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VTec System Causing Transmission Issues?!?!


argogator88

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Hello everyone. First time poster, and it's a long one so please bear with me as I would like to be as detailed as possible with the history of the car and the issues I'm having with it. I don't have much experience with imports or Hondas in general but I'm very mechanically able when it comes to cars and I believe I am being jerked around by the local dealer.

 

My girlfriend has a 2002 Civic EX that is currently on its THIRD transmission. The car was bought brand new and within a month the transmission died and was replaced. Last February (2008) it started acting up again so she took it to the dealership in the town she was living in at the time and they told her there was nothing wrong with it. About two months later (May 2008) it acted up again so she went back and was told it just needed a fluid change even after she explained to them what it was doing and that it did the exact same thing the last time the transmission broke. A week later the issue (what she described as shuttering and hard shifting) started again and on the way back to the dealership it completely quit and had to be towed in. Keep in mind each time the MIL came on. This time they replaced the transmission because once again it was bad. The car at the time had 84,000 miles on it. Today it has 106,000. I realize it's past it's warranty but we have a case manager at Honda Customer Relations assigned to us because of all the prior issues who says we could get a goodwill repair if the transmission is in fact bad.

 

She has since moved to the town I live in and has a 100 mile commute round trip each day. On the way to work last Wednesday morning she called to tell me the car was doing the shuddering again (she said it only happens when she accelerates) so I told her to go ahead and get to work and I would drive up there in the afternoon to get her. On the way home that afternoon I couldn't make the problem happen for me, but the check engine light was still on from the time it happened that morning. I took it straight to the dealer and explained to the guy who checked us in what she said it had been doing as well as a rundown of the bad transmission history of the car.

 

Thursday morning I got a call from the dealer saying the code was 1259 (Vtec failure) and that they thought the vtec solenoid was OK but that the car was very low on oil and I had a bad leak coming from my valve cover. He quoted me the outrageous price to replace the valve cover gasket, and also wanted to align the front end, replace the left and right compliance bushings, clean the throttle body, and change the spark plugs. All of these things with the exception of the alignment I could do myself so I asked him a little more about the vtec solenoid (I was oblivious to the way this system worked at the time) and he said that if the oil level is too low that it would cause it to malfunction but that if I kept the oil level up it should be fine. I told him to not touch anything and I would pay the diagnostic fee and come pick the car up.

 

I got it home without issue and began to inspect the severity of the oil leak they said I had because the car had just had its oil changed the month before and to be that low seemed a little unusual given that the car has never left a drop of oil in our garage floor. I removed everything from the top end until all I would have had to do was remove the 5 bolts holding the cover down and could see NO evidence of an oil leak other than a little moisture around the oil cap and dipstick. There was also some residue on some of the lines directly behind the valve cover near the oil cap. I looked at the undercarriage and it was clean, no oil dripping and no burning oil could be smelled around the engine compartment. This irritated me a little because he told me the gasket needed to be replaced ASAP but I decided to let it be and let her continue to drive it because it seemed like it was going to have to be driven until it completely failed before they would believe us just like last time.

 

The next day she calls me while on the way home and said it was acting up yet again. I had her park in the driveway with the car still running and I got in so I could finally see what it was doing for myself. I didn't even get a block from my house before, while under normal acceleration from a stop or from a low speed, the transmission slipped out of gear and the engine hit the rev limiter as if the car were in neutral and was sitting still. I say as if it were sitting still because through some experimenting I've figured out that if the car is sitting still the rev-limiter kicks in at about 5000 RPM but if the car is moving the engine will rev right up on to the redline. The check engine light was also on again.

 

The next morning it drove fine after it had cooled off but I took it back to the dealership anyways. The oil level was still fine when I dropped it off. The guy asked me if I replaced the gasket and when I told him it wasn't leaking bad enough to cause a serious enough oil leak to lose that much oil, and that the oil level is fine he immediately got an attitude with me. I spoke to the assistant service manager before I left to let him know and to explain to him the history of the car. I was told I would hear from them on Monday.

 

Yesterday I call the dealer and spoke to the service manager. He told me the code came back the same and that I needed to replace the vtec solenoid. He then told me he stood under the car himself and saw oil dripping everywhere along the back of the engine around the filter area and that they had to add a whole quart to it. So now in a period of two days and what was likely some parking lot driving and maybe a short trip down the road, the car lost a quart of oil. He recommended that I go ahead and replace the valve cover gasket and see if the problem goes away. If it doesn't he told me he'd sell me the vtec solenoid so I could replace that and if that didn't work they would take a look at it again. By this time I had learned a little bit about how the Vtec system works but I was still unfamiliar with the components and how they worked together so I asked him to explain to me how a bad solenoid would cause the transmission to slip out before I spent $200 more on parts. He told me the solenoid was connected to the ECM and that if it sent an error code to the ECM it could affect the way the ECM told the transmission to shift.

 

It seemed like a reasonable explanation at the time based on my ignorance of the vtec system so I agreed to start with the gasket. I drove all over town with the car that day running errands and picking up what I needed to perform the gasket replacement. When I got home, I let it cool and went back out to start the work. There was no oil on the ground and the level was still right where it was when I left the dealership.

 

While I was waiting on the car to cool I did some research to educate myself on the vtec system and I came across the Honda Service Manual for the car. I read the section on the trouble shooting and removal/inspection of the vtec solenoid and by following the troubleshooting procedure and looking at the way the components are wired I believe I figured out the basic manner in which the system works. According to the troubleshooting procedure, the 1259 code can either be a bad solenoid, valve, or pressure switch yet the dealership, without even going through this procedure, says that code means I need to replace the solenoid.

