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Old 08-13-2005, 11:04 PM   #1
David Harleyson
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2005 VUE 3.5L
Default HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Here is the quick and dirty on how to change the transmission fluid yourself.

You will need:
A pan capable of catching and holding AT LEAST 5 QUARTS of fluid. The one I used is a 15 quart, round drain pan.
A 3/8 drive ratchet or breaker bar with a short extension.
A 10-12 inch piece of 3/8 fuel or oil line.
A small funnell with a 3/8 tip opening.
Several old rags.
At least 5 quarts of new trans fluid.

A word about transmission fluid.
Trans fluid is the life blood of your transmission. A quality trans fluid is more important to your trans than a quality oil is to your engine. As heat in the trans goes up, the life of the fluid (and your trans) goes down. Sadly most people ignore the transmission until it breaks and then swear XX car company makes cheap transmissions. The Honda transmission REQUIRES a Z1specification fluid. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT BRAND YOU BUY AS LONG AS IT CARRIES THE Z1 RATING. ASSUME NOTHING, TURN THE BOTTLE OVER AND READ. As of this writing Mobil 1 Synthetic ATF DOES NOT meet the Z1 spec. I am personally a cheerleader for synthetics in general, so I used Amsoil ATF. Use anything you like, as long as it has the Z1 rating.

The procedure:
Park the Vue on level ground, put it in park, and set the parking brake. Make sure the engine is at FULL operating temp. This will make the refill process more accurate and quicker. Turn the wheels all the way to the left, and turn off the engine.
Jack up the front end of the Vue 5-6 inches. It is not necessary to put it on ramps or jackstands for this job. Keeping the Vue as level as possible will help you get as much fluid as possible out of the trans.
Looking under the Vue from the front, the transmission is the large cast aluminum part closest to the drivers side tire. Running from front to back along the trans is a row of cad plated (gold tone) hex bolts. They all look alike, except for one...it is slightly bigger and has a 3/8 square drive head instead of a hex. This is the drain plug. Put the drain pan as close as practical to the drain plug while still allowing yourself enough room to use the ratchet and extension to loosen the plug. Once the plug is loose, it will come out with just your fingers. Work SLOWLY, and keep the drain pan close to your work. The fluid comes out FAST. MUCH faster than draining engine oil. Wipe up what you spilled and let the trans drain for several minutes. The drain plug has a magnet on the end. Wipe it off with a rag. These metal particles should be VERY tiny, almost like metal powder, and be a silver gray color. The draining fluid should be dark red, with only the slightest tinge of brown. It should NOT smell burned.
While the trans is draining remove the dipstick. It is low on the front drivers side of the engine bay, almost directly under the radiator hose. You will see a loop of wire with a piece of rubber on it. Pull it straight up and out of the fill tube. Notice I said fill tube. Here's a trick. The tube is slightly larger than the 3/8 fuel line. Dab a little trans fluid on the end of the 12 inch piece of hose and carefully but firmly push it over the end of the tube. Push the funnell in the other end and you have the perfect "fill tube extension".
Replace the drain plug and tighten snugly. Pour in the trans fluid of your choice and check the level after EACH quart of fluid. There is no way to know exactly how much fluid you drained with this method. THIS PROCEDURE DRAINED 4.8 QUARTS OF FLUID FROM MY TRANSMISSION. YOUR DRAINAGE MAY VARY. FOLLOW THE CHECK PROCEDURE IN THE OWNERS MANUAL!! I can not be resopnsible for your decision not to follow the check procedure in the owners manual EXACTLY.

Last Thoughts:
This is a quick change procedure only. A full fluid change out is only possible with a pressure flush machine from the dealer or oil change place. I believe a pressure flush SHOULD be done every 50,000 miles or so. This is a great intermediate step.
There ARE filters in the Honda trans, they are small and built into the inside of the trans case. I do not believe that they are servicable by the do-it-yourselfer.
NEVER let anyone tell you that this is a "sealed system".
Good luck with yours!
David Harleyson

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Old 08-14-2005, 12:02 PM   #2
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Thanks, great job! On other honda 3.5 transmission threads I've read, everyone says that 3 quarts come out, and you have to do it four times to get all of the fluid changed, but I'd say getting 5 out of 12 total is a good start. I'm going to change mine at 10k (7.5k now) with either amsoil or honda Z1 from the dealer. After that I'll go with 20-30k intervals. If I get 5 out, I'll be happy and just do it once.

