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Teufelsschlüssel

2001 Rubicon 500 Hondamatic Transmission

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Hi; I'm new and I am hoping I found the best Honda ATV site on the inter-web. I tried another site (which shall not be named) but no technical expertise there...thanks to JeepWM69 for the tip ;) I'll post an intro when I am not pressed for time but I'd like to throw this out right now so I can hit the rack for an early wake-up.

 

I picked up a 2001 Rubicon 500 with a failed transmission. The guy I bought it from listed it as a parts machine. He put a fair amount of money into brakes and suspension before tackling the transmission and deciding it wasn't worth the additional time and cost. I did some snooping and discovered that there are a couple of people that have rebuilt them with improved bearings and some machine work.


Straight to the point: The transmission is out but I am having trouble getting it apart. I was able to separate what I believe is the pump side - the one with 7 pistons. The other side (motor) has an obvious seam after the bolts were removed but I can't get it separated. One of the bearings inside this assembly is completely destroyed, seeing as some pieces have already made their way out. It is interesting that all of the other bearings so far rotate smoothly, with no play. This includes the large, plastic-caged bearings on either end of the shaft. I don't know but this notorious broken bearing may be the reason I can't get it apart. If someone with experience tearing into these could provide some tips/tricks, I would really appreciate it.

t.r.
 

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Welcome to the board! 

 

@Brian Bertram is the resident Hondamatic expert.  He isn't on here often, but he is still rebuilding Hondamatics. 

 

I'm not sure he'll give out his trade secrets, so if he doesn't chime in here, try PM'ing him, and while he might not tell you how to fix yours, he did respond to me a couple of days ago and said that he does still rebuild them.

 

I have a 2013 Rubicon that I need to get torn down and see what I'm dealing with, so I very well could be in the same boat.

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I was able to PM B.B. (having logged only 3 posts) and he replied quickly. Mr. Bertrand is still rebuilding the Hondamatic and offers the best prices I am aware of. I'm not sure why; a lot of people have heard about him online but there seems to be a great deal of mystery surrounding how to contact him. In any event, my problem surrounding disassembly most likely stems from the catastrophic bearing failure. When I get that resolved I will try to keep you guys posted on my progress with the rest of the machine. 

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oh no, used to be a limit of post before you could send a PM, to anyone.  i reckon it's changed, glad your on the way of getting this bearing failure sorted., and welcome to the forums! 

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Made some progress last night...I've included some pictures so you could get an idea of what's going on inside these Hondamatics. WARNING: THE IMAGES THAT FOLLOW ARE GRAPHIC IN NATURE. When I finally worked the cover off this is what I found inside it - not a surprise because it was rattling like a pair of maracas. RS1536.jpg

Aside from the rather large, chewed up ballbearings, there is a lot of collateral damage throughout. And metal bits - those are everywhere. Here is the culprit - the notorious Nachi 49BA08S2: RS1547.jpg

 

Due to the motion of the swash plate (I think) once the cage lets loose, the bearings are chewed up like gumballs in a little kids mouth. The outer race was in several pieces. I don't think I've accounted for all the bearings as of yet... Another victim of the collateral damage is the Nachi 6813: RS1545.jpg

The shrapnel circulates for some time throughout the engine resulting in more collateral damage. The oil pump appears to have been circulating this shrapnel for some time before they shut the machine down. The entire case, and contents will have to be thoroughly cleaned and inspected prior to re-assembly. Close attention will have to be paid to all bearings and bearing surfaces in particular.

image.png

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Hi I too am new to the group, I have an 01 Rubicon 500 that appears to be still functioning well. Does wisdom say that I should have my tranny opened and modified/repaired while it is still operating correctly?

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RRW - I am not the expert on these things, I am a novice at best. I have read extensively from what is available online. There are only a couple of people that I know of who have the knowledge/expertise to rebuild these things. From what I gather, the oil pump may be at the root of the bearing failure(s) in the Hondamatic. The early (2001-2004) pressure relief valve has been described as "faulty" in some cases. It is conceivable that you may never experience a Hondamatic failure. Replacing your oil pump with the upgraded one (15100-HN2-010) requires engine removal and a complete tear-down. If you wanted to "upgrade" your Hondamatic while you were in there - it would involve replacing a rather large, plastic-caged bearing with a metal-caged alternative bearing and then having some machine work done. I don't know if this would be cost-effective because I don't know how much a machine shop would charge for their services. 

 

I hope this helps.

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Welcome to our forum T...lol...not gonna type your whole user name.  Looks like alot of German there from what I can gather.  If so you type and communicate very well, we do have a few foreign members here.  That is quite a mess you have there, there has been discussion before about the Hondamatics and the challenge repairing.  You certainly have contacted the right person....

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BCSMAN; thanks very much. German ancestry but 4th generation American here. I am also from the Great Lakes State - Livingston County.  I've seen a number of us (Michiganders) here and glad to know we are sharing in our knowledge and paying it forward. One of the Hondamatic experts I referenced earlier is also from Michigan, although I'm not altogether sure he's still at it. I'm going to see if I can straighten this out with some of our local talent. If not I will be seeking out the services of Mr. Bertram.

 

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Mr Bertram might have a Hondamatic core that you can rob casting replacement parts.from? That one casting I saw in your photos took a pretty good beating... looks like it may be junk in the photo. This is a very interesting project, thanks for sharing everything with us!

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11 hours ago, retro said:

Mr Bertram might have a Hondamatic core that you can rob casting replacement parts.from? That one casting I saw in your photos took a pretty good beating... looks like it may be junk in the photo. This is a very interesting project, thanks for sharing everything with us!

