Transmission Failure

2003 Acura TL (Page 1 of 2) Seal Of Avoid Like The Plague 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
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
114,650 miles
Total Complaints:
29 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace (22 reports)
  2. not sure (7 reports)
2003 Acura TL transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Acura TL Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #29

May 102016

TL TYpe S 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles


While on Highway 26 in Oregon my wife was changing lanes to pass and the transmission suddenly slammed into a lower gear causing minor whiplash and creating a dangerous situation. Shortly after, the entire transmission failed and went into limp-home mode. Acura knew about this problem and was forced to offer warranty extensions twice. My car's mileage falls out of the warranty range but obviously Acura needed to do a recall to fix what is by now a widely known problem. I was under the impression that Acura was a company with higher standards. The rest of the car is still great. So, it's a good car with a huge problem.

- slotracer, Forest Grove, OR, US

problem #28

Apr 102015

TL Type S 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 145,000 miles

Transmission had to be replaced after cascading gear failures.

- Chris C., San Antonio, TX, US

problem #27

Dec 182016

TL S 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 126,042 miles

Purchased the car in 2006. Since I don't drive it often was surprised when the transmission started to go in 2010 after only 31K miles. Researched and found out that the transmission for that year was recalled, which I thought was strange since this was supposed to be a "Acura Certified" vehicle when I purchased it. They reluctantly gave me a refurbished transmission.

Fast forward to 2016 and 52K miles later, the replacement transmission goes out and the dealer says that Acura will not cover it since I went more that 30K miles. I was told by a Honda mechanic that they are not allowed to repair the transmission, they can only do replacements with refurbished parts, using my own transmission case. Well obviously something is wrong with my original transmission, but instead of taking care of a loyal customer of 13 years, they refuse take responsibility for a shoddy product and want to charge me $6,500 for a used transmission.

This is UNACCEPTABLE! Looking at all of the other similar complaints, it appears that Acura is being deliberately negligent in allowing these dangerous parts to be installed and if I or any other owner is involved in an injury or fatal accident, Acura/Honda will be wholly liable. What's said is that this is supposed to be a superior, high end product, but I never had these kinds of problems with my Saturn. Will never, ever buy another Acura again, and will file complaints with BBB, 7 on Your Side and every consumer group to help prevent someone else from being ripped off like I have been.

- B C., Oakland, CA, US

problem #26

Sep 082015

TL 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,213 miles


I wish I would have looked up this model car. I would have never purchased. I had a 99 Acura TL no major issues. But now I have to purchase a new transmission on my 03. Never had to do so before with any other car. Never thought I would have this trouble with Acura. The car that I love. Now finally looking for a car. I think my Acura days are over. So sad and frustrated.

- prazo13tx, Ft W Orth, TX, US

problem #25

Jun 292015

TL 4dr Sdn3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,702 miles

Had transmission oil changed on April 21or 27 2015. Drove Car 480 miles and transmission trouble. Was extremely terrible because I have health issues and it was scary because I thought I was going to get rear ended. People were giving me all kinds of honks, calling me God knows what. Car jerking all over the freeway, no light on dash board until I was almost close to home garage. I also had a friend visiting we were going sight seeing and I was very concern about my friend. It ruin the visit. Every time I took it for a recall they found something wrong then I would take it to my garage and would find nothing wrong with it. So what gives???

- skydiveronsw, Santa Rosa Ca, US

problem #24

Aug 032015

TL 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles

I purchased a used 2003 Acura TL from the dealership in 2006. The car already had close to 33,000 miles on it and was certified. I did not have any records on the car since it came from New York and the dealership's records are not linked. Payed top dollar and have enjoyed the car until now. This week the car broke down in the middle of a very busy road and had to be pushed out of the road by three people. The car completely lost power and all kinds of check engine lights started flashing! The car was towed to the local Acura dealership which I am a very loyal customer. In less than an hour I had a 6,000 bill for a new/reconditioned transmission. The car is only worth a little over 5,000 at the most. I was talked to in a very condescending tone by the mechanic and was treated poorly. I have known him for a very long time and he almost always works on the car. We left feeling awful. They said they would contact a local rep. to see if he could help. I called the 1-800 customer care number for Acura and was told that they could do nothing due to the age of the car. They told me the car was recalled in 2004 for a transmission fix with the gears. They do not stand by their very expensive cars. Needless to say I went back towed the car somewhere else and hope to get it back in several days. I was told by the dealership that their rep was out traveling and would get back to me sometime and that the car was too old and we would probably receive no compensation for the repair. How can they sleep at night trying to charge me 6 grand for a 12 year old car! The car is in excellent condition and is only used as a work car. Something is very wrong with this picture. I only put 50,000 miles on the car and this is outrageous! I feel very let down by Acura and cheated by this dealership. Where is there loyalty and why don't they stand by their products-they are luxury cars after-all I just don't get it. This is a known defect and all of these faulty transmissions should have been replaced in 2004. I will never buy a car from this dealership again. The second mechanic said he replaces these terrible transmissions all the time from models 2002-2004. Buyer beware! .