PS: Got any new info on the spark plug study? :-P

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Old 08-14-2005, 05:36 PM   #3
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Quote:
Originally Posted by burnout
Thanks, great job! On other honda 3.5 transmission threads I've read, everyone says that 3 quarts come out, and you have to do it four times to get all of the fluid changed, but I'd say getting 5 out of 12 total is a good start. I'm going to change mine at 10k (7.5k now) with either amsoil or honda Z1 from the dealer. After that I'll go with 20-30k intervals. If I get 5 out, I'll be happy and just do it once.

PS: Got any new info on the spark plug study? :-P

Burnout, the difference MAY be that I had the Vue basically level and not on jackstands when the change was done. Again I got 4.8 quarts out. How certain are you that the trans holds 12 quarts? I'm not sure and was curious.

As far as the spark plug study goes...The data is done but I am putting it into a MSWord document that i can e-mail to Charlie. He has graciously agreed to host the document for me. I will post when the link is up and running.

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Old 08-14-2005, 05:43 PM   #4
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

I believe I read SOMEWHERE that it holds around 12-13 quarts. They said that when you remove the drain plug only a fraction of that comes out, and for a full fluid change you need to do it 3-4 times.

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Old 08-15-2005, 06:44 AM   #5
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Thanks David, excellent as always.

Do many vehicles make it this hard to fill the Auto Trans fluid ?

(I would never have thought that I would need a 3/8 inch tube)

How common is that?

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Old 08-15-2005, 10:24 AM   #6
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Doing some research..

found out that Honda does NOT recommend using a flushing machine in this transmission. Apparently, it uses wet clutch packs so it's incompatible for some reason. Honda's 'flush' method is draining and refilling 3 times.

I was looking at AMSOIL's site and they say the tranny holds 8-9 quarts.

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Old 08-15-2005, 10:29 PM   #7
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Quote:
Originally Posted by slowneo
Thanks David, excellent as always.

Do many vehicles make it this hard to fill the Auto Trans fluid ?

(I would never have thought that I would need a 3/8 inch tube)

How common is that?

As most of my years of experience have been with American automatics...this is the first Japanese auto trans I have messed with. There is no reason I can see why they could not have used a 3/4 inch fill tube and let us just stick a long neck funnell into the hole. There is plenty of room down there. No slowneo, most are not as hard to fill as this one. Honda does get some kudos for the EASY to use drain plug. No pan to drop like on a Ford or Chevy.

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Old 08-20-2005, 02:25 PM   #8
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

I was considering doing this.

The 'how to', which I think was on the amsoil site, recommended removing the cooler lines to the radiator in order to do a complete change. I think it was around 12 quarts.

If you change the fluid 3 times your mixing the old with the new and never getting a complete change. I would think that is bad when converting to amsoil.

So you need to remove the oil cooler lines and following that procedure to get the best change.

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Old 08-20-2005, 03:58 PM   #9
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

You will not get a complete trans fluid change that way either as the oil is pumped through the cooler lines by the trans oil pump and it will stop pumping when the fluid gets low. Not to mention the potential damage of running the trans with way to low fluid.

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Old 08-20-2005, 04:54 PM   #10
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Quote:
Originally Posted by ssicarman
You will not get a complete trans fluid change that way either as the oil is pumped through the cooler lines by the trans oil pump and it will stop pumping when the fluid gets low. Not to mention the potential damage of running the trans with way to low fluid.
You use the cooler line to draw in the fluid at the same rate from what I recall.

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Old 08-20-2005, 04:57 PM   #11
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

From Amsoil FAQ:

