Need help understanding recent accident with Honda Pilot

Hello all,
This weekend, I had an accident with my Pilot (2006 EX-L version), luckily no one was injured. I was traveling on Route 23N in Wayne, NJ right where this road splits from I-80 (providing this information for context that follows). While it rained in the nearby areas, I did not see the road wet in this section.

I was traveling maybe 40-50 miles per hour, when the road becomes a 4-lane divided highway with a median about 3 feet or so tall separating the north and southbound lanes. Right after I entered the 4-lane stretch on 23N after the split from I-80, the SUV sharply veered to the right. I let go of the steering wheel and took my foot off the accelerator. I was in the right lane, the SUV just went over a smaller divider (maybe 6 inches tall at most.) but then veered all the way left, went across to the left lane and hit the median (3 feet hugh). The air bag deployed, and I felt a jolt as the SUV was pushed back into the left lane and then right. I braked and felt the driver’s side wheel scraping the road, meaning the tire had been destroyed. Luckily the cars behind me had stopped and I managed to get over to the shoulder and park my car.

I called 911 and when the police arrived, the officer guessed that most likely I went over an oil patch and lost control. It seemed plausible so I did not think much. The car was towed away and is currently at a yard.

However, yesterday I drove to the area of the accident and I am having doubts about oil patch or slippage, so I am wondering is there is any mechanical problem that can cause this besides maybe slipping due to wet road conditions (which as I noted, did not seem wet.)

Question - is there any mechanical malfunction that could cause this, because if I was hydoplaning wouldn’t I continue to go on the right side after the SUV veered right and went over the short barrier? Why would it switch direction completely and go left across the two lanes?

I appreciate any input or comments.

For the record, I do not speed, do not use my cell phone while driving, and consider myself a safe driver with no tickets of any kind in my over 25 years driving.



It is possible that an oil patch could have caused your problem. Often, a light rain will bring up the oil on the road to the surface and make the road slippery. Many years ago when I was a kid, we were on a trip to Kentucky and were on a two lane road with a lot of hills and curves in our ten year old 1939 Chevrolet. I doubt that we were going more than 35 mph when the car went out of control and we went slid back and forth across the road into a rock bank on the left side. My dad did manage drive the car out of the ditch, pry the fender out enough to be able to drive the car a half mile to a little garage. The mechanic cut away part of the front fender with a torch and fitted a piece of card board to the driver’s side window so we could proceed on with our trip… He said that he had seen accidents like these happen on that road–apparently the road surface became very slippery when wet. I know that cars and road surfaces have improved since 1949, but I’m sure that what the officer suggested is still possible. I would also think that a thorough inspection of your Honda Pilot would determine if your accident was caused by a mechanical failure.

Triedaq- thanks, that is reassuring. It is being sent to a shop right now and I will update once the mechanics have looked at it.

“Right after I entered the 4-lane stretch on 23N after the split from I-80, the SUV sharply veered to the right. I let go of the steering wheel and took my foot off the accelerator.”

Did you actually take your hands off the steering wheel as this was beginning to unfold?
Never, ever, completely release the steering wheel and let it go! That will allow the wheels to go wherever the forces take them. You want to provide steering input to regain control, often steering into the skid until it straightens out and then apply correction.

Never give up control of the vehicle. I cannot understand why you would have let go of the steering wheel unless it was jerked out of your hands, even then, grab it and try to regain control.

It does kinda sound to me like you may have had a blowout. It will be hard to tell now if the damage to the tire was the result of the accident or the cause of it. Blowouts are very rare with modern tires, but they can still happen.

Keith and TwinTurbo,
Thanks, let me clarify. I did not let go of the steering wheel. I was holding the wheel when the car was veering hard to the right. Then it suddenly veered left in a split second and crossed to the left side and hit the median. Then the air bag deployed and I let go of the wheel as my hands were either hit by the air bag or were pushed back due to the force of the impact. It was a solid impact (I did sustain a six inch scrape to my hands with blood, though it was not severe).

It is the switching from veering left, going over the smaller barrier past the right lane, then suddenly veering to left and hitting the median beyond the left lane that makes me wonder if this is only/mostly due to slippage.

I have experienced slippage once in a car on hard ice (though it was mild) but this did not feel like that at all. In that case, I steered in the direction of the skid and eventually gained control.

The driver’s side tire does not look like a tire after blowout, though as Keith points out, I only saw the effect of it after the impact.

Anyway, the car is being sent to a shop and I will post photos if it would help.


Sorry I meant to say the driver’s side tire does look like a blowout (based on what I have seen with trucks as I have not experience one), but I only saw it after the impact and also driving off the lanes onto the shoulder.

How often has the tire pressure been checked? Theorizing, I might say a low tire was causing the sidewall to scrub off and at some point it just decided to let go when the sidewall blew out of it.

There may be enough of the tire sidewall left to examine and determine if this is the case or not.

That being said, I could mention another possibility although it’s so rare as to hardly be worth consideration and involved a steering rack on a Chevrolet.
The car would drive fine on any road surface. However, once it hit even a damp spot on the roadway that car would go all over the place with the heart moving into the throat. After straightening out the car was fine again until the next damp spot.
And by damp, I mean just that; no pooled water at all.

