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Discussion Starter #1
This summer I was on a 900 mile road trip down to Colorado for work when my 2003 AWD pilot started experiencing transmission issues at roughly 170,000 miles. Third gear seemed to be completely dropped and it would rev high RPMs before slamming into high gear, not long after I got the blinking "D" light and a check engine light with code P0730 "incorrect gear ratio". I got the car to the only mechanic in Moab that was willing to look at a Honda. He suggested flushing the trans to see if that makes a difference. $250 later, the problem was still occurring. I also tried checking all the external solenoids, which were full of metal shavings but were fully functioning. I then made the decision to try to make it to the nearest dealership (100 miles away). After limping the car down the highway in low gear, the dealership told me that the transmission is shot, most likely a blown gear box or damaged friction plates. I ended up getting towed half-way across the country to get home. Since then I have been considering options for a repair however the car is essentially totaled. The dealership quoted me around $4,000 for a rebuilt trans and other shops quoted around $3,000. I made the decision to order a rebuilt transmission and attempt the swap myself (still very expensive). This will also mean replacing the torque converter and adding a trans cooler on the radiator. I have basic mechanical knowledge and have been told its a doable repair with enough time investment. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any straightforward instructional videos or manuals on a transmission swap. I understand that this is a large repair and there are ALOT of parts to keep straight. Has anyone ever performed this repair on their own? Any advice on steps to take while removing the core? I have a shop full of tools and a couple friends with pretty good mechanical knowledge. Any advice helps!
 

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This summer I was on a 900 mile road trip down to Colorado for work when my 2003 AWD pilot started experiencing transmission issues at roughly 170,000 miles. Third gear seemed to be completely dropped and it would rev high RPMs before slamming into high gear, not long after I got the blinking "D" light and a check engine light with code P0730 "incorrect gear ratio". I got the car to the only mechanic in Moab that was willing to look at a Honda. He suggested flushing the trans to see if that makes a difference. $250 later, the problem was still occurring. I also tried checking all the external solenoids, which were full of metal shavings but were fully functioning. I then made the decision to try to make it to the nearest dealership (100 miles away). After limping the car down the highway in low gear, the dealership told me that the transmission is shot, most likely a blown gear box or damaged friction plates. I ended up getting towed half-way across the country to get home. Since then I have been considering options for a repair however the car is essentially totaled. The dealership quoted me around $4,000 for a rebuilt trans and other shops quoted around $3,000. I made the decision to order a rebuilt transmission and attempt the swap myself (still very expensive). This will also mean replacing the torque converter and adding a trans cooler on the radiator. I have basic mechanical knowledge and have been told its a doable repair with enough time investment. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any straightforward instructional videos or manuals on a transmission swap. I understand that this is a large repair and there are ALOT of parts to keep straight. Has anyone ever performed this repair on their own? Any advice on steps to take while removing the core? I have a shop full of tools and a couple friends with pretty good mechanical knowledge. Any advice helps!
I'd go to YouTube and find Accords, Odyssey, Pilot any sideways v6 Honda to get an idea. Take lots of photos before you remove things. Place bolts (in holes) with the item removed. The manual is good for torque specs. Lol
 

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2008 Honda Pilot EX-L
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How old is your charging system? One member reports shifting gremlins that were fixed with a new alternator: 2003 Pilot EX-L reborn - Found the root of all evils...

Something free along the same lines, try cleaning all the chassis grounds with a wire brush, then spray with an anti-corrosion spray and/or put some dielectric grease on the connection, particularly any that are related/associated with the Transmission and it's sensors/solenoids, and computer.
 

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I have a shop full of tools and a couple friends with pretty good mechanical knowledge. Any advice helps!
Commendable that you want to invest the time and money on your Pilot. Just remember the residual value of your Pilot will be exceeded by the cost of the repair which is something that crosses my mind as I rejuvenate my '04 Pilot. Budget for a new radiator to your build to protect your investment. Check out this thread as the service manual will be helpful for your first generation Pilot. Keep us up to date of the work progression.

