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Honda Pilot Cylinder Misfire

My Honda’s check engine light and VSA light were on. The diagnosis was cylinder 3 misfire, an apparent Honda problem and one that I’ve had fixed once before on this same car at the dealership where I bought the car. This time the tech said I needed the pistons replaced and that the damaged pistons had also damaged the cylinders so they needed to be repaired (not replaced), and that I needed new spark plugs. My car has been in the dealer repair shop since July 16 (3 weeks today). I’ve had cars in the shop before and know just a little about cars. Three weeks seems like a LONG time. My question is: Is this normal or not (I am a woman and I’m not sure the tech/dealership is being honest with me. They assure me that this repair can take a long time). Thanks for any input.

Major engine repair can lead to a lot of down time. I can’t tell you what’s going on because of lack of detail and the possibility of something being lost in translation.

Damaged pistons and damaged cylinder walls means an engine overhaul and waiting on the auto machine shop to vat and bore an engine block, etc. That can be time consuming.

If things have reached that point I don’t understand why they just didn’t source a new engine and be done with it.

I might ask how much are they charging you for all of this?

Thank you for the reply. It is all covered by Honda because this was a problem with several models. A lawsuit against Honda extended the warranty. I’ve been told I’ll only have to pay $117 for 2 spark plugs that weren’t covered.

This is word for word (by text) what the service guy told me: “The cylinder head had damage engine valves we sent off the cylinder head to machine shop to make sure the cylinder head was okay and is not damaged we are going to have to replace the valve and once everything is installed by the machine shop we will install the cylinder head back onto the motor and everything should be okay.”

The cylinder head and pistons/cylinder walls are completely different.
I might ask what year and how many miles on the car as the description could point to a tight valve caused by failure to adjust the valve lash. Valve lash adjustments are considered a maintenance procedure which should be done regularly and the customer pays for.
Valves tighten up over time if not checked and that in turn leads to a burned valve and engine misfire.

I don’t put a lot of creedence into most automotive lawsuits as there is usually no real justification for it other than an offended customer and lawyers who want to sue over everything.

Auto machine shops usually stay busy so having a cylinder head tied up for several weeks or more is not uncommon depending upon the workload.

The car is a 2011 and has around 70,000 miles. I was told by the service tech that the cylinder head valve problem was caused by the the faulty piston rings and that it had also damaged the spark plugs. But all of that is beyond the scope of my knowledge on car engines. I just barely understand what the piston rings do. The problem was diagnosed by the dealership service department – I just showed up with 2 engine lights on. It had also been regularly serviced. And I don’t know much about the particulars of the lawsuit. I was just told by the dealership that this was something Honda had extended the warranty on. Thanks for the input on the machine shop. I just wasn’t sure how long something like this took.

There are a lot of unknown factors such as when the vehicle was diagnosed, when the repair was approved by Honda and how long it takes to get the parts. A technician typically won’t begin on an engine project until the parts arrive. Sometimes it takes longer to get approval for a warranty repair then it does to perform the repair.

Your service adviser should be able to to update you on the status of your vehicle.

Here is some information from the Honda bulletin;

American Honda is announcing a powertrain warranty extension as a result of a settlement of a class captioned, Soto etal V American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Case No. 3:12-cv-1377-SI (N.D. Cal.).

The piston rings on certain cylinders may rotate and align which can lead to spark plug fouling. This can set DTCs P0301 through P0304 and cause the MIL to come on.

American Honda is extending the powertrain warranty to cover repairs related to engine misfire (that triggers DTCs P0301 through P0304) to 8 years with unlimited mileage from the original date of purchase and has settled a class action based on this remedial measure.

Thank you for the reply. My car was dropped off with an appointment on July 16, but I don’t know how long it sat before the diagnosis, etc. My frustration is with the dealership in not answering questions and saying, “It should be ready in a few days” several times and the days have taken weeks. But it helps having this input – knowing this that they may have had to wait for Honda approval and parts for awhile. Thank you for the help!

If the person at the dealership who told you that the valve, or valves, were damaged due to oil consumption and plug fouling then they are dead wrong. Odds are this was a service writer and the vast majority have little mechanical knowledge or understanding so they wing it so to speak.

If only the cylinder head is being serviced and there’s a valve problem at 70k miles, in most cases that is due to incorrect valve lash; meaning the lash is too tight and which causes the valve and valve seat to burn.

A misfire due to valve lash/burnt valve is not the same as a misfire due to plug fouling due to oil consumption past the piston rings.

The work being done for your Honda is a type of major engine repair. Seldom do engines w/only 70K miles on them need this type of repair, so you had a bit of bad luck on this one. It’s good though that Honda is stepping up and not charging your for it, so consider that a big boost to your wallet anyway.

A little tutorial might help. Almost all gasoline engines are designed this way. The pistons are shaped like mushrooms and move up and down in the cylinders. A 'cylinder" is shaped like a drinking glass, right. So think of a big mushroom being pulled to and fro in a drinking glass. The wide part of the mushroom moves directly up and down against the cylinder wall, and is tightly pressed to the wall by the piston rings, which are circular springs that go around the big part of the mushroom, and spring out against the cylinder wall to hold it tight.