 

When the car cooled I took the valve cover off and much to my disgust I STILL saw no evidence that the gasket was leaking. There was no oil anywhere on the head or even anywhere along the timing gear where the RTV could fail and leak. I crawled under the car the best I could (my jacks and jack stands haven't made the trip to our new town yet) and didn't see ANY oil around where they told me that it was just constantly dripping. I was told that even the oil filter itself was covered but it was spotless and I could tell the engine itself hadn't been wiped down because of the road grime still accumulated on it. I went ahead and replaced the gasket but before I put everything back together I wanted to trouble shoot the vtec assembly. The solenoid itself read 19 ohms which was within spec, the switch was closed, and there was 12V at the switches plug when the key was turned on. I removed the assembly and applied 12V to the solenoid and heard it click. I took apart the valve assembly and everything was clean and moving freely. The screen was clean so I put everything back together.

 

Based on my observations, (and please correct me on this if I am wrong) the vtec system works as follows: when the engine reaches 4000 RPM (or whatever the exact vtec setpoint is) the ECM tells the solenoid to engage. When the solenoid engages the oil pressure causes the valve to open and activate the vtec components. The pressure switch is NC so the oil pressure causes the switch to open and the ECM knows that the vtec is engaged. When the engine drops back below the set point, the reverse happens.

 

Now if the above is correct, it does not make sense to me how the transmission could slip out of gear when it is UNDER the set point and then hit the 5000 RPM rev limiter as if the car was sitting still. Also, how in the heck can the dealer know that the valve and switch are OK but the solenoid itself is bad based SOLELY on the 1259 code, which could be caused by all three?

 

Today I took the car for a roughly 60 mile drive, got it home and the oil level is still good and the engine light has not come on yet. Can anyone make sense of this? Is it really possible for the vtec to set a fault code and affect the way transmission SHIFTS? This seems very dangerous to me because I could easily pull into traffic and have the transmission slip again and get hit.

 

Thanks in advance for your patience in reading this long post and I appreciate any input.

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hes full of crap. vtec has nothing to do with the trannys shifting. just trying to sell you parts you dont need. the tranny slipping or missing shifts or rough shifts is mechanical. ive heard of lots of problems with the auto trannys in 7th gens. every company that makes cars has some problem or another with auto trannys.

 

he cant know by the code it was the solenoid either , you can test near every individual component of the car with a multimeter. be it resistance or voltage.

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i would be calling BS as well. Im not sure if any of the other d series transmissions will bolt up to yours, but if so look along that route as well.

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The previous post makes no sense at all.

 

This is by far the most excellent description of a problem that I have ever seen.

 

My first thought: find another service center and take it there. Could be a Honda Dealer or any reputable import specialty shop. Do not tell them what the first place told you. Do not tell them you took it somewhere else. You may want to inform them of the past history of failed transmissions though. See if they give you a similar diagnosis. After they have given you their take discuss with the service manager and/or technician what the other shop told you. Go from there.

 

I do not know for certain, but I would venture a guess that if the vtec solenoid had indeed failed that a limp-mode fuel cutout at 5000 rpm may be engaged. If this were the case the car should have remained in gear, just shouldn't let you go over 5k. You are right, this is all very peculiar. I think you need a professional second opinion.

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Thanks all for the responses.

 

The more I've thought about this problem and the more people that have told me that the Vtec operations is independent of the transmission and how it shifts, the more I believe the exact opposite of what the dealer is telling me is happening. It would make a lot more sense to me that when the transmission disengages, the computer becomes confused and reads a condition at the pressure switch that conflicts with the signal it is sending to the solenoid so it throws the code. The sudden change in RPM combined with the engine suddenly being under no load could cause this.

 

As far as the rev limiter goes, I did a little experimenting with the car under normal operation (No MIL light, no slipping). If I am sitting still, put it in neutral and give it gas, it hits a 5,000 RPM rev limiter. If the car is rolling even as slow as 10 MPH and I put it in neutral and give it gas, it goes right on up to the 7,000+ RPM redline region. So, when the transmission is slipping on me into neutral/out of gear, it somehow it seems to think the car is sitting still.

 

Taking it somewhere else seems to be my best course of action right now, so that's what I am going to end up doing.

Edited by argogator88
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I just got off the phone with three different Honda Dealership Service Departments. To each of them I asked to speak to someone who has working knowledge of the Honda Vtec engine because I had a question. I asked all three people I spoke with the general question of if any of the three Vtec components, the solenoid, the valve or switch, were to fail and throw the engine code, could that in any way cause my transmission to slip out of gear under acceleration.

 

All three said no, all three said I've either got two different problems or the transmission slipping is causing the computer to throw the error code, and two even laughed at me when I asked the question as if it were the most ridiculous question they've ever heard.

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If you want some fun you should get the first place to put your diagnosed situation in writing and then take that paperwork to the other dealership you choose to have the car serviced at.

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If you want some fun you should get the first place to put your diagnosed situation in writing and then take that paperwork to the other dealership you choose to have the car serviced at.

 

 

I've got it in writing on TWO different service invoices. I have written a very long letter to the owner of the dealership and plan on sending it to him soon with or without a transmission failure in the near future. It could go another month or two before it completely fails which is why I took it to them in the first place...so much for trying to catch a problem before it gets worse.

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As from dealerships just try to sell you this unnessecary stuff just to make money.

Secondly, Vtech is designed, yes, to open the valve engage the solenoid and activate it through the ECM.

the tranny from this generation of civics has had some flaws in the automatics.

so from your point noVtechdoes not affect it and if the rev limiter is hitting that hard may be the ECU. Just a suggestion

you cant even spell vtec correctly so why would anyone listen to you?

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