Jap import auto gearbox failures Page 1 / 3

tamarillo, Feb 12, 7:37pm
Seems to lots complaints of failed auto boxes. Why?
My personal opinion is that most are recent imports.
Used to be one judged a car on where and how it was driven. An auto that has lived in a huge city, used daily for relatively short distance but in heavily built up traffic, in a land where an older car has little value so there is little incentive to look after it, is surely ripe for auto failures?
Reports of owners in Japan simp,y not doing any servicing as the car gets older have been verified to me by people living there. The car is coming up to disposal so why spend money on servicing?
Compare with car that does a little stop start but mostly top gear work, or even better a provincial car that hardly sees a traffic light. One that will last and be worth keeping, or at least selling for good price. That box will live a much easier life and get serviced.
Yes I know some Auckland cars live in stop start but that's not all NZ.
Is this why we have so many gearbox failures? Have we become way to complacent about accepting imports with no history or service records?

I think we have, and suspect the majority to gearbox failures are in imports.

mechnificent, Feb 12, 8:02pm
In my experience most autos are good for about two-fifty thousand before the clutches pack up.
I suspect most of these new transmission "failures" are electrical and bad diagnosis.
I bet that when they strip them most of the clutches are fine, and it was an electrical problem. if one clutch pack is worn, it's because of an electrical failure. and just one clutch pack has worn prematurely. Not the whole lot due to routine wear.

kazbanz, Feb 12, 8:05pm
Tamarillo--How much time have you personally spent in japan observing this?

westwyn, Feb 12, 8:24pm
Sorry, OP, with a few notable exceptions, that fallacy simply doesn't hold true. For starters- and significantly- Japanese imports likely WILL suffer proportionately over 50% of all "auto gearbox failures" simply because over 50% or our modern fleet ARE Japanese imports. For the past 20 or so years, used imports have outnumbered new car sales in New Zealand. So- assuming failures are "across the range" , statistically, more imports will fail, as a proportion of our fleet. More will be involved in crashes, too, as a proportion of our fleet- because there's more of them.

But then generalising doesn't give a valid argument, either. I work in several fields in the automotive industry that allow me to take a far more analytical approach, and there's simply no truth to your assertion- with a couple of notable exceptions (more in a second on that.)

-The Japanese are pretty good at maintaining their cars, overall. Yes, there are plenty of exceptions- they're human, not everyone follows the book. Ironically, even older cars get serviced better than most newer cars here- it's a mindset thing, I own it, therefore I shall maintain it, right up to the day I trade it.

-Lots of Japanese cars come from the two biggest centres- Tokyo and Osaka. Both cities have congestion issues. But both have excellent public transport networks, and a high proportion of owners commute that way, leave their cars at home during the week, using it evenings and weekends. Or- pay the tolls and use the expressways. The traffic congestion I see every day on the North Western Motorway is far worse than anything I regularly see in Japan. The Japanese have options-us, far less so.

-Want a car that's done higher speed non-stop driving, as per your "top gear" argument? Buy Japanese, then, their expressway system is outstanding- even their non toll roads where applicable- and you'll never have to worry about stopping for the traffic in Cambridge again!

-I have had many trips to Japan over the years and spent plenty of time "out and about" to better understand their industry.

-Forget Japan. Kiwis are notoriously poor at maintaining and servicing their cars. I have chuckle every time someone rattles on about "buying Kiwi New so you know it's been maintained". Rubbish. We're crap at servicing and looking after our cars. We skimp on our servicing intervals, use rubbish grade oils if we DO service them ourselves, fail to even keep up the schedules on our new cars and once it hits a certain age, we even forget where the oil goes in. Yes, again, there are plenty of exceptions. But yes, I've plenty of real-world first-hand experience of this, and when I bought my wife's late-model car last year, I actually preferred to buy her one ex-Japan rather than Kiwi new, since I struggled to find one that had been looked after.

And if it's a diesel van in New Zealand- forget it. That "service every 15,000km" mantra would be fine, if the van didn't clock up an extra 50,000km in between while the odometer was disabled!

I have seen plenty of NZ-New cars with auto gearbox failures. So have the major warranty companies- who can point to statistics and tell you, there is no higher claim ratio for Japanese Imports than Kiwi New. Autos fail. Doesn't matter where the car started life.

