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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Morning all, 2003 Honda pilot that just hit 200K! Past couple of drives I've noticed that I get some jerking when the car downshifts from 4th to third.
Doesn't happen every time, but when it does, the car will jerk for 2 seconds after the downshift, as I'm accelerating.
Just replaced the 3-4 shift pressure sensor, but didn't seem to be the issue. Typically happens in the 55-60 mph range.
AC is always on when it happens. will turn it off on the way home to see if that changes anything.

Thoughts?
 

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Has the transmission fluid been drained and filled? Type of ATF used?
 

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There is a 3rd gear and 4th gear pressure switch. I’m assuming you changed the 4th gear?

I’d recommend changing the 3rd gear and doing another drain and fill with fresh ATF.

You may also want to look at your radiator and trans lines - if it’s the original radiator you may have some trans issues in general.

I have a 2003 and haven’t heard of this specific issue, most people with a tranny problem feel a shudder around 45 mph and/or get the blinking D. I would fear the worse and start looking around for a transmission.

Speaking of another transmission, have you checked the NHTSA website to make sure your 2003 wasn’t part of the transmission recall, or got fixed if it was?
 

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Have you had the codes scanned?

Did you replace the sensor with an OEM part? Others on this forum have reported having trouble with aftermarket pressure switches.
 

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If the downshifts happen when you're accelerating or climbing, it might be pressure switches or ATF, or it might be worse.

Definitely get the car scanned by someone that can read all the codes, not just the basics. If no code, try everything noted here - it can't hurt anything. I wouldn't spend a lot throwing parts at it without an experienced diagnosis.

If it persists or gets worse, you may be experiencing the early warning signs of transmission failure. If that's the case, you can jolly it along for a while, but eventually you'll need a replacement. I would consider finding a good local shop and doing the math on repair vs. replace. There are lots of posts from people on the forum that have tried it both ways.
 

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I’ll expand my previous reply a little bit - on the early first gens (03-05), the pressure switches, radiator and ATF changes can often fix many of the tranny performance problems. Changing those items are specifically good at fixing the blinking D or road shudder felt between 40-50mph.

What you describe sounds like a failure of 3rd gear. I caution you to start considering a new tranny because the trans on the Honda V6 engines are known to need rebuild or replacement when 3rd gear issues arise. This was particularly common from ~1995-2005, and has again resurfaced in the newer Pilots (2019+).

Run a simple Google search and you’ll find multiple other sites (Edmunds, Hondatech, etc) discussing these tranny problems. The problems with the new Gen Pilot sound particularly bad, makes me feel a bit better about getting a CRV hybrid back in March 2021…
 

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I started getting weird downshifts like that and occasional flares when shifting up on my '04 with 190k miles. About 500 miles later, 3rd gear was basically gone and I'm still working on funds to replace the transmission.
 

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Downshifting and acceleration indicates you are putting the engine under higher load. You may have an engine miss, don't necessarily get stuck on thinking you have a trans issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yeah i replaced the 4th gear sensor, not the third.

5k miles on current ATF fluid- only use Honda
OEM pressure sensor switch
No codes

maybe i should try changing the third and ATF, $100 and ill know if it worked.

Correction to my original post*- its from 5th to 4th gear that this happens, so when the tranny is being taken out of overdrive.

Being a 2003 with 200K, i wont replace the tranny, but hoping to get some more miles out of her! She's treated me very well.
 

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If the problem is going from 5th to 4th, I doubt you'll have much luck changing the 3rd gear pressure switch.

A few other thoughts:
1) VTM-4 fluid relatively clean/fresh (changed within at least 30k miles)?
2) checked all your transaxles (front and rear) and CV joints for play?
3) checked the driveshaft and U-joints?

Because it's happening at relatively high speeds, this may be a simple power transfer issue, and the jerk is actually not the transmission itself but caused by worn joints that are getting near the point of implosion.

The VTM-4/rear differential can cause some very odd issues if the fluid is old and/or low. In the big picture a gallon jug of Honda VTM-4 fluid is only ~$40, so I would start with the rear differential if you haven't changed it a while and then inspect all of your shafts in the process.
 

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Being a 2003 with 200K, i wont replace the tranny, but hoping to get some more miles
Being a 2003 with 200k, how are the metal trans lines to the cooler and radiator as that combo has an infamous rep for ruining a transmission. Those two items may not cause your current trans issues but will affect your long term goals with the Pilot if they are not addressed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
If the problem is going from 5th to 4th, I doubt you'll have much luck changing the 3rd gear pressure switch.

A few other thoughts:
1) VTM-4 fluid relatively clean/fresh (changed within at least 30k miles)?
2) checked all your transaxles (front and rear) and CV joints for play?
3) checked the driveshaft and U-joints?

Because it's happening at relatively high speeds, this may be a simple power transfer issue, and the jerk is actually not the transmission itself but caused by worn joints that are getting near the point of implosion.

The VTM-4/rear differential can cause some very odd issues if the fluid is old and/or low. In the big picture a gallon jug of Honda VTM-4 fluid is only ~$40, so I would start with the rear differential if you haven't changed it a while and then inspect all of your shafts in the process.
i changed the VTM-4 fluid when i did the ATF, so that fluid only has 5K on it as well.
Good comments about the relation to power transfer, i might have to give her a good once over before assuming the tranny.
It also doesn't happen all the time. On a 45 mile commute to work maybe 3 times total. Interment issues are always the hardest :rolleyes:
 

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So this has only happened since you changed the fluids, or the problem started and then you changed fluids?

