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Backstory - 2018 EXL, bought about a year and a half ago used with 17k on it, now has about 52k. Dealer did the first couple services, I've been doing them since the freebies stopped and just changed the engine and rear diff oil a few weekends ago. Not sure if any of that matters though.

I tend to stick to cruise control @ 65mph on the highway, have the econ button on, and generally try not to push the car (no jackrabbiting), mostly for fuel economy. I've noticed lately that on surface streets when I'm going up hills, if the car is in the 1-2k RPM range, it will tend to "hunt", that is, the speed will go up and down (RPM and MPH). I am generally around 35-40MPH when it does this. It does not do this when running cruise control on the highway. I turned the econ button off, didn't seem to affect the hunting issue. It's not really jarring when it does this, but you can certainly feel it in the seat. It's almost like it can't decide which gear to be in. If I push in throttle, the engine RPM will jump and it will accelerate (too fast for speed limit though).

Not sure if this issue has been there the entire time I've owned the car; we moved about 6 months ago and there's a stretch of road that the car tends to do this on, that I wouldn't have driven when I first got the car.

I was thinking of changing the transmission fluid just for the hell of it, even though it hasn't called for it.

Other information - if relevant, I did a fair amount of towing with it between Feb and March of this year - camp trailer with top, just moving furniture and whatnot to the new house, nothing really heavy. I kept it at 55 on the highway (towing absolutely murders gas mileage).
 

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Look through several long threads on the topic. Basically, the Variable Cylinder Management causes this, where the engine computer allows "slip" in the torque converter in the 6-speed transmission, so as to mask vibrations when running in 3 cyl mode (light throttle steady speed). The solution is to DISABLE VCM (see other threads), then drain and fill the transmission 2 or 3 times. See other threads.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Look through several long threads on the topic. Basically, the Variable Cylinder Management causes this, where the engine computer allows "slip" in the torque converter in the 6-speed transmission, so as to mask vibrations when running in 3 cyl mode (light throttle steady speed). The solution is to DISABLE VCM (see other threads), then drain and fill the transmission 2 or 3 times. See other threads.

Thanks Red;

I was looking around after I posted and saw at least one other thread, but for a newer model.

How can tell which version of the transmission is on the vehicle? Recently went through this with our 2020 Ody, as the fluids and procedures are drastically different for the 2 different transmissions on that car.
 

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2018 Pilot EXL is 6 speed Honda AT that uses the Honda DW-1 fluid. Many people including myself have success using the Valvoline Maxlife Multivehicle Synthetic ATF (red jug) instead. I think it will take 3.7 quarts. Drain using ATF drain plug, you can fill via dipstick if you get the right skinny funnel.

This is the Maxlife ATF:
Valvoline MaxLife Multi-Vehicle Full Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) 1 GA
Robot or human?

You can verify transmission type at:

I agree on trying ATF changes first based on your symptoms. Might take 2 or 3 changes, each drain only removes 1/3 of the fluid volume.

I agree with disabling the VCM, but it is not an immediate fix if your ATF is degraded somewhat. Change ATF first, but buy a VCM disable device in next few months. I use VCM Tuner II (vcmtuner.com) on two vehicles with no issues, quality product.
 

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2018 EXL you have the 6 speed. At 52k you are overdue for a transmission fluid change and your symptoms sound like an ATF change is in order. Simple drain and fill service. Needs to be done every 30k bare minimum, more often if you're the proactive type.

Agree with @AVC to dsiabale the cylinder deactivation system (VCM) to help prolong the life of your transmission fluid.
 

