Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

Honda Pilot Transmission Problems – Is It Worth The Trouble?

Are you in the market right now for a compact SUV and the Honda Pilot has caught your eye? You probably want to learn more about the Honda Pilot transmission problems. That’s because transmissions are one of the most important components in a vehicle. You came to the right place because we are going to cover everything.

The Honda Pilot is one of the most popular SUVs right now and that’s for a good reason. It is a fair affordable SUV on the market right now, especially given its size. And if you plan to get a used one, there are also plenty on the second-hand market as well.

When getting a new vehicle, the most important thing to do is to learn the common problems. You don’t want to be one of those people that buy cars blindfolded. This is bad business. Getting a car without proper research will only bring you trouble.

There are probably hundreds of defects out there that happen to vehicles that are prone to these problems. You should know all the common defects on the vehicles that you plan to purchase. You need to closely inspect and make your move, and we are going to help you with that,

In this article, we are going to cover everything you need to know when it comes to the Honda Pilot. We are going to focus on the Honda Pilot transmission problems. But first, we are going to learn more about the Pilot and its background to see if it’s a good deal. Then, we are going to share our opinion if you should get it or not. So, let’s dive into it.

Honda Pilot

Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

The Honda Pilot is a midsize SUV introduced in 2003 only for the American market. The Pilot is manufactured in the USA and can be considered an American product.

Its production run has lasted for more than 18 years. The Pilot is still selling strong and is one of the most popular crossover SUVs on the market. During these long years of production, there were three generations of Honda Pilot SUVs.

The first generation was introduced, as we said, in 2003 and was produced until 2008. The first generation was produced in Lincoln, Alabama and it came equipped with a 3.5L V6 and a 5-speed automatic transmission.

The second generation came in 2008, and it replaced the first generation. It implemented a more muscular look and a bold design that made it a lot bigger in size. It also came with a new engine, but with the same displacement and configuration. The second generation also had a 5-speed automatic transmission.

The third generation of the Honda Pilot came out in 2015 and brought a new and futuristic design that changed the overall look of the vehicle. Honda made it more streamlined and overall, better looking.

It implemented a lot of new features and modern technology. These include LED lights and LED brake lights (to learn more, check out our write-up on why is my brake light on). Modern infotainment systems and other safety features like a blind-spot monitor, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control are also fitted.

The new generation of the Pilot also included a new engine and also new automatic transmissions. Until 2020, the Honda Pilot had a 6-speed auto which was changed in 2021 to a ZF 9-speed. But what about the Honda Pilot transmission problems? Well, that’s what we are going to cover next.

What Is A Transmission

Before we get deeper into the Honda Pilot transmission problems let’s first discuss the transmission basics.

The transmission is a component that every vehicle has. This component’s goal is to transfer the energy from the engine to the wheels.

The engine is producing rotational energy in the crankshaft. And this rotational energy has to be somehow converted into usable torque that the tires can take in.

The transmission is doing precisely that. It converts the rotational energy into torque and makes driving the vehicle possible. If there was no transmission, a lot of the energy that will go to the wheels will be lost or not used properly.

So, the transmission is making the transfer of energy very effective and efficient. That’s why now there are 9 and 10-speed transmissions. They are the most efficient and make the car waste a lot less energy in the process.

There are two types of transmissions – manuals and automatics. In the manual transmission, the driver is engaging and disengages the clutch. Thus, changing the gears manually. Meanwhile, the automatic transmission is doing everything by itself.

The transmission is changing the gears with the help of hydraulic fluid or ATF. This fluid is extremely durable and can withstand a lot of stress. Plus, it makes the transmission run effectively. Although, at a certain mileage, it has to be replaced with new fluid. If not, it can damage the transmission.

Modern automatic transmissions are very complex. Thus, they can develop some problems. The Honda Pilot transmission problems are also present. In the next chapter, we are going to cover all of them. This is for you to have a better perspective on what you should expect when getting a Honda Pilot.

