Acura TL Transmissions

Acura TL Transmissions That Make The Cars A Hard Pass

The Acura TL came with the B7WA, B7VA, and BDGA transmission in multiple model years. Debuting in 1996, the Acura TL is a mid-size car with the refinement and reliability of a Honda packed in a more stylish and luxurious body. Back then, it was much more durable in comparison to similar luxury vehicles in its segment, which is why it soon rose to become the brand’s best-selling model. But, the Acura TL saw a significant drop in sales. A big reason was the Acura TL transmissions problems.

The second generation of Acura TL launched in 1999. Despite being more powerful (as advertised), the cars were much more trouble-prone. We must remember that the inherent problem with the “buzz” industry is that some cars simply do not live up to expectations. This could happen due to many reasons. A few of the common causes include problems with the engines, suspension, and/or transmission.

Acura TL engine problems

In the Acura TL, prominent failures noted by owners are of 3rd gear clutch pack, torque converter, and the whole transmission due to heat-related damage, damage from debris, and/or clogged oil passages.

After a concerning amount of bad press, lawsuits, and recalls, Honda ultimately extended the warranty on the transmission to 100,000 miles or 7 years. The third-generation TL was launched in 2004 and was definitely a better car in all aspects. The final nameplate of the lineup was marked by the launch of the fourth-generation Acura as it got renamed TLX on its fifth generation in 2015.

Is your TL not running properly? Let’s have a look at some common Acura TL transmissions problems and understand what you can do to get it back on the road.

The Acura TL Through The Years

The Acura TL was the lineup’s best-selling model between 1999 to 2006, and once more from 2008 to 2009. It came in a unique two-door version by the name Acura CL. To appeal to the Chinese market, Acura added an extended-wheelbase TLX, the TLX-T.

Acura TL First Generation

Honda launched the Acura TL in 1996 to replace the Vigor – a middle-ground car between the famous Legend and the compact Integra. Initially, the TL was brought out in two variants – the 2.5 TL and 3.2 TL. The 2.5 TL came with the Vigor’s 176HP, 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine whereas the 3.2 TL featured the Legend’s 200HP, 3.2-liter V-6.

A key similarity between the two engines was that both were mounted longitudinally, although the TL was an FWD (front-wheel-drive). Unlike other model years and generations from the lineup, first-generation Acura TL transmissions were all automatic, nothing manual.

Acura TL Second Generation

Two years after Gen 1, the second-generation Acura TL hit the market as the 1999 model year car. It was now available in an exclusive 3.2 TL form powered by a 225HP transverse-mounted V-6. The model year 2000 saw the 4-speed automatic being replaced by a bothersome 5-speed. For 2002, the TL got a facelift and a new 3.2 TL Type-S model took the power up to 260.

Acura TL Third Generation

Third generation Acura TL was launched in 2004. The displacement prefix was excluded and now the car was known basically as the TL. Boosted to 270 HP, the 3.2-liter V-6 engine was now paired with manual transmission for the very first time. The 6-speed unit features a limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, stiffer sway bars, and performance tires.

A variant of the 2004 TL, the A-Spec featured tauter springs allowing the car to ride lower. In addition, the shocks were retuned and bigger wheels were included to fit the body kit. In 2006, the TL’s engine was reverted to 258HP but there were no mechanical changes.

Acura’s lineup got the TL Type-S in 2007. This car was powered by a 286HP, 3.5-liter V-6 and offered either a 6-speed manual or a paddle-sifted 5-speed automatic. A limited-slip differential was included with the 6-speed manual. The Type S also featured a stiffer suspension, interesting interior and body trim, and Brembo Brakes. Kinetic Blue was the shade used to define the model.

Acura TL Fourth Generation

The last TL was introduced as the 2009 model year. These cars were larger and had the infamous chrome grille that many critics compared to a mandolin slicer. The base models were equipped with a 280HP, 3.5-liter V-6 FWD. The SH-AWD took the place of the Type S, the former coming with 305HP, 3.7-liter V6 engines. SH-AWD models were available with a 6-speed manual starting from 2010.

