Honda Pilot Transmission Problems

My 2005 Honda Pilot with 87,000 miles on it bit the dust. It won’t start or move anymore. A problem with the radiator allowed antifreeze to mix with the transmission fluid. Honda recalled over a million 2003 and 2004 Pilots for this problem, but my 2005 isn’t covered.

My wife and I went to visit the Wild Center in Tupper Lake in the Adirondack mountains of New York. We were on Route 3, a rural 2-lane road, not heavily travelled, going about 50, when suddenly it felt like the transmission had slipped out of gear and I heard the engine revving. I saw the tachometer indicator jump upward. The truck started to slow down.

The “event” only lasted for three or four seconds before it went back to normal. I knew that whatever happened couldn’t be good. I wanted to make it to the next town instead of stopping in the middle of nowhere. I planned on stopping at the first gas station that was open. It was around 4:15 PM on a Friday afternoon. Saranac Lake was the next town and it was only a couple of miles away. We made it to the first traffic light in Saranac Lake and stopped for a red signal. The truck stopped running by itself.

I tried to restart it, but nothing happened. The engine didn’t crank or try to start. Silence. I put my emergency flashers on and got out and opened the hood. My wife got out too and noticed a fluid that looked like chocolate milk flowing from under the truck to the curb. I was pretty sure I hadn’t run over a carton of chocolate milk.

I got back in the Pilot and called my insurance company, Geico. People were pulling up behind me and most went around when they saw my flashers and my truck hood up. One woman didn’t and started beeping her horn for me to go. She eventually figured it out. I was just about to hop out and get the emergency reflective triangle from the back of the truck when a Saranac Lake police truck pulled in behind me with the overhead lights on. That was a lot safer than the triangle.

A woman police officer got out of the truck and my wife gave her a big hug! She was a little upset about our predicament and I think seeing help arrive in uniform and with flashing lights made her feel better. We explained the problem and I told her I was on the phone with Geico so that I could get a tow. Saranac Lake is a small town and the officer asked me if I would like it if she called a local towing company right down the street. She knew them. It turns out it was the same company that Geico was trying to contact and they were only about a half mile away.

Madden’s Garage, Towing & Recovery came to pick us up. They were there in a few minutes and towed the Honda Pilot to their shop. Mary Lynn and I rode in the back of the police truck, following the tow truck.  They backed the Pilot into their very spacious garage and took a look at it. Even though it was probably already five o’clock on a Friday, they took the time to try and help us. They diagnosed the problem correctly as the radiator leaking antifreeze into the transmission. They didn’t know if the engine was damaged, but suspected that the transmission was. They told me they didn’t work on transmissions. I decided to take the Pilot to a Honda dealer.

The nearest Honda dealer was in Plattsburg, NY about 50 miles from Saranac Lake and in the opposite direction, north, of where we wanted to go, south. If we took the Pilot to Plattsburg, 50 miles away, we would still need to get home ourselves and we would be 130 miles from home without transportation. Unless we were going to stay overnight and hope the dealer in Plattsburg had the right parts and could work on it Saturday, that wasn’t a good option.

We decided to have it towed back to Saratoga Honda in Saratoga Springs, New York near our home. Geico didn’t want to pay to have it towed anywhere else. The owner of Madden’s Towing was standing right there assisting us (so was the very nice police officer) and he offered to talk to Geico. I handed my cell phone to him and he told them that technically since the Honda Pilot had not been unhooked from the tow truck, the tow was still in progress. After several minutes going back and forth, Geico agreed that they would pay for a tow up to 48 miles. I guess that is their limit. I’m not sure. As it turned out, they had to take the Pilot off the original tow truck anyway.

They needed to put the Pilot on a flatbed trailer that would be towed by a large pickup truck in order to take the truck to Saratoga. The police officer took us to a convenience store for a snack and coffee while the Pilot was put on the trailer. We thanked everyone involved and hopped into the truck. I rode shotgun and we chatted while a very nice young man named Dan, confidently and safely drove the pickup. He mentioned Colorado while we were talking and whenever anyone does that I always tell them what a huge John Denver fan I am. He didn’t know who John Denver was. I explained briefly and told him to check him out. Thanks Dan! Thanks Mr. Madden. And thank you to the Saranac Lake police officer who went out of her way, above and beyond the call of duty, to make us safe and comfortable.