- Melissa T., Altamonte Springs, US

problem #23

Feb 172015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 112,850 miles


You know, I had 2 people warn me that this was a bad year for transmissions. I neglected to heed their advice and sell the car. I even doubled down and had 2K put into for brakes, tires, timing belt and water pump. Now, I'm finding this web site and slapping my forehead.

- buttercatz, Huntington Beach, CA, US

problem #22

Jan 132015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 137,000 miles

Regular recommended maintenance car. Original owner, great car, up until the point my transmission went out last week at 130k miles. Transmission was sticky from Reverse to Forward about 3 months ago; took it in and they just recommended flushing transmission as the color they said was really dark....but didn't help. T5 light started flashing on Tuesday this week, took it straight to shop - needs a full rebuild.

Update from Mar 31, 2015: Total Cost $3015.80 to replace. No service deals offered from the Acura dealer, so I took it to a local shop (about $300 less than Acura). I contacted Acura Customer Service at 1-800-382-2238, complained and asked about "goodwill compensation". There answer was we "respectfully decline", and "is there anything else we can help you?"

- Todd E., Lees Summit, MO, US

problem #21

Oct 012011

TL 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

I bought my 2003 Acura TL brand new. At 90,000 the transmission failed and left me stranded. Acura of Bellevue, WA replaced it with rebuilt transmission. Acura headquarters in California paid half so my half was $1500. At 130,00 the transmission started doing the same thing (slipping between 2nd and 3rd). Before it left me stranded, I took it into a transmission shop who told me my best bet was to buy another vehicle. I informed him that I could not afford it. He referred me to a transmission shop in Dryden, WA. This shop did a two part transmission flush in which the first flush was with a cleaning fluid and the second flush was a conditioner. I HAVE NOT HAD ANY FURTHER PROBLEMS! Happy in Wenatchee, WA

- raydine, Wenatchee, WA, US

problem #20

Jan 232013

TL TL 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,000 miles

Engine light came on about 2 days before I took it into the Acura dealer who told me the transmission needed to be completely replaced. Acura would not help with any of the cost despite the fact that the transmission issue is a known issue. I ended up taking the car to a local reputable repair service who has developed a good technique of repairing the transmission.

- Glyn S., Trophy Club, TX, US

problem #19

Feb 122013

TL TL 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,000 miles


Went into Acura due to idiot light coming on dashboard. Learned it was due to transmission problem.

I phoned Acura and told them of the problem and asked for assistance. They were very polite, but of no help.

They even acknowledged that many who own my Acura year (2003) are having the identical problem.

They called back the next day and informed me that there was nothing they could do. I told them that I have had three Hondas plus this Acura over the years and that the dealer wanted $4800 to replace the transmission and i needed their help. I also let them know that I just retired and was planning to buy a new Acura TL. I asked them to reconsider. They called back the next day and reaffirmed that they would do absolutely nothing. I told them that perusing the internet, numerous individuals had my identical problem and Acura knew/knows that these transmission were/are faulty. It didn't sway or move them. So, I told them the following and I ask you to do the same.

Share your story of Acura in your community by writing letters to your local newspapers and how they treat their customers. How Acura knew they were selling cars with faulty transmissions. Call local and national radio car shows and tell the public about Acura. Go to Acura dealerships and waste their time by telling them you want to buy and no matter what price they offer, tell them it's not good enough. When you do buy another car, call Acura and tell them that you bought another car because of Acura's poor customer relations. Personally, I'm very irritated about Acura not taking any responsibility. I also found out if I had my transmission replaced by Acura, the service man would have made a commission on me. Acura should have done the right thing by those who have been affected and by those who will in the future be affected by their faulty transmissions. Just go through and Consumer Report Auto Magazine and you will see where transmission problems for a period of several years on the Acura has and is the norm. Goodbye Honda and Acura. You fooled me once, but not again.

- Jon B., Agoura Hills, CA, US

problem #18

Apr 112013

TL 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,604 miles

I was not aware of this transmission issue with 2003 TL. Thanks to carcomplaints .com it is pretty accurate. A car to avoid.

