The Acura TL ranked the second-best luxury sedan in the US in 2004, but soon after, sales and reviews declined because of its common transmission issues requiring complete transmission replacement. In some cases, it may be better to send this car to a junkyard if you can’t afford the repairs.
When the Acura TL hit the market in 1995, everyone was excited about it. At the time, it was more durable than luxury cars in its segment. It was small yet sporty and was a fairly reliable vehicle until transmission issues started to arise. It created a lot of buzz in the automobile industry.
The problem with buzz in the industry, however, is that some vehicles don’t live up to the hype. This could happen for many reasons. The most common is that within the high-class build, problems with engines, transmissions, and suspensions lurk.
Common failures include the torque converter, 3rd gear clutch pack, and entire transmission. After numerous lawsuits and recalls, Honda extended the transmission warranty, but in the end, it wasn’t enough to continue manufacturing the car; manufacturing ended in 2014.
This article outlines the Acura TL transmission types, issues, and where applicable, the 2021 cost estimate of the repair. Remember that this estimate varies depending on the mechanic, location, availability of parts, and market value.
Acura TL Transmission Problems
The Acura TL has several problems but by far its worst category of problems is the Acura TL transmission. Transmission failure showed up most commonly in the 2003 Acura TL. This problem was on the automatic transmission, not the manual transmission.
Even though 2003 had the most complaints, it wasn’t the only year that the TL had issues. 2002 had a high number of complaints as well, but the years 2003 to 2009 and 2012 all had transmission issues.
Consumers hate problems with their vehicles, especially when they paid a pretty penny for the ride. When these transmission issues started occurring, the car owners were livid.
What years did the Acura TL have transmission problems?
The Acura TL transmission has had its share of problems throughout the years beginning with the 2002 model and going through to the 2012 model.
In 2002, the Acura TL had a widespread defect within the transmission that meant complete transmission failure at around 148,000 miles. The same problem occurred in 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007, but with each year it began occurring at an earlier amount of mileage.
Granted, many drivers don’t push their cars past 100,000. They buy a new car to replace the ride way before the milage adds up to that point. However, this means the danger is problematic for used car owners.
Used car shoppers often get excited to see a once-hyped car available for a steal. The problem is that these great prices and deals often reveal that the car will be a lemon.
What Transmission Do I Have?
Acura TL transmission models consist of the BDGA, B7VA, and B7WA. All of the models have the same common problems including loss of forward gears, overheat, and loss of 4th gear and/or reverse.
Causes of the loss of forward gears ranged from a faulty solenoid to a torque converter issues.
If you towed heavy loads, drove in stop-and-go traffic, or drove on mountainous terrain, overheating occurred when the transmission created more friction than the automatic transmission fluid could remove. This could cause a whole slew of problems both in the moment and down the line.
Another common issue was the loss of 4th gear or reverse caused by design flaws in the valve and channel plate. How is the car going to make it out of the subdivision without fourth gear?
The Worst Year for the Acura TL: 2010
Although the 2003 Acura TL transmission was severe, the 2010 Acura TL has been titled the worst year to date.
In addition to transmission issues, the car excessively consumed oil. Owners were putting two to three quarts of oil into the vehicle between oil changes and some even had the engine die.
In addition, the 2010 Acura TL also had defective brake rotors that caused the front wheels to vibrate. The 2010 model also had the airbag sensor turn on at about 50,000 miles.
When this vehicle first hit the market, the MSRP was between $35,000 and $42,400. Imagine spending all that money on a car to have problems with the brake rotors, transmission, and engine failure. If that’s not covered under warranty, you may as well send the car to the junkyard.
Acura TL Recalls
The Acura TL transmission is notoriously faulty and, as you can guess, the vehicle itself has several recalls related to the transmission.
The 2000-2004 Acura TL was recalled because, in certain operating conditions, heat built up between the countershaft and secondary shaft gears in the automatic transmission that lead to gear tooth chipping or breakage.
If the gear failed it would result in transmission lockup which could lead to a crash (injury, property damage, car loss, etc. are all on the menu in this situation).
The 1996-1998 Acura TL was recalled because a transmission case bolt could fall out allowing the transmission to disengage. This meant the vehicle lost power to the drive wheels without warning. Also, shifting into park would not lock the wheels and a parked vehicle could move unexpectedly.
If you are the current owner of an Acura TL or interested in purchasing one, you can call your local Honda dealership, and with the vehicle identification number, check on any outstanding recalls the car needs.
Acura TL Technical Service Bulletins
Sometimes vehicle manufacturers issue technical service bulletins (TSB) and three were issued related to the Acura TL transmission. A TSB is sometimes confused with a recall but only covers components that malfunction without compromising the safety of the vehicle.
