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Looking for some answers from those in the know or who have experience with trailer hitch and harness.

I haven’t purchased an MDX but plan to. Very seriously looking and comparing the ‘17 and ‘18’s. I have questions on trailer hitch and wire harness.

1. If I purchase and install the hitch and harness will I be able to make it look like it is integrated like it will if dealer installs it? If so where do you recommend I purchase the parts? Install does not look too complex so I’m willing to take that on if I get the flawless look.

2. To get the full tow capacity I need the transmission cooler. I’m thinking of having dealer install that at time of vehicle purchase. Is that a good or bad idea? Or do I wait until I know I need the full capacity?

I really don’t want to pay $1400-$1600 to the dealer to install the hitch and harness unless it’s the only way to look integrated (flawless).

Thanks in advance for the help.
 

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1. Yes, it is a very easy DIY install. Just some bolts, plug-and-play harness, and a bumper trim piece to replace. You may need help lifting the hitch, but if you have a floor jack or wrap the spare tire lift cord (assuming you get a trim with the spare tire) around the hitch to lift it up. Or just use a second person to hold it with you while you tighten the bolts.

2. The cooler can technically also be DIYed, but some people are not super confident about removing the front bumper or disconnecting and reconnecting the cooling lines. Maybe take a look at the instructions shown here (https://estore.honda.com/acura/accessories/installation-instructions/oui-list.asp?year=2017&model=MDX&modelName=MDX) and then make a decision whether or not you want to DIY this or not. If not, sometimes you can negotiate in an install vs trying to get it installed later.
 

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Self-install of the genuine Acura hutch/wiring is well within the capabilities of most DIYers.

The cooler is also possible, but is considerably more advanced. It is especially important to not allow ANY contamination into the cooler circuit. You also need a scan tool that can read the transmission temperature off of the CAN bus.

For most people, I’d recommend to have the dealer do the cooler, and then do the wiring/hitch yourself. It’s the most economical for most people.

I would get the cooler — even if you don’t need the higher tow rating. A trans cooler is always a good idea.
 

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There have been reports of persistent clunking noises during shifting after installation of the ATF cooler on MDXs/Pilots with the 9-speed transmission. Unless something has changed recently, Honda/Acura doesn't have a resolution other than removing the ATF cooler. Normally, I consider an external "auxiliary" ATF cooler a good thing even if I don't plan to do heavy towing, but this is an exception. And although I'm a DIY guy, I wouldn't touch anything on this 9-speed transmission.

I agree OEM hitch and wiring harness are reasonable DIY projects. Aftermarket hitch would hang down below the bumper, and wouldn't look "integrated".

For source of OEM parts, I like these guys, but some local dealers will price match. Shipping can be a killer on big and/or heavy items.

https://www.oemacuraparts.com
 

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I have a '17 with a factory hitch and factory installed cooler....DONT DO IT. The clunking in the transmission is horrible and ruins the ownership experience. I just spoke with my dealer and they say Acura acknowledges the issue but has no plans to fix it or even look for a fix because so few people purchase the 5000lb tow option on an MDX. I am actually going to have mine removed (with them refunding me the cost of parts, installation and removal) so that I can sell the vehicle. The service manager did not even balk at my polite request so that should tell you something.

...my first and last Acura.


PS- I am almost certain the noise is when the "A" dog clutch engages and it sounds absolutely horrible once the transmission has warmed up.

PPS - the tow capacity w/o the cooler is 3500lbs BUT understand that capacity must include the weight loaded into the vehicle itself while towing. Meaning if your boat and trailer are 3000lbs but you have 800lbs of people and gear in the MDX you are actually over.
 

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Any indication why an ATF cooler would impact the internal operation of the transmission? That just seems bizarre. Although putting dog clutches in a high-end car transmission is also bizarre..
 

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Any indication why an ATF cooler would impact the internal operation of the transmission? That just seems bizarre. Although putting dog clutches in a high-end car transmission is also bizarre..
ZF got creative to get 9 forward speeds in the relatively small physical package of the 9HP48. Dog clutches are normal in manual transmissions. People love to hate the ZF9HP48 because it isn't what they're used to. That doesn't mean that it's broken or causing damage.

