pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
121,280 miles
Total Complaints:
9 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace transmission (7 reports)
  2. not sure (2 reports)
2003 Honda Pilot transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Honda Pilot Owner Comments

problem #9

Dec 122009

Pilot EXL 3.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles


I bought this car from Mazda dealer in Antioch,TN it had 81000 miles on it (I paid $12000)(what a stupid guy I am to pay all that in this car)but to be honest I loved it so much, but not to pay all this in it especially when I got this problem. Anyway, after 1 year it had 83000 miles on it I started to hear a sound coming from under knee. Day after day the sound start to be loud. I asked many mechanics but all of them were not able to detect the problem or where this sound come from. Finally I went to the dealer to check it and I chuckled when they told me to replace the whole transmission and it will cost me around $ 3500. I don't know what to do. If I offered it for sale I will definitely will lose a lot of money. I hope one day I wake up and don't see the car in my garage again.

- , Antioch, TN, US

problem #8

Oct 012014

Pilot EX 3.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,000 miles

I bought the 2003 Honda Pilot on 1/30/2003. I received the transmission repair recall and had the work performed on 5/4/2004. So I drove my Pilot for a little more than 15 months with some unknown issue that I assumed was properly and completely solved by Honda. Of course, I had no second thoughts about this because I implicitly trust Honda because of their earned reputation and my personal experience over the years.

As I now understand the problem, there were over 100,000 of these transmissions that were produced and driven with this fairly critical engineering defect. The defect was allegedly repaired with a retrofitted part but in actuality the period of vehicle operation and the mileage accumulated before the recall repair causes the torque converter to overheat and become mechanically compromised by a lack of properly distributed transmission fluid. So, if many miles were driven before the recall repair was performed, the transmission most likely failed early in it's expected life span. If less time and/or fewer miles were driven, there would be a better chance of greater transmission longevity before failure.

So in fact there are multiple levels of failure, but there appear to be two primary issues. 1. Honda has not honored it's warranty responsibility, by at minimum pro-rating the repair/replacement costs to their customers for faulty engineering and negligence of proper communication of expected operational failure. 2. More serious is the possible nature of transmission failures and the potential danger that Honda is placing its customers in. I am not an automatic transmission expert but when I read the accounts of many other Honda owners with the same year vehicle and same transmissions that had the same symptoms as mine, but continued to drive their cars to have the transmission blow up or in some cases seize while being driven. I am seriously concerned as to the position of potential danger that Honda is placing me!

What do I do next? The Pilot has been an excellent, reliable and highly revered vehicle in our family. We always sing its praises because it has easily been the best car in my 44 years of driving 15 cars and trucks (VW Bus, Datsun 610, Honda Civic, MG-A, Chevy C-10, Chevy C-60, Ford F-250, Audi Coupe Quatro, Dodge Dakota, Ford F-450, Isuzu W-4, Honda CRV, Honda Pilot, Scion xB, and Ram ProMaster), the Pilot has been the best performer and still looks and behaves like a new vehicle. It has almost 109,000 miles and recently received some major replacements - timing belt, water pump, belts, plugs, rotors, pads, brake fluid, coolant, headlight assemblies, tires and of course synthetic oil from day one. I thought she was ready for the next 100,000 miles and now I find out that I'm in for major transmission work or replacement for roughly totaling $5,000 because Honda isn't owning up and being legit about an engineering flaw and the repair costs that many of its customers have been shouldering for years, depending on the mileage that their vehicles accumulated before the recall repair was completed. I am really disgusted that Honda has been apparently ducking this problem for years, hoping it would go away, although I understand that if you call up and beg, they will pay up to half the 'in house' cost of repair.

So, if you bought the Pilot for $29,270.00, it really cost you $31,770.00, or if you fail to convince the Honda phone rep of your plight, it will have cost you $34,270.00, plus towing, of course your time and possibly your life, because Honda doesn't want to admit their error. Well if you have read this far, you see that I have owned a '77 Civic CVCC, a '97 CRV, and the '03 Pilot. I was waiting for the '16 Pilot, but probably not, with the poor response to the ongoing air bag disaster, I have to say that Honda's solid reputation and stellar ethic for honesty, quality, safety and service is crumbling or worse. I want a safe car! I mistakenly thought I had one for the last 12 years! I just looked at The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website (http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/TSP-List) and Subaru has the most Top Rated (5 in all) vehicles of any manufacturer - more than Volvo!

I'm afraid it's time to steer clear of trouble (HONDA) and put myself behind the wheel of something with proven safety,value, reliability and straight forwardness.


problem #7

Jun 212014

Pilot EX-L 3.5L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 129,500 miles

Bought a used 2003 Honda Pilot ex-L with 56,000 miles on it from private party in 2010. Ran the VIN number on Carfax, made sure the recalls were addressed, took it to a mechanic before completing the purchase and he said all is well with it, so great, paid 10K cash and was on my way.

