Honda Odyssey Owners Report Transmission Troubles, Inconsistent Response from Maker

By Michelle Krebs March 10, 2010

Toyota vehicles are dominating headlines lately with recalls and rebuttals, but just as 2005 Honda Odyssey front - 250.JPGannoying to Honda Odyssey owners are the transmission problems they are experiencing -- problems some owners believe Honda is unwilling to acknowledge or address.

Since October 2006, members of Edmunds' CarSpace Forums have contributed more than 1,400 individual posts to a thread called Honda Odyssey Transmission Problems that details not only their Odyssey transmission issues but also the action - or inaction - they've seen from Honda dealers and parent company, American Honda, in response.

Owners of some 2007 and newer models are reporting a distinct "judder" from their Odysseys when driving between 20 and 45 mph -- an issue that Honda addressed in a 2009 technical service bulletin and is repairing under warranty. However, by far the largest group of transmission complaints involves Odysseys from model years 1999 through 2004.

According to Edmunds.com's recent analysis of complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), consumers cited transmission-related problems with 2001 through 2004 Odysseys more than five times as often as they did for the Toyota Sienna or the Chrysler Group's Caravan, Grand Caravan and Town and Country minivans during the same model years.

 

Complaints per 100K Sold resized.JPG

Source: Edmunds.com analysis of NHTSA data  Years represent model year of complaint; not the year complaint was filed.

In the typical experience, drivers of these Odysseys notice erratic shifting, a flashing "D" light in the gauge cluster and sometimes the illumination of the traction control light and/or the check engine light. One owner describes it as a rather harrowing experience: "It gave us just a few minutes of funny noises and then locked up. It was a very curvy road, hilly road -- a dangerous and scary place to have a car just stop. We were lucky we weren't rear-ended at high speeds."

After getting their cars inspected, owners are told that the transmission has failed and must be replaced, usually with a re-manufactured unit, a repair that can cost $4,500 or more. 

Needless to say, this comes as a surprise to most. As one noted, "Don't they realize the reason people buy Hondas is so that they don't have to worry about ending up in this type of situation?"

To its credit, Honda recognized the issue early and voluntarily extended the Odyssey's original transmission warranty to 7 years or 100,000 miles for the 1999 through 2001 model years. That warranty was further extended by 9 months or 9000 miles in response to a 2006 class-action lawsuit.

Later, in coordination with NHTSA, the car maker also issued a recall meant to permanently address the problem for 2002 through 2004 model year vehicles.

But that's not what most consumers are posting about today. Rather, the issue now - reflected in the fact that fully one-third of the posts are from 2009 onward - is that neither of these actions appears to have fully addressed the root cause of the transmission failures.
As the owner of a 2000 Odyssey reports, "I had my transmission replaced at 102K miles under the full Honda warranty. I thought, whew, won't have to worry about that one again. Wrong!  40k miles later, my transmission fails again!"

Says another, "Second transmission was paid for by Honda at 77,700 miles. It failed this past Saturday at 120,000 miles or after only 42,000 miles. I got 100,000 miles out of the original front brakes!  But I couldn't get that many miles out of either transmission!"

Dozens of different owners report similar repeat failures of the transmission, some coming as soon as 30,000 miles after a complete replacement of the unit.

Honda spokesman Chris Martin told AutoObserver.com the automaker believes the percentage of a second transmission failure versus the high volume of Odyssey models sold is likely relatively small.

"But," he acknowledged,"that's little consoliation to the customer." 

Martin said the customer has the option -- and should exercise that option -- to request financial assistance -- "goodwill" from the dealer or from Honda directly -- for a fix.

Honda's Inconsistent Response

One post explains, "Call American Honda and report your problem like I did. They will take your info and assign you a case number. A case manager will call you within the next two days and work things out with you."

But, with the recall work having been carried out and the extended warranties now mostly expired, Honda has no standard response to these requests, which complicates and aggravates the situation for owners, who must plead their individual cases.

Honda's Martin acknowledged that each complaint is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. "Each one is a totally different situation," he said. Factors considered are the age and mileage of the vehicle and customer loyalty and the customer's history of purchasing Honda products.

