Acura MDX Care and Maintenance

sbcookesbcooke Member Posts: 2,297
The dealer just called me letting me know about the 7500 mile VTM service. Of course thanks to this forum I already know about it. What he told me, that I didn't know is that the fluid is a different type? According to him, it is a special "break-in" fluid that HAS to be changed? I thought that was interesting, and consistent with what I have learned.


  • wmquanwmquan Member Posts: 1,817
    Supposedly some of the early fluids have additives for break-in. I get confused about whether it's the oil, transmission fluid, or VTM-4 fluid that actually has the additives, but it's relatively academic since the initial 7,500 mile service is needed.

    There's often some advice in some vehicles to avoid changing fluids like the oil early because of the loss of those additives.
  • melevameleva Member Posts: 1
    Hello everyone,
    Just purchased my `02 starlight silver MDX about a week ago. I took a trip out of state and back with it and now need to clean it. Any suggestions
    on cleaning the exterior with certain brands of car wash, wax or glaze? The dealer who sold me the car, suggested a glaze. What do I wash it with? With my older cars, I had just used dish -washing detergent or any other car wash I was able to find in my garage. I want to make sure I'll be using something that will be gentle and of course keep it looking new at all times. I read the owners manual and it mentioned using dishwashing detergent and wax afterwards. Thanks, Meleva
  • sbcookesbcooke Member Posts: 2,297
    I had my car serviced yesterday. 4000 miles and we have a big road trip coming up, so we did an oil change. Most of my driving is city, under 5 miles, since that qualifies as "harsh driving" and since the oil was fairly black, not brown, I went with an oil change early. The service department said to wait on the differential fluid change.

    I had a hose that was pressing against the top of oil dipstick moved and they removed the dealership emblem from the back of the $29.00...not bad considering Acura service is supposedly over priced.

    They didn't have any loaner cars available, so they set me up with an Enterprise rental. I expressed that I didn't want a GEO Metro, so they upgraded me to a midsize without blinking...I got a Nissan Maxima. Other than the fruity/baking powder gross smell that was in the car, it was an OK experience. Also makes me realize how close the MDX handles to mid-level performance cars...the MDX isn't as quick, but the handling isn't too far off.
  • slockoslocko Member Posts: 111
    I am used to paying around $80 for my honda ody 7500k service so I didn't even ask assuming it would be close to that figure. Imagine my shock when it came out to $215. Are the parts more expensive? the labor? more parts changed? or all the above?
  • hopeitsfridayhopeitsfriday Member Posts: 396
    The schedule maintenance are all labor cost, no part cost involve what so ever, well maybe a filter or 2. Anything they find that is major would be additional cost. The Acura dealer at my area charges me $70 per hour. They claim it takes 2 to 3 hours to perform the inspections. I almost always bypass the schedule maintenance, I like to do the maintenance a la carte instead. That way I know exactly what I am getting. Besides anything that breaks is still under warranty anyway. So does it matter if they find it now or if I find it later.
  • sbcookesbcooke Member Posts: 2,297
    I am getting mine done this week. Don't forget that the MDX gets the rear differential fluid changed.
  • hopeitsfridayhopeitsfriday Member Posts: 396
    I should correct myself, I didnt really mean schedule maintenance as in oil changes or rear differential fluid changed. I meant the schedule inspections they want people to do at every 7500 miles or 15000 miles. I usually check the belts, fluids and the hose myself, the owner's manual has pretty good direction as to what to look for. Things like braking system and suspension components, I leave to the professionals.
  • sbcookesbcooke Member Posts: 2,297
    I agree with you on those items. There is no need to pay $200 to "check" everything. I try to go through the schedule service schedule and then ask the dealer to "change" what I want done, and not specifically do the 7500 "check". So I am only going to request that they change the differential fluid, oil and tighten the suspension/frame bolts that are making noise (I assume it is those making some noise due to other posts and reviews I have read).
  • hopeitsfridayhopeitsfriday Member Posts: 396
    Please let me know how that tighten suspension / frame bolt job turns out, I am sure alot of us would be interested. I too hear some slight noise from the undercarriage sometimes. I read that some owners thinks its the brakes and some think it is the suspension. I am wondering is it something that could be tighten or lubricated or does it come from the design itself.
  • sbcookesbcooke Member Posts: 2,297
    I talked to the dealer, they want a test drive with me to see what the noises there are. I will have to spend some time figuring out how to recreate the noises before I go in.
  • hopeitsfridayhopeitsfriday Member Posts: 396
    Good luck on your test drive, hope you can recreate the noise.
  • sbcookesbcooke Member Posts: 2,297
    I got it performed today. When I scheduled it they hemmed and hawed about a loaner, they told me that a 7500 mile takes less than an hour, etc. When I got there, I expressed this to manager on duty and he said that it would definitely take more than an hour, and he offered me a loaner. I had my 3 year old with me and didn't want to switch seats, so I told him I was very upset about this whole mix up. He grabbed the mechanic and they figured out it could be done in 1.5 hours, so I decided to wait. At 12:00 I saw the whole service floor break for lunch, I thought this was going to delay me another hour, the mechanic on my car didn't stop until he finished my rig.

