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Honda recalls 50,000 Odyssey minivans for transmission weirdness

A transmission that shifts into Park while in motion is… not ideal.

2019 Honda Odyssey
Owners might want to make sure those battery terminals are nice and tight before the next road trip.

If you've ever curiously thrown a vehicle's transmission into Park while the vehicle is in motion, there's no doubt you're familiar with the cacophony of grinding metal that follows. Having that experience intentionally isn't much fun, but it could be even worse when it happens without warning, which is the reason behind Honda's latest recall.

Honda has issued a recall for approximately 50,000 examples of the 2018-2019 Honda Odyssey minivan. The 2018 models carry build dates between Jan. 19, 2017 and April 16, 2018. The affected 2019 models, on the other hand, were built between April 12, 2018 and Jan. 14, 2019.

The problem stems from the transmission control unit, which is the brains behind the automatic transmission's operation. If a battery terminal is loose or the battery itself is degraded, it could cause the TCU to reboot under low voltage conditions. Trouble is, the default action when the TCU reboots is to engage Park. If that happens while the vehicle is in motion, it could damage the rod that's part of the parking system, potentially causing enough damage to where Park may not work when the vehicle is stationary. That's a big ol' safety hazard, obviously.

Honda has already remedied the problem on its assembly line. It did so by changing the software so that, in the presence of low voltage conditions, a TCU reboot will simply attempt to shift the transmission to Neutral. This new logic won't cause the mechanical carnage that spurred the recall.

The remedy for affected vehicles is pretty similar. Honda's technicians will apply a TCU software update that applies this new logic, eliminating the issue. If the techs find that the transmission can't stay still in Park without the electronic parking brake, the dealer will replace the transmission free of charge. Owners can expect to receive recall notifications in the mail starting in June.