Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

baltovetbaltovet Member Posts: 9
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 Member 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.
  • baltovetbaltovet Member Posts: 9
    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.
  • ahaymdahaymd Member Posts: 6
    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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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)
  • justaveragejoejustaveragejoe Member Posts: 267
    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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member Posts: 56
    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 Member 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.
  • justaveragejoejustaveragejoe Member Posts: 267
    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 Member 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...
  • keithmusikkeithmusik Member Posts: 5
    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 Member 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?

  • justaveragejoejustaveragejoe Member Posts: 267
    Thought I would post this here also, FYI.

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





  • sagalibasagaliba Member Posts: 31
    It has 1 (lock in 1st), 2 (lock in 2nd), D3 (first 3 gears), and D (all 5).
  • daveyd39daveyd39 Member 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 Member Posts: 184
    Hondas been very good about supporting owners of Pilots with heavily discounted replacement transmissions. eg $1000 for parts and labor.
  • mercaramercara Member 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.
  • jjgrantjjgrant Member Posts: 3
    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.
  • jjgrantjjgrant Member Posts: 3
    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.
  • bones238bones238 Member Posts: 2
    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?
  • jjgrantjjgrant Member Posts: 3
    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.
  • aaronwillaaronwill Member Posts: 5
    Can anyone tell me if they've experienced Honda's Varible Torque Management - 4WD? Would you recommend an AWD over this?

  • kirkir Member 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 Member Posts: 291
    Personally I don't want to mess with the transmission fluid. I would get it changed at the dealer ASAP.
  • aaronwillaaronwill Member Posts: 5
    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 ....

  • hypnosis44hypnosis44 Member Posts: 483
    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.
  • mercaramercara Member Posts: 291
    Pilot is predominantly a Front Wheel Drive SUV. The rear wheel engages in three scenarios:

    1. By pressing the 4VTM button on the dash. The rear wheels are engaged upto 16 miles an hour. Us this button to get out of a sticky situation.

    2. When accelerating to prevent torque steer and to improve acceleration.

    3. When slippage is detected by the computer.

    Other than in these three situations Pilot run on front wheels.
  • aaronwillaaronwill Member Posts: 5
    Thank you, mercara,

    Is there any negative to this? It would seem to me I'd save on gas as compared to AWD? Comments?

  • mercaramercara Member Posts: 291
    This is my first Honda and have owned three full time AWD vehicles. One was a Landcruiser and the other was is a RAV4 and also an ML320. I always preferred full time AWD since I the computer in part time units typically doesn't detect a skid until it starts. although in theory the computer should try to fix it in a few micro seconds.

    I would rather have the peace of mind of full-time AWD than a part time system like the pilots. But the pilot offered a great value and I decided to live with the part time AWD system. When I drive in the snow I am more careful and don't push the truck as much s I used to push my Landcruiser or the ML320. I have driven both those vehicles in heavy snow storms from New York to Washington DC and they both drove well. I have't done that in the pilot yet so I couldn't tell you for sure how the part time AWD system compares with the Landcruiser and ML320.

    But if I had a choice of two vehicles that met my needs and one came with full-time AWD, I would go for it especially if I live in the snow belt.
  • justaveragejoejustaveragejoe Member Posts: 267
    Had my Pilot in some snow last year (unplowed road with 1-foot deep snow for about 5 miles) and it did very well. Heard some of the harder-packed snow scrape the bottom of the body a couple times.

    Also tried out the Vehicle Stability Assist in an empty parking lot at a ski resort and it worked well, I couldn't make the Pilot spin-out. I turned-off the VSA and all four wheels are fully powered and will spin, just like a normal 4WD....made a couple "drift" loops just to practice my skid recovery. :blush:
  • deji_adenusideji_adenusi Member Posts: 3

    I have exactly the same problem as you had - same speeds and all. Would be happy to know how you solved yours...


  • deji_adenusideji_adenusi Member Posts: 3
    I recently bought a Honda Pilot 2003, with approximately 130k miles. The 1st thing I did was to have the transmission replaced with a factory rebuilt one at Honda Carland in Roswell, GA.

    Less than 1k miles later, while drving on the highway at 65 mph, the VT-4 light comes on. I do not have to push the VT-4 light for it to come on, in fact it no longer responds to the bottom before or after it self-initiates. Sometime, it comes on even when the vehicle is just idling.

    I also 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 is becoming more regular. When I slow down, the engine / transmission rumbles. Any suggestions?
  • wwitrakwwitrak Member Posts: 1
    I just bought a 2008 4WD Pilot. Wish I hadn't. The transmission is a real nuisance. The engine sound like is is dying because of the high rpm that is set to shift at 3500 rpms for 1st and second gears. It is not too bad with a light load, level ground, warm engine,,,but with any of the above factors added sounds terrible and hard to believe it won't cause powertrain problems later. The other major nuisance that bothers me the most is the chronic downshifting of the can't "coast into a red light or stopsign and actually have to keep your foot on the pedal to get there without clogging up traffic behind you. My dealer says, "tough luck" that is how they are designed. Seems pretty stupid with todays fuel economy worries.
    Speaking of fuel sucks.

