Transmission issues? - Honda Pilot - Honda Pilot Forums
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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-27-2017, 04:17 PM Thread Starter
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Transmission issues?

Lots going on here, and I'm hoping someone can help me focus my thinking.

Our Pilot is a 2005 with 130,300 miles. Two days ago, it began hesitating when I tried to accelerate on a few trips around town. The engine would rev up as if I were accelerating, but it was as if the transmission wouldn't "catch" or struggled to get traction. It did accelerate, just more slowly and with less power than normal. Once it reached a certain speed, perhaps 30 mph or more, it operated/shifted as normal, though occasionally (not always) upon another stop/start it would hesitate upon acceleration again. The behavior repeated when I shut the Pilot off and restarted. I also believe this happened when I shifted into reverse though I didn't test that thoroughly.

Also, at some point the heater stopped working. It blew air, but the air was cold, even well after the Pilot should have been warmed up. I have no idea whether this would be related or not but the timing seems too coincidental.

Once I got home, I noticed some red fluid leaking on the garage floor. I opened the hood and saw moisture all over the left side of the engine. I first assumed this to be the same fluid, but I also noticed the lid on the washer fluid reservoir opened. I had filled the reservoir with orange washer fluid the day before and now the lid was not secure. (Am I correct to think this was probably a non-issue? Wouldn't any washer fluid that splashed out evaporate or escape harmlessly?)

I backed the Pilot into the driveway, cleaned the red fluid from the garage floor, cleaned the engine of whatever moisture was all over it, then pulled it back into the garage and put cardboard underneath. A few more drops of red fluid ended up on the cardboard, but then it seems to have stopped. I have not driven the Pilot in two days, and due to other weekend commitments didn't even get the chance to actually check the transmission fluid level.

A few other notes that may or may not be useful:
- The transmission fluid was last flushed at its 90,000-mile servicing in December 2012.
- Weather seems unlikely to have been a factor. I live in Iowa and it was a typical February day, probably around 40 degrees and sunshine.
- The maintenance light came on the day before I noticed this problem. However, I assume this is unrelated, as the manual says this light comes on/stays on 7,500 miles after the previous servicing, and that was almost exactly 7,500 miles ago, in June 2016.
- At its most recent servicing, the vehicle was in overall good health, including transmission fluid levels.

So what should I do next? Is it safe to drive? Is there anything I can do myself or should this go right to a mechanic? We're right at that point where I would consider trading the Pilot in if this is a major repair of, say, more than $1,000 or $2,000.

Any thoughts are welcome...TIA.

Last edited by Trice; 02-27-2017 at 04:26 PM.
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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-27-2017, 04:41 PM
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Just a guess.

I think your radiator has failed and the transmission fluid and coolant is mixing and or leaking. No, your car is not safe to drive.

Your best hope is a new radiator and 4x drain fill ATF change.

Worst case you have killed your transmission but I would try the above first.
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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-27-2017, 04:45 PM
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1. You need to figure out what the fluid was on the floor. Sounds like it was transmission fluid, but you need to be sure.
2. Check the other fluids (oil, power steering, coolant) levels, this may tell you which ones you're missing.
3. Don't drive it if you suspect transmission troubles. The loss of power is caused by slipping. Transmission relies on fluid pressure provided by a pump. If the fluid is all gone, you may burn out the pump, but you may also burn out the clutches as they slip without the proper pressure.

I you did drop your transmission fluid, a seal somewhere in the system failed. OR the dipstick, fill cover may have fallen off. Check for the easy things first. But if your transmission fluid came out somewhere else, have it towed or you'll risk more damage. Might cost you some money, but probably not more then two or three new car payments to fix.
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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-27-2017, 05:47 PM
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If you don't have the know-how to check all the fluids as suggested above, I would have the vehicle towed to your mechanic and have it checked out. I'd stay away from the dealer as they'll pump your bank account dry and then talk you into a new car. Don't clean up the engine. Just leave it be so your mechanic can have all the clues needed to diagnose the problem.
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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-28-2017, 12:04 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by 97trophy View Post
Just a guess.