1. Make sure the fluid is warm. Warm up the car so the transmission is at normal operating temperature. Pull the transmission dipstick (located near the firewall in most cars). Fresh fluid is translucent and cherry red. Some darkening is normal, but if it is reddish brown or mustard color and smells like burnt varnish, it is worn out.
2. Drain the fluid by loosening the pan. Select the correct Hastings filter replacement based on pan shape and prepare a large pan to catch the fluid. Then loosen each pan bolt a turn or two and loosen one corner more than rest. Drain mostly from this corner.
3. Finish removing the pan and any gasket material from the pan or case. Avoid scratching the metal and make sure the pans gasket surface isnt bent or distorted.
4. Remove the old filter. Most transmission filters are held in place with a bolt or two, but some are held by a clip. Be careful to include O-Rings or other seals.
5. Install a new filter. Use the clips or bolts from the old filter. Be sure O-Rings, etc. are in place. If the filter has a long intake neck, gently push the neck into place without unseating the O-Ring.
6. Clean the pan thoroughly. Inspect the pan before cleaning. A small amount of fine grey clutch dust is normal. However, if you find metal shavings, there has been transmission damage. Clean the pan with solvent and wipe dry so there is no harmful residue.
7. Position gasket on pan. Some gaskets have four holes slightly smaller than the rest to allow four bolts through the pan and through these smaller holes to hold the gasket in place.
8. Hand tighten pan bolts in a criss-cross pattern. After that, use a torque wrench to tighten bolts to proper ft-lbs as per manufacturer.
9. Refill the transmission using only the amount shown as refill capacity in the owners manual or "AMSOIL Product Selection Guide, using the type of fluid specified for the vehicle.
10. If doing only a partial fluid replacement, skip to instruction 12 below. If doing a complete fluid replacement, follow the steps in instruction 11.
11. You now have replaced the fluid in the pan. To replace the fluid in the torque converter and oil cooler also, follow these steps.
Step 1. Obtain the total system capacity of the vehicle from the manufacturer or AMSOIL. Have this amount readily available.

Step 2. Disconnect the oil cooler line from the oil cooler. As you may not know which is the pressure side and which is the return side, have both directed so the stream of fluid will be directed toward a receptacle.

Step 3. With another person, be prepared to add ATF to the fill area as it is being pumped out of the oil cooler line.

Step 4. Start the engine, and as the old fluid is pumped out, add fresh fluid to the pan.

Step 5. When either the fluid color brightens or the total capacity has been replaced, shut the engine off and re-attach the oil cooler line. All fluids has now been changed.

12. Recheck the fluid level. With the car on level ground, set the parking brake and the transmission in Park or Neutral. Let the engine idle for a few minutes. Shift the transmission into different positions before returning the lever to Park or Neutral. Check the fluid level again and check for leaks.

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Old 08-20-2005, 05:07 PM   #12
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

From yet another site:

Changing the transmission fluid in your vehicle may not be such a difficult thing, but what you may find difficult is making sure that you change the whole system over. You see, simply draining the oil from the pan and refilling it is not enough, at least if you're switching fluid types.

If you're going to switch to synthetic, you want to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck. Thus, you'll want to make sure that you get as much of the old fluid OUT as you can so that you can put as much of the new fluid IN as you can.

The problem is that your torque converter will be holding some fluid which won't be pushed through unless the vehicle is running. You need to somehow get that fluid out. You can take it to a shop that can do a complete transmission flush and refill, but they'll charge you an arm and a leg to do it.

Here's a way that you can do it yourself without doing any damage to your transmission and without removing the torque converter. You'll need at least two and maybe three people to do the job, but not because it's that difficult. You just can't be in more than one place at one time.

Here's the plan. Find out how much fluid your transmission holds. Then find out how much fluid your torque converter holds. You may have to contact your local auto dealer for that info. Add the two together and then add about two quarts to that total. You'll probably need the extra to do the job, but if you don't at least you'll have some extra for topping off if it ever becomes necessary.

Now, change the fluid in the transmission fluid pan and replace the seal and the pan. Once the pan has been replaced, you must refill it with fresh ATF. Pour in as much ATF fluid as your transmission holds - that's typically the number listed in your owner's manual. Once you've topped off the system with new ATF, you're ready to flush the torque converter.

There are going to be two lines which run from your transmission to a cooling system of some sort at the front of your vehicle. This will either be a special section on the bottom of your radiator or a separate transmission fluid cooler. It shouldn't be that difficult to find.

Disconnect one of those two lines. If this line is flexible, then disconnect the end that attaches to your transmission (making sure to clean any dirt off the end of the hose and the area around the connection first). You'll use this disconnected end to drain fluid from. Don't disconnect the other end.

If it is not flexible, you'll probably need to have some extra temporary, flexible hose on hand to use. In this case you'll disconnect the same line, but disconnect it where it comes out of the cooling system, NOT where it attaches to the transmission (again making sure to clean the area around the connection first). Then connect one end of the flexible line (brake line should work - ask your local auto parts store) to the fluid cooler (where you removed the other line) and leave the other end unconnected to drain into a pan.

No matter which way you have to do this, keep in mind that although there might be a small amount of drainage when you first disconnect the hose, it should be minimal and should stop quickly (far less than a half quart). The hose will not drain again until you start the vehicle. If you're not sure you're following, don't worry. It will all become clear.

