really awful
Crashes / Fires:
4 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
5 / 0
Average Mileage:
112,407 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Honda Pilot engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Honda Pilot Owner Comments

problem #16

Jan 272016


  • 161,000 miles


In the morning, on January 27, I had my 2 year old and 4 year old in the vehicle and I was driving my son to school. Less than a mile from home, going between 30-35mph, I tapped the brakes as I approached a bend in the road and after a brief initial pause (as you would expect), the car suddenly started rapidly accelerating - I started pressing the brakes to no avail - vehicle did not slow down - at this point I was in the curve and was unable to keep the vehicle on the road. I hit a small tree and continued careening out of control until I crashed in a ditch, hitting a wood hydro pole (thankfully not concrete) - both airbags deployed - I suffered a broken ankle, bruised ribs and seat belt abrasions - my 2 year old required stitches on her eye lid and eyebrow due to impact with her cup that she was holding at the time (we're lucky her sight wasn't affected). My son suffered no physical injuries but 1 month later is still talking about it. Vehicle was a complete write off. Had approximately 161,000 miles at time of incident. Cruise control was likely on but wasn't in use. Similar issue happened on 2 previous occasions. 1st at least 8 months ago and then again about 3 weeks before accident (was going to address with dealer at next oil change) but on two prior occurrences surge occurred when brakes were tapped to disengage cruise control - same pause/surge but not nearly as intense and stopped immediately when brakes were pressed again. After the accident I noted that there are several reports of the same thing happening to other people. No idea how fast it was going when it crashed but it "felt" like at least 50mph. This is terrifying when it happens, I don't want to see this happen to anyone else. I shudder to think what would have happened if this had occurred at an intersection or on the expressway - we might not be here... also mailing letter to manufacturer.

- Sarasota, FL, USA

problem #15

Mar 092015

Pilot 6-cyl

  • 139,500 miles
Driving vehicle on freeway, went to accelerate vehicle did nothing. Took my foot off gas, tried again, nothing. Got in slow lane, finally engaged but had to go slow on freeway. Engine light comes on. Next day vehicle wont shift from 3rd gear, can only go 35 mph and engine revs up. The drive light starts flashing. Next day cant shift into reverse either. Take to transmission shop, they say no reverse, no 3rd gear, fluid is full but smells burnt. Pulled codes P0730 incorrect gear ratio and P0780 shift malfunction. Recommended transmission replace. I only have 139,000 miles and don't drive it crazy. Also found there was a transmission recall on this year Pilot. I call Honda so they can look it up, he says yes it was done to my car, but doesn't show on my carfax report?

- Grass Valley, CA, USA

problem #14

Aug 072014

Pilot 6-cyl

  • 141,706 miles
I am the original owner of a 2003 Honda Pilot. I am an older, cautious driver and have babied this vehicle, doing all regular service at the dealer's, so it would run in top shape for many years to come. Around six months ago I noticed at lower speeds (20-30 M.P.H.) the vehicle shudders. To counter the problem I have to accelerate and then it goes away. I have had the dealer check it three times and each time they say they cannot replicate the problem, which is hard to believe. Last week the D light started to flash. I took it into the dealer right away and they said it was a sensor. I asked if that could be making the car shudder and they said probably. I had them change it and the shudder has not gone away. This morning it was particularly heavy so I called the dealer again and they gave me the american Honda number. I called them and they said the dealer should look at it. I've seen so many other people have the same complaint and I'm very concerned this is a safety issue that Honda is choosing to ignore; a little like other auto companies have done over the past few years until a fatality happens. As I carry my family in this vehicle and I am particularly concerned.

- Long Beach, CA, USA

problem #13

May 162014


  • 107,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Honda Pilot. The contact stated while stopped at a red light, the vehicle began to accelerate and the driver's seat frame became fractured. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the vehicle was diagnosed with a fractured power seat frame and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure and current mileage was 107,000.

- Litchfield , NH, USA

problem #12

Dec 262013


  • 130,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Pilot. The contact stated that while driving 50 mph, the vehicle abnormally accelerated. The contact applied the brakes but the vehicle did not respond. The contact had to shut the vehicle off to stop the vehicle. The contact did not take the vehicle to a dealer or mechanic for diagnostic testing. The failure mileage was 130,000.

- Plainfield, IL, USA

problem #11

Oct 052013

Pilot 6-cyl

  • 160,000 miles
My Honda Pilot starts slipping when it changes from 3rd gear to 4 gear. Now it starts shaking/jugging. With speed 60mph or 65 mph, it is very dangerous if it starts jugging because you never know how the car behind you reacts and your car will do.

