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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
06 Ridgeline weird transmission stuff

EDIT: Please ignore everything I said about maybe changing the engine. I was confused. The transmission's the issue! Thanks.

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Hi all, new guy here. My background is I’m “handy” but no mechanic, fyi. Love my truck.

My 06 Ridgeline has 175k miles. The transmission is failing. I got the hint when I started hearing a noise under the vehicle whenever I put it in park. Took it to both the dealer and an independent garage, they both told me same news. I need a new transmission. Currently I can still drive the truck, no gear slippage as of yet, but it’s just a matter of time.

Quote from dealer was $6,000+ for installing a remanufactured transmission. A transmission specialty shop in my area quoted me $4,000 for installing an aftermarket.

Here’s my question. Would I be better off simply replacing the old engine with a new (used) Ridgeline engine? At some point I’ll have to get my old engine rebuilt, anyway. That'll be on top of the $4k-6k. So instead of replacing the tranny why not just replace the engine, preferably one with lower miles?

I looked around and LKQ plus one other place in Massachusetts have engines. One’s an 06, one’s an 07. Both have about 70k miles, and each are about the same price, $2,500. I’d have to drive round trip Virginia-MA to pick up the engine and haul it back to VA for installation but it’s doable. I maybe could also have the engine shipped.

Pros? Cons? What would you do? All thoughts appreciated. Thanks!
 

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PS I'm the original owner. Have done every recommended/required maintenance the owner's manual has told me to do. Last time transmission fluid was replaced was I believe three months ago at the dealer at my request, per the manual.

Sorry about putting the exclamation point on the post thread sidebar, I just noticed nobody else has one. I'd take it back but don't see how.

(moderator note: I fixed the exclamation point for you)
 

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I'm confused. You start off by asking about replacing the transmission, then you start talking about replacing the engine instead? Regardless of engine swap, you still have a bad transmission. If you know your engine and its history, and it's running well, you could easily go another 100k with continued proper maintenance. If it was me, Id look at rebuilding my transmission or a remanufactured one.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I'm confused. You start off by asking about replacing the transmission, then you start talking about replacing the engine instead? Regardless of engine swap, you still have a bad transmission. If you know your engine and its history, and it's running well, you could easily go another 100k with continued proper maintenance. If it was me, Id look at rebuilding my transmission or a remanufactured one.
Sorry if I was unclear.

#1: Old engine: what's currently in. Has bad transmission. Transmission replacement = $4-6k. Since old engine has 175k miles, the engine will probably also need rebuild and/or other work done which will of course cost more $ down the line.

#2: New (old) engine. Transmission in it is probably ok (we hope). Engine cost = $2,500. Since this engine has about 70k miles, maybe this engine will also cost less $ to maintain going forward. Of course there are unknowns with this engine (how well did the previous owner maintain it? Was it in good working condition when it came out of its original vehicle?).

So, I'm wondering if I should do #1 or #2? Or is #2 just inadvisable for some reason?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Oh, wait a minute, I see what you mean: the transmission's outside of the engine. OK. I thought it was inside. A-ha.
 

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So the second engine is an engine AND transmission?

Looking at the numbers I'd choose option 2.
 

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Oh, wait a minute, I see what you mean: the transmission's outside of the engine. OK. I thought it was inside. A-ha.
Sounds like you have it now. Transmission and engine are two separate entities.
I wasn't aware that one could get an aftermarket transmission for a Ridgeline - I'm not sure I could go that route.

I'd go with just the trans, for now. If the engine runs fine, no reason to think it won't keep chugging along. As you said, with swapping the engine, you'd replace a "known" with an "unknown".

Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk
 

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If you can get an Engine & Transmission for $2500, that's one thing. I'm thinking your of the opinion that a new Engine & Transmission would save money over doing them separately because of overlapping work. But I believe the overlap is minimal. And only you know how it's been maintained. Your replacement would be a lot of unknowns.

You should consider the remainder of the vehicle, investing $2500 in a $10,000 vehicle is, OK? But if there are other items, rust, suspension, other issues? Also if it's $2500 for both, and not something you can DIY, you'll pay atleast $2500 for the install.

