Acura TL Transmission Problems & Overview

Debuting for the 1996 model year, the mid-size Acura TL combined all of the reliability and refinement of a Honda, with a heavy dose of style and luxury. At the time, it was a lot more durable than most luxury cars in its segment, and it soon became Acura’s best-selling model.

The second generation Acura 3.2TL was introduced for 1999, but this more powerful model was considerably more trouble prone. Common failures included the torque converter, 3rd gear clutch pack, and the entire transmission due to blocked oil passages, damage from debris and/or heat related internal damage.

After numerous lawsuits, recalls, and tons of bad press, Honda finally extended the transmission warranty to 7 yrs or 100,000 miles. The 3rd generation TL came out in 2004, and was a better car in every way. The fourth generation TL would be the final use of this nameplate, as the all-new 5th gen car was renamed TLX in 2015.

Is there something wrong with your TL? Let’s look at some of the most common transmission problems, and see what you can do to get your car back on the road.

Acura TL Recalls

2000-2004 TL – 04V176000 / P31


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According to the recall, certain operating conditions can result in heat build-up between the countershaft and secondary shaft second gears in the automatic transmission, eventually leading to gear tooth chipping or gear breakage.


Gear failure could result in transmission lockup, which could result in a crash.


This recall was issued on April 21, 2004, and Acura dealers received the following repair procedures: On vehicles with 15,000 miles or less, the transmission will be updated with a simple revision to the oil cooler return line to increase lubrication to the second gear. On vehicles with more than 15,000 miles, it will be inspected to identify gears that have already experienced discoloration due to overheating. If discoloration exists, the transmission will be replaced. If discoloration is not present, the revision to the oil cooler return line will be performed. The recall began for pilot, odyssey, and mdx owners. Owners can contact  Acura at 1-800-382-2238, referring to Acura recall: P31. Or, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s auto safety hotline at 1-888-dash-2-dot (1-888-327-4236).

1996-1998 TL – 99V227000


According to the recall, a transmission case bolt can loosen and fall out, allowing the transmission to disengage from the differential.


The vehicle could lose power to the drive wheels without warning. Also, shifting the transmission into the park position would not lock the wheels, and a parked vehicle could move unexpectedly if the parking brake is not set.


Owner notification began back in August of 1999, and dealers were instructed to install a redesigned bolt free of charge. Owners can contact  Acura at 1-800-382-2238, or, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s auto safety hotline at 1-888-dash-2-dot (1-888-327-4236).

Acura TL Technical Service Bulletins (TSB)

2009-2011 TL w/ SH-AWD – TSB 12-029


A judder from the torque converter lock-up clutch may be felt while driving between 20–45 mph. To minimize the opportunity for the judder to occur, a software update for the transmission is available.


This AT software update is available free of charge to all affected vehicles regardless of its age or mileage. However, if the judder returns after the transmission software is updated, the torque converter may need to be replaced. American Honda did extend the warranty on the torque converter in affected vehicles to 8 years from the original date of purchase or 105,000 miles, whichever comes first. If you have any questions about this warranty extension, or need assistance with locating an Acura dealer, please call Acura Client Relations at 1-800-382-2238, and select option 4. US owners can also locate a dealer online at Owners in US territories, please contact your local dealer/distributor.

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


3rd Gear Clutch Pack is Worn:

The symptoms of a worn 3rd gear clutch pack include, but are not limited to

  • No upshifts or downshifts
  • Slippage or flaring on upshifts or downshifts (primarily in 3rd gear)
  • Erratic or excessively harsh shifts
  • Slow or delayed gear engagement
  • The MIL is on and/or the D5 indicator is flashing


The 3rd gear clutch pack in the automatic transmission is worn and will need to be replaced. NOTE: Certain 2000 model year 3.2TLs will also require a new fuel pressure regulator.

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


  • While driving, the D4 indicator (1999 3.2TL) or D5 indicator (all other models) on the instrument panel flashes.
  • An abnormally loud noise from the transmission.
  • Extremely slow or delayed gear engagement, upshifts, or downshifts.
  • Abnormal gear slippage during upshifts or downshifts. • Erratic or excessively harsh shifting.
  • Automatic transmission fluid (ATF) leaks.


These problems can often be fixed by a new torque converter, Powertrain Control Module (PCM), and/or fuel pressure regulator (2000 models). There were many transmission problems inherent to this generation TL, which forced American Honda to extend the transmission and torque converter warranties back in 2003. Unfortunately this warranty no longer applies, so you will have to pay for any of the above repairs and/or complete transmission replacement.

Need Your Transmission Repaired? A good repair shop can be hard to find – especially on short notice. We’ll have the Cost Guide Certified shop in your area give you a call with a free estimate.

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      3 thoughts on “Acura TL Transmission Problems & Overview

      1. Need some help I have a Acura TL 04 and im thinking its the transmission. Ok so the fluid is brown and burnt smelling but there is no other sign that the problem is my transmission . The car will not drive forward or backwards. It goes into all gears just fine there’s no noise such as grinding. . And when I put the car into drive and step on the gas it seems like it’s in neutral. I need some advice too see what’s wrong with it. I was told it could be the drive shaft.. could that be what’s wrong with it?

      2. 2000 TL – car sounds like it is in a lower gear at any speed, but tach shows 1750 RPM at 60 MPH. Ran car 75 MPH, put in neutral, turned off key. Engine is stopped with the car coasting at high speed. The sound is still there. As the car slows, the sound changes pitch directly proportional to speed of the car. Torque converter, pump stopped so no pressure to the clutches. Problem must be somewhere between countershaft, differential and tires. It’s not the tires. Jacked up the front, disconnected ABS and ran the wheels at 50 MPH. Sound is loud inside car, but cannot hear it from under the engine/transmission.

      3. My 1999 acura tl 3.2 is having an issue and i dont know how to fix it the D4 light flashes and the car goes into limp mode and the check engine light is on

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