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Basically, the Variable Cylinder Management causes this, where the engine computer allows "slip" in the torque converter in the 6-speed transmission, so as to mask vibrations when running in 3 cyl mode (light throttle steady speed). The solution is to DISABLE VCM (see other threads), then drain and fill the transmission 2 or 3 times. See other threads.
There's NO proof of VCM causing this - it's just a theory...and not a very good one considering the TCC disengages only for a fraction of a second during transitions between 6 and 3-cylinder modes which occurs only under extremely light loads and extremely light throttle application - some of the least-stressful conditions a transmission will ever encounter. :)
 

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It IS empirically proven that VCM enacts the "slip" strategy in the 6-speed torque converter--you can see it on a scan tool when VCM goes to 3 cyl mode-- which leads to rapid fluid deterioration (not BURNING of fluid but contamination), which makes the "designed" 200 RPM slippage into 400, 500 or more RPM, and very noticeable transmission performance symptoms. Honda apparently issued a TSB (in 2019?) which somewhat improved the "slippage" behavior and rapid fluid deterioration for the 6-speed, but it did not solve the issue for many owners.

Therefore if you did JUST ONE thing, disabling VCM would be, by FAR, the largest benefit for the 6-speed. Also doing at least two drain and is recommended as by the time the symptoms appear, the fluid is often very contaminated. After reading many dozen of cases on the forums, for those who disabled VCM and introduced fresh fluid (DW-1 is fine in my opinion), the rapid fluid contamination was stopped, where normal 30k mile (or waiting for MM prompt) drain and fill could be resumed. My '20 Pilot with 17k miles, which has had VCM disable since 11k miles, still has good, clear transmission fluid (100% DW-1). I expect it will be in the same condition at 30k miles for the first normally scheduled drain and fill.

For those who regularly tow, 15k mile drain and fill intervals are prudent. Also 15k intervals for rear differential fluid.

.
 

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...which leads to rapid fluid deterioration (not BURNING of fluid but contamination)...
What evidence do you have that a momentary release of the TCC clutch during transitions between 6 and 3-cylinder mode causes rapid fluid deterioration?

I get that you don't like VCM. I'm not the biggest fan of it, either, but I've never seen any evidence that it is the cause of TCC problems.
 

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What evidence do you have that a momentary release of the TCC clutch during transitions between 6 and 3-cylinder mode causes rapid fluid deterioration?
I get that you don't like VCM. I'm not the biggest fan of it, either, but I've never seen any evidence that it is the cause of TCC problems.
Well that bit of TCC shuffle isn't causing the rapid deterioration of the fluid. It is the 3rd gen 6-speed VCM strategy to permit 200 RPM +/- of SLIP of the torque converter clutches for the duration of 3 cyl mode (steady cruising) in order to reduce torque pulse vibration in the drivetrain. This behavior alone appears to knacker the fluid for non-towers after 35k to 50k miles (when many are first posting about it). For towers it seems to be problematic after 12k to 15k miles.

Anyone with a scan tool which allows access to transmission PIDs can observe themselves this slip activity during VCM operation. @Slvr7 was the first Honda tech--that I am aware of--who verified this.
 

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2018 Pilot EXL is 6 speed Honda AT that uses the Honda DW-1 fluid. Many people including myself have success using the Valvoline Maxlife Multivehicle Synthetic ATF (red jug) instead. I think it will take 3.7 quarts. Drain using ATF drain plug, you can fill via dipstick if you get the right skinny funnel.

This is the Maxlife ATF:
Valvoline MaxLife Multi-Vehicle Full Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) 1 GA
Robot or human?

You can verify transmission type at:

I agree on trying ATF changes first based on your symptoms. Might take 2 or 3 changes, each drain only removes 1/3 of the fluid volume.

I agree with disabling the VCM, but it is not an immediate fix if your ATF is degraded somewhat. Change ATF first, but buy a VCM disable device in next few months. I use VCM Tuner II (vcmtuner.com) on two vehicles with no issues, quality product.
question:
I have read somewhere that when using valvoline maxlife atf fluid the transmission shifting is a bit harder compared to honda dw-1. Is there any truth to this for those that have switched over.
 

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question:
I have read somewhere that when using valvoline maxlife atf fluid the transmission shifting is a bit harder compared to honda dw-1. Is there any truth to this for those that have switched over.
Haven't used Maxlife, but if you want a synthetic that shifts as smooth as DW-1, I recommend Amsoil ATL. It really agrees with the 6AT.
 