    Total cost $148 OTD. I asked them to replace the front wiper blades because they were cracked, when I got my bill the first time it had about $20 on it to change the blades...I complained and they reversed the charge and agreed that this really should be a warranty item, since I was under 1 year on the car.

    The suspension bolt tightening turned out to be standard on the 7500 service, so I didn't need to go out for a test drive.

    No one behind the desk was really sure about the MDX, and I had to check with 3 people to make sure the differential fluid change/flush was included.

    Overall a decent experience, which could have been easier if the person on the phone setting it up was more helpful, next time I am just going to insist on a loaner.
  • slockoslocko Member Posts: 111
    Well I am definetely getting my next service done some where else. That is a big difference. Anyone else get their 7500 done?
  • hopeitsfridayhopeitsfriday Member Posts: 396
    Thanks for the maintenance information. Wow, $148 is a great price. My dealer wants around $200. Is that for the whole 7500 mile service? Including engine oil and differential fluid change? By the way, how much did you dealer charge per hour, mine charges me $75 per hour. Please let us know if the suspension bolt tightening did the trick.
    Have a Happy New Year
  • fndlyfmrflyrfndlyfmrflyr Member Posts: 668
    The rear axle fluid costs $20 per gallon, but less than three quarts are needed. Oil filter and 5 quarts of oil is another $20 or so. Throw in the shop "rag" fee and new washers for the drain plugs and you're up to about $50. A $70 per hour labor charge isn't uncommon around here. The fluid changes take 30 minutes and it takes some time to "check" what is supposed to be checked. Add in some time for the tech to get the car from and returned to the lot and it is easy to see how it could take as long as 90 minutes and cost about $150.

    In my case I'd need to add an hour or so to and from the dealer. In addition, my Acura dealer service IS the definition of slow. For me, figure at least three hours at the dealer, maybe more.
  • spfoteyspfotey Member Posts: 131
    or will a authorized acura mechanic work?? that is who i use for my TL for the service items now...
  • fndlyfmrflyrfndlyfmrflyr Member Posts: 668
    Anyone, including you, can do the work. No warranty problems - as long as the maintenance is done. Just keep a record of who does the work, when, and purchase record of parts.

    When a dealer does the work there is a record that the manufacturer can easily check. If your independent shop does the work keep the final R/O for your records. If you do the maintenance you will need to have receipts for parts and something (log or door jam stickers on the door jam) that shows when you did the maintenance.

    Many find it easy to simply let the dealer do the work. The dealer has the parts and is familiar with the model. It may be a little more expensive, but it is also more comforting. Like insurance, comfort level is important in deciding where to have the routine servicing.
  • slockoslocko Member Posts: 111
    I took a careful look at my invoice last night. 1.5 labor charge that totalled $135. Tax was $11 something, plus parts and a disposal fee for the fluid I guess. Total came out to 204.xx.

