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8 tips to get you going on that FWD Honda Transaxle removal/rebuild

  • Posted: 02-07-2014 06:15 PM
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Based on the recent and disheartening news that the transaxle in our HTSpec TSX needed to be removed and rebuilt, we decided to put together this post to show some handy tips that might arm you with some knowledge you need to get the transmission out of your FWD Honda with that much smaller of a headache.

1. Safety is cool

First and foremost, please please please, wear safety glasses. They might be unconfortable to wear at first but once you get into your job with tools in hand, you'll forget they are even on your face. If you don't put them on I promise you will regret it the very moment you are on your back in a compromised position working on a very difficult bold, and a piece of crud will fall in your eye. It sucks. This is the best case scenario. Worst case you'll by like an old coworker of mine who was hammering on a ball joint and a piece of shrapnel shot into his eye and blinded him on that side.

Safety is cool. In addition to the glasses, gloves are a great idea, as well. Other important things to have are proper jack stands, and most of all, brains. This job involves some very simple but very real forces of physics. Look at the load system in front of you, and decide where your forces and counter forces are going to be. If this last comment flies over your head, consider leaving the job to a professional.

Now that we have the basics mentioned, let's talk about some more specific topics.

2. Get the right manual

If you have a Honda or Acura, that means buying a real Helm service manual, and read it a week or two in advance of doing the job at hand.  Honda sends a team of people to their production plants with these manuals and literally disassemble an entire car to make sure it reads and works correctly before selling the cars and publishing the books. It will tell you everything you need to know, and nearly every step to take, in order to properly perform any job on the car. If special tools are needed, it will tell you. Need to replace a bolt, or use a specific grease, or need torque specs? Buy the book. Get your very own copy at www.helminc.com.

A Genuine Helm Manual is full of detail.

3. Tools are your key to success

The manual will tell you what special tools are needed and which are proprietary Honda ones. Now, before you go out and BUY all these tools know that there are good aftermarket substitutions out there. Sears, Harbor Freight, Amazon...you can get good tools to work on the car many places. And also know that you don't need ALL the tools they are suggesting. Overall these manuals are written for dealers and dealers have a huge cache of tools that they get from the manufacturers. You won't have access to these tools. And they are pricey! So look for good alternatives. The trick is knowing which ones REALLY need to be OEM ones...that might just be something you figure out in the trenches. Example: expensive seal and bearing drivers can often be substitued for pipes of various sizes or sockets. Be resourceful and get tools, but if you don't need to buy them that is all the better.

Use a large socket as a bearing or seal driver.

Here you can see my solution for removing this sealing bolt for which I did not have a 14mm hex driver. Of course, I bought one on Amazon and it arrived, along with a new bolt from Acura, in time for me to reassemble properly. This technique has long been a favorite of mine for removing stripped brake rotor screws.

A hammer and chisel made quick work of this sealing bolt that I did not have a 12mm hex driver for.

4. Manage your time and be realistic

Now is an opportune time to mention time management. Prime thing to keep in mind is to be realistic. A professional can take a trans out and put it back in in a day. Maybe call it two days if there is a rebuild in there. You need to expect that this job may take you twice as long, or longer. The reason is not because of anything besides experience and the quality and variety of tools. Professional technicians (even the mediocre ones) spend more money on their personal tool collection than you'd believe (I've known guys to amass a tool collection of $50,000 or more). Tools are time, and time is money. The better the tools and experience using them, the shorter the time to do jobs. They have lots of shop equipment at their disposal (vehicle lifts to say the least). You'll save a lot of money doing jobs yourself, but look at your tool collection and understand that you CAN do the job, but it is going to take a lot of time if that collection is not extensive.

You could be hanging around for a while...mostly waiting for parts. Use time wisely.

5. Save the beer for the fat lady

So, you are following instructions in the service manual, using some handy tools, taking your time, listening to music. Things are going well! Don't crack a beer! Save the beer for when you are done working for the day. Because once you start the beer, it is the start of the end. Trust me; beer is a great tool, for celebrating. Not for working.

I wanted to rotate this pic, but my photo editor was drunk.

6. Get an impact wrench

One of the tools that will come in handy is an impact wrench. Commonly, impact wrenches are powered by air thus requiring an air compressor. I'll tell you that since getting my electric one, my life has changed. I use the air compresser mostly for filling tires these days. While things like an air hammer and air rachets can be handy, nothing beats the convenience of an electric impact wrench. I have a Bosch one and I highly recommend it. It is comapct, light weight, and powerful. There are cheaper ones but they are more bulky and heavy. But, it won't make you superman: Some fasterners need to be removed by hand so have a breaker bar also.

Say hello to my little friend.

7. Special fasteners can throw you a curve ball or ruin your day

Watch out for left-hand threads. Righty-tighty-lefty-loosy applies almost universally, but there may be left-hand threads inside the transmission. Actually, the TSX trans is held together by them! Special black-coated bolts designed to prevent galvanic corrosion against the Magnesium case cannot be substituted and are distinctively left-handed. Usually these special fasteners have arrows on them telling you to turn the opposite way you are used to. Also some fasteners require special sockets to remove. The flywheel and clutch are held on with 12-point fasteners. The important message here is that if you need to cut one off, or break it by doing the wrong procedure for remove, you won't end up with a new one at the hardware store. Again, read the book!

Arrows mark the direction to tighten.

8. The aftermarket provides more unknowns

Are you installing aftermarket parts in your transmission? If so, realize that no matter how good they are they probably are not going to fit exactly the same as OEM parts. I found out the hard way that the differential in my TSX transmission needed a different shim than the OEM one did, and had to order new shims at the last minute. Even though I'd given myself plenty of time, this little curveball could have really ruined things for my deadline. Tools can be improvised but actual components inside the trans have to come from specific manufacturers and substitutions won't do. All the research in the world can't protect you against Murphy's Law. You don't want to get details like this wrong because it could mean taking that transmission back out again sooner than later.

 

 

That is  a good list to get you going. Be prepared by getting a manual and doing as much shopping as you can ahead of time. Expect to have something like a transmission rebuild to take a full week; this is in addition to the time to remove and install the trans from the car. Don't be afraid to call Heeltoe if you have any questions or need advice!



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