Lastly, what specifically is wrong with the transmission. How is the radiator, have you changed it out? Is/has coolant leaked into the ATF? How many transmission fluid changes have you done, recently? Is the transmission slipping? Not up shifting?
 

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You need to get VERY specific details as to what is wrong with your transmission. The 5AT in the Ridgeline is known for being extremely sturdy and reliable in general. If you've done regular fluid changes throughout its life, there is absolutely no reason it should be failing. I think these guys may be trying to take advantage of you. There is absolutely NO reason to change out your engine if there is nothing wrong with it and you've maintained it. If you changed the oil regularly had did the timing belt service (along with spark plugs) when it was due, your engine will last much longer. The work involved in swapping a transmission and an engine separately are around the same, so you'd be DOUBLING your labor and part cost for no reason. Once again, get very specific details on the diagnosis for the "failing" transmission, even if you don't understand the terminology, and post it here. If the noise appeared after you had the tranny fluid drained and filled by a dealership, I'd say they may have done something wrong to cause the issue. Check the level of your transmission fluid and make sure it's properly filled.
 
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If your RL has been reasonably maintained and operated, I'd say that 175k miles is under half-life.

I am also very curious as to what sort of tranny failure you think you have and why you think it's failing. It could be, but that is very low mileage for the 5AT to fail unless there are extenuating circumstances as mentioned above.

Is the engine down on power? Excessive oil consumption? Or do you just think that at 175k miles, it may be nearly worn out?

What is the maintenance history? Have you had maintenance done when the MM calls for it? Or do you have your own schedule that you use?

Do you tow or has your RL operated in severe service conditions?
 
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Discussion Starter #11
Hi guys,

Thanks for everybody's input. Okay, so yes, I was operating under an impression that the transmission was INSIDE the engine. I don't know how I thought that. So please forget about me buying a new engine, it’s unnecessary! Sorry about my confusion there.

I’ll try to answer the questions—

I wasn't aware that one could get an aftermarket transmission for a Ridgeline - I'm not sure I could go that route.
I’m pretty sure the transmission shop said aftermarket, but I’ll get confirmation.

But if there are other items, rust, suspension, other issues?

Lastly, what specifically is wrong with the transmission. How is the radiator, have you changed it out? Is/has coolant leaked into the ATF? How many transmission fluid changes have you done, recently? Is the transmission slipping? Not up shifting?
No other issues that I know of. No rust, or very little. Suspension is great, knock on wood. I don’t know exactly what’s wrong with the tranny. Have not changed the radiator, as far as I know it’s fine. Coolant? I don’t know. No transmission shifting, except… when I was at the dealership last week and got in the truck to drive away, something weird happened. I started the engine, put it into gear, but nothing happened; the truck started to roll slowly backwards on its own weight, as if it was in neutral. Also—on the instrument panel the oil and battery warning lights were on, not blinking, steady. Tried putting the truck in reverse--nothing, no power, like neutral. I hit the foot brake, put the truck back in park, engaged the emergency brake, turned off the truck, and walked back into the dealership and retrieved the service manager to come out and see—and wouldn’t you know, with him behind the wheel everything worked perfectly upon ignition. No issues since then, with either the transmission or the battery and/or oil warning lights coming on again. Anybody got any insight? That’s the first time anything like that has happened.

You need to get VERY specific details as to what is wrong with your transmission. The 5AT in the Ridgeline is known for being extremely sturdy and reliable in general. If you've done regular fluid changes throughout its life, there is absolutely no reason it should be failing.
Hmm. That’s weird then.

Once again, get very specific details on the diagnosis for the "failing" transmission, even if you don't understand the terminology, and post it here. If the noise appeared after you had the tranny fluid drained and filled by a dealership, I'd say they may have done something wrong to cause the issue. Check the level of your transmission fluid and make sure it's properly filled.
I’ll take the truck to another dealership and see what they say. It’s entirely possible that my local dealership screwed up the tranny with the drain/fill… I actually wondered about that. Anyway, I’ll try to get some more detailed info and I’ll post back.

