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Towing with a Honda Pilot

Other than the obvious fact of adding a trailer hitch and the electrical hookup, are there any changes/modifications that need to be made to the drivetrain to ensure that the vehicle is ready to tow?


  • I'm considering buying a new Pilot. How well will tow a 17ft. boat?

  • Max towing capacity for the Pilot is 4500 lbs.
  • boatingboating Posts: 17
    I have an 05 Pilot EX-L with towing package (from Honda installed by dealer)

    I tow a 19Ft Stingray Bowrider total weight 3,600 lbs (boat, trailer, full gas-gear) Above post is correct, with factory towing package is 4500lbs. It tows alright but on highway, transmission is constantly shifting gears. The boat is usually docked for summer and boat ramp is 4 miles from my house. We did not want a minivan or a full size pickup and the Pilot is the best compromise!
  • Our Pilot and Odyssey always seem to downshift even on slight grades at highway speed. I think that is the characteristic of this motor that has its power in the mid range RPMs.
  • odie6lodie6l Hershey, PaPosts: 1,078
    When ever I did tow with my Escape, and now with my 06 Pilot, I turn the O/D off so it won't jump gears. The only time I will have the O/D on while towing is during flat straight highways with little / no hills. If I'm going to be in an area that as some hills 5% grade or higher I usually drop to the D3 gear which will give you a little more torque for climbing.

    Hope this helps out any.

    Odie's Carspace
  • My 2000 Ody recommends trailer brakes for trailer/cargo weight greater than 1000#. My 2005 Forester requires trailer brakes for the same situation. What is the owner's manual language for the Pilot? I have a boat/trailer combo that is 1600+ pounds, and I'm considering the Pilot. Thanks.
  • oldtomoldtom Posts: 2
    I have been towing a 21 ft. boat with 07 Pilot. I echo the comment on the transmission shifting up/down, but that seems to be the nature of the vehicle as happens without the trailer in hilly areas. Except for one extremely windy day I have been comfortable with the Pilot as a tow vehicle. Just bought a new heavier boat and trailer and don't really expect problems.
  • A transmission cooler and power steering cooler are needed for the complete tow package.
  • I have seen brand new Pilots being set-up with a hitch and electrical at the local U-haul for less than $300, this set-up would easily tow 2000 pounds, except the warranty might be jeopardy. My sister had the Honda dealer installed hitch , electrical and trans and steering cooler installed for well over a thousand dollars on thier pilot, good for 3500 pounds. I decided not to put a hitch on our Pilot, I instead bought a 2006 Ford F150 XLT SuperC. Its good for 8500 pounds of towing.
  • I found a hitch designed for pilot/mdx on eBay for about $140 shipped. It looks easy enough to install. I could just leave it at that and not tow anything heavy since my Pilot is a salvage and the warranty is void anyway. I wonder if a DIY could install the tranny cooler and steering cooler to save a few bucks. Anybody tried it?
  • odie6lodie6l Hershey, PaPosts: 1,078
    I wouldn't risk the DIY on the hitch. Check out the install instructions over at College Hills Honda.

    The dealer that I purchased my Pilot from installed my hitch at no charge.

    Odie's Carspace
  • I also found a hitch on Ebay for my 2005 Pilot...It was the Uhaul hitch for the Pilot and still had a Uhaul sticker on it..It looks identical to the Honda OEM accessory hitch...It is probable that both hitches are made by the same third party (neither Honda or Uhaul make hitches)..Anyway, even though I bought it on Ebay, my local Uhaul dealer installed my hitch for $25.
  • absavabsav Posts: 5
    What is the purpose of adding a power steering cooler along with the ATF cooler for towing? is it absolutely necessary, or does the power steering cooler also help out with the transmission cooling? I will be doing the work with a mechanic friend of mine. Can I also use after-market nonHonda parts without compromising the integrity of the transmission?
    Thank you, in advance, for your replies. ABSAV
  • stevationstevation Posts: 15
    I've been towing my 19' boat with an '02 Pathfinder. Want to get a used Pilot now (probably '03). But I'm concerned that the rear shocks/springs on the Pilot might sag after using it for towing the boat. This seems to be the case with the Pathfinder, and it's built on a truck platform, which is more rugged than the Pilot.

    Any experience with this?

    Also, what does it cost to get the factory-approved towing package installed on a used Pilot? Anyone know?
  • stevationstevation Posts: 15
    My two local dealers say adding the towing package to a used Pilot will cost from $1124 to $1310, depending on which dealer. So, I've answered that question.

