1991 Civic Wagovan Transmission Advice

I have a 1991 Honda Civic Wagon with the 1.5L engine (2 wheel drive), automatic. Have noticed some subtle transmission slipping. Car has 200,000 Kilometers (125,000 miles).

I've visited two transmission mechanics who both said it needs a rebuild (~$3000). The slips seem to get worse as trans warms up, but it isn't particularly noticeable - my regular mechanic didn't even notice the slips and both trans mechanics said this the slipping is in its 'infancy'.

Seems the transmission gets confused and revs up mildly, changing between 2/3 when it doesn't need to. I rarely experience the "pedal down but not accelerating" symptom - it accelerates fine, but is doing this little change that presents as a tachometer flutter between second and third. On more rare occasion, when I'm on a hill and accelerating, I will see the RPM's jump hard before shifting up. I also have a mild downshift clunk.

I do not need to drive this car much. <5,000 kms/year (<3,000 miles/yr).

There is a very slow trans fluid leak also between the main seam, and I'm keeping the fluids topped up. Both trans mechanics said DO NOT flush it or add any additives, as it can disturb and lead to premature failure. One of the trans mechanics said I should minimize driving it, as a $3000 problem could grow into a $4500 problem.

A few questions I'm hoping people can answer:

1. Curious: Did the Honda Civic Wagons have the same transmission as the Honda Civics?
2. Do you think that light gentle driving, for periods that are almost always less than 30 minutes, would be low risk to make the trans worse (ie, I'm hoping to get another 6 months or so before even considering this rebuild).
3. Any other advice?

This car is mint otherwise, with lots of parts maintained.



  • truckslammertruckslammer Moderator
    I am guessing that it is an auto trans. Wagons are the same as other EF Civics. I would change the trans fluid unless you know its history. Use Honda fluid and give that a try.
  • arries289arries289 Wagonist
    I would say that the trans techs are likely right. Especially if the fluid is dark, I would not change it either. What happens is the fluid, as it ages and become contaminated, gains some friction coefficient. That helps in a situation where the clutches in the transmission are worn out. If you put fresh fluid in, it reduces that friction and can create more clutch slippage. As they also recommended, definitely do not have it flushed. I would just keep it topped up and try not to work it hard or overheat it. Start saving for a rebuild. $3000 seems a bit high to me though.
  • CCWagoCCWago Band Wagon
    Thanks for your thoughts!

    Do you think that light gentle driving, for periods that are almost always less than 30 minutes, would be low risk to make the trans worse (ie, I'm hoping to get another 6 months or so before even considering this rebuild)...

    And I am going to see if I can find mechanic with lower labour cost...
  • arries289arries289 Wagonist
    I think you probably have years left on the transmission with careful driving. I have seen much worse. Do your research on finding a competent transmission rebuilder. One that is familar with older Honda transmissions would be ideal. My RT4WD automatic got fully rebuilt about 6 years ago and I think it was about $1800 or so. Good luck!
  • CCWagoCCWago Band Wagon
    Thanks for that - i think you're right, and i'm being a bit of an automobile hypochondriac. Plus, if a rebuild is in my future, gonna rebuild all the soft parts anyway, so not going to keep stressing over a subtle and rare slip (plus I've figured out how to drive it so it doesn't slip). Will be careful not to bbq my tranny, and see how much time I get. A few years would be amazing.
  • SiWagonSiWagon Council Member
    I agree with arries289.I'm driven mine with a slip for the last 8O,OOO miles.It's been getting worse, but keeps on ticking.Just drive it normal.Don't push it hard.I've changed the oil a few times w/o improvement.Read the owner's manual. It says to change the trans oil every 30,000 miles and that's what I've been doing.I learned from a old guy bout ford auto trannies.He said "change the trans fluid every 3O,OOO miles and it'll last a long time".
Sign In or Register to comment.