Honda Pilot Reliability By Year

The Honda Pilot production has spanned for more than 18 years, as we mentioned, and went through a lot of generations of engines and transmissions. But the transmission problems have always plagued the Honda Pilot and the Honda Pilot transmission problems gave this model a bad name.

In this chapter, we will go through all the models that were released by now and the most problematic years of the Honda Pilot. This information will be of a lot of use to you if you are in the market for a used Honda Pilot. It is essential to know more about the Honda Pilot transmission problems before you buy. Later in this article, we are going to cover other issues as well. So, let’s begin.

2003 Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

The 2003 model was the first Pilot that came out on the market and this model was prone to some issues with the transmission. Many Honda Pilot owners have reported problems with the transmission, and these reports were for a transmission failure.

Repairs for this problem were estimated at $3000 for a new automatic transmission. In 2004, there were 1.1 million Honda Pilots recalled because of problems with this transmission.

The problem was reportedly a gear failure that could potentially lead to a transmission lockup. This transmission lockup had the potential of leading the vehicle into a big crash.

All of the vehicles that were recalled received an updated oil cooling capability to improve the lubrication on the affected gears in the transmission.

The problem was caused because of an overheating issue that affected some of the gears. If the problem was not addressed on time, the transmission would have been permanently damaged.

The repairs, as we said, were around $3000 and the transmission has to be replaced. So, if you are in the market for a Honda Pilot, you need to look for a Pilot that has been taken care of, and the transmission has been replaced.

If you get one with a bad transmission, you will end up in an endless money pit. The repairs are going to be more than the actual value of the vehicle. You certainly don’t want that. That’s why staying away from the 2003 model is going to be your best bet. Or, look for an example where the transmission was replaced.

Because even if the transmission cooling was improved, it will not guarantee that the transmission is going to hold.

2004-2008 Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

From 2004 to 2008, the problems with the automatic transmission of the Honda Pilot were patched up, and the transmission performance improved.

Although the 2004 model still had some issues with the transmission. There were numerous complaints that the transmission was not working as it should. The transmission in the 2004 model was shuddering and slipping gears.

These are fairly important issues. Yet, they were still insignificant compared to the early model of the Pilot which suffered an enormous number of problems and was recalled to get these things patched.

In 2005, the biggest Honda Pilot transmission problems were the mixing of coolant and transmission oil. This problem was expensive to fix, and it cost more than $2000 to fix.

From 2006 to 2008, the Honda Pilot didn’t have any major issues. All of the problems were patched and not many owners had reported problems with their Honda.

If you are in the market for a Honda Pilot from the first generation, your best bet would be a Pilot from 2006 to 2008. With this model, you can be sure that you are not going to experience major issues and your ownership will be worry-free.

But do not forget to test the car before you buy. These cars have accumulated a lot of miles through the years, and the transmission might simply not be that healthy anymore. In this case, you are going to pay $3,000 in order to get it replaced.

So, before you make a purchase, make sure that you get a Honda Pilot with a good working transmission. Check the transmission fluid and see (and understand when to check transmission fluid) if the fluid is clean and doesn’t have debris. Also, go uphill and see if the car pulls and delivers torque smoothly, as it should.

2009-2015 Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

In 2009, Honda introduced the second generation of the Pilot with a completely new design and new platform. This Honda Pilot also had new transmission and a new engine. It kept the same displacement and configuration, but the power numbers were bumped. And so, the transmission was way better than the previous years.

There were complaints about the Honda Pilot transmission, and they were mostly about minor issues with the transmission. It’s usually a case of slipping gears or jerking. These things can happen and know how to cause headaches to car owners.

But nothing major was found like with the previous generation when it was first released. Honda has learned its lesson and tried to deliver a good and reliable vehicle.

When getting a Honda Pilot from the second generation, you can be sure that you will not come across many problems with it.

But you need to make sure that the vehicle is overall in good condition and does not have any major issues. Also, before you buy make sure that you make a thorough inspection of the engine and transmission.

This will require checking the transmission fluid. Make sure that there are no metallic particles and sludgy fluid. If the transmission fluid is not good, it means that the car was not properly serviced and it can potentially have a bad transmission.

