By on March 23, 2017

1999 Acura TL, Image: © Jim Travers

Some of you have asked us to tell you more about the Acura that inspired this series about updating an older car with new tech. I’m more than happy to oblige, especially if doing so might inspire one of you to tender an offer.

The Acura in question is a TL of 1999 vintage, with 162,000 miles showing on the clock. I am the second owner and have paperwork going back to day one, so I have no reason to believe the mileage isn’t original.

Both the Acura and I now live in the greater New York City area, although the car was originally purchased in Miami from an elderly gentleman who kept it at his retirement home on Miami Beach. He had it for six years, during which time he racked up about 70,000 miles before selling it to my wife at the time and me for an entirely reasonable price. It had developed a tendency to shut itself off at inopportune times, thus leaving the elderly gentleman with no power steering, brakes, or car. In Miami, this was even less of a good thing in those days than it is now.

Our reasons for choosing the car were simple. We needed a car, and my wife saw it with a for sale sign while she was out for a neighborhood jog. But before making an offer, I called a genius mechanic friend of mine to ask what he thought about the stalling issue. In less than a minute, he diagnosed the problem as a faulty ignition switch, the victim of far too much stuff hanging from the elderly gentleman’s keychain.

Joe’s diagnosis was all the more impressive given that the Acura had been back to the dealer three times to try to fix the problem to no avail. One $50-or-thereabouts part later, the stalling issue was fixed and has yet to return. Let that be a lesson to all of you with five pounds of crap hanging from your key ring. I’m talking to you, Mr. or Ms. bottle opener, locket full o’ pix, and kewpie doll person.

Other than that and the obligatory Honda/Acura transmission replacement at around 90,000 miles, the TL has yet to leave me stranded at the side of the road, and has been largely trouble-free. Unless you count the passenger window switch. Or the driver’s seat motor. Or the leaky air conditioning. Or the sunroof that got slower and slower until I finally stopped opening it for fear it would never close again.

Thanks to a smartphone and YouTube videos, even a schmuck like me can fix many such things and keep an old car on the road. If you’re one of the few who has yet to figure this out, try Googling whatever ails your car, or even yourself. You’ll find free videos on everything from repairing an Acura window switch, to a suspension bridge, to taking out your own tonsils.

As legend has it, my TL was originally a dealer showroom car, and being from Miami it came equipped with the full South Florida Appearance Group. That means in addition to whatever options were offered by the factory, it had chrome alloy wheels, blacked out windows, a gawdawful and curb-magnet supreme aero kit, and acres of a photographed wood-like substance covering most of the console, doors, and even the air vents. It also came with Acura’s first factory navigation system. Consisting of a center screen powered by a box in the trunk the size of a TV cable box and requiring six or eight cartridges to map North America, the nav system in my car bit the big one a long time ago. But all is not lost, because the screen makes a handy flat surface for attaching a phone mount suction cup.

The Acura continues to serve me well as everything from commuter car to the vehicle of choice for dump runs, and it did duty transporting two 90-pound Belgian Shepherds for years. It still runs just fine, passes the 20-footer test, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take it anywhere — even though the dogs rendered the back seat all but uninhabitable for humans years ago. Resale value is not a pressing concern.

The once-proud Miami Vice look has faded as the blacked out windows have become more transparent over the years, and the chrome wheels rotted away before they were replaced with a set of junkyard alloys. The aero kit remains, thanks to the wonders of zip ties. I have no plans to replace the Acura, unless, of course, one of you makes me that offer I can’t refuse. You’d just better have a dog.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

30 Comments on “The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Jim’s 1999 Acura TL...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Hey, Jim, if you have this listed somewhere, you should include a link – it might be helpful for someone to make a buying decision.

    MOAR PICS.

    • 0 avatar
      Jim Travers

      Hey Mike, thanks, but the car isn’t really for sale as I mentioned toward the end of the story. At his point, it’s like a favorite shirt that nobody else would want. And it smells kinda like dog.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    Between this and GM’s switch issues; why do people insist on hanging 5 pounds of crap on their keychain? Mine has my house key, the key for the truck and the truck’s FOB.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      This is one of the reasons why companies are moving to keyless start with proximity keys: it eliminates a mechanical failure point.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I’ve never understood this, because I’ve seen so many ignition cylinders fail. I keep my Legend key on a small ring by itself, and did the same with my G8 key. Then I have another separate ring with the house keys, storage unit key, office key, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      There are also those who recommend keeping car keys separate from house keys, so that, if you are carjacked you’re not giving up your house keys as well. Fortunately, I have no experience with this; but for some time I have kept car keys separate. The presence of car key fobs to activate the unlocking system kind of encourages this.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    Looks like a decent car for sure. I love the late ’90s Acuras. They carry a sense of optimism and purpose not present in the brand today.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Other than that and the obligatory Honda/Acura transmission replacement at around 90,000 miles, the TL has yet to leave me stranded at the side of the road, and has been largely trouble-free.”