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question:
I have read somewhere that when using valvoline maxlife atf fluid the transmission shifting is a bit harder compared to honda dw-1. Is there any truth to this for those that have switched over.
Yes, it will shift firmer; lower viscosity (published comparison) and less friction modifier (empirically observed) than DW-1. Of course VML is a GENERAL PURPOSE fluid, not designed specifically for any transmission, but rather a compromise blend to allow it to be serviceable (but not optimal) in a large number of transmissions.

If I were to use a general purpose fluid in a Honda, and wanted a closer shift feel to DW-1, I'd probably try Valvoline IMPORT Mulit-Vehicle, which is listed as a replacement for Z-1 (the non-synthetic version of DW-1, but with apparently identical friction modifiers).

And there is of course DW-1, for which there are a specifically labeled/advertised synthetic aftermarket versions from Aisin, Idemitsu and Eneos. I've used Idemitsu H-Plus for a while now on my 2nd Gen and now 3rd Gen Pilots. Purchase in 5 qt jugs from RockAuto. Also bought Idemitsu from Advanced Auto when I have a coupon.

If you are bent to use VML, and don't like the shift feel, a tube of Lubeguard Instant Shudder Fixx will help.
 

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What evidence do you have that a momentary release of the TCC clutch during transitions between 6 and 3-cylinder mode causes rapid fluid deterioration?

I get that you don't like VCM. I'm not the biggest fan of it, either, but I've never seen any evidence that it is the cause of TCC problems.
One of the resident mechanics was the one who brought it up and had a lot of hands on basis for his theory. I think we have seen enough of this to make a connection that at the very least this intentional slip is certainly not helping the longevity of the torque converters and fluid.

Honda transmissions have always been hard on fluid, why they would develop a solution that pushes that non-synthetic fluid a little harder is questionable.

 

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As I recall, both Honda ATFs (Z-1 and DW-1) use a very unique additive package that includes a lot of zinc...which is extremely uncommon for ATFs and not found in any other published formulation. I do agree from personal experienece that mixing Castrol Import Multi Vehicle ATF into a sump of Honda fluid shifted closer to original than mixing Valvoline MaxLife ATF into a sump of Honda fluid did. I don't consider this scientific or even repeatable, since it wasn't a flush of the sump at all...but rather one or two spill-and-fills to mix new fluid in.

I used to participate over at the BobIsTheOilGuy (BITOG) forums regularly, and there was a lot of speculation about the Honda ATFs, and their additive package in particular. No other fluid on the market has the same stated characteristics, but that doesn't mean there aren't substitutes that might work just as, or nearly as, well as the stuff in the genuine fluid. Is that zinc (to use it as an example) there solely to modify shift feel? Is it there as an anti-wear additive for the wet clutch packs? Is something else that may not be stated on someone else's product data sheet or virgin oil analysis just as good as zinc? Maybe zinc's cheap and that's why Honda uses it and maybe Castrol or Valvoline use something more expensive. Maybe it's the other way around, and zinc is expensive, which is why Honda is the only one doing it in their ATF.
 

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My understanding of zinc in lubricants is more for metal-on-metal anti-wear, not for metal to friction plate shock control. My recollection is that natural or artificial esters/polymers are used for that purpose.

The major issue I gleaned over hte years is that the PCM is carefully calibrated for the friction/slip characteristics of a given transmission clutch system. All PCM's have some accommodation as the fluid properties change by temperature and "wear", and for changes in clutch actuation, friction plate wear, etc. Some PCM's are more "adaptive" than others; i.e Toyota 4, 5 and 6-speeds are notoriously fussy about using other than T-IV or WS--whatever they were designed for. Conversely, Toyota transmissions are typically very long lived--on the factory fill.

As for Honda's, others can testify to the 5 and 6 speed trans adaptation to VML, although in many examples, the shift quality noticeably changes. I haven't seen anyone's VML results when they have it at nearly undiluted and in the trans beyond 30k miles and/or haven't disabled VCM while using VML.
 