Sales took a major dip in comparison to the third generation. The TL’s 2012 restyling was aimed at regaining the market position with a minimalistic grille, but it failed.

Acura TLX Replaces The Acura TL

For 2015, parent company Honda replaced the Acura TL with an all-new Acura TLX. The car could be bought in both 4- and 6-cylinder versions, with the former being powered by a 206HP, 2.4-liter engine combined with 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. 4-cylinder TLXs were equipped with Acura’s trademark Precision All-Wheel Steer, otherwise known as the P-AWS system.

Cars featuring a 3.5-liter V-6 got 290HP and came paired with a 9-speed automatic. For the model year 2018, the TLX got a facelift as well as the inclusion of an A-Spec performance-tuned model with active sound enhancement and a stiffer suspension.

Acura TLX Second Generation

Acura announced a revival of the model Type S for the model year 2021. Powered with the latest components and technologies, these Acuras are a significant upgrade over some of the lower-performing models.

Acura offers an extended-wheelbase TLX, called the TLX-L, for the Chinese market.

Acura TL Transmission Problems

The Acura TL transmission problems are the worst category of issues you will face with the cars. For most of the 2003 model year, Acura TLs suffered from this problem. Complaints poured in about the transmission failure, scoring a 9 out of 10 on the severity scale. This makes sense as the average repair cost is about $3,000. Keep in mind that the problems were only with the automatic transmissions, not the manual ones.

When To Use Overdrive

Although the 2003 model year is the Acura TL with the most complaints, it isn’t the only year where the transmissions have been an issue. In fact, a large volume of complaints was registered in 2002 about transmission failures. People who bought Acura TLs manufactured between 2003 and 2009, as well as 2012, also seemed to face transmission difficulties.

These transmission faults were found in both the Acura TL and the Acura CL.

Interior And Electrical Difficulties

Problems seemed to spring up every other model year for the Acura. In 2006, the interior accessories posed a challenge for the owners and they said that everything was falling apart, starting from a Bluetooth failure to a cracked dashboard.

The cracked dashboard was rated an 8.1 on the severity scale, also known as “pretty bad.” Users were frustrated with the dash cracking so early on in the car’s life – the issue occurred at 94,000 miles on average.

In contrast, the Bluetooth failure was scored a 6.3 or “fairly significant” on the severity index. As a lot of today’s vehicles depend on wireless networks, the addition of a Bluetooth system made less sense in the system. The repair was also expensive, costing owners about $800 on average.

Although it had been in production for more than 12 years now, the Acura TL was notorious for being the “screw-up” of the Acura line.

Worst Year For The Acura TL

2003 Acura TL had the most number of complaints but according to carcomplaints.com, the 2010 Acura TL is the worst model year from the lineup. Owners complained about the car’s excessive oil consumption habits, saying that they would have to put two to three quarts of motor oil into the car between every oil change. And despite getting the scheduled oil change, the engine tended to die.

This was a pricey problem to repair, with the average repair cost rounding out to $6,550. On the severity index, the problem got a “pretty bad” or 7.9 rating. Problems could be expected to start at around 70,000 miles.

Unfortunately, this was only one of the many issues with the 2010 Acura TL. Defective brake rotors were a commonly mentioned issue, earning a 10 on the severity scale. Let’s face it: If the brakes don’t work properly, that is not a vehicle worth driving.

Owners noticed that the front wheels would vibrate at first. When traced to the origin, they found the brake rotors to be a matter of concern. Moreover, the airbag light kept coming on. At 48,000 miles on average, owners would have to get the airbag light turned off by a professional.

Acura TL Recalls

As you can guess from the complaints and dissatisfaction with the cars, the Acura TL had to be recalled multiple times.

Acura TLs made between 2000 and 2004 were recalled since, in specific operation conditions, there was an unwanted buildup of heat within the secondary shaft and countershaft gears in the automatic transmission. Ultimately, this leads to gear tooth breakage or chipping.

