The Honda Pilot is one of the largest SUVs made by Honda and one that continues to be a popular SUV day in and day out. Even though Honda makes some of the most reliable cars on the market, the Pilot is not perfect, as is the case with all other cars. Here´s a very quick answer:
2010 – 2019 Honda Pilots experience issues with the engine, such as excessive oil consumption/burning, blown pistons, start-stop issues, engine misfiring, and engine shuddering. The electrical system has problems with the A/C, the infotainment screen, and the gauge cluster in the 2016 – present Honda Pilot.
If you are interested in buying a used Honda Pilot, read through this article as we will discuss everything that is wrong with the Pilot in great detail. If you want to know how many miles a Honda Pilot can last, read this article as well. Continue reading!
Engine issues seem to be relatively popular across multiple American-made Honda Pilot generations. These include excessive engine oil burning, blown pistons, issues misfiring, engine shuddering and shaking, start-stop issues, and engine stalling.
Excessive Oil Burning
Excessive oil consumption seems to be one of the most complained about issues with Honda Pilot models between 2010 and 2019. Owners state that the car is constantly low on engine oil and that some even needed a brand-new engine. Worn-out parts can cause these issues, but in this case, it is likely due to manufacturing defects with the VCM system, which is designed to turn off three cylinders while cruising.
This system is known to cause the oil to bypass the rings on inactive cylinders and thus increase your consumption. These issues are by far the most common on 2009-2013 Pilot issues, which was also why Honda lost a class-action lawsuit.
Many owners of 2013 Honda Pilot models and some 2012 Honda Pilots complained about engine pistons exploding for unknown reasons. It seems like this issue was caused by mistake during production, which resulted in Honda using not sufficiently hardened pistons that were prone to breaking during combustion. A damaged piston leads to the engine stalling, which can happen anytime.
Because of this issue, Honda issued a recall for hundreds of 2013 Honda Pilot models back in August of 2013 (13V382000), as these pistons had to be replaced before anything bad could happen. Moreover, if these issues occur while the engine is under a lot of stress, it can cause additional damage to the engine block, leading to complete engine failure.
Engine misfiring with the Honda Pilot is common across 2010-2013 Pilot models. Some owners changed both the plugs and the coil, which solved the issue, but for others, problems persisted. Others said this issue is directly associated with excessive oil consumption and that the 2nd spark plug tends to become oily and cause engine misfiring.
However, most owners solved the issue by taking apart the entire engine and changing the piston rings on all the affected cylinders. Either way, the best thing you can do is to inspect why this happens with your particular Pilot.
Engine Shuddering and Shaking
Engine shaking and shuddering, especially under load, are common issues with many Honda Pilot generations. Some (2009-2013) are caused by the aforementioned piston issue, while others (2014 and 2015) are caused by problems with the combustion process where the engine is starved of either oil, air, or fuel which prevents it from running smoothly.
Some owners of 2015 and 2016 Honda Pilot models said that defective engine mounts could also cause this issue. Older 2009 and 2010 models can also experience these in addition to vibrations and shaking caused by worn-out spark plugs, wires, and other essential engine components.
Start Stop Issues
Many 2016-2021 Honda Pilot owners complained about start-stop issues where the car required manual restarts to get going. Many owners complained about this issue as it can sometimes be extremely stressful when the engine refuses to start up, starts up a few seconds later, or does not even turn off with the start/stop feature.
This event caused quite a stir among Honda Pilot models, which also attracted various legal entities who believe that Honda Pilot owners deserve some form of compensation for this issue.
Engine stalling systems are common across virtually all Honda Pilot generations, but there are simply way too many potential causes for us to mention them all. We will only tell you that these seem to be caused by ignition problems with the start/stop system (discussed above), issues with the air intake, or the fuel delivery system.
We also need to mention that Honda recalled specific 2018-2019 Honda Pilot models back in April of 2019 (19V298000) due to the potential “Teeth separation from the timing belt may result in an engine stall, increasing the risk of a crash”.
It seems like electrical issues are also really common with the Honda Pilot in general. These range from A/C issues, infotainment issues, issues with the instrument cluster, and problems with the starter/alternator. These can be had with virtually all generations of the Honda Pilot, but we will mention the model years, which seem to be the most affected.
A few 2018- 2022 Honda Pilot owners have had their A/C vents blowing smoke out, which caused the entire system to fail. However, Honda replaced the blower motor under warranty, which seems to have solved the issue. Certain 2018 Honda Pilot owners also complained about a bad A/C condenser, which had to be replaced.