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No other fluid on the market has the same stated characteristics...
And, no other automatic transmission on the market is like a Honda 6-speed or earlier automatic transmission. Unlike every other automatic transmission on the market which uses planetary gears and brakes, Honda's automatics use parallel shafts like a manual transmission instead. :)
 

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And, no other automatic transmission on the market is like a Honda 6-speed or earlier automatic transmission. Unlike every other automatic transmission on the market which uses planetary gears and brakes, Honda's automatics use parallel shafts like a manual transmission instead. :)
Correct -- and this is really to the questions/points earlier about the shift quality differences with the different fluids. Rather than brake and apply clutches with planetary gearsets, Honda's automated manuals rely on very carefully timed clutch work between multiple sets of wet clutches. Other fluid may or may not work well long term in the H5 and H6 transmissions (though most reports are positive), but we can say for certain that the formulation of other fluids is not the same and there are definitely physical/mechanical/frictional(?) changes to how these transmissions operate using different fluid. I guess all that to day that if one really does want the shift quality and feel of the original fluid, then DW-1 is probably the lowest risk option.

I haven't seen anyone's VML results when they have it at nearly undiluted and in the trans beyond 30k miles and/or haven't disabled VCM while using VML.
Yes, I'm in agreement 100%. It's hard to know, especially in such an uncontrolled and unscientific environment such as this (a community of interested owners), exactly what impact certain changes might bring to the table. I presume that the aftermarket's selection criteria for its "recommended for use in" lists is simply looking for other fluids with about the same viscosity numbers; Valvoline recommends MaxLife ATF for both the H5/H6 transmissions AND the ZF-9 transmission, which use fluids with entirely different additive packages. I'm not saying that the aftermarket fluids are good or bad but, like you, I am curious how one of these H5/H6 units would fare if run on a consistent diet of one of the aftermarket fluids...since new.

I do think remanufactured H5/H6 transmissions come with non-Honda fluid, and I think the fluid is often not even a clone of DW-1...it's MaxLife or Castrol IMV or something similar. I wonder what kind of life those remans has...and if the fluid's contribution could even be separated from the rebuild job itself (quality materials, quality assembly, etc.).
 

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There's NO proof of VCM causing this - it's just a theory...and not a very good one considering the TCC disengages only for a fraction of a second during transitions between 6 and 3-cylinder modes which occurs only under extremely light loads and extremely light throttle application - some of the least-stressful conditions a transmission will ever encounter. :)
You have posted this “there is no proof that VCM is bad” line before. I wonder if you are a Corporate troll who is trying to mitigate the Honda 6-speed/VCM debacle? Or perhaps you just think that the little people should not criticize Honda’s clearly superior VCM engineering? Your fraction-of-a-second theory is just a load of bull. The real world problems of many 6-speed owners should count for more than your unsupported blathering. I cannot take you seriously. I personally experienced torque converter failure due to VCM. Fortunately, I was still under warranty (by 1500 miles). Other folks here have been less fortunate.
 

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What evidence do you have that a momentary release of the TCC clutch during transitions between 6 and 3-cylinder mode causes rapid fluid deterioration?

I get that you don't like VCM. I'm not the biggest fan of it, either, but I've never seen any evidence that it is the cause of TCC problems.
My 2018 torque converter failed at 58,500 miles. The ATF was black with the worn carbon fiber material from the TC clutch. VCM deliberate slip designed by Honda.
 

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The 5 speed Pilots don’t eat up their torque converters. The 6-speeds do, often just after the power train warranty expires. 5-speed Pilot VCM was never linked to a torque converter slip program. 6-speed Pilots VCM are programmed to slip the TC clutch. I’m no genius, but if I slip a clutch, it’s going to wear out the friction material.

If I was looking for a good used Pilot, knowing what I now know, I would buy a 2015. They have the 5-speed transmission, and there is no TC slip programmed. The 5-speeds don’t eat up their torque converters.

However, I bought a 2018 with the 6-speed. New TC under warranty at 58,500. I added an ATF cooler, and I added S-VCM to turn off the slip. I hope for good service life, but who knows?
 
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