    The MY99 should use the Honda 4-spd transaxle and not the 5-spd “glass transmission”. Meaning, this one is worth hanging onto, I’m surprised you had issues with it. I would ensure through your tranny shop didn’t frack up and install the 5-spd when you replaced it because they are interchangeable.

    “With this [2000] model, if the driver forgets the 1-2 shift the computer will take over when in sport mode and do the 1-2 up and down shifts, unlike the 4-speed 1999 model. In many vehicles, the 5-speed automatic transmission failed: as the third clutch pack wore, particles blocked off oil passages and prevented the transmission from shifting or holding gears normally.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acura_TL

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      If I remember correctly my 2001 Accord V6 Coupe had a 4-speed transmission. Not sure if it is the same as the Acura TL, but the Accord transmission was dog awful. It liked to slip at odd times, feeling like a worn out Cadillac transmission from the 70s. And it also robbed power – making the 200hp V6 feel like a dog compared to my wife’s car, a 2004 BMW 325i with 26 less hp but with a manual.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m reaching here, and I was never a Honda expert, but the purpose of the five speed was to allow one more gear for the V6 as the 4 speed was intended and used for the I4s. This is why only the nicer Honda/Acuras of the period were affected and the I4s were not. This is the first instance I have ever heard though of a Honda V6 and a 4 speed past MY00.

    • 0 avatar
      18726543

      The 4 and 5 speed transmissions actually weren’t interchangeable. They looked pretty damn similar, but the 4-speed had a different speedo attachment. If you put a 5-speed in where a 4-speed used to be, you’d never get the speedometer to work. I replaced over a hundred of these 5-speeds in my 4ish years with Acura and every now and then saw a 4-speed from ’99 that had to come out also.

  • avatar
    Scout_Number_4

    Google isn’t helping, I must go public with my ignorance–what, pray tell, is “the 20-footer test?”

  • avatar
    Menloguy

    It looks like this car was photographed in Ypsilanti, MI.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    “Other than that and the obligatory Honda/Acura transmission replacement at around 90,000 miles, the TL has yet to leave me stranded at the side of the road, and has been largely trouble-free. Unless you count the passenger window switch. Or the driver’s seat motor. Or the leaky air conditioning. Or the sunroof that got slower and slower until I finally stopped opening it for fear it would never close again.”

    __________

    Acura for some reason still has a “quality” reputation that in my opinion is undeserved.

    Just from a few friends that have owned Acuras, they sure seem to have a whole lot of problems.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Give Joe a $1500 Oldsmobile with a loose trim piece, “awful American build quality! never again!”.

      Give Joe a $2500 Honda/Acura with a pound of rust and idle issues, “It’s okay, people always say they last to 200k!”.

      It’s a mix of cult behavior and the Honda Yakuza.

  • avatar
    4drSedan

    Aaah, the linear simplicity of late 90s Hondas, much like my beloved 98 Accord. 185.000 mile and like a Timex digital, just keeps on going. Although I haven’t required the obligatory transmission replacement. A 9 quart tranny fluid change yearly seems to be doing the trick.

    BTW in case anyone cares, I’m the guy who moved from Tampa to Ottawa, and wrote in to Mark with a couple of questions. I am now thoroughly enjoying the (strangely mild) Canadian winter.

  • avatar
    4drSedan

    No. I’m not even sure it’s worth the trouble. I just need it to last two more years. In fact I haven’t even put winter tires on (they’re in the garage). It has literally only snowed twice since Christmas.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    “Other than that and the obligatory Honda/Acura transmission replacement at around 90,000 miles, the TL has yet to leave me stranded at the side of the road, and has been largely trouble-free. Unless you count the passenger window switch. Or the driver’s seat motor. Or the leaky air conditioning. Or the sunroof that got slower and slower until I finally stopped opening it for fear it would never close again.”

    While I get that this is an 18 year-old car with 160,000+ miles, I would be called an idiot if I said I wanted to entertain offers on my 8 year-old Pontiac G6 with 115,000 miles that had all of those issues.

  • avatar
    jc1909

    I had a Gen 2 2003 TL-S with 228k before I traded it in for $1000. It was silver on black leather, Navi with Bose sound. I replaced the transmission and Navi once and it needed tires and struts when I traded it in. After driving a Toyota Corolla that I gave to my teenage daughter, I picked up a used 2008 Gen 3 TL-S with the 3.5l 286hp engine and 168k. I’ll be honest I wish I still had the Gen2 2003.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Crosley: I would think Apple would be upset at it as well, curious if there was pushback on their end, especially...
  • SCE to AUX: “C&D notes only 4 percent of G70 2.0T buyers have thus far sprung for a three-pedal...
  • TMA1: Agreed. There’s user-friendly, and on the other side of the coin there’s this.
  • TMA1: I’m sure the Impala will be back… as a crossover.
  • redgolf: The old saying “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” most 2nd and 3rd owners don’t really care, so...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States