Infotainment System Issues
The infotainment system on the Honda Pilot houses specific components that are essential for the car to function properly, which means when the system goes down, it can affect your overall on-road safety and security. A prime example is the rearview camera the US government mandates for all newer vehicles.
However, many 2019-2020 Honda Pilot models experienced issues in which the camera feed isn’t being played on the center screen. This is why Honda recalled specific 2019-2020 Honda Pilot models twice back in July 2020 (20V440000, 20V439000).
Instrument Cluster Issues
The gauges also house quite a few essential pieces of information, such as a host of warning lights, the speedometer, and, most importantly, your warning lights. Quite a few generations of the Honda Pilot experience issues with the instrument cluster; some are serious, and others are minor. Owners of 2011, 2016, and 2018 Honda Pilot models complained that their instrument gauges didn’t work at all, which was caused by a bad circuit/control module.
Honda also issued a recall for specific 2015-2016 Honda Pilot models due to the instrument cluster not illuminating corresponding warning lights, thus risking the driver not noticing something wrong with his car. This recall was issued back in October 2015 (15V668000).
Many Honda Pilot generations suffer from starter motor issues, commonly accompanied by alternator issues. If you try and start your Pilot and you hear no clicking or cranking, chances are that your starter motor is to blame. This is precisely what happened to a few owners of the 2009 and 2013 Pilot. Moreover, it is said that these issues were caused by the starter motor freezing and subsequently failing,
2014 and 2015 Honda Pilot models seem to be experiencing problems with the alternator, which inevitably leads to a dead battery. The only way to fix this is to replace the alternator altogether, but if you want to start the car up to go to a mechanic, you ought to use jumper cables.
Airbags are one of those components which are heavily regulated by the US government, which means that any issues surrounding airbags will more than likely cause a recall. This is also relatively usual as airbags are delicate, and even the slightest imperfections can have massive repercussions. This is also why Honda issued a bunch of airbag recalls throughout the life of the Pilot. These go as follows:
- 19V502000: Honda issued a recall for certain 2009 to 2015 Honda Pilot models in June 2016 due to potential propellant degradation that could injure the driver if engaged.
- 19V378000: Honda issued a recall for certain 2009 to 2015 Honda Pilot models back in May 2019 due to an incorrectly installed airbag inflator that could not deploy properly.
- 18V661000: Honda issued a recall for specific 2014-2015 Honda Pilot models back in September 2018 due to potential airbag inflator explosions.
- 18V268000: Honda issued a recall for specific 2009-2012 Honda Pilot models in April 2018 due to an improperly installed airbag.
- 18V042000: Honda issued a recall for specific 2011-2013 Honda Pilot models back in January 2018 due to potential airbag inflator explosions.
- 17V545000: Honda issued a recall for specific 2009-2012 Honda Pilot models in August 2018 due to a chance that the driver’s airbag could deploy improperly.
- 17V030000: Honda issued a recall for specific 2009-2012 Honda Pilot models in October 2017 due to potential airbag inflator ruptures.
- 16V346000: Honda issued a recall for specific 2009-2011 Honda Pilot models back y 2016 due to potential airbag inflator issues.
- 13V016000: Honda issued a recall for specific 2009-2013 Honda Pilot models back in January of 2013 due to the absence of airbag rivets that could alter the performance of the driver’s airbag when deploying.
Various transmission issues seem to plague the Honda Pilot, some of which can be detrimental to the transmission as a whole. These include problems with transmission being jerky or hesitant and the transmission control unit.
Transmission Jerky or Hesitant
A few Honda Pilot owners complained about the car feeling incredibly jerky at low and high speeds. One owner of a 2016 Honda Pilot said that the car started shifting jerky at about 50mph, prompting a software update to solve the issue. This was also the case for a few 2017 Honda Pilot owners, and it seems like this issue can be solved with either a transmission software update or a transmission fluid check.
Hesitant or delayed shifting was reported for the 2016 Pilot, the 2013 Pilot, the 2012 Pilot, and the 2010 Pilot. These might not seem as intense as all the Pilot’s other transmission issues, but they make the experience uncomfortable.
Transmission Control Unit Issues
The 2016 Honda Pilot seems to be experiencing issues with the transmission control unit, which causes the car to stall. They also said that this issue was accompanied by a host of warning lights and faults on the dashboard, which made the car undrivable.
The only way to fix this issue is to replace the TCU completely, which can easily cost you a few thousand dollars.
