My wife drives a 2004 Odyssey [Odd.]. Now with 99,5xx miles, problems started at 90k. Little bit of history: I have gone to 100% Synthetic oil for engine at around 35k, [when we bought the van] change every 10k miles do a oil analysis with every oil change at www.blackstone-labs.com [cheap and tells you exactly what’s going on your engine, good or bad.]. [BTW Oil USED is Royal purple one year, AMS oil next. Transmission fluid I use is ALWAYS Honda from dealer].
As stated before Transmission fluid changes are only made with Honda recommended [cheap, around $7.50/QT at Honda dealer, BTW Honda on 03/2001 just changed to a new, improved and more watery looking Trans fluid] every year regardless of miles [we do about 15k a year on van]. I do those, really easy less than 20 mins from start to finish.
At around 90k we had drive light blink on instrument cluster panel. Wife called me right away, told her park car, I’m coming to pick you up. We switched cars, and I drove van home with no problem. Next day I took Odd. out and Drive light started blinking after maybe 10 miles on road, so I did 180 went straight to dealer. [BTW, no slips on nothing of the sort]. After taking it to dealer and paying them $108 for them to tell me what was wrong with car [I don’t bitch about that, they have to charge you something for diagnostics] next day they said I need a new transmission [trans]. I said why? Because the codes says so! I had been reading for hours the night the Odd. Slept on the dealer this, and several other forums and said to myself, I’ll rather change a couple of things than cough up 4.5k [or maybe a little less if I really became a Richard with everyone]. After they said “because the code says so” I said thanks, I’ll be taking my car home, just park it outside. While they went to get my car I went to the parts place and bought the 3rd and 4th gear switches [why? Keep reading] and 6 quarts of trans fluid.
Bought both second and third gear switches at Honda dealer [could have saved about $70 from bill if bought on internet but couldn’t wait the 3 days it will take to come home] and installed myself. I’m a little mechanically inclined and did it by myself in less than 60 minutes. In our van you remove the front drivers side wheel and the switches are right there after taking out a plastic guard. You really don’t have to remove the tire but it makes it much easier if you do. I was the only one doing it and wanted to take pictures or video it for you tube but my hand got to dirty and didn’t want to screw the camera, sorry. This is a very easy thing to do, a guy with a couple of tools and a little [I mean just a little] know how will be able to do this easily.
Then I opened the trans fluid drain plug, waited for about 3 qts to drain [until no more fluid will come out] and put new HONDA trans fluid back on. Drove vehicle and immediately it showed softer shifting which I attribute to the 3rd and 4th gear switches not the new fluid since I had changed it less than 10 months prior. Why did I changed those 3rd and 4th gear switches? Because the drive light stared blinking when I went through around 45mph. I tossed a coin and decided to chnge those 2 even though it could have been the 2nd gear switch but because of the speed at which it occurred I decide to do those 2 first. BTW, when you take your Honda Odd. For a transmission “flush” at the dealer, they don’t completely flush it, they just do what I mentioned here. Honda DOES NOT recommend a full flush. So I waited 2 weeks and did the trans fluid thing again. Three more quarts and 20 mins later I was done.
So far after nearly 10k miles we have not had a problem with the transmission light coming on and my wife says she noted much soother gear switching, which I once again attribute to the 3rd and 4th gear switch. This was mentioned here before by someone else too. Read the forum here and other places before you cough up 4.5 k to a Honda dealer.
I’m no mechanic but after all the stuff I’ve read here, Edmunds and other websites, unless your Odd. Is under warranty still, for the do it yourselfers: I would recommend you changing trans fluid every year [it’s cheap, 6 quarts is all you need around $45 dollars at dealer on 04/2011] and change the gear switches every 50k. If bough on Internet they are about $110 for both delivered to your door. This is much cheaper than paying 4.5k for a refurbished trans that will work maybe another 3 years. And now the warranty from Honda is 12k or 1 year on a refurbished trans!. When you change your oil do an analysis [about $25 order the kit from the guys mentioned above. Order free kit before hand].
The info is emailed to you about 4 days after you mail in the small container [they provide everything]. When you sell your Odd, with all this info and receipts, you will prove you’re passing along a well maintained vehicle.
A couple of things before I go, I’ve seen guys here mentioning they will trade their van as soon as they find out the transmission has become a problem. Several shady dealers [and owners too] will erase all codes and will “tune” up the transmission [by adding additives and stuff that will not make the trans give any apparent problem, only to break 2 months after someone buys that van]. Not nice at all, specially if someone saved a long time to buy this van to help another human being be transported in a safe and humane way. I’ve read several here that paid thousands for unnecessary repairs jut to be told later they need a new $4.5 or $5.0k transmission. We have a daughter that has health issues and we unfortunately need a mini van to accommodate her needs, one that is reliable and that will last at least 150k with good maintenance. That is 10 years of driving for us. I think when you buy a Honda you expect this to happen.
We where in the market to buy a new Honda Odyssey this year but after reading all this stuff on the net we have decided to buy something with a better warranty, maybe a Hyundai or a Toyota. Have friends with over 200k miles and only regular maintenance with these 2 vans.