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Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

At approximately 136,000 miles, I began to notice a bit of a jerk when the car shifted up. This was intermittent, and sometimes occurred between 1st and 2nd, and other times between 2nd and 3rd. Occasionally I would notice it from 3rd to 4th. The problem became more regular and when I had my scheduled service at the dealer, I mentioned it, and was subsequently told that no problems were noted when the technician drove the car. A couple of weeks later, the problem was constant, and this time the dealer said I had an internal problem, and they did not work on transmissions, but only replaced them with a new or rebuilt unit. I subsequently took the car to a local AAMCO service facility, and after inspection, was informed that the transmission was badly damaged. The mechanic that fixed my transmission said that he has seen quite a few Pilots come in at nearly 140,000 miles with the same kind of damage- that it almost always involves the 3rd gear, and this subsequently leads to failure of the transmission. He even went as far as to say that he believes that Honda has a problem with these transmissions.
I'm wondering whether anyone else has had a similar problem. I know there was a recall several years ago that involved a minor modification to the transmission, but when I brought my Pilot to the dealer, they said it was not affected. This is my first Honda, and it has had all service done regularly by the dealer. Perhaps 140,000 miles is considered about normal before a transmission wears out in such a vehicle, but I assumed it would last longer.

Any thoughts???


  • blackexv6blackexv6 Posts: 503
    140,000 miles is not bad for an automatic transmission. However, I believe you should get 200k-300k from a transmission. I've heard of many older '80's & '90's Honda Accords, Civics, Toyota Camry, etc. getting high mileage with the original transmissions.

    If you didn't know '99-'03 Honda V6 transmissions are prone to premature failiure. There is a class action suit against Honda for these early failures.

    link title

    You may want the Honda dealer to look at the car. Tell them you are aware of the hig failure rates of the V6 transmissions. Many people have reported receiving discounted transmissions (Honda pays for the trans, you pay the labor).

    Good luck. If this was your only problem after 140k then you didn't get too bad of a deal.
  • I'm not exactly complaining, but it cost me $4700.00 for the repair. I was quoted more by my Honda dealer. Hopefully the repair will last me to 300.000 miles.
  • I have a Honda Pilot 2004, with approximately 60 K miles and it has a transmission problem. While drving on the Highway at 65 mph, the transmission came on and the VT-4 light came on. I am 100% sure, I had not push the VT-4 light on. When I tried to slow down, the engine / trasmission started to rumble. When I maintained the speed above 60 mph, the sound went away. I assume the VT-4 (4 wheel drive had automatically engaged it self). When I pushed the VT-4 button (located below the Hazard light button), nothing happened. In other words, the VT-4 light was still on. Please note, the light on the VT-4 button was not on and pushing it did not engage or disengage the VT-4 light on the dashboard. Any suggestions, before I bring it in to the dealer? Please help.
  • pjhrtdpjhrtd Posts: 1
    Hi, I just bought my first Honda it is a Honda Pilot 2003.It has 62,000 miles on it. My qusetion is I would like to know if there is a problem or a trick in shifting my car into a lower gear, It will not shift down into d3,2,1. It just stops at Drive. and also how do I use the vtm-4 lock I didn't get a manual on the car when I bought it I have ordered one but still have not recevied it.I am asking this because if there is a trick to unlocking or disengaging the trany lock without having to take it into a dealer and being charged a astronomical fee for them to show me the trick. thank you PJ
  • steelblusteelblu Posts: 2
    I own a 2007 Pilot with Vtm-4 and you can only engage it when the vehicle is stopped and shifting to, first, second or Reverse only. The biggest caution is to not operate Vtm-4 on dry pavement damage may occur to the rear differential. Vtm-4 is to be used to get you out of a stuck condition such as a pile of snow. Once you are out of your stuck condition unlock Vtm-4 by pressing the Vtm-4 button or shifting to D or D3. As for why you can't shift down. I don't know. Good Luck PJ!
  • sddoc07sddoc07 Posts: 19
    136,000 miles in a 2003 Honda Pilot?? And I thought I drove a lot...

