Notes: The 1999-2003 Acura TL has a known & widespread defect with the transmission.

Honda fixed some vehicles with a recall in 2004 by changing the oil cooler return line. To settle a class action lawsuit in 2006, Honda extended the transmission warranty on some of these Acura TL's to 93 months / 109,000 miles.

Now these vehicles are past the warranty limit, so buyer beware.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
4 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
60,253 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 TL engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Acura TL Owner Comments

problem #14

Jun 062014


  • 90,000 miles


Summer of 2014 I can to a stop light at a complete stop. My TL type S kept idle at 3500 - 3700 RPM. Drove the car about quarter of a mile before having to shut of the engine. That fix the problem for the time being. This would happen 2-5 times a week for three weeks until I figured out the cause. Come to find out it was the cruise control lever at the throttle that was getting stuck. Eventually just unhooked the cable for the cruise control. Hasn't been fix since.

- Minneapolis, MN, USA

problem #13

Mar 112015


  • 135,000 miles
!!!warning this is a safety issue and needs to be addressed!!! "cruise control control box defect!" 2003 TL type S automatic 4 door without cruise control on car engine began to rev out of control while driving, tried to apply brakes but engine is too strong, once vehicle hit 80 mph from this on highway I calmly turned ignition off one click so steering wheel would not lock and coasted to safety. I had to detach module as well as speed control wire going to the idle control of engine. If I was inexperienced I could have been killed either by getting into an accident or by my airback being deployed and killed from the takata inflator. "clear coat" 2003 TL type S black clear coat paint flaking off and massively discolored due to the dry winter cold and the uv heat during summer. "instrument panel lighting problem" 2003 TL type S problem with part of instrument panel where odometer is as well as outside temp not illuminating.

- Brunswick, ME, USA

problem #12

Apr 022014

TL 6-cyl

  • 130,000 miles
I was pulling off the interstate and came to a red light on a hill right before haywood road. I had to stop because the light was red and when the light turned green I pulled onto haywood road and the car went through 1st gear, 2nd gear and right before it went into 3rd it slipped out of gear and just revved to around 4000 RPM. When the car went into 3rd and started sipping I had a pile of cars that bunched on my behind. I had two guys in a truck scream and yell obscene gestures.

- Easley, SC, USA

problem #11

Mar 042013

TL 6-cyl

  • miles


2003 Acura TL. Consumer writes in regards to vehicle sudden acceleration. The consumer was able to put the vehicle in neutral and came to a stop after a few more miles. Both of the front rotors were warped from braking. The plastic bushing on the throttle cable had broken and wedged the throttle plate open.

- Greensboro, NC, USA

problem #10

May 302008


  • 80,533 miles
My car begin to idle to 5 RPM and not change gears while driving. Pulled over and contacted local mechanic. I was instructed to bring car into Honda dealership in lake city, fl. The result was need a transmission flush and had it done. After test driving, the car continued to perform poorly. At this point I consider the car should go to the Acura dealership. My car was towed to gatorland Acura of gainesville, fl. After diagnostics completed a transmission was needed. A vehicle odometer reading at 80533, should not require a new transmission was my first response. I gave them no answer at this time as to what to do because I am thinking this is absurd. After two days of seeking advice and research, I found a recall was submitted for transmission issue. Upon contacting the dealer, I was given the price for repairs. Regardless of informing and debating this should not be a cost for consumer. The service department staff and manager was not very helpful nor professional. This should have been completely covered by warranty/highway safety recall. I wrote a letter to Honda headquarters and contacted the department by phone. Almost two weeks later, gatorland Acura offered to replace the transmission and I would be responsible for the labor. I was not pleased with the outcome but needed transportation because there was none offered to me. To this day, I have not returned there to pay for maintenance because of the trustworthiness of gatorland Acura or Honda headquarters. The recall issue was posted around February 2008 and my car was in for the exact issue May 2008. Continuously unhappy consumer.

- Lake City, FL, USA

problem #9

Sep 122012

TL 6-cyl

  • 97,000 miles
I was applying the brake due to stopped traffic ahead of my car. As I did so, the car accelerated rather than slowed down. My car contacted the left rear of the car in front of mine, and as I tried to straighten out the car, it again accelerated. Veered to the right, and struck the stone wall of the bridge on the shoulder of the highway. According to the police report, there was a malfunction with the throttle mechanism. "officers witnessed, when starting the vehicle, the RPM indicator quickly rise to approximately 5,000/5,500 without any pressure applied on the gas pedal. The floor area did not exhibit items, including the floor mat, which would potentially be the cause."

