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Old 10-02-2009, 02:01 PM
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Honda transmission problem...in a Saturn Vue

This might be an odd question to ask on an Accord forum, but this is the only Honda forum I frequent. My parents have a 2007 Saturn Vue with the Honda J35/5-speed automatic powertrain. They bought it because they wanted something made by a domestic brand, but they wanted Honda reliability.

Well, so much for Honda reliability. It all started around 50,000 miles with shift flaring and another odd behavior: at speeds of 35-40 MPH, the tachometer would constantly bounce up and down by about 50 RPM. I'd imagine that had something to do with the torque converter clutch moving in and out of lockup, but I'm not sure.

After some Googling, the problem is apparently not unheard of, but that's about all I can figure out. I have a couple of questions here:

1) Are these transmissions pretty solid otherwise and is there a revised torque converter design for this particular transmission?

2) The Saturn dealership that has serviced the vehicle in the past has always been excellent about goodwilling repairs, but Saturn corporate is no longer in a position to provide any goodwill assistance. Is there any chance Honda might be willing to offer some sort of financial assistance with at least buying the parts? If there is a possibility of this, should I call corporate? My Honda dealership?

I feel especially badly for them after having recommended a Honda product based on my own experience. Any kind of transmission failure at 65,000 miles is ridiculous in this day and age, and I especially didn't expect this from a Honda transmission (at least after they re-engineered the 5-speed automatic a few years ago, that is).

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
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Old 10-02-2009, 02:18 PM
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Are you sure that the Vue uses the Honda automatic?

The 5 speeds in the Vues have always been Aisin transmission, the same used by Toyota, Ford and now in 6 speed form, GM, Ford, Toyota.

Can you snap a pic under the hood, if you have the vehicle at home, by the transmission so I can see. Does it have a dipstick that's easily accessible?
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Old 10-02-2009, 02:41 PM
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Hey, Fred:

The pre-2004 Vue V6 (with the GM/Opel 3.0L V6) did use an Aisin transmission. As far as I know, though, the '04+ VUE V6 uses a Honda transmission with the J35A3. Also, the manual specifies ATF Z1 for the V6 transmission.

I took a few pictures of it; let me know if you need any other angles. Sorry about the engine bay shots...it's crammed in there pretty tightly, but if you need to see something else, I'll do my best. Also, there is a dipstick. When facing the engine from the front of the vehicle, it's in the lower right corner, between the radiator fan and the engine block. I also tried to get a few shots of the dipstick, but they didn't come out particularly well. Still, the fluid looks fairly red and does not smell burnt.

Thanks again for your time.
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Old 10-02-2009, 03:07 PM
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Ok, that sure is a Honda transmission.

The shift flaring is a problem. Has the fluid been changed 3 times and filter been changed at least once? I'd hope it has the accessible canister filter on the left side of the unit.

They also need to drive the thing and watch EGR desired position vs actual on a graph at that speed the rpm "bump" is occurring. Some older 3.5s had issues with bad EGR valves causing a problem like you are describing. If the actual position is jumping up and down with the rpm hunting, the valve is bad.

I can tell you for sure, Honda will do nothing as far as goodwill on another manufacturer's car, even if it's a Honda powertrain. Now that Saturn is officially dead, they may best to get rid of the car.

OEM parts now are damn near impossible to get for any Saturn.
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Old 10-02-2009, 03:40 PM
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Thanks for the info, Fred. The fluid has been changed a few times, but I don't think it's been the 3x drain-and-fill scheme. I'll recommend they do that.

I'll have them take it to a Saturn dealer to evaluate the EGR. Would an EGR problem like this illuminate the MIL (it hasn't illuminated)? It would certainly be nice if that's all it was.

I figured Honda wouldn't offer any assistance, but I thought it would be worthwhile to at least ask about it.
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Old 10-02-2009, 04:00 PM
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I really hope they've been filling it with Honda Z1, many dealerships will just fill it with whatever cheap bulk dexron 3 they can get a hold of.

I'm not sure if the Saturn got the 3 shaft 5 speed as the '06 and up Honda did, but I'd think it should have.

I've seen fewer problems with the 5at after the '04 changes, and then the '06 changes to the three shaft.

The EGR issue I mentioned doesn't light up the MIL, as the fluctuations aren't far enough beyond desired to make the PCM flag an error.
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Old 10-02-2009, 04:36 PM
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Hey, Fred:

Out of curiosity, when you say "fewer problems," how good is that? Are they back to the high standard Honda used to have, pre-'98, or is it still too early to tell? My Accord's automatic seems to be pretty solid at 125,000, but it's also a 4-cylinder, so I guess it's probably not as stressful on the transmission. Or is the 4-cylinder's 5-speed auto a different design altogether?

Thanks again for replying; I appreciate your time.
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Old 10-02-2009, 04:45 PM
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The original Saturn autos were GM copies of Honda autos. They used Dex3. I owned one (both '92s), with a manual though, and a family friend had an auto. His used Dex 3 (right on the stick) and it's spin on filter with magnet inside the top. The whole exterior looked nothing like a Honda, with accessible valve bodies.

