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1999-03 Acura TL’s and CL’s Pattern Failurers

Home Forums Stay Dirty Lounge Common Problems/Pattern Failures 1999-03 Acura TL’s and CL’s Pattern Failurers

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Stephan Asturi Stephan Asturi 3 months ago.

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  • #579920
    Eric The Car Guy
    EricTheCarGuy
    Keymaster

    These cars had a laundry list of failures. In fact, they get my vote as the worst Honda’s ever made. Here’s some of the issues I recall from these vehicles.

    Transmissions. These go out wholesale. If you haven’t had yours replaced yet, plan on it. Also, don’t think if you’ve had yours replaced you’re safe. I’ve seen these transmissions fail multiple times. They did extend the warranty period, but at this point I would think most of them are out of that period. If you wonder if your’s is covered, contact American Honda with your VIN.

    These cars warp front brake rotors like it’s going out of style. In fact, I’ve often suggested to customers that they upgrade to slotted rotors to help eliminate the problem.

    Front wheel bearings are also a common failure.

    Coolant leak in the crossover passage that runs along the back of the engine above the transmission. This is an easy fix with a couple of gaskets.

    EGR passages clogging. Although they changed the design during the model run, it still continued to have issues. Sometimes this problem shows up as a misfire code.

    Timing belt tensioners. If you have the ‘grenade pin’ type of tensioner, replace it when doing a timing belt. They have a high failure rate and when they go, they can cause the belt to jump time.

    Serpentine belt tensioners. This is less common but should be checked when doing a timing belt.

    Struts. Once again less common but they seemed to fail more than pervious year Acuras and Hondas. Look for leakage from the strut to confirm failure.

    Heated seat elements are also a common failure. BTW, the passenger seat does not have an upper lumbar heating element. This is because of the SRS sensor that’s placed there.

    CD changers and radios. I think we were replacing these weekly.

    Rear view mirrors. If you have one of these car’s you probably already know this. That said, be VERY careful during replacement. It’s very easy to crack the windshield when replacing this component.

    Window regulators. This is a common failure on a lot of Honda’s if I’m honest. You can help extend their life by not using the power window’s if the window is frozen shut. This overstresses the mechanism and can cause it to fail early.

    Hood switches for the security system. This can sometimes cause the security system to go off at random times. To verify this all you need to do is unplug the switch. If the problem goes away, you’re good. The computer won’t know that you’ve unplugged the sensor. However if someone tries to break into the engine compartment the security system will not activate if it’s unplugged.

    Outside temperature sensors. These can cause inaccurate readings of the outside temperature. You can also adjust these a few degrees up or down. I honestly don’t remember the procedure though. See if you can dig up the service manual for that. In fact, it might even be in the owners manual.

    One last note. These cars are VERY sensitive to the tires you put on them. If you use anything but Michelin, you’ll likely experience excessive road noise and uneven wear.

    Those are the ones I can think of for now. If I remember more, I’ll add to the thread later.

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  • #621064
    César Morgan
    César Morgan
    Participant

    I have a question… In fact, I just posted a new topic about it, but in the case of the 97 2.2 CL… will some, if not all, of these issues apply to that vintage? I see you specified 1999-2003, but 97 is pretty close, and I’m worried about it.

    #621088
    Eric The Car Guy
    EricTheCarGuy
    Keymaster

    [quote=”TheXDS” post=111978]I have a question… In fact, I just posted a new topic about it, but in the case of the 97 2.2 CL… will some, if not all, of these issues apply to that vintage? I see you specified 1999-2003, but 97 is pretty close, and I’m worried about it.[/quote]

    Not at all. Just the vehicles mentioned are the ones that had these issues. The 2.2 CL is really just a rebadged Accord of the same vintage. Those were very reliable vehicles.

    #955347
    Stephan Asturi
    Stephan Asturi
    Participant

    Hey Eric, just watched your video on the Honda’s you don’t like and as someone who’s had a 2000 Acura TL in their family for the last 20 years I feel like I should do my own write up on the Car based on our ownership experience.

    I saw how much you hated this Generation of TL’s and I can fully understand all the hate you have towards this car, as any Honda/Acura Technician working during the warranty period of those Horrible 5 speed automatic transmissions. Personally I feel the car is probably one of the most under-rated cars of all time because of how unreliable the original Automatic transmissions were because the rest of the car around it is damn near bullet proof. I feel it would be one of the greatest daily drivers of all time if it only had a manual transmission option like the 2003 CL type S or 3rd Gen TL’s.