-There are a couple of notable exceptions- the early Nissan CVT units fitted to the likes of the Primera- have a high failure rate. None are NZ New since NZ never got this gearbox as an option. (and no, it's not because our distributors championed the cause, it's because NZ in general rates a big fat ZERO in new car influence, we get whatever the factory makes- Nissan NZ well behind the tech curve last decade). So all CVT failures were imports. Moot point- since the probable cause for most of them failing seems to be us Kiwis (and some Japanese) replacing the ATF with regular ATF and not the specific Nissan NS1 CVT fluid. Regular ATF kills them, but many workshops of the day didn't know this.

pandai, Feb 12, 8:33pm
My NZ new V6 Accord was serviced religiously before and during my ownership (my father was the first owner), but that did not stop the gearbox needing a rebuild at 98,000km. It was driving perfectly fine, but whining when cold - clutch wear caused the filters to block and the decreased oil flow caused it to spin a bearing. The bill to repair it was $5K+.

I really feel that the reliability of a gearbox lies primarily in its design rather than how it is treated.

westwyn, Feb 12, 8:35pm
-Honda Fit / Jazz- start clutch failures- NOT a good choice in a small car (some Civics etc used it also) and a very high proportion of failures. That's model specific, not Japan versus New Zealand specific. The earlier boxes were a dog.

-VW DSG boxes- despite what some would like to think, these have been another nightmare for the European sales industry. Again- draw upon the statistics of the major warranty companies. They've got no reason to fluff the numbers. Again, proportionately far more Golfs, Passats, Boras etc started out life in Japan than NZ. Ergo- more failures with cars from Japan.

-Mitsubishi Diamante- a nightmare gearbox wrapped in a car-like bodyshell. I swore off those things completely nearly a decade ago, having had no less than 5 under repair for autos at the same time- three Japanese, two Kiwi. And (would you believe) FOUR different gearbox types between them (including a rare Aussie version we struggled to replace).

-None of those examples are due to poor servicing. Just crap design. Doesn't matter where they come from.

-And a crap owner in New Zealand will ultimately have the same effect on a car as a crap owner in Japan. One of the differences is- Japanese owners tend to pay little heed to keeping service books etc like we do. It's serviced, there's a reminder sticker in the door jamb, or under the hood, why do you need to write the whole performance in a book?

dublo, Feb 12, 8:39pm
You can get both extremes with NZ-new cars! We looked at 2 Series 6 Honda Accord V6s: One had done 175000km. On pulling the dipstick I found just one drop of oil clinging to the end ("Oh" the owner said, "28000km since I last had it serviced.") The other car 61000km and a meticulous service record. No guesses as to which one we bought!

kazbanz, Feb 12, 8:41pm
In my experience the biggest cause of gearbox failure is lack of proper maintainance. Im hearing what you are saying mon but that servicing you had done-did it include a transmission service?

pandai, Feb 12, 8:54pm
If you go to Honda and ask them to service the gearbox, they will do a drain and refill - that is about all they can do really. It changes about a third of the fluid. I got that done at 77k and 86k (service booklet says not due until 120k). There is no pan to drop, and they insist the filters are internal (I'm pretty sure there's one inside the heat exchanger on the top of it, but have never checked).

When I had it rebuilt, I first went to a specialist transmission repairer. They could not fault the transmission and insisted that the whining noises were coming from the other side of the engine. They were wrong, but I guess they only get to see the transmissions that are really totally farked.

tamarillo, Feb 12, 9:34pm
I didn't say I had, I said I have spoken to people who lived in Japan including two Japanese friends who suggested checking where it came from and avoid cars from main cities.
And of course I am talking generalisations. Point is more that we can't really know what the car was used for and what driving it has done, and there does seem to be a lot of failures earlier than one would expect.

tamarillo, Feb 12, 9:36pm
Westwyn, thanks for input and information. Exactly what I was askin!

westwyn, Feb 12, 9:46pm
You're welcome. Hope I wasn't sounding harsh in my tone.

kazbanz, Feb 12, 10:45pm
Your last few posts have been full of sweeping generalisations.
Your point seems to be (
Jap cars imported second hand are rubbish because they aren't serviced,only used in stop start traffic,The odo's are would back and were never desighned to be used in NZ?
This is as opposed to kiwi cars which are religiously serviced,ODO's are never tampered with,are never driven in heavy traffic and were desighned specifically for use on NZ roads.
This is based on your personal experience driving a jap import and reports from friends in japan.
Please feel free to correct me if Ive got this wrong

skyblue17, Feb 12, 11:04pm
Just like your sweeping generalisations about Euro cars and VW in particular.
Tamarillo probably isn't aware you and westwyn are jap import used car dealers.