First - definitely check the levels - is it possible you overfilled the ATF? This can definitely cause intermittent issues as the ATF heats up and cools down as it cycles through the radiator. The rear differential is also known to seep if you don't get both fill plugs tight, and if not full you'll notice problems from low fluid on a slope. However, in my experience, the VTM-4 light will go on and then reset if the fluid is hovering just under normal - and I don't think low VTM fluid would cause this...

It actually sounds like your trans is starting to slip. Did you do a 3x drain/fill, or a just a single drain/fill with 3 quarts?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
So this has only happened since you changed the fluids, or the problem started and then you changed fluids?

First - definitely check the levels - is it possible you overfilled the ATF? This can definitely cause intermittent issues as the ATF heats up and cools down as it cycles through the radiator. The rear differential is also known to seep if you don't get both fill plugs tight, and if not full you'll notice problems from low fluid on a slope. However, in my experience, the VTM-4 light will go on and then reset if the fluid is hovering just under normal - and I don't think low VTM fluid would cause this...

It actually sounds like your trans is starting to slip. Did you do a 3x drain/fill, or a just a single drain/fill with 3 quarts?
Fluid level is good, i checked after work. Started noticing this about 4k miles after the ATF fluid change.
Single drain/fill

What is interesting, is it only happens in like traffic situations where you're giving maybe 5-10% throttle around 55mph, enough to get it to downshift. Other than that it shifts normal throughout the RPM range.
Definitely interesting but its never done it before, so something is obviously going on. Unless her age is finally showing.
 

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Your last fluid change may have dislodged something or removed enough particulate material that it’s losing friction, causing some slipping out of 5th. It slips and then ‘grabs’ 4th gear, and when it grabs 4th you feel it jerk. It’s similar to skipping the clutch in a stick shift and then slamming it into gear. Manuals can take it - auto trans not so much…

You may want to consider a 3x drain and fill with the Valvoline Maxlife. You can get 3 one gallon jugs at Walmart and elsewhere for about $60. I can attest to its cleaning properties.

Of course, you also run the risk of removing all of the particulates in suspension and causing more slippage / but at this point I would personally try it.

My only other thought - you’re certain that you changed the 4th gear pressure switch with a new 4th gear pressure switch? It’s been a few years, but I believe the 3rd and 4th gear switches can accidentally interchanged. You may also just want to inspect all the wires and connections - maybe something got dislodged and a connection is slightly open (doubtful but who knows until you look).

It could still be a drivetrain problem, but if it didn’t start until after your drain and fill, then tranny is the biggest suspect.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Your last fluid change may have dislodged something or removed enough particulate material that it’s losing friction, causing some slipping out of 5th. It slips and then ‘grabs’ 4th gear, and when it grabs 4th you feel it jerk. It’s similar to skipping the clutch in a stick shift and then slamming it into gear. Manuals can take it - auto trans not so much…

You may want to consider a 3x drain and fill with the Valvoline Maxlife. You can get 3 one gallon jugs at Walmart and elsewhere for about $60. I can attest to its cleaning properties.

Of course, you also run the risk of removing all of the particulates in suspension and causing more slippage / but at this point I would personally try it.

My only other thought - you’re certain that you changed the 4th gear pressure switch with a new 4th gear pressure switch? It’s been a few years, but I believe the 3rd and 4th gear switches can accidentally interchanged. You may also just want to inspect all the wires and connections - maybe something got dislodged and a connection is slightly open (doubtful but who knows until you look).

It could still be a drivetrain problem, but if it didn’t start until after your drain and fill, then tranny is the biggest suspect.
from a dead stop, if you take off the car will stutter and jerk before catching itself. This only happens when the ac is on. Shut the ac and it’s silky smooth every time. Wondering if there’s a correlation
 

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from a dead stop, if you take off the car will stutter and jerk before catching itself. This only happens when the ac is on. Shut the ac and it’s silky smooth every time. Wondering if there’s a correlation
Possibly electrical? Is transmission ground strap in good shape? Shifts can be effected if the transmission isn't grounded properly. Ground straps can be corroded until they are not effective. Clean connections replace if necessary.
 

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Possibly electrical? Is transmission ground strap in good shape? Shifts can be effected if the transmission isn't grounded properly. Ground straps can be corroded until they are not effective. Clean connections replace if necessary.
I was thinking mechanical.

If the A/C compressor is starting to seize up, you might get a sag in RPM if the serpentine belt is in good shape and tight.

Electrical is easier to check, and driving without A/C might require moving.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I was thinking mechanical.

If the A/C compressor is starting to seize up, you might get a sag in RPM if the serpentine belt is in good shape and tight.

Electrical is easier to check, and driving without A/C might require moving.
heat wave in jersey last week so definitely couldn't shut the AC off! haha serpentine and AC belt are new, so maybe the compressor is starting to show some age?

In the schematic i only see one ground cable, is this the only one?
Cable, Sub-Ground - Honda (32610-S9V-A00)
 

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heat wave in jersey last week so definitely couldn't shut the AC off! haha serpentine and AC belt are new, so maybe the compressor is starting to show some age?
Inspect for any ground wire corrosion. Open the hood with engine and a/c on to observe and note anything unusual as the compressor engages cycles on/off. Stop by local auto parts store for free code scan. As mentioned there may be a misfire occurring with increased engine load.
 
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