Once the gear failed, the transmission would lock up and it could increase the risks of a crash.

Similarly, the 1996 to 1998 Acura TLs were recalled as the transmission case bolt tended to fall out, letting the transmission disengage. As a result, power to the driven wheels was cut off without warning. Furthermore, when the car was shifted into park, the wheels would not be locked and the parked sedan could move.

If you own an Acura TL already or are interested in getting one, call your local Honda dealership. Check if your vehicle has any outstanding recalls with the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

DTC Code Problems In Acura TL Transmissions

DTC is short for Diagnostic Trouble Code. This code is used to diagnose errors in vehicles or heavy equipment.

OBD diagnostics error codes from an Acura TL

  • P0657: Voltage issue in the ‘A’ Circuit, often caused by the bad ground on the Powertrain Control Module or PCM. The error may also be located in the PCM wiring harness.
  • P0700: The transmission control system is malfunctioning. This DTC is usually triggered if there is an issue with the TCM, a solenoid, the valve body, or a wiring harness.
  • P0715: Turbine/Input Speed Sensor Malfunction. When the input sensor fails to read the engine RPM, the transmission cannot shift gears properly, triggering the DTC.
  • P0717: Turbine/Input Speed Sensor No Signal, a trouble code generated when the input speed sensor does not send a signal to the PCM. This prevents the computer from understanding when the transmission has to be shifted.
  • P0720: Failed Output Speed Sensor or Input Speed Sensor. This DTC is generated by a poor speed sensor on the transmission.
  • P0730:  Erroneous Gear Ratio. Several problems could be causing this issue, including contaminated transmission fluid, faulty transmission solenoid, and a problem in the TCM.
  • P0766: Failed Shift Solenoid D, a trouble code that can be stored if there is an error with the valve body or the shift solenoid.
  • P0791: Intermediate Shaft Speed Sensor ‘A’ Circuit. If there is an issue with the intermediate shaft speed sensor, usually due to a wiring problem, a bad shift solenoid, or a bad sensor, this trouble code can be stored.
  • P0793: Intermediate Shaft Speed Sensor Circuit No Signal. Your vehicle’s computer will note this DTC if it cannot contact the intermediate shaft speed sensor.
  • P2703: Failed Friction Element D, a trouble code triggered by a malfunctioning friction element such as a clutch disc.

Technical Service Bulletins (TSB) For The Acura TL

1999-2003 TL / 2003 TL Type S – TSB 02-027

Complication

  • While driving, the D5 indicator (every model) or the D4 indicator (exclusive to 1999 model year 3.2 TL) on the instrument panel, blinks.
  • An unusually loud sound from the transmission
  • Delayed or slow gear engagement, downshifts, or upshifts
  • Weird gear slippage while doing downshifts or upshifts
  • Excessively harsh or erratic shifts
  • Leakage of ATF or Automatic Transmission Fluid

Solution

Often, a new PC, torque converter, and/or fuel pressure regulator (only for 2000 model years) is/are enough to fix these problems. Many Acura TL transmissions problems forced Honda to increase the torque converter and transmission warranties in 2003. Unfortunately, the expiry date on these warranties has been crossed, so you must pay for any of the aforementioned repairs along with the cost of replacing a transmission.

2000-2003 3.2 TL / 2003 Acura TL Type S – TSB 03-002

Complication

Symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Excessively harsh or erratic shifts
  • Flaring or shifting on downshifts or upshifts (mainly in third gear)
  • No downshifts or upshifts
  • Delayed or slow gear engagement
  • MIL remains on while the D5 indicator flashes.

Solution

The clutch pack will have to be replaced. Bear in mind that specific 2000 3.2 TLs will need a fuel pressure regulator change too.

2009-2011 TL W/ SH-AWD – TSB 12-029

Complication

The torque converter lock-up clutch produces a judder when the car is being driven at 20 to 45 mph speed. To prevent the instances of a judder, there is a software update available for the transmission.