If you don’t notice this and you purchase the vehicle, you are going to end up with a money pit. You will waste more than $3000 on a new transmission. That’s why you have to keep your eyes peeled when you are getting a used car with automatic transmission and be sure that everything is good. This will guarantee that you are not going to end up with a money pit of transmission problems.

2016-Present, Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

In 2016, there was another generation of the Honda Pilot. And this generation has brought a lot of innovations to the table. It implemented a sleek and modern design that made it appealing to buyers. There were a lot of safety features like blind-spot monitoring, frontal collision avoidance, and more. It also included a new engine and transmission in the package.

The new transmission was a 6-speed automatic transmission and had one gear more than the previous generations of the Honda Pilot. But what is uncanny about this transmission is that it brought again some of the old memories and problems that the old first-generation Honda Pilot had.

The Honda Pilot transmission problems were once again one of the main topics of discussion when someone decided to get a Honda Pilot from the third generation.

2016 Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

For the 2016 model, there were numerous reports that the transmission had a lot of issues. Some of these issues were transmission related and a lot of owners had reported that the transmission had been jerking persistently and had not been an enjoyable experience to drive.

If you have come across a 2016 model and you are looking to purchase it, be wary. You should know that this transmission is not one of the greatest transmissions out there and you should avoid it.

Avoiding it will probably save you a lot of money in the long run. That’s because you will avoid paying for numerous repairs that will potentially appear.

A new transmission for this generation of Honda Pilot is probably going to cost you a lot of money to get replaced. More than $3000 to be more exact. That’s why you should avoid it.

2017 Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

As with the previous year, the 2017 model also had some transmission-related issues. There were reports on the transmission and these reports also included the jerking problem. On top of that, there were problems with strange sounds that happened at low speeds. These sounds of clunking were combined with the jerking issue and the car basically had trouble accelerating.

Although it had reports of jerking and problems with shifting, there were no reports of the transmission failing. And that’s the most important thing, frankly.

Still, I wouldn’t recommend getting one of these if you want to have a smooth driving experience. The transmission is one of the most important aspects of the vehicle and if the transmission does not shift properly, you are going to have a bad day, to be honest.

Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

2018-2020 Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

From 2018 to 2020, the Honda Pilot transmission problems were still the same. The transmission during these years kept jerking and causing problems for car owners. This is even though there weren’t too many serious problems with it.

The problems with jerking were mostly on vehicles with higher numbers and poor maintenance. And this was mostly the owners’ fault since the fluid was not replaced regularly, and the car didn’t receive enough clean fluid in order to make the shifts perfect.

So, if you are in the market for a used Honda Pilot, you should look at some cars that have a lower number of miles on the clock. This will give you some guarantee that you are going to avoid some of the transmission issues.

Also, inspect the transmission and engine before you buy. Take the car for a spin and make sure that it shifts well. If the car doesn’t shift well and has troubles on the test drive, then you know that you have some problems with your future car.

It’s best to avoid this vehicle and go for another vehicle with similar characteristics. Because if the transmission fails, you are going to pay more than $3,000 in order to get it replaced. Or between $1,500 to $2,500 to get the transmission rebuilt.

2021 Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

By 2021 Honda has learned their mistakes with its transmissions and decided to replace the 6-speed with a 9-speed ZF automatic transmission.

We all know ZF and its quality. Honda decided to trust them and implement one of their best automatic transmissions that are available on the market and make the Pilot very reliable.

If you are planning on getting a Honda Pilot in 2021, you should not worry too much about the transmission. The transmission in these cars is pretty much bulletproof and you will enjoy driving your Honda Pilot.

The new transmission has also improved the fuel economy in urban environments by 3 MPG. This makes the Honda Pilot a fairly reliable vehicle, but also a fuel-efficient vehicle as well.

The new Honda Pilot also incorporates a lot of technology. It has good safety equipment and gets 5 stars on almost all the safety tests.

The sales numbers are also high. Since the introduction of the new model in 2016, they have skyrocketed and the Pilot is getting more than 130,000 sales annually. Which is a really respectable number for a vehicle.