We had a pleasant night time drive through the Adirondacks to the Adirondack Northway (I-87) and down to Saratoga. I called my brother to meet us at the Honda dealer. The tow cost me an extra $310 beyond what Geico paid, but I knew it was going to be something near that number before we left. Ouch.

I left a note for the Honda service department and dropped the envelope with the keys into the slot by the door.

After I got home I went on the internet and started searching for “Honda Pilot transmission problems”. I found a forum on that described the exact problem I had. I read that over one million 2003 and 2004 Hondas were recalled for transmission problems, but not the 2005 Pilot. Not all of the vehicles recalled were Pilots though.

I called the dealer on Monday and they said they would look at it as soon as they could, but it probably wouldn’t be until Tuesday. The service department called me Tuesday and said it would be one hour of labor to look at the Pilot and give me a diagnosis. The labor rate is $96 an hour. They called me back later and said that I needed a new radiator for $375 and 4 hours labor. After they installed the new radiator, the Pilot still wouldn’t start. Big surprise there.

They told me it might need a new engine and transmission and that it wasn’t worth the cost of repair. It was going to cost in the neighborhood of $6,000 or $7,000 for a rebuilt engine and transmission. I wondered why they wasted their time and my money to replace the radiator if that is what they thought. Even I knew that if turning the key on doesn’t start the truck, replacing the radiator wasn’t going to solve the problem.

I got the number for Honda National Customer Relations in Torrance, California from the service manager at Saratoga Honda and called them. They took my information and contacted the dealer. The bottom line after several phone calls back and forth was that Honda wasn’t going to do anything for me.

The sales manager at the dealership offered me $1,000 for the Pilot. When I started the Pilot on that fateful Friday morning, it was worth about $12,500 retail. By the end of the day it was basically a piece of junk. I had recently spent about $1,300 on it for four new tires, a couple new pieces of the exhaust system and some other stuff. I had expected to get a lot more miles out of it. A lot more.

I have a 1997 Accord that I bought used in 1999 that has 181,000 miles on it. It’s not the greatest anymore, but it still runs and gets me where I need to go. It always starts. I think it is the only car I have ever owned that was worth anything after it was paid for. I was expecting similar miles and years from the Pilot. All of the goodwill that I had for Honda from my Accord’s years of exceptional service, has been ruined. I won’t buy another Honda.

I went to the website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) and filed a report of what happened to the Pilot. I think it is a safety issue because if you lose power in a heavy traffic situation, the person behind you will not see your brake lights coming on as you are slowing down and could crash into you from behind.

I’m considering having the Pilot towed back to my house. I will keep it for a while and hope that Honda eventually does a recall on the 2005 year. In the meantime, I’m going to ask a local mechanic that I know what he thinks. At the very least, I think I can get more than $1,000 for it by selling it myself. The body and interior are in decent condition.

Note added on November 17, 2013: I did have it towed back home. It is sitting in my parking lot. I received a 2 page survey form from Honda yesterday about my recent experience with Honda’s products and services.  I filled it out and I’m mailing it back today.














18 Years Since I Quit Smoking

Note: I’m updating this post to show that it has been 18 years now since I quit smoking.


Yesterday, January 8, 2011 was the 10th anniversary of my quitting smoking. I can’t believe it has been that long.

I wrote a blog post about how I quit two years ago. You can read it here: How to quit smoking today.

I was basically a “cigarette holder” for 30 years. I existed to hold a lit cigarette between my fingers. Today, when I tell smokers the story of my quitting, I describe myself as a degenerate smoker. I was addicted to cigarettes. I smoked whenever and wherever I could. I smoked all the time.

My wife Mary Lynn’s two year quit date is February 1, 2011. We will celebrate Ground Hog day and her quitting anniversary!

If I can quit, you can quit. Good luck.

Prophets of Doom and James Howard Kunstler

I read James Howard Kunstler’s blog every Monday. He believes that the world as we know it and how we live and work is changing  due to oil production having reached its peak many years ago. He believes that our car dependent, oil dependent world is running out of oil and that it will cause major disruptions in our society.

