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Discussion Starter #1
My wife inherited her Mom's '03 E, AT 4WD model, 60K miles. It seemed last winter like the 4WD was working fine, but we just got our first snow here in the Northlands and the 4WD is clearly not working now. Does anyone have any advice as to the likely culprit? Aside from this and a weak starter that needed to be replaced (a pain but I did it myself) it is running fine.
 

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How can you tell that the 4WD isn't working?

I believe the Real Time 4WD system is purely mechanical. The rear wheels are engaged hydraulically when the rear differential senses that the front wheels are spinning at a different speed than the rear wheels (by some threshold). You can read about the system here: http://www.honda.co.nz/technology/engine/4wd/

I would guess that your best bet would be to check out the rear differential and possibly replace the Dual Pump fluid. If the rear diff fluid has not been changed, you might notice that in tight slow speed turns (like in a parking lot), you'll hear and feel some shuddering. I think that honda initially listed the fluid be replaced at 90K, but most of us are finding that it need to be replaced much sooner than that. I did it at about 55k when I purchased the car (it was shuddering).

Another possibility is that you're just not noticing the rear wheels kick in. If you're in a low traction area, you shouldn't change your driving style much, I read that you just keep the gas down and let the car transfer the torque where it has more traction.
 

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It doesn't sound like you're going on much.

I had read on here a little while ago about someone testing their rt4wd by putting the car on jack stands and putting it in gear and see if the rear wheels spin with the front. There was a method for automatic too, not sure how similar it was. Not sure if I would trust the jack stands that much though...maybe someone has a better method.

For example, there's a turn on one of the highways around here that has bumps where they improperly patched the road (that's rhode island for you). Anyway, if I go around that turn at 50+ I can feel the rear wheels kick in when the front lose traction going over the bump. It was quite unnerving the first time it happened to me, I didn't expect it at all.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The 4wd is very obviously not functioning. I suspected it was the case a few weeks ago. We just got 14" of snow, and there was lots of opportunity to test it. From a stop, facing uphill, hit the accelerator and only the front wheels spin. No assist from the rear. In deep snow in an unplowed parking lot make a turn. Lots of understeer and loss of momentum as the front wheels spin. The rear wheel track shows no sign of any power being applied. When I went back to look both rear wheel tracks showed the tread pattern in the snow. It's dead, Jim.

I know it's hydraulically actuated and driven. It seems like something like that wouldn't just quit without some other symptoms, which I've not seen. I don't like drivetrain issues, especially at 60K miles. They can be expensive.

I'm also concerned that by continuing to drive on it I might cause more damage. Does this mean that I'm out of fluid in the differential for example? Has this happened to anyone else out there?
 

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Not too much actual information here except you might search for messages about dual pump fluid to read up on all of the problems. Honda originally said to replace it every 30k miles but that was overly optimistic. You haven't mentioned how often yours was changed but it's a starting point at least.

BTW, bad weather makes it easier to have this done, but Honda wants an arm&leg (official Honda pricetag) If you buy a couple bottles and take it to any oil change place and tell them where it goes, they'll do it for the cost of an oil change or less.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
We've had it for just over a year and about 10000 miles. The Transmission and rear differential were both serviced at 49,000 miles when we got it. In addition, the seals were out of the differential at the time and had to be replaced. Transmission service cost $110 and differential service cost $70, but the seals added about $500. Ouch. I would hate to have to go through that again after 10K miles! But I guess it sounds like I need to take it in to find out what's wrong. Has anyone else out there had trouble with their 4wd going out?
 

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With a mechanical vs electronic awd system, my suspicion would be a lack of sufficient dual pump II fluid in the rear- hence no hydraulic engagement.

It's a simple procedure to refill it, but if you aren't mechanically inclined, the dealership should check to see if it is full.

After filling, I would park it somewhere I could monitor for leaks.

Hopefully, no lasting damage is done.
 

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I have been thinking about your problem. It seems very unusual for the rear dif seals to go out. That being said, I hope that you had Honda Dual Pump Fluid put in the dif. This is the ONLY fluid to use there as it is specific to the dual pump that operates the system. Perhaps they forgot to put any fluid in it at all.
Do not listen to any mechanic that tells you you can use gear oil or transmission fluid in the rear dif. I cannot stress enough , Honda Dual Pump fluid is the only one that will do the job.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
The local Honda dealer here has a reputation for overcharging for substandard work so we took it to another mechanic that I trust, the same ones who changed the seals last year. They do a lot of Honda work for the reason cited above. They confirmed that they used dual pump fluid when they changed the seals.

The verdict is that the mechanism is not engaging. The reason isn't clear, since they didn't take it apart, but the entire rear differential clearly needs to be rebuilt or replaced, to the tune of $1500 to $2000. All of this at under 60K miles. I'm pretty disgusted. I'm still curious as to how common this kind of failure is. I'd hate to form a low opinion of Honda due to one isolated problem even if it's expensive like this one. Anyone else out there know of other instances of this kind of failure?
 

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i won't say that it's never happened, but the system design goes back at least as far back as the '97 CR-V and, other than the failure to periodically replace the DP fluid w/ new DP fluid, you don't read about many problems w/ the 4WD system.
 

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awd

Yours is the first instance of this happening that I have read of on these boards. I have been here since 2005. I know that doesn't help you, but it does answer your actual question.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for your responses guys! I do feel better. I know flukey things happen, and I have a great respect for Honda products that goes back more than 20 years. Still gotta do something about it, but at least I can have some confidence that the mechanism [probably] isn't fundamentally flawed. I'll post back here with any updates.
 
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