Troubleshooting Acura Transmission Problems

Troubleshooting Acura Transmission Problems

DIY Cost: $30-$350
Est. Time: 1-3 hr
Difficulty: Intermediate

Even though Acura vehicles are generally dependable, transmission slipping, poor shifting, shudder, and skipping are common problems for Acura owners. 

Acura transmission problems can start as early as 60,000 miles and are typically noticeable in cold weather or at startup.

Certain Acura transmission problems can be fixed by updating the transmission software, while other issues may require complete transmission replacement.

If your Acura is still under factory warranty, we recommend taking your vehicle to your nearest Acura dealer. If your Acura is out of warranty, read this article to become familiar with Acura transmission problems.

We will go over some basic things you need to check. You will also learn how to read fault codes from the Transmission Control Unit (TCU) yourself.

Symptoms

Common symptoms that you experience when Acura transmission malfunctions:

  • Vibration while driving
  • Hesitation upon acceleration
  • Delayed shifting
  • Growling or grinding noise
  • Weak acceleration or no power
  • Transmission jerking
  • Check Engine Light on (P0700, P0730, P0740, P0780, P1768)
  • Erratic shifting
  • Loss of power while driving

Check Transmission Fluid Level 

Acura transmission dipstick

When the transmission fluid level is low, you will experience symptoms such as transmission slipping, no shift, jerking between gears, or even a burning smell.

If your Acura is stuck in gear or you notice a delay in shifting, the first thing that you need to do is check the transmission fluid level.

Do not drive an Acura with low transmission fluid. Driving with low transmission fluid damages the transmission.

  1. Remove the transmission dipstick and ensure there is transmission fluid. Do not continue with the next steps if there is no transmission fluid at all. Transmission fluid level should only be measured when the transmission oil is warm to get an accurate level reading.
  2. Drive your Acura around for at least fifteen minutes. Ensure to shift the transmission between all the gears if necessary manually. This will allow your Acura transmission fluid to reach operating temperature.
  3. Remove the transmission dipstick and determine the fluid level. If the transmission fluid level is low, add trans fluid until you bring the level between the min and max marks on the dipstick. If your Acura does not have a dipstick, you can purchase one from the dealer. Or check online for Acura Transmission Dipstick on eBay.
  4. Add transmission fluid. Only use the recommended oil by Acura, Honda transmission fluid. Using any transmission oil can cause damage to the transmission.

Transmission fluid dipstick may not be available for transmissions in which the level is measured via the transmission plug.

How to Diagnose Acura Transmission Problems?

The first sign that you may be having transmission problems is that the check engine light (CEL) comes on.

You can use a generic OBD-II scanner to retrieve CEL faults, but those codes will not be as helpful as the codes stored in the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) module (also known as transmission control unit).

A multi-system diagnostic scanner that works on Acura will read fault codes from the PCM module. To diagnose Acura transmission problems, it is recommended to use an OBD2 scanner for Acura Honda Transmission.  Locate the diagnostic port under the dashboard on the driver's side. This is a 16-pin port. All 1996 and newer ACURA vehicles have this port.

  1. Plugin your handheld scanner or Bluetooth adapter into the OBD2 port.Use OBD2 scanner to read fault codes from the transmission control unit or powertrain module
  2. Turn the key to position II. All the dashboard lights will turn on. Do not start the vehicle. If your ACURA has a Start/Stop button, you will need to press the Start button without pressing the brakes.DIY troubleshooting tranmission problems on ACURA
  3. Allow the OBD2 scanner to turn on and connect to your ACURA Engine Control Unit (ECU). Car won't shift due to sotred codes and check engine light on
  4. Read fault codes from the Transmission Control Unit. Write down the fault code and research to find out more about the problem and possible solutions. Once the problem is fixed, you can go to the Transmission menu > Erase Codes to reset the transmission fault codes. 

Common Acura Transmission Problems

Let's take a look at common Acura transmission problems. 

