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Don't believe everything you think

Don't let what you think you know blind you from seeing what is really causing the problem
Thursday, January 7, 2016 - 09:00
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Don't let what you think you know blind you from seeing what is really causing the problem

Recently I saw a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t believe everything you think.” It brought to mind another saying I once heard, “Someone’s perception is their reality.” Doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true, it’s just what they perceive to be true. Another quote that came to mind originated from the movie American Beauty, “Never underestimate the power of denial.” These quotes in some way relate to an old proverb that says “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes.”  

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In diagnosing problems with vehicles, every now and again what one thinks they know blinds them from seeing what is really causing the problem. When this occurs, it typically takes place with a vehicle known for a common failure. When that vehicle arrives to a shop exhibiting all the typical symptoms related to this failure, the cause is immediately assumed.

Admittedly, the occurrence of fixing a common failure outweighs the few times one might be blinded by a pattern failure repair approach. At the end of the day, this does equate to more dollars in the bank. But the few times a proper diagnostic approach is missed, it can be costly in time, money and in personal frustration. 

One such example is with Honda/Acura vehicles that experience converter clutch shudder and failure. One of the ways the complaint is described is that it begins with a sudden shudder around 45 mph. The shudder feels similar to a quick drive over sleeper lines, otherwise known as rumble strips. As quickly as the rumble feeling came is as quickly as it leaves. This can be caused by degraded fluid or the use of low quality fluid, which can be corrected with the use of the right fluid. But most commonly, this indicates a more serious problem is about to emerge. Left unattended, converter clutch failure will be catastrophic, causing the vehicle to arrive on a hook.

This type of transmission is known to have a problem that allows the converter clutch to drag when in the released position. As the clutch begins to get damaged, it shudders on the apply. For a detailed explanation of the failure, read the article “Extending the life of a Honda converter clutch,” written by Dean Mason and published in the Motor Age April 2014 issue. But briefly speaking, there are problems related to the pressure system affecting proper converter pressures. In time the converter experiences an overheating problem so extreme it turns bluish purple in color. Some of the causes of the problem can be attributed to pump wear, pressure regulator operation, leaking lock-up shift and lock-up control valve bore plugs or a restricted heat exchanger.

With Honda/Acura converter clutch shudder complaints having the reputation of being likened to the tip of an iceberg where bigger problems are lurking underneath, other possibilities are often overlooked and remain unknown. A quote by Donald Rumsfeld goes like this: “As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Dealing with both known unknowns and the unknown unknowns is quite a concept to one’s perceived reality. And in particular, with a Honda/Acura TCC shudder complaint between 45 to 55 miles per hour. 

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