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Discussion Starter #1
So, a month or so ago, I noticed something feeling a little loose in the front suspension of my '06. It has ~125K miles on it so, I thought, well, something is just getting worn. I took it into a reputable shop that specializes in suspension, alignment, etc. After checking it out, they told me they couldn't find anything wrong. They said maybe the inside tie rod on the passenger side was a little loose but, nothing serious.

Now, there is a shimmy or wobble (left and right back and forth) in the steering that is most pronounced between 30-40mph. The frequency of the wobble is relative to speed. Clearly, something is wrong and I need to get it fixed before things get worse or it takes out something else.

Anybody have this happen on these older MDXs and have any thoughts on where I might direct the shop to look? In addition to the "loose" feeling in the suspension over small bumps, etc., and wobble, the steering itself has been pretty tight/stiff on a few of these cold mornings. The tight steering goes back to when the suspension started feeling a little loose over bumps. I'm not sure if the conditions are related but, just trying to explain the whole picture.

Any insights are much appreciated.
 

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Recommend checking the large compliance bushings in the lower control arm for cracks. Pretty common and causes about a 1/2 inch - 1 inch left/right steering wheel wobble at the speeds you mention. You can inspect the bushing by turning the front wheels out left and right and looking between the wheel and cabin. Picture shows cracked drivers side bushing.

Worn ball joint could contribute to the wobble. The arm holds the lower ball joint. I've replaced just the ball joint and large bushing but it's easier to replace the whole part. (Worn tie rods could contribute too.) If you find the cracked bushings and you have tools, it's 30 mins a side swap out the whole arm. If you're going to replace the whole arm, a pickle fork will work fine. If you're going to reuse the ball joint, you need to get separator so you don't stretch the socket of the ball joint or ruin the boot. With your miles, the whole arm is probably the easiest/fastest way to go.

Here's a link for the part and separator.

https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo.php?pk=4754451&cc=1432637&jsn=341

https://www.harborfreight.com/3-4-quarter-inch-forged-ball-joint-separator-99849.html?cid=paid_google|*PLA+-+All+Products+-+Higher+Sales+Items|New+Products+-+(2)+Price+$10-30|99849&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&mkwid=s|pcrid|278918170779|pkw||pmt||pdv|c|slid||product|99849|pgrid|57009142739|ptaid|pla-296221590693|&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIi-OGzrDX4AIVDqlpCh1sUAbFEAQYASABEgJF9vD_BwE

Good luck!
 

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A couple more things. Out of balance tires or stuck/dragging brake caliper can cause the wobble. If you've had the condition for a while, your tires might be worn with that wobble pattern. A tire balance and rotation front/back might help. When the tire is up, you can spin it and check/listen for brake drag.
 

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Yes, rotate the tires - that will possibly rule out the tires / balance as an issue (if it doesn't change the symptom).

Agree with all the above possible issues - I've had worn tie rods cause a wobble, both times the outer tie rods (easier to see/feel to check if there's a problem). It's easy enough to have someone turn the steering wheel back and forth while you watch / touch the tie rod ends. Any discernable movement across the length of the tie rod or between the tie rod and the steering knuckle is too much.

The bushings do wear out, and if they're in visibly bad shape, swapping out the lower control arms will restore the feel and handling of your car (and will also result in new ball joints, so one less thing to worry about). Oh, and it'll require an alignment, which is bad ($$) and good (eliminate alignment issues from the list).

The other thing that can cause this kind of problem is a failing CV joint in one of your axles. If one of them has a ripped boot, the chances are much higher that could be the problem. Basically, if you can feel any discernable rotational play in the axles, they are probably bad (don't be confused by the large amount of play between the transmission and hub - that's normal to get a lot of rotation).
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Recommend checking the large compliance bushings in the lower control arm for cracks. Pretty common and causes about a 1/2 inch - 1 inch left/right steering wheel wobble at the speeds you mention. You can inspect the bushing by turning the front wheels out left and right and looking between the wheel and cabin. Picture shows cracked drivers side bushing.

Worn ball joint could contribute to the wobble. The arm holds the lower ball joint. I've replaced just the ball joint and large bushing but it's easier to replace the whole part. (Worn tie rods could contribute too.) If you find the cracked bushings and you have tools, it's 30 mins a side swap out the whole arm. If you're going to replace the whole arm, a pickle fork will work fine. If you're going to reuse the ball joint, you need to get separator so you don't stretch the socket of the ball joint or ruin the boot. With your miles, the whole arm is probably the easiest/fastest way to go.

