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So Long, My Jerking Acura RDX

posted by Julie April 23, 2018 18 Comments

Scroll to the bottom of this post for updates!

As most of you know, I wrote a detailed post a few years ago about my struggles with my brand new 2016 Acura RDX SUV. You can read the full post about it here. This was my first luxury car purchase, our new family car, and a “so-long” to my minivan years. I did a ton of research on cars, had loved all of our previous Hondas, and wanted to upgrade; thus our Acura RDX purchase. I was ecstatic!

Acura RDX jerk hesitation gear shift

Fast forward a few months and I started noticing hesitations in the transmission, specifically shifting from first to second gear. I took it to the dealership and I was told the car is working fine. Since I couldn’t replicate the problem while at the dealership, there was nothing they could do. I think I took the car in a total of 4-5 times and always mentioned the jerky gear change, even if I was there for a different issue. Only once did I get any clue from an employee that the lurchy transmission was “normal,” and that the transmission was “shifting as designed.”

These are all of the various explanations that I have been given or heard from dealers (and others) about the jerking transmission:

  • Every Acura drives like this, there is nothing wrong
  • This is characteristic of the Acura engine
  • Acura is working on a software fix
  • These cars’ transmissions get to know the driver and the driving style changes based on who is driving.
  • The gear shifting hesitations are the result of Acura’s improvements in the fuel efficiency. The car wants to get up into the higher gears faster and sometimes the car/engine isn’t ready to switch gears yet

In the 32 months that we’ve owned the car, the front brake pads and rotors were replaced twice. Initially, we were experiencing an embarrassing, loud squeak when pressing the brake pedal. Acura claimed there was rust build up on the brake pads and replaced them.  During this time, we also experienced a bad, high-pitched squeak upon turning as well. The replacement of the brake pads was supposed to fix this. It didn’t, but it did fix our ‘squeaking when braking’ issue. Eventually our brake pads were replaced again seven months later, but the squeaky turns continued.

Our entertainment system had to be replaced once because it was booting up with gibberish and random characters instead of radio presets. Acura acknowledged the defect and replaced our interface. I also had a fluttering noise within a dash air vent that was eventually replaced.

Most recently, I’ve been experiencing occasional loud ticking noises coming from the engine. This ticking noise occurred usually on cold mornings when the car was idle but still in the drive gear. It was so loud I could hear it from the driver’s seat while inside the car with the windows rolled up! The ticking would come and go, as there was no pattern to when it was present, but it was unusually loud and definitely not normal for the RDX.

I took the car to the dealership again and even showed them the video with the ticking (shown below). After several technicians and a manager listened to my engine, they told me that some amount of ticking noise in the Acura engine is normal. Of course, my car wasn’t making the loud and obnoxious ticking the day I took it to be looked at so, once again, there was nothing they could do for me.

From the transmission issues, squeaking turns, and abnormal engine noises, and ALWAYS being told, “sorry there is nothing we can do for you,” or “your car runs perfectly fine,” and “nothing abnormal shows up on diagnostics,” I had reached a boiling point. Who better than the primary driver to notice when something is “off” with his/her own car?? And let me mention here that I only have 25,000 miles on the car! (As I am a stay-at-home mom, the car only takes short daily trips and the occasional family road trip.) It was then and there I decided I was done with Acura. The lies, the employees constantly giving me the run around, the false smiles, and all of the apologies made me nauseous. I walked out of the dealership knowing I would never be back.

So I decided to buy a new 2018 Honda Accord, going back to the original brand I fell in love with. (I do realize that Honda is owned by the same company as Acura, so no need to remind me! 😊)  I also did check with the salespeople and verified that the engine in this car is totally brand new and is not related to the 2016 Acura engine at all. As I was signing the purchasing paperwork, I learned that the Honda finance employee helping us hated his 2016 MDX Acura. I asked him if he ever had any jerky or hesitating transmission issues and he said, “Oh yes.” He complained of lackluster performance on highways and jerking gear shifts. He had purchased his SIXTH Acura MDX, a 2016, and that was his last. Everyone told him they thought it was a software issue at first, but that didn’t fix his problem. After all of his problems with the car, he sold it and bought a used 2011 Acura MDX and said he hasn’t looked back. Of course, I asked him WHY the car has these problems (after all, he does work for Honda), and he just said, “That’s just the characteristic of the new Acura engine.”

I am SO glad to be finally turning the page to this chapter in my life. However, as the Acura RDX is still in the family (my husband will be driving it), I will continue to provide updates and information as I receive them.

