Home Diagnosis and TroubleshootingVehicle Model Specific Problems Honda Pilot Problems: What You Need To Know

Honda Pilot Problems: What You Need To Know

by Jordan Harris
Honda Pilot Problems

The Honda Pilot has been one of Honda’s most popular and profitable SUVs. For so many years, the Pilot has been such a sought-after model due to its family-friendliness and spaciousness. Since its introduction in 2003, the medium-sized Honda Pilot SUV has been a pretty successful vehicle. Are you considering getting a Honda Pilot in the form of your new SUV? Here are some Honda Pilot problems to look out for.

It was not devoid of flaws, and the transmission has been mentioned several times as a major concern by several Pilot drivers. When transmission problems do arise, Honda Pilot owners must pay a good few thousand dollars to repair them. They usually happen near 120,000 or more miles, so at least you can be certain that it won’t happen straight away with a new vehicle. However, if you’re looking for an earlier used model, you might run into some of these problems if you choose the wrong model or year.

Not all car manufacturing years are treated similarly. So, are there certain Pilot years that are superior to others? There are some serious Honda Pilot problems that you should be aware of before purchasing one anytime soon. We’ll list out some of these major issues below.

Before you decide to spend some huge bucks, it is a good idea to go through the history of the Honda Pilot. If you want to buy a Honda Pilot, these are the most common issues to look out for, as well as the model year you could perhaps avoid.

Honda Pilot Problems: Common Transmission Problems

The transmission problem is one of the most common Honda Pilot problems seen in these vehicles. They can be minor or severe. Most of the time, these problems are annoying rather than dangerous. But it can cause you to face a dangerous situation at any time. So it’s best to not take any risks and just address the transmission malfunctions your Honda Pilot might be sporting.

Instead of trying to fix any of these on your own, it’s best to take your car to the workshop for transmission repairs. Keep an eye out for these behaviors in your Honda Pilot.

Transmission Jerks

This has been one of the most frequent complaints regarding the recent Honda Pilot’s transmission. Other issues occur in older versions, such as those manufactured between 2003 and 2005. Nonetheless, a substantial number of customers have reported transmission jerks or awkward motions.

The jerking motions occur as the car shifts gears. It can feel so powerful that it causes a person to move.

Others have reported jerking transmissions while driving. Some stated that the trouble began roughly when the car is at 5,000 miles, while many others noticed it much later. The important thing to remember is that the jerking action is noticeable and might signal a malfunction with the shifting process.

Honda has not issued a recall in response to these specific issues. But, the 2019 and 2018 models have a high number of reports for this issue.

Transmission Slipping

Numerous drivers reported that the transmission was slipping on their Honda Pilot. This is frequently accompanied by allegations of a jerking action. When this happens, some drivers describe hearing a grinding sound coming from the transmission. It would not react immediately, but once it does, it jolts the rider.

Slipping is an issue that may occur when the car is at high speeds as well. The car doesn’t accelerate like it should as the driver presses the gas pedal. Drivers also claim to be able to sense when the vehicle shifts from one gear to another, particularly at higher speeds.

One of the most prevalent complaints regarding the Honda Pilot’s latest versions (models 2019, 2018, and 2016) is transmission slippage. Honda did not give any fixes to this issue.

Transmission Failure

A background of transmission problems is among the worst things to observe in a car. These can happen with any of the other symptoms and problems listed. In brief, drivers are unable to continue driving since the transmission is either unusable or severely damaged. The cost of replacing a transmission is high.

Many drivers reported experiencing normal maintenance performed on their car and having no problems around until it failed at about 20,000 miles. Some others saw a transmission light illuminated on the dashboard to alert them to a problem. The cars came to a halt and did not restart.

Transmissions must last a lot longer. Although premature transmission failure could be an indication of inadequate maintenance, most drivers contend that this is not the issue. Transmission failures in comparatively recent Honda Pilot vehicles, particularly those from the 2016 model year, were a source of anxiety for many buyers in all scenarios.

Honda Pilot Problems: Emission System

Numerous drivers have reported difficulties with their Honda Pilot’s emissions system. This is especially frequent in newer model automobiles, such as 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 models.

