Honda Pilot Drive Light Flashing – What’s Wrong?

If you own a Honda Pilot and discover that the drive light is flashing continuously, you may be wondering what is wrong with your vehicle and how to tackle the problem. Fortunately, we have done the legwork for you, and here's what we found.

If the drive light of a Honda Pilot starts flashing, it is most likely a transmission problem. So, you should check if the transmission fluid is low since it is usually the initial sign. However, several other things including the clutch pressure sensor or the solenoid shift can cause transmission faults.

It is best to tackle any transmission problem before it worsens. Keep reading to discover the problems that could make your Honda Pilot drive light flash and how to prevent them.

A black Honda Pilot parked on a snowy road, Honda Pilot Drive Light Flashing - What's Wrong?

What Could Be Wrong When Honda Pilot Drive Light Starts Flashing?

 If your Honda Pilot's check engine light starts blinking, it means there is a transmission problem that needs to be fixed. Flashing drive lights in Honda Pilot may be due to low transmission fluid. Fortunately, yiu can easily fix this problem.

Transmission fluid acts as a lubricant. It also helps in cooling the gearbox's components and assists valve operation. Gears can rub against each other if there isn't enough lubrication in the gearbox. This results in undue wear and transmission failure. A variety of problems might cause the transmission fluid to deplete.

White Honda Pilot parked on side of the street for a view of the beach

One of them is a leak in the transmission pan. Cracks can appear in any area, and the gearbox becomes vulnerable when used frequently. It is also possible for the torque converter mechanism to fail due to lack of maintenance.

What Are The Signs Of Low Transmission Fluid?

There is no need to get a code scanner. After noticing the drive light, just look below the vehicle to know if you will see any fluid. With this, you can detect if there are leaks in the pan. However, there are some warning signs that could mean you have a low transmission fluid. Here are some of them:

High Revolutions Per Minute (RPM)

If you notice that the engine of your Pilot is revolving more than it should at any given speed, this is a sign of low transmission fluid. It is also possible the torque converter isn't locked up. 

Change In Engine Sound When Uphill

If you are climbing a steep slope, the fluid may easily get off the pan. As the transmission runs out of fluid, the engine will rev higher.

High Transmission Temperature

The fluid in an automatic transmission is not just needed for converting mechanical power to hydraulic energy in the torque converter. So, if your transmission temperature indicator goes high, this is a clear sign that you are running low on transmission fluid.

Always check the transmission fluid level as well as the coolant lines to prevent low transmission fluid. The pan gasket and the pan itself frequently leak. It is best to examine every transmission at working temperature.

How Do You Inspect The Transmission Fluid In A Honda Pilot?

Black Honda Pilot moving on the highway

You can easily inspect the Pilot's transmission fluid. These steps will guide you when checking your vehicle's transmission fluid:

Step 1: Locate The Dipstick

The dipstick can be found at the right of the oil dipstick on vehicles with front-wheel drive. If you are finding it difficult to locate the dipstick, consult your ower's manual.

Step 2: Remove The Dipstick

After locating the transmission fluid dipstick, try removing it so you can see the fluid.

Step 3: Check The Fluid

Touch the fluid and rub it between your thumb and index finger. On the dipstick, the transmission fluid should be almost clear with a pink hue. If it is dirty or smells burnt, then you need to replace it. You should also check the quantity of the fluid to know if it is low.

If the transmission fluid is clear but low, pour a little transmission fluid down the tube with a funnel to reach the line. Avoid overfilling. Before you do this, make sure to read the manual to see the type of transmission fluid your vehicle requires.

Can Transmission Fluid Get Low Without A Leak?

Black Honda Pilot

Transmission fluids don't burn away over time. There must be a leak for the level to drop. The leak may be minor but it still exists. Most times, a damaged fluid seal causes the leak. You may be fine using your vehicle when there is a small leak but bear in mind that small leaks may cause a lot of problems, especially under pressure.

What Happens If You Drive With Low Transmission Fluid?

You will notice a warning sign when the transmission fluid level is low. Low transmission fluid causes severe wear and tear, causing the transmission to overheat and fail. Some transmissions have enough fluid to run the vehicle for a short time before running out, while others require frequent replacements and top-ups. Always check the fluid whether the vehicle is in use or not.

If you run out of transmission fluid while driving, you may not be able to change gears. Whether you are driving an automatic or manual transmission, your car will either stay in the same gear or grind to a halt.

Some vehicles come with a safety feature that can shift into the lowest possible gear, allowing only limited speeds to retain control over hazardous terrain. If you are driving on a slippery surface, your automobile may not change gears at all.

How Often Should Pilot's Transmission Fluid Be Changed?

To change your transmission fluid, you may be spending half the amount used for a transmission flush. This is because it requires fewer fluids and doesn't take a lot of time to perform. It is recommended to change the transmission fluid of your Honda Pilot so its transmission will stay lubricated.

You should replace your fluids at least every 30,000 miles; if not, your transmission may slip. For more information, check the owner's manual for the different mileage intervals that your transmission will be needing a fluid replacement.

If you frequently drive in harsh conditions, it is advisable to change the fluid after 15,000 miles. If you don't change your transmission fluid at the right time, it becomes dirty and grimy. Dirty fluid cannot lubricate and spread the heat like a clean one.

Can You Mix Old And New Transmission Fluid?

If you mix old and new fluids, you won't achieve a good viscosity. Also, mixing both lowers the system's performance. You should remove the old fluid before adding a new one. But you may need a complete system flush if the fluid is extremely dark or contains excess particles.

How Do You Change The Transmission Fluid In A Honda Pilot?

Black Honda Pilot trekking on a snowy road

It is better to drain transmission fluid at operating temperature. Here are step-by-step procedures for changing transmission fluid.

Step 1: Turn Off The Ignition

The first step to take when you want to change your transmission fluid is to turn off your car for some minutes. Then raise and secure. Next, place a newspaper or cardboard under the catch pan.

Step 2: Loosen The Bolts

Try unscrewing the bolts from one part of the transmission pan, be careful so the hot exhaust parts and fluid won't touch you. Remove the remaining bolts so the pan can bend and start draining. When you are done loosening all bolts, bring the pan down and put the fluid that remains into the pan.

Step 3: Check The Pan

Check the pan to know if there are metal shavings or internal damage. If there are, clean them with the liquid. You should also drain the fluid from the transmission filter and replace it.

Step 4: Change The Transmission Filter 

When installing the new filter, make sure to fix it in such a way that the o-ring seats in the right orifice. Using oil-soluble grease, attach the gasket to the pan. Do not use a gasket sealer or adhesive.

Check the service manual so you can properly use the thread sealer on the transmission pan bolts. Next, screw all fasteners. Starting from the middle, torque the bolts. The highest torque should be approximately 12 pounds per foot.

Step 5: Pour The Fluid In The Transmission

Pour the appropriate amount of fluid into the transmission. Then, turn the car on so it can warm up. Off the vehicle after some time and check for leaks.

To Wrap Up

A black Honda Pilot parked on a snowy road

Any time you notice that the drive light of a Honda Pilot is flashing, make sure to check the transmission because there is a higher chance the problem is from there. A flashing drive light is usually due to low transmission fluid.

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