In a perfect world, I just wish that Acura would come out and admit that they make a faulty engine/transmission and offer some kind of fix. Obviously, they’re not going to do that as it would cost them millions of dollars. Acura has lost thousands (if not more) of repeat customers as they have failed to admit they have a problem and failed to fix it. I sincerely hope no one is ever seriously injured or killed as a result; unfortunately, only a serious lawsuit would force them into a corner.

Until then, my Acura friends, feel free to post comments, questions, or information to share. I will definitely be back with updates.

Happy Travels!

Julie

September 30, 2018 update:

As I continue to receive comments from readers, many of them share with me either potential fixes or procedures that were performed on their Acura. These potential fixes and services are listed here, but they didn’t work for everyone. In fact, most people still seem to have the problem.  It seems that for most people, some of the jerkiness and hesitation improved after service, but the main problem/shifting issue remained.  Acura continues to skirt the real problem with the faulty transmission and only addresses the symptoms. Here are potential fixes:

  • Transmission flush
  • Software updates
  • Replacement of gear pressure switches 
  • Changing the transmission valve body
  • Disabling the VCM transmission (Variable Cylinder Management) See svcmcontroller.com

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Acura RDX gear shift jerk hesitation

 

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18 Comments

R May 9, 2018 at 9:11 pm

Omgosh I’m experiencing the same thing up north with the 2016 Acura RDX elite. It jitters like it’s not shifting properly gettting up to 30 to 60km/hr. I thought it was just me and the technician also did a software update a few months ago and a transmission flush but to no avail the problem is back. So disappointed and like you, I was very excited to purchase this vehicle as well. Based on your story I am pessimistic whether it can be fixed at all. The problem occurs periodically and it was hard to bring it in to the dealer while the problem was happening. I don’t know if they can do anything but I want to thank you for your posts. My previous vehicle was a civic and it was great so I thought the Acura brand would have the same quality but I feel like I bought a lemon 🙁

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Julie May 9, 2018 at 9:52 pm

Glad you could find some solace in knowing the rest of us are suffering with you. Unfortunately, we gave up on getting our Acura problems fixed. We’ll be selling the car next spring. Thanks for sharing your story. Let us know if you ever get any answers! 🙂

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Joe Average May 10, 2018 at 2:47 pm

2014 MDX owner here. I think Acura is having trouble matching the transmission behavior to people’s expectations. Some people want cushy buttery smooth shifting, some people want snappy sporty shifts. I don’t know if your RDX has this but our MDX does – there is a button next to the shifter labeled IDS. Just search Google for “MDX IDS” for more info.

It makes two things happen that I can detect: It changes the steering feel and the transmission shift style. I’ve read it also changes the active noise reduction inside the cabin but I’m not sure about that.

There are three modes – comfort, normal and sport. The steering is very easy in comfort and the shifts are more soft. In sport the steering is heavy and the shifts are harder.

Around town I use normal or comfort. On highway trips I prefer the heavier steering of sport. It think it helps the MDX deal with cross winds and buffeting from big trucks better. Feels better planted and solid.

You can make the changes default to whatever you want in the car’s settings (in the little display menus between the tach and speedometer).

Your dealer doesn’t know their product very well if they haven’t been coaching you to try out the different modes to see if you like the way the car drives better.

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Julie May 10, 2018 at 4:31 pm

Thanks for sharing your information on the IDS (integrated dynamics system) of Acuras. My RDX does not have this feature. Here’s hoping this info will help others with their shifting issues! Unfortunately, it doesn’t help with mine.

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Meghan July 17, 2018 at 10:11 pm

I test drove a ’14 RDX today and happened upon your blog as I immediately noticed and didn’t like the overall jerky shifting between gears; and this car shifted far too early out of first gear for my taste. I’m glad to read this as the salesperson just explained it was the 8 speed transmission, but something just felt amiss to me. I was looking at another Acura for something that would hopefully more reliable long-term, but just goes to show no brand is 100% reliable.

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Julie July 18, 2018 at 12:46 pm

Very true. Stay away from the RDX for sure. So many of us are more than disappointed in our “luxury car” purchase. Good luck with your car search!

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R.E. August 6, 2018 at 1:35 pm

2018 RDX Advance Package

Have the hesitation at low speed primarily when cornering.Had to dealership twice,going back AGAIN
next week. Not happy!!

