Posts tagged: honda pilot

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.














Mount Equinox in Vermont

The summit of Mount Equinox.

The summit of Mount Equinox.

My wife and I, along with my brother and a friend, visited Mount Equinox in Arlington, Vermont Sunday. It was a cloudy day in New York, but as soon as we crossed the Vermont border the weather started clearing up. Our friend lives on the side of a mountain that has some really nice views right from the front deck. You can’t see Mount Equinox because another beautiful mountain is in the way.

Mount Equinox is on Vermont route 7A, 10 miles south of Manchester. We stopped at the gift shop and got our tickets. It was $18 total for the four of us, $12 for the car and driver and $2 for each passenger. The gift shop gives you a little token that you use to open the gate to start  the 5.2 mile ride to the top of the mountain. The road is called the Skyline Drive. There are plenty of places on the way up to stop and look out. The top of the mountain is 3,858 feet high. From the summit, there are beautiful views in any direction that you look.

There were a lot of fluffy clouds floating by rapidly. It reminded me a little of the old 1958 science fiction movie, “The Crawling Eye.” No one was afraid though.

Some of the clouds floating by the summit of Mt. Equinox.

Some of the clouds floating by the summit of Mt. Equinox.

There is a building at the top of the mountain that used to be an inn where you could stay overnight. The inn has been closed for at least several years now. I have been on the mountain when it was open and it seemed like a very nice place. It had a bar and dining area. You could only have two drinks in the bar, unless you were a guest. Driving back down the mountain is difficult enough without being under the influence while you are doing it. I don’t know what the limit for a guest was. If you visit the Equinox Mountain website, there is more information about the inn. From what I read on the website, I think it might be for rent or lease. The restrooms in the building are open though. Whew!

Almost all the cars in the parking lot were from out of state. I think we saw one car from Vermont at the top. I decided to take a walk to Lookout Rock. I had been there 10 years or so before and I forgot how far it was. The brochure that you get when you buy your ticket says it is .2 miles to Lookout Rock. The website says it is .5 miles to Lookout Rock. On the way out it is mostly down hill. It is a rocky trail though and in spots it was quite muddy. The rocks were wet in some areas and I had to be careful.

When I finally made it to Lookout Rock, there was a very nice view overlooking Manchester, Vermont. Our friend could identify many of the structures that we could see below. I rested for 10 or 15 minutes before I started back. I thought that the walk back would be harder than the walk out, but I was wrong. Although I stopped to rest more times on the way back, it seemed like it was easier and took less time.

A trail sign on the way to Lookout Rock

A trail sign on the way to Lookout Rock

We had a nice picnic while we were at the top. There are several granite tables and benches about 100 yards from the parking lot. We had some wine and nuts and sat around and talked for a while. It is very quiet and peaceful on the mountain.

We stopped at several of the overlooks on the way down. Signs along the way recommend that you stop and give your brakes a rest. I used the brakes a lot. I have a Honda Pilot that handled the way up and down very nicely. We did see a driver stopped at one of the rest areas. He was using a water hose to cool off his smoking left front brake. My brother didn’t think that was a very good idea because he thought cooling them off like that might cause them to warp.

You can see the Monastery of the Carthusian Order from one of the lookouts. It is the home of the Carthusian Monks that now own the mountain. The Mount Equinox website has some very interesting stories and explains how the monks came to own the mountain.

The man who originally owned the mountain and built the Skyline Drive, was Joseph George Davidson, PhD. He was a chemist who headed the project that refined the uranium for the first atomic bomb.

On the way down, we also met a photography instructor who brought his class to the mountain to practice their picture taking. Although he had lived in the area for several years, this was his first trip up Mount Equinox. We met some bicyclists too. They asked me for some duct tape. They had their bikes on a rack on the back of their car and one of the tires had been burned by the exhaust system. I didn’t have duct tape, but I did have some tape in my first aid kit. He used it and it seemed to work. As I understood him, he was going to ride his bike down one of the mountain trails. That didn’t sound like a very good idea to me. Especially since the trail I was on was so full of slippery rocks.

