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Acura MDX Transmission Problems



  • ejatejat Posts: 5
    Service manager says they used a camera to look "inside" (not sure inside what) and saw scorched sides, problem worse then they first told me. Every day I get a new call with a new problem. Repairs starting at $2,000 now up to $6,000+ and counting. That includes new water pump and timing chain. I called a few trusted mechanics and was told they could do that job for around $600 AND that the belt most likely had to be removed to make the repairs I need. Acura offered to do belt and pump for $700 instead of $1,200 as they were "working in the area". I told them the price quotes I got and that I did not expect to be billed twice for a service they had to preform anyways. As the for other problem I need to replace the "seals and head" and I am not sure what else. My hands are tied, I need to repair this car but any suggestions on how to handle anytning including what they want to charge me would be greatly appreciated!
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    edited March 2011
    "..saw scorched sides.."

    Are you certain he didn't say "scored sides"

    I once had a Ford Pinto 4 cylinder engine ingest a screw through the carburator...MY FAULT, but didn't immediately know the screw had went down the carb.

    The engine ran fine for a few days, maybe a few unexpected sounds that I don't now remember, but it finally quit running, PERIOD. When I tore the engine down I found that an entire side of a piston has disintegrated, a sparkplug was "smashed" to smithereens. Strange as it may seem I was able to restore the engine to operation and it gave me good service for a number of years.

    You may be looking at some serious expenses IMO.

    In your case it sounds to me as if the spark plug tip came off and then bounced around in the cylinder until some serious damage resulted. The spark plug tip, "ground' tip, is welded into place during manufacture and that may have been a poor or marginal weld from the get-go.

    I trusted no one re-gapped the plugs fairly recently....??

    Otherwise you may have a claim against the spark plug manufacturer for a manufacturing defect.
  • jensadjensad Posts: 388
    I have always have enjoyed your posts here and on other boards.

    Good luck to all and stay safe.

  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Thank you...
  • duke39duke39 Posts: 6
    I would never buy an Acura TL or MDX, new or used, again.

    If you check past postings, there are numerous people who are on the 2nd or 3rd transmissions. The new generation of TLs are now showing many transmissions issues and the MDX's transmissions have been a nightmare for years.

    The vehicle you are considering has over 100,000 miles. The Acura people at their headquarters are uncaring and arrogant. They may offer you $500 or $1,000 off of the price of an inflated price of $5,000 for a rebuilt transmission.

    Stay clear of any used vehicle like this.
  • For what it's worth, I signed up for this forum just to post on this topic. I have an '03 MDX with 100k. And, I am a total gear head. I've rebuilt the classic cars that are in my garage ('67 Mustang, '65 MG, '71 LandCruiser) and do my own work on the MDX and my '07 BMW. My point is, although I'm sure there are other gear heads on here talking about this, I'd say 75% of the information on this topic is biased or misinformation from people that really don't understand cars. Be careful about who you take advice from on the internet. I know the same holds true for me but rather than being accusatory, I'll explain my experience and use my love/understanding of cars to help a few others that may find this useful (and not just with the MDX, but all cars).

    I use my MDX for a lot of towing which is killer on transmissions and other components. I bought it with 24k and now have 100k. My MDX did not include a towing package so I had to add it. Instead of the factory towing package option that includes a larger albeit passive transmission cooler and power steering cooler, I went aftermarket and bought those components with their own cooling fan (active). The fan automatically turns on when the transmission fluid hits 190 degrees (anytime, not just while towing).