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Julie August 6, 2018 at 1:51 pm

I’m pretty disappointed and surprised that this is still an issue with the new models. You just bought a brand new car and you have issues with the transmission. It’s upsetting, I know. If I hear anything from Acura or anything else pertaining to this issue, I will update the website. Best of luck with your car. 🙂

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Jim Kolowich August 15, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Wow, I knew I wasn’t crazy. Your experiences from the head jerking jitter to the squeaks around corners to the same buttery smiles and shoulder shrugs of the techs at my Atlanta Acura dealer. This just grinds my shorts and will make me a loud and vocal critic of the Acura brand. I had been a faithful disciple of German brands and decided to go Japanese because of the good price and nice features, but that’s all a waste with a substandard engine and a dishonest company. This will be the last Acura this guy ever owns.

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Julie August 15, 2018 at 4:14 pm

Glad you found some camaraderie amongst us angry Acura owners. I myself have never had a problem like this with any of my Hondas, only with my one Acura. Like you, it’s the last Acura I’ll own. Thanks for reading and commenting. I will continue to post potential solutions here if any come about. 🙂

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Bill Malcolm September 10, 2018 at 10:10 am

Read your other article on the subject as well. Amazing that the RDX with the identical engine and transmission as the V-6 Accord of 2013 to 2017 should have an absurd jerky 1-2 shift. That transmission is a six-speed and has been around for a while. It should be refined and have had all the rough edges ironed out years ago, way back in the oughties when it first debuted.

I’m an actual car enthusiast and a mechanical engineer besides. I had never owned a Honda or Acura (Acura is just a division of Honda) when I went and tested the new TLX sedan in all three guises in late 2014 when they came out. Long story short, the four cylinder damn near killed me and the salesmen when its transmission lost drive to the wheels when I was turning back into the dealership (the aforementioned Atlantic Acura above). I was furious. So they said, have a go in this V6, which I knew had a new ZF 9 speed German-designed transmission, different from the 8 speed in the 4 cylinder which Acura was solely responsible for.

So off we went, That thing was herky-jerky shifting the whole test drive. On the highway a constant buffering occurred. Same thing with the SH-AWD version. Subsequent monitoring of Acura forums on the web and other personal experiences of that same dreaded 9 speed ZF on Chryslers, proved that the transmission was an underdeveloped horror. They still shove it in the TLX and MDX, Odysseys to this day, partially tamed down from its original uselessness. The “buffeting” turns out to be when the V6 automatically shuts off 3 cylinders at cruise and causes sympathetic vibrations in the bodywork. I worked that out for myself at the time by goosing it – the engine turns back to 6 cylinders for acceleration and the buffeting went away. You’d think that someone, you know, might have, could have, perhaps maybe might have, been awake enough when they were developing the car to have noticed. Given that it took me all of ten minutes wending my way through suburban streets from the dealer and a minute on the actual four-lane highway to find out. Just saying.

Like I told the dealer, with every example on the lot not even having the door tops meet evenly and orange-peel paint and the useless engineering, the car was the most underdeveloped load of old rope it had been my displeasure to test drive in forty years. It also generally felt leaden and the promise of sports sedan responses resided only in the marketers’ heads. Gave that car a wide berth and kept my old one, a far superior machine.

The trails of despondency on Acurazine webforum about the car have now gone on for four years. Some people never got satisfaction from transmission software “updates”. Some eventually got replacement transmissions from the 2016 redo, and now praise the car, even though it’s still not up to par, just a whole lot less bad. As regards the buffeting, it still goes on. Some people spent thousands on wheels and tires finely balanced, but that wasn’t the basic cause – it was the 6 to three cylinder switch at cruise and by natural variation just worse on some cars than others. Lackadaisical engineering in my personal view. Of course, there were always bright sparks popping up on the forums saying that their car was perfect and that the sufferers were hallucinating, making some people lacking self-confidence feel even worse. And other duller folk who seemed happy with theirs and never noticed anything, wondering what all the fuss was about.

I guess I’m lucky in that I pinned down the dreadfulness on my test drives by being a tuned-in enthusiast, but for the average consumer more attuned to believe that Honda-ness is next to godliness, they just bought the thing and suffered afterwards. The standard response of “your car is operating as designed” is a bad joke – it just means it was lousy design, no ifs or buts about it.

