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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello there fellow Honda riders! I just acquired a 2004 Rancher 400 AT and am getting the ole girl back up and running. First, a little history as far as I know.

Previous owner has a few boys that used to ride it. Of course, because they had the choice of this 400 AT and a 650 Polaris, this one didn't get used as much as the other. The boys got older and Dad couldn't ride anymore due to bad shoulders.

It sat for over a year before I asked about it. Of course, gas varnish was an issue. Got that fixed and motor sounds real good.

So, what problems do I have? I'm sure it is something you all have heard or seen before. That's why I'm here. ;)

The display lights up at key turn. Automatic shows "D" for drive and "R" for reverse. Transmission will not shift out of 1st gear. Go to manual shift mode and display does not show which gear it is in and will not manually shift.

This initially lead me to believe it is the shift motor, BUT... it runs fine in forward but spits and sputters in reverse. Misses really bad and will not throttle up.

Are the 2 conditions related or am I looking at 2 different scenarios? Previous owner says it ran great when they last used it so my guess is either electrical corrosion, mechanical stickiness or just plain neglect (due to teenage boys).

An I looking at a control module, shift motor, both?

Thanks for any help guys! Still don't have a service manual yet so any experience/help is appreciated.
 

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I'm not very informed with Utility quads but in reverse there is a limit on how fast you can go/ max RPM's in reverse which may be the sputtering and missing you are hearing. I'm not sure if this is correct but I'm just trying to help :)
 

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Hello there fellow Honda riders! I just acquired a 2004 Rancher 400 AT and am getting the ole girl back up and running. First, a little history as far as I know.

Previous owner has a few boys that used to ride it. Of course, because they had the choice of this 400 AT and a 650 Polaris, this one didn't get used as much as the other. The boys got older and Dad couldn't ride anymore due to bad shoulders.

It sat for over a year before I asked about it. Of course, gas varnish was an issue. Got that fixed and motor sounds real good.

So, what problems do I have? I'm sure it is something you all have heard or seen before. That's why I'm here. ;)

The display lights up at key turn. Automatic shows "D" for drive and "R" for reverse. Transmission will not shift out of 1st gear. Go to manual shift mode and display does not show which gear it is in and will not manually shift.

This initially lead me to believe it is the shift motor, BUT... it runs fine in forward but spits and sputters in reverse. Misses really bad and will not throttle up.

Are the 2 conditions related or am I looking at 2 different scenarios? Previous owner says it ran great when they last used it so my guess is either electrical corrosion, mechanical stickiness or just plain neglect (due to teenage boys).

An I looking at a control module, shift motor, both?

Thanks for any help guys! Still don't have a service manual yet so any experience/help is appreciated.
Step 1, do you know the charge/battery are ready to go? Reason for asking, these units require a good/great battery to operate, so even though it starts means nothing without the right voltage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
In reverse, I know it is limited but when I'm in reverse, it's barely got enough power to pull itself and me backwards. Spitters and sputters with a severe lack of power. Forward does great as far as power for a 400.

I did forget to mention that I just installed a new battery also. That was my first thought too when I first got it because the old battery was completely dead, wouldn't even try to take a charge.

So, with the AT, would the display show the gears being shifted even if the motor isn't shifting? It's all computer controlled and the reason why I ask is because the display shows only 1st gear.

My guess (or next step) is to go thru and check all the connections under the front fenders.
 

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In reverse, I know it is limited but when I'm in reverse, it's barely got enough power to pull itself and me backwards. Spitters and sputters with a severe lack of power. Forward does great as far as power for a 400.
Given this information, I would check all wire connections (switches, connections, etc.) related to shifting. I am not familiar with the links to tech manuals, but some guys here are great about posting links, so do inquire. Also, I would make sure the reverse cable is adjusted properly as well and that will be noted in the tech manual.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I've also been looking thru the sticky's and seen the grease for the shifting motor is too stiff and sticky? Since this machine has sat for over a year, I'm going to try that also along with the cleaning of the terminals. I do have some di-electric grease and white lithium grease on hand so why not? haha
 

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Welcome to the forum, and sorry to hear you are a fellow 400AT owner. We'll help you try to make the most of the situation.

Step 1, buy or download a factory service manual:
http://www.hondaatvforums.net/forum...ads.html#/forumsite/21330/topics/50817?page=1

The diagnostics codes may help. If I had to guess based on these symptoms, you may have a dirty or bad angle sensor. But try to methodically diagnose. Don't just throw parts at it.
 
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Sorry to hear I am a fellow 400AT owner? uh oh, that doesn't sound good.

Thank you for the link Wheelsquad. I'm sure it will be very helpful.

I don't really plan on just throwing parts at it. The truth is, I picked it up for the right price for what I plan on doing with it around the farm. Sure, I can leave it as is and just "putt" around the farm in 1st gear, but I would like to get it right and as cheaply as I can.

I will go thru it and spend some time on preventative maintenance and see what happens after that.

Do these 400 AT's really have that bad of a wrap?
 

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You dont have to grease the shift motor shaft on these as its a hydrostatic transmission. Have you tried it in EPS mode to see if it goes through all the "gears"? Really its just a disk on a shaft that is moved back & forth to set areas to make it seem like its in a specific gear. What about the oil?
 

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Sorry to hear I am a fellow 400AT owner? uh oh, that doesn't sound good.

Thank you for the link Wheelsquad. I'm sure it will be very helpful.

I don't really plan on just throwing parts at it. The truth is, I picked it up for the right price for what I plan on doing with it around the farm. Sure, I can leave it as is and just "putt" around the farm in 1st gear, but I would like to get it right and as cheaply as I can.

I will go thru it and spend some time on preventative maintenance and see what happens after that.

