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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
A number of RSX owners have experienced heavy resistance when shifting their manual transmissions through various forward gears (most commonly 1-2 or 2-3), even to the point of grinding despite the clutch being fully depressed. In response to these reports, Acura has issued Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) 02-016 in the USA:

http://rsx.clubrsx.com/bulletins/transmission/synchronizerbulletin.pdf (broken link, hope to fix sometime)

which applies to all 2002-03 RSX models, and 2004 models up to VIN ...12577. Models with higher VIN numbers (including 2005 models) are not necessarily covered (see "Other Questions" below).

As the TSB explains, the problem is attributed to "excessive drag of the 5-6 gearsets, and the hardness of the rubber bushings in the shift cable". The original double-cone synchromeshes on the 5-6 gearset are replaced with newer single-cone synchros, which reduce friction on the other forward gearsets (1-2, 3-4) and should allow for smoother shifts. New shift cables with stiffer bushings are installed to reduce play in the shifter and improve gear engagement.

Things to consider before taking your car in

  1. This is not a problem on every RSX. The TSB is applicable to all the models listed above, but that does not mean every RSX has the problem! Every RSX I've ever driven has been fine.
  2. This is not a recall. That term is often thrown around in this case and it is not the same thing. A recall is usually a life-safety issue which requires the service be performed; this TSB is a reference for service professionals who receive relevant complaints from customers.
  3. Make sure you're driving correctly. Fully depress the clutch pedal before shifting, and do not begin releasing it until the shifter is fully in gear. Also, keep your hands off the shift knob when driving. Whether you think so or not, the slightest pressure on the shifter while in gear can cause unnecessary stress on your transmission. An inexperienced driver often blames the vehicle when something goes wrong. Whether it's learning a manual transmission or racing on a track, the vehicle is seldom at fault. Read this article to see just how many of your habits are actually good. Take extra care to drive correctly and see what happens.
  4. Make sure this is actually the right problem. The transmission should never grind with the clutch pedal fully depressed, but make sure you do not have another problem such as a worn clutch. Also, drive a few other people's cars, preferably one that is notoriously "notchy" such as a WRX or a 350Z, and then consider just how bad your problem actually is. Most importantly, make sure you're driving the car correctly (see #3 above).
  5. Check your mods. This is extremely important. A dealer will likely attack modifications to your car in an attempt to get out of servicing your vehicle. Some of these attacks may be legitimate; others may not. Remember that warranty service should not be denied due to modifications; the onus is on the servicer to prove that the modification is the cause of the failure. SEMA has a nice write-up on your rights as a warranty holder and the Magnuson-Moss act:

    http://www.sema.org/main/semaorghome.aspx?ID=8124

    Obviously, if a problem appears or becomes more evident after installing a certain part, that part will be suspect. If possible, double-check your installation or re-install the stock part to see if there's a difference. Below is a list of modifications that may affect gear engagement in your RSX, especially if poorly installed. Note that replacement cold air intakes, which are not a part of the transmission but travel down towards the shifting mechanism, are listed as well. [thx Glimpse]
    • Short shift kit - Can upset shift throw
    • Bad bushings - Too much shifter movement
    • Clutch - Bad clutch installs may not fully depress/disengage, stressing transmission components
    • Cold Air Intake - Shift hammer/cable may be hitting the intake pipe
  6. Make sure you trust your dealer. The service involves disassembling the transmission, and replacing synchromeshes and a shifter cable, which is not trivial work. Ask yourself if the problem is so bad that it is worth having all of this done, especially if you are not confident in the dealer's quality of work (see #4 above).
Going to the Dealership

  • When approaching the dealer, try to stay calm and patient. Storming into the dealership screaming about a lemon may not get you very far, especially since this is not a required service. You will probably meet resistance from the dealer, so be prepared for a lengthy conversation and try not to lose your temper.
  • Do not print out the TSB. This is a dealer-only document and you may be met with hostility if you produce a printed copy of it ("where did you get that?!"). Start by simply stating that you're experiencing poor engagement when shifting. If the dealer is resistant, add that you're aware of an existing synchromesh problem with your model year. If they still play dumb, drop the bulletin number (TSB 02-016) on them. Per #2 above, don't use the word "recall", because it isn't.
  • Many RSX owners have complained that the dealer claims to be unable to reproduce the problem on their car. Step 2 of the TSB diagnosis states "Compare the feel of the shifts when the vehicle was cold to the feel at normal operating temperature". This is key. The best thing to do if you're worried about reproducing the problem is to make an early-morning appointment, take the car over the night before and allow it to cool. Try to drive with the tech when he does his test drive; you should be able to see how he drives the car as well as illustrate when and how it happens to you. Try to get in the driver's seat with the tech present; perhaps you'll learn that you're driving the car incorrectly (see #3 above).
Other Questions

  • What about 2005+ models? Note that this bulletin was released May 28, 2004 and does not apply to 2005 models. 2005 owners experiencing similar behavior can report it to their dealer in hopes of "goodwill" service if there really is an unacceptable problem; however the dealer will not be obligated to service the car. Furthermore, 2005 models already have the replacement parts listed in the TSB, so it is unclear what a dealer could really do for you by citing the TSB.
  • What about RSX models with automatic transmissions? The problem detailed here only applies to manual transmissions. Rough shifting in automatic or sport-shift mode is often attributed to bad or torn motor mounts, but not always. If you're not completely confident, take your car to a dealer or reliable technician for a more informed diagnosis. Replacement motor mounts can be bought from an OEM parts reseller (such as a dealer) or from various vendors including Club RSX. [thx MueveloNYC]
  • What about countries outside the US? The TSB is specific to Acura USA. Much like the 2005+ model question, owners in other countries may have luck by citing the existence of the TSB in the USA. Some owners in Canada claim to have received the service. [thx Frosty]
Suggestions for this thread can be made here or by PMing me.
 
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