Thanks ok4450,
I check it at least once a month, sometimes weekly, but there is a tire pressure monitoring sensor that I know works and is accurate. So if the pressure was really low, it lights up. Also, I am not sure about the location of the tires, but the car was serviced recently and two tires replaced, car aligned after that etc. The other two tires were in very good shape according to the mechanic. Treads on all tires were good when i checked maybe two weeks ago.

The feeling I had was exactly like you describe during the accident.

There are lots of possibilities. Simplest one could be that a tie rod pulled out of the rack if you have rack and pinion steering. If you have a recirculating ball steering gearbox, a tie rod end or idler arm could have failed. I’m sure that I will never know the reason but I had to mention a “could have been”. I have not mentioned many things like ball joint failure, wheel bearings or the possibility of electric power steering. The repair report (the bill) may not prove exactly when something broke.

Things can get iffy when tires are replaced two at a time.
Were the new tires in the front or back.
It’s best to rotate tires on a regular basis and replace all four at a time.

I think the answer will be found in the TIRES or some sort of anti-lock brake or traction control malfunction…A blow-out, 2 new tires (different brands or different tread patterns or slightly different circumference…) Any or all of these things could be contributing factors…

I agree with those who said to look to the tires as the most likely cause of the problem.
The fact that the OP apparently replaced 2 tires recently tells us that he does not rotate them properly, as tires that are rotated on schedule will wear evenly enough so that all 4 are replaced at the same time.

In addition to the possible damage to the Pilot’s AWD mechanism from failure to rotate the tires properly, the difference in tread depth between the front & rear tires (and possibly even the tread pattern) leads to differences in the coefficient of friction front & rear. When the front & rear tires have different coefficients of friction, handling can become unpredictable, especially when a slippery surface is involved.

Has the OP ever read the section in the vehicle’s Owner’s Manual regarding maintenance?
I can guarantee that the maintenance schedule of this AWD vehicle includes tire rotation every 5k, or every 7.5k miles.

Additionally, the manual will include some verbiage on the necessity of having 4 “matched” tires in order to avoid damage to the AWD mechanism.

I was wondering if your vehicle came equipped with stability control? If so, and things got that bad that quick, it could certainly be a mechanical failure. But it may be hard to tell if any problems that are discovered were the cause or the result of the accident. I had a tie rod break on me once. I was going around a curve and the car suddenly veered all over the road like an excited puppy, then was fine. As I just started to wrap my mind around how weird the episode was and wonder what had happened, it started to happen again. Fortunately I wasn’t going very fast and there was no oncoming traffic. I pulled off the road and discovered the problem. A failure like this could certainly cause you to suddenly, unexpectedly lose control.

Thanks to all the comments and feedback. I need to make a few corrections to my original post, after I reviewed the most recent service report from end of March this year. I also talked to my wife who actually had the car serviced, and whose memory is better than mine.

  1. No tires were recently replaced (I was confused as I recall the tires being replaced but it was on our other car, which was serviced the same day, and apparently all four tires were replaced on that car)

  2. On the Pilot according to the service report, the tread depth was 8/32 on all tires.

  3. In addition to the regular maintenance, they performed the following:
    (i) rear differential service
    (ii) brake system service
    (iii) right inner CV boot (was leaking per technician’s note)

I believe it has the stability control. Also, all service has been done per the schedule and most of it at the same dealer where the SUV was purchased.

I am also attaching photos of the following
(i) Driver side tire
(ii) Left front side
(iii) rough location from my memory of the accident scene with the first impact (veering right onto small barrier) and then the second veering left where it struck median marked as 1 and 2.

Unfortunately due to the insurance constraints, it has not gone to the dealer but a repair shop in their network. But they seem reasonable, so what areas should I ask them to check for besides tie rod and the AWD? Also, is there something specific to look for in the AWD?

Thanks to all the comments, I appreciate it.

Did you get charged? my Daughter had a similar accident and got a reckless driving ticket,around here if theres a traffic accident,someone gets charged pure and simple(something to do with costs I would say)probaly the tire let go-Kevin

No I did not get charged. In fact, the police officer was very nice and helpful.

Just heard from the body shop guy and he confirmed that it would be a total loss. He also believes that the tire blowout most likely caused it.

When I asked about tie rod, he said that the damage on the wheel and fender is not consistent with that, it would damage the fender differently. He also stated that if the left inner CV boot failed, it would have been seen in the recent service done in March. He was also very confident that the dealer I went to “was meticulous” and would not have missed anything that would likely lead to such a catastrophic failure.

I appreciate all the comments, thanks again.

" Unfortunately due to the insurance constraints, it has not gone to the dealer but a repair shop in their network. "

Your Insurance Company Won’t Let You Take The Car To A Dealer ( Or Shop Of Your Choice ? ) ??

I’m Fairly Certain That’s Not Legal In My State. As The Vehicle Owner, One Can Decide Where The Car Will Be Repaired. It’s Up To The Insurance Company To Negotiate Repairs With Them.

My insurance company has preferred shops (using them comes with a couple of perks), but a vehicle owner is not obligated to go there.

I would consider a second opinion. My red flag would go up if the shop that has your car is interested in buying the wrecked car from your insurance company if/when they “total” it.

I managed a body shop for a couple of years, once. I don’t understand requiring you to use a particular shop. Will the insurance company write an estimate, too ? I would proceed with caution before taking any settlement. Also, settlements for total loss vehicles, if it goes that way, is very much negotiable. You need to do some homework.

Keep us posted for each tidbit of new information.