Best Year For Honda Pilot

This is a good question. And we are going to elaborate on it for you to have a better perspective on which Honda Pilot to buy and which to avoid.

The Honda Pilot to avoid is the 2004 and 2005. These models were extremely unreliable in terms of transmission. The transmission in these vehicles was not good because it had the tendency to overheat and develop a lot of issues and fail in the worst-case scenario. Although, these problems were eventually fixed. The best thing to do is to avoid getting yourself with one of these cars.

The best is the 2007 and 2008 model years. Also, the second generation of the Honda Pilot proved to be reliable and no major issues were reported.

The third generation on the other hand proved to be problematic. The 6-speed automatic was not good. It caused jerking issues and the driving experience was not that good. But with the new 9-speed ZF automatic these problems were fixed and the transmission in the Honda Pilot became reliable once again.

Honda Pilot Transmission Defects Facts:

  1. The Honda Pilot is one of the most popular Honda models sold in the US.
  2. Honda Pilot and other Honda vehicles have been involved in class action lawsuits alleging recurring transmission defects, including violent shaking, acceleration problems, stalling, lurching, gear shifting issues, and transmission failure.
  3. Some owners of affected Honda vehicles have reported bad torque converters and clutch lock-ups.
  4. A sample of complaints submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that Honda Pilot SUVs suffer from transmission issues.
  5. Owners of 2015 Honda Pilot SUVs have reported experiencing vibration due to the transmission not making a shift to the next gear.
  6. Owners of 2015 Honda Pilot SUVs have also reported jerking/hesitation at all speeds after shifting gears, requiring transmission fluid flushing.
  7. Owners of 2016 Honda Pilot SUVs have experienced slipping gears and delayed acceleration even after dealer intervention.
  8. Auto dashboard warning lights have flashed in some 2017 Honda Pilot SUVs, causing transmission upshifts into neutral, surging and jerking when upshifting.
  9. Owners of 2018 Honda Pilot SUVs have reported sudden lunging forward, whiplash, and dangerous speed fluctuations during acceleration and braking.
  10. Owners of 2019 Honda Pilot SUVs have reported transmission slips, blackouts, and unnecessary braking that have caused scary and unsettling situations.

Honda Pilot Transmission Problems: In Conclusion…

In this article, we have covered a lot when it comes to automatic transmissions. Then, we discussed the Honda Pilot transmission problems in great detail and we learned which are the reliable Honda Pilot models and which aren’t.

Overall, the Honda Pilot is a reliable vehicle in terms of engine and overall build quality. The main thing you should note is to avoid the early 2004 and 2005 models because they are endless money pits. They are going to cost a lot of money to repair.

The later models are pretty much bulletproof and you should not be afraid of getting a Honda Pilot. Just to note the jerking issues with the third generation. This can be a problem for some people, but if they are not a deal-breaker for you, the Honda Pilot is a great buy.

Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re still curious to learn more about the Honda Pilot transmission problems, our FAQs here might help…

How Long Does Honda Pilot Last

While some model years might’ve been plagued with transmission issues, as a whole, the Honda Pilot is a dependable and long-lasting car. In a lot of cases, many owners claim to easily get upward of 200,000 miles out of their Pilots within their usable lifetime. With good maintenance and diligent servicing, you can handily surpass the 250,000 to the 300,000-mile threshold, too. Given that most Americans drive their cars about 15,000 miles per year, this equates to a lifespan for the Honda Pilot as long as 13 to 20 years. Although, some owners have even gotten their Honda Pilots beyond 400,000 miles, and they’re still running strong – shows how loving care and TLC go the distance.

Where Is The Honda Pilot Made

The Pilot was Honda’s attempt to reel in North American buyers, who were increasingly obsessed with big SUVs. Consequently, the Pilot is Honda’s largest vehicle by size. Hence, it makes sense that Honda’s North American-focused SUV is to be built in North America. Originally, the first-generation Pilot, when it launched for the 2003 model year, it was built in Canada. Specifically, Honda’s plant in Alliston, Ontario. However, Honda then moved the production of the Pilot in 2007 to the United States. Specifically, their plant in Lincoln, Alabama. To this day, this singular factory makes the Honda Odyssey, Passport, Pilot, as well as Ridgeline – all of Honda’s more US-focused models.

