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Hi All -

I'm in the market for a mid-size SUV with AWD/4x4 and 3rd row seating (perhaps even rear DVD navigation if it happens to have it).

I almost purchased a similar year range Ford Explorer but after viewing the vehicle twice (once when it was already well warmed up, and a second time when it was stone cold) I quickly changed my mind. The engine nearly sounded like a diesel when cold - apparently its a known issue that those vehicles are prone to timing chain issues and some require the engine to be removed to replace the rear chain. So I ruled out the Explorer as I am good with working on cars but am not equipped to pull an engine.

Now, I am considering the MDX and watched several videos and a few ads but haven't test drove any yet...all in my area are around 2500-4500. Are there any major known issues with this generation MDX or anything in particular I should be looking at once I start viewing and test driving this brand/model? I had a Honda many years in the past and it was largely trouble free and would hope its the same for Acura.

Thanks all!
 

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First, like any vehicle that old, if it's had little or poor maintenance, it's a huge risk.

The only major weak point on a 2001-3 MDX is the transmission. You'll read lots of horror stories about them, and certainly the first few years were a little marginal in that regard. Still, most of them will go forever with just regular maintenance. I'd pay very close attention to the color and condition of the transmission fluid (the dipstick is down between the battery box and engine). If the fluid looks more red than black or brown, and doesn't smell burnt, it's a good chance that the owner has been taking care of the vehicle.

I think the 1st generation MDX is one of the best values in 7-passenger SUVs out there. They ARE amazingly reliable vehicles, though not without the need to spend some time and money taking care of them. Figure every 100,000 miles or so you'll need to change the timing belt, and set the valves. Neither are huge jobs for the DIY'er, though daunting for those who haven't done that kind of thing before. The window regulators are prone to failure, but the replacement aftermarket units are actually better, dirt cheap, and fall-off-a-log-easy to replace. Of course, look for rust (depending on where you are), and all the "normal stuff" like signs of being in a flood, crash damage, etc.

I bought my '04 several years ago with 160,000 miles on it, and have had almost no real problems. One window regulator, a high pressure power steering line leak, and a bad alternator. I've done a fair bit of preventative maintenance and other work to make it ride and handle like a new car (and it still does, with 218,000 miles). And all that for an amount of money that would have probably covered 18 months of lease payments on a new one. I would be surprised if it doesn't go to at least 300,000 miles without any big issues.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
First, like any vehicle that old, if it's had little or poor maintenance, it's a huge risk.

The only major weak point on a 2001-3 MDX is the transmission. You'll read lots of horror stories about them, and certainly the first few years were a little marginal in that regard. Still, most of them will go forever with just regular maintenance. I'd pay very close attention to the color and condition of the transmission fluid (the dipstick is down between the battery box and engine). If the fluid looks more red than black or brown, and doesn't smell burnt, it's a good chance that the owner has been taking care of the vehicle.

I think the 1st generation MDX is one of the best values in 7-passenger SUVs out there. They ARE amazingly reliable vehicles, though not without the need to spend some time and money taking care of them. Figure every 100,000 miles or so you'll need to change the timing belt, and set the valves. Neither are huge jobs for the DIY'er, though daunting for those who haven't done that kind of thing before. The window regulators are prone to failure, but the replacement aftermarket units are actually better, dirt cheap, and fall-off-a-log-easy to replace. Of course, look for rust (depending on where you are), and all the "normal stuff" like signs of being in a flood, crash damage, etc.

I bought my '04 several years ago with 160,000 miles on it, and have had almost no real problems. One window regulator, a high pressure power steering line leak, and a bad alternator. I've done a fair bit of preventative maintenance and other work to make it ride and handle like a new car (and it still does, with 218,000 miles). And all that for an amount of money that would have probably covered 18 months of lease payments on a new one. I would be surprised if it doesn't go to at least 300,000 miles without any big issues.
Thanks for the comments and reply.

One follow up question, how difficult was the high pressure power steering hose? I went through that mess many years ago on a 98 Escort..had to loosen and pretty much move the entire rack simply to change a high pressure hose from the pump to the rack (it was all one hose).

Is it the same experience on the MDX and are they prone to fail?

Thanks
 

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The hose is prone to failure, though FAR short of an epidemic (you'd hear a lot of whining if it was a more common problem - errr, from other posters, not from your car). ;-)

Yes, it's a pain to swap out the high-pressure power steering hose. That's largely because it appears the MDX was designed as a right-drive vehicle (for the Japanese market). I'd guess that with the rack flipped as it is in Japan, it's a 20 minute fix.

In our case, there are a few "interesting things" you'll have to deal with. First, you'll need a set of crow's foot wrenches (look like the end of a wrench cut off, with a socket drive hole). You'll need the ones that engage more than just the two flats on the hose connections to the rack. I think these are the ones I got: https://www.harborfreight.com/7-pc-38-in-metric-crowfoot-flare-nut-wrench-set-68999.html

The other interesting thing is that you'll need to actually drop the rear of the front subframe down a couple inches to get access to the bolts that hold the line in place. It's REALLY fiddly, trust me. My original plan was to build some threaded rod assemblies that I would replace the four main bolts holding the subframe in, one at a time, until I could lower it as much as I wanted (but before I started stressing out cables and hoses). As it worked out (because I was doing this in my sister-in-law's driveway with a limited selection of tools, and the threaded rod showed up late), I just loosened the rear bolts enough to get the clearance. Be careful though - take 'em out a little too far, and "things will get interesting". I suppose having a small floor jack on the center of the rear subframe would be good insurance.

But in the end, it was a 4 or 5 hour job under "field conditions". Not horrible, but a job that would have been a LOT easier in my own garage with access to my own tools. I really (!) tried to avoid doing this job on the road, hoping to slow the leaking to the point where I could drive the 3,000 or so miles I had left in the road trip before replacing the line. Because the leak was oozing out a longitudinal crack in the hose, I thought I might be able to slow it down like this...

Sadly, it didn't work. ;-)
 

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I've been very pleased w/ my 03 MDX w/ over 210K miles and a recent timing belt, water pump, etc.

No trans problems except a high pitched bearing whine that is noticeable at 55-65 mph. It's been the same since purchased w/ 88K miles.

Mileage is about 16-17 around town and 20-23 on highway.

I tried the HP PS hose and had to punt to a shop. Accessing the HP connection to the rack is fiendishly difficult, but there are some good posts from those who managed this job.

good luck
 
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