When it comes to family vehicles, people are usually in search of two things, space, and reliability. A Honda minivan sounds like the perfect candidate for those criteria (since they do last around 225.000 miles). In this article, we are looking at the incredible Honda Odyssey and determining just how reliable it is. Below is the quick answer!
The Honda Odyssey suffers from serious engine problems such as piston failure and piston ring failures. There are also many reports of problems with the transmission and the power sliding doors. Many owners also face problems with its under-dimensioned brake system and many recalls.
If you are anything like us, you want more than just a quick answer. Stay with us to learn all the information, common complaints, and recalls about specific model years and more. Read on; it’s worth it!
1. “Battery Charge Low” Warning Lights
We are starting things off with a common issue on the 2011 Honda Odyssey. Many owners report problems with constantly drained car batteries. The reason behind this is unknown and has led several owners to replace good batteries with new ones, which also failed. An owner of a 2011 Odyssey reports:
Battery warning came on so replaced battery. Light came on again a few weeks later so I had the battery tested, as well as anything that would drain battery life. Everything was good. But now every time I open the door or turn off the car the car loudly beeps a low battery warning. Fed up with it.NHTSA ID Number: 10855380
Many owners report similar issues. There seem to be no systems consuming the battery life, but still, the battery ends up wholly drained in a few days. If you are in the market for a 2011 Odyssey, keep this issue in mind because it is more common than you might think!
2. Various Electrical Problems
We name this section “various” because it seems that electrical issues are the central pain point of the Odyssey throughout most model years. We have detected an influx of electrical problems, some of which are isolated cases, and many commonly occur. We list some of the most common ones as we continue.
Power sliding doors
A handful of NHTSA complaints are filed due to the constant problems with the rear power sliding doors. Many owners experience failure of the motor assemblies, some experience problems with rusting door cables, and other issues. Many owners report that their doors tend not to close entirely or do not close when commanded.
These issues are present in model years ranging from 2011 to 2020. In 2020, Honda also launched a recall campaign (NHTSA Campaign Number: 20V437000) due to the possibility of the power sliding doors opening while moving. As you can imagine, this sparked a significant safety concern, and these affected vehicles were made between 2018 and 2020.
The problem occurred as water entered the outer door handle cables for the sliding doors. As the water froze, it prevented the front and rear sliding doors from securely latching. Additionally, in 2018 Honda also recalled (NHTSA Campaign Number: 18V795000) specific 2018 and 2019 model year Odyssey due to faulty power sliding door latch assemblies.
The faulty latch assemblies prevented the doors from adequately latching, seriously increasing the risk of injury. If you are ever interested in an older or a recent model year Odyssey, inspect the power sliding doors in great detail!
Although we have mainly detected this issue on the 2011 model Odyssey, it is still common and important enough to include. Several owners filled out NHTSA complaints saying that their 2011 Odyssey does not detect the keyfob, and no communication from Honda was found regarding this issue. One of the owner’s complaints:
Car will not respond to keyfob. Need to manually unlock. Three unsuccessful attempts to start car. Battery was replaced at approx 600 miles because it was dead. dealer has checked out and cannot figure out the problem.NHTSA ID Number: 10432445
Dashboard And Entertainment System Issues
Due to a software error in the instrument panel control module, the instrument panel is prone to experiencing problems. If the driver suddenly loses access to crucial information such as speed, RPMs, engine oil pressure, etc. It is considered a serious safety concern.
This happened on specific 2018-2020 model year Odyssey, forcing Honda to launch a recall campaign. The recall campaign (NHTSA Campaign Number: 20V439000) ensured all affected vehicle owners received an update to the instrument panel control module.
However, that is not all. We have also seen numerous NHTSA complaints about issues with the instrument cluster and the infotainment system on model years that were not included in the recall mentioned above. If you are ever in the market for an Odyssey, inspect the vehicle’s dashboard in full detail.
3. Auto Idle Stop System Problems
Honda’s Auto Idle Start&Stop system is far from perfect. According to more than 10 NHTSA complaints on the 2018-2021 model years of the Odyssey, the system commonly leaves people with no power after turning the engine at a stoplight.
An owner of a 2020 Odyssey reports:
The “auto engine idle stop” system in my minivan is malfunctioning. This is a safety issue because the engine does not always restart when I take my foot off the brake. I am eventually going to be hit from behind by a driver behind me that assumes my minivan will accelerate from a stop when it is supposed to. Every time the malfunction occurs, the dashboard displays a message “Collision Mitigation System Problem”.NHTSA ID Number: 11480126
What makes this situation even worse is that many owners also report that the dealerships offer no real solution. According to our research, no communication, recalls, or technical service bulletins have been released regarding this issue.
4. Premature Engine Piston Wear
If you are in the market for a 2013 model-year Odyssey, beware! Despite the quick response from Honda, many 2013 Honda vehicles have hit the road with serious engine issues. Due to poor quality management, certain pistons have been improperly heat-treated.