    So, how about my other question? How does the Pilot suspension handle towing a boat that may be about 3500 lbs? I know that it's rated OK for that weight, but in real life, how well does it handle it? Does the back end sag and cause your headlights to shine too high (and irritate all the drivers who think you have your brights on?). Yeah, that happens with my Pathfinder.
  • kipkkipk Posts: 1,576
    I'm considering purchasing a travel trailer. It is one of the fiberglass "Egg type. Weight before loading with personal stuff is about 2000#. The Pilot should tow it with no problems.

    The problem is with the electrical plug in the rear of the Pilot. It is a 4 Pin connector for towing utility trailers and boats. Travel trailers require a 7 pin connector and a brake controller.

    Any ideas on who, can install the 7 pin connector or the wiring for the brake controller?

  • we have a 2007 pilot and we were just looking at featherlight trailers. we found an Orbit weighing 3072 dry weight. has anyone had experience towing a light trailer with a pilot?? we aren't sure if this is a good idea or not. we would like to take longer vacations with it. we have a 87 chevy p/u but are torn between putting money into it to tow something lgr, maybe 5th wheel OR putting money into our new pilot, tow hitch, coolers, ect... because we know the pilot is reliable. would like opinions on what you guys think. thanks! :confuse:
  • kipkkipk Posts: 1,576

    See the postings over on the Pilot Maintenance and Repair forum last page.

    Bottom line is that the Pilot has a 4 pin electrical connector. A four pin connector will operate the trailer external lights; tail lights, Running lights, brake lights, and turn signals.

    Travel trailers also require wiring to operate the electric brakes and to charge the "House" battery. That involves a 7 pin connector. Therefore a 7 pin connector is standard for travel trailers and will not plug in to your Pilot. Honda does not offer a 7 pin connector. Or any type of wiring for the electric brake controller that mounts under your dash.

    That type of wiring would need to be done by a trailer or hitch dealer. Any problems that might/could occur with the Pilot wiring could possibly be traced back to the aftermarket wiring and void your warranty on electrical issues. Be careful!

    Common trailer towing practices suggest the trailer weight {loaded} not be over 85% of the maximum tow rating of the (tug) tow vehicle. That would dictate a maximum loaded trailer weight of 2975 pounds. The 15% margin is there to deal with mountains, strong head winds and the like.

    It is real easy to add several hundred pounds to a travel trailer without realizing it. Even at 3072# you are over the suggested "Safe rate"! Many TT published weights are for the basic trailer and do not include options such as AC, Awnings, Stabilizer jacks, antennas, spare tire, and such. So be absolutely sure of your "as equipped" weight plus things you add, such as water, dishes, electric heaters, and such.

    Other Problems! Trailer tongue weights should be at least 10-15% of the TOTAL TRAILER WEIGHT. Therefore a 3000+# trailer could have a tongue weight of 300-450#. Even when loaded properly, upright hard sided trailers will find any excuse in the world to "SWAY". Cross winds and 18 wheelers being the major causes. A sway can get out of control and result in an accident. To deal with the weight and sway there are Weight Distributing Hitches and sway controls available. Good news?

    Not with Honda! For the Pilot and the Ridgeline, They say, "We do not recommend the use of Weight distributing hitches". Yet they say to check with your trailer sales agency for proper equipment. The problems could be that the Pilot is basically a Front wheel drive. Pathfinder and 4Runners, which are rear wheel drive, offer the stuff necessary to tow. 7 pin connector, wiring pig tail for the under dash brake controller, and a serious tranny oil cooling radiator, instead of the pipe with fins offered by Honda.

    Fixing up the P/U truck and towing with it just might be the best bet!

  • what is the tow rating of the '05 Pilot, 3500 or 4500?

    We are thinking of TTs now, and are considering one option to stay real small, and keep our Pilot. This is probably our 3rd or 4th potential avenue :)

    used 3/4 truck - 5th wheel
    used suburban - ~30' heavy travel trailer
    used escalade - ~28' lighter travel trailer

    and now I am going to see if we can agree on a 20' hybrid weighing about 3000 lb and stay with the Pilot - going to burst my wife's bubble cause she has been on cloud nine thinking she could get an escalade
  • I know that both the older MDXes and the Pilots are towing rated at 4500 lb for boats and 3500 lb for "other" trailers. I also know about the 4 pin / 7 pin issue. What I want to know is how much they can really tow. We have an "other" trailer that weighs about 4000 lb. We don't tow often...maybe 10 days a year tops, and rarely more than a couple of hours per trip.

    Would either a Pilot or an older MDX be able to handle that amount of towing? Has anyone had experience with towing slightly outside the ratings?
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