2021 Honda Passport Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Electrical, forward collision avoidance, engine, and “visibility” issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Editor: Rita Roberts | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

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The 2021 Honda Pilot is a large SUV that is a favorite among families because of its spaciousness and feature-filled cabins. Promoted as being “refined at every level,” it boasts both off-road and all-weather driving capabilities assisted by Honda’s various “intelligent” systems. But owners whose 2021 Pilot SUVs shut down because of the faulty auto idle system, brake because the forward collision avoidance system decides it must, or have speakers that pop and crackle due to faulty electrics are less than impressed. And that’s not all. A large volume of complaints highlight sunroofs that explode, windshields that crack, and mirrors that vibrate, distorting driver vision. 

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019   2020   2022

Most Common Problems

Complaints issued to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that the most common problems relate to the forward avoidance collision and electrical systems, engine, and issues related to visibility. An analysis of these complaints shows that actual problems highlighted focus on brakes that malfunction, the faulty auto idle/restart feature, speakers that crackle and pop, windshields and sunroofs that crack or explode, and mirrors that shake, vibrate, and dangerously distort drivers’ visibility. There are also a small number of complaints that state that the brakes and steering wheel shake.

Many of the complaints highlight safety issues, of which there are many. For instance, a 61-year-old owner from Ohio discovered that because the 2021 Pilot has a push button transmission “gear selector,” it’s impossible to put the vehicle in neutral unless the engine is running. The owner states, “This is an unacceptable safety hazard” that requires owners to buy a special lock release tool to be able to place the transmission in neutral if it stops running in traffic. “Are there no adults left in the building designing these cars?” the owner asks.

An owner from North Carolina states that the steering wheel trembles, vibrates, and shakes at accelerating speeds between 37 mph and 62 mph. It does the same at decelerating speeds between 62 mph and 37 mph. “The entire vehicle begins to shake [and] driving is hazardous.” This 2021 Pilot has been inspected by certified repair centers that say there is no solution.

There are also six recalls, all of which increase the risk of a crash and sometimes injury and/or loss of vehicle control.

2021 Honda Passport Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
Electrical System
Power Train
Service Brakes
Unknown Or Other
Exterior Lighting
Fuel/propulsion System

Engine Stop-Start Problems

Lemberg Law has been aware of the engine stop-start problems that affect 2016-2021 Honda Pilot SUVs for some time. There is an open investigation into the SUV’s Auto Start/Stop feature, but it only applies to certain 2016-2020 models. There are, however, manufacturer notifications on file with the NHTSA from Honda that show the automaker is aware of “idle stop” issues. The most recent of these affects 2016-2022 Pilot MYs. Issued on March 10, 2023, it notifies dealerships that some owners may be eligible for a warranty extension provided they have had theirPGM-FI idle stop software updated.

Prior to this, there were several service bulletins notifying dealerships about the issue. On January 25, 2023, they issued a bulletin that states, “Under certain circumstances, after coming to a stop and the idle stop feature engages, the vehicle may not automatically restart. Typically, the customer can immediately restart the vehicle by selecting Park and pushing the ENGINE START/STOP button.” It relates to 2016-2022 Honda Pilot SUVs and notifies dealers of a software update.

However, dealerships don’t seem to be on the same page. And, more often than not, when they do opt for the software update, owners report that it doesn’t work.

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Dealerships Unaware

A large number of complaints state that dealers are unable to determine the cause of the idle stop-start problem. Here are just three of many examples.

In an October 2023 NHTSA complaint, an owner from Alabama states, “Normally the auto stop/start feature would stop the engine and start it again when I released the brake, but at this stop the vehicle stopped the engine and lost all power. The car went completely dead.” The dealership said the battery wasn’t providing adequate voltage for the stop/start system. Suggested solutions included manually deselecting the auto start/stop function “each time I started the car” or replacing the battery “at my expense.” There was no mention of a software update.

An owner from Minnesota states that his Pilot “died in [the] middle of [an] intersection” after pulling off from a stop light. After towing it to the dealer, who “did diagnostics and couldn’t find any issue,” the owner drove the car home, turned it off, and it wouldn’t restart— “Not sure if it’s [the] starter, alternator, [or] auto engine stop features.” He had it towed back to the dealer who “has no idea of the issue.” But the “tow truck driver said he has towed several Honda Pilots with the same issue.”

An owner from New York states the car had a new battery, but “died while waiting at a light. The vehicle idle/stop system kicked in, but [the] car was not able to restart.” The dashboard lights were on, but the emergency hazards wouldn’t work, and he couldn’t put the car in neutral. “The dealer looked at this problem twice, first time stating this can just happen, and this time, they said the new battery was perhaps faulty and replaced the battery.”

