Every car group has a few models that create a buzz that fills internet search engines with data for analysts to observe. Be it the GM ZR-1, Ferrari 430 Scuderia, or the Honda Civic Type R, enthusiasts love new sports cars.
In the 90s some of the North American market had a taste of the Acura NSX and the Integra Type R. While millions had their heart in Civic's and Integras. The message boards filled up with questions on how to make these cars faster and more extreme. Fast forward to year 2000 and Honda has provided the market with the S2000, a more powerful Civic Si with limited slip and 6 Speed manual transmission and near 300HP versions of the TL and Accords.
This past decade has been one exciting time for Honda owners. But before we send Honda a box of chocolates and flowers we must address a nagging issue that owners all over the internet have been posting and blogging about. The issue is that of the 6 speed manual transmission problems in several major Honda models. The complaints range from gear grinds, difficulty shifting, and loss of gears all together.
Our experience started in 2000 with the Honda S2000 praised as having one of the worlds best feeling gearbox. But as the number of owners increased so did the cries of frequent 2nd and 3rd gear grinds and owners losing 5th or 6th gear all together. As time advanced owners of the car had learned from hard core owners and mechanics that skipping gears such as shifting from 3rd to 5th could cause loss of a synchronizer on that gear. Or that the Honda transmission fluid was not up to the task in wear protection for the long term. Owners tampered with different trans fluids, fluid levels and shifting techniques. As the 2002 model rolled in manufacturing improvements were said to be made but no one could really decide what they were. In 2004 the transmission synchronizers received an update in materials in hopes to alleviate balky shifting and grinds. As owners brought in their cars to the dealers the same story like a broken record was heard in many cases, dealers suspecting abuse or refusing service due to modifications.
To take an unbiased approach there were hundreds of stories we had read where some of these owners were very negligent. One day on the message board they were posting on how they accomplished a massive burnout in front a Corvette and the next day they lost a gear or clutch. We understand that many sports car owners of all makes and models like to drive and many don't want to leave their car stock so dealers tend to be very cautious about honoring warranties. But moving away from the S2000 problems we come to the Honda Accord released in 2003 for the first time with a 6 speed manual. Also the nearly brand new 2006 Honda Civic Si also equipped for the first time with a 6 speed manual gearbox.
Trying to Fix the Problem:
There are other models such as the Acura TL and TSX with 6 speed transmissions and much of what will be discussed will apply more so to the TL. One of the females in the group loved the Accord Coupe and decided to buy a new 2006 EX with 6 Speed and navigation. After test driving older models and being upset with clutch take-up it seems the 2006 and 2007 models did not suffer from the issue so the purchase was made. After 1000 miles 3rd gear seemed difficult to engage or sometimes refused to engage at all and popped out when attempts were made. The female owner suspected it may just need to be broken in further. At 3000 miles the issues continued and the first trip was made to MotorWerks in Barrington, Illinois . This dealer has a good reputation in terms of repair and sales and most likely due to them selling higher end vehicles such as Porsche, BMW, and Maybach. After the usual day in the shop the owner got the call from the service manager saying that "They could not replicate the issue." This is a quote most Honda owners of these types of cars dread and have heard often.
At 10,000 miles the problem continues and the second attempt at dropping it off at the dealer returned the same result, nothing. Frustrated and upset the owner asked friends and a local Honda mechanic and they pointed her to a few websites that printed a Honda bulletin from the tech line about a different transmission fluid that may help her issue. She attempted to order it online and could not find it. After arguing with 3 dealers about the part number that dealers could not locate MotorWerks discovered their software for updates from Honda was out of date. Once they updated it they found the part number. At 14,000 miles the owner paid to swap out the transmission fluid in hopes it would help the issue. While she claimed it felt better, a few weeks later the gear pops were happening again. To avoid any comments on why the owner did not want to swap to GM or Penzoil Syncromesh, it was mainly because she wanted Honda to address the root of the problem and make a manufacturing fix.
Could Not Replicate the Problem:
Another call was placed to Motorwerks for an appointment, this time she wanted to ride with a mechanic. They agreed and had the shop foreman go with her and he drove the car. In the 10 minute ride he could not replicate the problem. He was very nice about the issue until he made the following comments:
- "You have to press the clutch down all the way."
- "These cars all have this problem it is normal."
- "You cannot skip gears when you drive these cars."
The shop foreman confirmed the obvious for her. But the disturbing fact was they had no fix. After this visit she made appointments to the now out of business Crystal Lake Honda, Crystal Lake, IL, and Schaumburg Honda. Both visits were almost exactly the same which they recommended that she change the transmission fluid and that this was normal for the car.
Proving the Problem Exists in 5 Minutes:
Soon after we got a call from her about it and that she was thinking about selling the car. We recommended she try calling Honda customer support. We started our own research on the matter which involved hands on. Doing some simple searches on Google revealed a few web forums and blogs discussing issues on the trans problems in the TL, Accord, S2000 and the 2006-2007 Civic Si which proved this is not a random problem.
After the web search we started driving random samples of used Civic Si MY2006-2007 and Accord V6 with 6 speed manuals between the MY 2003-2007. The VIN numbers of the cars are listed below.
- 2HGFG21526H708350 2006 27k Miles
- 2HGFG21567H701080 2007 10k Miles
- 2HGFA55597H706304 2007 7k Miles
- 2HGFG21526H702998 2006 17k Miles
- 2HGFG21576H711583 2006 21k Miles
- 2HGFA55557H714786 2007 5k Miles
- 2HGFG21536H710303 2006 6k Miles
- 2HGFA55507H705381 2007 6k Miles
- 2HGFG21537H710240 2007 13k Miles
- 2HGFA55527H706998 2007 10k Miles
- 1HGCM65556A010942 2006 25k Miles
- 1HGCM81625A012611 2005 36k Miles
- Our Test Car
You may noticed we stopped our research on the Accord models. The main reason was that the trend of problems was fairly obvious. 8 of the 10 Civic Si's we drove had problems getting into 3rd gear mostly during the first 10 minutes of driving. One of the Si's transmission was smooth but had a short shifter kit and a 120db exhaust. And the second Si that passed the test really did not pass because 2nd and 3rd gear ground so badly that we could not confidently say it suffered from a manufacturing defect.
The three Accord's driven in the test also had similar issues with 2nd gear smoothness and 3rd gear popping out. The final Accord was our female owner who let one of our most competent drivers behind the wheel to shoot the test videos below.
The two videos should be standard viewing for the dealers who can't seem to "replicate the problem." As we were able to re-produce the problem on our test car in less than 5 minutes and in nearly every test drive we were on.
In conclusion we must say that it's obvious there is a problem and Honda needs to address the issue with a mechanical fix. Rumors are now flying that Honda has a fix in the pipe due this month. (01/2008) Likely this will not be a recall but a TSB and in usual dealer fashion they will need to replicate the issue in order to service the car. So while the proof has been out there here is our video documentation of the issue.
Download Video 1
Download Video 2
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