How to Troubleshoot an Automatic Transmission in a '97 Honda Civic

by Christopher Michael

When your 1997 Honda Civic begins to have trouble shifting, the automatic transmission is failing. Automatic transmissions are expensive to overhaul and even more expensive to replace. There can be several reasons your Honda Civic is having trouble shifting gears that have nothing to do with the internal workings of the transmission. Troubleshoot the automatic transmission in your 1997 Honda Civic to understand just what is going wrong before you bring it to a mechanic for a costly repair.

Step 1

Make sure the transmission has enough fluid. The automatic transmission uses the fluid to power and lubricate its gears, so if the fluid is low the transmission will not operate correctly. Use a shop rag and the red-capped dipstick in the engine compartment to test the fluid level.

Step 2

Ensure that the ECM is operating the transmission properly. The ECM is a flat panel just in front of your car's battery in the engine compartment that can be removed with a 10 mm socket wrench. The ECM is a computer that operates all functions of your vehicle and its malfunction can be misdiagnosed as a transmission problem. Take the ECM to a professional for a diagnosis.

Step 3

Make sure the ECM is getting proper information from the speed sensor (an electronic plug sitting on top of the transmission that can be removed with a 10 mm socket wrench). The sensor is responsible for relaying information to the ECM for the proper operation of the transmission.

Step 4

Smell the engine during operation. Slipping gears will cause a great deal of heat in the transmission and emit a burning smell. If the gears are slipping then the transmission may need to be rebuilt or replaced.

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