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I was wandering around the NHTSA web site tonight and found the results of their Defect Investigation into Honda 3 gear transmission failures. It was listed under 2003 Acura 3.2TL at http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/defect/results.cfm . There were 3 documents listed – be careful, the 2nd one is 15Mb in size. Near the end of the 15Mb file there was some data about 2002 MDX failures. It showed 8 failures as of Sept 02, with an increasing trend since Apr 02. (There are >1000 failures in CL’s and TL’s)There is tons of Honda technical info in the document. To summarize the problem, the 3 gear clutch pack overheats (>300C in clutch) and wears excessively which causes shifting problems or engine flare-up. Debris can also clog the oil strainers and in some cases cause the tranny to suddenly shift from 5th to 2nd gear due to low hydraulic pressures. The strainers also fail. The root causes appear to be:
- Poor clutch plate finish (US sourced plates were worse than Japan.)
- Excessive heat generation during 2-3 and 3-2 shifts
- inadequate lube flows to clutch
The fixes were to change plate design (implemented Apr02) and revise ECU computer shift programs (May 02)
There was also a note on one graph which stated: “Currently MQ has “Direct Call-in” for all ‘02M MDX ATM’s suspect for 3rd Clutch Failure to do quick analysis”.
The NHTSA closed the investigation in March 2003 and based on Honda’s information, concluded there is no safety defect. I would not want my MDX to suddenly shift from 5th to 2nd on a snow covered road!!!
 

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Nice info. Honda isnt the best with transmission for some reason but if you consider all the other brands out there that have problems, I think Honda (and toyota) are till the best and most reliable cars out there.
 

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Just an FYI - as mentioned on another thread, 03 tranny also has its own sump while pre-03 models share the same ATF fluid for both tranny and transfer assembly. Transfer assembly on 03 now uses gear oil(SAE90 or 80w90).
 

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It sounds like the transmission cooler that comes with the towing package should be standard equipment with our without the hitch.

Just a theory on why TL failures appear to be so much higher than MDX failures with possibly the same transmission: Maybe there's additional clearance around the MDX transmission, or extra air cooling flow, plus a lot of MDXs have the transmission cooler.
 

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Dale MDX said:
It sounds like the transmission cooler that comes with the towing package should be standard equipment with our without the hitch.

Just a theory on why TL failures appear to be so much higher than MDX failures with possibly the same transmission: Maybe there's additional clearance around the MDX transmission, or extra air cooling flow, plus a lot of MDXs have the transmission cooler.
It's just a gut feeling, but I am willing to bet more TL trannies are shifted and downshifted manually through the gears than MDXs.
 

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I'm a firm believer heat has a lot to do with this. With engine operating temps increasing to help with emissions issues, tranny fluid is running hotter and takes a beating. Fluid is cheap so check it often. When it looks or smells bad, change it.

Look at the issue Toyota is having with the V6 motor in the Sienna minivan, Camry, and other models. Water jacket sizes in the heads reduced to raise head temps and guess what - the oil sludges. Oil ports get clogged and there goes the motor. Toyots'a replacing a few of these per the recall at a bunch of $$.

I'm suspecting a number of the TL failures are a result of the vehicle being driven hard, hence more heat. The trans fluid temp is about what the engine temp is ~190 or more. No question there may also be some defective parts, but I remember engines putting out more power than the MDX-type plants and tranny's holding up much better than new ones. Coincidence maybe?
 

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I don't think the TL (FWD) and the MDX have the same transmission, but I could be wrong! I lost three transmissions on my 02 TL, that's why I now have an 03 TL. I hope the 02 MDX doesn't have problems.
 

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I think it had something to do with the manufacturing process of the the third gear. Not neccassarily a flaw in the tranny design, but in a part not up to spec. I dunno, you'll have to look into the NHTSA files. Since then, they changed up the proccess and the quality is close to that of the units produced in Japan.
 

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On the CL forum (I don't know how to post links) there's a very detailed and technical topic about the TL/CL transmission problem with some mention of the MDX. It's worth a read and has a lot of Honda inside information etc.
 

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Hockeyplayer, the TL forum seems to be down but I found it at acura-cl.com, go to frequent topics, then transmission problems.
Happy skating.
 

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AcuraMDX2002 said:
I don't think the TL (FWD) and the MDX have the same transmission, but I could be wrong! I lost three transmissions on my 02 TL, that's why I now have an 03 TL. I hope the 02 MDX doesn't have problems.
I'm not sure, but I do know that Acura is giving all the 01 and 02 TL owners a free 7yr/100K mile tranny warranty but they are not giving it to the 03 owners. Also, the 03 tranny feels completely different that the 02 (and I had three 02 trannys!).

There are times that I 'wonder' about my X tranny, but I don't drive it all the time, my wife does and she hasn't noticed any problems.
 

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Hello, perhaps this may help. This is an older thread where a very helpful member contributed some schematics of the various transmissions.

http://www.acuramdx.org/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=7513

Net-net, the '03 MDX transmission is a significantly different design than the previous MDX, and the problematic TL/CL.

The 01-02 MDX transmissions seem very similar in many ways to the TL/CL. However, there are some definite differences and the part numbers are different. Acura themselves had said (before there were any transmission problems admitted in the TL/CL) that the MDX had a "toughened" version of the transmission from other Honda vehicles, to handling AWD and towing. Perhaps that "toughness" has led to the MDX not having experienced the same level of problems (so far) that the TL/CL have had. Whether or not it prevents the problems at the same level, or simply delays the inevitable, won't be known for some time.
 

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tigmd99 said:
Doesn't the '03 TL have the same potential tranny problem?? I don't think Acura fixed anything for 2003 TL.
2003 MDX does NOT have the same problem.

It was one of two reasons I opted for an '03 over a used '01 or '02. The other reason was the new stability control on the '03. But I *do* think the '03 TL is susceptible to the same problem.
 

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It's been some time since the original discussions took place on the subject. We still haven't replaced an MDX transmission. I went through a big battle to get transmission info on the MDX with corporate (and with TheRobSJ here) to prove that the MDX was not prone to the same transmission failure rates that were happening in the TL, which consumed this board with fear. I still stand by what I said back then. Naturally I'm not saying that NO transmission has ever failed, but as I recall the failure rate was less than 1/10 of 1%.

Those threads are buried in here somewhere......
 

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(god I hate to even jump into this, but...)

If I am not mistaken Tim, the numbers you quoted seemed to jibe well with the NHTSA numbers posted in another thread.
 

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2001 MDX transmission failure

I have a 2001 MDX with navigation/touring. The car has 57,000 miles but has been maintained very well. A few weeks ago I couldn't go over 30 mi/hr. I rolled into the dealer and was told that the transmission was shot and would cost me $7,000. After 10 days of dealing with Acura headquarters they agreed to replace it and just charge me just $800 (I also payed the $700 it cost in car rentals). The transmission failed again a few days later. Now it's in for a second time (I don't think there will be a charge this time and they are paying for my rental now). I wanted to try trading it in early but I have 21 months left on a lease. The dealer is going to try to speak to headquarters but they don't know what they will do.
It worries me to keep this car for the next two years. Is this a worrisome problem that 2 transmissions have failed? Should I try having Acura do more than replace this transmission- ie. treat this as a "lemon law" car- even though it has >18k?
Thanks for your advice,

Eric
 
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