Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

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NHTSA — Power Train Problems

2003 Acura MDX (Page 1 of 3)


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
3 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
116,477 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Acura MDX drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Acura MDX Owner Comments (Page 1 of 3)

problem #42

Jul 272016


  • 163,000 miles


Torqe converter going out shattering noise third gear 30 to 40 mph about 1500 rpms there has been over 100 complaints online about the same issue

- Turlock, CA, USA

problem #41

Jan 012016


  • 100,000 miles
Failing torque converter. Very common problem for this vehicle but Honda refuses to recall and stand behind this safety defect.

- Hendersonville, NC, USA

problem #40

Feb 152016


  • 200,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Acura MDX. While accelerating from a stop light, the vehicle went in reverse with the shifter still in the drive position. The vehicle was not taken to a dealer. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 200,000.

- Sterling, CT, USA

problem #39

Oct 202015


  • 120,000 miles


I think it is about time that we all push NHTSA to make Acura/Honda recall all these MDX from 2001 to 2012 to have these torque converters and transmissions replaced and fixed once and for all!!! this is very dangerous as there is no sign when these cars are going to lock up and go from 75 mph down to 40 mph and then stays at 40mph till you can get off the highway to an exit. I swear maybe somebody needs to get seriously hurt when they get rear ended by someone that has no clue why you have come to a sudden change of speed. This week it's different then before, now it almost threw me through the windshield had I not had my seat belt on. Though when your not expecting a cars transmission to halt so fast it still scares the life out of you and then try and get over to the breakdown lane. This is my 2nd repair or rebuild of all these items and for the cost of these cars when new Acura should be sued and made to pay to fix these drive train defaults!!! come on NHTSA you know they are in the wrong and lets get these cars fixed too once in for all before more people are killed or seriously hurt.

- Geneva, AL, USA

problem #38

Sep 152015


  • 100,000 miles
When approaching speeds of 35mph, the vehicle would begin to make a rumbling noise from the front and would then start to shake heavily. The shaking of the vehicle would continue until you would go faster than 40mph or slower than 25mph. The vehicle is very distracting when rumbling and creates a safety hazard as attention is taken away from the road and put onto the vehicle. Furthermore, you are forced to either speed, up to 40mph or slow down to 25mph to stop the rumbling, interfering with driving and possibly breaking laws.

- Spokane Valley, WA, USA

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problem #37

Apr 252015


  • 151,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Acura MDX. The contact stated that the vehicle stalled without warning. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic who diagnosed that the transmission and the torque converter needed to be replaced. The vehicle was also included in NHTSA campaign number: 15V045000 (air bags). The contact was unable to schedule the recall repair within a reasonable timeframe because the part was unavailable. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 151,000.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #36

Aug 212014

MDX 6-cyl

  • 152,000 miles


Transmission stopped working. Failed while I was driving the car. The car basically coasted to a stop. There seem to be numerous complaints about the 2003 MDX transmission failing. Acura is reimbursing some drivers, but not others.

- Richmond, VA, USA

problem #35

Aug 042014

MDX 6-cyl

  • 120,000 miles
While merging onto a highway or passing another car on a two lane road I push the gas pedal hard to accelerate quickly (either to pass quickly or to accelerate beyond a car who is not allowing me to merge onto a freeway). The transmission comes out of gear and just revs as if in neutral. I must release the gas pedal and slowly attempt to accelerate. This causes a huge safety risk while trying to avoid an oncoming car while passing or trying to avoid getting run off the freeway or worse into a barrier when merging onto a freeway. Transmission is showing no other signs of transmission failure at all. No slipping, good fluid color, and has been maintained by multiple Acura dealerships. Acura diagnosed transmission failure and 3rd gear clutch being gone at a repair cost of $6K. Acura declined to assist in cost since I am second owner.

