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'88 Civic LX Auto won't shift to 4th when cold

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'88 Civic LX Auto won't shift to 4th when cold

Postby yokochamas » Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:03 am

Searched but didn't see anything.

This problem will decide whether I keep my car and fix it up or not. I have an auto transmission that in cold weather when idling after start takes almost 15-20 minutes for the temp gauge to move off the bottom, 10 minutes in warm weather. The trans will not shift into 4th when the temp gauge is less than about a quarter way up which is about where it stays all day in cold weather unless I idle it first for 20 minutes and don't turn on the heater while driving, and in warm weather it has to idle for 10 minutes first before I start driving. In warm weather once the car is warmed up it'll go into 4th all day long without problem.

I haven't done anything to the transmission in the 8 years I've owned the car, and I'm hesitant to get a flush done because I've read it can ruin the whole thing at this age.

Does it sound like the transmission is going out, or maybe just needs new fluid? Or is this to do with a bad temp gauge? Thanks for any help.
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Re: '88 Civic LX Auto won't shift to 4th when cold

Postby 91hatchligon » Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:22 am

Personally haven't had to deal with the auto trans in these cars but it sounds more like a transmission issue then any temp sensors. I have also heard bad things about flushing the transmission but have had really good luck with just a standard trans service, just drain fill and filter replace.
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Re: '88 Civic LX Auto won't shift to 4th when cold

Postby yokochamas » Mon Jun 08, 2015 3:24 am

Thanks for your help 91hatch as usual,

Does the temp behavior seem odd though? I mean, do these cars keep a normal operating temp (gauge at half way point) in the winter? I forgot to mention that I blocked my grill with tape last winter and that kept the temps up and that allowed the transmission to go into 4th.
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Re: '88 Civic LX Auto won't shift to 4th when cold

Postby 91hatchligon » Mon Jun 08, 2015 4:58 pm

Yes they do keep normal temp in the winter mine takes about a mile to get warm enough for the heat to feel warm and not much more for normal on the temp gauge. It sounds like your thermostat might be stuck open. cheap and easy fix!
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Re: '88 Civic LX Auto won't shift to 4th when cold

Postby yokochamas » Tue Jun 09, 2015 2:08 am

Ok, I'll replace my thermostat and see how it goes. Thanks!
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Re: '88 Civic LX Auto won't shift to 4th when cold

Postby KawBoy » Tue Jul 07, 2015 10:13 pm

Yea I have an 89 DX with the same issue.

It won't allow the trans to go into 4th/overdrive until the temp needle passes the lower peg.
In 65F weather it can take 3 fwy miles for this car to warm up to that temperature.

Furthermore, even after an hour on the freeway it will drop out of 4th if I coast down
a long mountain pass and the needle drops below the lower peg again.
This tells me it is a real interlock, not just a trans oil temp issue.

Perhaps my thermostat is stuck open but hey I really don't mind the engine staying on
the cool side. I'd rather get maximum miles out of the engine than best gas mileage.
I have a 2,700 mile per month commute so preserving the engine is paramount to me.

Has anyone found the temperature/transmission interlock pinout ?
I would love to disable it as it seems to make little sense.
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Re: '88 Civic LX Auto won't shift to 4th when cold

Postby yokochamas » Wed Feb 03, 2016 3:38 am

Update for thread's sake,

Replaced the thermostat (w/Gates brand) several months ago and car warms up quickly and shifting issue is gone. Word of caution for the inexperienced, have a pan on ground for the gush of coolant that'll come out.
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Re: '88 Civic LX Auto won't shift to 4th when cold

Postby 91hatchligon » Wed Feb 03, 2016 5:46 pm

:thumbright: Glad to hear you got it fixed :D
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Re: '88 Civic LX Auto won't shift to 4th when cold

Postby 88lxer » Sat Jul 02, 2016 6:51 pm

I have an 88 LX sedan that behaves exactly as KawBoy describes. When it's warm, 70mph is about 3200 rpm and when it cools more like 3750rpm. Perhaps I should pick up a themostat. Thanks for the info.
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