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Question about reliability

We own a 2000 Honda Odyssey with 195k miles on it. Due to a family relation we get maintenance and repairs at cost from the dealer so they’ve done all the servicing and have kept the car in great shape.

My wife primarily uses the car to shuttle our 4 boys hither and fro. We also use the car to pull a popup camper in the summer. Fully loaded the camper is pretty near max towing capacity; the engine definitely works pretty hard pulling it up and down the hills of New England. We typically take 4-5 camping trips per year to locations within a 200 mile radius. As our children have grown larger we’ve started taking two cars on these trips to reduce the total weight in the van. I should point out that the van has the official Honda towing package which includes an additional radiator and transmission cooler. The engine never runs hot even under heavy load.

My question is about reliability.

The head mechanic at the dealership (who we know personally and trust) says that the car is in great shape. He drove it recently specifically looking for signs of transmission problems (the first transmission was replaced under warranty) and said it seems to be shifting fine. He says he doesn’t see any mechanical problems with the car. Of course he also points out that the car has high miles and anything can happen.

I don’t mind spending money keeping the car running especially since we can get it repaired pretty cheaply. What worries me is having a major failure when we are far from home with the whole family and the camper.

So I’m trying to solve the keep-it/buy-new equation. I really really don’t want to buy a new car this year. On the other hand the high miles makes me worry about reliability.

My question is this: Is my fear about reliability irrational? If we only used the car for local trips I’d keep it in a heartbeat. I worry about the additional strain that the camper puts on the car and the risk of it failing far from home.

Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer!

The top 3 things to worry about are: 1. Transmission 2. transmission 3. TRANSMISSION

You already replaced the tranny once but many people have had to replace these trannys multiple times. The replacement tranny probably wasn’t any better than the original.

Keep changing the tranny fluid and add an in-line Magnefine filter.

I wouldn’t want to tow anything with an Odyssey (I own a 2002 Ody) due to the tranny issue.

You can have a car problem far from home with any car, new or older. A new(er) car is no guarantee of no problems on the road trips. Most on road problems are tires, belts, hoses, and dead batteries. If you keep the van well maintained you shouldn’t have any of the above aside from a flat tire.

If you want to be super sure all is fine, get a new transmission now before the one in the van fails. You are putting an extra load on the Odyssey trans and they aren’t that robust to begin with. I won’t do it myself, but if you must avoid a trans failure you can consider it. Since you are taking 2 cars on these trips if you do have an on road problem it will put a crimp in the trip, but you can work it out.

You can even get the long distance towing option from AAA to tow the van back to your present dealer to get the good deal on the repair. I don’t see a compelling reason to replace the Odyssey. If you do I’d recommend a different vehicle such as a mid size or larger SUV as a tow vehicle.

Your working a lighter weight vehicle with high miles pretty hard on these camping trips. Absolutely something to think about. I would start researching for a better suited vehicle for your beloved camping trips

I definitely agree with you about the tranny issue - that’s why when I asked the mechanic to assess the condition of the car he focused intently on the tranny.

For the first few model years the Odyssey had horrible trannys but the mechanic said they eventually sorted it out and he thought we got a newer one since it was replaced fairly late in the game. The first tranny gave us all kinds of problems but since replacement it has been great.

From a catastrophic reliability standpoint I’m less worried about the tranny. My experience is that they usually start to show symptoms before failing - they don’t just suddenly fail without warning. This is a condition I can live with - like I said I’m worried about unexpected failure that renders the car immediately undriveable.

Is my thinking about this flawed in your opinion?


How long since the timing belt was replaced? (Years and miles)

The van is definitely not the ideal tow vehicle. The problem is you can’t beat it for seating capacity, fuel economy, and overall utility. We’d need a pretty big SUV to match the capacity of the van.

The other factor is that thanks to our relationship with the dealer I’m financially incentivized to buy a Honda - we get cars and service at cost. Honda doesn’t make a bigger SUV.

I agree the tranny is the most likely big repair we might face. My goal is to get one more year (honest, just one more) out of the car so I guess I have to decide if I want to roll the dice with the old tranny or pony up for “an ounce of prevention.”

Thanks for your thoughts!

Every service recommended by Honda has been performed. I’m pretty sure we just (like October) had the 200k service done which included the timing belt. They also replaced a bunch of front end stuff and the motor mounts which were starting to show signs of wear.

I basically said to them “guys - I want this car to last another year so do whatever you think is necessary to make that happen”. It’s awfully comforting when you can trust your mechanic to not rip you off!