Not surprisingly, the results, owners report, are decidedly mixed.

"I wrote a letter to Honda customer service and I was able to get them to pay 25%. It's not much but at least it is something," posts one owner.  Another recounts getting a slightly better offer, "a 50/50 split on a $4,600 repair charge."

Meanwhile, others disclose they got nothing at all. One says, "I went round and round with Honda of America. We had previously owned 6 Hondas...and that meant nothing to them."  Another:  "Had the recall done as soon as we were notified (31k), had the blinking D problem just after our extended warranty expired at 107k (replaced 4th gear switch - $300) and now at 121k the transmission must be replaced (estimated $4850). I opened a case but Honda has denied me."

The CarSpace thread is filled with differing and often contradictory stories like these - as well as detailed advice about how to get the most from your Honda case manager, including tips like "be persistent and polite," "do not blame or curse Honda or the dealership for the failure" and "have your paperwork handy, including service records."  One warns, "They try to lowball you on their first offer, so if you hang in there and plead for more money it may help."

Another suggestion: "Have your wife call Honda. Have her remind them that she's a mother of small children."  An owner who tried this after getting nowhere himself reports back that his wife called and "10 minutes later, Honda America was paying half."

Given the varied responses they've received, many owners seem to believe that case managers are there "so Honda can pay less or reject the case." States one, "Don't think they are here to help consumers."

Mixed Owner Reaction

Unsurprisingly, this hasn't exactly inspired confidence in the brand.  As one owner reasons, "Either the transmissions are defective and you should stand behind your product and make it right or they aren't defective and you shouldn't pay anything."

Still, some feel the automaker has treated them fairly, even generously.  "Honda is not obligated to do anything for you when a warranty is no longer in effect," points out a 2002 Odyssey owner who was "grateful" to get a $1,000 reimbursement after having to replace the transmission outside the warranty period.  "Think about this," the owner continues, "I no longer had a warranty, but Honda still agreed to do something for their customer."

Another thinks that extending the transmission warranty to 100,000 miles on affected vehicles "shows great integrity" when "other manufacturers probably would wait until a law suit occurred" and promises to continue buying Hondas despite experiencing multiple transmission failures.

Indeed, many who have experienced such failures, as disappointing as they've been, appear willing to give Honda another chance. An owner whose 1999 Odyssey is on its third transmission says that "other than the transmission issue and a few typical/known problems, the 99 has been a great van for us." 

A different owner has already decided to spring for "the totally redesigned, hopefully improved transmission, 2011 Honda Odyssey" when it rolls into showrooms this summer, explaining, "I have driven Hondas all my life and this was the first time it has given me problems. I am willing to forget this and will give them another chance."

Complaints Continue

So is Honda's quiet approach to this problem working?  Certainly, the company stands to benefit handsomely from the far more public scrutiny of issues that rival Toyota is now facing. 

However, new posts are being added almost daily to the Honda Odyssey Transmission Problems threat - not to mention to similar threads for other Honda vehicles from the early 2000s that employ the same transmission, including the Honda Pilot and V6-equipped Honda Accords as well as the Acura MDX and some Acura CL and Acura TL models.  And, as one owner noted, "it certainly can't be good for business when a person googles 'Honda Odyssey' and 'transmission problems' shows up at the top of the results."

And that's the word on the street. -- Mark Holthoff, Edmunds.com manager of Customer Support
 
 
 

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dg0472 says: 5:17 AM, 03.10.10

Three transmissions "and a few typical/known problems" is a great vehicle? Car won't go without a working transmission. Just shows pays to research and delve before just taking someone's word about what's a good car.

jimboy45 says: 8:17 AM, 03.10.10

Get a Chrysler!

jmess says: 12:46 PM, 03.10.10

One of the reason I got rid of my 04 Ody was the unknowns about the longevity of the transmission. I wasn't convinced that Honda had come clean on the source of the problems.

As we have seen with Toyota's big fall, with success comes arrogance and a disregard for customer satisfaction/concerns. Honda like Toyota felt the weight of their success could drown out quality problems. So Honda sat back and let their customers fight it out transmission failure claims with the Honda's warranty bureaucracy.