Do these 400 AT's really have that bad of a wrap?
There are very few 400AT owners that are regulars here, because they just aren't up to the task that Honda utility owners expect from a Honda. So all the serious ATV guys have long since dumped theirs. The primary reasons are: no dedicated sub-transmission with a Low gear, which means added work for the centrifugal clutch at low speeds or high load scenarios. And once the centrifugal clutch starts to slip even a minute amount, it confuses the ECM in auto shift mode. The hondamatic unit in these was actually very reliable, but if you do have an issue, replacement is high $$$. Underpowered for the hydrostatic tranny, again especially with no low gear. Running oversize tires are out of the question. Engine oil capacity is only 3 qts, and the engine oil is used for the hydrostatic tranny and helps cool the engine, and that is asking a lot for only 3 qts. The hondamatic relies a lot on electronics and sensors, and all it takes is one small issue and you start seeing the issues you are seeing.

All that said, you can still get years of reliable service out of the machine. Just take care of it and don't abuse it. I have 10k miles and have drug dozens of deer out of the woods on mine and the only major mechanical thing I've had to do to it is replace the clutch.

I run Rotella T6 oil in mine also and change it often.

You dont have to grease the shift motor shaft on these as its a hydrostatic transmission. Have you tried it in EPS mode to see if it goes through all the "gears"? Really its just a disk on a shaft that is moved back & forth to set areas to make it seem like its in a specific gear. What about the oil?
Yeah his first post said it won't shift in manual mode either.
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Oil Change is next on the list and due to sitting for so long and me being a believer in SeaFoam, it's in the plans too. I am planning on a semi-synthetic to use in it.

Hope the SeaFoam doesn't start a great debate! Seen that one before.
 

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Yeah his first post said it won't shift in manual mode either.
Ah ok, missed that with all the reading lol... I had this same problem with a friends 05 that he bought only going in 1st. Not jerky in reverse though. Pulled the shift motor & it had some internal wear & the brushes worn out. New motor later, it would work fine in AUTO mode only. So after removing a bunch of connectors in the front end to check/clean them it started working on its own. Also put a new gear indicator wire harness on it as well. Worth a check on all 3. :|
 

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Sputtering in reverse sounds like the brake microswitch possibly causing it to cut out.

Been awhile since I looked at a 400AT. They shift into D and R using the ES buttons, right?
 

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Sputtering in reverse sounds like the brake microswitch possibly causing it to cut out.

Been awhile since I looked at a 400AT. They shift into D and R using the ES buttons, right?
They actually have a gated shifter forward and left of the gas tank, which changes the gears in the subtransmission. I think it's the 420AT's that go into D and R like you're describing, since they have the DCT tranny and no subtransmission.
 

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I couldn't remember. In that case, I'd say the sputtering in reverse is probably the microswitch on the shifter not making good contact. Then the machine's computer doesn't recognize the machine is fully in reverse, even thought mechanically it might be.

A friend's 06 Rubicon did the same thing in Reverse. We did some modifications which bypassed that sensor, while at the same time allowing him to have full power in Reverse.
 

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I couldn't remember. In that case, I'd say the sputtering in reverse is probably the microswitch on the shifter not making good contact. Then the machine's computer doesn't recognize the machine is fully in reverse, even thought mechanically it might be.

A friend's 06 Rubicon did the same thing in Reverse. We did some modifications which bypassed that sensor, while at the same time allowing him to have full power in Reverse.
Very well could be. Though he said the display reads going into D and R, and I'm guessing that is from the same micro-switch you are referring to?

The reason I am leaning toward angle sensor is because in Manual mode, it displays nothing, probably because it doesn't know what exact swash plate angle it is in, if angle sensor is bad. And a bad angle sensor will also prevent it from changing swash plate angle in Auto mode as well.

Biggest thing though here is to see if it is throwing any error codes....
 

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I couldn't remember. In that case, I'd say the sputtering in reverse is probably the microswitch on the shifter not making good contact. Then the machine's computer doesn't recognize the machine is fully in reverse, even thought mechanically it might be.

A friend's 06 Rubicon did the same thing in Reverse. We did some modifications which bypassed that sensor, while at the same time allowing him to have full power in Reverse.
Very well could be. Though he said the display reads going into D and R, and I'm guessing that is from the same micro-switch you are referring to?
Question for OP. When you put it in reverse, and the display reads R, is the red reverse light lit up as well? If not, wiggle the shifter to see if you can get the red indicator to light up and see if it still misfires then.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
When it is in reverse, the red light does come on too.

Also, did a little testing yesterday and when the machine was just started and cold, it backed up just fine. After it warmed up a little, that is when the sputtering started.

I have not had a chance to run the codes as of yet.

Had an accident where I tore my distal tendon this past monday so I may be out for a while. Doesn't mean I still can't get it going properly until then though. :) I'm not much for one to just lay around and be injured. haha

Thanks again for all the directions I should start looking. Looks like I have a lot of time to "tinker" with it.
 

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Looks like I have a lot of time to "tinker" with it.
What a "fortunate" misfortune. Nice to take advantage of those times. Keep up posted on what you figure out.
 
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
One thing that I did since I last posted was clean up the display so it could be clearly read. It was pretty scratched up to the point where much of it couldn't be read.

Sooo, I hopped on it this morning, fired right up and watching the display, I put it into reverse. It had power in reverse. Drove it around for a few minutes, still no shifting after the oil change. Put it into reverse and the display showed it was in manual shift mode (instead of auto which the switch said) and it chugged and sputtered. Turned the machine off, re-started and showed auto mode again. Had plenty of power in reverse again.

Shifted into drive and no shift still. Went to reverse and went instantly into manual shift mode again.

Maybe something as simple as a corroded shift button on the handlebars? Seems like this would be something easy
 
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