I think your radiator has failed and the transmission fluid and coolant is mixing and or leaking. No, your car is not safe to drive.

Your best hope is a new radiator and 4x drain fill ATF change.

Worst case you have killed your transmission but I would try the above first.
I'm beginning to think you're right, having had more time to spend with this tonight, reading others' posts that describe similar issues. I checked the coolant reserve tank and the contents are strawberry colored with a bit thicker consistency. (I'm attaching a photo. The fluid looks darker here because of the shadow but you get the idea.) I've read others' descriptions of a this red fluid pouring out of the reserve tank; I'm guessing that's what I saw and cleaned off the other day and was leaking under my car.

By my estimation we've driven the vehicle about 15-18 miles since we first noticed it. Just around town trips, fairly easy driving, and not pushing the transmission too hard.

So assuming a new radiator and antifreeze, plus a transmission flush. Is there any way to know whether the transmission will be affected without committing to other repairs? I'm kind of gathering not...and I'm not thrilled about the idea of spending many hundreds of dollars without assurances it will fix the problem.
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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-28-2017, 02:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trice View Post
So assuming a new radiator and antifreeze, plus a transmission flush. Is there any way to know whether the transmission will be affected without committing to other repairs? I'm kind of gathering not...and I'm not thrilled about the idea of spending many hundreds of dollars without assurances it will fix the problem.
The vehicle really isn't usable in its present state.
A new radiator would cost $100-150, plus labor, plus coolant.
The transmission will likely have to be drained and refilled several times (not flushed) to purge the old contaminated fluid.
Are you willing to spend up to, perhaps, $500 to see if the vehicle will run properly again?
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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-28-2017, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Trice View Post
So assuming a new radiator and antifreeze, plus a transmission flush. Is there any way to know whether the transmission will be affected without committing to other repairs? I'm kind of gathering not...
I have seen posts where some people have been "lucky" and the new radiator and 4x drain fill has fixed the issue. Others have not been so lucky.

There is no test I have read about that can tell you if your transmission can be saved or not. Sorry you have to go through the process.
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Last edited by 97trophy; 02-28-2017 at 11:39 AM.
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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-28-2017, 12:20 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone. One thing I keep reading about is how people saw "chocolate milk," which I assume to be coolant+oil, which I did not see. When I checked the transmission fluid there was virtually nothing on the dipstick (though I had to check it cold). When I checked the coolant reserve tank there was "strawberry milk" as pictured above. Would that be indicative of severity or potential success in replacing the radiator without damage to the transmission?

I've read plenty about this apparently common problem - which somehow I didn't know about until now - but I haven't read much about peoples' success in attempting to fix it. This is causing me a lot of stress for a vehicle that KBB says is only worth $3,500 (and probably a lot less now).

I'm just trying to think a couple steps ahead here in order to 1) minimize costs I'm going to sink into a vehicle that I very well could be disposing of soon, and 2) be prepared for a hurried new car purchasing situation I'm about to find myself in.
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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-28-2017, 12:46 PM
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Call a Honda dealer far, far away from your location and ask to speak with the person who appraises trade-ins.
Describe the problem with your Pilot, explaining that you're almost ready to buy a new Honda and that you're trying to find out if it's worth fixing before trading it in.
See if you can get a rough estimate of what the difference in trade-in value might be before and after repairs - assuming that the repairs succeed.
This might give you some sense of whether or not you want to risk sinking any more money into your Pilot.

Regarding a "hurried new car purchasing situation", you can always rent a vehicle to give you some extra time to choose something new and make a deal.
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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-28-2017, 02:47 PM
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If you are open to the option of keeping it, you can't make a decision or advance the process until you get an informed opinion as to what's wrong with it and an estimate of the cost of repairing it. Then assume it will last a year, if repaired. Therefore, anything you put into it, is the cost of a year's worth of use. The maximum added cost of this approach is the cost of the diagnosis. -
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post #11 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-28-2017, 05:10 PM Thread Starter
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If you are open to the option of keeping it, you can't make a decision or advance the process until you get an informed opinion as to what's wrong with it and an estimate of the cost of repairing it. Then assume it will last a year, if repaired. Therefore, anything you put into it, is the cost of a year's worth of use. The maximum added cost of this approach is the cost of the diagnosis. -
Good points. So after some phone calls today, here's where I'm at. Please let me know if you see any flaws in my thinking.