Now, this is the part where having two people will come in handy. You want to have one person in the vehicle turning it on and off. The other person will be at the front of the vehicle taking care of the draining and filling of the fluid. First comes a little draining.

Have the person up front hold an empty ATF quart bottle with the fluid drain hose in the mouth of the bottle. It will be easiest if the ATF bottle is clear, but it doesn't have to be. As long as you have some way of seeing the fluid level as it rises (you don't want to overfill the bottle and have fluid run all over your hands).

Once someone is in place with the "drain hose" pointed into the "drain bottle", start the vehicle. When the bottle is about full, the person holding the bottle needs to yell to the person in the driver's seat to shut off the vehicle. Once the vehicle is shut off, the hose will stop draining.

Now, you know that one quart of old ATF has been drained. So, have the person at the front of the vehicle, pour one quart of new ATF into the transmission fluid fill tube. Then, you're going to repeat the process. Put an empty quart bottle under the drain tube, have the other person start the car and run it until you fill the bottle again. Once the bottle is full of old ATF, shut off the vehicle and pour in another quart of new ATF.

This process is going to continue until you see a definite color change in the fluid draining from the hose. In other words, what you're looking for is the drain fluid should eventually look exactly the same color as the new ATF you're putting in. When it does, that means you've got the entire system flushed. At that point, you can stop, reconnect the hose and take the vehicle off the ramps. Then, you simply need to check and make sure that you're ATF fluid level is up where it needs to be (and it should be pretty close).

A note about the color change. I suggest that you use the following method to establish when the system has been completely flushed. It MAY be difficult to watch the fluid being drained from the hose and see the color change if the old fluid isn't really that old. So, to make sure you know when it's been flushed, get yourself two clear shallow containers, like tupperware or the bottoms off a couple of milk jugs or something.

Each time you fill a bottle with old ATF from the drain hose, pour just a bit of it in the bottom of one of those containers. In the bottom of the other container have a small amount of the new ATF. Compare the two. If the colors do not match exactly, your system has not been completely flushed. Dump the old ATF out of the one "comparison container" back into your drain pan and try again. When the colors match exactly, you know that you're done.

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Old 08-20-2005, 10:45 PM   #13
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

David,

Thanks for the write-up. I also have posted some diagrams from my manual to help folks out with this procedure in the past. Anyone can view them here:

http://dante.myftp.org/vue-maint/200...placement.html

They say to do a couple things that I don't do:
1) replace the gasket on the drain plug
2) remove the air intake tube, because of 3)
3) refill via the fill plug on the top of the transmission, which leads to
4) replace the gasket on the fill plug

I wound up rigging an extension like you did using 1/4" surgical tubing (same stuff I used to fill my RDM with -- it goes over the pointed tips of the gear lube pretty well). I taped it to the end of a plastic funnel and fed it INTO the dipstick tube. No leaks, no mess, no removing the air tube and reach down to the tranny fill plug.

I wound up using about 4.5 Qts on my first change. I plan on doing my 2nd change sometime soon (every other oil change).

About using the Amsoil -- are they Z1 certified by Honda? Last I heard they were not but claimed to "meet or exceed the requirements" of "many" manufacturers. IMO, the Honda tranny is the weakest link in the Vue, and I'm going BY THE BOOK on the fluids. It's not too expensive to get at a Honda dealership (about $3.60 a bottle, IIRC), and I don't mind changing it entirely too frequently (compared to the minimum maintenance recommendations), but then again, I want to have that tranny run for 500k miles!

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Old 08-21-2005, 10:31 AM   #14
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dante
About using the Amsoil -- are they Z1 certified by Honda? Last I heard they were not but claimed to "meet or exceed the requirements" of "many" manufacturers. IMO, the Honda tranny is the weakest link in the Vue, and I'm going BY THE BOOK on the fluids. It's not too expensive to get at a Honda dealership (about $3.60 a bottle, IIRC), and I don't mind changing it entirely too frequently (compared to the minimum maintenance recommendations), but then again, I want to have that tranny run for 500k miles!
A lot cheaper and easier than trying to do a complete exchange with Amsoil. Just have to wonder if this method or the Amsoil change over is the better way to go?