- rajivsharda, Brampton, ON, canada

problem #17

Apr 102012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 139,000 miles

I purchased my vehicle in 2002 with approximately 30 miles on it, have serviced it according to the manufacturers suggestions; only allowed Acura technicians to do any service to the vehicle (oil change, replace wipers, etc.). They replaced the tires and within a month I begin feeling a difference in the vehicle. It took two months before it began jerking, so I thought that when they replaced the tires that they had damaged the brakes and the brakes were slipping (this was my first automatic transmission, I normally purchased manual transmissions and had never had a transmission problem). Once I hobbled to the dealership, I was informed that the transmission would need to be replaced. I will credit the dealership with their very professional handling of the situation, they provided me with a loaner for the time necessary for repair of my vehicle at no cost to me and they (supposedly) paid 50% of the cost; I was not convinced that a re-manufactured transmission should cost, after 50% adjustment, $3000. However, after reading the various complaints posted, I should consider myself Blessed. The dealership has continuously tried to convince me to purchase a new vehicle with them and trade my TL, but I have informed them that it is not likely that I will ever purchase another Acura, I no longer have trust in their reputation for quality. I agree with the postings listed that as a good faith effort on the part of the Honda Premium vehicle brand that the transmission problem, which is a defect in manufacturing of the product should have been handled in a much better way than they have. I, previously owed a Civic for more than 6 years and thought that I would continue to have Honda as a family brand car, now, unfortunately I will be required to do research to get another car brand, maybe Cadillac can maintain there brand name. So long Honda........

- msgrrmb, Orlando, FL, US

problem #16

Apr 082012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,000 miles

Let me start by saying that I have never had any major problems with my Acura for the couple of years that I have been driving it. I have self maintained my car and repaired every minor flukes I have encountered before it could do any serious damage to the car. However this is a MAJOR issue and I am still quite in shock about it. About a week ago my car started jolting when it would shift gears every once in a while and I noticed it was driving a little less smoothly. However it must have declined at an extremely rapid rate because a few days later (before I even had the chance to voluntarily take it in for a check up) as I was driving on the highway the "maintenance" light switched on and the transmission started to act up. Acceleration was difficult and it stopped shifting past 2nd gear. So I took it to the local Acura dealership and had it go through a diagnostics. To my surprise, I got back a $4,500 bill for a new transmission and a few other minor issues slapped on to it too. As a student I cannot afford to buy a brand new transmission, so I am (until further notice) car-less. I am only now (as I research) learning about Acura's infamousness for poor handling of a, what seems to be, major product failure. I am quite frankly appalled at amount of people who are in the same position as I am. Acura should be owning up to this mistake and lending a solution to the hundreds and hundreds of people they have indirectly robbed. I can honestly say that I used to have a lot of respect for the Acura company but after this terrible experience I have lost trust and respect for this company. It goes without saying that I don't feel comfortable buying any product from them again, and I will definitely encourage my family, friends and co-workers to think twice before trusting the Acura company as well.

- sarbear, Tallahassee, FL, US

problem #15

Aug 082011

TL 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

When we purchased this car in 2007 with 55,000 miles on it for $ 17,000 at Baierl Acura, Wexford, PA. During the test drive, the transmission seemed to shift oddly... almost like it was studdering. We asked the salesman about it and he said "the transmission in the 2000-2003 TL's has what we call a 'hard shift' ". I told him I was buying this vehicle for my daughter and obviously, didn't want her to have any problems. He assured me the shifting was normal. He said the car was in mint condition. I asked him for a copy of the service records since the car was serviced at the same dealership before we bought it. What he did NOT tell me was that the transmission had been recalled in 2004, and that the 2003 Acura 3.2TL inherently has transmission problems - exactly the kind we questioned him about during the test drive. He also failed to include one service record in the packet that he provided to me - the one that was for the transmission recall - the one service call that they say the checked the transmission, but actually did nothing. Because this car has broken down so many times (it feels like the transmission gets stuck in gear and it studders, then stops running for a period of time., I decided to call Honda National Service 800#. I found out about a month ago from Honda/Acura National Customer Service that there actually was a service record on file in their system at the dealership where I bought the vehicle. Honda/Acura National Customer Service then sent me to the Acura Regional Manager (Anthony). Anthony was very rude - when I tried to explain the problem, he indicated it was too late to do anything about the problem. I advised we had reported this problem a number of times, and we were told there was nothing wrong with the car. In a follow up conversation with Baierl Acura in Wexford PA, the new (hired Sept 2011) service manager said he thought Acura would do something about replacing the transmission (we now have 90K on the car), but after he spoke to Anthony, he said they could do nothing. Anthony reported that I wanted to get a lawyer to address the issue - the new Baierl service manager told me verbatim that Anthony said he knows how expensive it is to get an attorney, they'll take their chances that I can't afford to get one. My family has purchased 4 Acura vehicles over the last ten years - I will never buy another unless Baierl and Acura address this matter. I feel I was lied to at the point of purchase. Did I mention that the service department also wrecked my 2003 TL last summer while it was in for an oil change ? When I called to ask when I could pick it up, they kept telling me it wasn't ready. After several days, they fessed up to the fact that the car had been wrecked by one of the service technicians. They did fix this part. I am so frustrated with Acura, I don't know what to do. HELP !! O$#($$Y(T@##

