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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Our 2007 RTX has about 65k miles on it. Used as a daily driver (2 -3 days a week) and for towing our travel trailer a few times a year - maybe a dozen trips, only 3 or 4 longer than 60 miles.

Last week, on our second long trip of the year to Michigan, from Northern Indiana, after about 50 miles, the A/T temp light came on. The transmission began to slip and I pulled over to the side of the highway. This had never happened before.

Our trailer is new (March), CAT scale weight is about 4600 lbs when loaded for camping. On this trip, I noticed that the RPMs were pretty low, often, meaning that the tranny had shifted into it's high gears (overdrive?). I figured that would help with the mileage, but anything less than 3000 rpms was pretty good. (our old trailer never pulled that easy and it was lighter) I usually tow between 60-65 mph and usually that means rpms between 2500-3000 on mostly flat Indiana highways.

So, after pulling over, calling our local Honda dealer, they suggested we turn around and try to make it back to the dealership to have everything checked out. I checked for leaks, pulled the tranny dip stick to check the fluid, let it cool, and then tried to get back to the dealer. Drove fine on the way back to the dealer - no temp lights etc. However, I did try to keep the rpms up - around 3000 or so - staying in a lower gear - 3rd or 4th?

Dealer first checked for any codes - none found. They said without any codes, they couldn't really do anything. I suggested that I unhook the trailer, and let them drive the truck. They agreed and did so. Tech came back, said other than a slightly hard shift from 2nd to 3rd, didn't notice any issues with his pretty aggressive test drive. He said they would check the transmission for slipping by checking the rotating speed on each side of the transmission. (not sure I'm explaining it right) Essentially, if both sides are spinning at the same speed, then there is no slippage and the clutches are okay. That test came back within specs.

So, I then suggested that they replace the fluid, since it was obviously burnt - brown and smelled burnt. They agreed, and replaced the fluid - twice to flush out any particles, etc. I was surprised that they didn't suggest doing this in the beginning after they checked the fluids. That was all they could do for us, so we had to decide whether or not to continue on our 300 mile (one way) vacation.

Oddly enough, I had just had the truck in for service about 2 weeks before (oil / filter) and they said it was due to have the rear differential fluid changed - I agreed and they made that change. But, they failed to tell me that the auto transmission fluid was also due for a change at 60k miles. Had they told me, would have had it changed too. My bad for relying on them to point out what needs to be done - but they are always too happy to earn more money when I take it in and always tell me what needs to be done.

After lots of nervous waiting and discussing, we hit the road. The tech suggested that we check the tranny fluid every gas stop to see if it was still pink. Did so, no change in color and no additional issues during the trip or the trip home last weekend.

Interestingly both the service manager and the service tech said that we should consider a larger truck - a 'real' truck given the trailer we were pulling. I explained that it's within specs, showed them the CAT scale weights for the truck, trailer and combination (all within limits) and they still suggested a 'real' truck. hmmmm I told them that the brochure from 2007 clearly showed the truck pulling a 5000lb trailer and boldly stated - 5000lbs, No Problem. Did that mean anything?

So now I've lost confidence in our Ridgeline. Not sure it's shifting 100% like it use too, or if I'm just overly sensitive having had this issue.

My guess is that since I allowed the truck to shift into it's overdirve (high) gear, and let it do so for a while (too long obviously), it over heated the transmission. I believe, even though I don't completely understand all the technicalities, that keeping the truck in a lower gear (higher rpms) makes the transmission work less and cooler. That would explain the lack of issues for the remainder of the trip and also the lack of problems in our previous trip to the Smoky Mountains in April.

I also asked (for the second time) if the TSB for the transmission shifting had been done - they looked it up in the service records and said that it was completed. That's the second time they have told me this, so I'm assuming that the TSB was completed (I think the number was 06-062 - something like that)

  1. Has anyone else has this issue with their transmission?
  2. Does my understanding of the higher rpm solution make sense to any of you with more technical / mechanical knowledge?
  3. Should I sell the Ridge and get a 'real' truck? (suggestions?)

Nervous Ridgeline owner...

BTW - I did buy an extended warranty when we bought the truck - 6 yrs or 100k miles, bumper to bumper. I only bought that warranty because Honda had only been building trucks for 1 year before we bought ours. Bought the warranty from the same dealer who did the service work for the past 5 years. They didn't have any record of it in their computer, but I have the paperwork. They said that some of the older warranties were not in their computer system.
 

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Was that the first time that you had the transmission fluid changed? If so, I think that was the most likely culpret. I have a similar situation with towing and plan to change my tranny fluid every other oil change. I think that is a good practice and will keep the tranny in good shape.
 

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Personally, I would not go over 80-85% of a tow rating.
If you started out with fresh ATF fluid, and let it do it's thing in Drive (it will overheat if you manually select lower gears too long) you probably would have been fine. But just that difference alone sounds like a very thin margin to me.
I know people have been doing it for some time, but the jump from 'master' to 'disaster' seems too small to me.
 