From what I've read, the external cooler doesn't actually change the internal operation of the transmission... It just allows the already-present sounds of normal operation to resonate in a more obvious/observable way.

An external cooler is on my "to-do" list. I'm not thrilled at the thought of extra noises... But I do think that a cooler is a good thing for overall vehicle longevity.
 

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ZF got creative to get 9 forward speeds in the relatively small physical package of the 9HP48. Dog clutches are normal in manual transmissions. People love to hate the ZF9HP48 because it isn't what they're used to. That doesn't mean that it's broken or causing damage.
The thing I hate about the ZF 9-HP is its unpredictability. I know exactly when a dog clutch in a manual transmission will disengage the driveline, every single time, because my foot is pushing on the clutch pedal! Predictability is a Very Good Thing in a piece of heavy machinery. Unpredictability causes Bad Things to Happen.

At minimum, the antics of the ZF 9-HP cause unnecessary stress and distraction. This seriously degrades the driving experience. I think the "creativity" of ZF engineers on this one will go down in automotive history as the "cleaver idea" that seriously degraded consumer confidence in the ZF brand and multiple automotive brands.

<end rant>
 

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The thing I hate about the ZF 9-HP is its unpredictability. I know exactly when a dog clutch in a manual transmission will disengage the driveline, every single time, because my foot is pushing on the clutch pedal! Predictability is a Very Good Thing in a piece of heavy machinery. Unpredictability causes Bad Things to Happen.

At minimum, the antics of the ZF 9-HP cause unnecessary stress and distraction. This seriously degrades the driving experience. I think the "creativity" of ZF engineers on this one will go down in automotive history as the "cleaver idea" that seriously degraded consumer confidence in the ZF brand and multiple automotive brands.

<end rant>
The situation could not have been more effectively summarized.
 

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I guess you're entitled to your opinions. I think you're overreacting, though.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for all the info and opinions so far.

Do you think if I asked the dealer about the noise with the external transmission cooler they would be honest about it? Maybe that will be a good test for me. Or at least ask if they’ve had complaints and gauge their response.

Am I wrong to look at going for the 5000lb option?
 

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Thanks for all the info and opinions so far.

Do you think if I asked the dealer about the noise with the external transmission cooler they would be honest about it? Maybe that will be a good test for me. Or at least ask if they’ve had complaints and gauge their response.

Am I wrong to look at going for the 5000lb option?
Your dealer is about selling units. My guess is that they would not be in a hurry to highlight issues with their product, so I would not use that as a reliable "test". Frankly, and in all fairness, they may not know of the issue if they have not sold many with cooler units. If you would like, I can put you in touch with my service department and they can explain it to you. It is a known issue and will (according to them) not effect the functioning of the transmission. Without music on or the windows down it will, however, remind you of a bad decision every time it shifts from 4th to 5th when the transmission is warm.

...really, don't do it.
 

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I guess you're entitled to your opinions. I think you're overreacting, though.
Perhaps. Or you could google ZF 9 speed transmission problems and see what you get. Look, I know the internet has far more people using it as a place to vent than share positive experiences, but in the case of this transmission there really is an abundance of evidence. It works, but it simply is not at premium car quality.
 

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Perhaps. Or you could google ZF 9 speed transmission problems and see what you get. Look, I know the internet has far more people using it as a place to vent than share positive experiences, but in the case of this transmission there really is an abundance of evidence. It works, but it simply is not at premium car quality.
So says you. I know a clunk would bug the **** out of me, so your frustration is reasonable. However, outside of that, I think it's a fine transmission for the core demographic. Now if you want to talk about the excessive noise that comes from the suspension when going over larger bumps, then I would agree with you that it's not premium car quality, even for a SUV that is at the bottom end of luxury.

But hey, it's my wife's car and she LOVES it. I don't hear any weird noises when I drive me SS, just sweet LS3 music ;-)

Back on topic, DIY the OEM hitch, skip the cooler. If you need to tow more than a couple thousand pounds, get a more capable vehicle.
 

