Acura Mdx Transmission Problems

by Richard Rowe
itstillruns article image
Image by, courtesy of Reg Mckenna

Those who own an Acura MDX are faced with a bit of a good-news/bad-news situation. The good news is that Honda (Acura) makes some of the nicest interiors per dollar in the industry, and some of the best engines known to man. The bad news is that according to Sport Compact Car Magazine, the transmission is a case study in planned obsolescence, and is very expensive to repair.

Common Problems

Most transmission failures begin to manifest themselves as quirky cold weather performance. It begins with hard up-shifting/down-shifting, delayed shifting and excess RPM. These transmissions are heavily dependent upon fluid pressure to regulate performance, and the sensor failures that commonly occur with these transmissions disrupt that pressure, leading rapidly to transmission demolition.

Slipping Torque Converter

The most common source of catastrophic failure of the MDX transmission is in the torque converter, which is notorious for developing slippage just after the powertrain warranty expires. This fluid coupling, which connects the engine to the transmission, contains internal clutches that allow the transmission to positively engage the engine under cruise. The slippage usually begins as unstable engine RPM under cruise, and will ultimately result in a drastic reduction in power transfer to the transmission, rendering the vehicle essentially worthless.

Sensor Issues

Modern transmissions use a vast network of inter-dependent systems to function, and each one of these uses an array of sensors to gather information. When one of these sensors fail, the whole house of cards collapses. According to Jenkins Acura of Ocala, FL, the most common failures are the transmission temperature sensor, transmission fluid pressure sensor and throttle kick-down array.

Internal Clutches

The transmission's internal clutches are made of essentially the same material as the torque converter's, and are equally prone to failure. This condition is only exacerbated by inaccurate sensor information and the debris that begins to collect in the transmission when the torque converter fails. According to industry experts like those at the NHTSA,, and those consulted by Kirby Noonan Lange & Hoge LLP., there are two things you can expect to happen: If your transmission is going to die, it will be 1000 miles after the warranty expires, and will run you between $4,000 and $6,000 to replace.

What You Can Do

Get contains several links to petitions and a number of law firms that are even now putting together class action lawsuits. Honda actually lost a very similar lawsuit over failing transmissions in 2002 (which were unsurprisingly co-engineered by GM), so this event is not unprecedented. Still, one must admire the Honda engineering department's capacity to design things that break right when they are intended to.

More Articles

article divider