He lives in Saratoga Springs, a wonderful small city, about 10 miles west of where I live. Mr. Kunstler appeared on the History Channel January 5, 2011 in a disturbing, thought provoking, two hour documentary called  “Prophets of Doom.” I found out about his appearance on the show because it was on the front page of The Saratogian, a local paper.

He’s written several novels including, “The Long Emergency” and “World Made by Hand” which is set in the Greenwich, New York area where I live.

He appeared with John Cronin, of the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries who claimed that the lack of clean water was the most important crisis facing the planet.

Nate Hagens, a board member of the Post Carbon Insitute,  predicted that another financial crisis was the most important problem we face.

Dr. Hugo DeGaris believes that robots in the not too distant future will become smarter than humans and may decide to eliminate mankind.

Another person on the show, ( I didn’t write down his name and I can’t remember it!) said a stolen nuclear weapon or crude bomb fashioned from stolen plutonium was the most serious problem.

I’m sure the History Channel will run it again at some point. It’s worth watching.

My Obama 08 Bumper Sticker

I covered up my Obama 08 bumper sticker today. It has been on the back bumper of my 1997 Honda Accord for several years. I tried to scrape it off with my Swiss army knife, but that wasn’t working very well. It has been baked on I guess through a couple of hot summers and cold eastern New York winters. Duct tape did the trick.

Obama 08 Bumper Sticker

Obama 08 Bumper Sticker

Enough is enough. The latest tax “deal” that President Obama made with the Republicans was too much for me. I can’t take it anymore. I would gladly have had my taxes go up next year instead of having this tax deal passed.

Here is the bumper after covering up the offending sticker:

Photo of taped over bumper sticker

Photo of taped over bumper sticker

I am going to try and find a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker to put over this. He is the Senator from Vermont who stood up in the Senate for over 8 hours the other day and told the truth about the Obama tax deal with the Republicans.

As Paul Krugman said, “We need a better government than we’ve got.”

Inspiring Your Audience

I wrote this and delivered it as speech number ten for my “Competent Communicator” designation in Toastmasters. I hope you enjoy it. The purpose of the speech is to inspire your audience.

“Never Give Up, Never Surrender.”

That is what Tim Allen says throughout the 1999 movie “Galaxy Quest.” It’s kind of corny, but I like the movie and the quote. In the movie Tim Allen plays Peter Taggart, the captain of a starship and crew on a weekly television show. It’s totally a parody of Star Trek. Real, friendly aliens from another galaxy watch his show after the television signal travels through space to reach them. They base their whole society around the show. Those aliens are on the verge of being wiped out by real, unfriendly, unattractive aliens. They come to earth to recruit Tim Allen and his crew to help them. They don’t realize that Tim is just an actor on a television show. Naturally, Tim and his crew never give up and never surrender, although of course it looks hopeless for a while.

Jack Cust was signed to a professional baseball contract by the Arizona Cardinals after he graduated from high school in 1997. He went right to the minor leagues and stayed there for 10 years. He made very brief appearances in the big leagues with 5 different teams, but always went back down to the minor leagues. In 2007 he was playing for the San Diego Padres in the minor leagues.

He told his agent to see if he could get him a contract with a team in Japan. On May 2, 2007 his agent called him and told him that 2 teams in Japan were interested. Twenty minutes later his agent called him back to say that the Oakland Athletics wanted him to be their designated hitter. (Mike Piazza had gotten injured and the A’s needed a new designated hitter.) He is in his 4th season now with Oakland.

The July 31, 2007 Sports Illustrated has a story about him called “The Legend of Jack Cust“. The last paragraph of the article says: Cust was five years old and sitting behind first base at Yankee Stadium when he first told his father that he wanted to be a professional ballplayer. “As long as I can remember my goal was to be a big league player — to make it in the big leagues,” says the legend. “I keep saying that this, right now, is my last chance at it. But really, it’s my first.”

Jack never gave up. Not even this year when he was sent to the A’s AAA team in Sacramento to start the season. I admire him for that.

