Honda Pilot - Scary Transmission Issue

honda
pilot
transmissions

#1

I have a 2004 Honda Pilot with 96,000 miles on it. It’s been very well maintained and has had no big issues…until now. Last week I drove my son up to college–from DC to Burlington, VT. Before we left, I had my car in the shop for a general overhaul and fluid change. $2,100 and about a week later, we hit the road. It was about a 12 hour drive and we stopped midway for the night. We had no problems on the drive up. Once we got to Burlington, when we were on a busy road with lots of stop and go, my troubles began. We were at a stop light and I had a feeling that my car had been hit from behind as it kind of lurched a bit. No big deal, but since the light was still red, I put the car in park and got out to let the guy behind me know that he’d hit me. Turns out he didn’t. He says he didn’t and I believe him. But he also noted that he’d seen my car kind of lurch–or jump. So I got back in the car, put it in drive, stepped on the gas, and it didn’t go. It acted as if I were in neutral, which I was not. After changing gears a bunch, from park to drive to D2 to D3, etc, it finally engaged and I could go. But it did it again and so I coasted into a parking lot. In the lot it seemed to drive around okay. But I decided to take it to a nearby Midas repair shop. Their mechanic test drove it twice. The first time he didn’t experience any issue. The second time, he had the same non-engagement issues I’d had. They said it was likely an internal transmission issue and sent me to a transmission shop. These guys took the car out 4 separate times and never experienced the problem. They checked the transmission fluid which had been flushed at my recent $2,100 service. They confirmed that it had been done correctly with Honda transmission fluid and it was well sealed and everything looked good. So they suggested that I drive back to DC…slowly and carefully. I did that–with a stop over in New York City–and I didn’t experience the problem again. Until days later when I was driving very slowly through a residential neighborhood in DC and when I stepped on the gas to accelerate, it was non-responsive as it had been in Vermont. The engine just revved and acted as if I were in neutral. Moments later, it seemed fine and the gas pedal engaged with no issue. That was two days ago and nothing’s happened since. What should I do? Since a transmission shop couldn’t find anything wrong with it, where do I turn? Could it be something else? Could it be related to the $2,100 fix I did earlier this month? Any suggestions would be HUGELY appreciated.


#2

Who did the $2,100 worth of work? How do you know they used Honda fluid?


#3

Honda does not recommend doing a “flush” on Honda transmissions because it can cause problems. Honda recommends only “drain and fill,” i.e. draining out the old fluid and replacing with new.

It’s impossible to prove, but if your shop actually did a “flush” on the transmission it may in fact have caused the problem by stirring up sediment and blowing it through the transmission. Some people call it a “wallet flush” because it allows a shop to charge more for a fancy procedure instead of just draining the fluid. Which is why your shop did it instead of following Honda recommendations.

Another common error is not using Honda fluid. As texases said, how did the Midas guys know it was Honda fluid?


#4

I did not do the $2,100 fix at a Honda dealer, but the transmission shop in Vermont said that the DC guys did use Honda fluid. On my bill from the DC shop, they describe the labor as “Transmission Flush” and the associated part as “Honda Transmission Fluid HATF”


#5

What type of shop did the work in DC?


#6

A general automotive service shop that’s been in business for 50 years and is pretty highly rated. I’ve used them once before with no issue. If the problem is that they flushed instead of drained the transmission as Jesmed suggested, is the problem going to go away on it’s own? Or should I ask them (or someone else) to do further work to it? Is this a dangerous problem?


#7

This is a tough one. Unfortunately, the one glaring weakness of Hondas of that era (V6s especially) is the automatic transmissions. I’d rather you said a qwicky-lube place did it, they could easily have put in the wrong fluid, and a fluid change might fix it. Assuming your shop put in the right fluid, I’d take it back to them and explain the problem, see what they can do.

@jesmed - any way Claire can document Honda’s ‘no flush’ recommendation for the shop? That might get them more inclined to help fix the problem.


#8

By the way, thank you so much for all your thoughtful responses here. This is an awesome blog! Shout out to Tom and Ray for creating this world!


#9

Most likely the transmission is on the way out, especially because Honda transmissions weren’t particularly good in those years. However, you really can’t replace the transmission based on that guess. If I were you, I’d bring it to a good local transmission shop (not a chain) to see if they have any luck in finding a problem. If they don’t, then I’d drive it until it gets worse or dies, being prepared to break down at any time, unfortunately.

As mentioned above, if “flush” means a power flush instead of the recommended drain and fill, that could have caused this issue. I doubt you’d have any luck getting the original shop to make any reparations, though.

I’m also curious what was done by the shop for all of that money. I’m guessing you did a long-overdue timing belt change, perhaps.


#10

2100 for “overhaul”? Who even uses a term like that? Can u provide a bit more detail on what they did? 10yr old car, 100k miles? Timing belt? Water pump? Plugs? Trans serv. diff serv? Flush radiator? PS flush. Injector serv?


#11

Here’s what they did for $2,100: general check over, oil/filter change, all fluids topped off, replaced rear lower tail light, replaced cabin air filter, flushed brake fluid, flushed transmission fluid, changed rear differential fluid, replaced left front inner tie rod, four wheel alignment, replaced front and rear brake pads and rotors. I think I will take it to a transmission shop–any suggestions for a good one in the DC area? Thanks!


#12

Here’s what they did for $2,100: general check over, oil/filter change, all fluids topped off, replaced rear lower tail light, replaced cabin air filter, flushed break fluid, flushed transmission fluid, changed rear differential fluid, replaced left front inner tie rod, four wheel alignment, replaced front and rear break pads and rotors. I think I will take it to a transmission shop–any suggestions for a good one in the DC area? Thanks!


#13

If you look in the Mechanics Files on this site you can find my recommendation of Superior Transmissions in Silver Spring.


#14

The Honda fluid I have is not labeled HATF. I suspect the fluid and the flush may mean a trans at some point. I think you need to take it to Honda for an inspection. Might be a fluid change will help. Calling the work done though an “overhaul” is really misleading. All they did was a bunch of normal maintenance work and a repair.


#15

i suppose thread title should just be more direct. a trans slipping into neutral is not scary, it is unnerving and possibly expensive down the road but its not scary.


#16

Stoveguyy wrote:
i suppose thread title should just be more direct. a trans slipping into neutral is not scary, it is unnerving and possibly expensive down the road but its not scary.

The price of a new transmission is scary to most people!


#17

“a trans slipping into neutral is not scary, it is unnerving and possibly expensive down the road but its not scary.”

If it happens while driving on a highway, in the midst of 18 wheelers, or on a RR crossing, or in a dodgy neighborhood, I believe that it would be downright scary…and dangerous. This problem is not going to get any better, and, even if the OP has not yet been endangered by this situation, it has the potential to be dangerous, depending on when & where it happens.


#18

I also have a 2004 Pilot. My transmission quit at 184,000 miles with the symptoms you described. There are known issues with the transmission if your Pilot was manufactured before April 2004. Use this link to enter your VIN and determine if your Pilot is covered by the recall. If so, you have a 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty on your transmission and take you should take your Pilot to your Honda dealer right away. Good Luck!
http://owners.honda.com/service-maintenance/recalls