Software Updates Don’t Resolve Issue

In September 2023, an owner from Pennsylvania lodged a complaint to the NHTSA. “The car shuts down when coming to an idle such [as] while stopping at a light.” When this happens, all systems power down including the hazard lights, front and tail lights, and windows. After multiple attempts using the start button, this owner has been able to restart the Pilot. “This is a safety concern as when this occurs in traffic, especially at night with limited visibility, this can lead to being rear ended waiting for the vehicle to start.” The Honda dealer was unable to replicate the issue and carried out a software reset to address the problem — eight times!

An owner from Texas states that the “Auto Idle Stop is defective on this vehicle and has resulted in multiple incidents where the vehicle stalls after the break is applied in sitting traffic. I have had near collision experiences that pose a severe safety risk. The car jolts forward after releasing the break at an intersection, and immediately becomes immobile.” Despite Honda having done the software update, “this continues to happen. Honda needs to be held liable as this will result in injury and/or death to consumers.”

Problems with the Brakes

Brake and forward collision avoidance issues are the most frequent problems reported involving faulty brakes. While most involve brakes that engage spontaneously, there are also several complaints that highlight brakes failing, causing 2021 Pilot SUVs to crash.

Brakes that Fail

An owner from Texas describes how, when approaching his driveway with his foot on the brake, the SUV suddenly  sped up “at a very high speed that I was unable to control.” The vehicle crashed into the house, causing considerable damage to the house and the Pilot. Luckily, neither he nor his passenger was injured.

Two women from Arizona were injured when a 2021 Pilot crashed into a concrete wall. This happened when the driver had “the brake pedal depressed all the way to the floorboard, [and] the vehicle failed to stop as intended.” It left the roadway, hit a stop sign, and then collided with the wall. None of the airbags deployed.

Both women went to a hospital, where the driver was treated for a head contusion and pain in her legs and lower back, and the passenger was treated for chest pain. The owner of the SUV related the accident to a recall, NHTSA Campaign Number 23V458000 (Service Brakes, Hydraulics).

The recall, dated June 29, 2023, warns that the brake master cylinder can separate due to a loose fastener on the brake booster assembly. If this happens, it can cause a loss of brake function, increasing the risk of a crash. A total of 124,077 Honda and Acura vehicles, including the 2021 Honda Pilot, are affected. However, the victim’s vehicle identification number (VIN) was not included, so she opened an investigation with Honda.

Automatic Emergency Braking Malfunctions

Honda’s Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), the automaker’s trademarked version of an autonomous or automatic emergency braking (AEB) system, is reportedly a major problem. Designed to detect a potential front-end collision and reduce potential impact by sending warnings to the driver to apply the brakes, owners state that it frequently engages for no reason. To make matters worse, a large number of NHTSA complaints maintain that Honda dealerships don’t do anything to correct the malfunction.

After owning a 2021 Pilot for less than a month, an owner states that the SMBS system and brakes “come on for no reason. Once when driving down a two-lane road with a car coming in the opposite direction in their lane and I was in mine, the car braked. Then once getting on a road [with] nothing coming nor any other vehicle around, the vehicle did a hard brake.”

Another states that the “Lane departure braking mechanism has become faulty. Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve had 2 incidents that could have resulted in a rear end crash, bodily injury, or death.” On both occasions, a brake warning flashed on the dashboard, “and the automatic system caused the Pilot to temporarily hard brake in the middle of the freeway. I reported this to POWAY Honda during my last visit, but they ignored this system problem.”

An owner from Texas states that the AEB system engages “incorrectly.” Describing the recurring problem, the owner says the most recent incident was “on a straight two-lane road on a sunny day.” While traveling at about 30 mph with no cars in front and no oncoming traffic, the AEB engaged unexpectedly and braked hard. The driver was thrown forward in the seat. The service manager said they couldn’t do anything, but “I could turn off the AEB system.”

Speaker Problems

Like the engine stop-start issues, Lemberg Law has been aware of speaker problems for some time. We have an ongoing class action investigation that relates to not only Honda Pilot models, but also Odyssey and Passport models manufactured between 2018 and 2022.

Honda is well aware of the problem and has issued numerous service bulletins. There are at least seven on file for the 2021 Honda Pilot, the first dated July 29, 2020. The most recent was issued on July 26, 2021. It states, “There is a popping or crackling from the speakers or no sound from the audio system. You may also see a Network Loss message and/or display issues.” It maintains that a possible cause is a loose connection in the MOST bus network. Dealers are instructed to install the FAKRA connector set and the MOST service cords to correct the problem.

However, when an owner from Texas reported the “speaker crackling noise” to Honda in January 2023, they had “no idea how to fix this. I have taken the vehicle to get serviced 4 times and still there is no resolution.”

When an owner from California heard fairly loud “popping and cracking sounds from the dashboard,” he turned off the radio. When the noises continued, he realized it was coming from the speakers. The owner “took it to the dealership for repair, but they said they can’t repair it. This is not acceptable for a new car.” That was a good five months after the last relevant service bulletin was issued.