Did all the proper maintenance (oil changes, new timing belt, new tires, new battery) ... A year later I start getting the intermittent torque converter rumble strip noise between 40 and 50 miles per hour. The intermittent ruble strip noise sounded more like air gushing underneath the car (without any shaking). Here is a video on youtube that describes it exactly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN7QJEyxc24 ... been driving it that way since the end of 2011, until recently the noise is fairy constant. I can't drive in "D" without it happening (do not have a flashing D on dashboard YET). I drive it in D3 to avoid the rumble strip sound until I go over 60 mph, then I shift it into D.

Mechanic said I'm ultimately going to need a new transmission and it's going to cost around $4500. I now have 130K miles on it, new $900 tires, new $750 timing belt, and not sure I want to dump money into this piece of sh*t after reading all of the complaints about this year Honda Pilot. It'll be the last Honda I own, as other people here have come to that conclusion as well. The "fix" Honda had for it's transmission issue was a too-small, cheap band aid, which left Honda owners having to carry the cost for their fukkup. I'm $11,763 into the Pilot (price of car, timing belt, tires, and new battery), have driven it almost 5 years without any other issues and have loved the car aside from this issue, but I can't see spending $4500 in confidence that this will last me much longer. I plan to just drive it into the ground for as long as it'll last me. Won't give a dime to Honda, ever.

Joined Facebook's page, Honda Pilot Torque Converter Problems to complain and monitor to see if Honda remedies the issue: https://www.facebook.com/groups/384099154955943/ ... searched Honda Pilot forums on the web and found so many people with the same issue. Honda needs an all-out social media war on this failure. Maybe then they'll make it right.

Wish I had known about this site years ago so I could have learned that 2003 has been the worst year for Honda Pilots. Now I know why the private party I bought from wanted to unload this so fast and for under Kelly Blue Book. Ugh. Never again.

- , Falls Church, VA, USA

problem #6

Jun 302011

Pilot EXL 3.5L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles


In June 2011, I had the transmission rebuilt at my expense. The torque converter was falling apart and causing a horrible jerking before shifting 2nd gear. I did not own the Pilot with the original recall involving the transmission, so I am unsure if or what was done during that time period. I can speculate that the car had under 15K miles and had the minimum repair completed to rectify the recall in 2002. I am sure that it is not pure coincidence that the issues that my car was having involved shifting to 2nd gear.

- , Corryton, TN, USA

problem #5

Jul 022011

Pilot EX-L 3.5L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 167,000 miles

the malfunction indicator lamp is lit.

The car is not shifting into reverse

It revs extremely high when "trying" to shift into gears and is not shifting into the highest gear at all.

The "D" is blinking as well.

- , Pitman, NJ, USA

problem #4

Jul 012010

Pilot ES 3.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 155,000 miles

I read a number of posts of people that have had problems with the torque converter with the Honda Pilot. One post stated that a mechanic suggested that if you drive in D3 that you could drive the car forever but it would increase gas consumption. It works! I was averageing about 21 mpg before and now I get about 18 mpg. Fairfield Honda in Muncy PA said I needed a transmission and it would cost me $3800.

What really frosts me is that they said that I was the first person with a pilot to ever have a problem. I read other posts and it seems no matter where the dealer is they get an answer that it is unique.

- , Northumberland, PA, USA

problem #3

Jul 262010

Pilot EX 3.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 116,023 miles


We bought the Honda thinking it would last forever.The transmission failed our expectation. I can understand if the rear view mirror fell off or radio went out at 116000miles but not the transmission! I have had 7 vehicles in my life 6 were chevy products and this stupid Honda pilot. The chevy products all had over 100000 miles and no engine or transmission problems.....NONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But this Honda pilot transmission deal is very upsetting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am just like every other American family living check to check and you get vehicles that you hope will last forever. I am a Technician by trade and maintain my own vehicles, oil changes and such. Now I have to come up with $3000.00 to get this fixed. I will never own another foreign car ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks Honda for nothing . Good luck with your future vehicles.

- , Anderson, IN, USA

problem #2

Jul 162008

Pilot EXL-RES 3.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

Transmission started making noise whenever it went into lockup mode. Took it to the dealer and they said it was probably a torque converter problem. They cannot replace the torque converter without losing the core value. Called American Honda to plead my case, because the power train warranty had expired, they were unable to give me any consideration. 138K miles driven in the flat lands of Illinois, hauling 4 people and a dog. One owner since new with all factory service done by the dealer!! LAST HONDA I WILL OWN. When it comes time to replace, I'll try an another brand.

- , St Charles, IL, USA

problem #1

Oct 272008

Pilot 3.5L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles

Honda Pilots owners have experienced the same problem.Not isolated to a certain year.Not on high mileage vehicles only.This is a major defect in Honda pilots and Honda needs to be honest about it and recall the pilot and fix the problem.To fix this problem costs a substantial amount of money and is not fair to the consumer.

- , Genoa, IL, USA

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