Here's a link for the part and separator.

https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo.php?pk=4754451&cc=1432637&jsn=341

https://www.harborfreight.com/3-4-quarter-inch-forged-ball-joint-separator-99849.html?cid=paid_google|*PLA+-+All+Products+-+Higher+Sales+Items|New+Products+-+(2)+Price+$10-30|99849&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&mkwid=s|pcrid|278918170779|pkw||pmt||pdv|c|slid||product|99849|pgrid|57009142739|ptaid|pla-296221590693|&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIi-OGzrDX4AIVDqlpCh1sUAbFEAQYASABEgJF9vD_BwE

Good luck!
Thank you so much. I went out and took a look at the compliance bushings. They look OK but, a little tough to tell given some crud build up. I'm in MI. And, thanks a lot for the detailed explanation and links for the parts and tooling. I'll probably just replace the entire arm.

The MDX is at Discount Tire right now getting a balance and rotation. In looking close at the wheels, I see where it looks like some weights may have come off. That happens with the ice build up on things here in the winter. If the balance and rotation doesn't change the behavior, I now have a viable place to look.

When the compliance bushings crack, is there a perceptible "bumping" feeling (not so much sound) that you can notice or sense when going over sharp expansion cracks, etc., while driving slow? That was the symptom I had checked out at the suspension shop. The steering wheel wobble came after and again, it looks like there's a rectangle of adhesive residue where a weight was. That could be there from a re-balance after tire replacement but, it looks fresher than that. I guess we'll see.

Thanks again for taking the time to provide the insight and details. I really appreciate it. I love this car and want to get it fixed. Nothing, and I mean nothing outside of maintenance, has ever gone wrong with this vehicle after nearly 13 years of driving it. It's just rock solid. I maintain it extremely well so, it even looks great inside and out. This is likely the first thing that may have actually worn out or just failed from use.
 

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I’ve replaced my compliance bushings or arm assembly 3 times in 155K miles (had the 06 since new). The first replacement with new arms lasted about 1500 miles. Each time, I only noticed the wobble, not any looseness as you describe. I suppose it could happen if the front bushing in the arm were crumbling and the rear bushing was cracked so bad it allowed a lot of movement.

To check that bushing for cracks again, you could wipe it down (I’d say use water but sounds like you’re in freezing weather) and then jack up the tire so the arm hangs down and stretches the bushing. It should be pretty obvious. (You can search the forum for lower control arms. I also just googled “image of cracked compliance bushing” and a bunch came up).

Might also be time to check your front struts and see if they might be causing the looseness.
 

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One of the symptoms that points directly at the rear bushings (primarily) is the sharp "thump" you get upon a quick application of the brakes. When you do that, your front wheels are essentially "pushing back" against the control arm, and if the rear bushing is shot, you'll feel the movement of the control arm, and possibly even get a dull, metallic clunk (if the bushing is really bad).

And FWIW, I too was fairly astonished at how little I had to do to keep my '04 MDX on the road over the few years and 90,000+ miles I owned it (ending with nearly a quarter million miles on the clock). I "over-maintained it" in a lot of ways, but always considered it a great investment, particularly when compared to driving a much newer, low-mileage vehicle for the same number of miles (with the resulting depreciation).
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Update:

First, thanks to all for the great information and details. I really appreciate it.

I had taken the MDX into a local Discount Tire that I've been buying tires from for many cars over many years (kids, mother, girlfriend, etc.) They have always been really good to me. I told them what was going on and asked that they rotate and balance the tires. I could see where it looked like I had lost a weight from one of the front wheels. They called and told me the tires were nearly 7 years old and had 55K miles on them. There was dry rot and cracks showing up and they were concerned even though the tread was only down to 4/32" on the front and 5/32" on the rear. While that's pretty close to done, I had planned to wait until fall to replace them. I have other cars and the MDX sits most of the summer except for trips, hauling things, etc.

Anyway, I succumbed and had them install new tires. If the problem(s) still existed, I would immediately continue my quest to identify the cause and fix it. But, somewhat to my surprise, the new treads seem to have resolved everything. I was really shocked that the "loose" feeling over small sharp bumps, etc., also disappeared. I'll still be looking hard for any issues over the next couple of weeks but, so far, so good. It could be the previous tires were really shot. I was rolling just under 85mph on Sunday on my way home from Northern MI. The speed limit is 75 here so, not too bad but, I'm glad to have the new tires.

