Redmondjp on Oct 22, 2012

    Check the forums on this one. Sometimes, it's just a bad solenoid valve (such as is used for the torque converter lockup circuit). The solenoids are exterior to the transmission so they can be replaced relatively easily.

  • SherbornSean SherbornSean on Oct 22, 2012

    Advice: 1. change transmission fluid 2. drive car. stop worrying. seriously 3. If/when transmission ever truly fails, have it fixed by reputable shop.

  • Probert There's something wrong with that chart. The 9 month numbers for Tesla, in the chart, are closer to Tesla's Q3 numbers. They delivered 343,830 cars in q3 and YoY it is a 40% increase. They sold 363,830 but deliveries were slowed at the end of the quarter - no cars in inventory. For the past 9 months the total sold is 929,910 . So very good performance considering a major shutdown for about a month in China (Covid, factory revamp). Not sure if the chart is also inaccurate for other makers.
  • ToolGuy "...overall length grew only fractionally, from 187.6” in 1994 to 198.7” in 1995."Something very wrong with that sentence. I believe you just overstated the length by 11 inches.
  • ToolGuy There is no level of markup on the Jeep Wrangler which would not be justified or would make it any less desirable [perfectly inelastic demand, i.e., 'I want one']. Source: My 21-year-old daughter.
  • ToolGuy Strong performance from Fiat.
  • Inside Looking Out GM is like America, it does the right thing only after trying everything else.  As General Motors goes, so goes America.
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