Shudder and Vibrations when driving

acura bad torque converter transmission problem

A common problem that affects many Acura (such as TL and MDX) is transmission shudder and vibrations when driving. The vibrations can be most felt at highway driving speeds. This problem may be corrected by updating the automatic transmission software, which has to be completed by the dealer.

Call the Acura dealer to provide them with your VIN and ask if there is a Powertrain Control Module (PCM) software update available.

If a software update does not fix the shudder, there is a good chance that you have a bad torque convert that needs to be replaced.

To replace the torque converter, the transmission needs to be removed, making this repair very expensive. This is not an easy DIY fix that you can perform on your driveway.

The typical cost to change the torque converter is $1800-$3000.

Check Engine Light 

Suppose the check engine light and D4 or D5 indicator on the dashboard on your instrument cluster may flash. In some cases, you may even hear a loud noise from the transmission.

When this happens, your Acura transmission will delay shifting between gears in upshifting and downshifting.

To fix this problem often a new torque converter is needed. Honda extended the warranty to fix this problem, but older Acuras now fall outside the warranty period. Read the fault codes from the Engine Control Unit.

Read fault codes via the OBD2 port located under the dashboard using an OBD2 scanner.

Related codes: P0700, P0730, P0740, P0780, P1768

Worn Clutch Pack

Another problem that can affect some Acuras is that the 3rd gear clutch pack may wear prematurely. If this happens, you may have issues upshifting or downshifting in 3rd gear.

Typical problems include flaring, slipping, or no shifting to third gear at all. Check engine light (CEL / MIL) and gear D5 may also be flashing.

To fix this problem, overhaul the transmission and replace the 3rd gear clutch. A defective valve body can also cause similar symptoms.

Solenoids and Sensors on Valve Body

Multiple solenoids are mounted on the valve body of the Acura transmission.

Due to age, these solenoids can fail or get sticky, causing erratic shifting. Sensors mounted on the valve body can get dirty or stop working if there is a short in the wire harness.

It is possible to overhaul the valve body instead of replacing it. Valve body repair kits are available and less expensive than replacing the whole valve body.

Shift Stuck In Park

It can be scary if your Acura shifter won't move out of Park.

Not only are you stuck in a parking lot or garage, but now you are worried about an expensive car repair.

A bad brake light switch typically causes the problem, or the ignition switch is not releasing the shifter from the park.

As a temporary solution, manually override the transmission and move the shifter in Drive.

Next to the shifter, you will notice a small plastic cover that says Shifter Unlock. Use a small object such as a flat screwdriver or pen to remove the cover. Insert the screwdriver into the hole and move the shifter from Park to Drive.

Recommended Acura Transmission Fluid

Below is a list of the most used Acura transmission fluid and applicable vehicles. The following is for information only. The correct fluid for your Acura is listed in your owner's manual.

  • Honda ATF-Type 3.1 082009006 CVT
    • Acura ILX 2013-2014 Hybrid; L4; 1.5L; LEA2 Eng.
    • Honda CR-Z 2011-2016
    • Honda Insight 2000-2014
    • Honda Civic 1996-2014
  • Acura Transmission Fluid 08200 9008
    • 1997-2003 Acura CL
    • 1986-2001 Acura Integra
    • 1986-1995 Acura Legend
    • 2001-2011 Acura MDX
    • 1991-2005 Acura NSX
    • 2007-2011 Acura RDX
    • 1996-2010 Acura RL
    • 2002-2006 Acura RSX
    • 1996-1999 Acura SLX
    • 1995-2011 Acura TL
    • 2004-2011 Acura TSX
    • 1992-1994 Acura Vigor
  • Honda AA01 500 001 ZF Transmission

Recalls

Over the years, Acura has issued multiple recalls for automatic transmission. Call your Acura dealer and provide them with the VIN. Ask if there are any recalls on your car. If there are, the dealer may fix your Acura free of charge.

List of previous Acura recalls and service bulletins.

  • 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.
  • TSB 03-002
    • 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.
  • 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.


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