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Honda Pilot Transmission Problems – Watch Out For a Slipping Transmission! 

Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

The Honda Pilot is a midsize crossover SUV that has been produced and manufactured by Honda, a Japanese car manufacturer, since 2002 until the present. Targeted at the NOrth American Market, this car is the largest SUV made from HOnda, sharing its platform with the Acura MDX. Although popular in certain countries, the Honda Pilot transmission problems deter some potential car buyers from purchasing this model. 

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The safety rating of the Honda Pilot turned out quite favorable in terms of crash tests. The Pilot earned a “Good” score on the “Moderate overlap frontal offset”, “Side impact”, and “Roof strength” categories. Unfortunately, the Pilot earned only a “Poor” score on the “small overlap frontal offset” and “roof strength” category”, showing how this car has frequent Honda Pilot transmission problems.

Signs of a Bad Honda Pilot Transmission – Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

In order to determine and diagnose the signs of a bad transmission, you need to figure out the reasons of a bad transmission and why it might be happening in your car. 

  • Unable to Stay in Gear

A big reason why you might have a bad transmission is that your transmission might not be able to stay in gear. If you try to put your car into a specific gear and shift and it will not move smoothly, or will not move at all, this could be a clear sign that there could be a low transmission fluid amount. This low transmission fluid could be due to a leak, the gear shifter, the gear shifter cable, or a problem with the valve body.

  • Delayed Shifting

If your transmission takes a while to go into the proper gear or the shifting is not smooth and jumpy, this could be a sign of a transmission fluid that is too low to work correctly and a sign of a bad transmission. This could be due to a transmission fluid leak, fluid contamination, or water intrusion that can cause other Honda Pilot transmission problems. 

  • Burning Smell

If you notice a burning smell coming from your car, this is a clear sign that you have a problem that needs to be addressed. A burning smell is usually caused by a fluid leak in the transmission, or even the low fluid causing a burning clutch smell and overheating in the engine. If you are able to catch and diagnose the fluid leak quickly, then you might be able to save the transmission from any further damage, and prevent future Honda Pilot transmission problems.

Worst Years of Honda Pilot – Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

The worst years of the Honda PIlot are the 2003, 2005, 2009, 2011, and 2013 years,with 2003 having the most-reported problem of ignition switch failure. Along with the ignition switch issues and the oil concerns, the top problems across every single model year deals with the Honda Pilot transmission problems – premature transmission failure. 

2003 Honda Pilot

The worst categories of the Honda PIlot involve the interior accessories and the transmission, with the transmission failing below 100,000 miles, costing owners an expensive fix. The main transmission concerns are transmission failure, torque converter making noise, car not engaging in 3rd gear, transmission jerking, and the radiator leak causing transmission failure. 


Fixing the premature transmission failure is an expensive repair or replacement, with the most common solution replacing the transmission, rebuilding the torque converter, replacing the gear solenoids, and rebuilding the transmission. The price of this fix is generally around $3,500 to replace the problematic mechanism at around 123,000 miles, making this one of the most severe Honda Pilot transmission problems.


The 2003 is often considered the worst Pilot model due to the severity of issues and the lack of reliability. Not only are there serious Honda Pilot transmission problems, but the ignition switch concern has made it the worst problem in the interior accessories category this year. CarComplaints gives this ignition switch issue a severity rating of 8.7 out of 10. 


Furthermore, the worst problem of all years is transmission failure – a problem which is especially prevalent in the 2003 model year. Occurring at around 100,000 miles in each car, the typical repair cost is over $3,000, making this one of the costliest Honda Pilot transmission problems.

2005 Honda Pilot 

The 2005 Honda Pilot has many owner concerns with the brakes not being responsive enough to stop suddenly, and the transmission failing prematurely below 100,000 miles. The top transmision concerns focus on the transmission fluid leaking into the radiator, the transmission failing, and the torque converter breaking. 