    I'm not going to throw out exact numbers that I can't qualify, but most car nuts will agree that excessive heat is the #1 cause of all automatic transmission problems. In fact, excessive heat is the cause of a lot of other part failures, including engines, home electronics, etc, but I digress. Automatic transmissions depend a LOT on their fluid. Everyone knows oil is important to an engine but at the end of the day, it's only job is providing lubrication to the engine. Automatic trans fluid not only provides lubrication for the transmission, but it also helps propel the car. I won't go into detail but it's essentially centrifugal force of the fluid. Guess what happens to overheated transmission fluid? It becomes burned and decomposes. Now the blood of your transmission is trying to squeeze through tiny holes that are getting reduced in size due to bad fluid building up in them (like arteries getting clogged with cholesterol). Over time this will kill your transmission. And my understanding is that the MDX transmission has abnormally small passageways which is why failure is so common. I haven't taken apart an MDX transmission myself so I can't say for sure but this does line up to be accurate.

    So what does all this mean to you? A few things. It's too late for those that already killed their transmissions. Shops really don't service much on transmissions anymore because they're too complicated so they just replace the whole thing. But if your transmission is good and isn't on it's way out... FLUSH YOUR FLUID REGULARLY! Again this gets complicated but the MDX holds around 12 quarts of fluid (I don't have the exact number in front of me but it's about that). When you "drain" or "change" the fluid, only about 3 quarts come out. So that's 75% old fluid left in there! The problem is a bulk of the fluid is inside the torque converter and there's no way to drain it. So flushing it means that you (or have a shop) drain it, fill it, take it for short ride, drain it, fill it, etc. You do this 3 times which mathematically changes over 80% of the fluid during a flush. Most shops don't do this as normal maintenance and it's not cheap. I do it myself every 30k and it costs about $100 in fluid alone. The Acura maintenance schedule calls for a "change" which means you have original fluid in there for 120k or so.

    If you've read this far, you'll be interested to know another very strange point. Leaving your A/C on (by default with the climate control at all times even in winter unless you turn it off) will actually help extend the transmission life. Here's how I know and why. Back to the fan I installed, it runs anytime the fluid gets too hot. Well the fan barely runs at all unless I am towing or driving a lot of stop and go traffic on 90+ degree days. But I found that if I turn the A/C off, the transmission fan will run in just normal driving even in 40 degree weather. Reason being, the A/C turns on its own fan in front of the radiator. If you pay attention most people hear that running. That fan actually plays double duty and not only cools the A/C refrigerant but also helps cool the transmission fluid even if you only have the factory Acura setup (towing package and not towing package, both come with a cooler, just one is bigger than the other). I personally don't think that's Acura's intended purpose, but it is true.

    So moral of my story, I feel bad for a lot of the people posting here and I feel bad for Acura. You can't blame them if you or a previous owner didn't maintain the car properly. I love how people are going to sue Acura because they have a bad transmission. Obviously there are lemons out there but there's a lot more people that drive terribly and neglect maintenance that cause the problems they're having. I totally agree that the things I do to save the life of my transmission shouldn't really have to be done and maybe Acura should have realized that? But I do think if you maintain it properly from the beginning, the transmission will last the life of the car. Rebuilt transmissions are a whole other story and are MUCH more likely to have a problem than the original. But there's not many options if it's already too late.

    Well, I don't have time to proofread this so sorry if something didn't make sense. Hope it's helpful to someone!
  • Thank you for the thoughtful replay and while some of the issues may be simple maintenance issues, if the problem of shuttering is significant enough and common enough for Acura to issue not 1 but 2 ECU reflashes, quietly begin to replace failed transmissions and see the same problem in multiple applications of the same drivetrain, I have to disagree with your conclusion.

    FYI, I am in the industry and work with other manufacturers on a national and international level. I know the tricks and I know how they try to hide the tuna fish behind the fridge. This smells bad and people are getting hurt by Honda's persistent avoidance of addressing the issue.

    FYI. My car has, since it's initial day off the lot, had EVERY service done at an Acura/ Honda dealer and on time or ahead of time.
  • dc1225dc1225 Posts: 53
    Did you guys see that Mazda recall for spiders? Well the Honda Accords have the same spider problems. Mazda RECALLED IT, Honda just sent a TSB on it for same exact problem. in-honda-20110309,0,5881925.story

    Fact: $hitball of vehicle maker Mazda stands behind their product.
    Fact: Honda/Acura looooooooooooves to hide behind their stupid TSB's.
  • dmortazdmortaz Posts: 26
    Thanks for sharing your experience and I am happy to at least found ONE person happy w their MDX transmission. However, most of us who bought an Acura, were not planning on becoming part-time mechanics on weekends!

