Car Doctor Q&A: Why Does My Acura TL Have No Power?

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Ordinarily, the 2001 Acura TL generated 255hp from its 3.2-liter V-6. In our reader’s case, he’s nowhere near that. What’s the problem?

Q.I recently purchased a 2001 Acura TL and it is in beautiful condition inside and out. The problem is and most likely why I got such a good deal is that it feels like it has about a 50 horsepower engine instead of a 3.2 liter V-6.

So far I have replaced the spark plugs, changed the fuel and air filters and still the car runs like it has no power. The engine idles smooth and I had the local auto-parts store check for trouble codes and there are none.

The one thing that I did notice is that the engine vacuum is low. When I did some research one possibility was that the exhaust restricted. I loosened up the exhaust pipe until it leaked and now it is loud and still has no power, any thoughts?

A. The engine in your Acura uses a timing belt and based on the information you have provided I think the timing belt has jumped or it was never installed correctly.

If the valve timing is off, the engine idle can be very smooth, will have very low engine vacuum and the engine will be sluggish. There is a timing belt tensioner that unless you are familiar with this design, is easily installed incorrectly.

If you’re interested in seeing exactly how a timing belt goes into one of these cars, there’s a series of videos on YouTube that covers the replacement in a 2004 TL:

It is a fair amount of work but at this point if it were my car, I would remove the timing belt covers and check the camshaft to crankshaft alignment. If the marks are off even a small amount it will have all of the symptoms of your car.

John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. A certified mechanic, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on AM 950 and 550.

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John Paul

John Paul