Acura MDX years to avoid — most common problems
Avoid potential issues by identifying the Acura MDX years to avoid.
The ‘Multi-Dimensional’ luxury is the second-best-selling midsize luxury SUV produced by Honda under its luxury Acura division. True to its word, the Acura MDX is an absolute luxury, with its high-end features that deliver the best comfort paired correctly with the right style and superb performance.
However, only some models of the ‘multi-dimensional’ luxury vehicle deliver the same quality and finesse in a good ratio. This article reveals the Acura MDX years to avoid and which ones to consider if you want the best out of your luxury package.
Why you can trust REREV’s advice on which car model years to avoid: Our car experts look at official data, ask real drivers what they think, and talk to experienced mechanics to make sure our list is useful. This reliable info can make buying a car easier for you. Want to know how we do it? Find out more about our research methodology.
Most common Acura MDX problems
The Acura MDX shares a common similarity with other vehicles – they all have problems common to them. You must identify these problems and map out a preventive maintenance schedule that will save you money and stress in the long run. Below are the most common Acura MDX problems you can expect when driving one.
Excessive oil consumption
It is usual for old vehicles to lose oil in between oil changes because of worn-out engine components and leaks. However, it is not unusual to have an Acura MDX that has this issue early in its life. The 2010 to 2013 MDX models were most affected by this issue, requiring oil changes after a few months of purchase, with the number of miles between each oil change growing shorter with time.
In response to the issue, Acura recalled all 2010 to 2013 model years to deal with the problem and extended the warranty of the affected vehicles to 125,000 miles or eight years. Each vehicle had to undergo a test to check how much oil the car lost after 1,000 miles before the warranty claim would be granted. Drivers unable to submit adequate proof of service history for the problem or buying the vehicle off the used market were also unable to take full advantage of the warranty claim.
Therefore, if you own any of the models between 2010 and 2013, you need to frequently check and top up the oil when necessary to ensure it does not run out and cause other severe engine problems. Repairing the issue entails tearing down the engine and replacing many components, including the pistons and piston rings. In worst cases, you would have to replace the engine entirely due to damage to the piston and piston rings which cause compression loss and an eventual engine failure.
Many models of the Acura MDX suffer from transmission issues. The problem is peculiar because it is not unusual for them to develop after only a few years of purchase and little mileage. Symptoms included lack of acceleration and slipping transmissions, hard and failed shifts.
The highest transmission failures were recorded in the 2001 and 2002 MDX models. Drivers of the first-generation MDXs complained of replacing their transmission more than once.
To address the issue, Acura upgraded the MDX’s transmission in 2003. The upgrade reduced the number of transmission failures drivers were likely to encounter on the MDX but did not eliminate some other issues. Many drivers of the 2004 to 2006 models experienced ‘shuddering’ from the transmission system, especially when traveling at 30 to 40 miles per hour.
The transmission issues continued onto later generations, becoming more noticeable in the 2014 and 2016 MDXs.
Stalling Auto Idle Stop system
The Auto Idle Stop system was an effort to improve fuel efficiency on the MDX. The purpose of the system was to stop the engine when the vehicle came to a stop. The system allowed for the car to continue moving seamlessly when the driver stepped on the gas when it was time to move.
Despite its good intentions, the system proved difficult for most drivers. When engaged, it would work as it should but shift into neutral when the engine is fired back on. It would keep shifting into the drive until the car is restarted manually. Some drivers also complained that the system would report random errors on the dash.
The reason for the stalling behavior of the Auto Idle Stop system is tied to the strain it places on the 12-volt battery, especially in cold weather. Unfortunately, the system cannot be completely disabled, and it can only be turned off manually before moving.
Software updates and resets helped solve the issue. Replacing the 12-volt battery also helped with the issue. If you forget to manually turn the feature off, lightly stepping on the brake pedal can give you the needed break and not trigger the system into engaging.
Excess battery drain
The batteries of the second generation of MDXs are notorious for their fast-draining batteries. They came with a hands-free link (HFL) module, which was the reason for the fast-draining batteries, eventually leading to battery failure in a couple of years. It sometimes leads to a battery discharge warning glowing up on the dashboard.
At a certain level, the HFL module would drain the MDX to the point where the car could not start without the driver jump-starting the car. Battery replacements were a temporary solution, as the HFL module would continue to wreak havoc on the battery.
