What kind of problems does an Acura MDX have? This blog has outlined all the most important things you should watch for when you’re in the market for an MDX. However, let’s first start with a quick answer.
Acura MDX have problems with the transmission shifting roughly, vibrating, not shifting into a specific gear, or complete transmission failure. Furthermore, prematurely wearing brake pads, warped brake rotors, and loss of braking power are problems for the MDX. Finally, all generations have electrical issues.
However, that certainly doesn’t tell you the complete story about the problems several model years of the RDX have experienced. In the article below, we’ll thoroughly discuss the issues both the second (2007 – 2013), third-generation (2014 – 2020), and fourth-generation (2022 – present) MDX have had. We’ll also discuss what caused these problems and if any recalls were issued. Read on!
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Fourth Generation (2022 – Present) Problems
We’re going to start with the fourth generation. However, if you’re in the market for an older MDX, please scroll further down since we’ve discussed these in extreme detail below.
The fourth generation of the Acura MDX has been in showrooms since February 2021. For this reason, these cars haven’t had a lot of time to rack up miles, and potential problems are either unknown or not well-documented yet.
However, we did pick up on signs that this model year is already having problems that we also saw in the earlier generations of the MDX (which we’ve discussed thoroughly in this blog). Therefore, we’ll give you an overview of the earlier complaints we have found for the latest generation of the MDX.
Reading the rest of the article should also give you an idea about what problems are typical for the MDX and what you may expect from the fourth generation as well.
For now, we’ve been able to identify the following complaints about points in the fourth generation of the MDX. Before you read all of these problems, do keep in mind that MDXs are relatively reliable cars that can last you well over 200,000 miles.
Earlier generations of the MDX have had significant problems with its transmission—hard shifting, jerking, warning messages, etcetera. Especially the 2016 – 2019 model years had issues with the 9-speed automatic.
For the fourth generation, Acura uses a new 10-speed transmission that’s already being complained about by owners. Noises, hard shifting, and complete transmission failure are some of the heard complaints:
Transmission failed right as I drove off the lot. The car initially started to jerk and then was revving to 7000rpms and would not speed up past 25mph.Source
Electrical System Malfunctioning
Problems with the electrical system were present in all other generations of the MDX. It seems the fourth generation is no expectation. Owners complain about random warning signs, including the one for the forward collision system, popping up. Also, having the key fob not working is described as a complaint.
However, it’s too early to tell to what extent these problems genuinely occur. In previous generations, we saw that the PCM, Bluetooth module, alternator, or battery were the problem.
Braking problems have been a problem in all generations of the MDX as well. Already the fourth generation has complaints about screeching and speaking noises. This meant the brake pads and rotors were toasted after a few thousand miles in previous generations.
Also, the car already has two complaints about the crash mitigation braking system acting up. In these cases, the vehicle performs emergency braking while there’s no need for the maneuver.
Third Generation (2014 – 2020) Problems
PCM Causes Electrical Problems
If there’s one thing that’s widely complained about in the third generation of the MDX, then that has to be its electrical problems. Especially the 2014 – 2018 model years seem to have left owners scratching their heads.
The problem here is that owners experience a range of difficulties, and each car seems to have its specific ones. Some state a range of warning lights will come on intermittently, others state complete power loss while driving, and others state malfunctioning electrical functions such as the power windows or the trunk.
To this day, it’s not entirely clear where these problems originated from. The first generation also had electrical problems (more on that later), but this was traced back to a specific cause. For the third generation, this didn’t happen.
However, owners have had success changing the alternator, battery, or even the PCM. In most cases, it did seem like the powertrain control module (practically the ‘brain’ of your car’s electrical system) was the problem, and changing it solved the issues. This is especially true when you’ve already verified that the alternator and battery are still in good working condition.
Loud Braking Or Unexpected Emergency Braking
Braking problems are a common theme for Acura’s in general because both the RDX and TLX have them. In the case of the third generation, braking problems come in three different forms.
First, there’s a loud grinding or squeaking noise when owners start braking with their relatively new Acura’s. The grinding noise becomes so apparent that owners have taken their MDXs to the dealer, where they found out the brake pads needed to be replaced or, in more severe cases, the rotors were destroyed as well.
