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Honda Odyssey spontaneously braking

We have a 2007 Honda Odyssey with 76,000 miles. In December 2012 we had been driving for aproximately 3-4 minutes, exiting onto the highway and accelerating to reach 65 miles per hour. When we reached aproximately 55-60 MPH and were still accelerating the car spontaneously applied the brakes for approximately 3 seconds, learching us forward. We stopped accelerating and began to pull over. It again spontaneously braked as we were slowing down. We attempted to drive slowly along the side of the road, to get to the next exit, and it happened again. Once we were finally able to stop in a safe place we turned off the car. We turned the car back on and it did not do it again. We took the car to the dealer and they only found one code - the steering sensor. They re-calibrated it but were not convinced that was the problem. Sure enough, approximately two months later the same thing happened. We were not going quite as fast and it did not learch quite as severe. After it did this three times i was at a stop light and pushed the switch to turn the VSA off. It did not occur again. Took it to the dealer and they found no codes. They drove 17 miles and could not duplicate the problem. The weather conditions both times were aproximately 30-40 degrees with some snow or wetness on the ground from prior precipitation. The dealer continues to say there is no problem because it shows no code and they can’t replicate the problem. Have you heard of this before? Any ideas what could be happening?

I can see where a malfunction in the traction control or vehicle stability control could cause this…Those are the systems that will apply braking to one or more wheels to stop a skid. This is one reason I detest hi-tech gadgetry being used to compensate for bad drivers.

The fact that the dealer has retrieved no codes and hasn’t duplicated the problem doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.
It means they haven’t spent enough time driving it. It may have to be driven by different guys.

I assume you authorized a certain amount for diagnosis. And it’s been used up, correct?

We actually still have an extended warranty on the car so we have not had to pay anything for diagnosis. (Thanks for replying!)


In that case, leave the car at the dealer until it’s fixed.
Speak to the service manager and tell him you don’t feel safe driving the car until they’re absolutely sure it’s fixed.
Tell him you’ve got better things to do than make up phony stories.
After all, you’d rather be driving the car than have it tied up at the shop.
But not until it’s fixed.

My old service manager always told us to keep plugging away until we duplicated, diagnosed and fixed the problem. He said customers don’t really like taking their car to the dealership for complaints. They’d rather be driving it. So there’s most likely something going on that you haven’t YET been able to duplicate.

You may want to consider authorizing the shop foreman and/or service manager to drive the car home.
Perhaps the problem will reveal itself to them.

Persistence is the key.
Both on your part and on theirs.

If you have anti-lock braking or electronic stability control, my guess the problem is in one of those modules or their respective sensors. Figuring it out will probably require a dealer’s shop to do the diagnosis. And may require you leave the car there for several days or weeks.

If this car has neither ALB or ESC, then probably what I doif this were my car is pull all the wheels (& drums if you have drum brakes on the back) and do a visual inspection of the brake components for anything that looks like it might be sticking. And I’d check to make sure that the brake fluid is up to spec and that the brake master cylinder isn’t leaking behind the firewall. Then I’d check to insure the brake booster is working properly and not leaking vacuuum. And I’d do a visual inspection of all the brake lines to make sure they are not collapsing. After that, I’d probably replace the brake fluid w/new and pressure bleed the brakes. If that didn’t fix the problem, I’d replace the brake master cylinder with a new OEM version.

Most likely not a braking problem per se but a sensor problem. The brakes are working just fine since they are stopping or slowing down the vehicle. It’s most likely a wheel speed sensor gone awry. With that vehicle stability control when a speed sensor determines one wheel is spinning faster then another it applies the brakes and/or cuts the engine power to the wheels to correct for the perceived lack of traction. Frankly I’m surprised given the symptoms you succinctly described here why the dealer hasn’t looked there first. Often common sense is much more effective then the OBD2 codes.


I would suggest OP not touch anything on the car.

OP has stated the car has extended warranty.

It is Honda’s responsibility to diagnose and repair the problem.

Ive seen this occur on several different vehicles in my time working on cars. In most cases it was a sticking caliper and in others it was a brake pad that wasnt moving properly within the confines of the brake caliper sliders…AND OR the actual caliper sliders binding. Sometimes these issues would arise and then go away…and it would go on like that sometimes releasing and working normally and others it would bind up.