Incidentally, I had Michelin Latitude Tour tires on it and they talked me into Michelin Defender LTX tires. They say they are the overall highest rated tires across the US for the MDX. And, the Latitudes, which I liked, were obsolete and so, I could have trouble getting a replacement after a year or so. I have nearly zero experience with these tires but, can comment once I've driven across the wide array of conditions we get here.

Thanks again to all and I'll update the post if anything changes.
 

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Glad to hear it. Have the same Defender tires on our X. We mostly use Americas Tire (I think the same company as Discount) or Costco. I like the payment plan at Americas plus the ability to make appts and get out usually within an hour or less.
 

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I'm also a big fan of the Michelin tires - they do seem to last longer than most other options, albeit at a premium price. I guess it's a "you get what you pay for" thing.

I'm not too shocked (pardon the suspension pun) that your main issue disappeared with new tires. There are a lot of tire-related things (including weights falling off!) that can affect the way the car rides. That said, I suspect that there are other less obvious issues that were apparent because of the fact your old tires had gotten "hard" (from age, and from the lack of tread depth). That tends to transfer more shock to the suspension - if you have bushings on the way out, it's going to be pretty obvious with hard, worn tires, and less so with nice new cushy tires. That's not to say that "it's a real problem", but that I suspect you probably do have other suspension components that are worn enough that they'll be letting you know soon(ish).
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I did some checking on the compliance bushing, etc., over the weekend. Take a look at these pics. The compliance bushings (both sides are very similar) have some cracks but, are not broken or yielding. Maybe these many cracks are enough to feel?

A bigger concern is the crack I found in mount for the lower control arm? I don't know much about front end parts so, I'm probably not using the right terminology. Regardless, I'm guessing the mounting area shouldn't be cracked and I can't imagine it would be a good thing if it broke.

What do you guys think about these pics?
113620
113621
 

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Given the number of miles on your car, and the details of the "looseness" issues you were experiencing, I'd say it's time for new control arms. Mine were in that kind of shape at 160,000 miles when I bought the car, though having lived a relatively sheltered life on the roads of Arizona. New control arms (and tie rod ends) made a big difference in the way the car felt to drive. Well worth the money. I suggest doing the tie rods while you're doing the lower control arms, since you won't have to get another alignment done if one of them DOES get wobbly in the future. Just go with quality parts so you don't have to be swapping them out again soon. Also, with the new LCAs you get new ball joints, which is just one more thing to keep your front end feeling tight and "new".
 

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Yikes - that’s a cracked knuckle! If that breaks and comes off the ball joint while you are driving, you could loose control. That’s one to take care of right away.

Link from Acura shows the part. It’s #1 or #2 depending on left or right side (might be a #2 if it breaks while you’re driving). You can get the part number and search online to compare prices. Lowest cost would be from a wrecking yard - besides your local yards, once source is car-part.com


That’s a pretty big job cause the brakes, shocks, bearing, and wheel are connected to it.

Check your opposite side for cracks too.

Re the cracked compliance bushing, if it was my X, I would replace it. The ball joints maybe be worn so I would replace the whole arm and get the ones that come with ball joint and bushings. Try Rockauto or Amazon.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I just had to update you guys. So, I sent the pictures above to a service rep at the Acura dealer where I bought the MDX. His response, and I quote exactly, "Neither one of these would concern me normal wear and tear but nothing that will cause an issue."

I've already ordered the knuckle/spindle assembly (used) from LKQ. It will be here Friday. It came off an '06 that had 23K miles on it when it was wrecked from the passenger side. I should be OK with that. The knuckle itself is like $435 for a new OEM part.
 

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That second photo didn't come through when I last saw this thread (I remember just the "failed photo" symbol). Yikes is right! If that really IS a crack, there's no way I'd drive that vehicle anywhere without replacing the knuckle. My daughter had her Subaru fixed by a "professional" who left the ball joint nut loose, and/or left off the cotter (locking) pin. The end result is that the car lurched and fell down on its front wheel. By the grace of God, this happened just after she pulled off rush-hour I-45 traffic north of Houston (one of the LAST places I'd want to be sliding sideways across the road). So the end result was (thankfully) a tow and a little body damage, but it could have been catastrophically worse.