- Cathy H., Pittsburgh, PA, US

problem #14

Dec 222011

TL TL 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

It came with almost no warning. I was on the freeway with stop and go rush hour traffic. There was a surge in engine rpm but the car doesn't accelerate. It's a bit dangerous. I don't know what's happening for a couple minutes until I realize the transmission is slipping badly. I was able to limp a few more miles to my mechanic by staying in low gear, restarting the car when it cannot get in gear. Luckily I have a trustworthy mechanic. He only charged me $1,600 for a installing a rebuilt transmission. Up until this point I had high praises on the TL and Honda. There was no problem at all for 8 years. Compared to my Camry, it had engine sensor, idle, and window motor issues. They were annoying but I never died on the road. An internet search for "Honda" and "transmission" received lots of hits. So I don't think mine is an isolated case.

- carcar, Costa Mesa, CA, US

problem #13

Dec 012011

TL S Type V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 132,000 miles

as with others acura and acura customer service suck. they know their transmissions can't handle the power in their engines. they screw you over by claiming "out of warranty' but it is a common typical issue. anyone who buys an acura should have their head examined. wish i knew of your site before i blew the $$$ on this lemon.

- mcrea, Syracuse, NY, US

problem #12

Oct 242011

TL ES 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,658 miles

We bought the Acura new and it has been a good car up to now. The TSC light came on one day and the next day I took it in for repair-still running good. I scheduled the repair for two days later The next day my wife drove it two miles and it failed. It seems to go into neutral, one can restart the car and drive it for another 3 or 4 blocks and it goes into neutral again. I took the car back in and was told the transmission needed to be replace. When it failed with my wife she left it at her friend's house and her husband told her that he also had a 2003 Acura TL that the transmission went out. He told her that Acura has a problem but does not want to recognize it. I did not think our transmission was out but I was proven wrong. We also own an Odyssey which I bought over a Toyota because of our experience with the Acura. Now I wish that I had the Toyota.

- Jim M., Boerne, TX, US

problem #11

Dec 222011

TL TL 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

I have only 60k gentle miles on this TL. It had rough shifting a week ago. I excused it as a one time problem. Then couple days ago the car lurch forward and loss power suddenly during rush hour freeway traffic. It went on for a few miles. I realize it's transmission problem given my manual transmission driving experience. At one point it wouldn't engage any gear. I was concern as I was driving my kid to pick up my wife. It's already dark. Luckily I made it to my mechanic. I couldn't believe the transmission had to be replaced. This is worse than American and European cars that I have owned. I was going to get a Honda van in a month, but now I am looking to Toyota again. I had two Camrys each with over 200k miles. They had minor problems, but nothing like this. Luckily I wasn't on a long trip. Very surprised about Honda until I saw so many transmission complaints across all models on the net.

- S C., Los Angeles, CA, US

problem #10

Dec 222011

TL TL 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

I never have any problem with my 60000 gentle miles TL. It was driven lightly in mild CA weather, garaged and well maintained. I liked it so much that I was convinced to buy a Honda van. I used to be a Toyota fan after two Camrys with over 20,000 miles with no major problems. It was far better then my previous European and American cars which required towing every year.

Back to the TL... I thought I felt the engine surge about a week ago. Then I recall reading about rough shifting issues. So I excused it. Then two days ago the car lurched forward followed by engine rev high intermittently during rush hour on the freeway. It persisted for a couple miles. I realize it's a transmission problem, relaying back to my manual transmission Camry experience with a worked clutch. I was lucky to make it off the freeway, jerking and slipping on the street before reaching my mechanic. At one point it stayed in neutral. Cars are honking at me of course. Restating the car got it in gear again.

At first I thought it could be sim

- S C., Los Angeles, CA, US

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