Notes: Beware the 2003 Honda Pilot once the odometer reaches 100k miles, when two problem defect trends have shown up: transmission failure & ignition switch problems.

Typically a locksmith can fix the ignition switch or it can be replaced for around $700. However the transmission failure is a far more expensive problem, with the average repair cost at well over $3,000. A major transmission recall of over 1 million Honda vehicles back in 2004 dealt with transmission damage due to overheating, but 2003 Pilot transmissions have continued to fail.


really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
123,600 miles
Total Complaints:
64 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. had to be replaced (31 reports)
  2. rebuild of torque converter and transmission (12 reports)
  3. not sure (9 reports)
  4. replace transmission (9 reports)
  5. install factory rebuilt transmission (2 reports)
  6. replace 3rd & 4th gear solenoids on tranny (1 reports)
2003 Honda Pilot transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Honda Pilot Owner Comments (Page 1 of 4)

problem #64

Jul 072010

Pilot LX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 167,000 miles


Honda is supposed to be a high quality vehicle.

The Pilot transmission failed twice. When I took it to Honda they never mentioned the recall and they told me it would cost about $5700 to fix. AAMCO fixed it for $3500. No warning, no overloading of the car. Used it to commute work and go on week end trips. I never hauled anything other than luggage in the vehicle.

The second time it failed, it would not shift out of first and then it would bump into second and then work but then it would periodically down shift into first and not shift again. It was so unpredictable I drove to work on city streets instead of the freeways. Honda still never said anything about the recall.

Finally, I just drove it to the dealership where I bought it and went to the finance manager and gave him the keys. I said it was his to do with as he pleased since Honda wasn't honoring their warranty or playing fair with the recall.

I will probably NEVER buy another Honda.

I have a Honda Civic 2002 NGV with their disastrous CVT which is a complete abortion of a transmission. I have a lot of problem with the danged thing not going into gear when it starts in the morning and I have to rev it in gear to get it to bump into gear.

I noticed that Honda is putting the CVT in their new hybrid cars. Why? Why can't Honda build a decent transmission??? Every Honda I have ever had had a transmission issue.

They also have the WORST warranty of any vehicle in their class. My next car with either be Hyundai or a KIA.

I wish someone would sue Honda's ass off for all these consistent transmission problems and this corporate game they play with acting stupid or "We've never had that problem with a Pilot before"...which is just complete nonsense.

- rover26, Riverside, US

problem #63

Mar 062017

Pilot EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

Trans has been a problem since owning. Brought it back to honda a couple of times they didn't do anything to help. Typical dealer avoiding any issues with a car leaving it up to their customers to take car of it with their money. Very unhappy with the dealership and Honda in general for not standing by their product. Took it back for recalls also paid money to have transmission drained with new fluid put in, $350. Thanks again honda maybe time to switch to another manufacturer!

- Ralph M., Asbury Park, NJ, US

problem #62

Sep 062016

Pilot LX 3.2lV6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

still working with Honda. They want me to tow the car in. They want all service records on the car. They will charge me $120 for a diagnostic and then they will tell me if they will do anything to help. How long this will take or how much I could hope to expect is unknown at this time. I did turn the car in 2005 for a transmission recall. This is the same recall that they are considering by even looking at my car. Of course I bought a Honda because I expected it to hit 200K before I had major trouble with the engine or transmissions. Never expected a Honda to have transmission failure at 150K.

- Anthony T., Orange, CA, US

problem #61

Apr 162016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 167,400 miles


Vehicle was purchased used from a Honda dealership and on the third trip we experienced issues with the transmission. We had not driven the vehicle 500 miles yet. We attempted to reach the Honda dealership that sold us the vehicle and the vehicle remains not safely drivable. The second gear will not shift, the check engine lights indicate a four gear pressure switch and TC clutch failure and now calling for a replacement of the transmission. The shop is recommending a used transmission, however, the 2003 Honda Pilot transmissions have been noted with a history of problems. To replace a used transmission with no warranty, we could be looking at this problem all over again in a short amount of miles. The 2003 Pilot had a recall issued in April of 2004 as a result of a safety-related defect existing and wishing certain operating conditions, the result is heat can build up between the countershaft and secondary gears in the automatic transmission. The memorandum from Honda goes on to indicate the in higher mileage vehicles, the is condition can result in gear tooth chipping or gear breakage can occur. In most cases, transmission noise will indicate a problem, however, it is possible for the transmission to become locked without warning.