Another 2023 complaint states that the “entertainment system makes popping and crackling sounds and will cut out. This is very distracting while driving.” Honda Corp instructed the owner “to get a formal diagnosis” before they would look at the SUV.

Windshields and Sunroofs that Explode and/or Vibrate

There are a substantial number of complaints about sunroofs, windows and windshields, and side-view mirrors that shake, vibrate, and distort the images drivers rely on for safety on the road. Here are a handful of typical NHTSA complaints.


An owner from South Carolina was driving down the road when “the sunroof glass spontaneously shattered.” There was a “loud bang and it just imploded, raining glass pieces into the car.” The “local Honda dealer said they had seen several of these, including one the day before. However, Honda would not cover it even though the car is only five months old and purchased brand new, top trim level.”

While driving at about 25-30 mph, an owner from New Jersey heard a loud bang as the sunroof glass exploded. Glass shards fell into the SUV and landed on the driver’s hair and clothing. The owner told the dealer that “there was no impact on the sunroof that could have caused it to shatter.” However, the dealer insisted that “a stone must have hit the sunroof.”

An owner from Texas states that his wife “heard a loud explosion above her head followed by the sound of rushing air. The sunroof glass had spontaneously exploded. Fortunately the sunroof internal cover was pulled shut or else broken glass would have fallen on my wife’s head. Driving conditions were good and my wife did not see any object strike the vehicle.”

Another complaint states simply, “My sunroof exploded while driving down the highway.”


According to one owner, when the windshield of a 2021 Pilot cracked within three months of ownership while in a parking lot, the dealer replaced it for a fee. “They said (the) windshield may have been defective but we had to pay for it anyway.”

The same thing happened to an owner from Texas who was staying at a hotel overnight whose Pilot was also in a parking lot. “The car had been parked all night and it was in a secure area. The windshield broke on its own. My insurance paid for the broken windshield.”

An owner from New Jersey describes in a complaint how the rear windshield “failed” and shattered. “It seemed like someone shot at our windshield but no one was outside. The windshield was never cracked before either, it was a new car! There were kids in the back and it was a huge safety hazard. The glass pieces were everywhere.”

An owner from Virginia reports that the rear windshield exploded outward. Unlike the previous incident, there was “hardly any glass inside the vehicle.”

Side-View Mirrors

Most of the mirror problems reported are visibility/wiper issues. Side-view mirror issues are also a major problem with the 2021 Honda Odyssey. Like the Odyssey, the 2021 Honda Pilot has a mirror-related recall. NHTSA Campaign Number 23V174000 warns that the heating pads behind both side-view mirrors may not be bonded properly, which could allow the mirror glass to detach. If this happens, the glass can reduce driver visibility and increase the risk of a crash.

It doesn’t refer to shaking and vibrating though, which is a different issue that makes images blurry and hard to see. Some owners who experience shaking and vibrations report that it is so bad that “you cannot focus on vehicles coming up on your left-hand side.”

Additionally, several complaints about side-view mirrors state that the shaking and vibrating problems started after the recall repair was done.

An owner from Oregon states that after the dealership replaced the side mirrors on the recall, “my driver side mirror is all distorted. It looks like I’m looking through my contacts while wearing my glasses. It’s given me a headache.”

Another owner had the recall fix carried out, “believing that it will improve [the] safety of my car.” However, this owner immediately realized that the mirror on the driver’s side “was very [wavy] and distorted, which made me feel nauseous.” The dealership admitted that “they received the same complaint a lot, but another new mirror would have the same issue.” The replacement mirror was better, but still not right. The dealership manager “suggested that another new mirror replacement might be even worse than the current one.” So, the owner didn’t ask for another replacement. He wanted the original mirror back “since it was working just fine.” But they wouldn’t, due to the federal obligations.

Next Steps if You Think You Have a Lemon

Generally, when serious problems that affect the use of your vehicle recur, this can mean that the vehicle is a lemon. If you think your 2021 Honda Pilot may be a lemon, you are welcome to contact Lemberg Law, and we will assess your problems for you, free of charge.

Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace, or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners. In any case, they are forced to pay the costs of lemon law ligation. All you have to do is call our Helpline or fill out a contact form and we’ll see what we can do to help.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
  • Sam j

    2021 Honda passport AWD problems:
    Dashboard says door open when it’s locked
    Car occasionally refuse to go forward when in Drive and sometimes does not reverse.
    Remote with new batteries does not work..can’t lock or open car.
    Bright light does not come on unless lever on steering wheel is manually held.
    Dome light switch malfunctions.
    Heated steering wheel does not work
    I have only 17890 miles on new Honda.
    This is ridiculous…dangerous to drive on highway with these issues. Honda has to do a better job in notifying customers about problems.

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