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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
In desperate need of help for a potentially-serious problem with a 2003 Honda Pilot. The vehicle was driving as if the parking brake was on, but it wasn't actually on. It started to drive normally, and then starting having more problems. When the shifter was put it in to Park, the gear indicator light didn't light up, like it wasn't in Park. Came back out and the car would not start. After getting jumped for a split second, it started right back up. Went to a gas station and had the same problem when leaving. Was able to get the shifter in to Drive, but the car would not move. Got out of the car while it was running and in Drive and was able to push the car and move it. Scared at what could be the problem.

This happened overnight. When driving, it's perfect. No shifting problems whatsoever. It's the starting and parking that seems to be the problem. I was able to drive it the 50 miles back home just fine. The car is parked, but the shifter light is still not on showing that it's in Park. Started the car up right after I shut it off to see what would happen, and it wont start again.

FYI, this is actually my 19 year-old son's vehicle and he is at the Coast Guard Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia, while we, his family, are in Arizona. To make things ever more stressful and difficult, he is there attending A School and studies for most of the day, and has very little access to his phone right now, so this description was communicated to us over a brief, rushed, very stressful phone conversation.

I was thinking that the problem may actually be the alternator, and that once the battery loses all of its juice/power, something electrical stops working properly and that that's actually causing the shifting problems. Is this realistically possible? Or am I completely wrong about this?

I will try to get some more details from my son ASAP, to try to get a better description and make it easier to try to get some help. In the meantime, any helpful replies would be greatly appreciated!
 

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Like plplplpl mentioned it could be the battery.
Also check if starting from neutral makes any difference. Might be the tranny range sensor starting to fail.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
How old is the battery?
Like plplplpl mentioned it could be the battery.
Also check if starting from neutral makes any difference. Might be the tranny range sensor starting to fail.
Thank you both very much for the replies. I really appreciate it. Honestly, I am not sure how old the battery is, but I do know that he bought the vehicle within the past year; probably, about 8-9 months ago. I recall him having it buy something shortly after he got the vehicle, but I don't recall if that included a new battery. I was hoping that he would be able to go to a nearby AutoZone and have them use their diagnosis tool, that plugs in underneath the dashboard, and see if that might give him some error codes that he could use to get some information. Unfortunately, though, it's going to be very difficult for him to get away from the training center; and even made more difficult, because I don't know if he'll be able to get his vehicle started.

Also, I wanted to say that my son actually spoke to his mom about this last night, and not to me directly, so I was posting and basing this on the information she said our son gave to her. I will definitely try to get some more details as soon as possible; but, honestly, he has been so overwhelmed with homework, and gets to use his phone so infrequently, that there are times where we go several days without even being able to talk to him on the phone or exchange messages with him.

So, as of right now, what I posted on here is pretty much all we know. I will definitely plan on trying to get more detailed information from him ASAP and then come back in here to provide some better information for y'all, in hopes of making it easier to get some better suggestions and helpful responses.

By the way, is it realistically possible that a bad battery could be causing such a significant issue? Could it cause a problem that would actually seem so severe that it could seem like the transmission is going out?

And would you guys think that my son going to a local AutoZone, or other auto parts store, and trying to get them to use their diagnosis tool, would likely be a good way to get some useful information about what might be causing the problem?
 

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Go to the problem section of this forum and look up the sticky post (highlighted in yellow) titled Flashing Shift Indicator. Look at the post from 94eg dated 2/23/2012. Sorry I would have linked it except I haven’t figured out how to do that on the smartphone version of the forum.
There is a method to read the major diagnostic code from the dash lights while jumping two pins on the OBD2 port. This method does not output the subcode, but the major code will probably be enough info to get pointed in the right direction if one or more is reported. If your son goes to one of the auto parts stores it is possible their reader will not report any trouble codes since the code reader they use only reports “generic” diag codes and not manufacturer specific codes. I ran into this problem with my laptop based generic code reader which reported no errors while the OBD2 jumper method displayed the major code.
Keep us posted when you get more info and we’ll see what we can do to help your son figure this out.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Update from Mom: I was able to speak to him this morning and his car started no problems. The shifter showed that the car was in Park and was highlighted, but he did not try to drive it, because he was scared that he would not be able to get it back in Park. That seems to be the problem when speaking to him. Getting it in to Drive is not the problem at all, he said it's simply trying to get it in to Park.

FYI: (This post below was actually posted by his mom - on my phone, while in a hurry - and now, edited by me).
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the detailed reply!

Go to the problem section of this forum and look up the sticky post (highlighted in yellow) titled Flashing Shift Indicator. Look at the post from 94eg dated 2/23/2012. Sorry I would have linked it except I haven’t figured out how to do that on the smartphone version of the forum.
There is a method to read the major diagnostic code from the dash lights while jumping two pins on the OBD2 port. This method does not output the subcode, but the major code will probably be enough info to get pointed in the right direction if one or more is reported. If your son goes to one of the auto parts stores it is possible their reader will not report any trouble codes since the code reader they use only reports “generic” diag codes and not manufacturer specific codes. I ran into this problem with my laptop based generic code reader which reported no errors while the OBD2 jumper method displayed the major code.
Keep us posted when you get more info and we’ll see what we can do to help your son figure this out.
Thank you very much for the detailed reply and for being willing to try to help our son get his vehicle issue figured out! I will plan on trying to find the sticky post you referenced and see if we can talk our son through that process. Also, I will try to see if I can talk to my son myself, or get him to send me message and give me some more details about what's been happening with his vehicle. This is a very stressful situation, made even more stressful, because of the circumstances of him being at A-School and not having very much freedom/opportunity when it comes to leaving the training center at this time.

I will definitely plan on updating this thread and you guys on the situation, and please know that our family genuinely appreciates your replies and efforts to try to help us with this matter!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Just to update the thread and the people who have tried to help so far, I got to briefly speak to my son on the phone on Sunday and it sounds like he will not need/or be able to drive his vehicle all week, so his plan is to try to get it towed to a shop this weekend (or something like this). So, for the time being, it doesn't seem like there's much/anything else to be done. If he doesn't get the the issue resolved over the weekend after he gets it towed to a shop, I will likely be coming back here with an update and asking for some help/advice/suggestions.

Regardless of what happens with this situation (and whether or not I end up needing to come back and ask for more help), I want to say thank you to all of you who have replied. I really appreciate your efforts to try to help with this!
 

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My 2 cents - a weak battery can wreak havoc on these vehicles. To date, I have had two separate instances of very weird things happening, both attributed to a dying battery. The other thing to check is the transmission fluid. Make sure it's full and clean.

PS - I see you're in Payson - love it out there. I grew up in Phoenix and my best friend has a little cabin about 15 miles up Houston Mesa Rd near the bottom of the rim, right on the East Verde River.
 

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I think you’re making the wisest choice to have a mechanic look at it based on your son’s lack of spare time. Hopefully it turns out to be something simple and inexpensive.
 

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Sounds like gear shifting linkage has to be adjusted. It is a maintenance procedure, like parking break adjustment on some cars.
I had this gear shifting linkage issue for almost 2 years--gear getting stuck when in park, at times, the key was also stuck and not able to start or even pull the key out to the point that I was getting scared to drive or park it. I got it fixed for $700.
 
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