The best solution for this problem is to disconnect the HFL module so it will not fatally affect the battery anymore. However, this fix also meant the car’s Bluetooth functions were disconnected, as the HFL module was explicitly made to handle the Bluetooth functionality.
Later, Acura revised the design of the HFL module, making it more reliable. Many drivers opt for aftermarket solutions cheaper than the replacement HFL modules Acura offered to have access to the Bluetooth functions again.
If the HFL module is disconnected and the issue persists, it could be that the alternator, audio amplifier, head unit or air conditioning compressor relay is having problems.
Adaptive Damper System failure
The Adaptive Damper System was an exclusive feature of the Sport and Advance models and used magnetic struts to give the vehicle better handling. These magnetic struts cost much more than the regular shock absorber, making replacements expensive when they fail.
To beat the high cost of repairs, some drivers replaced the magnetic struts with the regular shock absorber. An entire set of the regular shock absorber costs the same as one magnetic strut. Let your mechanic handle this conversion for you so you avoid making mistakes while modifying the structure to adapt to the regular absorbers.
Which Acura MDX years to avoid?
The reputation of the MDX grew from the success of many of its models, which performed excellently. However, some models are so flawed they should be avoided altogether. Here are the Acura MDX years you should avoid.
First-generation MDX (2001-2005 model years)
The major problem the first generation of MDXs had was transmission failure. For most of the model years, the issue occurred after 100,000 to 130,000 miles which is not too early. However, the 2004 model is the worst hit as it develops the problem as early as 84,000 miles.
The cost of repair these models require for the transmission problem, coupled with any other joint problem it might get, make them models to be avoided. Repairing the transmission alone costs over $4,000.
Second-generation MDX (2010 model year)
The main reason you should avoid the 2010 model is its excessive oil consumption. After an average of 92,000 miles, the 2010 model is bound to consume excess oil. Drivers have also complained about metal shavings in oil and that’s never a good sign for the engine.
What makes the model unique is that other models afflicted with the issue do not require as much as it does for repairs. Repairing the oil problem of the 2010 MDX model can cause you to spend around $6,700.
Third-generation MDX (2014, 2016, 2017 model years)
Among all the MDX models you should avoid, 2014 is the worst. Aside from the transmission problems it is bound to develop, it also has many engine problems that happen early in the vehicle’s life.
The 2016 and 2017 models inherited similar issues from the 2014 model but with less intensity. Their matters were based more on the transmission than the engine. Nonetheless, they should all be avoided as they drain the pocket and often put drivers in uncomfortable situations due to sudden failure at odd places.
Best Acura MDX years
Here are the best Acura MDX models you should consider when purchasing.
- 2006 Acura MDX
- 2007 Acura MDX
- 2008 Acura MDX
- 2009 Acura MDX
- 2011 Acura MDX
- 2012 Acura MDX
- 2013 Acura MDX
- 2015 Acura MDX
- 2018 Acura MDX
- 2019 Acura MDX
- 2020 Acura MDX
These models have minor complaints and are very reliable. When searching the used market for one, it is best to consider the 2019 and 2020 models as they are more recent and have very few complaints.
Is the Acura MDX worth buying?
The Acura MDX is a worthy investment if you want a luxury SUV that is easy to drive. It makes for a great family vehicle but retains the charm of being a super-comfy SUV.
Recent models come with many valuable innovations designed to make driving simpler, safer and more fun. With the correct maintenance practices, the MDX can last up to 300,000 miles.
What year Acura MDX has transmission problems?
The Acura MDX model years with the most transmission problem are the 2001 to 2005 models. The 2004 model is regarded as having the worst issue as it often developed earlier than the other four models.
What is the most common problem with Acura MDX?
The most common problem the Acura MDX faces is transmission failure. The worst hit is the 2004 MDX which develops the issue earlier than other models.
Is the Acura MDX a reliable vehicle?
The Acura MDX is an averagely reliable vehicle. It would have been more reliable if it did not have such a strong transmission issue.
How long can the Acura MDX last?
If you know how to manage it correctly, the Acura MDX can last up to 400,000 miles or more. The suitable model and your maintenance culture would determine how far the vehicle would survive.