I love me a good car. When I get my hands on a good car, I run it until it won’t run no more. When a particular make of car runs and runs and runs, chances are good I’ll get another. That’s value, right?
So, when I saw a Honda Accord on the used car lot, I headed right to it. The lot owner said, “You don’t want that car. It don’t work. The transmission is shot.” “But, does it run?” “Yes, you have to manually shift the gears, but it don’t work right.” That wasn’t enough to deter me. He said to me, “If you take the car, give me what I got in it and get it out of here. I don’t want to have to fix it.”
I wrote the man a check and happily drove off with an impeccably maintained 1991 Honda Accord EX sedan with a purring engine and the tightest steering I’ve ever felt. The driver’s side power window doesn’t work, there’s no antennae, the paint is a bit sun bleached in spots and I had to get back tires, but other than that, the car is in perfect condition. Well, besides that pesky transmission problem, that is. Still the car ran and ran well. It just didn’t shift on its own and only two of the four gears worked, third and fourth. That was fine with me.
I drove the car a few months with the transmission not shifting by itself. I live a few blocks from work and would drive out to see Odin, but I freaked when I had to make a trip to Little Rock. Would I fry the transmission completely by driving a long distance at high speeds? Nope. It did just fine, to my relief.
A Google search answered the question: That particular year Honda Accord was notorious for Transmission Control Module (TCM) problems, especially the models within a particular range of VIN, which of course, mine fell within that range. I copied everything I found about it, and stewed.
Finally, with another trip planned for this coming week, I got on the phone and called transmission repair shops around town. “Sure, bring it in. It costs $75 to run the diagnostic.” What? “Oh, we’ll apply that to the repair if you get it fixed here.” Sorry, no. I’ll call you back. I know what “diagnostics” consist of: You plug a little hand-held computer in and it tells you everything. No way is that worth $75. The next shop I called charged $50 for the diagnostics. There was only one listing left, so I called, not expecting anything different.
“Sure, bring the car in. No, it don’t cost nothing for me to figure out what’s wrong with it,” he said to my glee. After work, I pulled into J&M Transmission and even without the diagnostic computer, Mike knew what was wrong. He had found the same problem in two other Hondas. He grabbed a power wrench, pulled up the carpet on the passenger side, zapped off a few bolts and exposed the culprit. A few screws more in the steel casing and there she was, the TCM with two fried resistors.
A few phone calls shed light on how difficult it would be to track down a replacement TCM. It seems any car older than 10 years is headed for the compactor because scrap prices are so high nowadays. A new TCM would have to be ordered, and who knew how long it would take to get in. Finally, a used one was found. Mike slapped it in place in no time, but alas, it didn’t work. Pulling it apart, he found the same two resistors were fried. Sweat poring down his face, he put the original back in and was back on the phone.
The next day, we tried the second TCM found. It’s not the exact one the car needs, but it works. Mike decided the best thing to do is have the original repaired, an even cheaper route than buying a used part, and it will be done in time for Wednesday’s trip. Even with the wrong part, the car is running incredibly well. It just shifts a little rough is all, but exactly why Mike wants the original repaired instead of staying with this one.
When I asked what this was all going to cost, Mike said he only wanted the money for the part since it didn’t take anything to put in. He spent a lot of time on the phone tracking down the part and even more time in the miserable heat swapping TCMs in and out of my car and he still wasn’t going to charge me labor! I imagine that, if I had taken the car to one of those other places, the repair tab would be about the amount that I paid for the car. Now, I bet I’ll have to convince Mike to take $100 from me!
Needless to say, I give Mike at J&M Transmission the highest recommendation. Not only does he know very well what he’s doing, he’s honest! He’s at 310 Wisconsin off of Race Street, across from Pro Tire and right behind the laundry mat. The number is 501-305-3548.
I am so surprised with my good luck with this car. It’s my fourth Honda Accord, and it handles better than any car I’ve ever driven, despite that it’s 20 years old. Funny that I paid cash for it and the least amount I’ve ever paid for a car. Now, this car led me to a good, honest mechanic.