- Suzie S., Westfield, IN, US

problem #60

May 202016

Pilot LX 3.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

Transmission failed under warranty in 2006 and was replaced. Honda CRM says they have no record of previous replacement. If this was an isolated case, I would eat the repair cost (which I may have to anyway), but the three Hondas I have had or currently have with bad transmissions are all listed as years with bad transmissions by carcomplaints. Duh, maybe it is time to switch brands - not because of the bad transmissions, but because of Honda's awful CRM.

- mecheng, Malibu, CA, US

problem #59

May 292015

Pilot LX 3.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 215,367 miles

On May 29, 2015, I was traveling northbound in the center lane at 60 miles per hour on Interstate 5 just south of Hazel Dell exit 4 when the wheels of my car seized. At which point the car began a rigorous slide while black smoke billowed as all the tread peeled off the tires. The force of the slide eventually jammed the wheels sideways causing the car to hop as it propelled forward. Cars flew by on the left and right. Finally, my car stopped slamming me backward in the seat.

The tow truck driver told me, “Good job keeping your car under control, many people are unable to do that. The last call I went on when this type of a thing happened, the car rolled three times and the driver was hospitalized in critical condition.”

Upon having the car examined at Bill’s Tech Trans Inc. we were informed that we had a faulty transmission. At that time, we were unaware of a recall on the transmissions for 2003 Honda Pilots.

Update from Sep 9, 2016: Honda has repeatedly asked for copies of receipts and invoices, which I have sent. Now, after all this time, they want me to send all receipts for services on the vehicle (oil change, tune-ups, etc...) for determining whether they will reimburse me for the failure of the transmission. A transmission deemed faulty by the United States government has nothing to do with the services rendered on the vehicle. It appears that Honda is trying every tactic to get out of distributing delaying or denying reimbursement.

- Pamela P., Vancouver, WA, US

problem #58

Jul 212015

Pilot ES 3.2L V6

  • CVT transmission
  • 148,000 miles


This is our second transmission replacement on this vehicle. Really, it's been a good car otherwise, but the transmission issues make it much less so, to the point where we considered scrapping it or selling it (tranny has not yet hard-failed, but our mechanic says it's just a matter of time) and buying something else.

Given how few miles we've been putting on it the last few years, we'll probably put another CVT in it and that'll be the end. Disappointing, this.

- davidcperron, Spencer, IN, US

problem #57

Apr 172008

Pilot ES 3.2L V6

  • CVT transmission
  • 62,222 miles

Transmission failed (soft failure, not catastrophic) at 62222 miles odometer reading. Symptoms were engine would rev and no power to the wheels, to the point where we'd start into an intersection and the power would quit and we'd barely make it through. Eventually it would catch but it kept getting worse.

Honda Pilots had had this issue before. We pointed this out to the dealership and they wouldn't do anything to even acknowledge. We'd bought this vehicle with about 23k miles on it, from private owners, so we couldn't really testify how the car had been driven prior to our acquiring it. We had definitely never towed anything with it or taken it off-road. It didn't even have a towing package at the time.

90k miles later, it needs another one. Other than this, the vehicle is a good one and we'll elect to shell out the $4000 it now costs to replace it, but...good grief, Honda, step up to this and own it.

- davidcperron, Spencer, IN, US

problem #56

May 142015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,000 miles

Well transmission went out and needs to be replaced at 119,000. I have also been a dedicated Honda owner for 15 years and this is my 3 Honda. My 1989 Honda Accord had more miles, then this. Never had transmission problems so bummed.

- Melissa G., Corona, CA, US

problem #55

Jul 012015

Pilot EX-L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

Since I inherited this car, I noticed the an occasional revving noise from under the hood. Over time, the noise continued, and so I began to research. Eventually we realized the transmission was slipping, and I found a local mechanic who is familiar with the problem and suggested a full replacement. The estimated cost it $3000. I have already put $600 into it plus another $400 in property tax to get the tag. Unlike most others in the thread who have purchased their Pilots, I inherited mine and have only put $1000 in it so far. I can't afford to get a new car, and so I am taking a calculated risk that the new transmission will give be enough use to approach 200K with this car.

