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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Pilot friends!
I'm a 65 yr old young lady, and have driven Hondas for 40+ years. I'm devoted to the brand solely because of my awesome mechanics who only work on Hondas. Over the years, I've driven Accords, an Element, an Odyssey and Pilots. Except in a recall situation, I avoid dealerships...another story for another day.

Last year, I scored a used 2014 EXL,4WD with only 23K miles on it (!!), and I plan to drive it forever.

I recently took it, along with my 3 dogs, to a 3-day dog event about 3 hours from home. On day 2, a Saturday, my engine light came on, along with a VTM-4 code. I don't have a reader, and wasn't willing to drive home not knowing the problem and risk being stuck on the interstate with 3 dogs and no where to pull off due the the ongoing heavy construction I had encountered on the trip down.

I took it to the local Honda dealer, grateful they could get me in on a Saturday. They even let my dogs stay in the car while they "diagnosed" the problem. They took 3.5 hours to read the code, during which at intervals, my advisor came to report, "we are still trying to find the problem." -- My 1st clue. My home mechanic has read codes for me many times in a matter of minutes

When the dealer's "Service Advisor" finally came to inform me of the problem, she "advised" the code had read "Mass Air Flow sensor failure" and recommended it be replaced. They didn't have the Honda part and wanted to put an after market part on it for $300+, in addition to the "diagnosis fee" of $129-- My 2nd clue.

I am happy to pay an appropriate diagnosis fee, but my mechanic has never charged a cent for reading a code.

After determining that this part would not cause me to break down on the trip home, I paid the $129 +tax, and my dogs & I went back to our event. The next day, dogs loaded, engine light & VTM code still illuminated, we made the 3 hour trek home....

A few days later, I took my Pilot to my awesome home mechanic, gave him the details, and showed him the dealer's invoice. He was perturbed at the diagnosis charge. I settled in to wait on his diagnosis. I had barely booted up my tablet & put ear buds in, when he came to see me with a big smile and my Mass Air Flow sensor in his hand. With a flashlight, he showed me a bug stuck inside the otherwise pristine part. -- 3rd and final clue. Apparently, the dealer hadn't bothered to even examine the part in the 3.5 hours they had my car.

Within 5 minutes, my home mechanic had cleared out the bug with a shot of air, reinstalled the part, and sent me on my way... NO CHARGE.

I know many on this forum are mechanics, and I trust you all are just as awesome as Randy and Keith and their crew at Compact Car Service in Charlotte, NC. Knowledgeable, honest mechanics, with critical thinking skills are a priceless treasure, for which I am so very grateful!
 

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Glad you got it sorted out. I have grown to have little faith in dealer service techs. Had one dealer service tech come up with a diagnosis (after two days of working on it) that a bad body control module ($1500) was the reason the power mirrors on my Traverse weren't working, and that the bad power mirror fuse I had found was good. I had to bring the blown power mirror fuse to them to show that it was blown. After I took it back and put a new fuse in, I had it diagnosed it only 20 minutes: Bad mirror switch had a contact break off inside it which caused a short circuit that blew the fuse. The mirrors worked just fine if I bypassed the switch with clip leads. The real kicker? Looking at the power mirror circuit diagram in the factory service manual, the body control module they told me was bad was not connected to the power mirrors in any way o_O.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Shaking my head. What a shame you were without your vehicle for days, and you still had to show the "experts" what was wrong. Did they even dig for answers? What happened to work ethic?
 

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I suspect that it's not so much an issue of "work ethic" as maybe lack of knowledge. I helped an in-law fight through some shenanigans at her Toyota service dept. They had actually damaged the car and wanted her to pay for a basket of parts and more service costs to fix it. I spent a couple hours scattered over a week or so, and went through the manual-driven diagnostic process based on symptoms. They (2 technicians plus the service manager) were exactly following the Toyota manuals, which were wrong in this case. I showed them the damage they had done and only they could have done, and they still stood on the manual procedures and conclusions. New part at the end of the week, they installed it, and the car ran fine. They still didn't believe that it was the obviously-damaged part, since it wasn't on the long list of things to replace based on the symptoms.

So... did the tech stumble through the diagnosis? Should have been pretty easy to just plug in and read. Then maybe look? That's a small stretch especially if they didn't have the part that day.

Meanwhile -- How did a bug get to the MAF sensor? Options: Damaged air cleaner, .or. crack in the air duct between the air filter housing and the section with the sensor in it. Some place there's a hole big enough for a bug to pass through, and there shouldn't be.