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Old 08-21-2005, 06:27 PM   #15
David Harleyson
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dante
David,

Thanks for the write-up. I also have posted some diagrams from my manual to help folks out with this procedure in the past. Anyone can view them here:

http://dante.myftp.org/vue-maint/200...placement.html

They say to do a couple things that I don't do:
1) replace the gasket on the drain plug
2) remove the air intake tube, because of 3)
3) refill via the fill plug on the top of the transmission, which leads to
4) replace the gasket on the fill plug

I wound up rigging an extension like you did using 1/4" surgical tubing (same stuff I used to fill my RDM with -- it goes over the pointed tips of the gear lube pretty well). I taped it to the end of a plastic funnel and fed it INTO the dipstick tube. No leaks, no mess, no removing the air tube and reach down to the tranny fill plug.

I wound up using about 4.5 Qts on my first change. I plan on doing my 2nd change sometime soon (every other oil change).

About using the Amsoil -- are they Z1 certified by Honda? Last I heard they were not but claimed to "meet or exceed the requirements" of "many" manufacturers. IMO, the Honda tranny is the weakest link in the Vue, and I'm going BY THE BOOK on the fluids. It's not too expensive to get at a Honda dealership (about $3.60 a bottle, IIRC), and I don't mind changing it entirely too frequently (compared to the minimum maintenance recommendations), but then again, I want to have that tranny run for 500k miles!
Dante, The AMSOIL ATF does meet the Z1 specs, says so right on the bottle along with about 15 others that it specifies. Being a synthetic cheerleader in general, I chose to use the only PURE synthetic i could find that met the Z1 spec. However, your method will work just fine too. Sadly, in a year or so we are going to start hearing stories about how crappy the Honda/Vue "sealed" trannys are...

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Old 08-22-2005, 07:03 PM   #16
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Harleyson
Sadly, in a year or so we are going to start hearing stories about how crappy the Honda/Vue "sealed" trannys are...
Hi,

What do you mean by that? Any details or just a hunch?

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Old 08-23-2005, 07:56 AM   #17
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Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

The Honda trans has had a lot of failures in Odyssey minivans.
They came up with a retrofit to add more lubrication to one of the problem areas by adding a spray tube where the filler plug is.
The 04 and up versions (as used in the Vue) have internal mods to accomplish the same thing.
My suggestion is change oil often and hope for the best.
Honda makes great engines but they are still on a learning curve for auto trannys.

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Old 08-23-2005, 07:49 PM   #18
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2005 VUE 3.5L
Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jldet5
Hi,

What do you mean by that? Any details or just a hunch?

Several stories on this board about dealer service advisors telling customers that the Honda trans is a sealed unit and not servicable. THIS IS NOT TRUE!!! A quick read of the owners manual will confirm that it DOES have a dipstick and gives recomended change intervals for the fluid. Sadly some people are going to believe those service advisors...

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Old 08-23-2005, 08:50 PM   #19
Jldet5
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2004 VUE 3.5L
Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Harleyson
Several stories on this board about dealer service advisors telling customers that the Honda trans is a sealed unit and not servicable. THIS IS NOT TRUE!!! A quick read of the owners manual will confirm that it DOES have a dipstick and gives recomended change intervals for the fluid. Sadly some people are going to believe those service advisors...
I was told I didn't need to change until 100,000. I suppose thats BS?

Also, how come you didn't do the complete Amsoil replacement? Are you wanting to just change the fluid more often or is it a lot of hassle trying to remove the cooler line?

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Old 08-24-2005, 11:21 PM   #20
David Harleyson
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2005 VUE 3.5L
Default Re: HOW TO: 3.5 Auto Trans Fluid Change

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jldet5
I was told I didn't need to change until 100,000. I suppose thats BS?

Also, how come you didn't do the complete Amsoil replacement? Are you wanting to just change the fluid more often or is it a lot of hassle trying to remove the cooler line?

Based on the color of my fluid at 32000...yeah thats BS! At least for those of us who tow trailers in TX in the summer. Just too hot for too many months a year.

The reasons for NOT doing a Full change out...Amsoil (and all quality synthetics for that matter) is fully compatable with regular oil and fluids. That has been the case for about 30 years or so. Rumor has it that Honda DOES NOT recomend a power flush on this trans. I have been told two different stories by two different Honda dealers. One said power flushing was OK but they didn't have a machine. The other said they do multiple fill and drains to "get as close as they can". Posts here and on Honda boards seem to indicate that the trans. is kind of "the weakest link" so I decided NOT to pump out the old fluid by running the engine with the cooler line undone. Just a bit too risky on the Honda I decided. So...I got about 40% of the old fluid out on this change, I'll be at about 60% next time, close to 85% the time after that, and so forth. Is it a perfect method? No. But, at 100000 miles I will have changed the fluid 4 times and be running virtually all synthetic fluid.

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