99 Honda Odyssey as a tow vehicle? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-19-2007, 07:54 AM   #1
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I'm looking at a larger vehicle for increased tow capacity. Found a pretty honda van, but freaked out when I hit the web doing research. It appears that the 4 speed automatic transmission is very fragile. Anyone out there towing with an Odyssey? Recommendations?
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Old 02-19-2007, 08:33 AM   #2
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Cam:

We have towed for almost 7 years with a '99 Odyssey without any trouble. Our trailer is just over 3000lbs fully loaded.

1) I have the factory tranny cooler PLUS an auxiliary one hooked up to it.

2) I do a regular transmission oil change once or twice a year. Checked for discoloration and odor. I found slight browning but no odor after a 9000 mile cross-country trip. Change it myself to keep costs down.

3) The transmission is left in 3rd gear (D3) when towing, except for long, slightly downhill slopes without a headwind when 4th is OK. Engine seems quite happy.

4) I use a transmission oil temperature gauge to keep me informed. It runs off a sensor/drainplug.

5) Limit top speed to 65 actual mph (had the speedo calibrated when I first got the van). Normal cruising speed is about 62 mph.

6) Steep hills make me plan ahead, shift down early, and use momentum to get me up with minimum strain. Otherwise cruise control can be used most of the time.

7) My tranny temp gauge stays below 200 most of the time, 170 typical, with 220 reached uphill and in hot weather. It peaked out just above 230 for a couple of minutes once, but that takes extreme conditions and usually drops quickly after the crest of the hill. All this depends on the gauge setup used.

I think you are right to be concerned about the tranny, but it is probably the case with almost ANY tranny used for towing. With the Honda tranny it is probably more the luck of the draw. We have received a couple of extended warranty notices, and the unit is specifically rated to tow 3500lbs, so towing does not void the warranty. I am mentally prepared for it failing eventually but I'll swallow the replacement cost in order to keep the other advantages of this setup. So far so good.
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Old 02-19-2007, 10:52 AM   #3
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Thanks very much, Per; exactly the info I was looking for.
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Old 02-19-2007, 11:20 AM   #4
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What mileage do you get with the Odyssey, on it's own, and when towing?
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Old 02-19-2007, 01:33 PM   #5
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On its own it gets in the high 20es on the highway. I have checked it very carefully on runs Portland-Seattle-Portland and I usually get about 32 mpg (don't believe it myself, but several tests confirm it). Normal in-town mileage has not been checked.

Towing the trailer on long trips such as cross country it averages 15.6 mpg.
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Old 02-19-2007, 02:55 PM   #6
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When we chose our Sienna over the Odyssey the Honda's transmission troubles were making news. It quickly became old news, and my understanding is that there was some upgrade which Honda applied to fix the weak point. It's worth checking to see if there is a difference between years of the same design (1999-2004), or if there is some upgrade service which should have been applied to that particular van.

Web research is good, but it pays to follow the reported problems through to the solution, because everything has some problems, but most of them can be overcome. Another thing to keep in mind is that a tiny failure rate of a vehicle sold in such massive quantities can look like a lot of unhappy owners; it's hard to keep perspective.

As I said, I bought the Toyota, but I think the Honda is a sound choice as well. The two are very comparable in almost every aspect; for instance, my fuel consumption is roughly similar to Per's (with similar 17' widebody 3000 lb trailers).
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Old 03-01-2007, 04:36 PM   #7
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We have a 2007 Odyssey on order and our 16' Scamp is being built as we speak. I'm pleased to read your comments as it makes me think we may have made a good choice for our tow vehicle. Thanks for the post.

Quote:
Cam:

We have towed for almost 7 years with a '99 Odyssey without any trouble. Our trailer is just over 3000lbs fully loaded.

1) I have the factory tranny cooler PLUS an auxiliary one hooked up to it.

2) I do a regular transmission oil change once or twice a year. Checked for discoloration and odor. I found slight browning but no odor after a 9000 mile cross-country trip. Change it myself to keep costs down.

3) The transmission is left in 3rd gear (D3) when towing, except for long, slightly downhill slopes without a headwind when 4th is OK. Engine seems quite happy.

4) I use a transmission oil temperature gauge to keep me informed. It runs off a sensor/drainplug.

5) Limit top speed to 65 actual mph (had the speedo calibrated when I first got the van). Normal cruising speed is about 62 mph.

6) Steep hills make me plan ahead, shift down early, and use momentum to get me up with minimum strain. Otherwise cruise control can be used most of the time.

7) My tranny temp gauge stays below 200 most of the time, 170 typical, with 220 reached uphill and in hot weather. It peaked out just above 230 for a couple of minutes once, but that takes extreme conditions and usually drops quickly after the crest of the hill. All this depends on the gauge setup used.

I think you are right to be concerned about the tranny, but it is probably the case with almost ANY tranny used for towing. With the Honda tranny it is probably more the luck of the draw. We have received a couple of extended warranty notices, and the unit is specifically rated to tow 3500lbs, so towing does not void the warranty. I am mentally prepared for it failing eventually but I'll swallow the replacement cost in order to keep the other advantages of this setup. So far so good.
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