- Coconut Creek, FL, USA

problem #10

Sep 092013


  • 127,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Honda Pilot. The contact stated that the brakes failed to engage and the vehicle suddenly accelerated. The contact attempted to utilize the emergency brake but to no avail. The vehicle then proceed through traffic and crashed into an embankment. The air bags deployed from the compartment but failed to inflate. The contact sustained injuries to the neck, the front seat passenger sustained injuries to the head and the rear passenger sustained injuries to the face. A police report was not filed. The vehicle was destroyed. The failure and current mileage was 127,000.

- Pittsford , NY, USA

problem #9

Mar 022010


  • miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Pilot ex. The contact stated that after starting the vehicle, he noticed that the accelerator pedal had become difficult to depress. The vehicle resumed normal operation after several minutes. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the contact was advised that the throttle body cable failed and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was contacted and offered no assistance. The failure mileage was unknown. The current mileage was approximately 177,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Port Hueneme, CA, USA

problem #8

Sep 092012

Pilot 6-cyl

  • 143,400 miles
The transmission suddenly starting slipping without any warning and struggled to get over a viaduct with no power to accelerate. The transmission started slipping without any warning and the engine light came on. Drove the Pilot slowly home and took to shop. The transmission fluid had been changed at 90K. The pressure switches were changed but did not work for slippage. The transmission was broke and needed replacing. This vehicle had all recalls completed.

- Columbus, NE, USA

problem #7

Jun 042012

Pilot 6-cyl

  • 165,000 miles
Shuddering and jerking while shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear. Also does the same in reverse. Car would not accelerate on highway on-ramp. While at high highway speeds, car felt like it fell out of gear and lost power, until the gear engaged again.

- Dixon, CA, USA

problem #6

Dec 012011

Pilot 6-cyl

  • 145,000 miles


Same issue as every other Pilot owner with the 2nd gear not wanting to shift up around 30-40 mph, a delay and RPM's go up causing safety issues.

- Star, ID, USA

problem #5

Oct 122009


  • 135,000 miles
I'm not of that scared of sticking gas pedals kind on person. Just want to file this incident to probably help others to avoid problems in the future. After car being parked for three weeks at airport when first started it I had and issue with the stuck gas pedal. Fortunately I was in the parking gear when I first pressed the pedal, otherwise could be an accident on the parking lot if I was in the drive gear. I just pulled the pedal back with my toe and pressed and pulled it couple times more before it started working ok. Before that I felt it little mushy after long parking periods especially in the relatively cold days in Georgia autumn/winter but it was coming away after driving the car daily. When I got back home I rectified the problem by pouring some oil in the throttle cable jacket and lubricated the pedal axis as well. Had no problems since than so far.

- Thomaston, GA, USA

problem #4

Mar 042010

Pilot 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Pilot. The contact stated while driving 25 mph the vehicle felt as though it was surging forward. The contact pulled over and put the vehicle into park and the RPM's started to rev-up on its own. The contact has taken the vehicle to a local mechanic for a diagnostic test. Thecontact stated the vehicle has many safety problem and thinks the manufacturer should be responsible for the repairs. The failure mileage was 120,000. Updated 05/06/10. The door lock cylindeers and ignition switch was replaced. The engine and steering locked up and the vehicle would not start. The key door lock broke and had to be replaced. The heater motor failed. Updated 07/06/10.

- Windsor, CA, USA

problem #3

Jan 072010


  • 48,900 miles
During the freezing weather in jacksonville. Fl. specifically on the 7th & 8th Jan. 2010, the gas pedal on my 2003 Honda Pilot was sticking. After starting the vehicle, I had to apply extra foot downward pressure to make the gas pedal move and make the vehicle accelerate. This happened on several occasions during the 2 weeks that it was freezing on consecutive days in this area. I bought this vehicle brand new in 2003 and never had this problem arise until this time. The problem 'seems' to disappear after the vehicle has been running & warmed up. I also called Honda 800-999-1009 and informed the Honda customer rep. About the issue. Honda informed me to take it to Honda service or mechanic for diagnostic.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #2

Nov 222006

Pilot 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles
Sudden acceleration while backing out of a garage. Car proceeded until it struck other cars despite applying the brake. Car finally stopped when it became stuck in the mud.

- Lynchburg, VA, USA

problem #1

Jul 012004

Pilot 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
While driving vehicle suddenly accelerated. Driver did not apply the brakes. Driver was unable to maintain control of the vehicle, and it went down embankment smashing into a tree. Upon impact, both air bags did not deploy. No injuries reported. The vehicle was towed and totaled by the insurance. Ref. ODI no. 10115735 for 2004.

- Longmeadow, MA, USA

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