Many vehicles may have some EVAP difficulties throughout their lives, but the Honda Pilot takes it to a new level. You’ll be greeted with an arrangement of dash lights that would remind you of Christmas trees and an even larger library of OBD-II error codes on occasion.

The most frequent Honda Pilot emissions system problem is a medium EVAP leak triggered by a rusted fuel filler neck. However, it’s conceivable that the mistake was caused by a leaky gas cap, so double-check that first. If the fuel filler neck remains undamaged, check the purge canister; this is yet another typical component to check. The top of the gasoline tank is also prone to rust, especially in areas where a considerable quantity of road salt is required.


The symptoms of the contamination system all have one thing in common: they are nearly always visible. The check engine light will flash, and the codes would be recorded in the powertrain control module also known as PCM. It helps alert the driver to an emission problem.

About this little similarity, emission system malfunctions can produce an infinite number of symptoms since the emission system is linked to anything the engine and gearbox produce, along with all of its auxiliary issues. It implies that the vehicle may exhibit symptoms including delaying, hesitating, refusing to move smoothly, struggling to start, stalling, harsh immobility, and so on.

Drivers complain that the warning light on their emission system illuminates when driving. Many people claim that the injectors have to be replaced, which might cost more than $1,500. If the vehicle is still under warranty, Honda may provide some aid in settling the costs. If you do not, you may be liable for the whole expense of correcting the problem.

Honda Pilot Problems: Fuel System Problem

A faulty fuel pump is one of the most serious Honda Pilot problems that may occur in a car. If the gasoline pump in your Honda Pilot fails, no fuel may reach the engine. Your Pilot will not start if you don’t have any gas. The majority of the signs of a malfunctioning fuel pump concentrate around the car stalling or not starting at all.

The fuel pump in contemporary fuel-injected cars is located directly in the fuel tank and pumps gas to the fuel rail. It’s in the gasoline tank since pushing fuel to the fuel rail is simpler than drawing fuel, as an inline pump does. While being in the gasoline tank increases the pump’s reliability, it also makes it much more difficult to access.

The good thing is that fuel pumps are reasonably priced. The bad thing is that they are expensive to repair and replace.

When the Pilot’s fuel pump fails, you will notice some signs. Before you start disassembling anything, examine to see whether your engine’s computer has any fault codes recorded in it.

If there is reduced fuel pressure, you might even receive an oxygen sensor-related problem code. The main problem with detecting a broken fuel pump is that the signs are similar to those of many other vehicle problems.

Look Out for Signs

Whining noise is one of the most typical indications that a gasoline pump is failing. Before there are performing concerns, a whining sound might signal that the fuel pump is failing. Having an open ear might rescue you from being stranded someplace due to a faulty gasoline pump. It will sound like a low-frequency humming.

The best way to tell if your Pilot’s fuel pump is failing is if it no longer provides adequate fuel pressure to maintain the engine working under a lot of strain or at high speed. While driving up a hill (or speeding), the engine can begin to feel as if it is going out of power. That’s how it feels when you have a faulty gasoline pump.

Watch this video to get an idea about how you can change the fuel pump on your Honda Pilot.

Honda Pilot Problems: Excessive Oil Consumption Problem

One of the most common Honda Pilot problems about their newest generation of automobiles is that the V6 engines consume an excessive quantity of oil. Mechanics tried their utmost to criticize the owner’s usage and maintenance habits, but hundreds of complaints revealed that this was a growing problem pattern.

One of the most common complaints filed is about excessive oil usage in Honda Pilots.  The bulk of complaints claim that Honda and service center technicians told them it was typical for a powertrain to consume a quart of oil per 1,000 miles. According to the class-action lawsuit, Honda denied to fulfill its warranties and instead advised consumers to inspect their oil each time they stopped for gas.

It is normal for the engine to need one or two quarts of oil when it’s time for an oil change. But if your car needs a quart or more oil for every thousand miles or so, then you have an oil consumption problem at hand.