I think you're fine putting on a used part - there really isn't any "wear item" other than the wheel bearing, which should be a lot better in the "new one".
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for the comments and confirmation. I'm glad your daughter didn't get hurt. It's crazy that something that dangerous got overlooked.

That really is a crack in the picture. It's very old too given the inside of the crack is rusted and flaking away. I'm glad I found it as well. We're supposed to be heading up to northern MI this weekend and I would have driven it there. It's a 4 hour drive and much of it is on highway with a 75mph speed limit. Which, in MI, means you set the cruise at 84mph. Yikes is right!

I received the new knuckle/spindle assembly today. It's a little rusty, to be expected, but I wanted to ask about the wheel bearing. When I spin the hub where the rotor would mount, it moves freely but, I can feel a faint "detent" or "vibration" as opposed to be being completely smooth motion. It's consistent so, maybe this is normal given the size of the conical bearing and the rods that are in it. I'm just not familiar with how good wheel bearings should feel. I'll take it by the shop that is doing the repair and get their feedback. That way, I can get a new wheel bearing here tomorrow if this one is a problem.

I also went ordered and received new control arms. While it's torn apart and needs an alignment anyway, I'm going to have those replaced along with pads and rotors.

Any thoughts on the wheel bearing would be appreciated.
 

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The bearing in the "new" knuckle should feel pretty smooth. I don't recall either my old pre-change bearing, or certainly the new Moog post-change bearings having detents that were detectable, but it COULD be due to the amount of time the donor car sat unused, particularly if it was a northern car. I can imagine that resulting in some sort of pitting / rust if the grease wasn't 100%, and if so, I'd guess that it would smooth out over time. Of course, you're looking at two possibilities - one, you can install it as-is and hope for the best, and have a decent chance of getting away with it. But if there IS a problem with that bearing, you're going to have to pull the knuckle again and have a new bearing pressed in. Or, you could get a new bearing pressed in "just because" and avoid that possibility. With a new Timken (good company, IMHO) bearing costing around $40, I think I'd err to the conservative option and get a new bearing pressed in, though I like the idea of having your shop look at the "new" knuckle - they may have a greybeard tech who can discern how that bearing really is.

I like your approach of replacing the LCAs while you're in the area - that IS a good idea, IMHO, particularly for a northern car, since the bearings, bushing and particularly ball joints lead a much tougher life than our pampered desert parts out here in Arizona. ;-) Getting it all done and then aligned is maximizing that bang for the buck (since those parts aren't all that expensive, and will make the car feel much "newer").
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks habbyguy. You're right, there is a gray beard at the shop (owner) and he said he doesn't trust the bearing. He's ordering a new one and can install it there. I saw the Moog replacement hub and bearing assembly available on Amazon for $65. I hope he just orders an assembly as the hub was a little rusty and the safety screws were damaged, etc. I would like to have a clean new hub while we're at it.

I'm looking forward to getting the MDX back with all of these parts replaced and the valves adjusted. It will cost around $1K but, will probably feel and drive nearly like new. I've got some slight rough/irregular idle and after trying all the simple stuff, asked them to confirm and then adjust the valves if necessary.
 

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My thoughts on my own MDX was that I felt a lot better about putting money into making it the best vehicle it could be (doubly easy because I wasn't paying anyone labor). ;-)

Compared to buying another used car (with the million or so things you might run into), or buying a more expensive "newer" car (ditto on the million things, plus the money that just disappeared from the bank account), spending some money to get a 1gen MDX into really great shape is (IMHO) one of the best investments you'll make on a car. I went above and beyond on doing preemptive maintenance on mine, and so enjoyed many tens of thousands of "nearly new feeling" driving with very little trouble. From160,000 miles (when I bought my '04) to 246,000 miles (when I sold it), only a few relatively minor failures popped up. An alternator failed in the middle of nowhere, and the high pressure power steering hose started leaking on a road trip a few thousand miles from home. I did have a window regulator fail in Texas (easy, cheap replacement) and I had to fiddle with a couple little things like the vent motor, but all in all it was a ridiculously reliable vehicle that I would have drive anywhere even with that quarter million miles on the clock. The total depreciation including the maintenance I did on the vehicle came out to under 5 cents a mile - a small fraction of what it would have been had I been putting those miles on a newer, lower-mileage vehicle.

When I sold it, it presented and drove like a mid-mileage vehicle, and is no doubt still taking care of the new owner.
 
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