    I’ll be referencing your write up and sharing my experiences with the common faults you described as well as adding in my family’s own experience after owning the car since new for the last 20 years and near 300,000km. Hopefully this gives people a better idea that this car is not all that bad and it could be a whole lot worse.

    “Transmissions. These go out wholesale. If you haven’t had yours replaced yet, plan on it. Also, don’t think if you’ve had yours replaced you’re safe. I’ve seen these transmissions fail multiple times. They did extend the warranty period, but at this point I would think most of them are out of that period. If you wonder if your’s is covered, contact American Honda with your VIN.”
    I feel like we got lucky with our transmission. Yes it did eventually fail but it failed in March of 2006 around the time when Honda released an updated transmission that failed less frequently, otherwise known as the “blue bolt” transmission. Since I took ownership of the car 5 years ago it’s received yearly transmission fluid changes as well as replacing the external spin on filter to extend the life of the transmission as much as possible. It’s because of over maintaining it that it’s managed to outlast the original transmission with no signs of failure (knock on wood).

    These transmissions were almost doomed to fail because of Honda’s oversights. I still firmly believe it’s due to having a high fluid change interval with sub par fluid that broke down way before the interval was even close to done. The improved synthetic DW-1 has definitely helped the reliability of Honda transmissions even on their older transmissions, as well as doing a more frequent drain and fill interval to keep the fluid free of particles. Hopefully I can get close to half a million KM on this transmission but even if it does get replaced, you can used a mid 2000’s Accord V6 transmission that’s far more reliable and cheap to buy used.

    “These cars warp front brake rotors like it’s going out of style. In fact, I’ve often suggested to customers that they upgrade to slotted rotors to help eliminate the problem.”
    I find this to be common with most cars that use single piston calipers on the front and have the power and weight of a V6 sedan. I’ve heard people on the Acura forums having success with replacing those calipers with the Dual Piston Calipers from the Acura Legend and it’s an easy swap to perform. I made the mistake of using Hawk pads on this car and it just ruined my front rotors, even using expensive Brembo blank rotors they still warp. Oh well.

    “Front wheel bearings are also a common failure.”
    I can’t recall the front wheel bearing’s ever being replaced, I don’t have all the dealer invoices from when my parents drove the car but I do have records of the rear wheel bearings being replaced at around 215k which I feel is normal.

    “Coolant leak in the crossover passage that runs along the back of the engine above the transmission. This is an easy fix with a couple of gaskets.”
    Have yet to experience this issue or any coolant leaks on the car for now (knock on wood) I just replace the thermostats after every timing belt / water pump change.

    “EGR passages clogging. Although they changed the design during the model run, it still continued to have issues. Sometimes this problem shows up as a misfire code.”
    Fortunately this is a fairly easy job to do yourself and it will help with mileage once everything is cleaned out. It’s also a good idea to clean the lower intake runners because they can have carbon build up on the walls and also do a valve adjustment and cover gaskets with the intake manifold off. But someone who isn’t familiar with cars might see this as annoying problem.

    “Timing belt tensioners. If you have the ‘grenade pin’ type of tensioner, replace it when doing a timing belt. They have a high failure rate and when they go, they can cause the belt to jump time.”
    This isn’t a problem if you follow up on your timing belt maintenance every 100k and use a reputable timing belt kit, preferably from Honda, Gates, or Aisin.

    “Serpentine belt tensioners. This is less common but should be checked when doing a timing belt.”
    My tensioner is prone to squealing when there’s a lot of moisture in the air but it goes away when the car warms up, it’s due for a 3rd one soon.

    “Struts. Once again less common but they seemed to fail more than previous year Acuras and Hondas. Look for leakage from the strut to confirm failure.”
    So far no issues with struts, nearly 300k and still all original. Honda produces amazing OEM struts for their vehicles.

    “Heated seat elements are also a common failure. BTW, the passenger seat does not have an upper lumbar heating element. This is because of the SRS sensor that’s placed there.”
    Passenger and driver heated seat elements both burned out but the drivers lumbar heater still works! Another note the switches are also finicky since the cup holder’s on the car suck and they probably drank one too many cups of coffee.