Glad it worked out for you in the end. There's a broad spectrum of talent that shows up at the technical training places like UTI and junior college programs, and end up in dealerships. We are growing a class of "technicians" trained to plug in and diagnoses strictly based on what they might see on the screen. The feds sort of mandated the path we are on when they started requiring onboard diagnostics in the early 1990's. It was originally a tool to manage costs and talent needed at the repair end, but it's getting a little too far towards "read the screen, replace the parts that the screen shows. Click here to have the parts department stage the parts to your car and ticket for you, and invoice the customer for you." No tools or hands on the car for the diagnosis except to plug in the cable under the dash.

In the end, it's exactly what we asked for. Not really all we wanted, but...
 
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Within 5 minutes, my home mechanic had cleared out the bug with a shot of air, reinstalled the part, and sent me on my way... NO CHARGE.

I know many on this forum are mechanics, and I trust you all are just as awesome as Randy and Keith and their crew at Compact Car Service in Charlotte, NC. Knowledgeable, honest mechanics, with critical thinking skills are a priceless treasure, for which I am so very grateful!
I totally agree with what you said. My 2010 was serviced only by the dealer for oil changes when it was new...I figured, it's an oil change, how can they muck it up? In any case I've heard horror stories with mucking it up even with oil changes but I've been lucky. Otherwise, other maintenance stuff I do at home. I know you're going to ask, "why not do the oil changes myself"; and my answer is (I really don't know). Anyway, back to my response. I also have a mechanic that I trust although I am not sure how long he will be in business since we are both getting old/er :ROFLMAO: :ROFLMAO: but eventually I won't have any choice but leave the maintenance work to a younger person, but that will be still quite a few years from now.
 

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Interesting that a bug made it through the filter somehow, unless the filter was not installed correctly. Just speculating. I’d insure the clamps on the intake hose are tight. A mass airflow sensor (MAF) should periodically be cleaned. Some more than others if you live and drive in a dust prone area. CRC Electronic Cleaner or MAF Cleaner can be used safely by unplugging and removing the MAF (2 Philips screws), keeping the MAF right side up, spray a few short burst directly into the electrodes to remove dust particles. Let dry completely before reinstalling. A clean MAF helps to keep the air/fuel mixture in check. Improve fuel economy. This is a very simple easy DIY that should be on your maintenance list if your vehicle is equipped with a MAF. Don't overtighten or strip out your screws. 😁👍
 

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Carrying NG's MAF cleaning protocol just a little further, take the time to carefully inspect the plastic air ducting between the air filter housing and the throttle body. With age and exposure to heat, the accordion pleats in the plastic tend to crack with movement/flexing, and allow dirty air in. If the cracks happen between that MAF sensor and the throttle body, it will allow "false" or "unmetered" air into the engine. Any crack risks dirt going in, while unmetered air also messes with the fuel mixture.

I'll speculate that the VCM has a "limp mode" that allows the car to be driven when the MAF signal goes beyond expected range. That "limp mode" would typically depend then on MAP (manifold pressure) and intake air temperature readings, plus throttle position, to decide how much fuel to add in open-loop operation. Once the upstream exhaust gas sensors heat sufficiently, their signals are integrated with the others to better tune fuel mixture in closed-loop operation. 2CE's experience with being able to drive home and to her own mechanic for the fix suggests that the "limp mode" works pretty well. Still, there's a penalty in performance and fuel economy, and always a risk of something weird happening along the way.

I need to go take a closer look at where the crankcase vent system dumps into the intake duct. On higher-mileage cars with more blowby (thinks VCM-related oil-fouled rings...), there's more oil and combustion gases circulated back to the intake. That may offer a bigger chance of contaminating the MAF sensor, adding more importance to cleaning that sensor as a more regular service step. Especially if that vent hose is connected upstream of the MAF sensor in that air inlet ducting.

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Is anybody else thinking that a plug-in electric vehicle might save us from all this stuff? I'm politely declining the invites from the local Porsche, Audi and MB dealers to come test drive their latest electric offerings. Mostly because I end up buying something... So far, none have anything that's close to Pilot size and capacity. It's just a matter of time before the more mainstream brands figure out how to address both the American mid-sized SUV market and the demand for electric drivelines all in one package. Service needs on those would be limited to changing the oil in a gearbox, and checking tire pressures and tread depth. Diagnostics and software updates would be handled "over the air" by your WiFi connection at home. An e-mail would arrive telling you to check those pressures or get that gearbox oil service done. No ICE, and no service or repair issues related to combustion engine operation at all. Everything handled by remote 'techs' who have on-the-job training growing up with their video game consoles. Maybe we'll be allowed to wash and vacuum it.

A few more solar panels on the garage roof and a power-wall storage system could keep it "fueled up". For us DIY'ers, the only expense would be for whatever version of VTM4 fluid might be needed for that gearbox service. ;)
 
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