    As you can see they are charging 90 bucks an hour for labor. So I guess I will be shopping around for better rates even if it means driving a little further. I will just test drive different vehicles to kill time :)
  • gcstonegcstone Member Posts: 1
    I have the 2000 MDX fully loaded - and while my wife enjoys it and suits our needs I am more of a Tahoe fan simply because of my needs. However, she will be using it in icy and snow conditions and woudl appreciate thoughts on the VTM system as to its real capabilites for these conditions - not on off road but simply paved roads lots of snow and ice - Thanks.
  • fishhead2fishhead2 Member Posts: 3
    We've had several sport utes, all were very good in snow and ice. We've had the MDX 2 buffalo snow belt winters, 16,000 miles, and it is as good as any we've had. Goes through anything
  • sbcookesbcooke Member Posts: 2,297
    I read somewhere about how honda took the MDX to the himalaya's or somewhere remote to test its ability driving in snow while they were designing it. I will see if I can dig it up, but in response to your post it should be good if not one of the best in the snow by design.
  • hopeitsfridayhopeitsfriday Member Posts: 396
    Drove my MDX thru couple of snow storm so far, although it is very good in the snow. It is not quite as good as my last SUV, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, but then there isn't many SUV that can compare to the Grand Cherokee in the snow.
  • desertkevdesertkev Member Posts: 76
    I used the MDX in our BLIZZARD a few weeks ago, I volunteered to drive nurses to the hospital, I got it out of the driveway into about 16 inches of snow and it totally ROCKED! My neighbor has a durango and he was afraid to try, but I knew the MDX would do fine and it totally performed. Once on a major roadway the snow was about 6 inches, so I kicked the VTM off and cruised without a problem. Just drive smart in the snow and never put too much faith in the vehicle.
  • doreenldoreenl Member Posts: 2
    Hi all,
    I got a brand new 2003 MDX. As we all know about "3000-mile oil change" rule, please help me on the following questions:
    1) Would synthetic oil better than the regular motor oil? If yes, do I still need to change it every 3000 miles? My dealer thinks that a) synthetic oil should not be used until 10K/15K miles because the engine needs an overall break-in and synthetic oil might be too "smooth"; b)oil change period can be stretched to 5K vs. 3K. Some dealers even do not recommend of using synthetic oil at all.

    2) Which motor oil and synthetic oil are recommended/best/preferable?

    Thanks much.
  • lewis3lewis3 Member Posts: 25
    Is there anywhere else to have the rear differential fluid changed other than Acura. The scheduled check ups are quite expensive and other than this VTM-4 fluid change they could be done at Jiffy lube for about 10% of the cost. Any ideas?
  • fndlyfmrflyrfndlyfmrflyr Member Posts: 668
    Acura recommends that the factory fill oil be left in for 7500 miles (depending on driving conditions). Supposedly there are additives in the factory fill that help the engine break in properly. You can change to synthetic at the first oil change.

    I have been using Mobil-1 synthetic for nearly 30 years with no problems. I usually change to synthetic at 3000 miles, but waited until 7500 with my MDX. Most of my cars receive once a year oil changes. I put less than 15,000 miles per year on each car. Some of the European cars now have an on board computer that tells the driver when to change oil and these will sometimes allow as much as 20,000 miles between changes.

    None of my cars have used oil because of the extended change interval. Only two have required oil be added during the year, and then it was only one quart between changes. (BTW, one of the two cars is a 2003 model and the rate of oil use dropped by half when I switched to synthetic.)

    VTM-4 fluid is most likely available only from an Acura or Honda dealer. It comes in a gallon container even though only three quarts are needed. Acura sells a small hand pump for about $10 with a tube that fits into the fill hole of the VTM-4 unit as well as another tube and fitting for the gallon container.

    My dealer charges $65 for the VTM-4 fluid change. The fluid is $20 of that cost. First change was due at 7500 miles (like the first engine oil change). Subsequent changes are normally at multiples of 30,000 on the odometer.