I wish Honda had taken the spin on filter idea from GM.

Saturn dealers were different than most any car dealer, too bad GM didn't take that idea and place it company wide.
Your 2.4s 5 speed is a similar design to the older 2 shaft. The 4 puts far less stress on the trans than any V6.

The funny thing is, I've seen some last forever. For example, at work we've got a guy with a '98 2.3 it's got nearly 300k on the original trans and it's only ever been serviced 2 times. He started coming to our shop when the car had 250k on it. We have 2 '03 Pilots with over 200k on their original transmissions, both serviced at 30 to 50k intervals depending on when the customers want to do it.

Then I've seen 2 fail at 70k, one a Jiffy lube f-up, they removed case bolts to drain and put them in, over tightening them, crushing the gasket. The customer drove it all the fluid came out and it fried. Another had massive carrier bearing failure at 70k and the thing had a big diff failure. The '98 I have here started to have carrier bearing issues at 107k, but went to 159k before it self destructed.
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Old 10-02-2009, 05:02 PM
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I hear you about the spin-on trans fluid filter. I wasn't changing my own transmission fluid at the time (hence my error above), but everyone on the Saturn forum I frequented raved about how good of an idea that was. I do wish more manufacturers would do that--it would make the job a lot easier.

Thanks.
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Old 10-02-2009, 05:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fredsvt View Post
Saturn dealers were different than most any car dealer, too bad GM didn't take that idea and place it company wide.
Isn't that the truth? It was like pulling teeth to even get warranty work done on any of our other GM vehicles over the years. The Saturn dealer here is really good, though. And the whole sales process at a Saturn dealer is much more pleasant. I'm sorry to see them go under; GM really could've had something if it hadn't starved Saturn of development/marketing money until it was too late.

I actually called up to that Saturn dealer earlier today to see if Saturn might consider goodwilling the transmission problem. The service manager said all such claims are now handled through GM corporate and that corporate won't allow them to do that anymore. It's good to see GM is up to its same old antics...hopefully their newer cars are more reliable because it doesn't seem as though their customer service has improved over the years.
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Old 10-02-2009, 06:16 PM
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It really depends on what GM car you get. And how high your expectations are.

I've seen many that go pretty good on mileage and are pretty reliable, mechanically. But so, so many stupid little things go bad over and over. On some, it was many, many big things, like major engine repairs at low mileage.

Even with their 5/100 warranty, its pulling teeth to get them to fix under warranty.

One of our fleet customers with express vans had 1 with a bad water pump, they said, "oh no, that's not part of the engine warranty", the customer had to throw the warranty book in their face and show them the list. It got done.

Then an '07 that had a leaking oil pan gasket since day ONE, and it went back about 6 times, and they said it wasn't leaking, someone did a messy oil change.
The customer returned at 99,900 miles, said he saw oil dripping... They came out with a bill for $700, then he pulled out the 6 other no problem found tickets, and his warranty book, again. They fixed it for free.

I guess we'll see about long term of their cars and their whole company. Who knows?
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Old 10-05-2009, 12:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fredsvt View Post
They also need to drive the thing and watch EGR desired position vs actual on a graph at that speed the rpm "bump" is occurring. Some older 3.5s had issues with bad EGR valves causing a problem like you are describing. If the actual position is jumping up and down with the rpm hunting, the valve is bad.
Are EGR valves serviceable? Meaning can I take this apart and clean it or something? I have the RPM fluctuation on my L66 equipped VUE too. At a steady 35-40mph, the RPMs will jump back and fourth a tad.
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Old 10-05-2009, 03:37 PM
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The Honda valve is non serviceable, and I believe the GM, if equipped with EGR is not serviceable either.

You may want to check the rpm with a scanner, just to be sure the tach is reporting correctly. GM clusters are notoriously inaccurate. Any voltage fluctuations can cause needles to bounce. Is the L66 the Catera 3.0 or the 3.5 pushrod?
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Old 10-05-2009, 05:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fredsvt View Post
The Honda valve is non serviceable, and I believe the GM, if equipped with EGR is not serviceable either.

You may want to check the rpm with a scanner, just to be sure the tach is reporting correctly. GM clusters are notoriously inaccurate. Any voltage fluctuations can cause needles to bounce. Is the L66 the Catera 3.0 or the 3.5 pushrod?

GM L66 = Honda 3.5L V6 & 5 speed auto. EGR appears to be the same as on my Accord, so Honda sourced.

Here is a video clip of how the trans is acting on mine. It seems to shift to the highest gear at too low of a speed. Sometimes it feels like a manual transmission in too high of a gear that bogs and needs an upshift. I was holding the camera with the steering wheel, so sorry for the couple of bumps.

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Old 10-05-2009, 06:05 PM
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Hey edwilson, good news, appears to be normal. A reprogramming may cure this.

http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=145295
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