In 1994 I found out that I did not get a job with Bell Atlantic that I had interviewed for and had wanted for a long time. I was crushed and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I put on a suit, grabbed a copy of my resume and went down the street to talk to a small company that sold computers. A few minutes after I got back home, about an hour later, I got a phone call. It was an offer from Bell Atlantic to start working for them on Monday. This was a different job than I had originally applied for, but it turned out to be the best job I ever had, at more than twice the money I would have accepted, and I ended up working for them for 12 years. I went from despair to wahoo in an hour. You just never now what might happen if you don’t give up.

In 1967 I was the starting pitcher on Hamilton PAL, a Babe Ruth League team in Yardville, New Jersey. I was 14 years old and Jack Cust’s father was the center fielder. Bob Demeo was the catcher on the team (Demeo Field in Veterans Park, Hamilton, NJ is named for him.) I couldn’t throw a curve ball to save my life. Bobby always put down a 1 for a fastball. I would shake him off and try to throw my curve ball. I can still see him shaking his head in disgust. I lost every game I pitched that year except for one and my arm hurt. I still wanted to pitch though.

In 1968, I was 15 and I taught myself to throw a great curve ball. I can’t remember how I learned. I think I just experimented in practice until I got it right. Jack Cust was still the center fielder, but I had a new, younger catcher. That one pitch made all the difference. I could throw it for a strike whenever and wherever I wanted. I won every game I pitched that year except for one that I lost, 1 to 0. I shared the leagues best pitcher award that year with Kenny Andrews, another pitcher on my team. 1967 was a terrible year and I could have given up. But I knew that I could do a lot better. I didn’t give up and 1968 was a great year.

Let’s go further back in the “wayback” machine.

June 4, 1940
Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches” speech to the House of Commons following, “Operation Dynamo,” the evacuation of 338,000 Allied troops from Dunkirk, France to England during WWII. These are the last few sentences of Winston Churchill’s speech.

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

I’m certain that Winston Churchill meant every word he said. He was the right man, at the right time, in the right place.

I very good friend of mine, Larry Lewis, used to say, ” The only way you don’t get what you want is you either give up or you die.”

I’m not giving up. Don’t you give up either.

In the immortal words of Captain Taggart, “Never give up. Never surrender.”

5 Rules to Remember While Driving Your Car

1. Put your headlights on when it’s raining.

Other drivers will be able to see you better. Maybe they won’t turn or pull out in front of you if they can see you. I am constantly amazed at how many people don’t bother to turn their headlights on in even very heavy rain.

Does anybody know why they call them “head” lights?

2. Use your turn signal when you are turning or changing lanes.

It’s pretty easy really. You can do it with one finger. They are operated by the little stick on the left of the steering column. Turn the stick down for a left turn and up for a right turn. I am constantly amazed at how many people don’t bother to use their turn signals. Are they lazy, ignorant or just plain stupid? Every once in awhile, check to make sure you didn’t leave your signal on since the last turn or lane change an hour ago.

3. Keep right. Pass left. It’s a simple rule.

Don’t clog the left hand lane on multi-lane roads. The left hand lane is the passing lane. If you are not passing
someone, you don’t need to be in the left hand lane. I am constantly amazed at how many people just squat in the passing lane and don’t care how many cars are stacked up behind them trying to get by. Pass and get out of the lane. You did use your turn signal, right?

4. Hang up and drive.

Don’t talk on your cell phone while you are driving. It’s a very dangerous thing to do. If you don’t believe me, will you listen to Oprah? Here are links to “End Distracted Driving“  and “The Brain and Distracted Driving.

Studies have shown that using a hands free phone is just as dangerous as holding the phone to your ear. Put the
phone where you can’t reach it while you are driving. No not there. Somewhere else. Maybe you could just turn the damn thing off while you’re driving. I am constantly amazed at how many people I see blabbing away on their cell phones behind the wheel.

Don’t text on your cell phone while you are driving either. If you text and drive, you are just asking for it. Give driving your full attention.

5. Don’t drive with your dog on your lap.

When I see people cruising along trying to drive with a dog on their lap, I just want to scream. Is that against the law? It should be. This also applies to your cat, goat or whatever else you think is cute sitting on your lap while you are attempting to drive.

I’m constantly amazed at how some people drive. Use some commonsense.

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