The most recent TSB issued was for the 2009-2011 Acura TL. A shudder from the torque converter could be felt while driving between 20-45 mph. To minimize the shudder, a software update for the transmission is available.
Honda made this software update available free of charge; however, if the shudder returned, the torque converter would need to be replaced. Honda extended the warranty on torque converters in affected vehicles to eight years from the original date of purchase or 105,000 miles, whichever came first.
That being said, if you have a Honda Acura that is no longer eligible for this free repair, you’re going to have to pay for it out of pocket. That’s bad news, especially for used car owners who likely made the purchase to save money, not spend it.
The 2002-2003 Acura TL also had a TSB. The 3rd gear clutch pack in the automatic transmission was wearing quicker than normal and needed to be replaced. If it wasn’t replaced, the car would not upshift or downshift, display excessively harsh shifts, and slow or delay engagement.
The first TSB issued was for the 1999-2003 Acura TL. While driving, certain indicators on the dashboard flashed, loud noises came from the transmission, slow or delayed gear engagement was experienced, and automatic transmission fluid leaked.
This was solved by a new torque converter, powertrain control module replacement, and/or a new fuel pressure regulator.
Because there were so many issues with the transmission, Honda was forced to extend the transmission and torque converter warranties in 2003, however, they no longer apply.
How much does it cost to replace an Acura TL transmission?
Because the Acura TL transmission is known for failure, it’s important to know the average cost to get your vehicle fixed. The average cost for a diagnosis is the cheapest part at around $100.
After the diagnosis, the cost to rebuild or replace your transmission is very expensive.
The average cost to rebuild a transmission is $2,800 to $3,800 while replacing the transmission can cost from $4,000 to $8,000. The labor to remove and replace a transmission ranges from $500 to $1,200.
Rebuilding a transmission can save you money in the long term, but it is still a significant chunk of change. If the vehicle is not worth the investment, it’s better to send it to the junkyard.
Keep in mind that the average lifespan of a vehicle is roughly 12 years. Most people try to push their cars to 100,000, sometimes 200,000 miles within that time. The likely truth is that an Acura may not make it in light of these transmission issues.
How long does an Acura TL Transmission last?
Ideally, transmission should last the life of a car, but as we can see with the Acura TL transmission, that is not the case.
The life of a transmission is one of the biggest concerns for car buyers, especially those buying a used car as it is harder to verify how the car was maintained.
Transmission lifespans vary with some lasting just over 10,000 miles and others over 200,000 miles. Although regular vehicle maintenance is the number one factor in elongating a transmission’s lifespan, it does not matter if the vehicle has manufacturing issues.
The 2007 Acura TL transmission needed replacing around 66,000 miles. While mileage varied, the longest an Acura TL transmission lasted was 148,000 miles, until of course, Honda redesigned the transmission and it was no longer a problem for newly produced models.
Is the Transmission Repair Even Worth It?
Having read all of these problems, you’re wondering is the Acura TL transmission repair even worth it?
Rebuilding a transmission may feel like a quick victory. Within a few days, maybe a week, your car is back on the road for a few thousand dollars. That might seem cheaper than buying a whole new car.
When talking about cars with a high value or sentimental meaning, some drivers will do whatever it takes to keep the car in pristine operating condition. Sometimes, though, it’s not worth it!
The average price of a transmission rebuild is about $2,500. That’s a lot of dough for a used car, especially something from 2003-2010.
For some, this repair makes sense. They may have the $2,500 to repair their used car, and they can avoid making a down payment or taking out a loan to buy a new ride. As the life of the vehicle is extended, car owners take a sigh of relief.
Then again, what else is going to go wrong with the car next? Do you have the money set aside for a new repair every other month? The short-term payoff may not be worth it in the end. Getting a more reliable vehicle could save you a lot of headaches and cash.
The Acura TL: Think Long and Hard Before Purchasing
If you own an Acura TL and have yet to have transmission issues, reading this article has probably scared you. You are now facing transmission problems, amongst other issues, that may require expensive repairs that you just don’t have the money for.
Unfortunately, this happens with all cars, especially used cars. Sometimes the best option is to part with the car once and for all by sending it to the junkyard. With the title in hand, you can wave goodbye to that disaster.
If the car is worth the investment, use your time wisely and visit a mechanic for a proper diagnosis as soon as possible. If the mechanic can make a diagnosis before any symptoms show, you are buying yourself some time. With proper, regularly scheduled maintenance, the car could last for much longer.
It’s much better to deal with this problem now before you end up stranded on the side of the road, hazard lights and all.