Unfortunately I sold my perfectly good Honda Civic (2002) last week, just before realizing I needed to dump 3 grand into this Pilot to make it safe, to make it work. Up until this transmission problem with one of Honda's premier vehicles, I considered myself a "Honda person" who would always drive a Honda. After this expensive (and dangerous) problem, however, and considering the fact that this is a rampant problem that Honda is not addressing, I have dropped Honda from my list of trustworthy automobile manufacturers. I will spend the money to repair the transmission on this car because of the circumstances mentioned above (it came to me freely), but once I am done with this Honda, I will not consider this brand of auto when I make my next vehicle purchase.

I buy cars and drive them at least 10 years; I'm not a person who leases and changes cars every 2-3 years. Honda's studied silence on this issue is the one and only reason why I am scratching Honda off of the list of potential car brands in the future. I'm sure they do realize what bad business this is, but they have probably calculated and decided they profit more by maintaining silence about this issue. Goodbye Honda. Forever.

- lga, Athens, GA, US

problem #54

Aug 052015

Pilot V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 166,000 miles


I plan on suing Honda due to 2003 Pilot transmission failure (recall work had been done). The defective vehicle caused injury. The incident occurred on an interstate. There was no warning of failure. I am an attorney in Utah. Honda's conduct and utter disregard for customer and public safety (compromised by this known design and manufacturing defect) puts Honda drivers and passengers, as well as other road sharing motorist, in danger. Frankly, the nicest thing I can say about Honda attitude is that it is at best outrageous. Honda must be held accountable / liable. I plan on doing that with respect to my case. Very best to each of you as well.

- Troy R., Farmington, UT, US

problem #53

Dec 222014

Pilot EXL

  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles

Initially the engine light on dash came on and my mechanic checked my 03 PILOT out and added some transmission fluid due to level being slightly below recommended level and reset light and the vehicle seemed fine for about a month. Now the light is back on and I have noticed that upon acceleration at higher speeds it seems as though transmission is slipping and when I ease off and reapply it usually will engage but the RPM gauge rises much higher than usual, upon doing so and the vehicle seems sluggish.

I am original owner and bought new from Orr Honda in Texarkana, TX and all the recommended service and repairs have been done. Upon researching I have found numerous complaints of this and some very nearly resulting in crashes due to sudden loss of speed and tranny slipping out of gear. It has been suggested that this in fact is originally an electrical issue that leads to a more serious mechanical problem if it is left unaddressed but apparently the patch job and recall Honda issued on this model Pilot in 04 NHTSA ref # 04v176000 was inadequate and this model, and possibly others, have a very serious and costly design flaw that Honda refuses to acknowledge and should be held accountable for and made to issue another recall and replace these faulty transmissions and torque converters.

However, one forum post recommends replacing the 3rd & 4th gear switches on the tranny at first sign of a problem as well as a complete fluid flush which entails 3 drains and refills and also to thoroughly inspect the lines running to them that control the flow of fluid to all parts of the tranny. I am attempting the less invasive things first even before going to Honda dealership. I called Honda America and was told the recall on my VIN was done and that any further issue with it would be at my expense. Well, we'll see about that. If these less invasive attempts to solve this do not work I intend to take all of this information to an attorney and request class action suit for the obviously faulty and dangerous issues that are posted on the internet on reputable sites, which state have cost consumers out of pocket, sometimes thousands of dollars that Honda should in fact pay for, just like the design flaw they finally had to own up to on the faulty air bags on some of their vehicles, mine included.

Sounds like a lemon law thing only most, but not all, of these cars are just out of manufacture's warranty and/or extended warranty but well under what is expected one should get on properly serviced transmission on a Honda. This most likely will be the last Honda I purchase.

- jacksonar, Hope, AR, US

problem #52

Dec 082014

Pilot EX-L 3.5L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

2003 Honda Pilot has been a car with too many problems. It had almost 10 recalls over last 10 years. The latest is P730 error code and slip between gear 2 and 3 of the automatic transmission. When I checked with a mechanic he suggested that I have to replace or rebuild transmission. Since there was a recall in that area, he put me in touch with a Honda maintenance rep. After hearing all, she said that the replacement cost will run more than $4500.

If you search in internet for "2003 Honda Pilot transmission problems" you will get numerous posts about transmission failure when it reaches 125000. I have been driving Hondas for more than 17 years and all my cars were Honda. With this experience I am going to jump ship and buy something else.