richardmayes, Feb 13, 12:00am
Those old 1990s Honda 4-speed autos are a bit "special" though:

A/ They are apparently a fairly unique design, devised so that Honda would not have to pay Borg-Warner any patent royalties for using a conventional epicyclic gearbox design. This is why Hondas have a special Honda auto transmission fluid, not ordinary ATF from Repco.

B/ Apparently this is a bit controversial - but on the Honda forum there are plenty of comments about how those boxes are not really strong enough even for the 4-cylinder motors, let alone the 3 litre V6, they run hot because they are a physically compact unit with little surface area for natural air cooling, and you have to replace the fluid and filter RELIGIOUSLY every year to avoid premature failures - especially if the car is driven hard.

nzeva, Feb 13, 12:10am
I recently saw a Honda Odyssey auto that had collapsed one of the diff side bearings. Uneconomical to repair as broken bits all through the gearbox, so a replacement 2nd hand one required.
I couldn't get over how small the components are. they didn't look big enough to handle the power from a 1000cc motor!
Lesson for all. Don't buy a Honda auto!

tamarillo, Feb 13, 12:13am
No, you gave facts and discussed it which is what I was asking for! Some people just throw opinions at posts. Deliberately asked the question so enjoyed proper answer.

tamarillo, Feb 13, 12:16am
You see I don't think this is helpful. Honda are one of best engineering companies out there and known for it. Quite sure the gearbox was as per any newer car, smaller and lighter is name of game.
The poster refered to one particular model as well. Harsh to right off all Hondas on that.

tamarillo, Feb 13, 12:22am
Yes if you read it I stated these were my opinions and not any more than generalisations and I was openly asking for unbiased opinion of others. Seems yours isn't unbiased and if indeed you are a jap car importer I think you should say so as you are hardly unbiased are you.
Of course some kiwi cars get abused and wound back, but we have safeguard of warrant checks odometer and servicing records we can read.
Anyway, I was asking for discussion not argument here so let's please move on.

richardmayes, Feb 13, 12:22am
I don't think it's fair to entirely dismiss what tamarillo is saying.

I've been around British classics of the 1960s and 70s most of my life, and the Borg Warner 35 auto found in Triumph 2000s and 2500s is the best engineered part of the whole car by a mile, and it usually outlives the car it is installed into even with zero maintenance.

On the other hand, I've heard from a few different sources that the big Borg Warner 8s and 12s in Jaguar XJ6s are not really strong enough for the job, and those cars often get sick gearboxes when the mileage gets up.

My point is that IN THE PAST not all automatic gearboxes were equal, and some were much better than others for their chosen jobs.

That is probably still true today.
Therefore I don't think it's fair to counter the generalisation: "most jap imports have crap gearboxes" with another generalisation: "all jap import gearboxes are fine, it's only ever a maintenance issue."

tamarillo, Feb 13, 12:23am
Thanks, no I wasnt. Though western has been helpful and useful in discussion so no issue there.m

twincam1, Feb 13, 12:26am
Just as many fail because of incorrect maintenance. Dropping fluid as is usual and refilling is not maintenance. Merc' boxes should be left alone, 300000-400000kms is common. Merc's that have problems below these kms is because some muppet thought he would 'service' the box.

nzeva, Feb 13, 12:28am
Honda has some great engineering. unfortunately auto gearboxes aren't their strong suit!


budgel, Feb 13, 3:12am
Are there any Volvos with Jap auto transmissions that are still mobile?

ema1, Feb 13, 6:15am
Yep I have a Volvo 760GLE V6 with the AW71 and it goes perfectly.
Car was privately imported from Sweden to UK originally by it's 1st owner a NZ'der on tourist delivery scheme, after being in UK for about 18 months it came to NZ with the same 1st owner.
I am it's 3rd owner and it's a very low mileage as new example. only 64,000miles
Generally AW trans were regarded as more reliable than the ZF fitted cars in Volvo circles.
Don't know about later ones as I haven't had anything to do with them.

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