ATF: Automotive Poison

by Sunday News Online | Sunday, Nov 5, 2017 | 422 views

ATf Automotive Poison

Lovert Mafukure

I imported a Honda Fit Blue dot recently, the transmission fluid was very low and I ended up adding ATF of about 1 litre because I thought it was the right one but I have experienced negative changes in my gear shifting. Does it mean the gearbox is damaged? How do I flush it out?

All the fluids that go into a car are specially formulated to work in their respective fields but before we get into it, let’s acquaint ourselves with the Honda Fit for the benefit of others.

The first generation Honda Fit — GD1 to GD5 — is the most popular model in the Hatch Category. It is a fun to drive Hatch with plenty of room for passengers. I’m sure it’s the best of the small cars when it comes to interior space, boot space, durability and power delivery.

The Honda Fit comes with the L series power plant. It is a 4-cylinder single overhead camshaft engine. Two different variations are available for the Honda Fit, L13A and L15A. They run on the same L-block platform but have different cylinder heads. The L13A is the 1399cc, it’s the one that comes with the Red dot Model and features two valves and two plugs per cylinder and runs a single overhead camshaft.

That means it has 8 plugs in total. According to Honda, it helps with fuel efficiency. You will find that the Red dot is then a bit more expensive to service than normal cars and it tends to be a bit more expensive to fix with 8 plugs and 8 ignition coils.

The L15A is the one that comes with the Blue dot Honda Fit model and it has the 1500cc motor. This variant comes with Vtec setup, 4 valves and one spark plug per cylinder.

The Vtec generates more power. Both these engines are highly fuel-efficient engines and Honda claims fuel consumption of around 20km/litre. In Zimbabwe you will not however, get that mileage with our sugar-laced fuel, it has the negative effect on the fuel gauge. It just never stays up!

We have now established that Honda Fits have continuously variable transmissions (CVT). In isolated cases you can find a 5 Speed manual Gearbox on a Honda Fit. This popular CVT is misunderstood by many people who treat it as an automatic transmission as it is in this case. The Blue dot Honda Fit with L15A is the sportier version and comes equipped with a 7-speed option. Since it’s a CVT, it makes more sense to say it has 7 different speed ratios since it doesn’t actually have gears.

Some people despise them saying they have weak gearboxes but that is not the case. Proper maintenance of these gearboxes is what is lacking. As the first owner, start your own service record the right way and you will not be disappointed with your car. I know a few people that have serviced their Hondas correctly and are still enjoying the smooth drive even after years of owning the cars.

Now having filled with the wrong transmission fluid and experienced negative changes it then confirms one thing . . . ATF in CVT is a recipe for disaster. It’s hard to tell the extent of the damage but what we are sure of is that it is no longer the same. It would be wise to flush all the fluid but it is near impossible to drain all fluid with just a drain and refill job.

In total the fluid in the gearbox should be about 7 litres but when you drain you will only get about 4 litres out and the rest will be trapped in the torque converter, cooling lines and radiator.

There is a procedure to drain fluid from the torque converter which involves starting up the engine so the fluid can be pumped out but this procedure needs a professional to do it. You will need to have it done if you are going to drain all the diluted fluid, well, at least most of it.

This is a very expensive procedure for it involves draining and filling simultaneously and a lot of CVT fluid will be lost and it costs $20 a litre for the proper fluid.

A clever somebody once said measure twice, cut once. In the automotive business, whether you take your car to a garage, bring it to us or you do it yourself, always make sure it is done right and the right fluids are topped up. With humans its food poisoning, it will make you run faster than Bolt, cars are the same. If you poison them with the wrong fluid, it’s a disaster, I call it automotive poisoning.

Honda Fits are strong cars compared to other smaller cars. Honda has a history of making engines that last beyond expectation and the L series engine is no exception.

The CVT is just as good and offers more efficiency than an automatic transmission ever could. There is a general point of view that Honda Fits have problematic transmissions and I say it’s not so true. Its transmission problems are more of human error than an engineering weakness . . . all the best. Happy motoring!

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Disclaimer: This material has been prepared with the intent to provide reliable information; no warranty either expressed or implied is made to its accuracy or completeness. No liability is assumed for any loss, injury to persons, property or other damage resulting from either the use of or reliance on the material presented. Always consult the professionals.

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