Change your Transmission Oil

Purpose of this DIY:

The Maintenence Schedule for our Civics mentions that you should replace the transmission fluid at 60,000 miles. I have heard of other people replacing their transmission fluid much sooner than that at 30,000 miles. Whichever mileage you choose, you will notice a crisper feeling to the shifter and smoother shifts after performing this DIY.

Materials needed:

- Jackstands x4
- Floor Jack
- 2 to 3 quarts of 10W-30 SAE SJ SG SH Motor Oil
- Manual Pump
- 17mm Socket
- Socket Wrench
- Oil Pan
- Plastic Container

Note on jackstands: You will need four jackstands because you will need access to the transmission filler bolt and the car must be level when checking the level of oil. Refer to Page 222 of your Civics owner’s manual for more information. I happened to already have two jack stands, so I bought two more (the cheap 2-ton variety) from Walmart for $9.

Note on transmission oil: The owner’s manual says that you should only use Honda’s transmission oil, but it also mentions that you can use any SAE certified 10W-30 or 10W-40 grade SJ, SG, or SH motor oil as a temporary replacement. The owner manual mentions the same thing when talking about engine oil, so don’t worry about using non-Honda oil.

Note on manual pump: I bought a cheapie off of HarborFreightTools.com for $10 when I was buying my manual tire changer. I also happened to spot one for $20 at Sears. My cheapie works just fine, so I suspect that the more expensive ones are a waste of money. Maybe if you’re doing this 24/7, then it’s a good investment, but at once every 60,000 miles you should get a cheapie.

Associated costs:

I paid about $25 for all of the materials that I needed to perform this DIY. Your expenses may be higher or lower depending upon what you already have. If you don’t have any jackstands you could use concrete blocks and the stock jack to raise your car up. If you’de like to buy the cheapie jack and jackstands, then Walmart is your friend.

The socket set and socket wrench can’t be replaced by a Crescent® adjustable wrench. There’s simply too little room to work. If you’re into tools, then you can get a very good set from HarborFreightTools.com for very little money. Compare their prices with the prices of Lowe’s or Home Depot and you’ll be amazed.

Instructions:

Raise the front of the car up using the floor jack. Make sure to place the jack under the front support point (pointed to by the arrow engraved in the black plastic guard underneath). Place two jack stands under the front support points (they stick out underneath on the sides behind the front wheel wells). Consult the owner’s manual if in doubt as to their location.

Raise the rear of the car up using the floor jack and a short block of wood. I don’t like scratching my undercarriage up and I can’t elevate the car high enough by using the tow hook as a jacking point. Instead, I use a block of wood as an isolator and I place the jack in the center of the lower control arm attachment points (the metal that rear lower tie bars are attached to).

Place two jacks under the rear support points (they stick out underneath on the sides in front of the rear wheel wells). Again, consult the owner’s manual if you don’t know where they are. Now, here’s the sneaky part… You can raise up the front of the car more than the rear to have better access to the transmission oil with the manual pump. You can also raise the rear up higher to be able to pump in more of the transmission oil. I did neither when I performed this DIY; it’s just something that came to mind when I was done.

Locate the transmission oil filler bolt. Refer to page nr. 222 of the owner’s manual for a picture of it’s location. You’ll need good lighting when you’re working under your car, or else you’ll come out from under there covered in oil and you won’t even know it. At the very least, position a flashlight to direct light at the filler bolt. If you need an excuse to buy another tool, then I suggest that you get one of those hanging lights that uses regular light bulbs.

Place the oil pan under the transmission oil filler bolt hole and use the 17mm socket and socket wrench to loosen it. Unscrew it the rest of the way by hand and be ready for some oil to flow out (more or less, depending on how you adjusted your jack stands). Assemble the manual pump according to its instructions. Mine came with an adapter for a smaller diameter hose and the hose itself, which I used to put into the transmission housing. The larger diameter hose also fit, but not all the way in.

Feel around with the hose inside of the transmission housing to reach the lowest spot possible. Make sure that the hose does not move; I simply wedged it in there and it stayed put. Then begin pumping out the old transmission oil into any plastic container with a large capacity and a narrow neck (like a used milk container), or else you’ll cover everything in oil as it tends to not flow smoothly. Instead, it gushes out in waves and can make quite a mess if you try to catch it in the oil pan. The oil pan is just there to catch any oil coming out of the transmission oil filler bolt hole.

After you pump out all of the old transmission oil, you will need to pump in the new transmission oil. To do this you will need to reverse the hoses on the pump, so that the oil is pumped into the transmission housing through the smaller diameter hose. I was able to pump in more than two full quarts of oil, although I did end up wasting a little in the process. You should stop pumping when the oil starts to leak out from the transmission oil filler bolt hole.

At this point I put the transmission oil filler bolt back into place and torqued it down conservatively (25 – 35 foot pounds). It’s not load bearing and has a crush washer that should act as a spring to keep the bolt from vibrating out. I then lowered the car and cleaned up everything that was covered in oil. If you’re wondering what to do with the old oil… Simply return it to the place where you bought your new oil. For me that was Walmart; they should take it back from you without question. Most states have laws that require the people who sell oil to take back used oil and then dispose of it properly.

The very last part of this DIY requires that you do everyting over again after driving around for a while. I did and I was able to fill up the transmission housing with even more oil. Maybe it was the air bubbles that had to settle out of the oil? Maybe it was the recesses that I couldn’t get to the first time? Maybe the oil was thrown into the recesses that I couldn’t get to under cornering forces? Who knows how it happened, the fact is that I was able to put in another half a pint of oil.

Driving Impressions:

I did this DIY about 2,500 miles ago and I think it’s worth it. I can "feel" the gears through the shifter much better than before. Shifting is "crisper" than ever and 2nd doesn’t pop out on me as much as it used to. As a side-story, the 2nd gear poppping out problem is on certain 2001 Civics and is covered under warranty, but I didn’t get it fixed before my warranty expired. Oh well, I can live with it. Especially since my plan is to get a K24/K20A2 frankenstein motor into my car later on down the road.

Grey from civicforums

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