    “CD changers and radios. I think we were replacing these weekly.”
    Lucky my 2000 year TL doesn’t have a CD changer, just that cheesy CD holder that’s stored in the dash. The original head unit still works and I love how loud the Bose speakers are. I heard Acura used slightly cheaper speakers for the 2002-2003 model years that sometimes wore out.

    “Rear view mirrors. If you have one of these car’s you probably already know this. That said, be VERY careful during replacement. It’s very easy to crack the windshield when replacing this component.”
    Every TL had this failure and we were scheduled to replace it 15 years ago but our Acura Dealer somehow lost the part and there was no stock anywhere so we just left it alone all this time. Luckily it failed at the half way point so half my mirror is dimmed and the other half is normal so I can just view it from different angles if I want.

    “Window regulators. This is a common failure on a lot of Honda’s if I’m honest. You can help extend their life by not using the power window’s if the window is frozen shut. This overstresses the mechanism and can cause it to fail early.”
    I remember this because I used to screw with the power windows as a kid and accidentally broke it when it was frozen one winter. Luckily the rear passenger one was replaced under warranty, but I still got in trouble lol. No problems since, they actually outlasted the front regulators on my dad’s newer 2012 TL.

    “Hood switches for the security system. This can sometimes cause the security system to go off at random times. To verify this all you need to do is unplug the switch. If the problem goes away, you’re good. The computer won’t know that you’ve unplugged the sensor. However if someone tries to break into the engine compartment the security system will not activate if it’s unplugged.”
    Never had this problem on my car, but the hood release latch sometimes get’s stuck and sometimes causes the hood not to close properly, but I believe this was a common fault across many Honda models around that time period.

    “Outside temperature sensors. These can cause inaccurate readings of the outside temperature. You can also adjust these a few degrees up or down. I honestly don’t remember the procedure though. See if you can dig up the service manual for that. In fact, it might even be in the owners manual.”
    Ehhh It might be off by a degree or so depending on what the radio reports on the weather, but it still works after all this time.

    “One last note. These cars are VERY sensitive to the tires you put on them. If you use anything but Michelin, you’ll likely experience excessive road noise and uneven wear.”
    This might’ve been more of an issue back in the 2000s that’s why we only used Michelin MXM4’s, but these days tire compounds are so much better. I’ve used 3 different tires on this car Pirelli P7 Cinturato’s (amazing for daily driving), General Tire Altimax Arctic (noisy but solid winter tires), and Cooper RS3 G4 tires. I switched to the coopers when I upgraded my rims to that of an 04 TL and they are the best bang for the buck performance all season tires on the market imo. I even wrote a whole article on the Acurazine Forum’s giving them a full review.

    Those are the ones I can think of for now. If I remember more, I’ll add to the thread later.

    On top of those issues there are a lot of other common issues that don’t come to light until much later in the car’s life when people stop taking it to dealerships for service.

    The brake/fuel lines that go from the driver’s side to the rear like to rust where the pinch clamps on the plastic shield connect to them build up salt and water causing them to rust through and fail. Fortunately on my car I was able to save the fuel lines and coat them but I had to replace the brake lines and the run right behind the fuel tank.

    Oh speaking of fuel tanks, they’re made of metal and WILL rust through causing a fuel leak if you live in the salt belt. Somehow this didn’t cause an EVAP code to appear though. The coating can only protect them for so long and to replace the fuel tank in these cars requires the ENTIRE REAR SUBFRAME to be dropped, costing hours in labor. This is not something I could do in my driveway and I spent around $1200 to get that repaired.

    On cars with the navigation, there’s a weird glitch with the clock that only display’s 0:00 for the time and the only way to fix it is to revert the Navigation to the factory update which is a kick in the pants to anybody that paid to update their Maps at the dealer. Lucky mine is a base model.

    The driver’s seat always rips unless you cleaned and conditioned your leather regularly (which nobody does).

    The D5 Bulb on the transmission always burns out, going to replaced all the bulbs with LED’s when I find time to rip apart the dash and replace all the bulbs.

    If you live in Canada and have day time running lights then it’s not un-common for the relay to fail at least once.