When I checked the transmission fluid, I saw almost nothing on the dipstick. Which suggests to my mechanic that perhaps the transmission fluid is merely low and not contaminated with coolant. So I can tow it in, and they inspect it. If they drain the transmission fluid and only transmission fluid comes out (as opposed to trans fluid contaminated with coolant), then it will cost about $1,050 to replace the radiator and flush coolant and transmission. Then, I still have to cross my fingers on the transmission, but the odds of success might be higher since it wasn't contaminated.

If, on the other hand, they drain the transmission fluid and it's contaminated, they stop immediately and I launch a search for a new car. I wouldn't even bother with a new radiator and flushing the systems because the chances of a bad transmission are much higher with it having been contaminated. I pay my small diagnostic fee but avoid the $1,050 and get on with life.

Or I just scrap the whole thing and start looking for something new, remembering that it's a 12-year-old, 130,000-mile Pilot that I might have replaced in a year or two anyway, just because.

Anything I'm forgetting? Otherwise this is how I will frame it with my wife tonight and we'll see what happens.
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post #12 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-28-2017, 05:42 PM
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You do NOT want them to "flush" the transmission. The ONLY thing you do is drain and fill. So, if only ATF comes out of the trans then all they should need to do is put in the proper amount of ATF for a simple drain and fill (somewhere in the 3.5 quart range.) This is usually a $79-100 job tops.

Maybe I'm just out of the loop on what it costs to pay a shop to fix a car but I don't think the radiator should cost $1,000 to replace, even if the cooling system has to be flushed. A new Denso, (the Honda OEM), radiator from RockAuto.com is only $93 plus shipping. Even at 2-3 hours of labor (I don't think it should take that long) it is in the neighborhood of $300. So, $400-500 w/coolant, plus the ATF change, is what you should be out. I don't see why it should be much more than around $600. I guess if you buy a new radiator from Honda it's probably close to $400 but it will be no different than the Denso. You can use an aftermarket radiator from a local parts store, too, if you can't wait for a Denso to be shipped.

You're right, though, if they drain the ATF and find it contaminated with coolant it does not bode well for the transmission.

Too bad you're not close to Charlotte. I'd have you just tow it over for a reasonably priced attempt to repair and assess the damage.
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post #13 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-28-2017, 05:55 PM
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...then it will cost about $1,050 to replace the radiator and flush coolant and transmission.
Did you get a breakdown, so to speak, of where that $1,050 would be going?

You can buy a new Denso radiator for no more than about $150.
Then add $50 for 3 gallons of Honda coolant.

If the transmission needs a complete "flush" - consisting of several drain and refill cycles - you might need $100 worth of Honda ATF, or you can go with Valvoline MaxLife ATF at probably half the price.
So, in total maybe $300 worth of parts and fluids.

Is the shop you contacted really estimating ~$700 worth of labor charges?
Or, are they marking the cost of the parts and fluids way up?
Would they let you supply the parts and fluids?
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post #14 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-28-2017, 06:46 PM
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I calculate if you use Denso radiator, Supertech Coolant and Maxlife ATF the parts cost would be under $200. I'm sure you could find a guy to come to you and repair at your house for $250 to $300.

You can get this job done for $500 with a little leg work, as Mr XGS said earlier.


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post #15 of 28 (permalink) Old 03-01-2017, 10:13 AM
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Without a diagnosis, you're wasting your time with speculating and wishful thinking. Pricing out replacing radiators and such is premature. If the truck can't be driven, the next issue is how do you get it to the shop and home.
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