    Any service facility or you can can do fluid changes without warranty problems. Just as DIYers should, if you don't use an Acura dealer be sure to keep receipts and records showing the dates and odometer readings when service is performed. In addition, make sure the service orders show, or you have receipts to show that proper parts and fluids were purchased.
  • hopeitsfridayhopeitsfriday Member Posts: 396
    Your dealer is right, stay away from synthetic oil the first 15K miles or so. The engine components needs to wear to its final condition before you coat it with synthetic oil. The 3000 miles rule is not true at all, depending on the condition of the oil, you can go as long as perhaps 7000 miles. Evaluate your driving condition and habits, if you drive in extreme temperature, all city driving or dusty conditions, you might want to change your oil every 3500 miles or so. Monitor your oil color, when it turns from light brown to a darker color, its time to change it. A good rule of thumb is a oil change every 4 to 5 thousand miles. If you are using synthetic oil, every 5 to 6 thousands miles. Try to us Honda motor oil or name brands and make sure you buy the right viscosity. One last thing, make sure you use Honda oil filters, it may become a warranty issue down the line if you don't.
    Good Luck on your MDX, I just pick mine up about 2 months ago and still waiting to do my first oil change.
  • 7milehi7milehi Member Posts: 28
    New Porshes come from the factory with Mobil 1 in them . "Break-in" oil , is for the most part a thing of the past with newer engine building technology and much tighter tolerances . Several of your higher end automobiles tell you when to change the oil from an oil sensor . My dad's Mercedes usually goes 11k-12k before it needs an oil change . The 3k oil change only benefits your local quick lube .
         I know the owner of a limo company in NYC that run their limos 10k miles on Mobil 1 between changes . I would consider this to be heavy duty driving . Most limos go well past 200k with no engine failures . And for using a Honda oil filter ......that court case was settled a few years back . Using a non factory filter will not void the warranty , unless the manufacturer specifically states so in the owners manual AND provides said filter free of charge .
  • hopeitsfridayhopeitsfriday Member Posts: 396
    I think we all know that those are all true facts about oil changes, but unless one knows alot about oil or cars or have a oil sensor, I would not recommend 10K miles oil changes to anybody. The funny thing is that Mercedes and BMW use to recommend 3000 mile oil changes before they offer those free schedule maintenance, all of a sudden, it went from 3000 to 12000 miles.
    Porsche make a very nice engine, very tight tolarence, long testing and break in period in the factory and the best seals money can buy. But for the rest of us who cannot afford Porsche, the engines needs to break in probably before the change over to synthetic. This is not a must for any engine but it is a practice that is consider safer.
    Most limo companies do prolong their oil changes, alot like the taxi industries, but they have check ups in between those oil changes. It really all comes down to profit margin, the less they spend the more profit they make.
    I believe that most import cars will state in their manual that factory oil filters are recommended. Alot of these oil filters have special characteristics to them that the off the shelf filters dont have. The big question is that if I pay $40,000 for a car why would I take a chance and try to save 2 bucks on a oil filter or try to squeeze another 1000 miles out of my oil change.
  • tgkunztgkunz Member Posts: 1
    Has anyone found any downgrade in either performance or gas mileage by using sub-premium gas? The dealership claims that pinging will occur with less than 91 octane. Anyone dare to prove this wrong yet??
  • hopeitsfridayhopeitsfriday Member Posts: 396
    Pinging should not occur, the engine has a ping sensor in it, it will adjust for the octane you are using. I havent try the 87 octane yet, dont see the point in doing it, all I will save is about 2 dollars per fill up.
  • fndlyfmrflyrfndlyfmrflyr Member Posts: 668
    Hopes is right about the pinging. Under normal driving conditions you probably will notice no performance loss and maybe only a slight drop in mpg.

    Under hard driving conditions, such as passing, high load high speed driving, up hills, etc., there will be a small performance decrease.