    For the 99 and 2000 model years there was a weird “vapor lock” or “heat soak” issue which sometimes happened when the fuel stations would switch the summer and winter gas. This can cause the car to stall or not start after you fill the tank with the new fuel due to fuel vaporizing in the fuel rails so you’d had to wait a few minutes for the engine to cool before you can start. This only happened to my dad a couple of times when he owned it but has yet to happen to me, maybe today’s fuel additives prevent that. This was resolved for the 2001 and up model years and there is a fix for the earlier models. But it involves replacing the fuel rails with higher pressure ones and an updated ECM. This fix is expensive and so not worth it once these cars were outside of their warranty period for a problem that comes only twice a year.

    The high pressure power steering hose will eventually leak like on most Honda’s. Definitely replace those with OEM, the aftermarket ones are junk.

    Motor and transmission mounts go out all the time on these cars, expect them to be replaced at some point. Fortunately they’re not hard to change yourself.

    The car handle’s well but with models without VSA 99-01 the car tends to understeer at it’s limits, especially with those thin OEM Rims.

    The clear coat could’ve been better, my car is Fire-pepper red and it’s not as vibrant as it used to be and the hood clear-coat looks sandblasted from all the highway driving. Rear quarter panels also will build up rust if you don’t have slash guards installed and even then it’ll eventually rust, just much further down the road.

    The wiper’s have the same issue as your integra where the plastic bushings wear out and slap the A pillar. Replaced it with an aftermarket wiper transmission for $50 and it’s been working for years since.

    Despite all this car’s faults, I love the damn thing to pieces as it’s taken me to school from elementary through to college and it now takes me to work every day with no complaints.

    There are a ton of things to love about this car and here’s a list of things I love about it.

    First off the engine! I love the early J-Series engines in these TL’s with the mechanical throttle body and lack of emissions devices like Pre-cats and VCM, making it a very cheap engine to maintain with plenty of power. The early J-Series use 5W-30 oil and I believe this definitely helps maintain peak performance of the engine life of this car vs the thinner oils on the later years. Multiple oil analysis came out with stellar results with minimal wear even at near 300k mileage. There’s also a decent amount of room in the engine bay if you need to work on your car.

    This is a lego car with a lot of parts from other Acura’s being compatible with this car making for awesome builds (Engines, manual transmissions from the CL, cylinder heads, wheels, calipers ETC).

    The A/C on this car blows ICE cold, definitely the coldest A/C units of any car I’ve driven. Honda definitely over built the compressor on these TL’s and they hold plenty of Freon. Mine still works to this day only needing to be recharged once after replacing the Schrader valves.

    Next to no electrical issues with these cars since it’s such a simple car. Alternators and batteries last forever and unless you screw up an electrical repair. The only electrical issue I have is my trunk light works when it want’s to.

    This is one of the cheapest cars to fix and maintain yourself and so many people take this for granted. Parts are extremely cheap and plentiful if you buy them online because it shares so many parts from its Accord counterpart. O2 sensors are like $40 vs $300 on some cars. This car only has one Cat and only costed me $200 to replace it with a magnaflow one. Brakes and other wear items are also very cheap to buy aftermarket and most jobs on this car are easy enough to do on your own at home like I did. If you are really savvy, then you can do large jobs like transmission/engine replacements if you have the equipment. This car doesn’t throw too many curve-balls compared to the German rivals of that era.

    Despite the premium fuel requirement, it gets really decent MPG for a V6 car from 20 years ago. I’m able to get low 20s in the city and low 30s on the highway with my record being 800km on a single tank. (But all the stars had to align for the highways to have no traffic that week)

    This is such a simple car, with a check engine light that doesn’t like to complain. The engine light only came on once while I drove it and it’s only because 3 ignition Coils blew at the same time. With proper maintenance this car will treat you very well.

    Here’s a list of major Components that have NEVER been replaced on this car and remain original after 20 years and 280k. (Knock on wood)

    Alternator
    Power Steering Pump (seeps a little fluid I will probably attempt re-sealing it when it gets worse)
    Rack and Pinion
    CV Axles both sides
    Engine (obviously) Majority of the sensors are original too and head gasket. (Rad fan switch physically broke during timing belt replacement)
    O2 Sensors (many cars have these fail costing them hundreds in the sensors alone, these are only $40 each on this car)
    Evap Emissions system, canister and solenoids.
    Radiator/ condenser
    Lower control arms (will be replaced soon though)
    Front Calipers (rears were both replaced)

    So In conclusion and sorry for the long essay, this isn’t a bad car and I can name a few Honda’s that are worse to own than these Tl’s such as 2001-2005 Civics with 1.7L engines that are prone to head gasket failures and transmission failures.
    2003-2006 Accords with the 4cyl also had horrible oil burning issues and major brake issues causing certain models having different brake pad and caliper part numbers.
    The new Civics and Accords with the 1.5L turbo with oil delusion issues right out of the gate brand new. Unacceptable for a new car to have in my books.

