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Hello everyone, I am currently in a market for a second car.. my current car is a mercedes cls500 that I really enjoy driving and plan to keep but I just don't wan't to drive it everyday gas etc... plus if I get another vehicle my insurance will actually go down. I am looking at this vehicle and the nissan murano... I know a little more about hondas/acuras and their reliability I believe is generally better than a nissan. I'm currently looking at some mdx's around 2001-2004 that range in price from 3-5k... with around 150k ish miles and they all seem to be in good condition with all the bells and whistles. Are there anythings in specific I should check for when looking at these cars... or is it a bad idea to buy a car with such high mileage? I hear that hondas last forever if taken care of properly. I have never owned a car that exceeded 100k miles but again this is a car that I plan on not spending much money on and want to use it primarily for daily commute and i've owned cars in the past with well under 100k miles that were absolute nightmares and stayed in the shop (vw)... Anyway thanks for reading this and any input is greatly appreciated.
 

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I just bought my first mdx and i gotta say its not a bad choice. Sorry idk much about the car yet. Im still trying to figure the car out... But definitely im enjoying the ride. =)

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I just bought my first mdx and i gotta say its not a bad choice. Sorry idk much about the car yet. Im still trying to figure the car out... But definitely im enjoying the ride. =)

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What year and how many miles are on yours?
 

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First thing you need to know is that.. The MDX transmission in the first gen specially the first years is a Lemon.

There is a known issue with every vehicle with a 5 speed auto from 01 to 04 which includes: Accord, TL, CL, Odyssey, Pilot, MDX.The transmission will basically burn its 3rd gear clutch pack too soon and it will make the trans to slip and eventually not engage drive at all.

If you search around it seems that the most affected MDX were from 01 to 04 so you should keep away from those years in any above mentioned cars.. Now this is not a rule of thumb that you will buy a car that will die right away but you should keep that in mind before buying it so it doesn't surprise you, Myself have a TL-S and experienced 2 dead trans before doing a complete transmission swap known as AV6 Swap..

A rebuild trans is around 3K for the MDX so it might be worth to look at a newer MDX like 05 and up.
 

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First thing you need to know is that.. The MDX transmission in the first gen specially the first years is a Lemon.

There is a known issue with every vehicle with a 5 speed auto from 01 to 04 which includes: Accord, TL, CL, Odyssey, Pilot, MDX.The transmission will basically burn its 3rd gear clutch pack too soon and it will make the trans to slip and eventually not engage drive at all.

If you search around it seems that the most affected MDX were from 01 to 04 so you should keep away from those years in any above mentioned cars.. Now this is not a rule of thumb that you will buy a car that will die right away but you should keep that in mind before buying it..
A rebuild is around 3K for the MDX so it might be worth to look at a newer MDX like 05 and up.
Oh ok, that makes sense many of the ones I have seen have actually had a new/rebuilt trans and some even offer warranty with them. I found one that looked immaculate but had a rebuilt aamco tranny with 5 year warranty that they were willing to transfer. 3k is an incredibly high price for a rebuilt tranny considering the car costs close to that much I think that may even be more than mercedes charges.
 

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The key to buying a used car always (!) comes down to finding one that was taken care of by the previous owner(s).

Mine had received a lot of attention, including regular transmission fluid changes (which is a misnomer, given that you drain three quarts, and replace three quarts at a time - rather than changing all the fluid at once). Even so, the PO had missed a couple pretty important things, including adjusting the valves (which should be done at 100,000 mile intervals). If the car hasn't had a timing belt change, figure on doing that ASAP if you buy a 150,000 mile car.

I bought my '04 MDX with 160,000 miles, and have over 190,000 miles on it now. It still looks nearly new and I trust it for a few AZ-NY round trips a year. It's been ridiculously reliable - I had to clean and relubricate the starter (a common problem that results in an annoyingly noisy, but still operational starter), a rear window regulator (that dropped a window when I was in a Mexican restaurant...), and had to twiddle one of the controllers in the heat/AC system. I've done a number of maintenance things to make it feel like a new car, including new control arms and tie rod/steering links, rear shocks (really didn't need them), plugs (always cheap insurance).

The transmission IS the weak link in these vehicles, but keep in mind that most of them don't break. My understanding is that the '01-02 models were the most problematic, but that most of the issues had been corrected by the '03-04 models. That said, the transmission in nearly ANY modern car is the thing that's most likely to cost you a lot of money, and it seems (for whatever reason) that the common problem seems to be shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear. My previous two cars (a VW Jetta turbo wagon, and a Volvo V70 T5 wagon) both had 2nd to 3rd gear shifting problems. The parts cost for each was under $30 - the Volvo took 30 minutes to fix (an external valve body recall that hadn't been done) and the VW took "a while longer" (both due to a lengthy diagnostic process and having to drop the transmission out of the car to replace a $20 temperature sensor that was causing the problem).