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As far as the comment of a real truck, find a new dealer. You are within the designed limits

Most likely the fluid was the issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The fluid was changed at 30k miles as per the suggested maintenance, so this would have been the second change. As far as I know, I have had all the regularly scheduled maintenance done to my truck.

RidgeSS: Did you have the same temp issue with your Ridgeline transmission?

I don't manually shift to lower gears, but instead, let the truck do it's thing in Drive. If you do so, and watch the tachometer, you'll see it occasionally drop into high gear, lower the rpms and stay there until it decides to downshift, or, you hit the pedal with some moderate intention in order to get the downshift to occur and thereby raise the rpms. I pretty much drive by tach and not by the speedometer, which is a bit odd, but it's the only way to make sure the tranny isn't gearing itself too low for too long under a tow load.

The service manager also told me that he sometimes pushes the D3 button on the end of the shift column when towing a heavy load with his personal Ridgeline. I told him that the manual specifically says to not do that, but he feels it's the right thing to do in some circumstances. He said that his understand is that that is exactly what the D3 button is for. He has been the service manager for 20 or so years and I come to trust him, but this struck me as odd. Perhaps he knows something based on his training from Honda.
 

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You ran a heavy load with stale fluid. Now it's fixed, with hopefully no damage done. That's good.

Your service manager and the tech don't know much about the Ridgeline, or aren't applying their knowledge very well. Despite any presumed training on the vehicle and the service manager owning one himself, these guys aren't using any objective and specific information from Honda to overcome "impressions" that they have from past experience with other vehicles of drastically different design. That's bad (for you).

I wonder if they even know that there is a transfer case that requires periodic fluid changes.

It's time to find someone else who can do these service items -- possibly yourself.
 

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My light came on while pulling this from Arizona to Kansas a few years ago when the RL had 30k and now it has 60k. I changed the fluid when I got home and never had an issue.
 

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Running in lower gears also keeps the torque converter from locking up, increasing the heat factor due to slippage in the converter.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
qLake: Have you continued to tow this trailer, or others like it, since the a/t temp light came on at 30k? Or was this your only towing experience with your truck?

thanks
Mike
 

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qLake: Have you continued to tow this trailer, or others like it, since the a/t temp light came on at 30k? Or was this your only towing experience with your truck?

thanks
Mike
Mike, I would guess I Have towed that trailer a total of 3000 miles. I do tow a uni-loader occasionally and it weighs around 9500#. If you want to tow a large trailer very much I would suggest a real truck.
 

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Running in lower gears also keeps the torque converter from locking up, increasing the heat factor due to slippage in the converter.
The Ridgeline's transmission has a thermal sensor that, when it senses too high a temperature, will curtail slippage. I expect that that's not enough protection if the fluid is expired.
 

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I would have to ask the SM why he does something the OM specifically prohibits.



Also, towing requires more frequent fluid changes (and timing belt) than the MM calls for, but it sounds like you already change the tranny fluid per the modified tow schedule.

Frankly, Honda uses a different tranny design than conventional automatics. This is why you tow in D instead of D3. It is also why *I think* it's a good idea to up the tranny fluid change frequency.

As long as you are towing within the guidelines, you should not have any issues with your vehicle from a design standpoint. The real truck comments are insulting, imo. At least Honda uses honest numbers when it comes to tow capabilities and mpg numbers.

If you just had a fluid change, chances are you have your first D&F using DW-1. Since they did some sort of double D&F (did they drive it or run all the gears on the lift between changes?), you have replaced roughly half of the old fluid with the new. See the chart in the link below for more info.

For more info on the Honda auto tranny fluid change and reasons why, see here:
http://www.ridgelineownersclub.com/forums/showpost.php?p=647265&postcount=13

You don't sound like a DIYer, but if you are, the tranny fluid D&F is one of the easiest jobs to do on the RL... once you break loose the fill bolts. ;) You don't even need a lift to do it. I'd also be curious to see how much debris was on the magnetic drain plug when they did the D&F on your RL too.

Here's a pic of mine with about 12k on the fluid. Top is how it came out and the bottom image is after I cleaned it off.

 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Well, after much consideration, we traded our Ridgeline for a new 2012 F150 XLT, 4x4, 3.5L Ecoboost with the max tow package (3.73 rear gears).

Aside from this one issue with the A/T temp, the Ridgeline was a good vehicle for us. But, with the new trailer, I needed to have confidence that we could tow it without any future issues.

Obviously, a new truck doesn't guarantee no issues, but the tow capacity is 11,300 lbs, so we are way under the limits of the new truck.

Thanks everyone for many years of great information! It's been a pleasure. :act030:
 

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Stay in touch and let us know how the new F150 shakes out for you. I expect you will have a better towing experience than with the RL.
 
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