 

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I have not swapped a transmission in a Pilot. I have swapped transmissions before in other vehicles, and I have 2 tips:

1) If you aren't using a lift, get it as high off the ground as possible. The last time I swapped a transmission I drove the car up on cinder blocks stacked about 3 feet high off a concrete floor. You will want enough clearance to easily move a dolly plus the height of the tranny under the vehicle. Moving it by hand can be horrible and cause damage
2) If it's a rebuilt and has a warranty make damn sure the warranty applies if you install it yourself. Fine print on many of the warranties indicate voided if not installed by a professional - unless one of your friends is a certified mechanic, then you may void the warranty as soon as you touch it.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Update: Two months of slow progress later and I have the new unit in the car. One thing I didn't anticipate when starting this project was that the sub frame has to be dropped out of the car in order to remove the transmission. The bulk of the work was getting the subframe out because you have to take apart both wheels and lower control arms, the steering column, and you have to remove engine mounts, which means the engine has to be suspended. Getting the trans out was actually pretty straight forward after removing the subframe. You will also need to remove and replace both spindle lock nuts.

The shop that sold me the new transmission has suggested that there is no need for a torque wrench on the mounting bolts or the TC bolts. Also, I read online that you should fill the TC with fluid before installing the unit. This is not necessary as the TC will cycle fluid when the car runs for the first time. Since I reused all the trans solenoids, I took them all off and cleaned them thoroughly, along with flushing the tiny filters on the inside of the large ones. I plan on testing all the solenoids before trying to run it as well.

The most challenging part of the reinstallation will be making sure all the wiring harnesses are in the correct place. For anyone else trying this there are ALOT of wiring clips and connectors. Luckily I only had one sensor (the oil temp sensor) break on me, this still cost me 80$ to replace. Make sure you take plenty of pictures before detaching them and maybe mark them with a sharpie if you can.

Thank you everyone for the input. I'll let you know if she pops into gear!!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
How old is your charging system? One member reports shifting gremlins that were fixed with a new alternator: 2003 Pilot EX-L reborn - Found the root of all evils...

Something free along the same lines, try cleaning all the chassis grounds with a wire brush, then spray with an anti-corrosion spray and/or put some dielectric grease on the connection, particularly any that are related/associated with the Transmission and it's sensors/solenoids, and computer.
I've had several trans shops and a dealer take a look and drive the car around the block and they all told me that the 3rd gear box is likely ruptured and the friction plates are probably loosing teeth, which unfortunately warrants a full replacement.
 

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2008 Honda Pilot EX-L 2013 Honda Pilot EX-L
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You'd think since Honda did such a poor job with these transmissions that they'd make them a little bit easier to take out and replace. Either way glad you got your Pilot back on the road!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Commendable that you want to invest the time and money on your Pilot. Just remember the residual value of your Pilot will be exceeded by the cost of the repair which is something that crosses my mind as I rejuvenate my '04 Pilot. Budget for a new radiator to your build to protect your investment. Check out this thread as the service manual will be helpful for your first generation Pilot. Keep us up to date of the work progression.

The company I bought the trans from sent me a free trans cooler that I am going to install. Do you think its necessary to also replace the stock radiator?
 

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Do you think its necessary to also replace the stock radiator?
The 2003 isn't the most prone to radiator failure, but on the other hand it's a radiator that's old enough to vote. :D

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I'd hedge my bets while you're in there with a Denso from Rockauto. Even with a thermostat and upper and lower hoses, it's cheap insurance.

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The company I bought the trans from sent me a free trans cooler that I am going to install. Do you think its necessary to also replace the stock radiator?
Depends on the age and overall condition of the radiator. Since the trans was replaced most of the bolts, lines and connections should be easy to loosen. IMO I would do it to ensure another 10 plus years of confidence in that system. Check out my TLC thread that includes a discussion on my ATF cooler installation.
 

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You'd think since Honda did such a poor job with these transmissions that they'd make them a little bit easier to take out and replace
Think the Honda bean counters were working to get the Pilot owner one way or another. Catastrophic trans failure or strawberry milkshake
 

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The company I bought the trans from sent me a free trans cooler that I am going to install. Do you think its necessary to also replace the stock radiator?
You need to flush out the old cooler in the radiator with a special flush kit. Metal grit and friction material will contaminate your new transmission. Or just use the new cooler provided, and bypass the old one. Warranty will be void if you run contaminated ATF thru your new transmission.
 
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