    I have a 2003 Honda Pilot LX with 52,000 miles on it. It runs great but I have noticed that the engine hesitates to upshift to a lower rpm at low speeds, ESPECIALLY when it is going downhill. I would like to know if anyone has this problem??

    But in any case, the thing I wanted to emphasize to everyone is that they have to make sure to change out their transmission fluid when Honda recommends to. I have noticed that my transmission smooths much faster and smoother when this is done and I've been told that the fluid gets black mighty quick. I think that this may be a byproduct of the tranny problems.

    pjhrtd - you need to get your car checked out, there is no special way to downshift other than hitting the brake (but i'm sure you have no problem with that)
  • I have noticed that in my 2007 Pilot, the upshifts (1st to 2nd, 2nd to 3rd) occur later than I would expect, even with very light throttle pressure. Just as a test I performed a hard acceleration (about 3/4 throttle) in 2nd gear and I almost hit red-line before it shifted to 3rd. Since the transmission is electronically controlled, I am not sure if there are shift valves that can be adjusted, but I am going to ask the dealer at the 5000 mile service.

    I agree with you service recommendation. I would suggest draining the tranny at 15,000, it's easier than changing the oil since there is no messy filter.
  • krak73krak73 Posts: 2
    To: justaveragejoe hi there i just bought 07 pilot and have the same problem with shifting it is worse when is very cold i also have a 04 and i don't have that problem did you figured out what the problem is ???? anything from the dealer mine said that there is nothing wrong i did go to 2 different ones and the same i hate that cause i know that it is not normal
  • mercaramercara Posts: 291
    The manual says that when the engine/transmission is cold, the shifts happen later than usual. Was your engine cold when you saw this symptom?
  • krak73krak73 Posts: 2
    Yes it happens only for the first minute or so but in my 04 that don't happend at all how about your's any results
  • rossdmrossdm Posts: 51
    Does anyone know if the design of the transmission in the Pilot has changed since the ill-fated '03 and early '04 models? Honda is still offering a 5-speed automatic transmission, as opposed to the competitors' newer 6-speeds.

    Is this the SAME transmission that's been in the Pilot since the beginning? I can't find any solid information on this...

  • mercaramercara Posts: 291
    They upgraded the transmission in 04 or 05 (dont' remember exactly when). If you look up the model year info in edmunds, you will see when it was changed.
  • Mine seems to shift like this all of the time. I will pull away from a stop sign as gentle as can be, but the engine will still tach to 3000 rpm. It just doesn't feel right. I still only have 2700 miles on it but I will ask questions when I get it in for service.
  • zarbazarba Posts: 30
    My '07 Pilot tends to hold gears as well, and I believe this is an attempt by Honda to improve performance at the expense of economy. Also, because the Pilot is a heavy, non-aerodynamic vehicle, the tranny holds gears longer so that when it does shift, you won't bog down in a higher gear. This prevents excessive "hunting" by the tranny.

    As for the transmission staying in a lower gear when going downhill, this is the computer's "Grade Logic" at work, adding engine braking to keep the car from gaining excessive speed downhill.

    I wish the Pilot had a manual shift gate like my Acura TL, but it's not to be...
  • hello!!!!
    I am having the same issue and not sure what to do I have the xtended warranty (thank God) did you ever resolve this issue??If so what was the resolution???

  • hypnosis44hypnosis44 Posts: 483
    I am considering a Pilot in my search for a replacement car. Does the Pilot allow any kind of manual selection of transmission ranges like D2 and such?

  • Thought I would post this here also, FYI.

    Below are the specifications for the model years that show the gear ratios.





  • sagalibasagaliba Posts: 31
    It has 1 (lock in 1st), 2 (lock in 2nd), D3 (first 3 gears), and D (all 5).
  • daveyd39daveyd39 Posts: 1
    Just purchased a 2003 Pilot in nice shape. I did notice however that the "H" symbol in the center of the Alloy Rim is starting to peel off. It looks like a clear decal that has started to lose it's adhesion to the center of the rim. Has anyone ever put these back on? If so, how?