Fuel System Issues
Without a properly functioning fuel delivery system, your car will not only be able to drive but also become extremely dangerous because gasoline is flammable. Sadly, the Honda Pilot is not free of fuel system-related issues, including fuel leaks and fuel pump failures.
An 87-octane fuel leak (which is what the Pilot uses) is dangerous, especially if you are unaware of that. Therefore, it’s our job to tell you if you have to inspect the Honda Pilot fuel delivery systems, and yes, you do have to, as many 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016 Honda Pilot owners have reported issues with the fuel leaking which has even prompted Honda to recall the Pilot a few times.
These go as follows:
- 12V063000: Honda issued a recall for specific 2012 Honda Pilot models back in February 2012 due to the VSF (Vent shut float) not meeting the necessary safety specifications and thus could cause a fuel leak which can result in a fire.
- 17V219000: Honda issued a recall for specific 2016 Honda Pilot models in March 2017 due to potential holes in the fuel tank that may leak fuel and increase the chances of a fire.
- 16V417000: Honda issued a recall for specific 2016 Honda Pilot models in June 2016 due to insufficiently welded fuel tanks that could leak fuel and thus started a fire.
Fuel Pump Failures
It isn’t a surprise these days that a Honda suffers from fuel pump-related issues. These have become a lot more common in the past decade or so. Sadly, the 2018 and the 2019 Honda Pilot isn’t free of these issues either, which is why these can stop the fuel from entering the engine and providing power. This is why Honda recalled specific 2018 and 2019 Honda Pilot models back in March 2021 (21V215000) due to the fuel pump failing and causing the engine to stall.
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems Issues
Advanced driver assistance systems (ADA) represent a group of semi-automated systems that keep us safe. These are only available for the newest generations of the Honda Pilot, but they seem problematic across the board. These include problems with the forward collision avoidance system, lane departure warning system, and cruise control system.
Forward Collision Avoidance System Issues
The forward collision avoidance system is designed to apply the brakes automatically whenever the car senses a crash is imminent. Even though this system is beneficial, it can often engage the car’s brakes for no apparent reason. This issue has been reported for the 2016 – 2022 Honda Pilot.
Some of these owners said that this issue happened on the highway, which is extremely dangerous and has caused a few accidents. Sadly, it is difficult to replicate this issue at a dealership which is why most of these aren’t solved yet. This has prompted many owners to turn off the system entirely, but when they restart the car, the system is engaged again.
Lane Keep Assist System Issues
The lane-keep assist system is designed to keep a car between the white lines, but it can often be overly assertive. Moreover, one owner of a 2019 Honda Pilot said that the system misinterpreted specific lane markets, which aren’t white, and caused the car to swerve to one side, barely avoiding contact with another driver.
One owner of a 2020 Honda Pilot said that the lane departure warning is way too aggressive and causes the car to tug the steering wheel to the center of the lane even when that is not what the driver wants.
Cruise Control Issues
Cruise control is one of the older and arguably best driver assistance systems found on both older and newer cars, but it isn’t perfect. A few 2016, 2017, and 2018 Honda Pilot owners complained that the system can turn itself on without an apparent reason and that it can refuse to stay on for longer than a few seconds. These issues seem primarily due to problems with the sensors, the throttle actuator, or the CC control module.
Which Year Of The Honda Pilot Has The Most Issues?
Using a mix of my experiences (based on what I see in shops, forums, and owner reports) along with the hard data on what owners are talking about, I’d suggest most folks avoid the 2016 year of the Honda Pilot.
However, it’s crucial to remember this in the broader context of Honda’s reputation for producing reliable vehicles and most Honda vehicles, including the Pilot, have a great reputation for reliability. But if I had to pick, I’d go with 2016 as the year to avoid.
While the Honda Pilot stands as one of Honda’s most prominent and well-received SUVs, it isn’t without its shortcomings.
Owners of the 2010 – 2019 models have reported engine-related complications ranging from oil consumption issues to blown pistons. Furthermore, the 2016 and newer models have exhibited electrical system malfunctions, particularly with the A/C, infotainment screen, and gauge cluster.
As with all vehicles, prospective buyers should be aware of these potential issues when considering a Honda Pilot.
Marko´s interest in cars runs in the family. His father was a car trader and regularly took him to car dealerships when he was younger.
These days, when he isn´t watching Drivetribe or Doug DeMuro videos, he´s building up quite a resume as an automotive writer since he´s also a regular contributor on Cararc.com, Tirehungry.com, and Luxurycarsa2z.com.