Why Is the Drive Light Blinking on My Honda Pilot?

The Honda Pilot is one of the most popular SUVs in the states. The Pilot owes this popularity to its high practicality, economic efficiency, and superb reliability. The latter doesn’t mean that it’s free from faults, though. Engine lights and error codes are a nuisance, and Pilot owners are no stranger to them.

Here’s why the Drive (D) Light is Blinking

The drive (D) light will start blinking to indicate there is a fault with your transmission. While there can be multiple reasons causing the fault, most of the time is a low transmission fluid level.

You’re going to have to get it checked. If this is not the case, then you’ll have to get your Honda Pilot’s codes diagnosed.

Drive Light Blinking on Honda Pilot

But what else could be causing a transmission fault? There are a couple of things: the fluid, the shift solenoid, or the clutch pressure sensor. It is important to know the symptoms and the charges to expect in case of trouble. The following gives you an idea of the expected problems.

Why Is the Drive Light Flashing on Your Honda Pilot?

If you’ve got a mechanic or an OBD scanner, you can diagnose other fault codes on your Honda Pilot, like the Emissions System Problem or Keyless Start System Problem. Regardless, there are some symptoms that you can identify yourself. If you diagnose your Pilot correctly, you’re likely to get charged for the following:

Low Transmission Fluid

If you ever get a drive light flashing on your Honda Pilot, then you better hope that it’s because the tranny fluid is low. This could be the easiest and the cheapest problem one can encounter in this case. But what is this fluid, though? Well, the transmission fluid (ATF) is found in almost all sorts of vehicles.

It behaves like a lubricant and coolant for the gearbox’s components, and it also helps valves operate correctly. A lack of gearbox fluid can cause the gears to rub roughly against one another. This causes lots of wear and, eventually, transmission failure.

The fluid can get low for a couple of reasons. For starters, it may be a leak in the transmission pan. Cracks can happen anywhere, and the gearbox is also prone to them when the usage gets rough. The pan or the torque convertor mechanism can also fail. This usually happens due to a lack of maintenance.

Signs Of Low Transmission Fluid

You don’t necessarily need to pull out an engine code scanner for this one. After getting the drive light, you can identify leaks in the pan by looking below the Pilot for any fluid. Transmission overheating is also a sign, and it has a light indicator. Performance-wise, shifting could be more challenging, jerkier, or noisier.

Another common sign is higher RPM than usual. If you have been driving the car for a while, you got to know its usual RPM ranges when driving. A higher RPM will indicate a low transmission fluid level.

Lastly, when you put the car in D or R, it won’t move at all. This happens when the fluid level is really low.

How to Check for Low Transmission Fluid

Checking the transmission fluid level on your Honda Pilot is not that difficult. The entire process is carefully documented in the owner’s manual, but in case you lost yours, here’s what you need to do:

Step 1: Park the car on level ground.

Step 2: Warm up the engine to its normal running temperature, then switch it off. Don’t allow more than 60-90 seconds before checking the ATF.

Step 3: Locate the transmission fluid dipstick, under the hood, at the front of the bay. It should be yellow.

ATF dipstick location Honda Pilot

Step 4: Remove the stick and check the fluid level. Should be between the two marks, A and B.

Step 5: If it’s below the lower mark (B), ensure you top up with the right ATF until the level gets between the two marks.

Step 6: You might also want to proceed with a further inspection to identify any transmission fluid leaks.

How Much Is to Fix It?

In case of low or no fluid, the solution is to top it up or replace it. You can top up the fluid for $54-68 (excluding labor costs), according to RepairPal. For the other problems above (which are rarer), there will be extra costs based on the nature and intensity of the issue.

Failing Shift Solenoid

The role of a shift solenoid is to control the fluid flow. It is electronically controlled via the TCM’s signals. The solenoid is especially important in automatic vehicles like the Honda Pilot. It essentially helps shift your gears after receiving a signal. But what if it becomes faulty or fails?

Signs Of a Bad Shift Solenoid

The shifts will become slower, and the time delay will increase. It might even become stuck on a certain gear. It may not shift, or it may even skip out on a gear and shift directly to its succeeding one. It could even shift at the wrong RPM. A direct warning sign is the specific engine code of solenoid failure.

How Much Is to Fix It?

Now, this depends on how bad you have it. A shift solenoid for the Pilot costs around $52, and adding labor costs can set you back at least $150. Replacing the entire shift solenoid pack, on the other hand, can cost hundreds of dollars.

Failing Clutch Pressure Sensor

Another cause of the drive light in your Hondo Pilot can be when the clutch pressure sensor goes bad. This is a sensor that measures the piston position of the Concentric Slave Cylinder (CSC). Its failure can be catastrophic as far as driveability is concerned.

Signs Of a Bad Clutch Pressure Sensor

The signs of a faulty transmission pressure sensor are similar to the ones for the shift solenoid. The vehicle won’t shift from neutral, or gears will be skipped. The Pilot’s fuel efficiency will go down the drain, and the rude will become a lot jerkier and choppier. The hazardous car can move unintentionally.

How Much Is to Fix It?

The price for fixing this up is usually the same due to the limited variations of the problem. The parts should cost you about $68-75, while the labor costs could be as much as $100.

Can I still drive if the Drive light is blinking?

Driving with the D light flashing is never a good idea, as it can cause irreparable damage to your transmission. The blinking light on your dashboard tells you that you should pull over as soon as safe to do so and inspect the condition of your car.

If in close proximity to a mechanic or your home, it is best to drive the car slowly, attempting for as many transmission shifts as possible.

If nowhere near home, you might consider calling for a tow truck to get your vehicle home safely. I know that you might think of the extra costs, but a faulty transmission can cause bigger damage to your pocket.

What should I do if the drive light comes on while driving?

If the D light starts flashing while you are driving, proceed to pull over as soon as safe to do so. The next step would be to switch off the engine and start inspecting the car.

You should check the engine bay and underneath the car, for any possible transmission oil leaks, as this is the primary cause of a shifting driving light.

If you can’t see anything wrong, start the engine again and see if the D light is still flashing.

If so, you might want to consider calling a recovery truck to get you to your home or a local repair garage. Although you might be able to drive for a couple of miles, it is possible to cause greater damage to the automatic transmission.

As a result, calling a tow truck might be cheaper.

Will a flashing D light trigger other warning lights?

There have been reports from some Pilot drivers that when the drive light started blinking, the check engine light came on as well. However, the two lights should not be related, and most likely you are dealing with a second problem as well.

The best course of action is to get your hands on a code reader and start looking for some error codes. If you are not familiar with a code reader, your Honda dealership will be able to read any fault codes your car might have. This will indicate any further problems with the vehicle.


So, this was why the drive light is now showing on your Honda Pilot. It is recommended that once you notice this light, you should try to drive as little as you can. This is because a vehicle can become very dangerous when it starts shifting uncontrollably. Always get the transmission fixed before you encounter failure.

Always look for the nearest auto technician or mechanic and get it sorted out. The brief details given above should help you identify the problem by yourself. Regularly scheduled maintenance is the key to avoiding these transmission problems. The Pilot is a reliable SUV that will last as long as it’s maintained.


What is Transmission Fluid, and What Does It Do?