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Discussion Starter #1
Last week I was backing my boat through my back gate (uphill and a tight squeeze). The transmission temp warning came on and I could smell tranny fluid outside the truck.

The truck cooled down and we didn't drive it again that night. it's driven fine the following week with no temp light.

I did smell tranny fluid on the way home one evening towing my boat as we came to stops on the way home. The fluid wasn't low, so I don't believe we lost much at all.

I ordered up the new DW-1 fluid and just did my first drain tonight. The fluid is smelly and there was quite a big of metal sludge stuck to the magnet (like enough metallic stuff on the plug that it was equal in volume to 1/2 the metallic tip of the plug itself as extra buildup.

Obviously I'm going to do the 3x drain/fill. The 2009 Ridgeline has 33.5k miles now and we got the Ridgeline as a CPO with 9.5k miles on it in June of 2012. Since it had such low miles, I'm pretty confident it's never had its transmission fluid changed.

That said, is there anything I should do now since I do have a CPO warranty that covers the drivetrain for 7 years (2016 seems like it'd be the expiration). If the tranny needs anything, I most certainly want to get it done while it's still under the powertrain warranty.

Obviously, we'll watch it the rest of this summer as we tow our boat. But I figured I'd post up here incase you all had any input. And any other insight would be great.
 

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Last week I was backing my boat through my back gate (uphill and a tight squeeze). The transmission temp warning came on and I could smell tranny fluid outside the truck.

The truck cooled down and we didn't drive it again that night. it's driven fine the following week with no temp light.

I did smell tranny fluid on the way home one evening towing my boat as we came to stops on the way home. The fluid wasn't low, so I don't believe we lost much at all.

I ordered up the new DW-1 fluid and just did my first drain tonight. The fluid is smelly and there was quite a big of metal sludge stuck to the magnet (like enough metallic stuff on the plug that it was equal in volume to 1/2 the metallic tip of the plug itself as extra buildup.

Obviously I'm going to do the 3x drain/fill. The 2009 Ridgeline has 33.5k miles now and we got the Ridgeline as a CPO with 9.5k miles on it in June of 2012. Since it had such low miles, I'm pretty confident it's never had its transmission fluid changed.

That said, is there anything I should do now since I do have a CPO warranty that covers the drivetrain for 7 years (2016 seems like it'd be the expiration). If the tranny needs anything, I most certainly want to get it done while it's still under the powertrain warranty.

Obviously, we'll watch it the rest of this summer as we tow our boat. But I figured I'd post up here incase you all had any input. And any other insight would be great.
This is a horse-left-the-barn comment, but you should have taken it to the dealer when you had the problem. Then they would have seen/documented the "smelly" tranny fluid, and would have a hard "symptom" to work with. Now that the light is out, you may be fine, but you also may have just stalled a failure that's coming (let's hope not). I'm just mentioning this for future reference. If you have a problem with something that's covered under a warranty, it's usually best not to do anything at all before getting it in front of those who would provide the warranty service. It's pretty universal that if they can't duplicate the problem, they won't do anything (even if the code history is there). They need to see that something's "broke" before they'll even discuss fixing it under warranty.

As far as where you're at now..... it's possible you were low on fluid, and the combination of the incline (fluid not getting where it need to be?) and the load of the boat was enough to get you hot. Either way, you know your fluid got cooked.
Also, I'd be doing 4 drain & fills, not just 3, given your fluid has been burnt & should be presumed ruined. It would be even better to do a full purge via the tranny cooler lines, if you can get that done.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yeah, can't really put the bad fluid back in as I've already refilled with good fluid.

I guess I can keep the old smelly fluid if that's any consolation.


As far as how it happened, I will say that the boat did have a lot of extra weight in it that it never typically does... so this particular backing was atypical in the wrong direction.
 

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Yeah, can't really put the bad fluid back in as I've already refilled with good fluid.

I guess I can keep the old smelly fluid if that's any consolation.