    The dollar savings over a year for using regular or midgrade are not great. If one drives 15,000 miles per year and averages 17 mpg (about average for an MDX using premium) the savings for using regular would be just $175 per year if mpg stayed the same. This is based on a 20 cent difference per gallon. The savings drops to about $120 per year if mpg drops by half a mile to the gallon (based on $2 per gallon for regular). The savings would be half for midgrade.
  • desertkevdesertkev Member Posts: 76
    I had a 90 Chevy Lumina that I bought new back in 90. I used Mobil 1 every 5000 miles and my dad currently drives it (with over 230,000 miles). Not bad for a GM vehicle. Now, I did my first oil change and I used Mobil 1, my dealer service said no problem with using synthetic at any time. The break in engine period is the first 500 miles, so go for the extra cash, do the change yourself and it pays for itself (same price to do Mobil 1 yourself or go to Jiffy Lube and pay them to put in regular oil).
  • desertkevdesertkev Member Posts: 76
    I can't find an MDX repair manual, I am big on doing it myself. Any books out there. I did the oil change (after looking forever for the filter - hiding behind the wheel). I don't want to pay money to change the rear end fluid, I want to do it myself. Thanks.
  • desertkevdesertkev Member Posts: 76
    I use Meguiars wax and polishes for years. I used it on the MDX because I feel it is the best product on the market. Does anyone have tips for keeping the wood trim clean without scratching it up?
  • fndlyfmrflyrfndlyfmrflyr Member Posts: 668
    Look in the back of your owners manual for the service manual order form or you can order an MDX service manual from HelmInc on their web site. Cost was $67 for my 2002 MDX service manual.

    Meguiars makes some good car finish products. I find their final detailer works better than their quick detailer. S-dressing works well on the black panels between the front and rear door windows. Microfiber towels seem to work best. They are like dust magnets and are unlikely to scratch.

    Klear Screen using a Klear Kloth works well on the navigation screen. It is anti static and is not likely to scratch the screen. I usually use the same cloth on the "wood look" parts of the interior. Find it where computers are sold. It is usually used on lap top screens and LCD monitors.
  • sbcookesbcooke Member Posts: 2,297
    I use swiffer sweeps inside the car on the dash for quick cleanups. They pick up all the dust and leave it looking great. I don't have the time to really clean it or armorall it more than once a year.
  • mjtianmjtian Member Posts: 48
    My MDX has 6500 mi and I am wondering what people paid for in STL for the VTM-4 service. Is it really cheaper at the Honda dealerships? Considering they have the Pilot?

  • fndlyfmrflyrfndlyfmrflyr Member Posts: 668
    The fluid cost is $19 per gallon (from the parts department). It takes about three quarts. Total cost, including the fluid and labor, was $65 in SoCal a few months ago.

    Doesn't take long, but if you DIY you will need the Honda/Acura hand pump (part number 08200-9004 is what I have) to pump from the container into the VTM-4 unit. Pump cost is $9. The pump screws onto the gallon fluid container and has a tube with a fitting for the fill opening on the VTM-4 unit
  • sbcookesbcooke Member Posts: 2,297
    I got my oil changed at a Jiffy Lube yesterday. I had to insist on getting 5W-20 weight oil. The girl running the shop kept telling me that the the 5W-30 was "better" for the car. I took out the owners manual and read her the section on oil and grades. The problem turned out to be that she had to go in back to get bottles of 5W-20 vs having 5W-30 on tap from the vats they keep on hand.

    I was very careful and made sure they didn't check anything else, open the transmission or differential to check fluid levels, change my tire pressure, etc. I often find that it is the other areas at these places where mistakes are made.

    It was expensive, $34.50 for an oil change, but the convenience of getting it done on a Sunday no waiting was worth it. So far I have had mine changed every 5000 miles...I have a road trip coming up and noticed it was starting to change from clear brown to slightly black, so rather than go 7500 miles I had it done now.
  • hopeitsfridayhopeitsfriday Member Posts: 396
    I am still very edgy about changing the oil at jiffy lube. I am just thinking about the training that these so call mechanics have. Sometimes they can do more damage than good, especially with foreign cars. The oil is about the only fluid that is interchangeable to a generic brand on the MDX. The transmission fluid, differential fluid and the oil filter should be Honda brands. They are suppose to change the drain plug washer also, which they dont do. The dealer I go to gives me a loaner for oil change or I can just wait there for 30 minutes or so for what they call the express oil change service. They are open late on Thursday and half day on Saturday, and the price is about the same as Jiffy Lube.
  • fndlyfmrflyrfndlyfmrflyr Member Posts: 668
    The 01 and 02 MDXs use 5W-30 (the 02 owners manual has an error for the recommended viscosity - corrected by a service newsletter). Chances are no harm would be done using 5W-30 in an 03, but mpg might be slightly less.

    Hondas in general now call for 5W-20 and an oil change shop should know that. Do you know what brand oil was put in your MDX?
  • sbcookesbcooke Member Posts: 2,297
    Penzoil was the brand.

