Thursday, May 09, 2013

Computers I Can Fix. Cars, Not So Much

My car has somewhere around 160,000 miles. I knew I was due for a major malfunction, I just didn't know where the other shoe would drop. I was out running some errands when the car started to lurch forward then coast then lurch forward. It actually wouldn't move at all at one point.

I talked to a mechanic and got the bad news that I likely needed a transmission rebuild and that would run me about $2,300.00... Ouch. I checked some other sources and learned that my problem could be as simple as, perhaps, low fluid.

I checked the level, added more fluid, and took her out. She ran pretty well until I'd been out for a while and was traversing some hills when she again ceased engagement of forward momentum. A few more checks with a few more people in the know and it was decided that the fluid was dirty as hell, the crud was being stirred up, clogging the filter and impeding the flow. Once she sat for a bit, the sediment would settle out and she'd move again so that seemed reasonable.

I called the local repair shop and asked about a flush and fill. After describing the symptoms they told me they wouldn't touch it because they'd had too many cases of the cars no longer moving after the procedure. Basically, the particles causing the problem were the only thing keeping the transmission together.

So now, I turned to the Internet. I found a YouTube video entitled, "10 Min Automatic Transmission Fluid Flush + Replacement." It looked so easy. I said it LOOKED easy. He was even working on the same kind of car I drive. I consulted my Hanes manual, which provided even less detail, and decided to take the chance. I figured I couldn't make it much worse and might even get some more mileage out of it.

I went out to my car and looked under the hood. I couldn't make heads or tails of it much less figure out where the feeder line was so I thought I would just drain and fill.

And so I proceeded. I drove my car around the neighborhood a few laps to warm everything up then brought her home to start the procedure. I jacked up the car and put it on stands (NEVER work under a car supported only by a jack). I looked at the picture in the book then at the front of the transmission casing. Why are there two bolts? Let's see, liquid flows to the lowest point so I'll take out the bottom one.

Funny, it looked like a regular bolt. The one in the video was larger and had a magnet on the end of it. And the fluid doesn't seem to be flowing, exactly. Maybe if I remove the other bolt, too, it will allow for some sort of air displacement... no, now I just have fluid dribbling out of two holes and slowly dripping off the bottom of the transmission.

I wonder what would happen if I started the car? Would that cause the flow to increase? I'll start it then turn it off immediately and see what the result is... The result is I gotta go find the kitty litter.

Okay, what if I stuck a tube in that hole then started the car? Let's see... the tube I have doesn't fit. I got it, I'll cut it at an extreme angle then jam it in there. Oh, hey, that kinda worked! ... but the drain pan wasn't quite under the spout... more kitty litter.

I did that a couple more times with my wife starting the car so I could observe and catch the flow and decided that was good enough for now. It had been WAY longer than 10 minutes and I was tired. I put the plugs back in and topped off the fluid. Good news, she was still moving. Bad news, I hadn't drawn out nearly enough fluid to have drained it completely.

The next night, round two. This one started pretty much the same but I let the car run much longer to be sure the fluid was nice and warm with a very low viscosity. Still, I got a miserable drip. This simply can't be right. Hmm, my tube doesn't seem to want to fit anymore. Ah, a box knife. Let me trim it a bit. There, that seems to be shoved in there pretty well. Let me go start the car... the tube didn't hold. More kitty litter, please.

As it continues to dribble, I go back inside to again consult the internet on flushing the transmission fluid but this time I tell it exactly what kind of car I have.

I came across, "2003-2007 Honda Accord Transmission drain and refill." I start watching... "take out the dipstick so you get better air displacement." Hadn't done that. Pause... out to garage, remove dipstick and set aside, no change in flow, return to video. "Now we're at the drain plug. It's right here next to the oil pan. It faces sideways so..." Excuse me? It faces which way? Did you say sideways? SIDEWAYS? Pause... out to garage, look under car... I had been approaching the job pretty much from the passenger side. Guess which side the drain plug is on... yep - the driver's side. I put the bolt I had removed back and broke free the correct drain plug and the fluid came gushing out as expected.

I went inside to finish watching the video. I wrapped up in another 15 minutes. I cleaned up ... well, I poured the old oil out of the drain pan into an old milk jug and shoved everything else aside ... and the wife and I went for a drive. Everything seems to have gone well. No hard shifting, no lurching, no... not... moving. I'll drive it around a few days, letting the remaining crud recirculate through the fluid, then do it all over again... minus the kitty litter, I hope.

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