As far as how it happened, I will say that the boat did have a lot of extra weight in it that it never typically does... so this particular backing was atypical in the wrong direction.
Light Bulb just went off over my head: Does that boat trailer happen to have surge brakes on it??? Because backing up a steep hill effectively activates those brakes, and that activation gets incrementally stronger the more you back against the resistance. Maybe your problem????

If so, that's actually probably a good thing.... since you'll probably be fine after you get your fluid back up to good standards.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Light Bulb just went off over my head: Does that boat trailer happen to have surge brakes on it??? Because backing up a steep hill effectively activates those brakes, and that activation gets incrementally stronger the more you back against the resistance. Maybe your problem????

If so, that's actually probably a good thing.... since you'll probably be fine after you get your fluid back up to good standards.
Yes, it does have surge disc brakes. however. there's a reverse circuit in the trailer (flat 5 plug) where the brakes are disengaged when the reverse lights on the truck send that positive signal to the trailer.
 

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Don't worry about it, these transmissions overheat very easily. I have overheated the tranny multiple times pulling my cargo trailer on forest roads. First time it happened I didn't see the light until I smelled the stink, and I changed the fluid when I got home. It happened a few times again recently but I knew to watch for the light and let it cool down. This time the fluid wasn't smelly, and I haven't bothered to change it. The truck has close to 130,000 miles and the transmission works fine.

I need to upgrade to a bigger truck soon though, the towing will take its toll. If nothing else the undersized transmission cooler is a big weakness.
 

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Since you drive very little and use the truck for towing, I'd suggest a drain and fill of the tranny fluid once a year along with the engine oil. I know it's probably a lot of overkill since you'll only have 5-6k miles on it per change interval, but those are hard miles on the fluid. You want to have as much fresh fluid in there as often as you can. I've never towed anything nor have I seen the overheating light, but these transmissions will last a really long time with proper fluid maintenance. I don't think it's anything to be overly worried about. After six years and lots of towing mileage, I'm sure the factory fluid was begging to be changed.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Since you drive very little and use the truck for towing, I'd suggest a drain and fill of the tranny fluid once a year along with the engine oil. I know it's probably a lot of overkill since you'll only have 5-6k miles on it per change interval, but those are hard miles on the fluid. You want to have as much fresh fluid in there as often as you can. I've never towed anything nor have I seen the overheating light, but these transmissions will last a really long time with proper fluid maintenance. I don't think it's anything to be overly worried about. After six years and lots of towing mileage, I'm sure the factory fluid was begging to be changed.
Makes sense. The truck is honestly used the most for the wife driving to/from work (8 miles each way), the wife getting groceries and her solo errands, and then during the summertime it gets used a couple times a week for the 10 mile trip each way to/from the boat launch. Once or twice a summer we'll go farther with a trip that's towing 1 to 3 hours.

Changing the fluid is pretty damn easy, and after doing it once I realized I didn't even need to use the ramps I used the first time (I pretty much ended up needing the ramps because I simply couldn't find the drain plug!)

I'm sure that it'll do better with the new DW-1 spec fluid also. I still need to do the 3rd drain/fill and should get to that within the next week.
 

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Makes sense. The truck is honestly used the most for the wife driving to/from work (8 miles each way), the wife getting groceries and her solo errands, and then during the summertime it gets used a couple times a week for the 10 mile trip each way to/from the boat launch. Once or twice a summer we'll go farther with a trip that's towing 1 to 3 hours.

Changing the fluid is pretty damn easy, and after doing it once I realized I didn't even need to use the ramps I used the first time (I pretty much ended up needing the ramps because I simply couldn't find the drain plug!)