To fix the transmission fluid leaking into the radiator, the most common solutions are to replace the radiator, replace the flush transmission, and visit the mechanic for frequent checks. The typical repair cost of this repair is $2,150 to replace the radiator at around 121,000 miles. Fixing the leak is one of the most prevalent and expensive Honda Pilot transmission problems.

2009 Honda Pilot – Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

The 2009 Honda Pilot has many problem categories, focusing on the transmission, engine, interior accessories, brakes, and seat belts. Although these other categories have concerning issues, like engine performance issues and brake failure, the Honda Pilot transmission problems are the most severe.


The main transmission concerns focus on the car hesitating while shifting gears, the transmission failing, and the transmission making noise. 

2011 Honda Pilot

The worst problem categories regarding the 2011 Honda Pilot is the engine, body and paint, interior accessories, wheels, brakes, and transmission, with owners stating the most severe eHonda Pilot transmission problems focus on the car hesitating while shifting, erratically shifting, making a high pitched whining noise, and unintended gear changes while driving. 


Rough shifting can make your drive unpleasant and annoying to the driver. Owners should bring their vehicle to a local mechanic to see how to fix the shifting concerns, as this problem generally arises at around 60,000 miles. 

2013 Honda Pilot

The last concerning model year of the Honda Pilot is the 2013, with this car having frequent reports of owners complaining the car hesitates while accelerating. Other transmission concerns focus on the chattering or shuddering noise, the car shifting roughly, and the car vibrating at around 1500 RPM.

Honda Pilot Recall

The Honda Pilot issued a recall in 2004 for over 1 MILLION vehicles due to an issue with the automatic transmission system. According to this serious recall, a failure in the gear mechanism and gear shifting selection could cause a transmission lockup. The lockup of the important mechanism can lead to extreme safety issues and cause a serious crash. 

Reliable Honda Pilot Years – Avoid Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

The 2021 Honda Pilot has favorable rankings when compared to other similar cars on the market, but has a very poor JD Power score in terms of safety and reliability due to the Honda Pilot transmission problems. The 2021 Honda Pilot offers a comfortable ride, but the safety and predicted reliability ratings makes this car fall in the rankings.


The pros of the 2021 Pilot includes a smooth and agile ride, adult-friendly seating, and ample cargo room to bring plenty of suitcases for long trips. The negatives of this Pilot feature the poor reliability rating, limited infotainment technology, and the prevalence of Honda Pilot transmission problems.


The 2021 Honda Pilot #9 ranking out of all cars in the Midsize SUV category comes from earning a score of 7.9 out of 10 on the Car US News Scorecard. The rating comes from a 9 out of 10 in terms of the critics score, a 7.5 out of 10 for performance, an 8.4 out of 10 for interior, and a 9.4 out of 10 for safety. 


Furthermore, along with the #9 spot, the 2021 Honda Pilot earned a #22 spot in the Crossover SUV category, and a #10 spot in the SUVs with 3 Rows category, despite the prevalence of Honda Pilot transmission problems.

2020 vs. 2021 Honda Pilot – Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

There are a few key differences between 2021 and 2021 models of the Honda PIlot, with the previously available 9-speed automatic transmission now standard in all Pilot models. Furthermore, the Honda PIlot has gone through significant changes since being redesigned a few years earlier in 2016. 


In 2017, the Pilot gained infotainment technology like the Android Auto and CarPlay compatibility with Android and iPHones. In 2018, there were no major changes, but the following year saw the car add a volume knob, various driver assistance features, and a 9-speed automatic transmission.


In the 2020 Honda Pilot, the Black Edition trim was introduced into the car, and the 2021 introduced a dual-zone automatic climate control. As you can see, the Honda PIlot has evolved and changed over the years. With updated looks, style, and technology, some users forget about the prevalent Honda Pilot transmission problems in the earlier Pilot years. 

The Bottom Line

Finding the worst Honda Pilot model year in terms of Honda Pilot transmission problems can help you save money on buying an unreliable and unsafe vehicle! Although some production years have had reliability concerns, the newer cars have a favorable safety rating from numerous car companies, making the more recent Pilot cars reliable, high-performing, stylish, and safe for new car owners. 

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