Proper heat treatment is essential for the hardness and longevity of the pistons. Without it, the pistons are prone to premature wear, leading to severe engine damage. With the 2013 recall (NHTSA Campaign Number: 13V382000), Honda has ordered to replace the engine short block on the affected vehicles.
However, we have seen complaints of piston failures even in vehicles and model years that were not supposedly affected. If you are after a 2013 model Odyssey, run the VIN and see if this recall has been taken care of.
5. Piston Ring Failures
Failed piston rings result in excessive engine blow-by, leading to engine oil contaminating the spark plugs and causing the engine to misfire and stall. This is a severe issue that Honda has failed to address.
To make things even worse, NHTSA reports of such cases ranging from 2011 to 2016. Not to mention that the repair costs are also in the range of 3000-6000$, depending on the damage that has already been caused.
An owner of a 2016 model Odyssey complaints:
The piston rings are failing and causing a misfire. The dealer, honda care, and corporation have all said they are aware of this issue, but not willing to help the customer. Currently, my dealer has 6 cars with the same issue. All service men are stating, yes, we know exactly what the issue is when seeing the warning code.NHTSA ID Number: 11453798
Consider this issue when inspecting the 2011-2016 model year Odyssey. Make sure the engine is running smoothly without any sputtering and misfiring.
6. Chirping Engine Noise
Continuing on the engine problems, next up is “chirping”. Yes, a sound many owners describe as chirping is a common issue on the 2016 model year Odyssey. It’s quite different from the “knocking” sound you hear from using lower-quality fuel. It is worth mentioning that we have also seen NHTSA complaints describing the same problem in later model years.
Honda has recognized the chirping with the Service Bulletin 16-054. The chirping is a consequence of the timing belt coming in contact with the back edge of the crankshaft pulley. Affected vehicles were inspected and equipped with an idler pulley shim.
7. Brake Discs Warping And General Braking Issues
The Odyssey is a big car to stop. It seems as though Honda is taking its time to realize this fact which has spawned many complaints throughout the years.
We have observed complaints about the violent shaking and warped brake rotors on models ranging from 2011 to 2019. This is even more common when driving in areas with hills. Warped rotors are a consequence of hard braking and overheating. When the brake discs overheat, they are prone to warping, which leads to steering wheel vibration and high replacement costs.
Honda has not addressed this issue with a recall; in fact, they failed to improve (despite increasing the disc size) the braking system to the point where it would be capable of stopping a heavy vehicle like the Odyssey daily.
8. Transmission Problems
We have observed an abnormal amount of similar reports of transmission juddering at certain speeds, and Honda addressed this issue in 2018 with the Service Bulletin 17-043. Before this service bulletin, dealerships often attributed torque converter damage to this juddering issue.
However, according to the service bulletin 17-043, the reason for this juddering is worn-out transmission fluid. The same bulletin also determined that only vehicles made between 2014 and 2017 were affected, which is not what NHTSA complaints show. We have observed the same reports from 2011 to 2017.
After releasing the service bulletin, Honda chose first to flush the transmission and fill it with fresh transmission fluid before handing out free torque converters. For some owners, new transmission fluid did resolve the issue.
If you are after an out-of-warranty Odyssey, ensure the transmission is shifting precisely and smoothly at all times. Check the vehicle’s history to confirm that the vehicle’s transmission fluid was replaced at regular intervals.
9. Delayed Engagement On The 2018-2019 Odyssey
Delayed engagement is a term you will undoubtedly hear from your transmission specialist. It describes the moment between pressing the gas pedal and the moment your car starts to speed up. It is an annoying transmission issue you do not want to be experiencing on a fairly new car.
Sadly enough, we have observed such cases of hesitation in the 2018-2019 model years of the Odyssey with the 9-speed automatic transmission. An owner of a 2019 Odyssey complains:
My van regularly hesitates from the stopped position. This often causes a safety hazard when turning right into traffic or making a left turn because I am not able to accelerate for several seconds and the vehicle feels as if it is stalling out. It is a known mechanical defect with Honda and they do not currently have a resolution.NHTSA ID Number: 11478721
Many owners also describe the transmission in these model years as jerky and “hard-shifting”. Inspect the transmission before you decide on a purchase!
10. Paint Quality Issues
Paint quality issues, especially with Odysseys coated in white, are common in the 2011 and 2012 model years. Honda even released the Service Bulletin 19-056 in 2019, which extended the warranty on the 2011-12 models painted in the Taffeta White color.
Many owners were faced with big chunks of peeling color, which pushed Honda into the corner. However, judging by the NHTSA complaints, owners face the same problems even on the vehicles in the 2015 and earlier model years.
He is the founder and owner of LifeOnFour.co, where he focuses on transmission-related articles. Furthermore, he finished a 4-year program to be an auto mechanic at the Technical Education Centre of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and worked for six years as a floor manager of a transmission specialist repair shop in Nova Gorica, Slovenia.