If your RL has been reasonably maintained and operated, I'd say that 175k miles is under half-life.
Arg.

I am also very curious as to what sort of tranny failure you think you have and why you think it's failing. It could be, but that is very low mileage for the 5AT to fail unless there are extenuating circumstances as mentioned above.
I have no idea what’s up. Hoping to figure that out.

Is the engine down on power? Excessive oil consumption? Or do you just think that at 175k miles, it may be nearly worn out?

What is the maintenance history? Have you had maintenance done when the MM calls for it? Or do you have your own schedule that you use?

Do you tow or has your RL operated in severe service conditions?
Engine runs a-ok. Oil seems fine. Only weird thing lately was last week at the dealership, what I said above (I bolded it for fast find). I know nothing about transmissions—as is evident by my earlier misunderstanding that they reside inside engines, lol. I’ve performed at dealerships every single maintenance according to MM, I’m very particular about that. Haven’t towed anything in about a year. It’s mountainous around here, I live in the Shenandoah Valley, but my day-to-day driving doesn’t encounter any particularly steep grades.

Thanks guys for all your help! Please keep thoughts coming and I’ll try to post back some info after I take the truck to a new garage and/or dealership.
 

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Carsmak will probably be along shortly with his list of SMOD threads.

Once the engine is cold, check a couple of things:
1) pull the tranny dipstick and check the color and odor of the fluid on the dipstick. It should be red and should not smell burnt.
2) making sure the engine is cold, remove the radiator cap and verify the color of the coolant. It should be blue.

If you see anything that looks like a strawberry milkshake, do not drive it all. Read up on the strawberry milkshake of death (SMOD) threads.

Your issue could be totally unrelated to the SMOD, but you need to eliminate that possibility straight away.
 
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If you have "solely" done MM ATF fluid changes at the dealer, those are typically DnF (Drain & Fill). I personally would invest less than $100 in a case of ATF, and DIY maybe 3 more fluid changes. That would get High 80% new fluid. Your single DnF may have moved "junk" built up deposits. The turning off and restarting would allow that debris to move? There have been threads with sticking solinoids within the transmission, and another thread where shifting issues were occurring, I know who's thread it was, and know he resolved it, I just don't remember how. I'll do some research, I'm not home and won't be til Thursday or Friday, not easy from iPad tethered to iPhone. ;)

Unfortunately, Honda 5AT, has no Transmission Filter (just a small internal one) that cannot be replaced without a Transmission Rebuild. Which is why some add additional external ATF filters.

Please check out "SMOD" in the search "box" on this site, internal to the radiator, is a heat exchanger, the fittings on it can fail, at some complete failure, blowing the fittings off the radiator losing both coolant and ATF, others partial failure, allowing coolant into the ATF, and that will completely jeopardize the transmission, the radiator will blow off the cap and look like a "Strawberry Milkshake Of Death" or SMOD

Here are most of the related Radiator and Transmission threads if you haven't found them all.

Happy Reading & Good luck

Radiator Failure @ Cooler Lines

Best Radiator Replacement

Pictures of Corroded/Rusted Radiator Fittings

Radiator Fail on 2006

UOA on ATF

Anatomy of OEM Denso Radiator

Poll(Never Posted) on Radiator/Trans Cooler Solution

Recent Radiator/Transmission SMOD!!!

Radiator comparison: Denso/Spectra/OSC
 
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Your first check is going to be the fluids. Pull the tranny dipstick (yellow handle) and check its level is properly between the two marks on the stick. The manual says to get the truck up to operating temperature, park it, shut it off and check the level between 60 and 90 seconds after shut down. I've found there is very little difference between doing that method and just checking the level after it's sat for a few hours. Likewise, wait until the truck is cold and unscrew the radiator cap. Ensure it's a deep blue color and doesn't look milky. Reading through Carsmak's SMOD threads will tell you why you need to do this. I would very highly suggest replacing your radiator for preventative maintenance if you plan to keep this truck. You can get an aftermarket unit for about $150 and have a shop install it for you.