What’s frustrating about this is that brake pads should last between 30,000 – 70,000 miles. However, in some cases, MDX owners have had to replace these at the 12,000 miles mark. Also, the warping of the rotor is, of course, unnatural.
The root cause here is that Honda uses parts of too low of quality. Especially if owners brake slightly harder than expected, this can cause issues. Since replacing both the brake pads and rotors will cost $250 – $500 per axle, this is not a fun expense. You can read more about the cost of maintaining an Acura in this blog post.
Collision Mitigation Braking System Is Overly Sensitive
The Collision Mitigation Braking System caused some severe problems for MDX owners. In this case, the problem meant that the CMBS was overly sensitive. Therefore, it would initiate emergency braking in situations that didn’t need it.
Specifically, Honda described the problem as follows:
In certain driving conditions, the collision mitigation braking system (cmbs) may incorrectly interpret certain roadside objects such as metal fences or metal guardrails as obstacles and unexpectedly apply the brakes.Source
Honda eventually issued a recall under number 15V301000. The solution involved updating the software of the CMBS. This recall was only issued for the 2014 – 2015 MDX, and these did seem to be the model years with the most problems.
Loss Of Braking Power
This one is relatively straightforward but was problematic nonetheless. Owners of the 2017 – 2019 MDX (including the hybrid versions) complained about a complete loss of braking power. This happened in both low- and high-speed situations and did cause crashes.
In August 2018, Honda:
learned that a sub-supplier’s manufacturing process improperly trapped high levels of hydrogen on the brake piston during surface plating, and the tempering process to remove excess hydrogen may not have been performed to specification.Source
In other words, there were pockets of hydrogen gas in the brake fluid, which meant that the brake fluid couldn’t perform as it should, leading to an unexpected loss of braking power. Honda issued a recall under number 18V-777. The solution was for dealers to bleed the brake system properly.
Loss Of Power Steering
Owners of 2014 – 2016 have complained about the electronic power steering failure. The steering wheel becomes almost impossible to turn while a warning message about the electronic power steering appears on the dashboard.
A fix for this is explained in the video below. In short, it turns out this problem is either caused by a defective EPS fuse (which can be found in the fusebox) or a faulty EPS module (which is located underneath the glove box on the passenger side).
Luckily, replacing a fuse isn’t going to cost you much, and if you end up paying for the EPS module, it will only cost $100 – $150, and it’s relatively easy to replace yourself with the instructions in the video.
The transmissions of the 2014 – 2015 models weren’t good, the 2016 – 2017 models years were terrible, and the 2018 – 2020 model years also weren’t good.
First, there are the 2014 – 2015 model years that made use of a 6-speed automatic provided by Honda (the same one used in the 2013 – 2018 RDX). In these model years, owners complain about the transmission lurching forward when shifting between 1st and 2nd gear, harsh shifting, and sudden RPM spikes. Problems with this transmission were never fully diagnosed, and, to this day, it’s difficult to say what caused all this.
Then came around 2016, the model year in which Acura decided to change the 6-speed automatic for a 9-speed automatic called the ZF 9HP (also used in the TLX). This was an absolute trainwreck for the 2016 – 2017 model years. Owners complained about the car switching gears by itself, hard shifting, and jerking of the transmission.
What’s problematic here is that Acura did issue a recall for the TLX and its transmission. One for the car not entirely shifting into park, which causes a rollaway situation, and one for the car shifting into neutral by itself. However, such recalls were never issued for the MDX.
Problems seem to have become slightly less bad with the 2017 – 2020 models, but they still employed the ZF 9HP transmission, which means there were still problems. At this point, a group of drivers has started a class-action lawsuit for the faulty transmissions in the 2016 – 2019 Acuras. However, this case is still in court, and therefore, the owners haven’t had any solution yet.
Also read: The Exact Towing Capacity Of An Acura MDX (And More..)
Failing Exterior Lighting
Owners of the 2014 MDX complained about their taillights being full of water and therefore being inoperable. These problems eventually extended well into the 2019 model year. At that point, Acura realized they had to do something, and they issued a recall under number 19V256000.