- Media, PA, USA

problem #8

Nov 092012


  • 103,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Acura TL. The contact stated that while attempting to brake, the vehicle erroneously accelerated. The contact shut off and restarted the vehicle as it began to function properly. The vehicle was taken to a private mechanic where the failure could not be replicated. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not contacted about the issue. The failure and current mileages were 103,000.

- Durango, CO, USA

problem #7

Dec 072011


  • miles
Transmission broke on 2003 Acura TL S. sucks as I have always changed N maintained services.

- Gahanna, OH, USA

problem #6

Sep 262011

TL 6-cyl

  • 122,000 miles
As I was accelerating onto the highway, the car continued to accelerate. At 89mph I hit the brakes hard to see if I could slow down. Would not happen. Put the transmission into neutral and shut off the engine and braked to the side of the road. When the dealer examined the throttle body they found the plastic cam for the cruise control had broken and the cable for the cruise had jammed the throttle wide open. When asked if that part was replaceable I was informed the whole throttle body would have to be replaced at ~$500. The alternative was to remove the cruise cable and tie it up away from the throttle body. Since the dealer told me this was the second one they have had with this problem, it was rare. Oops if this would have happened in town I would have hit several cars before getting it shut down. The throttle cam is made of metal where the cruise cam is plastic and both are on the same butterfly shaft. Just to save a few cents makes for a very hair raising ride.

- Mogadore, OK, USA

problem #5

Dec 062006

TL 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 44,565 miles
I was on the highway with heavy traffic and I was at a full stop on the right lane when my car lunged forward. I pressed the brakes harder and when nothing happened I tried to get into the exit lane which luckily was right next to me. Unfortunatley I hit the rear right hand side of the vehicle in front of me and the car still did not stop. It kept going at which time I released the brake and pressed it again thinking maybe it locked up or something. The vehicle still did not stop. I was almost out of the highway when I put the car in neutral and it finally slowed down. I put it in park and turned off the engine. Needless to say I was in shock and trembling uncontrollably. The car went off so far it took the other driver approximately 5 minutes to reach me. I read about 7 complaints of the same thing happening and nothing was done in 5 incidents. Two of the vehicles had an idle air control vavle replaced which I hope solved the problem. I sent these complaints to my insurance company and to the repair shop. I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed by Acura immediately. This is not a faulty head light, it's a safety issue. Had I been just a little closer to the vehicle in front of me, the accident could have been worse and involved more vehicles. The officer said I might have had my foot on both the brakes and the gas pedal but I am 120% positive that my foot was only on the brakes. This was also not human error. I was fully stopped and aware, I was not playing with the radio or on the phone. If this is not resolved I do not want this car.

- College Point, NY, USA

problem #4

Apr 132005

TL 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 16,400 miles


While slowly pulling into a parking space at my local fitness club vehicle suddenly made a roaring noise, accelerated, plunged forward, and struck two parked vehicles. This happened in a matter of seconds. After the car stopped, I put it in park and turned off the engine. I notified the owners of the other vehicles, and promptly called the police. When the police officer arrived, he completed exchange of information forms for all involved parties. He also told me to be sure to have the car checked out mechanically. The car was towed to a body shop for repairs. Then, it was taken to the car dealer service department to have it checked for internal mechanical malfunctions. The service manager said they could not find anything wrong with the car. He said there were no error messages or indications of malfunction. However, later I noticed that the cruise control buttons may have been replaced with a new set. I am positive that the car malfunctioned due to an acceleration problem.

- Columbia, MD, USA

problem #3

Sep 182003

TL 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,000 miles
'03 Acura TL3 engine raced at full throttle (tach red zone), threatening driver, pedestrians, and other vehicles. Required driver to put full weight on brake to stop car, then downshift and shut down engine. This occurred twice. Acura dealer replaced idle air control valve.

- Elkins Park, , PA, USA

problem #2

Apr 302003

TL 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 9,050 miles
Consumer attempted to stop for a traffic light, but car continued to accelerate with foot applied to the brake pedal. Consumer had to place vehicle in neutral in order to stop. Dealer diagnosed failure of "iac valve", part no. 121187.

- Denville, NJ, USA

problem #1

Apr 192003

TL 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 6,000 miles
Car was in park, went to remove keys. Car accelerated at high speed slamming into wall.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

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