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2017 Acura MDX SH-AWD TECH
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Discussion Starter #1
I need help understanding ATF fluid levels (3rd gen MDX's) for my 2017 Acura MDX SH-AWD (recently purchased used, 35K miles). As far as I know, still running on original ATF fluid fill. I upgraded it with the Towing Kit including the ATF cooler, which was installed today.

HELP NEEDED: When the car is 1st manufactured, they install enough ATF for torque converter and Tranny. I assume it's similar to "7.5-7.9 US Qts at overhaul for AWD" according to the "ATF Replacement (9-speed) 3124" procedure circulating on this site. At this qty, when checking the ATF fluid via check plug, the ATF should only drip. IS THIS CORRECT? Or is it actually be overfilled for a "new" tranny and ATF would free-flow from check plug?

Reason why I'm asking, after installing the ATF Cooler & checking install (all good!), I checked the ATF level (at required temperature) and ATF FLUID STARTED TO FLOW IN A STEADY STREAM just like seen when draining. Solid fluid, no foamy/aerated ATF fluid, just pure ATF liquid. I estimate about a 8-10 oz's was lost before I quickly reinstalled the plug to stop the steady flow as I thought something was wrong.

I'm not sure what to believe: Over-fill is expected and drip will occur only after 1st ATF fluid change (45-50K miles according to Acura dealer) OR Over-fill is not correct and I need to allow it to drain to drip level.

BTW: In the short time I've had this MDX, the AT seems to be working just fine.

Help is appreciated.
 

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First of all, the 9 speed trans made by ZF (not Honda) is exceedingly difficult to DIY fluid changes, level, etc. There is a very specific procedure to follow to get the fluid level correct and you need an OBDII device capable of live data to give you the fluid temperature when adjusting the fluid level. If you had the fill plug out with the fluid at the wrong temp you almost certainly have the incorrect fluid level, which this trans is supposedly very sensitive to. In this Pilot thread on post #3 is a PDF with the steps laid out and note that the car must be in VSC maintenance mode to complete it. Also, when the fluid is changed the ECM needs to be told that there is new fluid as it is programmed to adjust as the fluid ages. Why Honda opted to put this over-complicated piece of junk in their cars is beyond me. You really need to get to a dealer or qualified shop to get this straightened out and since you will be towing I would highly recommend getting the fluid changed now and then at least every 30K or more frequently yet if towing above 3K lbs.
 

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2017 Acura MDX SH-AWD TECH
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Discussion Starter #3
I agree with you (ZF9 procedure). I research this well before I attempted to check current level. I had followed the procedure you noted to get AT at right temperature to check fluid level, but w/o an OBDII scanner to get accurate data. So I expected that I might be off temp-wise but didn't expect the fluid to be streaming out as it did.

In this case, I wasn't performing a fluid change, I was only checking the fluid level after installing the ATF cooler to see if I needed to top off.

What about my question/understanding: Do they overfill AT w/ ATF upon initial build/install or is drip level expected from day 1?
 

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I agree with you (ZF9 procedure). I research this well before I attempted to check current level. I had followed the procedure you noted to get AT at right temperature to check fluid level, but w/o an OBDII scanner to get accurate data. So I expected that I might be off temp-wise but didn't expect the fluid to be streaming out as it did.

In this case, I wasn't performing a fluid change, I was only checking the fluid level after installing the ATF cooler to see if I needed to top off.

What about my question/understanding: Do they overfill AT w/ ATF upon initial build/install or is drip level expected from day 1?
While I don't have access to direct information regarding the fill level at the factory, I find it hard to believe that the factory fill is above the specified level. The safest thing (too late now) would have been to know what the added capacity of the system resulted from the installation of the cooler ad then add that exact amount. Now that you are where you are the only real solution is to either get a capable shop to adjust the level of the fluid or change the fluid which will result in the correct level post change. I also don't know how much the fluid level can be impacted by the temp being either above or below the specified temperature. I know it has been posted on both the Ody board and the Pilot board that the ZF9 is particularly sensitive to having the correct fluid level, but have no idea how accurate that is or how much wiggle room there is. Are we talking ounces, 1/2 quart, etc.? I know this might not be much help beyond the bottom line advice and that is to get it addressed by a pro. Because I am a mid-level DIY'er I know I am highly likely to ever own one simply because it is such a PITA, but naturally if the entire industry goes to such DIY unfriendly products then I may have no choice. As things stand today my next X, if there is one, will be a '14 or '15 to get the 6 speed.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I agree with factory fill level. That's why I was surprised by the outflow even if I was off on ATF temperature during level check. I lost ~ 8-10 oz from pulling check plug (6-8 oz's is more likely ), so less then 1/3 Qt. With the ATF Cooler installed and this loss of fluid, I expected ATF fluid level to be a little more than 1/2 Qt down from optimal level. I'll see where the tranny stands performance wise and take in for an early dealer change.

My 1st Gen 2002 had notorious tranny issues as we all know, so I moved to the 3rd Gen and beyond 2015/2016 years, which had earlier tranny issues (i.e. ATF warmer issue, SW updates,..).

Thanks for your help (y)
 
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