I dropped off the engine case, cylinder, and head at the machine shop yesterday for a thorough cleaning. I'll mic the cylinder/piston to see where I am at with cylinder wear. I am going to discuss the bearing failure with my machinist in person to see about doing the machine work needed to fit a quality, aftermarket replacement bearing in the Hondamatic housing. Although my housing is chewed up a bit at the bottom, once it is machined square I don't think that it will be a problem. I assume they have the capability to handle the machine work that will be required at both the inside and outside diameters, but we'll see. 

 

Wilson - that is the exact issue with these Hondamatic transmissions. As Mr. Bertram and his friend (Harig) have stated elsewhere, it is disappointing that Honda went with the plastic caged bearings (at-least in the case of the swash plate) because if it had been a metal cage they likely would not have failed. The question of whether it is the older design oil pump or the bearing itself that fails first is kind of like the question of the chicken and the egg. Someone with an engineering background in metal failure analysis could make quick work of it. I suspect that the redesigned oil pump in 2005 was a clue, however...

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From what I have read on the Honda-Matic , when they break , it is either $1,800 dollars for another Honda-Matic or $.99 cents  for a For Sale sign --- but a lot of things start off that way , then there is the first guy that breaks the code and figures how to find the bearings and make it better than it was before , you could be that guy -----  man once told me about fishing and it applies to many other things in life , " Be the story , not the story teller "  ---- good luck !!!! 

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3 hours ago, Teufelsschlüssel said:

it is disappointing that Honda went with the plastic caged bearings (at-least in the case of the swash plate) because if it had been a metal cage they likely would not have failed. The question of whether it is the older design oil pump or the bearing itself that fails first

 

is this bearing in a plastic cage is the issue with all these hondamatics ? i saw another great video some place about a guy who seemed to know these very well, and had the same idea as you have. I'll see if i can find it maybe of some help. and he did mention the oil pump. 

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Should be easy enough to find replacement bearings for them...assuming they are standard sized bearings. I know in the 450 engine they used a few custom ones....hopefully they didn't in the Hondamatics.

 

Good Luck!!

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18 hours ago, _Wilson_™ said:

 

is this bearing in a plastic cage is the issue with all these hondamatics ? i saw another great video some place about a guy who seemed to know these very well, and had the same idea as you have. I'll see if i can find it maybe of some help. and he did mention the oil pump. 

It is the plastic cage that breaks up, allowing the bearings to wreak havoc. Once this happens, things start to grind. If the machine continues to run, the failure is catastrophic. The trans may or may not be salvageable. 

 

12 hours ago, 87Iroc said:

Should be easy enough to find replacement bearings for them...assuming they are standard sized bearings. I know in the 450 engine they used a few custom ones....hopefully they didn't in the Hondamatics.

 

Good Luck!!

That's the issue - the main culprit is a large (85mm) swash plate bearing - and it's not standard. It appears to be made only for Honda. I haven't been able to find it anyway; and from what I've read I'm not the only one. The only options are to scavenge good parts from functional transmissions; or go with the next-closest size and machine the swash plate. I'm not too keen on the idea of replacing one failed bearing with another that's bound to fail at any time. In the final analysis, Mr. Bertram's services are a bargain for anyone experiencing this failure. 

 

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On December 20, 2020 at 9:29 AM, Teufelsschlüssel said:

I am going to discuss the bearing failure with my machinist in person to see about doing the machine work needed to fit a quality, aftermarket replacement bearing in the Hondamatic housing. Although my housing is chewed up a bit at the bottom, once it is machined square I don't think that it will be a problem. I assume they have the capability to handle the machine work that will be required at both the inside and outside diameters, but we'll see. 

 

i hope you get some good news,  it's very strange why they use a plastic caged bearing.

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Harig over on the old foreman board found an all metal bearing that would work but it had to be machined down IIRC.  He apparently hit up Brian for info when he first dug into a Hondamatic, and figured out how do rebuild one.

 

Brian Bertram is still the original Hondamatic rebuilder. 

 

Edited, to add, dug around over there and found this post from Harig.

 

You were right, not the bearing but the swash plate that has to be machined down (which makes sense, because as I was typing the above I was wondering how would would machine down a bearing to a smaller size lol)

 

"7209b bearing is about $55 with shipping, it should cost less than $50 to turn down swivel swash plate center from 49 mm to 45 mm.
( it is hardened steel but can be done on an O.D. grinder, I use my lathe with ceramic inserts to turn it down) most of the time the rest of the unit is still good if caught right away.
the small pins with c-clips break once in a while, and the relief valves blow out (casting that hold small wire clip breaks) but almost all of the time it is the same bearing that goes out. Used units are the only other parts source. Honda does not sell any parts for the hondamatic other than the front bearing and it hardly ever goes out. If there is any other damage it is usually the crap from the swivel bearing that causes any other damage.
I knew nothing about them. the guy from Minnesota gave me all the info about them even though he sells rebuilt units. he does about 8 a year, he buys ruby's with bad hondamatics and rebuilds and sells the ruby's. He is the one who told me it is the same bearing that goes out almost all of the time, plastic cage breaks and bearing fails. That is what i found on the two i did this summer..
being a tool and die maker and having a small machine shop makes it easy for me. once you take a couple apart they are really not that complicated. just go slow and have patience. if you notice the engine making more noise than normal shut it down and check oil for crap in it. Pull oil tank drain to see what is in tank also. If there is crap in the oil most likely the hondamatic bearing is toast.
If caught early they are fixable, but you have to split the case and waist about $100 on a good gasket set. and a tube of good silicone for engines. oil pumps need to be checked also......About $160 to replace hope this helps"
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Hi Teufelsschlussel,

 

Have you made any progess on this rebuild?

 

I am in the proccess myselff of trying to salvage a rubicon with a bad hondamatic. Any updates would be appreciated.

 

Thanks,

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Welcome to ATV Honda fortin_guillaume!

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