    By your own admission you are performing transmission service ABOVE-and-BEYOND the manufacturer recommendations to be able to keep your car on the road. That's an absurd requirement from an owner in this day & age; specially for a car that's marketed as a luxury brand!

    Thanks again for sharing good info on AC. I am thinking of installing a ice cooler inside the engine compartment to keep the transmission cooler. I just have to stop every few miles at 7-11 and fill up on ice.

    What do you think?!
  • madmommy3madmommy3 Posts: 28
    great for you on your car knowledge. here is what I know. My well maintained MDX's transmission failed at 72K miles, on a $40K car. And, it was the second car. We treated it like royalty. Lots of others have the same issues. We are regular people saving our money to try and buy something nice that will last. We are burned and really don't care much about the science behind the failure. Japenese cars have changed in quality or cannot keep up with the fancy electronics they include at a premium cost. Remember, most of us are regular guys and gals and although we are not car savvy, we do have brains!!! That's pretty much all we non gear heads need to know: $40K in and then another several thousand on repairs before the car grows cob webs. "nuf said.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    edited March 2011
    "...but it's essentially centrifugal force of the fluid..."

    No, the MAJOR source of ATF heating is/WAS the gear type oil pump and pressure relief/bypass valve. This is/was virtually the equivalent of the "old" hydraulic power stearing pump. Pump up the fluid (2000-3000RPM, LOTS of fluid flow) pressure to 3000PSI and then simply bypass the pressure back into the sump with NO no stearing effort required.

    Talk about HEAT..!!

    Up until more recently that was THE major source of ATF HEATING.

    Beginning at about the turn of the century the industry began the abolition of the old system in favor of a "real-time" ATF line pressure control system. The pressure holding/sustaining accumulator and the fixed pressure relief spring was eliminated. While the ATF pressure pump still runs at engine RPM speed it no longer does so against a CONSTANT/FIXED head of pressure unless the ECU commands such due to pressure demands of shifting, etc.


    The heating due to the "centrifugal" force of the torque converter has also been mostly eliminated due to the lockup clutch now being made robust enough that it can be engaged 65% or more of the time. 90% seems to be the target for future, 2015, systems.

    So why the high failure rate...?

    The lockup clutch is not robust enough to overcome the additional driveline stress, tire scrubbing, etc, of having a "pre-emptive F/awd system. In effect, a center diff'l that locks up for any low speed acceleration or turning event regardless of roadbed traction conditions.

    Any experienced 4WD owner will advise you that having both front and rear drives engaged, often engaged, on a tractive surface will soon result in failure of the weakest link in the driveline.

    In the MDX case that turns out to be the lockup clutch, considered a component of the torque converter.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    When did the MDX switch to DBW, E-throttle...?

    If the MDX adopted the new real-time ATF line pressure control system PRIOR to adopting DBW as did Toyota (early RX300's) I would expect a goodly number of premature transaxle failures as happened with the RX300's, especially the 99-00.

    With the advent of the RX330 Lexus had adopted DBW to help prevent these failures. DBW allowed them to delay the onset of engine rising torque regardless of accelerator pedal position, to prevent damage to the drive train resulting from the lack of INSTANT availability of ATF line pressure.

    This resulted in a great number of complaints of a 1-2 second "re-acceleration" DOWNSHIFT delay/hesitation, complaints which continue to this day, justifiably so, it seems.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "...leaving the A/C on..."

    Most modern day HVAC control systems will automatically disable the A/C compressor if/should the engine coolant temperature begin to rise, seriously rise, as a result of A/C operation.