A simple design change could have fixed these problems much quicker. Instead, Acura issued the recall and ordered dealers to do the following:
modify the tailgate lid lights and install updated gaskets and a wiring sub-harness or replace both tailgate lid lights.
Second Generation (2007 – 2013) Problems
The second generation of the Acura MDX wasn’t without its faults. Below we’ve mentioned the most problematic problems, which involve the electrical system, engine, transmission, and suspension.
However, it seems MDX owners have complained about many more parts of the car (although many of these problems are more minor or not as frequently reported). Issues were barely ever issued, and if so, they were for relatively minor issues.
Parasitic Battery Drain
One problem with the second generation of the Acura MDX is that owners have numerous complaints about the electrical system. These malfunctions come in all shapes and sizes. However, common complaints are the key fob and/or electrical windows not working, the random illumination of warning lights, loss of GPS, and complete loss of power.
Owners found that almost all of these problems were caused by parasitic battery drain, which left the car with too little power to have its systems working correctly. More inspection of owners led to the malfunctioning part being the hands-free link unit (also described as the Bluetooth module. As one owner describes below, replacing this part fixed the problems.
I had the same issue on my 09 MDX. It came to be that the bluetooth module was draining the battery. Had it replaced & haven’t had the issue yet.Source
Replacing the Bluetooth module can be done yourself by following these steps:
- Sit in the back seat and pull as hard as you can on the air conditioning controls.
- Pull them straight back and hard enough to make you think it could break – it won’t.
- The top of the controls will pop off.
- You’ll find a black box with a Bluetooth symbol on it; this is what needs to be replaced.
- Remove the cable carefully by pushing a pressure button.
Luckily, this shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. Also, replacing this module will cost you around $150, which is doable for a problem that’s this annoying.
Excessive Oil Consumption
2010 – 2013 model years of the Acura MDX have had problems with excessive oil consumption. Owners report burning more than a quart of oil per 1,000 miles, which is an excessive amount. The issues became so substantial that Honda did issue a service bulletin (19-006) in which they described the situation as follows:
The oil control rings may become clogged with carbon deposits. These deposits restrict the ring’s ability to scrape and return oil from the cylinder wall to the crankcase, which can result in excessive engine oil consumption that may exceed client expectationsSource
To combat these problems or minimize the headache for owners, Honda increased the warranty on the engines for this type of problem to 8 years after purchase or a maximum of 125,000 miles. If a dealer did find this problem, they were ordered to replace the piston, piston pins, and rings.
Owners of 2007 – 2013 MDX have complained about the suspension making a banging and clunking noise. Therefore, complaints about the suspension have existed for years, but Acura never did anything to fix them. That was until 2016, when Acura Canada released the following statement:
On some 2007–13 MDX vehicles located in cold areas, the front and rear active dampers may leak. While leaks on the rear active suspension are visible, the front active dampers are mounted in an inverted position and the leak is not visible on the exterior of the damper.
If an excessive amount of damper oil has leaked, the active dampers may make a clunk or a bang sound when driving on rough roads or over speed bumps.Source
Acura Canada, therefore, extended the warranty on the dampers to 100,000 miles or seven years after the date of purchase. However, this only applied to Canadian vehicles. Meanwhile, the American branch of Acura has refused to act on the problem even though these models experience the same problem.
Even more problematic is that these active dampers cost $500 – $1000 each to replace, leaving owners with substantial financial losses.
When driving at speeds between 20 – 45 miles per hour, the transmission will begin to judder when the driver wants to accelerate. This was specifically a problem for the 2007 – 2009 models of the MDX. So much so that Honda issued a technical service bulletin (12-029).
In this TSB, they stated that the problem was caused by faulty software and a malfunctioning of the torque converter. Dealers were ordered to first update the power control module with new software. In some cases, this did fix the problem. They were ordered to document the problem and replace the torque converter free of charge if this did not fix the problem.
Hi! My name is Stefan; I’m the owner and lead writer at TheDriverAdviser.com.
I’m an active writer on this blog myself, as well as a novice car mechanic. For the really technical stuff, I find writers with experience as a mechanic or who have studied mechanical engineering.
Read more about our fantastic team on our about page!