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Perhaps. Or you could google ZF 9 speed transmission problems and see what you get. Look, I know the internet has far more people using it as a place to vent than share positive experiences, but in the case of this transmission there really is an abundance of evidence. It works, but it simply is not at premium car quality.
I'm aware of the complaints. I also own a vehicle with a ZF9. I've had my fair share of "huh, that's different" moments... I don't want to discount the fact that the ZF9 is quirky. I'm simply saying that having an open mind about how the ZF9 operates can go a long way to understanding it, and even appreciating it.

I've checked your post history and I get the impression you're on a vendetta or crusade against the ZF9. I'm not sure if it's confirmation bias, or what? But some people seem to WANT to be unhappy.
 

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I'm aware of the complaints. I also own a vehicle with a ZF9. I've had my fair share of "huh, that's different" moments... I don't want to discount the fact that the ZF9 is quirky. I'm simply saying that having an open mind about how the ZF9 operates can go a long way to understanding it, and even appreciating it.

I've checked your post history and I get the impression you're on a vendetta or crusade against the ZF9. I'm not sure if it's confirmation bias, or what? But some people seem to WANT to be unhappy.
You checked my history? Too much time; I won't be checking yours to understand your motivations. Look, it's like this: the OP asked about the cooler. I have one and can confirm that (unless you are ok with a clunking transmission) it is not the best idea. Beyond that, you and I can agree that, your words, the ZF IS quirky. Less than smooth particularly when cold, hunts and pecks for the right gear at certain speeds and really requires a mash of the pedal to drop enough gears for a roll-on pass. I expected better than quirky on a Acura. To balance, I drove the car before buying it and should have spent more time in it and researching before so this is on me for sure. I also know I am by far one of many with similar opinions of it. The transmission warmer issue is yet another issue that seems to be emerging.

To balance, outside of the lack of smoothness and clunking it has yet to strand me and frankly I have not seen many (if any) reports of that happening. In the end, caveat emptor.
 

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Beyond that, you and I can agree that, your words, the ZF IS quirky. Less than smooth particularly when cold, hunts and pecks for the right gear at certain speeds and really requires a mash of the pedal to drop enough gears for a roll-on pass. I expected better than quirky on a Acura. To balance, I drove the car before buying it and should have spent more time in it and researching before so this is on me for sure. I also know I am by far one of many with similar opinions of it. The transmission warmer issue is yet another issue that seems to be emerging.
Yes, the ZF is quirky.

Yes, the low-gear shifts are not smooth when cold. This goes away within a couple minutes as the transmission warms up.

No, I have not observed any hunt/peck. once warmed up my ZF9 seems to be great at being in the right gear.

No, I have not observed the need to "mash" the pedal to accelerate onto a highway or to pass someone. The normal "D" operation is biased towards economy, but it operates well. When I put the transmission into "S" it really comes alive!
 

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Yes, the ZF is quirky.

Yes, the low-gear shifts are not smooth when cold. This goes away within a couple minutes as the transmission warms up.

No, I have not observed any hunt/peck. once warmed up my ZF9 seems to be great at being in the right gear.

No, I have not observed the need to "mash" the pedal to accelerate onto a highway or to pass someone. The normal "D" operation is biased towards economy, but it operates well. When I put the transmission into "S" it really comes alive!
GREAT! We have sufficiently confirmed your appreciation of the ZF and my disappointment.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Question on the OEM hitch, harness, and bumper insert. Is it all a kit that is purchased or is there a list of parts that need to be selected? I would love to save money and do it myself but want to be sure I have all the items needed once I do start the install.
 

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Question on the OEM hitch, harness, and bumper insert. Is it all a kit that is purchased or is there a list of parts that need to be selected? I would love to save money and do it myself but want to be sure I have all the items needed once I do start the install.
I ordered the hitch and the harness as separate items. Some people don't need the harness if they are not towing anything (i.e. bike rack, luggage rack, etc.)
 
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