2001 Acura MDX - verifying McPherson strut needs replacement

How to verify I need to replace front McPherson Struts as mechanic has advised?

Are they leaking? Basically oil running down the tubes? No? Then you don’t need new struts

If they aren’t leaking, is the front of the car dancing all over bumpy roads or floating like a boat on rolly roads? No? Then you don’t need new struts.

This assumes there isn’t another problem like a worn out strut mount, bent strut or broken spring. Your mechanic can SEE, and TOUCH the parts, we can’t.

I have to ask, if you don’t TRUST your mechanic, why do you do business there?

Plus… the car is 18 years old with ??? miles (you didn’t say) so replacing them wouldn’t be unreasonable.

First, over the ~19 years that I have owned and had to replace the Front McPherson struts and rear shocks about 3-4 times)on this vehicle. I also have had these same folks perform a 4-wheel re-alignment each and every time after. The Acura dealer/Service Dept. were the ones to do so. Approximately every 2-4 years between, I again had the Acura folks check, advise, and replace suspension components as needed such as tie-rods and rubber CV boots and other components front and rear checking for bent or damaged components. I have taken care and have a thick file of these repairs and maintenance dates.

The last month or so after asking for another alignment check, they said they tried but were unable to set to specs my vehicle citing that the problem was the McPherson struts not allowing them to adjust to specs the alignment settings. They said nothing else but I suspect that maybe the actual springs for each side my be playing a role here. Just to be clear, they did set to best attainable spec for the current suspension components at that service visit and the vehicle drives without drifting or any other problem OTHER than a mild distinct thumping sound when I hit some speed bumps or other imperfections on the road without slowly traveling over these.

My main concern is pre-maturely & unevenly wearing out the tires and of course, any safety related issue related to steering.

Can you suggest anything else other than replacing non-leaking non-bent McPherson struts and re-aligning after with nothing else apparently needing attention upon their inspections?

Wow, where do I begin! 3-4 sets of struts would be far in excess reasonable even if you’ve driven 200k miles. Unless you have run the Baja 1000 off road race 3-4 times in 19 years, Acura has been taking you to the cleaners. This model does have issues with breaking front springs but that rarely results in a strut change.

As for blaming the struts for the inability to align the vehicle… that is bogus. Unless, of course you bent them running the Baja 1000. Sagging springs would, indeed push the alignment out but there are ways to bring it back in. A suspension specialty shop can do this easily. Given your history, anything with the slightest wear on it has been replaced.

My suggestion is to get far away from this Acura dealer as they are replacing parts on your vehicle when they have a boat payment. Find a well rated independent local suspension shop.

Just for reference. I am a retired suspension engineer. I used to design these parts for a living.


Sorry I haven’t responded earlier to your response but have had no access to the internet till now. Thanks for your response and not privy to the agenda of the Acura dealer which I have had to entrust in till now, I will take your opinion and make adjustments on my selection for advice on this matter.

Since I purchased this vehicle new in 2000 and given that it has less than 160,000 actual driven miles in the 19 years owned, I also was reticent in jumping at the dealer’s advice initially because of the costs. The thing that bothered me most is that the dealership based alignment techs included my copy of the print out of before and after the best tuning that they performed and which did at least correct the slight tendency to drift to the right on level ground when operating.

That being said, I have been patronizing an alternate much smaller non-dealer related maintenance repair shop specializing only with Acura/Honda vehicles staffed by a few former Acura dealership A.S.E. certified mechanics who told me that they had issues in one form or another with the dealership. I have enjoyed quite a bit in savings regarding labor costs and have used this for routine lubrication/oil changes, transmission maintenance, solving electrical/lighting, and other areas. Although they have been very successful in those situations, they are not in the position to invest in the $50,000-$60,000 alignment machine that the dealer has invested in. So, although I will probably use them to replace the struts with a savings in labor and they did concur that the possibly internally worn shocks “might” help to bring the alignment to factory specs, their advice was for a re-alignment with the dealer especially if a discount coupon is used. Of course they did mention a couple of other alignment/suspension shops that do not specialize in Acura/Hondas, but have had little to no good experience with speciality shops in my area.

Can you recommend a local web site where I can search and compare relative trust and satisfaction from folks like yourself on the subject of aligning this vehicle?


Some of those “can’t align it” problems can be solved with a file or a Dremel tool and/or bolts with cam-shaped (not circular) shafts. For a good suspension/alignment shop: ask a few body shops where they send out crashed cars that they are fixing.

That is bogus, completely bogus.

And we have no idea where you are nor do we want to know. Researching the quality of service providers is easier than ever with the internet. YP.com, Yelp and our own Mechanics Files at the top of this sites page can be a help. Use well rated places.

i think you have agreed to change the struts on their recommendation 3 times in the past at 40k intervals and they know you have fallen for their story. when rig is 4yrs old? might not need it. it certainly needs it now after 15 yrs. its ancient. well, that will be their new pitch.

That is usually sufficient on an older vehicle, the camber doesn’t need to be perfect. How many miles did your last set of tires last?