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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everybody,

I'm considering buying a 1st gen MDX, 2005-2006 with around 130k. I love the look and feel of them, and I'm excited to become a member of this community should I take the plunge. I'm hoping to go with those years to avoid some of the transmission issues that popped up in the earlier years. I've owned mostly Toyota's, and do all of my own work on them, so I think I'll be somewhat familiar with the Japanese engineering of the MDX. I do have a few questions though.

1. How hard is it to find aftermarket/cheap parts for this vehicle? Is there a Honda vehicle that this model is based off of that shares many of the same parts or are you often at the whim of the dealer or salvage yards for Acura specific parts?

2. How hard is it to come by a factory service manual?

3. What sort of maintenance issues will I be facing with a vehicle this old and with this much mileage? I'd imagine it might need a timing belt change? Is this a run of the mill timing belt/water pump change, or is it signicantly more challenging? Obviously I would change all of the fluids upon purchase, but are there any other issues I should know of?

4. Aside from paying attention to the transmission, are there any red flags I should be aware of when inspecting a potential vehicle?

Thanks in advance for all of your help! I can't wait to get my hands dirty!
 

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Great choice in cars! The Acura MDX shares a lot (!) of mechanics with the Honda Pilot, so there is a huge aftermarket parts market out there. You almost never have to buy parts from the Honda/Acura dealers, though of course sometimes the OEM parts may be of better quality than some aftermarket parts. If you've been twisting wrenches on your Toyotas for years, I'm sure you won't have any problems figuring this out - all the usual suspects like rockauto.com or partsgeek.com or even amazon or ebay will be very useful.

The factory service manual is VERY useful, and can be found many places. I don't recall where I got mine off-hand, but I reference it weekly, and have used it to service my own MDX many times. It's light years ahead of the typical auto parts store manuals (Haynes, etc.)

The big jobs you'll have to contemplate include the timing belt, plugs and setting the valves every 100,000 miles or so. Your vehicle likely has just had those items done - but if not, plan on doing all of them ASAP. It's an interference engine, so you really don't want the timing belt to break (though from what I've read that's exceedingly rare). And the valves really SHOULD be adjusted every 100,000 miles.

The transmission IS the one weak link in the MDX, something that's the case with a host of other vehicles... the first couple years of production were much more likely to fail, so I'd suggest you have a very good chance of not having to worry about your transmission, though regular drain and refills of the fluid is suggested (that changes out about 1/3 the fluid). Window regulators fail pretty regularly (no pun intended) but they're cheap and easy to swap (a case where the aftermarket part is better than the Honda / Acura part). All in all, the MDX is a very reliable vehicle that's been designed with at least some thought put into the serviceability of the vehicle (like the O2 sensors being where you can reach them without too much drama).

The things I really don't like about the MDX is that they don't get great gas mileage (though certainly no worse than most other large SUVs) and the overly shift-happy transmission. The latter is more of a minor annoyance, but I do a LOT of road trips, and hate to see the tranny shifting down every time I go up a slight incline, mainly because of the way the gas mileage - as indicated by the "circle graph" - drops pretty dramatically when that happens. If the tranny had an sports / economy switch it would be MUCH nicer.
 

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Welcome to the forum. I think most of us would tell you that you're making a wise choice ;)

1) Very easy to get aftermarket parts, in my experience (I've never been unable to find one, actually). The MDX is essentially the Acura version of the Honda Pilot and many parts are exactly the same (and often cheaper from a Honda dealer).

2) Very easy. I believe there's an online/downloadable version readily available. Somebody will probably pop up with a link.

3) At that age/mileage, yes, you'll need a timing belt/water pump service if it hasn't been done (though that would be a red flag since it would be overdue by age if not miles). The service is pretty straight forward (at least, I haven't heard of any oddities concerning it). The engine is even mounted sideways so you don't need to take off the bumper/radiator to do it, just the passenger tire

It will probably benefit from a valve adjustment if one had never been done; this service seems to be often ignored but is important as the exhaust valves on these engines seem prone to tightening after 100k miles. And might as well do the plugs while you're there (you're going to take them out anyway).

Expect the suspension to still be stock and showing its age; as far as "enjoyability" of the ride, refreshing these components is a pretty good bang for your buck and (apart from swapping the heavy springs on the front struts) something that can easily be done in your driveway (you can still swap those springs yourself--many have--or you can wimp out like I did and pay a local shop $40 to swap them for you on their wall press).

Last thing that comes to mind is swapping out the radiator. It's a not uncommon point of failure in these vehicles (and often seemingly around the 150k mark), specifically the connectors for the transmission oil lines at the bottom: the connectors get corroded and eventually crack, letting coolant leak into the transmission oil and thrashing the tranny. Easy and cheap to install a new one that should be good for another 100k+ miles. Plus, if you're going to do any towing, think about installing an aftermarket transmission cooler at the same time (either with a heavy duty one and bypassing the radiator all together--in which case replacing the radiator is unnecessary--or a regular duty one in series with the new radiator).

