Crossover & Midsize

Older Acura MDX Models Have a Serious Transmission Problem

The first model rolled off the Honda production line for the Acura MDX for the 2001 season. For the most part, we have known Honda for its reliability, with many of its vehicles. But, as with any automaker, they struggled with a few of their car designs.

The Acura MDX was one that they struggled with during the earliest years. As time went on, they improved and revamped their designs to bring back their reliable reputation. But, before that happened, they had to endure numerous owner complaints. CarComplaints.com posts some of the many reports they received for the transmission.

What are the transmission problems on the older Acura MDX vehicles?

A view of the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD during Sundance Film Festival 2017
The Acura MDX | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Acura

The earlier models of the Acura MDX brought owners tons of headaches with the transmission. Some owners experienced slippage in the gears, while others felt a distinct vibration while driving at certain speeds. Going anywhere from 25 to 50 mph, drivers would feel a tremendous shuddering within the steering column.

If they took their foot off the gas pedal, the sensation would stop. They could continue for a bit without issue, but the shuddering would come back after a while. Some complaints described the shuddering as if you were driving over the rumble strips you often see on the road alerting you to the centerline or the shoulder.

Some owners reported a loud growling noise that accompanied the shuddering. Acceleration during these times would be weak and slow. Shifting into fourth gear, in some cases, helped, and they could continue driving with no problems. Others weren’t able to find any resolution to the issues and took the car in to their local dealers or their own mechanics. Acura often denied there were any issues and refused to help unless it was covered under warranty.

What repairs were needed for the transmission problem?

For those dealing with the shuddering problem, mechanics were able to pinpoint the issue to a failure with the torque converter. Some owners had it replaced or rebuilt, but some mechanics said that the transmission would also have to be replaced, because of debris from the converter getting into the transmission. Repairing it would mean the replacement of both the transmission and the converter together, which would cost around $5,000. This turned out to be a common issue with the Acura MDX from the years 2003-2007.

The model years 2001-2003 saw the slippage of the gears in the transmission. Numerous complaints were reported over this. The only way to resolve this problem was to replace or rebuild the transmission. In most cases, it was at the cost of the owners. The cost for this kind of repair was reported to be $2,000-$4,000, depending on where the owners went to get it done.

Which Acura MDX models are the worst of the bunch?

Car Complaints listed the 2003 model as the worst one made. The reason for this has to do with being the first year of the torque converter problem. There were 16 complaints reported on Car Complaints, but there were 46 more reported to the NHTSA. This model also had many electric problems as well. There were electrical malfunctions with the heated seats, door locks, ignition, and the rear-view auto-dimming feature.

The second-worst model appears to be the 2001 version. The Acura MDX came off the production line in 2000 for the 2001 year. It was the first model ever built for this car, so it’s not surprising to see some issues with it. The transmission was the worst problem, having nine complaints on the site and 36 more reported to the NHTSA. There were also issues with misfiring cylinders. Even though the spark plugs, coils, and wires were replaced, the cylinders would still continue to misfire. The problem didn’t appear to be resolved.

In the end, the transmission problems were pretty much resolved by 2008, with some issues creeping back in a few later year models. The Acura MDX saw fewer complaints overall in the other models, except for 2014, which was their bad year for the engine. Other than that, it bounced back fairly well and continues to go strong today.