Is it normal that my SUV has a jolting jerkiness?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader concerned about the way his Honda Pilot behaves when he takes his foot off the brake.

The 2016 Honda Pilot.
The 2016 Honda Pilot. –Honda

Q. I recently purchased a 2016 Honda Pilot and didn’t notice a jolting jerkiness when I was test-driving it. It was my own stupidity — the excitement of new vehicle and other factors. Now that I own it and am driving it every day, I’ve come to discover this distinct jolting-jerkiness feeling as I am driving. This mostly occurs as I take my foot off the brake. The vehicle won’t just coast smoothly. It’s as if it’s downshifting on its own. I thought something was majorly wrong with this car and took it to have it checked out. Is this really a common and acceptable characteristic of the Honda Pilot? If so, does it happen with all Pilots or just that particular year’s model? Is there any way to fix this? 

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A. At one point Honda may have performed an update to the transmission to remedy an existing shudder issue. If that was the case, then the transmission fluid needs to be changed following a very specific procedure outlined in technical service bulletin 17-015. In addition, the engine in this vehicle shuts cylinders down to save fuel. This can lead to a somewhat annoying and, to some drivers, an undesirable characteristic. If this were my vehicle, I would continue to work with Honda to make sure all applicable technical bulletins are fully up to date.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE certified master technician. Email your car question to jpaul@aaanortheast.com.