    But even absent reaching that point if the A/C is actually doing "work", actively cooling the system evaporator airflow, then the additional heat load on the radiator might well yield a negative result.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "...excessive heat is the #1 cause of all automatic transmission problems.."

    I wouldn't be so certain of that were I you..

    Maybe yesteryear, prior to 2000, say.

    Modern day automatic transmissions make use, ~65%, of the torque converter's lockup clutch in much the same way as you would make use of the clutch in a manual transmission.

    And yet another point...

    External cooling capability can keep the AVERAGE temperature of the ATF within reason, but what about the ATF having been over-heated only at some "localized" point, say the ATF gear type pump and pressure bypass/relief valve...?
  • jslivonjslivon Posts: 57
    I followed the maintenance schedule and changed trans fluid every 30k miles using Mobile 1 ATF. My trans. failed at 106k miles.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Now that most automatic transmissions have a fairly ROBUST wet clutch, torque converter lockup clutch, it might be adviseable to use only and strickly the manufacturer's recommended ATF.

    In any case 106k miles probably isn't all that bad for a 1st generation MDX.
  • rkubs68rkubs68 Posts: 2
    I have an appointment tomorrow with my Acura dealer for a "software update". I brought my 2006 Acura MDX in for the same rumblestrip sound described by many others on this site. When I finally brought it in at 57000 miles and 81000 mi., the dealer claimed they couldn't replicate the sound. At 90K, the technician identified the issue within 100 yards of test driving it. There certainly is an effort in my opinion to cover this one up. Too many people describe the dealer's inability to replicate the sound. I'll be seeking legal counsel if I am stuck with a $2300 bill for a replaced torque converter. ( Which they claim is all that needs replacing)
  • dc1225dc1225 Posts: 53
    Same story over and over...if I were you, I'd demand that they also look inside the transmission and the radiator and to check the transmission. The fix is not complete w/o the complete transmission overhaul which they try to get out of. Remind them that you brought it in earlier with the complaints and that their mechanics were incompetent.

    I really hope that you sue them and win!
  • Yes, I do agree that I do go above and beyond and you're probably right that it should not be required. It would be great if something as simple as a fan and coils (the cooler) that cost me retail under $200 would be installed from the factory if it helps the longevity/reliability of a vehicle. Such a simple thing that saves the manufacturer maybe $80 per vehicle at their cost?

    For the record, I have not been overly impressed with the build quality of the MDX. I do think it's a decent vehicle but I notice a lot of areas where corners were cut. I'm still happy with it but I think it rivals the quality of the Explorer I had previously which is either good for Ford or bad for Acura. I was expecting more from Acura to be honest.

    Caveat is, I don't know of any manufacturer that offers a good quality transmission cooler from the factory except for some heavy duty trucks (yes, maybe they exist as I have not inspected every auto trans setup from each brand, but it's definitely would be unusual at best). Why don't they include them? I guess it's the few $'s. To me its the same reason I wonder why manufacturers use $20 speakers even in their "upgraded" sound systems when I can buy an excellent aftermarket speaker for $80. I guess this is the stuff that keeps the price down for consumers.
  • To wwest... First, I posted to try to help a few people who care to understand what might be happening to their vehicles and subsequently their money. You seem to be attempting to undermine my observations/explanation by getting into more advanced technical detail.

    Certainly you may know more about mechanics than me. After all, it is just my hobby. However, I do think you have a few points of misinformation. First, the lockup torque converter on the MDX doesn't come into play until highway speeds. Heat is rarely building up at these speeds anyway. As you know, its the low stop/go speeds that cause heat and stress.

    Additionally, the 4WD system really has nothing to do with transmission failure other than maybe making it work a little harder (more heat). There is a separate transfer case for the 4WD components.

    And yes, I agree there's a lot more than just the torque converter that cause heat. But regardless, heat is the problem here however it's caused and I was simply trying to help people who may be researching this to understand that.
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