- Hari G., Dublin, CA, US

problem #51

Aug 042014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

I have 2003 Honda Pilot- EXL. In last few months the car stalls when I was in traffic jams with Engine and Battery lights on. This issue happened for few months and I took to a mechanic, however he didn't find anything wrong. Car then ran fine for next few months.

Now for last two weeks things have gotten worse. Last Sunday, while I parking the car in my garage the car stalled with Engine and Battery light on and then wouldn't turn on. I took it to a mechanic and he did some cleaning and car started again, however continues to stall. Took to a dealer and paid $140 and he found a lot of things wrong. Head Gasket Leaking Internally. I have been doing regular service. My mechanic says that transmission needs to be replaced, however he is not sure that will completely address stalling problem.

I now have a dilemma whether I should fix this car and/or buy a new one? Car has only $120K miles and I feel it has a lot of life left. My belief is transmission is bad and reading through the internet it seems 2003 Honda Pilot had bad transmissions and Honda should own and fix the problem. Thoughts/suggestions are welcomed.

- Ramesh R., Shrewsbury, MA, US

problem #50

Mar 112014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 192,000 miles

2003 Honda Pilot. Transmission giving out after 190k miles. Lock actuators on right side don't work.

- Bill K., Baltimore, MD, US

problem #49

Jun 072014

Pilot EX-L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 158,151 miles

I have taken care of this car. I have done all the required maintenance. And I have loved this car. I am freaking out at the potential cost of this. But check this out. Last week my husband's car, a 2000 honda odyssey, transmission failed and we traded the car in so I could get a 2012 honda pilot that we could not afford. We have had the worst month anyway. His mother passed away, costing 1000 in plane tickets. Then I had to put my dog to sleep, then my son got suspended from school and now the transmission on the odyssey. Well we figured it out and I loved my pilot so much I bought another one and gave mine to my husband.... Loving it for one week till Saturday when the transmission went out on my 03 pilot...ARE YOU FREAKING SERIOUS TWO TRANSMISSIONS IN ONE WEEK!!! The quote from the dealer is 5093$$. We literally don't have the money! We work different schedules and we work 30 miles from home. Wtf are we supposed to do now.

- Starr C., Newport News, VA, US

problem #48

Apr 232014

Pilot LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,000 miles

Ourisman Honda Service are CRIMINALS. They refused to help with a known defective transmission issue with the 2003 Honda Pilot. Quoted $4,700 for a remanufactured transmission and told me their cost was $4,000 just for the part. This appears to be an outright lie. The worst part is that we have spent $1,000's of dollars for overpriced service on this vehicle over the past 10 years and have been loyal customers. When we needed Ourisman to step up and help make this know defective problem slightly better - they tried to gouge us even more.

American Honda was even less help. We contacted them and requested assistance and they quickly dodged the request. Instead they hid behind the legalese while avoiding the know defective issue.

AVOID OURISMAN and OURISMAN SERVICE at all COSTS or it will COST you. Their behavior is CRIMINAL.

- C B., Bethesda, MD, US

problem #47

Mar 082014

Pilot EX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 158,000 miles

Just bought this 2003 pilot. drove it after buying it around 200 miles when the atx light on the dash started coming on while driving on highway. I did as owners manual said pull over put in park. If light stays on turn off moter and restart to se if light goes off. I always did. This happened around 7 times the day it started. I didn't drive it again until I took to a honda cirtified mechanic. They changed the fluids on the transmission and transfer case. The next day I couldn't get it up a small incline. It wasn't shifting into 2'or 3rd. I have to take off like I'm in a race in first then when reaching about 30 I can let up quick on the gas to get it to up shift bypassing the dead gear. After taking it in to get the code run on it again I found out ALL 2003 PILOTS were under a MANDATORY SAFETY RECALL ON THESE TRANSMISSIONS. Even in the honda dealer notices they told the dealers that if the new remedy wasn't done correctly the tranny would fail. They want $4421.99 to fix THEIR MISTAKE. I was a mechanic in the military. When I got out I worked for indipendant garages as well as dealerships. I had worked my way

up to assistant service manager before switching trades. I'm retired now and disabled. I can't believe I got took buying this thing. I did a car fax on it checked consumer reports, and found nothing about transmission problem until after buying it. Now I have a $6000.00 driveway orniment. NOT A HAPPY CAMPER> FIRST HONDA OF ANYTHING I'VE REGRETED BUYING. I've had several honda motercycles, cars, generators ect. but this one and year are apparantly extream lemons.