I'm sure that it'll do better with the new DW-1 spec fluid also. I still need to do the 3rd drain/fill and should get to that within the next week.
Good stuff. Every fluid change on this truck can be done with it sitting on level ground except for the brake fluid (since the wheels need to come off). I've done fluid changes on many of my friends and family's vehicles and my truck is by far the easiest as far as access. I'm very glad that you're being proactive to the fluid changes. I only drive about 5000 miles a year or so, but I change my fluids much sooner than the maintenance schedule suggests due to the many short trips. It ends up being about once a year for engine oil and once every two years for tranny, transfer case and rear diff VTM-4 fluid. I also suck out and refill the power steering fluid reservoir with every oil change. Fluids are cheap and easy. Drivetrain component replacement is not.
 

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I think if I knew any of the internal fluid was burned/overheated I would find a way to do a flush via the coolant lines. A slow flush using the engine to run the trans pump at idle, not a power or chemical enhanced one.
Many competent mechanics or trans shops should be able to do that. You will use a little more fluid than a D&F but I would want any compromised fluid left in there.
You can shorten the life of anything and it will seem to work fine right up to the day it dies.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Update. So, I've done 3 drain/fills with the DW-1. The transmission temp light hasn't come back on again. But I've had it happen a few times where after towing about 8 miles on the freeway (a couple rolling hills, maybe a few hundred feet of elevation change), I can smell transmission fluid inside the truck when I come to a stop. Zero issues when we're not towing.

Likewise, I've had it happen a time or two when I can get a whiff of the smell of tranny fluid inside the truck when I'm backing it up the RV parking on the side of my house.

I'm concerned, but I'm guessing that without a big failure that the dealer isn't going to do anything with the powertrain warranty.

It's great to have the warranty, but honestly, I'm not excited about the inconvenience of being without a truck if a rebuild does need to happen. Or the worry about being stranded and ruining a trip or a vacation.

Thoughts?
 

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If it's repeatable while towing, I would ask the dealership if it's ok if you take a tech out with you while you have your trailer hooked up. If it throws the light, the tech could monitor it and let you know if it's a faulty sensor or if you should actually be concerned. There have been many on here who tow regularly and have never had that light.
 

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If it's repeatable while towing, I would ask the dealership if it's ok if you take a tech out with you while you have your trailer hooked up. If it throws the light, the tech could monitor it and let you know if it's a faulty sensor or if you should actually be concerned. There have been many on here who tow regularly and have never had that light.
I only had the temp light once and I'm pretty certain the tranny got hot.

my concern now is that I'm getting the smell of transmission fluid when towing. I don't think I have a faulty nose. LOL
 

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If you only did a D&F there is still going to be a percentage of burnt fluid in the transmission as well as the coolant lines going to and from the radiator.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
If you only did a D&F there is still going to be a percentage of burnt fluid in the transmission as well as the coolant lines going to and from the radiator.
Yes. I did three drain and fills. But I suppose there's still a percentage of the old fluid that is there. Dilluted, but I don't know if you can ever really get rid of it. Just down to a nominal percentage.
 

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Yes. I did three drain and fills. But I suppose there's still a percentage of the old fluid that is there. Dilluted, but I don't know if you can ever really get rid of it. Just down to a nominal percentage.
That percentage is around 10% by volume, maybe a little more. Flushing will get rid of most it in one shot, as will more D&Fs.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I did send in my ScanGuage2 for the upgrade so it will be able to monitor transmission temp. it's shipping today so I should have it by the end of the week.

Being able to monitor live transmission temps should provide additional insight. What temp should the transmission be running at?
 

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We have a few folks on here with SGs, etc. I can not recall the 'normal' temp range but I am sure someone will. I thought around 175 F was nominal fully warmed up, cruising.
 

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We have a few folks on here with SGs, etc. I can not recall the 'normal' temp range but I am sure someone will. I thought around 175 F was nominal fully warmed up, cruising.
Is that while towing or simply maintaining highway speed? Seems a bit low.
 

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Is that while towing or simply maintaining highway speed? Seems a bit low.
My memory is not the greatest unless it is life threatening (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.).
Not towing, just steady speed from what I recalled.
 
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