GM could start building the best cars in the world tomorrow but the damage their arrogance and lousy dealer service network has inflicted on customers in the past will take 5-10 years to repair.

firstwagon says: 1:37 PM, 03.10.10

Interesting that the Caravan has the lowest number of transmission failures in most years.

I haven't heard of any major engine problems either and other failures are minor. Perhaps the many millions of people who bought Caravans were smarter then people like to think.

kingkhalas says: 3:11 PM, 03.10.10

sorry, but the caravan is a p.o.s.

firstwagon says: 3:41 PM, 03.10.10

We've had 5 Caravans in our family dating back to 1988. (1988, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2005). Only the 91 had a transmission failure (at 200,000km), none had engine problems and aside from the odd accessory repair they all endured endless use and abuse while cranking on major miles. Maybe not the most refined or stylish choice but you can't beat them for price, practicality and (at least in our case) durability.

Hardly a pos.

savetheland says: 7:03 PM, 03.10.10

Honda is reliable car except of one minor issue - replacing transmission every 40K miles. At least until 100K you do not have to pay. People have to get burned several time after they loose confidence to the brand. Despite all the problems people were loyal to Big Three for a long time. Same thing will happen with Toyota and Honda problems will persist. I would normally forgive if problem happens first time, of course if I like the car. But if I buy it second time and have headache again I would simply switch to another brand.

1487 says: 6:01 AM, 03.11.10


Most of these folks will continue to buy Honda. Once you buy into the hype its hard to accept that a Honda/Toyota isnt as good as you thought. Its interesting that what is really important to people is getting compensated for their unreliable vehicles. BAsed on the quotes above many Honda owners seem OK with the tranny failures as long as Honda replaced them for free or partially pays for a replacement out of warranty. So instead of correcting the problems, Honda keeps owners happy by doling out cash to dampen the financial impact of buying a new tranny.

savetheland says: 5:55 PM, 03.11.10

If it is wide spread problem Honda cannot dole cash forever - transmissions and work are very expensive. You can do it if it is rare almost anecdotical problem. We will see how long Honda will play nice guy.

jensjurgen says: 4:39 PM, 03.12.10

my wife's 2001 Honda Odyssey's transmission acted up in March 2010 at 76000 miles after the extended Honda warranty had expired by less than a year. We managed to drive to Honda City in LI NY. Trouble code p0740 torque converter shift failure. Were told a new factory rebuilt transmission would normally retail for about $3400 but they would contact Honda for a courtesy discount since these tranny failures were well known and we had low mileage. A few hours later the dealer called - our expense would be only $1349 for the transmission and labor. This new tranny is now guaranteed for 3 years 36000 miles. Work was done in one day. We were satisfied with this service and Honda support for this now about 9-year old car. Replaced the original front brakes at the same time, rear brakes are still good even at 76000 miles. No complaints here.
We feel the new tranny gives us even slightly better mileage - but have to check this out more.

kingfish4 says: 6:54 AM, 03.13.10

Genuine Honda rebuilt transmissions cost the dealer $1000. Even with Honda offering assistance, they are still making money for Honda and the dealer. The domestic manufacturers, Ford and GM, sell replacement transmission for slightly more, but back them with a 3 yr/100,000 mile warranty, vs the Honda 3/36,000. I've owned 3 Honda's and had transmission problems with one, and Honda offered no assistance. I will never buy another Honda again.

pbconspiracy says: 11:34 AM, 03.17.10

Shortly after going through this transmission fiasco myself, and having to pay $1000 out of pocket to replace a poorly designed tranny, I found a permanent fix. Replaced 2001 Oddy with a 2008 Grand Caravan with a lifetime powertrain warranty. 26,000 trouble-free miles so far. My wife will not permit another Honda in our driveway; Honda blew it by not permanently correcting this issue when they first realized there was a design problem.

odyssey_hater says: 8:51 AM, 05.10.10

I have a 2001 Honda Odyssey purchased new. It now has 200,000 miles on it and has had 4 transmissions! An average transmission life of 50,000. The first transmission went out at 38,000 miles. The second one went out at 89,000 miles. The Third Transmission went out at 112,000 miles and Honda tried to weasel out from under the 109,000 mile warranty but eventually they replaced it. Now the transmission has gone out again at 200,000 miles leaving me with no residual value in the vehicle.