- dgmbear, PARK HILL, OK, US

problem #46

May 062012

Pilot V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles

On May 6, 2012, my husband and I were on I-75 heading to our Goddaughter's First Communion when our 2003 Honda Pilot started to produce black smoke. We were traveling at about 70 miles per hour. There was no warning, no slipping of gears and we only had 115,000 miles on our Pilot. We were 2 miles from our home and were able to drive it onto our driveway.

We had it towed to our mechanic and were told the transmission needed to be replaced at the cost os $3,500 to $4.200 depending on if it was rebuilt, used or new. We were in complete shock. We have every record of oil changes and transmission flushes etc. This car has been well taken care of. I asked my mechanics if they tried to flush the transmission fluid and see if that was the problem. They did the flush and said it was driving OK and I could take home but they were unsure as to the transmission lasting.

I drove to work this morning, and just before I arrived to work, ( about 20 mile commute), the engine hazard light came on and another hazard light VTM-4 (I think). I pulled over and walked to my work. Now I need to contact AAA to have the Pilot towed AGAIN to the shop. Before I call I got on-line to see what the hazard code was and this web site came up with LOTS of complaints just like my 2003 Pilot.

What I do not understand is why Honda is not fixing this problem.The reason I purchased the Pilot was because of the good reputation the company has for reliable vehicles that last. Has anyone been able to get Honda to repair the CLEARLY FAULTY and DEFECTIVE transmission!

- Cherie R., Florence, KY, US

problem #45

Dec 172009

Pilot LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles

I purchased the 2003 Pilot in 2002, after owning 4 previous Honda products, expecting to drive this until I had 200,000 miles on the odometer, just like all my other Honda autos. In December, 2009, after driving the car from Dallas to Santa Fe and back, I noticed some minor slipping of the transmission and took it to the dealer. They did $1700 in repairs, indicating that this was the least costly solution. I wish I had checked online to see that this was a common issue with this model year; I would have chosen replacement of the transmission at that point and saved myself these costs.

A few days after picking the vehicle up, I was back at the dealer, and they replaced the transmission with a Honda rebuilt one, adding approximately $5K to the cost and providing a 36K warranty. In August, 2012, while driving down I-40 in New Mexico, the engine light again came on, and other than that sensor light, the car had been driving just fine. I took it to dealer in Santa Fe within a few days of the sensor indicator coming on. The dealer indicated that a new transmission needed to be installed. I was amazed that another transmission was required after less than an additional 40K in driving.

I have been driving it with no apparent issues since August, waiting to return to my Dallas dealer. Took it in this week there, and they indicated that it does require a new transmission. It was just over the warranty's mileage so the dealer attempted to have Honda provide some replacement assistance. Honda NA indicated that it was out of warranty and there was nothing they can do. I called them directly, telling them that this is the 5th Honda in my family, that I "sell" Honda's to all my friends and family, and that I have converted several friends and family members to driving these.

Most of the mileage on this auto is highway miles and I have all the necessary service done at the proper intervals. I have a friend who purchased a 2005 Pilot who has had no similar issues. The customer service rep at Honda NA indicated that if it were up to him, he'd just keep driving until the car had serious transmission issues, which is what I will probably do. Based on the lack of support from Honda on this issue, this will be my last purchase of their product, unless they really come through with a deal on a replacement vehicle or repair/replacement assistance.

As someone who works daily in providing excellent customer service in the financial services industry and who always keeps our Customers in mind when resolving a situation, I am deeply disappointed in this situation. We need to have the auto industry regulated as much as the financial services industry now is. Where is the auto industry equivalent of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? I detest additional government regulation, but when a company refuses to support their Customers-for-life, I believe additional regulation is necessary.

I am perplexed as to why Honda would choose to send a Customer to a competitor when they probably have 4-5 more future purchases of their products at stake. All auto makers are building quality products and Honda no longer has the edge in product quality and reliability. They will regret this decision at some point in the future. I will never purchase a model during it's initial release year. I can't help but wonder if the recall on the transmission is not a huge part of these future issues that people on here have indicated.

- Mark J., Dallas, TX, US

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