As far as your shifting problem, I see two possible issues. If forward OR reverse weren't engaging, I would say one of your shift solenoids were bad. These parts rely on fluid pressure to tell the transmission to shift into certain gears. If the fluid change dislodged some contamination from somewhere and it clogged one of the solenoids to keep the tranny from engaging. I'm sure there have been many out there with all types of vehicles who have had their transmissions replaced when, in actuality, it was only a simple solenoid or two. Because you had both forward and reverse go out, I would look towards the shift linkage. Over time, the physical connection between the shift lever and the transmission can become loose or warped. It's not common, but it's certainly something to look at. Being that you shut down your truck and then it was ok tells me that the clutches inside the tranny are fine. Has the truck seemed to drive normally recently?
 
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Discussion Starter #16
Really appreciate the help guys. Thanks for the links. I read up on the SMOD thing.

I opened the radiator cap this morning. Shone a penlight inside—the fluid looks blue and clear.

Ran the engine a few minutes then turned off the truck and pulled the transmission dipstick. Wiped it clean, inserted and pulled again. It looks low. Smells—well, maybe burnt? Or maybe not. Doesn’t smell like very burned, but also not not-burned if that makes sense. I don’t really know what burnt tranny fluid should smell like! Anyway, I’m posting a couple pictures of the transmission dipstick so you can see.

Also: yesterday I told you the transmission drain and fill happened three months ago. I was wrong. It actually was July of 15. So the drain and fill actually happened fifteen months ago. I’m attaching pics of the service receipt if anybody’s interested. For reasons of prudence I’ve cut/redacted that dealership’s identity. By the way, the last page, the multi-point inspection sheet where the check mark indicates engine oil leak “may require attention?” I honestly don’t remember that. If the dealership had told me that it was important I would have made another appointment to take care of it, but I have no more service receipts for months after that one. I keep all my receipts. My next service after that was the last one a couple months ago. I had an oil change done at another dealership. This morning I pulled the oil dipstick to double-check and the oil level looks fine.

This morning I started the truck, rolled down the windows so I could hear the outside, then shifted into drive, reverse and park while stopped to see if the clang noise under the vehicle was there. It was not. I also tried backing the truck thirty feet, driving back up, stopping and shifting into park to see if moving the vehicle made any difference. I still didn’t hear the noise. This was a chilly morning, first frost of the season, so I don’t know if that mattered. Anyway, it looks now like the clang-under-the-truck-when-I-shift symptom seems intermittent?

Going forward, at the least I’m assuming I need more transmission fluid. With this new evidence should I just top it up, or get another drain and fill, or try the 3 DIY fluid changes like Carsmak advised?

As far as your shifting problem, I see two possible issues. If forward OR reverse weren't engaging, I would say one of your shift solenoids were bad. These parts rely on fluid pressure to tell the transmission to shift into certain gears. If the fluid change dislodged some contamination from somewhere and it clogged one of the solenoids to keep the tranny from engaging. I'm sure there have been many out there with all types of vehicles who have had their transmissions replaced when, in actuality, it was only a simple solenoid or two. Because you had both forward and reverse go out, I would look towards the shift linkage. Over time, the physical connection between the shift lever and the transmission can become loose or warped. It's not common, but it's certainly something to look at. Being that you shut down your truck and then it was ok tells me that the clutches inside the tranny are fine. Has the truck seemed to drive normally recently?
Truck’s been driving perfectly fine. Only warning flag was last week, the clang noise under the vehicle when I parked it, that’s what started my journey. Well that, plus the weird one-time no-shift-at-all thing when I took it to the dealer last week to check the clang out.

So in addition to taking care of the tranny fluid, I should also check the shift linkage? Want to get my ducks in a row before I take the truck back to service. Thanks again everyone.
 

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It certainly looks like two things: your tranny fluid is clean and red and you're most certainly low. It's not even to the bottom mark. However, if you only let the truck run for a few minutes and then checked the level, it could simply have not returned to where it needed to go to get an accurate reading. Drive the truck for a decent distance of at least 5 miles to get it to operating temp, park it and check the level then. Then, let the truck cool completely (overnight if possible) and check the level again to see if there is a difference. If it's still as low as it shows in your pictures, you may be adding a quart or more to the system.