Burning Oil Problem

Blue Smoke Emission: Blue smoke is the most visible and telling indicator that the Pilot is burning oil. The presence of blue smoke (or blue smoke from exhaust on startup) implies that oil has entered the combustion chamber. It is eventually burnt with the fuel, resulting in a blue color to the exhaust. If it’s severe enough, the exhaust will resemble a two-stroke engine. Blue smoke indicates that your Pilot is consuming oil.

Oil Level: A low oil level does not always imply that a car is burning oil. It may be seeping from the engine. If you regularly park the Pilot in the same location, check underneath it to see if there is any fluid underneath the engine. This might suggest that the oil is leaving the combustion chamber via the seals rather than the combustion chamber itself.

Spark Plug: If oil makes it past the valve sealing, it might get over onto spark plugs. When this transpires, the Pilot is certain to start functioning poorly and misfiring because the spark plug can no longer provide a clean spark.

Burning Oil Smell: The scent of burning oil is distinct. Although exhaust will never smell nice, it will carry a distinct burned odor. Typically, you will smell burnt oil before you can see any blue smoke emitting from the exhaust.

Lawsuit And Settlement

In 2012, a lawsuit was lodged against Honda as a result of its excessive oil consumption and other Honda Pilot problems. According to the claimants, the manufacturer sold roughly 1.5 million vehicles that consumed too much oil and required regular spark plug changes. They further alleged that the business failed to recognize the problem and just urged users to check the oil levels regularly.

In 2013, Honda reached an agreement that included prolonging the powertrain limited warranty for up to eight years following the initial purchase of the concerning cars.

Honda Pilot Problems: TPMS Warning Light

A constant check TPMS indicator light is among the most frequent concerns from Honda users. The concern isn’t a lack of air pressure in the car tires, but rather a software glitch within the tire pressure monitoring technology.

Tire pressure monitoring systems, also known as TPMS, are a somewhat contentious component of certain current automobiles. While it’s convenient to have rapid access to the car tires’ latest PSI readings from the luxury of your driver’s seat, certain companies have such a record of TPMS issues that make the process more of a pain than just stepping out of the car and examining the tire pressure personally.

What Exactly Is TPMS?

The aim of TPMS is quite straightforward. It electronically monitors the tire pressure and alerts you if one of the tires goes outside of the acceptable PSI range.

Checking the tire pressure is something that one can do manually without using any electronic equipment. But everyone looks for a little bit of convenience, hence the TPMS.

TPMS features:

  • Instant availability of information on the PSI of the tires
  • Fully inflated tires increase gas efficiency, vehicle steadiness, and balance the tire wearing
  • It is not usually optional and is included in the purchase of the vehicle

TPMS Warning Light

Most tire pressure monitoring systems or TPMS come with two sorts of warnings:

  • A tire pressure warning sign, which indicates that the TPMS is working properly
  • When the system breaks down, a check TPMS warning signal appears

Honda users have had a lot of problems with the second issue. Some claim it repeats each couple hundred miles, whereas others claim the warning light remains illuminated eternally until a repair is spotted. The issue is said to be caused by a variety of factors, notably temperature, traveling distance, and even little changes in PSI.

Honda Pilot Problems: Airbag Light Problem

When you turn on a Honda Pilot, the computer system performs a self-diagnostic assessment on all main systems. If some of these tests fail, a diagnostic warning light for the associated system would illuminate on the dashboard. When the airbag system falters this test, the airbag light will flash.

The airbag light on the Pilot alerts you to an issue with the airbag system. If it illuminates for a few seconds when the car begins, this is perfectly normal and a part of the diagnostic process. When it remains on, it signals a problem.

The airbag light is part of the bigger supplementary restraint system of the Pilot. It works in conjunction with the system to keep you safe in the case of an accident. If all of the components of this system fail, the airbag light will turn on.

If your car gets into an accident, it would trigger the airbag light. The light will remain on until the system has been repaired. It will not function properly until it is fixed.

Safety Concerns

Driving with the airbag light illuminated is not quite as safe. Since its inception, the airbag system has undoubtedly saved many lives. If you drive with a Pilot’s airbag light on, you are depending entirely on the safety harnesses to back you up, which is not as reliable as you would think.