    I will have to check with my dealer on the viscosity, I never got a letter regarding the error?
  • sbcookesbcooke Member Posts: 2,297
    I just checked with my dealer...they said it is a mistake? Thanks Acura. However they did say that using 5W20 shouldn't have any negative effect on the engine or performance...only using above a 5W30 will cause slight performance decreases by effecting the timing?

    I am not sure if I should worry about it or not?
  • fndlyfmrflyrfndlyfmrflyr Member Posts: 668
    The correction for the 02 owners manual found in the Acura Service News (I think it was March 02) the dealers receive says the oil specs on pages 261 and 262 are wrong. The S/N had a picture of the chart for page 262 that shows 5W-30 for all temperature ranges and 10W-30 for above 20 degrees is also okay. There is also a note to check the January 02 S/N for a complete chart.

    The 02s' oil filler cap on the engine calls for 5W-30 and that prompted me to question why the owners manual said something different.

    When it was time for the first oil change I got the impression from my local dealers that they used whatever bulk oil they had for all oil changes. None knew the viscosity without looking at the big drum.

    Probably the only disadvantage to using 5W-20 is if the ambient temperatures exceeds 100 degrees and or the engine starts to run hot. Not likely situations.

    The advantage of 20 vs. 30 is slightly better mpg, though I doubt you would notice the difference. For temperatures above freezing, while the engine warms to normal operating temperature, there should be essentially no difference between 5W and 10W oils.

    If you are concerned about temperature extremes you can use synthetic oil, which flows better when very cold and can take more heat before breaking down. The down side is synthetic costs about $4 per quart or more (I just paid about $3.90 per quart for Mobil-1).
  • sbcookesbcooke Member Posts: 2,297
    My main concern was that I had a big road trip planned this last weekend, and the last thing I wanted to do was put 700 miles on in hot summer weather with the wrong weight oil. After some research and confirmation from dealers I just went with it.

    I seemed to have better performance off the line? Or at least I imagined a slightly more spry feeling to my MDX? I may just have been imagining it, but once again my MDX drove like a dream on a long family weekend road trip. The only thing I wish it had was better cup holders for the front. The 2nd row gets 6 with everything folded out/down, the front has 2 shallow holders. Oh well.
  • hopeitsfridayhopeitsfriday Member Posts: 396
    I am thinking about using Amsoil for my MDX. Does anyone have any experience using Amsoil on the MDX or any other vehicle. It is suppose to be the best oil in the market, better than mobil one.
  • fndlyfmrflyrfndlyfmrflyr Member Posts: 668
    Amsoil is very good. I know people that have used Amsoil for years. I doubt Amsoil lubricates any better than Mobil-1 nor protects a 'healthy' engine any better than other synthetics. The MDX engine is not turbocharged and I have not read anything about hot spots like Mercedes and Toyota had on some of their engine that would imply there is a need for synthetic oil.

    In short, it is unlikely, unless one tows without an oil cooler, an MDX will need the higher temperature performance of synthetic oil. The possible added protection for extreme high temperatures from Amsoil is unlikely to be used.

    Unlike Amsoil, Mobil-1 and other synthetics are available virtually everywhere and usually cost less than Amsoil (unless you become an Amsoil dealer).

    Personally, I use synthetic oil (Mobil-1), and have for over 25 years, because I like having the added protection available, just in case. It is not necessarily cost effective. I have not observed any performance or mpg increase on any of my cars when I switched to synthetic oil with the same viscosity as the regular oil that had been used in the engine.

    Some people, when they use synthetic, use extended change intervals as long as one year. I have on some vehicles and seen no ill effect. I just changed the Mobil-1 in my lawn mower. The last change was 20 years ago. The mower doesn't need oil added often, maybe an ounce or so every few years. Only one of my cars using Mobil-1 has needed oil added between changes and that is my newest car, a 2003 model.
  • dorene1dorene1 Member Posts: 75
    Our dealer is quoting $185. Anyone have any comparisons? Thanks!!!
  • steve290steve290 Member Posts: 25
    Is this something that you can change yourself? If so, how?
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