My family has bought over 20 Honda's from Goodson in Houston. Yes, All from Goodson Honda. Something tells me I will not be buying another Honda! Honda knew their transmission design was crapola but they kept is quit. Not one of their better days for sure! The engineering team who designed the tranny in the 1999-2001 Odyssey needs to be taken out back, given a cigarette, blindfolded and shot! OK a little extreme but I hope he got demoted or fired!

Regarding fixes: Honda replaced the first tranny with the exact same thing. The third tranny apparently had a minor change and it lasted a bit longer but still ultimately failed. What a joke Honda!

odyssey_hater says: 8:52 AM, 05.10.10

I have a 2001 Honda Odyssey purchased new. It now has 200,000 miles on it and has had 4 transmissions! An average transmission life of 50,000. The first transmission went out at 38,000 miles. The second one went out at 89,000 miles. The Third Transmission went out at 112,000 miles and Honda tried to weasel out from under the 109,000 mile warranty but eventually they replaced it. Now the transmission has gone out again at 200,000 miles leaving me with no residual value in the vehicle.

My family has bought over 20 Honda's from Goodson in Houston. Yes, All from Goodson Honda. Something tells me I will not be buying another Honda! Honda knew their transmission design was crapola but they kept is quit. Not one of their better days for sure! The engineering team who designed the tranny in the 1999-2001 Odyssey needs to be taken out back, given a cigarette, blindfolded and shot! OK a little extreme but I hope he got demoted or fired!

Regarding fixes: Honda replaced the first tranny with the exact same thing. The third tranny apparently had a minor change and it lasted a bit longer but still ultimately failed. What a joke Honda!

zameer says: 1:10 PM, 06.18.10

I have a 2000 honda odyssey, i bought it used and after i bought it,tranmission broke in 6 months.It has 149,000 miles.Honda will not fix it as it has more miles.I wish tranmission broke sooner,if it does not break in 100,000 miles it will break down later, for sure they breakdown.What can i do, i want to atleast file a complaint or do something rather than feel helpless against honda.

soltalk says: 7:37 AM, 07.14.10

I Love my three girls so much and bought a 2004 Honda Odssey with low mileage just 34,000 and now, i am having transmission problems. I can not believe it. I took it the nearest dealer and telling me they can only pay 60 % and i pay 40 %. I drove the car exactly one year and now, I am asked to pay $1700 dollar.

Can someone give me an advice what to do? Here is my e-mail : Solzu5@yahoo.com

Thanks
Solomon

farmdog1 says: 2:00 PM, 07.15.10

“…….A different owner has already decided to spring for "the totally redesigned, hopefully improved transmission, 2011 Honda Odyssey" when it rolls into showrooms this summer…..”

I heard the same thing in 2003 when we decided to purchase an Odyssey, the 5 speed was supposedly going to lay to rest the problems of the 4 speed in the older models. Yeah right, I am now fighting with Honda who wants to weasel out of fixing my transmission when it is obvious there was a problem I had complained about the first year at around 30k miles.

Don’t drink the KoolAid. I bought our 2003 Odyssey new and at 30k miles they placed a ridiculous spray jet over my transmission fill hole to apparently help it get past their 36,000 mile warranty. Now I have to fill the transmission through the little tiny dipstick hole, try 3.5 quarts through this little hole times three drive drain and fill cycles every 30k miles and then ask yourself if you feel screwed. This is not what I bargained for when I bough the Honda and I have to suffer their band aide after the fact then be denied being taken care of once failure time is here. The fluid at the first change at 30k miles was awful dirty brownish thick and nasty. It has taken this long to set off a code but has been a miserable vehicle to drive with its high pitched whine at steady highway speeds over the past 7 years and it’s extremely hard shift from first to second. At times I’ve actually blown through red lights I should have stopped at because I can’t stand the hard shift from a stop. It was even worse when the motor mounts were broken. Reminds me of the which came first chicken or egg question….. which came first, bad motor mount design or transmission hard shift causing mounts to break? All that power from the V6, forget about using it, you’ll baby the vehicle in fear of hurting the transmission as I have the past 7 years. Those of you with earlier vehicles ’01 and older are the lucky ones, we that have the newer vehicles have had no recall or law suit that I’m aware of and now I’m wondering why, perhaps it’s about time?