Looking at your customer receipt, they only charged you for 3 quarts of DW-1 fluid. A drain and fill from the owners manual states 3.3 quarts, but I've found it's more like 3.5 or 3.75 quarts. If your system was low to begin with and they only used 3 quarts, you're undoubtedly a quart low. I do see on there that you were charged for "transmission conditioner". This is likely the BG44 stuff that most dealerships push on their customers for NO REASON. It's basically a mix of friction modifiers that you already get in the DW-1 fluid. Honda specifically states there is no reason to use additives for the transmission, so I don't know why so many dealerships use this stuff. Nevertheless, top up your tranny fluid. You can do this the somewhat easy way by VERY carefully and slowly adding it through the dipstick tube. You will need a funnel with a very small tip or something like it to ensure that you don't spill the fluid everywhere. Add fluid at about a 1/4 quart at a time and wait a few minutes for it to settle before checking the level. Be careful to not add too much. Adding is easy. Removing it is a whole other issue.

Let me be clear: from reading everything you've posted, you do NOT need a new transmission. The places that gave you the diagnosis are trying to get your business and make a lot of money from you.
 

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Make sure you're on a level spot when you check your fluid levels.

Your tranny dipstick reminds me of how low mine was after I got it back from the Honda body shop after repair from an accident. I took it back and told them the level was low. They took it back to the shop and called me back a few minutes later to show me the level was correct.

I was literally floored to discover that the Honda body shop (part of my local Honda dealer's business) had no clue how to check the fluid in a Honda automatic. The Honda automatic is unlike conventional automatic transmissions. It does not use planetary gears. In addition, you check the fluid level hot within 60-90 seconds of shutting down the the engine.

The body shop was checking the tranny fluid like you do conventional automatics... with the engine running and the tranny in Park or Neutral. In that condition, the level indicated normal. When I showed them the correct procedure (shut down the engine, then check the level), it barely wet the dipstick.

So just because you take it to the dealer, don't assume they are an all-knowing entity about your vehicle. There are numerous stories of Honda dealers not even realizing the Ridgeline transfer assembly uses hypoid gear oil. They thought it was part of the tranny (like 2003-2005 Pilots) and used tranny fluid for lube.

It definitely pays to be a knowledgeable consumer these days.


Now on to your issue. Clang when putting it in gear.. or shifting between Drive and Reverse. That's the first I recall reading of that issue with your tranny. With your current mileage, it won't surprise me but that you may have one or more failed engine mounts. Now they aren't cheap to replace, but they are a lot cheaper than replacing the tranny.

I'd have those motor mounts checked. But I honestly don't know if I'd use either of the shops you've already taken it to. Neither one of them impresses me at this point.

It also doesn't sound like you are the DIY type. If you are, I'd strongly recommend that you buy a case or two of DW-1 transmission fluid and do 3 or 4 drain and fills with some driving in between changes where you exercise all gears including reverse. Personally, I tend to do those about a week apart, for the sake of convenience. But you can do them all in one day if you want.

I agree with Ian. The fluid color looks fine. It also looks very low. It's also been my observation that it take about 3.5 qts of DW-1 to fill back to the top line of the dipstick after I drain the tranny fluid and clean the mag plug. (if you haven't done it yourself, this is easier than doing a simple oil and filter change).

You have a few issues to sort out, not to mention finding a shop you can have some confidence in. Now while maybe those shops are right about you needing a new tranny for your RL, here over the internet, it certainly doesn't appear to be the case.
 

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BTW, I've added fluid through the dipstick tube and it works, but I don't recommend it. If you leak tranny fluid on the starter (just beneath), you can create another headache that you really don't need right now.

Crank up the big boy muscles and break that tranny fill bolt loose (or use an impact driver on it.. just make sure you're going lefty-loosy and not righty-tighty). Get a long neck funnel and fill via the fill hole. That will avoid issues caused by leaking fluid via the dipstick fill method.
 
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