Are Honda Pilots Reliable

Oftentimes, one would associate Honda as the maker of the most reliable and long-lasting cars on the market. However, this wasn’t necessarily the case with the Pilot, which featured average reliability scores. Moreover, the reliability of the Honda Pilot seemed to go up and down, depending on the model year. For example, the first-generation Pilots, built from 2003 to 2008, were generally very dependable. However, it was then redesigned for its second generation, between 2009 and 2015. In its earlier years, there were quite a few issues, which were gradually solved. Then, the up-and-down cycle repeated with the third-generation Pilot, which launched in 2016.

Why Is My Transmission Light On

One of the warning lights that may appear in your car is a check transmission light, generally referred to as a transmission warning light. This is a car’s way of telling a driver that the ECU (engine control unit – a car’s central computer) has detected anomalies with the transmission. Usually, it’s a prelude to something going wrong, and you’ll be wise to have it checked out before it gets any more serious. Among the issues that would prompt the transmission light to appear are low transmission fluids, an overheating transmission, a failing shift interlock, a faulty valve body, a bad torque converter, or other internal transmission-related failures and problems.

Does The Serpentine Belt Affect The Transmission

In short, no, the serpentine belt’s operation and condition don’t generally impact the transmission. This is because a serpentine belt isn’t directly connected or has to work with the transmission. In fact, even if your serpentine belt has snapped, the gearbox/transmission should be working just fine. The primary role of the serpentine belt is to use the engine’s power to drive accessories. These include the water pump, AC compressor, power steering pump, and alternator, among others. None of these should cause your transmission to have problems if the serpentine belt were to fail. Nevertheless, it’s still crucial that you get that serpentine belt replaced ASAP.

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  • K Says

    I am thinking of buying a 2016 Honda Pilot and the owner does not know which transmission it has. The vehicle has 103,000 km so I have concerns. He does not have the build sheet. Is there any way of telling if this Pilot has the new transmission. ?

    • Zack Norman Says

      Thanks for the comment, K!

      Ah, that one is a tough situation. You mentioned that the previous owner didn’t have the build sheet, but did they keep any other maintenance/service records? You could also consider doing a background check on the car using VIN look-up tools. Or, bring the car over to a dealership to have its service history verified, and maybe even get a pre-purchase inspection done before you spring for it.

  • SB20 Says

    Transmission judder on 2016 6 speed transmission goes away after replacing the transmission fluid. Regular transmission fluid maintenance is paramount to this transmission. This is also the accepted fix if you take your Pilot to the dealership.

    • Zack Norman Says

      Thanks for the comment, SB20!

      Cheers for the insight! Transmission fluid changes are always pretty important, but it seems even more crucially so for the Pilot. Thanks again for the inputs 🙂

  • SB20 Says

    There is a technical service bulletin for the transmission judder for the 6 speed transmission found on the 2016 model. TSB 17-014

    • Zack Norman Says

      Thanks for the comment, SB20!

      Ah, we must’ve missed that one, thanks for that!

  • Si Jab Says

    It seems you mistook the 9 speed issues for the 6 speed. The 9 speed initially had a lot of issues because it was new. They eventually fixed those confidently enough to replace all 6 speeds. But the 6 speed Never had any issues as it is a mature design. I have one on a 2017 pilot and it drives smooth. I opted for the 6 speed for this reason.

    • Zack Norman Says

      Thanks for the comment, Si Jab!

      Cheers for the insight and for the detailed inputs! Glad to hear your Pilot is working great 🙂

  • YesNoSpin Says

    I would say it depends on the problem. If it’s just a transmission issue, it might not be worth the trouble to fix it. However, if the issue is more serious, like a blown engine, then it might be worth it

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