My experience with the Honda transmissions (and nearly all others) is that the shift solenoids tend to be the problem. They're essentially electromagnets subjected to the flow of fluid containing minute metal particles (the inevitable result of wear and tear in your transmission). Once this goes on long enough, the solenoid will get "sticky" and it will start causing shift problems, often in the 2-3 shift. Clean or replace the solenoid, and no real harm is done (other than the loss of a little time and a small amount of money). Ignore the shifting problem and you'll soon burn out the affected clutch pack, since the "new normal shifts" will be akin to sidestepping the clutch on a manual transmission vehicle to do a burnout.

And one more note about the MDX transmission - it's the one thing that annoys me about the vehicle "operationally"... the first to second gear shift comes at a much higher RPM that is (IMHO) necessary (apparently a tweak Honda did to the TCM to increase the pressure and minimize slippage of the 2nd gear clutch pack), and the thing LOVES to downshift for ANY reason at highway speed (which really hurts the economy - watch the "MPG gauge" drop like a rock). Both the Jetta and V70 had the "auto / manual" shift lever gate, where you could click the transmission into manual mode to prevent this kind of nonsense. Other cars have multi-mode (ala "economy / sport / track" modes) that will give you better highway manners. In our case, we just have to live with a transmission that doesn't seem to want to take advantage of the considerable torque of the 3.5 liter V6 it's attached to.

All the whining aside, the MDX is a great vehicle, and a fantastic buy, if you can find one that's been taken care of.
 

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The key to buying a used car always (!) comes down to finding one that was taken care of by the previous owner(s).

Mine had received a lot of attention, including regular transmission fluid changes (which is a misnomer, given that you drain three quarts, and replace three quarts at a time - rather than changing all the fluid at once). Even so, the PO had missed a couple pretty important things, including adjusting the valves (which should be done at 100,000 mile intervals). If the car hasn't had a timing belt change, figure on doing that ASAP if you buy a 150,000 mile car.

I bought my '04 MDX with 160,000 miles, and have over 190,000 miles on it now. It still looks nearly new and I trust it for a few AZ-NY round trips a year. It's been ridiculously reliable - I had to clean and relubricate the starter (a common problem that results in an annoyingly noisy, but still operational starter), a rear window regulator (that dropped a window when I was in a Mexican restaurant...), and had to twiddle one of the controllers in the heat/AC system. I've done a number of maintenance things to make it feel like a new car, including new control arms and tie rod/steering links, rear shocks (really didn't need them), plugs (always cheap insurance).

The transmission IS the weak link in these vehicles, but keep in mind that most of them don't break. My understanding is that the '01-02 models were the most problematic, but that most of the issues had been corrected by the '03-04 models. That said, the transmission in nearly ANY modern car is the thing that's most likely to cost you a lot of money, and it seems (for whatever reason) that the common problem seems to be shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear. My previous two cars (a VW Jetta turbo wagon, and a Volvo V70 T5 wagon) both had 2nd to 3rd gear shifting problems. The parts cost for each was under $30 - the Volvo took 30 minutes to fix (an external valve body recall that hadn't been done) and the VW took "a while longer" (both due to a lengthy diagnostic process and having to drop the transmission out of the car to replace a $20 temperature sensor that was causing the problem).

My experience with the Honda transmissions (and nearly all others) is that the shift solenoids tend to be the problem. They're essentially electromagnets subjected to the flow of fluid containing minute metal particles (the inevitable result of wear and tear in your transmission). Once this goes on long enough, the solenoid will get "sticky" and it will start causing shift problems, often in the 2-3 shift. Clean or replace the solenoid, and no real harm is done (other than the loss of a little time and a small amount of money). Ignore the shifting problem and you'll soon burn out the affected clutch pack, since the "new normal shifts" will be akin to sidestepping the clutch on a manual transmission vehicle to do a burnout.

And one more note about the MDX transmission - it's the one thing that annoys me about the vehicle "operationally"... the first to second gear shift comes at a much higher RPM that is (IMHO) necessary (apparently a tweak Honda did to the TCM to increase the pressure and minimize slippage of the 2nd gear clutch pack), and the thing LOVES to downshift for ANY reason at highway speed (which really hurts the economy - watch the "MPG gauge" drop like a rock). Both the Jetta and V70 had the "auto / manual" shift lever gate, where you could click the transmission into manual mode to prevent this kind of nonsense. Other cars have multi-mode (ala "economy / sport / track" modes) that will give you better highway manners. In our case, we just have to live with a transmission that doesn't seem to want to take advantage of the considerable torque of the 3.5 liter V6 it's attached to.