All the systems that protect you from collapsing are still in place, including traction control, anti-lock braking, and blind-spot recognition. However, if you are in a crash, the technology that may save your life will be quite old.

The airbag system in a Honda Pilot is complex. The airbag light might have been illuminated for a variety of reasons. The majority of them should be addressed by a specialist. The fact that the car can be used does not mean that the matter should be overlooked.

How To Make Honda Pilot Last Longer

It is feasible to drive a Honda Pilot till the wheels come off or face any other severe Honda Pilot problems. You would, however, have to be ready for the possibility to do the necessary maintenance on your Honda Pilot to keep it running for quite some time.

The first thing you would have to do is replace the Honda Pilot’s oil on a routine basis. You need to go through the user’s handbook for the Honda Pilot and check how frequently Honda recommends changing the car oil. You should also consider replacing it more regularly than they recommend.

Honda Pilot Problems

Aside from changing the oil to guarantee that the engine constantly has enough oil, you must also pay attention to the transmission. That should help you get into the practice of doing transmission fluid flushing regularly. In general, you should change the transmission fluid every three years or when you reach around 35,000 miles. It will keep the transmission running smoothly.

When the Honda Pilot reaches 100,000 miles, there are several precautionary maintenance procedures you should perform. It’s a smart option, for example, to replace the timing belts and water pump, both of which have been known to break around such a time. This may assist you to prevent causing harm to the engine.

Tune-ups will also become your greatest buddy as the mileage on your Honda Pilot climbs up and up towards the triple digits. You ought to have your technician conduct tune-ups on the Pilot to ensure things running smoothly.

What To Look For Before Buying A Used Honda Pilot

When purchasing a secondhand Honda Pilot, aesthetic concerns such as scuffs, scratches, and paintwork are less significant than the engine and transmission’s performance.

The Check Engine Light issues can be identified by the presence of an illuminated engine light, leaks, excessive engine sound, and reluctance when accelerating. A low oil level upon the dipstick could indicate excessive oil use. If possible, look at the service records to determine if the timing belt has already been changed.

If the car was used to haul a large trailer, the gearbox may be damaged. Look for drooping rear springs and severe trailer hitch damage as common Honda Pilot problems. Keep an eye out for vibration throughout the freeway test drive. The vibration might be triggered by a mixture of factors, such as tires, AWD system problems, engine mounts, and more. If the vibration begins in ECO mode, it might be caused by VCM activity.

Before purchasing a used Honda Pilot, get it checked thoroughly, ideally at a separate Honda dealer.

Honda Pilot SUV: Facts on Years to Avoid and Common Problems

  • Honda Pilot has a good reputation among SUVs, but some model years have problems to avoid.
  • The years to avoid are 2003, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2016.
  • The most serious problem with the Honda Pilot is transmission failure, which is mainly limited to the 2003 model.
  • Excessive oil consumption is another common problem with certain model years, which may cause engine damage and maintenance issues.
  • Peeling paint is primarily a cosmetic issue, but it can cause rust problems in wet weather conditions.
  • Recurring fault codes can be annoying and hide real issues, which may cause unintentional damage to your vehicle.
  • Fuel injector failure is an expensive issue that mainly affects recent Honda Pilot models, especially the 2016 release.
  • Brake issues due to faulty brake pad shims affect 2003-2017 models and may cause vibrations while braking.
  • Electrical problems are less common but still prevalent in the 2020 model, causing the navigation and infotainment systems to malfunction.
  • Good used Honda Pilot options are the 2010 model and most models between 2015-2020, except for the 2016 release.

Final Thoughts

The Honda Pilot is one of the greatest people haulers on the market. It’s also one of the few SUVs that look like a truck. The Pilot accommodates eight people in three rows and offers a spacious, well-equipped cabin with lots of storage space. It has a powerful V6 engine, great towing capacity, and more.

So if you can overlook the Honda Pilot problems you might come across, you would surely have a pleasant vehicle to ride around in.

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