We made it down successfully and drove south on 7A. We visited an antique store in Arlington. The store was located in an old movie theater. I have been there before and it is an interesting store.

After that, we went back to our friends house and had some more snacks. Before we left, we had a marvelous view of the full moon rising over the mountain in front of her house.

Everyone agreed it was a wonderful day.

Dead Battery, No Brakes, No Winch, Ramp Stuck, Too Wide, Too Dark, Too Tired

I witnessed a magnificent example of persistence over the weekend. I saw someone who simply would not give up, despite numerous opportunities to do so.  I was sitting on my second floor deck with my wife Mary Lynn early Friday evening when our friend Charlie stopped by. He had a cup of Stewart’s coffee with him as he usually does and we chatted for 10 or 15 minutes. He told me that he had just bought a flatbed trailer and he was going to haul a van to Florida. He had to go home, hitch up the trailer and go pick up the van that was a few miles away on Route 40. I asked him if he needed any help and he said yes. Charlie has helped me out with a number of things around my house and I thought I could pay him back a little bit. I figured, how long could it take to put a van on a trailer? An hour?

He had just picked up the trailer that day and brought it home. He backed his pickup truck to the trailer and connected everything. We tested the trailer lights and turn signals and everything worked except the license plate light. It was still daylight so we didn’t worry about that yet. We drove over to Route 40 and parked by the van. It was a 1994 Ford Mark III van that had a wheelchair lift in it. It looked like it had been sitting there for a while. Charlie jumped in and tried to start it, but it was quickly obvious that the battery was dead. He grabbed a set of battery cables and we tried to jump start it from his pickup truck’s battery. It made a weak groaning sound as it tried to turnover. We let the charge run for a while longer and then tried again. No luck. Charlie went and got the owner of the truck who was in the back yard behind the house. The owner of the van is 78 years old and tireless. He had a portable battery charger that he put on the van. We let it charge for a minute and then tried to start it again. It fired right up. We let the van run to charge the battery.

The trailer was parked across the street at an old farm stand that was no longer being used. I then learned that the van didn’t have any brakes. Someone was going to have to drive the van across the street and get it lined up with the ramps on the trailer. But first, we had to get the ramps out from under the trailer where they were stored. They were a little rusty. I don’t know when they had been last used, but it had been long enough for them to be stuck with rust and corrosion. Charlie crawled under the trailer and tried to dislodge the first ramp. After a lot of banging and pulling and cursing, the first one came loose. The second ramp was even worse. No amount of banging, pulling and cursing would make it budge more than a few inches. The van owner went and got his lawn tractor. We hooked up a chain to the lawn tractor and tried to pull the ramp loose. It barely budged. We were going to need something bigger.

I called Mary Lynn and asked her to drive over in our Honda Pilot. I’ve used the Pilot lots of times on my 4 acres of yard to haul large limbs that fell out of my 100 foot tall pine trees. I wrap a tow strap around the branches and attach them to a very convenient hook under the driver side rear of the Pilot. I drag them over to a fire pit behind my house. Charlie and the owner didn’t think there was enough room to get a full size vehicle next to the trailer and between one of the structures at the farm stand. I assured them that my Honda would fit.

When Mary Lynn arrived, I moved the Pilot into position and hooked up the chain. It took several tries and we heard some horrible noises that made me wonder if something awful had happened to my truck or the trailer, but the ramp finally slid out completely onto the ground. We attached the ramps to the back of the trailer.

Next, it was time to move the van across the road. Route 40 is a two lane highway with a speed limit of 55. Traffic whizzes by at a pretty good clip, but fortunately it is not a busy road with constant traffic. The owner of the van hopped in and tried to put the van in gear. He had some difficulty for some reason and the van slipped into neutral and lurched backward into a bush, snapping part of the bush off. At least it didn’t hit the fence and pole that was right behind it. Somehow, he got the van going forward and crossed the road safely. At one point I was concerned that he was going to hit the Pilot before stopping and then I thought he might hit one of the farm stand buildings, but he didn’t. Then, after a series of maneuvers, he aligned the front tires with the trailer ramps.

