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Honda Pilot transmisson problem

I have an '03 Honda Pilot, 130,000 miles which I love and have never had a bit of trouble with. Now I have a problem that is stumping two dealerships. My car randomly does what I would describe as swithching itself into neutral at very low speeds. Sometimes I can switch into neutral and then back into drive and it will “catch.” Sometimes I have to turn the car off and restart it and it will drive. Last week I had to shit it into D2 and get it up to about 30 mph before it would work in the normal drive. I have had it into the dealership 3 times. They feel that it is an electrical issue, not a machanical one. They have replaced the 3-4 gear pressure switch, and it is still randomly acting up. I am beginning to feel that this is becoming a safelty issue and I really don’t want to feel unsafe in my beloved car.
Any thoughts, suggetions, phone numbers of priest that preform exorcisms?

Sorry, I’m clean out of chickenblood.
Is there any indication on the dash when this happens?

Edit: after some googling on your specific issue, it seems that this is a common problems with Honda Pilots. See

And the dealer is stumped…

This is a good dealer. Most likely would replace the entire transmission without first replacing something inexpensive or actually diagnosing.

Has this transmission been serviced at least twice in your ownership if from new?

Haven’t tried the chicken blood, although I do own chickens and I’m not sure what you mean by serviced. I have always had all of the suggeted maintanance done at the suggested times.

Oh, it might take some virgin sacrifice as well, btw.

I hear you on the maintenance. Raj was wondering whether the fluid has been changed a couple of times in its life. Hondas usually are very solid cars but this may be the exception to that rule:
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but, according to several forums on Hondas, that particular vintage Pilot apparently has known transmission problems - some very much like the one you describe.
People complain and ask for ‘good faith’ repairs to be done by the dealer but they mostly refuse because of them being out of warranty, even though a transmission should last lots longer than 130K. Some may die before their time but usually they aren’t the first thing to go on Hondas.

There’s a guy here that’s a transmission expert - can’t remember his handle at the moment - but perhaps he can verify that for you or give you pointers on what to do. Anyone remember who I’m talking about??

Most manufacturers, in an effort to make their cars look as maintenance-free as possible, have dropped the traditional 3 yr/30k mile trans fluid change from their maintenance schedule. However, transmissions still need that service, and since they fail after the warranty is expired, the customer–rather than the car company–is left holding the bag for hefty overhaul costs.

So–to rephrase Raj’s question…How often (if ever) has the trans fluid been changed?

But…that question notwithstanding, I believe that your trans problem is more likely to be of an electronic origin, rather than a mechanical one.

Yeah, I agree with that^.
It does ‘smell’ like an electronic problem of sorts, with her having to restart the car and such.

These Hondas are known for converter clutch failure. When this happens the clutch material breaks apart and stops up the cooler and the filter. These symptoms sound like a plugged up filter. When you shut off the engine the pump is not sucking fluid in through the filter and particles will fall away from it partially unplugging it. When you restart the engine you will have partial pressure for a few minutes then eventually it will plug up again.


Do you think it happens on the 2-3 shift? My Odyssey transmission was just rebuilt, the 3rd gear clutch packs tend to wear out. The clutch material wears off and the clutch rings are spinning metal on metal. I was “lucky” and found somebody to rebuilt it for $1,600. Prior to this, I spent time and money fiddling around with solenoids, filters, fluid, etc… The sad fact of the matter is that Honda and Acura V6 5 speeds from this era don’t last much past 120,000 miles without a rebuild. The more shifting (in town driving) the vehicle does, the sooner the rebuild is necessary.

Or, as transman points out, the converter clutches also can go bad.

“Transman” <-- he’s the resident transmission expert I couldn’t remember.
Thanks, Transman!

Can’t answer the question as to the transmission fluid being changed at a certain time. Being a typical car owner, I tend to believe that they are doing the right things at the right times for my cars. The dealership wants to replace the lower gear switch, seems reasonable, but from what I have read on various chat forums, it could be a loose or rusted connection somewhere. Is it fair to ask them to go over EVERY connection while I have it in?

“Is it fair to ask them to go over EVERY connection while I have it in?”

Yes, that is reasonable, as you are the customer.
However, if our resident transmission expert, Transman, says that this problem is likely to be the result of converter clutch failure, I think that you should take his opinion very seriously.

Since the vehicle is no longer under warranty, I suggest that you take it to an independent transmission shop, rather than the dealership. (Independent=NOT a chain operation like AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, Mr. Transmission, etc.)