Q: Will using the incorrect ATF on my car cause sensors to fail

asked by on February 10, 2017

I own a 03 Acura TL. I purchased the car a little over a year ago. After a few months the tranny started losing 3rd gear so I had it rebuilt using a carbon fiber clutch kit. After the rebuild the car ran great for about 6 months then I started getting hard & delayed shifts, seems to run better after it warms up. The mechanic said that 3rd and 4th gear sensor had gone bad and, although he wasn't sure, that could be what was causing the issue. I had him replace the sensors and the issue was not resolved. After talking to few people I know one person said that the brand of ATF had to be the Honda ATF and that any other brand would only work as a short term fix. He said the wrong ATF could cause sensors to go bad after awhile. The fluid is pink with no junk in it so I have it parked until I can find a solution outside of the typical "replace" suggestion. The transmission that is currently installed was a new one from a recall years ago. Any help would be appreciated.

My car has 180000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

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With regard to the 2003 Acura TL Honda states in the Owner’s Manual, "Always use Honda ATF-Z1 (Automatic Transmission Fluid). If it is not available, you may use a DEXRON III automatic transmission fluid as a temporary replacement. However, continued use can affect shift quality. Have the transmission flushed and refilled with Honda ATF-Z1 as soon as it is convenient." Use of one transmission fluid versus another, ATF-Z1 versus DEXRON III in this instance, has no effect whatsoever on sensor or shift solenoid service life.


It sounds like your vehicle’s transmission is not shifting properly. Check the level of transmission fluid. If the fluid level is low, that will cause shift difficulties. Failures to shift are due to either external control failures, including in some cases engine related controls such as the throttle position sensor, but also including the vehicle speed sensor, transmission control module, and shift solenoids. Many of these issues can be repaired with the transmission in situ. Internal faults can be due to valve body faults, plugged transmission filter and failed piston seals, o-rings, bands, and clutch packs. To identify the problem, the recommended service is a failure to shift diagnostic. Once that diagnostic is complete, the mechanic will explain the repair strategy to you in detail and estimate the cost. If you have further questions or concerns, do not hesitate to re-contact YourMechanic as we are always here to help you.

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