tophoppop says: 3:00 PM, 01.22.11

We are dealing with a 2000 Honda Odyssey with 80,000 miles and were just told that it needs a new transmission to the tune of $5400! We were told our extended warranty of 8yr, 100,000mile was no longer valid. We don't even tow anything with this minivan and have been very good about maintaining it with oil and fluid changes done at the dealership on time.

Beware if you have a 2000 odyssey, this transmission problem seems pretty common and corporate Honda response is "Sorry, there is nothing that can be done. It is a 10 or 11 year old car afterall." . Shame on Honda! I bought a Honda specifically because it was supposedly a well built long-lasting vehicle. From now on, I am looking for 10 year or lifetime warranties on any future vehicles that we buy. Disappointing, Honda.

coachbc says: 8:11 PM, 03.29.11

The more I research this the sader I am that I bought the Honda. My 2003 just had the Trans. go out and Honda America will not say anything except my vehicle is out of the warrenty period. Unbelievable that they will hide from this. If you have any help for us please post so that we can do something about this. I am having someone rebuild it instead of giving the money for the product that will break down again, again, ...

rfreitas says: 11:16 AM, 03.30.11

This site has over 400 new cases added in 2 years and another 200 comments. 600+ stories of Odyssey's with transmission problems:

http://www.odysseytransmission.com/

darcyw says: 3:58 PM, 03.30.11

Our 2003 Honda Odyssey was a great vehicle until 160,000 kms. The transmission failed and I had a rebuilt unit installed by a local trusted transmission shop. I didn't ask Honda for anything as I thought "great- now we'll get another 160K kms out of this van." Until 14 months later when the transmission failed AGAIN. This time we opted out of this horrid van. I wrote a snailmail letter to Honda of Canada outlining my extreme disappointment in what should have been an excellent vehicle. I received a call from Honda of Canada offering $500 towards a new Honda vehicle.

I understand part of the transmission problem is in the torque converter- a poor design exists and there is a fix. There is a video on Youtube which outlines the problem and solution that DAACO has fixed- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEdqRkq1p1o

I will never purchase another automatic equipped Honda vehicle. I still have the bad transmission in my home shop- I have a mind to take it to Honda of Canada's head quarters and drop it off in their front lobby!

darcy winch

gregf3 says: 10:09 AM, 04.01.11

So I've joined the ranks of Honda Odyssey drivers with failed transmissions. Conversation with Honda resulted in Honda USA not wanting to do anything about it, and I am now 4700 dollars poorer. Nice Honda.. I wonder if they even care?

dhybrids says: 9:30 PM, 10.27.11

This is an example of what will happen if some small problems not being fixed early. Ok, at first Honda recognized the issue early and fixed it immediately. Then the issue has change; it is now about that neither of the Honda's actions appears to have fully addressed the root cause of the transmission failures. Some owners believe Honda is unwilling to acknowledge or address. Well, I know Honda is dealing a lot of problems nowadays; this could be something that Honda could learn in the future to handle complaints. And also, it might be better if the owners cut straight into the problems and give Honda some time to fixed it.
car reviews 2012:http://carissued.com/

dhybrids says: 9:37 PM, 10.27.11

This can be an example of what will happen if some tiny problems not becoming fixed early. Ok, at very first Honda recognized the problem early and fixed it right away. Then the concern has change; it is now about that neither of the Honda's actions appears to have completely addressed the root cause of the transmission failures. Some owners think Honda is unwilling to acknowledge or address. Well, I know Honda is dealing a good deal of troubles these days; this could be something that Honda could understand within the future to handle complaints. And also, it may well be far better if the owners cut straight into the problems and give Honda some time to fixed it.
car reviews 2012
http://carissued.com/

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