    I regret buying this vehicle. I will give it a few weeks to see if I can get used to it, or just dump it and buy something more powertrain friendly. I drove a Toyota Highlander on vacation recently and it was way better. I bought the Pilot mostly because it had a better backend to haul stuff. Stupid decision.

    Avoid this vehicle.

  • pilot007pilot007 Member Posts: 1
    I'm having the same problem and have been searching forums for the answer. I was trying to fix it and have figured it out. If you pull the shift arm in all the way it will only shift down to D. If you only pull it in half way it will allow you to shift to the remaining drives. I don't believe it is designed to do that. We have had ours for almost two years and it just started doing it.
  • bob11bob11 Member Posts: 18
    I need your help.
    i have honda pilot 2003 model, which has a transmission problem, and the dealership told me it needs to be replaced. Pilot has 166000 miles.

    With this many miles is it advisable to get the transmission replaced? or just replace the whole car. Meaning, how many other problems can i expect on this. I just had the brakes etc replaced for a 1000 $ a month ago. a 400+$ timing belt replacement is coming up in a month or two.

    Should the transmission be replaced at a honda dealership or other places like aamco.
    Without getting the transmission fixed is it possible to get the annual car inspection passed?

    what kind of warranty is typically offered on these replacement transmissions.
  • bob11bob11 Member Posts: 18
    hi i have a honda pilot 2003 with transmission problems which i have been told needs to be replaced.
    If i trade this car in, do i have to disclose to the dealers about the state of the transmission. If they dont ask then i am planning not to say anything about it.
    i dont have much experience in this area, do the dealers typically ask questions about the car that is being traded in?
  • bigdadi118bigdadi118 Member Posts: 1,207
    Get a new one because sooner or later you ask yourself the question why I am still driving an old car with new car payment per month which is the repair expense of this and that coming up one by one.
  • deji_adenusideji_adenusi Member Posts: 3
    I bought my 2003 Pilot with 123k miles on the clock and the transmission was already shot. I tried to buy a new one from a dealer but they could only provide me with a reconditioned one. I did get that, and its been working very well over the past 20,000 miles, 1 year, including moderate offroading. Its out of the 3 months, 10k miles warranty.
  • bigdadi118bigdadi118 Member Posts: 1,207
    I think the 03-04 tranny was recalled by Honda. Check with dealership or owner link on VIN# whether it was doned.
  • piloterrorpiloterror Member Posts: 1
    I have a 2003 Pilot and have done all scheduled maintenance at the dealer where I bought the car. Last week, at 137,000 miles, the transmission started to slip. I took it to the dealer where they stated I needed a new transmission. I have a call in to Honda's regional office for NH and MA asking for some help. Has anyone had previous experience requesting help from the regional office? It seems to me a Honda transmission should be expected to last a lot longer than 137,000 miles.
  • pilotpat1pilotpat1 Member Posts: 1
    I have a Pilot with 131,000 miles on it that just started to slip going into 3rd gear. My local Honda dealer told me the clutch plates were breaking down, and the only thing to do was to replace the transmission at a cost of $4500. Ouch. I'm told there was a recall on these, but I have never received such a notice and have owned this since it was new. Any help would be appreciated.
  • vancerdvancerd Member Posts: 1
    How did this turn out for you? I have a 2003 Pilot and the trans is starting to slip. I plan on calling Bob Lindsay tomorrow to see what they will do for me.
  • bigdadi118bigdadi118 Member Posts: 1,207
    Is the infamous Odyseey tranny problem migrated to Pilots? Don't forget to change the tranny oil every 2 to 3 yrs...
  • transprobtransprob Member Posts: 11
    My 2003 Honda Pilot( with 152,000 miles now) was checked for a recall in 2004, I was told it was fixed. I recently took it in to have it checked because a light was on and nothing was said about the transmission. Then a few days later I was on the highway going 65 mph and it jerked back and downshifted to 2nd gear. If someone was close behind me, it would have resulted in a crash. The NHTSA-office of defects investigation states that Honda power train automatic transmissions gear failure could result in lock up and result in crash. This is dangerous. I know someone with a 2003 pilot that it did cause a crash and the vehicle rolled. If you have a problem please report it to The National transportation and Safety Board -Automobile You can file complaint online. This is a major problem and Honda should back their product and replace these defective transmissions. They should last 250,000+ miles and not pose a safety risk. A class action lawsuit needs to be filed due to the # of problems. I have contacted American Honda @1-800-999-1009 Address:1919 Torrance Blvd, Torrance, CA 90501, but they were unwilling to accept any responsibility for this defect. If enough people are willing to report this problem to National Transportation and Safety board and the Better Business Bureau, we may be able to get Honda to cover this repair or replacement. Most of us bought Honda to get at least 250,000 miles out of vehicle.
  • keithmusikkeithmusik Member Posts: 5
    hi just out of curiosity have you had the transmission fluid changed regular??
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