    But with all that said I completely understand and agree with you on why you dislike the car so much, there are definitely better made Honda’s. Especially being a flat rate technician being swamped with transmission swap after transmission swap day after day with warranty pay would drive any tech to hate a certain car. The Honda techs probably felt the same way with the Odyssey Vans of that era. But hopefully this shines a brighter light for you on these cars that they were able to provide great server to a few lucky people 🙂

    #959487
    Jeff Kelley
    Jeff Kelley
    Participant

    Enlightening and comprehensive list of faults for the Honda Acura TL. I’m sure some of these apply to other Hondas as well. It is a long, yet enlightening read and well worth the time for the owners of these vehicles. Thanks so much for compiling such an inclusive volume of faults. I learned more about car repair simply by reading them.

    #959820
    Eric The Car Guy
    EricTheCarGuy
    Keymaster

    Thank you for sharing your experience Stephan. There is always one of you that will defend these cars, and I get it. You don’t want to believe that your car is a lemon. No one does. But the fact remains, these cars had way more issues than Hondas made before 1998, and not by a little, by a whole lot. That would be my main point. Not so much that they can’t be good cars, they’re still better than anything GM made during the same time period, but they are plagued with pattern failures and common issues that make their ownership experience a far cry from what Hondas made before 1999 were. I’d take a 1994 Acura Legend with 200K+ on the odometer any day over one one of these cars.

    I speculate the reason these cars were so bad was because at that time Honda changed it’s focus from quality to profitability. Cheap parts make for cheap cars, and during the early 2000’s Honda made some pretty cheap cars, the Acura TL’s and CL’s being some of the worst offenders in my view.

    Thanks again for your input.

    #963240
    Stephan Asturi
    Stephan Asturi
    Participant

    Thank you Eric for taking the time to read my response! Of course I 100% agree with you on Honda’s of the 80s and 90s being built far better than anything they’ve produced after the early 2000s. Profit over quality unfortunately is a growing trend in the automotive industry, luckily Toyota seems to be the only one that prides themselves on building reliable cars even if they’re last on the latest technology.

    Perfect example, my dad drove a 92 Accord with a 5 speed for 8 years before trading it in for the 2000 TL and that car was beyond bullet proof. I don’t remember him telling me about it having any repairs outside of maintenance other than tie rod ends and a bent rim from hitting a curb too hard. Fast forward to today and he’s been driving a 2012 TL for the last 8 years and in the same amount of years driven with LESS KM than the Accord he had in the 90s he’s had the following replaced on that car:

    -Front Passenger Window Motor / Regulator
    -All 4 Brake Calipers
    -Blower Motor
    -Both mirrors from the heating element frying
    -Upper Control Arms
    -2 Alternators (the aftermarket one died shortly after and stopped charging)
    -The Freaking Drivers Seat Belt Buckle… Never heard of those wearing out so soon

    Even my mom’s 2017’s RDX needed it’s transmission replaced because the dealership couldn’t figure out the electrical issues that would put the car in limp mode because it was tied into the blind spot and active cruise control system.

    Honda’s today aren’t engineered and built the same as they were way back then and unfortunately the 2nd Gen TL was the first model that displayed the direction that Honda/Acura were going with their vehicles from then on out. Even my dad was surprised how many repairs his TL had to go through because he’s not used to it, even my 2000 TL has more original parts on it than the 2012.

    Now I’ll admit I have been REALLY Lucky with my ownership experience on my TL considering it hasn’t gone through a crazy amount of transmissions. They’re great cars if you take care of them but if you don’t work on your own cars then DO NOT own a 2nd Gen TL, because you’ll see the shop more often than not. But they are easy enough to work on your own since there’s hardly any electronic systems on it.

    However if my TL were to get totaled somehow, I’d probably wouldn’t buy another one since there are better cars out there, this one just happened to fell on my lap when the time came for me to drive. I’d probably replace it with a 2007-2008 TL like the one you just got since the Transmissions have been re-worked to be somewhat reliable and they’re better than the 2nd Gen in literally every way possible.

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