Solution

Luckily, this AT software update can be availed by all affected vehicles for free, no matter how long it has been on the road or how much mileage it has to its name. However, even after updating the transmission software, if the judder persists, the torque converter might need to be replaced. Honda USA extended the warranty on their converters in damaged vehicles to 105,000 miles, or eight years from the date of purchase – whichever comes first.

If you have any queries about the warranty extension or require assistance with finding an Acura dealer near you, contact Acura Client Relations at 1-800-382-2238. Select option 4 and it will redirect you to someone who can help. Owners residing in the US can also find a dealer at myAcura.com. US Owners are advised to contact their local distributor/dealer.

Price Of Replacing Acura TL Transmissions

Since the transmissions of Acura TLs are prone to failure, it is necessary to know the average price of getting the car repaired. The average cost of diagnosis, at the very cheapest, is around $100. After that, the actual part of replacing or rebuilding the transmission is rather costly.

On average, rebuilding a transmission costs $2,800 to $3,800 but replacing the component can set you back anywhere between $4,000 to $8,000. This calculation does not calculate labor costs. Those are an addition $500 to $1,200.

Acura TL transmissions problems

If you decide on rebuilding the transmission, it can save you money in the long run. However, as the repair is that pricey, ask yourself if the car is worth the investment. If not, simply send it to the junkyard.

The average lifespan of this vehicle is around 12 years. Owners generally try to go over 100,000, occasionally 200,000 miles within those years. But the Acura TL will not make it on severe transmission issues.

How Long Does An Acura TL Transmission Last?

Ideally, transmissions on cars last for the entirety of their life. Sadly, that does not apply to the Acura TL. The longevity of the transmission becomes a primary concern for potential buyers, especially those who are purchasing a secondhand car – a scenario where it is easy to misjudge how a vehicle was maintained.

A transmission can last between 10,000 miles to 200,000 miles. You can surely elongate the lifespan of this expensive component through regular care and maintenance. The 2007 Acura TL transmissions have to be replaced around the 66,000-mile mark. Though mileage varied, the reported highest transmission service time for an Acura TL was 148,000 miles. However, those were the stats before Honda revamped the transmission.

Is The Transmission Repair Worth It?

Having read all that, you are now debating whether an Acura TL transmission repair is even worth it. Rebuilding the transmission will feel like a swift victory and it can get your car back on the road within a few days for some thousand dollars. That is a more cost-efficient choice than purchasing a new car.

The average cost of a transmission rebuild is near $2,500, which is a lot of money to spend on a used car, particularly something built from 2003 to 2010.

For some, dropping $2,500 on the repair makes more sense as this way, they can avoid taking a loan or paying down payment to get a new car. As the vehicle’s life extends, owners heave a sigh of relief.

That being said, could the car show more problems about a week or month later? The chances are always there. Do you have the cash to afford a new fix every other month? In the end, the short-term payoff might not be worth it. Purchasing a more reliable car could save you a lot of cash (and headaches).

Tips To Buying An Acura TL

After inspecting all the models and gathering enough data on them, we found that the best TL is the 2007-2008 Type S. The A-Spec cars are quite good as well from a performance viewpoint. Apart from that, we found that the third generation manual-transmission TLs are the most desirable of the bunch.

Granted, it suffers from a serious torque steer issue, but those were mostly reduced in the Type-S and A-Spec models.

Bottom Line

If you drive an Acura TL and are tired of experiencing the Acura TL transmissions problems, reading this should have given you an idea of how to solve it. Transmission issues, amongst others, are one of the more expensive repairs you can get for your car.

Unfortunately, this is a common phenomenon with all cars, specifically used ones. Consider parting with the car for good if it does not bear any sentimental value.

If the vehicle is worth the investment, schedule an appointment with a certified professional and get the problems diagnosed as soon as possible. You can buy yourself some much-needed time if the mechanic can conduct a diagnosis before the signs pop up. With correct, proper scheduled maintenance, it is easy to make any car last long.

It goes without saying that it is best to deal with the problems quickly before you are stranded in the middle of the road, hazard lights lit and all.

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