All the whining aside, the MDX is a great vehicle, and a fantastic buy, if you can find one that's been taken care of.
Would it be wise to get one that comes with a rebuild transmission and warranty? I've noticed most mercedes i've owned (aside from the one that had a rebuilt transmission) have had some sort of tranny shifting issue at one point or another although it's never gotten to the point of the car leaving me stranded or not starting it will have some jerk or something and as you say it is usually the solenoids. While the part is cheap they always need to take apart the entire thing and they make it sound like a huge production so that you can be billed a great deal of money for this. For some reason I thought it was the nissan that had the transmission issues and not the hondas. But transmission issues are really my least favorite issue on a car next to possibly a blown headgasket. And if i'm looking at a ballpark range of 4k for this vehicle there's no way I would fork out 3k to repair the transmission. Would it be safe to say that if the car has survived to 150k+ miles that the transmission issues would be in the clear?
 

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dnasty, "it depends". A "rebuilt transmission" can mean almost anything. It could mean that a real expert disassembled, checked, cleaned and replaced virtually everything that was out of spec, and that the transmission is (at least) as good as a new one. Or it could mean that some hack pulled it apart and replaced a few parts that were 100% gone, ignoring all those that were 90% gone in the process. A warranty is good, of course, though it's worth nothing at all after it expires, and might be of questionable value because of the way it's written.

The shift solenoids on the MDX seem to be pretty easy to get to - essentially mounted on the side of the transmission more or less under the battery tray. I (happily!) have never had to tear into this on my own MDX, so will leave it at that... but I certainly wouldn't get my knickers in a twist if I did have to replace one or more of the shift solenoids.

I should mention that the HDS (Honda Diagnostic System, which is what the dealers were using up until a few years ago) can be used to "exercise" your shift solenoids - basically, if you can hear them click when they're manually activated by the HDS, it's most likely they're not gummed up and sticky. You can buy an HDS clone along with the necessary interface box (that goes between an XP laptop and the OBD connector on your car) for pretty reasonable prices, and it will allow you to do some amazing troubleshooting, should you need it. I've always purchased something similar for my cars, knowing it'll pay for itself many times over in allowing me to avoid dealership servicing / diagnostics.

FYI - here's a couple snippets from the maintenance manual showing the location of the shift solenoids (and the central page from the manual dealing with R/R of the shift solenoids)...

http://habcycles.com/mdxshiftsolenoids.jpg

http://habcycles.com/mdxshiftsolenoids2.jpg
 

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dnasty, "it depends". A "rebuilt transmission" can mean almost anything. It could mean that a real expert disassembled, checked, cleaned and replaced virtually everything that was out of spec, and that the transmission is (at least) as good as a new one. Or it could mean that some hack pulled it apart and replaced a few parts that were 100% gone, ignoring all those that were 90% gone in the process. A warranty is good, of course, though it's worth nothing at all after it expires, and might be of questionable value because of the way it's written.



The shift solenoids on the MDX seem to be pretty easy to get to - essentially mounted on the side of the transmission more or less under the battery tray. I (happily!) have never had to tear into this on my own MDX, so will leave it at that... but I certainly wouldn't get my knickers in a twist if I did have to replace one or more of the shift solenoids.



I should mention that the HDS (Honda Diagnostic System, which is what the dealers were using up until a few years ago) can be used to "exercise" your shift solenoids - basically, if you can hear them click when they're manually activated by the HDS, it's most likely they're not gummed up and sticky. You can buy an HDS clone along with the necessary interface box (that goes between an XP laptop and the OBD connector on your car) for pretty reasonable prices, and it will allow you to do some amazing troubleshooting, should you need it. I've always purchased something similar for my cars, knowing it'll pay for itself many times over in allowing me to avoid dealership servicing / diagnostics.



FYI - here's a couple snippets from the maintenance manual showing the location of the shift solenoids (and the central page from the manual dealing with R/R of the shift solenoids)...



http://habcycles.com/mdxshiftsolenoids.jpg



http://habcycles.com/mdxshiftsolenoids2.jpg


Thank you. That was very informative. I always try to do as much research as possible when purchasing the car as far as the previous owner is involved. The transmission issues you mentioned are not things you'd would say are do it yourself things are they? Sorry for my ignorance but my previous cars all had transmissions that needed to be dropped out the vehicle and opened up for even a small issue. I may go test drive one this weekend just to see what I'm in store for.


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The shift solenoid replacement (or, of course, the fluid change) are certainly DIY-able, though no everyone would be up to burrowing into the engine compartment deep enough to get to the solenoids. A well-designed transmission should have been designed to allow access to the parts most likely to fail. I think (hope!) that applies to the MDX but I'm fortunate enough to have not tested that premise (yet...).

FWIW, I'd say that the automatic transmission on ANY car is going to be the weak link, though some are better than others. I sincerely wish my MDX had a manual six-speed... that would make it nearly perfect (since it would be quicker, more economical, more reliable, and a lot less annoying to drive).
 
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