4) Nothing special to the MDX that I can think of. If it drives well, the transmission feels solid, and it has a good maintenance history, you probably have yourself a solid buy. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the quick responses! That's pretty encouraging that it's essentially a Pilot, coming across those parts is not expensive or difficult. A cursory Google search of MDX timing belt replacement turned up several helpful links, including some Youtube videos. Definitely a red flag if I'm looking for a vehicle that age that hasn't had the timing belt replaced also, that's a good point. I've seen a few posts about replacing the radiator as well. If it's anything like my Tacoma, should be an easy job. I don't think we'll do too much towing, but all of my vehicles so far have been 4 cylinders, so maybe having 6 would encourage borrowing that pop up camper my neighbor leaves out to rust. ;)

Are the radiator connectors any different than your average vehicles? Any pics of some tired or worn out connectors? I'm assuming it's just the two metal pipes connected to standard rubber hoses.

I'm with you on going to the shop to get springs mounted, it only took one accident with a rented spring compressor for me to start going that route. I've since just purchased complete strut assemblies when I've needed to get the job done. Incidentally, I didn't look too hard, but didn't notice any for sale on Amazon for the MDX. You can buy them for the Pilot, are they the same, or do you have to take the assembly apart to replace the strut?

Also, how difficult is adjusting the valve timing? I've rebuilt a couple engines before, but left the cylinder head work to a machine shop I trust. It is a DOHC, correct? I'm assuming it's best left to mechanic, anybody done it themselves?

Oh yeah, and if anybody wants to post an fsm link, I'd be much obliged. Thanks again, cheers!
 

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Yep, the radiator connectors are perfectly average: two metal pipes over which you slide the transmission lines. The problem, AFAIK, is that the metal used for these pipes is different than the metal used for the core and some kind of reaction between the two eventually leads to their failure in some cases. I'm not going to say that it's an inevitability, because I think there are people on this very forum with 200k+ miles on the original radiator, but given how easy and inexpensive they are are to swap out, I went the "better safe than sorry" route. Here's a (somewhat lengthy) thread on the subject of whether or not to do a preemptive radiator change: http://www.mdxers.org/forums/73-fir...-pre-emptive-radiator-replacement-yes-no.html

I haven't seen preassembled struts for the MDX. I don't know that they're not available, but when I was getting ready to change mine I looked around a little bit for some and couldn't find any.

The valve adjustment isn't hard at all, just time consuming and a little tricky doing to the three cylinders at the back (the disadvantage of the sideways mounted engine is that those cylinders end up facing the firewall and while there is enough room to do it, it's a tight squeeze, especially when it comes to getting that valve cover off). Here's a thread I put up a while ago re: my experience doing the job on this vehicle: http://www.mdxers.org/forums/73-first-generation-mdx-2001-2006/98002-valve-adjustment-06-mdx.html

I think the go to source for the FSM is Helm Inc. Looks like they're currently selling the service manual for $56. 2003-06 MDX Service Manual - Helm Incorporated
 

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I personally like hard copy of the Acura Factory Service Manual (one large gray book) than CD's as it's nice to have the whole book with your dirty hands instead of using a laptop/tablet.
Quite few available via Ebay.


If your willing to do your work on your own, I do recommend using OEM parts (or equivalent OEM parts) instead of looking for "cheap" parts.
With that said Honda/Acura parts are much reasonable and get OEM equivalent compared to Toyota/Lexus I have.

You can do the search but typical things that you may see issues are (based on 235K miles 04 MDX I owned over these years):

1. Torn front and side engine mounts
2. Broken window regulator (check to make sure all windows go up and down smoothly)
3. Shocks/Strut suspension (check for leaks)
4. Coolant leak by the radiator (you caught on this one)
5. AC front and rear
6. Make sure the maintenance were done on schedule, especially the transmission fluid changes.
 

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I agree with the other comments here. I drive a 2006 MDX as a daily driver and after 155K miles, it's going very strong. We also own a 2016 MDX.

I'm a moderate DIY and have found great success working on this vehicle. I will say that I suggest sticking with Honda OEM parts.

Some quick hits on the benefit of choosing the 2006 model: it's the only year with the unique "zebra" wood trim and brushed nickel accents as well as offering OnStar services.
 

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Hey everybody,

I'm considering buying a 1st gen MDX, 2005-2006 with around 130k. I love the look and feel of them, and I'm excited to become a member of this community should I take the plunge. I'm hoping to go with those years to avoid some of the transmission issues that popped up in the earlier years. I've owned mostly Toyota's, and do all of my own work on them, so I think I'll be somewhat familiar with the Japanese engineering of the MDX. I do have a few questions though.

1. How hard is it to find aftermarket/cheap parts for this vehicle? Is there a Honda vehicle that this model is based off of that shares many of the same parts or are you often at the whim of the dealer or salvage yards for Acura specific parts?

2. How hard is it to come by a factory service manual?

3. What sort of maintenance issues will I be facing with a vehicle this old and with this much mileage? I'd imagine it might need a timing belt change? Is this a run of the mill timing belt/water pump change, or is it signicantly more challenging? Obviously I would change all of the fluids upon purchase, but are there any other issues I should know of?

4. Aside from paying attention to the transmission, are there any red flags I should be aware of when inspecting a potential vehicle?

Thanks in advance for all of your help! I can't wait to get my hands dirty!
Yes they're VERY good cars if you can volunteer some worth it work,they usually are issues in exhaust side from the o2s to the cats from what I've seen,other than that if you do your valve adj,and timing belt and use all honda fluids,you'll love it like me,and working on it rewarding,I got mine and sacrificed 1000 to parts and did thousands worth in labor to it and it's almost ready 2006 Mdx..maybe 200 more dollars and I'll have a 5 yr old car equivalent instead of 15..
 
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