The “rings” are just called that, but they aren’t actually “rings”. They’re like trick magician’s rings. They’re not actual complete circles, they are semi-circles, with an opening, a circle w/a small gap in other words. The gap is what makes it possible to fit the spring over the mushroom. There’s 3 or 4 of these semi-circles all together, and the gaps in the rings must not align, otherwise the aligned gaps create a path for oil to leak past the set of 4 rings. Apparently somehow in your Honda’s engine the gaps were aligning.

Since this is a complicated repair, you should expect it to take some considerable time. 2 months wouldn’t be that unusual, depending on parts and machine shop availability. The dealership should be able to give an approximate forecast how long it should take though.

Here’s an idea: You might argue that since they haven’t provided you an accurate forecast for the garage time needed to effect the repair, Honda should provide you a loaner car in the meantime. Beyond that, I wouldn’t push them too much. It is better for it to take longer and be done correctly than take less time and done incorrectly.

Consider going beyond the local dealer and present this issue to Honda’s USA headquarters. This is explained in your owners manual. If Honda USA is indeed covering the repair, it is reasonable to expect them to intercede on your behalf when the dealer is taking so long.

This engine has had some troubles. I have a 2009 with 116k and knock on wood no problems. My car does shudder a bit between 20 and 50 mph when it deactivate’s some of the cylinders. I wouldn’t buy another because what I’ve read on a pilot forum is that they still have problems with this motor even on the new ones. The manual says to adjust valves at 100k.

My pilot is now the third car which is now the dog and winter car.

deactivate’s some of the cylinders!!!

There’s an idea. An engine that one cylinder keep running overnight to keep the engine warm for those cold winter mornings.


Thank you GeorgeSanJose for the detailed explanation! That makes sense. And I’m glad to know that this can take some time. Now I just hope it is done correctly since it seems like a major problem.
And I appreciate the other input as well!

yosemite: better an engine that starts up and idles for 5 minutes out of very hour.

I think some of the hybrids do that to keep the battery charged.

A thought . . .

maybe the car’s been at the dealership for a long time, because they’re swamped with warranty work

Perhaps that other warranty work is repairing engines, just like OP’s

Maybe they were already seriously backlogged, when OP showed up

If they’re repairing other engines under warranty, it’s only fair to treat everybody’s engine on a first come, first served basis . . . yes?

The best shops that I’ve ever worked in were ones that had a 2 week backlog.

At the auto machine shops around here even getting the simplest of machine work such as surfacing a single cylinder head is usually a week minimum and sometimes 2 to 4 weeks all depending.

When someone brings in a cylinder head there are usually 30 or 40 other cylinder heads in line ahead of it; not to mention engine blocks for boring, crankshafts to be reground, etc.

There more I have read about the Pilot, the less interested I have become in it. Test drove one 3 years ago and the VCM was already bugging me in a 20 minute ride. Then yesterday I saw the new generation on the road. Apparently it is the same engine, the body looked very much like a bland minivan. Not sure what direction Honda is taking and who is the target buyer.

Earlier this week, my 2010 Odyssey was driving rough, in a way I’ve never felt before, and the malfunction indicator light was flashing. I finished driving home (about 7 miles) and had it towed to the dealer. The dealer updated the PCM software and replaced spark plugs. The work order also reflects that there’s possible additional work that will have to be done if the problem happens again. That work would involve cleaning the pistons, and replacing the piston rings and spark plugs. The work order cites the Soto class action lawsuit.

The suit is news to me (although Honda says they forwarded a notice of class action a while ago). I spoke with Honda’s customer relations office and the dealer. I understand from the dealer that, regardless of when I learned about the suit, there’s nothing they could have done until I experienced a problem.

Needless to say, I’m not happy, and I’m a loyal Honda owner (this is my 5th Honda, albeit the first one with a six cylinder engine). I was (and still am) hoping to keep this car for a while. It has about 88,000 miles on it.

As part of the settlement of the class action, Honda extended the power train warranty to eight years from date of purchase, as I understand it. I also have an 8 year/120K Honda Care warranty, so, in theory, I should be covered until May 2018 if the problem crops up again. After that, I guess I’m on my own.

What I’m wondering is whether the initial repair likely fixed the problem, or whether the problem is likely to crop up again. I’m also wondering if my engine has likely suffered any damage as a result of the issue. I’m curious hearing about others’ experiences.

I need to figure out whether I should plan to trade in the car prior to May 2018.

Commenters on another board to which I posted suggested having something called a VCMuzzler installed.

Any guidance is appreciated.

Thanks very much.


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I asked the original question, but I’m not sure I can be much help. It’s been awhile since I had the problem and at the time I barely understood what it was. All I can say is that my car was in the shop for about 5 weeks. Honda covered all costs for repairs and also covered the cost of a rental car for that time period. I will say that I called the dealership numerous times (the service department and manager) and Honda care many times. I didn’t have an extended warranty so Honda care wasn’t much help but the department manager of my Honda dealership was helpful – I’m not sure if it was because I called so often (and was a squeaky wheel) but he was very helpful. Since that time (Aug '15) I haven’t had any problems. I am at 115, 000 and my check engine light hasn’t come on and it seems to be running fine.