- Northglenn, CO, USA

problem #34

Dec 192013

MDX 6-cyl

  • 150,000 miles
At approximately 35 mph the car made a vibration or shudder noise for about 10-15 seconds and began to done this from then on at about that speed. I the car to Acura to have a recall performed and asked them to check this. I told them that you have to drive the car to feel when is happen. They said that they could not repeat the effect. After picking the car up I felt the same vibration on my way home. I did some web research and found this to be a fairly common issue in models with the engine transmission setup. I would like to know the depth of testing required to trouble shoot this issue and if the car is safe to use" what will the failure mode be"

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #33

May 172014

MDX 6-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
Owner of 2003 MDX with 140,000 miles on it. Was working perfectly till it decelerate all the sudden while driving in dallas tollway. It felt as if the gear was on neutral and gas pedal was being forced. This would cause the motor to rev up but the transmission was failing and the gear wasn't responding. Vehicle came to complete stop, where the driver power off the engine and powered back on to see the difference and the vehicle started moving again for a minute and then back to no power. After taken to a transmission specialist, it was diagnosed as transmission failure.

- Addison, TX, USA

problem #32

Dec 312013

MDX 6-cyl

  • 95,663 miles


While traveling at around the speed limit on a busy freeway the vehicle suddenly started coasting without any warning. Stepping on the gas caused the engine to rev but no acceleration, which made it extremely dangerous to try to pull the vehicle to the shoulder with the right lane heavily occupied by 18 wheeler trucks that are long and respond slowly. Any speed you loose, particularly after applying some brake to move from one lane to another, cannot be regained to safely maneuver with flow of the traffic and make the subsequent lane change even more dangerous. After towing to an Acura dealer it was diagnosed with a failed transmission and costs $6,100 to replace with a rebuilt transmission. Although the vehicle is beyond its warranty period, it is nonetheless disappointing to have an Acura fail in this fashion considering that there are many lower cost vehicles that easily last beyond 100,000 miles without transmission issues. The vehicle certainly met its warranty requirements, but it is really the sudden nature and crash risk of this failure that is a bigger concern. I later learned from 3 co-workers that had similar transmission experiences with their MDX. Two were 2001/2002 MDX with approx 100,000 and 80,000 miles. The 3rd was a 2006 MDX with only approx 55,000 miles.

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #31

Jun 202012

MDX 6-cyl

  • 98,000 miles
This problem started a few years back my wife was driving the vehicle out of the garage at hartford hospital she said she stepped on the gas and the car would not move, this did not happen again for several months, when the weather got colder it started to happen more frequent, then in the spring it went away again I thought it might be a sensor it would never happen when I drove it, this winter it has done this many times we took it to capitol transmission in hartford last summer they did not find any problems but said it could be the trans or possibly a sensor no definite answer so do I fork up 4 grand or wait till it has a code or blows up while driving the fluid has been replaced almost every year drained and filled with Honda fluid this last time I flushed out the whole system ( I am a automotive tech ) I do have some invoices from Honda for the fluid.

- Manchester, CT, USA

problem #30

Mar 152014

MDX 6-cyl

  • 134,154 miles
The transmission on the vehicle when cold functions and shifts normally. Once the vehicle has been operating for a short period of time and is warm the transmission, when at a stop sign or traffic light, will drop out of drive and into neutral disengaging the drive train. The only way for the transmission to become reengaged is to shift the transmission into neutral or park and then reshift into drive. This works sometimes and others it does not and has to be reshifted several time for the transmission to reengage.

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #29

Feb 172014

MDX 6-cyl

  • 142,000 miles
Vehicle went into neutral when approaching a stop. This repeated several times throughout my trip (approx. 25 miles). I have kept up with transmission services and maintenance schedules since ownership Feb of 2012. I have read of several complaints regarding the same symptoms from other owners. Why is Honda not willing to further investigate ?