  • lumber2lumber2 Posts: 184
    Hondas been very good about supporting owners of Pilots with heavily discounted replacement transmissions. eg $1000 for parts and labor.
  • mercaramercara Posts: 291
    How many miles did you have when you purchased the car? Do you think it is possible that the previous owner never maintained the car correctly? Any car, regardless of the make will have transmission problems if the transmission oil was not changed on time or changed at some cheapo-lube place with transmission fluid that doesn't meet Honda's specs.

    I am not suggesting that this is the case with your car. I am saying that buying a used car is risky if you cannot prove the service history of the car. A honda that has not been maintained properly cannot be expected to be more reliable than any other car that hasn't been maintained. The pilot was my first new truck. All my other cars have been bought used, but I made sure that the owner had dealer service records. No quicky-lube oil change with kitchen towel oil filters for me.
  • I have a 2003 I purchased from Bob Lindsey in Peoria, IL. a little over a year ago. It has 124,000 miles and is starting to slip when going to the next highest gear.

    I purchased this vehicle specifically because it had great reliability ratings. I obviously have huge concerns about this now.

    I took it in to be checked out today. I was shocked at the amount of the proposed repair bill. I, of course, declined.

    On my way home I contacted the national Honda Customer Service center (800-999-1009) to ask for their help. They didn't offer any promises and said that each determination is made on a case-by-case basis. They took the service manager's name and the salesman's name. They were very friendly and said they'll contact the folks at Bob Lindsey and then have someone contact me within 48 hours.

    Shortly after arriving home this evening my salesman called and offered me a discount on the transmission repair. I was very impressed that he put in the extra effort to research and identify some discounts (I'd seen him talking tothe GM on my way out). However, it still isn't enough to make the repair feasible for me.

    I'll update this after I hear back from the national Honda case worker. Assuming Honda (both National and Bob Lindsey) make this repair feasible and newer models don't suffer from this, I'll very happily continue to be a proud Pilot owner. If it turns out to be otherwise, I’ll post it here and help spread the word to beware.
  • I agree that the previous owner is a suspect variable, however, Bob Lindsey did tell me that all of the service had been done through them by the previous owner. I bought it fully expecting this to be so.
  • Having a problem when the car is first started up. I will pull out of the driveway in drive - the engine RPM is reving very high & the car is barely moving and seems to have no power. Any thoughts?
  • Today included the 48th hour since my call to national Honda Customer Service. The Honda Pilot's transmission is getting much worse. I was very disappointed to place 4 different calls to the assigned case worker today (leaving my cell phone number each time) and then found out that the assigned person went home without making contact with me (although they did leave one voicemail at my home number while I was at work)...even though I had specifically told 3 different people on previous calls that my cell was my primary contact.

    When I explained this frustrating period of waiting to the lady who took my call this evening, she politely apologized and said there is nothing that can be done until this one person responds. Until this case worker does so, I'm out of a functioning vehicle (that I had thought was the pinnacle of reliability).

    I'm trying to write more politely that I'm feeling, but I am beginning to sign up for the various forums available for venting should this blown transmission lead to a "blown gasket".

    I'll update this once more info is available.
  • Can anyone tell me if they've experienced Honda's Varible Torque Management - 4WD? Would you recommend an AWD over this?

  • kirkir Posts: 1
    I have a 2005 Pilot. Firestone put in EA 64P Ever Wear Power Transmission fluid (also called "Versatrans". They also did a complete flush (although the fluid should only be changed).

    Is this an acceptable equivalent to the Honda Transmission fluid? Do you think there is any damage to my car using this other fluid?

    Thank you so much for your help!
  • mercaramercara Posts: 291
    Personally I don't want to mess with the transmission fluid. I would get it changed at the dealer ASAP.
  • Does anyone know anything about this transmission - basically it's 4WD on demand vs. AWD. I am about to buy a Pilot and would love to hear from anyone who can help me decide about this VT ....

  • Dump that fluid as soon as possible. Automatic transmissions these days are not as forgiving of aftermarket fluids as they were back in the Dynaflow days. Also, find a reputable Independent Honda shop to deal with to avoid the scam shops who will sell you new air for your tires if they think they can get away with it.
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