The trailer had a winch on it with a strong metal cable. The only problem was that it didn’t work. We had another dead battery on our hands. I moved the Pilot into position and we jumped the winch battery. The winch then made noises like it was working, but it wouldn’t pull the cable  back into the housing. Charlie and the owner tried a lot of different things, but could not make the winch work. At this point, I decided to take Mary Lynn home because I didn’t know how much longer we were going to be. It was dark already at this point or almost dark. I can’t remember exactly what time it was.

When I arrived back at the trailer, Charlie and the owner had rigged up some sort of a pulley with a block and tackle. It was going to take the place of the broken winch. I think a lot of people would have given up or stopped trying at this point. If Charlie or the owner had not had a block and tackle and pulley or if they did not know how to use one, that would have been it (at least for the night). I suppose someone could have tried to drive the van onto the trailer, but it didn’t have brakes and what if you missed and fell off the ramps? You would have a damaged van.

They hooked the chains to the van and started to pull it up the ramps. They had to reposition the pulley and chains several times, but it was moving up. We chocked the wheels every time we moved the chains. When the front tires got up to the trailer wheels, we realized that the van was too wide to fit through. If we had another 2 inches it would have worked, but we didn’t. The tires on the trailer stuck up higher than the trailer bed. They had a strong fender over them. We were going to have to use more blocks and lift the van higher over the wheels.

I told Charlie that this van did not want to go to Florida.

We drove to Charlie’s house in the owners pickup truck. Charlie had a lot of blocks in his basement. They were 4 inches by 4 inches and about 2 feet long. We packed them in the truck and headed back to the trailer. It was definitely dark out by now. We were working with a flashlight and the truck headlights. We built a strong ramp on the trailer using the wood blocks and wooden ramps that appeared from somewhere. Slowly but surely the van inched onto the trailer. Charlie and the owner did the heavy, important work of moving the chains. Finally, the van was positioned where we wanted it on the trailer. We called it a night. It was 3:30 in the morning. I was tired. Charlie had to be at work Saturday at 7:00 AM. I went to bed at 5:00 AM and got up at noon.

Charlie stopped over Saturday afternoon around 5:00 PM and we went back to the trailer. He spent some more time chaining down the van and  moving blocks around to make sure it was as safe as it could be. He then drove the trailer back across the street so that he could put air in the tires of the trailer, the van, and his pickup truck. The owner of the van had a compressor in his garage. We worked on the license plate light again. We tried to pick up a new bulb, but it was almost 8 PM and the auto parts store was closing. We wouldn’t make it in time. We stopped at Kmart and Radio Shack,  but they don’t sell those types of bulbs.

Charlie drove the trailer to my house and parked it in my yard. My property has a large parking area. The first floor used to be a tavern.

Late Monday morning, Charlie came and hooked up the trailer again. Earlier that morning he had fixed a problem with the right front brake on his truck. He had some new, additional straps that he put on the van and he put a new bulb in the license plate light. It didn’t work right away, but after playing with the bulb housing some more, he got it to work. He decided that he needed to fix the left front brake on his truck too. We went to the auto parts store, got the part, and he put it on. Then, Monday afternoon, he pulled out of my parking lot and headed to Florida.

Tuesday afternoon I called him on his cell phone. I thought he might be in Florida already. He wasn’t. He was still in New York. His truck had had some sort of problem driving down Route 88 and he had to stop and get it fixed. When I called him, he was back on the road, but still in New York.

I called him at 1:00 PM on Wednesday and he is cruising through South Carolina.

I know he will make it to his destination in Florida. Charlie had all kinds of opportunities to quit, but he didn’t. He kept on going.

Charlie called at 9:15 PM Wednesday to announce that he had made it to his destination in central Florida.

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