- Granger, IN, USA

problem #28

Aug 152013

MDX 6-cyl

  • 150,000 miles
When driving my 2003 Acura MDX (SUV), last fall, the transmission began to slip out of gear at low speeds. It would be in 3rd gear as I would slow to make a turn or enter a parking area. When I finished a turn and began to accelerate, the car was no longer in gear and the engine just revs as if it was in neutral. In traffic, I would have to bring the MDX to a complete stop (RPM to zero) and then the transmission would re-engage and move forward again. Soon, I was having to put the car in a lower gear to get it to move forward and each time the car decelerates, the transmission slips. In moving traffic, having to make a complete stop in the middle of a street or when entering the highway, etc., is dangerous. I have stopped driving the car because I cannot trust it to keep moving in regular traffic. I was not aware of the torque converter bulletin / recall on the car (I am second owner), even though I have kept up with scheduled maintenance. I contacted Acura (hoy fox Acura, el paso, tx) for assistance, but they were dismissive when they discovered I did not purchase my Acura from them. Acura North America customer relations has also been contacted, and are telling me the vehicle is out of warranty (it currently has 200,000 miles, but is no longer safe to drive due to the transmission failure). I have reviewed and researched a huge amount of 2003 MDX transmission failures from 45K miles to 200,000 miles (my issue began at about 150,000 miles). Documentation online reflects that Acura MDX has been plagued with transmission problems. There is also literature and documentation linking transmission failure to the torque converter issues in this model. This is my first Acura, and I do like it enough to purchase another one. Not sure I will be that "loyal", though, after this situation. Many owners suggest filing a complaint with NHTSA.

- Alamogordo, NM, USA

problem #27

Dec 312011


  • 115,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Acura MDX. The contact was driving 10 mph when the transmission began to slip. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for inspection however, they were unable to detect a problem. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the issue. The approximate failure mileage was 115,000.

- South Riding , VA, USA

problem #26

Dec 192012


  • 137,000 miles
I was putting my car into drive on a hill and it rolled backwards. Called a tow truck and had a mechanic look at it and told me I needed a new transmission and I was lucky I didn't hurt anyone. There are a lot of kids in our neighborhood.$3900 later. I have read all sorts of problems with this yr/make with their transmissions. Why isn't their a recall?

- Kansas City, MO, USA

problem #25

Sep 102013

MDX 6-cyl

  • 124,000 miles
When I first purchased my MDX (used 32K miles) I had an issue with shuddering between 35-45 and it would feel like it wouldn't go. It took until my car was at 55K miles for a service tech to finally here the problem and diagnose it correctly. I had to replace the torque converter and transmission. Then again at 124K miles I heard the exact same noise!! I took the car back to Acura and was told they could not duplicate the noise...of course they couldn't. I said I had this problem before, you replaced my transmission, you know this is a defect of Acura/Honda. They insisted it wasn't the problem but in fact I needed a catalytic converter. So, I replaced the catalytic converter at $1,100 and drove off the lot with same shudder ( it represented itself within the month)!! they said I have to bring back and drive with a tech. I have yet to get it back there because of my work schedule their lack of accommodations for saturdays. Now I am at 160K and am trying to get the car back in and they are acting like they have no idea what could possibly be wrong. This is extremely frustrating! out of warranty. Working on possibly a 3rd is crazy and unsafe! I bought an Acura because of the quality reputation they have. I am very disappointed. I have even called Honda and they are useless. If you are not constantly buying a new Honda product and servicing them at the ridiculous prices they do not find you a loyal customer therefore do not want to help you!!! please make them own their defaults!!

- Pennsville , NJ, USA

problem #24

Aug 082013


  • 145,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Acura MDX. The contact stated that while the vehicle was parked and unoccupied, it rolled away and crashed into a pond, becoming completely submerged underwater. The vehicle was destroyed and was not diagnosed to determine the cause of the failure. The manufacturer was contacted about the failure. The failure mileage was 145,000.

- Hamilton, OH, USA

problem #23

Aug 092013


  • 150,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Acura MDX. The contact stated that while parked and occupied, the vehicle erroneously shifted into neutral and rolled into a pond. The vehicle was destroyed. The manufacturer was not notified. The approximate failure mileage was 150,000.

- Hamilton , ID, USA

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