If this ever reoccurs I would imagine you are having one of these issues. If you can ever get it to do this again…Go outside the vehicle and feel your LUG NUTS… I bet one side of the car has very warm to HOT lug nuts… If this is the case…you just found the side causing the braking. It will more than likely be the caliper or caliper sliders…replace and move on. It would be nice for you to catch it in action with the test outlined here. Let us know…

Any other scenario will be more than likely impossible to prove out. I.E…the vehicle actually applying the brakes on its own. In fact I dont believe Ive ever come across a vehicle doing this on its own…and if that ever happens you will hear the ABS motor actuating the brakes…this is the ONLY way the vehicle can do this on its own…it cannot just apply the brakes without the ABS motor doing the work…but this is extremely rare and is only possible with vehicles that have complex stability control systems…like on high end BMW’s and the like. NOT the vehicle we are discussing.

This is more than likely caused by a sticking caliper and or stuck sliders…the symptoms are the same… When a caliper is on its way out it can stick…and then release…stick and release…its maddening sometimes but there are clues to follow that only you can find…Use the lug nut trick if you dont have a handheld non contact infra red thermometer handy…I use one to take temp readings on brake rotors to find the offending caliper all the time…

Let us know


I’m inclined to agree with doubleclutch that it’s likely a problem with the traction or vehicle stability control system and Proacfan that it maye be a sensor. The suddenness and the agressiveness with which the brakes are being applied combined with its on/off symptomology suggest to me that the must be hydraulically applied (as opposed to, say, a booster gradually pulling on the brakeing rod), and the suggested systems are really the only ones that can apply the brakes. The ABS system interferes with brake application rather than applying brakes.

I tend to agree with db that it’s Honda’s problem, however I’d suggest pulling the fuse for the stability system as a diagnostic test. If the problem disappears, you’ll know it’s that system and you can provide that information to the dealer’s garage. I don’t usually suggest that owners do any more than describe the symptoms, but if a clue is available it’s to the owner’s benefit to pass it on.

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Wow. You have all given me so much more information than Honda America or the Service Manager! They have now have a tech taking it home with him for a few nights. I fear he won’t be able to duplicate it, considering it is two months between the incidents. We will see.
Just some follow up to questions/hints:
This car does have Vehicle Stability Assist and ABS brakes. The posting from “Proacfan” really makes sense. “the same mountain bike” - interesting idea with the fuse. On the last occasion when it did this, when i was stopped at a stop light i pushed the button to turn off the VSA and it stopped doing the spontaneous braking. (I have told this to the dealer, and saw on another blog that another owner found that worked too, but that has not lead Honda to make a change.) I will list out all of these posibilities then take it to the dealer tomorrow and ask if they have addressed all of these issues!
Thank you all!!!

Thanks @MissR for the follow-up. It looks like you are on the right track. Let us know what they discover. Best of luck.

Woke up this morning to the news…Honda is recalling some other models for this EXACT same thing! Dealer has now given us a free rental and is keeping the car for a week. He pointed out the recall. Hopefully it will soon cover our car too!

Fantastic! And thanks for the update.

Happy motoring.

Yes, I heard that on the news this morning too. It’s good that Honda values customers – which isn’t the case with all car companies it seems – and is giving you a free rental while it solves the problem for you. Looks like things are under control.

@GeorgeSanJose, this is a recall for obvious safety issues. After the whole Toyota run-away car debacle, I think Honda is making a very sound PR move on this to avoid damaging bad press. Especially in light of the class action law suit against them recently about the reprogramming of the hybrids. Bad press is a business killer.

Unfortunately, the recall at this point includes only Honda Pilots and a few Acura models–not the Odyssey. That is not to say that the Odyssey will not be included in the recall at a later date, however.

I believe that the nature of the recall (a defective resistor in the vehicle’s stability control mechanism) will give the dealership the needed clue to repair this properly. The OP will almost surely have to pay for the repair at this point, but if the recall is later extended to include this particular Odyssey, the OP can be fully reimbursed by submitting copies of the repair invoice to Honda of America.

You could do as this Pilot owner did and file a defect petition with NHTSA…which is apparently what triggered the Pilot recall:


“We actually still have an extended warranty on the car so we have not had to pay anything for diagnosis.”

In my opinion OP shouldn’t have to pay anything.

You’re correct, as I forgot about that detail.

But…it all depends on the type of extended warranty that the OP has.
Some extremely expensive policies cover–literally–everything for the stated period of time.
Other, cheaper types of extended warranties have more limited coverage.