So to find here that the old six speed transmission in your RDX was (is) jerky is not comforting news. I recently drove the new Accord with its 10 speed designed by Honda, and not any relation to the rotten 9 speed in current V6 TLX, MDX, Pilot Elites and some Odysseys. It does seem sorted and unobtrusive, but then they’d have to have been blind, deaf and dumb not to realize they HAD to get it right this time. Too bad about the intrusive tire whir and roar on the new Accord. Maybe one day they’ll get it right, but I’m not holding my breath. As I told the salesman, if your new wowee car is noisier than my top of the line but ten year old Subaru Legacy GT, what do you expect me to do? Hand over near $40K and say thankyou?

I guess it’s worthwhile to reiterate – fully test drive your car choice and don’t purchase it as if it were some white-good appliance expecting everything bad has been scienced out by modern “technology”. And don’t rationalize the shortcomings you find. It’ll be you kicking yourself a few weeks later when that dread feeling of “What have I done?” comes over you if you decide to ignore what you had already noticed. Always give yourself two test drives, and insist on the second one that you drive it from cold by yourself. No warming it up behind the scenes before you get in – that covers a possible multitude of sins.

The latest CR-V has a mighty-mouse turbo engine which has the apparent habit of diluting its engine oil with gasoline, so avoid that for the time being. The oil dipstick starts to indicate more oil over time! More, not less. China made Honda recall them, but the excuse I get here is that it’s because the engines are Chinese made – sure, but it’s identical to the ones made in Ohio; what, are they going to make it out of cardboard and plastic or something over there? All iPhones are made in China. The CR-V engine problem is one of those things that doesn’t affect daily driving to begin with and only noticeable by gas smell and dipstick, so if you meet owners who haven’t encountered the problem yet personally, well it’s unfortunately probably just a matter of time, sad to say. If people do complain, for your pains Honda will make you jump through the hoops of an oil test to see if the oil level rises. This is a polite way of telling you to get lost, in my humble opinion, but probably works for 80% of customers. Nobody knows the long term effect on engine lubrication by gasoline dilution of the oil yet because the engine is relatively new on the market and is in all models of Civic as well.

You can guess what I think about the upcoming autonomous self-driving cars. Wouldn’t trust ’em even after a thorough prod with a ten-foot barge pole. If well-known car makers make duds and then excuse themselves from responsibility saying they’re all like that ma’am/sir, I’d rather not discover their brain fade moments on the highway at an inopportune moment.

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Julie September 10, 2018 at 10:54 am

Thank you for your thorough comments! I agree with your thoughts on getting two test drives, with one being a cold test drive. Unfortunately for myself and I’m sure many others, the problems we’ve had with our Acuras weren’t apparent for the first few months of ownership. My car never hesitated until the super cold winter months. I understand that trying to create a fuel efficient car can be difficult, and not every solution will be best one. Hopefully the automotive industry will turn their focus back onto the quality of cars, how they run, as well as how safe they are, instead of all the new bells and whistles they keep adding.

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ronald t. chuchola September 26, 2018 at 9:51 am

I am delighted to read these comments; I was beginning to question my sanity. My 2018 RDX with 3000 miles has a problem “hanging up” in 5th gear, frequently, BUT NOT PREDICTABLY!!! It will sometimes shift 5-6 at 38 mph; other times it refuses to shift 5-6 for l/2 mile, same road, same load, same conditions, same temperature. Go figure. Acura mechanics tell me “it is the nature of the beast.”
And for this, I paid $40K!!!.

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Julie September 27, 2018 at 6:47 am

I know. Frustrating, isn’t it? Let us know if you ever find an answer. 🙂

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Daniel September 29, 2018 at 5:39 pm

Did you fix the transmission problem with the 2016 Rdx ??

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Julie September 30, 2018 at 9:15 am

My transmission is the same as the day I drove it off the lot. No one at the Acura dealerships had any fixes for us. They said the car was driving “as it should be.” After being told that the last time, I gave up and set my sights at selling the car this winter. I’m totally done with Acura.

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Leann October 23, 2018 at 6:58 am

My car looks exactly like yours and unfortunately I’ve been experiencing this jerking/shaking problem 1yr later since we bought it :(. I haven’t taken mines in to the dealership as yet because I know they will tell me to change my transmission fluid 1st and want to charge an arm and leg…*sigh…I will take it in this week though…I’m just hoping for the best because I love Acura and wanted the MDX, but fell in love with the 2016 RDX…it was a gift from my hubby too!! Will be following this post & keep you updated

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Julie October 23, 2018 at 7:42 am

Good luck at the dealership! Keep us posted!

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